Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2019 (Part 2)

Our Roman pilgrim friend Agnese is back on her feet, and so we continue with this year’s series of her photos of the Lenten stational Masses, with a special emphasis on relics and processions.

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent - St Anastasia
Ember Wednesday - St Mary Major
Penitential procession through the basilica.
Many of these churches set up a special display of relics on the day of the station; Santa Maria Maggiore, which is also the station for the Wednesday of Holy Week, has one of the nicest arrangements on the high altar.
Thursday of the First Week - St Lawrence in Panisperna
This church is on one of the busiest streets on the Esquiline Hill, so the procession before Mass only goes around the small courtyard in front of the it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Feast of St Joseph 2019

A faithful and wise servant, whom the Lord appointed over His family: * Amen, I say to you, that he will make him ruler over all his goods. V. He that is the guardian of his Lord, will be glorified. Amen. Glory be. Amen. (The twelfth responsory of Matins of the feast of St Joseph in the Benedictine Office.)
San Joseph with the Child Jesus, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1655-60
R. Fidelis servus et prudens, quem constituit Dominus super familiam suam: * Amen, dico vobis, quoniam super omnia bona sua constituet eum. V. Qui est Domini sui, glorificabitur. Amen. Glory be. Amen.

The Mysteries of the Mandorla in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Icon

The story of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe is remarkable in many ways. An important part of that story, that of the image that was given to St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, is itself enigmatic. What follows is personal speculation - I am describing what strikes me as so mysterious when I look at this image.

As a revealed image, it is a rare Western example of a small category of sacred art called in Greek acheiropoieta - not made by human hands. In this example, we have some details clearly derived from Aztec culture and some from traditional Christian culture, including some features not normally associated with the Spanish Christian culture of the day. Something else that is striking about this image is how these aspects are combined so as to create something that has great power to convince one of the truth of what it conveys. This apparition caused millions to convert, and a large part of that was due to the persuasive influence of the visual vocabulary employed by the “artist” of this image. It spoke simultaneously to both the Aztecs and the occupying Spaniards, and continues to draw devotion today from Christians from all over the world.

The subject of this sacred image came up recently in a lively podcast in which I was in conversation with Christopher West (of the Cor Project and the Theology of the Body Institute). We were discussing the broader subject of the place of contemporary popular culture in a Christian culture and whether or not it has a place for Christians as a tool for evangelization. In the course of this, we touched on subjects ranging from 1970s rock music (British, Irish and American) to Gregorian chant. (You can listen to the podcast here, or watch it on YouTube, here).

In the course of this exploration, we spoke of how the liturgy is the wellspring of Christian culture, and it is the culture of faith, connected to the liturgy, that is the strongest contributor to the universal human aspects of culture. In addition, this can be integrated discerningly with the contemporary culture so that it also reflects a particular time and place. If this integration is done well, the effect of the combination is to powerfully connect the universal truths to contemporary society; if, on the other hand, it is handled clumsily, it will have the opposite effect, and will lead people away from salvation.

As an example of such an integration that is successful, Christopher referred to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and spoke beautifully of some of its elements that are particular to the culture, and of which I had not been fully aware before. So referring to this detail:

Our Lady’s hairstyle, parted in center, was in 16th-century Aztec culture the sign of a maiden, a virgin, but the ribbon and bow around her waist signified that she was pregnant. This is therefore a young woman who is portrayed simultaneously a virgin and pregnant. The quatrefoil roses articulated in sepia lines on the pale brown-ochre shawl signify royalty in the visual vocabulary of Aztec culture.

But this image spoke to the Aztecs of more than their own culture, because it has elements that come from traditional Christian culture as well. These are universal in that they speak to all Christians (one might make an argument in some cases for non-Christians too). It is these that speak to 16th-century Spaniards and to many Christians from all over the world since.

We can see, for example, the blue shawl, a common color for Mary’s outer robe. It is said to denote royalty. and Marian chapels often have their walls painted in this color. The exact shade of blue is unusual in that it is not lapis lazuli blue (French ultramarine), which a contemporary painter of the High Renaissance period might have used, but rather a turquoise blue often described as cerulean. I have no explanation for this difference. Also, I am curious to know more about the pigment that provides this color than Wikipedia can tell me. Cerulean blue pigment is only known since the late 18th century, when it was chemically created; it is not from a naturally occurring mineral. It might be that there is no great mystery here and that it is an effect created by a simple combination of other, naturally occurring green and blue pigments available at the time.

The eight-pointed stars represent her connection with the “eighth day” of Creation, her Son, Jesus Christ, who rose on the eighth day of the week. Traditionally in Eastern icons, there will be just three stars, symbolizing the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos - God-bearer - before, during and after her pregnancy. There are many more than three stars here. Perhaps it was deemed unnecessary by the Divine Artist to stay with three stars because her virginity is indicated in a different way, as already mentioned. There is also the moon, which is consistent with Scripture in that it shows Our Lady as the woman of the Apocalypse (12, 1), with the upturned crescent moon.

Another feature which interests me greatly is the nimbus of light around her. The account of the woman in the Book of the Apocalypse describes her as being “clothed in the sun.” The golden nimbus around her whole person might correspond to this. However, this is more complicated, there is something else going on here I believe that relates to the symbolism of the mandorla.

A mandorla is an iconographic symbol in the shape of a circle or an almond-shaped oval signifying heaven, divine glory, or light; mandorla is Italian for “almond.” It is an indication of the divine light of sanctity, but the mandorla of this type is generally reserved for Christ, at least in traditional iconography. I suggest that it is included here to indicate the presence of Christ within her womb. It is not there so much for the God-bearer, but for God! This is the Christian way of indicating that Our Lady is with child, the divine child, which complements the symbolism of Aztec culture. Remember that if this image had not spoken to the Spanish occupiers too, no one would have taken Juan Diego seriously.

Furthermore, take a close look at the gold envelope that surrounds her. This is not, as one might first suspect, a series of bright gold darts emanating from Our Lady. Rather it is a series of dark darts emanating from her on a gold background, the outer limits of which describe the mandorla shape, which is a smooth almond. In other words, this mandorla is getting darker the closer it is to her. Why should this be?

She really is, to use a familiar phrase, a riddle wrapped up in an enigma!

The answer is that this is how it is painted in traditional iconography. As I wrote in a recent article on the subject, “The mandorla surrounding Christ usually shows concentric bands of shading which get darker toward the center, rather than lighter. It is painted in this way so as to communicate to us, pictorially, the fact that we must pass through stages of increasing mystery in order to encounter the person of Jesus Christ. This encounter, which takes place in the Mass with the Eucharist at its heart, is one that transforms me supernaturally so that I can begin to grasp the glory of Christ more directly.”

You can see an iconographic mandorla here in an icon of the Dormition painted, by Theophan the Greek in 1392.

In the following icon, the sense of a mandorla getting darker as it moves towards the center is done in a different way.

As we can see above, the hidden “heart of darkness” is suggested visually by darts of darkness that come from a point obscured by the figure of Christ. This is similar, but not identical, to the device used by the artist in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Notice also, incidentally, that while the Apostles are able to perceive the glorified Christ, they still do so dimly. They are partially and temporarily deified, but not fully, and so are partially blinded by the Light and knocked off their feet. To indicate this we see the rays that strike them as shafts of darkness, and the Apostles themselves will not receive halos until Pentecost, in contrast with the Prophets who are already in heaven, flanking Our Lord.

It is interesting to note that virtually every copy of the Our Lady of Guadalupe icon gets this detail wrong and inverts the direction of the lines. For example, here is one painted around 1700.

Monday, March 18, 2019

New Resource: Online Commentaries on the Mass Propers and Readings of the Usus Antiquior

Back in January 2014, I published an article at NLM entitled “Where Have All the Good Preachers Gone?” In it I noted the general dissatisfaction with shallow and rambling homilies and sermons, and pointed out that the Catholic Tradition is rich with models of excellent preaching. The article recommended three things: first, preaching about Scripture from Scripture, or at least leavening any subject preached on with copious citations of the Word of God; second, leaning heavily on the great exponents of Scripture and the theological masters: the Fathers and Doctors of the Church (not modern exegetes; at least not principally); third, integrating the doctrine, if not the words, of classic magisterial documents such as reliable papal encyclicals.

A subsequent article from January 2018, “Preaching from the Propers of the Mass — An Example from Ireland” noted that many great preachers in the old days, and many of the best resources from the healthy phase of the Liturgical Movement, took inspiration from the propers of the Mass: the antiphons, the orations, the lections, the prefaces, and so forth. A few still do (such as Dom Mark Kirby, many of whose homilies can be heard here), but the vast majority, as far as I can tell, simply ignore the texts of the liturgy, which are in fact among the richest texts, doctrinally and spiritually, to preach on.

Surely part of the reason for this neglect is that it is not always easy to find the time or acquire the library necessary to prepare such homilies. That is why I am extremely excited to announce a new web resource that places many classic commentaries on the usus antiquior Sunday and Holy Day Masses at preachers' (and laity's) fingertips: Sermonry.

For now, the website features commentaries from the Catena Aurea by St. Thomas, a work that itself draws upon over 80 Church Fathers (the majority of them Greek); the Haydock Bible; and Denzinger. Designer and programmer Patrick Hawkins intends to add more commentaries as time goes on, including Guéranger. Here is a description that Mr. Hawkins kindly sent to me:
Sermonry takes the propers of the Mass and puts traditional commentaries right next to them, in a way that’s easy to navigate and a pleasure to read. I think the site will be useful for two groups of Catholics: clergy and laity.
          My hope is that clergy will find this a useful resource when preparing homilies for Traditional Latin Masses for years to come. A priest to whom I showed an early version of the site worried that if every priest was using this resource, they’d all come up with the same homilies. But that’s unlikely. One priest might preach on the Introit; another, on the Gradual. A priest might preach on three different passages from a single Gospel over three consecutive years. These commentaries will support and enhance what a priest is already trying to do in the pulpit.
          For the laity, these commentaries can supplement and reinforce what they are receiving every Sunday from the liturgy. For myself I’ve noticed, especially with the Haydock, explanations of particular phrases and customs of the day make it easier to visualize what’s going on in a particular passage, aiding meditation. And having it all right there in one place, I’m not switching back and forth between 2 or 3 books, which helps with focus.
          Sermonry has a beta label on because it’s not yet complete. Adding commentaries is a time-consuming process. But what’s there is already useful, today. A priest relying on this for homily prep should find commentaries for Sundays and major feasts added a month in advance.
Anyone wanting progress updates can sign up on the email list here.

Questions? Address them to
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This strikes me as a brilliant use of technology in service of tradition. I hope many clergy and laity will take advantage of it. Thank you, Mr. Hawkins, for launching this project. We wish you great success with its development.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Role of Sacred Music in Catholic Education

Our latest episode of Square Notes: The Sacred Music Podcast is an interview with NLM's own Charles Cole about his work with the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School and the rôle of sacred music in Catholic education.

Episode 3 – The Role of Sacred Music in Catholic Education – with Charles Cole

We take an inside look at a British choir school, and discuss the role of sacred music in an authentically Catholic education. You’ve already heard just a bit of his work as a listener to this podcast; he’s the director of the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School singing the opening track for our show.

Charles Cole began his musical training as a chorister at Westminster Cathedral. He went on to win a major music scholarship to Ampleforth and organ scholarships at Exeter College of Oxford and Westminster Cathedral. He is Assistant Director of Music at Brompton Oratory where he directs the London Oratory Junior Choir which, in addition to its liturgical duties, provides the Children’s Chorus for the Royal Ballet’s productions at Covent Garden. In addition, he is Director of the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School, a choir of boys aged 8-18 which sings the Saturday evening mass at Brompton Oratory, as well as concerts, tour and recordings. He is a regular member of the faculty for the Church Music Association of America’s annual Colloquiums, specializing in Gregorian Chant and Choral Direction. He regularly gives choral workshops for choirs in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem. In recent years he has given organ recitals in St Petersburg, at Notre Dame, Paris (as part of the 850th anniversary year celebrations), at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City and at St Saviour’s Church, Jerusalem.

Charles Cole’s Website

Charles Cole’s Twitter

London Oratory Schola Website

London Oratory Schola Facebook

London Oratory Schola’s CD, Sacred Treasures of England

London Oratory Website

The Second Sunday of Lent 2019

Remember Thy compassion, o Lord, and Thy mercy, that are from of old; lest ever our enemies be lord over us; deliver us, o God of Israel, from all our distress. Ps. 24. To Thee, o Lord, have I lifted up my soul; o my God, I trust in Thee, let me not be put to shame. Glory be ... As it was... Remember Thy compassion... (A very nice recording of the Introit of the Second Sunday of Lent, more moderno, i.e., without ‘Gloria Patri’.)

Reminíscere miseratiónum tuárum, Dómine, et misericordiae tuae, quae a sáeculo sunt: ne umquam dominentur nobis inimíci nostri: líbera nos, Deus Israël, ex ómnibus angustiis nostris. Ps. 24 Ad te, Dómine, levávi ánimam meam: Deus meus, in te confído, non erubescam. Gloria Patri. Sicut erat. Reminíscere.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Ember Saturday of Lent at Sarum and St Peter’s

In the Roman Missal, the fifth prophecy is the same on all four of the Saturday Ember Days, Daniel 3, 47-51, with a few of the verses re-ordered. The words that follow in the Biblical text (verses 52-57) are sung as a canticle, according to a very beautiful melody. This canticle is one of the oldest pieces in the repertoire of Gregorian chant; the text follows the so-called Old Latin translation of the Bible which was used before St Jerome’s Vulgate, and contains several more verses than are found in the Vulgate version. In the Roman Use, the canticle is sung on the Ember Saturdays of Advent, Lent and September, but supplanted by a very short Alleluja on the Ember Saturday of Pentecost week.

The Sarum Use arranges both the reading and the canticle that follows differently on each of the four Ember Days. In Advent, it is basically the same as the Roman, with a few small variants. In Lent, on the other hand, the words of the Roman canticle are sung as part of the Lesson; the canticle of Sunday Lauds, the Benedicite (Daniel 3, 57-88) is then sung in a special arrangement, alternating between two cantors who sing the verses, and the choir singing the response.

The Lesson
The Angel of the Lord went down with Azariah and his companions into the furnace, and he drove the flame of the fire out of the furnace, and made the midst of the furnace like the blowing of a wind bringing dew. And the flame mounted up above the furnace nine and forty cubits, and burnt such of the Chaldeans as it found near the furnace, the ministers of the king who kindled the fire. And the fire touched them not at all, nor troubled them, nor did them any harm. Then these three as with one mouth praised, and glorified, and blessed God in the furnace, saying: (Here Sarum continues to read as part of the Lesson the words which are sung as the Canticle in the Roman Use.) Blessed art thou, O Lord the God of our fathers: and worthy to be praised, and glorified, and exalted above all for ever: and blessed is the name of thy glory, which is holy: and worthy to be praised, and exalted above all in all ages. Blessed art thou in the holy temple of thy glory: and exceedingly to be praised, and exceeding glorious for ever. Blessed art thou on the throne of thy kingdom, and exceedingly to be praised, and exalted above all for ever. (Here 3 verses are added from the old Latin text.) Blessed art thou upon the scepter of thy divinity: and exceedingly to be praised, and exceeding glorious for ever. Blessed art thou, that beholdest the depths, and sittest upon the cherubims: and worthy to be praised and exalted above all for ever. Blessed art thou, who walkest upon the wings of the winds, and upon the waves of the sea: and worthy to be praised and exalted above all for ever.
Here the canticle begins, alternating between two cantors and the choir.
V. Blessed art thou in the firmament of heaven, and praiseworthy and glorious forever. R. Blessed art thou in the firmament of heaven, and praiseworthy and glorious forever.
V. All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord. O ye heavens, bless the Lord. O ye angels of the Lord, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye a hymn, and exalt him above all for ever. (This response is repeated by the choir after each verse.)
V. O all ye waters that are above the heavens, bless the Lord. O all ye powers of the Lord, bless the Lord. O ye sun and moon, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye...
V. O all ye waters that are above the heavens, bless the Lord. O all ye powers of the Lord, bless the Lord. O ye sun and moon, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye...
V. O ye stars of heaven, bless the Lord. O every shower and dew, bless ye the Lord. O all ye spirits of God, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye...
V. O ye fire and heat, bless the Lord. O ye nights and days, bless the Lord. O ye darkness and light, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye...
V. O ye cold and heat, bless the Lord. O ye frost and snows, bless the Lord. O ye lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye...
V. O let the earth bless the Lord. O all ye mountains and hills, bless the Lord. O ye that are born of the earth, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye...
V. O all ye seas and rivers, bless the Lord. O ye fountains, bless the Lord. O ye whales, and all that move in the waters, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye...
V. O all ye fowls of the air, bless the Lord. O ye beasts and cattle, bless the Lord. O ye sons of men, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye...
V. O let Israel bless the Lord. O ye priests of the Lord, bless the Lord. O servants of the Lord, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye...
V. O spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord. O ye holy and humble of heart, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye.
V. O Ananiah, Azariah, Misael, bless the Lord. R. Sing ye...
The Cantors repeat the beginning: Blessed art thou in the firmament of heaven. and the choir finishes: And praiseworthy and glorious forever.

O ye holy and humble of heart, bless the Lord!
When the Lenten station is held at St Peter’s Basilica, on Ember Saturday and Passion Sunday, the Papal altar is decorated with relics according to a particular arrangement. The relics of martyrs are placed closer to the edge of the mensa, and those of other Saints further in; the four corners are decorated with reliquaries shaped like obelisks, with long bones (tibias and such) in them. On each of the two short sides of the altar is set a rectangular panel containing relics of 35 Popes, between them, all of the Sainted Popes except the most recent.
On the long side facing the apse, a bust reliquary of Pope St Damasus I (366-84, feast on December 11), containing the relics of his skull, is placed in the middle. This is a particularly appropriate choice, since Damasus was a great promoter of devotion to the saints and the cult of the relics, particularly those of the Roman martyrs. Within many catacombs, he rearranged the spaces around the tombs of the martyrs to make it easier for pilgrims to find and visit them, decorating the tombs themselves with elaborately carved inscriptions written by himself in classical poetic meter. For this reason, he is honored as the patron Saint of archeologists.

Solemn Mass on the Feast of St Joseph in Rome

A solemn high Mass will be celebrated on March 19, the feast of St Joseph, at the church of Ss Dominic and Sixtus, which is right next to the Angelicum University in Rome (Largo Angelicum 1), starting at 12:30 pm. The Mass will be celebrated in the Roman Rite; a traditional Mass is celebrated in the church every Tuesday in the Roman Rite, and every Thursday in the Dominican Rite at the same time.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Abp Prendergast Confers Minor Orders in the Traditional Rite

Last month (February 18), His Excellency Terrence Prendergast SJ, Archbishop of Ottawa, conferred tonsure and the minor orders on a Jesuit seminarian from the Irish province in the traditional rite at St Clement’s, the FSSP parish in Ottawa. Our thanks to photographer Jacquie Fournier, and to Mr Ian Gallagher for sharing these photos of the event with us. (They only cover the beginning of the ordinations.) Congratulations to Mr Theodore Avram SJ, and thanks also to Archbishop Prendergast for his generosity to the followers of the traditional rites!

The ordination was conferred within a prelatitial Mass, the Votive Mass for the Propagation of the Faith.
The ordinand kneels before the bishop with a lit candle in his hand, as the latter recites a prayer over him.
The bishp sits, and the ordinand comes forward, while the choir sings an antiphon from Psalm 15, “It is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me.”, and the first few verses of the Psalm.
The tonsuring.
After the singing of the Psalm 23 with the antiphon “He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God his Saviour, for this is the generation of them that seek the Lord.”, the bishop recites another prayer. The ordinand then comes forward, and is clothed by the bishop in a surplice.

Sacred Music for Lent in New Mexico: Haydn’s The Last Seven Words of Christ

Una Voce New Mexico is sponsoring a performance of Joseph Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ, to be held on Saturday, March 23 at 7pm at the San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe, located at 401 Old Santa Fe Trail.

The Seven Last Words of Christ was commissioned in 1786 to be performed on Good Friday at the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva (Holy Cave Oratory) in Cádiz, Spain. It consists of seven sonatas, preceded by an introduction and concluded by a much faster movement known as the “Earthquake”. The Wikipedia article on it cites the following description of the manner of its performance by Haydn himself from one of his letters. “It was customary at the Cathedral of Cádiz to produce an oratorio every year during Lent, the effect of the performance being not a little enhanced by the following circumstances. The walls, windows, and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only one large lamp hanging from the center of the roof broke the solemn darkness. At midday, the doors were closed and the ceremony began. After a short service the bishop ascended the pulpit, pronounced the first of the seven words (or sentences) and delivered a discourse thereon. This ended, he left the pulpit and fell to his knees before the altar. The interval was filled by music. The bishop then in like manner pronounced the second word, then the third, and so on, the orchestra following on the conclusion of each discourse.”

Zachary Thomas Reviews “Tradition and Sanity” by Peter Kwasniewski

NLM is pleased to present the following review of our contributor Peter Kwasniewski’s latest book, by one of our favorite guest contributors, Zachary Thomas.

Finding a Pearl of Great Price
For the millennial generation, the discovery of the old Mass has been like finding a pearl of great price, inexplicably boxed away in the attic. In the old Mass, so many of us have found, for the first time, the basis for a coherent life of religious practice, an integral Catholicism of mind, body, and spirit—a seamless lex orandi, lex credendi, lex agendi. The Mass was a portal to the sources of theology, to the Fathers, to Latin as a living language, to the sacred arts, and most of all to authentic prayer.

In this journey of rediscovery, already yielding its first fruits, Kwasniewski has been a sort of Virgil to us. He has led us with wit and wisdom through a fraught Church-scape in which, paradoxically, we have been compelled to argue for our right to practice the Catholic Faith whole and intact, just as it was passed down to our grandparents. In so doing, Catholics everywhere have contributed to actualizing Ratzinger’s hermeneutic of continuity, knitting back Catholic thought and piety in the turbulent aftermath of the last Council.

Kwasniewski’s new book Tradition and Sanity: Conversations & Dialogues of a Postconciliar Exile (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2018) differs from his earlier books in two major ways. The first is the genre of the contents. Instead of essays, we find three types of chapters: interviews given to various people over the past several years (reminding one in this respect of Ratzinger, whose interview books have always been favorites); then, delightful fictional dialogues, sometimes between monks distressed about church news and sometimes between laymen at the coffee hour after Mass; and finally, the transcript of a wide-ranging conversation held in Vienna on April 2, 2017, “Gnosticism, Liturgical Change, and Catholic Life,” featuring Mr Wolfram Schrems, Dr Thomas Stark, Dr Kwasniewski, and Pater Edmund Waldstein O. Cist. As a result, the book feels both less formal and more gritty: less formal than a polished essay due to the dialogical format, more gritty because of the highly current, concrete questions presented to Kwasniewski or hashed out between real or imaginary interlocutors.

While Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (2014), Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (2017), and Tradition and Sanity (2018) have in common a focus on the sacred liturgy, they differ in regard to how much they venture into controversial non-liturgical territory as well. The first two books seldom step outside the sanctuary, as it were; the new one, in contrast, repeatedly tackles contemporary Church problems: Pope Francis and the papacy, the synods on marriage and the family, the death penalty, and the “new evangelization.” Kwasniewski also speaks here at greater length about the history and role of church choirs, the theology of sacred music, and the problem of vernacular translations. The chapters engaging the role of the pope and the limits of the Petrine office, especially in its obligations to ecclesiastical tradition and to the sacred liturgy, are some of the most helpful in our present crisis. The author’s critique of hyperpapalism skewers this simulacrum of Catholicism.

Kwasniewski follows in a line of Anglophone forebears—Buckley, Waugh, Hildebrand, Davies, and other active lay apologists—who have had to arm themselves against the wolves, as the clergy threw down their staves and dismantled the fold. This unlikely band of intra-ecclesial apologists have in Dr. Kwasniewski perhaps their most articulate, learned, and effective leader to date. A respected scholar and writer, composer and choir director, husband and father, and Benedictine oblate, Kwasniewski brings his erudition and life experience to the service of articulating the appeal of traditional Catholic faith and practice in the 20th century. His words are a clarion call for Catholics everywhere to recover their spiritual and cultural heritage.

If I had to identify two guiding ideas among the many found in Kwasniewski’s work, the first would be that Catholic Orthodoxy does not consist in propositions alone, but in an integral reception of the Catholic faith in all its aspects: dogma, fasting, religious life, devotions, sacred art, etc. Orthodoxy is simultaneously right worship and right belief. For Kwasniewski, the supernatural virtue of faith is acquired and passed down in the mode of tradition, through sacred practices that dispose us to the reception of supernatural virtue. And tradition, far from being a quaint abstraction, is most powerfully expressed in concrete liturgical rites, which sum up and communicate the whole faith, because they contain Christ Himself, set within a whole drama of sacred signs and actions pointing mind and heart toward His presence.

Secondly, if the Eucharist is the “font and apex” of the Church’s life, then in one sense the Church’s only mission is to conform herself ever more deeply to the sacrifice of the Cross, to make her life an ever more perfect icon of Christ’s total oblation. In this light, the Church’s life is a continuous Liturgical Movement, an unceasing vocation to invite the world into a conscious and active participation in worship around the altar of sacrifice, and to make that sacrifice an ever more perfect expression of the Eternal High Priest’s heavenly worship. This makes the recovery of a truly sacrificial form in the Roman liturgy paramount for the renewal of Her life.

But the significance of Kwasniewski’s work extends beyond the ad intra reform of Christian life. He has also skillfully articulated why the Catholic religion, in its more classic expressions, meets the urgent needs of the people of our times: the solid and unchanging ritual forms of the Latin liturgy, its lofty universalism, the perennially appealing beauty of Gothic and Baroque architecture, and sacred music’s moving expression of man’s deepest longings, are all means for drawing people of today—as they drew people of yesterday—into the Church’s bosom.

Pastors and laymen alike have found in Kwasniewski’s writings a treasure trove of insight and argument for the recovery of tradition. For many, he points the way forward out of our institutional malaise. I therefore highly recommend his new book, which completes a handy trio with Resurgent and Noble Beauty. One could describe the chapters of Tradition and Sanity as snapshots of the hopeful process of healing taking place in the Latin Church, now that the ruptures of the twentieth century are being slowly closed and believers are slowly returning to the sources of faith.

Tradition and Sanity: Conversations & Dialogues of a Postconciliar Exile. Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2018. 232 pages. Hardcover $26.00 (link). Paperback $17.95 (link).

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Guest Article: “Some Ritual Features of the Armenian Catholic Liturgy”

Following up on a recent article for NLM, “Encountering the Sacred Mysteries East of Byzantium: The Armenian Liturgy as a Home away from Rome,” Fr. John Henry Hanson, O.Praem., offers today a more detailed look at the particular rituals of the Soorp Badarak (the “Holy Sacrifice”) that comprise the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Catholic Church.

As noted in the previous article, the traditional Latin Mass and the Armenian liturgy share much common ground, largely owing to lengthy periods of reunion, not to mention the missionary efforts of Dominican friars in the fourteenth century, who translated the Mass of the Latin rite entirely into Armenian so as to reach more effectively those separated from Catholic communion.

The order of the Divine Liturgy follows the familiar structure of Christian liturgy: prayers of preparation, the Mass of the catechumens (or liturgy of the word), and Mass of the faithful (or liturgy of the Eucharist).

Prayers of Preparation

Upon beginning the liturgy, the celebrant and a numerous contingent of deacons and subdeacons flanking him alternately recite and chant the preparatory prayers at the foot of the altar, actually beginning in the nave. As Psalm 42 progresses, the celebrant begins to ascend the altar one step at a time, each step corresponding to a verse of the psalm. Word and ritual go together.

After several other prayers, the large sanctuary curtain is drawn, and behind it begins what could be called a minor offertory—known more properly as the Preparation of the Oblation. The chalice is unveiled and the host is both blessed and offered up “in remembrance of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Proceeding to the epistle side of the altar, the celebrant then prepares the chalice. After blessing the wine, he pours it crosswise into the chalice, without (according to ancient usage) mixing water.

Mass of the Catechumens: Liturgy of the Word

This is followed by the recitation of the day’s introit, a Byzantine-style litany, and then the Gospel Procession. All Armenian churches are built with an east-facing high altar within an apse, leaving space between the altar and the sanctuary wall for the deacon, a thurifer, and two torch bearers to pass in procession. The procession is always accompanied by the chanting of the Trisagion, which the Latin rite normally reserves to Good Friday. This unique procession symbolizes the Gospel going out from Jerusalem and around the world, enacted ritually by the circumambulation of the altar.

From a Biblical point of view, this is very poignant. Both altars and earth are described by the prophets as having four corners, thus linking earth with the table of worship. The implication of the earth as the venue for the worship of God, for glorifying God, is thus displayed. As St Paul says, quoting Psalm 24 (23), “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (1 Cor. 10, 26).

The Gospel procession normally concludes at the edge of the sanctuary where those lay faithful come forward for whose intentions the Mass is celebrated, and venerate the Gospel book with a kiss and touch of the forehead.

After the Gospel procession, the Gospel Book itself is enthroned on the left side of the altar. This placement explains why in the Divine Liturgy the missal is always placed to the right of the corporal: no other book should have prominence on the side of the altar dedicated to the word of God.

The epistle is then read facing the congregation, after which the Gospel is read by the priest celebrant (or deacon), standing directly before the altar. He first blesses the congregation with the book, then chants the Gospel while the book is held by two servers, who in turn are flanked by two torch bearers, with (normally) two thurifers stationed at opposite ends of the sanctuary, swinging their thuribles outward at the end of each sentence of the Gospel: an impressive punctuation to “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4, 4)

The use of dual thuribles is actually a feature throughout the liturgy, as are the keshotz, liturgical bell fans comparable to the Byzantine ripidion. The use of these bells is often intended not only to alert the congregation to particularly important moments in the liturgy, but also to signify the movement of angelic wings. This is especially poignant as the fans are shaken in greater earnest at the moment the priest chants the words of consecration, reflecting the exultation of the angelic spirits before the Lord’s arrival under the forms of bread and wine.

Before the Eucharistic liturgy proper, the Nicene Creed is always chanted—at every Mass, high or low, and the sign of peace is given. Armenians retain the practice of receiving the peace from the altar, in this order: two deacons kiss the altar, then the priest’s dual maniples, then proceed into the nave where they personally extend the peace to each row. Armenians greet each other with this formula: Christ is revealed in our midst. Blessed is the revelation of Christ.

Mass of the Faithful: Liturgy of the Eucharist

Then follows the canon. Known as the Anaphora of St Athanasius, it is used in every Mass and recited sotto voce as the priest extends his arms in cruciform manner. As he prays the canon, the sublime Armenian Sanctus or Soorp, Soorp (“Holy, Holy”) is sung.

The elevations of the consecrated elements do not take place immediately after their consecration. Rather, quite later in the liturgy, each species is lifted up for a prolonged elevation, accompanied by words deriving from the ancient Liturgy of St James. As he raises the Host, the priest says or sings “The Holy Gifts are due to the saints!”, after which the people, in words referenced by St Cyril of Jerusalem in his Baptismal Catecheses, acclaim, “There is One who is Holy, One who is Lord, Jesus Christ!”

A final poignant ritual just prior to Holy Communion is a blessing with the Eucharistic species. Turning from the altar, the priest elevates the host over the chalice, making the sign of the cross over the congregation, saying, “Let us taste in holiness, the most holy and precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who descended from heaven and is now distributed among us. This is life, hope, resurrection, expiation and forgiveness of sins. Sing psalms to the Lord our God, sing psalms to our heavenly and immortal king, who sits upon the chariots of the Cherubim.”

Communion is always given standing, the respectful posture of Eastern worship, but on the tongue after intinction of the Host. As the celebrant reposes the Blessed Sacrament, he again blesses the people with the ciborium, quoting Psalm 28 (27), “Save, O Lord, your people, and bless your inheritance.” After the ablutions, the concluding rites are relatively brief. A blessing with the hand-cross is given accompanied by the words, “May you be blessed through the graces of the Holy Spirit. Go in peace, and may the Lord be with you all!”

A word about vestments may be added. As a rule, Armenian vestments are bright, colorful, and richly textured—while not necessarily carrying a chromatic meaning reflecting the feast of the day. While black is customary for requiem services, wearing blue or violet on Pentecost, for instance, is totally fine. One reason for this lack of uniformity is to emphasize that all of the mysteries are celebrated in each liturgy. The function of the vestments is to draw attention to the dignity and beauty of the liturgy itself.

The church seen in these photos (as in the ones for the previous article) is St Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Cathedral in Glendale, Caliofornia, which was built in the early 2000’s.

Dominican Rite Holy Week Missal (1960) Reprinted

Dominican Liturgy Publications is pleased to announce that the Ordo Hebdomadæ Sanctæ iuxta Ritum Ordinis Prædicatorum for the Dominican Rite, published in 1960, is now available in reprint. This volume is actually a complete Holy Week Missal for the traditional Dominican Rite. All musical texts needed by the priest and deacon for the solemn service are included, except the music for the Passions.  The three deacons singing the Passion on Palm Sunday (Matthew), Holy Week Tuesday (Mark), Holy Week Wednesday (Luke) and Good Friday (John) will each need a copy of the Cantus Passionis, also published by Dominican Liturgy Publications.

This Missal includes the Solemn Liturgy of the Passion for Good Friday and the reformed Easter Vigil. Those celebrating the Dominican Rite according to the rubrics of 1962 should use this book rather than the Missal of 1933.

It incorporates all the changes and reforms of Holy Week instituted during the reforms of the 1950s. The text is in full color with red rubrics. The volume is a photographic reproduction of the original using high-quality scans and in hardback (casebound). Purchasers should, however, check the preview to make sure they are satisfied with the quality before ordering. This volume does not include ribbons or Missal tabs; purchasers will have to provide these for themselves.

If you order this Missal now, you should have no trouble having it arrive well before Palm Sunday (April 14), the first Mass included in it.

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