Saturday, April 04, 2020

Dom Alcuin Reid on the New Additions to the EF Missal

Yesterday, Dom Alcuin Reid, the well-known liturgical scholar and prior of the Monastère Saint Benoît in La Garde-Freinet, France (diocese of Fréjus-Toulon), published in the Catholic World Report his assessment of the CDF’s recent decrees on additions to the Missal of the Extraordinary Form: “The older form of the Roman rite is alive and well.” As always, the full article is well worth your time, but I found his concluding paragraphs to be especially useful.

“These voices, which are also those who decry any possibility of the reform of the liturgical reform, seem to be oblivious to the reality in the life of the Church at the beginning of the twenty-first century that usus antiquior is a living liturgical rite in which people—indeed significant and growing numbers of young people—participate fully, actually, consciously and fruitfully in a manner that would have brought great satisfaction to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council and to the pioneers of the twentieth century liturgical movement which preceded it. They are oblivious to the fact that because the older form of the Roman rite is alive and well and bearing good fruit in the life of the Church, and because participation in it is growing numerically, it is more than appropriate that the Holy See—with the explicit approval of the Holy Father, Pope Francis—has made provision for the use of newly canonized saints and more prefaces (the reservations expressed above notwithstanding).

There is another element of this reform, alluded to earlier, that is not without significance. As already mentioned, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged it apposite to permit the celebration of the Mass of Saints whose feasts fall in Lent with the commemoration of the Lenten Mass, reversing the relevant provision of the 1960 code of rubrics published in the missal of 1962. Hitherto the Holy See has not derogated from the liturgical books in force in 1962 in a manner that ‘corrects’ previous reforms. But through this small provision it has happily shown that it is possible to recognize that not everything in the liturgical books in force in 1962 is set in stone: the correction of unfortunate elements present in them is possible. The permissions given in recent years for the use of the pre-1955 Holy Week rites (to be sure, at the correct times) show a similar, healthy openness, for which the Holy See must be praised.

‘In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture,’ Pope Benedict wrote in 2007. ‘What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. 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,’ he insisted.

The possibility of the celebration of new saints and of the use of more prefaces in the usus antiquior of the Roman rite is, overall, an example of such growth and progress. That their use is facultative means that they will find their proper place in worship according to the older rites, or not, according to the pastoral judgement of those responsible, avoiding any rupture with the past. Regardless of some of the particulars, the authoritative recognition these measures bring to the fact that the older form of the Roman rite is alive and well and has its rightful and proper place in a healthy diversity in the liturgical life of the Church of our times is something for which we may be very thankful indeed.”

Friday, April 03, 2020

The Stabat Mater and the Feast of the Seven Sorrows

From 1727 to 1960, the Friday of Passion week was kept on the general calendar of the Roman Rite as the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. This devotion originated in German-speaking lands in the early 15th-century, partly as a response to the iconoclasm of the Hussites, and partly out of the universal popular devotion to every aspect of Christ’s Passion, including the presence of His Mother, and thence to Her grief over the Passion. It was known by several different titles, and kept on a wide variety of dates. Before the name “Seven Sorrows” became common, it was most often called “the feast of the Virgin’s Compassion”, which is to say, of Her suffering together with Christ as She beheld the Passion. This title was retained well into the 20th century by the Dominicans, who also had an Office for it which was quite different from the Roman one, although the Mass was the same. It also appears in many missals of the 15th to 17th centuries only as a votive Mass, with no corresponding feast; this was the case at Sarum, where it is called “Compassionis sive Lamentationis B.M.V.” Its popularity continued to grow in the Tridentine period, until Pope Benedict XIII finally extended it to the whole of the Roman Rite in 1727.

The Virgin of Sorrows; the central panel of the Van Belle triptych by Pieter Poubus (1523 ca. - 1580); in the church of St James in Bruges, Belgium. There were different traditions as to which events in Our Lady’s life counted as Her Seven Sorrows; here they are (clockwise from lower left) the Circumcision, the Flight into Egypt, losing the Child Jesus, meeting Christ on the road to Calvary, the Crucifixion, the deposition from the Cross, and the entombment. The Roman version of the Passiontide feast contains no specific list. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
One of the greatest treasures of Latin hymnody, the Stabat Mater, is sung in two different forms on the feast. (Text and translation here.) Divided into three sections, it was sung as the hymn of Vespers, Matins, Lauds; in Italy, this version, in the 6th mode, is still very often sung when the Via Crucis is done. The same text is also sung with a different melody in the 2nd mode, as a Sequence in the Mass.

It was also commonly used as a motet for the ceremonies and devotions of Holy Week; Josquin des Prez’s version is one of the finest among pre-Tridentine composers.
Palestrina’s version was composed a few years before his death in 1594, and traditionally sung on Palm Sunday in Rome.

The Penitential Psalms in Books of Hours

The seven Penitential Psalms are a standard part of the liturgical material incorporated into Books of Hours, along with the Little Office of the Virgin Mary, the Office of the Dead, and the Litany of the Saints. Of course, many Books of Hours are filled with beautiful illustrations, and as a follow-up to a post at the beginning of Lent about the Penitential Psalms in the liturgy of Lent, here is a selection of some of the images commonly chosen to go with them.

From the Maastricht Hours, 14th century (Stowe ms. 17, British Library): Mary Magdalene, the penitent Saint par excellence, meets the risen Christ in the Garden; a woman kneels before her confessor, as the hand of God absolves her from above. The bishop on the right is probably meant to signify that the priest can absolve sins only on the bishop’s authority.

The Maastricht Hours are famous for their repertoire of strange and whimsical marginal images, most of which have no relationship to the text and are not religious in character. Here is an exception, a black bird accompanying the words of Psalm 101, “I am like a night raven in the house.”

Book of Hours according to the Use of Ghent, 14th century. (Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, 565, Bibliothèque nationale de France.) Christ in Judgment at the end of the world, with the dead rising from the earth, and a figure representing the mouth of Hell.

Book of Hours according to the Use of Paris, late 14th - early 15th century. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 18014.) The Trinity in Majesty, with the symbols of the Four Evanglists. Below, David, the author of the Psalms, in combat with Goliath, a popular subject with the Penitential Psalms.

The Hours of Brière de Surgy, 14th century. (Bibliotheque Municipale de la Ville de Laon, ms. 243q.) King David as an elderly man in prayer.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

The Feast of Saint Mary of Egypt

The feast of St Mary of Egypt has never been on the General Calendar, but it is often found in the supplements of the Missal and Breviary “for certain places.” April 2 is the most common date, but in several places it was kept on April 9, and in the Byzantine Rite it is on April 1.

The Golden Legend and the Roman Martyrology note that she is also called “the Sinner”; according to her legend, she was a prostitute or actress (in the Roman world, often more or less the same thing,) so given to the indulgence of the flesh that she often did not bother to charge her clients. After many years of a gravely and publicly sinful life, she went to Jerusalem by ship, with a crowd of pilgrims going to the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross; not, as yet, a pilgrim herself, but in pursuit of new transgressions among the sailors. In the city, she tried to enter the Holy Sepulcher, but was mysteriously prevented from doing so by some unseen power; this opened her eyes to the true nature of the life she was leading, the beginning of a complete conversion. Before an icon of the Virgin Mary, she vowed herself to a new life of penance, and was then able to enter the church. Coming outside, she went to offer thanks before the icon, and heard a voice saying to her “If you cross the Jordan, you will be saved.” She therefore crossed the Jordan into the desert, where she remained in complete solitude for nearly half a century. 

Shortly before her death, she was discovered by a monk named Zosimas, to whom she recounted the story of her early sins, conversion, and many years of penance in the desert; at first, he could not even tell that she was a woman, so emaciated was she by her fasting. She is often depicted with long wild hair, from the story that what Zosimas at first took for a garment of camel-hair like that of St John the Baptist was actually her own hair. One year after discovering her, Zosimas returned on Holy Thursday to bring her Communion, which she had received only one other time, right before going into the desert. On returning the year after that, he discovered her dead; she had written in the dirt near the place where her body lay that she had died on the day of the Lord’s Passion, just after receiving Holy Communion, and asking Zosimus to bury her. (Pictured right: Zosimas, realizing that Mary is covered only in her hair, offers her a cloak; note that he is dressed as a Cistercian. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)

The popularity of St Mary of Egypt was very great in the Middle Ages, especially in the Low Countries, France and the Iberian peninsula, less so in Italy and among the religious orders; stained glass windows depicting her are still seen at Chartres, Bourges and Auxerre. In Central Europe, devotion to her seems to have flourished especially in Poland, Bohemia and Hungary, that is to say, among those with neighbors using the Byzantine Rite, in which she is a very prominent figure. In addition to her feast on April 1, she is also commemorated on the Fifth Sunday of the Byzantine Great Lent. Furthermore, on the Thursday of the fifth week of Lent, her life by St Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (530 ca. - 638), is read at Orthros before the chanting of the Great Penitential Canon of St Andrew of Crete.
A seventeenth-century Russian icon of Mary of Egypt, with stories of her life in the border. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
It is interesting to note the sequence of special commemorations on these five Sundays. The first is often called the Feast of Orthodoxy, celebrating the triumph of the orthodox faith over iconoclasm; the third is dedicated to the veneration of the Holy Cross, the second and fourth to great spiritual teachers of the Byzantine tradition, Ss Gregory Palamas and John Climacus respectively. As Lent draws closer to the days of Christ’s Passion and Death, however, its last Sunday is devoted to a Saint who lived in total obscurity and severe penance for most of her life, a woman who could not read, but was taught the mysteries of the Christian faith by God Himself through her humility and asceticism. The liturgy therefore calls her a “teacher” as it does also Gregory Palamas and John Climacus:
In thee, O Mother, was carefully preserved what is according to the Image. For having taken up the Cross, thou didst follow Christ, and by so doing, didst teach us to disregard the flesh, for it passeth away, but to care for the soul as an immortal thing. Therefore, Holy Mary, thy spirit rejoiceth with the Angels. (The troparion of her feast.)
In Rome, Mary of Egypt was formerly honored by a very small church near the Tiber (now deconsecrated), a temple of the harbor-god Portunus converted into a church by Greek monks in 872, very close to the principal Greek-rite church of the city. At Aquileia, the patriarchal see of the Veneto, her feast was kept on April 9, probably also under Greek influence, which is very prominent in that region both religiously and artistically.

Perhaps the most famous representation of her in Italian art is in Venice itself, a city where Byzantine influence is also very notable. At the Scuola di San Rocco, the seat of a charitable confraternity which is often described as the Sistine Chapel of Venice, Saints Mary Magdalene and Mary of Egypt (pictured right) are shown opposite each other; these and the other paintings in the hall are by Tintoretto, who had worked in various parts of the Scuola over 23 years, and was almost seventy when he did these on the ground-floor hall between 1583 and 1587. Both appear as luminous figures in a dark, chaotic landscape, the image of the sinful world, and both have books in their hands, symbolizing both contemplation and wisdom. In their pose and dress they are also very similar, so much so that were it not for the presence of the river Jordan, isolating Mary of Egypt from the houses in the background, we should hardly be able to tell them apart.

Tintoretto is not the only artist to represent the two penitent saints in a similar manner. The Florentine sculptor Donatello in his famous statue of Mary Magdalene shows her with the long flowing hair covering her entire body like a garment, an iconography borrowed from that of Mary of Egypt; in the next generation, the painter Antonio del Pollaiuolo follows suit. Indeed, the belief that the sins of Mary Magdalene were particularly of a sexual nature seems to arise from this artistic and iconographic conflation of the two saints.

The Penitent Magdalene, by Donatello, ca. 1455
The Assumption of Mary Magdalene by Antonio Pollaiuolo, ca. 1460.
Following the tradition that Mary Magdalene is also the woman who anointed Christ’s feet, both are celebrated in the Western tradition as models of repentance during the season of Lent; Mary of Egypt’s feast usually falls within Lent, while “the Apostle of the Apostles” appears in the Gospel at Mass twice in Passion week (today and Saturday), six times in Holy Week, and three times in Easter Week.

Collecting Information about Live-Streamed Masses

As everyone certainly knows by now, in many, many places around the world, the celebration of public Masses has ceased entirely, or almost entirely, because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Since it is now impossible for so many people to go to Mass, or even to go to a church to pray privately, many churches have begun live-streaming Masses or other liturgical services and prayers. I make bold to encourage as many priests as possible to do this, remembering the words of St Padre Pio (and many other sayings like it from many other Saints), that “the world can live without the sun more easily than it can live without the Mass.” It is important for people to know, when they cannot go to Mass, that it is nevertheless being continuously offered as a propitiatory and efficacious sacrifice for the living and the dead.

It seems like a good idea, therefore, to put together a list of these with appropriate links. Regular live-streams of the Divine Office celebrated in church will also be included. I would ask those who wish to contribute to the list to either leave a note in the combox, or send me an email (, with the name of the church, location, and time of the live-streaming, and where to find it (Facebook, YouTube, website etc.). I will update this post as warranted, and periodically change the time of the post so that it moves to the head of the blog for a while. (If readers make a bookmark of the post, the url will not change when it is updated.)

Update: Several new entries have been added; don’t forget to check specific sites for Holy Week schedules.

Live-Streamed Masses

We start with the FSSP’s LiveMass website,, which live-streams the Mass daily from 5 different apostolates: Fribourg, Switzerland; Warrington, England; Sarasota, Florida; Guadalajara, Mexico; and Los Angeles, California. The schedules of each individual church are on the website. Update: A reader informs me that the increased comsumes a good deal of bandwidth, which increases the cost of keeping the site functional. Please consider making a donation.

Eastern Rites Update: a reader alerted me to a newly created website,, a clearing house for links to live-streamed liturgies in the Eastern Rites. The links are grouped into Catholic and Orthodox, European and North American. Many thanks! (Remember to check times zones for churches in Europe!)

A London-based Catholic creative studio called Peter’s House is posting videos daily with priests speaking about the daily Mass readings (OF), offering some spiritual guidance, and leading an act of spiritual communion. Videos will be released at 10:00 (GMT) each day. (The first one, for the feast of St Joseph, featured our own Fr Lawrence Lew.)

The Institute of Christ the King has the webstreams of many of its apostolates in both the United States an Europe listed here:


The United Kingdom, Ireland and Portgual are on Greenwich Mean Time, which is five hours ahead of the East coast of the United States; the rest of Western Europe is on Central European time, which is six hours ahead of the East coast.

Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini (FSSP), Rome, Italy – via their YouTube channel: Mass every day at 6:30 pm local time (1:30 pm EDT)

St Eugène, Paris, France – via their YouTube channel and Facebook page. Mass every weekday at 7:00 pm local time (2:00 pm EDT). Sunday: Mass at 11 am, Vespers at 5:45 pm, Mass again at 7:00 pm.

Chevetogne Abbey (Monastery of the Holy Cross), Belgium – via their Mixlr channel. Services in the Byzantine church in Church Slavonic, French and other languages. Check the schedule daily. Times are European Central. During Lent, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated only on Sunday and Saturday, but the Liturgy of the Presanctified is celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays, and various other Hours (Matins, Vespers, Great Compline etc.) are broadcast every day.

Collegiate Church of St Just, Lyon, France (FSSP) – via their YouTube channel: Mass on Sunday at 10 am; Monday to Friday, 6:45 pm; Saturday 11 am. Sunday Vespers, 6pm. Compline, daily 7:30 pm. Way of the Cross, Friday at 5 pm. Rosary with meditations, Saturday at 10:30 am.

Church of St George, Lyon, France – via their YouTube channel: EF Masses Monday-Friday at 9 am and 6:30 pm; Saturday at 9 am and 11am; Sunday at 9 am and 10:30 am. Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily at 3 pm, followed by a devotion to St Joseph in the month of March, and the Way of the Cross on Friday. Rosary with meditations Monday-Friday at 6 pm, Saturday at 9:45 am, Sunday at 6:30 pm. Vespers on Sunday and Saturday at 6 pm. Compline daily at 9 pm.

Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Užhorod, Ukraine (Greek-Catholic) – via their YouTube channel. (Not sure about the schedule, since I don’t read Ukrainian. On Eastern European standard time, 2 hours ahead of Greenwich, 7 hours ahead of EDT.)

Chapelle Saint Jean-Baptiste, Toulouse, France (ICRSP) – via their Facebook page: schedule pending.

St Roch, Paris, France – via their Facebook page live, daily at 8:30 am local time; reposted afterwards to their YouTube channel.

Heiligenkreuz Abbey, Austria (Cistercians) – two livestreams on their website:
Chapel of St Bernard: Vigils 5:15 am; Lauds, 6 am; Terce and Sext, 12 pm; Vespers, 6 pm; Compline, 7:50 pm. Mass on weekdays at 6:25 am, 11 am, and 5 pm; Sunday at 9:30 am. In addition, the Divine Mercy Rosary is prayed at 3 pm, and the ‘Maurus Blessing’ with a relic of cross especially for the sick. At 8:15 p.m. the rosary will be prayed.
Chapel of St Catherine: Mass every Monday at 6 pm; Tuesday to Saturday at 5 pm, followed by Adoration; Sunday at 5 pm.

Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto, Římov, Czech Republic (FSSP) – via their website: Sunday Mass at 10:30 am, Monday to Saturday at 6 pm.

Oratory of St Philip Neri, Birmingham, England – via their YouTube channel: EF at 9 am, OF at 11 am everyday, including Sundays. (GMT)

St Dominic’s Church and Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary, London, Englandvia their Facebook page; Dominican Rite Mass on Sundays at 4:30 pm (GMT)

Blackfriars, Oxford, (Dominicans) – via their YouTube channel (“Godzdogz”); Sunday and Saturday, Mass at 8:30 am; Monday-Friday, Mass at 7:30 am.

Oratory of St Philip Neri, Oxford – via their YouTube channel; Monday - Saturday: EF Low Mass at 8 am, English Low Mass at 6 pm; Sunday: EF Low Mass at 8 am, Sung OF Mass in Latin at 11 am, Vespers and Benediction at 5:30 pm.

Holy Cross Priory, Leicester, England (Dominicans) – via their Facebook page; Sunday, Mass at 8 am, 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, 7 pm; at 6 pm, Adoration, Rosary, Compline, Benediction; Weekday Mass at 8 am, 12:30 pm, 6:10 pm, Vespers at 6:45 pm.

See the full schedule of services, and other online spiritual reasources, from the Dominican houses in England and Scotland here:

Oratorio Escuela de Cristo, Seville, Spain – via the YouTube channel of Una Voce Sevilla; Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation at 11 am.

San Simon Piccolo, Venice, Italy (FSSP) – via Facebook; Sung Mass on Sundays at 11am.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Essex, England – via their website; schedule here.

Séminaire Saint Martin, Evron, France (Communauté Saint Martin) – via their Facebook page and YouTube channel; see their website for schedule.

Casa San Clemente, Rome, Italy (IBP) – via YouTube; Sunday Mass, 11 am, weekday Mass at 6:30 pm; prayers before the Blessed Sacrament daily at 10 pm; via Crucis Friday at 3 pm.


St John Cantius, Chicago, Illinois (Can. Reg. SJC) – via their website and YouTube channel: schedule follows Central Daylight Time.
SUNDAY: 7:30 am, EF Low Mass; 9:00 am, OF Mass (English); 11:00 am, OF Mass (Latin); 12:30 pm,  EF High Mass; 2:00 pm, Rosary and Solemn Vespers
WEEKDAYS: 7:00 am, OF Mass with Gregorian Chant; 8:00 am, EF Low Mass; 4:30 pm, Rosary and Vespers; 7:00 pm, Compline; 7:30 pm (Wednesday only), EF Low Mass; 7:30 pm (Friday only) Stations of the Cross
SATURDAY: 4:00 pm, Rosary and Vespers; 5:00 pm, OF Mass (English)

Most Precious Blood of Jesus, Pittsburgh, PA (ICRSP) – via their Facebook page: Monday - Friday, 12 noon; Tuesday, also at 7 pm; Saturday at 9 a.m.; Sunday, Low Mass at 8 a.m., sung Mass at 11 a.m.

St John the Baptist, Bridgeport, PA (Ordinariate) – via their YouTube channel: Sunday at 10am local time. (direct link for Laetare Sunday)

Prince of Peace, Taylors, South Carolina – via their Facebook page and YouTube channel; daily Mass at noon local time; Sunday at 11 am (OF) and 12 noon (EF).

St Mary’s, Providence, Rhode Island (FSSP) – via their website: Monday-Wednesday, 7:00 am; Thursday, 7:00 am; Friday, 11:00 am & 6:30 pm; Saturday 9:00 am, with the Rosary beforehand; Sunday, 8:00 am with the Rosary beforehand, & 10:00 am.

St Patrick Parish and Oratory, Waterbury, Connecticut, (ICRSP) – via their Facebook page: currently scheduled at 6:30 am daily.

Church of St Patrick, Bridgeport, Connecticut – via the website of the cathedral, to which it is joined as a single parish. EF Mass Monday - Friday at 7am, Saturday at 12:10 pm. Check the schedule for other events of the parish.

St Martha Parish, Enfield, Connecticut – via their Facebook page: OF vigil Mass, Saturday at 4pm; EF Mass, Sunday at 9am.

St Patrick, Wilmington, Delaware – via YouTube: schedule not posted.

Mater Ecclesiae, Berlin, New Jersey – via Facebook: Thursday through Monday, 10:30 am.; Wednesday, 7:30 pm. (no Mass on Tuesday.)

Our Lady of Hope, Potomac Falls, Virginia – via their website: daily Mass at 9am, Sunday, also at 10:30 am.

St Joseph’s Church, Troy, New York (Carmelite Fathers) – via their Facebook page: Mass in the Carmelite Rite on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12:00 pm; Stations of the Cross (St Alphonsus Liguori) Fridays at 3:00 pm for the remainder of Lent.

Annunciation of the Bl. Virgin Mary, Ottawa, Ontario (Ordinariate) – via their Facebook page; Mattins at 9:20am, Mass at 10am.

Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem, Charles Town, WV – via their Facebook page; Sundays, High Mass at 10:15 am, Vespers at 6:00 pm; weekdays, Mass at 8:00 am, Vespers at 5:00 pm.

Immaculate Conception, Cleveland, Ohio – via their website; Monday - Friday, 6:30 pm; Saturday, 9:00 am; Sunday, 12:00 p.m.

St Rocco, Cleveland, Ohio (Mercedarian Fathers) – via their Facebook page; Sunday, 12pm

Holy Name of Jesus, Providence, Rhode Island – via their Facebook page; Sunday Mass at 11:00 a.m., other occasions as announced.

Conception Abbey, Conception, Missourivia their website.
Monday-Saturday: Lauds at 7:15 am, Mass at 11:45 am, Vespers at 5:15 pm
Sunday: Lauds at 7:45 am, Mass at 10:30 am, Vespers at 5:30 pm
On Saturday, March 21, Sunday schedule for the feast of St Benedict.

Benedictines of Mary, Gower, Missouri – via their website: 10:50 am, Terce, Mass & Sext; 3:00 pm None, preceded by Rosary at 2:45 on Monday, Wednesday & Friday; on Thursdays, Exposition at 1:10 pm followed by None at 1:45pm; 6:30pm, Vespers (on Thursdays at 6pm); on Sundays and 1st Class Feasts, Exposition with Vespers & Rosary at 5:00pm. (All times CDT)

St Barnabas the Apostle, Fallon, Missouri – via their Facebook page; Saturday at 4:30 pm local time, Sunday at 10 a.m.

Christ the King, Kansas City, Missouri – via their Facebook page, EF (celebrated ad orientem) Sunday at 7 am, Monday - Friday at 6:30 am and 12pm, Saturday at 8 am: EF, First Fridays at 12pm, Sunday at 10 am.

Epiphany of Our Lord St Louis, Missourivia their Facebook page, no regular schedule.

St Stanislaus, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (ICRSP) – via their website: Low Mass, Monday-Thursday at 12:00 pm, Friday at 6:30 pm, Saturday at 9:00 am. Sunday, Low Mass with organ at 8:00 am, High Mass at 10:00 am.

St Mary, Pine Bluff, Wisconsin – via their website: Sunday: EF Mass at 7:30 am, OF Mass at 9:15; Weekday OF Mass at 7:30 am, Saturday at 4:00 pm.

Holy Resurrection Monastery, Nazianzen, Wisconsin (Romanian Greek-Catholic) – via their Facebook page: their very full liturgical schedule is available at their website.

St Joseph, Rockdale, Illinois (FSSP) – via StreamSpot: Mass daily at 8am.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston, Texas (Ordinariate) – via their website; Sunday at 9am.

Our Lady of Sorrows, Las Vegas, New Mexico – via Facebook; daily Mass at 12:10 pm MDT.

St Albert Priory, Oakland, California (Dominican Fathers) – via their website. Sundays at 9:30 am., incl. Easter: Annunciation: 5:00 pm; April 4th, Dominican Rite, 11:00 am; Holy Thursday and Good Friday, 7:30 pm; Easter Vigil: 8:30 pm (Pacific Daylight Time)

Immaculate Heart of Mary Oratory, San José, California, (ICRSP) – via their YouTube channel: Sunday, 10:00 am; Monday- Saturday, 12:00 pm; Compline, Monday and Wednesday - Saturday at 9pm.

St Andrew Russian Greek-Catholic Church, El Segundo, California – via their Facebook page: Divine Liturgy on Sunday, March 22, at 10:00 am PDT.

St Mary Catholic Church, Escondido, California – via their website: Sunday at 10 am in English, 1 pm in Spanish; Monday-Friday at noon in English and 7 pm in Spanish.

St Joan of Arc, Boise, Idaho – via their website: Sunday at 9:30 am, Monday-Saturday, 8 am (PDT)

Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco – via their YouTube channel and Facebook page: Sunday at 2 pm PDT.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Cottage Grove, Oregon – via their Facebook page: Sunday: OF Mass at 10:30am; EF Masses Monday at 6:45 pm, Tuesday - Friday at 8:00 am, Saturday at 9:00 am PDT.

The Consecration of a Small English Church in 1846: Guest Article by Sharon Kabel

Our thanks to Sharon Kabel for sharing with us this account of the 1846 dedication of an English church, in the early years of the English Catholic revival. This article includes some photos of the church’s stained glass windows of an unusual subject, as well as a complete transcription of an article about the consecration from a contemporary Catholic newspaper. Sharon also put togother a playlist, which is linked below, of the music or the ceremony. Last October, we shared some of her research on the brief-lived Bible vigils mentioned in Sacrosanctum Concilium; you can find more of her work on her website:

In the fall of 1846, construction finished for Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Spinkhill, Derbyshire, England. The event merited a nearly 2,500 word, 4-column write-up in the Catholic Telegraph.

Spinkhill, almost exactly in the middle of England, is a not-insignificant region for students of English Catholic history. It was a Jesuit mission, and a hotbed of resistance during the country’s anti-Catholic attacks. Some of the land was owned by the Pole family (of the great Cardinal Reginald Pole), and one of the teachers at the nearby Mount St. Mary’s College was Gerard Manley Hopkins.

A magnificently detailed history of Immaculate Conception Church has fortunately already been written by Paul D. Walker (Church of the Immaculate Conception, Spinkhill; 1990), and there are numerous shorter histories of the church. It will suffice here to concentrate on a few details of Immaculate Conception’s opening (September 21) and consecration (September 22), that survive because of a thorough 19th century journalist.

In attendance were at least two bishops: Nicholas Wiseman (later Cardinal), and Thomas Walsh. Wiseman, who was to fill Walsh’s episcopal sandals in a few short years, needs little introduction. Walsh lived a fascinating span of years, being jailed as a college student in 1793 during the French Revolution, witnessing Pope Pius VII’s restoration of the Jesuits in 1814 (a particularly important event for Spinkhill), and dying 1 year after the 1848 Revolutions.

Image from Wikimedia Commons by Neil Theasby: CC BY-SA 2.0
The Catholic Telegraph article provided a sumptuous level of detail, including an extensive program of the music. I have imperfectly and incompletely reconstructed the music of the consecration Mass at YouTube and Spotify, which give a taste of what must have been a gloriously triumphant day for Derbyshire Catholics.

The church’s altar was from the local quarry, and the exterior statues were sculpted from the ruins of Roche Abbey, a twelfth century Cistercian house suppressed in 1538 that lives on, at least in a small way, in Immaculate Conception.

Most interesting for this researcher - in a church already so interesting and so recurring in the anecdota of Catholic England - was the newspaper’s description of a St. Joseph’s Chapel, with stained glass windows for the Seven Joys and Sorrows (or Dolors) of Saint Joseph - a decorative feature that I have yet to see documented anywhere else. Extensive research on these windows was no match for the generosity of Immaculate Conception’s current pastor, Father Peter D. McGuire, who has been kind enough to answer a strange librarian’s many questions, and to allow me to share photos of these windows.

Full transcription of the Catholic Telegraph article


This church was solemnly consecrated on the 21st inst., by the Right Rev. Dr. Wiseman, assisted by the members of the College to which it is attached. The whole ceremonial was performed as prescribed in the Roman Pontifical. The consecration was followed by the Mass appointed for such occasions, which was celebrated by the Very Rev. Randal Lythgoe. On the following day the solemn opening took place as described with sufficient accuracy in the Sheffield Mercury, the account from which we subjoin. The weather on both days was lovely, and tended greatly to set off the procession, from the college to the church, and to render the occasion one of joy and congratulation to the neighbourhood.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

CDW Issues New Liturgical Texts in Response to the Pandemic

We have just learned that the Congregation for Divine Worship has issued two new liturgical texts in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The first is a votive Mass titled “in the time of pandemic”, newly composed for this purpose. It is accompanied by a decree which permits that it be celebrated daily, except on solemnities, the Sundays of Advent, Lent and Eastertide, Holy Week and the Octave of Easter, Ash Wednesday and All Souls’ Day. (Pray God that it will be long obsolete by then!) The second is a special prayer to be added to the Solemn Prayers of Good Friday. No doubt they will be widely available in a variety of formats very shortly, but in the meantime, here are the new decrees and liturgical texts, first in English, and below in Latin.

UPDATE: The Mass has now been made available in pdf format through the website of the Congregation: (In Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, and German.)

Live-Streamed Dominican Missa Cantata in Time of Pestilence on Saturday

This post is to remind our readers that the friars of the Western Dominican Province House of Studies, St Albert the Great Priory in Oakland Caifornia, are live-streaming their Masses on Sundays and Solemnities. They may be viewed live at the Province’s Website, and remain available to watch afterwards.

This week, they will also live-stream a Dominican Rite Votive Missa Cantata in Time of Pestilence on Saturday, April 4, at 10:30 a.m. PDT. The celebrant and preacher for this Mass will be myself. Music will be provided by the student friars, who will also serve the Mass. This Mass will replace the usual First Saturday Missa Cantata. The Mass itself is not open to the public, as the public Masses have been suspended in the Diocese of Oakland and elsewhere in California because of the coronavirus.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Blessing of Palms in the Reforms of 1955 and 1969

This article is the third in an ongoing series about the theology of the various forms of the rites of Palm Sunday; the previous parts may be read here: part 1, part 2. Because the blessing in both of the modern reforms is so short, and they are so similar to each other, they are here combined into a single article. The procession will be covered in the next article in the series, followed by the discussion of the Mass.

In my 2017 series on the theology of the Good Friday ceremonies, I described how the rite informally known as the Mass of the Presanctified deliberately imitates the rite of the Mass, and how the reform promulgated in 1955 goes to extreme lengths to divorce it from the rite of Mass. I also explained some of the ways in which the post-Conciliar reform undid this. A similar process is seen in the changes made to the blessing of the palms in 1955 and 1969.

The blessing of the palms at Mary, Help of Christians in Hong Kong; from our first Palm Sunday photopost of 2014.
The 1955 reform retains four elements from the traditional blessing: the opening chant, the blessing, which is effected with one prayer rather than five, the distribution of the palms accompanied by antiphons, and the Gospel, in that order. There is no longer any hint of the imitation of the rite of Mass, which is the particular characteristic of the traditional version.

The one prayer of blessing which was kept, the fifth in the older version, is the only one among the original five which refers only to Palm Sunday. “Bless, we beseech Thee, o Lord, these branches of palms, and grant that what Thy people do today bodily in veneration of Thee, they may perfect spiritually with the highest devotion, by gaining victory over the enemy, and ardently loving the work of mercy.” All of the other textual elements (Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Secret, Preface, Sanctus, the first four of the five prayers of the blessing, and the two final prayers) are removed, and with them, all of the references to the other days of Holy Week, and to the Passion and the Resurrection.

The older version of the blessing was clearly designed as part of a thematic unity that included the whole of Holy Week and Easter, a unity which begins with the exclusively Roman custom of reading the Passion on Palm Sunday. The new version is isolated as a completely separate ceremony from the Mass that follows it, and from the rest of Holy Week, not only on a textual level, as described above, but also on the ritual level.

The blessing is now done in red, a color which is used in no other part of Holy Week, while the Mass remains in violet. It is done not at the altar like a Mass, but at a table which is set in the middle of the sanctuary, in such a way that the celebrant faces the people. (This is also, incidentally, the point at which versus populum worship, conceived as such, was first introduced into the Roman Rite.) The branches can also be held by the faithful in their hands from the beginning of the ceremony. In this case, they are not blessed at the altar, and do not come to the faithful from the altar, or even from the sanctuary; the priest does still sprinkle them with holy water and incense them, either from the entrance to the sanctuary, or by passing through the church. Otherwise, they are distributed to the faithful as previously. The Gospel is then sung, with all of the normal ceremonies of the Mass, except that the celebrant is not incensed, and the blessing is thus finished.

The blessing of the palms at the church of St Monica in Edmond, Oklahoma; from our first Palm Sunday photopost of 2016.
In the post-Conciliar reform, the blessing of the palms is essentially the same as that of the 1955 reform, but like everything else, blighted by a series of poorly conceived options. The most notable alteration is that the branches are no longer distributed at all, but held by the faithful from the beginning. [8] (The chants which formerly accompanied the distribution are now assigned to the procession.) The color of the vestments is still red, but that of the Palm Sunday Mass has been changed to red. This restoration of an important sign of unity between the two parts of the ceremony is taken to a silly extreme by making the use of a cope at the blessing optional; the celebrant may wear a chasuble instead. [9]

The opening chant Hosanna filio David is kept, but may be replaced “by another suitable chant”, in accordance with one of the deadliest rubrics in the modern rite. The priest then begins the ceremony as he begins the Mass, with “In the name of the Father…”, one of the formulae of greeting, and a brief “monitio” (reminding, admonition) “by which the faithful are invited to actively and consciously participate in the celebration of this day.” This introduction is not repeated for the beginning of the Mass proper, which also serves to reunify the two parts of the ceremony.

The Missal provides a set text for the “monitio”, which is accompanied, as always, by the spoken-word version of the same deadly rubric: “in these or similar words.” However, the set text itself reintroduces a principle that had been eliminated by the 1955 reform, namely, that the rites of Holy Week form a unity, and that the Palm Sunday ceremony is part of the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion. “(T)oday we are gathered, so that with the whole Church, we may keep the prelude of Our Lord’s Paschal mystery, namely, His Passion and Resurrection, for the fulfillment of which, He entered His city, Jerusalem. … let us follow the Lord, that being made partakers of His Cross through grace, we may share in (His) Resurrection and life.”

There are two prayers for the actual blessing, neither of which is the one prayer retained by the 1955 reform. The first one contains the words “sanctify these branches with Thy blessing”, and the cross that tells the priest to make the sign of the Cross over them. The second prayer is a bowdlerization of the prayer that stands in the place of the Secret in the traditional blessing; in accordance with one of the worst conceits of the post-Conciliar reform of blessings, it does not actually bless anything. (The words in italics here are omitted from the previous version).

“Increase the faith of them that hope in Thee, o God, and mercifully hear the prayers of Thy suppliants; let Thy manifold mercy come upon us: let these branches of palms or olive trees be blessed; and as in a figure of the Church, Thou didst multiply Noah going forth from the ark, and Moses going out of Egypt with the children of Israel; so that we who today show these branches to Christ in His triumph, may bring to Thee in Him the fruits of good works. (original: so that we who go forth to meet Christ with good works, bearing palms and olive branches); and through Him enter into everlasting joy.”

The branches are then sprinkled with holy water; for no discernible reason, incense is no longer used. The Gospel is then sung. In year A, the traditional Gospel of St Matthew, 21, 1-9, has been lengthened by two verses; in year B, a choice is made between St Mark (11, 1-10) and St John (12, 12-16), in year C, it is from St Luke, 19, 28-40.

Notes (continuing the numeration from the previous posts):

[8] Thanks to one of our readers, Jehan-Sosthènes Boutte, for pointing out that the option to distribute the branches to “the concelebrants, ministers and some of the faithful” remains in the 1984 Caerimoniale Episcoporum (268), even though it is not mentioned in the most recent edition of the Missal.

[9] The rubric is in fact stated in such a way that the chasuble seems to be the preferred option. “The priest and deacon, wearing the red sacred vestments required for the Mass, … In place of the chasuble, the priest can wear a cope…”

An Update on the Restoration of Shrewsbury Cathedral

At the beginning of this month, we published some pictures of the newly begun restoration project of the cathedral of Our Lady, Help of Christians and St Peter Alcantara in Shrewsbury, England. We are happy to share this update from Fr Edmund Montgomery, the cathedral administrator; as you can see, a lot of progress has been made in less than a month. “Despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic, we used the sanctuary for the first time ad experimentum. The statues do have ornate canopies, but we have not gained the permissions to move these as yet. The platform is temporary but will allow a period of consideration as to position of the altar, the cathedra, etc.”

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Blessing of Palms in the Missal of St Pius V (Part 1.2)

As noted in the first article in this series, the various parts of Holy Week are united to each other by the uniquely Roman custom of reading each of the four Passions as a unit, and spreading them through the week. This thematic unity is also very much evident in the prayers that form the second part of the blessing of Palms, which are arranged in a manner analogous to the Secret, Preface and Canon of the Mass.

After the Gospel, the following prayer, which stands in the place of the Secret, is sung out loud. “Increase the faith of them that hope in Thee, o God, and mercifully hear the prayers of Thy suppliants; let Thy manifold mercy come upon us: let these branches of palms or olive trees be blessed; and as in a figure of the Church, Thou didst multiply Noah going forth from the ark, and Moses going out of Egypt with the children of Israel; so may we go forth to meet Christ with good works, bearing palms and olive branches; and through Him enter into everlasting joy.”

The Old Testament episodes mentioned in this prayer, Noah and the Ark (Genesis 6-8) and the Crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14-15), are read among the twelve prophecies of the Easter vigil. In accordance with the tradition of the Fathers [3], the prayers which follow these readings also refer to these episodes as figures of the Church, multiplied by the addition of new children in the sacrament of Baptism. The Flood is also mentioned in the blessing of the baptismal font, and the Crossing of the Red Sea in the Exsultet.
Noah Receives the Olive Branch from the Dove; from a psalter which belonged to King St Louis IX of France, and was commissioned for use at the Sainte Chapelle, 1270. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 10525.
The conclusion of this prayer segues into the preface dialog and a preface, which in the Roman tradition is a feature of many of the more solemn blessings and rites. For example, there is a preface in the ordination rites of bishops, priests and deacons, but not in those of subdeacons, the minor orders, or the giving of the clerical tonsure. No other blessing in the Roman Missal includes a preface, nor do any of the ordinary blessings in the Rituale. [4]

The preface itself reads as follows.

“Truly it is meet and just … Who art glorified in the assembly of Thy Saints. For Thy creatures serve Thee, because they acknowledge Thee as their only Creator and God, and all Thy creation praiseth Thee, and Thy Saints bless Thee. For with free voice they confess that great Name of Thine only-begotten Son before the kings and powers of this world. Before Whom the Angels and Archangels, the Thrones and Dominions stand; and with all the host of the heavenly army, sing the hymn of Thy glory, saying without ceasing: Holy…”

In the Gospels, direct references [5] to Christ as a king occur almost exclusively during the two events which the Roman Rite commemorates this day, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and His Passion. In St Matthew’s account of Palm Sunday, “king” occurs in the prophecy of Zachariah which he cites (9, 9), “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, ‘Behold thy king cometh to thee’ ”, which is also quoted by St John (12, 15). In Ss Mark and Luke, it occurs in the words spoken by the crowds, but obliquely in the former: “Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that cometh: Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11, 10), “Blessed be the king who cometh in the name of the Lord, peace in heaven, and glory on high!” (Luke 19, 38).

The first chant of the ceremony, analogous to the Introit of the Mass, is based on these words: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord. O King of Israel: Hosanna in the highest!” In the Missal, this is cited to Matthew 21, 9, the last verse of the Gospel which is read at the blessing, but the words “King of Israel” are added from John 12, 13.

All of the other direct references to Christ with the word “king” occur in the Passion narratives, with two exceptions. In the Gospel of the Epiphany, Matthew 2, 1-12, the Magi are the first to call Him “the King of the Jews”, and do so in the presence of one of “the kings and powers of this world”, Herod the Great, who then sought to kill Him, and whose son, Herod Antipas, later mocked Him in His Passion (Luke 23, 11). In the first chapter of John, Nathanael says to Christ, “thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel”; the latter title is used elsewhere in the Gospel only in the Palm Sunday narrative cited above.

The Preface therefore declares that on this day, as the Church and her members “confess that great Name of (God’s) only-begotten Son before the kings and powers of this world”, they are naming Him as King. Although this theme does not occur again in the prayers by which the palms are blessed, it is very prominent in the chants that accompany the procession, and most particularly, in the famous hymn sung at the door of the church, “Gloria, laus et honor.”

From our second Palm Sunday photopost of last year, the singing of the “Gloria, laus et honor” at the door of the Oratory of Ss Cyril and Methodius, the Institute of Christ the King’s church in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
“The kings and powers of the world”, who were driven to kill the Lord because He was proclaimed the King of Israel, are not only Pontius Pilate in whose name he acts. They are also the chief priests and Pharisees, who in the Gospel of the preceding Friday (John 11, 47-54) plot against Jesus for fear that “all will believe in him; and the Romans will come, and take away our place and nation.” St John explains that the high priest Caiphas’ words “it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people”, were in fact a prophecy “that Jesus should die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but to gather together in one the children of God, that were dispersed.”

Although a Preface is used in many rites and blessings, the blessing of the palms is the only one in which it is followed by the Sanctus as it is at the Mass. [6] This is the only part of Ordinary of the Mass that is used in the blessing, which was obviously done to include the words by which the children of Israel hailed the coming of the Messiah, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest.”

The five prayers which follow and form the “canon” of the blessing are also replete with references to these themes, and to the other parts of Holy Week. (It must be noted that the prayers assume that both palms and olive branches are blessed.) The first prayer speaks of the olive “which the dove, returning to the ark, bore in its mouth”; this is repeated in the fourth, which states that God “ordered the dove to announce peace to the lands through the branch of an olive.” The second prayer begins with the words “O God, who gather what is scattered, and preserve what is gathered”, which refer to the unwitting prophecy of Caiphas cited above; the words “these branches which Thy servants faithful take up to the honor of Thy name” echo the Preface.

The third and longest prayer, like the Collects of both the blessing and the Mass, mentions both the Passion and the Resurrection. Since the palm branch was in ancient Rome a symbol of victory, “the palm branches await (Christ’s) triumphs over the prince of death”, and the shoots of olives, the source of oil, and hence of anointing, “cry out in a certain way that the spiritual anointing (i.e., of the Messiah, the anointed one) has come.” “For already then, that blessed multitude of men understood that it was prefigured that our Redeemer, taking compassion on human miseries, was about to fight with the prince of death for the life of the whole world, and by dying to triumph.” [7] The fifth prayer is the only one that contains no overt references to the Passion or the other parts of Holy Week, but does speak vaguely of “victory over the enemy.”

After the five prayers, the branches are sprinkled with holy water and incensed in the usual way; from this point on, the focus of the rite turns almost entirely to the matter at hand. The prayer which follows the blessing speaks of Christ “humbling Himself to us”, alluding to the Epistle of the Mass, Philippians 2, 5-11, but the rest of it is about the crowds that accompanied Him, and of us “following in His footsteps.” The branches are then distributed to the clergy and the faithful, while two antiphons are sung. “The children of the Hebrews, bearing the branches of olives, went forth to meet the Lord, crying out, and saying, ‘Hosanna in the highest.’ ” “The children of the Hebrews spread their garments in the way, and cried out, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” The prayer after the distribution is also focused entirely on the events of Palm Sunday.

As I have written before more extensively, the liturgical celebration of the events of Our Lord’s life is not a series of commemorations of events in the dead past. We live though these events as things for which we are really present, and in which we really participate. With this idea of the liturgy as the living representation of the events of Christ’s life, the blessing of the palms changes tenor in this final part to prepare us for the procession, for the first in a series of events in Holy Week in which we truly “follow in His footsteps.”

Notes (continuing the numeration from the previous post):
[3] E.g. St Jerome, Letter 69, to Oceanus (PL XXII, 660): “The world sins, and is not cleansed without the flood of waters, and immediately, the dove of the Holy Spirit … flies down to Noah, as if he were Christ in the Jordan, and with the branch of refreshment (or ‘restoration’) and light, proclaims peace to the world. Since he would not let the people of God go out from Egypt, the Pharaoh with his army is drowned, as a type of baptism.” The olive branch is called “the branch of refreshment and light” because of the use of olive oil for both healing (Luke 10, 34) and light; Pharaoh is a type of baptism because he represents sin that it washes away.

[4] In some other Uses of the Roman Rite, this custom is extended to other blessings; so e.g. at Sarum, the blessing of candles on the Purification included a preface, although the blessing of ashes on Ash Wednesday did not.

[5] By “direct references”, I mean those in which He is explicitly referred to with the word “king”, as opposed to the indirect (and, in the Synoptic Gospels, far more numerous) references to His kingdom. (E.g. Matt. 13, 41, “The Son of man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity.”

[6] Many editions of the Rituale Romanum have a blessing of water on the vigil of the Epiphany that includes many elements of the Mass, among them, a Preface which did in fact segue into the Sanctus. It does not, however, imitate the rite of Mass anywhere near as closely as the blessing of the Palms does; its construction is by any standard entirely sui generis. This blessing was used at Venice, various dioceses in Germany and Hungary, and at least two churches in Rome. It was not, however, included in the original edition of the Rituale issued by Pope Paul V in 1614, and is omitted from most Italian editions, it was also not, apparently, used in either France or the Iberian peninsula.

Sometime in the first quarter of the 18th century, a priest of the diocese of Brescia named Pietro Lucatello inserted several elements into this blessing, a change which was officially repudiated by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in 1725. This seems to have brought the rite into bad odor, and in 1890, it was officially replaced by a more classically Roman blessing, still in use today, which contains no elements of the Mass whatsoever. (Many thanks to Gerhard Eger and Zachary Thomas, the authors of the blog Canticum Salomonis, for their help in researching this matter.)

[7] This sentence is inspired by a passage in St Augustine’s Treatises on the Gospel of St John (51.2), which is also read at Matins on the day before Palm Sunday in the Breviary of St Pius V. “... erat Dominus mortem moriendo superaturus, et tropaeo crucis de diabolo mortis principe triumphaturus. – the Lord was about to overcome death by dying, and triumph over the devil, the prince of death, by the monument of the Cross.” Compare the text of the prayer: “Redemptor noster ... cum mortis principe erat pugnaturus, et moriendo triumphaturus.”

The Central Point in the History of Mankind

Mikhail Vasilievich Nesterov, Crucifixion (1908)

THE DEATH OF A GOD, dying for the salvation of men, is the central point in the history of mankind. All ages bear witness to and converge towards it: the preceding centuries point to its coming, the others are destined to harvest its fruits.

The death of Christ is the centre of history, and also the centre of the life of each man in particular. In the eyes of God every man will be great in proportion as he takes part in that deed; for the only true and eternal dignity is that belonging to the divine Priest. The degree of each one’s holiness will be in exact proportion as he participates in that bloody immolation. For the Lamb of God alone is holy.

But although Jesus Christ the divine High Priest appeared only once on earth, to offer up His great sacrifice on Calvary; yet, every day He appears in the person of each one of His ministers, to renew His sacrifice on the altar. In every altar, then, Calvary is seen: every altar becomes an august place, the Holy of holies, the source of all holiness. Thither all must go to seek Life, and thither all must continually return, as to the source of God’s mercies.

Those who are the Master’s privileged ones, never leave this holy place, but there they “find a dwelling,” near to the altar, so that they never need go far from it; such are monks, whose first care it is to raise temples worthy to contain altars. Making their home by the Sanctuary, they consecrate their life to the divine worship, and every day sees them grouped around the altar for the holy sacrifice. This is the event of the day, the centre to which the Hours, like the centuries, all converge: some as Hours of preparation and awaiting in the recollection of the divine praise — these begin with Lauds and Prime continued by Terce, the third Hour of the day; the others, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline, flow on in the joys of thanksgiving until sunset when the monks chant the closing in of night.

Thus the days of life pass, at the foot of the altar; thus the life of man finds its greatness and its holiness in flowing out, so to say, upon the altar, there to mingle with that Precious Blood which is daily shed in that hallowed place: for, if the life of man is as a valueless drop of water, when lost in the Blood of Christ it acquires an infinite value and can merit the divine mercy for us.

He who knows what the altar is, from it learns to live; to live by the altar is to be holy, pleasing to God, — and to go up to the altar to perform the sacred Mysteries is to be clothed upon with the most sublime of all dignities after that of the Son of God and His holy Mother.

Meditation by Dom Pius de Hemptinne (1879–1907), a discipline of Dom Columba Marmion.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Blessing of Palms in the Missal of St Pius V (Part 1.1)

This article is the first in a series which will discuss the theology of the Palm Sunday ceremonies of the Missal of St Pius V, the revised version of Pope Pius XII, and the Novus Ordo. It is of a length that requires splitting it into two parts; in 2017, I published a series similar to this one on the ceremonies of Good Friday, the arrangement of which was revised halfway through, so I am not quite sure how many articles this one will come to, but all aspects of the ceremonies will be covered.

For reference, complete descriptions of the first two versions of Palm Sunday are given in part 1 and part 2 of my series on the 1955 Holy Week reform, which was published in 2009; only part 1 is really pertinent to this article. The purpose of this series is not to discuss the origins of the traditional ceremony, or the variants thereof used in the Middle Ages.

To begin with, we must note two important characteristics of the Roman Holy Week. First, among the historical rites of Christendom, it is the only one in which the Passion narratives are read before the days on which the events which they recount originally took place, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. In the traditional arrangement, the Passion of St Matthew is read on Palm Sunday, that of St Mark on Holy Tuesday, St Luke on Spy Wednesday, and St John on Good Friday. [1]

The beginning of the Passion of St Matthew in a Gospel lectionary of the last quarter of the ninth century, originally made at the monastery of San Gallen in Switzerland, now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Département des Manuscrits, Latin 9453). Note the signs which can be seen above the letters in various places, indicating the three different voices in which the Passion is sung.
Secondly, it is almost the only rite in which the Passion narratives of the four Evangelists are read as a whole; which is to say, both chapters of each Passion are taken together as a single reading. I say “almost” because in the Ambrosian Rite, the Passions of Ss Mark (14, 12 – 15, 46), Luke (22, 1 – 23, 53) and John (13, 1 – 14, 6, and the whole of chapters 18 and 19) are also read in this fashion. However, these three are all read at a single ceremony, Matins of Good Friday; in the Ambrosian Masses from Spy Wednesday to the Easter vigil, and in the other major services of the Triduum, the narrative is, so to speak, carried entirely by St Matthew.

Because of this arrangement, by which the accounts of the Lord’s Supper and the events of His Passion are always joined together, and spread through the whole week, the Roman Holy Week should be understood as a conceptual unity, within which each part is intimately connected with the others. It is in this light that we should examine the different ceremonies, and the results of the changes subsequently made to them.

This principle can in fact already be discerned in the Mass of Passion Sunday, the day on which the tenor of the Roman liturgy undergoes a notable shift from the theme of penance and baptismal preparation to meditation on the Passion. In the Gregorian propers of this Mass, we hear the voice of the Lord speaking in His sufferings: in the Introit (Psalm 42) “from the unjust and deceitful man deliver me,” in the Gradual (Psalm 142), “Deliver me, o Lord, from my enemies,” and in the Tract (Psalm 128), “Often have they fought against me from my youth … The wicked have wrought upon my back.” The Communion, however, looks forward to Holy Thursday, when, on the day before He suffered, Christ gave us the Mass as the memorial of His death: “This is (My) Body, which shall be given up for you: this is the cup of the new covenant in My Blood, says the Lord; do this, as often as you receive it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Cor. 11, 24-25)

The first ceremony of Holy Week, the blessing of the Palms, is unique within the Roman Rite as the only example of a blessing that imitates the rite of Mass. It has an Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, and Gospel, followed by a Secret (which, however, is sung aloud), a Preface dialog and Preface, the Sanctus, several prayers for the blessing, analogous to the Canon of the Mass, and then the distribution of the palms accompanied by antiphons. This imitation is close, but not perfect; there is no equivalent to the Offertory antiphon, and the Sanctus is the only part of the Kyriale included, in reference to the closing words of the Gospel which is read at this blessing, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” This was clearly done to underline the tremendous solemnity and importance of the rite, as the greatest of the major blessings incorporated into the liturgical year and mandatorily celebrated therein.

The liturgical texts are full of references to the other events of the week, as for example, the opening Collect, which mentions both the death of the Lord and His Resurrection. The use of the rite of Mass looks forward to Holy Thursday, the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper and of the institution of the Mass.

The most notable example of the way the rite is connected to the other parts of Holy Week is the Epistle, Exodus 15, 27 – 16, 7, which lays out the program for the week to come, and unites all of the main ceremonies of the Triduum with Palm Sunday.

“In those days, the children of Israel came into Elim, where there were twelve fountains of water, and seventy palm trees: and they encamped by the waters. cap. 16 And they set forward from Elim, and all the multitude of the children of Israel came into the desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month, after they came out of the land of Egypt. And all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat over the flesh pots, and ate bread to the full. Why have you brought us into this desert, that you might destroy all the multitude with famine?’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you; let the people go forth, and gather what is sufficient for every day, that I may prove them whether they will walk in my law, or not. But the sixth day let them prepare to bring in, and let it be double that which they were wont to gather every day.’ And Moses and Aaron said to the children of Israel, ‘In the evening you shall know that the Lord hath brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord.’ ” (Vespere scietis quod Dominus eduxerit vos de terra Aegypti, et mane videbitis gloriam Domini.)

The Gathering of the Manna, from a Flemish book of Hours, end of the 15th century. (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, CLM 28345; CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
The reading begins with a mention of palms, in reference to the rite of Palm Sunday. The fickleness of the Israelites, who have just crossed the Red Sea in the previous chapter, and now murmur against God’s prophet and priest, the very ones who led them out of Egypt, represents the fickleness of those who were in Jerusalem at the time of the Lord’s triumphal entry, crying out “Hosanna,” and five days later, gathered before Pilate and cried out “Crucify him!” The gathering of twice as much manna on the day before the Sabbath refers to the consecration of two Hosts on Maundy Thursday, one of the Mass, and one which is reserved for the Mass of the Presanctified on the following day. [2]

The words of Moses and Aaron towards the end of the reading, “Vespere scietis – In the evening you shall know”, refer to the Gospel of the Easter vigil, Matthew 28, 1-7, which begins with the words “Vespere autem Sabbati – on the eve of the Sabbath.” The Easter vigil is not a first Mass of Easter, an anticipation of the Resurrection, but rather a vigil in the true sense of the word, “a keeping watch.” At that point, we know in the celebration of the liturgy that Christ has risen, but we do not yet see Him in His glory, a fact which is symbolized by the incomplete character of the Mass, at which there is no Introit, Creed, Offertory, or Agnus Dei, and the Peace is not given. (The story of how the Lord “brought you forth out of Egypt” is of course also a part of the Easter vigil.) The words “et mane videbitis gloriam Domini – and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord” look forward to the second verse of the Gospel of Easter morning, Mark 16, 1-7, “Et valde mane una sabbatorum – And very early in the morning, the first day of the week.” In both of these Gospels, the Risen Lord is mentioned, but does not appear in person. However, with the restoration of the Introit after two days on which it was not sung, on the third day He speaks directly and in person: “I have risen, and am still with thee.” It is at this Mass, on the morning of Easter, that the fullness of solemnity is restored to the liturgy, and the glory of the Lord is indeed seen.

The Epistle is followed by one of two responsories, which take the place of the Gradual. The first of these looks back to the Gospel at the Mass of the previous Friday, John 11, 47-54, which tells of the conspiracy of the chief priests and Pharisees against the Lord.

R. The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do, for this man doth many miracles? If we let Him alone so, all will believe in Him, * and the Romans will come, and take away our place and nation.” V. But one of them, called Caiphas, since he was the high priest that year, prophesied, saying, “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” From that day, therefore, they devised to put Him to death, saying, “And the Romans will come, and take away our place and nation.”

The second one is borrowed from Matins of Holy Thursday; the text is from Matthew 26, which is part of the Passion Gospel read at the Mass that follows.

R. On Mount Olivet He prayed to the Father, “Father, if it may be, let this chalice pass from Me. * The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh weak; Thy will be done. V. Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit…”

Both of these texts remind us that the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem was a prelude to His Passion, plotted by His enemies even before He came to the Holy City, and now fully imminent, as indicated also by the uniquely Roman custom of reading the Passion as part of the liturgy of Palm Sunday.

The Gospel, St Matthew 21, 1-9, is the ritual declaration of the occasion on which, and in imitation of which, the palms are blessed.

Notes: [1] In the Ambrosian and Mozarabic Rites, the Gospel of Spy Wednesday consists of events which took place on that day (Matthew 26, 1-5 in the former, Matthew 26, 2-5 and Mark 14, 3-11 in the latter), but only these, and not the Last Supper itself, or any of the subsequent events of the Passion.

[2] For the Church Fathers, the manna was understood as a clear prefiguration of the Eucharist. St Cyprian, Epistle to Magnus (PL III, 1150A): “We see the mystery of this equality (among all believers) celebrated in Exodus, when the manna flowed down from heaven, and as a prefiguration of the things to come, showed the nourishment of the bread of heaven and the food of Christ when He would come.”

St Ambrose, De Sacramentis (PL XVI, 444B), immediately after explaining the words of Consecration: “It was indeed a great and venerable thing, that the manna rained down upon the Jews from heaven: but understand this. What is greater, the manna from heaven, or the body of Christ? The body of Christ, to be sure, who is the maker of heaven. And then, he that ate the manna, died: who shall eat this Body, it shall be unto him the forgiveness of sins, and he shall not die forever.”

Ambrosiaster, Commentary on the Epistles of St Paul (PL XVII, 234A-B): “ ‘And they all did eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.’ (1 Cor. 10, 3-4) He calls the manna and water (Exod. 16, 15; 17, 6) ‘spiritual’... having in themselves a figure of the future mystery, which we now receive in commemoration of Christ the Lord.”

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