Friday, September 04, 2015

Latin OF Mass for the Exaltation of the Cross at St Paul’s Cathedral, Worcester, Mass.

On Monday, September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, at 7:00 p.m., a Mass in the Ordinary Form will be celebrated in Latin, ad orientem, by the Very Rev. Msgr. Robert Johnson, at the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Worcester, Massachusetts. The cathedral is located at 38 High St. in Worcester; please click this link for parking information. Music will be provided by the choir of St. John, Guardian of Our Lady Parish in Clinton, Massachusetts, under the direction of Marc DeMille. For more information, please contact the Cathedral of St. Paul or Lucas LaRoche.


Thursday, September 03, 2015

The Asperges in the Ordinary Form?

While preparing my paper for last June’s Sacra Liturgia USA conference, I made a discovery that will perhaps interest some NLM readers. In the traditional Roman Rite, the ceremony of sprinkling the clergy and people with holy water (the Asperges ceremony) takes place before the principal Mass on Sundays.1 Because this ceremony is not part of Mass, the priest wears the cope instead of the chasuble and does not wear the maniple. In the Roman Rite’s ordinary form, the ceremony may be done at any Sunday Mass (including the Saturday evening Mass “of anticipation”) and takes the place of the penitential rite; the celebrant wears the chasuble because Mass has already begun. That much I knew. But then I discovered this . . .

The relevant rubric in the 1970 Missal of Paul VI reads: “When this rite is celebrated it takes the place of the penitential rite at the beginning of Mass.”2 However, the corresponding rubric in the latest (third) typical edition of the Missal, that of 2002, reads: “If this rite is celebrated during Mass, it takes the place of the usual Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass.”3 The 2002 rubric implies that the ceremony may be done outside of Mass.

It would therefore seem permissible in the modern Roman Rite (at least, since 2002) to perform the Rite of Sprinkling — or, for that matter, even the traditional Asperges ceremony — before Sunday Mass (in which case the priest would wear either the cope or the chasuble, although preferably the cope), as would be more in keeping with tradition.4
_____________________

1 The principal Mass need not be Sung or Solemn Mass.
2 “Huiusmodi ritus locum tenet actus pænitentialis initio Missæ peragendi.” Missale Romanum, Vatican typical edition of 1970, p. 889.
3 “Si ritus intra Missam peragitur, locum tenet consueti actus pænitentialis initio Missæ.” Missale Romanum, Vatican typical edition of 2002, p. 1249.
4 In 1967 the cope was suppressed in the Asperges ceremony; the chasuble is worn in its stead.

NLM is Now on Instagram

New Liturgical Movement is now on Instagram! If you are on Instagram, check us out! We hope it provides a glimpse of beauty into your feed every day. While this does not replace our photoposts for feasts, feel free to submit photos to be included by sending them here
A photo posted by New Liturgical Movement (@newliturgicalmovement) on

How a Painting of St Gregory the Great Shows Us the Supernatural End of Education

Today is the OF feast of one of the four great early Latin Fathers and Doctors of the Church, St Gregory the Great. The others are Ss. Jerome, Ambrose and Augustine.
A Benedictine monk, Gregory was known as the Father of Christian Worship because of his reforms to the Roman liturgy, and of course Gregorian chant is named after him (although the degree to which he actually composed it is not so certain). He is the Patron Saint of musicians, singers, teachers and students.

Universalis.com, which has the full office for the day, gives the following reflection on him to accompany the Hours of his feast day:

“He was born in Rome and followed the career of public service that was usual for the son of an aristocratic family, finally becoming Prefect of the City of Rome, a post he held for some years. He founded a monastery in Rome and some others in Sicily, then became a monk himself. He was ordained deacon and sent as an envoy to Constantinople, on a mission that lasted five years.

He was elected Pope on 3 September 590, the first monk to be elected to this office. He reformed the administration of the Church’s estates and devoted the resulting surplus to the assistance of the poor and the ransoming of prisoners. He negotiated treaties with the Lombard tribes who were ravaging northern Italy, and by cultivating good relations with these and other barbarians he was able to keep the Church’s position secure in areas where Roman rule had broken down. His works for the propagation of the faith include the sending of Augustine and his monks as missionaries to England in 596, providing them with continuing advice and support and (in 601) sending reinforcements. He wrote extensively on pastoral care, spirituality, and morals, and designated himself ‘servant of the servants of God.’

He died on 12 March 604, but as this date always falls within Lent, his feast is celebrated on the date of his election as Pope.”


This painting by Jacopo Vignali is on the ceiling of the library of the Dominican house of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. It was painted about 1630, one of a set which show the four Latin Fathers mentioned earlier. He is seen from below, and is there for the contemplation of the studying friars. An angel holds the papal tiara, as the dove of the Holy Spirit comes down to him to inspire him in his writings. One imagines that the friars would look at this painting and hope that Divine Wisdom would be given to them also.

Stylistically, the painting is classic 17th century baroque: we see the contrast of light and dark which is part of the visual vocabulary of the baroque - symbolizing the Light of the World overcoming the darkness. It is interesting to note that the face of St Gregory is in shadow. If this were a portrait, the artist would focus very strongly on the facial features. However, in naturalistic baroque sacred art, the artist emphasizes the facial features less than if he were painting a portrait of the same person. This is because the purpose of the two genres is different.

A portrait seeks to emphasize the individuality of the person, what makes him distinct from all others. Sacred art, on the other hand, seeks to emphasize those aspects that are common to all of us; the desire of the artist is to create an image that inspires us to emulate the deeds of the Saint. We can never emulate those aspects that are peculiar to Gregory, only those qualities in him that are common to all of humanity. So, baroque sacred art seeks to emphasize the whole person. In this respect it is a question of balance; the artist does not wish to remove the sense of an individual altogether, for we always ascertain the general through the particular. But we don’t want to overemphasize the particular to the degree that the perception of his general human characteristics are lost.

This is a mistake that many contemporary artists who have been trained as portraitists make when they turn their hand to sacred art. Very often the work will be skillfully rendered, but in reflecting the portrait artist’s craft, there can be too great an emphasis on the facial features. The end result is something that looks not like a Saint, but a contemporary man - perhaps the artist’s neighbor - dressed up in biblical costume. It resembles a Victorian tableau.

If the face is not a main area of focus, then it introduces new problems for the artist. He must try to indicate some sense of emotion and mood, which one would usually do through facial expression. As this is not available to him in the same way, he will tend to resort to other means. We also discern the mood of a person through body language, or as the art critic would call it, “gesture.” Through gesture, displayed in the body posture, the stance and especially what the subject is doing with his hands and arms, that the artist portrays emotion. This is one reason why the dramatic poses we associate with baroque art are present. The artist does not always put the face in shadow as markedly as we see here, but if there is strong gesture, then we tend to focus less on the face when we look at the painting.


Vignali’s painting is not the dramatic representation of action that we might see in the lives of others Saints - the Conversion of St Paul comes to mind - but still, he is trying to convey a sense of the person through the pose. Compare his painting with this painting of St Gregory in the iconographic tradition, which is less naturalistic and more highly stylized (and so less inclined to look like a portrait), with greater emphasis on the face. Therefore, there is less need to convey information through the gesture, which consequently is much more restrained.


— ♦— 

One question that one might ask in regard to Vignali's painting is this - is this really sacred art? Do we need to follow the principles of sacred art when decorating a library? I would say yes, because the end of all education is supernatural, and the Sacred Liturgy cannot be separated from it. Every education ought to be placed in the context of enhancing our love of God and love of God through love of neighbor. This means, therefore, that regardless of the actual subject taught, the worship of God in the Sacred Liturgy is the ultimate end, in this life, of all education. By this we are transfigured and can bring the love of God and divine wisdom into our daily activities, whatever they may be. An education that is not in accord with this, even if it is Catholic doctrine that is being learned, is not a real education at all. It is sacred learning that points us to the place of the greatest teacher who works though the words and actions of the liturgy. This is why in the medieval colleges, such as we can still see in Oxford, the main quadrangle contained the three most important buildings - the chapel, the library and the dining hall. Each is beautifully decorated, and in design, the two lesser point to and are derived from the higher.

This painting is telling those Dominican friars exactly that point in regard to study.

Writing in 1929, Pius XI wrote the following in his encyclical on education Divini illius magistri: “The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism...For precisely this reason, Christian education takes in the whole aggregate of human life, physical and spiritual, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic and social, not with a view of reducing it in any way, but in order to elevate, regulate and perfect it.” In education, as in all things, the Sacred Liturgy is both the source of grace from which we start and the highest summit towards which it is directed.

— ♦— 

My book the Way of Beauty - Liturgy, Education and Inspiration for Family, School and College is available from Angelico Press and Amazon.

—JAY W. RICHARDS, Editor of the Stream and Lecturer at the Business School of the Catholic University of America said about it:

“In The Way of Beauty, David Clayton offers us a mini-liberal arts education. The book is a counter-offensive against a culture that so often seems to have capitulated to a ‘will to ugliness.’ He shows us the power in beauty not just where we might expect it — in the visual arts and music — but in domains as diverse as math, theology, morality, physics, astronomy, cosmology, and liturgy. But more than that, his study of beauty makes clear the connection between liturgy, culture, and evangelization, and offers a way to reinvigorate our commitment to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the twenty-first century. I am grateful for this book and hope many will take its lessons to heart.”

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Medieval Allegories of the Divine Office

I have often had occasion to quote the medieval canonist and liturgical scholar William Durandus, bishop of Mende in France, who was born in a small town in Provence in 1237, and died at Rome in 1296. His treatise titled “Rationale Divinorum Officiorum – Explanation of the Divine Services” may well be described as a “Summa Liturgica”, for it provides a summary at once general and thorough of the Church’s liturgy, (covering both text and rite), as his contemporary St Thomas Aquinas did for theology in the two Summas. (Click here for information about a recent project of translating the Rationale.)

The tomb of Durandus in the Dominican church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. On the left side, he is presented to the Virgin and Child by St. Privatus, the patron saint of his see; St. Dominic is on the right.
Like earlier medieval writers on the liturgy, (of whom there are not a great many,) Durandus simply takes it for granted that the Church’s received liturgical texts are full of allegories, and may be explained as having a mystical significance greater than their mere letter. In this, his attitude to the liturgy is similar to that of the Church Fathers to the Holy Scriptures, and that of the Biblical authors themselves to earlier parts of the Bible. An interesting example of this is his explanation of the readings of Matins in the period after Pentecost.

The system of Scriptural readings assigned to the Office goes back to the 6th century; it originated in the ancient Roman basilicas, but we know nothing about how it was devised. When it was extensively revised in the Tridentine reform, the basic pattern of readings (Isaiah in Advent, St Paul after Epiphany, Genesis in Septuagesima etc.) was not changed, but completed and expanded. Following the feast of Pentecost, the readings are from the books of Kings until the first Sunday of August, when the Church takes up the Sapiential books, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus. In September are read Job, Tobias, Judith and Esther, followed by the two books of the Maccabees in October, and Ezechiel, Daniel and the twelve minor prophets in November.

As he goes through the liturgical texts of the individual Sundays after Pentecost, Durandus is particularly concerned to explain both the mystical significance of the readings taken from a particular book, and their connection with the Sunday Masses. Of course, the date of Pentecost changes every year, ranging from May 10th to June 13th; therefore, the Office readings, which are tied to the calendar months, coincide with a different Sunday every year. Durandus’ allegorical links between these readings and the Sundays assumes a period of only 24 weeks between Pentecost and Advent, although there can be as many as 28. This section of the Rationale is quite long, and I here give only a few selection from the more interesting passages, all from the sixth book.

On the first Sunday after Pentecost
By Septuagesima we signify the human race’s expulsion from the fatherland of Paradise; by Lent, the people’s servitude under Pharaoh; by Easter, the immolation of the Lamb; by the forty days of Eastertide (i.e. from Easter to Ascension), the forty years in the desert; by the Rogations, the entrance into the promised land; by the seven days of Pentecost, in which seven gifts are apportioned, the division of the land; from the season which begins today, we signify the affliction of the people, and the governance by judges and kings. Therefore, there follow the four books of Kings. …

And here begins the fourth time of pilgrimage, because we are on the way to return to the fatherland. But because we have enemies before we arrive there, namely, the flesh, the world and the devil, the readings are taken from the books of Kings, which treat of wars and victories, that we may have victory, as the Jews did against the Philistines, …

But because war is not waged well without discretion, in the period that follows come the books of Solomon. Again, because vices arise, against which patience is necessary, the history of Job comes after that.

(Referring then to the principal personages whose stories are told in the Books of Kings) Saul is proposed to us as an example, who by disobedience lost (the rule of) the kingdom, that we may not be disobedient as he was, and lose the eternal kingdom. But David was humble in all his works, …

Saul and David, by Rembrandt, ca. 1655
David is preaching, and by the sling of preaching the devil is cast out of the heart of men, … Therefore, because men obtain victory through humility, at the Mass the Introit (of the First Sunday after Pentecost) begins “Lord, I have hoped in Thy mercy” – this shows David’s humility – “my heart hath exulted” – this is the joy of his mind, and through these two things is the battle won.

On the seventh Sunday after Pentecost
(The Sapiential books) are read from the beginning of August to the beginning of September, because this month is hot, and signifies the heat of the vices, in which we must rule (ourselves) wisely, as in the midst of a wicked and perverse nation. Or otherwise, because this month, August, is the sixth month (according to the ancient Roman calendar), whence it was called Sextilis before the time of Augustus Caesar, and our true Solomon (i.e. Christ) came in the sixth age of the world, Who made both one, and was the might of God, and the wisdom of God, and who taught us to live and teach wisely.

On the ninth Sunday after Pentecost
The book of Wisdom is read. Wisdom is to think about heavenly things, and lift the heart up to them, … and because a man cannot lift himself above himself, but must be drawn by the Lord, therefore the Introit says, “Behold God is my helper: and the Lord is the protector (‘susceptor’) of my soul”, that is, one who taketh upwards (‘sursum captor’.) ”

King Salomon, by Pedro Berruguete, ca. 1500
On the twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
The twelfth Sunday is about prayer, and Job, as it were is portrayed, praying and sitting upon the dung heap (Job 2, 8) complaining about his false friends. … Job upon the dung heap is symbolically the soul in mortal sin, … and while it remains there, can only pray God to deliver it thence; wherefore the Introit begins “O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.” …

But in the Offertory is shown the efficacy of prayer, and the whole text is the prayer of Moses, taken from Exodus (chapter 32), when he prayed for the children of Israel, who made the golden calf for themselves, … which proves that the merits of the Saints benefit us.

On the thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
The book of Tobias is read, by whom the human race is represented, made blind by the sin of the first parent, which can only be healed by the bitterness of the Passion, which is signified by the gall (placed on Tobias’ eyes to heal them in chapter 11). … it says in the Introit, “Look, o Lord, upon Thy covenant, … and forget not to the end the souls of thy poor.” And this is what Tobias said to his son, “Fear not, my son: we lead indeed a poor life, but we shall have many good things if we fear God.”

On the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
(T)he Church reads and sings about the Maccabees, who suffered many things under Antiochus and seven (foreign) nations. And by this it is held that the temple, which was polluted by those peoples, was purified by the Maccabees. By this it is signified that the soul, which is the temple of God, once polluted by the seven deadly vices, cannot be purified unless it be purified of sin.

Heliodorus Driven from the Temple (2 Maccabees 3), by Bertholet Flémal, 1658-62, following Raphael’s depiction of the same subject in the Stanza di Elidoro in the Vatican Museums.

Dominican Rite Absolution for Confessions during a Jubilee

Yesterday, the Holy Father announced the indulgences and other grants of pardon for the coming Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning December 8, 2015. Among the items listed was a grant to all priests of the faculty to absolve from the sin of abortion, by which surely means the faculty to absolve from the penalty of automatic excommunication incurred by those procuring an abortion. Something commonly reserved to the bishop.

A short time ago, I announced the availability of wallet cards giving the various forms of Sacramental Absolution according to the traditional Dominican Rite.  On the second of those cards, is included the form of absolution to be used during a Jubilee.  In the spirit of the Jubilee, I am making the PDFs for these cards freely available here and here. The first link downloads the card with the long, "more common," form of absolution, the second the shorter forms, and on the back the form specific to times of Jubilee.  Each download is two pages long.  Print each double sided, trim the card, and laminate it.  They will fit easily into your wallet.

Previously I asked those interested to write me for the cards.  That is no longer necessary, unless you want me to print the cards and mail them to you.  If you do, follow the directions in my previous post about the cards.

More from the Ars Celebrandi Workshops in Poland

The organizers of the Ars Celebrandi workshops recently held in Poland have produced a nice video highlighting their many different activities, the various liturgies, as well as the seminars and lectures. There are a few captions in Polish, but most of it covered by music. They have also set up galleries with over 800 photographs, which you can access here by clicking here.


Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Upcoming Events at Steubenville ; EF Pontifical with Card. Burke, Conference on the Synod, Lecture by Dr Kwasniewski

On Tuesday, September 8, the feast of Our Lady’s Nativity, Raymond Cardinal Burke will celebrate a Pontifical High Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, located at 425 N 4th St., in Steubenville, Ohio. The Mass will begin at 10:30 a.m., sung by the University’s Schola Cantorum Franciscana, directed by Nicholas Will, professor of Sacred Music, and accompanied on the organ by Andrew Barnick. That evening, His Eminence will give a keynote address on the upcoming Synod on the Family and the instrumentum laboris, followed by a panel discussion of expert theologians and philosophers, including himself and NLM’s own Dr. Peter Kwasniewski. This will take place at Franciscan University of Steubenville, complete information about the program of events is available at this link.

Corrigendum: Please note that Card. Burke’s keynote address, and the panel discussion which follows, have been moved from the originally proposed venue to the Finnegan Fieldhouse, as noted at the given link above.

On the evening before, Monday, September 7th, Dr Kwasniewski will deliver a lecture entitled “The Old Mass and the New Evangelization: Beyond the Long Winter of Rationalism,” at 8 p.m. in the Gentile Gallery of the J.C. Williams Center at FUS.

Card. Burke celebrating Mass at the Fota conference this July.

Thoughts on the Abandonment and Recovery of Church Slavonic

I dearly love the Eastern Christian liturgies and have the very fondest memories of the almost 8-year span at the International Theological Institute in Austria when my family and I were able to attend Divine Liturgy in English, Ukrainian, and Romanian (on a rotating basis). One thing that particularly captivated me was learning several of the chants in Church Slavonic. Of course I don't "get" Slavonic from a grammatical point of view, but I knew what the prayers were saying, and the combination of the language and the melodies was captivating.

Hence, when I saw this piece yesterday at Opus Publicum, "Some Thoughts on Church Slavonic in the Liturgy," it caught my attention and I wanted to share it with NLM readers:
Church Slavonic, like all extant liturgical languages, is a dying tongue. The Russian Orthodox Church remains the single largest user of Slavonic, though many of its parishes in the diaspora—including those of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)—have abandoned it in favor of the vernacular. The Orthodox Church in America, with few exceptions, has completely dropped Slavonic and other local churches, such as the Bulgarian and Serbian Orthodox, have moved away from it as well. The main argument against using Slavonic in the liturgy is that few understand it anymore, particularly outside of traditional Orthodox homelands. In the Greek Catholic context, those churches which draw their heritage from the Slavic tradition now favor the vernacular. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), which was once the largest Catholic communion to use Church Slavonic, now serves most of its liturgies in Ukrainian (with exceptions made for parishes in other parts of the world). This is somewhat ironic given all of the effort the Congregation for Oriental Churches put into producing a master set of “de-Latinized” Slavonic liturgical books for the Ukrainian and Ruthenian churches between the 1940s and 70s. So, is it time to move on from Church Slavonic? Should the liturgical language which sustained the Eastern Slavic churches (Catholic and Orthodox) for a millennium be abandoned once and for all? Or is it still possible to maintain a liturgical link to the past without sacrificing intelligibility to the point where the liturgy becomes either a museum piece or a performance?
Read the rest of the article there.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The EF Returns to Macau, China

This coming Saturday, a votive Mass of the Virgin Mary will be celebrated in the Chapel of St Joseph Seminary on the island of Macau, with music by a local ensemble, Die Konzertisten, singing the Mass in E-flat of Josef Rheinberger and an Ave Maria by Victoria. This will be the first EF publicly celebrated in Macau in recent decades; details in the poster, below which is a photo of the chapel where the Mass will be celebrated.



Saturday, August 29, 2015

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 2015. You may also find interesting this article from two years ago 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” is actually August 30th, the closest Sunday to the first day of September, and the third Sunday of September is September 13th.

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 16th, 18th and 19th. 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 the months from August to November is always that which occurs first within the calendar month. According to this system, the first Sunday of September is the 6th this year; the third will be therefore be the 20th, and the Ember Days will be the 23rd, 25th and 26th.

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 may have three or four weeks, but never five. 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.

The Sundays for the rest of the liturgical year, according to the traditional system:

August 30th - the 1st Sunday of September
September 6 - the 2nd Sunday of September
September 13 - the 3rd Sunday of September (Ember week)
September 20 - the 4th Sunday of September
September 27 - the 5th Sunday of September

October 4 - the 1st Sunday of October
October 11 - the 2nd Sunday of October (The Maternity of the Virgin Mary)
October 18 - the 3rd Sunday of October (St Luke the Evangelist)
October 25 - the 4th Sunday of October (Christ the King)

November 1 - the 1st Sunday of November (All Saints’ Day)
November 8 - the 3rd Sunday of November
November 15 - the 4th Sunday of November
November 22 - the 5th Sunday of November

The Sundays for the rest of the liturgical year, according to the 1960 system:

August 30th - the 5th Sunday of August
September 6 - the 1st Sunday of September
September 13 - the 2nd Sunday of September
September 20 - the 3rd Sunday of September (Ember week)
September 27 - the 4th Sunday of September

October 4 - the 1st Sunday of October
October 11 - the 2nd Sunday of October
October 18 - the 3rd Sunday of October
October 25 - the 4th Sunday of October (Christ the King)

November 1 - the 1st Sunday of November (All Saints’ Day)
November 8 - the 3rd Sunday of November
November 15 - the 4th Sunday of November
November 22 - the 5th Sunday of November

The Christian Environmentalism that the Media Choose to Ignore

We Need More People in World, Not Fewer...
And the Liturgy to Transform Them

We need more people in the world, not fewer, if we are to solve the worlds problems. And we need more gardeners - I am serious here. For the true gardener is the man transformed in Christ who works in the world to raise it up to what it is meant to be.


It is common nowadays for people to think of man as an unnatural animal whose work necessarily destroys the environment. Much of the back to the land movement, I always feel, has a romantic vision of the past, and assumes that only a man who lives as he did before industrialization can live in harmony with nature. This pessimistic view of modern man could be seen in various influential figures going back to to Rousseau in 18th-century France, a man who hated industrialization and thought that all modern society corrupted ideal man. The ideal for Rousseau was the noble savage who, unlike modern man, could be conceived of as an intrinsic part of nature, living with it as the animals do, rather than in opposition to it.

This may all sound fairly innocuous stuff - a high regard for the environment is good thing, surely? But in fact it is a modern form of neo-paganism, which removes man from his a place as the highest part of creation to something separate from it, and lower than it. This false elevation of the rest of creation to something greater than man in the hierarchy of being has serious, deadly consequences. And I do mean deadly.


Man is not only part of nature, he is absolutely necessary to it - the eco-system needs the interaction of man in order to be complete. Through Gods grace human activity is the answer to all the environmental problems we have, not the cause. This is the part of Pope Franciss message in his latest encyclical, a fact which so many eco-warriors who were enthusiastic about the encyclical seem not to have noticed...or to have ignored. It is possible to have cities, heavy industry, mass production, and forms of capitalism that are creative expressions of the Gods plan for the world, and which add to the beauty and the stability of nature. However, we do need a transformation of the culture in order to see a greater realization of this. The formation, which I believe will lead to such an evangelization of the culture, is derived from a liturgically centered piety and is described in the book the Way of Beauty.



For me, the flower garden is the model of natural beauty in so many ways. First, it symbolizes the true end of the natural world, in which its beauty can only be realised through the inspired work of man. It symbolizes what Eden was to become. It is worth noting that Adam was the first gardener and Christ, the new Adam, prayed in the garden during the passion, was buried and resurrected in the garden, and after the resurrection was mistaken by Mary Magdalene for the gardener.

Here is a quote from St Augustine from the Office of Readings on the Feast of St Lawrence, August 10th:
The garden of the Lord, brethren, includes – yes, it truly includes – not only the roses of martyrs, but also the lilies of virgins, and the ivy of married people, and the violets of widows. There is absolutely no kind of human beings, my dearly beloved, who need to despair of their vocation; Christ suffered for all. It was very truly written about him: who wishes all men to be saved, and to come to the acknowledgement of the truth.

This may seem a rather innocent little quote about flowers and the things of religion - martyrs and virgins and so on, but in fact it reveals so much about the difference in attitudes between one of the Faith, and the modern world. Heres how: we see Rousseaus worldview today in many of the green movements that assume that any influence that man has on the eco-system is bad, because man himself is an unnatural entrant into it, not a part of it. 


Millions of people have been killed as a result of a simple philosophical error. If we believe that civilized mans effect on the environment is necessarily destructive, then the only method of an effective damage limitation is to limit the number of people in the world. The most effective way to do this is to control the population, and, because they do not wish to dispense of the pleasure of sex, the solutions offered are contraception and abortion.

The Christian understanding of man and his interaction with the natural world is very different. The first point to make is that both are imperfect. We are fallen and we live in a fallen world. Man is part of nature, and it is certainly true that his activity can be destructive on the environment (just as he can commit the gravest crimes against his fellows). However, through Gods grace and the proper exercise of free will, he can choose to behave differently. He can work to perfect nature. He has the privilege of participating in the work of God that will eventually lead to the perfection of all things in Christ. Then all man does is in harmony with nature, and with the common good. This is the via pulchritudinis, the Way of Beauty.


There are so many signs in modern culture that reveal this flawed perception of the place of man in relation to his fellows. The changing attitude to the garden is one of these. Even in something that seems so far removed from the issue of abortion, we can see a change which has at its root, in my opinion, the same flaw.

What is the model of natural beauty? For the modern green, neo-pagan it is the wilderness. National parks in the US seek to preserve nature in a way that they perceive as unaffected by man (although this is an impossibility, even the most remote national park is managed wilderness!) I do not say that is a bad thing that some part of nature is preserved, or that the wilderness is not beautiful. Rather, the point is that it is not the pinnacle of nature, and it is not the standard of natural beauty. When man works harmoniously with the environment, then he makes something more beautiful. Beautifully and harmoniously farmed land takes the breath away - as we might see in the countryside of France, Spain, England and Italy, for example, places of which I am familiar. This the sort of landscape in which Wordsworth saw his host of wild golden daffodils.


Higher still is the garden that is cultivated for beauty alone. A garden is a symbol of the Church. Each part, each plant is in harmony with every other, just as every person is unique and has his place in Gods plan, as St Augustine points out in the quote given above. Gardens will have their place in the New Jerusalem. We know this because the description of the City of God in the Book of Revelation contains gardens.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Legend of St Augustine

St Augustine Confounds the Devil, by Michael Pacher, 1471-75, in the Alte Pinakothek of Munich.
It is also read that while St Augustine was alive in the flesh, and was reading certain things, he saw a demon pass before him carrying a book on its shoulders. And he at once abjured it that it show him what lay written therein. And the demon said that the sins of men were written therein, which it had gathered from all parts and put down in it. And he at once ordered it to show him at once and let him read if the book had any of his own sins written down in it. When it had shown him the place, Augustine found nothing written there, except that one time he had forgotten to say Compline; and commanding the devil to wait for him, he entered a church and said Compline devoutly, and completing the usual prayers, he return to it, and told it to show him the place (in the book) so that he might read it again. And as it turned the book over and over again and found that place empty, it said in anger “You have shamefully deceived me, I regret that I showed you my book, because you have cancelled your sin by the power of your prayers.” And having spoken thus, it disappeared confounded. (From The Golden Legend of Blessed Jacopo da Voragine)

The Carthusian Salve Regina

I just happened to stumble across this recording of the Salve Regina sung by monks of the Grande Chartreuse, the mother house of the Carthusian Order. It is accompanied by a number of pictures, including several stills from the famous movie Into Great Silence; the last minute and a half seems to be the soundtrack of one of the best parts of the film, when the monks go sledding. Note that there are a few differences from the text of the Roman version; it begins “Salve, Regina misericordiae, vitae dulcedo - Hail, Queen of Mercy, the sweetness of life,” and the word “Virgo” is omitted at the end. Note also the slowness and simplicity of the chant, even though this is the more solemn version of the Salve Regina, typical of the austerity of Carthusian life in all of its aspects.


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