Sunday, September 15, 2019

A Relic of the Passion in Milan Cathedral

As one might imagine, the cathedral of Milan, the largest cathedral in Italy and the mother church of one of the largest dioceses in the world, boasts a very impressive collection of relics. Chief among these is the Holy Nail, one of the nails of Our Lord’s Crucifixion, found by St Helena when she discovered the relics of the True Cross in Jerusalem. According to an old tradition, attested by St Ambrose in his funeral oration for the Emperor Theodosius, the holy empress sent one of the nails to her son Constantine, who had it bent into a bridle for his horse. This was then passed on to his son Constantius, who made his capital at Milan, and by him to his successors, until Theodosius consigned it to St Ambrose at the very end of the fourth century.

The reliquary containing the Holy Nail is normally kept in a tabernacle at the very back of the Duomo’s apse, and almost at the ceiling, forty meters above the floor. Its place is marked with a red light which burns before it continually, but the tabernacle itself is often difficult to see when the church is dark. However, each year the reliquary is brought down on Sept. 14, at Vespers of the Exaltation of the Cross, and left for a week in the main sanctuary of the cathedral for the veneration of the faithful. This was formerly done for the feast of the Finding of the Cross as well, which was historically the more important of the two feasts of the Holy Cross.

A close view of the Nail in its reliquary. (Photo by Andrea Cherchi)
The tabernacle in which it is kept. (Photo by Andrea Cherchi)
St Charles Borromeo Bearing the Relic of the Holy Nail in Procession During a Plague, by Giovanni dall’Orto, 1602. This is one of several paintings of episodes of St Charles’ life which every year are hung from bars between the columns of the Duomo for his feast day (November 4th), and left up until the Epiphany. (Click to enlarge.)
The tabernacle is reached by a small platform, which is pulled up to its height on four ropes that run up into the church’s roof. Before it was motorized in recent times, the platform had to be pulled by hand by twenty-four men, six to each of the ropes, and with great care to keep them moving at an even pace, lest the platform tip and spill out the archbishop, who still to this day retrieves it personally. (At the end of the week, it is replaced by the archpriest of the Duomo.) This platform, made in the 16th century, is called the “Nivola”, Milanese dialect for “nuvola – cloud”, from the large bag which hangs from its bottom, and is painted with angels. The whole operation can be seen in the following videos of the ceremony celebrated yesterday. The first shows the Nivola being raised and lowered; the second shows the complete ceremony, including Vespers of the Exaltation, in the OF Ambrosian Rite. Beneath the videos, we have several photos of the ceremony, courtesy of Mr Andrea Cherchi, with our thanks.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Legend of the True Cross, by Agnolo Gaddi

Around the year 1385, the Florentine painter Agnolo Gaddi completed a cycle of paintings in the choir of the Franciscan basilica of the Holy Cross in his native city. These frescoes, which are very well preserved, are the earliest surviving Italian example of a cycle dedicated to the Legend of the True Cross, based on the stories collected in Bl. Jacopo da Voragine’s Golden Legend. Gaddi’s work is not as refined as that of the most famous version of this cycle, the one by Piero della Francesca in the basilica of St Francis in Arezzo. In a manner typical of the elaborately decorative International Gothic style, he tends to put too many figures into too small a space, which makes it difficult to read the story, especially in such a tall space. (The vault of the choir is almost 40m above the floor.) His work has also been overshadowed by some of the church’s many other artistic treasures, a few of which will be mentioned below. The eight panels are arranged in chronological order, first down the right wall, then down the left.

At the top of the first panel, Adam’s son Seth receives from the Archangel Michael a branch from the Tree of Life which grows in the Garden of Paradise; in the lower part, he plants the branch in the  mouth of his dead father, who lies in his grave, with Eve mourning to the right. From this branch grows the tree which will become the wood of the Cross; the depiction of a skull at the base of Christ’s Cross derives from this legend. (In Gaddi’s time, the principles of one-point linear perspective had yet to be worked out; this is why Seth appears to be so much larger in the background than in the foreground, which should of course be done the other way around.)
Second panel – The tree lives until the time of Solomon, when it is cut down and part of it used to make a bridge. When the Queen of Sheba comes to visit Solomon, she “sees in the Spirit that the Savior of the world will be hung upon this wood”; she therefore refuses to step on it, but kneels in adoration. She then tells Solomon that someone will be hung on that wood, by whose death the kingdom of the Jews will be destroyed; the king therefore has it to be buried deep in the earth. (One version of the story adds that the queen had webbed feet, which were made normal by touching the wood.)
Third panel – The pool called Probatica which is mentioned in John 5, 2 is built on the place where the wood is buried; shortly before His passion, the wood floats to the surface, and is used to make a Cross, which will become that of the Savior. In the background in the upper left are seen the sick people waiting for their chance to descend into the pool.
In the fourth panel, the narration switches direction, moving from right to left. The Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, discovers three crosses buried on the site of Mt Calvary; in order to determine which one is that of Christ, a dying woman is brought to the site, and completely healed at the touch of the third one. (The basilica of the Holy Cross was officially founded on May 3, 1294, the feast of the Finding of the Cross.)
Fifth panel, uppermost on the left side of the choir – St Helena brings the relics of the Cross into the newly constructed basilica of the Anastasis, which is usually called the Holy Sepulcher in the West. (The absence of linear perspective is especially notable in the improbably crooked buildings in the background.)

FSSP Ordination in Providence, Rhode Island, October 26

On Saturday, October 26th, the Rev. William Rock, a deacon of the FSSP, will be ordained to the Priesthood by His Excellency Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan. The ordination will take place at 10:30 a.m. at St Mary’s Church, home of the Fraternity’s apostolate in Providence, Rhode Island, with first blessings and a reception to follow. The following day, which is the feast of Christ the King, Bishop Schneider will celebrate the 8 a.m. Low Mass, and Mr. Rock will celebrate the 10 a.m. High Mass, with first blessings afterwards. The beautiful and historic church of St Mary, located at 538 Broadway, became an FSSP apostolate last year, with Fr John Berg, the previous superior general, as its first pastor.

For more information, please see the parish website:, including information about a discounted rate at a nearby hotel for those attending the ordination. Those who plan to attend are requested to RSVP on the same webpage by October 14th, so that enough food can be prepared for the reception.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Music for First Vespers of the Exaltation of the Cross

O Crux, splendidior cunctis astris, mundo celebris, hominibus multum amabilis, sanctior universis: quae sola fuisti digna portare talentum mundi: dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulcia ferens pondera: salva praesentem catervam in tuis hodie laudibus congregatam. (Antiphon of the Magnificat at First Vespers of the Exaltation of the Cross.)

“O Cross, more splendid than all the stars, renowned in the world, much beloved of all men, holier than all things, who only were worthy to bear the Price of the world: o sweet wood, that bearest the sweet nails, the sweet burdens; save the present company, gathered this day in praise of thee.”

This is not, of course, the Gregorian version of this text for use as an antiphon, but a polyphonic motet made from it by the Netherlandish composer Adrian Willaert, (ca. 1490-1562), and sung by the ensemble Henry’s Eight. (They are named for King Henry VIII, the founder of Trinity College, Cambridge, where they originally formed in 1992.)

Here is another version, by Orlando de Lassus (1530-94).

The Exaltation of the Cross also provides an opportunity to sing once again at Vespers the famous Passiontide hymn Vexilla Regis, one of the masterpieces of the 6th century writer St Venantius Fortunatus. Here the ensemble AdOriente (which is correct Italian, not Latin) alternates the classic Gregorian melody with an unnamed polyphonic setting.

The alternation of Gregorian and polyphony was a popular way of setting hymns especially in the Counter-Reformation, and some of the best examples are those of Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victória. This version is particularly interesting for two reasons; the melody of the Gregorian parts is quite different from the Roman one, and the text of the hymn is that used before it was revised by Pope Urban VIII, (given here with Spanish translation.)

In the Byzantine Rite, the Exaltation of the Cross is one of the few days on which the Trisagion, (“Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us!”) is replaced at the Divine Liturgy by a different text: “We adore Thy Cross, o Lord, and we glorify Thy holy Resurrection.” (The Trisagion is sung between the kontakia, the variable hymns of the Sunday or Saint’s feast, and the Prokimen which introduces the Epistle.) The latter text is also sung on the 3rd Sunday of Lent, which is called the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross, as seen here in the Orthodox cathedral of Kropyvnytskyi in central Ukraine.

Many texts from the Byzantine Rite have also been recast as motets; this setting of “We adore Thy Cross” is sung by the choir of the Trinity Lavra of St Sergius, one the most important monasteries in Russia.

Photopost Request: Exaltation of the Cross 2019 (And Why These Posts Are Important)

Our next photopost will be for tomorrow’s feast of the Exaltation of the Cross; as always, we welcome submissions of photos in either Form of the Roman Rite, any of the Eastern rites, and the Ordinariate rite, as well as Vespers and other parts of the Divine Office, veneration of relics, processions, etc. We will also be glad to include photos from the feasts of the Nativity, Holy Name, and Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important.

Since the feast falls on a weekend this year, I hope we will have more contributions than usual. I would also like to add a word about why these photoposts are important, and why you should make efforts to have pictures taken of your liturgies, and send them in.

From last year’s photopost for the Exaltation of the Cross: the first Mass in the traditional rite at the church of St Dominic in Brick, New Jersey, since the implementation of the post-Conciliar reform.
About 6 years ago, when Shawn Tribe passed the direction of NLM on me and others, Ben Yanke began adding the words “Evangelize through beauty!” to many of the photoposts, and we still do this on a regular basis. It expresses a truth told many times by our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict, that beauty in the liturgy has a real power to convey the truth of the Gospel. His Holiness was fond of a famous story about the French poet Paul Claudel, who “while he was listening to the singing of the Magnificat at Christmas Mass, felt God’s presence. He had not entered the church for reasons of faith, but to in search of arguments against Christians, and instead the grace of God worked in his heart.” And to this I would add that many people have written in over the years, or left remarks in the combox, to say how much they appreciate seeing these photos.

However, this is not merely a question of aesthetics, a word which is unfortunately often used to dismiss beauty in all fields, not just liturgy, as a thing of little or no importance. It is no secret that many Catholics have little or no access to beautiful liturgy; we know that the tide is turning in this regard, inexorably, but it is turning slowly, and in far too many places, much too slowly. I think it is of paramount importance to provide encouragement to such people, to let them know that many of their fellow Catholics see that there is a problem, and are doing yeomen’s work to remedy it, with no small success. While I was at Oxford last month with the Schola Sainte-Cécile, at one of the Masses I met an young American professor who was there for an academic conference, and who was just astonished to hear the kind of music that the Schola, which is not a professional ensemble, was capable of singing, and how well they did it. Afterwards, he said to me, “I am going to tell all my priest friends what I saw here, and tell them, ‘This can be done! I’ve seen it!’ ” Our photoposts are a way of spreading the word about this movement to recover the authentic tradition of Catholic worship, and remind everyone that it is indeed a movement whose success is greatest with the young, which is to say, with the future of the Church.

From a recent post on a Dominican Mass and Eucharistic procession in London, also part of the Schola’s pilgrimage; young parishioners of the Rosary Shrine carry the canopy over the Body of Christ.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Vespers Celebrated in the Sarum Rite in Oxford

One of the highlights of the Schola Sainte-Cécile’s pilgrimage to England last month was a celebration of Vespers according to the Use of Sarum, which took place on the evening of August 21st at the chapel of Balliol College in Oxford. The previous day, the Mass of St Bernard of Clairvaux was also celebrated there in the traditional Roman Rite, both ceremonies by the kind permission of the chaplain of Balliol, Canon Bruce Kinsey. (Pictures 1-3, 5-6 and 8 courtesy of the Schola Sainte-Cécile; the rest are mine.)

The chapel of Balliol College
The priest during the Gospel at Mass. The brass lectern in the form of a crowned eagle on a stand was made in Tournai (modern Belgium) between 1470 and 1530; others of the same workshop are preserved at the cathedral of Urbino, at Southwell Minster in England, and at Santissima Annunziata, the Servite church in Florence.
The complete program for the Vespers can be seen at this link on the Schola’s website, with the full text and music in Latin, and a French translation: The Office was that of First Vespers of the Octave day of the Assumption, with the commemoration of Ss Timothy and Symphorian. The Sarum Use presents a number of interesting ritual differences from the Roman. The celebrant spends most of the ceremony in a choir seat at the back of the chapel, rather than in the sanctuary, and only dons his cope for the incensation at the Magnificat; this can in fact also be done in the Roman Rite, and is normative in the Dominican Rite.

At the beginning of the Office, everyone present, clergy, choir and laity, turns to face the altar for Deus in adjutorium. The five psalms are 109, 110, 111, 129 and 131, the psalms of the Christmas octave; these were used on feasts of the Virgin Mary in many medieval rites. They are sung under a single antiphon, a cento of texts from the 4th and 2nd chapters of the Song of Songs.

“Tota pulchra es, amica mea, et macula non est in te; favus distillans labia tua, mel et lac sub lingua tua, odor unguentorum tuorum super omnia aromata; jam enim hiems transiit, imber abiit et recessit, flores apparuerunt, vineae florentes odorem dederunt, et vox turturis audita est in terra nostra: Surge, propera, amica mea; veni de Libano, veni, coronaberis. – Thou art all fair, my love, and there is not a spot in thee. Thy lips are as a dropping honeycomb, honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the sweet smell of thy ointments is above all spices; for winter is now past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers have appeared in our land; the vines in flower yield their sweet smell; the voice of the turtledive is heard in our land. Arise, make haste, my love. Come from Lebanon, come; thou shalt be crowned.”

The chapter is then sung recto tono, Sirach 24, 11-12, one of the few texts that coincide with the Roman Rite: “In all these I sought rest, and I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord. Then the creator of all things commanded, and said to me: and he that made me, rested in my tabernacle.” This is followed by the one of the prolix responsories from Matins, which is led by two cantors who stand in the middle of the choir; for this part of the ceremony only, these two cantors wear copes. (Most medieval Uses have a responsory between the chapter and hymn at First Vespers of major feasts.) According to the surviving Sarum customaries, this is the only part of Vespers at which the members of the chapter and choir may sit.

R. Super salutem et omnem pulchritudinem dilecta es a Domino, et Regina caelorum vocari digna es: * Gaudent chori angelorum, * consortes et concives nostri. V. Valde te nos oportet venerari, quae tam sancta et intacta es Virgo. Gaudent. Gloria Patri. Consortes. (Above health [Wis. 7, 10] and all beauty, thou art beloved by the Lord, and worthy to be called the Queen of heaven; the choirs of angels rejoice, our fellow heirs and citizens. V.  Greatly must we venerate thee, who art so holy, and virgin untouched. – This responsory is sung in many other medieval Uses, including the Dominican Rite, which has many textual affinities with Sarum; the verse is often different.)

There follows the hymn O quam glorifica, which was originally written for the Assumption in the 9th century, and found in most medevial Uses apart from the Roman; it was incorporated into the Liturgy of the Hours for the feast of Our Lady’s Queenship on August 22nd, with none of the usual cack-handed textual changes. There follow the versicle “Exaltata es”, and the antiphon of the Magnificat, which is semidoubled. (My attempt to capture this on video was sadly not successful.)

Aña Ascendit Christus super caelos, et praeparavit suae castissimae Matri immortalitatis locum: et haec est illa praeclara festivitas, omnium Sanctorum festivitatibus incomparabilis, in qua gloriosa et felix, mirantibus caelestis curiae ordinibus, ad aethereum pervenit thalamum: quo pia sui memorum immemor nequaquam exsistat. – Christ ascended above the heavens, and prepared for His most chaste Mother the place of immortality; and this is the splendid festivity, beyond comparison with the feasts of all the Saints, in which She in glory and rejoicing, as the orders of the heavely courts beheld in wonder, came to the heavenly bridal chamber; that She in her benevolence may ever be mindful of those that remember her.

A Note on “Bible Vigils”, and a Request for Information

Last week, we published pictures of advertisements from a variety of liurgical publications, mostly from the 1960s, taken by Dom Hugh Sommerville-Knapmen of Douai Abbey in England. The post also included a book produced by the monks of Douai for the celebration of “Bible services”, as recommended by paragraph 35.4 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, during the oh-so-brief period when the Church still held that the letter of a document promulgated by an ecumenical council is a thing to be taken seriously.

After seeing the post, an old friend of mine, Mr John Boyden, sent me the following message. “Regarding the recent NLM post, I recall a priest friend who was ordained in 1968 lamenting those days. He said devotions were discarded to be replaced by what was meant to be the newest rage in parish devotion, ‘Bible vigils’; but no sooner had they begun than they were likewise discarded. I had never heard of anyone else mentioning Bible vigils, nor any text of them, save once. I was looking over a hand missal, printed in the first days of the revolution... and I discovered a section in the back indicating Bible vigils. This was 30 years ago, so I don’t recall much of what I saw, other than the devotion seemed to be nothing more than one long liturgy of the Word with nothing else. It’s no wonder that they lasted two years--at most--before they were discontinued, probably for lack of interest by the faithful, for whom they were a rubbing of salt in the wound of having parish rosaries and novenas taken from them, and replaced first by this and then, nothing.”

I would like to invite our readers to share similar reports that they have heard from that era, or their personal experiences - what was going on with the devotional life of your church in the post-Conciliar era, both in regard to traditional practices like the Rosary and Benediction, and new things like Bible vigils? Do you know of similar flashes in the pan, or new things that were introduced and lasted? Feel free to answer in the combox or to my NLM email address:, and if possible, include pictures. If we get some interesting replies to this request, I will make a post out of them.

Ordinariate Celebrations of Our Lady of Sorrows in Louisville, Kentucky

The weekend of September 15th marks the patronal feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows for the Ordinariate Community of Our Lady and St John in Louisville, Kentucky. The community will celebrate the feast with a Choral Evensong on September 14th at 6:30 pm at St Martin of Tours Catholic Church; the service will be lead by the choir of St Martin’s under the direction of Dr Emily Meixner, and will feature local organist Dr Shawn Dawson. The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows will be observed on September 15th with a Procession and Holy Mass, beginning at 3:00 pm, and featuring music by J.G. Rheinberger and Healey Willan. The church is located at 639 South Shelby Street.

Antiphonarium pro Liturgia Horarum Corrected

A while ago, a reader wrote to me because the clef on the ferial hymns in volumes 3 and 4 of the Antiphonarium pro Liturgia Horarum iuxta Usum Ordinis Praediatorum, which is vailable for download here at Dominican Liturgy on the left side bar, is almost always on the wrong line.

I was unable to fix this because of a glitch in the Meinrad font I use to set the music. The font specialist at St Meinrad’s was kind enough to fix the issue, so I have now corrected this mistake. The new PDFs for volumes 3 and 4 can now be downloaded - Gratias Deo!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Icons from the Byzantine Museum in Athens

The Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, Greece, has, as one might well imagine, a particular impressive and important collection of icons. Here is a selection of photos taken on a recent visit by a friend of mine, Fr Joseph Sigur, who was ordained just last December in the diocese of Beaumont, Texas, with our thanks.

A double-sided processional icon of the Crucifixion, first painted in the 9th century, then touched up in the 10th century, and again in the 13th.

The reverse of the preceeding, the Virgin “Hodegetria – She who shows the way”, added in the 16th century.
Processional icon of the Three Holy Hierarchs, Ss Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, and Gregory Nazianzen, from Thessaloniki, 14th century.
Icon of the type known as “The Preparation of the Throne”, representing the seat of Christ’s Judgment at the end of the world, from a Constantinopolitan workshop, 14th century.
Processional icon of the Virgin of Tenderness

Online Resources: Pius X Breviary and Martyrology in Spanish

Via a friend’s post on Facebook, I just discovered a blog which may potentially be a very useful resource for our Spanish-speaking readers, called Liturgia Tradicional. The author(s) publish an ordo every month for both the Mass and the Divine Office; they have also made available via GoogleDrive Spanish translations of both the Breviary of St Pius X and the Martyrology, which can be downloaded for free. The former was published at Barcelona in 1936, the work of Dom Alfonso Gubianas, a monk of Montserrat Abbey in Catalonia, who also provides a lot of useful annotations and explanatory material. The breviary is split into two volumes, rather than the traditional four; the first covers the period from Advent to the Ember Saturday of Pentecost, and the second, from Trinity Sunday to the end of the liturgical year. The martyrology was published at Madrid in 1953; the post on which it is linked also includes the update for the year 1960. Another post has the Breviary supplement for proper feasts of the various dioceses of Argentina; it is to be hoped that the authors will continue their work of making these kinds of resources available.

The title page of the first volume of the Breviary.
The martyrology entry for Christmas Day in Spanish.

A New Daily TLM in Crestwood, New York

Fr Benedict Andersen from Silverstream Priory writes in to let us know the following: “As I am currently resident at Annunciation-Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Crestwood (Yonkers), New York (writing a Th.M. thesis at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary), I have begun, with the enthusiastic support of the Rev. Robert Grippo, pastor of that parish, a daily Mass in the Usus Antiquior. Sunday Mass (Low Masses, at least for now) will be celebrated at 11:15 am, and daily low Masses at 6:45 am. All Masses will be held in the lower church of Annunciation, a most congenial location with a beautiful altar and carved reredos depicting the Annunciation and the early events in the life of Our Lord. The church is located at 470 Westchester Avenue.”

the lower church

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Guest Article on Post-Communion Ablutions for the Laity

Our thanks to Mr Archie MacGregor, a PhD student in Religious Studies at Marquette Univeristy, for sharing with us this brief article about ablutions for the faithful at Mass. Readers may also find interesting a recent article at Corpus Christi Watershed on the same topic.

I was reading Pope Benedict XIV’s De Sacrosancto Missæ Sacrificio (1748), a primer, designed for seminarians, on the history of the ceremonies of the Mass, and of certain related theological controversies. Among other things, he makes reference to a now-abandoned practice; after the laity had received Communion, they were given a cup of ordinary wine, in order to ensure than all particles of the Host had been swallowed. The cup was handed to the laity by a server instead of the priest, in order to distinguish it from the Chalice. [1] The wine was consumed standing, using a fistula, or straw. [2]

As noted in the article on CCW linked above, a rubric which refers to the post-Communion ablution offered to the laity, although long obsolete, remained in the Roman Missal until the new rubrics of 1960 were promulgated. “The server, holding in his right hand a vessel with wine and water, and in his left a napkin, (standing) a little behind the Priest offers them [the purification, and the napkin to wipe their mouths.” It is seen here in the Ritus servandus of an edition printed by Desclée in 1913.
Benedict’s explanation of the ritual is insightful, even if his arguments are disputed by later liturgical scholars such as Jungmann. By the 1740s there was already debate as to the origins of the ablution. The Pope rejects the suggestion that the custom is a holdover from the period when the laity received under both species. Aware of contemporary polemics in favour of utraquism, he seeks to emphasize its ancient precedents. Citing an unspecified Latin translation of Chrysostom, he argues that the ablution is the successor of the custom attested by the Saint of communicants purifying their mouths by eating bread and drinking water after the liturgy, as is still done to this day in the Byzantine Rite. While the idea that the drinking of unconsecrated wine after Communion is a direct descendant of this practice is tendentious in the extreme, it does show the long history of reverence for the Real Presence even in particles of the Host. [3]

Jungmann acknowledges the custom mentioned by Chrysostom, but holds that the origin of the practice of ablution wine can be found in High Middle Ages. There are scattered references to it in the ninth century, but it does not seem to have been widespread. In order to minimize the risk of spilling the Precious Blood, it was often added to a cup, or cups, of ordinary wine. This wine was considered to be sanctified, and still in some sense the Blood of Christ. [4] A modern analogy might be the addition of ordinary water to Holy Water to make one’s supplies of the latter last longer, but in this case, the greater proportion of the cup’s contents were unconsecrated. [5] Jungmann seems to believe partly because of the retention of the fistula that the ablution wine was an extension, and perhaps a dilution (no pun intended) of this custom. More substantial is the evidence that infants were given a little of the ablution wine to drink after Baptism, whereas in the Middle Ages they had received the Precious Blood. Giving ablution win to the newly baptised continued until at least 1783 when the Austrian Emperor, Joseph II, decried it. [6]

The custom spread with the growing reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, and seemed first to spread through monastic communities such as the Cistercians. Jungmann believes that the laity did not know that they were receiving an ablution, and not Communion, since during the Reformation provincial synods began to demand that clear signs be given that the two were different. [7] Pope Benedict cites two of these in his book, but he interprets them as showing that the Church had always known the difference. In 1584, the Synod of Bourges declared in Canon 12 on the Eucharist, “In exhibenda laicis sacra Communione paratum sit vas, quod formam Calicis non prae se ferat, ex quo sumatur ablutio post Communionem Eucharistiae.” (When giving Holy Communion to the laity, a vessel should be prepared which does not have the appearance of a Chalice, from which the ablution may be received after the Eucharistic Communion). [8]

Likewise, the Synod of Aachen, where both the ablution and utraquism had been practiced in living memory, demanded a year later that, “Clericus, qui Confessionem recitavit, accepto vase purificationis, quod tamen non sit Calix ad Consecrationem paratus, sed cyathus, et mappa purgata alia manu teneat aliud vas, in quo vinum sit pro purificatione communicantium.” (The cleric who recited the Confiteor, after having taken the vessel of purification, which should not be the Chalice used for the Consecration, and a clean towel, should hold this other vessel in his other hand, which contains the wine for the purification of the communicants.) [9] Since the Chalice for the laity, the mixture of wine and the Precious Blood, was given after the cup of purification, and the latter was a different vessel, it seems unlikely that this injunction was really concerned with the fact that the laity did not understand the difference between communion and ablution. By the 1580s, it was already a well-known fact that Catholics did not receive under both kinds. More likely the Church simply wanted to emphasise further its already apparent differences with Protestantism in the age of Confessionalization.

Evidently, the practice was still common in the Papal States when Benedict wrote his tract, as he takes it for granted. Jungmann says it persisted until ‘the last centuries’, but gives no account of its decline, or why it might have ceased to exist. The only remnant of it that remains is in the rite of priestly Ordination according to the traditional Pontificale Romanum, in which the newly ordained are given wine after Communion. It would be fascinating to find out if there are nineteenth century documents attesting to this practice.

A newly ordained priest of the FSSP consumes the ablution of unconsecrated wine during the ordinations held in Auxerre cathedral in 2016. (Photo courtesy of the FSSP).
[1] Benedict XIV, De Sacrosancto Missae Sacrificio, Libri Tres (Prati: 1843), p126.
[2] Josef. A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development (Missarum Solemnia), Volume 2 (New York: Benziger, 1951-1955), pp. 382-384.
[3] Benedict XIV, op. cit., p. 126.
[4] Jungmann, op. cit., p.383.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid. p. 414.
[7] Ibid. pp. 385-386.
[8] Benedict XIV, op. cit., p. 126.
[9] Ibid.

Upcoming Events in Nashville, Ottawa and the World Wide Web

I have been asked to do the following talks in the next couple of months. Please to come along and say hello to me if you are able to; I always hope that I might meet some of you, especially anyone with whom I have had the occasional lively exchange in this blog’s comment box!

The first is with the Institute of Catholic Culture, a series of presentations which starts this evening. I have been invited to present the spiritual exercises that were given to me 30 years ago.

Over thirty years ago, by chance, I met a man called David Birtwistle, who asked me this question: are you as happy as you can be? It was an easy one for me to answer: “No!” “Would you like that to change?” “Yes.”  “Let me show you how,” he replied.

This was how I was introduced to a program of prayer, meditation and good works that changed my life. I still practice these exercises today. It is called The Vision for You.

When I met David, I was miserable and depressed about the direction my life was going. He told me that he could show me a way to feel better and have a new direction in life. I wanted to be an artist and live in America, but was getting nowhere; however, the problem ran deeper than that. My relationships were unfulfilling and superficial at best. I just didn’t know what to do to try to be happy, or what I really wanted in life and while others around me seemed to be moving forward with their lives, I had a sense that I was being left behind. 

Several years later, as a result of following David’s simple directions, I became Artist-in-Residence at Thomas More College in New Hampshire. But more than that, it transformed my whole outlook in life. Where I used to be bitter, difficult to get on with and pessimistic, I am now so much more optimistic and happy. This also led to my conversion. David was a Catholic who led me to the Faith and was my sponsor when I was received into the Church in 1993.

David followed this process himself, practicing the program of prayer, meditation, contemplation and good works on a daily basis. It was his happiness that drew me to him, and ever since I have viewed what he gave me as a personal formation for the New Evangelization. When he died, over 600 people came to his funeral in Fulham in southwest London, and most of these were people whom he had passed on this process to. All had acquired or deepened their faith through this contact and a significant proportion of these were, like me, converts to Catholicism.

David died nine years after I met him, but he made me promise, in common with many others who benefitted from his help, to hand on to others what he had given to me. The great discovery made by those of us who benefitted from this process is that we have the freedom to choose. We can choose to be happy or to be miserable almost regardless of circumstances. This is what drove me to write the two books about the process The Vision for You - How to Discover the Life You Were Made For; and a condensed presentation of the same process The Vision for You - A Short Summary of the Spiritual Exercises & A Manual to Accompany Workshops.

The second event is the 42nd Convention of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars in Ottawa, Canada, which takes place from September 27-29th. I will be giving a presentation and be part of a panel discussion on the Sunday. The theme for the three days is intriguing: Beauty, Goodness, and Truth...and the Encounter with Evil; speakers are invited to consider how we can strive for the the transcendent even as we encounter evil.

The third is the National Catholic Singles Conference, which takes place this year in Nashville from October 25-27th. I have been asked to give a presentation on the Vision for You process of the discernment of personal vocation with, as one might expect, particular reference to living life as a single person happily.

I hope to see some of you there!

Monday, September 09, 2019

The Parish Low Mass Is Not a “Silent” Mass: The Rubrics on Clara Voce

Last Pentecost octave, I happened to be visiting a big city and decided to go to a nearby Latin Mass on the Ember Friday. I invited two acquaintances to come with me.

I was surprised when Mass began and I could hear nothing of the dialogue of priests and servers. “Perhaps this is just —  for some reason — how they do the prayers at the foot of the altar,” I thought to myself. The priest mounted the steps and went to the missal to recite the Introit. Again, total silence. My bewilderment turned to frustration and disappointment as the entire Mass continued, with hardly a single word of it being audible. The only thing recited clara voce was the “Domine, non sum dignus” before the communion of the faithful.

Since I was traveling, I did not have my St. Andrew’s Daily Missal with me, and my two guests, who are not regular attendees, had no access to the propers either. I wasn’t expecting this lack of a missal to be a problem, as I can follow the Latin to a great extent if I can just hear the words. Hearing nothing, I was simply watching a priest say his private Mass. The motions are beautiful and the silence is prayerful, but I still felt deprived of access to the parts of the Mass that the Church intends the faithful to hear. Aside from verbal comprehension (which, I recognize, is often overrated nowadays), it is comforting to hear the Latin words floating through the church at the appropriate times. There is benefit in hearing the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei.

Evidently my guests felt a similar perplexity, since they both said to me afterwards at breakfast: “Is the old Mass always so completely silent?” I had to respond: “No, it’s not supposed to be. When I attend Mass elsewhere — with the Fraternity of St. Peter, or the Institute of Christ the King, or a diocesan priest — one can hear most of the Mass of the Catechumens, and some parts of the Mass of the Faithful.”

The rubrics of the usus antiquior stipulate unambiguously which parts of the Proper and Ordinary of the Mass are to be recited in an elevated tone of voice. The Rubricae generales Missalis, c. XVI, ‘De his quae clara voce, aut secreto dicenda sunt in Missa,’ reads as follows (my translation):
In a private Mass the following are to be said clara voce: the antiphon and psalm before the Introit, the Confession and that which follows (except Aufer a nobis and Oramus te); again, the Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Dominus vobiscum, Oremus, Flectamus genua, Levate, Collect or Collects, Prophecy, Epistle, Gradual, Alleluia, Tract, Sequence, Gospel, Creed, Offertory antiphon, Orate fratres (just those two words), Preface, Nobis quoque peccatoribus (just those three words), Per omnia &c. with Pater noster, Per omnia &c. with Pax Domini, Agnus Dei, Domine non sum dignus (just those four words), Communion antiphon, Postcommunion or Postcommunions, Humiliate capita, Ite missa est or Benedicamus Domino or Requiescat in pace, Blessing, and Last Gospel or other Gospel. All the rest is to be said secreto.
Of great interest is the next paragraph, which specifies that clara voce means spoken in such a way that those around may hear and follow:
The priest ought to take the utmost care that things which are to be said clara voce are pronounced distinctly and appropriately — not very quickly, so that he can pay attention to what he reads, nor exceedingly slowly, lest the listeners be afflicted with tedium; neither with a voice excessively raised, lest others be disturbed who perhaps might be offering Mass in the same church at the same time, nor with one that is too faint [submissa], lest those gathered around be not able to hear, but in a moderate and earnest tone, that it may both stir up devotion and be accommodated to the listeners that they may understand what is read. Those things, on the other hand, which are to be said secreto should be pronounced in such a way that only the priest himself may hear them, and they are not heard by those gathered around.
The “marching orders” contained in this rubric, however flowery its expression, are not especially hard to grasp and put into practice. While it is true that some churches are so vast that even a priest speaking clara voce might not be able to be heard or understood by those sitting far away, I have found that it depends not so much on the size of a church but on its the architecture, and on such factors as whether the heating or air conditioning is blowing, or fans are running, or other ambient noise is coming in. At the church I visited on Ember Friday, it was not difficult to hear the priest when he did speak up. Despite the great volume of space, the Latin was perfectly comprehensible; the acoustics would be excellent for a Missa recitata or Missa lecta.

Low Mass at a side chapel of Clear Creek
It seems to me important to recognize an unofficial distinction not discussed in the rubrics. There is a difference between a publicly scheduled Mass offered at the high altar in the expected presence of a congregation of people, and a “private” Mass of a monk at a side altar in a monastery, adjacent to a dozen other monks simultaneously offering Masses. At Clear Creek, Le Barroux, Norcia, Silverstream, and other such places, those whispered early morning Masses — with the faithful seldom more than a few feet away from their chosen side chapel — seem like quite a different affair from a parochial Mass at a high altar in the main church, with the circumstantes standing dozens or possibly hundreds of feet away. The latter scenario demands more care on the part of the priest to ensure that the audible parts are indeed audible.

In the end, I was grateful to be able to assist at Holy Mass during the Pentecost octave, immerse myself in prayer, and rejoice in the beauty of God’s house; I was even more grateful to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. Nevertheless, it disturbed me to be cut off from the antiphons, orations, and readings that Holy Mother Church wishes the faithful to be able to hear with their ears. It seems to me that priests, if any may have fallen into bad habits in this regard, ought to bear in mind that speaking those parts of the Proper and Ordinary clara voce, as specified in the rubrics, is a way of showing respect and consideration to the faithful who come to church to drink from the greatest source of prayer we enjoy as Catholics: the sacred liturgy.

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