Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Gospel of the Assumption: A Medieval Allegory

Shortly after Pope Pius XII made the formal dogmatic definition of the Assumption in 1950, he promulgated a new Office and Mass for the feast. The Gospel of the new Mass, known from its Introit as Signum Magnum, is St Luke 1, 41-50, the words of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, to the Virgin at the time of the Visitation, and the first part of the Magnificat. Before the promulgation of this new Mass, the Gospel had been for many centuries that of Mary and Martha, Luke 10, 38-42.

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, by Henryk Semiradzki, 1886
At that time, Jesus entered into a certain town, and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord’s feet, heard his word. But Martha was busy about much serving; who stood and said, “Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her therefore, that she help me.” And the Lord answering, said to her, “Martha, Martha, thou art full of care, and art troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

This Gospel was received, like the feast of the Assumption itself, from the Byzantine tradition, in which it is read on various feasts of the Blessed Virgin, with two verses from the following chapter appended to it, Luke 11, 27-28. In the traditional lectionary of the Roman Rite, these two verses are separated from the previous Gospel, and read on the Vigil of the Assumption.

And it came to pass, as He spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck.” But He said, “Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.”

The Church Fathers traditionally explained Mary and Martha as symbols of the contemplative and active life respectively, as is seen already in St Ambrose’s Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke, although he does not use the terms “active” and “contemplative”.

“One of them listened to the Word, the other was busy about serving, and stood and said, ‘Lord, hast thou no care etc.’ Therefore, the one applied herself more to attention, the other to the service of action: nevertheless, there was in both equally zeal for both forms of virtue. For indeed, if Martha did not hear the Word, she would not have undertaken her service, the doing of which indicates her intention; and Mary took such great grace (as she had) from the perfection of both virtues. (1.9)

Nor is Martha rebuked in her good ministry, but Mary is set before her, because she chose for herself the better part; for Jesus abounds in many things, and gives many things. Therefore, she is judged the wiser, because she perceived and chose what was is first, as indeed the Apostles deemed it was not the best thing to leave the word of God and serve tables (Acts 6, 2). (7.86)”

Ss Ambrose and Augustine, by Fra Filippo Lippi, ca. 1437
This is stated even more clearly by St Augustine, in the homily which was traditionally read in the Office on the feast of the Assumption.

“In these two women are figured two lives, the present and the future, one full of labor, the other restful, one full of trouble, the other blessed, one in time, the other eternal. … Therefore, there remained in that house which received the Lord two lives (represented) in the two women; both innocent, both praiseworthy; one full of labor, the other at rest; neither sinful, neither idle… In that house, there were these two lives, and the fountain of life itself. In Martha was the image of the things that are present, in Mary of those that will be. What Martha was doing, there are we; what Mary was doing, this do we hope for; let us do the former well, that we may have the latter in full.” (Sermon 104, alias 27)

In the middle of the 9th century, Amalarius of Metz, in his treatise On the Offices of the Church, uses the terms “active” and “contemplative” life, although not specifically in reference to the feast of the Assumption, which he does not mention.

“Thus there are in our Church today two kinds of the elect who are baptized. One kind is in the active life, the other in the contemplative, and these two kinds are signified by Martha and her sister Mary. The better part was allotted to Mary by the Lord, but that of Martha was not reproved, for it is good.” (4.27)

By the middle of the 12th century, this tradition is fully well-established. In the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, John Beleth explains that some Gospels are chosen as historical narrations of the events which the liturgy celebrates, such as that of the Epiphany, while others are chosen as allegories.

“According to an allegory (is) one such as that which is customarily read on the Assumption of the Blessed Mary, concerning Mary Magdalene and her sister Martha ... since in Mary is signified the contemplative life, and through Martha, who was serving (the Lord), the active life. By this Gospel it is taught that in the Blessed Virgin Mary was the perfection of both lives...” (29 de Evangelio)

Commenting on the feast itself, he writes: “That fact that a Gospel (of the allegorical sort) is read, indicates that both lives, the contemplative and the active, were in the Virgin Mary. For she was Magdalene, that is, the one who was taken up with the contemplative life. She was Martha, that is, the one who was wholly occupied with the active life ... For these words declare sufficiently that She was  constantly taken up with the contemplative life, ‘But Mary kept all these words in her heart. (Luke 2, 52)’ ” (146 de Assumptione)

The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin Mary, by Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci; from the Gradual of Santa Maria degli Angeli, ca. 1370, now in the British Library.
At the end of the same century, Sicard of Cremona adds an allegorical explanation of the “town” which the Gospel mentions as the place where Mary and Martha lived, since the Latin word for it, “castellum”, also means “a little castle.”

“In the Mass is read the Gospel of Martha and Mary Magdalene, according to an allegory; for the blessed Virgin was the little castle, because She secured herself well against the devil. She was Martha, for there was none better in action; she was Mary, for there was none better in contemplation, of which it is said, ‘But Mary kept all these words in her heart.’ ” (Mitrale 9. 40)

William Durandus’ commentary on the liturgy, also called Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, stands in relation to the earlier commentaries as St Thomas’ Summa theologica does to earlier Summae, bringing together all of the threads of the tradition with great thoroughness and clarity. He writes thus on the traditional Gospel of the Assumption.

“The Gospel is read about Martha and Mary, which at first sight appears to have no relevance, and yet it is indeed relevant, according to an allegory. For Jesus entered into a certain ‘small castle’, that is, into the Virgin Mary, who is called a castle since She is terrible to demons, and armed Herself well against the devil and against vices. But She is called ‘a small castle’ in the diminutive (castellum) because of her humility, and because of Her unique condition, since ‘neither before nor henceforth hath there been or shall be another such as Her.’ (quoting the 2nd antiphon of Lauds on Christmas day.) And Martha, that is, the active life, received Him. For She most diligently reared Her Child, and brought him into Egypt, and showed her goodness in the active life, by going to Elizabeth, and serving her, and just as She was (like) Martha in the active life, so also she was (like) Mary Magdalene in the contemplative life. Whence in another Gospel is read, “Mary kept all these words in her heart.” (Luke 2, 50) Now these two sisters signify the active life and the contemplative life, which were clearly in the Blessed Virgin Mary, and through them she exaltedly, honorably, and with great delight, received Christ in Herself.” (7.24)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Photopost Request: Assumption 2018

Our next major photopost will be for tomorrow’s feast of the Assumption; please send your photos (whether of the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form) to for inclusion. We are always very glad to include photographs of celebrations in the Eastern rites and the Ordinariate rite, as well as Vespers and other parts of the Divine Office, blessings, processions, the vigil Mass etc. Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important. Evangelize through beauty!

Pontifical First Vespers of the Assumption at Heilignekreuz Abbey in Austria, from our second Assumption photopost of last year.

Latin Mass to be Sung in San Quentin State Prison Starting August 25th

Twenty-five inmates to form new schola under the guidance of Benedict XVI Institute

Among the various initiatives of the recently rejuvenated Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, which is under the patronage of His Excellency Archbishop Cordileone and the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the Latin Mass is to return to San Quentin State Prison, with the first Mass scheduled for August 25th.

The Institute runs its own schola, which is a teaching choir that can visit parishes and communities in order to enable them to chant the Mass. Archbishop Cordileone recently visited the prison with the schola for an evening of musical meditation and prayers, and proposed this idea to the prisoners who attended. The response was enthusiastic and gratifying.

Maggie Gallagher, the director of the Benedict XVI Institute tells us about the evening:
I have just come back from an extraordinary evening with some extraordinary news for you: The Latin Mass is coming back to San Quentin for the first time in three generations!
Last night, our new Benedict XVI Institute Schola and Teaching Choir went to San Quentin for three reasons:
First, to give men forgotten by many in society the uplifting experience of pure Sacred Beauty—with music performed by four very talented professional singers.
Second, to teach these men they can chant too; just hearing these men chant the Litany of the Saints together was inspiring! Our Benedict XVI Institute Schola and Teaching Choir is not just a performing choir: we aim to show ordinary Catholics they can participate in the Mass in this special way.
So our third and most important goal last night was to invite the men at San Quentin to form a schola that will help bring back the Traditional Latin Mass on August 25.
And guess what? Twenty-five men said yes!
This overwhelming response was for me a totally unexpected gift from God. Here’s how the evening went: I drove in with Archbishop Cordileone and met Father Cassian (who will celebrate the Latin Mass August 25) as well as a prison volunteer and the Catholic chaplain Father George Williams at the entrance. As we walked into the Chapel, Father George told us: “The men are just very grateful you are here. Feel free to chat with them, they love that.”
Prison is a kind of community and like any community, there are some who actively work to make it better. We met a lot of men like that last night. Dwight, the sound guy, introduced himself and started asking about how we want to be miked for the Latin Mass. “Bobby”, an old hand, told me he used to sing the Latin Mass at St Peter’s in the Mission district [of San Francisco] with the “Christian brothers.” (What a gorgeous old San Francisco church I would love to do a chant camp there! Take a look!) “Sam” who sat behind me, was a Protestant curious what this new music sounded like. He’s only been in San Quentin for two weeks “but the church scene is popping!” he told me.
Father George Williams introduced Archbishop Cordileone for the opening prayer. “This is our brand-new teaching choir and you are our first gig!” he told the men to thunderous applause. “I love telling people our first teaching gig is the San Quentin Schola!”
More applause.
Then the music started. Rebekah Wu, our talented music director, organized the music around the “Six Seasons” of the liturgical year. We began with Frank La Rocca’s Ave Maria (and come to think of it also ended with Hail Holy Queen).
Starting in Advent season, the choir mesmerized 60 or so San Quentin prisoners with a mix of Gregorian chant (“Creator Alme Siderum,” “Resonet in Laudibus,” “Attende Domine,” and sacred polyphony old and new (Bruckner’s “Vexilla Regis,” Jean Berger’s “The Eyes of All,” the lovely Christmas carol “I wonder as I wander,” and during the Easter Tridium “Jesus so Lowly”).
During the deep Lenten season, Rebekah gave testimony to God’s healing power in her own life, mentioning the good thief who ended up in paradise with Jesus. Father George interrupted to say a few words: pointing to a huge painting hung on the wall he explained. “That is Saint Dismas,” Fr. George told us. “The good thief who repented and whom Jesus saved. That painting was gifted to us by a death row inmate who died last year, Fernando Caro.” Out of evil, God can rescue beauty and give hope, if we let him.
Then it was time to bring the men into chant with the choir. Rebekah taught us all to sing the Alleluia as the chorus of “O Filii et Filiae,” and then had the men chant The Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
“Now it’s your turn to sing,” she said to the men. (“Do you really want to record this?” a man in front of me quipped.) Then as I described came the Litany of the Saints, as well as an invitation to form a schola.

Not only do we have 25 enthusiastic volunteers, all the men I spoke with, whether they joined the schola or not, are anxious to come and attend the Latin Mass on the 25th of August.
For some it will be a trip down memory lane to the music of their Catholic boyhoods. But for many of the young men present, it is a fresh chance to participate in the ancient rituals of the Church, to share the noble sacred beauty that is their heritage too.
"One young man told me that he felt the Holy Spirit buzzing in his soul while he joined the choir in some chanting during the concert. I was especially delighted to see that so many men want to learn Gregorian chant and classical sacred choral music, and help bring the Latin Mass to San Quentin,” said Rebekah Wu who directs the Benedict XVI Institute Schola and Teaching Choir.
After the closing prayer by Archbishop Cordileone, more than a dozen men came up to talk to the singers and to Father Cassian, the Contemplative of St. Joseph monk who is going to celebrate the first Traditional Latin Mass on August 25 at San Quentin. As one of the prisoners put it to one of our singers: “I don’t want to be in here. But if I have to be in here, I want to be in here listening to music like that.”
"I saw these men, who humanly speaking are in a dire situation that may seem hopeless, be lifted up to God by sacred beauty and given new hope," Archbishop Cordileone told me afterward.
“They love to sing, and they worship well. So the response of the men to the invitation to form a Latin Mass schola was overwhelming but not surprising.”
He added: “The Benedict XVI Institute teaching choir is clearly fulfilling an important need in ordinary parishes but also for those at the margins of society.”
Thank you Archbishop Cordileone--and all the supporters the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship who’ve helped make this possible: with your prayers, with your financial support, with your words of encouragement. 
People who are interested in supporting the San Quentin schola can follow the link here. And for those in the San Francisco Bay area who would like to bring the Benedict XVI Institute Schola and Teaching Choir to your parish (they offer children, teen, and young adult chant programs), email Rose Marie at

Monday, August 13, 2018

Doctrinal Foundations of All-Male Sanctuary Service and the Problem with Ignoring Them

In the Temple of Jerusalem, the Holy of Holies was a place solemnly set apart, separated from the rest of the temple and its surrounding courtyards, on account of the mystery contained within it: the presence of God above the mercy seat, in the midst of the physical reminder of the covenant in blood. Out of fear and reverence for the Lord, lay men and women, lower ranks of priests and Levites, would not dare to enter the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could enter, under precise conditions, ready to offer to the Lord his own prayers and the prayers of all the people.

Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, has pierced the veil and entered into the true tabernacle not made with human hands, preparing for us a way to follow Him into beatitude — even preparing for us, in this mortal life, a mystical banquet of His precious Body and Blood, so that we may be made sharers of the food of immortality. Yet, for all this intimacy of communion, He remains no less the Sovereign High Priest, crowned with glory, and we are no less His lowly servants in via. As we walk in pilgrimage towards the heavenly temple, there is still the distinction in kind between sacred and profane, baptized and unbaptized, the holy and the sinful, as well as the distinction of offices between ministers and laymen.

Far from being cut off from its ancient roots, worship in the New Covenant retains the spirit of chaste fear before the Lord, the awareness of stages of ascent into the holy presence of God, and a ministerial hierarchy that reflects the nature of the cosmos and the descent of grace from the Redeemer through the members of His mystical Body. These truths are consummately expressed in the spaces and structures of classic church architecture, furnishings, vestments, and vessels, and poignant prayers and gestures of homage, adoration, and humility.

Traditionally, the sanctuary above all was seen as the domain of Christ the High Priest, and therefore an area symbolically set apart from the rest of the Church, with all-male ministerial service — a custom that Roman Catholics kept intact for nearly 2,000 years in continuity with the Israelites who went before us, and that the Eastern Churches preserve in full integrity to this day.

Let us recall the rationale behind the custom of limiting service in the sanctuary and at the altar to men only. Servers and lectors are in some way an extension of the ministry of the priesthood, to which it properly belongs to handle the divine mysteries and all that is associated with them. Only men can be priests; therefore only males are suited to priestly functions. Moreover, servers and lectors are a substitute for clerics in minor orders, who, in optimal conditions, are the ones called upon by the Church to fulfill these very offices. The formal ministries of acolyte and lector, even after Pope Paul VI’s simplification and reconfiguration thereof, are open only to men. Ministers are men set apart by the Church for a special function that is not equivalent to general lay participation in the liturgy. Finally, serving as an altar boy was and still is a much-valued way to encourage vocations to the priesthood.[1]

Not long after the Council, this hitherto unbroken practice was abandoned, with the allowance of female lectors and, later, female altar servers. Now women and men freely mingle in the sanctuary and even at the very altar of sacrifice. Not only is this development contrary to the religious instincts of most cultures[2] and to well-known psychological requirements of boys,[3] it is also contrary to the common good of modern Christians who are living in an age of massive sexual confusion, where distinctions are blurred and the combination of reductive feminism and democratic egalitarianism treats men and women as if they were interchangeable.[4]

While Christian anthropology is sufficiently different from that of other cultures and religions to allow St. Paul to say that “in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female” (Gal 3:28), the context itself and the exegesis of the Church Fathers show us that the Apostle is referring to the dignity of baptism and the goal of salvation: the grace of eternal life is freely available to all, with no distinction of race, class, or sex. Heroic charity is in the reach of every baptized man, woman, and child, and the hierarchy of heaven is established according to charity. This fundamental truth simply does not touch on how the Christian religion, as visibly and socially embodied in this world, makes use of the God-authored order of creation (and, in particular, the permanent features of human nature) for the hierarchical form of its organization and worship.

The ideological shotgun wedding of feminism and egalitarianism strikes at the fundamental language of revelation, wherein God/Christ is the bridegroom who acts and fertilizes, becoming the father and head of the family, and man/Israel/the Church the bride who receives as wife and bears fruit as a mother. As I have written elsewhere:
To ignore differences of sex or to pretend that such differences make (or should make) no difference in the fulfilling of liturgical roles is surely to ignore, and probably to contradict, the “theology of the body” given to the Church by Pope John Paul II. Especially in our times, when confusion about sexuality is rampant, how we conceptualize and implement male and female roles in the Church cannot fail to have huge ramifications in our theological anthropology, moral theology, and even fundamental theology, extending all the way to the inerrancy of Scripture and the trustworthiness of apostolic Tradition.[5]
At the very least, it is not beneficial to the faithful to allow traditional practices to be canceled out as if they were arbitrary exercises of power, mistaken to begin with — particularly when these practices have sound anthropological and dogmatic foundations.

In the case at hand, the gradual breaking down of various distinctions such as those between sanctuary and nave, ordained and non-ordained, ministers and recipients, has been able to feed into and feed upon the larger societal dissolving of distinctions between men and women, creating a perfect storm of confusion for the faithful.

A failure to see how the natural distinction of sexes is ordered to the common good of mankind and of the Church has, without a doubt, led to many abuses of power on the part of pastors or laity who take it upon themselves to create, abolish, or innovatively redefine offices, functions, symbols, and rites.

Pastors concerned with communicating and reinforcing authentic Catholic doctrine should become more concerned with the many ways, open and subtle, in which our liturgical practices symbolize certain truths of creation and redemption or, on the contrary, obfuscate that symbolism and risk undermining those truths.


[1] See this article for further argumentation.

[2] See Manfred Hauke, Women and the Priesthood: A Systematic Analysis in Light of the Order of Creation and Redemption, trans. David Kipp (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), esp. 85–194; cf. idem, God or Goddess? Feminist Theology: What Is It? Where Does It Lead?, trans. David Kipp (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995).

[3] I am referring here to the oft-observed pastoral phenomenon of male servers dropping away and recruits drying up when girls flow into the ranks and take over (something known to be off-putting for boys of a certain age range in particular), and the opposite phenomenon of boys and young men volunteering in large numbers to serve when the ministry is all-male, exacting in its duties and run along the lines of a disciplined band of soldiers.

[4] See Peter Kwasniewski, “Incarnate Realism and the Catholic Priesthood,” originally published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review 100.7 (April 2000): 21–29; online here.

[5] Published as Benedict Constable, “Should Women Be Lectors at Mass?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

St James’ Cathedral in Šibenik, Croatia

The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik, Croatia, was built between 1431 and 1536, to replace an earlier Romanesque structure. The project was begun shortly after the city, which is on the Dalmatian coast, had come under the rule of the Venetian Republic, and the artistic influence of the Italian Renaissance was very strong on the building, with several Italians working on it along side the locals. The church has an interesting frieze with carvings of people’s heads sticking out of it, with a wide variety of facial types; it also boasts some major relics of St Christopher, who according to one tradition came from the area. Thanks to Nicola for sharing these pictures with us.

Statues of Adam and Eve stand to either side of the northern portal, known as the Lion Gate from the two large lions on either side of the door.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Dedication of Holy Cross Chapel at Jesuit High School in Tampa

This past Tuesday, His Excellency Michael Barber S.J., Bishop of Oakland, California, dedicated a new chapel for Jesuit High School in Tampa Bay, Florida. The school’s president, Fr Richard Hermes, S.J., chose August 7th as the date of the dedication because it was the 204th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus after a 41-year suppression. He and Bishop Barber spoke of the chapel as an instrument of the restoration of souls to the mercy of God, and a restoration of the Society of Jesus in America as great patrons of art and architecture. The new building was designed by architect Duncan Stroik, and replaces a previous chapel built in the early 60s, (shown below); I am sure our readers will agree that the new one is vast improvement.
The new church’s façade. (Courtesy of Jesuit High School of Tampa)
Statue of St Ignatius of Loyola by Cody Swanson, who also did the Stations of the Cross inside. (Courtesy of Duncan Stroik)
The high altar; here the bishop is kneeling before placing the relics of Saints into the altar during the dedication ceremony. The paintings over the several altars are by Raul Berzosa. (Courtesy of Duncan Stroik)
The dedication booklet also contains Fr Hermes’ statement of vision and description of the chapel. “The new chapel, named in honor of the Holy Cross, draws from the spirit that animated the origin of the Society of Jesus. In the Formula of the Institute, the founding document of the Jesuit Order (1540), St Ignatius refers to those wishing to be members of this new Order as soldiers of God ‘under the banner of the cross’, serving the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff. Thus, St Ignatius puts the whole Jesuit mission under the standard of the cross. These words from the Formula can be seen inscribed on the statue of St Ignatius that adorns the façade of Holy Cross Chapel. In addition, the central interior image that confronts the visitor to our new chapel, the painting placed above the high altar, is the famous image of St. Ignatius’s vision at La Storta. In this vision, St. Ignatius is placed by God the Father beneath Christ who carries the cross. From that moment, St. Ignatius knows that he and his companions will be linked intimately in name and mission with the Lord Jesus and His holy cross.

The altar of St Isaac Jogues. (Courtesy of Duncan Stroik)
The altar of St Paul Miki. (Courtesy of Duncan Stroik)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Traditional Rite Pilgrimage in Scotland

Our thanks to Mr Mark Hamid of the Confraternity of St Ninian for sharing with us this account of the annual Two Shrines Pilgrimage which recently took place in Scotland.

From Saturday, August 4th, to Monday the 6th, The Confraternity of St Ninian made its third annual Two Shrines Pilgrimage, a three-day walk inspired by the Chartres pilgrimage in France, in honour of Scotland’s patron saint, the Apostle Andrew. Pilgrims walked from his national shrine in Edinburgh to his former medieval shrine in the ruins of the cathedral in St Andrews, a distance in excess of sixty miles. The pilgrimage was made for the particular intention of the reconversion of Scotland to the Faith, and in the spirit of countless medieval pilgrims from across Christendom who had made St Andrews one of the foremost sites of ancient pilgrimage. Over the course of the journey, the pilgrims received spiritual support from a group of eight members of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, led by Fr Anthony Mary FSSR, with the programme incorporating daily sung Mass, sung rosary, and other traditional devotions and hymns. Brothers from the community gave a variety of talks on theology and the sacramental life, and the pilgrims also enjoyed fellowship, both on the way and each evening with the opportunity to share dinner and socialise with one another.

The pilgrimage began on Saturday morning at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral in Edinburgh before setting out on the short walk to Holy Cross Church, Trinity, where Fr Anthony Mary offered Holy Mass for the pilgrims’ intentions, a Votive Mass for Pilgrims and Travellers. The pilgrims drew much attention (both positive and negative) from passers-by, on account of their many sacred banners and the distinctive riband worn by Confraternity members, which is made from the St Ninian tartan devised for the visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict to Scotland on their patron’s feast day in 2010.

Pilgrims process through Edinburgh’s New Town
Opening Holy Mass for Pilgrims and Travellers
Leaving Edinburgh by the ancient Cramond Brig, the pilgrims proceeded towards the Firth of Forth where they crossed into Fife at the site of the (now three) iconic bridges which replace a ferry endowed in the eleventh century by St Margaret, Queen of Scots, to assist pilgrims in former times. Arriving in Dunfermline, St Margaret’s royal capital, they visited the abbey there and the site of her pre-Reformation shrine, before arriving at the magnificent late nineteenth-century church built in the town to house those of her relics which have survived to the present day.

At St Margaret’s Church, South Queensferry
Crossing the Firth of Forth
Outside the ancient abbey of Dunfermline
On the second day pilgrims heard Holy Mass, offered for the intentions of benefactors and supporters, at St Margaret’s Church before setting out across southern Fife. In the morning they took in the almost apocalyptic post-industrial landscape of the defunct Fife coalfields (including the site of an opencast mine named after St Ninian) before taking in the natural beauty found in the heights of the Lomond Hills Regional Park. Descending to the former royal hunting lodge at Falkland, Bishop Steven Robson of neighbouring Dunkeld Diocese once again lent his support to the pilgrims’ efforts by presiding at a Holy Hour at the Chapel Royal, Falkland Palace, which concluded with Pontifical Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Sung Mass for the XI Sunday after Pentecost

Videos of Pontifical Mass with Card. Stickler, 1997

The Youtube channel Caeremoniale Romanum has just uploaded videos of a Pontifical Mass celebrated by His Eminence Alphonse Cardinal Stickler on the feast of St Luke, October 18th, 1997, in the basilica of St Cunibert in Cologne, Germany. The master of ceremonies here is the late Fr Franck Quoëx, whose skill in that role was unrivaled; the assistant priest is Mons. Gilles Wach, superior of the Institute of Christ the King, and I believe the other major and minor ministers also came from the Institute.

This Mass was celebrated less than a decade after the Ecclesia Dei indult was issued. In that era, Pontifical Masses in the old rite were still extremely rare; few bishops knew or cared to remember how to celebrate them. One could hardly imagine that 20 years later, we would see events such as the one we recently highlighted which took place in Louisiana, where a Pontifical Mass is celebrated by the local ordinary, served by local clergy, and the servers are all too young to remember when this was regarded as an impossible or controversial thing to do. Let us remember the enormous debt of gratitude we owe to men like Card. Stickler and Fr Quoëx, who both passed away in 2007, for their tireless support of the traditional liturgy, and their work of many years which ensured that it would not only survive, but flourish.

The first 9:45 of the first video are a montage of photos of the church, of the vestments set up for Mass, of the Cardinal, etc. The ceremony begins with his arrival and donning of the cappa magna outside the church; the vestition at the throne begins around 15:30, and the Mass begins at 21:20. The video stops in the middle of the Gloria in excelsis.
From the rest of the Gloria to the middle of the sermon, which begins at 17:10. The text can be read in German in this pdf of the Una Voce Deutschland bulletin.
The rest of the sermon, which ends at 3:50, to the beginning of the distribution of Holy Communion.
From the distribution of Holy Communion (which takes up almost 20 minutes) to the unvesting of the Cardinal. The German version of the Te Deum, “Grosser Gott, Wir Loben Dich”, is sung at the end.
The last video is very brief, the rest of the Cardinal’s exit from the basilica.

The Feast of St Lawrence 2018

Dearly beloved, let us rejoice with spiritual joy, and for this illustrious man’s most happy end, make our boast in the Lord, Who is wonderful in His Saints, and in them hath established for us a help and an example; and through the whole world hath made His glory so bright, that from the rising of the sun unto the setting thereof, as the splendor of the Levitical lights shines forth, Rome is made famous by Lawrence, even as Jerusalem is made glorious by Stephen. (Pope St Leo the Great, sermon on St Lawrence - from the Breviary of St Pius V)

The Martyrdom of St Lawrence, by Palma il Giovane (Iacopo Nigreti, 1548-1628), from the church of San Giacomo dall’Orio in Venice; 1581-2. (click image to enlarge)
Gaudeamus igitur dilectissimi gaudio spiritali, et de felicissimo inclyti viri fine gloriemur in Domino, qui est mirabilis in Sanctis suis, in quibus nobis et praesidium constituit et exemplum: atque ita per universum mundum clarificavit gloriam suam, ut a solis ortu usque ad occasum, leviticorum luminum coruscante fulgore, quam clarificata est Jerosolyma Stephano, tam illustris fieret Roma Laurentio.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Liturgical Notes on the Vigil of St Lawrence

In the Roman Rite, the term “vigilia – vigil” traditionally means a penitential day of preparation for a major feast. The Mass of a Saint’s vigil is celebrated after None, as are the Masses of the ferias of Lent or the Ember Days, and in violet vestments; however, the deacon and subdeacon do not wear folded chasubles, as they do in Lent, but the dalmatic and tunicle. The Mass has neither the Gloria nor the Creed, the Alleluja is simply omitted before the Gospel, not replaced with a Tract, and Benedicamus Domino is said at the end in place of Ite, missa est.

Folio 100r of the Gellone Sacramentary, a sacramentary of the Gelasian type written in 780-800 AD. The Mass of the vigil of St Lawrence begins with the large A in the middle of the page; the preface cited below begins with the decorated VD second from the bottom. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 12048)
Before the Tridentine reform, the vigil of a Saint consisted solely of the Mass, and had no presence in either the Roman version of the Divine Office, or in that of most other Uses. A minority custom, which seems to have been predominantly German, gave an Office to the vigils of Saints, which consisted of a homily at Matins, and the use of the collect of the vigil as the principal collect of the day; the rest of the Office was that of the feria. The Breviary of St Pius V adopted this latter custom for the vigils of Saints, a rare example of change in an otherwise extremely conservative reform; but even for the Roman Rite, this was not an absolute novelty. Historically, the vigils of the major feasts of the Lord (Christmas, Epiphany etc.) did include the Office, and the change in 1568 simply extended the scope of a well-established custom.

Writing at the end of the 13th century, the liturgical commentator William Durandus notes as one of the special privileges of St Lawrence that he is the only martyr whose feast has a vigil, a custom which he shares with the Virgin Mary and the Apostles. More anciently this was not the case; the Gelasian Sacramentary also included vigils of the martyrs Gervasius and Protasius on June 17th, and of Ss John and Paul on June 25th. However, these had already disappeared from the Gregorian Sacramentary by the mid-9th century, and the fact that St Lawrence’s vigil was retained certainly indicates the universality and importance of devotion to him; it remains even to the present day in the liturgical books of the Extraordinary Form. The same ancient sacramentaries have vigils for the Assumption, the birth of St John the Baptist, Ss Peter and Paul, and St Andrew; they were later given to the other Apostles whose feasts occur outside Eastertide, and to the feast of All Saints.

St Lawrence Distributing Alms to the Poor; fresco by the Blessed Angelico from the Chapel of Pope Nicholas V, 1447-49, now in the Vatican Museums.
The story is well known that during the persecution of the Emperor Valerian in the mid-3rd century, St Lawrence was the deacon in Rome in charge of the Church’s charities. When he was arrested and told to hand the riches of the Church over to the Romans, he distributed all the money to the poor, whom he then brought to the residence of the prefect of Rome, and showing them to him, said, “These are the riches of the Church.” The liturgy refers to this by using Psalm 111, 9, “He hath distributed, he hath given to the poor: his justice remaineth for ever and ever” as both the Introit and Gradual of the vigil of St Lawrence; the same text is cited by St Paul in the Epistle of the feast day, 2 Corinthians 9, 6-10. St Maximus of Turin also cites this verse in a sermon on St Lawrence: “How profound and how heavenly was the counsel of this man of the spirit, that he should take care of the needy; and since the crowd was using up what he had given them, nothing could be found for the persecutor to take; for indeed he followed the saying ‘He hath distributed etc.’ ” (Homilia 74 in natali S. Laurentii; PL LVII 401A)

The Epistle of the vigil, Sirach 51, 1-8 and 12, appears in the Wurzburg lectionary, the very oldest of the Roman Rite, around 650 AD; it was clearly chosen for the reference to St Lawrence’s martyrdom by being roasted alive on a grill. “Thou hast delivered me, according to the multitude of the mercy of thy name, from them that did roar, prepared to devour. Out of the hands of them that sought my life, and from the gates of afflictions, which compassed me about. From the oppression of the flame which surrounded me, and in the midst of the fire I was not burnt. From the depth of the belly of hell, and from an unclean tongue, and from lying words, from an unjust king, and from a slanderous tongue.” The “unjust king” is, of course, the Emperor Valerian, in contrast to whom St Lawrence’s “justice remaineth for ever and ever.”

The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, by Titian, 1567, from the Spanish Royal Monastery of the Escorial.
The Gospel, Matthew 16, 24-27, appears in the same lectionary only on the vigil of St Lawrence, but was later extended to the Common of a Single Martyr. (Commons of the Saints had not yet been created as a feature of Roman liturgical books when the Wurzburg lectionary was written.) The first line, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”, may have been chosen in reference to the story of St Lawrence’s martyrdom, as told by St Ambrose.

When Lawrence saw Pope St Sixtus II being led to martyrdom, he addressed him thus: “Whither goest thou without thy son, father? Whither, holy priest, dost thou hasten without thy deacon? Never wast thou want to offer sacrifice without thy minister. What then hath displeased thee in me, father? Hast thou found me ignoble? Make proof surely whether thou didst choose a worthy minister. Dost thou deny a share in thy blood to one to whom thou didst entrust the consecration of the Lord’s blood, and a share in the celebration of the sacraments?... Abraham offered his son, Peter sent Stephen before him…” To this Sixtus replied, “I do not leave or abandon thee, son, but greater contests await thee. We, as elder men, receive the way of an easier combat; a more glorious triumph against the tyrant awaiteth thee as a younger man. Soon shalt thou come after, cease weeping; after three days shalt thou follow me, as levite followeth priest.” (These words from the 39th chapter of St. Ambrose’s De Officiis form the basis of several antiphons and responsories in the office of St Lawrence.)
Ss Benedict, Sixtus II, and the Martyr Proculus by Simone di FIlippo, ca. 1380. (Image from Wikipedia by SilviaZamb, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Offertory is beautifully selected from the book of Job, who, like Lawrence, is honored by the Church as one who showed great patience in suffering. “My prayer is pure, and therefore I ask that a place be given in heaven to my voice; for there is my judge, and He that knoweth me is on high; let my plea arise to the Lord.” (from the end of Job 16) The text is loosely cited from the Old Latin version, not the Vulgate of St Jerome, which indicates that it is a piece of great antiquity. One of Durandus’ predecessors in the field of liturgical commentary, the Benedictine abbot Rupert of Deutz (ca. 1075-1130), wrote a book about the terrible fire which destroyed the town of Deutz, in which he refers frequently to both Job and St Lawrence, and cites this offertory. “Thou, o blessed Martyr, … were the Job of thy times, and now, and until the end of the world, Christ and His Church hear thy cry, the great cry of thy passion, … She (the Church) first heard thy cry, and first joined thee in it, and taught us to cry out with Her in these words, which first were the words of Job… but nevertheless are the words of the Holy Church in her afflictions, and are mostly perfectly suitable to Thee, ‘My prayer is pure etc.’ ” (De incendio oppidi Tuitii sua aetate viso liber aureus, cap. 21; P.L. 170 354B)

The Gelasian Sacramentary also contained a Preface for both the vigil and feast of St Lawrence, of which the former reads as follows, a lovely exposition of the reason for celebrating the feasts of the Saints every year.

Truly it is worth and just, meet and profitable to salvation, that we should give Thee thanks always and everywhere, o Lord, holy Father, almighty and everlasting God, by anticipating the blessed struggles of the glorious martyr Lawrence, whose honorable solemnity in its annual recurrence is everlasting and ever new; for precious death of Thy just ones remaineth in the sight of Thy majesty, and the increase of joy is renewed, when we recall the beginning of their eternal happiness. And therefore with the Angels…

Part of the mosaic in the apse of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome. St Lawrence, in the middle; on the left, Pope Innocent II (1130-43), who built the church, presents to Christ; on the right, Pope St Callixtus I (ca. 218-22), who was martyred in the neighborhood of this church, and whose relics are kept in it.
The 1960 reform of the Breviary added to the vigil of St Lawrence a completely anomalous feature, something which had never existed before, and does not exist anywhere else; it is the only vigil that has Vespers. [1] A vigil is a separate liturgical observance from its feast, and traditionally, all feasts began with First Vespers, and so a vigil by definition ended once None and the Mass were celebrated. In 1960, however, all the feasts of St Lawrence’s rank lost their first Vespers. [2] His vigil somehow managed to survive the massacres of 1955 and 1960, but as the only vigil attached to a feast with no First Vespers. In order to cover the gap between the vigil and the feast, which now begins with Matins, the vigil was extended to include Vespers; these consist of the regular Office of the feria, but with the Collect of the vigil. For no discernible reason, the series of versicles known as the ferial preces, which are characteristic of penitential days, are omitted from all the vigils in 1960.

[1] The vigil of the Epiphany, which as part of the Christmas season is not a penitential day, is celebrated in a different manner from the vigils of the Saints. It traditionally had First Vespers, on the evening of January 4th, but ended like the other vigils after None. Many medieval Uses extended this custom to the vigil of Christmas as well, but this was not done in the Roman Use.

[2] By 1981, when the Ambrosian Liturgy of the Hours was promulgated, this change was recognized to be a mistake; the modern Ambrosian Office has First Vespers for all feasts, and celebrates Solemnities with Second Vespers.

Pontifical Mass for the Assumption in El Paso, Texas

On the feast of the Assumption, the FSSP Apostolate in El Paso, Texas, will have the first Pontifical Solemn Mass in the diocese of El Paso in over 50 years, celebrated by His Excellency Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. The Mass will take place at the church of the Immaculate Conception, located at 118 N. Campbell St, beginning at 6:30 pm.

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