Friday, August 22, 2014

Academy of Classical Languages (Online) - Latin I This Fall

The Academy of Classical Languages is glad to announce that a new Latin 1 Session, intended for beginners (or those with rusty Latin), will start this September!

Classes will meet twice a week for four weeks starting Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 and ending Thursday, October 2nd.

Each meeting lasts an hour, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:30-9:30pm (Central Time). There will be follow-up sessions for as long as there is interest.

Classes are held on the internet via Fuzebox, which allows for two-way streaming audio-visual classes. The natural method is used, and over 80% of class time is spent speaking in Latin. Current and former students report great success and interest (see the testimonials page on the website). For further information and to sign up, please go to:

St. Joseph’s Seminary (NY) Announces the Inaugural Season of St. Cecilia Academy for Pastoral Musicians

News of this excellent new initiative comes to us from the Archdiocese of New York Office of Liturgy. The courses in the Academy can be applied towards masters degrees at St. Joseph's Seminary (Dunwoodie), and they offer an excellent path for those who are looking for more education and to advance their academic credentials as they continue their work to renew the Church's liturgy, especially the Church's treasury of sacred music. 

Yonkers, NY (August 21, 2014): St. Joseph’s Seminary, the center of formation for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn, and the Diocese of Rockville Centre, together with the Archdiocese of New York's Office of Liturgy, today announced the inaugural season of the St. Cecilia Academy for Pastoral Musicians. A four-course, fully accredited program, the St. Cecilia Academy trains parish musicians in the history, theology, and pastoral principles of liturgy and sacred music.

"The St. Cecilia Academy fulfills a long-standing need to provide quality education for our dedicated parish musicians," stated Fr. Matthew Ernest, the Director of the Archdiocese of New York's Office of Liturgy. "We are excited to offer them a program of study in the history, theology, and pastoral principles of the Church's beautiful tradition of sacred music."

Musicians enrolled in the St. Cecilia Academy will participate in Masters Level Courses, including:

· Introduction to Liturgy
· Liturgical Music: History of Sacred Music, Principles of Sacred Music, Liturgical Music Planning
· Liturgical Year/Art and Environment in Worship
· Principles of Chant: Theory and Practicum

At the program’s conclusion, qualified students will receive accreditation as a pastoral musician within the Archdiocese of New York. Musical proficiency will be determined through performance adjudication and a written test, covering skills in musical theory and aural dictation.

"We at St. Joseph's Seminary are looking forward to partnering with the archdiocese's Office of Liturgy in this exciting new initiative, " said Msgr. Peter Vaccari, Rector of St. Joseph's. "The St. Cecilia Academy continues our institution's historic tradition of offering the highest quality theological education to lay, religious, and clergy in the greater New York area."

Musicians sponsored by their parishes will receive a 50 percent discount on Seminary tuition upon enrollment.

For more information, please contact Fr. Matthew Ernest at or visit


About St. Joseph’s Seminary

St. Joseph’s Seminary and College, founded in 1896, is the major seminary of the Archdiocese of New York. Its primary mission is to serve the Church by forming men for the Catholic priesthood. Beginning in 2012, St. Joseph’s functions as the principal institution of priestly formation for the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn, and the Diocese of Rockville Centre. St. Joseph’s also welcomes seminarians from other archdioceses, dioceses, eparchies, and other religious congregations.
Rooted in the apostolic community gathered around Jesus Christ, St. Joseph’s Seminary seeks to form future priests who will hand on the life and tradition of the Church’s faith in the context of the new evangelization of the twenty-first century.

As a complement to its primary mission, St. Joseph’s Seminary also serves the Church by offering graduate theological and philosophical degree programs to qualified students at locations in Yonkers, Huntington, and Douglaston.

A spirit of service to the Church guides all of the programs which St. Joseph’s Seminary and College provides to seminarians, lay, religious, and clergy. This spirit is strengthened by a profound sense of ecclesial communion that is fostered and expressed through fidelity to Church teaching, a daily life of prayer, the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the ceaseless invocation of the Holy Spirit, and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and all the saints.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Solemn Vows at Heiligenkreuz

Yesterday, the feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux, two monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz in Austria made their solemn vows. Our good friend Sancrucensis has some very nice pictures of the ceremony, and the following explanation of the ceremony. Click over to him for more photos. 
The ceremony for solemn vows follows more or less the outline described by St Benedict in the Rule, and is marked by St Benedict’s Roman sobriety. After the Gospel the candidates prostrate themselves before the Abbot, who asks: Quid pétitis? (What do you ask for?) They respond Misericórdiam Dei et Ordinis. (The mercy of God and of the Order.) The abbot then tells them to arise and preaches a sermon, sitting on the faldstool with the candidates standing in front of him. Then comes the feudal “homagium,” in which the candidates lay their hands in the abbot’s and promise him and his successors obedience according to the Rule of St Benedict “usque ad mortem.” Then every one kneels down and the Veni Creator Spiritus is sung. Then come the actual vows. The candidates read out the vows of stability, conversion of morals and obedience, which they have written by hand on parchment. They then sign the vow charts on the altar. The charts remain on the altar and are offered to God together with the gifts of the Mass. After signing the vows they sing Súscipe me, Dómine, secúndum elóquium tuum et vívam; † et non confúndas me ab exspectatióne mea three times. (Psalm 118, 116. In Benedictine breviaries, this verse, which is sung at Terce of Monday, is printed in small caps or otherwise distinguished as a weekly reminder of the day of one’s profession.) They then kneel down in front of each and every monk in the community, saying Ora pro me Pater, (Pray for me, Father) to which the monks reply Dóminus custódiat intróitum tuum et éxitum tuum. (The Lord keep thy entering and thy going forth.) While this is going on cantors sing the Miserere. Then the newly professed monks are then blessed with an extraordinary three part prayer, addressed to each of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity in turn. They are then clothed in the cowl and the Mass proceeds.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Newman and His Legacy

The Oratorian Community of St Philip Neri in Washington DC, a community-in-formation for the Oratory, is hosting a series of talks exploring the life and thought of Blessed John Henry Newman. Entitled 'Newman and his legacy', the series of talks will take place at 7.30pm on Monday evenings at St Thomas Apostle Parish Hall:

September 8
Newman and Mary
(Fr Carleton P Jones OP)

September 15
Newman and the Oratory
(Msgr Andrew Wadsworth)

September 22
Newman and Faber
(Fr Martin Edwards)

September 29
Newman and Pope Benedict XVI
(Fr James Bradley)

October 6
Newman and Liberalism
(Fr Stephen Fields SJ)

Mondays at 7.30pm
St Thomas Apostle Parish Hall
entrance on 27th St NW at Woodley Rd
Nearest Metro: Woodley Park (Red Line)

Centenary of the Death of St Pius X

From a discourse of His Holiness Pope Pius XII, on the canonization of Pope St Pius X.

Sanctity, which was the guide and inspiration of the undertakings of Pius X, shines forth even more clearly in the daily acts of his personal life. Before applying it to others, he put into practice in himself his program of returning all things to unity in Christ. As a humble parish priest, as bishop, as the Supreme Pontiff, he believed that the sanctity to which God called destined him was that of a priest. What sanctity is more pleasing to God in a priest of the New Law than that which belongs to a representative of the Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, Who left to His Church in the holy Mass the perennial memorial, the perpetual renovation of the Sacrifice of the Cross, until He shall come for the last judgment; and Who with this Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist has given Himself as the food of our souls: “He that eateth this bread shall live forever.”

A priest above all in the Eucharistic ministry: this is the most faithful portrait of St. Pius X. To serve the mystery of the Blessed Eucharist as a priest, and to fulfill the command of Our Savior “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19), was his way. From the day of his sacred ordination until his death as Pope, he knew no other possible way to reach such an heroic love of God, and to make a such generous return to that Redeemer of the world, Who by means of the Eucharist “poured out the riches of His divine Love for men” (Council of Trent, Session 13, chapter 2). One of the most significant proofs of his priestly sensibility was his ardent concern for the renewal of the dignity of worship, and his concern to overcome the prejudices of an erroneous practice, by resolutely promoting the frequent, and even daily, Communion of the faithful at the table of the Lord, without hesitation, leading children thereto, lifting them up, as it were, in his own arms, and offering them to the embrace of God hidden on the altars. From this, sprang up a new springtime of the Eucharistic life of the Bride of Christ.

In the profound vision which he had of the Church as a society, Pius X recognized in the Eucharist the power to nourish substantially its interior life, and to raise it high above all other human associations. Only the Eucharist, in which God gives Himself to man, can lay the foundations of a social life worthy of its members, cemented by love more than by authority, rich in its works and aimed at the perfection of individuals: a life, that is, “hidden with Christ in God.”

A providential example for today’s world, where earthly society is becoming more and more a mystery to itself, and anxiously searches for a way give itself a soul! Let it look, then, for its model at the Church, gathered around its altars. There in the sacrament of the Eucharist mankind truly discovers and recognizes its past, present, and future as a unity in Christ. Conscious of, and strong in his solidarity with Christ and his fellow men, each member of either Society, the earthly and the supernatural one, will be able to draw from the altar an interior life of personal dignity and personal worth, such as today is almost lost through insistence on technology and by excessive organization of the whole of existence, of work and even leisure. Only in the Church, the holy Pontiff seems to repeat, and though Her, in the Eucharist which is ‘‘life hidden with Christ in God,” is to be found the secret and source of the renewal of society’s life.

Hence follows the grave responsibility of those who, as ministers of the altar, have the duty of it is to open up to souls the saving treasure of the Eucharist. There are indeed many forms of activity which a priest can exercise for the salvation of the modern world; but only one of them is without a doubt the most worthy, the most efficacious, and the most lasting in its effects: to act as dispenser of the Holy Eucharist, after first nourishing himself thereof abundantly. His work would not be that of a priest, if, even through zeal for souls, he were to put his Eucharistic vocation in second place. Let priests conform their outlook to the inspired wisdom of Pius X, and orient every activity of their life and apostolate by the sun of the Eucharist.

The canonization ceremony of St Pius X, May 29, 1954. The urn with his relics can be seen in front of the altar of St Peter’s in the lower left; it now rests in the altar of the Presentation in the left aisle of the church.

Fr John Saward to Speak in New York City - speaker schedule for the Catholic Artists Society/Thomistic Institute this Fall

I have received notice of the speaker schedule for the coming academic year for series jointly sponsored by the Catholic Artist Society and the Thomistic Institute in New York City. The series, called the Art of the Beautiful - Redeeming Culture in Christ begins with a lecture from Fr John Saward on October 11th called, intriguingly the Poverty of the Church and the Beauty of the Liturgy. Fr John is the author of a number of great books on beauty, culture and art and perhaps most well known is the Holiness of Beauty and the Beauty of Holiness (which has to be one of the best book titles ever).

Other speakers in an impressive line-up are my colleague Dr Ryan Topping of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, Thomas Hibbs of Baylor University, Julia Yost of Yale University; Fr Bruno Shah of the University of Virginia and the final speaker in March is Bishop James D Conley from Lincoln, NE.

Talks take place at the Catholic Center at NYU, Thompson Street in Manhattan. Their website, for further information, is

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Musica Sacra St. Louis Conference October 23-25

Flyer for conference: Musica Sacra St. Louis

The fifth annual Musica Sacra St. Louis conference will explore "The Beauty of the Mass Ordinary" and "English Language Adaptations of the Mass Propers". Instructors include Dr. William Mahrt, Associate Professor of Music at Stanford University; and Dr. Horst Buchholz, Director of Sacred Music, Archdiocese of St. Louis.
The conference is open to all who have an interest in the history and application of music in the liturgy; music directors, choir directors, singers, liturgists, priests and deacons, religious, seminarians, etc. 
For more information, click on the image, or grab the flyer, or read more at the Archdiocesan Office for Sacred Music, or call 314-614-7702.

Fr Carlo Braga, R.I.P.

The Italian blog Sacramentum Futuri reports that the Vincentian Father Carlo Braga, one of the architects of liturgical reform in the modern period, both before and after Vatican II, passed away in the house of his order in Siena on August 16th. In addition to numerous scholarly publications on the liturgy, Fr Braga was a close collaborator of Annibale Bugnini in the creation of the post-Conciliar liturgy. Oremus pro eo - Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace.

Photos of Monastery in Argentina devoted to Icon Painting

A Brazilian student of mine at Thomas More College sent me a link to to the Facebook page of this monastery in Argentina. This monastery he told me, has a strong emphasis on the creation and worship with iconographic sacred art. I do not speak Spanish so can't comment on any of the text. All I would say is that the art and the setting look pretty good to me based upon these photographs from the Facebook page, here: Monasterio del Cristo Orante.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Young Father at Mass in Linz, circa 2000

Kartause in Gaming
One of the joys of being a chronic scribbler is that, by means of jottings, journals, drafts, and diaries, one can take a look at what one was thinking years ago, at a different stage in one’s life, perhaps under very different circumstances.

I discovered the traditional Latin Mass fairly late in life. In senior year of highschool I attended a single Mass out of curiosity, and came away puzzled but intrigued. College brought several more exposures, increasing in frequency towards the end. There was a strong curiosity, the fascination of an outsider looking in, but I did not experience a steady pull and total conversion until my graduate school years in Washington, D.C., when I began attending Mass St. Mary Mother of God in Chinatown on a regular basis. Then, quietly and without a struggle, it all “clicked” for me: the richness of the prayers, the beauty of the chant, the splendor of the ceremonial, the overall earnestness of worship—not to mention the palpable spirit of devotion and strong commitment to living the Faith among those who attended and who, as time went on, became friends. With my heart captivated, I knew it was time to feed the intellect; and as I delved more and more into the subject, I came to realize what an incredible treasure this Mass was, and how tragically and unjustly it had been taken from the people.

My love for the old Mass grew even stronger, its place in my spiritual life more central, after I moved with my wife to Austria in 1998 to begin teaching at the International Theological Institute (at that time located in the town of Gaming, where the Franciscan University of Steubenville still runs a study abroad program). We were privileged to be able to attend the ancient Mass daily for several years in the upper chapel of the Kartause church (see photo). The utter stillness, the intense tranquility of those early morning Low Masses is something I will never forget. The spiritual formation that that daily immersion in the old rite gave me has never evaporated or lost its saltiness.

On many Sundays, we would travel to Linz or Vienna to attend a Missa cantata or Missa solemnis offered at one of the apostolates of the Fraternity of Saint Peter—which brings me around, at last, to a scrap of writing from that period. I did not write down the exact date, but I’m fairly confident it was in the year 2000, from the reference to my then-fidgety son.
*          *          *
Minoritenkirche (site of FSSP apostolate)
YESTERDAY at Mass in Linz, three aspects of the liturgy impressed themselves upon me with utter clarity, though I was not intending to think about liturgical theology but was merely intent on praying and keeping Julian quiet. This shows, perhaps, how strongly these aspects are woven into the fabric of the classical liturgy, thereby giving them a transparency that one does not even need to look hard for.

1. The integrity of its parts. The whole is a flowing river, a seamless garment, a landscape in which the various distinct objects are gathered together into a natural unity of environment (think of mountains covered with pine trees—one can see many individual items, but the whole view is utterly one). There is no awkward transition or lack of transition from part to part; there is simply the flow of one great action of Christ the High Priest, teaching, ruling, sanctifying. Afterwards I feel like I have done one thing, not many things from a checklist. It is a complex thing and yet wonderfully unified. What makes it so?

2. The spirit of adoration. The entire liturgy is imbued to its innermost depths with the spirit of adoration: praising, blessing, adoring, giving thanks to God. There is no mistaking the essential, overwhelming, all-encompassing manner and purpose of the liturgy—one might even speak of its “mood,” its “character” in the sense of a person’s moral character. From the arrival of the priest at the steps and the preparatory prayers before he ascends, all the way to the Last Gospel with its genuflection, everything remains focused on Christ, on God. It is the action of someone in love with God and divine things, someone for whom these mysteries are utterly real and primary. There would not be any other way to make sense of the action. It is not directed to the people but to God, and therefore has value for the people, whose greatest need is to worship God.

3. The seriousness with which the priesthood is treated. The difference between the priest as an individual and the priest as alter Christus, image of the archetype, which is seen clearly in the custom (perhaps it is peculiar to Austria or the Germanic lands or Europe? I do not know) of the priest removing his maniple and chasuble before he ascends the pulpit to read the readings in the vernacular and preach on them, after which he descends, resumes those vestments, and continues the Holy Sacrifice.[*See note.] Yet in spite of this seeming interruption, the flow of the liturgy is not in any way affected. I suppose that is because of the underlying seriousness with which everything is endowed in the old liturgy. There is no sense of the priest’s personality ever asserting itself for its own sake, even when he makes a symbolic statement that it is now he, as an individual, who is going to expound the Word of God, to the best of his ability.

Clearly this is a healthy distinction to make. In every other part of the Mass, it is Christ primarily acting, and the priest is following His lead, conforming to His pattern. At the time of the homily, it is the individual priest who comes to the fore and acts in propria persona, since his words, his actions, are no longer precisely those of Christ—symbolized by the Latin language, the formality, the unchanging prayers, the appointed readings in a sacred tongue, the Canon or Rule which brings the entire people to the foot of the Cross on Calvary and communicates to them none other than the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Himself, who as true God and true man is at once the sacrifice offered, the priest offering it, and He who receives it.

In the new liturgy, the homily becomes too much a part of the liturgy, not only making the “liturgy of the word” balloon into something disproportionate to the liturgy of the Eucharist, but also dissolving the distinction between what Christ, through His Church, directly teaches us in the prayers and readings, and what the priest, as an individual, as a private theologian, proposes to us as an understanding of what the Church teaches. When the priest removes his chasuble and preaches with alb and stole, it is clear that he is both a man having authority and a mere man—not the very image of the God-Man offering the sacrifice at the high altar.

*          *          *
* Note added for this article: Apropos the removal of chasuble and maniple: I later learned that the ICRSS do that in Italy as well, but the FSSP do not. And while I have seen here in the United States that the priest will remove his maniple and place it on the missal before genuflecting and moving to the ambo for the readings and the homily, and then take up the maniple at the Credo, I have never seen the removal of the chasuble at that point. It seems that the original reason for removing the chasuble and/or maniple was that, back in the day, when homilies were much lengthier and more energetic affairs, the priest did not want to ruin the decorations by rubbing them too much against the pulpit’s edges, and, at the same time, welcomed a break from wearing the additional garments (more of an issue in hot climates in the summer). In any case, the maniple is worn only for the actual ritual of Mass; for example, when there is a procession after Mass, it is taken off. As we know, however, the original “literal” meaning of a certain gesture becomes the basis for a legitimate “spiritual” meaning, as occurred with the lifting of the chasuble at the consecrations, which were initially to assist the priest in raising the host, but later came to symbolize the woman’s touching of the holy garment of Christ in order to be healed.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mater Ecclesiae’s Assumption Mass

As many of you know the 14th annual Assumption Mass was celebrated this year at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Even though Mater Ecclesiae is in the Diocese of Camden, across the Delaware river in New Jersey, we were privileged and honored to be given permission to bring this grand celebration to the historic Cathedral Basilica begun by Saint John Neumann. Special thanks are given to His Excellency, Archbishop Charles Chaput for giving permission and to Fr Dennis Gill, Rector of the Cathedral, for his support, kindness and wonderful hospitality.

This celebration has become an anticipated spiritual event for the whole Delaware Valley and beyond. Parish groups came from the Dioceses of Trenton, NJ, Allentown, PA, Wilmington, DE, Harrisburg, PA, Camden, NJ, and the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and Washington, DC. The Cathedral was full. The procession was filled with Knights of Columbus, Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, members of the Sovereign Order of Malta, members of the TFP, the Blessed Imelda Society, the Maidens of the Miraculous Medal, the Catholic Scouts known as the Federation of North American Explorers, altar servers from across the region, and seminarians and priests. The choir under the direction of Dr Timothy McDonnell, music department chair at Ave Maria University, and the schola cantorum, under the direction of Mr Nicholas Beck, music director at Mater Ecclesiae, prayed the music of the Mass flawlessly. A seventy-two page booklet filled with descriptions, explanations, lists of donors and ads of patrons, prepared by Miss Barbara Rodio, was given out to the participants. Msgr Andrew Wadsworth, celebrant of the Mass, delivered a beautiful sermon on our Blessed Lady. It was a devout and grand celebration of Our Lady’s Assumption and a magnificent participation in the greatness of Catholic culture.

There are still many daunting challenges for those who love the traditional rites of the Church, but we have come such a long way and we must never stop moving forward. Love for the traditional Mass and rites is a youth movement. Those involved are on fire with the Catholic Faith. One thousand people spent two hours and fifteen minutes in church, on a beautiful Friday evening in August. They could have gone to a sea shore resort, to a baseball game, to a night club or to any diversion; instead they immersed themselves in prayer, relished in the Sacred Liturgy, honored Our Lady, and praised God; and they went out into the world filled with grace and joy. What a blessed event!


Petition to Save Holy Innocents Church in Manhattan

Many of our readers have undoubtedly heard that Holy Innocents Church, the only church in Manhattan where the Extraordinary Form is celebrated daily, faces the possibility of closure by the Archdiocese of New York. Via Rorate Caeli, which has reported on the situation several times, the following brief video published by our friends at Regina Magazine, shows several nice images of the church’s vibrant pastoral life, and ends with a link to a petition to Cardinal Dolan to keep the church open and operating. You can access the petition directly by clicking here.

(The combox is open; be respectful.)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Burial Rites of the Theotokos

St. John Paul II offered a reflection on the death of the Theotokos in a General Audience in 1997:
My Venerable Predecessor Pius XII, made no pronouncement on the question of Mary’s death. Nevertheless, Pius XII did not intend to deny the fact of her death, but merely did not judge it opportune to affirm solemnly the death of the Mother of God as a truth to be accepted by all believers. Some theologians have in fact maintained that the Blessed Virgin did not die and and was immediately raised from earthly life to heavenly glory. However, this opinion was unknown until the 17th century, whereas a common tradition actually exists which sees Mary's death as her entry into heavenly glory. Could Mary of Nazareth have experienced the drama of death in her own flesh? Reflecting on Mary’s destiny and her relationship with her divine Son, it seems legitimate to answer in the affirmative: since Christ died, it would be difficult to maintain the contrary for his Mother. The Fathers of the Church, who had no doubts in this regard, reasoned along these lines.
Icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos.  Mary lies on
 the bier, while carried in procession to the tomb.
Christ holds her soul in his arms.

For an Eastern Christian, it is not possible to celebrate the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, and not ponder her death.  For two weeks we have been preparing for this, the last of the 12 Great Feasts of the Liturgical Year.  (The first of those feasts is the birth of the Theotokos on Sept. 8).  Serving as a bookend to the Church year, the Dormition also serves as an occasion for us to reflect on the end that must come to us all.  Yet at the same time we are consoled, knowing that for a Christian to die is less about the biological process and more about falling asleep in the Lord.  In the words of John Donne, "One short sleep past, we wake eternally.  And death shall be no more; Death thou shalt die."

Our preparation for this feast that celebrates the end of death, began August 1st, with a solemn procession with the Cross of Christ.  Traditionally, this was due to the increase of disease and death in the blistering hot Augusts of Constantinople.  As a way to pray for healing and/or to prepare for the coming death, the priests of the Great City would process
Procession of the Holy and Life Giving Cross,
August 1.
through the streets with the relic of the Cross, everyday until the middle of August.  For those of us not dwelling in plague stricken urban climes, the procession invites us to follow the Cross through the two weeks of fasting, penance, and prayer that we undergo to prepare for the coming of Christian death.

At the same time, Christians of the Kievan-Rus' tradition also remember their baptism on August first, and thereby recall that is through being baptized into the death of Christ that we are able to gloriously enter into his resurrection.
Lesser Blessing of the Water,
August 1st.

To highlight the link between the Cross and Baptism, the waters are blessed on August first through a short ceremony that is a "lesser" version of the great blessings of the waters done on Theophany.  In the lesser service, a cross is three times submerged into a large vessel of water.

Throughout the remaining time, the Christian faithful are traditionally called to a period of fasting stricter than any but Great Lent, although such ascetical observances are rare in today's setting.  All of this preparation culminates in the liturgical celebration of the feast of our Lady's Dormition, and the still developing liturgical observance is amazing to behold.  In fact, the Liturgical celebration of the feast is a wonderful example of the ongoing organic life of the Byzantine Liturgical tradition.

The feast of the Dormition has been observed since at least the sixth century, although the Patriarch Juvenal testified in the fifth century that the Christians of Jerusalem had preserved the tradition of Mary's immaculate assumption into heaven, and he even sent the grave wrappings of the Theotokos to the Empress Pulcheria.  We are told that by the end of the 7th century, a Church had been built atop Mary's tomb in Gethsemane, but there are no traces of that Church today.  The current Church has been both attacked and developed since the 9th century, and now claims to house not only the tomb of the Virgin, but the tombs of St. Joachim, St. Anne, and St. Joseph.  While we assume that there was a tradition of liturgical devotion in this Church, the subsequent invasions of pagans and Crusaders has left us little trace of first millenium Jerusalem's observances for the feast.
Tomb of the Blessed Virgin in Jerusalem
In the second millenium, the Russian Chuch's 1438 rubrics evidence a tendency to observe the vigil of August 15th in ways that were analogous to the Holy Saturday observance.  Thus, it is suggested that if the rector wishes, he can have a "tomb" placed before the iconostasis, and the chanting for Matins can take place before this tomb.  Further, churches dedicated to the Feast of the Dormition are allowed to place the icon of the feast in the tomb, again, as an analogue to the Church's placement of the icon of Christ in the tomb on Holy Saturday.

In 15th century Jerusalem, the "Lamentations of Christ for Great and Holy Saturday" were introduced into the Matins service.  These lamentations alternate with each verse of psalm 118/119, and are set to a solemn melody, serving as an extended mediation on Christ's mournful burial and triumphant descent into Hades.

Following the lamentations, the Jerusalem Church kept her older tradition of placing the Shroud of Christ on the back of the priest, and then processing outside as a symbol of Christ's soul's descent into the abode of the dead.  This procession also allowed the faithful to take part in a traditional funeral procession as they would at the death of any loved one.  Following the procession, the shroud was laid in a tomb that had been constructed in front of the iconostasis.  Vigil was then kept at the tomb until the Vesperal Liturgy on Holy Saturday evening.

Epitaphios of Christ Used
In Holy Saturday Procession

The Epitaphios carried in procession in front of the "tomb"

Around a hundred years after the composition of the Lamentations of Christ, Metropolitan Dionysios of Old Patras composed the Lamentations of the Theoktokos in 1541.  The Lamentations correspond thematically, liturgically, and musically to the lamentations of Christ.  They were intended to be chanted at the Matins of the All-Night Vigil for the Dormition.  Like the Lamentations of Christ, they were to be chanted alternately with the verses of Ps. 118/119.  And like the Holy Saturday Matins, the lamentations were to conclude with a procession.  In this case, Met. Dionysios expected the procession to be made with the icon of the Dormition depicted at the top of this post, and he expected this observance to take place only in parishes and shrines dedicated to the Dormition.

The Lamentations of the Theotokos were adopted by the Jerusalem Church as part of her liturgical observance. In susbequent years it spread to Patmos.  At some point the lamentations were translated from Greek into Slavonic in Kiev.  Antiochene parishes also began to adopt the observance.  While the lamentations are not chanted on either Mt. Athos nor in the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, they are becoming increasingly common throughout various parishes of the Byzantine tradition.

In addition, churches are increasingly adopting a burial shroud of the Theotokos to be used in the vigil procession instead of the traditional icon.  The churches that adopt this form of the funeral procession then lay the shroud in a tomb constructed before the iconostasis or even in front of the Church.

Funeral procession with the shroud of the Theotokos

The Entombment of the Theotokos
This ongoing development within the Byzantine tradition is by no means universal, but it fits well with  the shorthand reference to the Dormition Fast and Feast as Summer Lent, and Summer Pascha. Like Great Lent, the Dormition Fast has a feast for the Holy Cross, and it is in part devoting to a renewal of one's baptismal promises. The fasting observances are more similar to Great Lent than either of the other fasting seasons, the culmination of both seasons is an all night vigil focused on bodily resurrection.  The feast of the Dormition points to the ultimate fruition of the Feast of Pascha.  Christ conquers death definitively in both His Physical Body, and in those united to him in His Mystical Body.  The feast of Dormition, therefore, expresses not only the exceptional holiness of the Theotokos, but also the Church's hope that Mary is the exemplar of us all.  She is the pledge of the resurrection of the body; the proof that Christ's redemption will break forth onto all those united to him.

The texts for the lamentations beautifully capture the mood of the feast.  The first verse parallels the verse the lamentations of Christ.  On Holy Saturday we chant:
O Life, how can You die? How can You dwell in a tomb? Yet by Your death You have destroyed the reign of death and raised all the dead from Hell.
Last night we sang:
In a grave they laid Thee / O my Life and my Christ / and now also the Mother of Life / a strange sight  both to angels and men.
Each of the three sets of verses continues to ponder the meaning of this strange death.  On the one hand, the humanity that gave birth to the Theotokos is invited to come and rejoice at the sight:
Come with me, O Anna / Come and stand with us now / lead us in the festive praises of Mary / thine own  daughter, the Mother of God.
Now Joachim rejoiceth / seeing the great glory of his only child / who indeed didst bear a divine Child / truly inexplicable and inspired!
Adam and Eve came out / to behold the glory / of their own Virgin offspring.
On the other, the sadness highlighted in the first verse mingles with terror at the awe-inspiring nature of what is taking place:
Shudder, O ye heavens! / and, O earth, give ear unto these words: / God descended once before for our sake / He descends again today for His Mother. 
But, it is in the third stanza that brings the full weight of the cosmic significance of the event to the fore, while also ending with the personal dialogue between the Mother and her Son:
Ev’ry generation / to thy grave comes bringing / its dirge of praises, O Virgin. All of creation / to the grave comes bringing / a farewell hymn to our Lady. Christ’s holy Disciples / tend to the body / of Mary, Mother of my God. Orders of Angels / and Archangels / invisibly hymn her presence. Pious Women / with the Apostles / now cry out their lamentations. She who was at Cana / at the marriage / hath been called with the Apostles. The Master descendeth / to Gethsemane / with countless hosts of heaven. The choir of the Disicples / seeing the Lord descend / in glory greatly rejoiceth.. Let the earth leap for joy / as it beholdeth / our God from heaven descending.  Let us go out quickly / meeting the Lord Jesus / Who cometh once more among us. Let us be attentive / God now speaketh / with His most pure Mother: "Most sweet Mother / come and rejoice with / thine own most sweet Child, Jesus." Behold now thy Son / cometh to bring thee / into His home in the heavens. "Come, My most lovely one / and enjoy the beauty / of thine own Son thy Maker. Come indeed, My Mother / come into divine joy / and enter into the kingdom." "What will I bring Thee / O my Son, the God-Man" / the Maiden cried to the Master. "What will I bring Thee / O my God in heaven / except my soul and body. The Father I glorify / to the Son I sing a hymn / the Holy Spirit I worship."

A new recording of Catholic Liturgical Music from the St Joseph Cappella, Detroit

The St. Joseph Cappella, an all-volunteer church choir at Mother of Divine Mercy Parish - St. Joseph Church (located on Jay Street off Gratiot near Eastern Market) in Detroit, Michigan, has released its first album of sacred music entitled Liturgical Year Latin Motets. The first 12 tracks take the listener on a journey through the Catholic liturgical year, with translations and commentary on the pieces including their relation to both the Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form Liturgical Calendars. Most of the music is a cappella, while a few pieces are accompanied by organ played by the Director of Music, Michael Semaan. The final five tracks are a Mass setting by prolific Italian composer Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785). In addition to pieces by well-known composers such as Mozart and Palestrina, two of the tracks were written specifically for the St. Joseph Cappella by the late Thomas M. Kuras who founded the choir and served as the Director of Music at St. Joseph from 1974 - 1997.

The CD includes a 16-page color booklet full of stunning images of the architecture, stained glass windows, statutes, altars, and organ of St. Joseph Church, along with translations, commentary, and a history of St. Joseph. "The combination of sacred art and music in Liturgical Year Latin Motets is truly a feast for the soul," said Rev. Gregory Tokarski, pastor of Mother of Divine Mercy Parish. "We are blessed by the sacred music the St. Joseph Cappella presents throughout the year during Holy Mass at St. Joseph, and I am so pleased that more people now are able to hear this heavenly music. After listening, I hope they will be moved to visit and pray with us."

One may purchase the CD directly at Mother of Divine Mercy Parish or by emailing The recording is also available for sale from (physical CD and digital), iTunes and other major online digital retailers, local Catholic bookstores in the Detroit metro area, and more retailers to come.

St. Joseph Church is known for its musical heritage and traditional worship, and proceeds from the sale of the CD will be used to maintain a vibrant music program at St. Joseph Church. St. Joseph is one of the oldest churches in Detroit and is the only one in Detroit to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places at the “national level of significance.” Designed by German-American architect Francis G. Himpler, the church was dedicated in 1873.

The seventeen tracks on Liturgical Year Latin Motets are as follows:

1. Ave Maria - Joseph Bonnet

2. O Magnum Mysterium - Tomás Luis de Victoria
3. Scriptum est - Thomas M Kuras
4. O Bone Jesu - Marco Antonio Ingegneri

5. Sicut cervus - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
6. Regina Coeli - Gregor Aichinger

7. Jubilate Deo - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
8. Ego Sum Pastor Bonus - Thomas M Kuras

9. Cantate Domino - Giuseppe Pitoni
10. Factus est repente - Gregor Aichinger
11. Panis Angelicus - Claudio Casciolini

12. Ave Verum - Camille Saint-Saëns

13. Missa in C: Kyrie - Baldassare Galuppi

14. Missa in C: Gloria - Baldassare Galuppi

15. Missa in C: Credo - Baldassare Galuppi
16. Missa in C: Sanctus & Benedictus - Baldassare Galuppi
17. Missa in C: Agnus Dei - Baldassare Galuppi

Mother of Divine Mercy Parish - St. Joseph Church Detroit, Michigan

A Special Hymn for the Assumption

In the Roman Rite, there are traditionally only three hymns generally used on feasts of the Virgin Mary. These are Ave, Maris Stella, which is sung at Vespers, Quem terra at Matins, and O gloriosa Domina at Lauds; the second and third of these were originally two parts of the same hymn, divided for liturgical use. Among the many other hymns composed in the Middle Ages in honor of the Virgin, a standout is O quam glorifica, an anonymous composition of the ninth century, possibly earlier, which was adopted by several churches for use on the Assumption. At Sarum, it was sung at First Vespers of the feast, while the Parisian Use placed it at Matins, and from these extended it to the Little Office of the Virgin. It was incorporated into the Latin version of the Liturgy of the Hours, although it was not assigned to the Assumption, but to Lauds of Our Lady’s Queenship on August 22, which is now the de facto octave of the Assumption. This is a piece whose complex Latin meter makes for a rather odd word order, and a prime example of a work to which translation perhaps does more than a little injustice. It is here sung by the Trappist monks of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, in a recording from 1958; the Cistercian tradition also places it at first Vespers of the feast.

O quam glorifica luce coruscas,               O with how glorious light thou shinest,
Stirpis Davidicae regia proles!                  royal offspring of David’s race!
Sublimis residens, Virgo Maria,               dwelling on high, O Virgin Mary,
Supra caeligenas aetheris omnes.             Above all the regions of heaven.

Tu cum virgineo mater honore,                Thou, chaste mother with virginal honor,
Caelorum Domino pectoris aulam            prepared in thy holy womb
Sacris visceribus casta parasti;                 a dwelling place for the Lord of heaven;
Natus hinc Deus est corpore Christus.     hence God, Christ, was born in a body.

Quem cunctus venerans orbis adorat,      Whom all the word adores in veneration,
Cui nunc rite genuflectitur omne;              before whom every knee rightfully bends,
A quo te, petimus, subveniente,                From whom we ask, as thou comest to help,
Abjectis tenebris, gaudia lucis.      the joys of light, and the casting away of darkness.

Hoc largire Pater luminis omnis,               Grant this, Father of all light,
Natum per proprium, Flamine sacro,       Through thine own Son, by the Holy Spirit,
Qui tecum nitida vivit in aethra                 who with liveth in the bright heaven,
Regnans, ac moderans saecula cuncta.     ruling and governing all the ages. Amen.