Sunday, March 18, 2018

Passion Sunday 2018

The Vespers hymn for Passiontide Vexilla Regis, in alternating Gregorian chant, according to a different melody than the classic Roman one, and polyphony by Tomás Luis de Victoria.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Photopost Request: Passiontide Veils 2018

Our next photopost series will be of your churches with the Crosses, statues and paintings veiled for Passiontide; please send your pictures to for inclusion. Be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important. (We will follow this up with photoposts of Palm Sunday and the other major ceremonies of Holy Week.)

Last year, the response to this request was just tremendous, and we received so many pictures that we wound up making four separate posts of them, with 115 photographs from over 50 different churches from all over the world! This was a record, one which we will, of course, be very happy to see matched or broken. Whenever we make these requests, we always include a photo from the previous year’s post on the same subject, but since each of the four had at least one thing that was unique about it, we will take the opportunity to look back on all four.

From Part 1: putting up the veils at the church of St Joseph in Singapore
From Part 2: An altar piece with its wings closed for Passiontide, an extremely common custom in the Middle Ages; from the Ordinariate church of St John the Baptist in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania.
From Part 3: Mass at the FSSP’s church in Lyon, France, the Collegiate Church of St Just, celebrated in the Dominican Rite by members of the Fraternity of St Vincent Ferrer. The processional Cross is used at the singing of the Gospel, and of course, veiled for the season.
From Part 4: The cathedral of St Nicholas in Noto, Sicily has maintained the custom of covering the whole back of the church with a very large monochrome veil, painted with an image of Crucifixion.

Laetare Sunday Photopost 2018 (Part 2)

We finish up with your photos of Laetare Sunday liturgies just in time for Passion Sunday and the putting up of the veils; a request for the latter will be posted later today. Many thanks to everyone who sent these in; you are doing important work in encouraging Catholics throughout the world to a great love for and appreciation of our liturgical tradition. Evangelize through beauty!

Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini - Rome, Italy (FSSP)
Our Lady of Mt Carmel - New York City
Santissima Trinità - Pordenone, Italy

From the Fraternity of St Joseph the Guardian in the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France
Nativity of the Virgin Mary - La Londe-Les-Maures

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Raising of Lazarus in the Liturgy of Lent

Until the first part of the eighth century, the Thursdays of Lent were “aliturgical” days in the Roman Rite, days on which no ferial Mass was celebrated. A similar custom prevails to this day in the Ambrosian and Byzantine Rites, the former abstaining from the Eucharistic Sacrifice on all the Fridays in Lent, the latter on all the weekdays. I have described in another article why Pope St Gregory II (715-31) changed this custom, and instituted Masses for the six Thursdays between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week. The Epistle and Gospel for the Thursday in the fourth week of Lent were clearly chosen as a prelude to those of the following day, which are a much older part of the lectionary tradition. In the Epistle of both days, one of the prophets raises not just a man, but a son, at the behest of his mother, anticipating the Resurrection of the Son of God; on Thursday, Elisha raises the Sunamite’s son (4 Kings 4, 25-38), and on Friday Elijah raises the dead son of the widow of Sarephta (3 Kings 17, 17-24). Likewise, on Thursday, Christ raises the widow of Naim’s son (Luke 7, 11-16) as he is borne out to burial, and on Friday, Lazarus, on the fourth day after his death (John 11, 1-45).

In his Treatises on the Gospel of St John, St Augustine notes à propos of this latter Gospel, and the resurrection of the dead at the end of the world, “(Christ) raised one that stank, but nevertheless in the stinking cadaver there was yet the form of its members; on the last day, with one word He will restore ashes to the flesh. But it was necessary that He should then do some (miracles), so that, when these were put forth as signs of His might, we might believe in Him, and be prepared for that resurrection which will be unto life, and not unto judgement. For He sayeth thus, ‘The hour cometh, when all that are in the graves shall hear His voice. And they that have done good things, shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.’ ” (Tract 49, citing John 5, 28-29)

The Raising Of Lazarus, painted by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, 1304-06
When St Paul spoke at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17, 19-34), many of the pagan philosophers who had gathered to hear him scoffed at the mention of the resurrection of the dead. The Church Fathers bear witness to the repulsion which many pagans felt at the Christian belief that the body might share the immortality which they saw as proper only to the soul, and many early heresies rejected both the Incarnation and the resurrection of the flesh professed in the Creed. On the day when the Raising of Lazarus is read, therefore, the Lenten station is kept at the church of St Eusebius on the Esquiline hill, which stood very close to a large and very ancient necropolis, a “city of the dead”, one which dated back even before the founding of Rome itself. In this way, the Church, led by the bishop of Rome, proclaimed to the ancient pagan world Her belief in the resurrection of the body, made possible by the death and resurrection of the Savior.

On the ferias of Lent, the Communion antiphons are taken each one from a different Psalm in sequential order, starting on Ash Wednesday with Psalm 1. The days which were formerly aliturgical do not form part of this series, namely, the six Thursdays, and also the first and last Saturday; the ferias of Holy Week are also not included. (See the table below; click for larger view.)

The series is also interrupted on five days when particularly important passages of the Gospels are read, and the Communion is taken from them instead, the last such being the Raising of Lazarus.

Communio Videns Dominus flentes sorores Lazari ad monumentum, lacrimatus est coram Judaeis, et exclamavit: Lazare, veni foras: et prodiit ligatis manibus et pedibus, qui fuerat quatriduanus mortuus.
Seeing the sisters of Lazarus weeping at the tomb, the Lord wept before the Jews, and cried out: Lazarus, come forth: and he who had been dead four days came forth, bound by his hands and feet.
The Roman Mass of the day makes no other reference to the Gospel; in this sense, the Ambrosian Rite gives Lazarus much greater prominence. The second to sixth Sundays are each named for their Gospels, all taken from St John: the Samaritan Woman (4, 5-42), Abraham (8, 31-59), the Blind Man (9, 1-38), Lazarus (11, 1-45), and Palm Sunday (11,55 - 12,11). On the Fifth Sunday, four of the seven Mass chants cite the day’s Gospel, and the Preface speaks at length about the Raising of Lazarus. The Ingressa (Introit) of the Mass is similar to the Roman Communion cited above.
Ingressa Videns Dominus sororem Lazari ad monumentum, lacrimatus coram Judaeis, et exclamavit: Lazare, veni foras. Et prodiit ligatis manibus et pedibus, stetit ante eum, qui fuerat quatriduanus mortuus.
Seeing the sister of Lazarus at the tomb, the Lord wept before the Jews, and cried out: Lazarus, come forth: and he who had been dead four days, coming forth, stood before him, bound by his hands and feet.
The first reading of the Mass is Exodus 14, 15-31, the Crossing of the Red Sea, a passage which most rites have at the Easter Vigil. St Paul teaches in First Corinthians that this is a prefiguration of baptism: “Our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea: And did all eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; (and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.)” (chap. 10, 1-4) St Ambrose, in his Commentary on the Song of Songs, says that just as the children of “after the crossing of the Red Sea … were cleansed … by the flow of the rock that poured forth spiritual water, for the rock was Christ; and therefore they ate the manna; so that, as often as they were washed clean, they might eat the bread of angels… now also, in the mysteries of the Gospel, you recognize that being baptized … you are cleansed by spiritual food and drink.” (IV.5; PL XV, 1905A)
The Crossing of the Red Sea, depicted in a paleo-Christian sarcophagus, a reasonably common motif in early Christian funerary art. The front of the sarcophagus has been sawed off and used as the front of an altar in the Cathedral of Arles in France.
The Ambrosian Rite uses this passage not at the Easter vigil, but as an introduction to the story of Lazarus, whose death and resurrection foretell those of Christ Himself, and in Him, our own; first spiritually in the waters of baptism, and second in the body, at the end of the world. The chant which follows the first reading is called the Psalmellus; as the name suggests, it is almost always taken from one of the Psalms, like its Roman equivalent, the Gradual. Here we might expect that it be taken from the canticle of Moses in chapter 15, which follows the same passage at the Easter Vigil of the Roman and Byzantine Rites; instead, it is taken from the Gospel.
Psalmellus Occurrerunt Maria et Martha ad Jesum, dicentes: Domine, Domine, si fuisses hic, Lazarus non esset mortuus. Respondit Jesus: Martha, si credideris, videbis gloriam Dei. V. Videns Jesus turbam flentem, infremuit spiritu, lacrimatus; et veniens ad locum, clamavit voce magna: Lazare veni foras. Et revixit qui erat mortuus, et vidit gloriam Dei.
Mary and Martha came to meet Jesus, saying: Lord, Lord, if Thou had been here, Lazarus would not have died. Jesus answered: Martha, if thou shalt believe, thou shalt see the glory of God. V. Seeing the crowd weeping, Jesus groaned in spirit, weeping, and coming to the place, He cried out in a loud voice: Lazarus, come forth. And he that had died came back to life, and saw the glory of God.
The only other day on which the Psalmellus is taken from the Gospel is Holy Thursday, which in the Ambrosian Rite is much more focused on the Passion than on the Institution of the Eucharist. The first reading at the Ambrosian Mass of the Lord’s Supper is the entire book of Jonah, whose story Christ Himself explains as a prophecy of His death and resurrection; the Psalmellus which follows it is taken from the first part of the Passion of St Matthew, chapter 26, 17-75. The Ambrosian liturgy then makes explicit in the Preface this link between the death of Lazarus and that of Christ, in which our redemption is effected. (I here cite only the end of this beautiful text, which can only be spoiled in translation.)
Praefatio O quam magnum et salutare mysterium, quod per resurrectionem Lazari figuraliter designatur! Ille tabo corporis dissolutus, per superni regis imperium continuo surrexit ad vitam. Nos quidem primi hominis facinore consepultos, divina Christi gratia ex inferis liberavit, et redivivos gaudiis reddidit sempiternis.
O how great and profitable to salvation is this mystery, which is represented in a figure through the resurrection of Lazarus! He, being loosed from the corruption of the body, by the command of the Almighty King rose at once to life. Christ’s divine grace delivered us from hell, who indeed were buried by the crime of the first man, and restored us to eternal joy, when we had returned to life.
The preface of the Fifth Sunday of Lent, sung during the Capitular Mass at the Basilica of St Ambrose in Milan in 2012. The part of the preface which I have cited above begins at 1:23.

In the Byzantine Rite, the connection is made even more explicit; the Gospel of the Raising of Lazarus is read on the day before Palm Sunday, which is therefore called Lazarus Saturday. Bright vestments are used at the Divine Liturgy, instead of the dark vestments used at most services of Lent and Holy Week. The troparion sung at the Little Entrance declares the meaning of the Raising of Lazarus, and is also sung the following day, which is one of the Twelve Great feasts of the Byzantine liturgical year.
Troparion Την κοινην Ἀνάστασιν προ τοῦ σοῦ Πάθους πιστούμενος, ἐκ νεκρῶν ἤγειρας τον Λάζαρον, Χριστε ὁ Θεός, ὅθεν και ἡμεῖς ὡς οἱ Παῖδες, τα τῆς νίκης σύμβολα φέροντες, σοι τῷ Νικητῇ τοῦ θανάτου βοῶμεν. Ὡσαννα ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις, εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι Κυρίου!
Confirming the general resurrection before Thy passion, Thou didst raise Lazarus from the dead, O Christ God! Whence we also, like the children, bearing the symbols of victory, cry out to Thee, the Vanquisher of death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!
The troparion of Lazarus Saturday sung in variety of languages; see original post on Youtube for the list, and the text of the troparion in several of them.

The Paschal character of the day expressed by the use of bright vestments also informs the kontakion which follows the troparion.
Kontakion Ἡ πάντων χαρά, Χριστός, ἡ ἀλήθεια, το φῶς, ἡ ζωή, τοῦ κόσμου ἡ ἀνάστασις, τοῖς ἐν γῇ πεφανέρωται τῇ αὐτοῦ ἀγαθότητι, καὶ γέγονε τύπος τῆς ἀναστάσεως, τοῖς πᾶσι παρέχων θείαν ἄφεσιν.
The joy of all, Christ, the Truth, and the Light, the Life, the Resurrection of the world, has appeared in His goodness to those on earth. He has become the image of our Resurrection, granting divine forgiveness to all.
While the troparia and kontakia are sung by the choir, the priest silently reads a prayer called the Prayer of the Trisagion, but sings the doxology out loud. It is followed at once by the hymn “Holy God, Holy mighty one, holy immortal one, have mercy on us.” On a very small number of days, however, the Trisagion, as it is called, is replaced by another chant, the words of Galatians 3, 27, “As many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ, alleluia.” Among these days are certain feasts of Lord such as Christmas, Epiphany (i.e. the Baptism of the Lord), Easter and Pentecost, and also Lazarus Saturday.

The traditional Old Church Slavonic version of “As many of you ...” begins at 0:52

As the Church prepares to accompany the Savior to His passion and death, and celebrate His glorious Resurrection, the Orthros (Matins) of Lazarus Saturday declares in several texts of surpassing beauty our salvation in Christ, who in His humanity wept for the death of Lazarus, the death He himself would shortly suffer, and in His divinity raised both Lazarus and Himself, as he will raise the whole of our fallen race on the last day.

Knowing beforehand all thing as their Maker, in Bethany didst Thou foretell to Thy disciples, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep today’; and knowing, Thou asked, ‘Where have ye laid him?” And to the Father Thou prayed, weeping as a man; whence also crying out, Thou raised from Hades Lazarus, whom Thou loved, on the fourth day. Therefore we cry to Thee: Accept, Christ and God, the praise of those that make bold to bring it, and deem all worthy of Thy glory.

O Christ, Thou raised Lazarus that was dead for four days from Hades, before Thy own death, confounding the power of death, and for the sake of one beloved to Thee, proclaiming beforehand the liberation of all men from corruption. Wherefore adoring Thy omnipotence, we cry out, ‘Blessed art Thou, o Savior; have mercy on us!’

Providing to Thy disciples the proofs of Thy divinity, among the crowds Thou didst humble Thyself, taking counsel to hide It; wherefore, as one that knoweth beforehand and as God, to Thy disciples Thou foretold the death of Lazarus. And in Bethany, among the peoples, perceiving not the grave of Thy friend, as a man Thou asked to learn of it. But he that through Thee rose on the fourth day made manifest Thy divine power; Almighty Lord, glory to Thee!

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2018 (Part 7)

The Lenten Station Masses held in the evenings by the Vicariate of Rome are often preceeded by a procession, and accompanied by the exposition of relics; today’s post has some especially good examples of both. Every year, Agnese manages to catch a few particularly good photos of the processions going through one of the cloisters, as we see below at the church of the Four Crowned Martyrs and at San Lorenzo in Damaso.

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent - The Four Crowned Martyrs
The church is reached though a series of three courtyards, which give it the appearance of a fortress; they built in front of the building to serve as a place of refuge for the Pope and Cardinals during the many political disturbances which Rome saw in the later 11th century, and throughout the 12th.

Procession though the cloister - nice work, Agnese!

From Fr Alek: a fresco of the titular Saints in one of the courtyards. The Four Crowned Martyrs are traditionally said to have been stone cutters who were martyred when they refused to make idols for the enormous palace built by Diocletian at Spalatum in Dalmatia; the entire medieval city of Split in modern Croatia was enclosed inside the walls of this palace. They have long been honored as the patron Saints of sculptors and stone-cutters, as noted in the inscription of the chapel door.
Two relics set on the balustrade of the church’s sanctuary for the feast day.

Lenten Mission at Holy Innocents in New York City

The church of the Holy Innocents In New York City will have a Lenten Parish Mission from Monday March 19 to Wednesday, March 21, during the 6 pm Latin Mass, to be preached by Fr Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap. There will be the opportunity, for all those who attend each evening of the Mission, to gain a Plenary Indulgence. Confessions will be heard after Holy Mass.

The theme of the Mission will be: Saints of the Church; models and methods for overcoming sin & division.
1) Monday – Blessed Solanus Casey; overcoming patterns of personal sin and healing of division.
2) Tuesday – Saint Padre Pio; forgiveness and healing in families and the sacrament of reconciliation.
3) Wednesday – The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Eucharist (with special blessing to impart the plenary indulgence).

Fr. Joseph entered Borromeo College Seminary in 1986 where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Sciences in 1989. In 1990, he professed his first vows as a Capuchin friar, and perpetual vows in 1993, going on to earn his Master’s degree in Theology at the Washington Theological Union in 1995; he was ordained to the priesthood in 1997. His first assignment after ordination was on the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea, where he served for four years. Since returning to the US in 2001, he has served in various capacities as parochial vicar, military and hospital chaplain, and Pastor. Most recently, he worked with the friars in the Custody of Puerto Rico and currently serves as a full-time Minister of the Word and Evangelization, offering retreats and reflection days for parishes, religious and priests.

What is the point of a parish mission? Are parish missions necessary? Who benefits from parish missions?

A mission is an opportunity for a parish to experience in a heightened and intense way spiritual services, sermons, and Sacraments focusing on the major themes of our Faith. We all know of parishes where we can find people who habitually neglect Mass on Sunday and on feasts of obligation, even though they could go without any difficulty. Such people, if they go to their annual confession, manifest some kind of sorrow when questioned about this point, and promise to amend. Yet, after having attended Mass twice or three times, miss it again the same as before. Next year they make the same promises, and the same relapses follow.

In these cases, only the plain (but forcible) exposition of the evil of sin and its terrible consequences on the one hand, and the reflection on the mercy and goodness of God on the other, made by experienced missionaries who have experience in dealing with such cases, can make an irresistible impression upon their perverted hearts. Only a good parish mission may be able to bring these souls back to God.

The benefits that grow from parish missions in Christ’s vineyard cannot easily be overestimated. Parish missions are times of extraordinary grace in which the kingdom of God is re-established in the hearts of the faithful, sinners are restored to God’s friendship, tepid souls are re-animated to a life of fervor, and the righteous are encouraged in their efforts to aim at still greater perfection. In a word, a mission well-made destroys the kingdom of Satan, purifies and renovates the parish, and glorifies the Church of God.

With good parish missions, the better portion of the parishioners are strengthened in their faith; they learn to appreciate their religion in greater measure and to practice it more cheerfully; and they are put on their guard against dangers that threaten them at the present, or may rise up against them in the future. The weaker portion of the congregation is animated to greater fervor; the wayward are brought back; the erring are enlightened; the ignorant are instructed; and all classes of sinners are brought to repentance and to true reconciliation with God and His Church.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Photos of the Mass of Lyon

We recently shared a brief video of part of the Lyonais Mass, offered by Fr Brice Meissonier at the Collegiate Church of St Just, the home of the FSSP apostolate in Lyon. The Facebook page of FSSP Lyon has recently posted several photos which illustrate some of the other proper customs of the Use of Lyon. Our thanks for their permission to reproduce them here on NLM, and our congratulations to them for their valuable efforts to preserve this beautiful tradition. Multa renascnetur quae jam cecidere!

The amice is worn over the alb.
Ash colored vestments (couleur cendrée) are worn on the ferias of Lent.
At the Offertory, the celebrant places the host on the paten; stretching out his hands, he says “Dixit Jesus discipulis suis: Ego sum panis vivus, qui de caelo descendi. Si quis manducaverit ex hoc pane, vivet in aeternum. Jesus said to His disciples: I am the bread of life. If anyone shall eat of this bread, he shall live forever.” He then makes the sign of the cross in silence.

After preparing the chalice at the right side of the altar, the celebrant puts the paten with the host on the chalice, and makes the sign of the Cross over them in silence.

Music for Lent: The Media Vita

The hour of Compline is far more variable in the Dominican Office than in the Roman, often changing the antiphon of the psalms, the hymn, and the antiphon of the Nunc dimittis. This was true of most medieval Uses, and especialy in Lent, a season in which the Dominican Use brings forth some its best treasures. The most famous of these is certainly Media vita, a piece which will always be associated with St Thomas Aquinas, whose biographers note that he would always weep copiously when it was sung, especially at the verse “Cast us not away in the time of our old age, when our strength shall fail, forsake us not, o Lord.” Although written as a responsory, with verses and the repetition of the second part of the beginning, it was sung in many Uses as an antiphon for the Nunc dimittis. As Fr Thompson has noted previously, it may now be used by the Dominicans as a responsory, rather than as an antiphon, and it is thus that we can hear it sung by the Dominican students at Blackfriars.
R. In the midst of life, we are in death; whom shall we seek to help us, but Thee, o Lord, who for our sins art justly wroth? * Holy God, holy mighty one, holy and merciful Savior, hand us not over to bitter death. V. Cast us not away in the time of our old age, when our strength shall fail, forsake us not, o Lord. Holy God, holy mighty one etc.
The Use of Sarum appointed Media vita to be sung at the same time as the Dominicans, during the third and fourth weeks of Lent, but with more verses, and the division of the refrain as follows:
Aña In the midst of life, we are in death; whom shall we seek to help us, but Thee, o Lord, who for our sins art justly wroth? * Holy God, holy mighty one, holy and merciful Savior, hand us not over to bitter death.
V. Cast us not way in the time of our old age, when our strength shall fail, forsake us not, o Lord. Holy God.
V. Close not Thy ears to our prayers. Holy mighty one.
V. Who knowest the secrets of the heart, show mercy to our sins. Holy and merciful Savior, hand us not over to bitter death.
Many composers have put their hand to this text; one of the finest versions of it is the setting by the Franco-flemish composer Nicolas Gombert. (1495-1560 ca.)

EF Missa Cantata for St Joseph in Newark, New Jersey

There will be a Traditional Latin High Mass sung for the Feast of St. Joseph, on Monday, March 19th at 7:00 p.m, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Newark, New Jersey. Following the Mass, there will be light Italian refreshments including zeppole and sfinge to celebrate thename day of pastor, Msgr. Joseph Ambrosio. The church is located at 259 Oliver Street.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Laetare Sunday Photopost 2018 (Part 1)

We had a good number of submissions for Laetare Sunday this year, so there will be two photoposts this time. This one starts with something very interesting and unique from Douai Abbey in England, a vestment with pieces of 15th century embroidery, remounted in 1963 on a dark rose-colored cloth. (Special thanks to Dom Hugh Somerville-Knapman!) We also have photos of the Byzantine Third Sunday of Lent, the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross, which might broadly be seen as the Eastern equivalent of Laetare, and a blessing of golden roses. Thanks as always to all our readers who sent these in - evangelize through beauty!

Douai Abbey - Upper Woolhampton, England

St Paul - Birkirkara, Malta
St Peter Eastern Catholic Church - Ukiah, California
Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross - Vespers

“Liturgy, Orality, and Rubricism”: Article by Samuel Nyom

This article by Samuel Nyom is reproduced here from the website Pro Liturgia with his permission, translated from the original French by Zachary Thomas. This essay certainly provides interesting food for thought, but we do not present it as the last or only possible word on the subject; please act accordingly in the combox.

It is very profitable to read Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980). A Canadian and former professor of literature who specialized in the subject of communication, he said some very interesting things that can help us find explanations for the liturgical crisis that ultimately rests on a very profound anthropological crisis.

His works are very numerous and detailed, and require a careful reflection. On a first reading, we have noted that he had the same intuition as many others about the faith and the liturgy. He remarks, I think very truly, that our passage from a traditional civilization founded on orality and oral tradition toward a modern civilization founded on a culture of writing may not have initiated the sort of substantial progress that we are so often sold on.

In this regard, a military officer tells the following anecdote: “During a common meal in the regiment, the printed lyrics of the songs we sing have to be put on the table because almost no one knows them by heart anymore, especially not the youngest. This reliance on writing reveals that a tradition has been interrupted and is thus in some way ‘dead.’ But it wasn’t always that way. The songs used to flow spontaneously during the meal. Today the soldiers sing without joy, without conviction, their eyes riveted on the words written on the sheets provided for each of them. It seems that in just a few years, there will no longer be any singing during these moments of conviviality.” In other words, from orality we pass to writing, and from writing we pass to the loss of the tradition in the noble sense of the term. The same thing came to pass when the staff and notes permitting the transcription of Gregorian chant were invented: memory became lax and the nature of Gregorian chant went out the window. And this event was closely followed by the loss of the melodies of “the chant proper to the Roman liturgy”, and their replacement by polyphony, plainchant, and songs…

All truly vibrant traditional cultures have been oral cultures. It was in this context that Christianity and its liturgy developed.
The beginning of an antiphonary for the Roman Rite, known from the scribe’s name as the Codex Hartker; San Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. San. 339. (CC BY-NC 4.0)
In the Gospels, Christ calls upon us to hear, to listen to the Word of God and remember it. Jesus wrote nothing. Or rather: he wrote a few words… in the sand. They were quickly erased. The Rule of Saint Benedict begins “Listen, my son…” and not “read” or “copy.” This is because the Gospels, just like the Rule of Saint Benedict and the Christian liturgy itself, were originally inscribed into this culture of orality in which chant, psalmody, and melodic-verbal rhythm, united to the “anthropology of gesture”, played a preponderant role. (cf. Father Marcel Jousse, SJ) Even in our own day, the liturgy restored by Vatican II is supposed to be entirely chanted—including the Canon, the readings, and the Gospel—at least recto tono. And why? Because a chanted liturgy allows the sacred words to be raised to a superhuman level, the only level that permits us to grasp their supernatural dimension, something that the simple tone used for a reading or historical narration does not permit. There are very few places where this is understood and practiced.

In the Eastern liturgies, everything is sung: it is not possible to conceive of an office that is not sung because the liturgy must be performed in the mode of proclamation and not of simple reading. In fact, the simple reading in some respect “chains” the sacred words to a written text, while the chanted proclamation renders the word (Biblical or liturgical) living, as if liberated from the written word which is nothing but their material support. One can never be reminded too much that authentic Christianity is not a “religion of the book” but a religion of the Word. At the Mass, after the proclamation of the Gospel, the priest or deacon chants “The Word of the Lord” and not “the book…” The one who goes to proclaim the divine Word raises the Gospel Book very slightly. The same for the entry procession at the beginning of Mass: the deacon who carries the Gospel book raises it very slightly and never over his head (cf. the General Instruction of the Roman Missal).

Thus Martin Luther’s “sola Scriptura” might be something of an error: “Verba sola” would be more in conformity with the teachings contained in the Gospels and the Apostolic Letters…

These considerations lead us to think that in the history of the Western Church, there is a very ancient source (beginning at the end of the Middle Ages, essentially with nominalism) that explains the present crisis. It is possible, as McLuhan thinks, that the printing press accelerated the crisis.

From the 15th century, we perceive the pressing urge to codify, to put in writing, to “fix” the liturgy, because it was thought to be threatened by the false philosophies and dubious theologies that were spreading at that time. This fixing may be designated by the expression “politics of the corset.” In sum, something about the liturgy, its connection with life, with the living Word, was lost. Couldn’t this be the sense of Christ’s warning: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life?” In the immediate aftermath of this phenomenon, we begin to see the aberrations characteristic of the extreme codification of ritual inherited from the Council of Trent, which led to the normalization of the “Low” or “read” Mass. (how can the sacrifice of the Cross be “read”? Mustn't it be celebrated and lived?), then the “High Mass” which is actually a Low Mass on which a mass chanted by the faithful and the choir is artificially superimposed, thus breaking the unity of the celebration and creating a rift between the celebrant and the people. We point out in passing that in the first missal manuscripts, before Trent, rubrics are very rare… and this did not prevent the liturgy from being respected and faithfully transmitted.

This question of writing naturally poses the question of liturgical books: in the West, priests and faithful feel like they are lost if they don’t have their eyes fixed on some piece of writing: a missal, a Mass leaflet, a booklet, etc. This leads to some very strange attitudes during Latin and Gregorian masses celebrated in certain monasteries (Solesmes, for example, but not only there): at the entry procession, instead of turning toward the rite that is taking place and soaking up the liturgy, everyone “plunges” into his book and pays no attention to what is happening in the choir…

Now take a look at the Orthodox liturgies: there are very few books for the clergy (only the strict minimum, even though their liturgy is much more complicated) and for the faithful, nothing at all. This is explained by the fact that the celebrants know the most important prayers by heart (especially the Eucharistic prayers). Consequently, they can concentrate on the celebration itself and don’t have to shove their noses into some booklet or photocopy from start to finish.

One also notices, among the Orthodox, the absence of pews or rows of chairs that in the West “confine” the faithful in unnatural positions. Among Eastern Christians the faithful enjoy a great liberty to come and go, but always with the dignity and respect, entirely adapting themselves to the rites. We too used to enjoy such things: pews and missals are very late inventions that we owe in part to the Protestant Reformation. The point isn’t to get rid of the pews and missals: that would not be a realistic expectation. Nevertheless, we must all the same reflect on these “rubricizing” tendencies, whether they be “traditionalist” or “progressive”: before Vatican II, the Church was usually seen as primarily a juridical institution (when it is truly a divine-human, spiritual and mystical reality) which affected the liturgy to the point that it was understood more or less as a “solemn ceremony” (something equally applicable to a funeral) and almost never as a celebration. Liturgy was thus reduced to an ensemble of prescriptions to apply the letter of the law, which was justified by giving them an allegorical sense that did not get at the deeper sense or the true origins of the rite.

Necessarily, when one no longer understands the meaning of the liturgy, one tries to save the form by resorting to a strict ritualism, which for a time maintains the illusion...until the day when the “corset” falls and the ignorance is unveiled in full view. That is what happened in the 1970s and led to the present state of disaster.

This subject is vast and complex and many volumes would not suffice to explain all its facets. For those interested in reading more, it has been discussed notably by Aidan Kavanagh in the sixth chapter of his book On Liturgical Theology (Ch 6, pp. 96 -121). Commenting on the gradually shift, brought about by humanism and the printing press, toward a form of Christian piety based on the written word, he writes:

“God’s Word could now for the first time be visualized by all, not in the multivalency of a ‘presence’ in corporate act or icon, but linearly in horizontal lines which could be edited, reset, revised, fragmented, and studied by all--something which few could have done before. A Presence which had formerly been experienced by most as a kind of enfolding embrace had now modulated into an abecedarian printout to which only the skill of literacy could give complete access. God could now be approached not only through burning bushes, sacralized spaces and holy symbols and events, but through texts so cheaply reproduced as to be available to all. Rite and its symbols could be displaced or go round altogether, and so could the whole of the living tradition which provided the gravitational field holding them together in an intelligible union Rite became less a means than an obstacle for the new textual piety” (pg. 104).

Presentation on the Music and Art of Holy Week in New Jersey

This Friday, the Ocean County College Music Club will hold a presentation entitled “The Music and Visual Art of Holy Week”, by Fr. Peter Stravinskas, OCC Asst. Professor of Humanities, and Prof. Stephanie Shestakow, OCC College Lecturer of Humanities and Fine Arts, an exploration of the rich tradition of art associated with the observance of Holy Week. The representation will focus includes cultural and theological commentary, Latin usage and translations, and the role of art as illuminator, with images and music from various period. The presentation will take place from 11:30 am - 1:00 pm in Room A117 of the Grunin Center of the Arts, located at 1 College Drive, Toms River, New Jersey; admission is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches (Part 6)

This year’s is the fifth edition of our Lenten Roman pilgrim series of visits to the station churches, and for five years in a row, the station church for the Wedensday of the Third Week, San Sisto Vecchio is closed for restoration. The station is therefore transferred across the street to the Basilica of Ss Nereus and Achilleus. The same holds true for Santa Susanna on Saturday, also closed for a major restoration; the station is therefore held across the piazza at Santa Maria della Vittoria, the home of one of Bernini’s greatest sculptural achievements, The Ecstasy of St Theresa.

Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent - Statio at San Sisto Vecchio, currently transferred to Ss Nereus and Achilleus. (I have explained the church’s other name, “Titulus Fasciolae - the title of the bandage”, which is seen here written over the door, in an article on the station churches of Holy Week.)

Fr Alek took some pictures on a visit to San Sisto last year, although the church itself is in such bad shape that no one is allowed into it. This chapel is within the ancient chapter house of the Dominican Sisters who have been at the church since 1219; its columns were taken from the ancient basilica when its size was reduced in the 1200s.

The Anniversary of the Founding of the Church in Milan

According to an old ambrosian tradition, March 13 of the year 51 was the date on which the church was founded in Milan, when the Apostle St Barnabas baptized the first Christians of the city anciently called Mediolanum. The story tells that as a challenge local pagan priests, he planted a cross in the middle of a magic circle used in their rites by the Druids, who were still active in the areas outside the city. (Celtic priests did in fact use magic circles, into which they would fix a curved rod to take auspices from the postition of the stars.) This stone, preserved as a relic, is now in the church of Santa Maria al Paradiso, now in the center of the city on Corso di Porta Vigentina. By immemorial custom, on this day a cross is inserted into it, in remembrance of the first wooden cross so fixed by the Apostolic founder of the church of Milan. (Thanks to Nicola de’ Grandi for the pictures and description.)

The stone where St Barnabas fixed the cross, as seen today in S Maria in Paradiso. The inscription reads “On March 13 in year of the Lord 51, St Barnabas the Apostle, as he was preaching the Gospel of Christ to the people of Milan, in a place near the walls at the via Maria by the eastern gate fixed the banner of the Cross in this round stone.”
An historical photo of the wooden Cross fixed into the stone on “el tredesin de Marz”, as it is called in Mlianese dialect.
St Barnabas baptizing the first Christians of Milan.
A graphic showing the relative positions of certain stars and constellations as marked on the magic stone.

A Template for A Liturgically-Oriented General Catholic Education for Children

Book review: Educating in Christ: A Practical Handbook for Developing the Catholic Faith from Childhood to Adolescence For Parents, Teachers, Catechists and School Administrators, by Gerard O’Shea

This wonderful book, available from Angelico press, describes the principles for teaching methods and curriculum design for young children up to adolescence.

The author is Professor of Religious Education at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia, and the recommendations of the back cover, which I reproduce below, include two from fellow Australians who will be known to NLM readers: Bishop Peter Elliot, and Tracey Rowland.

What delighted me particularly is that Prof. O’Shea is offering something that is deeper and more profound that the usual recommendation of a classical-curriculum, Great-Books or liberal-arts education. For all the nobility of what is taught and read, these can still represent what is essentially a secular education.

In this book, he describes the basis of a uniquely Catholic approach to education that seeks to take students beyond the simple absorption of the material taught in the classrom, and lead them to a supernatural transformation in Christ. As such, and unusually, it is true to what the Church is asking for from our educators. Take for example, St Pius X in Divini Illius Magistri, who tells us that the goal of a Catholic education is the formation of “the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illumined by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ.”

We are given precise details and concrete measures that are easily followed. Balancing the natural and the supernatural, the theoretical and the practical, and combining the best of traditional methods with modern educational theory and psychology (with great prudence), O’Shea describes how a mystagogical catechesis, rooted in the study of scripture and the actual worship of God, is at the heart of every Catholic education. Then he describes how teaching methods and curricula should reflect these principles for children of different ages.

Another reason for my particular interest in this book is that it provides a basis for the incorporation of the Way of Beauty into education at levels below tertiary education (which is the focus of my book The Way of Beauty). From time to time, parents do ask me about this; now I know where to send them. O’Shea’s focus is more on general education than mine, but he provides a broad educational framework that will nurture the pursuit of creative arts in the way I think ought to be done, because it is based upon the same philosophy of education.

Below you will find the summary of the book from the publisher, and recommendations from the back cover:

EDUCATING IN CHRIST covers the essential practical and theoretical elements of religious education and catechetics for parents, catechists, teachers, and Catholic school administrators. The first part of the book responds to contemporary calls from the Popes for a religious education based upon authentic Christian anthropology. It provides a comprehensive outline of religious developmental stages, indicating activities appropriate for each of these from age three years to adolescence. It also takes into account the call of recent Church documents to approach this task from a “mystagogical” angle, linking the sacraments with the scriptures. In the second part, the best of contemporary teaching practices are linked with sound Montessori principles and the Catholic understanding of a pedagogy of God. Busy Catholic school administrators will find the provided summary of Catholic teaching on education since Vatican II a very useful reference tool. Teachers and home-schooling parents will find the sections on classroom methods, and the curriculum outline based on the liturgical year, especially helpful.

“In anxious times, this practical book is good news for parents, teachers, and catechists who introduce Catholic faith and morals to children and young people. The author offers a way forward that is Trinitarian, Christ-centered, and yet fully attentive to the needs of the child.”
— MOST REV. PETER J. ELLIOTT, Auxiliary Bishop, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

“If you regard the objective of religious education as the formation of a Catholic heart, memory, intellect, and imagination, then you will consider Educating in Christ an indispensable text. Drawing on ideas from Maria Montessori and Sofia Cavalletti, it explains how to hand on the faith at different stages of a child’s development. Every Catholic teacher should read and apply it.”
— TRACEY ROWLAND, University of Notre Dame, Australia

“Rooted in the Church’s sacramental traditions, informed by classical virtue theory, and drawing upon the best of modern developmental psychology, Gerard O’Shea’s work is a gem. I heartily recommend this practical, credible, orthodox, organized, and hopeful guide to educating our children in the faith.”
— RYAN N. S. TOPPING, Newman Theological College, Edmonton

“This masterful work is a much needed addition to the literature of Catholic religious education. It offers an integrated vision, bringing together anthropology, curriculum guidance, questions of school ethos and teacher formation, analyses of research findings in children’s learning—all grounded in a coherent and persuasive account of the aims and nature of Catholic education.”
— PETROC WILLEY, Franciscan University of Steubenville

“Educating in Christ has come out of the substantial educational and research experience of the author. It offers guidance to parents and teachers on all of the significant areas of religious education: Scripture, Sacraments, moral formation, doctrine, and prayer.”
— KEVIN WATSON, Acting Dean of Education, Sydney, University of Notre Dame, Australia

“Gerard O’Shea’s new book is an insightful and eminently useful guide for Catholic school teachers, catechists, and home-schooling parents. It provides not only insights into child development and its relationship to religious instruction, but offers practical, easy-to-follow lessons and applications for the teacher—a wonderful contribution to Catholic education.”
— MICHAEL MARTIN, author of The Incarnation of the Poetic Word

“Gerard O’Shea has written an extraordinary book that will serve catechists well in these challenging times. In language both insightful and accessible, Educating in Christ engages the question of how today’s religious education can lead people into communion with God. O’Shea answers by bringing the movement towards God in religious education into harmony with a reverence for the capacities and potentialities of those we teach.”
— JAMES PAULEY, Franciscan University of Steubenville

You can order the book here.

Monday, March 12, 2018

What Would an Ecclesiocentric Society Look Like?

For the past several centuries, Western man has been constructing bit by bit an anthropocentric society, in opposition to the theocentric society of the Middle Ages—that period when the mystery of the Incarnation permeated the intellectual, cultural, and social fabric as fully as it is ever likely to do short of the Parousia. Pope Leo XIII memorably described this Christian phase of the West in his encyclical letter Immortale Dei of 1885:
There was once a time when States were governed by the philosophy of the Gospel. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favor of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or ever obscured by any craft of any enemies. Christian Europe has subdued barbarous nations, and changed them from a savage to a civilized condition, from superstition to true worship. It victoriously rolled back the tide of Mohammedan conquest; retained the headship of civilization; stood forth in the front rank as the leader and teacher of all, in every branch of national culture; bestowed on the world the gift of true and many-sided liberty; and most wisely founded very numerous institutions for the solace of human suffering. And if we inquire how it was able to bring about so altered a condition of things, the answer is, beyond all question, in large measure through religion, under whose auspices so many great undertakings were set on foot, through whose aid they were brought to completion. (n. 21)
Leo XIII goes on to say that this state of affairs could have peacefully continued if the two powers, the civil and the ecclesiastical, “kingdom and priesthood,” had continued to cooperate towards the common good, both natural and supernatural. Yet rebellion is always possible in beings with free will, whom God does not compel to stand in the blessings they have, but who, like Lucifer and Adam, may throw away their glory out of disordered self-love:
But that harmful and deplorable passion for innovation which was aroused in the sixteenth century threw first of all into confusion the Christian religion, and next, by natural sequence, invaded the precincts of philosophy, whence it spread amongst all classes of society. From this source, as from a fountainhead, burst forth all those later tenets of unbridled license which, in the midst of the terrible upheavals of the last century, were wildly conceived and boldly proclaimed as the principles and foundation of that new conception of law which was not merely previously unknown, but was at variance on many points with not only the Christian, but even the natural law. (n. 23)
To use a phrase of Max Picard, the “flight from God” had begun: the ecclesial order, the political order, the moral order, the very order of reason—each would be compromised and corrupted as the West drifted ever further from its foundational principles. Several major decisions of the US Supreme Court may be taken as symbolic of this descent into madness: Roe vs. Wade, Casey vs. Planned Parenthood, Obergefell vs. Hodges. Is my description exaggerated? Let’s see: if a human being is not a human being just because of its age and location, if everyone has the right to make up reality, and if a man may marry a man or a woman a woman, then I think, if anything, that my description suffers from drastic understatement.

I was thinking about these things while perusing specimens of Austrian Notgeld sent to my son by an old family friend. During and after World War I, Austria was in an economic crisis. The metal out of which coins would have been made had been dedicated to the war effort, where it was more needed. To remedy the lack of currency, bank notes were printed both by the state and by individual towns in the period from ca. 1914–1922. Many towns thus ended up printing their own currency, called Notgeld, “emergency money” or “necessity money.” Although mostly printed on paper, some Notgeld was made out of leather, linen, aluminum foil, wood, compressed coal dust, even porcelain.

Of the hundred or so in my son’s collection, a surprisingly high proportion depict the town center with its Catholic church and prominent steeple, or other religious imagery. Here, in artifacts less than a century old, we find vivid testimonies of a Catholic society—one still attuned to the centrality of the Church and her Faith, and, in more subtle ways, attuned to the primacy of order, nature, and beauty. This highly practical item, a piece of paper currency, nevertheless bore witness to the transcendent realities that nourished the people beyond food and drink. Even in that which was practical and ephemeral, Austrians wanted to pay homage to what was primary and eternal.

I shall present a number of striking examples here, and more at the end.

There is a lesson for us in these colorful bits of paper money. As the English artist Eric Gill frequently pointed out, we have grown accustomed not only to a complete separation of the sacred from the secular, but also to a complete separation of the beautiful from the useful. We expect secular items to be absolutely secular, with no hint of the spiritual; the idea of Christian symbols on kitchen utensils, plates, or aprons, let alone paper money, would strike many as odd, if not actually immoral. Similarly, the useful items we make are generally plain and unremarkable if not positively ugly; seldom, if ever, do they make reference to God or to higher ideals. Efficiency, cheapness, interchangeability are the new ideals—and they are a poor substitute for the old ones. Not surprisingly, the realm of the beautiful has shrunk so that it now seems an ethereal exception, a quirky eccentricity, a luxury.

As Joseph Ratzinger often lamented, this spirit of thoroughgoing utilitarianism together with a skepticism towards the beautiful has crept into the arena of the liturgy, too. We want to “get done with Mass” as quickly as possible. We want things that are “affordable.” We spend enormous amounts on ourselves but count pennies when it comes to churches, furnishings, vestments, music books, musicians, and other necessities. That a pastor would place the category of beauty at the top of his list of priorities for a parish is almost unheard-of. Yet the cultivation of liturgical excellence and serving the poor are the two most pleasing things we can do for the Lord—the one for His sake, just because of Who He is and what He deserves, the other for men made in His image, which also redounds to His glory. Hence, the omission of the former is not merely a regrettable oversight, but is the epitome of practical atheism, the infallible indicator of “religion without religion.”

St. Josemaría Escrivá wrote these apposite words in The Way:
That woman in the house of Simon the leper in Bethany, anointing the Master’s head with precious ointment, reminds us of the duty to be generous in the worship of God. All the richness, majesty, and beauty possible would seem too little to me. And against those who attack the richness of sacred vessels, of vestments and altars, we hear the praise given by Jesus: opus enim bonum operata est in me—“she has done me a good turn.” (#527)
All of this was going through my mind when I read the following verses from Haggai the prophet, a little book that packs a punch for modern utilitarians busy about their commerce:
 2 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: This people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD."
 3 Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet,
 4 "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
 5 Now therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared.
 6 You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes.
 7 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared.
 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may appear in my glory, says the LORD.
 9 You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while you busy yourselves each with his own house.
 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.
 11 And I have called for a drought upon the land and the hills, upon the grain, the new wine, the oil, upon what the ground brings forth, upon men and cattle, and upon all their labors." (Hag 1:2-11 RSV)
Many examples of Austrian Notgeld may be found in the following images.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: