Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Durandus on Lenten Veils

Last week I posted some excerpts from William Durandus’ Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, the parts of his treatise on Ash Wednesday which explains the general Lenten customs which begin on that day. (Book 6, chapter 27) In that section, he refers the reader to an earlier section, book 2, chapter 3, “On pictures, curtains and ornaments in the church”, for his discussion of a practice which in his time was very common in the West, the hanging of a veil, or as we will read, two different veils, in the sanctuary in Lent. I include below an excerpt on the same topic from a Sarum Customary of the 15th century, now kept at the British Museum. (Harley 2911)

Of course, everything which pertains to decoration must be removed or covered in the season of Lent. By the custom of some, this takes place on Passion Sunday, since from that point forward, the divinity was hidden and veiled in Christ, since He let Himself be taken and scourged, as a man that did not have the power of the divinity within him; whence it is said in the Gospel of this day, “Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8, 59, the last verse of the Gospel of Passion Sunday.) Therefore, the crosses are then covered, that is, the power of divinity. Others do this from the first Sunday of Lent, since from that point forward, the Church begins to treat of His Passion; whence in that period, the cross ought not to be carried through the church unless it is covered. According to the custom of some places, two veils or curtains are used, one of which is set around the choir, the other is hung between the altar and the choir, so that the things which are within the Holy of holies may not be seen. …

From last year’s third photopost of Passiontide veils, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini in Rome.
… in this season there is commonly hung, or set up a veil or wall between the clergy and people, so that they cannot see each other, (see note below) as if to say by this fact “Turn away thine eyes, lest they see vanity etc.” (Ps. 118, 37) But on Good Friday, every veil is taken away, because at the Lord’s Passion, the veil of the temple was rent, and through this, the spiritual understanding of the King, which formerly lay hidden, was revealed to us, and the door of heaven was opened … However, the veil which divides the sanctuary from the clergy (in the choir) is pulled back or lifted up at Vespers of each Saturday of Lent, when the Office of Sunday begins, so that the clergy can look into the sanctuary, because this recalls the Lord’s resurrection. (He goes on to explain that it is also to honor the Resurrection that there is also no fasting on the Sundays of Lent.)

On feasts of nine readings, the Lenten veil is also lifted up or pulled back. But this does not come from the Church’s primitive custom, since originally, no feast was solemnly celebrated in Lent, but if a feast occurred, whatever day it was, a commemoration was made of it on (the following) Saturday and Sunday… and this because of the sadness of the season. Afterwards, the opposite custom obtained, namely, that a feast of nine readings be solemnly celebrated on its own day, and the fast be observed nonetheless.

Note: Durandus says that the Lenten veil is set up “between the clergy and people, so that they cannot see each other.” This clearly implies that without the veil, they can see each other, even though rood screens were still normative at that point throughout Western Europe. Clearly, he is assuming here that the rood screen is so solid as to block the view of the sanctuary entirely; a good example would be this one from the basilica of the Santa Maria Assunta on the island of Torcello in the lagoon of Venice.


From the Sarum Customary

On the Monday of the first week of Lent, at Matins, all the crosses, images and relics, and also the vessel containing the Eucharist should be covered until Matins of Easter. But from the preceding Saturday, until the Wednesday before Easter, a veil hangs in the sanctuary between the choir and the altar, which throughout Lent, on the ferias, both at Mass and at Matins and the other hours, must be let down, except when the Gospel is read; for then it is lifted up and raised until the priest says “Orate fratres”. Then the veil is let down, both for the elevation of the Lord’s body (by this time, an extremely important focus of popular devotion), and all the rest of the time of the Mass, until the priest says “Bow your heads to the Lord.” Then it is raised until the service of the Mass is completed. If there follows on the morrow a feast of nine readings, it is not let down again on that day, until the next ferial Matins. …

On the Wednesday before Easter, when the Passion of the Lord is read (Luke 22 and 23), the veil hangs in its place as usual, until the words “the veil of the temple was rent”; and when this is said, the veil falls (i.e. is allowed to drop) in the area of the sanctuary.

EF Solemn Mass for the Second Sunday of Lent in Santa Rosa, California

Our friend Fr Jeffrey Keyes has written in to let us know about the following. “I have been at the Cathedral of St Eugene for two years. In that time, I have celebrated an EF Missa Cantata each Sunday. With encouragement, affirmation, invitation, training and practice, we have taken men accustomed to the Ordinary Form, installed acolytes and permanent deacons, and readied them for the celebration of a Solemn High Mass. Since just before Christmas, we have done this about seven times; we hope soon to be able to do this every Sunday. It is my hope that many in Northern California may come to appreciate the beauty and sacredness of this wonderful Liturgy.”

The cathedral is located at 2323 Montgomery Drive in Santa Rosa.

More on the Ancient Liturgy of Jerusalem

We recently shared a video of Dr Daniel Galadza’s presentation of his book “Liturgy and Byzantinization in Jerusalem”, which was given last month at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in Toronto, Ontario. This book examines His book examines how the original liturgy of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, also known as the Hagiopolitan Rite (from “Hagia Polis”, Greek for “holy city”, was gradually replaced by that of Constantinople, particularly over the course of the 7th-12th centuries, while leaving numerous traces of itself in the Byzantine Rite. The Institute has now published three other videos on the same subject, which our readers may also find of interest. The first is a presentation of a paper by Dr Galadza, “Patriarchs, Caliphs, Monks, and Scribes: On the Byzantinization of Jerusalem”, a summary history of the topic. The second is a Q&A session on the paper, and the third is a Q&A session on the book presentation linked above.



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2018 (Part 1)

Lent is upon us, and so it is time once again for the daily pilgrimages to the station churches in Rome. This will be the fifth year in which our friend Agnese shares with us the photos which she takes during the processions and Masses which are organized at the stations every evening by the Vicariate of Rome. Once again, we wish to express our gratitude to her for enabling our readers to follow along with this beautiful and ancient custom of the Holy See of St Peter.

I have titled this post “Roman Pilgrims” in the plural, since this year, we will have another pilgrim joining Agnese. Fr Alex Schrenk, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is currently studying in Rome at the North American College. For many years now, the students, clergy and staff of the NAC have followed the Lenten stational observance by celebrating a Mass in the various churches in the morning. This often involves getting up even earlier than they normally do; weather and time permitting, many of them walk to the station from the college up on the Janiculum. Fr Schrenk has been taking photos during these visits, and also very kindly agreed to share them with us. He has shared some things with us before, and you can see more of his excellent work at his blog Echi Romani. (Some of his photos are taken at the same church on other occasions; you should be able to tell the difference between his photographic style and Agnese’s fairly easily.)

Since we have two sets of photos to publish from each station, we will probably do more posts this Lent, and fewer churches per post. So, without further ado...

Thursday after Ash Wednesday - San Giorgio in Velabro


His Emincence Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology. He holds the cardinalitial title of this church in the illiustrious company of (among many others) Bl. John Henry Newman; his predecessor in the title was Alphonse Card. Stickler. 
From Fr Alex: the apsidal mosaic by Pietro Cavallini, late 13th century, with Christ, the Virgin Mary and St Peter closer to him on either side; on the left, St George, to whom the church is dedicated, and on the right St Theordore, to whom is dedicated a very small church close by, which is now run by the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Italy.
 Friday after Ash Wednesday - Ss John and Paul
Procession outside the basilica before Mass. The dome seen in the middle of this photo is not that of the main church, but of the large side-chapel where St Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionist Order, is buried. St Paul had a brother named Giovanni Battista (John the Baptist), himself now a Venerable, to whom he was very close, and who was instrumental in helping him found the order. Many years after the latter’s death, Pope Clement XIV (1769-74) gave the basilica to St Paul to be the first “retreat”, as the order’s houses are called, in Rome, in remembrance of his beloved brother, since the martyrs John and Paul were also brothers.

Florentine Street Shrines - Will Today’s Della Robbia Please Step Forward?

When I was studying portrait painting in Florence several years ago, I was struck by the charm of the old street shrines that can be seen built into the walls of the narrow streets all over Italy. Many date back to the time of the building itself.


 
 
Not all are still obviously the focus for prayer; many seemed to unnoticed in cities in which Renaissance art abounds, and much of the population has fallen away from the practice of the Faith.
 
Since then, I have wondered from time to time if this is something we could do today, in a time and in places where Catholicism is not the dominant faith and the driving force the culture?
My feeling is we might, in many instances, struggle to persuade local government to go along with such a thing. However, perhaps if done tastefully and discretely on private property that is visible from the public street, it might be possible.
I believe that if such a thing is truly beautiful, even non-believers would want it; and its beauty would to a large degree disarm potential critics by removing their desire to take offense from outward signs of the Faith. I have a friend who runs a menswear shop in the UK, and he always places a small icon of the face of Christ, (of the Mandylion type) low down on the wall behind the counter. While it is not an obviously bold statement of faith, he deliberately places in such a position that when people pay for their clothes, they will see it on the wall behind the till; this gives the impression that they are peeking into his personal space and seeing an image that is there for his private devotion. He says that nobody ever objected, and many asked about it.
Non-Christians (and for that matter many Christians too) are much more likely to be irritated if the art is ugly or sentimental. I have often wondered, for example, if the militant secularists are perhaps doing us a favor by objecting to the kitschy shopping mall Nativity scenes that seem to be standard issue for retailers nowadays. Perhaps they are the unwitting agents of the Holy Spirit? Before my conversion in my early thirties, piped carol music and brightly-colored plastic McChristmasses gave me the impression that Christianity was for saddoes who didn’t even know that they ought to be embarrassed by being associated with this stuff. This did far more to put me off the Church than tales of Popes fathering illegitimate children or the brutality of the Teutonic Knights in the Baltic and the Middle East!
If we did decide to do this, what form should it take?

Monday, February 19, 2018

“The Fingers that Hold God”: The Priestly Benefits of ‘Liturgical Digits’ (Part 1)

As a liturgical theologian, I am keenly interested in the question of how little points of ceremonial have an effect on what we believe is happening at Mass. For it is not simply the text that counts as a lex orandi indicative of a lex credendi, but also, and at times more influentially, the actions—for example, the bowing of the head during the Gloria, the osculations of the altar, or the genuflections at the consecration.

Over a period years attending the usus antiquior, I found myself noticing more and more the custom of the priest holding his thumb and forefinger together from the time of the consecration until the ablutions, a practice some call ‘canonical digits’ or ‘liturgical digits.’ As an observing layman, this custom struck me as entirely fitting, given our faith in the Real Presence, and I began to wonder about the implications of its disappearance in the Novus Ordo.

Recently the idea occurred to me of surveying a number of priests to ask them how they perceive and experience this custom, since they are uniquely situated to know its benefits (or the lack thereof). The survey is all the more valuable with the growing presence of the usus antiquior in the Church and the way it is enriching day by day the celebration of the Novus Ordo, where we find the custom of ‘liturgical digits’ making a return today.

I wrote to 30 priests, and received responses from 19.

The five questions I posed to each priest were as follows:
     1. When you celebrate the usus antiquior, does the act of holding together thumb and forefinger from the consecration until the ablutions make a psychological or spiritual difference for you? If so, how would you describe it?
     2. If you began your priestly life celebrating only the usus recentior and later learned the usus antiquior, did learning to hold the fingers together strike you as more devout, or as a nuisance, or something else?
     3. Has this traditional practice affected the way you view the corresponding lack of rubric in the usus recentior? Have you considered adopting, or do you adopt, the traditional practice in the modern rite? Why or why not?
     4. In your mind, how does this practice fit into the overall “ethos” or spirit of the classical Roman liturgy?
     5. In your pastoral experience, has any layman ever commented on or asked about the holding-together of the fingers? Do you think it is noticed and has any bearing on the piety of the laity?
Over the next three weeks, on Mondays and Thursdays, I shall publish all the responses I received (they are well worth reading!), separating them into five posts according to the questions. In this way, priests are permitted to speak for themselves, in their own words.

QUESTION 1. Does This Custom Make a Difference?
When you celebrate the usus antiquior, does the act of holding together thumb and forefinger from the consecration until the ablutions make a psychological or spiritual difference for you? If so, how would you describe it?

Fr. A.P.
I will preface my response by saying that the usus antiquior as a whole constantly helps turn my attention to the adoration of Christ and His offering on Calvary and to the flow of the various prayers and intentions throughout the Mass—from the many suppliant cries of prayers such as the Confiteor and Kyrie, to the praise of the Gloria, to the supplications of the Canon, etc. Hence, as such, the many prescribed gestures of the usus antiquior are usually not at the forefront of my mind. Rather they come and go as aides to what is more essential acts of the soul.
       The holding together of thumb and forefinger has not been for me one of the more impactful gestures of the usus antiquior. Nonetheless, it is a real help. It serves as a reminder and sign that my other movements, and the movements of my heart, should be particularly reverent from the consecration until the ablutions.
Fr. B.H.
Holding the thumb and forefinger together (which I also do in celebrating the Novus Ordo, since there’s nothing forbidding it) helps in a little way to remind me and reinforce the fact that I am now holding the Lord’s Body with those fingers, and no longer just bread. But I wouldn’t call it a spiritual or psychological ‘big deal’ for me.
Fr. B.J.
God has blessed me with a strong faith in the Real Presence, and even before I had studied the usus antiquior I had a sense of awareness and concern about the particles of the Most Blessed Sacrament that result from the ordinary carrying-out of the Holy Sacrifice.
       At the Mass in which I was ordained a deacon (alone, no other ordinands), the Eucharist was “served” from a glass dish of sorts (from which hosts or particles thereof easily could have fallen, and I purified it with great care after Holy Communion; it required a rather noticeable period of time to do so, which was obviously more than local clergy and people were used to. After that Mass both the vocation director and the ordaining bishop “corrected” me on this matter, with the bishop reminding me that the purification was only a “ritual purification” and that such care was not needed in carrying it out, since a sacristan would wash everything after. (A totally incoherent position.)
       This was my introduction – and a rather painful one, at that – to the practical lack of faith on the part of the clergy in the Real Presence, which I have witnessed and experienced many times in the 11 years since then. I say “practical” because few would deny the Real Presence and most would even defend it quite eloquently. But the way they actually handle the Eucharist betrays their lack of understanding and/or belief. (This is particularly the case with how they handle the Precious Blood, the purificator, etc.—but this is the topic of another discourse.)
       Therefore, when I began to study the usus antiquior and learned about the detailed and systematic process of purification, which really leaves little room for error, and of the practicalities such as holding the consecrating digits together until purification, my faith was confirmed. And, although knowledge of the Church’s historic practice served, perhaps, to heighten my awareness of just how bad things generally can be now, and thus heightened my sense of pain, yet at the same time, it was a consolation to know that I was on the right track.
       In short, yes, the custody of the digits does make an important and positive psychological and spiritual difference for me.
Fr. D.C.
I find that it certainly makes a difference both psychologically and spiritually. Psychologically it has the effect of reminding me what I am doing and Who I am touching and holding. Spiritually, it helps deepen my faith in the Holy Eucharist. Again, it is a reminder of Who am I holding, and what I am doing. It keeps me grounded in reality, and focused on the presence of Jesus.
Fr. D.F.
For me, I would describe it primarily as a difference of logic. There is also some element of psychological and spiritual difference, as well as devotional. Primarily, however, the practice seems like the logical conclusion of the Church’s belief. Although holding together these fingers may not be an absolute necessity, it seems like a natural outgrowth of her liturgical and doctrinal development—the logical and fitting thing to do.
       Spiritually, I find that the practice has given new meaning to the ablutions (or ablution cup) for me. Even when there are no discernible particles that seem to require purification, the act of holding my fingers closed until their ablution conveys the larger spiritual truth (to both priest and people) that something out of the ordinary—something outside the natural order—has transpired in the consecration. The ablution then takes on the role not only of a practicality, but reveals itself to be also a symbolic act whereby things are set back in right order. 
Fr. D.N.
Holding together the thumb and forefinger in “liturgical digits” after the first of two consecrations costs so little mentally and has such great rewards psychologically. What I mean by the first is that after offering Mass several times, liturgical digits become pretty natural. What I mean by the second is that the knowledge that no crumbs of Our Lord’s Sacred Body will fall to the ground becomes a great reward psychologically or spiritually.
Fr. E.W.
Holding thumb and forefinger together is one of one of the differences between the two uses that most contributes to giving the older use a different “feel.” In general, the older use has a highly stylized and formalized feel. Whereas, the newer use has a more informal feel. This is also felt, for example, in the narrow limits set to the orante posture in the older use—in the newer use the rubrics are vague, but the style is a more expansive orante. The more formalized approach of the older use emphasizes the importance of what is being done, and the self-effacement necessary. In particular, the holding of thumb and finger together emphasizes the awesome, and as it were “dangerous” reality of the real presence.
Fr. E.P.
There is certainly a greater awareness, through the observance of this practice, of the reality of the divine Presence in the sacred species. It is in this way not unlike the discipline of folding one’s hands properly with fingers closed and closely joined to those of the other hand. It helps focus the mind while it binds his hands.
Fr. J.F.
I think it gives me a greater awareness of the Real Presence. The reality that every particle, visible to my eyes, is the whole Christ. Not that I did not believe this before. I have always had a deep Eucharistic spirituality. But this practice deepens it.
Fr. J.K.
The God of heaven is beyond our ability to comprehend. The universe cannot contain Him. This allows us to grasp, however imperfectly, the depth of the love that He had for us; to become so small as to enter the womb of the Virgin Mary as a child. The knowledge that the God of heaven became so tiny as to be only available to sight under a microscope, leads me to accept without question what some liberals have called crumb theology. Yes, that tiny crumb on the paten is the God of majesty who became fully what we are without ceasing to be fully His divine self.
       Our faith has everything to do with the body. All we need do is look at our religious language to see that Truth: Body of Christ, Precious Blood, Sacred Heart, and Immaculate Conception. Awareness of my own body and its participation in this mystery makes me realize that the crevices of my fingerprint might contain trace elements of the Host I have just raised in my hands.
       So yes, holding thumb and forefinger together does make a spiritual difference. Reverence for the Most Precious Body of the Lord means that I should preserve these trace elements until the ablutions are available.
Fr. J.S.
I’ve never celebrated a mass without holding thumb and forefinger together. So, while it was a conscious choice at the beginning of my priesthood due to the clearly apparent fittingness of the expression (though I might not make an “argument from fittingness” with the same strong weight that such a term carries in Thomist language, simply on account of the gesture lacking in other ancient revered rites) it is hard to say how much of a psychological and spiritual difference it makes in the daily celebration—for me as the celebrant. For it is and has been for a long time completely automated. I do not consciously dwell on the act of holding my fingers a certain way. It is second nature. The conscious attention is focused on the liturgical action as such (the prayers). The only point it is more in focus is at the time of purification, but even then the mind is fixed more on the real presence and less on the actual act of holding or releasing the fingers. I would reckon that the greatest psychological and spiritual difference can probably found in what seeing that gesture (and knowing what it means) does to the faithful.
Fr. J.M.
There is no difference, as I do the canonical digits at Novus Ordo anyway. True, it was learning the EF that led me to do this practice, which I was already familiar with by watching other young priests do it. Regardless of the form of the Mass, canonical digits is a reminder of what it is that one has touched and consequently how much reverence is due to even the smallest fragment.
Fr. J.B.
I see/experience it as a reminder of and a gesture expressing attentiveness to the presence of Christ on the altar under the sacred species, and of reverence and care for the Sacrament of the Eucharist. While it may have origins in the desire to keep particles from falling, I do not consider it on its own—in particular, apart from the act of rubbing any fragments left on the fingers after picking up the host into the chalice—a very reliable means to keep fragments from falling; so I see its character as an act of reverence deriving from its significance as a reminder of the reverence due to the eucharistic Presence in even the smallest fragment.
Fr. M.K.
Yes, it most certainly does foster an interior awareness of the immensity of the Mystery that lies before me on the corporal. It focuses and centres me in the real presence of the Christus Passus.
Fr. M.C.
It is hard to say. I’m used to hold the fingers together in both forms, after the consecration until the ablution. Thus I cannot say how I would “feel” if I did not so. For me it is such a fixed custom that it would be hard not to hold the fingers together when I touch the consecrated species. For example, if I join a celebration just for helping to distribute holy communion if there are too many faithful for one priest—some weeks ago I was in a seminary and I had to help in such a way. In this case only my right hand comes into contact with the species of bread (since the left hand holds the ciborium). In this case it takes special “effort” not to hold also the fingers of the left hand together, just intuitively! I think this is a great thing, since it highly facilitates the reverent treatment of the Blessed Sacrament.
Fr. M.B.
I do not celebrate the usus antiquior, though I have had some training in it. Thus, I cannot answer this question.
Fr. P.M.
After celebrating the Mass of blessed Paul VI for 17 years, my first experiences of holding my thumb and forefinger together seemed a bit exaggerated. It did not take long, however, before I had the real sense that I could not have that which had touched and handled the Consecrated Host touch anything else prior to their proper cleaning. Similarly, at the Qui Pridie, though I just moments earlier had the Lavabo, I consciously wipe my fingers and thumbs on the corporal, one final preparation before handling that which is to become the Sacred Species, an action that I now use in celebrating any Mass.
Fr. T.K.
I understand the reason for the practice, just as I understand the rubric that directs me to keep my hands within the bounds of the corporal while at the altar from the consecration until the ablutions. The purpose is to prevent the loss of particles of the Host that may have stuck to my thumb or forefinger; if they should fall from my thumb or forefinger, they would fall onto the corporal.
Fr. W.S.
The practice raised my alertness to a far higher level of the fact of the Real Presence and of my solitary and sublime responsibility as a priest.


Part 2 will appear on Thursdsay. Subsequent parts will be published alternately on Mondays and Thursdays.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The First Sunday of Lent 2018

At that time, Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him. (Matthew 4, 1-11, the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent.)

The Temptation of Christ, mosaic in the Basilica of St Mark in Venice, 12th century.
In illo tempore: Ductus est Jesus in desertum a Spiritu, ut tentaretur a diabolo. Et cum jejunasset quadraginta diebus, et quadraginta noctibus, postea esuriit. Et accedens tentator dixit ei: Si Filius Dei es, dic ut lapides isti panes fiant. Qui respondens dixit: Scriptum est: Non in solo pane vivit homo, sed in omni verbo, quod procedit de ore Dei. Tunc assumpsit eum diabolus in sanctam civitatem, et statuit eum super pinnaculum templi, et dixit ei: Si Filius Dei es, mitte te deorsum. Scriptum est enim: Quia angelis suis mandavit de te, et in manibus tollent te, ne forte offendas ad lapidem pedem tuum. Ait illi Jesus: Rursum scriptum est: Non tentabis Dominum Deum tuum. Iterum assumpsit eum diabolus in montem excelsum valde: et ostendit ei omnia regna mundi, et gloriam eorum, et dixit ei: Hæc omnia tibi dabo, si cadens adoraveris me. Tunc dicit ei Jesus: Vade Satana: Scriptum est enim: Dominum Deum tuum adorabis, et illi soli servies. Tunc reliquit eum diabolus: et ecce angeli accesserunt, et ministrabant ei. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Durandus on the Liturgical Customs of Lent

The following selections are taken from William Durandus’ important liturgical commentary, the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, book 6, chapter 27, which treats specifically of Ash Wednesday, but also of Lent in general. Some of the elisions here are made for the sake of a more succinct presentation of his thought; several of them are made in places where he directs the reader to matters he has discussed elsewhere in the work. The translation is my own.

After Quinquagesima follows Quadragesima, (“fortieth”, the Latin word for Lent), which is the spiritual number of penance, in which the Church fasts, and repents of its sins; for by the penance which is accomplished in Lent, we arrive at the fifty days (of Easter), which is to say, the jubilee year, which symbolizes the forgiveness of sins. Lent (Quadragesima) begins on the following Sunday, on which (the Introit) Invocavit me is sung but the fast begins on Wednesday, as will be mentioned below.

In medieval liturgical books, the days of Lent are often noted by the Sunday Introits; the first Sunday of Lent is “Dominica Invocavit”, the first Monday “feria secunda post Invocavit” etc. Here we see a folio from the 1502 Missal of Liège, in which today’s Mass is desgnated in the header as “Feria vj ante Invocavit - Friday before the Introit Invocavit.”
The Blessed Peter first instituted the fast of Lent before Easter. Nor is the fact that we are in abstinence for 46 days from the beginning of the fast to Easter without symbolic meaning. For after the Babylonian captivity, the temple of the Lord was built in 46 years; whence we also after the captivity of Babylon, that is, of the confusion caused by the vices, for 46 days build ourselves as a temple to God through abstinence and good works. … (“Babylon” is the Greek form of the Hebrew word “Babel”, which means “confusion”, the site of the confusion of tongues in Genesis 11. Durandus refers the forty-six years of the building of the temple, as stated in John 2, 20, to the post-exilic rebuilding in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah at the end of the 6th century B.C.; historically, the Jews speaking to Christ in the Gospel were referring to the reconstruction under Herod the Great in the first century B.C.)

Again, the fasts were instituted, because in the Old Law, it was commanded to render tithes and first-fruits from all goods to God; wherefore, we must also do the same in regard to ourselves, that is, from our body, our mind and our time. … For indeed, we offer tithes and first-fruits to God when we do good. In Lent a tithe of days is paid, according to Gregory (the Great, hom. 16 in evang., cited by Gratian de consecr. dist. 5, 16). From the first Sunday of Lent until Easter six weeks are numbered, which make 42 days; from these, the six Sundays are removed from the fast, and there remain 36 days of abstinence, which are almost a tenth of the year. Therefore, in order that the number of forty day in which Christ fasted may be fulfilled, four days are recovered in the previous week… To the thirty-six days which are the tithe, four are added … the first of which is a day of sanctification and cleansing, for then do we purify the soul and body by sprinkling ashes on our heads. …

But we in Provence (Durandus was bishop of Mende in the Occitan region of France) begin the Lenten fast on the Monday of the preceding week (i.e. the day after Quinquagesima), and thus we fast two days more than the other nations. This is not only for honesty’s sake, that is, so that being thus purified in these two days, we may begin the holy fast on Wednesday, but also because Lent ends on the great Thursday of the (Lord’s) Supper… Therefore, on the last two days (i.e. Good Friday and Holy Saturday), we fast, not because it is Lent, but because … of the holiness of those days. …

The Cathedral of St Privatus in Mende. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Myrabella; CC BY-SA 3.0)
But since in Lent we are invited (to go) through Christ’s fast … and He began His fast immediately after the Baptism, which is (commemorated on) Epiphany, the question arises as to why we begin the fast at this time, and not at the same time in which He fasted, especially since His deeds should be our instruction. There are four reasons for this. The first is that in Lent we represent the people of Israel, who were in the desert for forty years, and immediately after celebrated the Passover.

The second is that in the spring, men are naturally moved to desire (libido), and fasting was instituted in this period to restrain it.

The third is that the Resurrection is joined with Christ’s Passion; therefore, it was reasonable that our affliction should be joined with the Passion of the Savior. For since He suffered for us, we must suffer along with Him, so that we may finally reign with Him; and after the Passion, the Resurrection follows immediately, according to the Apostle’s word, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” (2 Tim. 2, 12) Likewise, a sick man is more afflicted (by his illness) when he is getting healthier.

An icon of the type known as “Christ the Bridegroom” (ὁ Νύμφιος, Женихъ), placed on the site of Golgotha within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This icon is placed in the church during the first three days of Holy Week, and the Matins of those days are known as Bridegroom Matins. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Adriatikus; CC BY-SA 3.0)
The fourth reason is that just as the children of Israel afflicted themselves before they ate the lamb, and ate wild, that is, bitter lettuce, (Exodus 12, 8, from the Epistle of the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday) so also we, through the bitterness of penance, must first be afflicted, so that immediately after we may worthily eat the Lamb of life, that is, the body of Christ, and so mystically receive the Paschal sacraments.

Now in the Lenten Masses, “Bow (humiliare) your heads to God” is often said, since in that period the devil attacks us even more; for which reason, we must humbly pray God, and humble ourselves before him, …

The prayer over the people (at the end of the Lenten ferial Masses) is also said after “Bow (your) heads”, because of the holiness of the season, and to indicate that in this life, prayer must be offered for us, that in the future we may merit to hear, “Come, ye blessed of my Father etc. (Matthew 25, 34, from the Gospel of the first Monday of Lent.) This prayer takes the place of Holy Communion. For once upon a time, all communicated and the deacon would invite those who were to receive communion to kneel; but now, because many receive the Lord’s body unworthily, in place of Communion we use a prayer, and the deacon fulfills his office as before, saying “Bow your heads to God”, because whosoever humbleth himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23, 12, from the Gospel of the second Tuesday of Lent), and whoever is blessed by good deeds in this life, will be deputed to eternal blessing afterwards. In this prayer, therefore, the priest commends the soldiers of Christ to the fight, to combat the ancient enemy and snares of the enemies, and so he first arms them through his minister (the deacon) with the weapons of humility, saying “Bow your heads to God”. And thus at last, when they have bowed their heads, he pours the protection of his blessing upon them, strengthening them, as it were …

(In many medieval Uses, “Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate” were said before the Collect of every ferial Mass in Lent, not just on the Ember Days as in the Roman Use. This custom is still kept by the Dominicans, who say it in addition to, not in place of, “Dominus vobiscum etc.” In the image above from the Missal of Liège, they are noted in the 7th live from the bottom of the right column.) At the first Collect we kneel in accord with the struggle of the present life, representing the affliction of labor and continence; but at the last prayer, which is for thanksgiving, we bow the head, by which is designated humility of the mind, because in the life eternal, every labor will be excluded, but humility will always remain. …

Now in these days the Church, being set in the great struggle of Lent, frequently repeats the Psalm He that dwelleth, because this psalm tells those who are in a struggle to place their hope in the Lord, and seek all their help from him. (This is Psalm 90, from which are taken all the propers of the Mass of the First Sunday, and the versicles and short responsories of the Office.) …

The Temptation of Christ, from Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry, a Book of Hours illuminated by the Limbourg Brothers, 1416. During this episode, the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent (Matthew 4, 1-11), the devil quotes Psalm 90 to the Lord: “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written, ‘That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.’ ” From this comes the famous line in Shakepeare’s The Merchant of Venice, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”
Also, from Ash Wednesday until Palm Sunday the preface of the fast is said every day, and in some places, even on Sunday. But on Palm Sunday and the following days is said the Preface of the Passion. But it seems to be incongruous that the preface of the fast should be sung on Sundays, since one does not fast on those days, and therefore some people say the daily preface on those Sundays. But even though they are not counted as fast days, they are kept as a fast in the kind of food that is eaten, which is like that of the other days.

(Concerning the anticipation of Vespers on ferial days) … it must be noted that the season of Lent is a time of mourning and penance; but while the penitents are converted to Christ, they pass from darkness to light. Now the evening, because of the failing of the light and the (ensuing) darkness, signifies imperfection. Therefore, because the penitents are pressing forward, not towards imperfection and failure, but rather towards perfection and the light of truth, in regard to Vespers the aforementioned time of light is appropriately anticipated, according to a decree of the Council of Chalon. (Cited by Gratian, de consecr., dist. 1, 50) Vespers are thus said immediately after Mass, though they are otherwise wont to be said close to the night-time.

EF Mass for St Peter’s Chair in Fords, New Jersey

A Solemn Traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated for the feast of St Peter’s Chair, Thursday February 22nd, starting at 7:00 p.m., at Our Lady of Peace Church in Fords, New Jersey. The church is located at 620 Amboy Avenue.


Lecture by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski in Naples, Florida, Saturday, February 24

To our readers in Florida, I am happy to announce that I will be out there in the Naples area next weekend to give a lecture on “Reconnecting with Tradition: The Church’s Hope for the Future.” 

The lecture will be held at 4:00 pm in the Great Room at the St. Laurent Condominium, 6849 Grenadier Blvd., Naples, FL, 34108. All are welcome to attend. I will be signing copies of both of my books, Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis and Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness, for any who might be interested. Following the lecture there will be an information sesson about Wyoming Catholic College as well. I would certainly enjoy meeting fellow lovers of Catholic tradition, including NLM readers.

St. Agnes Catholic Church, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Rd., Naples, FL 34120)  www.corpuschristifssp.com

On Sunday I will be singing with the Schola at the 8:45 am High Mass at the FSSP apostolate Corpus Christi Chapel (located at St. Agnes Catholic Church, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Rd., Naples, FL 34120), and again, I'd be delighted to meet anyone afterwards.

More details in the poster below.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Liturgical Objects in the Pitti Palace in Florence

The Pitti Palace in Florence was originally constructed by a banker named Luca Pitti in the mid-15th century, but purchased by the Medici family in 1549, and greatly enlarged. Francesco I, the second member of the family to rule as Grand Duke of Tuscany, made it his primary residence, and as such, the center of the ever-growing art collection; since 1919, it has been a national museum. It is now visited primarily for the sake of the Palatine Gallery, which contains over 500 painting from the Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque periods, featuring several works by Raphael, Titian and Rubens to name a few. It also contains a huge number of works in the so-called minor arts, of which a good many are liturgical objects; here is just a selection of some of the more beautiful ones. As one might imagine, given the Medici family’s fame as patrons of the arts, the quality of some of these objects is truly extraordinary.

A pax-brede made in Rome in the 16th century of African marble and gilded silver. The Roman basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, the “altar of heaven”, syands on the part of the Capitoline hill where in ancient times there was a platform known as the auguraculum, from which soothsayers would observe the flights of birds and make predictions from them. According to a popular medieval legend, one of the Sybils brought the Emperor Augustus onto the platform and showed him a vision of the Mother of God, after which Augustus prohibited the construction of new temples to the pagan gods; this is the story depicted here.
A German reliquary of the 14th century.
A German reliquary in the form of a triptych, 1430-40.
A German reliquary ca. 1350-75, in the form known as an “encolpium”, a pendant designed to be worn as a necklace.
A portable altar made in Venice in the 14th century of jasper, mother-of-pearl and rockcrystal, with miniatures of the symbols of the Evangelists in the corners, the Crucifixion above and the Virgin and Child below.
A 14th-century French ditych with scenes of the Passion.

Good News for the Rebuilding of the Basilica in Norcia

Several Italian newspapers and agencies reported yesterday that, after many months of debate and discussion, the Italian government has signed off on some of the official arrangements necessary to rebuild the Basilica of St Benedict in Norcia, which was severely damaged by earthquakes in August and October of 2016, and January of 2017. (See e.g. this article in La Stampa.) The Ministry for Cultural Properties (Ministero per i Beni Culturali, or MiBACT) will still have to issue any number of decrees and documents relative to the project, so there will still be a long while to wait; an international competetion will then be held for the design.

Particularly encouraging is the fact that Dr. Antonio Paolucci will be at the head of the commission that will judge the design proposals. Dr Paolucci has previously served in the Italian government as Minister of Culture; he has also been the director of the entity that runs the public museums of Florence (the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti etc.), and more recently of the Vatican Museums, a position from which he retired at the end of 2016. After the Basilica of St Francis of Assisi was damaged by an earthquake in 1997, (much less severely than that of St Benedict), he was an Extraordinary Commissioner for the lengthy and complicated restoration project, which had to gather up and put back in their places literally thousands of fragments of fresco that had fallen off the church’s ceiling.

As we noted in an article in June of 2013, Dr Paolucci has been an outspoken critic of the fashionable trends in modern church building, “clever” designs of the kind that win awards, but have nothing to do with any idea of a sacred space. (This trend is painfully evident in the newer suburbs of the major Italian cities.) In an interview with the newspaper La Repubblica, he spoke of them as buildings that “look like warehouses. ... (s)paces that do not invite (us) to meditation, devoid of the sense of the sacred, without a breath of mystery or religion.” It was precisely such a modern, design-award winning airplane hangar that the bishop of Norcia and Spoleto apparently wished to build in place of the collapsed medieval basilica, to the extreme consternation of the locals. Given his past statements, we may reasonably hope that Prof. Paolucci will be able to head off any further proposals in that direction.

The exterior of the Basilica of St Benedict before the earthquakes, from this article by Peter Kwasniewski, “In Memoriam: The Basilica of Norcia.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday 2018

Let us amend for the better the sins we have committed in ignorance; lest suddenly seized by the day of death, we seek time for penance and be not able to find it. * Harken, o Lord, and have mercy, for we have sinned against Thee. V. Help us, o God our salvation, and for the honor of Thy name, o Lord, deliver us. Harken, o Lord. Glory be. Harken, o Lord. (The Fourth Responsory of Matins on the First Sunday of Lent, also sung at the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday.)

Vanitas, ca. 1642, by Adriaen van Utrecht (1599-1652)
R. Emendémus in melius, quae ignoranter peccávimus: ne súbito praeoccupáti die mortis, quaerámus spatium poenitentiae, et inveníre non possímus: * Attende, Dómine, et miserére, quia peccávimus tibi. V. Adjuva nos, Deus salutáris noster, et propter honórem nóminis tui, Dómine, líbera nos. Attende, Dómine. Gloria Patri. Attende, Dómine.

The responsory in the polyphonic setting of William Byrd.


EF Missa Cantata for 2nd Lent in the Bronx

The church of the Holy Rosary in the Bronx, New York, will have an EF Missa Cantata on February 25th for the Second Sunday of Lent, beginning at 1pm. The church is located 1510 Adee Avenue; see https://holyrosarybronx.org/ for more information.


Forgiveness Sunday in the Byzantine Rite: Guest Article by Philip Gilbert

As we begin the Roman Lent, we are happy to share with our readers this guest article by Mr Philip Gilbert on the first ceremony of Lent in the Byzantine Rite, Vespers on the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise, also known as Forgiveness Sunday. We recently published photographs and a video of Mr Gilbert’s subdiaconal ordination, which took place on December 31st at his home parish, St Peter Eastern Catholic Church in Ukiah, California, also the setting of the photo and the three videos below.

In the Byzantine tradition, the Great Fast begins on a Monday, two days before the Ash Wednesday of the Latin tradition. Lent is a time of preparation for the celebration of the passion, death, and resurrection of Our Lord, which have granted us salvation. However, in order to fully enter into the events of Holy Week and Pascha, man must be restored to communion with God through repentance. Through sin Adam was barred from Eden, and by sin each of us joins him in his exile. In the liturgical books, the Sunday before Lent is known as “The Expulsion of Adam from the Paradise of Bliss”, but also called the Sunday of Forgiveness. Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) writes in his introduction to the Lenten Triodion, “Lent is a time when we weep with Adam and Eve before the closed gate of Eden, repenting with them for the sins that have deprived us of our free communion with God. But Lent is also a time when we are preparing to celebrate the saving event of Christ’s death and rising, which has reopened Paradise to us once more. So sorrow for our exile in sin is tempered by hope of our re-entry into Paradise.”

A Russian icon of the 16th century, representing the Holy Trinity, the expulsion from Paradise, and monks contemplating mortality as they see an open coffin with a half-decayed corpse in it.
Fallen and exiled man can only find God and be united with Him—re-enter paradise—after leaving behind those things that pull him away from God. Man needs cleansing and repentance. This aim of Lent is indicated by the popular name of the first day of the Fast, “Clean Monday.” The hymnography of the first half of the Fast contains very little mention of Our Lord’s crucifixion and death on the Cross, and instead focuses on our being cleansed from sin and from the passions that lead us there. The first four days of Lent feature the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete, which is a unique, beautiful, and incredibly long work of hymnography, sung with the refrain “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!” This canon is split into four parts and sung at Great Compline on the first four days of Great Lent, and again in its entirety on Thursday of the fifth week. For the sake of example, some troparia from the portion of the canon sung on Clean Monday:

Adam was justly banished from Eden because he disobeyed one commandment of Thine, O Saviour. What then shall I suffer, for I am always rejecting Thy words of life? (from the 1st Ode)
When Saul once lost his father’s asses, in searching for them he found himself proclaimed as king. But watch, my soul, lest unknown to thyself thou prefer thine animal appetites to the Kingdom of Christ. (7th Ode)
Riding in the chariot of the virtues, Elijah was lifted up to heaven, high above earthly things. Reflect, O my soul, on his ascent. (8th Ode)
I have put before thee, my soul, Moses’ account of the creation of the world, and after that all the recognized Scriptures that tell thee the story of the righteous and the wicked. But thou, my soul hast followed the second of these, not the first, and hast sinned against God. (9th Ode)

Yet before we set out on the journey of the Fast and fully enter the time of purification and repentance, there is the Sunday of Forgiveness. The season of the Great Fast begins liturgically on Sunday evening, at what is known as “Forgiveness Vespers.” This service begins with bright (festive) vestments and altar cloths, but halfway through, these are exchanged for dark-colored Lenten ones. The altar is vested, but otherwise left bare until the Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday, for it too is fasting. At this point the music also changes to the more somber music of the season.


The most notable feature of the service is the asking of forgiveness. At the end of Vespers, all of those present, starting with the priest and clergy, approach every other person and ask forgiveness. The two people prostrate themselves, and the first asks, “(name), forgive me a sinner.” The second person then responds, “May God forgive us both,” and they exchange the kiss of peace. (The form of this varies from place to place.)



God is ready and willing to forgive sinners, but we sinners must be ready and willing to be forgiven. For the Lenten journey to be of any effect, we must be open to be forgiveness; if we cannot forgive others nor admit our faults and be forgiven by those we have offended, there is no room within us for God’s mercy. Father Alexander Schmemann writes in his book Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, “the triumph of sin, the main sign of its rule over the word, is division, opposition, separation, hatred. Therefore, the first break through this fortress of sin is forgiveness: the return to unity, solidarity, love. To forgive is to put between me and my “enemy” the radiant forgiveness of God Himself. . . . Forgiveness is truly a ‘breakthrough’ of the Kingdom into this sinful and fallen word.”  God’s forgiveness is given to us via others, not alone; thus it is through mutual forgiveness that we truly begin the journey to the Resurrection. This is especially evident at Forgiveness Vespers, for the Typicon prescribes that as the faithful exchange forgiveness, the cantors sing portions the matins of Pascha.

We begin Great Lent with our eyes on the goal, singing “This is the day of Resurrection, let us be illumined by the feast! Let us embrace each other! Let us call brothers even those that hate us, and forgive all by the Resurrection. And so, let us cry, Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!”


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