Friday, December 13, 2019

Immaculate Conception 2019 Photopost (Part 2)

We finish up with photos of celebrations of the Immaculate Conception just in time to start in on Gaudete Sunday and Rorate Masses, a reminder for which will be posted tomorrow. Note that every one of these has at least a little blue (sometimes quite a lot) in the vestments, a custom which is becomIing more popular all the time. Once again, we thank everyone who contributed these photos - evangelize through beauty!

St Anthony Catholic Church – Des Moines, Iowa
Tradition will always be for the young!
St Mary’s Oratory – Wausau, Wisconsin (ICKSP)

The Feast of St Lucy

Truly is is fitting and just, right and profitable to salvation, that we should give Thee thanks always and everywhere, o Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God; Who by Thy grace gave to the Blessed Lucy in the contest of her martyrdom the strength of unconquerable faith, by which she defied and steadfastly overcame the pains of fire and sword, and happily triumphed over the savagery of the tyrant Paschasius. O God, how wondrous and incomprehensible is Thy might! Who made her, though still but a girl, of the fragile sex, victorious in her tortures, and when she had entered the door of the heavenly kingdom, crowned her with a double crown for the double victory of her virginity and martyrdom. Through Christ our Lord. Through whom the Angels praise, the Archangels venerate, the Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Principalities, Powers adore Thy majesty, whom also the Cherubim and Seraphim, praise with voices united; among whom we beseech that Thou also command our voices to be admitted, saying with humble confession. Holy... (The Ambrosian Preface for the feast of St Lucy.)

St Lucy before the Prefect Paschasius, by Lorenzo Lotto, 1532
Vere quia dignum et justum est ... Qui Beátae Luciae, in sui agóne martyrii, inexpugnábilis fidei fortitúdinem tua gratia praestitisti: per quam contemptas incendii, et gladii poenas constanter súperans, de Paschasii tyranni saevitia felíciter triumphavit. O mira, et incomprehensíbilis tua, Domine, potentia! qui ipsam adhuc juvénculam, in sexu frágili, victrícem in suppliciis reddidisti: et ingressam regni caelestis jánuam, pro gémina virginitátis et martyrii victoria, dúplici lauréola coronasti. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum. Per quem...

Several of the words and expressions in this Preface (“contest”, “unconquerable”, “steadfastly overcame”, etc.) come from a very ancient tradition by which the Christians adopted the language of gladiatorial combats to the trials and sufferings of their martyrs. In the case of St Lucy, however, they also refer to a specific episode of her legend: when she had spoken of the virtue of chastity to Paschasius, the prefect of her native city of Syracuse, he ordered her to be dragged her off to a brothel. However, the men charged with bringing her there found it absolutely impossible to move her, an episode which is twice commemorated in the proper texts of her Office. The antiphon of the Benedictus reads “Thou art an immovable column, o Lucy, bride of Christ: for all the people await thee, that Thou may receive the crown of life, alleluja.” That of the Magnificat at Second Vespers reads “With such great weight did the Holy Spirit fix her fast that the Virgin of Christ remained unmovable.” Inspired by these texts, Lotto makes her the brightest figure in the painting, and shows her standing perfectly upright, while the figures around her are bent in one direction or another in the struggle to move her.

In the panel below, the work of an anonymous painter from Bruges in the Netherlands known as the Master of the St Lucy Legend (active ca. 1480-1510), the Saint is shown on the left with her mother, whom she had taken to the shrine of St Agatha to heal her from an issue of blood. In the center, she is tried before Paschasius; on the right, she remains completely unmovable, even when oxen are tied to her in an attempt to drag her away.

Christmas Liturgies with the St Ann Choir in Palo Alto, California

Here is the schedule for the liturgies of the Christmas season which will be sung by the Palo Alto-based St Ann Choir: the Masses will be celebrated at St Thomas Aquinas Church, located at 751 Waverly St at Homer, the Vespers at St Ann Chapel, located at 541 Melville at Tasso. The Masses are in Latin in the Ordinary Form, with all the Propers sung in Gregorian Chant and with the polyphonic Masses listed below.

11:30 p.m. - Organ music and carols
12:00 - Midnight Mass (Dominus dixit ad me)
Tomás Luis de Victoria, Missa O Magnum Mysterium

12:00 noon - Sung Mass for Christmas Day (Puer natus est)
William Byrd, Mass for Four Voices
8:00 p.m. First Vespers of the New Year (at St Ann Chapel)
Music by Josquin de Prez, Guillaume Du Fay, Jean Mouton, and more

12:00 noon - Cristóbal de Morales, Missa Caça

12:00 noon - Tomás Luis de Victoria, Missa Quarti Toni

12:00 noon - Francisco Guerrero, Missa Iste Sanctus

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Immaculate Conception 2019 Photopost (Part 1)

Our photoposts for Immaculate Conception usually include a few other things celebrated at the same time of the year, and this year, we begin with something unique, a celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Byzantine Rite. We also have pictures of another celebration in the Byzantine Rite, with the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, and from an Apostolate of the Institute of Christ the King which we have never seen before, in Africa. For the first time, we have enough submissions to make two posts, before we move on to Gaudete and Rorate Masses, so if you don’t see yours here, they will be in the next one. As always, we wish to express our gratitude to eveyone who sent these in – evangelize through beauty!

St Mary Byzantine Catholic Church – Whiting, Indiana
The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas: table set up in the church for the litia. (Photos courtesy of Fr Andrew Summerson).
 Patronal Procession

OPChant: A New YouTube Channel of Dominican Chant

Here is a great new music resource: two Dominican seminarians studying at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, Brs Alexandre Frezzato from the Wallis region of Switerland, and Stefan Ansinger from the Netherlands, have recently started a YouTube channel called OPChant, on which they share their recordings of chants from the traditional Dominican books. The channel was begun in October; as explained in this interview in French, their long-term goal is to provide a systematic resource for promotion of the Dominican chant reportoire, which is only sporadically available on the internet. This will certainly prove helpful to those who sing at the ever-increasing number Masses in the Dominican Rite, and of course, there is no reason why such chants cannot also be used in the post-Conciliar rite of Mass. Each video is accompanied by brief notes in English explaining the use of the chant (which is very often the same as in the Roman Rite), and a GoogleDrive file with the score. Here are a few recently posted examples from the repertoire for Advent: let’s encourage them by driving up their viewing numbers, and be sure to share information about the channel with anyone you know who might be interested, and subscribe to the channel. Feliciter!!

Conditor alme siderum, the hymn for Vespers in Advent; the Dominicans and other orders who retained their own liturgical Uses (Premonstratensians, Cistercians) etc., never adopted Pope Urban VIII’s revision of the Office hymns, and so the text differs from that which is found in the Roman Breviary.
Ad te levavi, the Introit (which the Dominicans call “Officium”) of the First Sunday of Advent.
Populus Sion, the Officum of the Second Sunday
The antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater in the more solemn tone. In the Dominican Rite, the Salve Regina is sung at the end of Compline throughout the year, accompanied by a distinctive procession; the Alma Redemptoris Mater is sung as the antiphon of the Magnificat in the Saturday Office of the Virgin between the feast of the Purification and Easter.

Advent Lessons and Carols in San Diego This Sunday

This Sunday, St Augustine of Canterbury, a church of the Ordinariate in San Diego, will present Advent Lessons and Carols in the English tradition, starting at 5:00 pm, with a reception to follow; those who attend are invited to make free will offering. The church will welcome as special guests the San Diego Youth Schola, the Tyburn Choristers Schola from Holy Martyrs of England & Wales Catholic Church, and the Brothers of the Little Oratory in San Diego. The event will be held at the church were the community regularly celebrates the liturgy, the St Thérèse Chapel on the Cathedral Catholic High School Campus, located at 5555 Del Mar Heights Road in San Diego.

PLEASE NOTE! Due to an error on my part, this post originally said Saturday instead of Sunday; the latter is the correct day.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Treasury of the Holy House of Loreto

As mentioned yesterday, the famous shrine of the Holy House of Loreto has an interesting treasury with many very beautiful liturgical objects. Here is a selection of photos taken by our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi.

Altar decorations made in the Sicilian city of Trapani, and given to the Holy House by the Prince Caracciolo d’Avellino in 1722. The cross and candle set is made of silver and coral, the frontal of silk and satin, with gold and silk threads. Only the best for Our Lady!
Altar lectern made in Kyoto, Japan at the end of the 16th or beginning of the 17 century, with the monogram of the Jesuit order.
Another from the beginning of the 17th century, from the island of Macao.
A floral decoration made entirely from bird feathers.
A reliquary containing a shoe of St Charles Borromeo, end 18th century.

The Feast of Pope St Damasus I

Today is the feast of Pope St Damasus I, who elected in October of 366, at roughly the age of 60, and died on this day in 384. His family was of Spanish descent, but he himself was born in Rome, and served as deacon at the church of St Lawrence Outside-the-Walls. He was elected to the papacy in the midst of controversy, since a small group of the clergy supported another candidate, Ursicinus; the followers of this schism seized control of the Liberian Basilica (now St Mary Major), and could only be repressed with violence, and the exile of the anti-Pope.

St Damasus was a strenuous defender of orthodoxy, holding synods in Rome to condemn the heresies of Macedonius and Apollinaris, sending legates to the First Council of Constantinople, and excommunicating the Arian bishop of Milan, Auxentius, who was later succeeded by St Ambrose. It was at his behest that St Jerome revised the Latin text of the Gospels, and it is in a letter to him that Jerome famously describes the need for such a revision by saying, “There are as many versions (of the Bible) as there are copies.” St Jerome is traditionally represented as a cardinal because of the time he spent in Rome as Damasus’ secretary.

St Jerome in His Study, Antonio da Fabriano, 1451.
Pope Damasus is today venerated also as the patron Saint of archeologists, and particularly those who work in the field of early Christian archeology, because of his great encouragement of devotion to the Roman martyrs, and his efforts to preserve their memories. He built a church in honor of St Lawrence within his own house in the center of Rome, now known as “San Lorenzo in Damaso”, and also a shrine at the Catacomb of St Sebastian, where the bodies of Ss Peter and Paul were once kept, and the baptistery of the ancient basilica of St Peter. Within many of the Roman catacombs, he had the areas around the martyrs’ graves reworked to make them easier for pilgrims to find and more accessible.

The Basilica of San Lorenzo in Damaso
He also decorated the graves of many martyrs with epitaphs, composed by himself, and carved into marble with a special kind of lettering invented for the purpose. This font, in which the bars of the letters are alternately thick and thin, with curves serifs at the corners, is known as either “Philocalian” lettering from its inventor, a friend of his named Furius Dionysius Filocalus, or “Damasian” after himself. We have a total of about 70 of these inscriptions; about 40 of the originals are preserved, while the rest are recorded in various sources, although the stones themselves have been lost.

One of the best preserved of these is at the church of St Agnes Outside-the-Walls on the Via Nomentana, the high altar of which sits over her gravesite. As seen in the photograph below, only the upper left corner is missing.

After recounting the martyrdom and burial of St Agnes, (including the story that when her clothes were torn off, her hair miraculously grew to cover her) the final line asks the “renowned martyr to favor the prayers of Damasus”. These inscriptions are particularly valuable witnesses to the authenticity of various martyrs, and the liturgical devotion paid to them, since we know that Pope Damasus took care to inform himself about the martyrdoms as best he could. At the grave of Ss Peter and Marcellinus, who were killed in the persecution of Diocletian in 304 A.D., he placed an epitaph in which he gives the story of their death, and then notes that he learned the details when he was a boy by interviewing the martyrs’ own executioner. Being himself born in the very heart of the persecution, and therefore a young cleric in Rome in the early years of the peace of the Church, he must also have known people who had witnessed the martyrdoms of Ss Agnes, John and Paul, and Sebastian, just to name a few.

Pontifical High Mass with Cardinal Burke and Christkindlmarkt in La Crosse, December 14-15

We are very pleased to announce two very special things happening on this upcoming weekend at the magnificent Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin. This Saturday, December 14th, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke will celebrate a Pontifical High Mass in the traditional rite at the main church of the shrine, starting at 11am; over the weekend, the shrine will have a traditional German Christmas market on both Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. The shrine is located at 5250 Justin Rd.

Ordination at Clear Creek Abbey

On Sunday, November 17, His Excellency David Konderla, Bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma, ordained two brothers at Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert, Oklahoma, one to the diaconate and one to the priesthood, in a Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The diocese of Tulsa recently published a video with some highlights of the ceremony, and we also have a few pictures, courtesy of Mr Ted Korczak. Our congratulations to the new priest and deacon and to their family, friends and religious community - ad multos annos!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Holy House of Loreto

Every Catholic country has a shrine which may be regarded as its national shrine of the Virgin Mary par excellence, such as Lourdes in France and Czestochowa in Poland; for Italy, that shrine is the Holy House of Loreto, which keeps its principal feast today. The traditional story recounts that the Virgin Mary’s house in Nazareth, where the Incarnation took place, was carried by angels from the Holy Land when the Crusader states fell, and brought first to Croatia in 1291, then three years later across the Adriatic to the area of Loreto. (There is some evidence that the angels in question may have actually been an aristocratic family of the Italian Marches named “Angeli.”) By the mid-15th century, it had become a very important pilgrimage shrine, and a project was begun to construct a large church around the Holy House, as well as a pilgrim hospice; this was completed in 1587, during the papacy of Sixtus V, a native son of the region who was famous for promoting important building works.

The façade of the basilica at Loreto at night; photo by Nicola de’ Grandi.
The house itself is a fairly small plain stone structure, certainly very ancient, and certainly made from materials commonly used for simple houses in the Holy Land, but not in Italy. It is now enclosed in a large rectangular marble box, commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1509 from the architect Donatello Bramante, whose design was completed from 1513 to 1527 by Antonio Sangallo the Younger; the importance of the Holy House is also indicated by the fact that both of these men served as chief architect for the rebuilding of St Peter’s, before Michelangelo took over in 1545. The box is beautifully decorated on the outside with sculpted relief panels of the life of the Virgin, works of very high quality. A 14th century statue of the Madonna long venerated in the Holy House was destroyed by fire in 1921, and replaced by a copy; it is traditionally clothed over with an elaborate jeweled garment. Many Italian churches have relics of the “veil of the Virgin Mary”, which are actually pieces of previous versions of this garment.

On the evening of December 9th, many towns in the area build bonfires in their public squares, to light the way for the angels as they fly the Holy House to Loreto, while at midnight precisely, church bells ring to commemorate their arrival. The feast was traditionally referred to as the “Translation of the Holy House” in pre-Conciliar liturgical books, and celebrated in every diocese of Italy; it is popularly known as the “festa della venuta – the feast of the arrival” in Italian. In 1920, Pope Benedict declared Our Lady of Loreto to be Patron Saint of aviators, then still a very new and dangerous profession. The feast was recently extended to the General Calendar as an optional memorial.

Here are some photos of the Basilica taken by Nicola de’ Grandi. The church also has a treasury with some very nice liturgical objects; I will make a separate post with his photographs of it tomorrow.

Three views of the marble box which encloses the Holy House; the third photo also shows the dome, which was completed in 1500, and at the time, second in size only to that of the Duomo of Florence.

Is Modern Classical Music As Bad As It Sounds? A New Sacred Music Podcast Has the Answers

I once saw a headline in the culture section of a British Sunday newspaper that ran, “Modern Music - It’s Not as Bad As It Sounds.” The point that the journalist was making was that once you understand the theories behind the use of dissonance, then you will recognize it’s goodness. The whole premise highlights for me one of the absurdities of many modern intellectuals’ approach to the culture: that it is something to be understood more than something to be appreciated or enjoyed. This puts the onus on the listener to be intelligent enough to appreciate what is good.

For the most part, the intellectuals in the modern conservatory have been so successful in pushing this line of argument that many people do in fact accept that they don’t like modern classical music because they don’t understand it, rather than because it really is every bit as bad as it sounds.

I have seen people in the Catholic world falling into the same line of argument in order to reinforce the value of traditional music too. They will argue, for example, that people ought to like Gregorian chant and polyphony, and justify this with a quotation from St Pius X’s Tra le sollecitudini:
Sacred music should consequently possess, in the highest degree, the qualities proper to the liturgy, in particular, sanctity and goodness of form, which will spontaneously produce the final quality of universality...These qualities are to be found, in the highest degree, in Gregorian Chant, which is, consequently the Chant proper to the Roman Church
The problem with this is that unless we can narrow down the musical criteria of what these terms actually mean, it simply becomes a matter of personal judgment as to whether or not a particular piece of music is authentically sacred, good in form and so universal.

You are then left with a choice: either you follow Pius X in a limited way and only allow ancient compositions of Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony for fear of getting it wrong; or you admit modern compositions in your Sunday repertoire and risk the music director arguing that in his opinion, the compositions in the common pew missalette possess these qualities. You and I might think this an absurd assertion, but if we can’t say why precisely in terms of musical structure, then it’s just a conflict of personal opinion.

Neither of these is choices is acceptable. Gregorian chant and polyphony will not connect with “the many” unless there are modern, noble and accessible compositions that they can connect with more easily. These modern compositions will then very likely act as doorways into the traditional canon, which will then be appreciated more deeply by more people. This is the pattern of all vibrant traditional cultures.

I therefore want to bring readers to the attention of a new podcast on sacred music Paul Jernberg’s Singing in Harmony with Heaven.

Paul is one of the few people who can explain in layman’s terms the essential musical characteristics of Gregorian chant in such a way that they can then be applied to other forms of music. Furthermore, he knows how to do it himself; he composes music that is not chant or polyphony, but it is nevertheless sacred.

The evidence that convinces me of this is not simply that I like his music and judge it to conform to these criteria (which I do), but also I have seen the effect that it has on ordinary congregations many times. People want to sing it and it leads them into a prayerful approach to the liturgy. Choirs that ordinarily sing chant and polyphony want to sing it too.

Here are a couple of examples:

First, I know of a traditionally inclined church in England that focussed almost exclusively on chant and polyphony for its repertoire. When I used to attend it, the pastor was so wary of modern compositions for the Mass that he forbade anything that postdates World War One. This same church now performs Jernberg’s Mass of St Philip Neri regularly - at one point it was doing it weekly at one of its Masses.

Second, we sing his Our Father in a group that regularly sings Vespers where I live, and those in attendance have learned the four-part harmonies and all sing the melody. This group includes all levels of musical ability. There are trained singers (one of whom sang in William Mahrt’s choir in Menlo Park), there are others who normally avoid singing in the congregational setting under any circumstance, and there are even small children. All sing heartily, but prayerfully. A three-year-old mimics her elders by insisting on holding a score and then sings as she hears it (including the phrase, “Halloween thy name”!)

Third, someone who heard his St Philip Neri Mass, which was composed for the vernacular, was so taken with the music that he commissioned a Mass for the Ordinary of the Latin Mass, which is about to be published.

Paul’s podcast explores these issues surrounding the question: how can the music heard in the Catholic Church today be renewed so as to faithfully fulfill its traditional role – to proclaim the divine dignity of the Mass, and to draw people into its contemplative dimension of reverent adoration, transformation, and loving communion?

You can listen to it here at

Rorate Mass this Saturday in Tiverton, Rhode Island

oly Ghost Church in Tiverton, Rhode Island, will hold a Solemn Rorate Mass in the traditional Roman Rite on Saturday, December 14th, beginning at 6:00 a.m. The church is located at 316 Judson Street.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Round-up of Articles on the 50th Anniversary of the Mass of Paul VI

Adriaen Ysenbrandt (active 1510-1551), Mass of St Gregory
In Book IV of his Dialogues, Pope St. Gregory the Great, to whom the final redaction of the Roman Canon is attributed — after which it remained virtually unchanged until 1962, when Pope John XXIII had the name of St Joseph inserted into it — stirringly says:
For, who of the faithful can have any doubt that at the moment of the immolation, at the sound of the priest’s voice, the heavens stand open and choirs of angels are present at the mystery of Jesus Christ? There at the altar the lowliest is united with the most sublime, earth is joined to heaven, the visible and invisible somehow merge into one. [1]
He asks if any of the faithful can have any doubt that an immolation is occurring; that, at the sound of the priest uttering the words of consecration, the heavens are opened and angels are present at a mystery; that the altar unites earth to heaven in the supreme atoning sacrifice. This is language redolent of the Roman Canon and the traditional Roman rite in its totality; it is language that equally describes all the authentic liturgies of East and West, in both theory and praxis.

Sadly, as poll after poll has shown, it would seem that today, fifty years after the mandatory implementation of the reformed liturgy, one would have to rephrase this question: Who among the faithful any longer believes or experiences that any of this is happening? Who among them has ever heard of it? Who can see it or hear it in the manner in which divine worship takes place? Ironically, though not at all surprisingly, it is the faithful attached to the traditional Latin Mass who encounter the mystery he describes.

On October 28, I published at NLM an article entitled “Why Is the Liturgical Establishment Not Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Novus Ordo?,” which inquired into possible reasons for the deafening silence about this golden anniversary from the quarters and parties who would be most expected to blow the trumpet in the new moon. Admittedly, though, it was late October, and the actual anniversary would not be until a month later — November 30th, to be precise. There was yet time.

That day has come and gone. Ardent partisans of the post-Conciliar reform, represented in the United States by PrayTell, have remained stone silent. I think they know better than to expose themselves to ridicule and refutation. Defenders of the Catholic liturgical tradition, meanwhile, have been boisterous and ebullient.

Most interestingly, there have been a few attempts to defend a via media, reminiscent of Newman’s prior to 1845; one has the impression that they, like him, are fighting a rearguard action, firing off a few stray shots as they run for cover.

There were, so far as I could tell, three major conservative pieces in English to mark the anniversary. Two were published back-to-back by the National Catholic Register: Fr Roger Landry’s “Celebrating the Novus Ordo as It Ought to Be” and Joseph O’Brien’s “The Mass of Paul VI at 50: Marking the Golden Jubilee of the New Order.” George Weigel’s “The Reformed Liturgy, 50 Years Later” appeared at First Things online. [2]

Fr Landry’s article is a remarkable study in innocence. The very title of his article contains an insoluble conundrum, since there is no single way that the Novus Ordo ought to be celebrated; it is open to literally thousands of realizations based on the local choices of different combinations of its modules, musical options, and inculturated adaptations. Moreover, the author apparently does not realize that Pope Paul VI from 1965 to 1969 and beyond expressly excluded a traditional style of Novus Ordo Mass (in Latin, with chant, ad orientem, etc.) as foreign to the entire project and purpose of the reform, even as the Consilium had ignored the vote of no confidence in the Missa Normativa at the 1967 Synod of Bishops. There never was any intention whatsoever to keep continuity with liturgical tradition in the actual content of the new liturgical books or in their roll-out and subsequent curial administration; yet even when so-called traditional options are chosen, they remain neither more nor less than the particular realization chosen by this priest or this worshiping community.

Those who study the records closely can readily see the incoherence in attempting to defend an amorphous and voluntaristic missal as the basis of a stable, dignified, and truly unifying liturgical life, but we are up against a triple obstacle in 2019: a profound ignorance compounded by five decades of distance; a tremendous atmosphere of indifference; and a well-intentioned but harmful indulgence in wishful thinking on the part of those who would reconnect severed limbs with adhesive bandages. Further rebuttal of Landry is hardly necessary, since, if one has the courage to open the Register comments section, one finds there a bloodbath of Napoleonic magnitude.

O’Brien’s article is more even-handed, citing in good journalistic fashion various opinions about the motives and outcomes of the reform. It still suffers from an attempt to put a good face on a revolution in Catholic worship that remains profoundly troubling and troublesome. The very title of this article is to me more revealing than anything else in it: The Mass of Paul VI. Never before 1969 had it been possible to say The Mass of (so-and-so). Not even Pius V contributed so much to the Missale Romanum that his 1570 edition could reasonably be called The Mass of Pius V. It was the Mass of the Roman Curia, the Mass of St. Damasus, St. Gelasius, St. Gregory I, Hadrian, St. Gregory VII, Innocent III, Gregory IX, and on and on — the Mass of all of them, and of none of them. [3]

Weigel’s article is . . . classic recent Weigel: brief, insubstantial, and inconsequential, with an obligatory memorial of his latest book, and an optional memorial of his favorite Ordinary Form parish, where, thanks to the wonders of the internet, one can view, from thousands of miles away in the comfort of one’s own home, one of the few places on planet Earth where the Novus Ordo is “done well,” i.e., mostly not according to the wishes of Paul VI, but with a house blend of Tridentinisms and novelties.

What is perhaps most telling is that none of these authors is capable of yielding to unqualified praise for the Novus Ordo. Positive statements are hedged about with qualifications, if-onlys, regrets, and desiderata. One is left with the impression that we are celebrating an anniversary not so much of something that exists as of something that failed to exist, or exists only in embryonic form, stalled in its gestation by hostile environmental forces. Meanwhile, the classical Roman Rite lives on, in its fully-matured form, offered according to ironclad rubrics that protect it from diminution, arbitrariness, and groupthink. [4]

New priests ordained for the old Mass: a sign of things to come
Why do traditional Catholics reject the Novus Ordo? This was the question I attempted to answer in my recent (November 13) Minneapolis lecture, the full text of which was published on November 29 at Rorate Caeli: “Beyond ‘Smells and Bells’: Why We Need the Objective Content of the Usus Antiquior.” Here is a synopsis:
I argue that the Novus Ordo Missae constitutes a rupture with fundamental elements of all liturgies of apostolic derivation, and that, as a consequence, it violates the Church’s solemn obligation to receive, cherish, guard, and pass on the fruits of liturgical development. Since this development is, in fact, a major way in which the Holy Spirit leads the Church “into the fullness of truth” over the ages, as Christ promised, so great a “sin against the Holy Spirit” cannot fail to have enormous negative consequences, as the past five decades have verified. Nor is it possible to bridge the abyss between old and new by applying cosmetics or the drapery of elegant clothing, because the problem is on the order of a genetic mutation, or damage to internal organs. The profound and permanent solution is to maintain continuity with the living liturgical tradition found in the usus antiquior.
(The audio of the lecture may be found either at YouTube or at SoundCloud.)

I consider this lecture my best effort to date in identifying the exact nature of the rupture between the preceding liturgical tradition (Eastern and Western) and the modern papal rite of Paul VI, as well as the magnitude of theological and spiritual loss inflicted on the Church by it.

Rorate contributor Ken Wolfe published a short and sweet Op Ed in the New York Daily News, also posted at Rorate. At his blog, Fr. Z shares a number of podcasts anent the anniversary.

One wonders where we will be in another 50 years’ time, at the platinum jubilee. The first golden anniversary already hints at a probable outcome. There will be even fewer articles from the ardent supporters of the reform, since, according to the cutting-edge Vatican mathematics that gave us 2 + 2 = 5, zero is less than zero; and there may not even be any ROTR-style articles, after the virtual schism between the neo-modernism of the conciliar epoch and the traditionalism of the preconciliar epoch will have become an outright parting of the ways, as it is bound to do — as, indeed, we see already happening.


[1] Gregory I, Dialogi 4,60,3 (SC 265, 202); Dialogues, trans. by O.J. Zimmerman (New York, NY: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1959), 273.

[2] We might consider Rusty Reno’s eloquent explanation of his preference for the TLM in his December 2019 editorial as a kind of commemoration, though he doesn’t bill it as such: see the section entitled “Et Cum Spiritu Tuo.” Dr. Joseph Shaw has already gently refuted Reno’s characterization of the strengths and weaknesses of the two “forms” in a pair of articles at Rorate: part 1 and part 2.

[3] In point of fact, the Roman Rite, although sometimes called “the rite of St. Gregory the Great,” is almost unique among major historical liturgies in that it did not traditionally circulate under the name of one of its creators, unlike the liturgy of St John Chrysostom, St Basil, St James, etc., but solely on the authority of the Roman Church. Even terms like “Gelasian” and “Gregorian” sacramentary are from modern scholars.

[4] NOTE ADDED ON DEC. 12: I agree with a commentator below that my claim in this sentence is somewhat exaggerated. Certainly, in comparison with the amorphousness of the Novus Ordo, which no one seems to be able to control, even the Roman rite as of 1962 looks mature, ironclad, and well-protected by its own rubrics. But it is true that the fully-matured form of the Roman rite is that which we find before the major tinkeritis of the 20th century begins (Pius X in regard to the psalm cursus, Pius XII in regard to Holy Week, vigils, octaves, and vestments), and that in order to recover it in its undiminished form, untouched by groupthink, we will need to settle in the future on the 1920 missal in its ca. 1948 status. I have discussed this point more here and intend to return to this important question in future.

Visit Dr. Kwasniewski’s website for articles, sacred music, and classics reprinted by Os Justi Press (e.g., Newman, Benson, Scheeben, Parsch, Guardini, Chaignon, Leen, Roguet, Croegaert), his SoundCloud for lectures and interviews, and his YouTube channel for talks and sacred music.

Solemn Mass Wednesday at the Angelicum in Rome

The Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in Rome, commonly known as the Angelicum, will hold a solemn Mass on Wednesday, the feast of Pope St Damasus I, starting at 12:30 pm, in the church of Ss Sixtus and Dominic, which is next to the university and administered by the Dominican Fathers. As a reminder, there are also four low Masses celebrated in the church every week, Monday and Wednesday in the Dominican Rite, Tuesday and Thursday in the Roman Rite, with confessions also available during Mass times. (This schedule is contingent on the schedules of the celebrating clergy, and may change with the next semester.)

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Liturgical Notes on the Immaculate Conception

This year, the feast of the Immaculate Conception falls on a Sunday; in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the Sundays of Advent are given precedence over all feasts, and so the feast is translated to Monday, December 9th. (In some places, however, an indult has been granted at the request of the bishops’ conference to keep the feast on the Sunday.) This is the traditional date for the feast in the Byzantine Rite, in which it is called “the Conception (in the active sense, ‘σύλληψις’) of Saint Anne, Mother of the Theotokos”. In the Missal and Breviary of 1962, the same level of precedence is granted to the Sundays of Advent, excepting only the Immaculate Conception, which trumps the Second Sunday of Advent when the two coincide. This represents a change from the rubrics attached to the reform of St Pius X, in which any feast of the highest rank, (“double of the first class”, in the older terminology) is allowed precedence over the Second, Third and Fourth Sundays of Advent, as also over Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima.

The Immaculate Conception, by José Antolínez, 1650
However, before the 1911 reform, these six Sundays (and also the Second, Third and Fourth of Lent) could only be impeded by the feasts of patron and titular Saints, or the feast of a Dedication. Of course, the Virgin Mary was honored as the patron Saint of innumerable churches, dioceses and religious orders under the title of the Immaculate Conception; elsewhere, however, the feast would normally be translated off the Sunday. And so, in a Roman Breviary printed in 1884, we find the rubric, “If this feast falls on the Second Sunday of Advent, it is transferred to the following Monday.” This is a full 30 years after Blessed Pope Pius IX made the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, and more than 20 after the promulgation of a new Office and Mass for the feast in 1863. (S.R.C. 3119) In this regard, the practice of the post-Conciliar reform represents a return to a custom which was still in use even in the first decade of the 20th century. (Going further back, the original rubrics of the reform of St. Pius V admitted no impediment to the Sundays of Advent whatsoever.)

In the liturgical books of the Tridentine reform, the feast has no proper Office or Mass; the texts were those of the Nativity of the Virgin, with the word “Nativity” changed to “Conception” wherever it occurs. Apart from that, the only difference is the proper readings of the first and second nocturns of Matins, from the Book of Ecclesiasticus and St. Ambrose’s treatise “On the Virgins.”

Among the Franciscans, however, a proper Office for the feast was kept well before the decree of 1863, even though in most respects they had from the very beginning followed the liturgical use of the Roman Curia, and hence also the Missal and Breviary of St. Pius V. The Order, and famously among them, the Blessed Duns Scotus, had been the great champions of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and kept the feast as that of the “Principal Patron and Protectress of the Order.”

The Office in question was originally composed by Leonardo Nogarolo, a notary in the court of Pope Sixtus IV, who formally approved it in the year 1480. Sixtus IV had been the Minister General of the Franciscans until two years before his election in 1471; and as Pope, he issued two important decrees on the subject of the Immaculate Conception. The first of these, Cum praeexcelsa of 1477, gave formal permission and encouragement to celebrate the feast, which was still not kept in many places. The second, Grave nimis, was issued in 1483, condemning the “preachers of certain orders” who had dared to assert that belief in the Immaculate Conception, and the celebration of the feast, was heresy, while likewise imposing silence on those who asserted the contrary, that denial of the dogma was heresy. “Preachers” refers quite obviously to the Dominicans, who were at the time largely opposed to the idea of the Immaculate Conception as taught by the Franciscans, and particularly Duns Scotus’ explanation of it. In their liturgical books of the later 15th century, the feast on December 8 is usually called the “Sanctification of the Virgin Mary”, reflecting a theory that the Virgin was sanctified in the womb like John the Baptist.

The calendar page for December of a Dominican Missal printed in 1484 (the last year of Sixtus IV’s reign), showing the feast as the “Sanctification of the Virgin Mary”.
Pope Sixtus is of course known especially as the man who commissioned the most famous chapel in the world, the Sistine Chapel, which is nicknamed for him. However, it is officially dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, and the Office mentioned above was written by Nogarolo specifically for use therein as the proper Office of the titular feast. (Following the normal custom, I will refer to this Office as “Sicut lilium”, the first words of its first antiphon.”) For this reason, the first two antiphons at Lauds are borrowed from Lauds of the Dedication of a Church, and do not refer to the Virgin Mary.

The text of most of the other antiphons and responsories is taken from the Bible, and predominantly from the Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus and the Song of Songs. At Second Vespers, however, a rather unique set of antiphons was composed for the Psalms, consisting of quotations from the Church Fathers; some of the texts cited are also read at in the lessons of Matins in Nogarolo’s original version of the Office. In the pre-Tridentine liturgical books, the name of each Father is printed before the antiphon.
Jerome Nihil est candoris, nihil est splendoris, nihil est numinis quod non resplendeat in Virgine gloriosa. – There is no part of brightness, no part of glory, no part of the godhead, such that it does not shine forth in the glorious Virgin. (In the post-Tridentine use, “godhead” was evidently felt to be a bit of an exaggeration, and changed to “virtutis – virtue.”)
Origen Quæ neque serpentis persuasione decepta, nec ejus venenosis afflatibus infecta est.  Who was not deceived by the coaxing of the serpent, nor infected by his poisonous breath.
Augustine (speaking in the person of Christ.) Hanc, quam tu despicis, Manichaee, mater mea est, et de manu mea fabricata.  This woman whom you despise, Manichean, is my mother, made by my own hand. (The text from which this is taken is not an authentic work of Augustine.)
Anselm Decuit Virginem ea puritate nitere, qua major sub Deo nequit intelligi.  It was becoming that the Virgin shine with that purity, than which no greater can be understood beneath God.
Ambrose Hæc est virga, in qua nec nodus originalis nec cortex actualis culpæ fuit.  This is the rod, on which there was no knot of original guilt, nor the bark of any actual guilt. (referring to the rod of Jesse in Isaiah 11, 1)
A similar custom is still observed by the Premonstratensians, who sing the following antiphon for the Nunc dimittis on the Immaculate Conception, with the annotation at the end, “the words of our father Saint Norbert.” (St Norbert and the Premonstratensian Order were, of course, champions of the dogma even before the Franciscans, and in the Middle Ages had an entirely different proper Office of their own for the feast.)
Ant. Ave Virgo, quæ Spiritu sancto præservante, de tanto primi parentis peccato triumphasti innoxia. - Hail, o Virgin, who by the preservation of the Holy Spirit, didst triumph unhurt over the sin so great of our first father.
If I remember correctly, I once read somewhere that “Sicut lilium” was also musically very beautiful, and back in the days when attendance at solemn Vespers was the norm on major feasts, people would flock to Franciscan churches to hear it. If any of our readers can confirm or deny this, I would be interested to hear from you in the combox.

The decree that promulgated the new Office and Mass in 1863 required all religious orders to accept them, and those who preserved their own proper Uses to adapt it to their own particular customs, subject to the approval of the Sacred Congregation for Rites. Since the Franciscans (unlike the Dominicans or Premonstratensians) had always used the Roman Breviary, “Sicut lilium” then ceased to be used; a few parts of it were taken into the new Office, most notably the prayer, which reflects Duns Scotus’ insight on how the Immaculate Conception is possible.
O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, prepared a worthy dwelling place for thy Son; we beseech thee, that, as by the foreseen death of Thy same Son, Thou preserved Her from every stain, so Thou may grant us also, through Her intercession, to come to thee with pure hearts.
One of the most notable features of the 1863 Office is the readings at Matins for the feast and its octave. In the third nocturn, the readings (with one exception) are taken from Eastern Saints whose writings had never, to the best of my knowledge, appeared in any form of the Breviary hitherto. These are two patriarchs of Constantinople, Ss Germanus (715-30) and Tarasius (784-806); St Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem (634-38), the great enemy of the Monothelite heresy, and St Epiphanius of Salamis (died 403), a great enemy of heresies generally. (This last is incorrectly attributed; the exception is a passage from St Bernard on December 10th.) These passages are unusually long, and rhetorically effusive in the manner of their age, but were clearly chosen to witness the belief of the Universal Church in the Immaculate Conception. The reading of St. Germanus on the feast itself begins thus: “Hail Mary, full of grace, holier than the Saints, more exalted than the heavens, more glorious than the Cherubim, more honorable than the Seraphim, and venerable above every creature.” This is a clear reference to the hymn Axion esti, which is sung in the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom.
It is truly right to bless thee, O Theotokos, ever most blessed, and wholly pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word, the true Theotokos, we magnify thee.
Likewise, the litanies of the Divine Liturgy refer repeatedly to the Virgin Mary as “immaculate” at the conclusion, “Having made memory of our all-holy, immaculate, (“ ἄχραντος ”) blessed above all and glorious Lady, the Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary, with all the Saints, let us commend ourselves and one another and all our life to Christ our God.”

The original version of “Sicut lilium” makes only one brief mention of the Virgin Mary’s mother St Anne, in whose womb the Immaculate Conception took place. As mentioned before, however, the Byzantine Rite calls the feast itself “the Conception of St Anne.” In the icon below, the upper left shows St Joachim in the desert, where he has gone to mourn his and Anne’s barrenness, for the sake of which his offering in the temple had been refused. An angel has come to tell him to return to Anne, and that God will grant them a child who will become the Mother of the Redeemer. In the upper right, the same message is delivered to Anne herself.

The legend on which this image is based goes on to say that Joachim and Anne then went to find each other, meeting at the gate of Jerusalem called “the Golden Gate.” The depiction of their embrace and kiss is often used not only to decently represent the act of Anne’s conception, but to distinguish the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin from that of the Virginal Conception of Christ. This legend is referred to in a prayer found in some pre-Tridentine missals and breviaries, such as that of Herford in England; it also commonly depicted in Western art, as seen below in Giotto’s frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.
O God, who by an angelic prophecy foretold the Conception of the Virgin Mary to her parents; grant to this Thy family gathered here, to be protected by Her assistance, whose Conception we happily venerate in this great solemnity.
The Meeting at the Golden Gate by Giotto, 1304. The mysterious female figure in black standing in the middle of the gate may represent the devil, whom Christ begins to defeat in the Conception of His Holy Mother. This figure seems also to have been the inspiration for one of the most sinister representations of the devil in modern art, in the movie The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Photopost Request: Immaculate Conception 2019

Our next major photopost will be for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is celebrated tomorrow in the Extraordinary Form, and on Monday in the Ordinary Form. Please send your photos of liturgies in either Form to We are always very glad to include photographs of celebrations of vigil Masses, Vespers and other parts of the Office, and particularly of any ceremonies celebrated with blue vestments, in accordance with the famous Spanish indult, as well as those of the Conception of St Anne in any of the Eastern Rites, Our Lady of Guadalupe, etc. Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important.

Gaudete Sunday is also coming up soon, and we will have a photopost series for that as well, including photos of Rorate Masses; an announcement will be posted at the end of next week. Evangelize through beauty!

From last year’s Immaculate Conception photopost: the Mass of the feast celebrated by candlelight like a Rorate Mass at the church of St Mary in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, the FSSP’s church in the archdiocese of Philadelphia. (Photo by Allison Girone.)

Weekly Dominican Rite Masses for Advent in San Francisco

I am pleased to announce that, during Advent, a Dominican Rite Mass will be celebrated every Monday at 5:30 pm at St Dominic’s Church, located at 2390 Bush St in San Francisco, California. This parish and priory are staffed by the friars of the Western Dominican Province.

These will all be Low Masses except for the Mass on Monday, December 9, which will be a Solemn High Votive Mass of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated by Fr. Anselm Ramelow, O,P., professor of philosophy at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California.

I thank Brian Strader for the lovely photography of St. Dominic’s Church shown in this post.

Lessons and Carols Tomorrow in Baltimore

Mount Calvary Catholic Church in Baltimore, Maryland, is hosting an Advent Lessons and Carols service in the tradition made famous by King’s College, Cambridge: the history of salvation is told, from the Fall to the advent of the Messiah, through nine readings of Scripture that are alternated with carols, hymns and choir music. The service starts at 4 pm this Sunday, December 8, and will be followed by a wine-and-dessert reception; for more information, see the Facebook event page. The church is located at 816 N. Eutaw Street in Midtown Baltimore; freewill donations will be accepted in support of the church’s ministries.

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