Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Troped Kyrie on the Feast of the Holy Trinity

Sung by our friends of the Schola Sainte-Cécile at the church of Saint-Eugène in Paris this past Sunday.


Kyrie, fons bonitatis, Pater ingenite, a quo bona cuncta procedunt, eleison. --- (source of goodness, unbegotten Father, from whom all good things come forth)
Kyrie, qui pati Natum mundi pro crimine, ipsum ut salvaret, misisti, eleison. --- (who sent Thy Son to suffer for the sin of the world, that He might save it)
Kyrie, qui septiformis das dona Pneumatis, a quo caelum, terra replentur, eleison. --- (who givest the gift of the sevenfold Spirit, by whom the heaven and earth are filled)
Christe, unice Dei Patris genite, quem de Virgine nasciturum mundo mirifice sancti praedixerunt Prophetae, eleison. --- (only begotten of God the Father, whom the holy Prophets foretold would be wonderously born into the world of the Virgin)
Christe hagie, caeli compos regiae, melos gloriae cui semper astans pro numine Angelorum decantat apex, eleison. --- (Holy one, Lord of the kingdom of heaven, to whom the highest Angels sing the song of glory as they stand forever before the Godhead)
Christe, caelitus adsis nostris precibus, pronis mentibus quem in terris devote colimus; ad te, pie Jesu, clamamus, eleison. --- (from heaven be present to our prayers, whom we devoutly worship in earth, our minds turned toward Thee; to Thee, holy Jesus we cry out)

Kyrie, Spiritus alme, cohaerens Patri Natoque, unius usiae consistendo, flans ab utroque, eleison. --- (kindly Spirit, united to the Father and Son, consisting of one essence, proceding from both)
Kyrie, qui baptizato in Jordanis unda Christo, effulgens specie columbina apparuisti, eleison. --- (who, when Christ was baptized in the waters of the Jordan, appeared in brightness in the form of a dove)
Kyrie, ignis divine, pectora nostra succende, ut digni pariter decantare possimus semper, eleison. --- (divine fire, enkindle our hearts, that we may always be able to sing with the same worthiness)

Fota XI Speakers and Papers Announced

St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy is pleased to announce a provisional list of speakers and topics for the Fota XI International Liturgy Conference, to be held in Cork, Ireland, July, 7-9, on the subject of the Divine Office, entitled Psallite Sapienter: The Liturgy of the Hours.

1. Dom Benedict Maria Andersen, OSB (Ireland): Erant semper in templo: The Divine Office in the Life of the Church

2. Fr. Joseph Briody, (St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts): The Imprecatory Passages of the Psalms and their use in the Divine Office

3. Fr. Sven Leo Sven Conrad, FSSP (Germany): Praying in the name of the Church - The liturgy of the hours as public prayer

4. Gregory DiPippo (U.S.A.): The History of the Church in the Divine Office

5. Matthew Hazell (United Kingdom): The Second Vatican Council and Proposals for Reform of the Roman Breviary (1959-1963)

6. Sr. Maria M. Kiely, O.S.B. (U.S.A.): Sobria Ebrietas: the role of the hymn in the Divine Office

7. Dr. Peter Kwasniewski (U.S.A.): Useful Repetition in the Divine Office: A Case Study for Questioning Sacrosanctum Concilium 34

8. Prof. William Mahrt (U.S.A.): The Role of Antiphons in the Singing of the Divine Office

9. Fr. Dennis McManus (U.S.A.): The Reform of the Liturgy of the Hours in Light of Nostra Aetate. 

Corpus Christi 2018

Transiturus de mundo ad Patrem Jesus, in mortis suae memoriam * instituit sui corporis et sanguinis Sacramentum. V. Corpus in cibum, sanguinem in potum tribuens, Hoc, ait, facite in meam commemorationem. Instituit. Gloria Patri. Instituit. (The twelfth responsory of Matins of Corpus Christi in the Benedictine Breviary.)

Folio 22r of the Hours of René of Anjou, King of Sicily (15th century; Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des manuscrits.)
V. When He was about to pass from the world to the Father, in memory of His death, Jesus * instituted the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. V. Giving His Body as food, and His Blood as drink, He said, “Do this in memory of me.” He instituted. Glory be. He instituted.

The text of this responsory is taken from the Bull Transiturus of Pope Urban IV (1261-64), by which he ordered the establishment of the feast of Corpus Christi; it is such a beautiful piece of writing that it was commonly read in the Divine Office at Matins of the feast. This custom was changed in the Roman Breviary by the Tridentine reform, but it continued elsewhere, most notably at Liège, where the feast was first celebrated, and where Pope Urban had been archdeacon; also in the Carthusian Breviary.

When Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, was about to pass from this world to the Father, as the time of His Passion drew nigh, having taken supper, He instituted unto the memory of His death the most exalted and magnificent Sacrament of His Body and Blood, giving His Body to eat and His Blood to drink. For however so often we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord. In the institution of this saving Sacrament, He said to the Apostles, “Do this in memory of Me”, so that this august and venerable Sacrament might be the special and particular memorial of the exceptional love with which He loved us: this memorial, I say, wondrous and astounding, full of delight, sweet, most secure, and precious above all things, in which signs are renewed and wonders changed, in which is contained every delight and the enjoyment of every savor, and the very sweetness of the Lord is tasted, by which we do indeed obtain the support of our life and salvation. This is the memorial most sweet, most sacred, most holy, profitable unto salvation, by which we recall the grace of our redemption; by which we are drawn away from evil and strengthened in good, and advance to the increase of virtues and graces, by the bodily presence of the Savior.

The Institution of the Holy Eucharist, by Federico Barocci, from the Aldobrandini Chapel of St Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome; 1603-8
Transiturus de mundo ad Patrem Salvator noster Dominus Jesus Christus, cum tempus suae passionis instaret, sumpta coena, in memoriam mortis suae instítuit summum et magnificum sui Corporis et Sanguinis sacramentum: Corpus in cibum, et Sánguinem in poculum tribuendo. Nam quotiescumque hunc panem manducamus, et calicem bibimus, mortem Domini annuntiamus. In institutione quidem hujus salutiferi Sacramenti, dixit ipse Apostolis: Hoc facite in meam commemorationem: ut praecipuum et insigne memoriale sui amoris, quo nos dilexit, esset nobis hoc praecelsum et venerabile Sacramentum, memoriale, inquam, mirabile ac stupendum, delectabile ac suave, tutissimum ac sitibundum, carissimum et super omnia pretiosum. In quo innovata sunt signa, et mirabilia immutata, in quo habetur omne delectamentum, et omnis saporis suavitas, ipsaque dulcedo Domini degustatur; in quo utique vitae suffragium consequimur, et salutis. Hoc est memoriale dulcissimum, memoriale sanctissimum, memoriale salvificum, in quo gratam redemptionis nostrae recensemus memoriam, in quo a malo retrahimur, confortamur in bono, et ad virtutem et gratiarum proficimus incrementa, et in quo profecto reficimur ipsius corporali praesentia.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Photopost Request: Corpus Christi 2018

Our next major photopost will be for Corpus Christi, which is celebrated either tomorrow, May 31, or this coming Sunday, June 3. Please send your photos (whether of the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form) to photopost@newliturgicalmovement.org for inclusion. Of course, we are especially glad to include pictures of Eucharistic Processions, one of the major staples of this feast, but also those of celebrations in other rites, as well as Vespers and other parts of the Office. For the past four years, we received enough submissions to make three separate posts - let’s keep this tradition going! Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important. Evangelize through beauty!

From our second Corpus Christi photopost of last year, a particularly good shot by one of our regular contributors, Mr Arrys Ortañez; the Eucharistic procession in Manhattan from the church of the Holy Innocents.

Pentecost 2018 Photopost (Part 3)

Our final Pentecost photopost for this year continues to show the great richness of the Church’s liturgical life, with First Communions, Confirmations, a bit of the Byzantine and Ordinariate Rites, a pilgrimage, and another first Mass. As always, we are very grateful to everyone who sent these in; time to get ready for Corpus Christi!

Immaculate Heart of Mary Oratory - San Jose, California (ICKSP)


First Communions

In the Heart of the Church, a New Carmel and Center of Traditional Liturgy

New Liturgical Movement is pleased to make this announcement on behalf of the Carmelite sisters of Fairfield. Their noble project will be of great interest to many of our readers. Pray for God's blessings on their worthy endeavors.

A New Carmel
To continue and perpetuate the vital work of love in the heart of the Church, a new beautiful Monastery of Discalced Carmelite Nuns is being constructed (http://fairfieldcarmelites.org) in the quiet rural farmland of Fairfield, Pennsylvania. This beautiful new property will provide a fitting home for an interior blossoming of monastic life and will be ready to receive a constant stream of vocations zealous for God and His Church.
“In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things!” (St. Therese of Lisieux)
The Carmelite in the Heart of the Church
The Carmelite Nun is a consecrated bride of Christ who is called to give herself unreservedly to the work of her Divine Bridegroom: the salvation of the world. In union with the Savior and imitating the Blessed Virgin Mary, Carmelites are hidden away in the heart of the Church, beating day and night with the rhythm of continuous prayer and sacrifice, in order to bring the vital flow of divine grace to the other members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Like the heart concealed in the chest, behind grilles, turnstiles, and high enclosure walls, they joyfully pursue a life of prayer and sacrifice so that they might glorify and love God—even for those who do not—and make reparation for sin, obtain heavenly aid for the clergy, support the labors of missionaries, preserve the unity of families, and increase divine charity in all the faithful for their eternal benefit.
“The smallest act of pure love is of greater value in the eyes of God, and more profitable to the Church, than the greatest works.” (St. John of the Cross)
The new Carmel in Fairfield is a daughter of the vibrant and growing Carmels in Valparaiso, Nebraska and Elysburg, Pennsylvania. The Nuns pray the full traditional Divine Office and have the Traditional Latin Mass daily, which is open to the public.
Making History
This Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Fairfield is being built according to the traditional style of an original 16th Century Spanish monastery, not merely for its aesthetic value, but for the quality and integrity of religious observance that is fostered by the beauty and simplicity of traditional monastic architecture. As the Nuns draw from the riches of their Spanish Carmelite architectural heritage, this new monastery will also be built using traditional building methods. Thus, stone masonry, timber framing, slate, plaster, and reclaimed wood for flooring will be used to recreate the simple but edifying style of an original 16th Century Carmel, for a shining example of the beauty of the Catholic Religion and a testimony to the world of the glory of God.
Visitors to the Carmel will be able to be immersed in the graces of the prayer of Nuns, which reverberates within their cloister walls in the silence of holy contemplation, echoes in their devout recitation of the Divine Office, and resounds on high in the sublimest chant at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Furthermore, the contemplative religious brothers and priests of the Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the area will help provide the Sacraments to visitors and a place of hospitality in a guest and retreat house near the Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, helping to make Fairfield, within driving distance of many Catholics on the East Coast, a center of prayerful retreat and spiritual refreshment for priests, religious, and the lay faithful coming from the region and around the country.
Going on now and until July 25th, 2018, a series of stone and timber framing workshops will be held by professional craftsmen from Europe to begin construction on some of the initial facilities for the Carmel. These and future workshops are aimed at cultivating a workforce comprised of both volunteers and professionals. No previous experience or training is required. Both volunteers and professionals are invited to participate and can gain new certifications through this project. There is no charge for the course, and those who are interested in registering may call the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at 570-672-2122 to learn more.


“Build the house: and it shall be acceptable to me, and I shall be glorified, saith the Lord.” (Haggai 1:8)
How You Can Help Make History
As these Carmelite Nuns offer their spiritual labors day and night for the eternal benefit of souls, this unique and historic work for Our Lord and Our Lady depends on the material support of the faithful in the construction of this house of God for generations to come. Organizations, families, and individuals are welcome to contribute or volunteer in a variety of ways in the construction and support of the Carmel, at any time of year. Also, your generous financial donation is much appreciated to realize in Fairfield a center of beautiful traditional liturgy for the enduring benefit of many souls. The St. Teresa of Jesus insisted to her religious daughters: “we live upon alms.”
For more information and to support this Carmel in making history, please visit http://fairfieldcarmelites.org. May God reward you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Pentecost 2018 Photopost (Part 2)

Continuing with our Pentecost photopost series, once again we have a beautiful set of pictures (and one video) that show not only the beauty, but also the great variety and richness of our Catholic liturgical tradition: the vigil Mass, Vespers, Confirmation, a priest’s first Mass, and a shower of rose petals (photographed with a very cleverly chosen filter). Part three will be posted tomorrow, along with a request for photos of your upcoming Corpus Christi celebrations. Evangelize through beauty!

Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini - Rome, Italy (FSSP)
Mass of the Vigil
The Second Prophecy (Exodus 14, 24 - 15, 1), followed by the tract (15, 1-2), and prayer. The Mass was sung by Floriani, a choir made of students from Thomas Aquinas College in California, one of the best choirs I have ever heard.



Corpus Christi in the Norbertine Rite in California

The church of Ss Peter and Paul in Wilmington, California, located at 515 West Opp Street, will have a solemn High Mass this Thursday for the feast of Corpus Christi, celebrated according to the Premonstratensian Use by the Norbertine Fathers of St Michael’s Abbey. The Mass will start at 7:00 pm, and be followed by a Eucharistic Procession.


From last year’s Corpus Christi celebration - the deacon at the solemn Mass wearing the “almutium”, a large garment of white rabbit fur worn over the maniple at the singing of the Gospel and the “Ite, missa est.”


Choosing Art For the Psalms and the Divine Office Today: Applying Past Principles

Last week, I presented a summary of the principles for the ordering of images in psalters, such as those that might have been produced in the Gothic period. This week, I want to consider how we might illuminate the psalms and the Divine Office today. I will be referring to some of the principles articulated last week without going into detail, so you may need to refer back to that original article from time to time. You can read it here.

My purpose in writing this is to encourage the praying of the psalms and the Divine Office fruitfully. It is not primarily to reestablish the tradition of sacred art for psalters, but because I believe that sacred art is necessary for the most fruitful encounter with the Word, whether it be at the Mass or the Divine Office.

The first approach to consider might be the simple one. Assuming that we think that these psalters of the past did a good job and people prayed the psalms fruitfully in the 13th century, why not just do exactly they did in the ,13th century? With modern technology, we could even mass produce facsimiles of the St Albans Psalter or the Westminster Psalter that look and feel authentic, and are small enough to handle easily. They would be cheap enough for most people to be able to buy them. You could have vellum-like pages (so well produced that most of us couldn’t tell the difference) with ornate historiated initials like this one, if you wanted to. (We’ll discuss if that’s a good idea in a moment.)

There is one obvious problem. Most people today can’t read it. Beautiful though it is, it would not be an aid to prayer for most people because they have no idea what the words means, are unfamiliar with the calligraphic style of writing. Even if it were in the vernacular, people would struggle to decipher it, and likely wouldn’t want to try.

It might be possible to adapt this idea, though. I think that the style of some of the images from this period does connect with people today, so those images that relate to the general themes of salvation history, themes which are contained within the psalms, could be reproduced and put into, say, an English- or Spanish-language psalter, with an attractive but readable typeface.

We could begin by using reproductions of great art from the past that we feel are most likely to connect with people today, and use these as the foundation for an artistic tradition that develops organically from this point on, so as to speak to people today powerfully. This is same approach to re-establishing the traditions of liturgical art in general that I have suggested in the past.

In regard to which psalters to choose, my suggestion for a starting place is the art of Englishman Matthew Paris and the 13th-century School of St Albans, as we see in the Westminster Psalter. I have found that people respond well to this style when praying, and when I teach this style in art workshops, students seem to understand it so naturally that the quality of the art they produce is high.

Sacred art of this type is designed to communicate in a single visual statement a story or an idea that might take a lot of text to articulate in words. It this sense, it is in a visual poetic statement that tells the story in one moment of looking, that is, to those who know what they are seeing. Through this, the artist can add to the story through the beauty of the work, which tells aspects of the mystery that are beyond words. While people can pick up what it is telling us intuitively, and they can certainly enjoy it and be drawn into what it reveals through its beauty, it would still help if there was catechesis available on the meaning of the psalms, salvation history, the study of scripture, and how traditional sacred art and symbolism encapsulates these truths.

This form of instruction is the mystagogical/liturgical catechesis, rooted in scripture, that has been asked for by recent Popes, and like so many other such requests, seems to be largely ignored. I would say that it should be included in the general education of every Catholic as a matter of absolute priority. It should be there at the start and the finish. It is surprising to me, for example, how little emphasis on the study of scripture, the greatest book, we see in some Catholic Great Books programs.

Realistically, however, this is not going to happen soon, but given that the liturgy itself is the best vehicle for catechesis, our newly designed psalter can contain this catechesis too. There can be explanations to support the images, supplied in some detail in supporting text sidebars. Keywords and references to connected scripture from elsewhere can be placed by the artist in the painting itself. It has always been part of the tradition to name key figures, and for a festal icon, to write the name of the feast day on the icon. This is part of the tradition that should be reestablished today and perhaps, with judgment, extended slightly.

Many people today pray the office via smartphones, using, for example, Universalis.com or prayer.covert.org. It might be possible to have the option of accessing an appropriate image through a tap or a stroke of the screen and then with a further action seeing its accompanying explanation.

After the question of what images we would have, the next is, Where do we put them? This is where I might use a different approach to the psalters of the past. It has to be useable to the modern reader. I would not take the route of commissioning a new “retro” psalter along the lines of the St John’s Bible Project. This was the project commissioned in 1998, in which the text of the Gospel was written by an expert calligrapher, and master artists who worked in traditional styles (sometimes with a deliberate modern twist). For all the value that this might have had artistically, I am not convinced that it encouraged many to read the Bible because it was large and unwieldy, and therefore difficult to read.

I would aim for a high-standard mass-produced psalter as described, in which the placement of paintings within the pages is changed for the modern reader too. To explain: many of the images in the Gothic psalters were placed in particular places in the psalter for practical reasons that don’t apply today. They were used, for example as bookmarks, to help people locate a particular psalm. We don’t need whole pages devoted to an image in order to create a bookmark nowadays, because we use page numbers to find a psalm, and this works much better.

I would retain the broad-themed images at the start of the book, such as King David to represent the psalms as a whole, and some incidental illustrations within the book itself. Many of these generally themed images which relate salvation history to the mysteries of the Faith are the same as those that are the basis of the icon corner and of the liturgical art in the church (and which are described in my book, co-written with Leila Lawler, called The Little Oratory). The following image of King David was painted for that book and was based on an original which is found in the Westminster Psalter.
Here is the original:

Because the smartphone has a small screen, photographic images of large paintings reduced in size drastically, say from 3 feet to 3 inches, will lose much valuable detail. The best images for such a medium will be those painted small (like those of Matthew Paris, incidentally) or designed deliberately for reproduction on the device. If artists paint art intended for social media and smartphones, they could also take into account in a positive way the changes in color, clarity and transmitted detail that occur in an electronic reproduction, so that their effectiveness is optimized. This represents an opportunity for the contemporary artists; art that is good and reproduces well on smartphones and social media is more likely to attract attention.

Furthermore, the placement of images should be considered in conjunction with the particular way that the psalms are prayed, so as to encourage actual engagement with them. As part of the ritual of praying the Office, we can pause after the opening versicles, look at the images, and venerate them with a kiss (if in a book) or a bow, and with incensing if we are at the icon corner or church. We could develop the same habit during the Glory Be. Perhaps the day will come when the person who studies and kisses his smartphone in church is not someone who is hooked on technology, but the pious man praying the Office well!

A similar ritual can be established for the repeated texts, such as the Gospel canticles: Magnificat, when we can venerate an icon of Mary, or if we have one, an image of the Annunciation; for the Benedictus, any image of John the Baptist would be good, and for the Nunc Dimittis, the Presentation or of Mary presenting her son to us, (which would be the Simeon’s-eye view of the scene!).

Monday, May 28, 2018

Traditional Liturgy Attracts Vocations, Nourishes Contemplative Life, and Sustains the Priesthood

Monks at Clear Creek: no lack of vocations here!
In my post “Divergent Political Models in the Two ‘Forms’ of the Roman Rite,” I argued that people who bring a well-developed life of faith to the Novus Ordo are equipped to derive spiritual benefit from it, while those who attend the traditional Latin Mass are confronted by a strong and definite spirituality that drives them deeper into the mysteries of faith and the exercise of theological virtues. The new form is a loosely-demarcated playing field for liturgical intramurals, whereas the old form is an ascetical-mystical bootcamp through which soldiers of the Lord are driven. The former presupposes virtue; the latter produces it.

Can we find any external confirmation that this analysis is correct?

I would say yes. A sign of its truth is how often one encounters young people who either converted to the Faith or discovered a religious vocation precisely through the traditional liturgy. It was the liturgy itself that powerfully drew them in. Conversion and vocation stories in the Novus Ordo sphere seem to have a lot more to do with “I met this wonderful person” or “I was reading the Bible” or “I found this great book from Ignatius Press” or “I got to know the sisters in my high school” or “their devotion to the poor was so moving.”

All these motives are truly good, and the Lord wants to use them all. But it is still noteworthy that the Novus Ordo is rarely the powerful magnet that draws them in; it is a thing that people who are already drawn in for other reasons will go ahead and do as a regular prayer service. It’s the difference between relying on a neighbor for help and falling in love. Young people today rely for help on the Novus Ordo; they fall in love with the traditional liturgy. Or it is like the difference between acting from duty and acting from delight. We dutifully attend the Novus Ordo because it’s seen as “good for us,” like oatmeal; we get excited when the Latin Mass is available, because it’s delicious to the spiritual palate.

Perhaps readers may object that I am exaggerating the contrast. It may be that I am. But I can only speak from my own experience, as well as from conversations I’ve had as a teacher, choirmaster, or pilgrim with hundreds of young people over the past twenty years. There seems to me to be a vast difference in the perception of the attractiveness or desirability of the old liturgy versus that of the new — so much so that if a Catholic college or university wished to increase daily Mass attendance, all they would have to do is to provide the old Mass, or to provide it more frequently, and the number of communicants would significantly increase. It might seem utterly counterintuitive, and yet it is borne out again and again at chaplaincies across the world.

A psychologist or a sociologist would say that this can have many causes, but what concerns me at the moment is that there is a real theological explanation. One can see, in liturgical terms, why the old form of Mass (and Office and sacraments and blessings, etc.) would be powerfully attractive to today’s youth who discover them. These age-old, pre-industrial, pre-democratic forms are so much richer and denser, more symbolic, involved, and mysterious, pointing both more obviously and more obscurely to the supernatural, the divine, the transcendent, the gratuitous, the unexpected. They are seductive, as only God can be seductive. Seduxisti me, Domine, et seductus sum: fortior me fuisti, et invaluisti (Jer 20:7). This, after all, is what Pope Benedict XVI had in mind when he wrote to all the bishops of the world: “It has clearly been demonstrated that young persons, too, have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction, and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist particularly suited to them.”

The reformed liturgy in its Genevan simplicity has never won any awards for seductiveness. It can barely be looked at head on before people feel embarrassed about its nakedness and try to clothe it with every accoutrement they can find or invent. We have to bring to it a devotion or a seriousness of purpose that we ourselves possess, if we are going to be in a position to benefit from the divine sacrament it spartanly houses. Without love of the Lord presupposed, this would be a wearisome, unrewarding business, rather like having to convince an indifferent person to be friends with you. It’s an uphill battle from the start. Why should young people be interested in something that is so boringly lecture-like, so logical and efficient, or so much in need of artificial sweeteners, like sacro-pop music? Most of them would rather be anywhere else.
A nun of the traditional Benedictines of Mary
In attempting to understand how liturgy helps or hinders priestly and religious vocations, we should also take into account the demands of active life and contemplative life. Religious communities nowadays tend strongly in the direction of the active life, with apostolates in the world. As Dom Chautard and others have pointed out, modern people are strongly tempted to fall for the “heresy of activism,” whereby we believe that by our hard work we will bring about the kingdom of God on earth. Liberation Theology is an extreme example of the same tendency, but it has been at work since at least the heresy of Americanism diagnosed by Leo XIII in Testem Benevolentiae, according to which the so-called “active virtues” of work in the world have surpassed in worth and relevance the so-called “passive virtues” of religious and contemplative life.

Since the Novus Ordo valorizes the active and denigrates the passive, it seems to fit well with the activist or Americanist mentality. Thus it seems that active religious orders could find it somehow amenable, as long as they could keep bringing to it an interior life cultivated largely through other means. But the priesthood, which must be rooted in the mysteries of the altar in order to remain strong and fruitful, and the contemplative religious life, which focuses on offering up the sacrifice of praise and not on an external apostolate, cannot flourish on a subsistence diet. What may seem “good enough” for the laborer in the vineyard is perilously inadequate for the priest and the contemplative, who need a truly sacerdotal and contemplative liturgy if they are fully to realize their great callings.

This is why we see everywhere across the world that serious priests and contemplatives will either “traditionalize” the Novus Ordo as much as they can, or adopt the traditional Mass and Office, or both. Examples of this variety of tradition-friendly approaches may be found in communities such as the Abbey of St. Joseph de Clairval, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, the Community of St. Martin, and the monks of Norcia, Fontgombault, Clear Creek, and Heiligenkreuz.

Am I saying, then, that the (relatively few) healthy religious communities that use the Novus Ordo would be even better off with the Vetus Ordo? Yes, absolutely. The good they have would be multiplied, their power of attraction and intercession greatly intensified. Unfortunately, however, even those who have come to recognize the superiority of tradition will be discouraged by the hostile climate introduced under this pontificate from returning to the Church's authentic lex orandi, lest they suffer the fate of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate or the Trappists of Mariawald. In this official opposition to the desperately-needed restoration of Catholic tradition we can see the telltale signs of the Devil's implacable hatred for the celibate priesthood and the contemplative religious life.

But neither human nor angelic opposition should prevent any community from quietly and judiciously incorporating the traditional liturgy into its daily life. “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Rev 13:10). The ancient Latin liturgical rites and uses have nourished the saints of the Western Church for over 1,600 years. They have an imperishable power to do the same for all the saints Our Lord desires to raise up today. Traditional liturgy never failed to attract vocations of every kind or to support the Christian life of the laity; it continues to exercise the same fascination and fortification among us. The new-fangled liturgical rite of yesterday, like the Americanist world in which it was inculturated, is failing. A healthier Church, a healthier spiritual polity, is in the making.

Seminarians of the FSSP in Germany

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The “Inauthentic” Feast of the Holy Trinity

Our friends at Canticum Salomonis have published a translation of a part of an important liturgical treatise of the later 11th century, the Micrologus de Ecclesiasticis Observantiis, which contains a well-known anecdote about the feast of the Holy Trinity. The author, one Bernold of Constance, reports that when Pope Alexander II (1061-73) was asked a question about the feast of the Holy Trinity, then being celebrated in certain parts of Europe, he said that he saw no more need for it than for a feast of the Unity. For this reason Bernold considers the feast to be “not authentic.”

What Pope Alexander and Bernold of Constance say in this regard needs to be read in light of the great reform movement going on in the Church at the time, and the role of Rome and the Papacy in that reform.

Rome has usually been a late-comer to the great movements of reform and renewal in the Church. St Nicholas I, who traditionally shares the epithet “the Great” with Ss Leo I and Gregory I, and is famous inter alia for his defense of the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, died in 867 after a reign of nine years. From him, it was a distance of but thirty years and eight Popes to Stephen VI, whose reign of roughly sixteen months is summed up as follows in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

“Whether induced by evil passion or perhaps, more probably, compelled by the Emperor Lambert and his mother Ageltruda, he caused the body of (his predecessor) Formosus to be exhumed, and … placed before an unwilling synod of the Roman clergy. (Note: this is often referred to as ‘the Cadaver Synod’.) A deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff, who was condemned for performing the functions of a bishop when he had been deposed and for passing from the See of Porto to that of Rome. The corpse was then stripped of its sacred vestments, deprived of two fingers of its right hand, clad in the garb of a layman, and ultimately thrown into the Tiber. Fortunately it was not granted to Stephen to have time to do much else besides this atrocious deed. Before he was put to death by strangulation, he forced several of those who had been ordained by Formosus to resign their offices …”

Pope Formosus and Stephen VI - The Cadaver Synod, by Jean-Paul Laurens, 1870 (Public domain image from Wikipedia.)
After this infamous event, which has provided endless grist for the mills of anti-Catholic controversialists, the Papacy remained essentially quiescent as simony, lay investiture (the de facto control of ecclesiastical appointments by lay civil rulers) and clerical incontinence became nearly omnipresent in the Church. What made Cluny so important, especially in the 10th and 11th centuries, was the fact that the duke who founded it in 910, William of Aquitaine, renounced all control over it, in an age when monasteries were essentially the private property of the nobility, who appointed whomever they wished as abbots and officials. Given the tenor of the times, such appointments were very often made solely for the sake of providing an important connection with a salary, and with no reference to whether the man so appointed had any intention of living as a monk. Much the same applied to clerical offices of all ranks.

This state of things continued until the reign of another particularly unworthy successor of St Peter, Benedict IX, whom St Robert Bellarmine described as “the nadir” of the Papacy, and over whose career we draw a veil, as the sons of Noah drew a veil over their father. However, after his deposition in 1048, and the 24-day reign of Pope Damasus II, the papal throne was occupied by Leo IX, an active and enthusiastic reformer, now canonized as a Saint. From this point on, the reform party within the Church was in the ascendant, and would go from strength to strength, with the Popes very much at its fore; the clerical vices which were universal in the mid-11th century were almost entirely gone by the end of the 12th.

Alexander II, however, was elected in 1061, only 13 years after Benedict’s deposition; the like-minded Popes who preceded him were all fairly short-lived. Moreover, the ascendancy of the reform party was only made possible by the direct intervention of the German Emperor Henry III, for it was he who effectively deposed Benedict and then appointed to the Papacy a series of German bishops, all of whom owed their episcopal see to him; the short-lived Damasus II, his own kinsman St Leo IX, and then Victor II.

In these circumstances, it was perhaps only natural that once the reform party had taken control of Rome, it should begin to insist that the specifically Roman form of the Roman Rite also be followed, as a sign of unity with the Papacy and the worthy cause it had only very recently embraced. This was also the period when the Mozarabic liturgy was to a large degree forcibly suppressed, despite coming out the victor in a trial by fire; a similar attempt was made on the Ambrosian Rite, endorsed by St Peter Damian, and only stopped because Alexander II was himself Milanese.

The trial by fire of the Mozarabic liturgy.
Bernold of Constance was an enthusiastic supporter of the reform party; he lists a number of liturgical provisions enacted by Alexander’s successor, St Gregory VII, who was so much the embodiment of the reform that it is sometimes called “Gregorian” after him. The Micrologus, a treatise of roughly 16,500 words, refers more than 70 times to “the Roman order”, “the authority of Rome”, etc.

Richard Krautheimer, one of the great historians of the Christian art and architecture of Rome, writes à propos of the end of the 13th century, when the Papacy was about to pass into another of its less edifying phases, of “a problem recurrent in the history of Rome. Basically she was conservative. Her past, Christian and pagan, was her pride; but it weighed her down. The mistress of the world, see of the successors of St Peter, did not take easily to new ideas. Not by chance did she never house a medieval university. Bologna, not Rome, developed Roman law; Paris developed scholasticism. Similarly, for long periods patrons and artists remained untouched by new concepts of art evolved elsewhere in Europe. … the upsurge of a new art was (at various points) linked to a political revival; and it was interwoven with a rediscovery of the Roman past, Christian and pagan, rejuvenated. The alien ideas only took root when wedded to the living tradition. But a plainly conservative undercurrent lazily moved along beneath the recurrent upsweeps.” (Rome: Profile of a City; 2000 edition, p. 211. He could have added references to Gothic architecture and medieval music theory at this point.) This is very much the attitude embodied by Pope Alexander’s remark, and Bernold’s characterization of the feast of the Holy Trinity as “inauthentic.”

But even for all this, Pope Alexander’s critique of the feast evinces an astonishing lack of historical perspicacity.

The unicity of God was taught by the Jews and the pagan philosophers long before the coming of Christ, and inherited from them by the Church without question. This is why St Paul was able to preach to the Athenians that the “unknown god” to whom they had dedicated an altar had in fact finally revealed Himself, and come to seek the salvation of man, citing in support of his teaching the Greek poet who said “For we are also his offspring,” which is to say, of one God, not of many. (Acts 17, 22-31) This is also why it was a commonplace among the early Church Fathers that Plato had learned many of his ideas from Moses; already before the end of the 2nd century, St Clement of Alexandria calls him “the philosopher who learned from the Hebrews.”

It hardly needs to be said that the doctrine of the Trinity, on the other hand, the central mystery of the Christian Faith, was the subject of considerable discussion, which required seven ecumenical councils, innumerable local councils, and a vast body of theological writing for its defense.

The First Council of Nicea, depicted in a 14th-century fresco within the monastery complex of Panagia Sumela, in modern Turkey. The Emperor St Constantine, as he is called in the Byzantine churches, presides over the Council; in the lower left corner, St Nicholas is shown slapping Arius in the face for his impiety. (The monastery has been abandoned since 1923, and the frescos are sadly much damaged by vandalism.)
The most important heresies of the pre-Constantinian era, those which drove Arius and others to the opposite extreme, the denial of Christ’s divinity, all turned around the idea that because God is one, Christ must be in some way the same as the Father. This doctrine is usually known as Sabellianism, after a Roman priest named Sabellius who was excommunicated for teaching it by Pope St Callixtus I in 220 AD. However, it is also known as “Patripassianism”, the heresy that it was God the Father who suffered on the Cross. The Church Fathers, therefore, had to assert that the Incarnation did not compromise the essential doctrine of the unicity of God; the doctrine of the Trinity is the elaboration of this teaching. Among the modern writers, perhaps no one has expressed the import of this better than GK Chesterton did in The Everlasting Man.

“If there is one question which the enlightened and liberal have the habit of deriding and holding up as a dreadful example of barren dogma and senseless sectarian strife, it is this Athanasian question of the Co-Eternity of the Divine Son. On the other hand, if there is one thing that the same liberals always offer us as a piece of pure and simple Christianity, untroubled by doctrinal disputes, it is the single sentence, ‘God is Love.’ (1 John 4, 16) Yet the two statements are almost identical; at least one is very nearly nonsense without the other. The barren dogma is only the logical way of stating the beautiful sentiment. For if there be a being without beginning, existing before all things, was He loving when there was nothing to be loved? If through that unthinkable eternity He is lonely, what is the meaning of saying He is love? The only justification of such a mystery is the mystical conception that in His own nature there was something analogous to self-expression; something of what begets and beholds what it has begotten. Without some such idea, it is really illogical to complicate the ultimate essence of deity with an idea like love. If the moderns really want a simple religion of love, they must look for it in the Athanasian Creed.”

The Trinity first appeared at the Baptism of Christ, as the Byzantine Rite states in the tropar for January 6th: “When you were being baptized in the Jordan, o Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest.” But the Western Church did not place the feast of the Holy Trinity on a Sunday after Epiphany. (Neither for that matter did the East, which keeps Pentecost itself as its feast of the Trinity.) The salvation of man was accomplished and revealed at the Resurrection, but the Church did not place the feast of the Holy Trinity on a Sunday after Easter. On the first weekly commemoration of the Resurrection after Pentecost, the Church pauses to contemplate not only what was done for us in the Passion and Resurrection, and the sending of the Holy Spirit, but also to contemplate Who exactly did these things, and now sends Her forth to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

I think it unlikely to be mere coincidence that once the Gregorian reform had largely achieved its purpose, the blanket rejection of new feasts and devotions as “inauthentic” seems mostly to have faded away. There was a similar controversy over the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the days of St Bernard, who was opposed to it. But in the 13th century, it was the Pope himself, Urban IV, who commissioned St Thomas Aquinas to write the great masterpieces which are the Office and Mass of Corpus Christi. It is yet another oddity of liturgical history that Pope Urban’s initiative was not received even in the Papal court itself until the time of John XXII (1316-34), perhaps another example of the undercurrent of Roman laziness described by Krautheimer. It was the same Pope who canonized St Thomas, and extended the feast of the Trinity to the universal Church.

The Holy Trinity, from the Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne (The Great Hours of Anne of Brittany), made by Jean Bourdichon, 1503-8, for Anne, Duchess of Brittany and Queen of France (1477-1514), and considered to be one of the finest illuminated Books of Hour ever made. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits Latin 9474.

Ireland’s National Apostasy - A Sermon at Silverstream Priory, Trinity Sunday, 2018

This sermon was preached today by Dom Mark Kirby, O.S.B., at Silverstream Priory.

Ireland's National Apostasy
The Preamble to the Constitution of Ireland. In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire, humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial, gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the full independence of our Nation, and seeking to promote the common good with due observance of Prudence, Justice, and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations, do hereby adopt, enact, and give ourselves this Constitution.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

On this feast of the Most Holy Trinity, two days after Ireland’s national apostasy from the Holy Catholic Faith, how can we hear the Gospel that was sung just moments ago, and not recall the Constitution that the Irish people gave themselves 80 years ago in 1938? Friday’s vote was not about abortion only; it was about killing Ireland’s soul, about snuffing out all that made Ireland a beacon among the nations, about publicly renouncing all that, from the time that Saint Patrick kindled his blazing fire on the Hill of Slane, made this island home of ours a great welcoming Catholic hearth in a world grown cold and dark. Ireland was, among all the nations on earth, the one that unsparingly sent forth sons and daughters, intrepid in confessing the Holy Trinity, to bring the light of faith to the most far-flung corners of the globe.
And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28, 18)
How did we come to this? Among those who voted “Yes” on Friday, the vast number were baptized, and sealed with the sign of the Gift of the Holy Ghost in Confirmation. Some of these would have been confirmed but a few years ago. Among them were people who once knelt at the altar to receive the adorable Body of Christ, formed by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, immolated on the Cross, risen from the tomb, ascended into heaven, and returning in glory. Among them are people who, (and I say this with fear and trembling), will dare even to present themselves for Holy Communion today. To these, I can only repeat what the Apostle says:
Whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11, 27–29)
One cannot say that we were not warned. God did send his prophets to Ireland. I think of Frank Duff. I think of Saint John Paul II who, in October 1979, was given a rapturous welcome. Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, written only eight years ago, was prophetic. What became of it? Why was it filed away and not heeded?

There are reports of victory celebrations in Dublin and elsewhere: a satanic crowing, jeers hurled at Our Lord, against His Virgin Mother, and against the Church. The whole climate is eerily reminiscent of France in 1789, of Mexico in 1910, of Russia in 1917, of Germany in 1933, and of Spain in 1936. Even worse than the crowds hell–bent on celebrating the choice of death over life are the complacent lies of those government ministers who, with a smug satisfaction, speak of A New Modern Ireland At Last, an Ireland of compassion, justice, and respect for women. The accent in all such discourses is that of the ancient serpent:
Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman: Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise? And the woman answered him, saying: Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat; and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3, 1–5)
You will forgive me if I repeat today the words of the prophet Ezechiel:
Thou hast played the harlot with the nations among which thou wast defiled with their idols. Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister, and I will give her cup into thy hand. Thus saith the Lord God: Thou shalt drink thy sister’s cup, deep and wide: thou shalt be had in derision and scorn, which containeth very much. Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness, and sorrow: with the cup of grief, and sadness, with the cup of thy sister Samaria. And thou shalt drink it, and shalt drink it up even to the dregs, and thou shalt devour the fragments thereof, thou shalt rend thy breasts: because I have spoken it, saith the Lord God. (Ezechiel 23, 30–34)
What is remains for us? I will tell you what remains:
And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13, 13)
Draw near to the altar of the Holy Sacrifice, even as our forefathers drew in around the Mass Rocks. The altar is Ireland’s Divine Hearth. Not for nothing was the altar of the Lamb shown at Knock in 1879. Fall down in adoration and in reparation. Cry out to the Immaculate Mother of God, still Ireland’s Queen and Sorrowful Mother. My own dear father, with all the wisdom of his 91 years, said to me yesterday, “God has a plan. God will have the last word.” And what says Our Lord in today’s Gospel? He says this: “Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28, 20). In this promise of His, let us rest all our hope.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Introit of Ember Friday of Pentecost

Repleátur os meum laude tua, allelúja: ut possim cantáre, allelúja: gaudébunt labia mea, dum cantávero tibi, allelúja, allelúla. Ps. 70 In te, Dómine, sperávi, non confendar in aeternum: in justitia tua líbera me, et éripe me. Gloria Patri. Sicut erat. Repleátur...


Let my mouth be filled with Thy praise, alleluia: that I may be able to sing, alleluia. My lips shall rejoice as I sing to Thee, alleluia, alleluia. Ps. 70 In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me never be put to shame; in Thy justice deliver me, and rescue me. Glory be. As it was in the beginning. Let my mouth be filled...

The French composer Jacques Colebault (1483-1559), generally known as Jacquet of Mantua from his thirty-three year long career as Master of the Chapel at the cathedral of St Peter in that city, composed a motet based on the same text, which was later used by Palestrina as the basis of one of his Masses.

FSSP Ordinations Tomorrow - Live-Streaming Available

Tomorrow, ten men from the FSSP’s American seminary, which is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, will be ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St Cecilia in Omaha, Nebraska, by His Excellency Alexander Sample, Archbishop of Portland. The Mass will be that of the Ember Saturday of Pentecost, which is a very beautiful Mass, and a very appropriate choice, since the Ember Saturdays were particularly designed for ordination rites. It is also the feast of St Philip Neri, one of the finest Saintly models and patrons for all priests. The traditional ceremony for the rite of priestly ordination is an extraordinarily beautiful thing, well worth your time, even if you can only catch a part of it.

If you can’t be there in person, you can watch the live webcast at LiveMass, either through the website here or the iMass app, with commentary by Fr. Robert Fromageot, FSSP. The ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. Central, (11 a.m. Eastern, 8 a.m. Pacific.)

From this post last year of the FSSP ordinations celebrated by Cardinal Burke; reproduced with permission.

Music for First Masses Written by a Cardinal

The season for priestly ordinations is now upon us, so I thought it would be a good time to share this item, sent in by Deacon Shawn Roser of the Diocese of Venice, Florida, who is studying in Rome and will soon be ordained a priest. This is a piece of music written specifically for First Masses celebrated at the North American College, by one of its many famous alumni, William Cardinal O’Connell, who was archbishop of Boston from 1907-44. The text is taken from Psalm 109, 4, “Juravit Dominus, et non pœnitebit eum: Tu es sacerdos in æternum. – The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever.” The same music can also be sung as the O salutaris hostia, which is printed under Juravit in the score.






Thursday, May 24, 2018

Pentecost 2018 Photopost (Part 1)

As we come to the end of the Pentecost octave and the Easter season, we wish to thank all of our readers who sent in these photos of their liturgies. We had a rather bigger response this year, so there will be a second part fairly soon. This is also, I believe, the first time we have a shower of rose petals. (Photos and videos below.) Our next photopost will be for Corpus Christi; a reminder will be posted early next week. Evangelize through beauty!

Beatae Mariae Virginis in Arena - Wrocław, Poland
Lots of vocations here...




Corpus Christi Events and a New Shrine in London

The church of Corpus Christi in the Covent Garden district of London is planning a week-long series of celebrations to mark its official ‘re-opening’, culminating in a Pontifical High Mass of Corpus Christi celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, on Sunday, June 3rd, at 11 am, at which he will officially proclaim the church a Diocesan Shrine dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament. The Mass will be followed by a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament in Covent Garden.

When the church was opened in 1874, Cardinal Henry Manning, the then Archbishop of Westminster, said Corpus Christi would be “specifically devoted to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.” As the first Catholic church in England to be named Corpus Christi since the Reformation, its construction was intended as reparation for the offences against the Blessed Sacrament committed in England since the 16th century.

The church has lately undergone extensive renovation and restoration work over the course of five years at the request of Cardinal Nichols. The building work has been complemented by the establishment of a Sodality of the Blessed Sacrament, a Confraternity with hundreds of members worldwide.


Fr. Alan Robinson, Parish Priest, said, “This is an important day in the life of the Diocese of Westminster and the Parish. I hope that Corpus Christi will become a place of pilgrimage, drawing people ever closer to our Eucharistic Lord. The Adoremus Eucharistic Congress in Liverpool this year will help to rejuvenate Eucharistic adoration in our country and we will keep that flame burning in the heart of the nation’s capital.”

The traditional 40 Hours Devotion will begin on the preceding Tuesday, May 29th at 6:30 pm, and will close with a Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form celebrated by Abbot Hugh Allan, O. Praem., on Thursday, May 31st, at 7:00pm.

In addition, the new Stations of the Cross will be solemnly erected on Friday, June 1st, at 6:30 pm according to the traditional rites of the Church. The stations were sculpted by the artist Arthur Fleischmann and kindly donated in his memory by his widow, Joy, who will be present at this celebration.

On Saturday 2nd June, there will be a Pontifical First Vespers of Corpus Christi, celebrated by Bishop Robert Byrne, Cong.Orat., Auxiliary in Birmingham, starting at 3:30 pm, followed by a Pontifical Vigil Mass at 6:00 pm.

To find out more about Corpus Christi visit www.maidenlane.org.uk
To find out more and join the Sodality of the Blessed Sacrament visit www.sodality.co.uk

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Psalms of Pentecost

In the traditional Roman Divine Office, the only Hours which change their Psalms according to the specific feast day are Matins and Vespers. [1] On the majority of feasts, the first four Psalms of Vespers (109-112) are taken from Sunday, but Psalm 113, the fifth and longest of Sunday, is substituted by another; on the feasts of martyrs, by Psalm 115, on those of bishops by 131, etc. There are, however, four occasions on which Psalm 113 is not replaced, three of which are very ancient indeed, and the fourth relatively recent in origin.

The latecomer is the feast of the Holy Trinity, which was first instituted at Liège in the 10th century, and spread from there very slowly. Pope John XXII (1316-34) ordered that it be celebrated throughout the Western Church on the Sunday after Pentecost, a custom which became universal after Trent; however, even as late as the mid-16th century, the Low Countries and several major German dioceses kept that day as the Octave of Pentecost, and put Trinity on the following Monday. The use of Psalm 113 at Second Vespers is a reminder of the day’s previous status as either the octave of Pentecost, or the first of the ordinary Sundays after it.

A page from a Breviary according to the Use of Augsburg, Germany, ca. 1493. In the right column, the first rubric reads “And so on Monday after the octave of Pentecost will the feast of the Trinity be celebrated.”
The three ancient feasts are Easter, Pentecost and Epiphany, on which it is said on the day itself and through the octave. (Some medieval Uses, however, vary this.) This custom reflects the traditional baptismal character of these celebrations, which go back to the very earliest days of the Church.

The Psalm numbered 113 in the Septuagint and Vulgate is really two Psalms joined together, those numbered 114 and 115 in the Hebrew. [2] It is the first of these which speaks of the passage of the Jews out of Egypt, and then of the Crossing of the Jordan into the Holy Land.

“When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people: Judea became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion. The sea saw and fled (i.e. the Red Sea): the Jordan was turned back. … What ailed thee, O sea, that thou didst flee: and thou, O Jordan, that thou wast turned back? … At the presence of the Lord the earth was moved, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into pools of water, and the stony hill into fountains of waters.”

The Church has always understood the story of the Exodus as a prefiguration of salvation in Christ, and specifically, the Crossing of the Red Sea as a prefiguration of the Sacrament of Baptism. The reading of the relevant passage from Exodus is attested in the very oldest surviving homily on the subject of Easter, the Paschal homily of St Melito of Sardis, from the mid-2nd century; it begins with the words “The Scripture about the Hebrew Exodus has been read”, and this custom continues into every historical Christian liturgy. Following the lead of St Paul, who says that the rock which provided water to the children of Israel in the desert was Christ (1 Cor. 10, 4), St Melito attributes all of the events of the Exodus directly to Him.

“This was the one who guided you into Egypt, and guarded you, and himself kept you well supplied there. This was the one who lighted your route with a column of fire, and provided shade for you by means of a cloud, the one who divided the Red Sea, and led you across it, and scattered your enemy abroad. This is the one who provided you with manna from heaven, the one who gave you water to drink from a rock, the one who established your laws in Horeb, the one who gave you an inheritance in the land, the one who sent out his prophets to you, the one who raised up your kings. This is the one who came to you, the one who healed your suffering ones and who resurrected your dead.”

Psalm 113, therefore, which speaks of the Red Sea fleeing to make passage for the children of Israel as they go out of Egypt, and the rock that becomes a pool of water, is perfectly suitable to the two most ancient feasts on which the Church celebrates the Sacrament of Baptism, Easter and Pentecost. Likewise, on Epiphany, the Church commemorates the Baptism of Christ in the waters of the Jordan, to which the Psalm also refers.

The Crossing of the Red Sea, by Agnolo di Cosimo, known as Bronzino, 1540; from the Chapel of Eleonora of Toledo in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.
Matins of Pentecost, like those of Easter, has only three Psalms; these are 47, 67 and 103 according to the Vulgate numbering. The antiphon sung with Psalm 47 is not taken from it, but from the Acts of the Apostles (2, 2): “There suddenly came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, alleluia, alleluia.” The psalm seems to have been chosen because of the words of its first verse, “Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain.”, the city of our God being Jerusalem, where the first Pentecost took place. And likewise, the second verse, “With the joy of the whole earth is mount Sion founded”, may be referred to the preaching of the Gospel to all nations, which begins on Pentecost.

The third Psalm, 103, describes the glory of God throughout His creation, drawing us back to the very beginning of the Bible, when God created the heaven and the earth. “Who stretchest out the heaven like a pavilion … Who hast founded the earth upon its own bases.” It is sung with an antiphon from verse 30 which makes it obvious why it was chosen, “Send forth thy spirit, and they shall be created: and thou shalt renew the face of the earth, alleluia, alleluia.”, for the renewal of creation at the coming of the Holy Spirit is also celebrated at Pentecost. The Byzantine Rite expresses this idea of renewal very beautifully in the traditional icon for the feast. At the bottom is placed the figure of an aged king, who represents the world grown old in sin and idolatry, and living in darkness. In the cloth in his hands are scrolls, which represent the teaching of the Apostles, by which he will receive the Gospel and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.

All four of the Evangelists are included among the Apostles, as is St Paul, even though Mark, Luke and Paul were not present at Pentecost. (They are the five shown holding books.) This demonstrates that the Holy Spirit continues His mission in the Church even after the day of Pentecost itself. The other Apostles are holding scrolls, representing their role as the Church’s teachers.
It is also a common custom to fill the church with greenery for the feast day, and although there is no absolutely formalized liturgical color scheme, among the Slavs, it has become standard to use green vestments. In Ukrainian, this has given rise to a nickname for the feast, “Зелені свята – green holiday.”

St Peter’s Eastern Catholic Church in Ukiah, California, decorated for Pentecost this year.
The choice of the middle psalm, 67, is also explained in part by its antiphon, which is taken from verses 29 and 30, “Confirm, O God, what thou hast wrought in us, from Thy holy temple in Jerusalem, alleluia, alleluia.” This refers to the place of the first Pentecost, and the last words of the Gospel of St Luke, who says that after the Ascension, the Apostles “were always in the temple, praising and blessing God.”

This is famously one of the most difficult texts in the entire Psalter. There are a number of lines which are very hard to understand, and endless emendations have been proposed for the Hebrew. These difficult readings carry over into its first translation, the Septuagint, and thus to the Vulgate, which derives from it; a good example is verse 14, “If you sleep among the midst of lots, you shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver,” But even where the individual lines are perfectly clear, the psalm as a whole is not; indeed, the thought of it is so disjointed that some Biblical scholars have proposed that it was not originally written as a psalm at all, but rather as a list of titles of psalms which are now lost, or a collection of their first lines, or a collection of fragments.

It is precisely this disjointed quality that makes it a perfectly appropriate choice for Pentecost. When the people in Jerusalem first heard the Apostles speaking in a variety of languages, “they were all astonished, and wondered, saying one to another: What meaneth this? But others mocking, said, ‘These men are full of new wine.’ ” This confusion is reflected by the confusion of thoughts in the psalm. But St Peter explains to them that “these men are not drunk, as you suppose, … but this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel, ‘And it shall come to pass, in the last days, (saith the Lord,) I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.’ ” (Acts 2, 12-17, citing Joel 2, 28) The Apostolic preaching takes away their confusion, as it reveals to them the true meaning of the Old Testament. We may therefore conclude by noting that St Augustine explains the “lots” in the verse given above as symbols of the two Testaments, and that “sleeping” between them signifies the Church’s peaceful acceptance of the harmony between them. (Enarratio in Psalmum LXVII)

St Peter Preaching in Jerusalem, by Charles Poërson, 1645. (The twisted columns in the background will be familiar to anyone who has visited St Peter’s in Rome, and the many Baroque churches throughout Europe that imitated the Vatican Basilica. They are also known as “Solomonic” columns, from the legend that the Emperor Constantine recovered them from the ruins of Solomon’s Temple, and brought them to Rome to decorate the original church. On the basis of this wholly mistaken but widely accepted belief, artists often included them when representing the Jerusalem Temple.)
[1] The regular psalms of Sunday Lauds (92, 99, 62-66, the Benedicite, and 148-149-150) were traditionally said on all feast days in the Roman Rite. In the reform of St Pius X, psalms 66, 149 and 150 were, lamentably, removed, but the group thus reduced continued to be used on all major feasts, including Pentecost. The psalms of the day hours were likewise traditionally invariable for all feasts (53 and the eleven parts of 118), and those of Compline always invariable; this was also changed in the reform of St Pius X, but not in a way that applied to major feasts like Pentecost.

[2] There are four places where the Psalms are joined or divided one way in the Hebrew and another in the Greek. There are also psalms which both traditions have as a single text, but are generally believed to be two joined together, (e.g. 26), and others which both traditions have as two (41 and 42), which are generally believed to have originally been one, later divided. It is quite possible that these variations come from ancient liturgical usages of which all knowledge has long since been lost. Likewise, the meaning of many words and phrases in the titles of the Psalms had already been lost when the Septuagint translation was made in the 3rd century B.C.

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