Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Charming Film About Icon Painter Aidan Hart, His Work, and His Connection to the Bethlehem Icon Centre

Here is a beautiful short video about icon painter Aidan Hart. The video was made when he was visiting the Bethlehem Icon Center run by Ian Knowles. The Bethlehem Icon Centre is a partner institution of www.Pontifex.University, where the Master of Sacred Arts course provides the theoretical basis to understanding images in the Catholic tradition, including icons. (Video by Joubert and Marija Joubert, courtesy of the Bethlehem Icon Center.)

Aidan has been a great influence on me. I first met him about 30 years ago, when I was trying to learn to paint in egg tempera from tubes. In a casual conversation with a friend in London, I was describing my difficulties with the medium. He said to me that he knew someone who used that medium and gave me the address of a priest called Fr Athanasius Ledwich. At this point, I wasn’t even Christian, although I was starting to search for a better way of life, so there was no mention of icons or sacred art, and I wasn’t even thinking along these lines.

Encouraged by my friend, I wrote to Fr Athanasius asking for help in painting technique. I wondered if I could visit him, even if it was just to stand to look over his shoulder for an afternoon so that I could watch him using the medium. A week later I had a letter from Brother Aidan Hart. As it turned out, Fr Ledwich had never painted an icon in his life and passed the letter on to someone who had (my friend was, in fact, a casual acquaintance who barely knew Fr Athanasius). In his letter, Br Aidan invited me to stay with him for a weekend. I telephoned him, and we arranged that he would pick me up at Birmingham New Street station forecourt.

“How will I know you?” I asked him.

“I'm over six feet tall and look like a monk,” he said. “You’ll recognize me.”

Just to show how little I knew of this world, I remember standing at the gate to platform 7, the appointed meeting point and looking around. Then in the distance, I saw this tall man walking towards me, with a long beard, black robes and a cylindrical hat.

“Oh my God,” I thought. “It’s Rasputin.”

Nevertheless, I instantly connected with him and liked him. He was so generous in teaching me all that I could possibly learn that weekend. It was also my introduction to icons and the Eastern Rite.

He was a Rassaphore monk at that point - he talks about this phase of his life in the video. I remember him telling me much later that when he was a hermit, surprisingly, his life was much busier than later on when he was a working artist with a family. People used to flock to see him, even though he was in an isolated spot in rural Shropshire. I think he told me that in the last year he was living in the hermitage, 3,000 people visited.

In the video, Aidan also talks of his connection with Ian Knowles, the directory of the Bethlehem Icon Centre. I met Ian - I’m thinking perhaps 15 years ago now- at an icon painting workshop run by Aidan in Shropshire. It was obvious then that he was a talented artist.

One of the great advantages of learning to paint with Aidan, I always thought, is that he always explained not only what to do, but why we do it, and how through his own analysis of traditional icons he had worked out what to do. Aidan was self-taught and so he always generously taught us his approach to this. This meant that we came out of his classes able to propel ourselves, to some degree at least, without constant supervision. It was these methods that became the starting point for my effort at articulating some general principles for Christian art education, which I described later in my book, the Way of Beauty and built into a course called A Study of Artistic Method for Patrons and Artists, which is a 3-credit elective in Pontifex University’s Master of Sacred Arts program.

Aidan describes these methods in his excellent book The Techniques of Icon and Wall Painting.

Monday, November 19, 2018

NLM Exclusive: Interview with Early Music Composer Elam Rotem

A couple of years ago, my family discovered the work of Israeli-born and Basel-trained early music specialist Elam Rotem (b. 1984), a keyboardist and singer who founded and directs the splendid vocal ensemble Profeti della Quinta (Prophets of the Perfect Fifth — a very Augustinian and Boethian name). Moreover, Rotem runs a delightful website called Early Music Sources, which contains superb educational videos on such questions as 17th-century monody, historical pitch, cadences, high clefs and transposition, Italian basso continuo, tuning and temperaments, tactus and proportions around 1600, the romanesca, improvisation, and intabulations.

His accomplishments as a performer along with these educational resources would already be more than enough feathers in the cap of any 33-year old musician. But there is something much more fascinating about Elam Rotem. He is a first-class composer of music in the style of the early 17th-century, not as an academic exercise or as an ironic postmodern reconstruction, but simply because he so deeply understands and loves the music of the early Baroque that he thinks musically in this language and speaks it in the form of new compositions. What is more, he sets to music texts of the Old Testament in their original Hebrew. The result is stunning new music that communicates with the dramatic intensity, lush elegance, and sonorous beauty of Monteverdi — as in this setting by Rotem of the Song of Songs 4:8–11, “Come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus, come…” (the composer is the one playing, and singing from, the harpichord):

Or in this Sinfonia à 3:

Rotem has written two large-scale multi-movement works in this style, both of which have been recorded in sumptuous performances that I have listened to many times with great enjoyment, and cannot recommend too highly:
The links at Amazon include samples of all the tracks.

Naturally, such a countercultural but brilliantly successful endeavor is of immense interest to me, and I would think to many NLM readers, since those of us who celebrate or assist at the usus antiquior are promoting a liturgy (and its musical repertoire) that embraces the ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods, yet remains present among us down into our own times, and is still being enriched with new works of art — be they new churches, new vestments, new furnishings, or new musical compositions in Latin. For us, too, old forms of art are still alive, and that which may seem to some to be “dead” has never ceased to be the living language in which we worship.

I asked Mr. Rotem if he would be willing to do an interview for NLM about his work in the ongoing (and evidently burgeoning) early music revival. He graciously consented.

Interview with Composer and Early Music Specialist Elam Rotem

Peter Kwasniewski (PK): Mr Rotem, thank you for sharing your time and expertise with readers of New Liturgical Movement. We are interested in the question of the continuing relevance of the past to the present, particularly in the use of ancient religious rites, languages, and art forms. Music is frequently discussed in so-called “traditional” Catholic circles, above all the extensive use of Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony, which are treasures of our heritage. So we are well-disposed to the work you are doing.
          You have written some magnificent music in a late Renaissance or early Baroque style. How did you end up coming to this style as opposed to an earlier or later one? What is special about the early 17th century in your eyes and ears?

Elam Rotem (ER): The period around 1600 is unique in music history. New ways of composition, which are almost opposite to the ways in which music was composed until then, were invented and used. The concept of a single soloist that is half-singing and half-reciting (recitar cantando) and accompanied by simple harmonies, made it possible to tell stories in an immediate and dramatic manner. In addition, composers were exploring new harmonies that were not used before, and took the liberty to do so based on the texts that they were setting. If the character of the text was soft and sweet, so was the music. But if it was harsh, they didn’t mind composing harsh music that was intentionally unpleasant. The music’s main purpose was to amplify the text. Such stylistic environment is great for communicating emotions to the listeners, and especially for storytelling.

PK: Strikingly, your works are composed in Hebrew, which is not a language that has been much used for choral music intended for Western European and American audiences. What’s it like to set Hebrew in a musical style whose main languages were Latin and Italian? Do you have precursors or models you can look to? Do the Latin versions of texts from the Hebrew scriptures and their historic settings influence your work with the original language?

ER: I was inspired by the Hebrew psalms of Salomone Rossi (1622). Rossi, on the one hand, was a “normal” court musician, playing and composing instrumental and secular vocal music. He worked at the Gonzaga court in Mantua together with Claudio Monteverdi, and took part in Monteverdi’s productions. On the other hand, he also attempted to introduce Western/Christian musical traditions into the Synagogue. His Psalms and prayers in Hebrew were meant to be performed as part of the liturgy. Rossi was the first to bring such an idea to life and to print music in Hebrew. When trying to fill the big gaps in Rossi’s biography, I imagined how, in addition to his rather conservative liturgical works, he might have also composed some dramatic works in Hebrew for some special holidays, and how such works had little chance of survival, as the only surviving documents related to Rossi are his Venetian musical prints.
          When composing, I had much pleasure working with the original texts in all their untranslatable beauty. Composing biblical Hebrew in stille rappresentativo is quite different from the motet style of Rossi, so I had to find my own way of doing so. The accents of the words in Hebrew are typically on the last syllable, which proved to be quite a challenge when trying to make the text flow in a recitar cantando manner.

Renaissance polyphony in Hebrew by Salomone Rossi

PK: You have composed many works from biblical texts on love (Quia Amore Langueo) and have written a veritable oratorio on the story of Joseph (Rappresentatione di Giuseppe e i suoi Fratelli). What attracted you to these parts of the Scriptures, and in general, is there something you are looking for when you choose your texts or themes?

ER: I composed Joseph and His Brethren first. I love the story, and I love how the original text tells it; very condensed and to the point, in an almost dry manner. So when suddenly a touching or poetic moment occurs it is amplified by the contrast to the other drier parts and the result is very moving. It was an enjoyable challenge to use this biblical text as a kind of libretto and bring the story to life. Apart from Joseph and His Brethren, in Quia Amore Langueo there are also some dramatic scenes (“Amnon and Tamar” and “Samson and Delilah”), as well as poetic motet-like texts from the Song of Songs. What I loved about the Song of Songs is the colorful texts full of images and contrasts — very appropriate and similar to the texts used around 1600 in general.

PK: Do you think it would be legitimate to compare the nation of Israel’s revival of Hebrew as a spoken language, when it had more or less been extinct, with your revival of Baroque musical language?

ER: This was suggested by Barney Sherman in an article about my compositions. I will just comment that I didn’t make a “revival of the Baroque musical language,” I merely took one more step on the same path that the early music scene was taking: instead of only adding ornaments or parts to existing compositions, or improvising pieces, I did a bit more. And I’m certainly not the only one; for example, Guido Morini performed and published his Baroque opera Solve et Coagula.

PK: Naturally, there will be critics who wonder how it is possible to “express oneself freely as an artist” if one must adopt the strictures or constraints of a certain musical style. What would you say to those critics?

ER: Art was and is always based on constraints. I don’t believe it’s important which constraints you use. As a performer and researcher, I did (and do) all that I can in order to “feel at home” with the music of around 1600. I’m playing this music for a living and this is my primary musical language. If I want to create and not only execute music, I will naturally use the language I know best in order to do so.

PK: I guess I would also ask the “inverse” of the last question. Modern art has boasted about “originality” for a long time now, but to be realistic, we do not seem to be living in an age of many great composers and great masterpieces. Do you think the modern idea of creativity or originality — that we must always be seeking something “new” — has something to do with our lack of worthy output?

ER: I do believe in the concept of “something new,” but on a smaller scale. It was not different in past periods: for example, Monteverdi composed a madrigal based on texts that had already been used by other composers, but there was still a place for his version — a new version of the music — although the text, musical language, and medium were the same as in other existing compositions. I think that the difficulty starts when the musical language and the medium must also be reinvented by the composer; it’s as if every time we want to say something we would have to invent a new language. Even assuming that the invented language is coherent and contains inner logic, it could be compared to trying to communicate using a language unknown to one’s interlocutor; if the listeners don’t understand the language, their experience is limited because they lack a stylistic frame of reference.
          My focus on the style of the early 17th century frees me of this concern, seeing that composers of that time were bound to specific stylistic conventions.

Profeti della Quinta

PK: You and your colleagues in Basel are dedicated to the art of paradox: early music played in the contemporary world, on new instruments of period design. Can a historic musical style speak to moderns with the same “grammar, logic and rhetoric” with which it spoke to its original audience?

ER: I can’t know how the original audience experienced the music. I do know that around 1600 musicians were interested in expressing human emotions and moving the hearts of the listeners, and I believe that this can still be done today.

PK: Would you say that the qualities of early instruments are a major influence on and inspiration for your desire to compose in this style? Which comes first, the style or the instruments? Does something as subtle as the tuning system — which, as we know, went through so many variations in Western history — also influence your compositional voice?

ER: Instruments and temperaments are just certain details in the whole picture. They are important and inspirational, and it’s a good place to start (indeed this is how the early music movement started), but they are not the essence. The essence is the understating of the musical language, and in the case of dramatic music, the communication of the text and emotions.

PK: Our times have seen a remarkable increase in the use of male vocalists (altos, countertenors, falsettists) for parts that (outside of English choir schools) were conventionally given to female altos and sopranos. What do you think of this development? What motivated you to choose only male singers?

ER: Indeed the period around 1600 is the beginning of the inclusion of female singers in performances; before that period, one can say that generally music was performed predominantly by males. Most of the repertoire we are singing in Profeti della Quinta was probably performed by male singers, but we do include female singers sometimes (and definitely female instrumentalists). Otherwise, since this is the ensemble I’m working with, I composed the pieces especially for its singers, and tailored it to their abilities. This is, by the way, yet another aspect of historical composition, since baroque composers often composed a part with a specific performer in mind.

PK: How has your work — your compositions and the playing of your ensemble — been received in the early music world at large? Of course, early music specialists learn to improvise (and organists have never stopped doing it), but do you see any other musicians beginning to compose in the early Baroque style?

ER: My works were received warmly by the public, but with mixed feelings by some critics. It is always much appreciated, but some (especially musicologists but not only) still are not sure if such a thing is a “legitimate” work of art. I obviously think it is, and the public in the concerts seems to agree. By the end of 2018 Joseph and His Brethren will be performed for the fourteenth time and more performances are planned in the future. I think that this is not bad for a piece composed in the 21st century, in which many of the newly composed pieces are only performed once… As I mentioned above, there are other musicians in the early music scene that are doing similar things, but perhaps not on the same scale.

PK: Where have you found your work best received?

ER: Whether it was just one or two small pieces, or the complete Joseph and His Brethren, my compositions have been well received everywhere we perform them. Naturally, because of the language and cultural relevance, the performances in Israel were received with even more appreciation. As I mentioned above, when the human emotional experience is in the center of attention, it can and does speak to a wide public.

PK: Do you ever compose in other styles, whether earlier or later than the early 16th-century idiom? If so, will you share those works with your public, or are they just for private use? Are you working on any big projects at the moment, either of composition or of recording?

ER: Up to this time, I haven’t composed music in other styles. Unless I would also perform and research music in other styles, I don’t think I would compose in them. My intention is not to imitate music from other periods, but to express myself in the language I know best. At the moment I’m not working on any new compositions, but some new CDs of Profeti della Quinta are coming out soon: Psalms by Alexander Utendal (ca.1530-1581) and a collection of madrigals (Amor, fortuna, e morte - Madrigals by de Rore, Luzzaschi, Gesualdo & Monteverdi).

* * *
I would like to express my thanks to the composer for this interview and for sharing the gift of his music with us.

Here is a trailer for Joseph and His Brethren:

A final thought. The philosopher Charles Taylor is famous for claiming that modern man, who is a conscious and free self negotiating a world of optional beliefs and engagements, is forever cut off from the “enchanted cosmos” of pre-modern man, who naively saw himself as dwelling in a world of spiritual realities as real as, or more real than, material ones. We moderns are irreducibly different — there is “no way back.” I would think that a confirmed Taylorite would consider Rotem’s enterprise impossible, or merely academic or parodical. And yet, it only takes a pair of functional ears to discover that it is no such thing: it is eminently possible, convincing, passionate, and powerful. Crucially, it is experienced immediately and intuitively by those capable of understanding music; in other words, not as the result of a “lifestyle choice,” as Taylor imagines religion must now be, thanks to our awareness of alternatives. Might this give us a reason for thinking that the art of music is one way of refuting the thesis that naive access to an “enchanted cosmos” is no longer available to us, that we are cut off from our premodern ancestors?

Please visit my new personal website, www.peterkwasniewski.com, for news, information, article links, sacred music, and the home of Os Justi Press.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Beautiful Newly-Made Vestments at the Catholic Arts Exhibition

The seventh edition of the Catholic Arts Competition recently held at the St Vincent Gallery in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, also included among the submissions some very beautiful new vestments, which deserve a post of their own. The first one is a green chasuble from Altarworthy Handmade Vestments, similar to the one seen below in a painting of the 15th century.

The cut of this chasuble (55” x 55”) is a modified bell shape, the origins of which is found in the very earliest conical vestments derived from common ancient Roman attire. The front pillar and Tau cross on back are ornamented with carnelian and pearl; carnelian (ruby) was the first of twelve stones, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, on the breastplate of the high priest in the Old Tesatment, while pearls are often referred to in the Bible as a symbol of the virtue of Faith. The silk shantung lining is a terracotta/clay hue which reminds us of our earthly nature, made from dust, and to dust we will return. This silk damask faithfully reproduces the textile worn by St Martin of Tours in this painting of the Mass of Saint Martin of Tours by an anonymous Franco-Rhenish Master, ca. 1440 Silk, carnelian gems, pearls, metallic brocades, and trims
The second one, also from Altarworthy, is inspired by the Tenth Station of the Cross, in which Jesus is stripped of His garments; this is represented on the back in a painting by Susan Jasper. The silk and metallic brocade incorporates both thistles and pomegranates. The former refers to the punishment for Original Sin stated in the Book of Genesis, 3, 17-18, “…cursed is the earth in thy work; with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of they life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee…” Pomegranates, which denote royalty, are prescribed in the book of Exodus for the design of the high priest’s vestments, while the tightly ordered conforming seeds of the fruit have long been associated with the fruitfulness of Holy Mother Church. Liturgically, red is used for martyrs’ feast days or Pentecost; the black accents clarify this as a set especially for martyrs.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Tradition is for the Young (Part 16) - A New Regular TLM in Mississippi

Once again, we are very happy to share some photographs from a new apostolate, established by the efforts of young people who are rediscovering the traditional Latin Mass. These come to us from Jackson, Mississippi, where the local Una Voce chapter has been working diligently to restore the Extraordinary Form. Recently, the group obtained the use of a parish church, and has two young diocesan priests celebrating the EF every other Sunday evening. On Sunday, October 28, the feast of Christ the King, they celebrated the first Solemn High Mass in the Diocese of Jackson since the liturgical reform of the 1960s; a small step, but one of a great many. We can all take encouragement once again from the fact that none of the people who are working to make this happen are old enough to be doing so from any sense of “nostalgia”; what we see here is a true and sincere love for the richness of our Catholic liturgical tradition.

Five Recent Articles about Funerals and Masses for the Dead

Photo courtesy of Liturgical Arts Journal
November, the month of the Holy Souls, always brings with it a number of articles concerning the current state, or plight, of Catholic funerals and Masses for the Dead. As the years pass, we are fortunate to see a double outcome of Summorum Pontificum: first, an always growing presence of the traditional Requiem Mass with its full panoply of symbols and chants (including the great Dies Irae), as can be seen in the photo albums published here; and second, an ever more widespread acknowledgment that something has gone drastically wrong with the way Catholics approach prayer for the dead.

I would like to mention here four recent articles of potential interest to NLM readers, and give a few excerpts.

The first is “The scandal of the modern Catholic funeral,” one of my daily columns at LifeSite.
Once upon a time, a very important person in my life died. I attended the funeral. It was a Novus Ordo canonization ceremony, conducted by a priest and three women in skirt-suits ministering in the sanctuary. Everyone at the funeral was dressed in black—except for the priest, who was wearing white. The disjunct was glaring and tasteless. The contrast between the deep human instinct of mourning, which can be said to be an ineradicable part of the sensus fidelium, and the crackpot liturgical reformers who introduced white as a color for Masses for the dead, was never so obvious to me.
          The day before, however, my family and I had gone to a traditional Requiem Mass, sung by a priest friend. The contrast was not just profound, but shocking. Between that day and the following, we were emotionally suspended between two radically different offerings for the dead: one that took death with deadly seriousness, that cared about the fate of the departed soul, and allowed us to suffer; another that shuffled death to the side with platitudes and empty promises. The contrast between Friday’s black vestments, Dies irae, and whispered suffrages and Saturday’s stole-surmounted white chasuble and amplified sentiments of universal goodwill seemed to epitomize the chasm that separates the faith of the saints from the prematurely ageing modernism of yesterday.
          I found myself thinking: The greatest miracle of our times is that the Catholic Faith has survived the liturgical reform.
A few weeks ago, Dr Joseph Shaw, the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England & Wales and a much-appreciated blogger at LMS Chairman, officially joined the bloggers writing for LifeSite. In this capacity he has given us two articles of note:

“Why Catholic funerals prior to Vatican II better expressed death’s gravity”
The chants of the traditional Mass for the Dead, called by the first word of the Mass proper, Requiem, include some of the Church’s most ancient, solemn, and moving. They express the seriousness, the gravity of death, and seek God’s mercy for those who have died. It was shocking to many when the Dies Irae and other chants were removed from the Mass for the Dead in the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council. Annibale Bugnini explained the reasoning of the reformers as follows (The Reform of the Liturgy p. 773):
          "They got rid of texts that smacked of a negative spirituality inherited from the Middle Ages. Thus they removed such familiar and even beloved texts as the Libera me, Domine, the Dies irae, and others that overemphasized judgment, fear, and despair. These they replaced with texts urging Christian hope and giving more effective expression to faith in the resurrection."
          The idea that the texts at issue “overemphasize” “despair” (how much should despair be emphasized, one wonders?) is a gross mischaracterization. The texts of the ancient Mass for the Dead speak of God’s mercy and the gift of salvation, in the context of human guilt and God’s justice.
And “Why Christians must honor those who have died in war”:
It is an unsurprising sociological fact that people are more willing to sacrifice themselves for their community if they see that such sacrifices in the past have been honored by the community. If we are not prepared to honor them when they fall, we should not expect our young people to put themselves in harm’s way for our protection.
(As a side-note: NLM readers might not expect to find liturgical commentary at LifeSiteNews, which has built its reputation as a pro-life, pro-family, general news source; but this expectation is not quite accurate anymore, now that Dr Shaw and I are writing on liturgical topics there with some regularity.)

Last but not least, Shawn Tribe, founding editor of NLM, continues to promote the best and most beautiful elements of the Catholic liturgical aesthetic at his site Liturgical Arts Journal, as we see in “The Value of Black as a Liturgical Colour” and “Constructing a Catafalque for the Requiem Mass.”

May each passing November, and indeed the passage of each one of Christ’s faithful into eternity, be accompanied by obsequies and orisons worthy of the dignity of Christian baptism, testifying to the reality of the Four Last Things and redolent of the piety, devotion, and earnest prayer of the ages.

Italian Bishops Approve New Bowdlerizations of the Missal

The Italian newspaper Avvenire reports that a general assembly of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (which owns the paper) has approved a new translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal, which will now be submitted to the Holy See for approval. This translation includes two particularly notable bowdlerizations of the Ordinary of the Mass, one in the Lord’s Prayer, the other in the Gloria.

The penultimate petition of the Lord’s Prayer as proposed will read in Italian “non abbandonarci alla tentazione – do not abandon (leave) us to temptation.” The traditional reading, “non indurci in tentazione - lead us not into temptation” has been in use for centuries, like its English analog, and is known to every Italian, even those who never attend Mass or pray. On a pastoral level, there is absolutely no need to change it whatsoever.

It is also, of course, completely wrong as a translation. The Greek verb in question “eisenenkēis” does not mean “abandon.” It is a form of a highly irregular verb [1] “eispherō – to bring in, lead in, carry in, introduce.” No dictionary lists “abandon” or any synonym thereof as a translation. It is as if Christians have not been praying “lead us not into temptation” in countless languages for over 19 centuries, as if no one has ever bothered to consider what these words mean, and comment on them. It is impossible to believe that pastors with the cure of souls in Italy (or anywhere else) are suddenly besieged by anguished parishioners, tormented at the thought that the Eternal Father might be leading them into temptation. But even if that were the case, is it really an improvement to suggest that God cannot lead us into temptation, but can abandon us in it?

It is equally impossible to believe that there could be another, even more grotesque and unjustifiable mistranslation, and yet there is. A phrase of the Gloria in excelsis has also been modified, from “pace in terra agli uomini di buona volontà – peace on earth to men of good will” to “pace in terra agli uomini, amati dal Signore – peace on earth to men, loved by the Lord.” I hazard a guess, and no more than that, as to the rationale behind this. To speak of “men of good will” implies that there are men who are not of good will, one of the most basic facts about human existence, and one which the Church has for over half a century wasted enormous time and effort on denying. The new reading permits the insertion of a comma, turning the phrase “loved by the Lord” into a non-restrictive adjectival phrase, (“men, who are loved by the Lord”), in a way that cannot be done by translating the actual text.

Our readers may be curious as to whether this new version of the Gloria, if it is approved, will present Italian churches with the same problem recently faced by the English-speaking world, when the new translation was promulgated, and musical settings of the old and hideous paraphrase became unusable. The answer is, Probably not. There is much to be said for the thesis that in many places, the post-Conciliar reform made everything that was worst about pre-Conciliar liturgical practice normative, and Italy is decidedly one of those places. The four-hymn sandwich over a Low Mass is as common as it ever was, although the Low Mass itself is now in the vernacular, and often miked-up so loudly as to destroy all possibility of contemplation or recollection. It is normal for the Gloria to be recited by the congregation, not sung, even on major feasts like Christmas and Easter.

However, the will of the Council is sometimes fulfilled in Italy, vis-à-vis the preservation of Latin in the liturgy, by the use of the so-called Gloria of Lourdes. This turns one of the Church’s most ancient hymns into a responsorial psalm (and one as unpleasant to listen to as any responsorial psalm) by the frequent repetition of the words “Gloria, gloria, in excelsis Deo”, leaving the rest to a solo cantor, or, more often, to be recited (not sung) by the congregation.

The Italian Bishops’ also wrote in their final communiqué (again, as reported by Avvenire), “in a particular way, the suggestion is made to take care for the quality of singing and the music of the liturgies.” (in modo particolare, si suggerisce di curare la qualità del canto e della musica per le liturgie.) Their Excellencies would do far better to actually take this to heart, and apply their collective efforts to improving the appalling music heard in most Italian churches, rather than to “fixing” translations that were not broken.

[1] “Eispherō” is a compound of the proposition “eis”, which means “into” (not “in”), and the verb “pherō – to bring, to carry.” The latter is a highly irregular word, in that it derives its various tenses from different roots, like the English “be, am, is, etc.” The present form is “pherō”, but the future is “oisō”, and the aorist, from which the verb in Matthew 6, 13 is derived, is “ēnenka.” This accounts for the radical difference between the main verb form by which it is located in a dictionary, and the specific form translated in the Lord’s Prayer, or mistranslated, as the case may be.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Exhibition on the Catholic Arts Competition at St Vincent Gallery

The Saint Vincent Gallery, located on the campus of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvana, is currently hosting the exhibition of the 44 entries selected for Biennial Juried Catholic Arts Competition. This event was established in 2001 by the late Br Nathan Cochran, O.S.B., to cultivate and revive the sacred arts, and give artists who engage Catholic subject matter an opportunity to dialogue with the Church and pastors, in the hope of creating new, original artworks for churches and liturgical spaces. As seen below, some very nice vestments were also included in the competition; tomorrow we will have some more photos of these, and some interesting details about how they were created.

The juror for the seventh edition of the competition was Dr Elizabeth Lev, an art historian who specializes in Christian art and architecture, Baroque painting and sculpture and High Renaissance art, and professor of art and architecture for the Italian campus of Duquesne University. In her lecture by entitled Catholic Art of the Modern Age: New Images for an Ancient Story preceded the exhibition on October 28, she noted, “The works of the Catholic Arts Exhibition demonstrate that art can still persuasively communicate ancient truths to the modern Church through the exploration of critical contemporary themes such as fatherhood, universality and religious persecution.”

The exhibition continues through Sunday, Dec. 2. Gallery hours are from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and Thursday until 7 p.m. The Gallery is closed on Mondays and Nov. 21-26 for Thanksgiving. A complementary catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

Photopost Follow-Up: Prayers for the Dead

As a follow-up to our recent All Saints and All Souls photoposts, and yesterday’s photos of Masses celebrated by military chaplains during World War I, here are a few late submissions.

On Tuesday, November 6, the Order of Malta in the Dallas area commemorated the centennial of the end of World War I with Solemn Vespers of the Dead at the University of Dallas’ Church of the Incarnation, celebrated by Fr Carlos Hamel of the Fraternity of St Joseph the Guardian (Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France). The Schola Cantorum Stellae Solae, directed by Brian Bentley, sang the Gregorian chant. The “Remembrance Day” Vespers drew well over a hundred participants from the university and local area, including clergy of the Dominican and Cistercian orders, as well as a dozen seminarians. (Photos by Anthony Mazur, reproduced by permission.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Holy Mass in the First World War: A Photo Collection

This article by Henri de Villiers was first published in 2014 on the blog of the Schola Sainte Cécile, to commemorate the centenary of the start of the Great War. It is translated and republished here and at Canticum Salomonis in honor of Armistice Day, and the centenary of the first armistice, which occurred this past Sunday.

On August 3, 1914, Germany declared war on France, and Europe entered into a terrible four years of slaughter that would decimate believers on every side, wiping out the youth of thousands of towns and villages, and bringing about the loss of a great part of Europe’s Christian elite. In memory of this sorrowful centenary, we present a collection of photographs that testify to the faith of these men in the midst of the horrors of the front.

We shall remember them.

Requiem æternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

“For the Lord will judge his people, and will be entreated in favour of his servants.” (Psalm 134,14) – Mass at the front in France during the First World War.

“The sorrows of hell encompassed me: and the snares of death prevented me.” (Psalm 17,6) –Mass at the front for the French troops. New York Times, February 14, 1915

“I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer.” (Psalm 17,2-3) – 1915: A Mass at the 43rd battery of the 29th artillery regiment between Oostduinkerke and Nieuport.

“My eyes have failed for thy word, saying: When wilt thou comfort me?” (Psalm 118,82) – Holy Mass for the French troops on the front of Champagne in 1915. Collection of Odette Carrez

“The Lord will give strength to his people: the Lord will bless his people with peace.” (Psalm 28,10) – 1915: Sub-lieutenant Pape says Holy Mass for the 262nd infantry regiment. Photograph by Henri Terrier (1887† 1918). Musee de l’Armee, Paris.
“With thee is my praise in a great church: I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear him.” (Psalm 21,26) – German troops assist at Mass in the Belgian cathedral of Anvers. New York Times, March 21, 1915.

EF Pontifical Mass in Ottawa on November 23

On Friday, November 23, the feast of Pope St Clement I, His Excellency Terrence Prendergast, the Archbishop of Ottawa, will celebrate a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the traditional rite in his cathedral, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the parish of St Clement. As we noted in an article earlier this year, St Clement, which is now run by the FSSP, was one of the few churches that held on to the celebration of the traditional rite after the promulgation of the post-Conciliar reform. For a ten-year period, it was constrained to use the new rite, and did so according to the mind of the Council, with Latin, chant and worship ad orientem; in 1984, the traditional rite was restored, and has continued ever since. This Mass will be the first Pontifical to be celebrated in the cathedral of Notre Dame since 1998. The ceremony will begin at 7:30 pm; the cathedral is located at 383 Sussex Avenue.

Book Announcement: The Proper of Time in the Post-Vatican II Liturgical Reforms

I am very pleased to announce the recent publication of The Proper of Time in the Post-Vatican II Liturgical Reforms, a new resource for the continued study of the post-conciliar reform of the Missale Romanum.

The aim of this new book is to allow easy comparison of the work of the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia on the prayers of the Roman Missal with those found in the 1962 Missal and the 1970/2002 Missal.

The Proper of Time in the Post-Vatican II Liturgical Reforms. Edited by Matthew P. Hazell. N.p.: Lectionary Study Press, 2018. Paperback, 236pp. $24.95 (USA), £19.99 (UK), €21,95 + tax (Germany, France, Spain, Italy)

As readers of NLM are no doubt aware, the Consilium was the main body that was responsible for the reform of the liturgy desired by Sacrosanctum Concilium. One of the documents of Coetus 18 bis of the Consilium, known as Schema 186, deals with the reform of the various orations (collects, super oblata, etc.) contained in the Proper of Time of the Roman Missal, and gives draft texts for each day in this section. [1] In many places, this draft of the orations for the Proper of Time differs significantly from both the preceding liturgical tradition and the outcome of the reforms. These differences, along with the work of the Consilium generally, have increasingly been the object of scholarly study and enquiry in recent years.

Now, in The Proper of Time in the Post-Vatican II Liturgical Reforms, the text of the corpus of orations in Schema 186 is readily available for the first time, and each prayer has been arranged side-by-side with those of the 1962 and 1970/2002 Missals for easy comparison.

Each individual prayer has been keyed into the Corpus Orationum, to make it much easier for researchers to consult this indispensable set of volumes during any future analyses and comparative studies. (The Corpus Orationum collates the orations from over 200 pre-Tridentine extant manuscripts, and makes it possible for one to determine how widely a given prayer was used, when it was used, in what contexts, and whether there are any textual variants.) Various other tools and indices are also provided in the book to aid further study into this important aspect of the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms.

Finally, the Latin text of the first few pages of Schema 186, which explain some of the rationale and methodology of Coetus 18 bis, are provided, along with an English translation.

Below are some preview pages. To purchase the book from Amazon, please follow the links above.

Sample page for Septuagesima / 7th Sunday after Epiphany / 7th Sunday per annum
Sample page for 4th Sunday after Pentecost / 13th Sunday per annum
Sample page from the indices


[1] Lauren Pristas makes many references to Schema 186 throughout her seminal work, The Collects of the Roman Missals: A Comparative Study of the Sundays in Proper Seasons before and after the Second Vatican Council (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013).

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

All Saints and All Souls Photopost 2018 (Part 3)

We conclude this year’s All Saints and All Souls photoposts with another very varied selection: a bit more of All Saints than usual, a lot of reliquaries, some vivid memento mori images, and one instance of the old double Vespers on the evening of November 1st. As always, we are very grateful to all those who sent these in, continuing the work of evangelizing though beauty!

Shrine Church of St. Walburg - Preston, Lancashire, England (ICKSP)
The photos of the Mass given below were taken on All Souls’ Day, but the catafalque in the first picture was made for Remembrance Day, November 11, the anniversary (and this year, the centenary) of the end of World War I. Notice the British flag on the coffin, and the large poppy wreath at front. This was built (with some guidance from the clergy) by the men currently discerning their vocation with the Institute at their House of Discernment in Preston - well done, gentlemen!

Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini - Rome, Italy (FSSP)
Relics on the high altar for the Mass of All Saints

The Feast of St Brice, St Martin’s Bad Disciple

St Martin, whose feast we kept two days ago, was succeeded in the see of Tours, as he had predicted, by a monk named Brice, a singularly unpromising candidate to come after such a holy bishop. Martin spent as much time as his episcopal duties permitted among a monastic community at Marmoutier near Tours, into which he himself had taken the orphaned Brice. St Gregory of Tours describes Brice as “proud and vain”, and Martin’s biographer Sulpicius Severus tells the story in his Dialogues (3.15) that Brice was led by devils to “vomit up a thousand reproaches against Martin,” even daring to assert that he himself was much holier for being raised from childhood in a monastery, while Martin was raised in a military camp. Although Brice repented of this (as Sulpicius believed, because of Martin’s prayers), and asked for the Saint’s forgiveness, he continued to be a very difficult character. Martin refused to remove him from the priesthood, lest he seem to do so as an act of vengeance, but expressed his tolerance in less-than-complimentary terms: “If Christ could put up with Judas, why should I not put up with Brice?”

Ss Martin and Brice
Martin had predicted not only that Brice would succeed him as bishop, but that he would suffer much in the episcopacy, words which Brice dismissed as “ravings.” Both predictions were fulfilled in the following manner. Although Brice was vain and proud, he was “chaste in body”, and yet he was accused of fathering a child. The revised Butler’s Lives of the Saints says, with characteristic (and characteristically irritating) reticence, that he vindicated himself by “a very astonishing miracle”, without saying what the miracle was. Gregory of Tours tells us that Brice called together the people, and before them ordered the month-old infant to say whether or not he was the father, at which the child did indeed say, “You are not my father.” The people ask Brice to make the infant say who its father was, but Brice replied (pride still unconquered), “That is not my job. I have taken care of the part of this business that pertains to me; if you can, ask for yourselves.”

St Brice with the Infant, from the church of St Médard in Boersch in eastern France. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Ralph Hammann
This was attributed, perhaps understandably, to the use of magic, rather than holiness, and so Brice attempted to vindicate himself by carrying hot coals in his cloak to the tomb of St Martin; when he arrived his cloak was not burnt. But this sign was also not accepted, and so he was driven from his see, “that the words of the Saint might be fulfilled, ‘Know that in the episcopate, you will suffer many adversities.’ … Then Brice sought out the Pope of Rome, weeping and mourning, and saying ‘Rightly do I suffer these things, because I sinned against God’s Saint, and often called him crazy and deluded; and seeing his virtues, I did not believe.’ ” After staying in Rome for seven years, and purging his sins by the celebration of many Masses, he was restored to his see, which he governed for seven years further as a man “of magnificent sanctity,” according to Gregory, very much changed for the better by the experience. His popularity in the medieval period was very great, and his feast is found on most calendars, although not that of Rome. This is due in part to his association with St Martin, but perhaps more as an example of something that the medievals understood very well and loved to dwell on, that it is never too late for God’s grace to bring us away from sin to sanctity.

The see of Tours also celebrates within the octave of St Martin another of its holy bishops, the historian and hagiographer St Gregory, whom we have cited above, whose feast is kept on November 17. A very charming story is told that he was unusually small, which must have been very small indeed to be noted in an age when people were generally much shorter than we are today. When he came into the presence of Pope St Gregory the Great during a visit to Rome, the Pope’s expression clearly evinced surprise at his stature, at which he quoted the words of Psalm 99, “He (i.e. God) made us, and not we ourselves.”

Painting Created by Artifical Intelligence Sells For $432K. Is This Art?

As a follow up to an earlier piece about the validity of reproductions as art, here is an article about an image produced by three computer developers with no background in art, which sold for a staggering $432,500. AI - artificial intelligence - is the latest fad artist, it seems.

Artificial intelligence is not intelligence as a Catholic would understand the term. I saw recently saw George Gilder (author of Life After Google) talking to Mark Levin about this, and he gave a good explanation as to why. For all the power of the machine to collect and process data, the way in which it does so is limited by the algorithm, which is, in turn, a reflection of the programmer who created it. He is saying in effect, it seemed to me, that because intelligence is a faculty of a spiritual soul, it can’t be in a machine. The idea behind the AI machine exists in the mind of the person who made it, just as the idea behind a work of art exists in the artist who painted it.

Without a spiritual soul, there can be no inspiration, and hence no authentic creativity. The AI machine, therefore, is an artifact and a sophisticated tool in this painting process, and the programmer is the artist.

So is this art? I say yes, perhaps. The artist, in the case of AI-generated paintings, is not the machine, but the programmer or programmers who created it. They can create a good algorithm or a bad one; the test is in the quality of the work that comes out at the end of the process.

My argument is not that the human element isn’t necessary for the creation of art. Rather, it is that the human element is not absent from AI (or from printed reproductions, from photography etc). All of these are just different ways of controlling the production of an image. And just like painting with a brush, the process by which the image is created can potentially produce good or bad art.

Art is the product of artifice, and is by nature artificial. Artificial intelligence, therefore, is a misnomer. It is a creation of the programmer who created the algorithm but it is not in itself creative. AI is artificial like art itself, and the print is an artifact, but AI is not intelligence.

Is this good art? I would say no. Art is as good as it looks, and if it looks good, it is good. And (this is just a personal opinion) I don’t think this is good.
But that could change, perhaps. The prodution of good art by these means would probably require programmers who understand art, and how to instill in the machine a systematic process of pattern recognition and image generation that is in harmony with good art, and thus controlling the image. If, at the end of the process, someone judges the quality before presenting it for sale, perhaps modifying the process in response to improve the image, you have a more authentic artistic process.
I’m not sure it’s worth the effort, but I imagine the programmers in this instance could come up with 432,500 good reasons to do it.

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