Friday, October 21, 2016

Sermon and Photos from Cardinal Burke's Pontifical Mass in Strahov Abbey, Prague

The country of the Czech Republic and the city of Prague was much blessed by the visit last week of His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke. His Eminence visited several places, giving public lectures in defense of Catholic doctrine on marriage and the family and celebrating pontifical liturgies in the usus antiquior. In this post, I will simply share photos from the Mass on Saturday, October 15, at Strahov Abbey, a house founded in 1143 as part of the Premonstratensian order and well known for housing the relics of St. Norbert himself.

This Mass was one of the most splendid I have ever had the privilege of attending. The capacious Baroque church was packed with faithful of all ages, including quite a few little children, which was heartening to see. A large number of clergy, including the abbot, the prior, and many of the Norbertine canons, assisted in choro. Ministers were provided by the Institute of Christ the King, whose founder and head, Msgr. Gilles Wach, was also present. The liturgy, for the feast of St. Teresa of Jesus, was conducted with the utmost beauty and reverence. The choir sang with great finesse Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli and a number of other Renaissance motets; the organist, for his part, was simply outstanding as an improviser. The final 10-minute improvisation on the popular hymn tune that had just been sung by the congregation was positively Brucknerian in scope.

His Eminence has graciously given NLM permission to publish his sermon for the feast of St. Teresa. It is a most beautiful meditation on this great Carmelite saint. A gallery of photos may be found at the end.


Feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, Virgin
Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Premonstratensian Abbey of Strahov
15 October 2016

2 Cor 10, 17-18; 11, 1-2
Mt 25, 1-13

Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and for ever.

It brings me profound joy to offer the Pontifical Mass in this most beautiful church dedicated to Our Savior and to His Immaculate Mother under her title of the Assumption. I am grateful to almighty God Who has granted me to make pilgrimage to the historic Premonstratensian Abbey of Strahov and to pray at the tomb of Saint Norbert. I thank Father Abbot and all of the canons of the Abbey for their most warm hospitality, and I thank all who have prepared so well the celebration of the Pontifical Mass. In a particular way, I thank the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest for providing the assistance for the Pontifical Mass, even as I am deeply grateful for the presence of Monsignor Gilles Wach, the Founder of the Institute. With deepest esteem and gratitude, I acknowledge the presence of Knights and Dames of the Grand Priory of Bohemia of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, of which I am privileged to be the Cardinal Patron. I take the occasion to express once again my gratitude to Lucie Cekotova and to all who have worked with her to organize my visit to your beloved homeland, the Czech Republic. In deepest gratitude, I offer the Holy Mass for the intentions of the Church in the Czech Republic and the intentions of Strahov Abbey.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, Virgin and Doctor of the Church. We recall the heroic sanctity of her life and its many fruits, including the reform of the Carmelite Order, which she carried out together with Saint John of the Cross, and her spiritual writings which continue to inspire and strengthen many souls to seek more perfect union with God. The life and death of Saint Teresa open our eyes to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s love, which is daily at work in our souls. Dom Prosper Guéranger, commenting on today’s feast, extolled the great gift of her spiritual writings:
Having arrived at the mountain of God, she described the road by which she had come, without any pretension but to obey him who commanded her in the name of the Lord. With exquisite simplicity and unconsciousness of self, she related the works accomplished for her Spouse; made over to her daughters the lessons of her own experience; and described the many mansions of that castle of the human soul, in the centre of which, he that can reach it will find the holy Trinity residing as in an anticipated heaven. No more was needed: withdrawn from speculative abstractions and restored to its sublime simplicity, Christian mysticism again attracted every mind; light reawakened love; the virtues flourished in the Church; and the baneful effects of heresy and its pretended reform were counteracted.[1]
Christ called Saint Teresa to give herself totally – in every fiber of her being – to Him, in order that she might bring His light and love to her brothers and sisters. From His glorious pierced Heart, Christ poured forth the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit into the heart of Saint Teresa, so that, she, as His bride through religious profession, could be the effective sign and instrument of His pure and selfless love.

Reflecting upon her life in Christ, we come to understand the words of Saint Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians. Addressing the members of the Church at Corinth, who had come to life in Christ through Saint Paul’s sacred ministry, Saint Paul declares: “[F]or I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor 11, 2). The grace of the Holy Spirit, which came into the life of Saint Teresa of Avila and comes into our lives through the Apostolic ministry, espouses the Church as His Bride to Christ, her one and only Bridegroom. The jealousy of Saint Paul for the members of the Church is the jealousy of Christ Who does not want anyone who has become one with Him through faith and baptism to stray from Him and, thus, lose the gift of eternal salvation in Him.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins helps us to understand the mystery of Christ’s life at work in the life of Saint Teresa and in each of our lives, producing a rich harvest of holiness of life (cf Mt 15, 1-13). At the same time, it makes clear that Christ’s life in us depends upon our free response, our response of love to His immeasurable and ceaseless love of us in the Church. The wise virgins treasure, most of all, their consecration to the bridegroom and, therefore, they take care that their lamps always burn brightly to receive the bridegroom at his coming. So, too, we who belong totally to Christ, by the works of His love, keep ourselves ready to meet Christ at His Coming, both in the circumstances of our daily Christian life but also on the Last Day, when He will return in glory to restore all creation to the Father. Like the wise virgins, we know that there is nothing more important than to be vigilant, at all times, in waiting for Christ and in welcoming Him into our lives. Our Lord speaks to us at the conclusion of the Parable of the Virgins: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt 25, 13).

The foolish virgins grow careless about the gift of their bond with the bridegroom. His coming, therefore, takes them by surprise, and they are not ready to welcome him. So, too, we are tempted to lose the sense of wonder at the great mystery of God’s love which rescues us from the snares of Satan and fills us with divine love. In little and big ways, we are tempted to be inattentive to daily communion with Christ through prayer, devotion, participation in the Holy Eucharist, the daily examination of conscience and act of contrition, and the regular meeting with Christ in the Sacrament of Penance. Instead of giving our hearts totally to Christ, as we are called to do, we begin to live more and more for ourselves and for certain earthly goods and pleasures which, at any given moment, can distract us from the true source of our freedom and joy, Christ, our one and only Bridegroom.

Saint Teresa is a powerful example of the heroic virginal love of Christ, to which we are all called. From her first intimation of Christ’s call to the religious life, she responded with all her heart. No matter how much resistance she encountered on the way of following Christ in the religious life, especially in the reform of the Carmelite Order, whether it came from her family, from her fellow religious in the Order, or from the society in which she was living, Christ was always first in her life. In a most wonderful way, her joy in spending hours in prayer, especially before the Most Blessed Sacrament, was a sign of her wisdom and fidelity as a bride of her Eucharistic Lord. As a wise virgin, she, through prayer and the life of the Sacraments, kept an abundance of oil for the lamp of her daily Christian living, so that she was always ready to meet our Lord, at His coming.

May Saint Teresa of Jesus teach us to persevere in trust, as she did in the face of much opposition and many trials. May she assist us in accepting with joy our suffering with Christ, so that we may enjoy with Him the unending joy of His Resurrection. Referring to Saint Teresa’s motto, “To suffer or to die,”[2] Dom Prosper Guéranger, citing the great preacher Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, reminds us of the timeliness of the spiritual doctrine of Saint Teresa, embodied in her life and death:
If we are true Christians, we must desire to be ever with Jesus Christ. Now, where are we to find this loving Saviour of our souls? In what place may we embrace Him? He is found in two places: in His glory and in His sufferings; on His throne and on His cross. We must, then, in order to be with Him, either embrace Him on His throne, which death enables us to do; or else share in His cross, and this we do by suffering; hence we must either suffer or die, if we would never be separated from our Lord. Let us suffer then, O Christians; let us suffer what it pleases God to send us: afflictions, sicknesses, the miseries of poverty, injuries, calumnies; let us try to carry, with steadfast courage, that portion of His cross, with which He is pleased to honour us.[3]
With Saint Teresa, we are certain that, if only we give our hearts to Christ, our one and only Bridegroom, the evils we encounter in our personal lives and in society will be overcome by the immeasurable and enduring truth, goodness and beauty of Christ, which is made visible to us in the Sacred Liturgy, above all, in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. May Saint Teresa teach us to imitate her in fidelity to prayer and devotion, and to the life of the Sacraments, above all the Holy Eucharist and Penance, so that Christ may transform us and our world, in accord with His unceasing desire that all men be one with Him, that all men be saved for eternal life.

Let us now lift up our hearts, one with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus through His Eucharistic Sacrifice. Resting our hearts in His Most Sacred Heart, we will find the healing of our sins and the strength of divine love, in order to do God’s will in all things. Let us, with Mary Immaculate and Saint Teresa of Jesus, be confident that, from His Sacred Heart, there flows unceasingly and without measure the grace of the Holy Spirit, which overcomes sin in our lives and in the world, and prepares us and the world to welcome our Lord, at all times and at His Final Coming, with our lamps burning brightly.

Heart of Jesus, King and center of all hearts, have mercy on us.
O Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen assumed into heaven, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, Foster-Father of Jesus and true Husband of the Virgin Mary, pray for us.
Saint Norbert, pray for us.
Saint Teresa of Jesus, pray for us.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

+ Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

[1] “Arrivée donc à la montagne de Dieu, elle fit le relevé des étapes de la route qu’elle avait parcourue, sans autre prétention que d’obéir à qui lui commandait au nom du Seigneur ; d’une plume exquise de limpidité, d’abandon, elle raconta les œuvres accomplies pour l’Époux ; avec non moins de charmes, elle consigna pour ses filles les leçons de son expérience, décrivit les multiples demeures de ce château de l’âme humaine au centre duquel, pour qui sait l’y trouver, réside en un ciel anticipé la Trinité sainte. Il n’en fallait pas plus ; soustraite aux abstractions spéculatives, rendue à sa sublime simplicité, la Mystique chrétienne attirait de nouveau toute intelligence ; la lumière réveillait l’amour ; et les plus suaves parfums s’exhalaient de toutes parts au jardin de la sainte Église, assainissant la terre, refoulant les miasmes souls lesquels l’hérésie d’alors et sa réforme prétendue menaçaient d’étouffer le monde.” Prosper Guéranger, L’année liturgique, Le temps après la Pentecôte, Tome V, 12ème éd. (Tours: Maison Alfred Mame et Fils, 1925), p. 457. [Guéranger]. English translation: Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Time after Pentecost, Book V (Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2000), pp. 396-397. [GuérangerEng].
[2] “Souffrir ou mourir!” Guéranger, p. 462. English translation : GuérangerEng, p. 401.
[3] “Si nous sommes de vrais chrétiens, nous devons désirer d’être toujours avec Jésus-Christ. Or, où le trouve-t-on, cet aimable Sauveur de nos âmes ? En quel lieu peut-on l’embrasser ? On ne le trouve qu’en ces deux lieux : dans sa gloire ou dans ses supplices, sur son trône ou bien sur sa croix. Nous devons donc, pour être avec lui, ou bien l’embrasser dans son trône, et c’est ce que nous donne la mort, ou bien nous unir à sa croix, et c’est ce que nous avons par les souffrances ; tellement qu’il faut souffrir ou mourir, afin de ne quitter jamais le Sauveur. Souffrons donc, souffrons, chrétiens, ce qu’il plaît à Dieu de nous envoyer : les afflictions et les maladies, les misères et la pauvreté, les injures et les calomnies ; tâchons de porter d’un courage ferme telle partie de sa croix dont il lui plaira de nous honorer.” Guéranger, pp. 468-469; GuérangerEng, pp. 406-407.

Solemn Requiem Mass in the Dominican Rite in NYC, November 7th

The Catholic Artists Society will have its annual Solemn Requiem Mass for deceased family members, friends, and fellow artists, on Monday, November 7th, at the beautiful church of St. Vincent Ferrer in New York City. The Mass is co-sponsored with the New York Purgatorial Society and the Society of St. Hugh of Cluny. The Schola Cantorum of St. Vincent Ferrer, accompanied by period instruments and conducted by James Wetzel, will sing Manuel Cardoso’s Missa Pro Defunctis a 6. A reception will follow in the parish hall. Detailed information in the poster.

Once again, it is a very encouraging thing to see not only the continual and growing interest in the Dominican liturgy, but also the cultivation of the rite in company with such excellent music.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Arranging the End of the Liturgical Year in the Extraordinary Form

One of the changes made to the Breviary in the revision of 1960 regards the arrangement of the months from August to November. One of the oddest effects of the new system will take place this year in regard to the readings in November.

On the first Sunday of each of these months, the Church begins to a new set of scriptural books at Matins, with their accompanying antiphons and responsories; their arrangement is part of a system which goes back to the sixth century. In August, the books of Wisdom are read; in September, Job, Tobias, Judith and Esther; in October the books of the Macchabees; in November, Ezechiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor Prophets. (September is actually divided into two sets of readings, Job having a different set of responsories from the other three books.)

The “first Sunday” of each of these months is traditionally that which occurs closest to the first calendar day of the month, even if that day occurs within the end of the previous month. This year, for example, the first Sunday “of August” was actually July 31st, the closest Sunday to the first day of August.

In the 1960 revision, however, the first Sunday of the months from August to November is always that which occurs first within the calendar month. Therefore, the first Sunday of August was August 7th. This change also accounts for one of the peculiarities of the 1960 Breviary, the fact that November has four weeks, which are called the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth.

According to the traditional calculation, November has five weeks when the 5th of the month falls on a Sunday; otherwise, it has four. In those years when it has four (most of them) the second week is omitted. Ezechiel is read on the first week, and the second, if there is one; Daniel in the third, and the the Twelve Prophets in the fourth. The system is designed to maintain the tradition that at least a bit of each of the Prophets would always be read in the Breviary.

According to the newer calculation, November may have three or four weeks, but never five; the second week was removed from the Breviary, since it is never used. However, the older nomenclature was retained; it is hard to imagine why this was thought either necessary or useful, since a great many other terms were changed, such as the entire system of classification of liturgical days. Therefore, the four weeks are called First, Third, Fourth and Fifth.

In the older system, November would have four weeks this year, the first Sunday “of November” being October 30, since it is closer to the first day of that month. In the new system, the first Sunday “of November” will be the first within the calendar month, November 6th.

However, the last Sunday of the month, the 27th, is the first Sunday of Advent this year, and so November only has three weeks. Therefore, this year Ezechiel is dropped entirely; the readings from Daniel begin on November 6th, Hosea on November 13th, and Micah on November 20th.

Things are slightly complicated by the fact that in 1960, a Sunday is completely omitted when it is impeded by a feast of the Lord. (Previously, Sundays were always commemorated if they were impeded.) Thus, all of the liturgical texts assigned to Sunday, October 30th, are dropped this year in favor of the feast of Christ the King.

The calculation of the Sundays after Pentecost also calls for a note here. (The discrepancies between the Missals of St Pius V and St John XXIII are very slight in this regards, and have no bearing on the end of this year.)

The number of Sundays “after Pentecost” assigned to the Missal is 24, but the actual number varies between 23 and 28. The “24th” is always celebrated on the last Sunday before Advent. If there are more than 24, the gap between the 23rd and 24th is filled with the Sundays after Epiphany that had no place at the beginning of the year. The prayers and readings of those Sundays are inserted into the Mass of the 23rd Sunday (i.e., the set of Gregorian propers.) The Breviary homily on the Sunday Gospel and the concomitant antiphons of the Benedictus and Magnificat also carry over in the Office.

The remaining Sunday of the year are therefore as follows in 1960:
Oct 23 - 23rd Sunday after Pentecost (4th week of October in the Breviary)
Oct 30 - Christ the King (5th week of October in the Breviary)
Nov. 6 - 5th Sunday after Epiphany (3rd week of November)
Nov. 13 - 6th Sunday after Epiphany (4th week of November)
Nov. 20 - 24th Sunday after Pentecost (5rd week of November)
Nov. 27 - First Advent

In the Breviary and Missal of St Pius V, they are as follows (with the addition of Christ the King.)
Oct 23 - 23rd Sunday after Pentecost (4th week of October in the Breviary)
Oct 30 - Christ the King (1st week of November in the Breviary, commemoration of the 4th Sunday after Epiphany.)
Nov. 6 - 5th Sunday after Epiphany (3rd week of November)
Nov. 13 - 6th Sunday after Epiphany (4th week of November)
Nov. 20 - 24th Sunday after Pentecost (5rd week of November)
Nov. 27 - First Advent

If this all seems a little complicated, bear in mind that the oldest arrangement of the Mass lectionary that we know of was even more so. The oldest lectionary of the Roman Rite, a manuscript now in Wurzburg, Germany, dates to ca. 750, and represents the system used at Rome about 100 years earlier. It has a very disorganized and incomplete set of readings for the period after Pentecost; the Sundays are counted as 2 after Pentecost, 7 after Ss Peter and Paul, 5 after S. Lawrence, and 6 after S. Cyprian, a total of only 20. There also ten Sundays after Epiphany, even though Septuagesima is also noted in the manuscript, and the largest number of Sundays that can occur between Epiphany and Septuagesima is only six.

Noble Beauty As Seen in Recent Gothic and Baroque Inspired Vestment Work

eremonial wear, whether sacred or secular, is meant to communicate symbols and deeper meanings; to inspire and to engage, drawing people into the underpinning realities which they seek to symbolize. In this regard, vestments, not unlike the ceremonial garb of the state or military, is not mere "fashion" and should not be reduced to such pedestrian levels. There may indeed be different styles and periods of origination which can be traced within them, but that these things have a symbolic, even allegorical quality, in part explains why, unlike fashion, they develop and change so very slowly in the course of centuries. Symbols aren't to be too readily trifled with lest they be upset.

This short preface really just intends to say that these things matter; they have meaning and because of that it is important that they be done well. Vestments, when executed well, have what I can only describe as a certain effortless quality about them -- no matter how simple or how ornate. This quality is attained, I believe, through their visual interest, as well as the unity and complementarity of the parts in relation to the whole. What's more, the particular cut of the vestments (including how neatly and nobly it wears) are also a part of this formula, as are the nature and quality of the materials used. In terms of the colour and ormamentation, these should complement the whole and be proportionate to the whole.

It is a fine balance to strike and not doing so can result, on the minimlalist end of the spectrum, in lack-lustre vestments of little engaging power, or on the other end of the spectrum, gaudy, distracting clutter; the result in both instances is something lacking in the qualities of nobility and beauty, thereby also distracting from them as symbols and potentially engaging people in a negative rather than fruitful way.

I wished to share a couple of recent examples of vestment work that I think precisely fit the bill and can serve as models. I have purposely chosen examples from both the gothic and baroque traditions.

On the gothic revival side of the coin, the famed Watts & Co. recently have been releasing sets of AWN Pugin inspired vestments -- something I think long overdue and I am glad that Watts has picked this up. Here are two examples from this excellent new line:

From the baroque stream, I recently came across a Spanish vestment maker that I cannot recall having run into before, Pluri Arte. Their site shows a number of excellent examples of well-executed vestments in the baroque tradition. Accomplishing the balance I have noted in the baroque tradition takes quite a bit of skill because that tradition's use of highly coloured, patterned textiles could more easily lead to a garish result. (Whereas on the gothic side of things, it is easier to end up with rather lack-lustre results.) Here are a few examples of their excellent work:

Each of these examples, from both makers, strike me as very successfully executed vestments that are tasteful, noble and beautiful, lending themselves well to both their practical as well as symbolic purposes. Well done.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Dominican Habit and the Holy Rosary

Dominicans wearing rosaries and cappelli romani (Roman hats)
In the wake of a recent post on St. Martin de Porres, which included a discussion of the Tertiary (“Third Order”) habit that the oldest painting of his shows him wearing, a commentator asked when the Holy Rosary became an “official” part of the Dominican habit. This seemed an easy question to answer, but it proved more complicated.  The first thing I did was to look in the most recent version of the Dominican Constitutions (2014), appendix 3, which describes our habit. It says absolutely nothing about the Rosary. Perhaps then, the Rosary was dropped after the major revision of our Constitutions in 1968. I checked there in appendix 3: nothing on the Rosary.
But my quandery was resolved by a message from Fr. Martin Wallace, ho called my attention to n. 50 of the 1969 Constitutions which says. "The habit of the Order consists of a white tunic with a white scapular and capuce, with a black cappa and capuce, a leather belt and rosary."   And so n. 50 reads for all revisions of the Constitutions up to the present age, even though Appendix 3 in each addition never mentions it.  This legislation is virtually identical to that no n. 601 of the Pre-Vatican-II constitutions of 1954 and 1932, although these specify that the Rosary is to hang from the belt.  These norms descend from n. 892 of the 1924 Constitutions, which mentions the Rosary but says nothing of where it is worn.  And this legislation is the first official entry of the Rosary into the Constitutions as part of the habit.  It was undoubtedly introduced as part of the reform of the older law (as witnessed in Jandel) in the wake of the new Code of Canon Law in 1917.So the Holy Rosary has been an official part of the Dominican Habit since the promulgation of the revised Constitutions of 1924.

So what of the Rosary and the habit before that date?  I find that, in 1879, the founder of my Western Dominican Province, Fr. Francis-Sadoc Vilarrassa, a noted canonist of his time, wrote, commenting on the Jandel Constitutions, “Though there is not any ordinance as to the wearing of Rosaries, it seems were are bound to wear them in virtue of the ancient and universal custom of the order.” So before 1924 Dominicans wore the habit Rosary, not because of legislation, but because of custom with force of law. How custom become law is no our topic here, but rather the question is when did the custom arise and when did it become “universal.”

Blessed Venvenuta
In the thirteenth century, the practice of reciting set numbers of Pater Nosters (Our Fathers) was already a popular lay devotion. I have collected examples of this from the lives of Italian saints and blesseds of the period in my book Cities of God. My favorite is the Dominican blessed, Benvenuta Bojani (1254-1292) From the age of seven to twelve, she said 100 Paters and Aves daily, doing 100 prostrations in honor of the Lord’s Nativity and a second 100 prostrations in honor of his Resurrection. To this she later added 1000 Aves in honor of the Blessed Virgin, except on Saturdays, Our Lady’s special day, when she doubled the number. So she was not only saying Paters but also Aves.

In our primitive constitutions (ca. 1220), the conversi or lay brothers (now called cooperator brothers) were required to say set numbers of Paters for the various canonical hours, which they could not sing with the clerics because they normally were illiterate and had manual labor to do to support the community. But in 1252, the Provincial Chapter of Dacia, held at Lund in Sweden, made the first attempt to add a 100 Aves to the 100 Paters lay brothers said in their suffrages for dead. This did not last, but by the early 1300s, 100 Paters and Aves had became the conversi suffrage for a dead member of their community. Then, in 1366, the General Chapter at Rome first added Aves to all Paters that the convesi said instead of the Divine Office. After some back and forth, this practice was finalized by the early 1400s. But none of this was the “Dominican” Rosary as we know it, with 15 decades of 1 Pater, 10 Aves, and a Gloria Patri. As far as we can tell, that form, with a set of 15 mysteries to meditate on, first appeared in the writings of Dominic of Prussia (1382–1461), a Carthusian monk. So, the custom of wearing the Rosary has to date after the mid-1460s.

Famously, Bl. Alan de la Roche, O.P. (d. 1475) promoted the devotion to the Rosary throughout the last 16 years of his life, preaching and writing about it. In 1470, he founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary. Later legends (recorded only after his death) ascribe to him visions of Our Lady, the Rosary, and St. Dominic, supposedly dated to about 1460, so the earliest date for Dominican habit Rosaries would be the late 1400s. And, indeed, the earliest image I know of showing a rosary is a woodcut dated to that period. It also shows Dominic, though not wearing it, and I reproduce it here.

There is nothing that I have found that indicates any Dominican wearing of, or legislation on, the Holy Rosary, however, for another 100 years. By then, I understand that in the 1540s, Fray Domingo Betanzos, O.P. (d. 1549), first provincial of the Dominican province of Mexico, required friars of that Province to wear a Rosary around their necks. This practice would then spread with Spanish Dominicans to South America,  and eventually to the Philippines and the Far East. This is the first example of wearing of the Holy Rosary with the habit, although it is not universal and not on the belt. On September 1569, the Dominican Pope, Saint Pius V, acknowledged as a “pious belief” the legends linking Dominic and the Holy Rosary, usually connected with Alan de la Roche, in his bull Consueverunt Romani Pontifices, which also granted indulgences for those saying it and meditating on the mysteries. Then in 1571 comes the first-known mention of the Rosary in any legislation of the Order as a whole The General Chapter at Rome in that year urged the promotion of the Rosary in preaching. This is not surprising, as that was the year of the great victory over the Muslim invasion of Christian Europe at the Battle of Lepanto, a victory that Pope Pius ascribed to praying the Rosary.

St. Dominic, no Habit Rosary, 1593
By 1583, however, the General Chapter at Rome first mentioned the recitation of the Holy Rosary in an ordinance of the whole order; it allowed lay brothers and Tertiaries (conversi et seculares) to replace the 100 Paters and Aves in suffrages for the dead with five decades of the Rosary. In 1596, the order gave the title “Our Lady of the Holy Rosary” to the new province of the Philippines and the Orient. However, I find no evidence that the Spanish Dominion practice of wearing the Rosary around the neck had spread any beyond the Spanish missions. In 1593, for example, a title page of Spanish catechism still shows St. Dominic without any habit Rosary, as you can see to the left.

Nevertheless, as is clear from the image of the elderly St. Martin de Porres I featured in my earlier post that, in the Spanish Dominions at least, the wearing of a Rosary around the neck had become common, even customary. Then, in 1670, at the Rome Chapter, the daily recitation of the  Rosary in choir by all friars, priests as well as lay brothers, was mandated, a requirement that remains to this day when not impeded by pastoral responsibilities.

St. Dominc wearing the Rosary, by Coello
Artistic evidence in the later 1600s suggests that it is in that period that the wearing of the Rosary, now on the belt, finally became a “universal” custom. It is very difficult to trace the introduction of customs, but artistic representations are usually a good indication, and it is in the 1660s and 1670s, that artists first begin to portray Dominican saints wearing a Rosary. A good example from this period is the painting to the right by the Spanish late-Baroque painter Claudio Coello (1642–93), which shows St. Dominic wearing the Fifteen-Decade Dominican Rosary. I do not claim that this is the earliest example of this iconography, only the earliest I have found. If a reader knows of a dated earlier example, I would be happy to add it to this post.

St. Rose of Lima with a Rosary
It is interesting that the same artist knew that St. Rose of Lima (1586–1617) would have worn her Rosary around her neck, as that was the practice among Dominicans in Peru during her time. This, even though he has all the rest of her dress incorrect, painting her in the habit of a cloistered nun, rather than in the Tertiary habit she would have worn, with a white veil, no scapular, white tunic, and black mantle.

So, my conclusion is that the custom of wearing a habit Rosary become more or less universal  in the late 1600s. It certainly was so by the 1700s, as I know of no images of Dominicans from that century or later without it. If, however, anyone knows an image of that late date showing a Dominican without a habit Rosary, let me now and I will add it to this post.

A Rare Liturgical Book from 18th-Century Paris

The Abbey of St Genevieve, the Patron Saint of Paris, was one of the most important churches in the city before the French revolution. Founded in the sixth century by King Clovis, and originally dedicated to Ss Peter and Paul, St Genevieve used to pray there very often, and was buried in the church next to Clovis. During the great reform movement of the 12th century, the secular canons who had long run it were replaced by Augustinians Canons Regular; in the 17th century, it became the mother house of over one-hundred other abbeys, and the congregation thus formed was called Génovéfaine. The abbey church was rebuilt at the behest of King Louis XV, starting in 1758, but not completed until the year of the suppression, 1790, when it was transformed into a mausoleum for important Frenchman, tastefully renamed “Le Panthéon.” The abbey itself, however, was destroyed to make way for a street.

I recently stumbled across a very particular liturgical book once used at the abbey on, titled “Collectarium ad usum prioris hujus ecclesiae.” A “collectarium” is a book which contains only the celebrant’s parts for the singing of the Divine Office, namely, the intonations of the relevant antiphons, (only the first in each series, and those of the Magnificat and Benedictus), the chapters, and the collects. In this particular case, the abbey’s custom was fairly typical of many chapters and orders; the prior celebrated solemn Vespers for second rank feasts that were not “officium abbbatis – the duty of the abbot.” (Of course, he may also have celebrated other Offices, and sung his part out of other books.)

The title page. “Fr Gabriel Raveneau, C.R. (canonicus regularis) wrote the Collectarium for the use of the Prior of this church, in the year 1711.” St Genevieve is shown at the top, and in her martyrdom below. Ss Peter and Paul, the church’s original titular Saints, are shown in the corner medallions above, King Clovis and his wife, St Clotilde below. The royal patronage of the abbey is signified by the shield of France in the middle; as in many French canonical abbeys, the abbot had the use of miter and crozier.
These are the major Marian feasts apart from the Assumption, (Purification, Annunciation, Nativity and Immaculate Conception), Easter and Pentecost Monday, Benediction within the octave of Corpus Christ, Ss Denis and Companions, St Stephen, and two secondary feasts of the church’s Patron Saint, the finding of her relics on January 10, the octave day of her main feast, and the commemoration of the “miraculum ardentium” on November 26th. This last is an event of the year 1129, when the Parisians were saved from an epidemic of “the burning sickness,” a series of painful symptoms, including a burning sensation in the extremities, caused by ingesting grains contaminated with ergot. The epidemic was ended when the relics of St Genevieve were paraded around the city, and the procession was continued for many centuries afterwards. (See this article in French about the procession at the blog of our friends of the Schola Sainte Cécile.)

The procession of the relics of St Genevieve on the feast of the miracle.
Sheets were added to the back of the book which indicate that Vespers of the Circumcision, Ascension, Trinity and Clovis’ wife St Clotild (June 3), who was also buried in the abbey, were added to the prior’s duties; the second of these speaks to the possiblity of a particularly lazy abbot. It also contains the prayers for most of the commemorations which can occur on these feasts. There is not a huge number of illustrations, but they are all of the highest quality; one can only image what the abbot’s collectarium must have looked like. The book is in the public domain, and can be downloaded from archive for free at link given above.

The casket of the relics is here shown being lowered from the large pedestal on which it was kept behind the main altar of the abbey church; this was done as part of the ceremony of the procession on November 26, when the casket was carried by the members of a special confraternity.
The Annunciation
Decoration to fill some space after the Annunciation.

October 21, the Feast of Blessed Karl of Austria

October 21st is the feast day of Blessed Karl I, the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary; this year marks the centenary of his accession to the throne on November 21st. He was beatified by Pope St John Paul II in 2004; a second miracle has been attributed to his intercession, a miraculous healing which led to the conversion of the person healed. His feast day is kept not on the day of his death, April 1st, but rather, on the day of his marriage to Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma, which took place in 1911; her cause for canonization was introduced in December of 2009. It is well-known story about the Bl. Karl that he said to his wife on the day after their wedding, “Now, we must help each other to get to Heaven.”

A website has been created by the Emperor Karl League of Prayer (screen capture below), which has a great deal of useful information about the Blessed, his life and the cause for his canonization. It also has a section listing a number of Masses for his feast, including a Pontifical Mass which Bishop Athanasius Schneider will celebrate in Washington D.C., at church of St Mary Mother of God. The particular mission of the League is to pray for peace throughout the world, a mission of the greatest importance in these troubling times.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Liturgical Notes on the Feast of St Luke the Evangelist

Although Ss Mark and Luke are given the title “Evangelist” in the liturgy, but are called not “Apostles”, the former is really a subcategory of the latter, and the liturgical texts of their feasts do not differ significantly from those of the other Apostles. One distinguishing feature of St Luke’s feast is that it is not kept with a vigil on the day before, since vigils were reserved for martyrs. The tradition accepted in the West is that he did not die as a martyr; his Preface in the Ambrosian Missal specifically calls him a “confessor”, and the liturgical commentator Sicard of Cremona says in the later 12th century that “he did not end his life by martyrdom.” (Mitrale 9.47) (The only other Apostles who have no vigil are Barnabas, who was not one of the Twelve, and the three whose feasts occur in Eastertide, from which penitential observances are excluded: St Mark on April 25th, and Ss Philip and James on May 1st.)

The Vision of Ezekiel, by Raphael, 1518
Already towards the end of the second century, St Irenaeus of Lyon identified the four animals (or “living beings”) seen by Ezechiel in the vision at the beginning of his book as prophetic symbols of the four Evangelists. These are a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle, the same four which later appear to St John in Apocalypse 4. This tradition was followed by Ss Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great, although they differ from Irenaeus as to which animal symbolizes which Evangelist. (Jerome’s explanation, confirmed by Gregory, eventually prevailed.) They all agree, however, that the ox, an animal commonly used in temple sacrifices in the ancient world, including those of the Jews, is the symbol of St Luke, who begins his Gospel with the story of St John the Baptist’s father, the priest Zachariah. This interpretation is also strongly suggested by Ezechiel’s words, “the face of a man, and the face of a lion on the right side of all the four: and the face of an ox, on the left side of all the four: and the face of an eagle over all the four.” (1, 10) The man and the lion, who represent Matthew and Mark respectively, are both on the right, since their Gospels are very similar to each other; Luke records many stories that are not in the other two Synoptics or John, hence the ox which represents him is on the left; while John says the most about the divinity of Christ, and hence his eagle is placed above the others.

The traditional Gospel of St Luke’s feast is taken from his tenth chapter, verses 1-9, Christ’s instructions to the seventy-two whom He sent out in pairs to preach “in every city and place where He himself was to come.” It is also read on St Mark’s day, and was later extended to the feasts of various Confessors.

The revised liturgies which held sway in most of France from the mid-17th to the later 19th centuries, (now often called “Neo-Gallican,”) contain a great many lapses in taste and judgment which almost beggar belief. Like most people who put their hand to changing historical liturgies, the Neo-Gallican revisers were painfully obsessed with making everything “more Scriptural,” but in the process of expanding the Missal’s corpus of readings, they did manage to make a number of rather clever choices. One of these was to read St Luke’s prologue as the Gospel on his feast, as in the 1738 Parisian Missal.
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a narration of the things that have been accomplished among us; according as they have delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word: it seemed good to me also, having diligently attained to all things from the beginning, to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou may know the verity of those words in which thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1, 1-4)
In the original Greek, this passage is written in a notably higher style than the rest of the Gospel, perhaps a signal that the author is indeed a man of education, and hence suitable to the writing of such an important work. It is likely that he received his education while training as a doctor in his native city of Antioch, one of the most important cities in the Eastern Mediterranean at the time, which he mentions several times in the Acts.

St Luke writing his Gospel, and the beginning of the Gospel, from the 9th century Evangeliary of Ebon (folios 90v and 91r. Bibliothèque nationale de France  
A tradition attested since the sixth century states that St Luke once (or more than once) painted an image of the Virgin Mary, for which he has long been honored as a patron Saint of artists as well as doctors. This tradition may have arisen as a metaphorical way of describing the “portrait” of the Virgin which he gives in his Infancy Narrative; the first two chapters of his Gospel recount the events of Christ’s conception and birth from Her point of view, as it were, where St Matthew speaks more about St Joseph’s role. It is also he who records most of the actual words spoken by the Virgin, far more than the other three combined. However the story arose, there are a number of ancient icons which are said to be the original painted by St Luke himself, or a faithful early copy thereof, and “St Luke Painting the Virgin and Child” has been a popular subject for artists in both East and West.

On the other hand, the Byzantine Office makes only one glancing reference to this tradition, in the following text from Matins.
Luke, apostle of Christ, revealer of ineffable things, and teacher of the nations, with the divine Paul, and the holy Mother of God, about whose divine image thou didst inquire, pray for us who bless thee, and honor thy holy falling-asleep, o beholder of God, and all-wise revealer of the divine mysteries. 
The vagueness of “about whose divine image thou didst inquire” is significant, because the Canon with which this is sung was written by one Theophanes, who, together with his brother Theodore, is honored as a Saint for his defense of the holy images in the days of the iconoclast heresy. (They are called “the written-upon ones”, since the iconoclast emperor Theophilus had lines of verse cut into their skin.) Arguments from silence vary in force according to circumstance. However, it seems likely that if the tradition that St Luke made an image of the Virgin rested on a solid historical foundation, a defender of the holy icons would make much of that fact when writing a Canon in honor of him.

St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child, by Rogier van der Weyden 1435-40
The Byzantine Office also refers explicitly to an Eastern tradition that St Luke was one of the two disciples who met Christ on the way to Emmaus, the one not named in the Gospel itself. This would be in accord with the common ancient practice of authorial anonymity; for the same reason, it was sometimes supposed that St Mark was the anonymous follower of Christ who escaped arrest in the garden of Gethsemani by running out of his clothes, an episode which is mentioned only in his Gospel. (14, 51-52) However, this story was completely unknown in the West; St Ambrose, for example, says that Cleophas’ companion was called Ammonas.
From thy writings we know, as thou said, the verity of the words which thou set forth and revealed under divine inspiration; since thou didst put thy hand to write for us of the matters of which thou were fully informed, and as the eye-witnesses handed on to thee. And thou becamest their equal, and a servant of the incarnation of the Word, whom thou didst see at Emmaus after the Resurrection; and with burning heart, thou ate together with Cleophas. Fill also our souls with His divine fervor as we honor thee.
Another texts from Vespers admirably sums up the whole career of St Luke as follows.
Rejoice, thou who alone in joy did write for us “Rejoice!” (Χαῖρε, Ave), the Gospel of the Holy (Virgin), and of her giving birth to the Lord, of the Baptist speaking from the womb, of his conception, and the Incarnation of the Word, His temptations and miracles, His discourses and sufferings, the Cross and Death, and the Resurrection, which thou saw, and the Ascension, and the descent of the Spirit, and the deeds of the heralds, especially of Paul, whose companion thou wert, healer, revealer of the mysteries, and enlightener of the Church, which do thou ever guard!
Christ Appears to Cleophas and Luke on the road to Emmaus; the Supper at Emmaus; Cleophas and Luke report the Resurrection to the Apostles (Luke 24, 13-35). Fresco of the 15th century in the nave of the Gračanica Monastery in Kosovo; St Luke is named in each of the captions. (Click to enlarge.)

How Do We Re-Establish an Artistic Tradition?

Looking at the 13th Century English Gothic School of St Albans as a Model for the Roman Rite Today

When I have had discussions about reestablishment of beautiful sacred art in the Roman Catholic Church (as opposed to in the Eastern churches), it usually comes down to picking a style from the past, and then using that as a starting point from which a style for today emerges. Some feel that the Western church should adopt the iconographic tradition, and then we get into discussions about which particular iconographic tradition we should go for: should it be the Greek style, the Russian style, or a historic Western style such as the Romanesque? Fra Angelico’s name also often crops up as a model for today. Some feel that he has sufficient naturalism to appeal to the modern eye, and sufficient abstraction for it to seem other-worldly and holy. A third is the style of English illumination in the early Gothic/late Romanesque style of the Westminster Psalter, which was painted in the 13th century.

I first started looking at this latter style when I was investigating alternatives to Greek and Russian icons as teaching models for my painting students, when I was artist-in-residence at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire.
I noticed that when we studied images from this period, the students engaged with them much more readily; they liked them more than Eastern icons and seemed to understand more instinctively what they were painting. As a result, some quickly developed a feel for what they could change without straying outside the style they were working in. In contrast, most who had not seen the style of the Eastern icons before found it slightly alien, and in class they had no instinctive sense of what they could change while remaining within the traditions. This meant that we had to copy rigidly for fear of introducing error. It was a bit like learning words from a language by rote without understanding the meaning of what you are saying. This is not always such a bad thing; copying with understanding is an essential part of learning art, but at some point the student must apply his understanding in new ways. This latter point seemed to be reached more quickly by these Roman Catholic students when working in the Gothic style. Perhaps if I had been teaching a class of students who had grown up in the Melkite liturgy, the story might have been different!

I refer to this period as the School of St Albans because its most famous artist is a monk called Matthew Paris, who was based at St Alban’s Abbey in England. Here is his self-portrait; below it are other works by him, scenes from the lives of St Thomas Becket and St Edward the Confessor.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Missals from Silverstream Priory (2): Regensburg

For an explanation of this series, see this article from last week.

Today, we will look at a German altar missal.

Unfortunately, I did not record the date of this particular missal printed in Regensburg by the famous publisher Friedrich Pustet, but judging from the artistic style and the use of color printing, it is likely from the 1920s or 30s. (It certainly must predate the dogmatic definition of the Assumption, for reasons that will become clear later.)

This missal takes the prize for the largest number of thematic drawings I have ever seen in any altar missal. An incredible attention to detail governs every page, with capitals illuminated in reference to the particular day of the liturgical calendar rather than generically styled.

There is a luxuriant creativity at work here, perhaps at times distracting and whimsical, but full of vitality and boldness, that bespeaks a laudable desire to produce a new work of art rather than merely regurgitate past conventions. I cannot show all of the artwork (I took about 150 photos of this missal!), but the selection below will give a good sense of this missal’s uniqueness.

I wonder: Could we ever commission another such missal, where every saint had his or her proper emblem, where each solemnity was graced with an illumination? Perhaps one day, in better times, it will happen again -- once we are no longer fighting about such arcane questions as whether sacramental marriage is between one man and one woman for life, or whether it is permissible to murder unborn humans (or to elect officials who think it is). We need a little Pax Romana first. But I digress...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Apostolate for the ICK in Detroit - First Mass This Sunday

Our thanks once again to Teresa Chisholm, this time for sending in this report on the newest apostolate of the Institute of Christ the King, in the Archdiocese of Detroit. A special first Mass will with some very good music be celebrated tomorrow in the St Joseph Oratory (details in the article and in the poster below); the church has been featured many times in our photoposts for their exemplary Masses in both forms of the Roman Rite.

This week the Archdiocese of Detroit officially announced that Archbishop Allen Vigneron has created a new parish at historic St. Joseph in the heart of Detroit. Called St. Joseph Oratory, this new parish is under the pastoral care of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

From the press release: “We are grateful for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest and the dedication they have to evangelizing through use of the Extraordinary Form,” said Archbishop Vigneron. “The Institute has shown tremendous energy in conveying a sense of the sacred through their ministry around the country and the world. We are especially encouraged that their ministry may also be instrumental in preserving St. Joseph, one of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s most beautiful and historic worship sites.”

St. Joseph Oratory is the Institute’s thirteenth church in the United States. Rev. Canon Michael Stein has been appointed rector, assisted by Deacon Jonathon Fehrenbacher. They will reside in the rectory, a stately building dating to 1896 which has not been home to a priest in over ten years, since St. Joseph was clustered in 2004 and then merged in 2013 with two historic Polish churches in Detroit, St. Josaphat and Sweetest Heart of Mary.

The rectory and church
Rev. Canon Michael Stein and Deacon Jonathon Fehrenbacher arrived in Detroit on October 11.
The festive First Mass of the Institute is Sunday, October 16 at noon, celebrated by the Very Rev. Msgr. R. Michael Schmitz, vicar general of the Institute. Also present will be Rev. Canon Matthew Talarico, the provincial superior. St. Joseph Cappella, Soloists and Chamber Orchestra will present Mozart’s Missa Brevis in G major and Jubilate Deo, Bruckner’s Locus Iste, and the Gregorian chant propers. A celebration to welcome the Institute to Detroit will follow in the hall. The weekly St. Joseph Oratory schedule, including two Sunday Masses, daily Mass and confession, Vespers and Benediction, and catechism classes for all ages, will be announced shortly.

St. Joseph was founded in 1855 by German immigrants. The present church, dedicated in 1873, was designed by German-American architect Franz Georg Himpler, whose works include, among others, Ss Peter and Paul in St. Louis (located a mile and a half from the Institute’s St. Francis de Sales Oratory) and St. Francis de Sales in Cincinnati.

side altar of the Virgin Mary
The exquisite interior of St. Joseph has remained virtually unchanged. The church celebrated a Latin Novus Ordo Mass ad orientem on Sundays since the post-Conciliar liturgical changes; over the decades, the regular schedule also included English and German Masses. The Ordinary Form Masses were enriched by the spirituality of the Extraordinary Form, and beginning in 2007, EF Masses were celebrated on certain feast days, most notably Christmas Midnight Mass, and for a time even monthly on Sundays. In recent years, the sole weekly Sunday Mass was the Latin Novus Ordo with polyphonic, orchestral, or chant Mass settings, polyphonic motets, Gregorian chant propers, and use of the Gregorian Missal as pew book. Traditional vestments, beautiful sacred vessels, incense, bells, altar server men and boys, and reception of Holy Communion at the altar rail were standard.

Final Latin Novus Ordo Sunday Mass on October 9
Archbishop Vigneron’s invitation to the Institute is being hailed as a miracle for St. Joseph and an answer to prayer. Parishioners look forward with hope to a full and vibrant parish life, continued and expanded devotions to St. Joseph, and a campaign to support critical restorations. The community which has celebrated the Tridentine Mass every Sunday at St. Josaphat for the last twelve years is grateful now to have a parish where all the sacraments will regularly be celebrated according to the old rite. For the faithful of St. Joseph, it will be a fascinating spiritual journey to move from the weekly Latin Novus Ordo to the Traditional Latin Mass with the Institute of Christ the King.

side altar of St Joseph
As was noted in the press release from the Archdiocese, “Deeply grateful to Archbishop Vigneron for his gracious invitation, our entire Institute family is very glad for this new apostolate in Detroit. St. Joseph Oratory will be a unique spiritual home offering Masses with sacred music, daily confessions, days of recollection, classes in spirituality and doctrine, and youth formation activities among others,” said Canon Matthew Talarico, provincial superior of Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. “With the help of God and the prayerful support of His people, the Institute seeks to carry on the traditions of St. Joseph with the truth and charity of Christ so very much needed in our world of today.”

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Antiquity of Liturgical Tradition - An Example from the Ambrosian Rite

This article is mostly the work of our Ambrosian writer Nicola de’ Grandi; I translated it from Italian, and added the paragraphs on the Ambrosian arrangement of the Sundays after Pentecost, and the Roman Rite’s use of the pericope of the adulteress.

In the Ambrosian Rite, there are only fifteen Sundays formally named “after Pentecost”, and if Pentecost is very late, as few as eleven may be actually celebrated. The series is interrupted by the Sundays “after the Beheading of John the Baptist,” of which there may be four or five, followed by the first and second Sundays of October. On the third Sunday, the church of Milan commemorates the dedication of its cathedral, followed by three Sundays “after the Dedication.” The largest possible number of Sundays after Pentecost is therefore 26, whereas it is 28 in the Roman Rite, since the Ambrosian Advent begins two weeks earlier, on the Sunday following St Martin’s day.

This past Sunday, the second of October, is named in the most ancient Ambrosian missals “the Sunday before the Dedication,” or else “before the Transmigration of the church.” Until the middle of the 16th century, the city of Milan had two cathedrals, on either end of the great modern Piazza del Duomo. The second title, “ante Transmigrationem Ecclesiae”, refers to an ancient tradition, attested in the 12th century Ambrosian Ordo of Beroldus, that placed on the Sunday of the Dedication one of the liturgical year’s most solemn events. All of the liturgical furnishings and books were taken in a grand procession, led by archbishop, from one of the two cathedrals, in this case the “summer church” dedicated to St Thecla, to the “winter church”, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The other such occasion was no less than Easter itself, on which the procession was reversed.

A page of an Ambrosian Missal printed in 1522; the Mass of the Sunday before the Dedication.
The Gospel of the second Sunday of October is John 8, 1-11, the famous “wandering pericope” of the woman taken in adultery. This passage occupies a uniquely important place in the Ambrosian tradition, since it is attested, together with three others, in the most ancient source directly related to the rite, the Codex Sangallenis, sometimes called the “king of palimpsests.” (A palimpsest, from the Greek for “scraped again”, is a manuscript whose original writing has been scraped off so that the paper or parchment can be reused. In many cases, the original writing can be recovered; several palimpsests are valuable witnesses to certain ancient texts.) A portion of this extraordinary codex, which is kept in the library of the monastery of San Gallen in Switzerland. contains what the most recent scholarship considers to be the remains of an ancient Ambrosian “libellus missarum,” (small book of Masses), dating back to the 7th century.

What makes this a witness of such exceptional importance is that St Ambrose comments upon the same passage in the so-called “Second Apology for King David,” a stenographer’s record of sermons which he preached over two or three days in the year 388. At the very beginning, he says “The reading of the Gospel … in which you heard of the adulteress brought before Christ, and sent away without condemnation … (Apol. David altera 1,1).

St Ambrose creates a parallel between the David’s adultery with Bathsheba, in which he sees a prefiguration of Christ’s love for the Church, and the adultery of the sinful woman justified by Christ. He justified the adulteress of many husbands, as he says, because she is a figure of the Church, (in the broader sense of God’s people, in the Old and New Testaments) that sought the Word of God in many places until she found it in Christ, and was absolved and purified by Him.

Christ and the Adulteress, by Rocco Marconi, ca. 1525
The adulteress, therefore, is the Church, whom Christ hastens to meet on the following Sunday, on which He is united to Her, consecrating and sanctifying her. “And therefore she was waiting about,” says St Ambrose, “and everywhere sought the Word of God, because she was wounded, because she was naked, because she was an adulteress in all things, although without blemish in Christ, as she sought a redeemer in her wretched body. Christ joined her to Himself, in order to make her immaculate; He united Himself to her, in order to take away her adultery.”

The ecclesiological interpretation which St Ambrose gives to this passage is also suggested by its placement in the traditional Roman lectionary, on the Saturday of the third week of Lent. The Epistle at that Mass is the longest in the entire Missal, the story of Susanna (Daniel 13), who already in the early third century was seen as a symbol of the Church, and the two elders who wish to seduce her as a symbol of Church’s persecutors. Susanna. Therefore, is the symbol of the Church in her fidelity to Christ, and the adulteress of the Church redeemed by Christ when she has been unfaithful to him.

But even more noteworthy is the fact that St Ambrose, as he continues his preaching, then cites the Gospel passage John 10, 22-30, in which Christ pronounces the words “I and the Father are one”, which the Ambrosian Missal assigns the following Sunday of the Dedication of the Church. This episode takes place during the Jewish feast of the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, known in Greek as “Encænia – the renewal.” As St Ambrose explains it, “What belongs to the nature of divinity is set forth in the reading of the Gospel, which you have devoutly followed, when you heard read out the word of the Son of God, ‘I and the Father are one.’ ” The same passages, with the same interpretation, and similarly placed next to each other, are therefore found in the writings of St Ambrose himself, before the long gap in the written sources after the 4th century, only to reappear after this long silence in the 7th century “libellus” contained with the codex at San Gallen.

This forms an exceptional witness to the Milanese church’s ability to jealously guard and preserve not only the essential characteristics of its own order of readings, but also the traditional interpretation of the scriptural passages contained therein, even over the course of the centuries from which no written liturgical source survives.
The Preaching of St Ambrose, by Bernaerd van Orley, 1515-20

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