Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Feast of the Dedication of Milan Cathedral

This article is mostly the work of our Ambrosian writer Nicola de’ Grandi; I translated it from Italian, and added the parts about the Ambrosian arrangement of the Sundays after Pentecost.

In the Ambrosian Rite, there are only fifteen Sundays formally named “after Pentecost”, and if Pentecost is very late, as few as eleven may be actually celebrated. The series is interrupted by the Sundays “after the Beheading of John the Baptist,” of which there may be four or five, followed by the first and second Sundays of October. On the third Sunday, the church of Milan commemorates the dedication of its cathedral, followed by three Sundays “after the Dedication.” This division is found in one of the very oldest surviving Ambrosian liturgical books, the 8th century lectionary of Busto Arsizio. The largest possible number of Sundays after Pentecost is therefore 26, whereas it is 28 in the Roman Rite, since the Ambrosian Advent begins two weeks earlier, on the Sunday following St Martin’s day.

A tradition which is not recorded in particularly early sources states that the dedication commemorated on third Sunday of October took place in the year 453 under St Eusebius, who archbishop of Milan from 449-462, after the cathedral had been destroyed by the Huns, and that on the same day, the lesser of the city’s two cathedrals was dedicated in 836. However, there are two things which suggest that the choice of this day as one of the hinges of this part of the liturgical year depends on more than a simple recollection of these events, especially in light of the highly conservative tradition of the Ambrosian rite.

The cathedral of Milan as it stood for many years, before the façade was completed in 1812.
The first, as noted in an article last year, comes from St Ambrose himself, in his “Second Apology for David”, a stenographer’s record of sermons which he preached over two or three days in the year 388. This work attests that the Gospel of the Sunday “before the Dedication”, that of the woman caught in adultery, John 8, 1-11, and that of the Dedication itself, John 10, 22-30, were already in their places next to each other in his time. Both of these Gospels take place in the temple in Jerusalem. “At that time, Jesus went unto mount Olivet. And early in the morning he came again into the temple.” (John 8, 1-2) “At that time, it was the feast of the dedication at Jerusalem: and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.” (John 10, 22-23) This does not seem likely to be a coincidence.

The second comes from a comparison with other liturgical traditions. The rite of Milan is the only Western rite which has a liturgical season marked by a dedication, but the Syrian Rite, in both its eastern and western form, also has a season “of the dedication”, which in turn may derive from the ancient rite of the city of Jerusalem. The Armenian lectionaries of the fifth century, which faithfully reproduce the order of readings used in the Holy City, contain a feast of “the Dedication of the Holy Places” on September 23rd, and assign the reading of John 10, 22-42, to be read at the “Anastasis”, the great church of the Resurrection built by Constantine. The existence of a liturgical season centered on a dedication, attested in the very oldest Ambrosian sources, may therefore derive from the tradition of Jerusalem.

The Mass texts of the Solemnity of the Dedication refer repeatedly to the Church as the bride of Christ. The Preface, for example, one of the oldest in the Ambrosian repertoire, reads as follows.

“Per Christum Dominum nostrum, qui eminentiam potestatis acceptæ Ecclesiæ tradidit, quam pro honore percepto, et Reginam constituit et Sponsam. Cuius sublimitati universa subiecit: ad cuius iudicium consentire iussit e cælo. Hæc est mater omnium viventium, filiorum numero facta sublimior: quæ per Spiritum Sanctum quotidie Deo filios procreat: cuius palmitibus mundus omnis impletus est: quæ propagines suas ligno baiulante suspensas erigit ad regna cælorum. Hæc est Civitas illa sublimis iugo montis erecta, perspicua cunctis, et omnibus clara: cuius conditor, et inhabitator est idem Dominus Noster Jesus Christus Filius tuus. Quem una tecum...”

The central portion of the apsidal mosaic of the church of St Clement in Rome, with an acanthus vine, symbolizing the Church, springing up from the Cross. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Dnalor 01, CC BY-SA 3.0)
“…through Christ Our Lord. Who gave to Church the fullness of the power with which He received, and made Her both Queen and Spouse, in accordance with the honor (She) received, subjected all things to Her majesty, and from heaven ordered that they obey Her judgment. She is the mother of all the living, all the more exalted for the number of Her children, that daily beareth sons unto God through the Holy Spirit. All the world is filled with Her branches; She lifts up Her shoots to the kingdom heaven, supported by the wood of the Cross. She is that exalted city, built upon height of the mountain, visible and bright to all; and He that founded and dwelleth in Her is the same Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son; Whom together with Thee, Almighty Father, and the Holy Spirit, the Angels sing praise…”

The connection between this theme and the Sunday of the Dedication is confirmed at the very beginning of the Ambrosian Rite’s history, in the writings of St Ambrose himself, and indeed, in the same “Second Apology for David” in which he comments on the Gospel of the Adulteress. “Thus did Christ love the beauty of His Church, and prepared Her in order to take Her as His Bride.”

The Duomo of Milan as it stands today is the result of a project which began in 1386, to replace the two cathedrals which had hitherto served the see of St Ambrose. The “winter church” as it is still called in Ambrosian liturgical books, was the smaller of the two, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and used from the Third Sunday of October, the feast of its Dedication, until Holy Saturday; it stood where the modern cathedral stands, but was nowhere near as large. The Gospel from John 10, which is attested on this day in the oldest Ambrosian liturgical books, was read in the winter church. The “dedication” or “renewal” (“enkainia” in Greek) to which it refers at the beginning is the re-dedication of the Jerusalem Temple which took place under Judas Maccabee, as recorded in 1 Maccabees 4, 59.

On this occasion, in the portico of the Temple, the Lord rebukes those who insist that He tell them whether or not He is the Messiah. “I speak to you, and you believe not: the works that I do in the name of my Father, they give testimony of me. But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep.” In contrast to those who do not believe, “My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them life everlasting; and they shall not perish for ever, and no man shall pluck them out of my hand. That which my Father hath given me, is greater than all: and no one can snatch them out of the hand of my Father. I and the Father are one.” In the treatise cited above, St Ambrose explains this same passage as a reference to the replacement of the old Temple, and the old covenant of which it is the symbol, with the New and Eternal Covenant.

The larger “summer church”, which was demolished in 1543, stood on the opposite end of the modern Piazza del Duomo, and was dedicated to St. Thecla, for which reason her name is included in the Canon of the Ambrosian Mass. In several important liturgical books of the Ambrosian Rite, another Gospel is assigned to the Mass on the same day in the “summer church”, Matthew 21, 10-17.

“Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the chairs of them that sold doves: And he saith to them: It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.” The purification of the Temple which follows looks forward to the establishment of the Church as the new house of God. In like manner, the basilica of the Anastasis in Jerusalem, built by the Emperor Constantine, is seen in the liturgical tradition of Jerusalem as the replacement of the temple destroyed by Titus in 70 AD.

For the many centuries during which the two cathedrals were still in use, the cathedral chapter of Milan, led by the archbishop, would celebrate a particularly interesting rite on both this day and Holy Saturday. All of the liturgical objects used in the cathedral were loaded into an “ark” (arca), and transported from the winter to the summer church on Holy Saturday, vice versa on the feast of the Dedication. The Latin word “arca” was also used for the place where the Scroll of the Law was kept in a synagogue; its use in the Milanese rite perhaps refers to the substitution of the synagogue’s worship by that of the Church, the one replacing the other as the church building itself replaces the old temple.

A text from Vespers of the Dedication may also been read as a corroboration of this explanation. As on many of the most ancient and important feasts in the Ambrosian Rite, the first Vespers of the Dedication has only one Psalm, to which Psalms 133 and 116 are added at the end, and the three sung as a single Psalm. The Psalm in this case is 85, from which is also taken the antiphon, “All the nations thou hast made shall come and adore before thee, O Lord.” This text is therefore an assertion that Christ came as redeemer and savior not of the Jewish people alone, but for all nations who are called into His Church.

The Legend of Saint Ursula

The annals of Catholic hagiography contain many legends which are recorded in documents written long after the lifetimes of various Saints, but which per se present no particular challenge to the credulity of anyone who believes in a personal God and the reality of miracles. Many Saints have lived in such a way that we would not expect to find material proof of their doings, any more than we would expect to find a first-century shop with a sign over the door reading “Joseph son of Jacob, Carpenter.” For such as these, we must trust to Providence, the good faith of their biographers, and the Church’s tradition.

There are others, however, which even a very basic knowledge of history demonstrates cannot be accepted as reliable; such a one is the legend of St Ursula and Companions, Virgins and Martyrs at Cologne in Germany. The vast collection of hagiographical learning known as the Acta Sanctorum devotes 230 pages of small type to parsing out how their legend developed from a single inscription in a church in that city into a famously extravagant story. Here we can give only a brief summary of the case; a fairly thorough account is given in the relevant article in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The Martyrdom of St Ursula, by Caravaggio, 1610, generally believed to be his last work. The Saint is shown at the very moment she is struck in the breast by an arrow, an example of the vivid realism for which Caravaggio was praised by many as the greatest painter of his times.
The inscription in question, made in the later fourth or early fifth century, states that a man of senatorial rank named Clematius restored a basilica in Cologne “in the place where the holy virgins shed their blood,” with no further details. The fact that it was “restored” should be taken as an indication that a martyrdom of some Christian virgins did take place before that period. Five centuries later, an anonymous sermon says that nothing was known of them for certain, but gives the local tradition that they were a large company, and their leader’s name was “Pinnosa”. They are absent from many early liturgical manuscripts where one would reasonably expect to find record of a martyrdom as spectacular as the later legend tells it, but an early Martyrology mentions Saints Martha, Saula and companions at Cologne on October 20th. Other documents give a variety of names and numbers, including “Ursula”; it is not known how she came to be thought of as the foremost among them, nor how the number 11,000 was eventually settled on as the size of the group. It is possible that an abbreviation such as “XI M.V.” for “undecim martyrum virginum – eleven virgin martyrs” was misunderstood as “undecim millia virginum – eleven-thousand virgins.”

The Clematius inscription, now in the Basilica of St Ursula in Cologne, built in the 12th century over the site where the putative relics of the Virgin Martyrs were discovered.
Their passion as told in the later tenth century is summarized as follows in the revised Butler’s Lives of the Saints. “Ursula, the daughter of a Christian king in Britain, was asked in marriage by the son of a pagan king. She, desiring to remain unwed, got a delay of three years, which time she spent on shipboard, sailing about the seas; she had ten noble ladies-in-waiting, each of whom, and Ursula, had a thousand companions, and they were accommodated in eleven vessels. At the end of the period of grace, contrary winds drove them into the mouth of the Rhine, they sailed up to Cologne and then on to Bâle, (Basle in Switzerland), where they disembarked and then went over the Alps to visit the tombs of the apostles at Rome. They returned by the same way to Cologne, where they were set upon and massacred for their Christianity by the heathen Huns, Ursula having refused to marry their chief. The barbarians were dispersed by angels, the citizens buried the martyrs and a church was built in their honor by Clematius.”

The inherent logistic improbabilities of assembling and moving such a company are obvious, especially given the chaos of the mid-5th century, to which the medieval legend assigns their martyrdom at the hands of the Huns. In the year 1155, a large cemetery was discovered at Cologne, and the remains therein were accepted as the relics of the 11,000, notwithstanding the presence of many men and children among them. A later elaboration identified both the epitaph and relics of “Pope Cyriacus”, who, after receiving the future martyrs in Rome, abdicated the papacy in order to accompany them back north, where he shared in their martyrdom. This version goes on to say that the cardinals, displeased at the abdication, later expunged his name from the catalog of the Popes, bringing the story down to the grotesque level of the Pope Joan legend; but the story is even found in a breviary printed in 1529 for the use of the Franciscans.

Relics of the 11,000 displayed in the crypt of the Basilica of St Ursula at Cologne, known as the Golden Chamber.
Devotion to these Saints was very strong in the Middle Ages, despite the reservations of scholars who identified the incongruities and anachronisms in their legend. Among the Premonstratensians, who took their liturgical use from the area around Cologne, their feast was celebrated with an octave until the early 20th century. St Angela Merici gave the name “Ursulines” to the religious congregation she founded in 1535, the very first women’s teaching order, and before that, Christopher Columbus chose to honor them in the naming of the Virgin Islands. In the Tridentine liturgical books, however, they are treated with great reserve, kept only as a commemoration on October 21, the feast of the abbot St Hilarion; St Ursula is mentioned by name, but no number of her companions is given. It is supremely ironic that they should share their feast day with a Saint whose life is quite well documented, by no less a personage than St Jerome; however, neither feast was retained on the Calendar of the post-Conciliar reform.
St Ursula and Companions, depicted on the rood screen of the church of Ss Peter and Paul in Eye, Suffolk, England. Photo courtesy of Dr Simon Cotton. 
Numbering as they do in the thousands, their putative relics have been given to churches all over the world. In 1489, the Hospital of St John in the city of Bruges received a portion of them, and commissioned the painter Hans Memling to make a shrine in which to house them, one of his masterpieces. The Gothic shrine has six panels on the two sides showing the story of the Saints.

The Arrival of the 11,000 at Cologne (left), Basel (middle), and Rome (right), where they are greeted by Pope Cyriacus. (Click image to enlarge) In the background of the Cologne scene is depicted the cathedral with its unfinished bell-towers; work on the towers was broken off in 1473 and not resumed until 1842, and the bells installed in the 1870s. The crane on one of the towers remained a landmark of the city for hundreds of years.
The company departs from Basel (left); the group is martyred (center); the martyrdom of St Ursula (right). (Click image to enlarge.)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Cardinal Sarah’s September Message to the Association Pro Liturgia

The following message was delivered on behalf of His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah this September at the General Assembly of the Association Pro Liturgia, a group founded in 1988 to promote the correct application of the decisions of the Second Vatican Council. It was first published in French by L’Homme Nouveau; this English version by the authors of Canticum Salomonis is translated and published with his Eminence’s permission.

From the Silence of the Soul United with Christ, to the Silence of God in His Glory
Dear friends of the Association Pro Liturgia,

I am happy to deliver this message of encouragement and gratitude to you on the occasion of your General Assembly. With assurance of my prayers for the intentions that are dear to your hearts, I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to your president, M. Denis Crouan, and to each of you for your determination to defend and promote the liturgy of the ordinary form of the Roman Rite in the Latin language, even despite obstacles that stand in your way in this undertaking. This defense must not be mounted with weapons of war, or with hatred and anger in your hearts, but to the contrary, “Let us put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” May God bless your meritorious efforts and ever make them more fruitful!

I would like us to reflect together on one of the essential elements of Gregorian chant, namely sacred silence. At first it might seem paradoxical, but we shall see that if Gregorian chant, which you defend and promote with so much zeal, has great importance, it is due to its indispensable capacity to draw us into the silence of contemplation, of listening to and adoring the living God. From the silence of the soul that is united to Jesus, to the silence of God in his glory: this is the title of this brief message that my friendship and support extends to you today. In fact, we shall see that Gregorian chant and its splendid visible raiment, the illuminated manuscript of the liturgical book, is born out of silence and leads back to silence.

Gregorian chant rests on two inseparable foundations: Sacred Scripture, which is the basis for its texts, and cantillation. It is well known that from the shadow of their cloisters and their silent meditation on the Word of God, Benedictine monks in the course of the centuries developed, for the needs of the prayer of the Divine Office chanted in common, a cantillatory phrasing for each verse of the Bible that had to be proclaimed, beginning with the Psalms. What they did was to cloth the most holy Word of God, so delicate and subtle to the ear and eye, those double doors of the soul, with the very humble dress of a modal melody at once simple, elegant, and refined, and that respects the rhythm of the prosody. The ear, and also the eye, I said. For in fact, the monk chants and contemplates what he sings: from the first medieval manuscripts to the incunabula of the early Renaissance before the advent of printing (the Gutenburg Bible appeared in 1455), Psalters and Antiphoners, then Lectionaries and Gospel Books were progressively covered with ornaments and illuminations. The ornate letters used for the titles of works and principal divisions took on a great variety of forms: Gothic ornaments, crests, initials in gold...They depict characters of that age as diverse as the laborer, the artisan, the minstrel, the lady of the manor spinning wool at her wheel, but also plants, fruits, and animals: birds of many colors soaring toward heaven, fish sporting in the nourishing tide of the river...The hall where the monk-copyists worked was called the “scriptorium.” Like Gregorian chant in the slow and patient course of its genesis, the work of the copyists was a fruit of their silent meditation, for they were required to work in silence and in intimate contact with God. This is why, lest they should be disturbed, only the abbot, the prior, the sub-prior, and the librarian had the right to enter their room. The librarian was charged with giving them what they had to transcribe and furnishing them with all the objects they might need.

And thus, to pray is to sing, to make the vocal cords of the heart speak: a monastic prayer that always begins in the privacy of the cell and continues unabated into the abbey sanctuary. Only the quality of each monk’s silence and personal prayer can make the community’s prayer deep and sublime. It is thus a prayer that has become eminently communitarian and unanimous, pronounced in a loud voice, with full lungs, during eight hours each day: an exhausting labor, but one that regenerates and sanctifies...This praise is the Gregorian chant that mounts up to the altar, to the stone of the Holy Sacrifice. The Catholic liturgy thus unfolds in a very slow dance, like that of King David before the Ark, throughout the whole interior space of the Abbatial Church, between the columns and down the length of the nave. It leads the chant to stroll as if in procession, making a majestic round about the altar...In front of the altar of the Holy Sacrifice, after the offices of Vigils or Compline, before returning to his cell where absolute silence reigns, the monk remains alone, on his knees near his stall, his hand sometimes placed on the misericord, as he contemplates the Cross. In fact, the Gregorian chant we find in the illuminated manuscripts is actually the heavenly liturgy, identical to the one that is represented, prefigured, accomplished, and actualized here below in the monastic liturgy, a genuine anticipation of the real presence, visible, tangible, and substantial, of the invisible Reality par excellence, of the Lamb standing as it were slain. A silence where God lets himself be seen in the flashing rays of his Glory through the beautiful rituals of the liturgy of the Church on the road toward her consummation. In fact, in a number of abbeys, such as Sénanque, Bonneval, or Quimperlé, the crucified Jesus appears sovereign even in his crucifixion. He is represented not as? dead but with his eyes open, not naked but clothed in a royal vestment, like Christ the Pantocrator in Byzantine art. The Crucified and Risen One embraces the whole universe in a grand gesture.

If I have taken the liberty of recalling briefly the origin of Gregorian chant and its visual medium, the illuminated manuscript, it is to allow us to observe the criteria par excellence of liturgical chant: it gushes out from the silent contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus on this earth, the Incarnation and the Redemption, and leads us into the silence of adoration of the living God, the Most Holy Trinity: the Father sitting on his Throne of Glory made of jasper—a shining and transparent color—and sardius—a purple color—, surrounded by the rainbow of God’s fidelity; the sacrificed lamb haloed with the uncreated Light, He who alone is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and praise; and the Holy Spirit, spring and river of living water rushing from the Throne and the Heart of the Lamb unto eternal life. This criterion, which as we have seen prevailed during the slow, progressive elaboration of Gregorian chant, is the ultimate key that admits us into a profound understanding of the exceptional and incomparable place given to it by Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II’s constitution on the sacred liturgy, in the often-lauded paragraph number 116: “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” This eminent, even primary place is not only due to its historical precedence, but above all to the Church’s recognition of the unequaled intrinsic value of this chant, inspired by the Holy Spirit, which constitutes the model for the development of other forms of music and liturgical chant. Later, the same number 116 speaks precisely on this subject: “But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action”.

Let us take one example: rhythm. It is clear that the syncopated rhythm—which consists of starting a note on the weak beat of a measure or on the weak part of a beat and continuing it on the strong beat of the following measure or on the strong part of the following beat— so typical of contemporary music, especially of commercial music, ever since the appearance of jazz, is little suited to meditation that leads from silence to adoration of the living God. Someone who does not perceive this is likely already tainted by this blindness and deafness that are a result of our immersion in a profane and secularized world, without God and without faith, saturated with noise, agitation, and barely-contained fury. Therefore, musical rhythm tends to disclose an undeniable reality: the presence or absence of contemplation. In other words, it is symptomatic of the manner in which liturgical singing flows or does not flow from silence and prayer.

In fact, there exists a “body language of silence” and the rhythm of liturgical song? is this body language: silence as a condition of the Word. The Word of God, that is, and not the loose verbiage produced by one who walks after the flesh, and thus silence is a condition for authentic liturgical singing: “In the beginning, God made the heaven and the earth…”: It is out of the interior of silence that God speaks, that he creates the heaven and the earth by the power of his Word. Further, the Word only takes on its own importance and power when it issues from silence...but the opposite is equally true in this case: in order for silence to have its fertility and effective power, the word must be spoken out loud. St. Ignatius of Antioch adds: “it is better to be silent and to be than to speak and not to be.” Hence the “sacred” silence prescribed by the Church during the holy liturgy. “At the proper times all should observe a reverent silence,” as Sacrosanctum Concilium affirms (no. 30).

Liturgical chant is there to make us pray, and in our day its primary objective, even before leading us to meditation and adoration, is to soothe the inner maelstrom of our passions, of the violence and divisions between the flesh and the spirit. Rhythm is therefore a very important, even essential element of our pacification, of this inner piece that we recover or acquire by hard labor, in tears and toil. Syncopated rhythm breaks the silence of the human soul; rising from a strident and discordant melody, it comes against us like an aggressor, to tear apart our soul with axe blows and leave its pieces scattered all about, panting, in tatters. This is the suffering that so many faithful express when they come out from certain Masses, using words like “scandal,” “boredom,” “suffering,” “desacralization,” “disrespect,” etc. Yes, it is a genuine assault, a violent intrusion, a break in to the house of the soul, the place where God entreats with his creature as a friends speaks with a friend. Our contemporaries are right to be concerned about human rights; they should also reflect on this violation of an essential right: the soul’s right to privacy and its unique and ineffable relation with its Creator and Redemptor.

Now, I affirm that certain forms of music and chant heard in our churches run counter to this elementary right of the human person to encounter his God, because it disturbs the interior silence of the soul, which breaks like a dike under the force of a mudslide. For this reason I do not hesitate to protest with insistence and humility; I beg you, if a form of singing breaks this interior silence, the soul’s silence, that you give it up now, and restore silence to its proper place! In this domain the responsibility of bishops, priests, and their collaborators, in particular in parishes and chaplaincies, is immense and crucial, both from the point of view of choice and selection of liturgical songs based on the criterion that we have presented, and with regard to the formation of seminarians, novices, and of course the faithful as well. Many of these people feel more and more the necessity of a strong liturgical formation, in particular choir directors, choristers, musicians, and members of liturgical groups that are often responsible for the choice of liturgical music under the direction of their parish priest. To tolerate just any sort of music or chant, to continue to debase the liturgy, is to demolish our faith, as I have often recalled: “Lex orandi, lex credendi.”

Paul Gaugin, Breton Girls Dancing, 1888
To illustrate my point in a positive way, let us take two examples of beautiful liturgical chants besides Gregorian chant in your country, France, and on the African continent. In France, I am thinking of the songs in the Breton language that I have heard at Christmas in some parishes in which the rector, outside the church and dressed in his soutane, teaches the dance of his Celtic ancestors to the young children. There was no hesitation in his genuine zeal to transmit this immemorial patrimony to young people, who are too often disinherited and deracinated, and thus become strangers to their own culture. This priest from the countryside of Vannes shows them that the rhythm of the Breton dance in triple-time, which has nothing impure about it, unlike the well-known Viennese waltz, but rather resembles the breathing of a farmer tilling a field, or the swaying of cattle as they saunter toward the fields after milking, or the gentle rocking of the young spouse bearing her newborn and singing him a lullaby she learned on her own mother’s knee. The rhythm is in triple time without syncopation, which corresponds to human nature in both its most ordinary and its most noble activities: the toil of plowing and pasture-work or the weaning and education of a child. For the third beat, which closes the ternary rhythm, come from the natural “trinity” deeply inscribed in the soul of every person like a seal. It accords with the foot grounded on the earth, in the soil of our world, and thus the reality of a glob of clay endowed with an immortal soul, of a person created in the image of the Trinitarian God. This is the same rhythm that, on Christmas night, punctuates the songs intoned by the whole people with unparalleled fervor, to the silence of the adoration of the newborn Jesus, the Incarnate Word, in the splendid creche of a Breton church, where the eyes of all the children, big and small, converge: “Kanomb Noel; Ganet eo Jesus hur salver - Sing Noël, Jesus our Savior is born.” Such is the authenticity of a rhythm that respects human nature, respects the soul in its silent, loving relation with God its Creator and Redeemer.

There is another example on the African continent in the liturgy of the monks of the Senegalese Abbey of Keur Moussa, founded by Solesmes in 1962, or, in my native land of Guinea, the Benedictines of the Monastery of Saint-Joseph of Séguéya, itself a daughter-house of Keur Moussa in 2003, whose chant is accompanied by a marvelous plucked string instrument, the kora, which is the African lute, and also the balafon, also called a balani, which is a sort of xylophone that usually has between sixteen and twenty-seven notes produced by keys of wood that are struck with sticks. For centuries the kora has been the sacred appanage of the griots, those musician heralds, storytellers, poets, historians, and chroniclers, repositories of the cultural memory of Africa and its oral tradition. When the African peasant works he sings following a natural ternary rhythm, with this third beat that recalls the foot firmly planted in the soil and dust of our earth.

Father Luc Bayle, a monk of Keur Moussa and successor of Brother Michel Meygniot in the direction of the workshop, where he was responsible for the making of koras until 2007, says that “the kora is not in the foreground of liturgy. It is like a tide that carries the voice, facilitates the chant, and deepens its relation to God.” And it is true that the kora’s ternary rhythm, which induces a light swaying motion, gives the psalms life, permits them to express joy or sorrow, creates the desire to sing, to praise...sounds of a crystalline purity, with a translucent lightness, which leads us to the silence of adoration. Ah, wonder of creation! Oh, the splendid variety in the unity in God of the cultures that the Gospel has penetrated and transfigured, in a chant of a million voices for the Glory of the Eternal! Yes, from the shores of Brittany to African Guinea, there is only one step, and only Christ can help us learn it, so that we may enter into this unbreakable and luminous communion that is the Catholic Church, a dwelling place for diverse peoples. It has nothing in common with the artificial assembly, that formless magma cleaving to the world and dominated by money and power, a result of the leveling so typical of the profane and secularized world.

In conclusion, let us recall the meeting between Jesus and Zachaeus. Our Lord never ceases to speak, in the depths of our soul, this word he addressed to that small man perched on the sycamore: “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today” (Lk. 19:5). This “coming down” that Jesus mentions, is it not the expression of his desire to join us in the intimacy of our soul, to scrap away all the dross of our sins, namely our refusal to love God and our neighbor? In silence, we can welcome God and have the ineffable experience of Heaven on earth. Yes, we carry heaven in our souls. And our singing, united to that of the angels and saints, gushes forth from a sacred silence that leads us into communion with the Most Holy Trinity.

The Catholic Art Guild Annual Conference in Chicago, November 4th, featuring Peter Kwasniewski

The Catholic Art Guild, a recently established organization devoted to the support of Catholic artists, and which is associated with St John Cantius church, is holding its 2nd Annual Conference, a fundraising gala, at the Drake Hotel in Chicago on November 4th. A talk by NLM’s own Dr Peter Kwasniewski is one of the highlights of the event!

The conference is entitled “Formed in Beauty”, and aside from Peter, it will feature Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor in Ordinary for Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland, Ethan Anthony, principal architect for Cram & Ferguson, and Juliette Aristides, who paints in the style of classical naturalism and has a teaching atelier.

The focus of each of the two artists featured on the roster on this occasion is neo-classical naturalism.

For more details, you can watch the promotional video below or go straight to their website, here. Tickets start at $200 and will be on sale until the end of October.

David Hume by Anthony Aristides

Friday, October 19, 2018

Young People™ (2018)

Whatever else may come out of the current synod, it will certainly not be as interesting as the memes which it has inspired. Well done, whoever you are!

Photopost Catch-Up: October 2018

Here are photos from a few events which have taken place over the last few weeks, with our thanks, as always, to everybody who sent them in!

Mater Ecclesiae - Berlin, New Jersey
The closing Mass of Forty Hours on Oct. 7, the feast of the Holy Rosary.
(Photos by John R. Symons)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Symbols of the Four Evangelists

In Jewish tradition, the vision which the Prophet Ezekiel has in the first chapter of his book is called by the Hebrew word “merkabah – a chariot”, even though this word does not occur in the text itself. The ancient rabbis placed the study and interpretation of this chapter, which is difficult to understand in any language, under a special restriction; St Jerome knew of this, as he writes in the prologue of his commentary on Ezekiel:
I shall undertake (a commentary on) the prophet Ezekiel, whose difficulty the Hebrew tradition proves. For among them, unless one has completed the age of priestly ministry, that is, his thirtieth year, he is not permitted to read the beginning of Genesis, nor the Song of Songs, nor the beginning or end of this book…
The Talmud therefore mentions that when one rabbi once offered to explain the passage to another, the latter replied “I am not old enough.”

The Vision of Ezekiel, by Raphael, 1518
The Christian tradition that the four animals which Ezekiel sees in the midst of the “chariot” are prophetic symbols of the four Evangelists, is first recorded in the writings of St Irenaeus of Lyon towards the end of the second century. The order in which he explains them, however, is different from that which is now commonly received. In his treatise “Against the Heresies” (3.11.8), he is concerned to prove that there are only four Gospels which authentically witness to the life of Christ, as opposed to the many Gospels of the Gnostics whom he seeks to refute; and moreover, that these four were prophesied in the Old Testament. He therefore explains the four-faced cherubim which Ezekiel sees in his tenth chapter by the words of Psalm 79, “Thou that sittest upon the Cherubim, be made manifest.” “…the Word, the maker of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit.”

He then takes the lion as the symbol of St John, representing the power of the Word in the creation and ruling of the world; the ox, an animal of priestly sacrifice, as the symbol of Luke, who begins his Gospel with the priest Zachariah; the man as the symbol of St Matthew, who begins with Christ’s human genealogy; and the eagle as the symbol of Mark, who begins “with the prophetical spirit coming down from on high to men, saying, ‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Esaias the prophet,’ … and on this account he made a compendious and cursory narrative, for such is the prophetical character.”

St Augustine accepted this symbolic explanation of these animals, but proposes what he calls “a more reasonable application of the figures” than that made by St Irenaeus and others, without critiquing anyone by name. In his book On the Harmony of the Gospels (1.6.9), he refers the lion, the king of the beasts, to Matthew, who speaks about Christ’s royal descent from King David, and tells us that the Magi called Him “the King of the Jews.” The man is referred to Mark, “who handles the things which the man Christ did”, and the ox to Luke for the same reason as Irenaeus. Since the first three animals “have their course upon this earth, (i.e., they walk and do not fly) … in like manner, those three evangelists occupy themselves chiefly with the things which Christ did in the flesh … Whereas John … soars like an eagle above the clouds of human infirmity, and gazes upon the light of the unchangeable truth (i.e. the divinity of Christ) with those keenest and steadiest eyes of the heart.” This last part refers to a common belief in the ancient world that eagles could look directly at the sun.

Folio 27v of the Books of Kells, ca. 800, showing the Symbols of the Four Evangelists.
It is to St Jerome that we owe the formation of this tradition as we now hold it, in which the man, lion, ox and eagle, are the symbols respectively of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In the prologue of his commentary on the Gospel of St Matthew, he writes that
The book of Ezekiel also proves that these four Gospels were foretold long before, in which the first vision is formed thus: “And in the midst thereof the likeness of four living creatures: and the countenance thereof, the face of a man, and the face of a lion, and the face of an ox, and the face of an eagle.” The first face of the man signifies Matthew, who began to write as of a man, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The second is Mark, in which the voice of a lion roaring in the desert is heard, “A voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” The third is that of the ox, who prefigures the Evangelist Luke, who took his beginning from the priest Zachariah. The fourth is the Evangelist John, who taking the wings of an eagle, and hastening to higher matters, treats of the Word of God.
This order is repeated exactly, and for the same reasons, by St Gregory the Great at the beginning of his fourth homily on Ezekiel. Jerome then confirms the prophetic meaning of the vision by reference to the appearance of the same four animals in the fourth chapter of the Apocalypse, that “are full of eyes, and rested not day and night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.’ ” The animals in the chariot in Ezekiel 1, and the cherubim in chapter ten are both described as “full of eyes.” He goes to make the same point first made by Irenaeus: “By all these things, it is clearly shown that only the four Gospels ought to be received, and all the ditties of the apocrypha ought to be sung by the heretics, who are dead, rather than by the living men of the Church.”

Detail of the St John Altarpiece by Hans Memling, 1474-79, showing the vision of St John in Apocalypse 4.
Part of Ezekiel’s vision, 1, 10-14, is read as the Epistle at the Masses of Ss Matthew and Mark, but not those of Ss Luke or John. (It has been removed from the lectionary of the post-Conciliar rite.) In the Tridentine Breviary, Ezekiel, 1, 1-12 is read at Matins of Ss Matthew, Mark and Luke, and the whole of Apocalypse 4 is read on the Octave of St John. This is the limit of the liturgical use of these passages on the feasts of the Evangelists. In its habitual conservatism, the Roman Breviary has proper readings for the Evangelists at Matins, but uses the common office of Apostles for everything else; St John has a mostly proper Office, but the other three do not. None of the proper musical texts (antiphons, hymns, responsories) of St John’s office or the common of Apostles cites either of these passages.

There does exist, however, a more complete proper office of the Evangelists, which is found in the Breviaries of the Dominican, Carmelite and Premonstratensian Orders, and most medieval Uses. It has nine responsories, all of which quote the visions of Ezekiel, although these were not received by the Dominicans. It also includes these three major antiphons, for the Magnificat of both Vespers and for the Benedictus at Lauds, which refer explicitly to the tradition of the four animals as symbols of the Evangelists.

Ad Magn. Aña Ecce ego Joannes vidi ostium apertum in caelo; et ecce sedes posita erat in eo, et in medio sedis et in circuitu ejus quattuor animalia plena oculis ante et retro: et dabant gloriam et honorem et benedictionem sedenti super thronum, viventi in saecula saeculorum.
At the Magnificat of First Vespers Behold, I, John, saw a door was opened in heaven, and behold there was a throne set in heaven, and in the midst of the throne, and round about it were four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind; and they gave glory, and honor, and blessing to him that sitteth on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever.

Ad Bened. Aña In medio et in circuitu sedis Dei quattuor animalia senas alas habentia, oculis undique plena, non cessant nocte ac die dicere: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus omnipotens, qui erat et qui est, et qui venturus est.
At the Benedictus In the midst and round about the throne of God, four living creatures, having wings, full of eyes on all sides, rest not day and night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.

Ad Magn. Aña Tua sunt haec, Christe, opera, qui sanctos tuos ita glorificas, ut etiam dignitatis gratiam in eis futuram praeire miraculis facias: tu insignes Evangelii praedicatores animalium caelestium admirabili figura praesignasti: his namque caeleste munus collatum gloriosis indiciis es dignatus ostendere: hinc laus, hinc gloria tibi resonet in saecula.
At the Magnificat of Second Vespers These are Thy works, o Christ, who so glorify Thy Saints, that Thou also cause the grace of dignity that will be in them to be first preceded by miracles. Thou marked beforehand the wondrous preachers of the Gospel by the marvelous figure of the heavenly animals; for by these glorious signs, Thou deigned to show the heavenly gift given to them; hence let praise, hence glory resound to Thee forever.

30th Anniversary of the FSSP

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the canonical founding of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter. Since their first foundation with twelve priests and twenty seminarians, the FSSP has expanded to over 300 priests in 17 countries, celebrating Mass in 239 locations around the world. We encourage all of our readers to offer thanks to God for the tremendous blessing of the Fraternity, and the many other traditional communities, and pray that they they all continue to flourish with many holy vocations. Feliciter et felicissime!

From the Facebook page of the FSSP Apostolate in Lyon, France, located at the collegiate church of St Just, here are some photos of a recent pilgrimage which the parish made to the shrine of Our Lady of Fourvière.

Milanese Requiem Set for the Holy Sepulchre

For the jubilee year of 1600, Milan sent the Holy Sepulchre a complete set for solemn Requiem masses, including two folded chasubles. Made of very deep indigo cut velvet, silk, silver-gilt thread, and gold braid, in the spaces between the acanthus pattern are the fourteen symbols of the Passion, sometimes called the Arma Christi (Christ’s arms, in the sense of weaponry). The Jerusalem Cross is featured throughout. (From the holdings of the Terra Sancta Museum:  Thanks to the Liturgical Arts Journal for permission to share these photos with our readers.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Solemn Requiem for All Souls’ Day in Minneapolis

The Fraternity of St Peter’s parish in Minneapolis, the church of All Saints, will have a solemn Requiem Mass on All Souls’ Day, featuring the Requiem Mass for Six Voices by Tomás Luis de Victoria. The Mass will begin at 7:30 pm; the church is located at 435 4th St NE.

The Offertory Vir erat from the Book of Job

As noted by our good friends at Canticum Salomonis, the Offertory chant of this past Sunday is taken from the beginning of the book of Job, and presents a very unusual text, inasmuch as it recounts only the beginning of Job’s sufferings.

Off. There was a man in the land (of Hus), Job by name, simple and upright, and fearing God, whom Satan asked to tempt, and power was given to him by the Lord against his possessions and his flesh. And he wasted all his substance and his sons, and he wounded his flesh, too, with a grievous ulcer. (In the video below, the words “of Hus” are omitted, but they are in the printed text of the Tridentine Missal.)

Scenes from the life of Job, by an unknown Flemish Master, ca. 1480-90
Part of the reason for this is that originally, like many Offertories, the text was expanded by the addition of other verses, which in this case, were meant to be sung with the frequent repetition of certain words.

V. Oh that my sins were weighed! Oh that my sins were weighed! whereby I have deserved wrath! whereby I have deserved wrath! And the calamity! And the calamity which I suffer would appear heavier!
V. For what is, for what is, for what is my strength that I should hold out? Or what is mine end, that I should bear patiently?
V. Is my strength the strength of stones? Or is my flesh of bronze? Or is my flesh of bronze?
V. For, for, for mine eye shall not turn back for me to see good things, see good things, see good things, see good things, see good things, see good things, see good things, see good things, see good things.

Writing in the 9th century, the liturgical commenter Amalarius of Metz cleverly explained the significance of these repetitions as follows; later writers on the same subject such as Durandus will repeated his explanation.

“I am reminded of the repetition of words in the verses of the Offertory Vir erat, ... (which) is not in the Offertory itself but in its verses. The words of the historical writer are contained in the Offertory; the words of the ailing and suffering Job in the verses. A sick man whose breathing is weak and unhealthy often repeats broken phrases. In order to create a vivid memory of Job in his sickness, the author of the office repeated certain phrases several times in the manner of sick men. The words are not repeated, as I said, in the Offertory itself, because the historical writer was not sick as he wrote the history.”

(Translations by Notkerus Balbus from Canticum Salomonis, with our thanks.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

54-Day Rosary Novena for the Clergy at Holy Innocents in NYC

The church of the Holy Innocents In New York City will pray a 54-Day Rosary Novena in reparation for the sins of sex abuse committed by the clergy, and for the sanctification of all priests and religious, starting today, and ending on Saturday, December 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. A Holy Hour of Reparation for the sexual sins of priests and for the sanctification of the clergy will be held on December 8th following the 1:00 p.m. Mass, during which the final Rosary of the 54-day Novena will be prayed.

Here is the series of prayers which will be added to the individual mysteries of the Rosary as part of the novena; it includes a series of petitions to be made for the first 27 days, followed by a series of thanksgivings for the last 27 days. We include these for those who may wish to to unite their prayers on behalf of the Church and the clergy to this initiative.

Paintings from the School of St Albans...on the Walls of St Albans Cathedral

An Artistic Pilgrimage

This summer, when visiting England and staying in London, I decided to take the short drive up to see St Albans Cathedral. The main structure was originally built in Norman times, and so would have been Romanesque, but the modern appearance is largely Gothic. There have been several renovations over the centuries, included a partial rebuilding after an earthquake in 1250 - not a common occurrence in England!

In some ways, one might even think of this as a sort of artistic pilgrimage. Readers will know that I have suggested that the style of a 13th-century monk based at St Albans, Matthew Paris, is one that I think could be the basis of a liturgical style for today. I have called this style The School of St Albans; the suggestion originally came from a student in a class of mine. My experience as a teacher is that Roman Catholics do seem to take to this style naturally, and make it their own even in a single class. You can see work done by my students in a week-long workshop in a past blog post here.

True to the Gothic spirit, Paris drew and painted not only sacred art for books like psalters, but also illustrations of Saints that were probably not made as a focus of prayer, and also include figures like  Plato and Socrates, with plants and animals around them.

St Amphibalus, (a convert of St Albans), baptizing converts - note full immersion!

Euclid and Herman the Dalmatian (a medieval philosopher)

This is a style which relies on the description of form with line, and which is restrained in its use of tonal and color variation. These limitations will help to eliminate the sentimentality from their naturalism that is the blight of so many modern artists.

I have only seen illuminated manuscripts by Paris, and generally, they are miniatures. Some have questioned whether or not this style would work on a large scale. I have always thought that it could be adapted to work on the walls of modern churches. So, when I had heard that there are some original medieval wall paintings that have been uncovered at St Albans Cathedral, I very much wanted to see them in order to get a sense of their scale, and to make a sort of pilgrimage to the place that nurtured such a great, and largely unsung, artist in the 13th century.

With these things in mind, I entered the cathedral. After a quick prayer for the peaceful return of stolen property to the Church, I stepped inside.

The paintings are pale, but as we can see, done on a large scale and according to this same basic style - form described by line, with simple coloration. Whether or not you are convinced that it is right to use this style today, we can certainly conclude that the artists of the period felt that it was appropriate for floor-to-ceiling frescoes, this church has a high ceiling). I would encourage patrons and artists to look at these and think about how they could reproduce this style in our churches. I think that it allows for large areas to be covered relatively easily and appropriately:

Monday, October 15, 2018


To the cult of man who has made himself God, the Church opposes the cult of God-made-man.

To the absence of God in the world, the Church opposes His Real Presence on the altar.

To the banality and sterility of evil, the Church opposes the wondrous life-giving Cross.

To the sacrificial machinery of liberalism, the Church opposes the one liberating Sacrifice of Calvary.

To the empire of the Prince of this world, the Church opposes the inbreaking of the kingdom of heaven.

To ineffectual laments and humanistic dreams, the Church opposes her potent Sacraments of life and death.

To the hollow monotony of materialism, the Church opposes the adoration and vigilance of hosts of angels, each its own species with its own voice of praise.

To navel-gazing nihilism, the Church opposes the only human beings who are fully real: the saints.

To the worship of free will, the Church opposes the service of charity.

To the obsession with activity, the Church opposes the inscrutable power of resting at the feet of Christ.

To instant communication, the Church opposes timeless communion.

To the pursuit of novelty and relevance, the Church opposes her perpetual newness and essential rightness.

To the stifling self-limitations of modern art, the Church opposes the grandeur and creativity of the arts she has nurtured in her bosom.

To the noise of the modern world, the Church opposes the still, small voice of God.

To the cacophony of amplified sound, the Church opposes the imperturbable silence of her prayer.

To the ennervating clichés of worldly music, the Church opposes the elevating freshness of her chant.

To inundation with empty words and shifting images, the Church opposes one Word of infinite density and one stable set of signs.

To suffocating pleasures of the flesh that end in worms, the Church opposes the flight of contemplation and the glory of resurrection.

To the deathly ennui of life without God, the Church opposes being lost in Christ and found by Him.

To the idolatry of Progress and mindless modernization, the Church opposes the inexhaustible fruitfulness of age-old Tradition.

*          *          *
If there were ever a body of people that called itself “the Church” but did NOT oppose the world in these ways, we would know that it is not and cannot be the immaculate Bride of Christ, permanently united to Him, imitating Him, faithful to Him; it is not and cannot be the Mystical Body founded and sustained by Jesus Christ, its Head and Master. This, in turn, may prompt the realization that the Church is smaller, more scattered, more of a remnant than perhaps we had been accustomed to thinking before.

It may also prompt the realization of the irreducible centrality of authentic religious life, in which all of these characteristics of the true Church are concentrated and crystallized, enfleshed and exalted.

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