Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Priest Explains to His Parish Why He Has Commissioned Art and What Made Him Choose Traditional Styles

In his Letter to Artists in 1999, Saint Pope John Paul II asked for a dialogue between artists and the church in order help initiate and direct the creation of a 'new epiphany of beauty'. This dialogue can take place at various levels. At one end of the spectrum a Pope can call the world's most successful creative artists to Rome and hold a high profile symposium. However, if we really are going to see a change in the culture it has take place right down at the level of the ordinary parish. Only when priest, artist, congregation and the patron (or whoever pays for it) are working together in commissioning works of art that are in harmony with our worship will we start to see effects rippling out into the wider culture.

Here is and example of how part of that might take place. Fr Charles Byrd of Our Lady of the Mountains has been instrumental in commissioning art and musical compositions for the liturgy. I was involved in discussions for the commissioning of some art work and from the artists point of view it was very good. A genuine conversation in which both participated in working out what could be created to fulfill the aims he stated for the work. As he does so he writes about them in the parish newsletter also keeping the parish informed. Here is a great article posted on the parish website and entitled Icons and Iconoclasm. It explains the place of sacred images in the Western tradition, why there are different forms, why some are valid and some are not; and it describes the tensions that lead to iconoclasm at various periods in the Church's history, including the recent past. 
It seems to me that he has a reason, beyond simply giving good information about art to his parish. Father is explaining why he thinks that it is important that their community is commissioning art and why the choices of style they have made are in accord with tradition. I think that he gives a very good and persuasive account - one that I learnt much from when I read it. It describes well how we balance respect for traditional forms with innovation, so that where it is appropriate we can timeless truths in ways that will heard by people today. 
Here is the article: 
These days, we’re likely to associate the word “icon” with symbols on our computer screen, but in the Church, “icon” is the word for an image of religious art that the Church uses in teaching the Faith and in encouraging religious piety.  In the 1500 years of Church history before the invention of the printing press, images were important, because few had books and fewer still were literate.  When missionaries went into pagan lands, they took with them icons of Our Lord and of Our Lady to help them overcome the initial language barrier and to introduce another heathen race to the Gospel.  Sometimes, these original images became beloved by the people, as they could hardly imagine Our Lord or Our Lady looking anything other than like those initial holy pictures depicted them to be.  So culturally, some images become very important to certain ethnic groups.
Sacred art can teach us about the mysteries of the Bible and the importance of the saints.  And, let’s face it, just because a person can read doesn’t mean that he or she will.  Sometimes an image can encourage such a person to want to know more.
So, sacred art is also a focus for our contemplation and prayer.  Praying before an image of the Lord allows us to look upon the face of our beloved, and contemplate the face we long to see in heaven.  Icons can help us lose ourselves in a prayer without words.  By looking upon the face of the Lord, or of Our Lady, or of the saints, we can ponder the mystery of salvation history and of the Church, and become inspired to live more virtuous lives, to live prayerful lives, and to invoke the example and the prayers of the Church triumphant.
Catholic art developed over a span of twenty centuries and took some divergent paths, depending upon historical circumstances of the day.  The earliest images we have of the Apostles are in the catacombs of Rome, where the paintings show the apostles in togas and looking like Romans.  In time, however, our image of the apostles changed.  Catholic artists blazed new trails in more vigorous ages, but also looked back to keep in mind the precedents, too.  Thus, a baroque chapel in Rome might have, at its gilded center, a darkened icon said to be painted by St. Luke himself.  And each age and people have their own gifts.  So, for example, the Greeks became famous for their mosaics, the Celts for their books, the Anglo-Saxons for their ecclesial textiles, the Italians for their frescos, and the French for stained glass.  There is much variety over the ages, but there are two large trunks that we should look at more closely when it comes to the topic of sacred art – the divergent trunks of the east and the west.
In the eastern branches of Christianity, monks became responsible for the painting of icons, copying exactly from an ancient precedent in the time-honored way (just as they would copy scripture without changing a single word).  So, in eastern tradition, iconography is very much a fixed style within a fixed technique.  Their tradition is one that encourages the artist to lose himself in the art, to learn from his masters, and not to deviate.  In such an atmosphere, one might come to believe that too much novelty is approaching heresy.
Some of the icons in our own parish have a decidedly eastern quality to them, painted on boards with egg-tempera.  These icons might look a bit unnatural or stylized to us, and their colors somewhat muted.  Some of these were commissioned from eastern iconographers, others brought back from the east.  These are masterworks of iconographers, each a work of art.  Though they followed strict precedents, the artists sometimes introduced elements that were western, bridging the two traditions.  For instance, our icon of St. John the Baptist is eastern, but contains a quote from a modern western priest.
In the western Church, our artistic tradition developed such that we tended to let the layman (not the monk) take up the task of religious art, and those artists took some bold steps away from the byzantine or eastern precedents.  Consequently, in the west, our art can look less stylized and more natural and life-like.  This method led to some magnificent masterpieces (just visit Italy), but these lay artists sometimes took too many liberties.  Their art looked less and less devotional and more of a personal expression.  This led, in some cases, to a kind of decadence or barbarism.
As a general rule, the more deeply an artist practices the Faith, the less likely it is that his/her art will be offensive to the faithful.  But finding faithful artists who understand good Catholic art has become more and more difficult in the west, when art schools today encourage abstraction in their art.  As Catholics, we want beautiful art, not ironic, or blasphemous, or unintelligible art.  We don’t want artistes sneering at us for wanting beautiful art.  Sadly, to make up for the lack of vision or talent in our less enlightened age, many churches have turned to reproductions of old art, and while the people are less offended by these attractive reproductions, we certainly aren’t helping artists in our day.
Given the decadence of the visual arts in the west, to turn eastward seems a logical step.  The eastern tradition of iconography makes it almost impossible for the pride and decadence of the west to occur, because in the east, they are very much tied to a set and strict canon of images they produce again and again without deviation.  Within the western tradition of religious art, it is trickier to balance our more liberal sense of style, because it can become more and more subjective.  So while in the east, the art might seem to some to be stilted or stuck in one epoch, in the west, our art can become ridiculously tied to the trends of our day.
In our parish church, there are many examples of western art, too.  Our parochial art is, for the most part, historically modern, but not necessarily “modern” in style (aka silly or abstract).  Taken as a whole, the art in our parish church reflects a conscious effort to blend east and west, ancient and modern, byzantine and gothic, Asian and European, Anglo and Latino, and even the amateur and the professional.  So, for example, we commissioned eastern iconographers to create new icons of western saints in gothic frames, or asked an artist to create a new retablo in an updated Spanish colonial style, or brought in a primitive bas-relief woodcarving from South America and put it nearby an antique icon brought back from Palestine.  This eclectic blend of styles and influences is purposeful and strategic.  By so doing, we hope that the results are both reflective of whom we are as modern American Catholics made up of a people from all over the world, but also something genuinely refreshing (both spiritually and aesthetically).
We see our efforts to patronize the arts as exemplary in the broader recovery of a sense of the sacred, and we take our leadership in the advancement of the arts seriously.  Our parish art takes us backwards so that we can move forward again.  By looking back, we can become less absurdly modern (in the pejorative sense of the word).  If we mean by “modern” that we are without faith, that we have lost all belief in objective beauty, and that the only good art is abstract and ugly, then we must repudiate that sense of “modern” as loathsome and inimical to our Faith and even to our very essence.
But there is nothing wrong with being “modern” if we mean “alive now,” if we mean created in our own age, or in a fresh or updated style.  Almost all the art in our parish was created for our parish in our day and age.  Still, we need those ancient precedents and masterpieces to help us learn who we are.  Through them, we can find and recover our own tradition that has been broken and needs restoring.  Let’s face it, at times our tradition has been almost obliterated by lesser minds following the trends of the day.
If icons are holy images, then we should also say something about iconoclasm, which is the destruction of sacred images and the rejection of representational art as idolatrous.  Iconoclasm was a heresy that began in the east in the eighth and ninth century.  Islam had burst forth with a fury from the deserts of Arabia and it had made its way north into the great homelands of the Church, and with Islam came a spirit of destruction that influenced Christians in the east to begin to suspect their own tradition of iconography.  If there had been some Catholics who saw the veneration of icons in the east as occasionally excessive, there were also heretics (including bishops) who began to see all matter as evil, so the veneration of icons, relics, or even the sacraments was considered evil, in as much as one was venerating a material thing.
The emperors in Constantinople, influenced by so many heretical opinions, wanted to “purify” the Church and therefore, declared all icons to be idols.  Thus began the persecution of anyone who honored or kept holy pictures, and the systematic destruction of these images.  The monasteries, where the ancient icons were kept and the new icons made, and where the old faith was zealously guarded and lived out, became targets for the emperors’ ruthless attacks and persecutions.  Monks were tortured and put to death, monasteries destroyed, and efforts were made to abolish monasticism in the east.  Sacred relics were thrown into the sea to be lost forever.  (Many Greek monks fled to the west at this time and found protection and patronage under the popes.  As a result, Rome has some beautiful mosaics from this period.)
The center of the heresy was Constantinople.  The iconoclastic emperors wanted to gain more control of the Church for the purposes of centralizing power in the government, so the emperors expanded the authority of Constantinople’s archbishops.  The power of Constantinople became more and more unchecked in the campaign against holy pictures.
The people finally began to riot in the streets as their cultural patrimony was being so senselessly desecrated and destroyed.  Over time, some eastern bishops appealed to a succession of popes in Rome.  But the emperors in the east had long ago stopped thinking of the popes as having any authority over them.  To the contrary, the tyrannical eastern emperors presumed to order the western popes to destroy the images in Rome, even threatening to come to Rome and break the beloved bronze statue of St. Peter in the Vatican and imprison the pope.  Several popes in Rome had first tried to ignore the heretical emperors, and then tried to correct the heretics in Byzantium, but these emperors could send fleets to harass the pope, and steal papal lands.  Sadly, these many years of the iconoclastic heresy in the east set up the eastern schism that would occur a few generations later.
But the heresy probably helped to codify in the east their present canon of ancient icons as prototypes, because after iconoclasm ended, the churches in the east had to reproduce holy images, and it was understandable that a certain set of icons would thereafter become their norm (whereas in the west, where artistic development was more fluid and uninterrupted, we have a less established sense of religious imagery).
In the west, some iconoclasm did occur within the Frankish Church, but the real iconoclasm came with the Protestant rebellion, which was (like the iconoclasm of the east) anti-monastic, anti-papal, exceedingly destructive of culture, and hysterically opposed to the veneration of icons, of relics of the saints, and even the invocation of the saints.  The devastating level of loss of heritage and art at the time of this so-called “reformation” is impossible to measure.  When Christians turn like a mob of Barbarians upon our own culture, who is left to stop us?
While these irrational attacks on art were done in the name of “reason,” it was also an attempt (like earlier in Byzantium) to empower the crown at the expense of the universal authority of the pope and to enrich the state’s coffers to the impoverishment of the monasteries.  When Englishmen were forced to become Protestants and the patrimony of the English Church destroyed, Catholic Europe, if anything, became even more visual, as if for every monastery that was wrecked and for every piece of art that was destroyed in the Protestant north, the Catholic south had to build ever more sumptuous churches and fill them with even more art.  So while the Baroque churches dripping with sumptuous art are not everyone’s favorite, no one could call them puritanical!
Thus, Catholics remained more or less a people who loved art, until the 20th century when a rupture of sorts occurred.  History will look at the period of time after the Second Vatican Council as a highly iconoclastic age in many parts of the west, when art was destroyed at a level unseen since the rise of Protestantism.  This 20th century iconoclastic barbarism was in no way called for by the Church nor by the Council, but no reasonable observer of the Church who lived through the second half of the twentieth century would deny that the wanton destruction of stained glass, of altars, of statues, and of holy images was endemic (even epidemic!) to the spirit of the age.
The scandalous stories are heartbreaking, when priests commanded their own parishioners to destroy stained glass windows with sledgehammers, when monasteries and seminaries whitewashed over frescoes, and dropped marble altars and statues into lakes, when parishioners secretly followed their own pastors out to the trash bins to recover discarded statues or vestments or holy vessels.  It is hard to imagine.  The ugly modern aesthetic of “the abstract” sadly had its destructive influence on our western minds, and for a while it seemed that if anything looked traditional or beautiful, it had to be rejected and replaced by the novel, the bizarre, or the unintelligible.  But this was not just an artistic style at play; it was a conscious effort to remove the sacred from our worship.  Moreover, there was also an accompanying loss of respect for the priesthood, the sacraments, nuns and brothers, sisters and monks, monasteries and convents.
Happily, much of the contemporary “art” of that era had a short shelf life, and soon became an embarrassment.  Today, in many places, younger Catholics strive to pick up the pieces and remake their parishes anew in the Church’s tradition, but how do they address this cultural loss?  Do they just put everything Victorian back in place, or do they advance their culture in new ways?  While Our Lady of the Mountains parish never went through that iconoclasm, we were nevertheless born in that age, and so we too need to find a new Catholic American aesthetic that speaks to us about our history, our culture, and that promotes our Catholic piety.

This makes our efforts at OLM all the more important in that we are endeavoring to live out a more authentic and more orthodox expression of our great Catholic Faith.  As Catholics, we do not worship wood or stone, but we do love beautiful art, and we use the arts to teach the Faith.  Moreover, as Catholics, we must be guardians over the patrimony of our heritage and of our ancient tradition.  Our parish is a place where the arts are celebrated and encouraged, where icons and relics have been re-introduced into our daily piety.  Here beautiful stained glass windows and statues are to be a part of our parish experience.  As such, we reaffirm our Catholic culture, but we also hope to advance it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Classics of the Liturgical Movement - A New Series on NLM

Just over a year ago on this blog, I published an article, “Carrying Forward the Noble Work of the Liturgical Movement,” praising the noble intentions of the members of the original Liturgical Movement and how these intentions were distorted and betrayed in the radicalized phase that increasingly dominated the fifties and sixties. At the time, I realized that many of the best authors on the sacred liturgy—either men from that original period or their later disciples and emulators—are not sufficiently well known among Catholics today, and that we ought to do something more to spread awareness of those authors who are the most integrally Catholic and the most insightful, and who, consequently, still have a lot to teach us today.

Accordingly, I have decided to start a new series here, introducing readers to older and newer authors who have a valid claim to be considered representatives of that authentic Liturgical Movement to which this blog has been contributing for years, and of which Pope Benedict XVI is the greatest living exponent. My plan is nothing fancy or detailed: an occasional post on a given author, with a few quotations from his writings. If people like what they read, they can purchase a new or used copy from the usual sellers out there, and add further thoughts in the combox, If they dislike what they read, again, the combox is ready to hand!

I cannot hope to mention, let alone quote from, every classic book worth reading on the Sacrifice of the Mass or the Holy Eucharist or the Liturgy taken generally—this goes far beyond my own knowledge of the territory and far beyond my own library. What I can do, however, is bring to the attention of NLM readers some particularly fine writing from the old and new Liturgical Movements to help ensure that work of great merit will be remembered (or, as the case may be, rediscovered) and valued today as it deserves to be valued, and also that work published more recently does not fall into oblivion now that we may be entering a wintry and more difficult phase of our work.

Let me be clear up front about what this series will NOT be.  I won’t be giving a biography of the authors, or an overview of their life’s work, or entering into questions of possible controversial views they may have had (particularly since almost every author in the Liturgical Movement had some occasionally odd ideas that either fortunately perished without issue or unfortunately got translated into the postconciliar reforms). In that sense, my inclusion of a book or author MUST NOT be construed as an endorsement of everything he argues in that book or any other work. (One thinks of Romano Guardini in this connection—a magnificent theologian in so many books or passages of his books, but quite out to lunch, if not to Mars, in others.)

What is my positive goal? Simply to share with readers a taste of the riches that can be found in these authors and to encourage a re-reading of them. They have so much to offer us in wisdom, insight, guidance, encouragement, the reappropriation of the great sources, the deepening of the spiritual life. It seems to me that we are, in fact, in an ideal position to re-read them, because we have seen fifty years of experimentation, novelty, scandal, and abuse in the liturgical realm, we have witnessed what happens when strange theories are translated into practice, and so we will not be as tempted as the original readers of these authors to wander astray when we hit their peculiar pet ideas.  We are more likely to resonate with the profound truths for the dissemination of which the Lord, in His Providence, raised up these men, who were animated by a most profound love for and devotion to the sacred liturgy.

Like most series at NLM, this one will appear at indeterminate intervals, when and as I have occasion to prepare posts that pertain to it. I am also very open to suggestions from readers—particularly if they will send me excerpts of writings they would like to see included in a post!

We will commence next week with a rather obscure item, Canon G. A. Simon’s Commentary for Benedictine Oblates on the Rule of Saint Benedict (1947), which exemplifies the kind of rich spiritual doctrine that was once commonplace in Catholic writing—and which, happily, is back in print for the edification of Catholics today.

The Feast of St Michael and All Angels

We say that there are nine Orders of Angels, for, by the witness of the holy Word, we know that there are Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominations, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim. For nearly every page of the holy Word bears witness that there are Angels and Archangels. The books of the Prophets, as is well known, often speak of the Cherubim and Seraphim. Paul the Apostle, writing to the Ephesians, (1, 21), enumerates the names of four Orders, saying “above every Principality, and Power, and Virtue, and Domination”. And again, writing to the Colossians, (1, 16), he says, “Whether they be Thrones, or Powers, or Dominations, or Principalities”. When, therefore, the Thrones are added to the four Orders of which he spoke to the Ephesians, there are five Orders; and when the Angels and the Archangels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim are added to them, there are found to be beyond all doubt nine Orders of Angels. But one must know that the word ‘Angel’ is the name of an office, not of a nature. For those holy spirits of the.heavenly fatherland are always spirits, but in no wise can they always be called Angels; for then alone are they Angels, when something is announced by them. Whence also it is said by the Psalmist (103, 4) “Who maketh spirits his messangers!” as if it were to say more clearly, “Who, when He willeth, maketh His messengers even those spirits that He hath always with Him.” - Saint Gregory the Great, Homily 34 on the Gospels

The Nine Choirs of Angels; Greek icon, late 18th-century  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Photos from the Sacra Liturgia Summer School

The website of the Monastery of St Benedict in the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon has a number of great photographs from the Sacra Liturgia Summer School held there from July 5-20 of this year. His Grace Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, was a guest lecturer and celebrant of some of the liturgies; you can read his account of the event by clicking here. There are also links within that page to his various lectures. During the summer school, the Divine Office was sung daily in the monastic rite, as well as the Holy Mass. The participants went in pilgrimage to visit the relics of St Mary Magdalen at St Maximin la Sainte-Baume, to the chapel of Notre Dame de Miremer, to the Abbey of Le Thoronet and to the relics of St Roseline of Villeneuve. On Friday July 18th, His Excellency Dominique Rey, Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, celebrated a Pontifical Mass at the throne, assisted by local clergy and participants in the summer school. At a dinner following the Mass Bishop Rey expressed the hope that the summer school will become a regular feature of the monastery's apostolate.

In November, the proceedings of the 2013 Sacra Liturgia conference (reviewed here by Dr Kwasniewski) will be officially presented in Rome; we will announce the details when they become available. You can check for further initiatives from Sacra Liturgia by clicking here.

Pontifical Vespers of Sunday celebrated by Archbishop Gullickson

Solemn Mass of Our Lady at the Chapel of N.D. de Miremer
Solemn Votive Mass of St Mary Magdalene at St Maximin la Saint-Baume 
Pontifical Mass celebrated by Bishop Rey

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dominican Rite First Saturday Masses Resume in Oakland CA

First Saturday Mass at the Priory
I am pleased to let our readers know that the Dominican student friars of the Western Dominican Province will again be singing and serving a public Dominican Rite Mass for each of the First Saturdays of Fall Semester.  Celebrants will be priests of the Western Dominican Province.

These Missae Cantatae will be at St. Albert the Great Priory Chapel, 6172 Chabot Road, Oakland CA, 94618, beginning this Saturday, October 4, at 10:00 a.m.  Confessions will be heard in the chapel from 9:30 to 9:50 before Mass, and recitation of the Marian Rosary will immediately follow it. Visitors and guests are welcome; pew booklets with the text of Mass in Latin and English will be provided.

Those driving to the Mass may park in the Tennis Court Parking Lot next to the chapel.  St. Albert the Great Priory is three blocks from the Rockridge BART station, just go north three blocks to Chabot Road, turn right and walk half a block and you will see the chapel on your right.

The Feast of Ss Cosmas and Damian

Saints Cosmas and Damian are said to have been brothers from Arabia and physicians, who left their native place and settled in the Mediterranean port city of Aegea in Cilicia, modern south east Turkey. They practiced medicine without taking any fee for their services, for which reason the Greek Church gives them the title “Unmercenary Saints”, (ἀνάργυροι, literally ‘un-moneyed’, Slavonic ‘бєзсрєбрєники’), a title which they share with several others. During the persecution of Diocletian at the beginning of the fourth century, their Christian charity brought them to the attention of the local Roman governor, and they were martyred for the Faith, along with their brothers Anthimus, Leontius and Euprepius. By the 5th century there were two churches named for them in Constantinople, and in 527, Pope Felix IV converted a building in the Roman Forum into a church in their honor. This church is particularly important not only because the original apsidal mosaic is still preserved, although much restored, but also because it was the first “sanctuarium” in Rome, i.e., a church named for Saints, but with no material connection to them. (Churches of the Virgin Mary are an obvious exception.)

The apsidal mosaic of the Church of Ss Cosmas and Damian in Rome. On the far left, Pope Felix IV offers the church which he has built to Christ and His Saints. One of the two brothers is presented to Christ on the left by Saint Paul, the other by St Peter on the right. Peter and Paul, as the patron Saints of Rome, are closer to Christ, and dressed as Roman senators; Cosmas and Damian are wearing clothes that evidently would have look foreign to the eyes of a sixth-century Roman, and their faces are darker. On the far right, St Theodore, whose church is not far away on the other side of the Forum, balances the composition; as a Greek, he is also dressed as a foreigner. Above St Paul’s head, a phoenix, the symbol of the resurrection of the body, perches on a leaf of a palm tree. 
They are among the Saints named in the Canon of the Roman Mass and the traditional form of the Litany of the Saints; along with four other Unmercenaries, (Cyrus and John, Panteleimon and Hermolaus), they are also named in the Preparation Rite of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy. The Emperor Justinian I (527-565) attributed to their intercession his recovery from a serious illness, and granted special privileges to the city of Cyrrhus in Syria, where their relics had been brought after their martyrdom. Many churches now claim to have their relics, among them the Jesuit church of St Michael the Archangel in Munich.

In the fifteenth century, they became particularly prominent in Florence as patron Saints of the de facto (and later de jure) ruling family, the Medici, whose name means “doctors. In 1437, the Dominican convent of San Marco, newly established in an old Benedictine foundation, was completely renovated at the expense of the Medici family. The painter Fra Angelico, one of the founders of the community, was commissioned to do a large altarpiece depicting the Madonna and Child surrounded by various Saints, with Cosmas and Damian kneeling before them in front of the group.

The main panel of the San Marco altarpiece, by Blessed Fra Angelico, 1438-40
The healing of Justinian is depicted in one of the predella panels
A particularly bizarre miracle is reported of them in the Golden Legend of Bl. Jacopo da Voragine. Shortly after Pope Felix built their church in Rome, the guardian was taken ill with a cancer that destroyed one of his legs. As he was sleeping one night, Ss Cosmas and Damian came to him, and not only removed the diseased leg, but substituted it with a new leg taken from the body of an Ethiopian, who had died that very day and been buried in the cemetery of the nearby church of St Peter-in-Chains.

Ss Cosmas and Damian Heal the Guardian of Their Church, by the Master of Los Balbases, ca. 1495

Friday, September 26, 2014

Benedictines vs Jesuits Revisited: Further Thoughts on Models of Liturgy in the Church

Over at the Chant Café, Fr Christopher Smith has posted yet another excellent article, “Mutual Enrichment and the Coexistence of Varying Models of Liturgy in the Church”, elaborating on some of the ideas in Dr Kwasniewski’s recent post here on “The Ironic Outcome of the Benedictine-Jesuit Controversy.” Click the link above to read the whole article, which is, as always, well worth your time.
Ascertaining what current of thought prevails can help us understand why people react the way they do about matters liturgical. Those who argue for the retention of the classical Roman tradition, whether they be SSPX adherents or the people who have been inspired by Sacrosanctum concilium and the liturgical theology of Ratzinger and Gamber, all have the first school as their fundamental principle. The second school is behind movements as various as Reform of the Reform to the original set of ideas behind the foundation of the Society for Catholic Liturgy in the United States. The third school is behind some of the calls for greater experimentation and inculturation, such as the work of Keith Pecklers and Piero Marini.
The great influence of three very different schools of thought on the liturgy have led Kwasniewski to posit:
The legacy of the post-conciliar reform is a Benedictine insistence on the primacy of liturgy, fused with a Jesuitized re-conception of liturgy as collective private devotion. It is as if new Jesuit wine has been poured into old Benedictine wineskins, causing them to rupture. The moment of triumph was the moment of disaster, as the very notion of a rite—a formal ritualized act of common worship based on a common orthodox tradition—gave way to a pluralistic, relaxed, malleable, and privatized praxis of variations on a more or less Catholic theme. In short, the Consilium’s exploitation of Sacrosanctum Concilium left us with a volatile mixture that makes genuine reform today much more difficult.
This is a bold claim, and one which I think needs to be examined more closely. It removes the discussion of the liturgical reform away from hackneyed labels of liberal vs. conservative, and also removes it from the thorny question of hermeneutics of continuity vs. rupture vis-à-vis Vatican II. This claim instead relocates the debate within the history of Christian spirituality, and within a broader historical context. Now, that having been said, to the extent that one of the aforementioned three schools rises to prominence, it is clear that reaction ensues. But the reactions have tended to be expressed in terms of fear: fear that the uniqueness of the historical liturgical tradition of the Church will be lost, fear that Vatican II and the liturgical reform is in danger of being undone by reactionaries plotting to usher a kingdom of pharisaical rubricist status quo ante, fear that all of these liturgical battles are losing sight of what is truly important and central to our Christian faith. ...
Benedict XVI had hope that the celebration of the two forms of the Roman Rite would lead to mutual enrichment, and a corresponding renewal in the life of the Church. Much ink has been spilled on promoting or proscribing one form or another of the rite. I am beginning to wonder whether we need to examine, not which form is better or worse, but what lines of thought are driving the way we think about and execute the sacred liturgy, and whether, if they are allowed peacefully to coexist along side each other, that a true synthesis may emerge, one not forced by the work of human hands, but by the action of the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual Conferences on the Monastic Office

Dom Alcuin Reid is always well worth listening to, especially when he expounds on the liturgy as the very heart of Christian life. His spiritual conferences on the monastic Office, given at the Ad Fontes Summer School in Kražiai, Lithuania, in 2013 and 2014, have just been made available online; click HERE or HERE. You needn’t be a monk to receive spiritual benefit from them. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

SCL Conference - Last Chance to Sign Up!

This year's Society for Catholic Liturgy conference in Colorado Springs Oct. 2-4 promises to be excellent! There is a fantastic line-up of speakers, papers, and workshop presenters, combined with a conference Mass in the usus antiquior. I hope you'll be able to join us for what is always a camaraderie-filled and enjoyable event.

Blessed Herman the Cripple

Blessed Hermannus, whose feast day is kept in some Benedictine houses on September 25, is usually called “Hermann the Cripple” or “the Lame” in English, but his Latin appellation “Contractus - the deformed” (literally ‘the contracted one’) is really more accurate, as is so often the case with Latin. The combination of congenital defects from which he suffered made him “not simply a cripple, but ... practically helpless”, writes Alban Butler. Born in 1013 to a noble family in Swabia, modern southern Germany, he survived childhood by some miracle of God’s providence, and was entrusted at the age of seven to the Benedictine abbey on Reichenau Island on the lake of Constance. He was professed at the age of twenty, and lived as a monk for twenty years more. Although he was barely able to move without assistance, he was a polymath and a genius, well-versed in theology, music, astronomy, mathematics, Latin, Greek and Arabic. Students came to learn from him many parts of Europe, and his intellectual achievements were such that he was known as the wonder of his age. Among his works are the earliest surviving medieval chronicle of the whole of human history, and a treatise on mathematics and astronomy; he was also able somehow to build both musical and astronomical instruments. Above all, however, his name will live in blessed remembrance as that of the composer of the Marian antiphons Alma Redemptoris Mater and Salve Regina. His cultus was officially approved by the Holy See in 1863. Beate Hermanne, ora pro nobis!

A manuscript illustration of one of Bl. Herman’s treatises on astronomy.

Inaugural Mass of New ICKSP Apostolate in Preston, England - Saturday, Sept. 27

This Saturday, 27th September, at 12 noon will be the official opening of the newly established Shrine Church of St. Walburge in Preston, Lancashire, England. The ceremony will include a Solemn Mass celebrated by the Prior of the Institute of Christ the King, Msgr. Gilles Wach, in the presence of His Lordship the Bishop of Lancaster. Full details may be read in the press release and invitation below.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Photopost: Exaltation of the Holy Cross - 2014

We received many beautiful photos this year from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which fell on a Sunday this year. We have a very nice selection of photos this time!

Solemn High Mass with Fr. John Berg, superior general of FSSP
Mary Help of Christians Church, Hong Kong

Pontifical Mass at the Throne
Celebrated by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, on the occasion of the 7th Anniversary of the implementation of Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum

Re-Wreckovating the Cathedral of Berlin

The church of St Hedwig in Berlin was constructed over the middle decades of the 18th century, on land donated for the purpose by the Calvinist King of Prussia, Frederick II, and consecrated in 1773. Between 1930 and 1932, the interior was modified so that it could become the cathedral of the newly-created Catholic diocese of Berlin, which was raised to the status of an archbishopric in 1994.

The interior in 1886
The exterior after post-war restorations
During the Second World War, the church’s distinctively shaped dome was completely destroyed, and the interior gutted, by a fire-bomb. It was then rebuilt with this strange arrangement, opening up a large hole in the floor to expose the bulk of the crypt. The large pillar that unites the altars of the upper and lower churches probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

image from wikipedia

This design, which clashes in a particularly unattractive way with the building’s neo-Classical exterior, was completed in 1963.

Well has it been said that nothing ages so quickly as the modern, and the Archdiocese of Berlin is now proposing an extensive remodelling of the entire cathedral for the 3rd time in less than a century. The new design is the result of a competition among architectural firms held by the Archdiocese; the winners are Sichau & Walter GmbH Architects and Leo Zogmayer. It proposes to close the massive hole in the floor of the cathedral, separating the crypt from the upper church, and turning it into a combination baptistery and chapel for Masses with smaller groups. Both spaces will then be completely redesigned; the complete set of new proposals can be seen in a brochure published on the website of the Archdiocese.

The upper church will become a true church-in-the-round, with a circular white altar shaped like a coffee cup. There will be no pews, but rather specially designed “liturgical chairs.” The “presider’s chair” will be set off from the rest by being slightly elevated and of a different color; an ambo will be placed in between the chair and the altar.