Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Formed in the Spirit and Power of the Traditional Latin Mass: On the Eighth Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum

In her magnificent book Cistercian Europe: Architecture of Contemplation, Terryl Kinder describes how medieval Cistercian architecture, seemingly simple and humble, is actually extremely subtle in its relationship to the cosmos and particularly the light of the sun:
What there is in a Cistercian abbey—and in abundance—is the presence and the play of light. It is sunlight that animates the buildings by day, outlining every protuberance and recession, giving full value to architectural detail. When trying to understand light in an abbey, the role of silence needs to be underlined, for speaking draws attention away from visual subtleties. In order to experience fully the movement of light and shadow in a Cisterician church, one needs to be present throughout the day from morning until evening, in winter and in summer, at dawn, when it is raining, and in the reflected light of snow. The evolving luminous effect is most apparent when one is sitting in the same stall, the very slowness of the moving light providing a perfect backdrop to contemplative life. Then the subtlety of the architecture and its detail may gradually reveal itself to those who have grown aware and can see it.[1]
In other words, you have to live patiently and attentively with this architecture before it reveals its secrets to you, and once you have learned its language, you are ushered into a world of spiritual symbolism that echoes and amplifies the longings and thoughts of your own prayer.

This example from the Middle Ages reminds me of certain striking words Pope Benedict XVI addressed to bishops in the letter accompanying the publication of Summorum Pontificum:
The fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio, that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities. This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded. The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.[2]
In noting how a “certain degree of liturgical formation” and “some knowledge of Latin” are required for the usus antiquior, Pope Benedict voiced a polite but stinging critique of the paucity and superficiality of liturgical formation found among many Catholics today as well as the pathetic and scandalous lack of Latinity among the clergy, contrary to the express requirements of Canon Law.[3] It is as if he said: You need not fear a sudden disarray in the Church, since the use of the classical Roman Rite, which presupposes the very things that the original Liturgical Movement and then Vatican II called for—namely, sound liturgical formation and the retention of Latin—are hardly to be found nowadays. Things are so bad that the old Mass, with its very great goods, will not immediately be able to spring back to life and take over.

Can we not see this as an implicit critique of the Novus Ordo, which, according to its architects’ express intentions, was meant to require little in the way of formation? It was designed to be self-explanatory, an “instant liturgy” like the instant coffees and dehydrated foods popularized in the Space Age. After all, in one of the most embarrassing sentences ever consigned to the text of an ecumenical council, we read in Sacrosanctum Concilium: “The rites … should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation” (34).

Never mind the fact that the people’s powers of comprehension have to be deliberately formed and informed in order for anything liturgical to make sense, and never mind the fact that the mysteries into which we are thrown are permanently and unfathomably mysterious, comprehensible and explicable only to a certain point, beyond which they dazzle and humble the human mind with their unapproachable light. As Benedict XVI frequently said in his homilies, man is not naturally Christian; we are not born redeemed; we must be born anew in water and the Holy Spirit, we must receive instruction and nurture our faith all our lives. Part of this process of becoming Christian is learning assiduously the vocabulary of the sacred, the language of the supernatural, the symbolism of the liturgy.

It is true, as Guardini reminds us, that many of the signs and gestures used by the Church have their origin in the order of creation, which speaks (or can speak) to man at the level of nature. But something like making the sign of the Cross or burning incense before the Blessed Sacrament is simply not intelligible apart from catechesis. Three conclusions suggest themselves: (1) taken in its totality, the Christian liturgy is not and can never be within the sphere of the people’s powers of comprehension in the absence of “formation in the spirit and power of the liturgy,” as Sacrosanctum Concilium recognizes elsewhere (n. 14). (2) Normally, and especially for modern man who spends his life deracinated from nature and culture, the liturgy will require much explanation. (3) Lastly, the worst place to attempt to explain liturgy is within the liturgy, even though this has been the constant trend for the past 50 years.

Tools of the trade: missals for the faithful
The original Liturgical Movement wanted serious formation of the clergy and the faithful so that they could yield themselves intelligently and willingly to the profound riches of the rites handed down to us, with their ultimately impenetrable mysteriousness that was the secret of their magnetism for devout souls. The Consilium decided instead on a horizontalized and transparent meeting format in which business is conducted in a linear fashion, “no congregant left behind,” with no residue of unintelligibility, no need for outside effort or inward suffering, and no submission to cultural forms that transcend our age as God transcends the entire created order—Latin being, perhaps, the most notable symbol of such a cultural form.

In fact, it is not difficult to see a certain pattern among those who discover the traditional Latin Mass and begin to attend it regularly. As a Catholic becomes more educated in both the Roman liturgy and the spiritual life, he or she comes to find the Novus Ordo less satisfactory. One notices more and more its thin rationalism, its openings for egoism, its heavy-handed didacticism, its lack of tranquility, its surprising distance from the interior world of the great spiritual masters. The classical Roman liturgy expresses to perfection all the great themes that the spiritual masters are always pursuing, and does so with a beauty, clarity, and forcefulness that is refreshing, invigorating, and habit-forming. Juventutem chapters and Fraternity parishes will recognize immediately the phenomenon I am describing here. It seems as if young people in particular, when serious about their faith, are quick to recognize the strengths of the old and the weaknesses of the new.[4]

Whether one realizes it or not, to seek to be formed “in the spirit and power of the liturgy” is, ipso facto, to become suited for the traditional Latin Mass, prepared to benefit from the feast it spreads before us. To become more prayerful, more accustomed to meditation, is to be in motion towards the usus antiquior—at least in the best of circumstances, when this trajectory can be peacefully completed. Tragically, as with storm-tossed ships too far from shore to find a safe harbor, there are many Catholics who cannot discover our liturgical heritage because it is simply not readily available to them. They will do what they can with the poverty of prayer forms they are offered, but it will be like poor children who cannot flourish on a meager diet, or who can do so only by special divine intervention and favor, outside of the ordinary course of things.

Let us return to the lines from Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to bishops of July 7, 2007. Having quoted these very lines, a commentator then went on to say:
The extraordinary form is difficult in the way that anything that’s rewarding but exacting is difficult, like classical music when what we know is mainly popular music. At Mass in the ordinary form, we experience it as something that projects itself from the sanctuary into the pews: it meets us halfway. At Mass in the extraordinary form, “Introibo ad altare Dei,” I will go to the altar of God. In the United States, a number of Catholics higher than anyone might have predicted from a survey of Catholics worldwide prefer to do the harder thing.[5]
The classical liturgy begins, in a sense, with the inner man and works from there to the outer man. This is why it is a harder, more demanding way, a more deeply transformative way—one that is, for that very reason, more full of joy and more productive of fierce devotion. This liturgy demands of us that we be formed and educated, otherwise we can make no sense of it. It prompts the development of new faculties of seeing and hearing; it requires an exodus from our surroundings of pop culture and intellectual fashion; it calls us to a strange land, like Abram being summoned from Ur to Canaan. Latin is the intuitive symbol of this stripping of oneself and donning a new garment, fit for standing in the presence of the Lord.[6] When Latin was de facto abolished, a potent and efficacious sign of the transcendence of God (the object of worship), of man (the subject of worship), and of the activity of worship itself (the mediating sacrifice), was lost, with immensely damaging consequences.

“What there is in a Cistercian abbey—and in abundance—is the presence and the play of light.” This, indeed, is what we find in the traditional Latin Mass and throughout the Roman liturgy as a whole: the presence and play of a divine light that illuminates man’s total condition, as a sinner redeemed in Christ, destined for immortality and fighting the battle of good and evil. It is this irresistible presence and liberating play of light, worlds removed from anthropocentric spontaneity and creativity, that we have discovered in the Mass of the Ages and everything that goes with it. With a shock of joy, we have embraced that gift, or rather, yielded ourselves to it, with all the fervor of young love, the foretaste of eternal blessedness.

Architecture, liturgy, and nature in perfect harmony


[1] Terryl N. Kinder, Cistercian Europe: Architecture of Contemplation (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans; Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 2000), 385–86.

[2] The full text may be found here.

[3] See Fr. John Hunwicke for the canonical requirements and kindred matters.

[4] For example, a college student wrote in an essay: “We do not immerse ourselves in the Mass [viz., the Ordinary Form] as much. It is more rushed and there is less concern with what every movement and every item means.”

[5] Nicholas Frankovich, First Things, September 26, 2013, “It’s Extraordinary.”

[6] This kind of stripping of the ego happens in the vernacular Byzantine liturgy in a variety of ways that do not have their exact parallels in the Western liturgy. But that would be another subject to pursue.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Solemn Requiem Mass - St. Paul's Cathedral, Pittsburgh, PA

Last Friday, Fr. Robert Pasley celebrated a Solemn Requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form as a part of the Church Music Association of America’s Colloquium. The participants of the colloquium sang Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem (op. 48); the Mass was celebrated at St. Paul Cathedral for all the deceased members of the CMAA.

Second Report from Fota, and Photos of Pontifical Liturgies

Here is our second report from the Fotoa conference, which concluded today. The first six photos are of Pontifical Vespers celebrated on the evening of Saturday July 4th, and the second six are of Pontifical Mass celebrated the following morning. Below is the report of the activities of the third and forth session. The liturgies are celebrated in the church of Ss Peter and Paul, with music by the magnificent Lassus Scholars, conducted by Dr Ite O’Donovan.

His Eminence George Card. Pell attending Vespers in choir.

Pontifical High Mass for the Nativity of John the Baptist in Lake Charles, LA

This article and the accompanying pictures were submitted by reader Barbara Wyman a few days ago, but I saved them for today, the eve of the eighth anniversary of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. Many years ago, in a place that shall remain nameless, friends and colleagues of mine were involved in organizing a Pontifical Mass, which was preceded by much wringing of hands over whether a full Pontifical Mass was opportune, or whether a Prelatitial Mass (i.e. the bishop’s form of Low Mass) would be less “controversial”. Happily, these controversies have (in many places, by no means all) become a thing of the past, and there is no longer any surprise or novelty to hear of an American bishop saying a Pontifical Mass from the throne in his own cathedral - another reason to thank Pope Benedict!

“If you build it, they will come” has once again been proven true, this time in the Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana, under the spiritual guidance of His Excellency Bishop Glen John Provost. Since his installation as 3rd Bishop of Lake Charles on April 23, 2007, Bishop Provost has celebrated several Pontifical High Masses in the Extraordinary Form throughout the diocese, three at the throne in his own cathedral, the latest being in celebration of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on June 24th, 2015. The crowds have been growing with each subsequent Pontifical High Mass, but on this occasion especially a record numbers of diocesan priests, visiting priests, deacons, and seminarians were present, as the following pictures show. The beautiful vestments worn by the clergy were purchased for the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Aug. 22, 2013, at which time, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States from the Holy See, officiated at the crowning rite of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The statue that was crowned, in the name of the Holy Father and by his authority, is located in the niche of the Cathedral’s high altar, and visible in the photos. The crown was custom designed and fashioned by Fratelli Savi, one of the most distinguished workshops in Rome for church items.

This Pontifical High Mass follows a historic event in the life of our diocese, the Bishop leading a Eucharistic procession from the Cathedral, which was proceeded by a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form celebrated by Fr. Rommel Tolentino, rector of the Cathedral parish. The procession drew large numbers of the faithful, who braved the heat and humidity of a Louisiana June evening and processed nearly a mile in the streets of downtown Lake Charles. Pictures of this procession follow those of the Pontifical High Mass. And finally, these lead up to a most joyous occasion on Monday June 29, the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Bishop Provost’s ordination. Is there any wonder that the Diocese of Lake Charles has a record number of seminarians? (more pictures of the Corpus Christi procession can be found at the following link to the diocesan website. http://immaculateconceptioncathedral.com/photoalbums)


Sunday, July 05, 2015

First Report from Fota VIII

The St Colman Society for Catholic Liturgy has very kindly sent us the following summaries of the papers delivered yesterday at the Fota VIII Liturgical Conference, currently happening in Cork, Ireland. The subject of the conference this year is A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation: Aspects of the Priesthood of Baptism. This is, of course, a topic of prime importance for consideration of modern liturgical practice and liturgical reform, in light of the many ways in which the “priesthood of all the baptized” has been misused and misconstrued to justify various abuses, and promote dubious ideas about the nature of the Liturgy and the Mass.

The eighth Fota International Liturgy Conference was opened this morning by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.

The initial session of the conference heard two papers on the scriptural aspects of the priesthood of Baptism. The papers were delivered by Fr. Joseph Briody, of St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts, and by Professor Dieter Böhler, SJ, of the Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Sankt Georgen, Frankfurt.

Fr. Briody’s paper was entitled The priesthood as a central dimension of biblical revelation:an overview of the royal priesthood of the faithful in Sacred Scripture. In it, he emphasized that the priesthood is not a peripheral biblical theme, but a central dimension of biblical revelation, and gave an overview of the priesthood in Sacred Scripture, with emphasis on the royal priesthood shared by the people of God.

The paper illustrated that from the beginning, man is presented as both priestly and kingly (Genesis 1-2). The priestly system, especially in Leviticus, was about relationship with the Lord and living in the presence of the Holy One. With the disappearance of the monarchy, the intercessory role of kings is taken over by the priests, and then, by all the people, especially in the praying of the royal psalms and transmission of the wisdom tradition. Later post-exilic times look to a messianic figure, both royal and priestly. Exodus 19:5-6 is examined in some detail, since it provides the background for royal priestly texts in the New Testament.

The royal priesthood is what defines the relationship of Christians to God and is what manifests the lordship of the Lamb. Hebrews, 1 Peter and Revelation develop the royal priesthood imagery, indicating that man’s destiny is the holy priesthood around the throne of God in heaven. The Bible concludes with the New Jerusalem where there is no Temple because the Lord God and the Lamb are the Temple and all present there are priests. The communion with God, sought but unachieved by Old Testament sacrifice, is realised. The fulfilment of Christian life is in becoming “priests of God and of Christ.” The royal priesthood is in fact the key to the scroll that is history.

The Old Testament distinction between the priesthood shared by all the people and the divinely willed “ministerial priesthood” of the few is maintained and developed in the New Testament.

Fr Joseph Briody and Fr Thomas McGovern
Professor Böhler’s paper, entitled A Kingdom of Priests: (Ex 19:6). Priesthood and Royalty of God's People in the Old (MT, LXX, Tg) and New Testament compared the Hebrew Text of Exodus 19:6 with its Greek and Aramaic versions (the Septuagint and the Targum respectively) and investigated how the First Letter of Peter in chapter 2: 5,9 adopts the Greek version of the text, while St John’s Revelation seems to follow a kind of Targumic reading.

The Hebrew text calls Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” This double expression most probably does not mean two synonyms, but, rather, two complementary entities which together form a whole: namely a priestly government for a sacred people. The Greek translation, however, interprets the Hebrew text in the sense of three synonyms: Israel is to be for God “a kingdom”, where God is king, “a priesthood”, probably mediating between God and the nations, and “a sacred people.” The priestly government of the Hebrew text has become in the Septuagint a priesthood of all Israel as a whole towards humanity. In the New Testament, 1 Peter 2:5,9 takes over the Old Testament expression in its Greek form, and more or less with the sense the Septuagint had given it.

The Aramaic versions of the Old Testament interpret Exodus 19:6 as attributing to the Israelites the dignities of kings and priests. This kingship then is not God’s any more over Israel, but a dignity of the Israelites over the nations. Israel’s priesthood as well becomes in the Targum a dignity of the individual Israelites. It is more or less in this sense that John’s Revelation in 1:6, 5:10 and 20:6 takes over the Old Testament idea of Ex 19:6.

Professor Böhler
Both papers were followed by lengthy discussions moderated by His Eminence George Cardinal Pell.
In the afternoon, two further papers were read by Fr. Thomas McGovern, of Dublin, Ireland, and by Professor Rodney Lokaj of the University of Enna “Kore”, Sicily.

In his paper entitled The Priesthood of the Laity: Holiness in Work, and the Challenge of the Secular, Fr Thomas McGovern emphasized the importance of the of the universal call to holiness in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and its significance for lay people.

All are called to the fullness of the Christian life. Since the great majority are immersed in temporal activities, they are called to holiness, not in spite of their ordinary circumstances, but indeed precisely in and through their daily commitments.

Sanctity is not something for a privileged few. Since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation in Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity. The Second Vatican Council emphasized the full implications of Baptism for the laity, of their vocation to holiness in the middle of the world. The vocation of the lay faithful to holiness implies that a life according to the Spirit expresses itself in a particular way in their involvement in temporal affairs and in their participation in earthly activities. Neither family concerns nor other secular affairs should be excluded from their religious programme of life.

The paper pointed to the importance of the sanctification of work as an environment in which the laity can seek holiness. A spirituality of work helps all people to come closer through work, to God, the Creator and Redeemer, to participate in his salvific plan for man and the world, and to deepen their friendship with Christ in their lives.’

The secularity of the laity is what gives them their distinctive characteristic in the Church. It is a state of life that identifies their vocation and mission on the basis of the baptismal consecration common to all. It also specifies the vocation by which they are called to work.

Prof. Rodney Lokaj
Professor Lokaj’s paper was entitled Early Franciscan preaching: an anomaly in canon law. It showed that the Franciscan sources contain many allusions to early preaching practices before and after Francis obtains his verbal authorisation from the Holy See to embrace the vita vere apostolica. These practices were carried out by Francis either on his own or with others who were in turn authorised to preach independently of the founder of the movement. The anomaly in canon law naturally consists in the fact that neither Francis nor many of his early brethren were ordained and yet they freely preached, thus creating what would otherwise seem to be a parallel with the many heretical movements abounding at the time.

The watershed in the founder’s life seems to be the episode recounting his renouncement of his father’s worldly possessions. It was then that, in rather dramatic circumstances and terms, Francis’ nakedness was literally and metaphorically cloaked by bishop Guido of Assisi. The sources and subsequent critical literature universally accept this episode as symbolising the fact that he had been taken in under the aegis of the Church thereby becoming a type of deacon in the service of all Christians. It was as such, furthermore, that the sources also implicitly explain his preaching to Clare. The paper pointed to the early sources indicating that such preaching was carried out in the company of other followers and that only later did successive sources speak of Francis and Clare on their own as if Clare’s conversion had been occasioned exclusively by Francis. The paper explored instances of early preaching practices within the Franciscan movement, then Order, including the initial attempts to preach within the Clarian community at Saint Damian’s.

The ensuing discussion was moderated by His Eminence George Cardinal Pell. The session was closed by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke. The first day of the Conference concluded with the celebration of Pontifical Vespers at Sts. Peter and Paul’s.

Fr McGovern, Card. Pell, Mons, James O’Brien, and Cardinal Burke
Card. Burke. Prof. Lokaj and Mons. O’Brien

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Colloquium XXV Wrapup

The CMAA Colloquium has finally reached its completion. Below, you can find a picture of most of the attendees of the 2015 CMAA Colloquium (some left to catch flights home), on the steps of Holy Spirit Chapel at Duquesne after the final Mass. For those looking for them, pictures of the last two day's Masses will be posted soon, including Friday's solemn requiem for the deceased members of the CMAA.

Photopost Catchup for June 2015

We are always glad to receive photos of your liturgies, even when we haven’t specifically asked for them for a major feast. Here are three sets from various events: a Pontifical Mass in Australia, celebrated by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, an EF Solemn Mass in Louisiana, and an OF First Mass of a newly ordained priest in Tiverton, Rhode Island.

Maternal Heart of Mary Church, Lewisham, Australia
The Most Reverend Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Astana (Kazakhstan), recently came to Australia at the invitation of the Australia Catholic Students Association (ACSA). During his visit in Sydney, he offered a Solemn Pontifical Mass and officiated at Pontifical Vespers at Maternal Heart of Mary Church, Lewisham. A great friend to the traditional liturgy and a strong defender of the faith, he preached on the importance of the liturgy and Eucharist in the everyday lives of the faithful. More photos of these liturgies can be viewed on the facebook page of the Maternal Heart Parish.

Index of Antiphons for Dominican Rite Chant Books

Dominican Sisters Chanting the Office
I am pleased to announce that  Dominican Liturgy is  making available on our left sidebar an Index of  the Antiphons found in the chant books of the Dominican Rite.  This index will be useful for those seeking the Dominican music for antiphons to use in the new Roman rite, as well as those who want to compare the Dominican music with Benedictine, Roman, or other Latin religious order Rites.  The closest relative to Dominican chant is that of the Premonstratensians, both of which are derived mostly from Cistercian models.
Modern Roman-Benedictine chant books often have indices for the various chants, but the most important Dominican chant books for the Office—the Antiphonarium of 1863 (with night office), the Antiphonarium of 1933 (no night office, post-Pius X psalter), and the Matins book of 1936 (major feasts)—have never been indexed or the index is found in a separate, hard-to-find, pamphlet.  All the antiphons of these books are in our new index.  This index also includes all the antiphons found in the Dominican Processional, the Holy Week Books of 1949 and 1963, the Gradual, and the Compline book.
The links to the index are available at Dominican Liturgy on the left sidebar, under "Dominican Rite Texts—Downloadable."  One version is numbered straight through, the other formated to print as a double sided booklet.
Note: The Dominican cloistered sisters of Prato (the community of St. Catherine de' Ricci, O.P.) are wearing white veils and no scapulars because they were and are technically members of the lay penitents ("Third Order"), not nuns ("Second Order").

Friday, July 03, 2015

Fr Denis Coiffet FSSP - Requiescat in Pace

The website of the Fraternity of St Peter published notice today of the death of one of their founders, Fr. Denis Coiffet. Our condolences to his family and friends, and to all of the members of the Fraternity.

“Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. Denis Coiffet FSSP. Our confrere passed away peacefully to his eternal reward this morning at 4:50 a.m., on the feast of St. Irenaeus of Lyon, surrounded by family and accompanied by the prayers of the Church. Fr. Vianney Le Roux was at his bedside and gave him the apostolic blessing at the hour of death. Fr. Coiffet died at the end of the Litany for the Dying.

The funeral mass for Fr. Denis Coiffet will be held at the Cathedral of St. Louis, Versailles at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 7.

His coffin will be moved to the FSSP house of Maison Saint-Dominique Savio, 14 rue des Moines in Versailles, Saturday at noon and the house will be open to those who wish to come to pray until Tuesday morning 8.00 a.m., July 7.”

Fr Coiffet (right) meeting His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, along with the Superior General of the FSSP, Fr John Berg. (Photos courtesy of FSSP Lyon.)
Deus, qui inter Apostolicos sacerdotes famulum tuum Dionysium sacerdotali fecisti dignitate vigere: praesta quaesumus: ut eorum quoque perpetuo aggregetur consortio. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.

God, who among the Apostolic priests made Thy servant Denis flourish by priestly dignity: grant, we beseech Thee: that he may also be joined unto their perpetual society. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mass for Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Carmel, New York

A Solemn High Votive Mass of Our Lady of Mount Carmel will be offered according to the 1962 Roman Missal on Wednesday, July 15th at 7:30 PM at the Church of St James the Apostle, 14 Gleneida Ave., Carmel, New York. Full details in the flyer below: please note the date is July 15, not the 16th.

Latin Mass in the Ordinary Form at Pittsburgh's St. Paul's Cathedral

As part of today's liturgical life at the Church Music Association of America's 2015 Colloquium included a Latin Mass celebrated in the Ordinary form at St. Paul's Cathedral in Pittsburgh. The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Eric Andersen. Also included on the bottom are a few pictures of vespers which followed Mass.

[Photos: Charles Cole and Ben Yanke]

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Liturgical Notes on the Visitation of the Virgin Mary

The Visitation of the Virgin Mary is surely one of the most beautiful stories in the Gospels, the account of a younger woman’s act of charity towards her older kinswoman, at a time when both find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. It is the occasion on which St Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, speaks to the Virgin the words which form the second part of the Ave Maria, “Blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb.” Mary’s reply to her is the canticle which in the Western church is sung at Vespers every day of the year, the Magnificat. Despite the importance of this story, the Roman Rite originally read it only on the Ember Friday of Advent, in a Mass that makes no other reference to it, two days after reading the Gospel of the Annunciation.

For many centuries, the latter was one of the classic group of four Marian feasts, along with her Nativity, Purification and Assumption, which the Latin Church had received from the Byzantine Rite in the first millennium. At the end of the 13th century, the liturgical commentator William Durandus notes that some people celebrate a fifth feast, that of the Virgin’s Conception. This feast was the cause of some notable discussions and controversies, and was not received by the Roman Church until 1476, more than 200 years after it was first kept by the Franciscans. The Visitation, on the other hand, was officially embraced and promulgated almost a century before the Immaculate Conception, and properly ranks as the Latin Church’s first “new” Marian feast, a native creation of the Roman Rite, not a Byzantine important.

The Visitation of the Virgin Mary, by Giotto, in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy, 1303-6.
It is traditionally said that the Franciscans adopted the feast, along with that of the Immaculate Conception, at a general chapter held in 1263, when St Bonaventure was Minister General. It is certainly true that St Francis’ order greatly promoted devotion to the Virgin and new feasts in Her honor, also adopting the feast of Our Lady of the Snows in 1302. Evidence for their celebration of the Visitation in the 13th century, however, is not conclusive, and the authenticity of the relevant sources is debated. The first certain attestation of the feast is found in Prague, where it was celebrated in 1386 at the behest of Archbishop John Jenstein, who composed a Mass and Office for it. Cardinal Jenstein was also present at a consistory held in Rome in April of 1389, as the Great Schism of the West was in its twelfth year, and it was he who suggested to Pope Urban VI that he extend the feast to the whole Church as a way of asking for the Virgin’s intercession to end the Schism.

Pope Urban did in fact agree to do this, but died before he could sign the necessary decrees; the official promulgation of the feast was one of the first acts of his successor, Boniface IX, by the bull Superni benignitas Conditoris, dated November 9, 1389. As is also the case with other liturgical bulls of that era, it is a supremely beautiful and spiritual piece of writing, elegant and learned in its Latinity; it was even read in the Divine Office in some places, despite the fact that its author was a notorious simoniac (and the reason why the name Papal name ‘Boniface’ has not been used since.)
The very Queen of heaven, in whose womb the Son of God enclosed Himself and became a man, from the height of that great honor proclaimed to her by the Angel, took unto herself no spirit of pride, but as a humble servant, though she had become the mother of the Lord, fulfilled the office of her humility, upon which the Lord had looked with favor, and arising went unto the mountains, … O great mystery, o wondrous commerce, and ineffable sacrament, that these mothers should know beforehand and even prophecy about the children which they bore in their wombs; and, as the sacred history of the Gospel reveals, the Queen of Heaven, who was pregnant, and would be consecrated by the birth of God, as an even greater mark of humility, should render service to the pregnant mother of Her Son’s Precursor.
The altarpiece of the Lady Chapel in Prague Cathedral, with the Visitation in the central panel. The events depicted on the wings are the other Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary: the Annunciation (upper left), the Birth of Christ (upper right), the Presentation in the Temple (lower left) and the Finding of Christ in the Temple (lower right.)
When the feast was first kept at Prague, it was celebrated on April 28; other dates are attested in other places, but Pope Boniface’s bull fixes it to July 2nd, the day after the Octave of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. This may seem an odd choice, since the Visitation comes right before the Baptist’s birth in St Luke’s Gospel. Wishing to keep the feast with the fullness of solemnity according to the custom of his era, Pope Boniface originally gave it a vigil and an octave; both of these were removed in the Tridentine liturgical reform, although the octave was retained by many religious orders, and all the dioceses of the kingdom of Bohemia. Vigils were not kept in the Easter season, and if the feast were set in May or June, its octave would continually clash with those of the Ascension, Pentecost and Corpus Christi. (The date of the Visitation in the Novus Ordo, May 31, will fall on the Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday or Corpus Christi 13 times in the current century; adding the vigil of Pentecost, its octave and that of Corpus, it will be impeded a further 42 times). By the end of the 15th century, the July 2nd date had been received throughout the western Church, even at Prague, and this is the date that would carry through to the Tridentine liturgical books.

In the Ambrosian Rite, the Visitation is ranked as a Solemnity of the Lord, and as such, may be celebrated on a Sunday, which is not permitted even for the very greatest solemnities of the Saints, such as the Assumption or the feast of St Charles Borromeo. Nevertheless, the texts of both Mass and Office are essentially about the Virgin Mary. The major exception is the first chant of the Mass, the “Ingressa”, repeated from the Sixth Sunday of Advent, which speaks of the first meeting of the Lord and His Precursor as children in their mothers’ wombs.

Videsne Elisabeth cum Dei Genitrice Maria disputantem: Quid ad me venisti, mater Domini mei? Si enim scirem, in tuum venirem occursum. Tu enim Regnatorem portas, et ego prophetam: tu legem dantem, et ego legem accipientem: tu Verbum, et ego vocem proclamantis adventum Salvatoris.

Dost thou see Elizabeth discussing with Mary, the Mother of God: Why hast Thou come to me, o mother of my Lord? For if I had known, I would have come to meet Thee. For thou bearest Him that reigneth, and I the prophet; Thou the Giver of the Law, and I him that receiveth it; Thou the Word, and I the voice of him that proclaimeth the coming of the Savior.

The Byzantine Rite also keeps July 2nd with a feast of the Virgin, called “The Placing of the Honorable Robe of the Holy Mother of God in Blachernae.” Blachernae was the name of a suburb of Constantinople, later enclosed within the city walls, where in the mid-5th century the Empress St Pulcheria built a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary; this church would become the city’s most important Marian shrine, and among all of its churches second in importance only to Hagia Sophia. Shortly thereafter, two citizens of the imperial capital were said to have found the robe of the Virgin Mary while visiting the Holy Land, and to have brought it back to the city, where it was enshrined in the church at Blachernae; an ancient icon of the Virgin was also housed therein, of the type now called from it Blachernitissa.

The Synaxarion of the Byzantine Rite (the equivalent of the Martyrology) tells the story that when Constantinople was besieged by the Avars and Persians in 626, the patriarch Sergius processed various relics around the city walls, including those of the Cross, and the Virgin’s Robe. Shortly thereafter, the besieging armies were completely defeated by the much smaller Byzantine forces, and the enemy fleet wrecked just off the shores of the Blachernae region. The Byzantine tradition states that the famous hymn to the Virgin known as the Akathistos was first sung on this occasion, to honor the Mother of God for protecting and delivering the city. The Virgin of the Blachernae was believed to have delivered the city from at least three other sieges, twice by the Arabs in 677 and 717, and again by the Russians in 860; the icon and robe of the Blachernitissa came to be venerated as the palladia, the protecting talismans of the city.

The Siege of Constantinpole, in a mural of the Moldovita Monastery in Romania, painted in 1537. (Image from wikipedia; click to enlarge.) On the upper part of the city walls are seen the Blachernitissa icon of the Virgin, and the Holy Mandylion, the cloth with the face of Jesus on it.
Later Byzantine writers tell of a miracle which took place in the church so often it came to be known as the “habitual miracle.” This tradition found its way to the West, and is recorded in the rubrics of the Missal of Sarum, as an explanation of the custom of celebrating a Mass in honor of the Virgin every Saturday.
In a certain church of the city of Constantinople, there was an image of the Blessed Virgin, before which there hung a veil which covered the whole image. But on Friday after Vespers, this veil withdrew from the image, with no one moving it, by a miracle of God alone, as if it were being born up to heaven so that the image could be fully seen. Once Vespers had been celebrated on Saturday, the veil descended once again before the image, and remained there until the following Friday. Once this miracle had been seen, it was decreed that that day should always be celebrated in honor of the Virgin.
The rubric continues with a beautiful meditation on the Virgin Mary’s faith in the Resurrection.
Another reason is that when the Lord was crucified and had died, as the disciples fled and despaired of the Resurrection, complete faith remained in Her alone. For She knew that She had carried Him without distress, and born Him without pain, and therefore she was certain that He was the Son of God, and must rise from the dead on the third day. And this is the reason why Saturday (i.e. the day between the death and Resurrection of Christ) belongs more than any other day to the Virgin.
A 17th century copy of the Blachernitissa icon of the Virgin Mary, from the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The original seems to have been lost when the church of the Blachernae was destroyed by fire in 1434.

Looking for More from the Colloquium?

Looking for more content from this year's CMAA Colloquium? Hoping to get a bit more of a sense of what it's like? You may know that NLM is owned by the Church Music Association of America, but you may not know we also have a blog which is more music focused, called the Chant Cafe! Don't forget to be keeping an eye on things over there as well, because I will be posting videos of various happenings throughout the Colloquium over there.

Solemn Mass for the Feast of the Precious Blood - CMAA 2015 Colloquium

Today at the 2015 CMAA Colloquium, Fr. Jeffrey Keyes celebrated a Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite at the Duquesne University Chapel. Don't forget to keep checking back this week for more pictures of the liturgies of the Colloquium, and also the Chant Café for videos throughout the week.

[Photos: Charles Cole and Ben Yanke]

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