Monday, September 15, 2014

Does the EF Have Too Much Pomp?

So often, I have heard it said that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass was filled with too much pomp, too many rules, and that it's not what Christ wanted, as if the Church was drastically departing from Christ's will for the past 500 years. It makes nice talking points, but it just isn't true.

Christ was a Jew, indeed it could be said that he was the perfect Jew. The Jews also had formal liturgy as part of their worship, if I recall. Christ is also one with the Father, the very same Father who earlier in the scriptures commanded Moses directly that the high priest be dressed ornately, and also gave very specific instructions for what was to be done, and what was to be built.

The EF provides very specific rubrics for the Mass, just like God did for the high priest in the Old Testament. And in regard to vestments, we see the Old Testament high priest commanded by God to wear richly embroidered, jeweled, and multi-layered ceremonial vesture, not unlike our vestments in the Roman Rite. Look at some of the commands from Exodus 28 that God commands the priest to wear when in the ceremonies in the temple:

A rendering of the vesture of the high priest,
with descriptions and scriptural references.
Compare it to the image of a fully vested Bishop below
The ephod they shall make of gold thread and of violet, purple, and scarlet yarn, embroidered on cloth of fine linen twined. (vs 6)

The breastpiece of decision you shall also have made, embroidered like the ephod with gold thread and violet, purple, and scarlet yarn on cloth of fine linen twined. (vs 15)

When the chains of pure gold, twisted like cords, have been made for the breastpiece, you shall then make two rings of gold for it and fasten them to the two upper ends of the breastpiece. (vs 22, 23)

The robe of the ephod you shall make entirely of violet material. (vs 31)

You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, as on a seal engraving, “Sacred to the LORD.” (vs 36)
Not entirely foreign to the old
testament high priest's vesture
Does that sound like too much pomp? If so, you might want to reconsider your position: they are commands directly from the Lord as to what the priest was to wear in the temple.

Looking next to the Last Supper: we must remember that it was far from a casual community meal where Christ lounged around; rather, he began it in the context of a serious, rubricized religious ceremony of the Passover meal. Furthermore, we can't forget that even the Last Supper is not our be-all end-all of liturgical models, otherwise we should be restricting our Masses to only men, and ordaining them all bishops before they leave. And also, let's go make sure to kill the celebrant the next day.

One last time, let's look at the divine precedent for liturgy, this time in the Book of Revelation.

And indeed, in the Book of Revelation, we see something described that could be said to be full of "pomp."
Surrounding the throne I saw twenty-four other thrones on which twenty-four elders* sat, dressed in white garments and with gold crowns on their heads. (Rev 4)

When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones. (Rev 5:8)

The four living creatures answered, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev 5:14)
In any case, it certainly isn't the causal "community meal" atmosphere some would advocate for.

Not to mention that Christ gave us a Church to carry his mission forward, not to be stagnated by what He did on earth and do nothing more. We are not called to be restorationists like many of the Protestant groups which do not have the fullness of truth; we are called to follow the Church, who Christ handed His authority on to a Church, which lawfully instituted the 1962 missal as binding upon Catholics at that time, and is still a legitimate option today.

Christ was also the almighty king of the universe and high priest, worthy of all praise and glory that we can possibly give him. You'll note this in John 12: Christ took no issue with lavish display of devotion and love from those who are close to him. Judas had the same objection that many do: that we should not give into supposed excess and support the poor instead, and Jesus spoke strongly back that he was in error. Just as Christ says, we should give our absolute best when He is there (in churches and most importantly, in the sacred liturgy, primarily the Mass); then when He is not, as we return to our everyday lives, we can take that time to care for the poor.

In other words, those who complain that the Extraordinary Form, or the Ordinary Form celebrated with a spirit of continuity, has too much pomp and isn't what Christ wanted, may want to reexamine their positions and look at the larger context, including even what Christ said himself, both through the scriptures (cf. John 12, for one example) AND through His Church, which now wields His authority on earth.

Sunday Vespers starting soon at the Oratory in Formation in DC

Sunday Vespers starting soon at the Oratory in Formation in DC:

It is a long established custom in Oratorian communities to sing Vespers (Evening Prayer of the Church) on Sundays and major feasts. We have now established that there are sufficient people interested in supporting this project and so we propose to begin Sunday Vespers next month.

Vespers is an entirely sung liturgy, the music of which is Gregorian chant, the ancient musical patrimony of the Church in the West. The chanting of the psalms and their antiphons and the beautiful hymns of the liturgical seasons form a majestic prayer that can be outstandingly beautiful and very prayerful.

As it takes time to learn how to sing Vespers and as we hope you will want to learn how to participate in this ancient form of prayer, we shall gather at 3.30pm to prepare the music and the liturgy will begin at 4pm. The service of vespers is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament - the whole thing lasting about 45 minutes. We shall begin weekly Sunday Vespers on:

SUNDAY OCTOBER 5
3.30pm Music rehearsal for all participants
4pm Vespers and Benediction

The Oratorian Fathers of the Community of St Philip Neri

The Calculation of the September Ember Days (Reprint)

This article, which explains the difference between the traditional dating of the September Ember Days, and that currently used in the EF, was originally published in 2010. The discrepancy between the traditional rubrics and the 1960 version does not occur every year, but it does this year, and so I am republishing it for reference, adjusting the dates for 2014. You may also find interesting this article from last year on the September Ember Days .

One of the changes made to the Breviary in the revision of 1960 regards the arrangement of the months from August to November. This change is often noticed in September, because it causes a shift in the occurrence of the Ember Days.

The first Sunday of each of these months is the day on which the Church begins to read a new set of scriptural books at Matins, with their accompanying antiphons and responsories; these readings are part of a system which goes back to the sixth century. In August, the books of Wisdom are read; in September, Job, Tobias, Judith and Esther; in October the books of the Macchabees; in November, Ezechiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor Prophets. (September is actually divided into two sets of readings, Job having a different set of responsories from the other three books.) The “first Sunday” of each of these months is traditionally that which occurs closest to the first calendar day of the month, even if that day occurs within the end of the previous month. This year, for example, the first Sunday “of September” was actually August 31st, the closest Sunday to the first day of September, and the third Sunday of September was September 14th.

The Ember Days of autumn are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of the third week of September, during which the book of Tobias is read; according to the traditional system of calculation, this year they will occur on the 17th, 19th and 20th. The system is also calculated so that the Ember days will always begin on the Wednesday after the Exaltation of the Cross.

In the 1960 revision, however, the first Sunday of August to November is always that which occurs first within the calendar month. According to this system, the first Sunday of September was the 7th of the month, the third will be the 21st, and the Ember Days will be the 24th, 26th and 27th.

This change also accounts for one of the peculiarities of the 1960 Breviary, the fact that November has four weeks, which are called the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth. According to the older calculation, November has five weeks when the fourth of the month is a Sunday; according to the newer calculation, November always has four weeks. In order to accommodate the new system, one of the weeks had to be removed; the second week of November was chosen to maintain the tradition that at least a bit of each of the Prophets would continue to be read in the Breviary.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What Does Opposition to the Traditional Mass Really Signify?

At the ordination of priests dedicated to the
usus antiquior: Bp. Marc Aillet, June 28, 2014
In the post-Summorum world, the ancient Roman Rite can no longer be considered forbidden, dubious, marginal, or obsolete. It enjoys equal rights of citizenship with the Novus Ordo: two forms of the Roman Rite—one called Ordinary because most recently promulgated and more widely used, the other called Extraordinary, the usus antiquior, deserving respect for its venerable use—with each able to be freely celebrated by any priest of the Roman Rite, no special permission needed. One would think that, as a gesture of reconciliation at the heart of the Church, the two forms would be flourishing side by side, with Catholics everywhere privileged to experience both of them offered reverently and beautifully.

But this is still far from the reality, and, sadly, there are still far too many bishops and priests who oppose the traditional Mass, tether it with burdensome conditions, or resort to power politics to ensure that its supporters are duly warned and penalized for their rash embrace of our Catholic heritage.

As we commemorate today the seventh anniversary of the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, whose provisions went into effect on September 14, 2007, it will be both edifying and sobering to consider the meaning Joseph Ratzinger himself attached to opposition to the traditional Mass. What does it mean when someone opposes this Mass, or those who celebrate it, or those who cherish it as a form of prayer dear to them?

In the book-length interview Salt of the Earth, published in 1997, Ratzinger said:
I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent. Can it be trusted any more about anything else? Won’t it proscribe tomorrow what it prescribes today?  (176-77)
Ten years prior to Summorum, he was placing his finger on the crux of the matter. If the liturgy that was the Church’s holiest and highest possession for centuries, the object of total reverence and honor, the means of sanctification for countless Catholics, is suddenly forbidden, and if the desire to worship as our forefathers did is treated as wrong, what does that say about the Church herself, about her past, her tradition, her very saints? Truly, her credibility vanishes entirely, her proclamations become arbitrary diktats. Was there something fatally flawed, all this time, with our central act of worship? Were all the popes of the past who lovingly cultivated this liturgy mistaken, were all the missionaries who brought it around the globe misguided? Could they say, in the words of Gatherer, son of Vomiter, “I have not learned wisdom, and have not known the science of saints”? (Prov 30:1, 3, Douay).

In God and the World (2002), another of those splendidly insightful and doctrinally robust interviews which now, in retrospect, make for such wistful reading, Ratzinger returned to the point:
For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church’s whole past. How can one trust her present if things are that way? I must say, quite openly, that I don’t understand why so many of my episcopal brethren have to a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance, which for no apparent reason is opposed to making the necessary inner reconciliations within the Church.  (416)
Here we have language strikingly akin to what we will find five years later in Pope Benedict’s Letter to the Bishops that accompanied Summorum Pontificum. Once again, we find the telltale insistence on possessing the right attitude towards the undying and life-giving heritage of the Church. The liturgical rites that arise from apostolic seeds in the Church’s sojourn through history are the fruits of Him who is the Lord and Giver of Life, and they cannot, in themselves, either die or bring death—nor can they be legitimately prohibited.

This would explain why Pope Benedict XVI, in Summorum Pontificum, says that the traditional Latin Mass “must be given due honor for its venerable and ancient usage” and, in the Letter to the Bishops, adds:
What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.
The giving of due honor, which translates into the actual celebration of the rite, is not an optional matter, and this is why we should politely refuse to allow ourselves or our fellow Catholics to be categorized as people with certain “preferences”: “Oh, you prefer the old and I prefer the new.” No, it goes beyond preferences to the very structure of the Catholic Faith: those things that are venerable and ancient must be given due honor; what earlier generations held as sacred must be sacred—and great!—for us, too; it is incumbent on us to preserve these riches and to make sure that they occupy their proper place in the life of the Church today.

Again, a sign that we are reading Pope Benedict correctly is that the clarifying instruction Universae Ecclesiae goes out of its way to emphasize these points. In fact, section 8 of this document is striking in its uncompromising simplicity, its total lack of hedging qualifications or loopholes:
The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum constitutes an important expression of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff and of his munus of regulating and ordering the Church’s Sacred Liturgy. The Motu Proprio manifests his solicitude as Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church, and has the aim of: (a) offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved; (b) effectively guaranteeing and ensuring the use of the forma extraordinaria for all who ask for it, given that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy is a faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favorable to the faithful who are its principal addressees; (c) promoting reconciliation at the heart of the Church.
*            *            *
At the ordination of priests dedicated to the usus antiquior:
Bishop James Conley, June 14, 2014
With these points established, we can readily see why any move to obstruct or diminish the presence of the usus antiquior in the Church today would only cause great harm and long-term damage.

First, it would be an act and a symptom of disobedience, which is never blessed by God and always punished by Him. More specifically, it would constitute disobedience to Pope Benedict XVI’s legal provisions in Summorum Pontificum (and their clarifications in Universae Ecclesiae), as well as to St. John Paul II’s well-known statement that “respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.” As has been demonstrated above, it is not enough to refrain from bad mouthing the traditional sacramental rites; they must be known and loved, re-introduced and promoted, studied in seminaries, offered generously to the faithful as a precious treasure.

Second, and more profoundly, divine worship goes to the heart of a person’s spiritual life, that which is most intimate and cherished. Any refusal to share the treasures of the Church, any heavy-handed restrictions on what is already available (or should be available), can only provoke anger, disappointment, and mistrust, hurting the Church’s unity, which is a fragile good of enormous value. Certain bishops, priests, and laymen may have no great love for the Extraordinary Form themselves, but they ought to recognize and respect the sizeable minority of Catholics who do, and appreciate that depriving them of it, or begrudging it to them, is pretty nearly the most offensive thing that could be done—rather like slapping a man’s wife, mother, or grandmother. To be blunt, those who sincerely want peace and mutual understanding had better act generously or they may end up with another ecclesiastical Cold War on their hands. Who wants that?

It does not require a degree in nuclear physics to see that a significant and growing number of Catholics are flocking to parishes and chapels where the traditional Mass is being celebrated, and with their (on average) very large families and strong commitment to homeschooling, the future belongs to them. In 1988 there were about 20 weekly Sunday TLMs; today there are over 500. There is no reason to fight this movement, and every reason to support it.

In spite of the anxieties of some who find it difficult to give peace and mutual coexistence a chance, the Extraordinary Form is not a problem for the Church, and, as Ratzinger/Benedict helps us to see, never could be a problem in and of itself. Instead, one may encounter unfortunate traditionalist attitudes that alienate or provoke—and, to be quite fair, this cuts both ways, since the promoters of the Novus Ordo frequently exhibit offensive attitudes of their own, such as a peculiar fusion of theoretical liberalism and practical totalitarianism. The thing to do is not jealously to limit and control the usus antiquior as if it were a dangerous addictive substance, an approach that only fuels those unfortunate attitudes, but to teach and model a right attitude, receiving with open arms, with humility and childlike simplicity, all that the Church herself gives, so that it becomes something normal and natural, not something forbidden (and thus, perhaps, more alluring?), controversial, or divisive.

Let us give the final word to Pope Benedict, from his Letter to the Bishops of July 7, 2007:
I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts also!” (2 Cor 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.

The Exaltation of the Cross

As the sacred pledge is revealed from Heaven, the faith of Christ is strengthened; the divine wonders are now present, that were first prefigured in the rod of Moses. V. At the touch of the Cross, the dead rise, and the wondrous deeds of God are made manifest. The divine wonders are now present, that were first prefigured in the rod of Moses. (Fifth responsory of Matins of the Exaltation of the Cross)

The Bronze Serpent (Numbers 21, 4-9), by Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1511, from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
R. Dum sacrum pignus caelitus revelatur, Christi fides roboratur: * Adsunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata. V. Ad Crucis contactum resurgunt mortui, et Dei magnalia reserantur. Adsunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Recent EF Training in Mississippi

I
n the first week of September, at the invitation of the new bishop of Jackson (Mississippi, USA), the Most Reverend Joseph R. Kopacz, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius gave a Sancta Missa Latin Mass Workshop in cooperation with Una Voce Mississippi. Priests learned to offer Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum, as men learned to serve at the altar for Low Mass and High Mass. For those interested in learning more about the Extraordinary Form, the Canons will offer additional workshops for clergy and seminarians in Chicago this fall, and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf will give a conference for laity (and interested clergy) at St. John Cantius in Chicago, October 3-5.

In joyous thanksgiving for the graces flowing from the pastoral guidance of Bishop Kopacz, on September 5th a votive Mass of the Sacred Heart (Missa cantata) for first Friday was offered in the Extraordinary Form by Fr. Scott Haynes, SJC, at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Jackson, with Fr. Anthony Rice, SJC, homilist (video highlights HERE). The schola of Una Voce Mississippi sang for the Mass and the cathedral organist, James Scoggins, provided fabulous organ music on the Rieger organ (made in Schwarzach, Austria). With the leadership of Bishop Kopacz, the Latin Mass, celebrated according to the usus antiquior, is returning to the Jackson Diocese. Deo gratias!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Eternal Memory: Fr. Robert Siu

Today before sunrise, Fr. Robert Siu has at last returned to his Lord.  He is not a priest many of NLM's readers have heard of, and yet I feel compelled to write him a tribute on this page all the same.  He was the retired priest in residence here in Lander, WY, and his passing is not likely to gather much national attention.  Yet for the parishoners of Holy Rosary Parish, and for students, faculty, and staff here at Wyoming Catholic College, we have been privileged to be present at the passing of a saint.
Fr. Siu's passing was not unexpected; throughout the summer we knew his time was approaching, and these last few weeks the imminence of his departure has been ever more evident.  Yet when I received word that the time had finally arrived, I prayed the very words that King Josiah had prayed at the parting of Elisha, and which Elisha had prayed at the parting of Elijah: "My father, my father: Israel's chariot and its charioteer!"  For the first time, the meaning of those words prayed by one who had lost his spiritual father seemed remarkably clear.  My spiritual father, the one whose prayers had defended me from my enemies, whose calm wisdom stood guard against the tempter, and whose absolution rescued my soul from the oppressor is no longer here.  There are not many words for it.
Fr. Siu was a son of Chinese immigrants in Hawaii.  Raised a Buddhist, he converted to Catholicism while still a child, against the wishes of his mother.  At the moment of his baptism, he said he knew he was to be a priest.  Once ordained he had a varied career: a pastor and then theology professor at a seminary in Hawaii, and then eventually released for studies on the mainland of the US.  Once here he continued his studies, and served as a hospital chaplain and pastor in various places, before finally coming to Wyoming in 1980.  I asked him once what brought him out to this high mountain desert, and he replied, "I always wanted to be a cowboy."
This man of the Far East who ended up in the Wild West, struck up a friendship with me, a man born in that West, but who had set his sails for Byzantium.  By the time I knew him, he was no longer in active parish ministry, but had moved on to offering spiritual direction as our local spiritual elder.  He would spend hours studying deeply the works of the Carmelite Doctors, and then try to integrate their thought with the Thomistic studies the students at WCC were undertaking, and add that occasional perspectives on Salesian and Ignatian meditation.  The man was a veritable fountain of knowledge, who, when he was not reading, was praying.  (Okay, that is a slight exaggeration; a lifetime member of the N.R.A., he would also go out to practice his marksmanship until just recently.)  I spent many hours with him discussing how to relate St. John of the Cross' Ascent of Mount Carmel to St. Thomas Aquinas' Treatise on Charity, and then to integrate that wisdom with the experience of the Byzantine hesychasts.  At over ninety, he would still call me late in the evening to ask a question about an obscure line in the Summa Theologiae, or confront me after Church with a burning question: "Have you grown in holiness since I last saw you?"
A week or so ago, I was able to be present at one of Fr. Siu's last Masses, celebrated in the rectory.  He wanted to celebrate a Mass that "brought it all together", and so he offered a Votive Mass for the Sacred Heart and still managed to deliver a homily.  Now a Votive Mass to the Sacred Heart, celebrated in a living room by a partially vested priest is about as far from the Byzantine notion of liturgy as one can get.  And yet, as this ancient priest, carefully and intimately offered one of his final Masses, I was drawn into that fundamental reality that is the end of any liturgy.  Here was a good and faithful servant, offering his very self as an immolation with this Holy Eucharist.  While he was aware, he refused morphine, and when possible, even water in order to win souls for Christ.  During the night he would toss and turn, engaged in an epic spiritual battle for those souls most in need.  And now, here, in this living room, with no incense, chant, or iconostasis, this priest united all those heroic struggles to the act that makes angels tremble.  Perhaps more than at any other liturgy in my life, I felt like the prophet Isaiah, taken up into the Holy of Holies and beholding seraphic holiness handling flaming coals.  And beholding such a sight, stripped of all its earthly splendor yet shining with Divine Light, I felt my heart cry out: "I am a man of unclean lips."  Yet after that Mass, when Fr. Siu told me to go forth and serve the Lord, I hoped I could communicate to others the beauty of holiness that I witnessed in that man.
In this day and age it is a rare blessing to have a real spiritual father, and those of us granted that grace in Fr. Siu may never find another like him.  It is snowing today in Lander, and that gives me some consolation that even the material creation is marking the departure of such a figure.  While there were no flaming chariots, a snow-storm in September is at least a nod in that direction.  
In a blessed falling asleep, grant, O Lord, eternal rest unto thy departed presbyter, Robert, and make his memory to be eternal.
  

  

FSSP Superior General Visiting Hong Kong

The Tridentine Liturgy Community of the Diocese of Hong Kong will welcome Fr. John Berg, Superior General of the Fraternity of St Peter, this Sunday, September 14th, 2014. He will celebrate a Solemn High Mass at 12:30 pm at the Church of Mary, Help of Christians, and afterwards give a talk entitles “7 Years after Summorum Pontificum - The Influence of the Motu Propio on the Life of the Church” in the music room of Tang King Po School at 2:30pm. The church and school are both located at 16 Tin Kwong Road, Ma Tau Wai, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Report on Altar-Boy Camp from Taylor, SC

National Catholic Register has a great report by Mr Brian Mershon on a training camp held at Prince of Peace in Taylor, South Carolina in late July, an event which proved to be an enormous success, well beyond the organizers expectation.
Father Christopher Smith, administrator of Prince of Peace, and Father Renaurd West, both priests of the Diocese of Charleston, together with Michael Cunningham, a third-year seminarian for the FSSP whose home is in nearby Spartanburg, S.C., offered boys and young men of all ages the opportunity to learn altar-boy movements and rubrics as well as experience three daily Masses culminating with a Missa Cantata (Sung Mass) on July 25.
In addition to the academic and spiritual activities, seminarian Cunningham led afternoon activities in football, while Father West competed head-to-head on the basketball floor. The camp was free to all, with funds donated for food and training materials by area parishioners, other Catholics and businesses. “I was at most expecting 10 or 15 from our parish,” said Father Smith. “The initiative of people who were enthusiastic about the project led to 62 boys and young men coming from as far away as Ohio.”
Added Father Smith, “I was stunned by the response of the boys, their families and those who wanted to defray the cost of the camp. I should learn to trust in God's providence more!” Parishes dedicated solely to the traditional Latin Mass and sacraments periodically host altar-boy camps and training sessions, but a diocesan parish hosting one in the midst of South Carolina and drawing more than 60 boys is unique.
Read the full article by clicking here. (Fr Smith is a regular contributor to one of our sister CMAA blogs, the Chant Café, and we have had more than one occasion to highlight his articles here.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A New Greek-Catholic Cathedral in Romania

Just over a year ago, we reported on the beatification of Vladimir Ghika, a Romanian Greek-Catholic priest martyred in 1954. A church in which Mons. Ghika served in Bucharest has been elevated to the status of cathedral for the newly created Eparchy of St Basil the Great; we are grateful to reader Viviana Dimcev for her report on this event, and to her husband Alexis for the accompanying pictures.

Bishop Mihai Frățilă

August 30, 2014 was a great feast for Greek Catholics in Romania. In Bucharest, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, assisted at the enthronement of the first Greek Catholic Bishop of Bucharest, His Holiness Mihai Frățilă, who received the symbols of his office from the hand of Cardinal Lucian Mureșan, Major Archbishop of the Romanian Greek Catholic Church.

The newly created Greek Catholic Eparchy of Saint Basil the Great of Bucharest was approved by the Holy Father Pope Francis in May 2014. The Romanian Greek Catholic Church, with the Metropolitan See in Blaj, a small town in the Romanian province of Transylvania, has felt for some time the need for a new Eparchy with its See in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. The Greek Catholic church of Saint Basil the Great in Bucharest was thus elevated to the rank of Cathedral church. Its impressive history is intertwined with the history of the Romanian Greek Catholic Church.

The small church in red brick (with the dimensions of 16 meters length and 7 meters width) was built in 1909 under the supervision of Roman Catholic Bishop of Bucharest Raymund Netzhammer, who wanted to offer the Greek Catholic faithful in Bucharest a church of their own rite. Those faithful were mostly of Transylvanian origin, Romanian speakers who emigrated to Bucharest in search of a better living, and wished to maintain the use of the Byzantine rite liturgy in Romanian. At that point, Transylvania was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; it would become part of Romania 8 years later, in 1918.

Bishop Netzhammer, a Benedictine, thought it appropriate to consecrate the small church to Saint Basil the Great, one of the Greek fathers whose liturgy is celebrated in the Byzantine rite. He chose a well-known Romanian architect who used elements of Romanian, Byzantine and Gothic architecture in imitation of various older Romanian churches. For the painting of the church, he invited the monks of St Martin Abbey in Beuron; Father Andreas Goser created the sketches, which were painted by Gottfried Schiller and Julius Ostermaier from Ravensburg, using the mineral colours technique of A.W. Keim. The two artists also designed the liturgical objects of the church.

The church quickly became the center of the Greek Catholic community in Bucharest. Bishop Netzhammer assisted very often at the services, and Blessed Vladimir Ghika was the spiritual director of the Greek Catholic students who came there to attend the Divine Liturgy.

Listen to This - Chant in English that Competes with Praise and Worship Music

I have been contacted by a seminarian based in Boston called Pat Fiorillo who directs the choir of a young adults group in Boston. He sent me this recording of his group of singing the Magnificat to the Way of Beauty psalm tones composed by myself and with the harmonization by Paul Jernberg. They are singing it as a communion meditation for Mass on the Feast of the Assumption recently. The antiphon is composed by Paul Ford (whose work I otherwise know nothing of), but I must say that it sounds good.
He told me that through his influence of introducing this sort of music at groups he has worked with, he has seen a young people's group chant for the first time ever and appreciating it rather than singing only praise and worship music with the usual guitars and drums.
Pat is clearly working well with them, and I find their chant of the antiphon beautiful. They actually did all of the propers - introit and offertory also from Ford's collection - as well as Kyrie VIII, and Proulx's Missa Simplex. From what he describes everyone is enthusiastic about singing sacred music and he is pleased to have something that works in English which opens the way for congregations who might be resistant if he insisted on Latin. What is particularly encouraging is that this is a seminarian doing this! I hope this gives us an indication of what are priests will be doing in the future.
You can listen to the recording here:


Monday, September 08, 2014

Liturgical Notes on the Nativity of the Virgin Mary

Advent is considered the start of the Roman Rite’s liturgical year as a matter of logic and convention, but is not formally designated as such in the liturgy itself. In the Byzantine Rite, on the other hand, the liturgical year has a formally designated beginning on September 1st, a custom which has its origin in an ancient Roman cycle of taxation known as the Indiction. This was celebrated as the civil New Year in the Byzantine Empire until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and in Russia until in 1699, when it was changed by Peter the Great as part of his Westernizing reforms. The Indiction is still mentioned repeatedly in the liturgical texts of September 1, as in this Idiomel for Matins.
Thy kingdom, Christ God, is the kingdom of all the ages, and Thy dominion is from generation to generation; Thou hast made all things in wisdom, fixing for us times and seasons; therefore we thank Thee for all things and through all things we cry out: Bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness and grant that we may all cry out to Thee without condemnation: Lord, glory to Thee! (Psalm 144, 13; 103, 24; 64, 12)
The Byzantine tradition distinguishes twelve feasts, eight of Our Lord and four of Our Lady, as “Great Feasts”, with Easter in a category of its own as the Feast of Feasts. Whether by design or coincidence, the first of these in the liturgical year is also the first chronologically, the Nativity of the Virgin on September 8th. This event does not of course occur in the Bible, but is first mentioned in the popular apocryphal work known as the Protoevangelium of James. The precise origin of the feast is a matter of speculation, and the reason for the choice of date is unknown. It was celebrated at Constantinople by the 530s, when St Romanus the Melodist composed a hymn for it; by the seventh century, it has passed to the West, and Pope St Sergius I (687-701) decreed that it be should celebrated with a procession from the church of St Adrian (who shares his feast day with the Birth of the Virgin) to St Mary Major. It would seem, however, that it was rather slower to be accepted than the other early Marian feasts, the Purification, Annunciation and Assumption, since it is not mentioned in some important early liturgical books. Thus we find it included in the oldest manuscript of the Gelasian Sacramentary in roughly 750 A.D., but missing from the calendar in some later books.

A 16th-century Russian icon of the Birth of the Virgin.
From the Byzantine Rite, the Roman borrowed the following troparion as the antiphon at the Magnificat for Second Vespers, surely one of the most beautiful of the entire Gregorian reportoire.
Ἡ γέννησίς σου Θεοτόκε, χαρὰν ἐμήνυσε πάσῃ τῇ οἰκουμένῃ· ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ ἀνέτειλεν ὁ Ἥλιος τῆς δικαιοσύνης, Χριστὸς ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν· καὶ λύσας τὴν κατάραν, ἔδωκε τὴν εὐλογίαν· καὶ καταργήσας τὸν θάνατον, ἐδωρήσατο ἡμῖν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον.
Nativitas tua, Dei Genitrix Virgo, gaudium annuntiavit universo mundo: ex te enim ortus est sol justitiae, Christus Deus noster: qui solvens maledictionem, dedit benedictionem, et confundens mortem, donavit nobis vitam sempiternam.
Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God, proclaimed joy to the whole world; for from Thee arose the sun of righteousness, Christ our God; who released us from the curse, and gave us blessing; and confounding death, He granted us eternal life.
A tradition of the church of Angers in France claims that the feast was instituted by a bishop of that see in the early fifth century, St Maurilius, in consequence of an apparition of the Virgin vouchsafed to him. Another version of the story, also associated by some authors with St Maurilius, claims that a hermit who lived near Angers heard angels singing on September 8th to celebrate the birth upon earth of the Queen of Heaven. However, St Fulbert of Chartres, (ca. 960-1028) speaks of it as a feast of recent institution, and his three sermons on the subject are the oldest genuine Latin homilies on the feast. In the first of these, he says, “After some of Her other, more ancient feasts, the devotion of the faithful was not content, unless it could add to them today’s feast of Her Birth.”

Ironically, it was another sermon of St Fulbert, preached not on the Nativity, but on the Annunciation, which became the standard medieval Office sermon for the feast, since it was included among the sermons of St Augustine. This inclusion was perhaps not an accident, but a way of adding greater authority to the work of a “new” author on a new custom. (It is still to this day noted as “A Sermon of St Augustine” in the Breviary of the Extraordinary Form.) This text would have a huge fortune in the history of Marian devotion, since a part of the peroration became one of the most commonly used texts for antiphons and responsories of the Virgin Mary.
Sancta Maria, succurre miseris, juva pusillanimes, refove flebiles, ora pro populo, interveni pro clero, intercede pro devoto femineo sexu. Sentiant omnes tuum juvamen, quicumque celebrant tuam commemorationem.
Holy Mary, come to the aid of the wretched, help the weak in spirit, refresh the mournful, pray for the people, intervene for the clergy, intercede for all devout women. May all those who celebrate the commemoration of Thee perceive Thy aid.
The words occurring before and after these were often used in France as lessons for Matins in the Little Office of the Virgin Mary, as for example in the Cistercian Use, which, with characteristic austerity, proposes the same single lesson every day.
Admitte, piissima Dei Genitrix, preces nostras intra sacrarium tuæ exauditionis, et reporta nobis antidotum reconciliationis. Sit per te excusabile quod per te ingerimus: fiat impetrabile quod fida mente poscimus. Accipe quod offerimus, redona quæ rogamus, excusa quod timemus.
Most holy Mother of God, admit our prayers into the holy place where Thou may hear them, and bring us the remedy of reconciliation. Through Thee, may all be forgiven, that we place therein also through Thee; and what we ask with confidence become obtainable. Receive what we offer, grant in return what we ask, obtain pardon for what we fear.
The upper part of the Tree of Jesse window, one of the most famous and best preserved of the stained glass windows in the cathedral of Chartres, from the end of the 12th century.
At the Papal conclave of 1241, one of the most difficult in the Church’s history, the cardinals were forcibly enclosed in a ruined building known as the Septizodium, then a thousand years, under such rough conditions that one of their number died. This was done by another cardinal, Matteo Orsini, in an attempt to force the election of a Pope favorable to certain interests which he backed. The cardinals vowed to honor the feast of the Virgin Mary’s Nativity by granting it an octave, if She would lead them to agreement on a candidate and obtain their deliverance; the liturgical commentator William Durandus, writing at the end of the century, notes that the Pope thus elected, Celestine IV, died after a reign of two-and-a-half weeks, and it was left to his successor, Innocent IV, to fulfill the vow.

As a “new” feast, the Nativity of the Virgin was never kept with a vigil in the Roman Rite, i.e., a fast on the day before, accompanied by a Mass in violet after None, and without the Gloria in excelsis, Alleluia or Creed. (The same holds true even for the medieval feast par excellence, Corpus Christi.) In the Ambrosian Rite, however, it is kept with such a vigil, as a feast of particular importance, the titular feast of the cathedral. On the façade over the central door is a large plaque with the two words “Mariae Nascenti - To Mary as She is born.”


On both the vigil and feast, a lesson is read which very cleverly links two Biblical passages traditionally associated with the Virgin Mary, the sixth chapter of the Song of Songs, and the twenty-fourth of Ecclesiasticus.
Thus sayeth Wisdom: Song 6, 8-9 She is the only one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her. The daughters saw her, and declared her most blessed: the queens and concubines, and they praised her. Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array? Eccli. 24, 24-28 I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations.
The Protoevanglium of James mentioned above is also the source for the names of the Virgin’s parents, Ss. Joachim and Anna. Because it is an apocryphal Gospel, their feasts were suppressed from the Roman Rite in the reform of St Pius V, along with the Virgin’s Presentation in the Temple, which is also first mentioned therein. This went far too strongly against the grain of traditional piety, and all three feasts were swiftly restored, St Anne’s by Pius’ own successor, Gregory XIII, in 1584, the Presentation by Sixtus V the following year, and St Joachim by Gregory XV in 1622. In the Roman Rite, his feast was assigned to the Sunday within the Octave of the Assumption, and later fixed by St Pius X to August 16th. The Ambrosians, however, placed it on September 9th, the day after the Virgin’s Nativity; arguably a more reasonable choice, since the ancient tradition was that Joachim and Anne were both quite elderly at the time of the Virgin’s birth, making it certain that neither was still alive at the time of the Assumption.

The Descent of the Virgin from St Anne, by Gerard David, ca. 1490
On both feasts, in both the Roman and Ambrosian liturgies, the Gospel is the genealogy of Christ from the beginning of St Matthew, chapter 1, 1-16. From ancient times, it was understood that this Gospel, in tracing the royal descent of St. Joseph, shows that the Virgin Mary is also descended from King David, to whom the promise of the Messiah was made. Since Joseph is commended as a just man, he would not transgress the law that a Jew must marry within his own tribe, and therefore Mary must also be of the tribe of David. A passage to this effect from St John Damascene’s book “On the Orthodox Faith” (book 4, 15) is read in the Roman Breviary on the feast of St Joachim.

On September 12th, 1683, the combined armies of the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Poland defeated the invading armies of the Ottoman Empire at the gates of Vienna, a battle which would prove to be the high-water mark of the Turkish invasion of Europe. The King of Poland and commander of the Christian armies, Jan III Sobieski, had placed his troops under the special protection of the Virgin Mary, as they rode to the defence of Christendom. In thanksgiving for the victory, therefore, Blessed Innocent XI (1676-89) extended to the universal calendar the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, thitherto kept only in Spain and Naples. It was originally assigned to the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity of the Virgin, but later fixed by St Pius X to September 12th. (The reform of 1911 abolished the once-common custom of fixing feasts to particular Sundays, with a few exceptions.) In the Calendar of 1969, the feasts of the Holy Name of Jesus and of Mary were both abolished, one of the reformers’ worst decisions, happily undone by St John Paul II in 2002. In the interim, it continued to be observed as the titular feast of many churches of the Virgin Mary, especially in Italy.
King Jan Sobieski Victorious at the Gates of Vienna, by Jan Matejko, 1883. In the middle, King Jan hands to a Dominican friar a message to deliver to the Pope, announcing the victory; on the right, Leopold I, Archduke of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor, doffs his hat to him. The artist, himself a Pole, painted this in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the battle, by which time the Kingdom of Poland had been partitioned between Austria, Russia and Prussia, and no longer existed as an independent state; he is here reminding the Austrians that their position as a dominant power in Central Europe was due in no small measure to the military might of the Poles, now in part their subjects. This painting was donated to the Vatican Museums by the artist, on condition that it always be prominently displayed; on the frame (not seen here) are medallion portraits of Bl. Innocent XI and the then-reigning Pope, Leo XIII. A copy of this image in silver relief was placed over the grave of King Jan in the cathedral of Krakow.

Decoding the Christian Temple: One-day Conference on Church Architecture at Mundelein

For those in the midwest (or willing to travel), I would like to let you know about an upcoming sacred Architecture conference coming up at the end of this month with a friend of the CMAA, Dr. Denis McNamara, and others. I am seriously considering attending this, considering my interest in all things liturgical and ecclesiastical, schedule permitting. It looks fascinating. Full press release below, and more information at their website.
Is your church beige, boring and forgettable? Chances are, it hasn't been thought of as a sacramental building and its architects probably didn't know the Temple roots of church architecture.

Mundelein, IL—To help answer this need, the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, IL announces a one-day conference on church architecture on September 26, 2014, sacramental theologian, author and speaker Fr. Douglas Martis; eminent architectural historian, author and speaker Dr. Denis McNamara; and Office of Worship Director, author and speaker Christopher Carstens will be the featured speakers at a one-day conference at the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, IL.

The title of this conference, Decoding the Christian Temple: Church Architecture and Its Place in Christian Worship is meant to be intriguing on several levels. First of all, "decoding" implies that architecture is iconic and legible, giving the worshipper something to know and understand about God. Second, the word "temple" is a conscious choice, since the often-forgotten roots of church architecture come in large part from the Temple of Solomon, the place of God's dwelling with humanity and a highly symbolic building which represented the New Heavens and the New Earth. To enter the Temple was to leave space and time, walk about on the glorified earth, then go into the presence of God in an architectural rendition of heaven. Moreover, this theology is roundly present in the Rites of the Church, especially the Rite of Dedication of a Church and Altar.

This conference will provide architects, artists, building committees, RCIA Leaders, educators and all who love the Church’s artistic tradition with the foundational theology of art and architecture as provided for us in the Church’s ritual books. If you have ever prayed in a church, this conference will be of interest to you.

This conference will feature four sessions:
  1. The Rite for the Dedication of a Church: The Key for Decoding the Christian Temple: Fr. Douglas Martis
  2. From Temple to Eschaton: The Church Building As Image of the Mystical Body of Christ: Dr. Denis McNamara
  3. Thorny Issues: Seating Plans, Tabernacles, Choirs and More: Christopher Carstens and Dr. Denis McNamara
    • Part I: Encountering the Mystery: Altar, Ambo, Portal, Font
    • Part II: Q&A on Seating Plans, Tabernacles, Choirs and More
  4. From Brown Brick to Radiant Gems: Building the Second Vatican Council’s Heavenly Vision: Dr. Denis McNamara
Date: September 26, 2014; register here.
Where: University of St. Mary of the Lake Conference Center
1000 E. Maple
Mundelein, IL 60060