Monday, January 18, 2021

Lay Ministries Obscure Both the Laity’s Calling and the Clergy’s

The recent motu proprio Spiritus Domini has a personal resonance for me. Under the regime of progressive Catholicism in which I grew up, I recall hearing one message loud and clear: “Show your faith by signing up for XYZ ministry.” The underlying assumption was that merely assisting at Mass was not quite good enough; that was for the uncommitted, the uninterested, the unmotivated.

So I dutifully signed up to be first an altar boy, then a lector, and finally, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion (this would have been in the 1980s). Throughout boyhood and adolescence, I didn’t understand at all what the Mass was about; I hardly had a clue what the Eucharist was; I’m not even sure my views would have differered, in essence, from how Protestants view their services. Actually, that’s not true; a Protestant would have had a much higher view of Biblical inspiration and inerrancy than I would have had. I was serving at something, I knew not what; I was reading something, I knew not what; I was distributing something, I knew not what.

It was for me a huge breakthrough, a profound liberation, to discover through the traditional Latin Mass that one can simply be at the liturgy and soak it in like a sponge; one can come to find this receptivity utterly fulfilling. Perhaps that is the saddest lesson of the Spiritus Domini: its change to canon law solemnizes a change that makes sense only in the context of a liturgy that has lost its raison d’être.

The motu proprio once again raises the question of the vocation of the laity. What are laypeople supposed to be doing? Have they a proper work of their own, or do they just collect the scraps that fall from the clergy’s table — better yet, climb up and jostle elbows?

The Church’s answer has always been consistent: the laity’s work is to influence, purify, and elevate temporal affairs, bringing them as much as possible into conformity with the law of God and the Church’s mission to glorify God and save souls. The Second Vatican Council espoused this traditional point of view: Gaudium et Spes exhorts the laity “to impress the divine law on the affairs of the earthly city” (n. 43), while Apostolicam Actuositatem sets as our goal “rectifying the distortion of the temporal order and directing it to God through Christ” (n. 7).

The latter document establishes a distinction between those who teach principles and those who implement them: on the one hand, “Pastors must clearly state the principles concerning the purpose of creation and the use of temporal things and must offer the moral and spiritual aids by which the temporal order may be renewed in Christ” (ibid.); on the other hand, the “apostolate in the social milieu,” which is proper to laity, involves “the effort to infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws, and structures of the community in which one lives” (n. 13). As John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia in Oceania: “It is the fundamental call of lay people to renew the temporal order in all its many elements. In this way, the Church becomes the yeast that leavens the entire loaf of the temporal order” (n. 43).

Police taking part in a Sacred Heart procession
Thus, in spite of Pope Francis’s talk about the “co-responsibility” of the ordained and the baptized, we may say that the true responsibility of the laity is not the taking on of tasks inside the church, but taking on the world outside the church. Confronting unbelief with Christian witness, defeating secular narrowness with the grandeur of the Gospel, leavening temporal occupations with a supernatural perspective and motivation, and doing all this consistently and courageously, is far more challenging — and far more urgent — than mounting an ambo and reading a text, or donning an alb and passing cruets. In fact, the more that laity see themselves as fulfilled in aping the clergy, the more they will be deceived into thinking that they have done what they were supposed to do as Catholics. They have, as it were, punched their religion ticket, and can get back to secular life in its total secularity.

In the sacred liturgy, the laity exercise the Marian role of receiving divine gifts, which is the creature’s highest activity. No charism can be more honorable or more important than this receptivity. The gifts bestowed upon the clergy, and the various liturgical ministries, are at the service of the charity and holiness of the Church; they do not exist as ends in themselves, but as instruments for the pilgrimage of mankind to the City of God, where there will be no sacraments and no temple, since God will be “all in all” (cf. Rev 21:22–23; 1 Cor 15:28). The Marian receptivity of laymen and laywomen furnishes the light and strength necessary for their active, transformative mission in the family and in the world. Without drinking deeply from the wellspring, there can never be watered gardens. How ironic and how tragic that the laity’s misplaced liturgical activism seems inversely proportional to their zeal for the irreplaceable mission that is theirs in the home, on the land, in the city! The laity are meant to offer themselves up in sacrificial love (cf. Rom 12:1), so as to be a leaven in the world. That is their domain, that is their honorable and salvific “service.”

The Catholic peasants and aristocrats of the Vendée lived a pure Marian faith during the Terror by fully assuming their role to defend the Faith, to protect Catholic cities and families, to do battle against hostile forces; never did they try to substitute for clergy when their priests went missing. They knew, intuitively, the teaching of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 — how the Body of Christ has many diverse and unequal members that depend one upon another; that the eye has to be the eye, the hand the hand; each part has to be just what it is, to the best of its ability, and not a poor substitute for some other one. The “dignity” of the laity is in no way augmented by their taking on of quasi-clerical liturgical functions, just as neither is their dignity diminished by being spouses, parents, workers, citizens.

The Virgin Mary receiving her Son from the hand of St John
I couldn’t help noticing this past weekend in the usus antiquior, in which we celebrated the Second Sunday after Epiphany, that “the liturgical providence of God” furnished us with an Epistle and a Gospel that both referred expressly to “ministries.” We can learn some important lessons from meditating on these readings.

The Epistle is Romans 12:6–16:

Brethren: Having different gifts, according to the grace that is given us: either prophecy, to be used according to the rule of faith; or ministry, in ministering [Vulg.: ministerium in ministrando]; or he that teacheth, in doctrine; he that exhorteth, in exhorting; he that giveth, with simplicity; he that ruleth, with carefulness; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Hating that which is evil, cleaving to that which is good: loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another: in carefulness not slothful: in spirit fervent: serving the Lord: rejoicing in hope: patient in tribulation: instant in prayer: communicating to the necessities of the saints: pursuing hospitality. Bless them that persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that rejoice, weep with them that weep: being of one mind one towards another; not minding high things, but consenting to the humble.

The Apostle gives us here a rich portrait of the true variety of gifts to be found in the Holy Church of God. There are gifts of ministry, but there are also gifts of prophecy, teaching, exhorting, ruling, and works of mercy. The passage then shifts from special charisms to the fundamental Christian vocation of loving: loving without dissimulation, with the charity of brotherhood; hating what is evil and cleaving to what is good; honoring, serving, praying, and offering hospitality.

When we read about offering hospitality, should we not be thinking of the baptized and confirmed laity? Hospitality has always been seen as one of the great duties and privileges of lay people: to open their homes, to share with the needy, to welcome friends and strangers. Indeed, what greater hospitality can husband and wife exercise than by giving food and shelter, love and education, to the children who are their common bond and the chief calling of their life? They own and manage property precisely for that reason: to share generously. Their primary calling is to bring Christian prayer, witness, and virtues into the home, and thence, into the workplace and marketplace, the political arena, the broad world of culture. The sanctuary is not their home, but their home can become an extension of the sanctuary. They do not “mind high things,” as if seeking a rank or a task that does not belong to them; rather, they consent to be found among the humble (another translation has: “do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly”).

The clergy, stewards of the mysteries of Christ, are busy with their own proper work, according to the gifts bestowed on them in the Mystical Body. Their primary calling is within the temple of God, offering Him exalted praise and ministering to the people, and in this work they will find fulfillment and sanctity, if — and this is a crucial if — they enjoy the freedom to be fully what they are and to utilize fully the armory and treasury of the Church’s liturgical inheritance. In short, they must have the best wine, drink it freely, and give it to others to drink.

The Gospel for the Second Sunday after Epiphany is John 2:1–11:

At that time there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to Him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to Me and to thee? My hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters [ministris]: Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye. Now there were set there six water-pots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus said to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, and knew not whence it was, but the waiters [ministri] knew who had drawn the water: the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, and saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine: and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee; and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

In this Gospel, Jesus is the Eternal High Priest who will offer the perfect sacrifice when “his hour” has come to glorify the Father (note how His Holy Name is mentioned seven times, which underlines His perfection as God and man — readers of St. John will know that this is anything but accidental); wine will be the symbol of the sweetness and abundance of His redemption. The architriclinus or chief steward is like the deacon who ministers to the priest at Solemn Mass; the “waiters” (ministri in Latin) are like the subdeacon and the acolytes who minister, in turn, to their superiors.

The guests at the wedding feast are the congregation. They are not serving, they are not busy with providing the food and drink; they are simply taking it all in and feasting. Theirs, in a sense, is “the better part” of Mary of Bethany.

The Virgin Mary is neither a minister nor a simple guest. Like the ministers, she brings about results, but in the mode of an intercessor — one who joins the power of the priest to the needs of the people, even as she joined in her womb the supreme deity with the neediness of human nature. Like the guests, she gratefully and joyfully receives good things from the Lord.

The Epistle and Gospel of the Second Sunday after Epiphany remind us of the wisdom of the Catholic Church in her traditional hierarchical and Christocentric liturgical praxis. Compared with the irrefutable coherence of the usus antiquior as it returns to more and more altars, the “polyesterdays” of liturgical experimentation are shown to have no staying power, no future — even on the artificial life support of canon law. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Feast of St Anthony the Abbot 2020

St Athanasius of Alexandria is best known as the great champion of the Nicene Faith, for which he was exiled five times over the course of an episcopate of 45 years (328-373); for his witness to the truth of the Incarnation, and his important writings on the subject, he is honored as a Doctor of the Church. But it was also he who brought to the attention of the West the ascetic and anchoretic life, a phenomenon well-established in his native Egypt by the early fourth-century, but at that point just emerging in the West. This was done by writing the Life of St Anthony of Egypt, who is often called “the Abbot” to distinguish him from his later namesake, St Anthony of Padua; in the East he is simply “Anthony the Great.” Of this Life, which was to have an enormous influence in the Church, both East and West, it might well be said what St Thomas Aquinas said about St Bonaventure writing the life of St Francis: “Let us leave the saint to work for the saint.”

St Anthony was not the first monk or hermit, as Athanasius’ Life makes quite clear; and indeed, the Church honors a saint named Paul with the title “the First Hermit.” Anthony was ninety years old, and had been living as an ascetic for over 70 years, before he first met Paul, shortly before the latter’s death at the age of 113. Paul’s feast day was long kept on January 10th, exactly a week before that of Anthony, to symbolize that he preceded him in the ascetic life. (It was later moved to his date in the Byzantine Rite, January 15.) Anthony also had as a contemporary St Pachomius, who is held in particular honor in the East as the founder of the cenobitic life, and the author of an important monastic rule. Nevertheless, Anthony may rightly be called the Father of Monasticism in the East, as St Benedict is in the West; for it was by his example, more than any other, that so many men and women of his own time and subsequent eras were inspired to embrace the monastic life.

A 19th-century Coptic icon of Ss Anthony the Abbot and Paul the First Hermit. (image from  wikimedia commons.)
In the Confessions, St Augustine writes that two officials of the imperial court, (then at Trier, where Athanasius passed his first exile), on reading the life of Anthony, renounced their position to become monks, the one saying to the other, “ ‘Now I have broken loose from those hopes of ours (for preferment in the court), and am resolved to serve God; and this I begin upon, from this hour, in this place. If thou like not to imitate me, oppose me not.’ The other answered, he would cleave to him, and be his fellow in so great a reward, so great a service.” (Book 8.15)

Shortly thereafter, in the famous episode where Augustine, torn about how to free himself of his past sins and follow God, hears children singing “Take up, read; take up, read”, he takes up the epistles of St Paul and reads, “ ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences.’ (Rom. 13, 13-14) No further would I read; nor was there need to: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.” But it was the life of St Anthony that convinced him that “Take up, read,” meant to take up the Bible and read it, since Anthony, “coming in (to a church) during the reading of the Gospel, received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him, ‘Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me.’ (Matthew 19, 21) And by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee.” (Book 8, 29)

St Athanasius tells of many times when St Anthony struggled against devils, both by resisting temptations, and suffering bodily harm that the devil was permitted to inflict upon him. On one such occasion, early in his life as an ascetic, “a multitude of demons … so cut him with stripes that he lay on the ground speechless from the excessive pain.” He was discovered unconscious by the local villagers, who thought him dead, and brought him to their church. On recovering, he fearlessly returned to the place where he had been tormented, and
after he had prayed, he said with a shout, ‘Here am I, Antony; I flee not from your stripes, for even if you inflict more, nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ.’ … But the enemy, who hates good, marveling that … he dared to return, called together his hounds and burst forth, … so in the night they made such a din that the whole of that place seemed to be shaken by an earthquake, and the demons, as if breaking the four walls of the dwelling, seemed to enter through them, coming in the likeness of beasts and creeping things. And the place was on a sudden filled with the forms of lions, bears, leopards, bulls, serpents, asps, scorpions, and wolves, …. But Antony … said, ‘If there had been any power in you, it would have sufficed had one of you come, but since the Lord has made you weak, you attempt to terrify me by numbers: and a proof of your weakness is that you take the shapes of brute beasts.’ … So after many attempts they gnashed their teeth upon him, because they were mocking themselves rather than him.” (Life of Anthony 8 and 9)
This passage and others of a similar vein in Athanasius’ Life have provided artists with the opportunity to indulge their strangest fantasies in depicting the demons who attack Anthony. Hieronymus Bosch, not surprisingly, painted a complete triptych on the subject, which was also tackled (also not surprisingly) by Salvador Dalí.

Hieronymous Bosch, Triptych of the Temptations of St Anthony, 1505-06; Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon
Salvador Dalí, The Temptation of St Anthony, 1946; Royal Museums of the Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium.
The art historian Giorgio Vasari records that Michelangelo, while still a young apprentice in the school of Domenico Ghirlandaio, copied the same subject as a painting from an earlier engraving by the German artist Martin Schongauer. A painting of The Torments of St Anthony now in the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, is indisputably of the right period and school, but the debate as to whether it is indeed the one done by Michelangelo will probably never be resolved to the satisfaction of all art historians.

On the left, the original engraving by Martin Schongauer, ca. 1475, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; on the right, the painting attributed to Michelangelo, ca. 1487.
Anthony was also tempted on various occasions by lust, by laziness and by riches. The last of these was depicted by the anonymous painter now called the Master of the Osservanza, but the heap of gold lying by the side of road, originally painted in gold leaf, was later scraped off, leaving Anthony to confront a completely non-demonic looking rabbit.

When St Anthony went to visit St Paul the First Hermit, as recorded in the latter’s biography written by St Jerome, they greeted each other by name as they met, though they had never seen each other before. A crow then brought them a full loaf of bread, at which Paul said to Anthony, “for sixty years I have daily received (from the crow) half a loaf of bread; now at thy coming, Christ has doubled the provision for his soldiers.” Perhaps inspired by the similarity between this episode and that of the crows that brought food to the Prophet Elijah (3 Kings 17), the Byzantine Liturgy explicitly compares Anthony to Elijah in the dismissal hymn (apolytikion) of Vespers on his feast day.
You imitated the zealous Elias by your life, you followed the Baptist by straight paths, our Father Anthony; you became the founder of the desert and strengthened the whole world by your prayers. And so intercede with Christ God that our souls may be saved.
Throughout the Middle Ages, St Anthony was also venerated as the patron Saint against various skin diseases, such as erysipelas and ergotism, some of which are still called “St Anthony’s fire” or “holy fire” in places. A commonly used medieval prayer of his Mass was as follows.
Deus, qui concedis obtentu beati Antonii Confessoris tui, morbidum ignem extingui, et membris aegris refrigeria praestari: fac nos, quaesumus, ipsius meritis et precibus, a gehennae incendiis liberatos, integros mente et corpore tibi feliciter presentari.
God, who grantest by the protection of Thy blessed Confessor Anthony that the fire of illness be extinguished, and refreshment given to sickly members; we ask that by his merits and prayers, we may be delivered from the fires of hell, and happily presented to the Thee, sound in mind and body.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Cathedral of Siena (Part 12): Paintings and Sculptures in the Cathedral Museum

The remaining three parts of our series on the cathedral of Siena (which began two months ago!) will all be about items now in the church’s museum. This first part will cover major artworks which were formerly in the cathedral (apart from the most important, the Maestà of Duccio di Buoninsegna, which already had its own post), the second liturgical objects, and the third vestments. Our thanks once again to Nicola for sharing these photos with us.
The Crevole Madonna, by Duccio, ca. 1284, one of his very earliest works, named for a small town about 12 miles to the south of Siena where it was originally displayed. The Byzantine influence on the artist, who was then about 30 years old, is particularly evident in the use of gold lines to create the sense of depth in the Virgin’s robes. By the time he painted the Maestà, about 25 years later, he had shifted, very much under the influence of Giotto, towards one of the key techniques of Renaissance painting, omitting the lines and creating the sense of depth with different shades of color.
Part of an altarpiece by another Sienese native, and one of the best painters of the generation after Duccio, Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1290 ca. – 1348), a real master of optical perspective; ca. 1320-30. From left to right: St Benedict in the white habit of the Olivetan Benedictines, who were founded by a native of Siena, St Bernard Tolomei; St Catherine of Alexandria; St Mary Magdelene; St Francis. In the cuspids, left to right, St Peter, St John the Evangelist, St John the Baptist, and St Paul. Note how the variation in shades within the white of St Benedict’s robe, the pink of St Catherine’s etc., create the volume of their figures.
Sano di Pietro (1406-81) another Sienese native, (“Sano” is a nickname for “Ansano”, from St Ansanus, the evangelizer of Siena), The Preaching of St Bernardine of Siena, 1440s. The incomplete façade of the church in the background has black and white stripes, reminiscent of the “balzana”, the city’s official banner and shield, which is white above and black below. St Bernardine, who died in 1444, was a great promoter of devotion to the Holy Name, a subject on which he preached through the length and breadth of Italy, bringing peace to its many faction-torn cities. He was such an effective and reknowned preacher that the crowds which came to hear him were very often too great to fit into even the largest churches, and had to gather in the piazzas instead, despite the fact that (as is clearly seen in many early depictions of him) he had no teeth. (Notice also that the crowd is separated into a men’s and women’s section.)
An image of the Virgin and Child known as “The Madonna of the Large Eyes”, painted in the second quarter of the 13th century by an anonymous artist known as the Master of Tressa. This was the first image of the Virgin Mary to be venerated on the main altar of the cathedral, the one before which the Podestà (chief magistrate) of Siena, Bonaguida Lucari, at the head of all the city’s leaders and a large crowd of the citizenry, made the vow dedicating their city to the Virgin before the crucial battle of Montaperti in 1260. At the time, the panel was almost certainly incorporated into a much larger reredos, and surrounded by smaller images (now lost) of the principle episodes of the Virgin’s life.

St Paul Enthroned, with scenes of his conversion to the left and beheading to the right; ca. 1516, by Domenico Beccafumi (1486 – 1551), who also worked in the cathedral itself. The artist was born at Montaperti, where Siena had so signally defeated her rival Florence in 1260; it is an interesting irony that a native of that place should be the last painter of the Sienese School as a truly separate artistic current of the Renaissance. Four years after his death, Siena was conquered by Florence, which by then had long been the dominant power in Tuscany, and became thenceforth to a large degree culturally dependent on it. It is also the case that by the mid-16th century, the Italian Renaissance had run its course and shifted to Mannerism, the prelude to the Baroque; while the elderly Michangelo (also a Tuscan), working on the rebuilding of St Peter’s Basilica, and the forces of the Counter-Reformation had made Rome the new artistic capital of Italy.

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Orations of the Second Sunday after Epiphany

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Wedding at Cana, 1308-1311
Lost in Translation #34

The Second Sunday after Epiphany is one of my favorite “green” Sundays of the year. The Church catches her breath after the grand merrymaking of Christmastide, but she continues the trajectory of Epiphany by contemplating the different ways in which Christ manifested (epiphainein) His divinity. After the epiphany to the Magi, the next stop is the epiphany of Christ’s divine glory during His first public miracle at the Wedding of Cana. In Drinking with the Saints, I recommend going to your wine rack or cellar and pulling out your best bottle of wine for Sunday dinner, because if you are anything like my wife and me, you have been saving such a bottle for a special occasion but you keep forgetting about it, and by the time you remember to use it, it has turned. By drinking it now, you pay homage to Christ’s making wine so fine that it even impressed the local sommelier (as we imagine the steward in the story to be).

The orations for this Sunday offer sober sentiments that mix well with this miracle. The Collect is the following:
Omnípotens sempiterne Deus, qui caelestia simul et terréna moderáris: supplicatiónes pópuli tui clementer exaudi; et pacem tuam nostris concéde tempóribus. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Almighty and everlasting God, who dost moderate things in heaven as well as on earth, mercifully hear the supplications of Thy people, and grant us Thy peace in our times. Through our Lord.
The use of “supplication” (a public petition) and “in our times” suggests that the peace being sought is a public peace. [1] Hence the Collect carries forth the Christmas theme of peace on earth and our New Year’s wish for a peaceful civic year, but reminds us that the peace we desire can only come from God. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you.” (John 14, 27) The theme of peace also anticipates the Epistle reading (Rom. 12, 6-16), which portrays the Church in all her ministries united and at peace with herself.
But the Collect also subtly pairs well with the Gospel, for Jesus’ transubstantiation of water into wine proves that He too, like His heavenly Father, moderates and has power over the things of heaven and earth. And the use of the verb to moderate or regulate (moderari) calls to mind the virtue of moderation, a most important habit to have where wine is concerned: “Wine was created from the beginning to make men joyful, and not to make them drunk,” writes the divinely inspired Sirach. “Wine drunken with moderation is the joy of the soul and the heart.” [Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 31, 35-36]
The Secret for this Sunday is:
Obláta, Dómine, múnera sanctífica: nosque a peccatórum nostrórum máculis emunda. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Sanctify, O Lord, the offerings, and cleanse us from the stains of our sins. Through our Lord.
The succinct wording mirrors the Secret for the third Mass of Christmas, and thus faintly reconnects us to the Christmas season. And the plea for cleansing forms a subtle contrast with the water in the six stone vases that the Jews used for purification and that Jesus used to make wine. But whereas the Jewish purification only concerned ritual impurity, the Secret prays for purification from moral stain.
Finally, the Postcommunion is:
Augeátur in nobis, quáesumus, Dómine, tuae virtútis operatio: ut divínis vegetáti sacramentis, ad eórum promissa capienda, tuo múnere praeparémur. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
May the operation of Thy power be increased within us, we beseech Thee, O Lord: that being quickened by Thy divine sacraments, we may by this gift of Thine be ready to take possession of that which they promise. Through our Lord.

The Collect contains an image of restraint (God moderating or regulating the things of heaven and earth), but the Postcommunion contains images of acceleration: an increase of power and a quickening of soul. Intentionally or not, the prayer again forms an interesting contrast with the Gospel reading. An increase of physical inebriation leads not to a quickening but a slowing (a decline in motor control and mental alacrity), and it generally renders a person less ready to take possession of something promised. Being filled with the Holy Spirit instead of spirits, however, vivifies and delivers. Even though the lay communicant receives Holy Communion only under the species of bread in the traditional Roman Rite, he should meditate here on the inebriating Precious Blood that is present in the “divine sacraments” he has just received. For if water-made-wine cheers the heart of man (Psalm 103, 15), how much more does water-and-wine-made-the-Blood-of-Christ.


[1] Sr. Mary Gonzaga Haessly, Rhetoric in the Sunday Collects of the Roman Missal (Ursuline College for Women, 1938), 34.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Christmas and Epiphany Photopost 2020 (Part 2)

Our second Christmas and Epiphany photopost takes us to several different places, and offers us some of the OF, the EF, the Carmelite Use and Byzantine Rite. As always, thanks to everyone who sent these in, with out best wishes to you for a most blessed New Year.

St Joseph’s – Troy, New York (Carmelites of the Old Observance)
Carmelite Missa cantata on the feast of Pope St Silvester I was followed by four hours of Adoration, and then Benediction at Midnight for the beginning of the New Year.
Mass on the feast of the Circumcision, which is celebrated in red in the Carmelite Use.
St Catherine of Siena  – Trumbull, Connecticut
Mass of the Epiphany, with the blessing of chalk and the marking of the doors with 20+C+M+B+21

Follow-up on a Recent Article about the Byzantine Office

At the end of last month, I published an article about the Byzantine ceremony of the Royal Hours of Christmas, and earlier this month, another about those of the Epiphany. Both of these were revisions of articles which I had originally done four years ago, very much expanded by the addition of my own translation of most of the hymns proper to these services, and several videos in both Greek and Church Slavonic with recordings of some of them. (On April 2nd, which is Good Friday this year, I will do the same for my original article on the Royal Hours of that day.)
The original version of the first article included an audio-only recording of the ceremony from the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, whose choir is justifiably considered one of the best representatives of the Russian choral tradition. However, the YouTube channel on which it was hosted was later deleted. Since the pandemic, the monastery has been regularly broadcasting live on its own channel, and so I thought this video, in which one actually sees the ceremony would be interesting, and of course also enjoyable for the beautiful music. In many respects, the Byzantine Rite is still where the Roman Rite was in the high Middle Ages, which is to say, there are many variations of custom analogous to those which constitued the various medieval Uses of the Roman Rite. Here the most notable is that there is no incensation at the Epistle readings, and the vestments are white, where many churches use dark vestments for the Royal Hours.
The video begins with the Hour of Prime; Terce starts at 21:46, Sext at 38:11, None at 1:00:47, and the Typika (a service broadly analogous to the medieval “dry Mass”) at 1:25:11, ending at 1:34:30.
After a brief pause, there begins a service which occupies most of the video, which I did not include in my previous article, since it is quite lengthy and complicated to describe. On the eves of Christmas, Epiphany, and on Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday, the Byzantine Rite merges Vespers and the Divine Liturgy, which is celebrated according to the much longer form of St Basil the Great, rather than the shorter daily anaphora of St John Chrysostom. (The liturgy of St Basil is otherwise used only his feast day, January 1st, and the Sundays of Lent except for Palm Sunday.) On Christmas Eve, the ceremony also includes eight prophecies before the Epistle, and on Epiphany thirteen, but most of them are quite short; on Holy Thursday, there only three, but on Holy Saturday, fifteen, several of which are quite lengthy. In practice, many churches will omit some of the prophecies, but in the video above, all eight are said; there is a very pretty canticle after the third (1:58:00) and sixth (2:05:20.)
The full text of both of these services can be read at the following links.
Royal Hours:

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Special Antiphons for the Baptism of the Lord

In the Tridentine Missal, the Mass of the Octave of the Epiphany is the same as that of the feast itself, except for the Gospel, John 1, 29-34, and the three prayers. In the Office, the lessons of the second and third nocturns are proper to the Octave day, but the rest is repeated as on the days within the Octave, with the same antiphons at the Magnificat and Benedictus as on the feast day.

In regard to the Office, this represents a significant change from the late medieval Breviary of the Roman Curia, upon which that of St Pius V is based. The former had a complete set of proper antiphons for the day, which date back to the Carolingian period, and focus on the event recounted in the Gospel, the Baptism of the Lord. The vast majority of medieval liturgical Uses sing some of these with the psalms and canticles of Lauds and Vespers, but the Roman Use is atypical in having them also for the psalms of Matins, which are different from the psalms of January 6th.

Their complete removal from the Roman Breviary is something highly unusual, since the Tridentine reform was in most respects extremely conservative, and nowhere more so than in the repertoire of proper musical pieces like antiphons. Although I have never seen this written down anywhere, I suspect that the reason for this was that they are obviously inspired by liturgical texts of the Byzantine Rite, and were therefore regarded as not authentically Roman. They continued to be sung in many other Uses, such as those of the Dominicans, Cistercians and Old Observance Carmelites, none of which, however, have the nine antiphons of Matins.

Russian icon of the Baptism of Christ, 15th century, school of Andrej Rubliev 
Here I give the Latin text of each, along with my own translation, and indications of their position in the liturgy.

First Vespers
At the Magnificat Descendit Spiritus Sanctus corporali specie sicut columba in ipsum, et vox de caelo facta est: Hic est Filius meus dilectus, alleluja. The Holy Spirit descended upon Him with a bodily appearance as of a dove, and a voice came forth from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, alleluia.”

Matins, First Nocturn
Aña 1 Veterem hominem renovans, Salvator venit ad baptismum: ut naturam, quae corrupta erat, per aquam recuperaret, incorruptibili veste circumamictans nos. (Psalm 8) - Renewing the old man, the Savior came to baptism, that through water He might restore the nature that was corrupted, clothing us around with an incorruptible garment.
Aña 2 Te, qui in Spiritu et igne purificas humana contagia, Deum ac Redemptorem omnes glorificamus. (Psalm 18) - We all glorify Thee as God and our Redeemer, who in the Spirit and in fire purify the immorality of man.
Aña 3 Caput draconis Salvator contrivit in Jordanis flumine, et ab ejus potestate omnes eripuit. (pPsalm 23) - The Savior crushed down the head of the dragon in the river Jordan, and delivered all from his power. (These first three psalms are the same in the first nocturn of the Offices of the Virgin Mary, and were probably chosen as a reference to the Incarnation.)

Second Nocturn
Aña 4 Baptista contremuit, et non audet tangere sanctum Dei verticem; sed clamat cum tremore: Sanctifica me, Salvator. (Psalm 28) - The Baptist trembled, and dared not touch God’s holy head; but cried out with dread: Sanctify me, o Savior.
Aña 5 Magnum mysterium declaratur hodie, quia Creator omnium in Jordane expurgat nostra facinora. (Psalm 41) - A great mystery is declared today, for the Creator of all things in the Jordan purgeth our crimes.
Aña 6 Aqua comburit peccatum, hodie apparens liberator, et rorat omnem mundum divinitatis ope. (Psalm 45) - The water burneth sin, as our Deliverer appeareth, and falls like dew upon the whole world with the richness of divinity. (The first and third psalms of this nocturn are repeated from Epiphany; the second, the famous Sicut cervus, has been associated with baptismal rites from the most ancient times.)

Third Nocturn
Aña 7 Pater de caelis Filium testificatur; Spiritus Sancti praesentia advenit, unum edocens qui baptizatur Christus. (Psalm 71) - The Father from the heavens beareth witness to the Son; the presence of the Holy Spirit cometh, showing us the one who is baptized, Christ.
Aña 8 Peccati aculeus conteritur hodie, baptizato Domino, et nobis donata est regeneratio. (Psalm 76) - The sting of sin is blunted today, as the Lord is baptized, and regeneration is granted to us.
Aña 9 Baptizatur Christus, et sanctificatur omnis mundus, et tribuit nobis remissionem peccatorum; aqua et Spiritu omnes purificamur. (Psalm 97) - Christ is baptized, and all the world is sanctified, and He granteth to us remission of sins; by water and the Spirit we are all purified. (The first psalm of this nocturn is repeated from both Christmas and Epiphany; the second is chosen for the words “The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee: and they were afraid, and the depths were troubled.” The third has a prominent place in the Office of Christmas because of the words that form its antiphon on that feast “God hath made known, alleluia, His salvation, alleluia.” In the longer Monastic Office, it is sung on both Christmas and Epiphany with this same antiphon.)

The Baptism of Christ by Giotto, from the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, 1305
At the Psalms of Lauds (repeated at the minor Hours and at Vespers)
Aña 1 Baptizat miles Regem, servus Dominum suum, Joannes Salvatorem: aqua Jordanis stupuit, columba protestatur: paterna vox audita est: Hic est Filius meus dilectus. - The soldier baptizeth the King, the servant his Lord, John the Savior; the water of the Jordan is astounded, the dove beareth witness; the voice of the Father is heard, “This is my beloved Son.”
Aña 2 Caeli aperti sunt super eum, et vox facta est de caelo dicens: Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi complacui. - The heavens were opened up above Him, and a voice came forth from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”
Aña 3 Christo datus est principatus, et honor regni; omnis populus, tribus et linguae servient ei in aeternum. - To Christ is given the rule and honor of the kingdom; every people and tribe and toungue shall serve Him forever.
Aña 4 Fontes aquarum sanctificati sunt, Christo apparente in gloria orbi terrarum: haurite aquas de fontibus Salvatoris: sanctificavit enim nunc omnem creaturam Christus Deus noster. - The fountains of the waters were sanctified, as Christ appeared in glory to the world; draw ye water from the fountains of the Savior, for now Christ our God hath sanctified every creature.
Aña 5 Vox de caelo sonuit, et vox Patris audita est: Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi complacui; ipsum audite. - A voice sounded forth from heaven, and the voice of the Father was heard: “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”

At the Benedictus Præcursor Joannes exsultat, cum in Jordane baptizato Domino, facta est orbis terrarum exsultatio: facta est peccatorum nostrorum remissio. Sanctificans aquas, ipsi omnes clamemus, miserere nobis. - John the Forerunner exsulteth when, as the Lord was baptized in the Jordan, rejoicing was given to the world, and forgiveness of our sins. Let us all cry unto Him, “O Thou that sanctifiest the waters, have mercy on us.”

Second Vespers
At the Magnificat Super ripam Jordanis stabat beatus Joannes, indutus est splendore baptizans Salvatorem. Baptiza me, Joannes, baptiza, et tu, Jordanis, congaudens suscipe me. - On Jordan’s bank the blessed John stood, and was clothed in splendor as he baptized the Savior. Baptize thou Me, o John, baptize; and thou, o Jordan, rejoicing with him receive Me.
Many medieval Missals (for example, that of the Sarum Use) have a special Epistle for the Octave of Epiphany, a cento of verses from the Prophet Isaiah which follows the text of the Septuagint and the Old Latin, rather than that of the Vulgate, except for the part between the two red stars.

Isa. 25, 1 “Domine Deus meus, honorificabo te, laudem tribuam nomini tuo, qui facis mirabiles res. Consilium tuum antiquum verum fiat. 26, 11 Domine, excelsum est brachium tuum, 28, 5 Deus Sabaoth, corona spei quae ornata est gloria. 35, 1 Exultet desertum, et exultent solitudines Jordanis, 2 et populus meus videbit altitudinem Domini et majestatem Dei, 10 et erit congregatus et redemptus per Deum. Et veniet in Sion cum gaudio et laetitia sempiterna: super caput ejus laus et exultatio. 41, 18 Et aperiam in montibus flumina, in mediis campis fontes dirumpam, et terram sitientem sine aqua infundam. 52, 13 Ecce puer meus * exaltabitur, et elevabitur et sublimis erit valde. 12, 3 Haurietis aquas in gaudio de fontibus Salvatoris, et dicetis in illa die: 4 Confitemini Domino, et invocate nomen ejus, notas facite in populis * virtutes ejus; 5 cantate Domino, quia mirabilia fecit, annuntiate haec in universa terra: dicit Dominus omnipotens.
The reading from Isaiah for the octave of Epiphany in the 1502 Missal of the Use of Prague. The Gospel, Matthew 3, 13-17, is also different, a common medieval variant.
O Lord, my God, I will honor Thee, I will give praise to Thy name, who dost wonderous deeds. Let Thy ancient council come true. O Lord, high is Thy arm (i.e. might), o God of hosts, cornw of hope that is adorned with glory. Let the desert exult, and the wildernesses of Jordan, and my people shall see the height of the Lord and the majesty of God, and will be gathered and redeemed by God. And they will come to Sion with joy and everlasting happiness; upon their heads will be praise and exultation. And I will open up the rivers in the mountains, and break open the fountains in the midst of the fields, and pour it upon the thirsting land without water. Behold my servant shall be exalted, and raised up, and shall be exceedingly lofty. Ye shall draw waters in joy from the fountains of the Savior, and say on that day, ‘Praise ye the Lord, and call upon His name, make known among the peoples His might deeds; sing to the Lord, for He hath done wonders, proclaim these things in all the earth’: saith the Lord almighty.”
This may also have been inspired by a ceremony of the Byzantine Rite, the great blessing of the water on Epiphany, at which are read three prophecies from Isaiah, an Epistle and a Gospel; the first and third of the prophecies, Isa. 35, 1-10 and 12, 3-6, partly coincide with this Roman Epistle.
Our friend William Durandus has this to say about these features of the liturgy of the octave of Epiphany. (Rat. Div. Off. VI, 17)
“On the octave of the Epiphany, all the chants and the reading from Isaiah… treat of baptism, whence it is said “Let the wildernesses of the Jordan exult”, because in the Jordan, the Lord conferred a certain regenerative power on the waters by instituting baptism, and because the nations, which previously were formerly, so to speak, far from God in the wilderness of the desert, return to Him. The octave is therefore a compliment to the Epiphany itself… since on the feast we recall that Christ was baptized, and on the octave, the antiphons of that day show us for what purpose He was baptized. …
The first page of the proper antiphons for the octave of the Epiphany in an antiphonary made for the Abbey of St Denys outside Paris, 1140-60. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 17296; folio 50r)
The antiphons are in the seventh tone, because they pertain to baptism, in which the sevenfold grace of the Holy Spirit is at work, and there are nine of them, since it is though the door of baptism that we shall come to the company of the nine orders of angels. … And the Invitatory is sung on this day (although it is omitted on the feast itself) because men are invited and come to baptism at the preaching of the Apostles.”

Christmas and Epiphany 2020 Photopost (Part 1)

Over the last couple of weeks, I had a serious problem with slowing down of internet service, which made it difficult or impossible to download picture files, so I am only now getting to processing your Christmas and Epiphany photopost submissions, since the problem has (hopefully) finally been fixed. There is plenty of time to send in more if you have them, whether of the OF, EF, Byzantine Rite etc., to; remember to include the name and location of the church, and any other information you think important. As always, we are very glad to include celebrations of other feasts during the season, blessings (of water, chalk etc.), and the Divine Office. Have a blessed final day of the Epiphany, and continue to evangelize through beauty!

Monastère St Benoit – Brignoles, France
During this past year, the community moved into its new home, a church first given to the Benedictine monks of the abbey of St Victor in Marseilles in 1025, then held by the Knights Templar, and later by the Knights of Malta, until it was closed at the French Revolution. This was the first midnight Mass of Christmas to be held in the church since its closure over 230 years ago. Multa cecidere quae jam renascentur!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Historic Photos of a Cardinal’s Funeral Procession

January 7th was the anniversary of the death of Eugenio Cardinal Tosi, who was created archbishop of Milan in March of 1922 by his predecessor in that see, Achille Ratti, shortly after the latter’s elevation to the Papacy with name of Pius XI. Raised to the cardinalate at the end of that same year, he served in the see of St Ambrose until 1929, and was succeeded within a few months of his passing by the Bl. Ildephonse Schuster. Nicola recently found some images of Cardinal Tosi’s funeral procession, which was held three days after his death. The procession departed from the archiepiscopal palace, made its way on a long route through the center of the city, and then back to the Duomo. In that period, it was still considered very improper to take photos or film of religious ceremonies, and so this set unfortunately includes only the outdoor procession, and not the funeral itself; the number of ecclesiastics and religious gives us at least a hint of how magnificent the funeral Mass would have been.

The archpriest and canons of the cathedral chapter prepare for the funeral procession. As in many other  important churches in Europe, the cathedral canons of Milan have the right to wear miter; they can also traditionally celebrate a slightly reduced form of Pontifical Mass much as abbots do.
Decoration of the central door of the Duomo with a commendatory inscription in honor of the newly deceased cardinal.
The standard of the city of Milan 

Three Epiphanies in One: The Nativity, the Visit of the Magi, and the Baptism of the Lord

We have just seen three feasts that are all interconnected, and all part of what we might think of as the greater season of Epiphany; these are Christmas, Epiphany (which tends to focus on the arrival of the Magi), and the Baptism of the Lord.

My understanding is that originally all would have been celebrated together as different aspects of a single celebration of Epiphany (and which is called Theophany in the Eastern Church). Over time the interest in different aspects of this mystery expanded, hymns were written were given their own days of celebration so that now they form a cluster of connected feasts. There are hints of all three in the icon of the first of these feasts, the Nativity.
All the ancient hymns of the liturgy explain the allegorical understanding of relevant Scriptural passages, and their connection to the feast. The traditional art of the Church simply reflects visually what is presented poetically in written form in such hymns. 

For example, anyone who prayed Morning Prayer on Christmas Day in conjunction with looking at the traditional icon would be able to decipher the image. First, by tradition, Our Lord was born in a cave, not a wooden stable. The dark interior of this cave is a symbol of heaven; Our Lady is a symbol of the throne of cherubim upon which the Resurrected Christ sits in heaven. In order to make this connection apparent visually, the baby Jesus is seen resting on a reclining figure of Our Lady in such a way that it suggests this throne. Instead of the transfigured Christ at its heart, we see the baby in swaddling clothes. This portrayal of a figure wrapped in cloth, in the dark heart of a cave, is intended to evoke a connection between the birth of Our Lord and His death in the tomb when he was wrapped in a shroud and embalmed with myrrh. Through this representation, the depiction of the birth of Christ directs our attention to His future death and resurrection. This is just a small part of the icon of the Nativity, and also just a small part of the detail that is referred to in the liturgical hymns sung on Christmas Day.

For example, here is part of the Ninth Ode sung at Morning Prayer:
Behold a strange and wonderful mystery: the cave is heaven, the Virgin a cherubic throne, the manger a noble place where reposes Christ the Uncontainable God.
Here is a description of the icon by the artist, Aidan Hart, in which he explains why he chose not to show the cave as heaven, but as the absence of God ready to receive Christ:
“The black cave points towards the harrowing of Hades, especially when the Lord is in white swaddling clothes to indicate the glorious white garments of the resurrection. The darkness of the cave presents the world waiting for the Sun of Righteousness, and as such represents the subjective ‘absence’ of God (though of course, God is present everywhere). Christ is ‘enthroned’ in the Virgin, and is dressed in His royal pallium, a King born of the Queen of heaven. The mountain is red since the Virgin is sometimes referred to as the bush that burns without being consumed. The mountains reach upwards, reflected in Paul’s verses in Romans 8:22-24. The Magi represent the Gentiles, the wealthy, and the learned, while the shepherd represents the Jews, the poor, and the unlearned. They come together in Christ, the King of kings, creator and owner of the universe, and source of all Wisdom.”
The visual sign of Our Lady as the Burning Bush creates a connection to the Baptism in the Jordan. The burning bush from which the voice of God spoke to Moses in the wilderness, and which was not consumed by the fire, is likened in liturgical hymns to the womb of the Virgin, containing our Lord without compromising her virginity. Both are likened to the three men in the furnace, described in the Book of Daniel, who were protected from the fire of the furnace. The “mechanism” of that protection is likened to a cooling dew sent by God to shield them. In the same way, it is said, a cooling dew protected the Virgin from being consumed by the Fire of the Spirit, so that She remained pure through Her conception, pregnancy, and birthing of Our Lord. That dew is a type also for the waters of baptism that maintain perfection and clean all imperfection away. In the Baptism in the Jordan, Christ imparts the cleansing power of that holy dew to the waters of the Jordan, so that we, through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, might be cleansed and protected from the fire of the Holy Spirit in the same way.

Icon reproduced with the permission of the artist:

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