Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Solemnity of St Benedict 2020

Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating the solemnity of our holy father Benedict, * whom God blessed with every spiritual blessing, and through whom many shall possess a blessing as their inheritance. V. For he will shine forever like the sun with the just, both now in the Church, and then in the kingdom of their Father. Whom God... (The 7th Responsory of the Solemnity of St Benedict in the Benedictine Office.)
The Triumphal Way of St Benedict, by Johann Michael Rottmayr, 1722; fresco on the ceiling of Melk Abbey in Austria. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Uoaei1; click to enlarge.) - The pomp of the world is represented on the left side by a book full of alchemical symbols, two demons, one of which holds a censer, and a figure with a theatrical mask, being speared in the throat by an angel. (The censer refers to the pagan sacrifices which St Benedict found still happening on Monte Cassino when he moved there, and to which he put an end.) On the right, a figure with a Cross and a whip drives away two other female figures, one bare-chested, the other holding rich clothing and a crown; below them, a figure with thorny branches drives away another demon, a reference to St Benedict’s conquest of the vice of lust by rolling around in a bramble. Underneath St Benedict are angels holding a miter and crook, used by the abbot of Melk, a book with the opening words of the Rule, and a glass with serpent emerging from it; the last refers to an attempt by some very bad monks to poison St Benedict, who made the sign of the Cross over the glass, “which broke as if he had thrown a stone.”
R. Gaudeámus omnes in Dómino, Solemnitátem celebrantes sancti Patri nostri Benedicti, * quem Deus benedixit benedictióne spirituáli, et per quem multi benedictiónem hereditáte possidébunt. V. Ipse enim perpétuo fulgébit sicut sol cum justis, et nunc in Ecclesia, et tunc in regno Patri eorum. Quem Deus...

St Benedict died on March 21 in the year 543 or 547, and this was the date on which his principal feast was traditionally kept, and is still kept by Benedictines; it is sometimes referred to on the calendars of Benedictine liturgical books as the “Transitus - Passing.” There was also a second feast to honor the translation of his relics, which was kept on July 11. The location to which the relics were translated is still a matter of dispute, with the Abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy, founded by the Saint himself, and the French Abbey of Fleury, also known as Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, both claiming to possess them. This second feast is found in many medieval missals and breviaries, even in places not served by monastic communities. (It was not, however, observed by either the Cistercians or Carthusians.). The second feast was in a certain sense the more solemn in the traditional use of the Benedictines; March 21 always falls in Lent, and the celebration of octaves in Lent was prohibited, but most monastic missals have the July 11 feast with an octave. In the post-Conciliar reform of the Calendar, many Saints, including St Benedict, were moved out of Lent; in his case, to the day of this second feast in the Benedictine Calendar.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Reflections on Liturgical Language

Lost in Translation #7

Cicero Denounces Catiline, by Caesare Maccari, 1889

The other day I stumbled upon an old article by a priest critiquing the 2011 English edition of the Roman Missal. He used three criteria: exclusion, catechesis, and poor theology. (In case you were wondering, the orations of the Roman Rite “border on the heretical” because with their talk of merit they regularly contradict “our fully signed up [1999] agreement with the World Lutheran Federation on justification by faith and grace”!)

But it was the author’s argument about “exclusion” that caught my eye:
Only people of a certain background and a relatively high level of education can make any sense of [the new translation]. In your ordinary congregation, many are excluded: the young, people whose first language is not English, people whose education stopped after primary school or early in secondary school. Also excluded, as far as the responses go, are people who attend church only for baptisms, weddings and funerals. It has pushed some people finally to stop attending Mass at all.
I would love to see the good father’s empirical evidence of his final claim, and I hardly think that the entire worship of the Catholic Church should be specifically tailored to those who “attend church only for baptisms, weddings and funerals.” But what struck me most of all by the argument is the implicit assumption that elevated language is exclusive. Is it so?

In her 1938 study Rhetoric in the Sunday Collects of the Roman Missal, Mary Haessley writes that the three purposes of classical rhetoric--teaching, delighting, and persuading--are on full display in the Church’s liturgical prayer:
…all these devices of the art of language are necessary for us, for they enable us: (1) to grasp clearly the lessons embodied in the Prayers (docere); (2) to make these lessons more acceptable to us through the charm of diction and structure, in a word, through their appeal to our aesthetic sense (delectare); (3) to persuade us (movere) to mold our conduct in accordance with the principles of faith set forth in the Prayers. This explains why rhetoric is, and must be, found in the liturgy: it is to dispose us to pray “ut oportet,” as we ought to pray. (5)
And it is often through making diction and structure somewhat complex that that “charm” is produced. The complexity may, of course, engender some initial frustration, but that is intentional, for a little frustration goads the reader or listener to push on and figure it out. And when it is figured out, there is an “Aha!” moment that brings a delight greater than that which comes from understanding something easy. If adults only used baby talk, it might be effective, but it would not be delightful. “What is sought with some difficulty,” St. Augustine writes in On Christian Doctrine, “is attained with more pleasure.” And what is attained with more pleasure, we might add, has a deeper impact on our souls. The rhetorical goal of delighting is intimately bound up with the goal of persuading, of “molding our conduct.” And since one of the purposes of sacred liturgy is the formation of souls, liturgical composers are wise not to neglect this connection.

Used properly, then, elevated language does not exclude but extends to all an invitation to understanding, just as the dense imagery of poetry is not meant to rebuff but to awaken in the reader a deeper meaning. And just as poetry is not for the few (even if few today, alas, pay it any attention), neither is liturgical prayer, which by its very nature is solemn, public, rhetorical. There is something condescending about thinking of either poetry or sonorous public discourse as the purview of the elite.

Of course, if the entire liturgy were nothing but fancy rhetoric, it could become overwhelming. But the beauty of the Roman Rite (and the other apostolic liturgies) is its linguistic diversity. The Scriptural passages that comprise the Propers tend to be simple in diction and structure--with the possible exception of the Epistles of the rhetorically-gift Saint Paul. The Offertory Prayers, composed in the Middle Ages, betray a medieval love of elegant precision. And the Canon and Orations (Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion) are examples of courtly rhetoric at its finest. The Church employs an array of linguistic tools in an effort to catch and form souls.

But to follow a “lowest common denominator” approach and flatten all language during the most important and solemn act that man can make is both mystagogical suicide and a sin against the great gift of the tongue with which God has endowed us. It is also to deny the so-called uneducated an experience of beauty on the grounds that they are “too dumb” to appreciate it. That, to me, is the ultimate exclusion.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

A Digital Reconstruction of the Shrine of St Thomas Becket

Two days ago was the 800th anniversary of the translation of the relics of St Thomas Becket from the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral to a splendid new shrine in the main body of the church. This was one of the major religious events of the era, celebrated in the presence of King Henry III and many leading churchmen; in the Use of Sarum, it was commemorated by its own feast on July 7th, with the feast of the Holy Relics assigned to the following Sunday. It was of course the presence of St Thomas’ relics that made Canterbury such an important place of pilgrimage in medieval England, famously noted in the prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales:“And specially from every shire’s ende / Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende (went), / The hooly blisful martir for to seke (seek), / That (t)hem hath holpen (helped) whan that they were seeke (sick).”

Because Thomas had given his life to defend the independence of the Church from undue interference by the civil power, King Henry VIII had the shrine destroyed in 1538, and forbade all devotion to him, even requiring that every church and chapel named for him had to be rededicated to the Apostle Thomas. The place within Canterbury Cathedral where the shrine formerly stood has been empty ever since. In the last couple of days, a number of articles have popped up noting this very nice digital recreation of the shrine, which was originally posted to YouTube in February. Like the nearly contemporary shrine of St Peter Martyr and several others, the casket with the relics rests on top of an open arched structure so that pilgrims can reach up and touch or kiss it from beneath, without damaging the metal reliquary itself.

The same source provides another video which shows sick persons praying at the original burial site in the crypt, which continued to attract pilgrims even after the relics themselves had been moved to the upper church. (The same is true of the church of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro in Pavia, where the original sarcophagus which held the relics of St Augustine is kept, although the relics were long ago moved to the main sanctuary.)

Organum Arrangements of the Salve Regina by Mark Emerson Donnelly

About two months ago, we shared a Renaissance polyphonic version of the Regina caeli arranged by composer Mark Emerson Donnelly, director of music at Holy Family, the FSSP parish in Vancouver, British Columbia. Now that we are in the last and longest part of the liturgical year, the time after Pentecost, the daily Marian antiphon has switched to the Salve Regina, and we thank Mr Donnelly once again, this time for sharing with us his two arrangements of it.

(Tenor/Bass & full choir, sung by OFFERTORIUM; for a PDF of the score, click here. Performance notes in the description on YouTube.)

From his recent newsletter: “After the Ave Maria, the most famous and well-beloved prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Salve Regina. As with the Ave, the Salve is both recited by Catholics in their native tongues and also sung in Latin to medieval Gregorian melodies. Though beautifully set to some very ornate, solemn and monastic tunes, the Simple Tone of the Salve Regina is, by far, the most popular.

The Salve Regina is the last of the four seasonal Marian antiphons sung over the liturgical year, prescribed for the Time after Pentecost. In that respect, it is kind of the perennial Marian antiphon, as we live in a perpetual time after that first Pentecost.

Although the Simple Tones of the four Marian Antiphons tend to be syllabic (one note per syllable of text), the ‘O dulcis’ at the end of the Salve provides a rare opportunity to employ a bit of polyphony in my Organum Novi Mundi style.

Since the Salve is the longest of the four, I chose to alternate two-part organum with four-part sections. My original thought was to alternate tenor & bass with full choir. However, if some ensembles wish to sing SATB throughout, I have doubled the tenor & bass parts in the soprano & alto. It is also possible to sing alternating SA with SATB, as below.

(Soprano/Alto & full choir, sung by OFFERTORIUM; for a PDF of the score, click here. Performance notes in the description on YouTube.)

On a curious note, it wasn’t until I was writing this newsletter that I realized I wrote the Organum Novi Mundi for two of the Marian antiphons, Ave Regina Coelorum & Regina Caeli, in the same year, 2001, and the remaining two, Salve Regina & Alma Redemptoris Mater, also in the same year, fifteen years later in 2016.”

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

The Hymns of St Elizabeth of Portugal

On the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, today is the feast of St Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal, who died on July 4th, 1336. When she was canonized in 1625, her feast was assigned ad libitum to the general calendar on the day of her death. Pope Innocent XII then made it obligatory in 1694, and reassigned it to July 8th so as not to perpetually impede a day within the octave of Ss Peter and Paul. The octave having been suppressed in 1955, the post-Conciliar reform returned her to July 4th.

St Elizabeth of Portugal, by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), ca. 1635. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
Elizabeth was born into the royal house of Aragon in 1271, and named for her great-aunt, St Elizabeth of Hungary. At the age of 10, she was married by proxy to Denis, the King of Portugal; the official ceremony was held in 1288, when she was 17 and her husband 26. Although Denis was a wise and capable ruler who achieved many good things for his country during his reign of nearly half a century (1279-1325), his personal life was dissolute, as witnessed by the six illegitimate children he fathered with five different mistresses. He was often neglectful of his wife, but did not interfere with either her devotional life, which was very strongly centered on the liturgy (she recited the Office and attended solemn Mass daily), or her many charities, which are celebrated in the proper invitatory of her feast, “Let us praise our God in the holy works of the blessed Elizabeth.” Elizabeth herself prayed constantly for his conversion, which was achieved on his deathbed through a long and painful illness; she also cared for his other children, and worked to bring peace between him and their son, the future king Afonso IV, since Denis’ favor lay rather with his bastard Afonso Sanches.

After her husband’s death, she was professed as a member of the Franciscan Third Order, and retired into a private home near a convent of Poor Clares that she herself had founded at Coimbra. However, in 1336, she was called upon to intervene in a war between her son and his son-in-law, King Alfonso XI of Castile. Although the matter was settled peaceably, the effort of traveling in the summer heat led to her death; her remains were transferred to the Poor Clares’ church in Coimbra, where they rest to this day. She was beatified in 1526, and canonized in 1625.

The Pope who canonized her, Urban VIII (1623-44), is well-known to scholars of the liturgy for promulgating the famous (or infamous) reform by which the hymns of the breviary were mostly recast according to the meters and diction of classical Latin. This reform has been subjected to endless, and for the most part well-deserved, criticism, most succinctly in the famous dictum “accessit Latinitas, recessit pietas – Latinity (meaning, “good”, classical Latinity) came in, and piety went out.”

As Pope, Urban personally composed the hymns of three Saints whose feasts he extended to the general calendar, those of the Visigothic prince and martyr Hermenegild, the early Roman martyr Martina, and Elizabeth of Portugal. The two for the latter are, in my estimation, by far his most successful efforts, and indeed, rather better than the revision of the traditional hymns would lead one to expect. Although their meters are unusual, and therefore require new melodies to be sung, their vocabulary is mostly within the established usage of Christian Latinity, and devoid of the precious citations of classical poems that make the hymns of St Martina especially difficult to pray.

The hymn of Vespers and Matins, with a rather free translation by Fr Edward Caswall.
Domáre cordis ímpetus
Fortis, inopsque Deo
Servíre, regno práetulit.
Pure, meek, with soul serene,
Sweeter to her it was to serve
Her God, than reign a queen.
En fúlgidis recepta caeli
Sidereáeque domus
Ditáta sanctis gaudiis.
Now far above our sight,
Enthroned upon the star-paved
   azure height,
She reigns in realms of light;
Nunc regnat inter cáelites
Et premit astra, docens
Quae vera sint regni bona.
So long as time shall flow,
Teaching to all who sit
   on thrones below,
The good that power can do.
Patri potestas, Filióque
Perpetuumque decus
Tibi sit, alme Spíritus.
To God, the Father and Son
And Paraclete, be glory,
   Three in One,
While endless ages run.
A very nice setting in alternating polyphony and chant by the composer Matías García Benayas (†1737), without the 3rd stanza.

The hymn for Lauds includes a reference to a miracle which is also atttributed to several other Saints, including, more famously, her great-aunt and namesake of Hungary. The story goes that Elizabeth was surprised by her husband while carrying food to the poor in her skirts. Challenged to show that she was not once again exhausting the royal treasury by excessive charities, she opened the folds of her skirt, at which the king saw in them not food, but roses, and this in the middle of the winter, and so allowed her to go on her way. This story is very much out of keeping with what we know of King Denis’ character, and in this case is generally regarded as apocryphal. (English translation also by Fr Caswall.)

Opus decusque regium relí-
Elísabeth, Dei dicáta númi-
Recepta nunc beáris inter
Libens ab hostium tuére nos
Riches and regal throne,
   for Christ’s dear sake,
True saint, thou didst despise;
Amid the angels seated
   now in bliss,
Oh, help us from the skies!
Praei, viamque, dux salútis
Sequémur: O sit una mens
Odor bonus sit omnis actio,
Id ínnuit rosis operta cáritas.
Guide us; and fill our days
   with perfume sweet
Of loving word and deed;
So teaches us thy beauteous
By fragrant roses hid.
Beáta cáritas, in arce síde-
Potens locáre nos per omne
Patríque, Filióque summa
Tibíque laus perennis, alme
   Spíritus. Amen.
O charity! what power is thine!
   by thee
Above the stars we soar;
In thee be purest praise
to Father, Son And Spirit,
   evermore. Amen.

The Miracle of the Roses, 1735, by the Portuguese painter André Gonçalves (1685-1754; public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
Fr Caswall (1814-78), by he way, was an Anglican clergyman who converted to Catholicism in 1847. After the sudden death of his wife in 1849, he entered the Birmingham Oratory in 1850; he was ordained priest two years later, and died in 1878. He was a talented poet, and many of his English translations of Latin hymns were incorporated by John Crighton-Stuart, the Third Marquess of Bute, into his monumental English version of the Roman Breviary, including these two.

The Feast of St. Dominic as an External Solemnity in the Dominican Rite

I have received an inquiry as to whether the First Class Feast of St Dominic, which in the Dominican Rite falls on August 4, may be celebrated on the following Sunday as an External Solemnity. The Dominican Rite Missal (of 1933 or 1965) contains no provisions for “external solemnities” as it was intended for use by Dominicans in our own priories. What about use in parishes? Years ago, the then liturgist of the Order, Fr. Pierre-Marie Gy, O.P., explained to a friar of my province that the principle to be applied is that, when the Dominican Rite rubrics are vague or do not treat a matter, recourse is to be made to the Roman Rite (here that of 1962) as the “mother rite.”

Here are the pertinent provisions of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (1962) in English:

V - Votive Masses on the External Solemnity of Feasts 356.
The “external solemnity” of any feast means the celebration of the feast without an office, for the good of the faithful, either on the day on which the feast is impeded, or on a Sunday when the feast occurs during the week, or on some other established day.

357. An external solemnity either belongs to a feast by right or is granted by a special indult.

358. An external solemnity belongs by right only to:
a) the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost;
b) the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the rosary, on the first Sunday of October;
c) feasts of the 1st or 2nd class which are connected with some special liturgical service, if that liturgical service is transferred to a Sunday with the approval of the Holy See, only for the Mass which is celebrated in connection with the aforesaid liturgical service;
d) the feast of a duly constituted principal patron;
e) the anniversary of the dedication of the church itself in which the Mass is said;
f) the titular feast of the church itself;
g) the titular feast of the order or congregation;
h) the feast of the holy founder of the order or congregation;
i) feast of the 1st and 2nd class which are celebrated with an especially large attendance by the faithful; of this matter the local ordinary is the judge.

So, it is permitted to celebrate the Dominican Rite Mass of St. Dominic on the following Sunday. As a first-class Mass, the Sunday would not be commemorated by a second collect as first class feasts only permit an extra collects for “privileged memories” (e.g. ferials in Advent and Lent) and Sundays after Pentecost are not privileged. In addition, one should remember that an External Solemnity is a Votive Mass, not a transferred feast. So, if you have a celebration of St Dominic on the following Sunday, the Mass and Office on August 4 is still that of St. Dominic.

It might also be useful treat another question here as well. Can the celebration of the the major feasts in the U.S. that are not holy days of obligation, which are moved to Sunday in the New Rite, also be celebrated in Dominican Rite on the Sunday? These feasts are Epiphany, Ascension, and Corpus Christi. Following the same principle, as there is permission granted to do so by the Holy See in the rubrics of the New Missal, and that would be equivalent to the permission of 358c above, it is my opinion that they may be so celebrated. As holy days of obligation are matters of canon law, not rubrics, the current discipline as to Mass obligation applies, not that in force in 1962.

One final matter for those using the 1962 Dominican Rite Breviary: the Office is not transferred under the rubrics for an external solemnity. Rather, the Office of the proper Sunday is used, which would be the 10th after Pentecost (1962 Missal) or the 8th after the Octave of Trinity (1933 Missal). And the Mass and Office of the proper day of the feast remain those of the feast. And remember in any case that one is never obligated to celebrate an External Solemnity Votive Mass; such Masses are merely an option.

May God grant all the brethren his choicest blessings on the feast of St. Dominic, whichever day they celebrate it on.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Where Do I Start? A Pastoral Plan for Changing a Parish Music Program - & More!

In light of the current situation, many parishes are looking at an opportunity to introduce the sung proper chants in their Masses, change out old hymnals for new resources, or implement the chants of the Roman Missal. Where does one start when thinking about the best way to improve a music program? How can you bring people along, deepening their faith as the music program becomes more robust? As we wrap up season 2 of Square Notes, episode 19 with Dr. Mary Jane Ballou addresses these questions.
Episode 18 takes you behind the scenes of the exciting new Neumz project, its app, its largest-in-history recording project, and the life of the sisters at Notre Dame de Fidelité in Jouques, France. 
Episode 20, our final episode for this season, presents a homily by Dom Mark Kirby, OSB, founding prior of Silverstream Priory in Ireland, about the chants for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost. In it, you'll find a robust model for Lectio Divina and biblical exegesis when meditating on a chant. 

Episode 18 – 7000+ Hours of Gregorian Chant: Behind the Scenes at the Neumz Project – with John Anderson & Alberto Díaz-Blanco


Episode 19 – Where Do I Start? A Pastoral Plan for Changing a Parish Music Program – with Dr. Mary Jane Ballou


Episode 20 – Lectio Divina and Biblical Exegesis of Gregorian Chants for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost – with Dom Mark Kirby, OSB


Four Stained-Glass Windows: Can You Identify Which Evangelist is Which?

A reader sent to me these photographs of four stained-glass windows from his church. He says they are of the four Evangelists, but can find no information as to which one is which. I had a look and couldn’t be sure either, so I thought I’d put the question out to you. Can you identify, giving reasons, which of these windows corresponds to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

North windows
South windows
Each window was made at the Munich Studios in Chicago and installed in 1915. There is a set of twelve windows and eight of them are clearly identifiable as Apostles. These have no name attached to them nor any other clear identifying symbols or attributes that I can recognize. 
The first point I would make is that this demonstrates why, going back to the 9th century, it was an accepted practice that all images worthy of veneration should have both a clearly identifiable name (written in a language that would be understood those who see it) and have all the accepted attributes of the person. It was an Eastern theologian called Theodore the Studite who articulated these necessary conditions, based upon the criterion that we need to know a person. Here we see a very practical fallout of the neglect of this principle.
So here is the request: can anyone out there send me photographs of images that were made around the turn of the last century and are in this style, and which might indicate, therefore, the intentions of this artist? The ideal proof would be a similar set of stained-glass windows from the same studio in which each figure is clearly named.
We can speculate based upon what we see, but this is difficult. For example, there is a suggestion that because John is often portrayed as a young, clean-shaven man in Gospel scenes, the figure on the right in the north window is St John the Evangelist. 
This seems reasonable at first sight, it is common in the Western tradition in the last 500 years at least. Here are paintings of the four Evangelists by the 17th century Italian artist Guido Reni. This doesn’t help us identify the others very much. Perhaps we might say that if we knew that the Chicago artist was following the Reni schema that the left, south window is St Luke.

Matthew, left, and Mark, by Guido Reni
Luke, left, and John, by Guido Reni
However, we should bear in mind that even the portrayal of John in these cases doesn’t fit with the general portrayal of him in pictures, such as these which show the individual and which are more suited to the purpose of the veneration of the saint. According to the traditional iconographic prototype, he would be portrayed at a time closer to the end of his long life, and so we see him as an old man who is bald, with a long beard grey beard. The others would be portrayed as follows; Matthew has a full head of grey hair and a long beard, Mark has short dark curly hair, and Luke has a trimmed beard and short hair. A typical set of icons of the Evangelists is shown below. We know the artist’s intentions here because he has clearly written the names on the paintings.

For comparison, I show a Carolingian (Western) image of the four Evangelists dating from the 9th century.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Did the Reformed Liturgical Rites Cause a Boom in Missionary Lands?

This recent letter exchange may be of interest to NLM readers, as a sort of follow-up to my article last month “How the Traditional Liturgy Contributes to Racial and Ethnic Integration.”

Dear Professor Kwasniewski,

In my many discussions with fellow Catholics about the subject of the 20th century liturgical reforms, the objection often comes up that they directly coincide with the incredible explosion of Catholic faith in many parts of Africa and Asia.

I generally respond by saying that just because the totality of reforms may have had such positive impacts doesn’t justify any particular one of them, and a dispensation could have been allowed to use some vernacular in the Mass in mission territories without the enormous overhaul that was taken. However, I’m not sure this is a massively convincing response and wondered if you had ever given the idea some thought yourself? It seems like a gap in pro-Traditonal Liturgy discourse to me. It seems that for the legitimate points to be made about reverence, attendance, understanding, and so on deteriorating after the promulgation of the 1969/1970 Missal, one also has to take into account the positive fruits of the post-Conciliar era.

In Christ Jesus,
*       *       *
Procession in China in the 1950s
Dear N.,

African missions were experiencing considerable growth throughout the 20th century, including (as I’m sure you know) the missions of the Holy Ghost Fathers under the guidance of Archbishop Lefebvre. There is every reason to believe that this upward trajectory would have continued, quite possibly even stronger, had tradition not been derailed. There was no proof that the traditional Roman rite was incapable of being introduced and cultivated among natives of many lands, together with a reserved and sensible approach to inculturation, and some use of the vernacular, especially for readings and music.

On a darker note, the loosening up of doctrine and worship after the Council has allowed abuses to flourish in missionary lands, since a patient and persistent will to curtail and correct them was no longer operative: the mingling of pagan and Christian rituals and beliefs, polygamy, clerical concubinage, and so forth.

+Lefebvre in the Congo
The growth witnessed in recent decades can be accounted for demographically without the need to invoke Vatican II or the reformed liturgy as a primary cause. This would seem to be a classic case where the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc might be operative — a fallacy that has often been thrown in the faces of traditionalists when they argue that Vatican II and/or the liturgical reform caused, or prompted, a massive decline in religious practice, at least in the Western nations. The latter claim, however, is at this point beyond dispute, whereas the claim that Vatican II and its reforms prompted the growth of churches in other parts of the world is by no means easy to argue. (Indeed, whether any good can be attributed to this Council has been the subject of intense conversation lately, prompted by writings of Archbishop Viganò and Bishop Schneider; links and discussion may be found here.)

Catholicism in Asia was generally experiencing steady growth in the 20th century with traditional modes of worship intact. Case in point: in China, the persecuted underground Church remained strong with the TLM until the late 1980s, when the Novus Ordo was first introduced with the collusion of the Communist Party. The situation in China today certainly cannot be said to be superior to what is was before. The Vietnamese were just as devout and single-minded in their Catholicism under tradition as under novelty, and today many who have rediscovered the TLM love it.

Chinese Trappists, 1947
As the book The Case for Liturgical Restoration argues (see especially chapters 25, 31, and 32), the Far Eastern mentality, broadly speaking, is well-suited to the contemplative ceremoniality and symbolism of the TLM (one need only think of the famous Japanese tea ceremony). Put differently, the novel aspects of the Novus Ordo that some modern people find appealing are the same aspects they will find — albeit usually more successfully — in Protestant Evangelicals and Pentecostals. It is therefore hardly surprising that Third World countries have experienced an explosion in conversions to (and, tragically, Catholic defections to) such Protestant sects. There are, needless to say, many other factors as well, such as a drift away from preaching the Word of God and fostering sound popular devotions, into alignment with socialist political programs. For those who are seeking God, for those who want to be saved by Christ, this will be a major turn-off.

It is true that a concession for some use of the vernacular was sought by some missionaries (although we may note that a large number of bishops at Vatican II spoke up against vernacularization), and there is no particular reason to think that this concession is necessarily a bad idea. However, there is much in the Catholic liturgy that remains constant from day to day; that content should certainly remain in Latin (for further argumentation, see, e.g., here, here, and here).

In my new book Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright, I say the following (p. 12, n. 3), which I think is relevant to the topic at hand:
That there have been a few saints after and under the Novus Ordo does not prove that it is equal in its sanctifying power to the traditional Latin Mass, just as the fact that some demons can be expelled by the new rite of exorcism does not contradict the general agreement of exorcists that the traditional Latin rite of exorcism is far more effective. At most, such things prove that God will not be thwarted by churchmen or their reforms. As theologians teach, God is not bound to His ordinances: He can sanctify souls outside of the use of sacraments, even though we are duty-bound to use the sacraments He has given us. Analogously, He can sanctify a loving soul through a liturgy deficient in tradition, reverence, beauty, and other qualities that ought to belong to it by natural and divine law, although in the normal course souls ought to avail themselves of these powerful aids to sanctity.
One might say something similar about “good fruits” after the liturgical reform. Are they precisely because of that reform, or are they rather in spite of it? God wills the salvation of mankind, so He will use whatever instrument the Church provides Him: a sharp knife or a blunt knife. The sharp knife will cut better, but the blunt knife will still serve in many cases. Yet it would be far better to have kept the sharp one, or to get it back as soon as possible.

Cordially in Christ,
Dr. Kwasniewski
A missionary bishop in China: traditional Catholicism inculturated
Visit Dr. Kwasniewski’s website, SoundCloud page, and YouTube channel.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

A Recent Solemn Mass in the Rite of Lyon

This past Sunday, a solemn Mass was celebrated in the traditional Rite of Lyon at the Fraternity of St Peter’s church in that city, the Collegiate Church of St Just, for the feast of the local Patron Saint, the 2nd-century bishop and martyr Irenaeus. We have featured the Mass of Lyon a few times in the past, but this is the first time, as far as I know, that it has been done solemnly within recent memory. I personally don’t know much about the rite, and so I will limit my comments on the pictures; if I make any mistakes, or omit anything of interest, I would be grateful to any readers who can correct or add to what I write here in the combox. Further down is a picture of an interesting and absolutely unique vestment. Congratulations to the clergy of St Just for their efforts to maintain and preserve this beautiful part of the Church’s liturgical patrimony, and our thanks for their permission to reproduce these photographs.

The two acolytes who carry the candles wear full albs with the cincture, as was generally done in the Middle Ages.
Note that the columns of the church are partly or wholly decorated with red coverings for the feast day; this is not a specifically Lyonese custom, but was widely observed throughout Europe, and is still kept in some places.
When not holding something in their hands, the acolytes keep them crossed over their chest as we see here.
When the priest is at the Missal, he is accompanied only by the deacon...

Worship That Takes God Seriously: A Convert from Islam on the TLM

Our readers have probably already seen some of the videos now circulating on social media about “Mass of the Ages”, a documentary on the Traditional Latin Mass currently in the works, which aims to show how the beauty of our timeless traditional liturgy will begin to restore and heal the Church. As we all know, over the last century, people have lost their faith at an alarming rate; the film-makers and designers involved in this project are putting their talents to the creation of a compelling piece of work that will, God willing, increase the general awareness of the reverence and beauty of the Mass. The filmmakers interview Catholics from all walks of life to investigate the power of the old Mass and the profound effect it has on our spiritual lives.You can check out what they are doing on their Facebook page ( and via their Youtube channel.

Yesterday, I watched a video from the latter in which the leader of the project, Mr Cameron O’Hearn, talks about the TLM with Dr Derya Little, a convert from Islam to Catholicism via atheism, who has written about her conversion in a book titled “From Islam to Christ.” She also recently wrote a “A Beginner’s Guide to the Traditional Latin Mass”, to help those who come to the traditional rite with no previous experience of it whatsoever. In this video, she explains very nicely that it was her experience of beauty and reverence in the liturgy that really showed her that Catholicism “takes God seriously.” The channel also has interviews with writer Eric Sammons and our own Dr Peter Kwasniewski, which I am sure you will find interesting.

Friday, July 03, 2020

A Prayer for Our Church and Our Nation

Lost in Translation, #6

For centuries, the fourth of the Great Intercessions on Good Friday was for the Holy Roman Emperor, but in 1955 this prayer for a man who no longer existed was replaced with a prayer “Pro Res Publicas Moderantibus – For Those Governing Commonwealths” -- or if you prefer, “For Those Governing Public Affairs.” In 1960, this prayer (along with a new Secret and Postcommunion) also replaced the prayers for the Emperor in the Orationes Diversae section of the Missal, as commemorations in another Mass. The 1955 prayer is:
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, in cujus manu sunt omnium potestates et omnium jura populorum: respice benignus ad eos, qui nos in potestate regunt: ut ubique terrarum, dextera tua protegente, et religionis integritas, et patriae securitas indesinenter consistat. Per Dominum.
Which I translate as:
Almighty everlasting God, in whose hand are the powers of all and the rights of all peoples: look favorably on those who rule over us in power: that with Thy right hand protecting us, integrity of religion and security of country may unceasingly abide throughout the world. Through our Lord.
The prayer has a slightly modern ring to it. The mention of individual rights indicates that it was written in the wake of Hobbes and Locke and after Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, which (not uncontroversially) refers to individual property rights for the first time in Church history as “sacred and inviolable.”
I wonder why the author speaks of “the powers of all and the rights of all peoples”, and not simply of the “powers and rights of all peoples.” Perhaps he is contrasting the powers of all who govern (rulers, government officials, etc.) with the rights of the peoples. Rulers have been given different powers of varying degrees by God, but people qua people have the same equal rights. There may also be here an answer to the modern debate about how essential the consent of the governed is, but rather than reinforce a dichotomy between the Lockian claim that government derives its legitimacy from the people and the Biblical claim that all political power comes from God (Rom. 13:1), the prayer unites the two by locating both in the hand of God. In the words of Pope Benedict XV, “Whatever power, then, is exercised amongst men, whether that of the King or that of an inferior authority [such as democratically elected leaders, we presume], it has its origin from God.” (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 10)
The prayer pivots deftly between the universal and particular, avoiding both a soulless globalism or cosmopolitanism that dangerously deprecates patriotism as well as a weaponized nationalism that dangerously distorts it. On one hand, God is addressed as the one who gives rights to all people. On the other hand, the prayer asks for blessings on those who rule over us, which in most cases, I reckon, means the rulers of the nation we happen to be in. The two come together nicely in the final section of the prayer, which asks that God's blessing of the nation will be good not just for us but for the whole world. 
I also like that the petition that God look favorably on our leaders is immediately followed by a petition that God protect us, perhaps even protect us from our leaders. It reminds me of the rabbi’s prayer in Fiddler on the Roof: “May the Lord keep the far away from us as possible!”
But the final part is the best, where the Church prays for two things: integrity of religion and security for the country--our country, of course, but others as well, since a world of stable and secure nations is not a bad thing. 
Neither is “integrity of religion,” which is a well-established phrase in the traditional Missal. It appears in the Postcommunion Prayer of the feast day of a holy pope, when we pray that the Church, “guided by capable governance, may receive both an increase in freedom and continue steadfast in integrity of religion.” To my mind, “integrity of religion” means one thing: that the one true religion has its act together. “Integrity” denotes soundness and connotes moral probity, intellectual clarity, and spiritual courage, but fundamentally it simply means to be whole--not divided by schism or scandal, not weakened by heretical deceptions or vested interests, and not trying to be something it isn't. Integrity of religion is a great thing to pray for, both for the sake of the Church and for the sake of earthly political life, for a religion with integrity is a rising tide that lifts all boats.
P.S. One suggestion for priests, which is not my own: this July 4, you can celebrate a Votive Mass to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (the patroness of the U.S.A.) and include the prayers Pro Res Publicas Moderantibus.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Liturgical Notes on the Visitation of the Virgin Mary

The Visitation of the Virgin Mary is surely one of the most beautiful stories in the Gospels, the account of a younger woman’s act of charity towards her older kinswoman, at a time when both find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. It is the occasion on which St Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, speaks to the Virgin the words which form the second part of the Ave Maria, “Blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb.” Mary’s reply to her is the canticle which in the Western church is sung at Vespers every day of the year, the Magnificat. Despite the importance of this story, the Roman Rite originally read it only on the Ember Friday of Advent, in a Mass that makes no other reference to it, two days after reading the Gospel of the Annunciation.

For many centuries, the latter was one of the classic group of four Marian feasts, along with her Nativity, Purification and Assumption, which the Latin Church had received from the Byzantine Rite in the first millennium. At the end of the 13th century, the liturgical commentator William Durandus notes that some people celebrate a fifth feast, that of the Virgin’s Conception. This feast was the cause of some notable discussions and controversies, and was not received by the Roman Church until 1476, more than 200 years after it was first kept by the Franciscans. The Visitation, on the other hand, was officially embraced and promulgated almost a century before the Immaculate Conception, and properly ranks as the Latin Church’s first “new” Marian feast, a native creation of the Roman Rite, not a Byzantine import.

The Visitation of the Virgin Mary, by Giotto, in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy, 1303-6.
It is traditionally said that the Franciscans adopted the feast, along with that of the Immaculate Conception, at a general chapter held in 1263, when St Bonaventure was Minister General. It is certainly true that St Francis’ order greatly promoted devotion to the Virgin and new feasts in Her honor, also adopting the feast of Our Lady of the Snows in 1302. Evidence for their celebration of the Visitation in the 13th century, however, is not conclusive, and the authenticity of the relevant sources is debated. The first certain attestation of the feast is found in Prague, where it was celebrated in 1386 at the behest of Archbishop John Jenstein, who composed a Mass and Office for it. Cardinal Jenstein was also present at a consistory held in Rome in April of 1389, as the Great Schism of the West was in its twelfth year, and it was he who suggested to Pope Urban VI that he extend the feast to the whole Church as a way of asking for the Virgin’s intercession to end the Schism.

Pope Urban did in fact agree to do this, but died before he could sign the necessary decrees; the official promulgation of the feast was one of the first acts of his successor, Boniface IX, by the bull Superni benignitas Conditoris, dated November 9, 1389. As is also the case with other liturgical bulls of that era, it is a supremely beautiful and spiritual piece of writing, elegant and learned in its Latinity; it was even read in the Divine Office in some places, despite the fact that its author was a notorious simoniac (and the reason why the name Papal name ‘Boniface’ has not been used since.)
The very Queen of heaven, in whose womb the Son of God enclosed Himself and became a man, from the height of that great honor proclaimed to her by the Angel, took unto herself no spirit of pride, but as a humble servant, though she had become the mother of the Lord, fulfilled the office of her humility, upon which the Lord had looked with favor, and arising went unto the mountains, … O great mystery, o wondrous commerce, and ineffable sacrament, that these mothers should know beforehand and even prophecy about the children which they bore in their wombs; and, as the sacred history of the Gospel reveals, the Queen of Heaven, who was pregnant, and would be consecrated by the birth of God, as an even greater mark of humility, should render service to the pregnant mother of Her Son’s Precursor.
The altarpiece of the Lady Chapel in Prague Cathedral, with the Visitation in the central panel. The events depicted on the wings are the other Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary: the Annunciation (upper left), the Birth of Christ (upper right), the Presentation in the Temple (lower left) and the Finding of Christ in the Temple (lower right.)
When the feast was first kept at Prague, it was celebrated on April 28; other dates are attested in other places, but Pope Boniface’s bull fixes it to July 2nd, the day after the Octave of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. This may seem an odd choice, since the Visitation comes right before the Baptist’s birth in St Luke’s Gospel. Wishing to keep the feast with the fullness of solemnity according to the custom of his era, Pope Boniface originally gave it a vigil and an octave; both of these were removed in the Tridentine liturgical reform, although the octave was retained by many religious orders, and all the dioceses of the kingdom of Bohemia. Vigils were not kept in the Easter season, and if the feast were set in May or June, its octave would continually clash with those of the Ascension, Pentecost and Corpus Christi. (The date of the Visitation in the Novus Ordo, May 31, will fall on the Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday or Corpus Christi 13 times in the current century; adding the vigil of Pentecost, its octave and that of Corpus, it will be impeded a further 42 times). By the end of the 15th century, the July 2nd date had been received throughout the western Church, even at Prague, and this is the date that would carry through to the Tridentine liturgical books.

In the Ambrosian Rite, the Visitation is ranked as a Solemnity of the Lord, and as such, may be celebrated on a Sunday, which is not permitted even for the very greatest solemnities of the Saints, such as the Assumption or the feast of St Charles Borromeo. Nevertheless, the texts of both Mass and Office are essentially about the Virgin Mary. The major exception is the first chant of the Mass, the “Ingressa”, repeated from the Sixth Sunday of Advent, which speaks of the first meeting of the Lord and His Precursor as children in their mothers’ wombs.

Videsne Elisabeth cum Dei Genitrice Maria disputantem: Quid ad me venisti, mater Domini mei? Si enim scirem, in tuum venirem occursum. Tu enim Regnatorem portas, et ego prophetam: tu legem dantem, et ego legem accipientem: tu Verbum, et ego vocem proclamantis adventum Salvatoris.

Dost thou see Elizabeth discussing with Mary, the Mother of God: Why hast Thou come to me, o mother of my Lord? For if I had known, I would have come to meet Thee. For thou bearest Him that reigneth, and I the prophet; Thou the Giver of the Law, and I him that receiveth it; Thou the Word, and I the voice of him that proclaimeth the coming of the Savior.

The Byzantine Rite also keeps July 2nd with a feast of the Virgin, called “The Placing of the Honorable Robe of the Holy Mother of God in Blachernae.” Blachernae was the name of a suburb of Constantinople, later enclosed within the city walls, where in the mid-5th century the Empress St Pulcheria built a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary; this church would become the city’s most important Marian shrine, and among all of its churches second in importance only to Hagia Sophia. Shortly thereafter, two citizens of the imperial capital were said to have found the robe of the Virgin Mary while visiting the Holy Land, and to have brought it back to the city, where it was enshrined in the church at Blachernae; an ancient icon of the Virgin was also housed therein, of the type now called from it Blachernitissa.

The Synaxarion of the Byzantine Rite (the equivalent of the Martyrology) tells the story that when Constantinople was besieged by the Avars and Persians in 626, the patriarch Sergius processed various relics around the city walls, including those of the Cross, and the Virgin’s Robe. Shortly thereafter, the besieging armies were completely defeated by the much smaller Byzantine forces, and the enemy fleet wrecked just off the shores of the Blachernae region. The Byzantine tradition states that the famous hymn to the Virgin known as the Akathistos was first sung on this occasion, to honor the Mother of God for protecting and delivering the city. The Virgin of the Blachernae was believed to have delivered the city from at least three other sieges, twice by the Arabs in 677 and 717, and again by the Russians in 860; the icon and robe of the Blachernitissa came to be venerated as the palladia, the protecting talismans of the city.

The Siege of Constantinpole, in a mural of the Moldovita Monastery in Romania, painted in 1537. (Image from wikipedia; click to enlarge.) On the upper part of the city walls are seen the Blachernitissa icon of the Virgin, and the Holy Mandylion, the cloth with the face of Jesus on it.
Later Byzantine writers tell of a miracle which took place in the church so often it came to be known as the “habitual miracle.” This tradition found its way to the West, and is recorded in the rubrics of the Missal of Sarum, as an explanation of the custom of celebrating a Mass in honor of the Virgin every Saturday.
In a certain church of the city of Constantinople, there was an image of the Blessed Virgin, before which there hung a veil which covered the whole image. But on Friday after Vespers, this veil withdrew from the image, with no one moving it, by a miracle of God alone, as if it were being born up to heaven so that the image could be fully seen. Once Vespers had been celebrated on Saturday, the veil descended once again before the image, and remained there until the following Friday. Once this miracle had been seen, it was decreed that that day should always be celebrated in honor of the Virgin.
The rubric continues with a beautiful meditation on the Virgin Mary’s faith in the Resurrection.
Another reason is that when the Lord was crucified and had died, as the disciples fled and despaired of the Resurrection, complete faith remained in Her alone. For She knew that She had carried Him without distress, and born Him without pain, and therefore she was certain that He was the Son of God, and must rise from the dead on the third day. And this is the reason why Saturday (i.e. the day between the death and Resurrection of Christ) belongs more than any other day to the Virgin.
A 17th century copy of the Blachernitissa icon of the Virgin Mary, from the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The original seems to have been lost when the church of the Blachernae was destroyed by fire in 1434.

The History of the Church - An Antidote to Today’s Orwellian Re-Writing of History

We live in an age in which history is being re-written, it seems, by the minute. The neo-Marxist theory that is behind the constantly changing, politically-correct view of history does not care for the factual information of history because those who hold it do not believe in objective truth. They say that all we believe to be true is the product of culture. The only people who can step outside the false grip (as they see it) of cultural influences are the enlightened few who have accepted the faith of scientific socialism - Marxism. These modern-day gnostics hold deeply to their atheist-materialist narrative. When the truth or reason contradict it, they invent facts and rationales to suit themselves and create a “history” that corresponds to what they would like it to be. They are afraid of truth and reason and so must destroy adherence to both.

As Christians, our narrative is salvation history, and unlike the Marxists and their allies in politics, education, and the press (who are either complicit in the deceit or fools are manipulated by them), our narrative is rooted in the truth, and the facts of history support all that we believe. History may not always be what we would like it to be, but we know that it conforms to the ultimate end that God has for us. Christians, contrary to the way we are portrayed, are not afraid of the truth or of reason. We all have an obligation, therefore, to be conversant in those facts of history; otherwise it will be forgotten and the revisionists will win. And the history of the Church is at the heart of all history. It is not the whole of history - there is much else that is important to know - but it is a crucial part of the window by which we see and understand who we are and where we are going.

I am grateful, therefore, to Andy Hickman, from the Institute of Catholic Culture for letting me know of a free semester-long course on Church History taught by Dr. John Pepino, who is a professor of Greek, Latin, History, and Patristics at Our Lady of Guadalupe, the FSSP Seminary in Denton, Nebraska. Registration is open now and until July 9th. Dr Pepino is a respected scholar and an inspiring teacher. His most recent publication is his translation into English of Yves Chiron’s, Annibale Bugnini: Reformer of the Liturgy.

Dr Pepino’s course will cover the period from late antiquity to early modernity. Students will learn about the Roman foundations of Christian civilization, the rise of ecclesiastical institutions in the medieval West, the relationship between Eastern and Western Christianity through this period, the medieval conflict between Christianity and Islam, and the rise of modernity.

You can register to audit the class for free here.

The recently-defaced statue of St Junipera Serra, Los Angeles

First Ordinariate Mass in Western North Carolina This Sunday

This coming Sunday, July 5th, St Barnabas Catholic Church in Arden, North Carolina, will host the first Mass to be celebrated in that area according to the Ordinariate Rite in Divine Worship: The Missal, beginning at 10 am, with Confessions beforehand, and lunch and fellowship to follow. The church is located at 109 Crescent Hill Rd; due to current COVID restrictions, the Mass will be held outdoors. The liturgy will also be live-streamed on the Facebook page of St James Catholic Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

A group of the local faithful hopes this will be the first step to the establishment of a permanent Ordinariate parish. Ordinariate priests will be traveling to the area to offer Ordinariate Form Masses starting in the summer of 2020. Fr. Adrian Porras has graciously offered St Barnabas’s facilities as this new parish community seeks to get started. To learn more or sign up for local updates, call or text Joshua Johnson at 828-748-6251 or email him at

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

The Displacement of the Mysterium Fidei and the Fabricated Memorial Acclamation

July 1st is the feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the traditional Roman calendar, into which it was introduced by Pius IX in 1849; it was suppressed by Paul VI in the new general calendar of 1969, or rather, with typical rationalism, was folded into the feast of Corpus Christi (so named since the 13th century) as the feast of the Corpus et Sanguis Christi. The following article, on the postconciliar transmogrification of the formula spoken over the chalice, therefore suits well the liturgical day.

The story of how the words of consecration spoken over the chalice were changed for the Novus Ordo Missae is a potent exhibition of many interrelated problems characteristic of the liturgical reform in general: false antiquarianism; a defective understanding of participatio actuosa; an infatuation with Eastern praxis coupled with a contempt for what is uniquely Western; disdain for medieval piety and doctrine; a lack of humility in the face of that which we cannot fully understand and a lack of reverence for that which is mysterious; a mechanistic reduction of liturgy to material that we can shape as it pleases us (as we try to do with the natural world using our modern technology); and an itch to construct new forms due to boredom or discomfort with old ones. This example, therefore, serves as a crystal-clear illustration of the errors and vices that permeate the reform as a whole.

Pope Innocent III and St Thomas Aquinas
1. The Traditional View

For centuries, going back into the mists of time, the priest has said the words “Mysterium fidei” in the midst of the words of consecration whispered over the chalice. These words powerfully evoke the irruption or inbreaking of God into our midst in this unfathomable Sacrament. The consecration of the wine completes the signification of the sacrifice of the Cross, the moment when our High Priest obtained for us eternal redemption (cf. Heb 9:12), the re-presentation of which, together with the application of its fruits, is the very purpose of the Mass.

On November 29, 1202, Pope Innocent III sent a letter Cum Marthae circa to Archbishop John of Lyon—a letter always included in Denzinger [1]—in which he wrote:
You have asked who has added to the words of the formula used by Christ himself when he transubstantiated the bread and wine into his Body and Blood the words that are found in the Canon of the Mass generally used by the Church, but that none of the evangelists has recorded… [namely] the words ‘Mystery of faith’ inserted into the words of Christ… Surely there are many words and deeds of the Lord that have been omitted in the Gospels; of these we read that the apostles have supplemented them by their words and expressed them in their actions… Yet, the expression ‘Mystery of faith’ is used, because here what is believed differs from what is seen, and what is seen differs from what is believed. For what is seen is the appearance of bread and wine, and what is believed is the reality of the flesh and blood of Christ and the power of unity and love.
The pope’s answer amounts to this: there are many things Christ gave to the Apostles to hand down that are not recorded in Scripture, and this could well be one of them. Writing only about seventy years later, St. Thomas Aquinas turns the Archbishop’s question into the ninth objection against the fittingness of the words of consecration of the wine:
Further, the words whereby this sacrament is consecrated draw their efficacy from Christ’s institution. But no Evangelist narrates that Christ spoke all these words. Therefore this is not an appropriate form for the consecration of the wine. [2]
He responds to this objection:
The Evangelists did not intend to hand down the forms of the sacraments, which in the primitive Church had to be kept concealed, as Dionysius observes at the close of his book On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy; their object was to write the story of Christ. Nevertheless nearly all these words can be culled from various passages of the Scriptures. Because the words, “This is the chalice,” are found in Luke 22:20, and 1 Corinthians 11:25, while Matthew says in 26:28: “This is My blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins.” The words added, namely, “eternal” and “mystery of faith,” were handed down to the Church by the apostles, who received them from Our Lord, according to 1 Corinthians 11:23: “I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you.”
St. Thomas could have noted that the first Epistle to St. Timothy includes the expression “holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience” (1 Tm 3:9). Later, in his treatment of the exact wording of the formulas of consecration, Aquinas reiterates that such liturgical details were deliberately hidden in the early Church; Scripture does not have as its purpose the revelation of the precise manner in which sacramental mysteries are to be celebrated. [3]

2. The Phrase’s Antiquity and Obscurity

Even the great demythologizer of twentieth-century liturgical scholarship, Fr. Josef Jungmann, SJ, does not attempt to dismiss or deconstruct what he calls “the enigmatic words”:
The phrase is found inserted in the earliest texts of the sacramentaries, and mentioned even in the seventh century. It is missing only in some later sources. Regarding the meaning of the words mysterium fidei, there is absolutely no agreement. A distant parallel is to be found in the Apostolic Constitutions, where our Lord is made to say at the consecration of the bread: “This is the mystery of the New Testament, take of it, eat, it is My Body.” Just as here the mysterium is referred to the bread in the form of a predicate, so in the canon of our Mass it is referred to the chalice in the form of an apposition…. Mysterium fidei is an independent expansion, superadded to the whole self-sufficient complex that precedes.
What is meant by the words mysterium fidei? Christian antiquity would not have referred them so much to the obscurity of what is here hidden from the senses, but accessible (in part) only to (subjective) faith. Rather it would have taken them as a reference to the grace-laden sacramentum in which the entire (objective) faith, the whole divine order of salvation, is comprised. The chalice of the New Testament is the life-giving symbol of truth, the sanctuary of our belief. How or when this insertion was made, or what external event occasioned it, cannot readily be ascertained. [4]
Several points are worth underlining. This phrase appears in all the oldest sources of the Mass we have, which suggests a great antiquity for its origin. The critical edition of the Canon of the Mass, published by Brepols in the Corpus Orationum series, shows no variation whatsoever of the position of the mysterium fidei. [5] The Roman text is cited in over fifty manuscripts of various ages and origins, with no significant variations. The Ambrosian text, which is the product of a Romanization of the Ambrosian Rite effected in the Carolingian era, has only five manuscripts—but they have it in the same place as well.

The oddness of such an insertion, and the fact that it would be so jealously guarded and passed on, implies that it was considered not an incidental feature of the rite but something that pertained to the essence of the rite of Rome. While we might disagree with Jungmann’s subtle dig at Innocent III’s interpretation, the notion that the “mysterium fidei” points to nothing less than “the entire objective faith” of the Church, “the whole divine order of salvation,” as localized (so to speak) in the symbol of the chalice and its precious content, is an impressive one. The axis of reality runs through that vessel tilted on the altar.

Jungmann’s account, together with the paleographical records, brings strongly to the fore the basic problem that faces liturgical historians when they cannot know with certainty the origin of a particular custom. In such circumstances it is impossible to exclude the hypothesis that it is of apostolic institution or subapostolic institution in Rome. If even the most rigorous scholarship cannot detect a particular moment in history when the words mysterium fidei were added for the first time, and if we have a monolithic witness of extant manuscripts, is it not far better—indeed, is it not a solemn obligation of reverence for the most sacred things we have in our possession—to preserve the formula exactly as it has been handed down? Doing otherwise would surely risk profanation. This, indeed, would have been both the hypothesis and the attitude of all Catholics until the 20th century.

3. A Campaign to Remove the Phrase from Office

In an act of astonishing hubris, this phrase was removed from its immemorial place and turned into the prompt for a “memorial acclamation” that had never existed in the Roman rite before. What had been a secret and sublime acknowledgment of salvation—hidden, like the Christian, with Christ in God (cf. Col 3:3)—became an extroverted announcement to the public, for the sake of “participation” reductively understood as saying and doing things. How exactly did this take place, and why?

Around the time of the Second Vatican Council, liturgical surgeons had been itching to ply their scalpels on the Roman Canon, as soon as authority would permit them to remedy its “defects.” In a book chapter pompously called “The Principal Merits and Defects of the Present Roman Canon,” Cipriano Vaggagini, OSB, held forth in 1966:
The third important defect in the way it [the Canon] relates the instituting of the Eucharist is the insertion of the phrase mysterium fidei in the midst of the words said over the chalice. This has no parallel in any other liturgy, and within the Roman rite itself its origin is uncertain and its meaning debatable. However, it is obvious that in its present form at least the insertion mysterium fidei serves to break up and interrupt the words of institution. [6]
Bugnini tells us in his mighty tome The Reform of the Liturgy that Vaggagini, “in three months of intensive work in the library of the Abbey of Mont-César (Louvain) during the summer of 1966…composed two models of new Eucharistic Prayers, which he presented to the group for discussion.” [7] Subsequent discussion concurred that something had to be done about that pesky mysterium fidei:
The addition “the mystery of faith” in the formula for the consecration of the wine in the Roman Canon: is not biblical; occurs only in the Roman Canon; is of uncertain origin and meaning. The experts themselves disagree on the precise sense of the words. In fact, some of them assign the phrase a quite dangerous meaning, since they translate it as ‘‘a sign for our faith’’; interrupts the sentence and makes difficult both its understanding and its translation. The French, for example, have been forced to repeat the word “blood” three times: “This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new covenant, mystery of faith, blood shed…” The same is true to a greater or lesser extent in the other languages. Once again, many bishops and pastors have asked that in the new anaphoras the addition “mystery of faith” be dropped. All this explains the course followed in the new anaphoras with regard to the words of consecration. [8]
Moreover, it was felt to be desirable that there be some “acclamation of the congregation after the consecration and elevation of the chalice”; and why?
The practice is native to the Eastern Churches, but it seems appropriate to accept it into the Roman tradition as a way of increasing the active participation of the congregation. Regarding the exact form of the acclamation, the rubric says that it can use “these or similar words approved by the territorial authorities.” Since the acclamations are to be said, or even sung, by the congregation, it is necessary to leave enough freedom for them to be adapted to the requirements of the various languages and musical genres. [9]
At this point in the process, then, the idea was to remove the words “mysterium fidei” altogether and simply have an acclamation follow upon the elevation of the chalice.

On June 26, 1967, Cardinal Ottaviani, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a letter to Annibale Bugnini, [10] expressing the changes that the Congregation would prefer to see made to the four Eucharistic Prayers that had been submitted for doctrinal review. Those who see Ottaviani as a hero for placing his name on the Short Critical Study two years later may be surprised and disappointed to see how readily he was rolling along with the Consilium’s plan:
About the omission of the parenthesis (inciso) “mysterium fidei”: affirmative.
       With regard to the “acclamation” immediately after the elevation, “Mortem tuam...,” we would prefer a text that expresses more clearly an act of faith, and thus replaces the disappeared “mysterium fidei”—[a phrase] certainly inopportune for the position in which it found itself, but obviously indicated as a call to awaken faith at that solemn moment. The evangelical phrase “Deus meus et Dominus meus” has been suggested.
While Ottaviani consented to the removal of the formula, his suggestion that a text other than Mortem tuam be used as the acclamation was evidently disregarded.

At the famous Synod of Bishops in October 1967—the participants of which counted as the first significant body of “outsiders” to be shown the Missa normativa or rough draft of that which Paul VI would later call the Novus Ordo Missae [11] and then asked to vote on it and contribute comments—the following question, among others, was put to the Synod Fathers, as reported by Bugnini:
Should the words “mysterium fidei” be removed from the formula for the consecration of the wine? Of the 183 voting, 93 said yes, 48 no, and 42 yes with qualifications. In substance, the qualifications were these: 1) The words should also be omitted in the Roman Canon. 2) The words should not completely disappear from the liturgy but should be used as an acclamation after the consecration or in some other formula. [12]
If we take the no votes and the qualified yes (placet iuxta modum) votes together, we see that the majority unqualifiedly in favor of removal was narrow: 93 to 90. Nevertheless, it seems that the attitude of most was like that of Ottaviani: why not take advantage of the general upheaval and turn this phrase into a vehicle of participation?

One cannot escape the impression of people “making things up as they went along,” bereft of any real reverence for tradition or fear of the Lord.

4. Paul VI Insists on Repurposing the Phrase

The issue remained controversial within the Consilium. As Bugnini narrates, the topic came up again at the tenth general meeting (April 23–30, 1968), which met to discuss the six changes on which Paul VI had had the temerity (in the experts’ view) to insist in regard to the Missa normativa. “The whole matter caused some dismay, since the Pope seemed to be limiting the Consilium’s freedom of research by using his authority to impose solutions.” [13] The special subcommittee created to deal with the problem included, among others, Rembert Weakland, Joseph Gélineau, and Cipriano Vaggagini.

In regard to our present topic, Paul VI—not surprisingly for a pope who had chosen the title Mysterium Fidei for his great encyclical of 1965 defending transubstantiation and condemning certain heretical tendencies in Eucharistic theology—disliked the idea of going straight from the elevation to the acclamation and had requested specifically that “the words ‘mysterium fidei’ are [still] to be spoken by the priest before the acclamation of the congregation.” Bugnini relates:
What were the difficulties raised by the study group against the adoption of what the Pope wanted?... Mystery of faith. If the words were said by the celebrant before the acclamation of the congregation, (a) this would be an innovation not found in the liturgical tradition; (b) it would alter the structure of the Canon at an important moment; (c) it would change the meaning of the words in question, since they are no longer connected with the consecration of the chalice. If the words are to be kept, the report said, they should be connected either with the formula of consecration of the wine or with the acclamation. [14]
In the end, Paul VI prevailed. We are therefore not surprised to find this change and its pastoral “benefit” announced in the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum of April 3, 1969. The irony of its immediate context, however, deserves close attention:
As to the words Mysterium fidei, removed from the context of the words of Christ our Lord and spoken by the Priest, these open the way, as it were, to the acclamation of the faithful.
       Regarding the Order of Mass, “the rites have been simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance.”… Furthermore, “there have been restored…in accordance with the ancient norm of the holy Fathers, various elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history.”
Unlike the justification for “restoring” the “responsorial psalm,” which is based on false antiquarianism and a reductive theory of participation, here the pope offers no explanation except that it shall “open the way, as it were, to the acclamation of the faithful.” Yet this change to the venerable Roman Canon (and then replicated in all the neo-anaphoras) cannot have been done with “due care” to “preserve [the] substance” of the rites, as the ironic reference to “restoring elements that have suffered injury through accidents of history, in accordance with the ancient norm of the holy fathers” indicates. [15]

In regard to the mysterium fidei, the ancient norm was expressly violated; the only injury inflicted was of the Consilium’s design. It was rather through the accidents of the postconciliar liturgical reform that the Roman rite suffered injury.

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