Thursday, December 31, 2015

Picture of the Year

As our last post of the year 2015, I would like to share with our readers this beautiful photograph of a newly-ordained priest with his mother. In the traditional rite, after the priest’s hands are anointed, they are bound with a cloth to keep the oil in place for the rest of the ordination ritual. I am sure the majority of our readers are already familiar with the custom, which is not formally a part of the rite, that once the ritual is complete, he presents the cloth to his mother, which is the moment we see here. It is a long-standing tradition that when a priest’s mother dies, she is buried with the cloth between her hands, to symbolize that she gave a priest to God, and will be rewarded for this in heaven.


New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time to thank God for the blessings received through the course of the year. Let us remember to thank Him for all the blessings and mercies He gives us through the ministry of the priesthood, for the families in whom religious vocations are born and fostered, to pray for their increase, and for all of our bishops and clergy.

(This photograph was posted in late November to our Instagram account, which automatically reposts everything to our Facebook page as well. Since then, it has surpassed every record for views and likes by an enormous margin, and continues to be shared and liked 5 weeks later. Our thanks to Mr Michael Thomas Kramer for sharing it with us.)

Month’s Mind for Emmanuel Leemans In Jersey City, January 2


Long-time Hoboken resident Emmanuel V. Leemans died on November 19, 2015, one day after suffering a heart attack. Manny combined faith, culture, intelligence, decency, courtesy, and diligence in a manner that above all was humble and without the slightest pretension. He was a true gentleman of the old European sort.

Born to a Flemish-speaking family in Belgium, where he endured four years of the Nazi occupation, he attended the Royal Music Conservatory in Brussels, and studied with Flor Peters, one of the most prominent organists and composers of the 20th century. Manny came of age in a musical culture still wed to the Church where the liturgical renewal had flowered in an extraordinary way, before it all went to the after the Second Vatican Council. He would often remark how every Belgian school child could sing the entire Gregorian repository of standard ordinaries by memory!

Manny immigrated to the United States in 1958, taking the position of musical director and accompanist for the Boys Town Choir in Omaha, Nebraska. Together with the famous Monsignor Francis Schmitt, he produced a sound that at Boys’ Town that set a national standard (recordings of which can still be purchased). He would assist Fr. Schmitt at his famous yearly Liturgical Music Workshops, and with publication of the Cecilia periodical, and was there when the Church Music Association of America (CMAA) was founded.

After moving to New York, and later New Jersey, Manny studied composition and musicology at the Julliard School of Music, and received a Master’s degree from Columbia University, where his thesis topic dealt with the Bach chorales. He directed these short but beautiful pieces with unique enthusiasm and insight, in churches and choruses, for the next fifty-plus years.

Over his career, he served as organist and music and choral director at St. Michael’s Monastery in Union City, NJ, and later at Our Lady of Grace Church in Hoboken. Manny had an almost symbiotic relationship with the church’s great organ, a 1907 Wirsching, which he used to great expressive effect. He also taught music at the church’s school.

For many years, Maestro Leemans directed the Hoboken Renaissance Singers; he loved classical music of all styles and eras, but his favorite composer was Johann Sebastian Bach. At the time of his death, he was in the process of completing his collection of recordings of Bach’s two hundred and nine surviving cantatas. He was also a member of the American Guild of Organists, the American Choral Director’s association, and the Columbia Club.

Long before anyone had heard of the phrase, Manny was putting the hermeneutic of continuity into practice. In 1965, when suddenly all over the United States (and soon the world), Latin become stigmatized and there was a rush to sing in the vernacular, Our Lady of Grace had the singular benefit of his translation of texts into English in a way that fit the ancient chants. Thus, the parishioners of Our Lady of Grace in Hoboken were never bereft of “that choir from which is removed this language of wondrous spiritual power, transcending the boundaries of the nations, [whose] melody proceed[s] from the inmost sanctuary of the soul, where faith dwells and charity burns – We speak of Gregorian chant.” (Sacrificium Laudis, Paul VI.) One has the feeling that if Manny had been in charge of music in the Church, everything would have been all right. Yet in this corner of NJ, he kept the candle burning and passed on the art of Gregorian Chant to new generations, handing on the collected wisdom, as it were, of generations, and of the Solemes school in particular. Who can forget being instructed by him how to properly articulate the thesis and antithesis of a Gregorian phrase? And who could forget the marvel of an octogenarian having better breath control than anyone else in the choir as he demonstrated the expressive articulation of an extended melisma?

From fall of 2003 through the mid point of 2004, Manny took over the reins of the Cantantes In Cordibus Choir which sings the Latin Liturgy in downtown Jersey City (then at Holy Rosary, now at St. Anthony’s), saving it from dissolution after a difficult period. Although he only directed the choir for less than a year, he left an imprint on it that has sustained the group ever since.

Manny’s aesthetic was expansive, however, and commanded not only Renaissance polyphony, but the entire repertoire of sacred music. Indeed, he kept all the glories of sacred music in parochial settings during even the darkest period. At Our Lady of Grace, at a time when Hoboken had not yet been re-discovered and was still a working class city on the waterfront, the music of kings was resounding, as Mozart Masses with full orchestra thrilled the common man and raised their hearts to God.

His efforts extended beyond the church. The aforementioned Hoboken Renaissance Singers were founded in 1976 and brought the avant garde of the early music scene to New Jersey. This group, made of music lovers of all faiths, sang together continually until the week before his death, constituting a true musical family. Famously, Manny was able to inspire the most gifted singer while also put at ease the less talented who together made sublime music.

He is survived by his beautiful wife, Antoinette, and his brothers Paul and Constant, who live in Belgium. Also surviving are children through marriage Daniel, Annette and Angelo DePalma, plus eight grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

He will also be remembered for his intellect, musical accomplishments, and dry humor by scores of friends, students, and colleagues. Dostoevsky famously said that beauty would save the world. This, truly, was a motivating thread through Manny’s long life.

A Month’s Mind Mass (delayed by Christmas) will be offered on Saturday, January 2, 2016, at 11:00 AM at St. Anthony of Padua Church. (see poster above for information) The combined choirs of Cantantes in Cordibus and the Renaissance Singers will sing the Morales Requiem. An original setting of the In Paradisum by Emanuel Leemans will conclude the liturgy

Education for Epiphany


Like it or not, educational theory has entered the realm of soft sciences and journal-driven research. Teachers are expected to know scientific “best practices” and follow them in their classrooms. Somehow experts have discovered that two plus two is best communicated at 71.5 degrees and 38% humidity, with 3200K soft-white lighting, with Mozart not Bach, by a teacher who promotes inclusivity, cultural sensitivity, and individual autonomy for each learning style.

Our liturgy is a form of education, and Catholics too have experts who suggest certain worship aids, lighting schemes, boutique liturgies, color palettes, and gimmicks to “shock and awe” the faithful, hopefully spurring them on to become “dynamic” Catholics and buy the next book. Even if these folks don’t claim their materials and approach are the “best practice,” they usually are not advocating for the Roman Rite done well and done obediently. At best, the Roman Rite is seen as the springboard, the point of departure.

I would like to propose that the Roman Rite is itself the accumulation of two thousand years of best practices. The lectionary, the liturgical calendar, and the rite of Mass itself all attempt to put Christian teaching into a three-year (or one-year) curriculum, one which is suitable for the young and the old, the wise and the foolish. According to current educational models, this is a preposterous and ridiculous goal, akin to a one-room schoolhouse for pre-K through doctorate. It’s easy to criticize, but the reality is that it works.

It could work better.

Long ago, John Dewey introduced the idea of pragmatism within education. Dewey has long been on the naughty list for conservative Catholic educators, because they associate him with Venn Diagrams, Powerpoint, the disappearance of Dante and Shakespeare from reading lists, and other evils. But truth can come from the most unlikely sources. Dewey’s basic idea is that a student needs to demonstrate comprehension by doing something. This shouldn’t be novel to us. Saint James says, “if you say you have faith, show me your works” (2:18). Liturgy needs a response, whether that is internal understanding or something outward like singing along or going out and feeding the hungry. Faith makes this possible.

Faith at its most simple level means we believe God exists and is interested in us. Specifically, we believe that eternal God is eager to show mercy and kindness toward us, despite the hot mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Faith permeates the Mass, such that an explanation would quickly seem pedantic. Furthermore, our human wounds are private and we don’t want to bare them to others. So this sort of understanding and healing is uncomfortable, but it’s precisely what is needed. People everywhere are crying out for the mercy and redemption which is visible at the altar, and they can’t see it.

I’m not suggesting a play-by-play narration, and I offer no twelve-step road to success. What I am suggesting, however, is quite simple: do the Roman Rite obediently and without gimmicks. Attempt to connect the pieces of the Mass together in a way that brings about literacy and understanding, first for yourself and then for others. Plan for understanding, for success, for literacy, and even for ongoing personal renewal.

This seems pedantic, I know. But the problem is that so often we don’t make room for understanding, let alone a warm-blooded, sentient response, in our liturgy. In fact, we often steamroll over it. So often there is a priest who doesn’t expect anyone to be listening, and the faithful who don’t expect to hear anything worthwhile and therefore don’t listen. We don’t expect the Gospel to be good news, and we don’t think that God could have anything relevant to say about our situation. We would rather wallow in the status quo, so we can complain about it. As it turns out, help is hiding in plain sight.

As we approach Epiphany once again this year, let’s knock on the doors of wisdom and seek out understanding. The pieces of the puzzle are laid out, and with God’s help, it’s our task to put them together.

Two New Recordings from St John Cantius, Chicago

Over the years, the choirs of St. John Cantius in Chicago have released numerous CDs, including O Holy Night, Miserere, Handel’s Messiah, the Coronation Mass, and many others. News reaches us that they have just released two new CD recordings.

One of the new CDs is entitled Magnificat: Music for Our Lady. Recorded at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago by the Ensemble Cor et Vox, this CD focuses on the mysteries of Christmas through the eyes of Our Lady.

It includes a rarely heard setting of the Magnificat by the German composer and organist Buxtehude, and another by the French Baroque master, Charpentier. The CD also includes excerpts from the famous Bach Magnificat, as well as the famous Ave Maria settings of Schubert and Bach/Gounod, arranged for chorus by Fr. Scott Haynes, SJC. There is also a setting of the Alma Redemptoris Mater by Legrenzi for two sopranos and basso continuo.

Two of Mozart’s Marian motets are included, Sancta Maria (K. 273) and Alma Dei Creatoris (K. 277) and the CD concludes with Corelli’s famous Christmas Concerto. The concerto’s Pastorale movement paints an image of the shepherds visiting the manger of the Christ Child in Bethlehem. For more information and to purchase, please click here. A sample track appears below.



The second CD, entitled Te Deum, presents the complete Midnight Mass (Extraordinary Form) for Christmas Eve from St. John Cantius in Chicago. The Schola Cantorum of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius sings the Gregorian chant Propers of Midnight Mass, and the clerical chants (the orations, Epistle, Gospel, Preface of Christmas, “Ite missa est”) are also included.


The Ensemble Cor et Vox sings the jubilant Missa Brevis in C K. 258 (‘Piccolomini’) of Mozart, which is included on the Te Deum CD as the Ordinary of Midnight Mass. Charpentier’s exuberant Te Deum H. 146, presented in its entirety, completes the CD and ushers in the festivity of the Christmas Octave. For more information and to purchase, please click here. A sample track appears below.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas 2015 Photopost - Part 1

As was the case last year, we have received a very large number of photographs of Christmas liturgies, and so we will be doing at least two other photoposts, possibly more. We will also be doing one for Epiphany, and as always, in the meantime we will be very glad to receive any photos of liturgies celebrated during the Octave, the singing of the Te Deum on New Year’s Eve etc. Thanks to all those who have sent them in, and a blessed New Year to all our readers.

St Mary’s - Norwalk, Connecticut






New Recording of a Medieval Votive Mass of the Sacrament

The Netherlands-based Early Music ensemble Cantores Sancti Gregorii, lead by Mr Ján Janovčík, have recently made available a new recording of the complete Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament; unlike many such recordings, the clergy’s part of the Mass (Collect, Epistle etc.) are included, giving a better sense of how this music would have been heard in the liturgical context for which it was written. The propers of the Mass are sung in plainchant, while the Ordinary is Josquin des Prez’s Missa Pange lingua; the recording also includes the O Salutaris Hostia and Tantum Ergo from an early sixteenth-century choirbook, the Occo Codex, which is described as follows on the website of the CMME Project (Computerized Mensural Music Editing.)

“Among the best-known music manuscripts produced at the Habsburg-Burgundian court of the Netherlands, the ‘Occo Codex’ was created under the supervision of the celebrated scribe Alamire for the Amsterdam banker Pompeius Occo. A deluxe, decorated item on a large scale, this choirbook brings together major works of composers such as Isaac, Mouton, and Josquin, in addition to anonymous and lesser-known compositions, notably a collection of polyphony in honor of the Blessed Sacrament (Corpus Christi). On the basis of paleographical and historical evidence, the book can be newly dated to c. 1515-17 and associated with use in the Amsterdam chapel of the Sacrament known as the Heilige Stede (Holy Place), where Occo served as churchwarden at the same time. The combination of liturgical focus, careful craftsmanship, and early transmission of a number of masterworks makes this one of the most valuable witnesses to the musical life of the Early Modern Netherlands.”

An engraving of the year 1664, showing the Heilige Stede, which was converted to Protestant worship in the later 16th-century, and destroyed by order of the city of Amsterdam in 1908.
The chapel of the “Holy Place” referred to here was the site of a Eucharistic miracle that took place in Amsterdam in March of 1345, which was celebrated for over two hundred years with a special procession until the city passed over to the reformed faith, and the public celebration of Catholic devotions was prohibited. An account of the Miracle can be read here. The Cantores Sancti Gregorii have a complete description of the project of their recording on their website.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

St Thomas of Canterbury

St Thomas à Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on December 29th, 1170, less than a month after he had returned from six years of exile in France, where he had been driven by a long persecution at the hands of King Henry II of England. The murder was followed by a wave of revulsion throughout Europe, which did much to promote the reforms within the Church that St Thomas had died to defend. He was canonized by Pope Alexander III, who had received him in audience during his exile just over two years after his death, in no small measure because of the innumerable miracles that took place at his tomb.

The following piece is one of the earliest known musical compositions that refers to St Thomas, and very cleverly associates him the Holy Innocents, whose feast is kept the day before his; England is likened to Rama, King Henry to King Herod, and Thomas to the first-born sons whom Herod killed. France then becomes Egypt, and since Egypt was also the place of the exile of the Patriarch Joseph, St Thomas is called “the Joseph of Canterbury.” The implication of this is, of course, that just as Christ’s exile delayed His unjust death, so did that of St Thomas.


In Rama sonat gemitus / plorante Rachel Anglie: / Herodis namque genitus / dat ipsam ignominie. / En eius primogenitus / et Joseph Cantuarie / Exulat si sit venditus, / Egiptum colit Gallie.

Lamentation sounds forth in Rama, as the “Rachel” of England weepeth. A new Herod gives her unto ignominy. Behold the first-born of the realm, the “Joseph” of Canterbury, as if he were sold, dwells in the “Egypt” of France. (On the YouTube channel that posted this, the first word of the 7th line is correctly transcribed “exulat,” but the singers clearly say “exsultat.” Thanks to Dr Jeffrey Morse for bringing this to my notice. UPDATE: Jesson Allerite has linked a source in the combox that gives a better reading for that line, “exsul, ac si sit venditus - an exile, as if he had been sold.”)

Here is a very early reliquary of St Thomas, made at Limoges, France in the 1180s, showing the scene of his assassination in the lower part, his burial and the ascent of his soul into heaven in the upper. Devotion to him was incredibly powerful in the Middle Ages and afterwards, especially in England until the Reformation. (It is to his shrine that the pilgrims of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are making their way.) More than 40 such reliquaries are still extant.


Priest Disciplined for Liturgical Abuse (Another Small Brick)

There can be no doubt that in many parts of the Catholic world (the United States is one) fashionable liturgical abuses that were routine in the 1970s and ’80s have become much rarer, and will become vanishingly so as new generations of clergy and laity step in to pick up the pieces of their failure. But they are not dead and gone quite yet, as recently shown in this video of a priest (mistakenly described by the person who posted it on YouTube as “cool”) hoverboarding through his church during Mass on Christmas Eve.


In the modern age, it is easy for social media and news aggregators to give these things a circulation far beyond their origins (in this case, the Philippines), and this is not a bad thing, in my estimation. Imagine how much easier the really terrible liturgical abuses would have been to denounce and control if the internet had existed to name and shame them when they were really a going concern. But sometimes, after we have sighed and moved on, something good actually does come of them, which does not make it onto our facebook feed or preferred Catholic news site. And since this has proven to be the case with the liturgical hoverboard, here is the relevant statement of the Diocese of San Pablo, where the incident took place. Our thanks go to Bishop Buenaventura Famadico and the other authorities of the diocese for an exemplary response.

The Diocese of San Pablo wishes to address an issue involving one of its clergy. Last December 24, 2015, before the final blessing of the Christmas Eve Mass, as a way of greeting his parishioners, the priest sang a Christmas song, while going around the nave standing on a hoverboard.

That was wrong.

The Eucharist demands utmost respect and reverence. It is the Memorial of the Lord’s Sacrifice. It is the source and summit of Christian life. It is the Church’s highest form of worship. Consequently, it is not a personal celebration where one can capriciously introduce something to get the attention of the people.

The priest said that it was a wake up call for him; he acknowledged that his action was not right and promised that it will not happen again. He will be out of the parish and will spend some time to reflect on this past event. He would like to apologize for what happened.

(reproduced from the facebook page of the Diocese of San Pablo. See also this article by Philippine journalist Paterno Esmaquel II, who also confirmed the statement of the diocese for us.)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Holy Innocents, Hidden Metamorphosis

For several summers, we have obtained a small number of painted lady butterfly caterpillars and watched them change into butterflies. It is always fascinating to see each caterpillar shape the chrysalis around itself and afterwards remain suspended, motionless, as if in death. Then there is the day when the chrysalis starts to vibrate, eventually shivering, as if impatient to be done with change. It shivers a long time, so much so that one fears it will fall off the branch. But the moment of emergence has always eluded us. We go to sleep, or go out of the house for some reason, and the next time we look at the container, we see — as if substituted by a magician’s sleight-of-hand — a magnificent butterly next to its empty bedchamber.

The ancients often used the image of the caterpillar transformed into the butterfly to speak about the resurrection of the body. As the caterpillar, not known for beauty or dexterity, is wrapped in silk like the winding-sheets of burial, it seems that all life is extinguished. The coming forth of a far more beautiful creature, free of earth to soar in the skies, aptly tells us of the glory of the resurrected body. As the Preface for the Mass of the Dead says: For Thy faithful, life is not ended, but changed.

Thoughts like this often occur to me on the strangely melancholy post-Christmas feast of the Holy Innocents. I say melancholy because, right after Christmas, we have a feast of unspeakable slaughter, bloodthirsty egotism, the ugly shadow of corrupt politics looming over the cradle of Bethlehem, the chill breath of the world against the cheek of humility. I cannot be the only one who winces when the Gospel passage is read out, and thinks of all the ways in which our world has still not let itself be redeemed, is still waging war against the Christ-child, is still scheming to suppress the King of kings.

But then I remind myself why it is a feast and not a day of penance like January 22nd. The Holy Innocents are true martyrs who stood in for Christ: they anticipate in their flesh the scourging, the nails, and the spear by which our salvation was wrought, and by which theirs was completed. What a triumphant victory, to have won without fighting, to have rushed ahead into the mystery of the Cross, without waiting for leave!

By being circumcised into the covenant with Abraham, the Holy Innocents professed their faith in the coming Messiah who, indeed, had just come into the world. Because of this, they were able to greet Him when He harrowed hell. For it was meet that unfailed innocence should greet the sinless One.

They were spared the bitter test of fallen human life, the risk of mortal sin, the all-too-real possibility of eternal damnation. We consider it a terrible tragedy when human life is cut short, and it always is, for us; but the Holy Innocents remind us that there is a higher vantage, a divine comedy, in which this life plays the part of a prelude to eternity. They rejoice forever in the vision of God’s glory, in the joyous dance of all the saints and angels; to them earthly life looks like a mere moment, as it will look to all of us.

Washed in the blood of the Lamb, the Holy Innocents bask in the light of the beauty of Christ the Savior born in Bethlehem. The sacred liturgy immortalizes their mortal story. We know they are transformed in soul and will be resurrected in their mature bodies — as great a surprise to their mothers as ever a butterfly was, compared to the caterpillar.

Icon of the Holy Innocents

A Medieval Fresco of the Holy Innocents

From the Servite church of the city of Siena, Santa Maria dei Servi (click image to enlarge.)


This was painted in the 1330s by Pietro Lorenzetti, along with the brothers Francesco and Niccolò di Segna. The scene is set in Siena itself, the famous cathedral of which is seen at the middle of the top. Below the border is a famous quotation from Macrobius, a writer of the early fifth century, from the second book of his Saturnalia, “Melius esse porcum Herodis quam filium. - It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.”


The full citation is as follows: “Cum audisset inter pueros quos in Syria Herodes rex Iudaeorum intra bimatum iussit interfici filium quoque eius occisum, ait: Melius est Herodis porcum esse quam filium. - When (Augustus) heard that among the children whom Herod, the king of the Jews, ordered to be killed in Syria, within the age of two years, his own son was killed, he said, ‘It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.’ ” As a Jew, King Herod would have no reason to kill a pig which he could not eat (a Jewish dietary custom which Roman writers often remarked upon,) but did not scruple to massacre the children in Bethlehem, and several of his own relatives. (The Wikipedia article about King Herod cites the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia to the effect that he was “prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition.”) In Greek, which Augustus knew well, these words would make a pun, since the word for “pig” is “hus (ὗς)”, while the word for “son” is “huios (υἱός).”

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fr Hunwicke Needs Your Help - A Linguistic Challenge

Since today is the OF feast of the Holy Family, the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, the great Fr Hunwicke, with his usual wit and erudition, has put up a bit of commentary on one of the hymns for the feast. The three original hymns (for Matins, Lauds and Vespers) were written by Pope Leo XIII personally, who was both a scholar of Latin poetry and a talented Latin poet in his own right. Although the Vesper hymn was basically left alone, the man in charge of revising the hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours, Dom Anselmo Lentini OSB, tore the Matins hymn Sacra jam splendent almost completely apart, and substituted the Lauds hymn with a new composition of his own. (Dom Lentini is the single most frequently represented author in the corpus of Latin hymns in the Liturgia Horarum, by a margin of four-to-one over Prudentius and five-to-one over St Ambrose.)

Fr Hunwicke calls attention to one change in particular; any linguistic scholar who may happen to read this is called upon to look it over carefully, and propose answers to his query either here, where I will be happy to pass them on to the good Father, or over at his own combox on his page.
***
“fessis”. Disgusting? You may wonder what is problematic about that word.

Leo wrote that Mary, a good Mother and a good spouse, gave a helping hand to both Son and husband,

.................. felix
si potest curas relevare fessis
munere amico.
[ ................. happy
if she can lighten, with a friendly duty,
cares for the weary.]

But, apparently, ‘fessis’ suggests to the Francophone ear not ‘weary’ but ‘buttocks’. So Dom Anselmo Lentini changed it to the problem-free word ‘lassis’, thus spoiling the alliterative “felix ... fessis” but sparing the blushes of that notoriously bashful constituency, the French clergy. (I will award this Blog’s Order of Chastity, Fourth Class, which authorises you to have a pink pompom on your biretta, to any reader who can demonstrate that there is another language in which ‘lassis’ is even more indelicate than ‘fessis’ is in French.)

Leo was a fluent French speaker. Yet, as a cultivated Latinist, he wrote “fessis” without a moment’s anxiety. What sort of cultural shift has landed us with an ‘emancipated’ society in which the word is too sniggerworthy to be printable?

Video of Midnight Mass, Christmas 1962 from Ushaw College, Durham, England


St John the Evangelist

This is John, who at the supper rested upon the breast of the Lord; * blessed is the Apostle, to whom the secrets of heaven were revealed. V. He drank in the running waters of the Gospel directly from sacred fountain of the Lord’s breast. Blessed is the Apostle, to whom the secrets of heaven were revealed. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. Blessed is the Apostle, to whom the secrets of heaven were revealed. (The eighth responsory of Matins of St John)

The central panel of the Apocalypse Polyptych, by Jacobello Alberegno, 1360-90 (Gallery of the Academy, Venice)
R. Iste est Joannes, qui supra pectus Domini in cena recubuit: * Beatus Apostolus, cui revelata sunt secreta caelestia. V. Fluenta Evangelii de ipso sacro Dominici pectoris fonte potavit. Beatus Apostolus, cui revelata sunt secreta caelestia. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Beatus Apostolus, cui revelata sunt secreta caelestia.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

St Stephen the First Martyr

The gates of heaven were laid open to Christ’s blessed martyr Stephen, who was the first found in the company of the martyrs; * and therefore he triumpheth crowned in heaven. V. For he was the first to render back to the Savior the death which He deigned to suffer death for us. And therefore he triumpheth crowned in heaven. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. And therefore he triumpheth crowned in heaven. (The eighth responsory of Matins of St Stephen)

The martyrdom of St Stephen, from the Bedford Hours, ca. 1430
R. Patefactae sunt januae caeli Christi Martyri beato Stephano, qui in numero Martyrum inventus est primus: * Et ideo triumphat in caelis coronatus. V. Mortem enim, quam Salvator noster dignatus est pro nobis pati, hanc ille primus reddidit Salvatori. Et ideo triumphat in caelis coronatus. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Et ideo triumphat in caelis coronatus.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year to all of our readers, from all of the writers and staff of the NLM. Pray for peace, and may the birth of Christ bring peace to you and all of your families and friends. For unto us a Son is born, unto us a Child is given!

From the Grandes Heurs d'Anne de Bretagne, by Jean Bourdichon, 1503-08, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Photographs of Midnight Mass 2015 at the London Oratory

Here are some photographs of Midnight Mass at the London Oratory this evening. A Merry Christmas to all! [Photos: Charles Cole]





Photopost Request for Christmas 2015

Out next major photopost will be for liturgies celebrated on Christmas and during the Octave, whether of the OF or the EF, or any of the Eastern Rites; and as always, we will also be very glad to receive include other liturgical ceremonies such as Vespers. Please send your pictures to photopost@newliturgicalmovement.org, and don’t forget to include the name of the church and its location, and any other information which you think worth noting. Evangelize through beauty! (Last year we received so many submissions that we had to do three separate posts - let’s see if we can get up to four this year.)

Mass on St Stephen’s Day 2014 at the church of St Anne (Damenstiftkirche) in Munich, Bavaria, celebrated by the FSSP.

The New Rite Prefaces for Advent

The Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, says precisely nothing about the Preface of the Mass. However, there can be no doubt that its revision was on the minds of the liturgists, and had been for some time, even if it was not on the minds of the Council Fathers. The trend towards expanding the very limited traditional corpus had been growing for some time; in 1919, Pope Benedict XV added the Neo-Gallican preface for the Requiem Mass to the Roman Missal, along with a newly composed one for St Joseph, modelled on that of the Virgin Mary. He was followed in this trend by Pius XI, who added others for the feasts of the Sacred Heart and Christ the King, followed by Pius XII, who added one for the newly invented Chrism Mass in his Holy Week reform. In the same period, some religious orders adopted new Prefaces for their founders or other prominent Saints, such as the one for St Dominic added to the Dominican Missal in 1921.

The influence of the Ambrosian Liturgy (whether correctly understood or not) and the Neo-Gallican uses was quite strong on the creators of the post-Conciliar liturgical reform. It might therefore be assumed that when the decision was made to add a Preface for Advent for general use in the Roman Rite, the most obvious choice would be the Neo-Gallican Preface already widely used in France, Belgium and elsewhere. Since in fact two such Prefaces were added, one to be said up until December 16th, and the second for rest of the season, a logical second choice would be the Ambrosian Preface for the major ferias “de Exceptato” at the end of the Milanese Advent, or possibly one of the eight other options in the Ambrosian Missal.

Inexplicably, but not surprisingly, none of the Prefaces for Advent then in use in the Latin Rites was in fact chosen. In May of 1968, the Sacred Congregation for Rites issued eight new Prefaces, including two for Advent, both of which were carried over into the Novus Ordo when it was promulgated a year and half later. These are partly ex novo compositions, and partly the result of the often rather bizarre process known as “centonization”, the compilation of fragments and phrases taken from a variety of sources, often no more than a word or two.

In 1989, Frs Anthony Ward SM and Cuthbert Johnson OSB published The Prefaces of the Roman Missal (Centro Liturgico Vincenziano, Rome), which meticulously documents the origins (liturgical, scriptural, and patristic) of all 81 of the Novus Ordo Prefaces. The Neo-Gallican and the Ambrosian Advent Prefaces are not even cited in either of the new Advent Prefaces; the sources for the first are mostly texts originally used on the Ascension, and those of the second are from Christmas and the birth of St John the Baptist. Johnson and Ward do however note the presence of the word “pervigiles – ever watchful” in the second one as a reference to the Collect of a Mass for Advent in the Gelasian Sacramentary.

The beginning of the Gelasian Sacramentary in the Vatican Library manuscript Reginensis 316. (Public domain image from Wikipedia.)
We conclude this series with the original Latin texts of these two Prefaces, each of which (in accordance with the methodus zuhlsdorfiana, a.k.a. What Does the Preface Really Say?) is followed by my own literal translation, the old ICEL translation (whose defects are displayed in a particularly glaring light in the first one), and the new translation, which today finishes its fifth Advent. (The earlier parts of this series may be read at the following links: Ambrosian 1, Ambrosian 2, Ambrosian 3, Neo-Gallican.)

The First Preface of Advent
(said from the First Sunday until December 16)
VD: Qui, primo adventu in humilitáte carnis assumptae, dispositiónis antíquae munus implévit, nobisque salútis perpétuae trámitem reserávit: ut, cum secundo vénerit in suae gloria maiestátis, manifesto demum múnere capiámus, quod vigilantes nunc audémus exspectáre promissum. Et ídeo.

My translation: Truly … through Christ our Lord. Who by His first coming in the humility of the flesh which He took on, fulfilled the duty (laid upon Him by Thy) ancient dispensation, and opened for us the way of eternal salvation; so that, when He comes again in the glory of His majesty, we may at last receive of His gift made manifest the promise which we now dare to hope and watch for. And therefore…

Old translation: When he humbled himself to come among us as a man, he fulfilled the plan you formed long ago and opened for us the way to salvation. Now we watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory.

New translation: For he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh, and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago, and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, that, when he comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which now we dare to hope.

The Second Preface of Advent
(said from December 17 until the morning Mass of December 24)
VD: Quem praedixérunt cunctórum praeconia prophetárum, Virgo Mater ineffábili dilectióne sustínuit, Ioannes cécinit affutúrum et adesse monstrávit. Qui suae nativitátis mysterium tríbuit nos praeveníre gaudentes, ut et in oratióne pervígiles, et in suis inveniat láudibus exsultantes. Et ídeo.

My translation: Truly … through Christ our Lord. Whom the proclamations of all the prophets foretold, whom the Virgin Mother bore and raised with love beyond all telling, whom John (the Baptist) prophesied would come, and showed when He came. Who granted to us to come with rejoicing before the mystery of His Birth, that He may find us ever-watchful in prayer, and exultant in His praises. And therefore…

Old translation: His future coming was proclaimed by all the prophets. The virgin mother bore him in her womb with love beyond all telling. John the Baptist was his herald and made him known when at last he came. In his love Christ has filled us with joy as we prepare to celebrate his birth, so that when he comes he may find us watching in prayer, our hearts filled with wonder and praise.

New translation: For all the oracles of the prophets foretold him, the Virgin Mother longed for him with love beyond all telling, John the Baptist sang of his coming and proclaimed his presence when he came. It is by his gift that already we rejoice at the mystery of his Nativity, so that he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise.

Midwives to the Truth: A Sacred Conversation about Christmas

Something worth talking about: Sacra Conversatione (Paolo Veronese, 1528-1588)

Parishes do their very best on Christmas. As no doubt Garrison Keillor would relate about Lutherans and Catholics in Lake Wobegone, we compete over the excellence of our flowers, sermons, music, candles, altar linens, hospitality… and all the other trappings of parish life and liturgy that keep folks coming back. It would be easy to forget that all of these things are signs of a greater and more important reality. Ironically, and perhaps paradoxically, they are signs directing us to a baby, God’s co-eternal Son, Jesus.

As St. Augustine relates in On the Teacher, without signs, without words, we cannot know the thing itself. We can’t identify or even think about something without using words and names, however the name is not the thing itself. So also with our Masses on Christmas Day: without our polished words, our beautiful singing, and even our lovingly decorated churches, the world would perhaps never know about the Christmas Child, Jesus. We are, however, only midwives, messengers, and teachers; we can only point to Jesus.

Liturgy is a sign of the presence of God among us. Through the Word of God, through the Priest, through the assembly of the people of God, and most particularly through the Blessed Sacrament, we can see God present (Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, #7). With the exception of the Blessed Sacrament and the Word, however, these things are just signs; thankfully neither the priest nor the assembly is God. Salvation and liberation come when, like the prophet Isaiah, one recognizes “surely God is my salvation” (12:2). It is only after this is known, that one can understand Theresa of Avila’s well-known saying “Christ has no body now but yours.” All of our service to our neighbor is a free gift to God, not a replacement for him or his divine work among us; and after all of our striving and effort, there is but one Savior, and it is the divine baby we celebrate.

What is the purpose of words and songs about Jesus, then? Again as St. Augustine relates, “if we do not know [what the words signify], then we cannot call to mind [what the words signify], though perhaps we may be prompted to ask” (On the Teacher, chapter XI). Put simply, those who know Jesus sing and speak about him that they might call him to mind, and hopefully those who hear the words and songs and do not know the meaning will be prompted to ask. Even after having received faith through baptism, the process of seeking understanding is ongoing this side of heaven.  To use Augustine's words, "credo, ut intelligam" or "I believe, that I might understand."

So we might ask ourselves: is there enough mystery and beauty in our praises that someone not “in the know” would be eager to inquire? Sometimes we hear things in Church that we believe, but do not yet understand. Do our sermons demonstrate faith seeking understanding, or is the truth expediently confined to human reason, so as to demonstrate human power and authority? Lastly, do our postures and demeanor demonstrate humility and wonder before the vast truth that lies before us, the holy Christ Child who disarms all human power in an instant? If we don’t know, we should ask someone who does!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

O Emmanuel 2015

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, longing of the nations and Savior thereof: Come and save us, O Lord our God. 
An 18th century Greek icon of Christ-Emmanuel, from the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon.

Advent Photopost - Rorate Masses

Here is our photopost of Rorate Masses and various other celebrations in Advent. A few of these are not Rorate Masses properly so-called, which is to say, the Advent votive Mass of the Virgin Mary, but Masses of the season celebrated by candlelight. We also have some photos from Holy Innocents in New York City of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our next photopost will be for liturgies of Christmas and its octave.

Nuesta Señora del Pilar - Guadalajara, Mexico (FSSP)
Photos courtesy of Mr Jesús Ramírez




St Theresa of Avila Parish - Kitchener, Ontario


Recording of Advent Lessons and Carols at the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music

Good news from the Eternal City. Last week there was an Advent Lessons and Carols concert in Rome, with a choir made up of students from the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music, as well as a number of lay and religious students in Rome, under the direction of Sr. Rosemary, O.P. (from Nashville). It was their first performance, with a lovely selection of pieces. A full recording of the ceremony and music is available:


During the concert, images from Fra Angelico’s work that corresponded to the music were projected; the same images are used in the YouTube video. Thank you, Sr. Rosemary, and all the students who participated in this most worthwhile enterprise. As our editor likes to say (taking his cue from Pope Benedict XVI), evangelize through beauty!

Tonsure and Minor Orders in Toulon, France

On Saturday, December 19, H.E. Dominique Rey, Bishop de Fréjus-Toulon conferred the tonsure and minor orders on seminarians of the diocese and the Fraternity of St Joseph the Guardian, at the basilica of St Marie Madeleine à St. Maximin. Afterwards, a Solemn Mass for the Ember Saturday of Advent was celebrated coram episcopo. Here is a selection of photos from the event album from their facebook, reproduced with the permission of the FSJC; you can see the rest over there.






Fota IX Conference Dates Announced for July 2016

St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy is pleased to announce that the Fota IX International Liturgy Conference will be held in Cork, Ireland, 9-11 July 2016. The subject of the conference is Liturgy and Scripture, and will be explored by a panel of experts drawn from the United States, Germany and Ireland. Further details of the conference will be published early in 2016.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

O Rex Gentium 2015

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
O King of the nations, and desire thereof, and cornerstone that makest of twain one: come and save Man, whom Thou formed from the mire of the earth.
The Creation of Adam, by Andrea Pisano, 1335; from the bell-tower of the Cathedral of Florence.

Rationale Worn by the Bishop of Eichstätt

The website of the Passionist Fathers of southern Germany and Austria has recently posted some photographs of the opening of the Holy Door in the Diocese of Eichstätt, Germany, which are reproduced here by their very kind permission. In them, the local bishop, H.E. Gregor Maria Hanke, is shown wearing that rarest of liturgical garments, the rationale. This is described by the old Catholic Encyclopedia as a counterpart to the pallium, a humeral collar, ornamented in the front and back with appendages, worn over the chasuble. Formerly used by the bishops of several different Sees, especially in Germany, it is now restricted to Eichstätt, Paderborn, and Toul in France, as well as Krakow, where the form of it quite different from the one we see.

The Passionists’ church of the Holy Cross, part of which was built in the mid-12th century as a reproduction of the Holy Sepulcher, was selected by Bishop Hanke, rather than his own cathedral, as the location of the Holy Door for the Extraordinary Jubilee.





Gaudete Sunday Photopost 2015

We received such a large number of photographs in response to our most recent request that I am going to split them up into two separate posts. Today we will have those from Gaudete Sunday, tomorrow Rorate Masses and various other ceremonies, as always, with our thanks to all those who send them. Evangelize through beauty!

Paris of the Holy Redeemer - Diocese of Cubao, Philippine Islands




Church of the Holy Name of Jesus - Providence, Rhode Island


Holy Innocents - New York City


Denis McNamara on Sacred Architecture, Part 10: The Documents of Vatican II

This is the tenth and concluding video of the series. Throughout, Prof. McNamara has been referring to the documents of the Second Vatican Council, but in this he recaps and spells out the directives more clearly. He refers to the desirability of a “pious skepticism” towards innovation, an attitude that is open to change, but generally skeptical of it, and respectful of tradition. I think that this is the frame of mind which produces the “hermeneutic of continuity” that Benedict XVI referred to. Put simply, it says, don’t change anything unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

He then goes on to highlight what the Council did ask for in regard to art and architecture, which on the whole reinforces the principles of the desirability of noble and resplendent beauty. Then, in his understated and polite way, he concludes by saying that nobody should ever think that Vatican II ever meant anything other than what it actually said, just because it came at a time that was “unfriendly,” as he put it, to ornament, image and traditional architecture.

Denis McNamara is on the faculty of the Liturgical Institute, Mundelein; his book is Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy.


Monday, December 21, 2015

O Oriens 2015

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Morning Star, splendor of eternal light and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. 
A 17th century Russian icon of Christ the High Priest
Today is also traditionally the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle; many medieval breviaries have a special O antiphon for Vespers of his feast:

O Thoma Didyme, per Christum quem meruisti tangere, te precibus rogamus altisonis, succurre nobis miseris, ne damnemur cum impiis in adventu judicis.

O Thomas the Twin, through Christ, Whom thou didst merit to touch,with prayers resounding on high we beseech thee, come to help us in our wretchedness, lest we be damned with the wicked at the Coming of the Judge.
The St. Thomas Altarpiece, by the Master of the St. Bartholomew Altar, 1501

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