Monday, February 08, 2016

“Mostly Latin” Vespers To Be Sung in Henry VIII's Chapel at Hampton Court

I was recently sent this interesting article in the Catholic Business Journal. Tomorrow evening, a Vespers will be sung by professional choir, The Sixteen. and attended by both Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, and the Anglican Bishop of London, Richard Chartres

As the CBJ article tells us, “On the evening of February 9, 2016, Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Nichols will celebrate Vespers and the Bishop of London, Dean of the Chapel Royal will preach in Henry VIII’s chapel- the first Catholic service held in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace since the 1550s...” [see full article here]

It has been created as an initiative to allow “dialogue” between churches and religions. Whatever form that dialogue takes outside the praying of Vespers itself, I have always been a great fan of using the Liturgy of the Hours to unite Christian worshipers. The texts are biblical and the prayers can legitimately be presented to avoid raising anti-Catholic prejudice without compromising Catholic principles. When we sang our Vespers regularly at the VA hospital in Manchester (as I have described in the past); we had a priest presiding, but we were only allowed to do it because it could be presented as “ecumenical.” All we had to do in order to allow all present to feel comfortable was to change the wording of a few of the prayers (as the General Instruction allows) so that there were no references to the Pope. As a result, I think some who would have felt uneasy knowing they were attending a Catholic service didn’t realise that they weren’t supposed to like it.

It is a good thing to have such luminaries present at this event at Hampton Court, but in fact, the Liturgy of the Hours does not even need a priest presiding in order to be authentically liturgical, other things being equal. A baptized Christian has sufficient standing to do this. Given this fact, I wonder if some of those Vespers that took place in this chapel in the protestant era might be considered Catholic nevertheless?

Things That Remit Venial Sins — The Traditional Liturgy Is Full of Them

We are approaching the great penitential season of Lent. If we live the season as we ought, we will invariably think a good deal about sin — how we can avoid it, repent of it, get it forgiven, root it out of our lives, and pay the temporal penalty for it.

As the great spiritual masters remind us, mortal sin rarely arises suddenly, with no habitual dispositions favoring it. True, our disordered concupiscence can indeed catch us by surprise and we fall into grave sin without an obvious path to it, but most of the time, the way to mortal sin is paved with lots of venial sins, which make us accustomed to a little bit of this or that bad behavior, weaken our resistance, lead us astray. If one tells a lot of small lies, one is greasing the axle for the big lies. If one eats and drinks a little too much again and again, one is laying a foundation for gluttony. And so on, with all the deadly sins. It’s spiritual common sense.

This being so, it seems a sort of enlightened self-love (so to speak) that we should strive to discover how best to avoid venial sins; how best to rid ourselves of them and their bad effects; if habituated to them, how to break the habit.

Fortunately, Holy Mother Church in her age-old treasure chest has gathered for us many means by which our venial sins can be remitted and prevented, and our charity enkindled. Some of these means were tossed aside after the Council, when even the basic elements of the doctrine of sin and grace were being called into question. Happily, such practices are still cherished in traditional enclaves, and their frequent and consistent use is one among many reasons to prefer such enclaves. It goes without saying that these practices ought to be taken up everywhere, whether in connection with the traditional Latin Mass or not, but there is no question that their use is easier to revive or continue in the setting of the TLM.

The Angelic Doctor observes:
[T]here are many remedies against venial sins; for example, beating of the breast, sprinkling with holy water, extreme unction, and every sacramental anointing; a bishop’s blessing, blessed bread, general confession, compassion, the forgiveness of another’s faults, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Prayer, and other sorts of light penance.[1]
This is a very interesting list of examples, and prompts a number of thoughts.

1. The beating of the breast (tunsio pectoris) is the first example that comes to St. Thomas’s mind. That’s not to say it’s the most important, but there is something rather obvious about it as a sign of repentance. Thomas is reminding us here that, done with devotion, the beating of the breast actually remits or prevents venial sins. As I noted here, a Catholic attending the TLM will beat his or her breast as many as 15 times during the liturgy.[2]

2. When we read of the "sprinkling with holy water" (aspersio aquae benedictate), the importance of the Asperges comes to mind immediately (or the Vidi aquam in Paschaltide). Why did this ritual ever pass out of use? In any case, TLM communities should be aspiring to a Sunday High Mass preceded by the Asperges. It is a beautiful blessing, a reminder of our baptism, and a perfect preparation for the sacrifice of the Mass — a symbolic bath before the banquet, one might say. Everyone washes (or should wash) before partaking of a meal, and our approach to the passover Lamb should be no different spiritually.[3]

3. Extreme unction, sometimes called anointing of the sick, obviously remits venial sins, because it remits repented mortal sins as well, and, to invoke a scholastic axiom, that which can do the greater can do the lesser. The "sacramental anointings" that go along with baptism, confirmation, and holy orders are also efficacious against venial sins.

4. "A bishop's blessing." When a bishop processes down the aisle making the sign of the cross over the gathered faithful, this isn't simply a formal way of saying hello or of establishing episcopal credibility. He is imparting his blessing, which, as Thomas points out, has the same sort of effect as the beating of the breast or the sprinkling with holy water.

5. It's fascinating that St. Thomas mentions "blessed bread," a custom long since lost among Roman Catholics but still preserved among the Eastern Orthodox and the Byzantine Catholics, who share out, after liturgy, bread baked for the liturgy that was not consecrated in the anaphora. For Eastern Christians who may be reading this, the partaking of the antidoron remits your venial sins.

Confiteor Deo omnipotenti...
6. By “general confession,” St. Thomas is referring to the saying of the Confiteor or a similar prayer that is recited in common and refers to sins generally. It is noteworthy, again, that at every Mass celebrated in the usus antiquior, the Confiteor will be recited at least twice — once by the priest and once by the servers — if not three times, wherever the laudable custom of the Confiteor immediately before communion is retained.

7. "Compassion, the forgiveness of another's faults." Here we are reminded by St. Thomas that our interior attitude towards our suffering brethren or those guilty of having injured us is itself a potent factor in the remission and prevention of venial sins.

8. "The Lord's Prayer." It should come as no surprise to find Thomas listing this sovereign prayer among the various means given to us to combat venial sin. What bears noting is the manner in which the Divine Office in its pre-1960 form utilized the Lord's Prayer frequently throughout the day, whereas later reforms to the Divine Office tended to minimize its use, presumably in deference to "ancient practice" and with the theory that repetition kills devotion. While the ancient practice may have been as they say, the theory that undergirds the anachronistic attempt to revive it is highly questionable, to say the least. Those who pray the Divine Office in its organically developed form come to appreciate the many times a day it places the Lord's sublime prayer on our lips.

Looking back over this list, we then ask the question: "Why is it that all these things are effective against venial sin?" St. Thomas provides a clear answer:
To the fourth question it should be said that, as has been said, venial sin is forgiven through the fervor of charity, which explicitly or implicitly contains contrition; and so those things that are in themselves of a nature to excite the fervor of charity are said to remit venial sins. Of this sort are the things that confer grace, like all the sacraments, and things by which impediments to fervor and grace are removed, like holy water, which represses the power of the Enemy, and a bishop’s blessing, or another exercise of humility on our part, like beating the breast, or the Lord’s Prayer, and the like.[4]
And again:
Our act is required for the remission of venial sin, but these acts are said to remit venial sin as acts that excite our fervor.[5]
For more thoughts on all of these topics, see my article "St. Thomas on the Asperges."

So, Reverend Fathers, get ready to douse your people this Lent with holy water before the Sunday High Mass! With this simple but potent means, you are driving back Satan's kingdom. Faithful Christian souls, get ready to take advantage of the plethora of tools Holy Mother Church offers you for combating the world, the flesh, and the devil.


[1] In IV Sent. d. 16, q. 2, a. 2, qa. 4, sc 1: "Sed contra est quod communiter dicitur, quod multa sunt remedia contra venialia peccata; scilicet tunsio pectoris, aspersio aquae benedictae, unctio extrema, et omnis sacramentalis unctio; benedictio episcopi, panis benedictus, generalis confessio, compassio, alieni delicti dimissio, Eucharistia, oratio dominica, et alia quaecumque levis poenitentia."

[2] See "Beat Your Own Breast" for further thoughts on this custom.

[3] See Fr. Kocik on how to incorporate the Asperges into the Ordinary Form.

[4] In IV Sent. d. 16, q. 2, a. 2, qa. 4, resp.: "Ad quartam quaestionem dicendum, quod, sicut dictum est, veniale peccatum dimittitur per fervorem caritatis, qui explicite vel implicite contritionem contineat; et ideo illa quae nata sunt de se excitare fervorem caritatis, peccata venialia dimittere dicuntur: hujusmodi autem sunt quae gratiam conferunt, sicut omnia sacramenta, et quibus impedimenta fervoris et gratiae auferuntur, sicut aqua benedicta, quae virtutem inimici reprimit, et episcopalis benedictio, vel etiam exercitium humilitatis ex parte nostra; sicut tunsio pectoris, et oratio dominicalis, et hujusmodi."

[5] Ibid., ad 1: "Ad primum ergo dicendum, quod actus noster requiritur ad dimissionem venialis; sed ista dicuntur peccatum veniale remittere, inquantum in actum, nostrum fervorem excitant."

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Burial of the Alleluia at St John Cantius, Chicago

Following on from Gregory DiPippo's recent post about the Burying of the Alleluia, we are pleased to reproduce this article by Rev. Scott A. Haynes about the burial of the Alleluia under the Altar Cloth of the Lady Altar which takes place at St John Cantius today. This article originally appeared on the St John Cantius website here.

The Burial of the ‘Alleluia’ is a beautiful custom repeated each year at St. John Cantius Parish. On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, we bid this sacred word a fond farewell for the duration of Lent.

At the end of Mass, a placard with the ‘Alleluia’ in ornate gold letters is taken from the Sanctuary and processed to Mary’s Altar where it is “buried”—placed under the altar cloth. The ‘Alleluia’ will only emerge again at the Easter Vigil after the 40 days of Lent, we hear the Church proclaim the Resurrection of Our Lord.

The Alleluia will only resound again with the ‘Light of Christ’ on Easter Night
In the language of prayer, some words need no translation. Amen is such a word, a Hebrew word of assent meaning “so be it,” by which a congregation affixes its signature, if you will, to the official prayer of the Church. The Kyrie eleison (i.e., “Lord, have mercy”) remained in Greek even after the Roman Rite adopted Latin as its mother tongue. Alleluia is a word familiar to all Christendom, whether the language of the local liturgy is Latin or Greek, Spanish or Ukrainian, Polish or Vietnamese. It is the Latinized form of Hebrew’s Hallelujah (i.e., “Praise the Lord”). In the West, we associate Alleluia with the joy of the Resurrection and Easter. Consequently, the Church buries the Alleluia while we put on the ashes and sackcloth of penance.

Pope Alexander II decreed that the dismissal of the Alleluia be solemnly marked on the eve of Septuagesima Sunday (i.e., three Sundays before Ash Wednesday) in the chanting of the Divine Office by inserting Alleluias in the sacred text. This custom also inspired the creation of new hymns sung at Vespers honouring the Alleluia. The best-known of these hymns is Alleluia, dulce carmen (i.e., “Alleluia, Song of Gladness”), composed by an unknown author of the tenth century:

Alleluia, song of gladness, voice of joy that cannot die;
Alleluia is the anthem ever dear to choirs on high;
In the house of God abiding thus they sing eternally.

Alleluia thou resoundest, true Jerusalem and free;
Alleluia, joyful mother, all thy children sing with thee;
But by Babylon’s sad waters mourning exiles now are we.

Alleluia we deserve not here to chant forevermore;
Alleluia our transgressions make us for a while give o’er;
For the holy time is coming bidding us our sins deplore.

Therefore in our hymns we pray Thee, grant us, blessèd Trinity,
At the last to keep Thine Easter in our home beyond the sky;
There to Thee forever singing Allelúia joyfully.

During the Middle Ages, the practice of “burying the Alleluia” on the eve of Septuagesima Sunday was enhanced by a popular ritual guided by the choir boys. We find a description of it in the fifteenth-century statute book of the church of Toul, France:

“On Saturday before Septuagesima Sunday all choir boys gather in the sacristy during the prayer of the None, to prepare for the burial of the Alleluia. After the last Benedicamus Domino [i.e., at the end of the Vespers service] they march in procession, with crosses, tapers, holy water and censers; and they carry a coffin, as in a funeral. Thus they proceed through the aisle, moaning and mourning, until they reach the cloister. There they bury the coffin; they sprinkle it with holy water and incense it; whereupon they return to the sacristy by the same way.”

This burial of the Alleluia was nicknamed the deposition (i.e., “the giving on deposit”). Curiously enough, gravestones in Catholic cemeteries traditionally had the inscription Depositus, or simply “D,” to indicate a Christian’s burial. When this term indicates the burial of the Alleluia or of the faithful departed, the Christian belief in resurrection is clear. As we bury those who have been “marked with the sign of faith,” (Roman Canon), and as we enter into the fasting of Lent, we do not silence our tongues because of despair or permanent loss. Rather, we do so with confidence that what has been deposited into the earth—our dead, our Alleluia—will rise again.

Yet in this period of preparation, we remain keenly aware of the mystery of sin and of our exile from the place where Alleluia abounds. So until we return to the New Jerusalem, let us not forget the sin that continues to devastate our world and our mission to heal what has been broken.

“We desist from saying Alleluia, the song chanted by angels, because we have been excluded from the company of the angels on account of Adam’s sin. In the Babylon of our earthly life we sit by the streams, weeping as we remember Sion. For as the children of Israel in an alien land hung their harps upon the willows, so we too must forget the Alleluia song in the season of sadness, of penance, and bitterness of heart.”

Chicago’s St. John Cantius Parish has adopted the noble custom of the Burial of the Alleluia for use in the Modern Roman Rite (i.e., Ordinary Form). On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday after Holy Mass, as the choir and congregation sings the traditional Alleluia, dulce carmen, an altar boy holds a large ornate board on which is inscribed Alleluia in golden letters. He leads the joyous procession to the Lady Altar where the board is solemnly buried underneath the altar cloth until the Alleluia is resurrected at the Easter Vigil, as the great moment arrives when the deacon approaches the Bishop with the words, “I announce to you a great joy: it is the Alleluia.” And the priest sings it in three different keys before the gospel of the Holy Saturday Mass, the choir repeats it jubilantly, and we all rejoice again: Alleluia!

Rev. Scott A. Haynes SJC

Saturday, February 06, 2016

“Those Who Shone Forth in the Ascetic Life”

Rejoice, faithful Egypt; rejoice, holy Libya; rejoice, o chosen Thebaid; rejoice, every place, and city, and land that nourished the citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and raised them in self-discipline and toil, and showed them forth to God as men perfect in their desires. They were revealed as those who give light to our souls; these very same, by the glory of their miracles, and the wonders of their deeds, shone forth to our minds, unto every corner of the world. Let us cry out to them, “All-blessed fathers, pray that we may be saved!”

Scenes from the Lives of the Desert Fathers, or “Thebaid”, by Blessed Fra Angelico, 1420; now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest.
Χαῖρε Αἴγυπτε πιστή, χαῖρε Λιβύη ὁσία, χαῖρε Θηβαῒς ἐκλεκτή, χαῖρε πᾶς τόπος, καὶ πόλις, καὶ χώρα, ἡ τοὺς πολίτας θρέψασα τῆς Βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν, καὶ τούτους ἐν ἐγκρατείᾳ καὶ πόνοις αὐξήσασα, καὶ τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν τελείους ἄνδρας τῷ Θεῷ ἀναδείξασα. οὗτοι φωστῆρες τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν ἀνεφάνησαν, οἱ αὐτοὶ τῶν θαυμάτων τῇ αἴγλῃ, καὶ τῶν ἔργων τοῖς τέρασιν, ἐξέλαμψαν νοητῶς, εἰς τὰ πέρατα ἅπαντα. Αὐτοῖς βοήσωμεν· Πατέρες παμμακάριστοι, πρεσβεύσατε τοῦ σωθῆναι ἡμᾶς.

On the Saturday before Great Lent begins, the Byzantine Rite commemorates “All of the God-bearing Fathers and Mother Who Shone Forth in the Ascetic Life.” This text, from Vespers of the preceding day, beautifully recalls the origins of monasticism and the ascetic life in the deserts of Egypt and north Africa. The “Thebaid” to which it refers is one of the provinces into which Egypt was divided by the reforms of the Emperor Diocletian in the later 3rd century; this province had its capital at Thebes, the impressive ruins of which are now within the city of Luxor, including some of the most famous ancient temples. Likewise, the first Ode of Matins for this day begins with the words “Let us all sing together in spiritual songs, of those who shone forth in asceticism, our godly Fathers, whom Egypt, Libya and the Thebaid bore, and every place and city and land.”

One of the most influential writings on Western monasticism is John Cassian’s Institutes, which refer very frequently to the Egyptians as the models of monastic life, as, for example, at the beginning of the third book, in which he speaks of “the perfection and inimitable rigor of the discipline of the Egyptians.” Likewise, when St Benedict’s Rule commands that the entire Psalter should be said in the Office within a week, since “we read that our holy forefathers promptly fulfilled (this recitation) in one day,” he is referring to the common practice of the early ascetics. As the Fra Angelico painting above, and various others like it show, the Western Church never forgot the origin of the ascetic and monastic life; and the motif of the “Thebaid” serves to recall all religious of whatever sort to the ideal expressed by the words of Christ, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”

Pope St Leo the Great writes in his fourth sermon on Lent that very few have the strength to remain continually in a spiritual condition such as the feast of Easter ought to find them in, and with the relaxation of the more strict observance of Lent, and the general cares of this life, “even religious hearts must grow dirty with the dust of this world.” Therefore, the forty days exercise of Lent was instituted by Divine Providence, so that the devotions and fasts of Lent might purify us of the sins which we have committed in the rest of the year. The Byzantine Rite therefore concludes its Fore-Lent with a commemoration of those Saints who did have such strength, and by embracing the ascetic life, lived as it were a continual Lent, invoking their intercession on behalf of the whole Church on the eve of the Great Fast.

What Do Catholics Believe About Icons? Talk in Philadelphia, Saturday, February 13

I have been invited to speak at the International Institute for Culture in Philadelphia next Saturday evening, February 13th. The talk is entitled, What Do Catholic Believe About Icons?

Commonly described as “windows to heaven,” images painted in the iconographic style have enjoyed a growth in popularity in the western Catholic Church in the last 50 years, although the style is still associated most strongly with the Eastern Churches and Rites.

I will describes the theology of icons, what precisely makes them worthy of veneration, and where and when this theology was developed. Also, I will address the myths and the mystique that are associated with icons and consider their place in the Roman Rite. In doing so, I will compare and contrast beliefs about icons held by members of the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches. I will address some commonly asked questions such as: Is the icon superior to traditional Western forms of liturgical art such as the Baroque or the Gothic? Is the person depicted present in the icon in a way analogous to the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament? Does the artist “write” icons or does he “paint” them, or both? And, does the artist have to be a monk or have to fast and pray before working?

This is part of a series of lectures called In the Beauty of Holiness - Art, Architecture and the Transcendant, organized by the International Institute for Culture.

Hope to see some of you there.

For more information about this and other events organized by the IIC, visit their website at

Friday, February 05, 2016

Follow-Up on a Recent Post about Spain

After seeing a recent post by Matthew Alderman entitled “A Visigothic Hermitage in the Province of Burgos”, reader Mervyn Samuel was kind enough to send in the following photographs and some information about them. Mr Samuel is a member of a cultural association in Spain called Urbs Regia, which seeks to promote great knowledge and appreciation of the Visigothic culture and its role in the formation of Spain. Their website is currently being redone; we will post notice when it comes back online. Of course, we have written here from time to time about one of the most important survivals of Visigothic Spain, the Mozarabic Liturgy.

“I was pleased to see your recent mention of the Visigoths in Spain in relation to the little church of Nuestra Señora de las Viñas. They were so important in Spanish and European history yet are little remembered nowadays. Precisely for this reason an association, Urbs Regia, has been established in the Visigothic capital, Toledo, to examine what remains of their culture in Spain and other countries (a previous capital was Bordeaux).

We have recently visited the ruins of the palatine city of Recopolis (in the modern province of Guadalajara), and the Visigothic section of the National Archaeological Museum here in Madrid. A few photos are attached.

Above all, I would suggest that the Visigoths were in no real sense ‘barbarians’ when they came into Hispania as allies of Rome to try to prop up Roman civilisation in this peninsula. Originally Arian heretics, they accepted full Christianity in its Catholic form as a result of the conversion of King Recaredus I, formalised at the 3rd Council of Toledo in 589. They included such glorious figures of European culture as Saint Isidore, Archbishop of Seville. They united Hispania for the first time by overcoming the Suevians in the north-west, and expelling the Byzantine or Eastern Roman forces from the south-east. Always a small proportion of the total population, they allowed the long-established Hispano-Roman cities to continue under Roman Law, while their own affairs were governed by Germanic Common or Customary Law.

The two remaining arms of a processional cross (third photo) are of such high quality that they were probably saved from Toledo Cathedral during the Islamic invasion of 711 and hidden with the remainder of the Guarrazar Hoard. The fourth photo shows votive crowns from the same hoard, probably also from the Cathedral; the fifth shows the votive crown of King Recesvintus.”

Kind Recaredus speaks to the bishops at the Third Council of Toledo

Remains of a basilica at Recopolis

The Feast of St Agatha 2016

Truly it is fitting and just, meet and profitable to salvation, that we sing of Thee especially on this day with praise worthy of this celebration, on which a triumphal victim was offered to Thy majesty; one to whom Thou gavest so great a victory, that her very torments, though fierce and bitter, trembled before their conqueror. With such bright flashes of light did her lamp shine, that she might enter the gates of heaven thrown open. O happy and reknowned virgin! who merited to glorify her martyrdom with blood, for the praise of her faithful Lord. O honorable and glorious woman, and rendered doubly glorious! who in the midst of bitter torments, shown forth by every sort of miracle, and mighty with hidden support, merited to be healed by the vistation of Thy Apostle, and sing of Thee, true and supreme God, in sacred hymn. Thus wedded to Christ, the heavens received her, while; thus did she shine forth in a glorious service as her body was laid to rest, when a choir of Angels proclaimed the holiness of her mind and the liberation of her country. Through Christ our Lord, through whom the Angels praise Thy majesty etc. (The Preface of St Agatha in the traditional Ambrosian Missal.)

The Martyrdom of St Agatha, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, ca 1756. 
Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare, nos te in hoc praecipue die digna laude praeconii canere: in quo triumphalis hostia tuae maiestati oblata est. Cui tantam contulisti victoriam, ut ipsa saeva et aspera victricem tremerent tormenta. Cuius lampas coruscis emicat fulgoribus, ut reseratas poli ingredi valeat ianuas. O felix et inclyta Virgo! Quae meruit, Domini pro laude fidelis, martyrium sanguine clarificare suum. O illustris et gloriosa, gemino illustrata decore! Quae inter tormenta aspera, cunctis praelata miraculis, et mystico pollens suffragio, Apostoli tui meruit visitatione curari, et te, verum summumque Deum, sacro carmine concinere. Sic nuptam Christo susceperunt aethera, sic humandi artus glorioso fulgent obsequio, ubi Angelorum chorus sanctitatem mentis et patriae indicant liberationem. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum.

I undertook the hazard of translating this highly rhetorical piece of Latin because it refers at the end to one of my favorite hagiographic legends. The story is that when the Christians of St Agatha’s city, Catania in Sicilia, had brought her body to her burial place, “there came a young man dressed in silken garments, followed by more than one hundred children in white garments; and he entered the place where the holy virgin’s body was being laid, and set there a small marble plaque on which it was written, ‘A holy mind, willing, honor to God, and the liberation of the fatherland.’ And he stood there until the sepulcher was diligently closed, and then departing was seen no more in all the province of Sicily; whence there is no doubt that he was and Angel of God.” (From an edition of the Roman Breviary printed in 1529.)

In the Ambrosian Mass, the Fraction is done immediately after the Canon, before the Lord’s Prayer, and accompanied by an antiphon called the Confractorium, which on the feast of St Agatha reads as follows:

An Angel of the Lord came and laid down a small plaque of marble, on which was written: A holy mind, willing, honor to God, and the liberation of the fatherland. - Veniens Angelus Domini. posuit tabulam brevem ex marmore, in qua scriptum erat: Mentem sanctam, spontaneam, honorem Deo, et patriae liberationem.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

A Bit More from Modena Cathedral

Just a few more pictures of one of my favorite cathedrals in Italy.

Romanesque capitals in the crypt

Polyptych of the Coronation of the Virgin Mary, with Ss. Nicholas, Christopher, Geminianus and Anthony the Abbot, by Serafino de’ Serafini, 1385. This chapel is at the very top of the large staircase that leads to the highly elevated main sanctuary.
The decorative slab on the front of this altar was carved in the 9th century.
Modern work in the main apse of the church.

Denis McNamara to Talk in New York City This Saturday

The Catholic Artists’ Society series of talks entitled The Art of the Beautiful continues this Saturday in New York City, with a presentation from architectural historian Denis McNamara entitled Incarnation and Transfiguration: Rediscovering the Iconic Nature of Church Buildings.

Anyone who has attended one of Denis’ lectures or seen the series of talks produced by the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, where he works, will know that this promises to be a stimulating and enjoyable evening. As usual with the CAS events the talk is followed by a reception and Compline. 

Just in case you can’t make out the detail on the poster above, the talk is at the Catholic Center, NYU, 238 Thompson Street.

New Video from the Benedictine Monks of St. Bernard Abbey

Here at NLM we do all we can to let people know about good things happening throughout the Church, in the ambits of Eastern and Western rites, in parishes, religious communities, and lay institutions. It is true that contributors have a variety of points of view about what is the best way forward, but it is no less true that we welcome any and every positive development in the realm of liturgy, especially as the example and teaching of Pope Benedict XVI spread their influence more and more among thoughtful members of the Church.

Today I would like to showcase a new video produced by Saint Bernard’s Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. A chant maestro and a friend of NLM suggested that we share this video with our readers, as it offers a hopeful glimpse into the lives of Benedictine monks who, while not completely traditional in orientation, are striving to live their monastic life within a hermeneutic of continuity.[1] The video shows them, among other things, using real chant books (they do most of their office in English plainchant, following the psalter of the Rule of St. Benedict), using incense and better vestments than one might find elsewhere, giving communion on the tongue, and other ROTR-type things. (One might say: “This should all be non-negotiable!”, but anyone who has visited Benedictine monasteries knows that it’s far from being the norm.)

The community is growing and attracting new vocations. Judging from what they are showing about themselves, it would seem to me that they will keep moving more and more in the direction of the monastic tradition. One may hope to see in the future a place for the usus antiquior, so beautifully attuned to the contemplative religious life.


For high-definition:

[1] Please don’t write in the combox that “Pope Benedict didn’t say ‘hermeneutic of continuity,’ he said ‘hermeneutic of reform in continuity...’ ”, blah blah blah. This Rhonheimer canard -- a partial truth, at best -- has been thoroughly deconstructed (see here) and yet it never seems to die the death.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Video of a Norbertine House in Belgium

A reader sent me notice of a film made ca. 1964 for the Belgian television network BRT, about the Premonstratensian Abbey of Park (Abdij van ’t Park), just outside Leuven. There is a small amount of commentary in Dutch at the beginning, but most of the film just shows images and sounds from the abbey rather than commentary. There is a lot of nice footage of the interior of the church, with altars prepared for Mass, the sacristy, the choir, and the chant, and some footage of the Norbertine liturgy, with pontifical Vespers, and a procession of the canons. It has to be said that the music which is added by the film-maker on top of the footage is in many places extremely weird, but perhaps typical of the era. The video is not embeddable, so I can’t put it here, but you can watch it at this link: It will only be available for a month.

The Abbey’s website also overs a nice virtual tour of the complex, which dates back to the very beginning of the Premonstratensian order; it was founded in 1129, within St Norbert’s lifetime.

Introduction to Dominican Chant at St Vincent Ferrer in NYC

Beginning on Sunday, February 7, 2016, the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena will offer a three-part series of workshops on Dominican chant, the dialect of Gregorian chant used by the Order of Preachers.

Led by Fr. Innocent Smith, o.p., the workshops will take place on three successive Sundays, February 7, 14, and 21, from 3:00–3:50 pm in the Parish Hall of the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer (in the undercroft the Church, accessible from Lexington Ave. to the right of the front steps of the Church). On February 14 and 21 the workshop will be followed by Vespers at 4:00 pm in the Church, giving participants a chance to sing some of the chants they have studied in the workshop.

To RSVP for the workshops, please email

A leaf of a Missal decorated by Saint Fra Angelico, the famous Dominican painter, from the museum of the Dominican church of San Marco in Florence, ca. 1430.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Candlemas Celebrated in the Use of Sarum - Videos from 1997

Our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi sent me a link to this video, one of a series of 15 which show the liturgy of Candlemas celebrated according to the Use of Sarum. This took place at Merton College in Oxford in 1997; Shawn Tribe wrote up a bit about some of the particular rituals in this post from 2006: “Some images of the Sarum Use.” You can follow this link to a Youtube playlist which has the whole ceremony; the video quality is not the best, but the music is very nice indeed.

The celebrant of the Mass also has a blog called Aspicientes in Jesum (the url is based on its former name, Valle Adurni); on the right sidebar there are links under the heading “Sarum Things” which give a good deal of useful information about how the Sarum Use was done.

Book Announcement: T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy, Edited by Dom Alcuin Reid

Ever since my copy arrived, it has been my devout intention to prepare a worthy review of this momentous and authoritative new book, the T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy, edited by Dom Alcuin Reid. But since the review may take a while to finish given my teaching schedule and the density of the book, I thought it best to offer at least a teaser of this magnificent volume -- particularly in light of the announcement from the publisher, Bloomsbury, that during the month of February exclusively, people may purchase this book at a 35% discount, using the code LITURGY35.

If you are in charge of a library, or if you can make recommendations of books to libraries, or most of all, if you are a serious scholar of the liturgy, you should make a point of getting and studying this book, whose table of contents reads like a "who's who" of the most thoughtful and penetrating writers on the liturgy. Obviously a volume of 581 pages (xx + 561) cannot include every name, but its breadth and ambition can be seen from the list of authors who contributed chapters: +László Dobszay, +Anscar Chupungco, Uwe Michael Lang, Thomas Kocik, Paul Gunter, Bruce Harbert, Daniel Van Slyke, David Fagerberg, James Monti, Susan Treacy, Timothy McDonnell, Thomas Gordon Smith, Robert Hayward, Yitzhak Hen, Anthony Chadwick, Benjamin Gordon-Taylor, and, of course, Alcuin Reid himself (who is represented by five fine chapters: on participation, on the Liturgical Movement, on the implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, on the concept of "pastoral liturgy," and on the usus antiquior's restoration). Indeed, Reid's contributions, taken together, constitute a mini-treatise on some of the most important liturgical topics of our time.

Although the book does present a variety of perspectives, not all of them sympathetic to the hermeneutic of continuity or the recovery of tradition, most of the authors represent the new wave of liturgical scholarship that is highly respectful of and dedicated to the Catholic tradition and, accordingly, skeptical about the rapid and ideologically-motivated changes that befell the Roman Catholic liturgy before and particularly after the Second Vatican Council. In this way, the book exemplifies a noble seriousness of purpose, a depth of intellectual engagement, and a pastoral concern with the health of the Western liturgy that makes it an essential reference work for consultation on the host of topics taken up in its pages.

I would like to draw special attention to an unusual and very helpful feature of this book, one that I had not been expecting: Part V, "A-Z of the Study of Catholic Liturgy," pp. 499-551. Here we have a detailed glossary of liturgical terms, be they rites, ceremonies, books, documents, persons, or concepts, from which any reader can learn a great deal, whether a beginner to the study of liturgy, or one who has been at it a long time.

Here is the table of contents:

Introduction - Alcuin Reid

1 Liturgical Theology - David W. Fagerberg

2 The Jewish Roots of Christian Liturgy - Robert Hayward, Durham University, UK
3 The Study of Early Christian Worship - Daniel Van Slyke, Holy Apostles College, USA
4 Key Themes in the Study of Early Medieval Liturgy - Yitzhak Hen, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
5 Late Medieval Liturgy: A Celebration of Emmanuel, “God with us” - James Monti, Liturgical Scholar and Writer, USA
6 The Roman Missal of the Council of Trent - Anthony Chadwick, Priest of the Traditional Anglican Communion, France
7 In Pursuit of Participation: Liturgy and Liturgists in Early Modern and Post Enlightenment Catholicism - Alcuin Reid, Monastère Saint-Benoît, France
Appendix: Two Nineteenth Century Liturgists - Paul Gunter OSB, Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Saint Anselmo, Italy
8 The Twentieth Century Liturgical Movement - Alcuin Reid, Monastère Saint-Benoît, France
9 The Liturgy of the Sacraments - James Leachman OSB, St Benedict's Abbey, UK 
10. The Divine Office in History - †Lázló Dobszay, (1935-2011)
11 Gregorian Chant - Susan Treacy, Ave Maria University, USA

12 The Vision of the Constitution on the Liturgy - †Anscar Chupungco OSB (1939-2013)
13 The Implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium - †Anscar Chupungco OSB (1939-2013) 
14 After Sacrosanctum Concilium: Continuity or Rupture? - Alcuin Reid, Monastère Saint-Benoît, France
15 A Reform of the Reform? - Thomas Kocik, St Anne's Parish, USA

16 Pastoral Liturgy Revisited - Alcuin Reid, Monastère Saint-Benoît, France
17 The Liturgy and Sacred Language - Uwe Michael Lang, Heythrop College, UK
18 Englishing the Mass - Bruce Harbert, Archdiocese of Birmingham, UK
19 Liturgical Music - Timothy McDonnell, Ave Maria University, USA
20 Liturgical Architecture - Thomas Gordon Smith, University of Notre Dame, USA
21 The Usus Antiquior: Its History and Importance after the Second Vatican Council - Alcuin Reid, Monastère Saint-Benoît, France
22 An Anglican Perspective - Ben Gordon-Taylor, College of the Resurrection, UK



Once again, for the month of February, the book is available at 35% off of the list price ($172), which brings the price down to $111.80. 

The Meeting of Christ and Simeon in the Temple

Thy virtue covered the heavens, O Christ, for coming forth from the Ark of Thy sanctification, Thy undefiled Mother, Thou didst appeared in the temple of Thy glory as an infant borne in her arms, and all things were filled with Thy praise. (The fourth ode of Byzantine Matins of the feast of the Meeting of Christ and Simeon in the Temple.)

The Meeting of Christ and Simeon in the Temple depicted in a mosaic under the dome of Katholikon (principal church) of the monastery of St Luke, on Mt Helicon in the Boeotia region of Greece; early 11th century. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Hans A. Rosbach.)
Ἐκάλυψεν οὐρανούς ἡ ἀρετή σου Χριστέ· τῆς κιβωτοῦ γὰρ προελθὼν τοῦ ἁγιάσματός σου, τῆς ἀφθόρου Μητρός, ἐν τῷ Ναῷ τῆς δόξης σου, ὤφθης ὡς βρέφος ἀγκαλοφορούμενος, καὶ ἐπληρώθη τὰ πάντα τῆς σῆς αἰνέσεως.

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