Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Announcing the Seventh Annual Sacred Liturgy Conference, Spokane, Washington, May 28-31

Registration is now open for the 7th annual Sacred Liturgy Conference, hosted this year by the Diocese of Spokane.
Schola Cantus Angelorum is pleased to announce the seventh annual Sacred Liturgy Conference, to be held in Spokane, Washington, from May 28 to 31, 2019. It will take place at the state-of-the-art Hemmingson Center on the campus of Gonzaga University. The liturgies will be held at the beautiful nearby churches of St Aloysius and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. 
St Aloysius
Our Lady of Lourdes
Hemmingson Center
This year’s theme is “The Living Waters of the Eucharist” and will focus on the Eucharist as the preeminent source of supernatural grace in both our personal lives and the world.

Faculty will include Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Bishop Thomas Daly, Bishop Robert Vasa, Msgr Andrew Wadsworth, Dr Peter Kwasniewski, Dr Nathan Schmiedicke, Msgr Richard Huneger, canon lawyer Magdalen Ross, Rev. Theodore Lange, Rev. Gabriel Mosher OP, Douglas Schneider, Alex Begin and Enzo Selvaggi. A special conference session will also include a pre-recorded interview with His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Zen from Hong Kong, China, on the current state of the liturgy in China.

There will be four beautiful Gregorian liturgies, including one celebrated in the ancient Dominican Rite. The highlight will be a Pontifical High Mass on the feast of the Ascension celebrated in the Extraordinary Form by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

From its modest beginnings in 2013, this conference has grown into the largest liturgical conference in North America, with participants coming from throughout the United States and beyond. The conference is organized by the director of Schola Cantus Angelorum, Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre MD, PhD, LGCHS, and is open to anyone interested in the treasures of the Catholic faith.

To find out more specifics about the schedule, accommodations, and how to register for the conference, go to SacredLiturgyConference.org. You may also call (503) 558-5123 or email sacredliturgyconference@gmail.com. Don’t delay, as space is limited and registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

An “Early Bird Special” rate is available through March 1, 2019.

Find out more in this video:

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Annual Requiem for King Louis XVI in Paris

Each year, the church of St Eugène in Paris has a Requiem Mass on January 21st for the repose of King Louis XVI of France, who was murdered on that day in the year 1793. Anyone who has visited the church or seen our various posts about it knows that the church’s choir, the Schola Sainte-Cécile, does some of the finest liturgical music to be heard anywhere in the world; here is the program for this year’s Mass, which you can watch in the video below. (The text can also be seen on their website.)

At the entrance of the clergy: “De profundis (Psalm 129)” – faux-bourdon attributed to André Campra (1660-1744), master of the chapel at Notre-Dame in Paris, and of King Louis XV at Versailles.
Mass: “Requiem“ ” by Claudio Casciolini (1697-1760), cantor at San Lorenzo in Damaso in Rome.
Communion motet: “De profundis“ ” by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726), master of the chapel for Kings Louis XIV and XV (extracts).
Recessional: “Domine salvum fac Regem”, prayer for the king from the Masse “Gaudete in Domino semper”, written for the coronation of Louis XVI (celebrated in Reims Cathedrale on Trinity Sunday, June 11, 1775), by François Giroust (1738-99), his master of the chapel.

Ss Vincent and Anastasius

Today is the feast of one of the most venerated martyrs of the last and greatest of the ancient Roman persecutions, the deacon St Vincent of Saragossa. Towards the end of the 3rd century, he was ordained and appointed as a preacher and instructor of the faithful by the bishop of that city, St Valerius, and together they were arrested by the governor Dacian when the edict of persecution was issued by the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian in the year 303. The poet Prudentius, who was also from Spain, and is one of the principal sources for his life, tells us that the local governor Dacian killed a group of eighteen martyrs at Saragossa, then soon after arrested Valerius and Vincent, who were transferred to Valencia, and left for a long time in prison, starved and tortured.

St Vincent, by the Spanish painter Tomás Giner, 1462-6; from the archdeacon’s chapel of the cathedral of Saragossa, now in the Prado Museum in Madrid. Behind the kneeing donor on the left is his millstone, explained below, on the right, his rack; note that the Roman persecutor Dacian is represented as a Moor in this painting of late Reconquista Spain. (Public domain image from Wikimedia.)
The point of the persecutions was to get Christians to offer sacrifice to the statue of the Emperor, and it was particularly important for the Romans that the clergy should be induced to do this, so as to break down the resitance of the ordinary faithful. Dacian therefore tried by various threats and promises to bend the prisoners to his will, but Valerius suffered from a speech impediment and simply made no answer. St Vincent therefore said to him, “Father, if you order me, I will speak,” to which Valerius replied, “Son, as I committed to you the dispensation of the word of God, so I now charge you to answer in vindication of the faith which we defend.”

Vincent then said to Dacian that they were ready to suffer everything for the true God, and that his threats and promises meant nothing to them. In the days of St Augustine, the acts of the martyrs were often read in church as part of the liturgy, and he says in one of his sermons that Vincent suffered in ways that no man could bear with in a merely natural way, while remaining perfectly calm and patient. Completely defeated by the martyr’s constancy, the governor relented, and allowed the faithful to visit him in prison; they dressed his many wounds, and laid him on a bed at which he died. He is sometimes depicted with a raven, in reference to the story that Dacian ordered his body to be left in a field, but a raven defended it from other animals until the Christians could collect it. More commonly, he is seen with a millstone tied to his neck, since Dacian then tried to get rid of his body by throwing it into the sea thus weighed down, but it miraculously returned to the shore anyway.

Many of the details of both St Vincent’s passion and various translations of his relics are regarded as unreliable by hagiographical scholars, but there can be no doubt that devotion to him spread through the Church very early on. St Augustine preached six sermons on his feast day, he appears in some of the earliest liturgical books of the Roman Rite, and is named in the canon of the Ambrosian Mass.

In Rome, his feast day was long joined to that of another martyr, a Persian soldier who was converted to Christanity on seeing the relics of the True Cross when they were taken into his country by the Emperor Chosroes, after the sack of Jerusalem in 614 AD. At his baptism he changed his name from Magundat to Anastasius, in honor of the the Resurrection. There were several ferocious persecutions against the Christians in Persia, and Anastasius died as a martyr in the midst of torments as horrible as those of St Vincent. His body was removed first to the Holy Land, then to Constantinople, and finally, in the iconoclast era, when many of the iconodules fled West, to Rome, and placed in a church dedicated to St Vincent. This is the reason for the joint feast of two otherwise unrelated martyrs, but St Anastasius is not found on non-Roman calendars in the Middle Ages. As noted in the Martyrology, one of the arguments adduced in favor of the veneration of sacred pictures at the Second Council of Nicea was that many miracles of healing and exorcism took place at this church in the presence of an image of him and the relic of his head.

The façade of Ss Vincent and Anastasius, added by Matteo Longhi (1644-50) at the behest of Julius Cardinal Mazarin, the successor of Cardinal Richelieu as Prime Minister of King Louis XIV of France. (Photo from Wikimedia by Mister No, CC BY 3.0)

Scented Candles Designed for Your Domestic Church

Candles are a wonderful addition to your home prayer corner or icon corner. By their very nature as a source of light, they draw our attention. As a symbol of the Light that overcomes darkness, they also remind us of Christ and direct our thoughts to Him.

Incense is important too. The sense of smell is, we are told, the most evocative to our imaginations. We associate fragrances with places very readily and easily. It is important then to have fragrances that are consistently used with prayer and that we associate with heavenly activity - the worship of God.

When these two accompaniments to prayer are combined with a visual component of sacred art that is worthy of veneration and placed in our icon corner; with the consideration of posture so that we stand, bow and sit at appropriate junctures; and if we chant our prayers out loud, then we are engaging the senses more fully and approaching the desired ideal of praying with the whole person, body and soul. If we do this at home regularly, it will be a habit we take into the Mass and so deepen our participation there.

In my experience, candles and incense are not always the easiest things to manage in the home. Wax can flow onto surfaces and cause damage, and incense is by nature smokey and can be suffocating in small spaces.

One answer to this would be scented candles. I did try buying some from regular stores and the fragrances always seemed to be reminiscent of an overly sweet perfume which was highly evocative, admittedly, but not of a church!

I am pleased to have discovered these candles from Stella Maris & Co. which are available online at sourceandcanvas.com. They are slow burning and long lasting, the wax is contained within the glass container and they are carefully scented so to appropriate to prayer (three different scents are available). They are beautifully packaged as well, incidentally.

The photos below are of my own domestic church.



The Penitant Magdalen contemplates Christ with her Stella Maris candle! (Captured by Georges De La Tour)

Monday, January 21, 2019

Should a Priest Introduce the Usus Antiquior to a Congregation That Doesn’t Request It?

Let’s begin with the most obvious point, which nevertheless still needs to be said. As per Summorum Pontificum, if the faithful themselves request the traditional Latin Mass, the pastor must provide it for them, or at least make arrangements for another priest to provide it. He is not allowed simply to say no. He might say “yes, but first I have to learn it” (and then the laity, already prepared, will tell him that they will cover all his expenses); or “yes, but at this difficult juncture — with the new elementary school, the prison ministry, the nursing home, and the recent death of the vicar — I won’t be able to learn it, so I will ask around and try to get a Mass started for you next month.” And of course, the pastor will always make such responses with a smile and gratitude for the devotion of his faithful to the rich traditions of the Catholic Church.

But what about a situation where the people are basically content with what they’ve got? They are accustomed to the “Ordinary Form” and know nothing else; they are not asking for anything else. Let’s even say, for the sake of argument, that the parish is on the upper end of the Ratzingerian scale and is already putting into practice the ideals of the “ROTR,” such as ad orientem, use of Latin and Gregorian chant, fine sacred music, beautiful vestments, kneeling for holy communion, and the like. Is there anything “wanting” to such a community? Is there any reason for the pastor himself to introduce the usus antiquior?

Yes. There are two basic reasons to do so.

First, for the priest’s own benefit. In an article published in Catholic World Report, Finding What Should Never Have Been Lost: Priests and the Extraordinary Form” (one of many such articles now online), we find testimonies from priests about the effect that celebrating the usus antiquior has had on them, and why they find it so moving. One priest says: “It has a mystical, contemplative, and mysterious quality, with its use of Latin, the gestures, the position of the altar, and the prayers, which are more ornate than we have today.” Another priest remarks: “I was a lifelong Catholic, and I’d never experienced the Mass in that way. I didn’t imagine such a Mass existed. I was enthralled by it. When I celebrate the Mass, it has less to do with me, the priest, and is more about God.” A third priest states: “The Tridentine Mass has changed me. I like its reverence, and it’s helped me see the Mass as a sacrifice, not just a memorial.”

Every priest I know who offers the traditional Latin Mass — and I have spoken with hundreds over the years — experiences in a powerful, almost visceral way the awesomeness of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and of the mystery of the priesthood on account of many elements in the liturgy that were unfortunately removed in the reforms of the 1960s: the humble approach to the altar at the beginning, which is saturated with the humility and piety that befits “being about the Father’s business”; the many times the priest must bow or genuflect, the many kissings of the altar and signs of blessing; the exquisite attention to meaningful detail in one’s posture, attitude, and disposition; the profound prayers of the Offertory; the immersion into silence at the Canon, so piercingly focused on the mystery by which the immolation of Christ is renewed in our midst; the care that surrounds every aspect of the handling of the Body and Blood of the Lord, from canonical digits to thoroughgoing ablutions; the Placeat tibi and Last Gospel, which bring home the magnitude of what has taken place: nothing less than the redemptive Incarnation continuing in our midst. How could this not hugely benefit a priest in his interior life, and lead him further along the path of his vocation and his sanctification?

The second reason for a priest to make the usus antiquior available even when his congregation has not requested it is for their spiritual benefit. One of the priests interviewed in the aforementioned article points out: “Ninety percent of Catholics today have had no experience of the Church before Vatican II. They don’t know about its traditional art, architecture, or liturgy.” As Joseph Ratzinger lamented more than once, there was a rupture if not in theory, then certainly in fact. Catholics were separated from the traditions of the Church; indeed, adhering to traditions came to be seen as a sort of infidelity to Vatican II and to the new spirit it ushered in, which was supposed to newly engage modernity and bear the harvest of a new evangelization. This does not seem to have happened, or not with the fullness that had been desired and promised. If anything, it tended to encourage skepticism towards anything preconciliar and a promethean temptation to refashion the Church according to the latest fads and theories.

Although the worst of the “silly season” may be over (at least in most places), the People of God still suffer from the effects of this widespread deracination. What better way to root them again in the two millennia of Catholicism than by enriching them with the form of worship that nurtured the great saints of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque, and the entire Tridentine period that stretched over four and a half centuries? In the memorable words of Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to bishops, Con grande fiducia: “It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”

This can only be a “win” for the faithful in the parish, stretching them in good ways. It will develop new habits of meditative and contemplative prayer; it will strongly confirm the dogma that the Mass is a true and proper sacrifice; it will intensify their adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist and their veneration of the ministerial priesthood (which is not a species of clericalism); it will open their minds to a wider world of Catholic culture and theology; and last but not least, it will support the effort to celebrate the Novus Ordo in a more traditional manner by showing where the ROTR paradigm came from in the first place — in other words, why we do certain things this way rather than that way.

We may conclude this part of our exposition with the striking words of the late Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos during his tenure as the president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei:
Let me say this plainly: the Holy Father wants the ancient use of the Mass to become a normal occurrence in the liturgical life of the Church so that all of Christ’s faithful – young and old – can become familiar with the older rites and draw from their tangible beauty and transcendence. The Holy Father wants this for pastoral reasons as well as for theological ones. (London, 14 June 2008)
When asked at a press conference on the same day “Would the Pope like to see many ordinary parishes making provision for the Gregorian Rite?,” His Eminence replied:
All the parishes. Not many — all the parishes, because this is a gift of God. He offers these riches, and it is very important for new generations to know the past of the Church. This kind of worship is so noble, so beautiful — the deepest theologians’ way to express our faith. The worship, the music, the architecture, the painting, makes a whole that is a treasure. The Holy Father is willing to offer to all people this possibility, not only for the few groups who demand it, but so that everybody knows this way of celebrating the Eucharist in the Catholic Church.
A great good for all of the faithful
Practical Considerations

One question I am often asked by laity and clergy is: “How should the Extraordinary Form be introduced where it has not yet existed?” I think what they mean is largely practical: when, how often, and with what preparation or accompaniments.

My advice has always been to do it gradually: to start quietly (I mean, without fanfare) by scheduling a monthly Mass; then, once this Mass is known to be celebrated and there is some congregation for it, to offer catechesis to the rest of the parish in homilies, and a kindly invitation. After this has gone over well and has become an accepted fact, the frequency can be increased to once a fortnight or once a week. At this point, the priest reaches a crossroads: if he judges that the community will respond favorably and his head will not be handed to him on a platter at the chancery, he could celebrate the usus antiquior several times a week. I have seen regular parish schedules where it is offered as the daily Mass on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, or where there is a Sunday Mass and a weekday Mass.

To get even more particular, it has often worked well to introduce a traditional Latin Mass on Saturday morning, because this is a “low traffic” time of the week, and least likely to ruffle feathers. In some parishes there isn’t even a normal Saturday morning Mass, so nothing has to be swapped out. Another possibility is First Fridays and/or First Saturdays, because these are well-loved but traditional devotions, and the Latin Mass can be viewed as their natural complement: it sounds like a special thing being done for a special devotion. Another pastor I know introduced a monthly evening Mass just for men and boys, as part of a program of adoration, rosary, Mass, and fellowship; he will soon introduce a monthly evening Mass just for women and girls.

Introducing the usus antiquior on Sundays or Holy Days is at once the most important step and the most difficult. It is important to do so eventually, because only in this way can the treasure of the old liturgy reach the largest number of faithful. It is obviously difficult because of the need (in some places) for many Masses offered by a single priest, as well as by the challenge of an already-existing schedule that parishioners are loath to see modified. Still, even here there can be a way forward. For example, if there is already a quiet early morning Mass, one might convert this into a quiet Low Mass, being careful to repeat the readings from the pulpit in the vernacular before the homily. If there is a “contemporary youth Mass,” why not try the wild and crazy New Evangelization experiment of substituting a Gregorian Missa cantata for it instead? A lot of young Catholics are bored or turned off by the pseudo-pop music and the implicit dumbing-down that liturgical planners assume to be necessary for the smartphone generation. As always, some youths might stop coming, but others would find in it a radically new experience that appeals to them in mysterious ways. New people would come — and bring more people. It could end up being quite successful.

In all of this, I am painfully aware of the reality on the ground. There are many priests who feel that their hands are tied on account of the hostility, on the part of the bishop, the chancery, the presbytery, or the parish, towards anything traditional. This is a deplorable aspect of our decadent situation, but it is not a dead end. In such cases, a priest still profits from learning the usus antiquior, as he can offer it privately once a week on his day off. This will be to his own spiritual benefit for all the reasons already given, and, by connecting him to a wealth of tradition, influence for the better his understanding of what liturgy is and how it should be celebrated in any rite or form.

Visit www.peterkwasniewski.com for information, articles, sacred music, and Os Justi Press.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Book Notice: ‟Singing His Song〞

Singing His Song: A Short Introduction to the Liturgical Movement. Revised and expanded edition

Hong Kong: Chorabooks, 2019
Kindle eBook $4.59
Paperback $12.64. Available at Amazon

From the publisher:

This study presents the history of the [Liturgical] Movement before and after the Second Vatican Council. The author distills and makes available to non-specialists some of the more technical studies of the ideas and policies that influenced Roman Catholic liturgical renewal in the twentieth century.

Suppression of PCED Confirmed

Something which has been rumored for a few weeks, that the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has been abolished as a separate entity, and its duties subsumed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has now been officially confirmed by the publication on the Vatican’s daily Bolletino of a motu proprio to this effect, dated two days ago. It is currently available only in Italian.

I would strongly urge our readers to read what Edward Pentin (here) and Fr Zuhlsdorf (here and especially here) have written about this.

UPDATE: An article about this has now been published on the website of Vatican News: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-01/pope-francis-suppresses-ecclesia-dei-commission.html

Friday, January 18, 2019

St Peter’s Chair in Rome 2019

When there were two feasts of St Peter’s Chair, that of Rome celebrated today, and that of Antioch on February 22, the following sermon of Pope St Leo the Great was read at Matins of the former in the Breviary of St Pius V.

When the twelve Apostles, having received through the Holy Spirit the power to speak every tongue, undertook to teach the Gospel to the world, and divided the regions of the earth amongst themselves, the most blessed Peter, chief of the apostlic order, was chosen for the capital city of the Roman Empire, so that the light of truth, which was revealed for the salvation of the nations, might be shed the more powerfully through the whole body from the world from its own head. From what nation were there no men at that time in that city? Or what did the nations not know, once Rome had learned it? Here were the opinions of philosophy to be trod down, here the vanities of earthly wisdom to be abolished, here the worship of demons to be suppressed, here the impiety of every sacrilege to be destroyed, where everything that had been established by vain error over the whole world was kept, gathered most diligently by superstition.

St Peter Walks Upon the Water (Matthew 14, 22-33, the Gospel of the Octave of Ss Peter and Paul.) The original mosaic was made by Giotto on a wall of the courtyard of the old St Peter’s Basilica in 1298, opposite the church’s façade. Only a few fragments were saved from the destruction of the old basilica; this copy is an oil painting made in 1628 from drawings of the original. In 1675, a new mosaic on the same design was mounted in the portico of the new basilica, facing the main door, as a reminder to pilgrims as they leave the church to pray for the Holy Father. (Public domain image from Wikimedia.)
To this city, then, most blessed Apostle Peter, thou didst not shrink to come, and since thy comrade in glory, the Apostle Paul, was still occupied in the founding of other churches, thou didst enter that forest of roaring beasts, that most deep and stormy ocean, more firmly than when thou did upon the sea. Already hadst thou taught them that had believed from among the circumcision, thou hadst founded the Church of Antioch, where first arose the noble name of Christian; by thy preaching thou hadst filled with the law of the Gospel Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia; and with no doubt of the advancent of thy work, nor uncertain of the span of thy life, thou didst bring the trophy of the cross of Christ into the fortresses of Rome, where the honr of they authority and the glory of thy passion went before thee by the providence of God.

Another Historical Video of a Church Consecration

After seeing the video we posted yesterday of the 1959 consecration of St Michael’s Cathedral in Sherbrooke, Quebec, reader Jeffery BeBeau alerted me to this video of the consecration of St Joseph’s Cathedral in Edmonton, Alberta. (You can also watch it on the original site: https://vimeo.com/139648306.) Although it is in black-and-white, and rather fuzzy, in this one we see a lot more of the ceremony, which starts at about the 11:30 mark, and a good deal of explanation as well. This was celebrated in 1963 by His Excellency Anthony Jordan O.M.I., who was appointed coadjutor of the Archdiocese of Edmonton in 1955, succeeding to the see in 1964, and then resigned in 1973.

This ceremony was done after the 1961 revision of the second part of the Roman Pontifical, which shortened the consecration of a church very considerably, and partly reordered it. This reform also replaced the responsories traditionally sung during various parts of the rite with psalms sung in a manner similar to that of the responsorial psalm (coming soon to a revolution near you!); these can be heard chanted in the background in several places. At 17:45, we get a bit of that most rara of avises, a liturgical commentator, explaining the symbolism of the tracing out of the Latin and Greek alphabets on the floor of the church; he appears again at 21:50 to explain the anointing of the altar, and at 23:20 to explain the burning of candles on the five crosses on the mensa of the altar.

Masses in San Francisco during the Walk for Life, January 26

People who will be in San Francisco for the Walk for Life West Coast on January 26 will have two choices to attend an Extraordinary Form High Mass. The first will be celebrated before the walk at Cristo Rey Carmelite Monastery at 10 a.m., located at 721 Parker Avenue in San Francisco; the Carmelite nuns will sing the Ordinary chants and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Oratory Choir will sing the propers for the feast of St Polycarp.


The second will be celebrated after the walk at the historic Shrine of St Francis of Assisi in North Beach, (610 Vallejo Street, San Francisco) at 5:15 p.m. Under the direction of Professor William Mahrt, the St Ann Choir and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Choir will sing William Byrd’s Mass for Three Voices. This Mass is always especially well-attended.


In addition, Archbishop Cordileone will celebrate an Ordinary Form Mass for Life at the Cathedral of St Mary at 9:30 a.m. at which he will impart a Papal Blessing to those who attend that Mass. The Vatican has also granted a plenary indulgence for those who participate in any of these Masses offered on the day of the Walk for Life West Coast; those who are sick and infirm may obtain the indulgence by joining to the Masses spiritually or via media. The Mass for Life will be broadcast from the cathedral on the Archdiocese website, sfarch.org.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

An Altarpiece of St Anthony the Abbot

The National Museum of Catalonia houses this beautiful altarpiece of St Anthony the Abbot, whose feast day is today, painted by an anonymous painter now referred to as the Master of Rubió, and dated 1360-75. (Click image to enlarge.)

Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
In the upper left hand corner, St Anthony is shown as a young man giving away all his money to the poor; St Athanasius, who wrote his life, records that he began his embrace of the monastic life after hearing in church the words of the Gospel of St Matthew, (19, 21) “If thou would be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give it to the poor; and come follow Me, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” Below that, a devil appears in the form of a woman to tempt him to lust, and at the bottom, devils beat and torment him.

In the upper right hand corner, Christ Himself, accompanied by two angels, appears to Anthony and blesses him. The central panel of the right side depicts a famous episode which is not, however, recorded by St Athanasius, but in St Jerome’s life of St Paul the First Hermit. On the day when Anthony came to visit Paul for the first time, unannounced, a raven which had brought Paul half a loaf of bread every day for sixty years, brought him a full loaf instead. (It has been guessed that the word “raven” reported to St Jerome may be a misunderstading of “Arab”, since the two words are similar in some Semitic languages.) The artist was very careless to show Paul younger than Anthony; when they met, he was 113, and Anthony 90. Paul’s garment has hash-marks over it, to show that it was woven from palm fronds; St Jerome records that Paul died very shortly after his meeting with Anthony, who buried him, then took this garment with him, and wore it each year on Easter and Pentecost. In the final panel, miraculous healings take place before Anthony’s tomb.

Divine Liturgy with Music by Tchaikovsky in NYC, Jan. 27

St Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, in New York City will have a celebration of the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom with the musical settings of the choral parts by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, on Sunday, January 27, at 6:00 p.m. The Liturgy will be sung in English and Church Slavonic; the church is located at 246 East 15th Street; the event is free and is open to the public. Tchaikovsky’s setting constitutes the first “unified musical cycle” of the liturgy.


This is the first in a program events to be presented at St Mary’s through the year, in which the liturgical music of the great Slavic composers will be presented within the context for which it was composed, as the music of the Divine Liturgy, giving the congregation the opportunity to be immersed in the experience as part of their worship.

The music will be performed by St Mary’s choir-in-residence, the Theoria Chamber Choir, directed by Andrew Skitko, Artistic Director/Conductor. Mr Skitko earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music at Westminster Choir College, and has performed with the world’s leading conductors and orchestras at venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. He sings regularly with several choirs, and is a cantor for the Byzantine-Ruthenian Church; he is also an alumnus of the Studium Carpatho-Ruthenorum of the University of Presov, Slovakia, having completed courses in Carpatho-Rusyn history, language, and culture. He has studied Russian choral music and conducting at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary with maestro Vladimir Gorbik, musical director and conductor at the Moscow Representation Church of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery, and has participated in the PaTRAM Russian-American Music Institute.

Fr. Edward G. Cimbala, D.Min, pastor of St. Mary’s will be the celebrant and homilist.

The backdrop for the choral event is sure to just as inspiring. St Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church is one of the most unusual religious buildings in Manhattan and provides a beautiful venue for the program of Slavic Liturgical Music. For more information call 212-677-0516.

Historical Video of a Church Consecration

Thanks to a reader for bringing to my attention this video of the consecration of the Cathedral of St Michael in Sherbrooke, Quebec, by His Excellency Georges Cabanas, archbishop of Sherbrooke from 1952-1968. This took place at the beginning of the 1959 Eucharistic Congress, before the revision of the second part of the Pontifical promulgated in 1961, which drastically shortened and reordered the consecration of a church. The narration is in French; below, I will give a brief summary with the time index.


0:01-0:20 The bishop and clergy exit the building.
0:21-0:45 Rites of Purification: the Penitentials Psalms, and the Litany of the Saints; the exoscism of salt and water.
0:46-0:50 Aspersion of the external walls.
0:51-1:40 The blessing and opening of the doors. (At 1:12, we see the choir kneel at “Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate.”, a classically Roman formula which was removed from many places in the 1961 revision of the Pontifical.)
1:41-2:04 The bishop traces the letters of the Latin and Greek alphabets in the ashes spread over the floor of the church.
2:05-2:27 The bishop and clergy enter the sanctuary; consecration of the Gregorian water (as special form of holy water used for this ceremony, into which both blessed ashes and blessed wine are mixed.)
2:27-3:19 The second part of the ceremny: the anointing of the twelve consecration crosses.
3:20-3:33 The bishop seals the relics into the main altar.
3:33-3:38 A brief view of the same ceremony repeated at one of the side altars. (This was normally done by other bishops who were present, and could also be delegated to priests.)
3:38-3:57 The anointing and blessing of the five crosses (in the middle and four corners) of the mensa of the main altar.
3:58-4:16 The general anointing of the altar
4:16-4:21 A brief view of the bishop making the sign of the cross three times during the consecratory preface, at the words “Bene+dicere, sancti+ficare et conse+crare.” (In the 1961 revision, this was frequently reduced to just “Bene+dicere”)
4:22-4:34 Candles are placed one the five crosses and burned.
4:35-4:50 The altar is wiped clean and decorated for the Mass which follows (to the end of the video.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Fr Longenecker Satirizes the Post-Conciliar Reform

I’m sure that by now, a good many of our readers have seen the recent article by Fr Dwight Longenecker entitled “Twelve Things I Like About the Novus Ordo Mass”, as well as Peter Kwasniewski’s response to it, and his follow-up. A few days ago, Fr Longenecker published his own follow-up to the discussion, entitled “Twelve Things I Like About the Latin Mass”, which contains one of the cleverer bits of satire to appear on the Catholic web in a while.

“As in most everything in my life, I’m a dilettante, a poetaster, a Sunday afternoon painter, an amateur. However, I do respect those who are more disciplined than I am. I like the fact that they do the research and beaver away at it all with a passion. I respect their attention to detail, their ability to hone an argument and pay attention to rubrics with all the concentration of a heart surgeon or a chimpanzee trapping an ant with a stick.

Me? I’m afraid I do not have much interest in whether or not the anaclesis from the Syro Malabar Rite of the fifth declension features a Greek preface or not. I am glad some people dig deeply into the mysteries of whether the bishops of the Petrine revision of the Mozaribian liturgy in sixth century Anatolia wore the camelaucum or whether it was leather or embroidered felt. Such things are clearly very important and those who write books on them are to be congratulated because it means when busy priests need the answers they will know where to turn.”

Now at first blush, Father may seem here to be ever-so-gently poking fun at those who have taken issue with his first article, since he compares the serious study of liturgy to the activity of an ape, and extols as “very important” the study of various things that have never existed. One might be forgiven for seeing in this an implication that “busy priests” have much better things to think seriously about than the public prayer of the Church. However, I am sure that this is not his intent at all.

Of the points outlined in the second article, the twelve things he likes about the (traditional) Latin Mass, fully ten are not actually specific to it: Latin, Reverence, Altar Boys (i.e., well-trained and well-behaved ones), Ad Orientem, Music (i.e. good music), Vestments (i.e. nice ones), Incense, Mother Mary (because “(t)he Latin Mass often ends with a hymn to the Mother of God.”), Beauty and Altar Rails. To be sure, contrary to the will of the Fathers at Vatican II and all good sense, these things are much less common than they should be in the post-Conciliar liturgy, and are indeed to be found rather more frequently and consistently at the Extraordinary Form. This is a lamentable state of affairs, but that does not change the fact that none of these things is per se distinctive of the traditional Latin Mass, as opposed to a well-done celebration of the Ordinary Form.

The remaining two, Tradition and Example (“The Latin Mass offers a kind of gold standard for the celebration of the Mass.”), can arguably also apply to the new rite. There is a good deal of leeway, for the most part unused, but present nonetheless, to incorporate any number of traditional practices into the celebration of the Ordinary Form. And likewise, I can honestly say that I have attended a small number of genuinely awful traditional Masses, and an equally small number of new Masses which were genuinely exemplary, at churches like the London Oratory and St Agnes in Minneapolis-St Paul.

This leads me to the conviction that Father’s true intent, like that of every good satirist, lies elsewhere.

Go back and read the list of topics that he is afraid he has no interest in, but which are nevertheless “very important”, topics which liturgists generously study and write about on behalf of “busy” priests. Does it not read like a parody of the activities of the Consilium ad exsequendam, the committee appointed to reform the liturgy after Vatican II? Of course, there is no such thing as an “anaclesis”, “fifth declension” is a term of art in grammar, not liturgy, and the “Mozarabic” (not “Mozaribian”) liturgy is Spanish and not Anatolian. But the members of the Consilium actually did invent an epiclesis for the new canons which they added to the Missal, on the basis of a completely erroneous history of both the Roman Rite and of the epiclesis. They actually did decide that the Roman Missal was desperately lacking for a series of Mozarabic prayers for the dead, all of which had to have their conclusions changed in accordance with another erroneous history.

The camelaucum was a kind of headdress worn in the Byzantine court; I do not know if it was worn by “bishops of the Petrine revision … in sixth-century Anatolia” but a descendant of it, the triple tiara, was worn for a very long time by the bishop who holds the Petrine ministry. (How subtly the threads of this exquisite satire are woven!) Headgear does not seem to have interested the Consilium itself very much; eodem tamen sensu eademque sententia, those responsible for the reform of the Papal liturgy actually did suppress it, along with the rest of the Pope’s proper vestments, making him the only prelate in the Catholic Church who routinely and licitly celebrates Mass wearing nothing distinctive of his own rank.

Exceptions are occasionally made.
And they actually did a whole bunch of other things that only dilettantes, poetasters and amateurs would do and think they were doing well. They cobbled together a preface for Advent from pieces of three different prefaces for the Ascension, none of which had been used in well over 1000 years. (And they repeated this silly procedure countless times.) They put the anaphora of St Basil and the pseudo-canon of pseudo-Hippolytus into a paper shredder, and cobbled together new Eucharistic prayers out of the pieces, carefully selected so as not to offend the sensibilities of Modern Man™. They removed almost every distinctively Roman feature from the temporal cycle of the Roman Rite, adducing as their excuse exactly the kind of liturgese that Father so wittily skewers: “It’s not found in such-and-such a recension of the Ambrosian sacramentaries”, etc.

An astonishing number of similar examples could be cited, but there is no need to belabor the point. In the meantime, our kudos to the author, who has shown that the rapier of the satirist can do just as much for liturgical reform as the blade of his proverbial heart surgeon.

A second part of this article will examine in detail the history of sixth-century Anatolian embroidered felt camelauca.

Ignatian Retreat in Allentown, NJ, Feb. 15-17

On Septuagesima weekend, Fr Hernan Ducci of the Fraternity of Saint Joseph the Guardian will preach a retreat for men based on the Ignatian Exercises, at the Church of Saint John the Baptist, located at 1282 Yardville-Allentown Road, in Allentown, New Jersey. The Spiritual Exercises comprise an ordered series of meditations and contemplations born from the profound spiritual experience St Ignatius, gained from his conversion and his time as the first Superior General of the Society of Jesus. These exercises purpose to help the retreatant discern God’s will for his own life.

The retreat will begin on the early afternoon of Friday, February 15 and finish on the afternoon of Sunday February 17, with lunch (President’s day weekend). In order to cover the expenses (Fr. Hernan’s travel from France, food, donation to the parish, etc) we suggest a donation of $60. Also, please bring a sleeping bag. In addition to the meditations, the traditional Mass will be sung each day, as well as parts of the Divine Office; there will also be plenty of opportunities for spiritual direction and Confession. To confirm your attendance please read the following Google doc and fill the registration form. If you have any questions please contact hernan.ducci@gmail.com. Feel free to forward this invitation to any else you reckon would be interested.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

St Maurus, and a Famous Miracle of St Benedict

January 15th is the feast day of St Maurus, a disciple of St Benedict who is famous for his role in one of his master’s more impressive miracles. This is recounted by St Gregory the Great in chapter 7 of the Second Book of his Dialogues, which is devoted to the life of St Benedict.

“On a certain day, as the venerable Benedict was in his cell, the young Placidus, one of the Saint’s monks, went out to draw water from the lake; and putting his pail into the water carelessly, fell in after it. The water swiftly carried him away, and drew him nearly a bowshot from the land. Now the man of God, though he was in his cell, knew this at once, and called in haste for Maurus, saying: ‘Brother Maurus, run, for the boy who went to the lake to fetch water, has fallen in, and the water has already carried him a long way off!’

St Maurus Saves St Placid from Drowning, by Spinello Aretino, 1388, from the sacristy of San Miniato al Monte in Florence. The church is still to this day the home of a community of Olivetan monks; in accordance with a common medieval custom, St Benedict and his contemporaries are depicted in white Olivetan habit.
A marvelous thing, and unheard of since the time of the Apostle Peter! Having asked for and received a blessing, and departing in all haste at his father’s command, Maurus ran over the water to the place whither the young lad had been carried by the water, thinking that he was going over the land; and took him by the hair of his head, and swiftly returned with him. As soon as he touched the land, coming to himself, he looked back, and realized that he had run on the water. That which could not have presumed to do, being now done, he both marveled and was afraid of what he had done.

Returning therefore to the father, he told him what had happened. And the the venerable Benedict did not attribute this to his own merits, but to the obedience of Maurus. Maurus, on the contrary, said that it was done only in accord with his command, and that he had nothing to do with that miracle, not knowing at that time what he did. But in this amicable contention of mutual humility, the youth who had been saved came as judge; for he said, ‘When I was being drawn out of the water, I saw the Abbot’s garment over my head, and perceived that it was he that drew me out of the water.’ ”

A Meditation after Epiphany: The Transfiguration Icon and What It Tells Us About Christian Culture

Here is a painting of the Transfiguration. It is a 16th-century Russian icon from the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery in Yaroslavl, which is to the northeast of Moscow.


Readers will be familiar with the scene. Christ is on the mountain flanked by the two prophets, and the three disciples are stunned by the sight of the transfigured Christ. This is a glimpse of his heavenly glory, hitherto unseen by the disciples. The nimbus that surrounds Christ in this picture is called a “mandorla”, the Italian word for “almond”, from its elliptical shape. The season of the Epiphany (also known as Theophany) is the time in which the first manifestations of God’s glory are commemorated, and especially the Baptism in the Jordan; in the East, the feast is wholly focused on the latter, and the Adoration of the Magi is commemorated at Christmas. As such, they all point to this moment as the fulfillment of all epiphanies.

The mandorla surrounding Christ usually shows concentric bands of shading which get darker toward the center, rather than lighter. It is painted in this way so as to communicate to us, pictorially, the fact that we must pass through stages of increasing mystery in order to encounter the person of Jesus Christ. This encounter, which takes place in the Mass with the Eucharist at its heart, is one that transforms me supernaturally, so that I can begin to grasp the glory of Christ more directly.

This encounter is made possible by my baptism, confirmation, and communion so that I have ‘put on Christ’ as St Paul says in Galatians. God’s actions are not in any way restricted by the Sacraments, of course, but as a general rule, until I become Catholic I am going to be dazzled into blindness by the transfigured Christ, and the mandorla will look like a jet-black envelope with a heart of darkness.

Nevertheless, prior to being fully part of the body of Christ, I was able to perceive, those outer rings of the mandorla. In this context they represent the Light of Christ reflected in the cosmos, and Christian culture and art. This tells me there is more to know and love and I yearn for it. This is the power of beauty, and of art in particular, and is why the rejuvenation of Catholic culture and Catholic art, in particular, are so necessary. We need them to speak powerfully to people today of Christ and draw people into the Church.

Beauty is a perceptible sign of something which we cannot see, Almighty God. It calls us to itself, and then beyond to Him who inspired it, and who is Beauty itself. Creation is beautiful because it bears the mark of the Creator; and the culture or any aspect of it, whether mundane, sacred or high art can speak of it too. Even everyday Christian activity is beautiful - graceful - if it is inspired by God and will draw people to God.

The Christian life well lived is one in which every discernible aspect our lives contributes to the brightness of the outer rings of the mandorla through inspired contributions to the culture. This is because we are part of the mystical body of Christ, the Church, which is the transfigured Christ of the painting above. Each of us is a pixel of supernatural light in the heart of darkness! The artist is called to contribute to the culture by his painting, but each of us contributes in our own way.

The most powerful formation that will enable us to be contributors to a beautiful Catholic culture that bears this cosmic beauty is the central activity of the Church, the worship of God. Christian culture permeates the life of the Church and of the world - the sacred and the profane - and so is an important part of the sign of Christ and of the world to come. It is a principle that potentially permeates all human activity.

Below is the Transfiguration mosaic from St Catherine’s Monastery, Mt Sinai.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Interview with Dr Kwasniewski on “Beauty—God’s Messenger”

NLM readers may wish to know about a new magazine, Calx Mariaepublished four times a year by Voice of the Family in the U.K. The editor, Maria Madise, invited me to do an interview on the theme of “Beauty—God’s Messenger,” for the third issue, which recently appeared in print. I hope I am allowed to say, in spite of being a contributor myself, that I find the content and the production values extremely high. It is truly one of the nicest publications I’ve seen in a long time, and a sight for sore eyes in these days of internet-dominated news and features. For subscriptions and copies of individual issues, visit this link.

With the editor’s permission, the full interview is reproduced below.

Maria Madise: Throughout history, the Church has sought out beautiful music, art, architecture and the finest craftsmanship. Why do these things play a crucial role in Catholic spirituality and formation? 

Peter Kwasniewski: The reason is simple: we were made by God as creatures of flesh and blood. We learn through our senses. When God revealed the Law to Moses, He made use of a lofty mountain, lightning, thunder, dark clouds, blood, and stone tablets. When He commanded the building of the tabernacle, He showed the pattern of it in fine detail, demanding the most expensive materials. When God spoke to Elijah, He first made a lot of noise, and then revealed Himself in a “soft, small voice.” When Our Lord wished to give Himself most intimately to His disciples, He used bread and wine, in the midst of a highly structured religious ritual. We can think of thousands of examples from divine revelation of “theophanies,” that is, the manifestation of God in various signs and figures. The Jewish liturgy in temple and synagogue continued this pattern, and obviously Christian liturgy did as well, moved above all by the miracle of the Son of God Himself taking on flesh and blood. The Catholic Faith, with the power of the Incarnation behind it, developed the richest and most beautiful culture the world has ever known—but all in the service of pointing beyond itself, to God.

What is the purpose of beauty? Is it practical or functional?

Beauty is God’s first, last, and most effective messenger. We learn that the world is good and orderly because of the beauty of nature, which we only later come to understand intellectually. And just as we come to know God through His divine artistry, we see the inner beauty of the human person most of all in the great works of human art. A painter like Rembrandt helps us to see the immense, almost heartbreaking beauty of an old man or old woman’s face, which we might otherwise rush past or even find ugly. Christ Himself is “the fairest of the sons of men,” as Scripture says, but He allowed Himself to become “a man of sorrows,” marred beyond belief, to tell us something unforgettable about the invisible Beauty of love, of sacrifice for love. The Church therefore cannot and must not flee from her role of introducing mankind to this immortal Lover, both in the beauties that appeal to our senses, and in the deeper mystery that no sense can reach.

What is the role of beauty in the formation of children and young people? 

The first thing a baby notices in the world is his mother’s face, which establishes a first and permanent vision of beauty—not necessarily as the world sees it, but because love discloses the truth.

As a child grows in the family, his parents have the serious obligation to train him or her in a love of the beautiful by reading good stories, memorizing poetry, putting up good artwork, making art together, and attending liturgy that is outwardly very beautiful, if at all possible. All these things are part of a subtle and pervasive education of taste, sensibility, instinct, and intuition. When we are brought up with beauty, we have a sense of propriety, respect, nobility, dignity. These things are proto-religious or para-religious attitudes that heavily influence the course of one’s life. Without them, we are much more vulnerable to the winds of false doctrine and shoddy excuses.

A typical European street corner
How would you explain to someone what exactly culture is and what is Catholic culture? 

It is not easy to define culture. In a recent lecture I tried my hand at it: culture is “the shared ways in which a society or people is accustomed to expressing, celebrating, and inculcating its vision of reality.” Maybe that’s too broad. Culture is always concerned with the concrete expression of ideas and values. How we eat our food, what we drink and when and why, how we dress and speak, what our buildings and vehicles look like, all this is culture, and does, in fact, express a worldview (or perhaps an eclectic mingling of worldviews).

In Europe above all, Catholics developed an extremely rich culture in which even the littlest objects of daily use were decorated beautifully and often with explicit reference to the doctrines of the Faith. In this way, there was a continuum from the cup at home to the chalice on the altar, from the dinner bell to the cathedral bell, from the tablecloth to the houseling cloth. The images of Our Lady and the saints presided over everything—our familiar companions in this world, but as a reminder that “we have here no abiding city: we seek one that is to come.”

A Catholic culture, then, is what a society inspired by the Faith will produce and cherish: an environment that turns the mind to God gently and frequently, making full use of the high beauties of fine art and the rugged genius of folk art, the impressive pageantry of ceremonial and the stabilizing force of rituals. The result is a joyful impregnation of the whole of life with the immense reality of God, too great to be limited to any domain or any one expression.

Should there be an overlap in liturgical and popular culture? If yes, in what form? If no, why not? 

I think, in fact, it has been a tragedy that high culture and popular culture have parted ways almost completely, and that the liturgy is no longer the driving force of culture, as it had been for well over a thousand years. Today’s “inculturation” is often cheap, random, and secular, because it is not guided by strong and clear thinking rooted in divine revelation and Church tradition.

For example, people try to take contemporary pop music and bring it into the liturgy. This is a giant mistake, because this music is saturated with emotionalism, strongly associated with the liberal anti-culture and its sexual promiscuity. It does exactly the opposite of what church music is supposed to do: raise the mind up to God, purify the heart of disordered affection, discipline the body. Instead of assisting in our assimilation of the Word of God, it rather promotes the secularization of religion.

But it is possible to do inculturation well. The missionaries of Europe who came to the New World often incorporated external features of the evangelized cultures into music, devotions, and visual arts. For instance, Spanish missionaries in Mexico taught the natives how to compose in the style of Renaissance polyphony, but allowed or even encouraged the addition of native flutes and percussion. The result still sounds ecclesiastical, yet with a Central American flavor to it. (If you are interested in listening to some of it, just look up the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble, or SAVAE.)

Prodigal son as metaphor (detail from Rembrandt)
What is our duty as the heirs of Catholic tradition? Do we need to reform, preserve, or recreate? 

This is an important question. Here is what Our Lord Himself teaches us in the parable of the prodigal son. What we do to, or with, our family inheritance shows what we think of our father and of our entire family. Now, no one can deny that things like Latin, Gregorian chant, and offering Mass ad orientem are central, constitutive, and characteristic treasures of our Catholic patrimony. The liturgical reform suppressed them or marginalized them, acting just like the prodigal son who squandered his family wealth on loose living and ended up impoverished and miserable. The only way out of this bad situation is what the parable shows: conversion, repentance, return, and reestablishment in the house of the father.

The right attitude towards our inheritance is to protect it, preserve it, defend it, and make use of it to the greatest extent possible. To do this, we must know it, and the better we come to know it, the more we will love it. This love, in turn, will inspire new works of beauty in continuity with what has come before. That is the experience of every serious Catholic artist—architect, painter, iconographer, sculptor, composer, poet. Knowing our tradition, we imitate it, emulate it, develop it, and carry it forward into the 21st century. There is no need to seek originality. The only fully original person is God the Father, since He has no origin from anyone else; even the Son is not original, but originated; and the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. God Himself teaches us that the perfection of all persons after the Father consists in their derivation from another. The creature who tried to be wholly original was Lucifer, of whom Our Lord says that he is “the father of lies” because he “speaks from himself.” That’s where sheer originality will get you: into hell. And that, of course, is what we see in so many modern artists.

Incidentally, Martin Mosebach has made the observation that the notion of reform makes sense only if one takes the word itself seriously: it is a return to form, a re-forming of that which has lost good form. Reform doesn’t mean loosening up, wandering off, or blowing things up. It means more discipline, more attachment to good models, more self-control, more humility in the service of greatness. That’s the kind of reform that the Church always needs, not the “reform” we have gotten in the past half-century, which should more truthfully be called deformation.

How would you describe your own discovery of Catholic tradition and what effect did it have on your formation and work? 

For me, the discovery of Gregorian chant was a huge revelation. I can’t say why I was so fascinated by it at the tender age of 17, but then again, the chant really is mesmerizing and haunting in a way that no other music is. By listening to recordings of the Wiener Hofburgkapelle, I taught myself to read the neumes in an old Graduale Romanum that had been discarded by the Benedictine boys’ school I was attending at the time. I think my study of composition—being introduced to J. S. Bach’s chorales and trying to imitate them in my exercises—also played a role: there is something about this kind of discipline that helps the mind to perceive beauty not as something vague, fluffy, and sentimental, but as the result of labor, craft, rule.

Other important influences at the end of high school included the reading of Plato’s dialogues and Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. At the time, I felt that Plato, though a pagan, was really “one of us”—a sort of “closet Catholic”—and that to be educated meant to read Plato, and authors like him. All this made me want to go to a college where I could be steeped in the riches of Catholicism that I had begun to taste. That’s why I went to Thomas Aquinas College in California, where I could study the “Great Books.”

Attending TAC introduced me to a world of immense depth and beauty. This included the traditional Latin Mass, where all that is purest, loftiest, and loveliest in the Catholic Faith comes to roost. I think of that psalm verse: “Even the sparrow finds herself a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young: Thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God” (Ps 83:4 [84:3]). The Mass truly was and must once again become the inspiring force of Catholic culture. Certainly for me and my family, it has been the place where we can make a spiritual home, and where we may bring up our young in the peace and fragrance of Christ.

A prayer corner
So much of modern culture is ugly, even grotesque, many people have a real hunger for what is beautiful and good. Can you suggest how we may satisfy this hunger? 

I strongly believe, as I hinted earlier, that we need to surround ourselves with beauty. I don’t mean in a cluttered or kitschy way, but by suitable decorations, by investing if we can in works of art, by listening to really good music (and by this, I do not mean any particular period, but certainly not pop, rock, rap, techno, or any of that barbaric stuff, which is the musical equivalent of junk food or drugs), and by seeking to understand the greatest art that European and Catholic civilization has bequeathed to us. I would recommend several practical steps.

First, find the most beautiful celebration of the liturgy you can, and go to it. If it’s in a beautiful church, even better! The liturgy is where most of the fine arts blossomed and where they are meant to be experienced: as offerings to God, caught up in (and ideally assisting in) the ascending movement of prayer. The liturgy is not just the “source and summit” of the Christian life, it is also—or it has been and should once again be—the source and summit of Christian culture as well.

Second, think about the rooms you are living and working in, and how you might elevate them with prints, watercolors, engravings, etc. It takes time to find works of ‘original’ art, but in the mean time, or supplementally, a good quality giclee reproduction of a Fra Angelico or a Giotto, a Rembrandt or a Vermeer can make a big difference in the ambience, encouraging a more contemplative spirit. (I recommend The Catholic Art Company, which has a fine selection. They don’t sell junk, and they don’t support immoral causes.)

Third, pick a place in your home and make it the “prayer corner,” with icons or holy images, a candle, holy water, rosaries, flowers. This should be a place around which it is natural to gather for morning or evening prayers. (You can read more about this in David Clayton and Leila Lawler’s The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home. Other beautiful customs can develop from this center point; see Mary Reed Newland’s We and Our Children: How to Make a Catholic Home.)

Fourth, acquire some good recordings of sacred and “classical” music, and take time to listen to them, to develop your ear and your soul. (At LifeSite News, I’ve written some pertinent articles: “What makes Gregorian chant uniquely itself—with recommended recordings” and “These new recordings of sacred music will transport you to the courts of the King.”)

Fifth, make time for ongoing education. I cannot recommend highly enough the lectures by art historian William Kloss available from The Great Courses: such eye-opening and fascinating explorations of the genius of the greatest artists, who have a special gift for seeing—and thus, for helping us to see—the luminous depths of reality. Obviously, if one can visit a good or great museum, one should do this on a fairly regular basis.

Sixth, at least once a year, go on pilgrimage. The pilgrim, too, gets to enjoy the sights and sounds of the journey and the destination, but he has a higher purpose than the mere tourist. Aesthetic experience becomes more meaningful when united to the love of God, the practice of religion, and the expression of devotion to a saint and to Our Lord Himself. This is what I loved, by the way, about attending the All Souls Pontifical Requiem Mass at St. John Cantius in Chicago this past November 2nd: the choir and orchestra performed Mozart’s Requiem in its authentic liturgical context. Somehow, hearing it in the right place and at the right time made the music even better.

Seventh, if we have the means, or if we are in a position to influence people of means, we should try to patronize new works of art that are truly beautiful, and if intended for the Church, truly sacred also. I admire clergy and laity who, when a special occasion is coming in the future, commission a piece of music or a painting for the occasion. Obviously, as a composer myself, I recognize that if Catholics stop asking for and expecting good art for the Church, good artists will starve and disappear. The same can be said of supporting music programs and the right kind of church restorations (often undoing the damage wrought by postconciliar iconoclasts).

In your new book Tradition and Sanity you make a number of compelling arguments in favour of returning to the traditional liturgy—not for liturgical or aesthetic reasons alone, but also because the way we live the Sacrifice of the Mass lies at the heart of every aspect of our lives. Could you explain this a little?

In keeping with what I was saying earlier about how a grateful son should approach his father’s house and his family patrimony, I would say that worshiping God with the Roman Catholic liturgy in the form in which it organically developed for a period of over 1,500 years is crucial to having (or, for many, to recovering) a stable identity, a profound spirituality, a sound doctrinal foundation, and a compass for the moral life—this, in addition to the obvious literary and artistic merits that the old liturgy has in itself and has inspired for so many centuries.

Given that Catholicism is inherently a religion of tradition, it should strike us as quite troubling that Catholics of today pray in a manner terribly different from, and even at odds with, how our ancestors prayed, including the vast majority of saints. Either they were wrong and we are the enlightened ones—or, rather more likely, we have gone off the rails in our quest for modernization and need to get back on if we would reach our destination safely. Liturgy is not something that each age needs to redesign and recreate in its own image. On the contrary, the vicissitudes of history are to a large extent transcended in a still point, an immovable center, a pole star from which we can always take our bearings. You could apply to the Mass the Carthusian motto: Stat crux dum volvitur orbis, “the Cross is steady while the world is turning.” This, to my mind, is the reason why the old liturgy is winning so many “converts” today. The world is turning at a mad pace, careening out of control, and unfortunately, because of the conciliar prejudice for aggiornamento, the world has pulled the postconciliar liturgy in its wake, like a moon orbiting a planet. The classic Roman liturgy abides in its grandeur, and seems, perhaps not too surprisingly, more “relevant” to us today than something devised by a committee in the 1960s.

My book goes into all this, but also into the crisis in the papacy and in evangelization, which I believe are linked with this tragic decision to “re-orient” Catholicism along new lines. This has led not to renewal but to accelerating deformation and irrelevance. Thanks be to God, we see a countermovement gaining strength across the world, and characterized by its opposition, point for point, to the official program. That will be the drama of the next decades: how this massive “civil war” inside the Church plays out under the hand of Divine Providence.


The Table of Contents of this third issue:


Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Baptism of the Lord 2019

This day, when the Lord was baptized in the Jordan, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit descended like a dove, and remained upon Him, and the voice of the Father sounded forth like thunder: * This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. V. The Holy Ghost descended upon Him in a bodily shape like a dove , and a voice came from heaven. This is My beloved Son... (The first responsory of Matins of the Baptism of the Lord.)

The Baptism of Christ, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, ca. 1655.
R. Hodie in Jordáne baptizáto Dómino aperti sunt caeli, et sicut columba super eum Spíritus mansit, et vox Patris intónuit: * Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complácui. V. Descendit Spíritus Sanctus corporáli specie sicut columba in ipsum, et vox de caelo facta est. Hic est Fílius meus...

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Psalms of the Epiphany

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 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 goes 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.

The Crossing of the Red Sea, depicted on a Christian sarcophagus at the end of the 4th century from Arles, France. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Marsyas, CC BY-SA 3.0; click to enlarge.)
“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. On the fourth feast, that of the Holy Trinity, which was instituted much later, it reminds us that our Faith in the Trinity was first manifested on the occasion of Christ’s Baptism, when the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove, and the Father spoke from heaven; and likewise, of the baptismal formula which Christ gave to the Church, as recounted in Matthew 28, 16-20, the Gospel of Easter Friday.

The Baptism of Christ, by Giusto de’ Menabuoi; fresco in the baptistery of Padua, ca. 1378.
The nine psalms of Epiphany Matins are 28, 45 and 46 in the first nocturn, 65, 71 and 85 in the second, and 94, 95 and 96 in the third. The antiphons with which they are sung, and which determine their meaning for the feast, are attested quite uniformly in the ancient antiphonaries. The choice of these psalms and antiphons reflects some very ancient interpretative traditions found in the writings of the Church Fathers.

Psalm 28 is sung with an antiphon taken from its first two verses: “Bring to the Lord, o ye children of God: adore ye the Lord in his holy court.” The full text of these verses is “Bring to the Lord, o ye children of God: bring to the Lord the offspring of rams. Bring to the Lord glory and honour: bring to the Lord glory to his name: adore ye the Lord in his holy court.” The antiphon removes the three objects from the verb “bring”; the act of bringing is in itself to sufficient indicate the gifts which the Magi brought to Christ at the Epiphany.

Although St Matthew does not specify how many Magi there were, the representation of three of them is one of the most ancient and consistent traditions of Christian art. It is commonly assumed that artists settled on three to correspond to their three gifts, which, in turn, have been read from very ancient times as symbols of Christ’s divinity, mortality and regality. This is undoubtedly true, but there is another, equally important reason for showing three. The Greeks, following the Babylonians, divided the world into three parts, Asia, Africa and Europe; this division predates Christianity, but was received by Christians and Jews as part of their sacred history. Each continent was believed to be populated by the descendants of one of the sons of Noah, Asians from Shem, Africans from Ham, and Europeans from Japheth. The three Magi are therefore the symbolic representatives of these three parts of world, coming to worship the Creator and Savior.

A third-century fresco in the Roman Catacomb of Priscilla, showing the three Magi each painted in a different color, to indicate that each one represents one of the three parts of the world.
Particularly in Rome, where people from every part of the Empire lived, an image of three Magi represents the revelation of Christ as the Redeemer of all men, and the coming of all peoples to salvation. The antiphon of Psalm 28 on Epiphany reflects the fact that the gentiles are also numbered among the “sons of God.” The antiphons of Psalms 65 and 85 are chosen on a similar theme. “Let all the earth adore thee, and sing to thee: let it sing a psalm to thy name, o Lord.” (Psalm 65, 4) “All the nations thou hast made shall come, and adore before thee, O Lord.” (Psalm 85, 9) Pope St Leo I quotes the second of these in his third sermon on the Epiphany. [3]

The Church Fathers also associate Psalm 28 with Christ’s Baptism. St Basil teaches that the words of verse 3, “the voice of the Lord is upon the waters” refer to St John the Baptist. (Homily 2 on Ps. 28) St Ambrose understands them to refer to the appearance of the Three Persons of the Trinity (De mysteriis 5.26), and likewise St Peter Chrysologus writes in a sermon on the Epiphany, “Today, as the prophet saith, the voice of the Lord is upon the waters. Which voice? ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Sermon 160)

A work known as the Breviarium in Psalmos, (traditionally but incorrectly attributed to St Jerome), explains the words of the antiphon of Psalm 45, “the stream of the river maketh joyful the city of God,” as a reference to the both the waters of baptism and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “After the worship of demons is overthrown, the washing of baptism and the pouring fourth of the Holy Spirit maketh joyful the soul, the city of God, or else the Church which is the city of God that is set upon a mountain, and is not hidden.”

The Adoration of the Magi, from the Benedictional of St Aethelwold, ca. 975. By this point the tradition has emerged of showing the Magi with royal crowns, inspired by the words of Psalm 71 cited below, and a verse of the Epistle of the Mass of Epiphany, “And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising.” (Isaiah 60, 3)
A commentary on the Psalms of the later 4th century, formerly attributed to Rufinus of Aquileia (345-411), reads the antiphon of Psalm 71, “The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts” (verse 10), in reference to the Magi. “The Magi, led by a star, fulfilled this bodily, and the kings and princes of all the earth still do not cease to imitate them even daily. … by these gifts which are said to be brought to Lord, those faithful men are indicated, whom the authority of kings brings into the society of the Church.” It then refers the following verse, “And all the kings shall adore him”, to the end of the worship of the Roman emperors, for the sake of which Christians were so often persecuted before the reign of Constantine. “All the kings shall adore him, who were formerly wont to be adored, … and all nations that were formerly wont to serve earthly kings, will serve Him, that is our heavenly King.” (Commentarius in LXXV Psalmos; PL 21, 0939B). The mention of kings from three places in the East (Tharsis, Arabia, and Saba) also fits in with the traditional artistic representation of three mentioned above.

Psalm 94 was clearly chosen for the close similarity between its words “venite, adoremus, et procidamus ante Deum – come, let us worship, and fall down before God,” (verse 6 of the Old Latin version) and those of the Gospel, “venimus adorare eum. … et procidentes adoraverunt eum – we have come to worship him … and falling down they worshipped him. ” (Matt. 2, verses 2 and 11.) The antiphon with which it is sung on the Epiphany is therefore “Come, let us worship Him, for He is the Lord, our God.” This Psalm is normally said at the beginning of Matins every day with a refrain called an invitatory, which is repeated in whole or part between its verses. On the Epiphany, however, the invitatory and Psalm 94 are omitted from the beginning of Matins, and the psalm is said in the third nocturn, with the antiphon repeated between the verses in the manner of an invitatory.

In his Rationale Divinorum Officiorum (6.16.9), William Durandus also notes this prosaic explanation for omitting the invitatory on Epiphany, the mere avoidance of repetition. Before it, however, he explains that the invitatory is omitted “to show that the Church in its first fruits came from the gentiles to the Lord, not invited, or called by a herald, but with only the star to lead it, … so that shame might be inculcated on those who are late to believe, even though they have many preachers. For the Magi came to worship Christ, even though they were not called.” He then gives a second explanation, a more traditional one which dates back to his ninth-century predecessor, Amalarius of Metz: “Secondly, so that we who are daily invited and urged to worship and beseech God, may be seen to detest the deceitful invitation of Herod when he said to the Magi, ‘Go and inquire diligently concerning the Child.’ ”

A page of 1490 Breviary according to the Use of Passau, Germany. In the right column, the rubics just above the middle of the page begins “At Matins, we do not say the Invitatory, so that we may differ from Herod’s deceitful invitation.”
[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 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 Epiphany.

[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.

[3] It is tempting to think of this as proof that the antiphon itself goes back to the time of St Leo, but it is of course just as possible that its unknown composer was inspired to choose this text by reading Pope Leo’s sermon.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: