Friday, November 28, 2014

A New CD of Sacred Music - "Lux in Tenebris: Holy Week at Mater Dei"

The choirs of Mater Dei Catholic Church in Irving Texas, have recorded and released their first album of sacred music: “Lux in Tenebris: Holy Week at Mater Dei”, a collection of Renaissance polyphony and Gregorian chants sung at the parish during Holy Week. The choir is hoping that this will be the first of many more such recordings; the profits will go to support the music program, and also help contribute to the beginning of a capital campaign to build a larger church. The success of this first CD will be crucial to the success of future efforts. The music director, Kimberly Walters, informs us that the choirs are comprised solely of volunteers, and amateur singers, and have seen significant growth in the last few years. You can find the physical CD for sale, and listen to samples, at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/luxintenebrisholyweekatm; digital download is also available on all major digital music stores: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Spotify, etc.


One of the recording sessions.

Solemn Mass for the Immaculate Conception in Singapore

From the Extraordinary Form community in Singapore: His Grace the Most Rev. William Goh, Archbishop of Singapore, will do us the great honour of being present at Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated as a Solemn Mass in the Presence of a Greater Prelate. Fr Augustine Tay will offer the Mass in thanksgiving for his 40 years of priesthood; Fr Anthony Ho will be assisting as Deacon of the Mass and that day will also celebrate his 46 years of priesthood. The celebration will also be in thanksgiving to Our Lord and most blessed Mother for these two great pastors who have been so selfless in their dedication and service to the Extraordinary Form Community in Singapore. Indeed this will be the first Mass of this kind and scale in Singapore in at least 40 years. This will be the second time our Archbishop will be attending Mass with the EF Community, the first being last year where he attended in Choro.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

“Singing through the Liturgical Year”

The hymns of the Church are a priceless source of catechesis and inspiration. If you happen to live in or near New York City, you may want to take part in a new series to learn about sacred music and to sing (even if you don’t think you have a good singing voice). Starting with the beginning of the new liturgical year (Advent), Father Peter Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., will guide participants through the various liturgical seasons by presenting some of the most popular hymns, in Latin and English, analyzing their theological content and seeking to apply those insights to a life in Christ attuned to the Church’s feasts and fasts. Each session will culminate in singing the selected hymns.

The first session of “Singing through the Liturgical Year” will take place on Thursday, December 4th, at 7:00 pm, at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, Parish House, 263 Mulberry Street, Manhattan. Other sessions will be announced throughout the liturgical year.
‟Qui cantat bene, bis orat” (He who sings well, prays twice) — St Augustine of Hippo

Pontifical Low Mass in Cincinnati

The pontifical low Mass is an interesting ceremony in the Roman Rite. On the one hand, you have the low Mass, which by it's nature, was envisioned as a private, quiet Mass for the days when there were too many priests to easily celebrate a sung Mass with a schola cantorum, server corps, and congregation. It is, in a word, private. Then on the other hand, you have the fact that the Bishop is a successor to the apostles, and that the Roman Rite has always included extra ceremony for Masses with a bishop, due to their unique role in the church, in their diocese, and as a direct successor of the apostles standing in our midst.

Out of this is born the Pontifical Low Mass. It is like the low Mass of a priest, but several traditional aspects of the pontifical solemn high Mass are also used, such as vesting in the sanctuary and entering in choir dress, as well as being directly assisted by two assistant priests and an MC. Likewise with the bugia (the small hand-candle). Yet most of the prayers are still said silently, and there is no singing from the sanctuary (though there is sometimes hymns and organ music).

The celebrant of this Mass was Bishop Andrew Cozzens, Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and it was celebrated at Sacred Heart Church in Cincinnati.

Here, the bishop prepares for Mass
Here he is removing his choir dress and preparing to vest for Mass
Vesting for Mass

The gospel, flanked by his two attendants




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Fundamental Misunderstanding of the Nature of Catholic Liturgy

Catholics today might sometimes be struck by the passionate conviction of the younger generation of Catholics who are fighting for the cause of the Sacred Liturgy. It is as if we are fighting for dear life, in a struggle to the bitter end, against our mortal enemies. The reason is simple: we are doing exactly that. It is no exaggeration to say that there is a fundamentally false view out there, very popular nowadays, as captured in this paragraph from Whispers from the Loggia of November 24:
The office’s [i.e., Congregation for Divine Worship’s] new mission is likely to hew closer to Francis’ own liturgical approach—as one op summarized its principles: “Go by the book. Don’t make a fuss about it. And remember that liturgy’s always a means to an end—not an end in itself.” 
That’s the error in a nutshell: the liturgy is a means, not an end. I don't know who Rocco's "op" was, but I sure hope he isn't your bishop or pastor. The worst day that can dawn for any Catholic is a day on which the priest celebrating the Mass takes it into his head that what he's doing is just a means to some further end.

On the contrary, voicing centuries of unbroken tradition, the Second Vatican Council declares “the Eucharistic sacrifice” to be “the source and culmination of the whole Christian life” (Lumen Gentium 11), with Sacrosanctum Concilium expanding on this point:
The liturgy, “through which the work of our redemption is accomplished” (Secret, Ninth Sunday after Pentecost), most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. … Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work [of the liturgy] wherein God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. … From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree. … [T]he liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper.
All the work of the Church stems from and is ordered to the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. If we do not get this right, we will get nothing right; all of our work will be compromised, even poisoned. If, however, our house is in order, our worship solemn, reverent, beautiful, edifying, and nourishing, giving great glory to God who deserves all our adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and supplication, then the rest of the Church’s mission can flow freely and irrigate the world, like water rushing down a mountainside.

Advent Carol Service for Aid to the Church in Need's Iraq Appeal

There will be an Advent Carol Service at St Mary Moorfields Church, London on Tuesday 2 December at 7pm. The service has been organised by Aid to the Church in Need and aims to draw attention to the suffering Christians in Iraq. Fr Peter Newby will be the celebrant and the service will conclude with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The music will be sung by The Schola Cantorum of The London Oratory School, one of the choirs which I direct. In the introduction to the Order of Service, Neville Kyrke-Smith, the UK National Director of Aid to the Church in Need writes:
Driven from their homes by violence and terrorist threats to ‘leave or die’, huge numbers have fled in panic with only the clothes they were wearing and a few possessions. Most do not have money for essentials. Helpless, these families are turning to the Church for comfort and support – relying on the charity and compassion of fellow Christians in this, their hour of need.

Using trusted Church networks, Aid to the Church in Need is providing immediate food, shelter and medicine, as well as emotional and spiritual support – especially for young children, traumatised by their experiences. With your help, we will remain alongside these communities for as long as they need us.

The long-term future of Christianity in the region is uncertain as terrorist groups, intent on extinguishing the flame of faith, are wiping out churches, monasteries and ancient texts. Indeed, with no priests left – for the first time in 1,600 years – Holy Mass will not be offered in Mosul this Christmas.

On Monday Islamic militants destroyed one of Mosul's oldest churches as well as a convent. A wave of evil has been unleashed and rampages unchecked and largely ignored by the mainstream media. The service next week aims to bring the suffering Christians of Iraq into our minds and prayers, as well as drawing attention to the very real and practical need for funds. If you feel able to contribute, please visit ACN's website here.

Solemn High Mass at St Mary Moorfields, London

Pictures of a Wedding in the Ordinariate Use

A reader in England, Mr James Turner, was kind enough to share with us some photographs of his solemn Nuptial Mass and wedding service, which was celebrated at St James’, Spanish Place, London, in the Use of the Anglican Ordinariate. The Mass was celebrated by Mgr Andrew Burnham, assisted by Fr Daniel Lloyd and Fr David Elliott, all priests of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. (All photos by Marcin Mazur)

The liturgy begins with the Admonition and Scrutiny, based on Thomas Cranmer’s famous words from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The bride and groom having declared their freedom to marry, Mass begins with the Introit Deus Israel and the Kyrie, while the altar and celebrant are incensed. The Ordinary of the Mass was Mozart’s Spatzenmesse, with the propers sung in Latin from the Graduale.




After the homily, the bride and groom made their vows to each other in the traditional English translation. The bride consents to enter into matrimony with the following words: “I, N, take thee, N, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God's holy law; and thereto I give thee my troth.”


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Updated: Christmas Comes Early - Bishop Conley Celebrates Ad Orientem at the Cathedral for Feast of Christ the King

Following Bishop James Conley’s pastoral column in the Southern Nebraska Register which we reported last week, His Excellency has celebrated the Mass for the feast of Christ the King (OF) ad orientem at his diocese’s Cathedral of the Risen Christ in advance of the promised celebration of Christmas midnight Mass ad orientem.
Thanks to a reader for sending us this photo. Photo credit: Kevin Clark.
UPDATE: The Mass celebrated on the feast of Christ the King was celebrated as the opening of the Year for Consecrated Life, called for by Pope Francis. The Diocese of Lincoln, as many know, is blessed to have many vocations to the priesthood and religious life, as is evidenced by the pictures from the event by the Southern Nebraska Register (source of photos below), and due in no small part to the history of strong episcopal leadership and orthodoxy in the diocese during the tribulations and confusion following the Second Vatican Council. The feast of Christ the King is of particular significance in the life of the diocese as it is the patronal feast of a diocesan order of school sisters, founded by Bishop Flavin in 1976 to teach in the diocese’s schools.



A New Home for the EF in Naples

We have received word that His Eminence Crescenzio Cardinal Sepe, Archbishop of Naples, in accordance with the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and a request from the Coetus fidelium «Sant’Andrea Avellino», has established the celebration of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation at 6:30 p.m., to take place at the church of the Royal Archconfraternity of Santa Maria del Soccorso (in the Vomero-Arenella neighborhood, piazzetta Giacinto Gigante 38), starting on December 7, the Second Sunday of Advent. The celebrant will be Don Antonio Luiso, assistant pastor of the church of S. Giovanni Battista dei Fiorentini al Vomero. The Coetus fidelium «Sant’Andrea Avellino» wish to express their gratitude to Cardinal Sepe for his paternal and pastoral solicitude in their regard, and also to the parish priest of S. Maria del Soccorso, and to the Archconfraternity for their generous hospitality.

The Real Eden Project - How the Garden is an Extension of the Liturgy and a Recreation of Paradise

Here is an article taken from the Orthodox Arts Journal in a series of called An Icon of the Kingdom of God - the Integrated Expression of all the Liturgical Arts (h/t James Morgan). It is written by Andrew Gould the architect (and it seems garden designer).

This is right in line with my own thoughts on the importance cultivating for beauty; that a proper ecology is one in which man, by God's grace, manages the environment by working harmoniously with it. As a result he builds it up to what it ought to be which, as a general rule, is greater and more beautiful than it is as untouched wilderness. Accordingly gardening is in some way recreating Eden, or even the paradise of the redeemed world (which perhaps some might consider to be very similar but perhaps not exactly the same thing).

There is a hierarchy. Well farmed land is more beautiful than the wilderness it replaced. And then a garden cultivated for the contemplation of its beauty is more elevated still. So in my mind, it is more noble thing to grow flowers in your back garden than to grow vegetables...or keep chickens.

Read the article here...

The pictures below are taken from the article:
The flower garden of the Stretensky Monastery, Moscow

Western European style with the cross-in-square archetype of paradise in the Alcazar, Cordoba, Spain

Byzantine courtyard at the Kaisariani Monastery, Greece

St Anthony's Monastery, Egypt

Monday, November 24, 2014

Vatican Radio Interview with Cardinal Burke on the Sacred Liturgy

On Friday, Nov. 21st, the English and Italian translation of the proceedings of the Sacra Liturgia 2013 conference, published by Ignatius, and edited by Dom Alcuin Reid, were presented at the Hotel Columbus in Rome by His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke, Bishop Dominique Rey (Fréjus-Toulon), and Dom Alcuin Reid. In attendance were Walter Cardinal Brandmueller, newly appointed prefect of the CDW Robert Cardinal Sarah, Abbot M. J. Zielinski, OSB Oliv., Mgr. Stefan Heid, Fr. Paul Gunter, OSB, Don Nicola Bux, H.E. the Ambassador of Australia to the Holy See, other prelates, numerous journalists, clergy, seminarians, religious, and laity, including NLM's own Greg DiPippo.
In his remarks at the presentation, Dom Alcuin Reid also pointed to upcoming efforts of the Sacra Liturgia initiatives including:
The Vatican Radio story below also contains audio of an interview with Cardinal Burke about the nature of the sacred liturgy, its importance in the Christian life, and working for the renewal of the sacred liturgy. 
(Vatican Radio) The reform of the Sacred Liturgy “is brought about not through rupture with the past, not through revolution, but through continuity with the past, through respect for the sublime beauty of the Sacred Liturgy celebrated uninterruptedly along the Christian centuries.” That was the message of Cardinal Raymond Burke, citing the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI, at the presentation of the proceedings of Sacra Liturgia 2013 – a major conference on the Sacred Liturgy that took place in Rome in June of last year.

The Sacra Liturgia Conference was organized by Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon in France, “to study, promote and renew the appreciation of liturgical formation and celebration and its foundation for the mission of the Church.” At the book presentation in Rome on Friday night, Bishop Rey said, “It is my hope that this book will do much to assist in the liturgical formation of seminarians and others, and that it will promote a well-founded liturgical renewal amongst clergy and other liturgical ministers throughout the Church.”

Following the presentation, Cardinal Burke spoke with Vatican Radio about reform of the Sacred Liturgy. “What happened after [the Second Vatican] Council was the reform was hijacked by the so-called ‘Spirit’ of the Council, which was not related directly at all to the actual texts of the Council Father,” he said. “And now we’re returning to those texts, which promote reform in continuity with the tradition.” He spoke of the efforts of the Blessed Pope Paul VI, of Pope Saint John Paul II, and of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI to foster the work of authentic liturgical reform, an effort that continues in the pontificate of Pope Francis.

Cardinal Burke said, “the fact of the matter is that our communion with Christ, the substance of it, is the Sacred Liturgy, and in particular, the Holy Eucharist.” He continued, “Our Christian life, the heart of our Christian life, the foundation, is in that communion with our Lord Jesus Christ in His true Body and Blood through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. At the same time, it is the highest expression of our Christian life, in that we unite ourselves to our Lord in His offering of His very being to the Father in sacrifice… There isn’t anything more beautiful, anything better that we do, than to give worship to God as He desires us to do, and gives us the discipline in the Church to do.”




Classics of the Liturgical Movement: Dom Paul Delatte, OSB

It seems that this series is, at least for now, very much an introduction to monastic authors. That is hardly surprising, given the centrality of the sacred liturgy in the life of a disciple of St. Benedict or any monk whose heritage is Benedictine. Today’s author, Dom Paul Delatte, O.S.B. (1848-1937; abbot of Solesmes 1890-1921), will surely be known to many readers because of his famous Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict, which many consider the best line-by-line spiritual commentary on that monastic masterpiece. Its pages are rife with profound insights into the properly and inherently liturgical Christian life that is ours in virtue of our baptism into the priesthood of Jesus Christ and how we can realize this lofty calling. The book resonates with all the great principles for which Dom Guéranger fought and to which the original traditionally-oriented members of the Liturgical Movement gave their energies in the early twentieth century. These are the very same principles we embrace today and wish to implement to the fullest.

*          *          *
On the "liturgical character" of creation, how it reflects the Blessed Trinity, and why formal public worship is the most exalted glorification of God:
Creation as a whole possesses in a true and special way a liturgical character. It resembles the divine life itself: for the Holy Trinity is a temple wherein, by His eternal generation, the Word is the perfect praise of the Father, “the brightness of his glory and the figure of his substance”; where the communion of Father and Son is sealed in the kiss of peace and in the personal joy which is their common Spirit. Glory has been defined as clara notitia cum laude, clear knowledge conjoined with praise; by the twofold procession of which we have just spoken God finds in Himself His essential glory. It is enough for Him; and the glory which He must receive from His works is only necessary on the creature’s side; for God it remains accidental and exterior. Yet He may not renounce it: “I will not give my glory to another.” (131)
          Furthermore, we should notice that this accidental glory of God is only complete on condition that it is at once objective, formal, and expressed. Objective glory is the real manifestation of the perfections of God; all being, all life, all created beauty, whether natural or supernatural, is ontologically the praise of God. Formal glory is paid only by rational creatures, who alone are capable of appreciating objective glory and of tracing it to its source; and only in this act do we get religion and liturgy. Without saying anything in this place about the religion of the angels, we may at least remark the truly sacerdotal position of man in the midst of the lower creation. The Apostle says in his Epistle to the Hebrews: “Every high-priest taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices” (5:1). Man himself is taken out of creation, raised above it, and made its priest, so that he may offer to God, in his own name and in the name of the whole world, an intelligent homage. By his very nature an abridgement of the universe—a “microcosm,” as the ancients put it—his function is to collect the manifold voices of creation, as if all found their echo in his heart, as if he were the world’s consciousness; and his mission is to give life to all with his thought and love, and to make offering of all, whether in his use of the world or in explicit praise. The religious system of the world is completed and made perfect only in him; he is the link between the world and God; and when this link is broken, then the whole creation is affected and falls: “cursed is the earth in thy work” (Gen 3:17). (131-32)
Dom Delatte's discussion of what religion essentially implies is reminiscent of both Aquinas and Newman, and brings into sharp relief the dual note of submission and determinateness that are foreign to much of the modern world's conception of Christian worship:
It [a religious act] always implies an intellectual appreciation of divine excellence, a humble self-abasement, the will to confess submission, and finally an actual recognition of the divine sovereignty, whether by way of an expressive act and confirmation of some sort, merely internal in character, or by an act which is at once internal and openly manifested. It is this last act which properly speaking makes the act of religion and worship, in which the glorification of God is consummated. However, a liturgy is something more than this; it is the sum of acts, words, chants, and ceremonies, by means of which we manifest our interior religion; it is a collective and social prayer, the forms of which have a character that is regular, definite, and determined. (132)
Most magnificently, Dom Delatte unfolds before us a mystical vision of the unity of liturgy, Church, and the Word Incarnate, reminiscent of the best of patristic thought:
[A]ll particular liturgies center round, are merged in, and draw their strength from, the collective liturgy of that great living organism the Church, which is the perfect man and the fulness of Christ. The whole life of the Church expresses and unfolds itself in its liturgy; all the relations of creatures with God here find their principle and their consummation; by the very acts that in the individual as in the whole mass realize union with God, the liturgy pays God “all honour and glory.” In it the Holy Spirit has achieved the concentration, eternalization, and diffusion throughout the whole Body of Christ of the unchangeable fulness of the act of redemption, all the spiritual riches of the Church in the past, in the present, and in eternity. And as the bloody sacrifice, and the entry of our High Priest into the sanctuary of heaven, mark the culmination of His work, so the liturgy has its center in the Mass, the “Eucharist.” The Divine Office and the Hours are but the splendid accompaniment, the preparation for or radiance from the Eucharist. It may be said that the two economies, the natural and the supernatural, meet in this synthetic act, this “Action” par excellence. So our Holy Father [St. Benedict] and other ancient writers are well inspired when they call the liturgy in its totality the Opus Dei (Work of God): the work which has God and God alone for its direct object, the work in which God is solely interested, of which He is the principal agent, but which He has willed should be accomplished by human hands and human lips. (133)
We also find valuable insights into the Benedictine monastic ideal and its permanent relevance in the life of the Church. There is a quiet and strong confidence in the way he characterizes the stable calling of the monk in the body of the faithful:
The proper and distinctive work of the Benedictine, his lot and his mission, is the liturgy. He makes his profession so as to be in the Church—which is an association for the praise of God—one who glorifies God according to forms instituted by her who knows how God should be honoured and possesses the words of eternal life. He is wholly a man of prayer, and the diverse forms of his activity take spontaneously a religious colour, a quality of adoration and praise. . . . The holy liturgy is for us, at one and the same time, a means of sanctification and an end. But it is especially an end. Our contemplation nourishes itself therein without cessation, and so to speak finds in the liturgy its adequate object and proper term. (134-35)
          [W]e believe in the apostolic and social value of our prayer, and we believe that by it we reach directly not only God and ourselves, but our neighbours also. Even without speaking of its secret influence on the providential course of events, is not the spectacle of the Office worthily celebrated a very effective sort of preaching? Since the days of the primitive Church (Acts 2:42-47) the Catholic liturgy has been a principle of unity for the people of God, and social charity has been created by it. (137)
          [W]e are content to be makers of nothing that is visible or tangible, and to have no other usefulness than that of adoring God. We are glad and content to attain by the Work of God nothing but the essential end of all things, the end of the whole rational creation, the very end of the Church. So to act is to take here and now the attitude of eternity, and to rehearse for heaven; for, according to St. John, the work of those who are admitted into the heavenly Jerusalm is contemplation and a royal service. (137)
In reading Delatte one is often taken aback by the sharp contrast between his mentality, refined, precise, and lofty, and the sloppy thinking that overtook the later liturgists. For example, the clear distinction he is able to draw between private and public, informal and formal, is glaringly absent from the minds of Catholics today:
Now, faith tells us that God is everywhere present and that His gaze, though He be not seen, illumines all human activity; it tell us too that in every place and at every moment we are able, and sweet duty binds us, to live before Him and do Him homage. This homage, however, is private, not official, and has its source in personal love; it is quite free in its expression, and though it ever remains profoundly respectful, yet is it without forms and ceremonial. But the sacred liturgy pays God an official worship; and if God is not more present at the Divine Office than at private prayer, we are nevertheless especially bound to awaken and exercise our faith when we take part in this official audience, wherein all details are foreseen and all gestures regulated by the etiquette of God. God’s audience-chamber is always open, but the Divine Office is a solemn levee. There God is enwrapped in more compelling majesty; we appear before Him in the name of the whole Church; we identify ourselves with the one, eternal High Priest, Our Lord Jesus Christ; we perform the work of works. (186)
It is fitting to conclude these excerpts with Dom Delatte's gentle mockery of the worship of novelty and the fad of progress:
Those who doubt and deny win immediate fame. And the deference refused to tradition, to antiquity, to authority, is given at once and wholly, with infinite thoughtlessness, to the notions of some writer or other, to one of those prophets of the hour who trumpet the vague phrases: progress, evolution, broad-mindedness, and dogmatic awakening. This is intellectual foolery. And it seems to me that good sense and dignity require from us not only an attitude of reserve, but above all a spirit of tranquil resistance and conservatism. Conservation is the very instinct of life, a disposition essential for existence. We shall be truly progressive if we hold fast to this spirit, for there is no progress for a living organism which does not preserve continuity with its past. (310)
Thanks be to God that in the Church today there are still many monks striving to live, as did Dom Paul Delatte, according to the spirit and letter of the wise Rule of St. Benedict, which gives absolute primacy to the worship of God, the greatest and best.

Stiftskirche Schlägl
(Other installments in this ongoing series "Classics of the Liturgical Movement":
          Introduction;
          Canon Simon's Commentary on the Rule;
          Dom Chautard's Soul of the Apostolate)

Cardinal Robert Sarah to Head CDW

The website of Vatican Radio reports that His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah has been appointed by Pope Francis Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Cardinal Sarah was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Konakry in Guinea in 1969 (incidentally, on the very day of the Apollo 11 moon-landing, July 20th), and appointed as Archbishop of that See just over ten years later. In 2001, he was appointed Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; since 2010, he has served as the President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum.” He was made a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI at the consistory of November 20, 2010. Our prayers for His Eminence and best wishes to him on his new appointment.

Advent Carols in Downtown DC

The beautiful church of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Washington, D.C., will be the venue for a traditional ceremony of readings and carols to mark the start of the season of Advent.

The service, to be held on Sunday December 7 at 7:30 p.m., will be a candlelit celebration with readings from the Old and New Testament, interspersed with carols and anthems for the choir and congregation alike.

Immaculate Conception is the host parish of Saint Luke’s Ordinariate Community, a part of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. The ordinariate welcomes Anglicans and Episcopalians into the Catholic Church, allowing them to maintain their own liturgical, spiritual, and pastoral traditions.

Since moving to a new home, Saint Luke’s has gained a reputation for excellent music at the service of the liturgy. A weekly Sung Mass at 8.30 a.m. is accompanied by music from both the Anglican and Catholic repertoires, together with Gregorian Chant sung by the new all-female Saint Benet Schola.

The Advent service will include music by Palestrina, Rachmaninoff, and Poulenc, as well as well-loved hymns and carols of the season.

For more information please click here.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

An Advent Chant Workshop and Retreat in Ramona, CA

The church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Ramona, California, will be hosting an Advent Workshop and Retreat on November 29th to help bring in the season of Advent. It will feature two scholas, one for adults and one for children, a presentation on vessels and vestments of the Eastern and Western Churches, a introduction to Vespers in the Extraordinary Form, and capped off with a Mass in the Ordinary Form, and Vespers in the Extraordinary Form, celebrated with the Brothers of the Little Oratory in San Diego. Further information in the flier below.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple


Today is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Byzantine liturgical year.  The feasts are divided between those that commemorate the work of Christ (Exaltation of the Cross, the Nativity, Theophany, the Meeting of Simeon in the Temple, Palm Sunday, the Annunciation, Pentecost and the Transfiguration) and those which commemorate the Theotokos’ role in salvation history (Nativity of the Theotokos, Entrance into the Temple, the Annunciation, and the Dormition). That the Theotokos is prominently featured in seven of the festal icons (in addition to the previous four also the Nativity, the Meeting of Simeon, and the Ascension), makes it a bit harder to distinguish which feasts are principally Christological and which are Marian, but the division  is something like the one offered.

A few years ago, NLM offered a nice account of the Vespers for the feast. Here, I only want to offer some very brief historical notes on the broad developments of its liturgical observance. According to Vladimir Lossky, it would not be until the fourteenth century when the feast was adopted in the West and celebrated by Pope Gregory XI in Avignon. In the East, however, its history goes back much earlier.

The feast is derived from the second-century Protoevangelium of James (specifically sections 6-8).  [Hamatoura Monastery offers a delightful animated greeting card with icon figures of the basic story of the feast.] Exactly when this story began to be liturgically commemorated remains a matter of some dispute. The Palestinian Christians maintained a tradition that when the Empress Helen built churches in Jerusalem, she built a church dedicated to this feast. While I have yet to find anything to confirm the truth of that tradition, it is the case that St. Gregory of Nyssa referenced today’s events as an established fact in his fourth century homily on Christ’s Nativity. In that same homily, he identified the priest to whom Mary was presented as none other than Zacharias, the father of John the Forerunner. The basis for this is his exegesis of Lk. 11:51, as he tries to explain who was this last prophet who Christ says completes the line of prophetic martyrs:
Gregory of Nyssa
Now, provided we do not digress too far from our subject, it is perhaps not inopportune to adduce Zacharias, who was slain between the temple and the altar, as a witness to the incorruption of the Mother of God. This Zacharias was a priest; and not only was he a priest, but he was also endowed with the gift of prophecy, his power of prophecy being declared expressly in the Book of the Gospel. When the Grace of God was preparing the way for men not to think that birth from a Virgin is incredible, it set the stage for the assent of unbelievers by means of lesser miracles: a child was born of a barren woman advanced in years. This was a prelude to the miracle of the Virgin Birth. For, just as Elizabeth became a mother not by the power of nature—for she had grown old in barrenness—but the birth of her child is ascribed to the Will of God; so also, the incredibility of a virginal parturition gains credibility with reference to the Divine. Since, therefore, he who was born of the barren woman preceded Him Who was born of the Virgin, and, in response to the salutation of her who was carrying the Lord, leaped in his mother’s womb before he saw the light of day, as soon as the Forerunner of the Word was born, the silence of Zacharias was thereupon loosed by prophetic inspiration. All that Zacharias recounted was a prophecy of the future. Therefore, guided to the knowledge of hidden things by the spirit of prophecy, and perceiving the mystery of virginity in the incorrupt birth, he did not exclude the unwedded Mother from that place in the Temple allotted by the Law to virgins, thereby teaching the Jews that the Creator of existing things and King of all creation has human nature subject to Himself, along with everything else, guiding it by His own Will as He sees fit, not being Himself mastered by it, so that it is in His power to create a new birth, which will not prevent her who has become a mother from remaining a virgin. For this reason, he did not exclude her, in the Temple, from the place of the virgins; this place was the space between the Temple and the altar. When the Jews heard that the King of creation, by Divine Economy, was about to undergo human birth, fearing lest they become subject to a king, they murdered the priest who bore witness to this birth as he was serving at the altar itself.
That St. Gregory tells the story is a testament to the growing piety in regard to the Theotokos; that he tells it as part of his Christmas homily suggests that the devotion arises from a focus on Her role in the mysteries of Christ’s life, and that at this point there is not yet a distinct feast in Cappadocia for either the birth of the Theotokos or her Entrance into the Temple. A bit over a century later, the emerging devotion evidenced by Gregory had blossomed into a liturgical observance of the Nativity of the Theotokos. In a homily for Mary’s Nativity, the monk and hymnographer Andrew of Crete also recounts the story of her entrance into the temple:
Andrew of Crete
Thus the immaculate Fruition issuing forth from the womb occurred from an infertile mother, and then the parents, in the first blossoming of Her growth brought Her to the temple and dedicated Her to God. The priest, then making the order of services, beheld the face of the girl and of those in front of and behind, and he became gladdened and joyful, seeing as it were the actual fulfillment of the Divine promise. He consecrated Her to God, as a reverential gift and propitious sacrifice -- and, as a great treasury unto salvation, he led Her within the very innermost parts of the temple. Here the Maiden walked in the upright ways of the Lord, as in bridal chambers, partaking of heavenly food until the time of betrothal, which was preordained before all the ages by Him Who, by His inscrutable mercy, was born from Her, and by Him Who before all creation and time and expanse Divinely begat Him, and together with His consubstantial and co-reigning and co-worshipped Spirit -- this being One Godhead, having One Essence and Kingdom, inseparable and immutable and in which is nothing diverse, except the personal qualities. Wherefore, in solemnity and in song I do offer the Mother of the Word the festal gift; since that He born of Her hath taught me to believe in the Trinity: the Son and Word Without-Beginning hath made in Her His Incarnation; the Father begetting Him hath blessed this; the Holy Spirit hath signed and sanctified the womb which incomprehensibly hath conceived.
Between 715 and 730 A.D., the  patriarch of Constantinople, St. Germanus, preached two sermons for the feast, which also seem to have either included hymns used for the feast, or led to into such hymns:
St. Germanus I

Today the gate of the divine temple, opened wide, receives the eastward-facing and sealed gate of the Emmanuel, which is entering into it (cf. Ez. 44:1-3, read in Vespers for the feast). Today the holy table of the temple begins to be made splendid, having assumed the transfer to bloodless sacrifices by participation and the sweetest embrace of the heavenly and life-sustaining bread from a table of divine veneration. Today she alone is dedicated to the place of propitiation for the floods of errors that have overthrown mortals, being called a new, most godlike cleansing place of propitiation not made by hands. Today she is about to be welcomed by the sanctity of the Spirit into the holy of holies; she who was raised in a most marvelous way beyond even the glory of the cherubim, is stored up in a most holy way and gloriously in the holy of holies, for a greater sanctity, at an innocent impressionable age.
Hail, the shining cloud that lets fall drops of spiritual divine dew on us, having today, at your inconspicuous entrance into the holy of holies, caused a radiant sun to shine on those held in the shadow of death! Divinely flowing spring from which the rivers of divine knowledge disperse the most discerning and brilliant water of right belief, as they destroy the band of heresies!
A century later, St. Tarasios, patriarch of Constantinople, formally introduced the feast into the Byzantine calendar. The liturgical observance continued to develop. In an eleventh-century manuscript about the liturgical observances of the Monastery of Mar Saba near Bethlehem, we find the prescription to read excerpts from the Life of the Virgin, attributed to St. Maximus the Confessor, (although whether he is the real author is disputed). According to the manuscript, the monks were to read the section of the life that begins with Mary passing the age of nursing and stopping with the story of the prophetic revelation she received prior to the Annunciation at 12 years old while living in the Temple, which revealed to her that she would be the mother of the Lord. The text is devoted to offering a spiritual reflection on the Theotokos’ entrance to the Temple, more than merely recounting a history, and this is done specifically through an exegesis of Psalm 44. (The psalm also serves as the Alleluia verses for the Divine Liturgy of the day, as well as the Aposticha antiphons: “She is led to the king with her virgin companions.” “They are escorted with joy and gladness; they pass into the palace of the king.” “Hear oh daughter and incline your ear.” etc.)

According to author of the Life, the psalm is fundamentally a prediction of Christ, but included in the mystery of Christ are necessarily references to either the Church or the Theotokos, and this psalm can be interpreted as applying to both. And even more specifically, he writes:
Behold, then, how beautifully he foretells not only about the Entrance in the Temple, but also about her other spiritual goodness and beauty. The queen stood at your right. This statement foretells her Entrance in the Temple and her location to the right of the altar in the Holy of Holies, which is truly regarded as being to the right of God....And as she grew in age, the adornment of virtues increased greatly. And that is why the king desired her beauty, and he dwelt within her.
While there are undoubtedly more steps in the development of the liturgical observance of today’s feast, what is striking is that while the origin of the story seems to be the second century apocryphal Gospel, the theology, details, and liturgical hymns are profoundly formed by a Patristic exegesis of the accepted canon of Scripture: from St. Gregory of Nyssa’s exegesis of Luke 11, to St. Andrew’s veiled references to the Epistle to the Hebrews, to St. Germanus’ use of the prophet Ezekiel, and lastly “St. Maximus’ ” exegesis of Psalm 44. This exegesis also culminates in the icon which is shown in the post below, and interpreted in the work of Lossky, cited above. For the Byzantine tradition, therefore, this feast is far from merely an apocryphal import, but rather, much more a mystery contained in the deep spiritual sense of God’s self-revelation.

The Presentation of the Virgin Mary

Lamp-bearing virgins, joyfully guiding forth the Ever-Virgin, truly prophesy in spirit what will come to pass; for the temple of God, who is the Mother of God, is led to the temple as a child with the glory of a virgin. (from Vespers of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple in the Byzantine Rite.)

The Entrance of the Mother of God in the Temple, a mid-15th century icon from the Byzantine Museum in Athens. Ss Joachim and Anna, the Virgin’s parents, are followed by a crowd of virgins bearing torches, accompanying them to the temple. The Virgin Mary approaches the high priest with Her hands open, to symbolize that She is offering Herself  to God; in the upper left, the archangel Gabriel brings Her bread, symbolizing that She is nourished by contemplation and a life dedicated to the service of God. 
Λαμπαδηφόροι Παρθένοι, τὴν Ἀειπάρθενον φαιδρῶς ὁδοποιοῦσαι, προφητεύουσιν ὄντως ἐν πνεύματι τὸ μέλλον· ναὸς γὰρ Θεοῦ, ἡ Θεοτόκος ὑπάρχουσα, πρὸς τὸν Ναόν μετὰ δόξης παρθενικῆς νηπιόθεν ἐμβιβάζεται.