Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Roman Pilgrim at the Station Churches 2015 (Part 3)

Ember Wednesday in the First Week of Lent - Station at Saint Mary Major
I have written previously about the Station Churches on the Ember Days of Lent, and their relationship to the Scriptural readings of the Mass, once in an article written jointly with Shawn, and again in this article.

Thursday in the First Week of Lent - Station at Saint Lawrence ‘in Panisperna’
As can be seen in the last two photographs taken at this church, it is the home of a very impressive relic collection.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Theology of the Offertory - Part 7.5 - The Use of Toledo

The Iberian peninsula was the last part of Western Europe to adopt the Roman Rite; a detailed history of how its ancient Mozarabic liturgy was gradually replaced by the Roman, starting in the later decades of the 11th-century, is given in the old Catholic Encyclopedia. When the Roman Rite was introduced into the various kingdoms which now form the nations of Spain and Portugal, the Offertory prayers were certainly not new; they were, however, still in the process of formation, as I have documented elsewhere. Like all the later additions to the Mass, (such as the Sequences, the prayers at the beginning of the Mass, etc.), they were subject to a great deal of variation in the Medieval period, in Spain no less than elsewhere.

For this series, I will describe the Offertory in the pre-Tridentine missal of the Primatial See of Toledo in this article, and that of Seville, one of the most ancient Christian centers in Spain, in a later article. This selection is determined partly by the materials available for consultation, and partly because within those materials, these are the two most interesting and complex variants. Many other Spanish cathedrals used forms of the Offertory which were very similar to these two; others simply adopted the Roman form. Among the latter is also the Use of Braga, the Primatial See of Portugal, in which the Offertory varies only slightly from the Roman Use; I will therefore not include it in this survey, although it was the only See on the peninsula to retain its medieval use after the Tridentine reform.

The Cathedral of Toledo (image from wikipedia)
The Use of Toledo

The Missal of Toledo, printed at Lyon in France in 1551, (available on googlebooks) is unusual for its period in that it contains a fairly detailed “Ordo celebrandi Missam – the Order for celebrating Mass.” Unfortunately, this Ordo does not always agree with the rubrics given in the missal itself, and mixes the rites of both Solemn and Low Mass. Here I will follow the order of the Solemn Mass.

While the subdeacon sings the Epistle, the priest or the deacon opens the corporal in the middle of the altar, directly over the altar stone, saying, “In nomine Patris etc. In tuo conspectu, quaesumus, Domine, haec nostra munera tibi placita sint; ut nos tibi placere valeamus. – In the name of the Father etc. May these our gifts be pleasing to Thee in Thy sight, we ask, O Lord; that we may be able to please Thee.” To these words are added, from the end of Psalm 23, “Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in. Who is this King of Glory? the Lord who is strong and mighty: the Lord mighty in battle. The Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory.” This may also be done at the beginning of the Mass, or before the Gospel, or after it.

The Ordo celebrandi says that the chalice and host are prepared before the singing of the Gospel, but a rubric in the missal says that it may also be done before the Mass, or before the Offertory. (These variants may be for the celebration of Low and Sung Masses.) As the priest or the deacon lays the host on the paten, he says “Benedictio Dei Pa+tris omnipotentis, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti descendat et maneat super hanc hostiam tibi Deo Patri offerendam. Amen. – May the blessing of God, the Fa+ther almighty, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, descend and remain upon this host that is to be offered to Thee, God the Father. Amen.” (It is unusual for deacons to bless something in this way, but the letter of the rubric clearly says “either the deacon, or the priest himself” does this.)

The missal gives a prayer to be said while cleaning the inside of the chalice, “Dignare Domine mundare vas istud, in quo sumere preciosum sanctum corpus tuum valeam. Qui cum Patre etc. – Deign, o Lord, to cleanse this vessel, that I may be able to receive in it Thy holy and precious Body. Who with the Father.” It is odd that the Ordo celebrandi makes no mention of it; I strongly suspect that “sanctum corpus” instead of “sanguinem” is a printer’s error. As he pours the wine into the chalice, the priest or deacon says, “Misce quaesumus Domine in calice isto, quod manavit ex latere tuo, ut fiat in remissionem peccatorum nostrorum. Qui cum Patre etc. – Mix, we ask, o Lord, in this chalice, that which came forth from Thy side, that it may be unto the remission of our sins. Who with the Father etc.”

The deacon or an acolyte then proffers the water to be blessed, saying “Give the blessing, lord.”; the priest says “Ab illo benedicatur, cujus spiritus super aquas ferebatur. In nomine Patris etc. – May it be blessed by Him, whose Spirit moved above the waters. In the name of the Father etc.” The priest then pours a small amount of the water on the floor, saying “Ex latere Domini nostri Jesu Christi sanguis et aqua exivit. – From the side of our Lord Jesus Christ came forth blood and water.” He continues with “haec ideo nos pariter commiscemus – therefore we likewise mix these things”, and then pours a few drops into the chalice, saying, “ut misericors Deus utrumque ad medelam animarum nostrarum sanctificare dignetur. Per eundem etc. – that God in His mercy may deign to sanctify them both for the healing of our souls. Through the same etc.”

Two leaves of the 1551 Missal of Toledo
Assuming that this is all done before the Gospel, when the priest has read the Offertory, he receives the paten and host from the deacon, and standing in the middle of the altar, lifts it with both hands, and raising his eyes, says “Acceptabilis sit majestati tuae, omnipotens Deus, haec nostra oblatio, quam tibi offerimus pro reatibus, et facinoribus nostris, et pro stabilitate sanctae Catholicae et Apostolicae Ecclesiae. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen. – May this our offering be acceptable to Thy majesty, almighty God, which we offer to Thee for our sins and offenses, and for the stability of the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” He then makes the sign of the cross with the paten and host, saying “In the name of the Father etc.”, and lays the host on the corporal above the altar stone.

The same is done with the chalice, the prayer being “Offerimus tibi, Domine, Jesu Christi Filii tui calicem, humiliter implorantes clementiam tuam, ut ante conspectum divinae majestati tuae, cum odore suavitatis ascendat. Per eundum Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen. – We offer to Thee, o Lord, the chalice of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, humbly imploring Thy clemency, that before the sight of Thy divine majesty, it may ascend with the odor of sweetness. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.” The chalice is set behind the host, and then covered with a small corporal, which is called “filiola (the little daughter)” in Latin, “hijuela” in Spanish. This is also accompanied by a prayer: “Hanc oblationem, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, placatus accipe, et omnium offerentium, et eorum pro quibus tibi offertur, peccata indulge. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen. – Peaceably accept this offering, we ask, almighty God, and forgive the sins of all who offer (it), and of those for whom it is offered to Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” The Ordo celebrandi specifies that it is to be folded (plicaturas habeat), both to cover and decorate the chalice (ut calicem et tegat et exornet).

Bowing low and folding his hands, the priest says “Domine Deus, omnipotens Pater, bene+dic et sanctifica hoc sacrificium laudis, quod tibi oblatum est ad honorem, et gloriam nominis tui, et parce peccatis populi tui, et exaudi orationem meam, et dimitte mihi omnia peccata mea. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen. – Lord God, almighty Father, bless + and sanctify this sacrifice of praise, which is offered to Thee for the honor and glory of Thy name, and forbear the sins of Thy people, and hear my prayer, and forgive me all my sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

In the Solemn Mass, incense is then blessed with the same blessing as in the Roman Rite. The words which the priest says while incensing are, “Placare, Domine, per hoc incensum mihi et populo tuo, parcens peccatis nostris, et quiescat ira et furor tuus, et praesta propitius, ut bonus odor simus tibi in vitam aeternam. Amen. – Be thou reconciled, o Lord, through this incense, to me and to Thy people, forbearing our sins; and may Thy wrath and furor rest, and grant in Thy mercy, that we may be a good odor to Thee, unto eternal life. Amen.”

As in other rites, such as that of Paris, the people may then present their offerings; if this is done, the priest “gives a blessing to the people, and extending his stole to those who make the offerings with his right hand, says, ‘Centuplum accipias, et vitam aeternam possideas in regno Dei. Amen. – May thou receive a hundred-fold, and possess eternal life in the kingdom of God. Amen.’ ”

This is followed by the sermon, and in parish churches, by the blessing of bread, with the following prayers: “Adjutorium nostrum. Sit nomen Domini. Bene+dic, Domine, creaturam istam panis, sicut benedixisti quinque panes in deserto; ut omnes gustantes ex eo recipiant sanitatem tam animæ quam corporis. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen. Bene+dictio Dei Patris omnipotentis, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti descendat et maneat super hunc panem, et super omnes ex eo comedentes. – Our help is in the name. Blessed be. (as in the Pontifical blessing). Bless +, o Lord, this creature of bread, as Thou blessed the five loaves in the desert; that all who taste thereof may receive health of both soul and body. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. May the bless+ing of God, the Father almighty, the Son and the Holy Spirit, come down and abide upon this bread, and upon all that eat thereof.”

At the Lavabo, only verses 6, 7 and 9 of Psalm 25 are printed in the missal, but the Ordo celebrandi says that the priest may say all the verses (from 6-12) said in the Roman Rite. Bowing low again, and “cum gemitu – with a groan”, the priest then says In spiritu humilitatis and Veni Sancte Spiritus. The former differs from the Roman Rite exactly as in the Dominican Use: “In a spirit of humility, and in contrite heart, may we be received by Thee, o Lord; and so may our sacrifice take place in Thy sight this day, that it may be received by Thee, and please Thee, o Lord.” The latter reads as follows: “Veni sancte Spiritus, sanctificator, sanctifica hoc sacrificium, de manibus meis tibi praeparatum. – Come, o Holy Spirit, the sanctifier, and sanctify this sacrifice, prepared for Thee from my hands.”

He continues with “In nomine sanctae Trinitatis, et individuae Unitatis, descendat - In the name of the Holy Trinity, and undivided Unity, may there descend”; he then stands up and says “hic Angelus bene+dictionis, et consecrationis super hoc munus. Amen. – here the angel of bless+ing and consecration upon this gift. Amen.” At this point, there is a discrepancy between the rubric of the missal and the Ordo celebrandi. The former says that he makes the sign of the Cross once over “the whole offering” (i.e. the host and chalice). The latter says that at the words “blessing and consecration”, he makes the sign of the cross over first the host, then the chalice, with two fingers; after which, at the words “upon this gift”, he touches the host and chalice with his hands.

Toledo’s form of the Orate fratres is as follows: “Obsecro vos, fratres, orate pro me peccatore ad Dominum, ut meum sacrificum pariterque vestrum votum sit Deo acceptum. – I beseech you, brethren, pray for me a sinner to the Lord, that my sacrifice and your prayer may be acceptable to God.” The response is “Suscipiat omnipotens Deus sacrificium de manibus tuis, et dimittat tibi omnia peccata tua, ad laudem et gloriam nominis sancti sui, et utilitatem Ecclesiae suae Sanctae. – May God almighty receive the sacrifice from thy hands, and forgive thee all thy sins, to the praise and glory of His holy name, and the good of his holy Church.”

The main façade of Toledo Cathedral, seen from Plaza del Ayuntmiento. The brick work on lower right side is part of a belltower which was begun to match the one on the left, but never finished. Within it is the Chapel of the Sacrament, founded by Francisco Jiménez Cardinal de Cisneros to preserve the Mozarabic liturgy. (image from wikipedia)
Two observations

Two unusual characteristics of the Missal of Toledo call for special note. One is the absence of the prayer Suscipe Sancta Trinitas, which is found (with many variants) in every other Use I have studied thus far. The other is the presence of two long prayers which the priest may say after the Lavabo “if he wishes, and time permits,” while standing at the middle of the altar. The first of these is labelled “An apologetic prayer of St Ambrose”, the other simply “another prayer.” In a previous article of this series, I have described the “apologia”, a prayer in which the priest protests his unworthiness to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Many early sacramentaries contain prayers of this type, but Toledo is highly unusual in having preserved them so late as the mid-16th century. Elsewhere, they had largely disappeared by the end of the 12th century, in no small measure because they tend to be unbelievably long. They were effectively replaced by the collections of prayers, to be said in preparation for Mass, which can be found in most later Missals, including that of St Pius V. I will give the Apologias of the Toledo Missal in Latin and English in a separate post.

The Theology of the Offertory - Series to Resume

Last year, between February and September, I posted a series of articles on “The Theology of the Offertory.” The series has been on hold for several months, partly because I encountered  a major roadblock in the course of researching it, which I was only recently able to clear away; and partly because I have been constantly distracted by other projects, the day-to-day business of managing NLM, and life. Quite a few people have been encouraging me to take it up again, and now that Lent is upon us, it is time to get disciplined and get back to work on it. A new article in the series will be published very shortly; in the meantime, here is a recap of the earlier articles.

Part 1 : A Response to a Recent Article Quoted on Pray Tell
Part 2 : The Offertory and the Priesthood in the Liturgy
Part 3 : A Different Theology?
Part 4 : An Ecumenical Problem
Part 5 : What the Offertory Really Means
Part 6 : Prolepsis in the Offertory

The Offertory prayers are an early Medieval addition to the Order of Mass, and like all such later additions, (including the prayers before the altar at the beginning, and the priest’s prayers before Communion), occur in different forms in the various Uses of the Roman Rite. The articles of part 7 cover the variants of the Offertory in a selection of such Uses.

Part 7.1 : The Missals of the Religious Orders
Part 7.2 : The Missal of the Monastic Orders
Part 7.3 : Medieval English Uses
Part 7.4 : Medieval French Uses

We will pick things up again with descriptions of the Offertory in medieval Spanish Uses.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Byzantine Liturgy in the Basilicas of Rome

Last week, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kiev-Halych, led an “ad limina” visit of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic hierarchy, of which he has been the head since March 2011. In the course of their stay in Rome, he and the other bishops celebrated the Divine Liturgy in a number of churches, including Saint John in the Lateran, the Pope’s own cathedral, St Paul’s outside-the-Walls, and St Mary Major. The Pontifical Ukrainian Institute of the Protection of the Holy Mother of God, (Папський Український Iнститут Покрова Пресвятої Богородиці) has posted a large number of photographs of these liturgies to their facebook page; you can see the complete albums at the following links. (first; second; third.) We are grateful for their kind permission to repost some of them here on NLM.

At Saint John in the Lateran

At Saint Paul’s outside-the-Walls

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An Icon of the Coptic New Martyrs of Libya

I am sure that all of our readers are aware of the recent massacre in Libya of a group of Egyptian Copts, who were killed for their faith by Islamic terrorists. The Patriarch of Alexandria, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, has officially recognized them as martyrs, and ordered that their commemoration be inserted into the Synaxarium; their feast will be kept on February 15th, the same day as the Presentation of the Lord in the Alexandrian Rite. The title “New Martyr” was originally used in the East for those killed by heretical Christian rulers, but has subsequently been extended to all those who received the crown of martyrdom under various kinds of tyranny.

Among the 21 martyrs was a man named Matthew Ayariga, a native of the sub-Saharan nation of Ghana. His name was at first erroneously reported as Samuel Wilson, but his real name, and his death among the group, has reportedly been confirmed by family members. He has also been recognized as a Saint and New Martyr no less than the others, although he was not a member of the Coptic Church. This report was known to the writer of this icon, Tony Rezk, who has represented him here in the middle of the group. Note also that the rest of them are shown with the same face as Jesus, whose Holy Name they spoke as they were killed; the sea behind them is shown reddened by their blood. The red stoles and crowns above them symbolize their martyrdom; the stoles are arranged like those of Coptic deacons during the liturgy.

Let us all remember during the course of this Lent to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world, but most especially in the Middle East, and ask for the intercession of all of the Saints on their behalf.

Ash Wednesday 2015 Photopost

Lent is upon us again. As usual, we have a selection of photos sent in by readers from around the world.
Holy Innocents in NYC

Mount Saint Peter Church
New Kensington PA

Parish of the Holy Family
Diocese of Cubao
Sponsored by Una Voce Philippines

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Roman Pilgrim at the Station Churches 2015 (Part 2)

First Sunday of Lent - Saint John in the Lateran
The first two photographs show the cloister attached to the Pope’s cathedral; the third and fourth are of the procession that preceded the Mass.

Harmonious Proportions in Furniture

Here is a video produced by the writers of the book By Hand and Eye, about using harmonious proportion in traditional furniture. Some readers may remember that I featured this book a year ago, to demonstrate how ordinary things in the home can be made beautiful and create a culture that points to the beauty of the cosmos and, I believe, draw people to God. The link is here.

The numerical relationships in the furniture correspond to that in the patterns of the cosmos. Because the liturgy follows the motions of the cosmos too, all are interconnected and all point to Beauty itself. In this way, we can order all aspects of time and space according to liturgical principles, so that all things may point us to the invisible standard that connects them all, God.

The writers of the book are not, to my knowledge, interested in connecting traditional New England furniture to the liturgy; their interest is simply what gives this furniture characteristically elegant so that they can incorporate it into the furniture they make.

Don't forget the Way of Beauty online courses www.Pontifex.University (go to the Catalog) for college credit, for continuing ed. units, or for audit. A formation through an encounter with a cultural heritage - for artists, architects, priests and seminarians, and all interested in contributing to the 'new epiphany of beauty'. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Roman Pilgrim at the Station Churches 2015 (Part 1)

As she did last year, my friend Agnese is attending the Stational Masses organized by the Vicariate of Rome throughout Lent, and has once again very kindly allowed us to share her photographs of them. A procession is normally held before the Station Masses, which, in accordance with the traditional Lenten discipline of the Church, take place in the evening; many of the churches bring out large numbers of reliquaries and place them on the altar, or somewhere in the church to be venerated by the faithful.

Thursday after Ash Wednesday - Saint George “in Velabro”

The structure in the background is called the Arch of Janus, but was probably a triumphal arch dedicated to an Emperor of the early 4th century, possibly Constantine or one of his sons. It has had an oddly squat appearance since 1830, when its upper stage, incorrectly believed to be a medieval addition, was removed.  

His Eminence Gianfranco Ravasi, Cardinal Deacon of San Giorgio in Velabro and President of the Pontifical Councils for Culture and for Sacred Archeology.
Friday after Ash Wednesday - Saints John and Paul

The procession departs from the Basilica

Music for the Eucharistic Sacrifice (Part 3)

Part 1 and Part 2 of this series made use of the profound teaching of Pope Pius XII in Mediator Dei to help articulate how everything we do and make for the liturgy, especially music, must be in full accord with its inherent nature and qualities, if we expect God to be pleased with what we offer and our own sanctification to result.

Today I will complete the series with reflections on three paragraphs from the same encyclical that focus on the interior attitude of the worshiping Christian.
81. It is quite true that Christ is a priest; but He is a priest not for Himself but for us, when in the name of the whole human race He offers our prayers and religious homage to the eternal Father; He is also a victim for us, since He substitutes Himself for sinful man. Now the exhortation of the Apostle, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” requires that all Christians should possess, as far as is humanly possible, the same dispositions as those which the divine Redeemer had when He offered Himself in sacrifice: that is to say, they should, in a humble attitude of mind, pay adoration, honor, praise, and thanksgiving to the supreme majesty of God. Moreover, it means that they must assume to some extent the character of a victim, that they deny themselves as the Gospel commands, that freely and of their own accord they do penance and that each detests and satisfies for his sins. It means, in a word, that we must all undergo with Christ a mystical death on the cross so that we can apply to ourselves the words of St. Paul, “With Christ I am nailed to the cross” (Gal 2:19).
The emphasis on Christ as Priest and Victim can no longer exactly be called popular today, and yet it sums up simply and effectively how Our Lord saved mankind by a sanguinary redemption that purchased for us forgiveness of every sin, eternal life, and the ourpouring of the Holy Spirit, which brings with it all the means necessary to be holy in this world. In short, we owe everything we are and everything we do as Christians to Christ’s perfect oblation on the Cross. The Mass was given to us precisely to place us in mind of, in the presence of, and in real contact with this saving mystery of love. Our mystical participation in it is the wellspring of our life and the pattern to which we are conformed.

If our experience of the Mass and its “externals” seems to say to us little or nothing of the “religious homage” offered to the eternal Father by Jesus Christ, the high priest of our confession and victim for our sins; if it does not cultivate in us explicit acts of “adoration, honor, praise, and thanksgiving to the supreme majesty of God” (including the very consciousness of His majesty!); if it does not lead us ever deeper into the sacrificial death of Christ so that we understand ourselves to be, and desire ourselves to be, victims with him in a “mystical death on the cross”—then one might well wonder whether it is serving its supernatural purpose at all. For sure, the mystery is still present if the consecration is valid; but are we present to the mystery? Has the liturgy, have the texts, ceremonies, music, and other elements, made us present to the Lord, Priest and Victim, as they are meant to do?
100. …While we stand before the altar, then, it is our duty so to transform our hearts, that every trace of sin may be completely blotted out, while whatever promotes supernatural life through Christ may be zealously fostered and strengthened even to the extent that, in union with the immaculate Victim, we become a victim acceptable to the eternal Father.
The liturgy is supposed to develop our “supernatural life through Christ,” which has its root in our interior life. The “interior man,” the “new Adam,” needs to be cultivated—his existence is caused by baptism, certainly, and he receives new powers at confirmation, but his growth and maturation cannot be taken for granted and will not happen automatically. The old Adam will take over again and reign supreme if we do not take seriously “the duty to transform our hearts” until we become “a victim acceptable to the eternal Father.” The liturgy itself ought to be such as will cultivate our interiority, our inner life, our genuine awareness and desire for spiritual goods, for the heavenly fatherland. I am reminded of a passage in Veritatis Splendor (n. 7), where, speaking of the search for the meaning of life, John Paul II observes: “This is in fact the aspiration at the heart of every human decision and action, the quiet searching and interior prompting which sets freedom in motion.”

A richly filled and ordered space for “quiet searching and interior prompting”: this is what the traditional Roman liturgy provided and still provides with a special abundance. The music of our worship, too, should promote this intimate searching for God, the fundamental motivation of the inner man, in a way that is perhaps initially disquieting as it displaces us from our worldly assumptions and expectations.

101. In fact, the prescriptions of the sacred liturgy aim, by every means at their disposal, at helping the Church to bring about this most holy purpose in the most suitable manner possible. This is the object not only of readings, homilies and other sermons given by priests, as also the whole cycle of mysteries which are proposed for our commemoration in the course of the year, but it is also the purpose of vestments, of sacred rites and their external splendor. All these things aim at “enhancing the majesty of this great Sacrifice, and raising the minds of the faithful by means of these visible signs of religion and piety to the contemplation of the sublime truths contained in this sacrifice” (Council of Trent, Sess. 22, c. 5).
A failure to “raise the minds of the faithful . . . to the contemplation of the sublime truths contained in this sacrifice” is not just an incidental problem or marginal mistake; it is something close to a total liturgical disaster, a failure to prepare the faithful to take part worthily in the Lord’s sacrifice and to approach communion with the proper dispositions. It is therefore a failure to build up the Body of Christ in such a way that the Mass will actually benefit the particular members of the Church ex opere operantis, by their very acts of “adoration, honor, praise, and thanksgiving to the supreme majesty of God.” In short, it saps the strength, disturbs the order, and hinders the mission of the Church Militant.

The attitude, the dispositions, the state of mind and heart of the Christian worshiper as described by Pope Pius XII imply a significant responsibility on the part of clergy and church musicians to practice the liturgy in such a way that these goods can be genuinely fostered in the Church. May we do our part, be it big or little, as cleric, religious, or layman, to put into practice the vocation of adoring love to which Our Lord has summoned us.

(Stained glass window: photo courtesy of Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Monteverdi Vespers in DC

Last November, Third Practice, directed by Brian Bartoldus, performed Father Claudio Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespro della Beata Vergine in a liturgical celebration of Solemn Vespers and Benediction in Washington DC. Together with this work was a new composition by Baltimore-based composer, Joshua Bornfield, Beatis videamus, taking as its text the Litany of the Saints and as its musical inspiration the motifs found in the Monteverdi vespers. Third Practice were joined by members of Chorus Sine Nomine who provided the plainchant antiphons, and instrumentalists on period instruments.

As is well-known, the various parts of the Monteverdi Vespers do not themselves constitute Vespers of Our Lady in the Roman Rite. In fact, there is some ongoing discussion about the intended use of the settings. Were they intended to be sung together at all? Were they intended for another feast altogether? And so the celebration presented here had to draw also on the plainchant antiphons of the Roman office, and imaginatively position some of the Monteverdi movements around (and outside) the liturgical office to try to use as many of the musical movements as possible. This saw the Pulchra es sung before the office began, the beautiful Duo Seraphim as the altar was prepared for Benediction, and Audi cœlum as an offering to Our Lady after the conclusion of Benediction. It also meant that Monteverdi’s setting of Nigra sum (which in fact contains the texts of both the third and fourth antiphon for Vespers of Our Lady) was sung between the third and fourth psalm, without any break.

This celebration was the third performance of the Vespers by Third Practice, and the only liturgical performance. It was also the best-attended of all three, and attracted a large number of Catholic and non-Catholic faithful for what was a primarily liturgical act of worship, but also a opportunity for a cultural interchange. By presenting the cultural heritage of the Church in its proper context, the “congregation” and the “audience” (as different people saw their roles) were exposed to the full beauty and splendor of the Church’s ritual prayer. It was also an opportunity to include a fine new composition, which itself promotes the Church as a primary patron of the arts, not as an end itself but for the greater glory of Almighty God.

Below you can find a video of the whole liturgy, as well as some pictures (full album here).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dominican Chants of the Passion for Holy Week Available

As Lent is now underway and preparations for Holy Week will soon be upon us, I want to remind readers that Dominican Liturgy Publications has made available in attractive hardback format the Dominican chant for the Passion of St. Matthew and the Passion of St. John, which are respectively those for Palm Sunday and Good Friday in the traditional Dominican Rite.

This book reproduces the beautifully calligraphic texts published by the Order in 1953, with minor modifications to conform to the versions of the Passions prescribed by the rubrics of 1962.  Those planning to use this book liturgically should order three copies, one each for the Narrator, Christus, and the Turba.  As a special offer, the price has been discounted to $25.00 a copy.

 A sample page (from St. Matthew) is to the left above.

Reminder: Vespers (EF), Chair of St. Peter

Readers living in or near New York City are reminded that the Basilica of Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral (263 Mulberry Street, Manhattan) will celebrate its bicentennial with votive Vespers (Extraordinary Form) for the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair on Sunday, February 22nd, at 4:00 pm. The music dates from approximately 200 years before the basilica was founded; composers include Viadana, Anerio, and other great innovators who enriched the western Church with artistic output fitting the reforms of the Council of Trent. The schola will be supported by continuo played on organ and theorbo, making for a unique and gorgeous sound. Father Peter Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., will be the celebrant. More details are provided HERE.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Announcing the Apocalypse Art Prize

Artist Gloria Thomas has sent us the following information about the Apocalypse Art Prize, a competition with the book of the Apocalypse as its subject matter.

The first rule of art is beauty.” So begins A Primer of Pictorial Devices in Medieval Painting written by artist Gloria Thomas. The primer is a guide to competitors in the Apocalypse Art Prize. The prizes of the competition total $15,000. The deadline for entry is December 31, 2015. Complete information about the prize and how to submit an entry can be found on the competition’s web site:

The theme for all entries is Saint John the Divine’s vision of the Apocalypse, the last book in the Christian canon, also called Revelation. The Apocalypse text is filled with metaphorical images that have influenced world literature and art for two millennia. Who has not heard of the “Mark of the Beast”, the “Battle of Armageddon” or the “Harlot of Babylon”? The competition web site lists 86 possible subjects for entrants to choose from the Apocalypse text, offering what Thomas calls “an unparalleled opportunity for imaginative representation.”

The Woman Clothed with the Sun
Subject matter is not the only criteria. The substantial cash prize will go to the artist who is best able to use analogical principles of composition in his or her work. These principles are described in the instructional videos: Revelations: Ideas in Images (Part I and II) also found on the Apocalypse Art Prize web site. Between the hard copy primer available to entrants at no cost and the plethora of resource materials loaded on the web site, participants have more than enough information to carry out the requirements set by the competition designer.

About the Competition Design

Gloria Thomas has spent more than 40 years researching and implementing the principles of pictorial analogy in her works that grace churches, museums and private homes. She now wishes to pass these principles on to other Christian artists, particularly young artists, as a traditional way of making contemporary religious art. Thomas wants to challenge artists to rethink not only subject matter and style, but also, and more fundamentally, how to convey the indescribable through images of things that can be pictorially represented.

There is nothing novel about the objective. Art is continually born and reborn from the desire to express relationships between the seen and unseen through artifact, music and poetry. What is exceptional about the competition is that participants are required to use the language of analogy in their submissions, and the models used to explain analogy are illuminated manuscripts of the High Middle Ages.

Seven Headed Beast from the Apocalypse Tapestries (1382) created by Jean Bondol, housed in the Château d’Angers
Naturalism vs. Analogical Representation

The amount of art created in the Middle Ages about the Apocalypse is immense. The competition invites artists look to these fabulous examples of image metaphor for inspiration, works like the Abingdon Apocalypse, the Visio Santci Pauli Apocalypse, the Trinity Apocalypse, the Bodlein Douce Apocalypse, and the Angers Tapestries. While the images are highly representational, they share almost none of the aspects of naturalism associated with Renaissance painting. It is not simply because these works preceded the Renaissance; they are of a different order.

Antichrist Assault on the Church from the Abingdon Apocalypse (1270) housed in the British Library, London
The appeal of Renaissance naturalism is in its portrayal of the arrested moment, a freeze frame in one-point perspective that presents an illusion of reality. The illusion created by naturalism is that the viewer is an eyewitness to some event or emotion captured in a work of art. By contrast, Medieval religious art uses representation of figures and things poetically in order to describe physical and metaphysical dimensions on the same surface. It is a picture plane similar to a stage on which it is possible to view at once “not only this world and the next, but the involvement of the entire cosmos.” As Thomas says, “Medieval art is not an illusion of reality, but an analogy of it. Its scenes are not ruled by light and shade as in nature. Everything is equally illuminated to create an analogy with the light of the intellect which sees all thought with the same clarity.” Analogy does not show how things are related to each other materially; it shows how they are “related conceptually” by giving thought material attributes.

A similar purpose is served in Eastern Orthodox iconography with its overlapping treatment of time and eternity and of the horizon-less earthly domain couched between heaven and hell. When the invention of the camera overwhelmed the artistic devices of naturalism, a long retreat from representational art ushered in a movement generally known as Modern Art in its many forms. Ironically, early modernists such as Cézanne, Matisse, Chagall, and Derain turned to the icon as a way of recovering the freedom of space, form and color exhausted by naturalism.

Modernists like Marcel Duchamp, however, preached a kind of militant iconoclasm that persuaded generations of artists to embrace contempt for meaning and beauty. “What I have in mind,” says Duchamp, “is that art may be bad, good or indifferent, but, whatever adjective is used, we must call it art, and bad art is still art in the same way that a bad emotion is still an emotion.”

History of the Apocalypse Art Prize

Thomas rejected this doctrine during her graduate studies at Queens College of the City of New York [1968-1970]. She reached instead for traditional aesthetics and her faith. “Having nearly lost my sanity in art school, I returned to things I loved as a child, the wonderful paintings of scenes from Holy Scripture.” Her first project inspired by this return was a series of paintings based on St. John’s vision of the Apocalypse, which she painted in the early 1970’s. In 1994 Viking-Penguin Press published the series under the title “Revelations: Visions of the Second Coming from the Old and New Testaments.” The paintings were accompanied by a text complied from an interplay of biblical prophecy concerning the catastrophes to befall the cosmos at the end of time, leading up to the Last Judgment and the creation of new heavens and new earth.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
The Apocalypse Art Prize is a continuation of Thomas’ abiding interest in these themes. It is also a meditation on how art communicates through its “first rule,” that is – beauty. The very notion is heresy in modernist terms of amorphous pigment splatters and just plain “bad art.” Like Thomas, philosopher Roger Scruton is convinced that art has a higher purpose than shock and disposable amusement. “Through the pursuit of beauty,” Scruton claims, “we shape the world as our own and come to understand our nature as spiritual beings. But art has turned its back on beauty and now we are surrounded by ugliness.”

Benefactors of the Apocalypse Art Prize are hoping artists will respond to Thomas’ encouragement to explore an artistic language with a long shelf life as well as a source of subjects with endless opportunities “for imaginative representation.”

Participation in the competition is free and open to all during the year 2015. Winners will be announce June 1, 2016 and awarded prizes according to the age category of the participant.

A total of $15,000 will be awarded to those artists best able to use the Medieval analogical style in their own work.

For entrants 16 years and above:
First prize is $7,000.
Second prize is $3,000.
Third prize is $2,000.

For entrants 12 to 15 years old, a prize of $2,000 will be awarded to one person.
For entrants under 11 years old, a prize of $1,000 will be awarded to one person.

Persian scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr beautifully articulates the philosophy of the benefactors of the Apocalypse Art Prize and the underlying crisis they seek to address. “Traditional art is a channel of grace, and the sacred art which lies at its heart in a sense compliments the social and legal norms promulgated by the revelation. It reflects the beauty which guides us to the source of all beauty, to the one who alone is beautiful in the ultimate sense … to gain greater insight into the meaning of religious art in a world which has turned its back upon the very principles that govern all existence.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A New Examination of Conscience for Lent

As one who is generally skeptical of new things, I sympathize with any reader who might be wondering just what might be meant by a "new examination of conscience." Aren't the old ones just fine? Well, yes, they are fine. But, speaking personally (and perhaps due to my own faults), I have sometimes been dissatisfied with standard examinations of conscience when preparing for confession. This could be a result of an almost exclusive reliance on a Ten Commandments-based approach. It can help to have a fresh perspective on one's sins by taking a different angle.

When I first read the Oblate statutes of the Benedictine monastery of Pluscarden (which later became the basis for the Oblate statutes of the monastery of Norcia), I was struck by the advice that we could profitably take Chapter 4 of the Holy Rule and examine our lives based on it. My pondering of this chapter led me to the (hopefully not too audacious) step of organizing its material into a little pamphlet, as an examination of conscience that might be useful in preparing for Confession. I've attached this below.

Why would the Holy Rule of St. Benedict work well for all of us? St. Benedict himself says that he is preparing "a little rule for beginners," and the ages have proved that this rule of life is a school of holiness for all who incline the ear of the heart to its wisdom. Although some of its chapters don't immediately apply to everyday life as a layman, the Holy Rule is abundantly filled with mature spiritual counsel that readily lends itself to the Christian's battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil -- a duty we must always keep in mind, especially in the holy season of Lent when the Church puts it before us quite starkly.

As Bossuet said (and as Pope Benedict XVI would surely agree): "Cette règle, c’est un précis du christianisme, un docte et mystérieux abrégé de toute la doctrine de l’Évangile, de toutes les institutions des saints Pères, de tous les conseils de perfection": This rule is a synopsis of Christianity, a learned and mysterious abridgment of the whole doctrine of the Gospel, all the institutions of the holy fathers, and all the counsels of perfection.

UPDATE: Since this has proved so popular, I am simply going to paste the text in below, and you can reformat it as you wish.

An Examination of Conscience based on Chapter 4 of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict

Have I neglected to love the Lord God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my strength, and my neighbor as myself? If so, in what specific ways?
In deed or in thought, have I killed, committed adultery, stolen, coveted, or borne false witness?
Have I failed to honor all men?
Did I do to another what I would not have had done to me?
Did I prefer anything to the love of Christ?

Have I been self-indulgent instead of denying myself in order to follow Christ?
Have I pampered my body or sought after delicate living, rather than chastising my body?
Have I neglected fasting or abstinence?
Have I overindulged in wine or other beverages, or verged on gluttony?
Have I been drowsy or slothful?
Did I immerse myself in worldly affairs rather than keeping aloof from them?
Did I fulfill the desires of the flesh rather than hating my own will?
Have I sinned against chastity, modesty, or purity?

Charity towards Neighbor
Have I neglected, when it was possible, to relieve the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick, bury the dead, help in affliction, or console the sorrowing?
Have I gratifed anger or harbored a desire of revenge?
Have I fostered guile in my heart or made a feigned peace?
Have I failed to utter truth from heart and mouth?
Have I rendered evil for evil or done wrong to anyone?
Did I feel or exhibit impatience when wronged?
Have I hated my enemies or any man?
Did I neglect to pray for my enemies in the love of Christ?
Have I avoided making peace with any adversary before the setting of the sun?
Have I fled persecution for justice’s sake?
Have I rendered cursing for cursing, rather than a blessing?
Have I been guilty of murmuring or detraction?
Have I indulged in excessive talk, vain words, or unfitting laughter?
Have I uttered evil and wicked words?
Have I been jealous or given way to envy?
Have I loved strife?
Did I give in to vanity?
Have I been proud?
Did I fail to reverence my elders in Christ?
Did I fail to love those who are my brothers, juniors, dependents, or pupils?
Have I, in any other way, forsaken charity?

Seeking First God’s Kingdom
Have I been lax in fulfilling each day the commandments of God?
Did I neglect in my prayer the daily confessing of past sins?
Have I faltered in putting my hope in God?
Have I subtly or openly attributed the good that I see in myself to myself rather than to God?
Have I run away from acknowledging the evil I have done, or tried to blame it on someone else?
Have I delayed taking the steps necessary to amend my sins, negligences, and failings?
Have I been remiss in smashing my evil thoughts on the rock of Christ the instant they came into my heart?
Have I been lax in applying myself to frequent prayer or lectio divina?
Did I fail to keep death daily before my eyes, with fear of the Day of Judgment and dread of hell?
Have I not been desiring everlasting life with all spiritual longing?
Have I failed to keep guard over the actions of my life by bearing in mind that God sees me everywhere?
Have I not sought the counsel of my spiritual father when I should have done so?
Have I hidden evil thoughts from him?
Have I shown poor obedience to the commands of those who are placed in authority over me?
Did I seek a reputation for holiness rather than holiness itself?
Have I ever despaired of God’s mercy?

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