Saturday, July 04, 2020

A Recent Solemn Mass in the Rite of Lyon

This past Sunday, a solemn Mass was celebrated in the traditional Rite of Lyon at the Fraternity of St Peter’s church in that city, the Collegiate Church of St Just, for the feast of the local Patron Saint, the 2nd-century bishop and martyr Irenaeus. We have featured the Mass of Lyon a few times in the past, but this is the first time, as far as I know, that it has been done solemnly within recent memory. I personally don’t know much about the rite, and so I will limit my comments on the pictures; if I make any mistakes, or omit anything of interest, I would be grateful to any readers who can correct or add to what I write here in the combox. Further down is a picture of an interesting and absolutely unique vestment. Congratulations to the clergy of St Just for their efforts to maintain and preserve this beautiful part of the Church’s liturgical patrimony, and our thanks for their permission to reproduce these photographs.

The two acolytes who carry the candles wear full albs with the cincture, as was generally done in the Middle Ages.
Note that the columns of the church are partly or wholly decorated with red coverings for the feast day; this is not a specifically Lyonese custom, but was widely observed throughout Europe, and is still kept in some places.
When not holding something in their hands, the acolytes keep them crossed over their chest as we see here.
When the priest is at the Missal, he is accompanied only by the deacon...

Worship That Takes God Seriously: A Convert from Islam on the TLM

Our readers have probably already seen some of the videos now circulating on social media about “Mass of the Ages”, a documentary on the Traditional Latin Mass currently in the works, which aims to show how the beauty of our timeless traditional liturgy will begin to restore and heal the Church. As we all know, over the last century, people have lost their faith at an alarming rate; the film-makers and designers involved in this project are putting their talents to the creation of a compelling piece of work that will, God willing, increase the general awareness of the reverence and beauty of the Mass. The filmmakers interview Catholics from all walks of life to investigate the power of the old Mass and the profound effect it has on our spiritual lives.You can check out what they are doing on their Facebook page ( and via their Youtube channel.

Yesterday, I watched a video from the latter in which the leader of the project, Mr Cameron O’Hearn, talks about the TLM with Dr Derya Little, a convert from Islam to Catholicism via atheism, who has written about her conversion in a book titled “From Islam to Christ.” She also recently wrote a “A Beginner’s Guide to the Traditional Latin Mass”, to help those who come to the traditional rite with no previous experience of it whatsoever. In this video, she explains very nicely that it was her experience of beauty and reverence in the liturgy that really showed her that Catholicism “takes God seriously.” The channel also has interviews with writer Eric Sammons and our own Dr Peter Kwasniewski, which I am sure you will find interesting.

Friday, July 03, 2020

A Prayer for Our Church and Our Nation

Lost in Translation, #6

For centuries, the fourth of the Great Intercessions on Good Friday was for the Holy Roman Emperor, but in 1955 this prayer for a man who no longer existed was replaced with a prayer “Pro Res Publicas Moderantibus – For Those Governing Commonwealths” -- or if you prefer, “For Those Governing Public Affairs.” In 1960, this prayer (along with a new Secret and Postcommunion) also replaced the prayers for the Emperor in the Orationes Diversae section of the Missal, as commemorations in another Mass. The 1955 prayer is:
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, in cujus manu sunt omnium potestates et omnium jura populorum: respice benignus ad eos, qui nos in potestate regunt: ut ubique terrarum, dextera tua protegente, et religionis integritas, et patriae securitas indesinenter consistat. Per Dominum.
Which I translate as:
Almighty everlasting God, in whose hand are the powers of all and the rights of all peoples: look favorably on those who rule over us in power: that with Thy right hand protecting us, integrity of religion and security of country may unceasingly abide throughout the world. Through our Lord.
The prayer has a slightly modern ring to it. The mention of individual rights indicates that it was written in the wake of Hobbes and Locke and after Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, which (not uncontroversially) refers to individual property rights for the first time in Church history as “sacred and inviolable.”
I wonder why the author speaks of “the powers of all and the rights of all peoples”, and not simply of the “powers and rights of all peoples.” Perhaps he is contrasting the powers of all who govern (rulers, government officials, etc.) with the rights of the peoples. Rulers have been given different powers of varying degrees by God, but people qua people have the same equal rights. There may also be here an answer to the modern debate about how essential the consent of the governed is, but rather than reinforce a dichotomy between the Lockian claim that government derives its legitimacy from the people and the Biblical claim that all political power comes from God (Rom. 13:1), the prayer unites the two by locating both in the hand of God. In the words of Pope Benedict XV, “Whatever power, then, is exercised amongst men, whether that of the King or that of an inferior authority [such as democratically elected leaders, we presume], it has its origin from God.” (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 10)
The prayer pivots deftly between the universal and particular, avoiding both a soulless globalism or cosmopolitanism that dangerously deprecates patriotism as well as a weaponized nationalism that dangerously distorts it. On one hand, God is addressed as the one who gives rights to all people. On the other hand, the prayer asks for blessings on those who rule over us, which in most cases, I reckon, means the rulers of the nation we happen to be in. The two come together nicely in the final section of the prayer, which asks that God's blessing of the nation will be good not just for us but for the whole world. 
I also like that the petition that God look favorably on our leaders is immediately followed by a petition that God protect us, perhaps even protect us from our leaders. It reminds me of the rabbi’s prayer in Fiddler on the Roof: “May the Lord keep the far away from us as possible!”
But the final part is the best, where the Church prays for two things: integrity of religion and security for the country--our country, of course, but others as well, since a world of stable and secure nations is not a bad thing. 
Neither is “integrity of religion,” which is a well-established phrase in the traditional Missal. It appears in the Postcommunion Prayer of the feast day of a holy pope, when we pray that the Church, “guided by capable governance, may receive both an increase in freedom and continue steadfast in integrity of religion.” To my mind, “integrity of religion” means one thing: that the one true religion has its act together. “Integrity” denotes soundness and connotes moral probity, intellectual clarity, and spiritual courage, but fundamentally it simply means to be whole--not divided by schism or scandal, not weakened by heretical deceptions or vested interests, and not trying to be something it isn't. Integrity of religion is a great thing to pray for, both for the sake of the Church and for the sake of earthly political life, for a religion with integrity is a rising tide that lifts all boats.
P.S. One suggestion for priests, which is not my own: this July 4, you can celebrate a Votive Mass to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (the patroness of the U.S.A.) and include the prayers Pro Res Publicas Moderantibus.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Liturgical Notes on the Visitation of the Virgin Mary

The Visitation of the Virgin Mary is surely one of the most beautiful stories in the Gospels, the account of a younger woman’s act of charity towards her older kinswoman, at a time when both find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. It is the occasion on which St Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, speaks to the Virgin the words which form the second part of the Ave Maria, “Blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb.” Mary’s reply to her is the canticle which in the Western church is sung at Vespers every day of the year, the Magnificat. Despite the importance of this story, the Roman Rite originally read it only on the Ember Friday of Advent, in a Mass that makes no other reference to it, two days after reading the Gospel of the Annunciation.

For many centuries, the latter was one of the classic group of four Marian feasts, along with her Nativity, Purification and Assumption, which the Latin Church had received from the Byzantine Rite in the first millennium. At the end of the 13th century, the liturgical commentator William Durandus notes that some people celebrate a fifth feast, that of the Virgin’s Conception. This feast was the cause of some notable discussions and controversies, and was not received by the Roman Church until 1476, more than 200 years after it was first kept by the Franciscans. The Visitation, on the other hand, was officially embraced and promulgated almost a century before the Immaculate Conception, and properly ranks as the Latin Church’s first “new” Marian feast, a native creation of the Roman Rite, not a Byzantine import.

The Visitation of the Virgin Mary, by Giotto, in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy, 1303-6.
It is traditionally said that the Franciscans adopted the feast, along with that of the Immaculate Conception, at a general chapter held in 1263, when St Bonaventure was Minister General. It is certainly true that St Francis’ order greatly promoted devotion to the Virgin and new feasts in Her honor, also adopting the feast of Our Lady of the Snows in 1302. Evidence for their celebration of the Visitation in the 13th century, however, is not conclusive, and the authenticity of the relevant sources is debated. The first certain attestation of the feast is found in Prague, where it was celebrated in 1386 at the behest of Archbishop John Jenstein, who composed a Mass and Office for it. Cardinal Jenstein was also present at a consistory held in Rome in April of 1389, as the Great Schism of the West was in its twelfth year, and it was he who suggested to Pope Urban VI that he extend the feast to the whole Church as a way of asking for the Virgin’s intercession to end the Schism.

Pope Urban did in fact agree to do this, but died before he could sign the necessary decrees; the official promulgation of the feast was one of the first acts of his successor, Boniface IX, by the bull Superni benignitas Conditoris, dated November 9, 1389. As is also the case with other liturgical bulls of that era, it is a supremely beautiful and spiritual piece of writing, elegant and learned in its Latinity; it was even read in the Divine Office in some places, despite the fact that its author was a notorious simoniac (and the reason why the name Papal name ‘Boniface’ has not been used since.)
The very Queen of heaven, in whose womb the Son of God enclosed Himself and became a man, from the height of that great honor proclaimed to her by the Angel, took unto herself no spirit of pride, but as a humble servant, though she had become the mother of the Lord, fulfilled the office of her humility, upon which the Lord had looked with favor, and arising went unto the mountains, … O great mystery, o wondrous commerce, and ineffable sacrament, that these mothers should know beforehand and even prophecy about the children which they bore in their wombs; and, as the sacred history of the Gospel reveals, the Queen of Heaven, who was pregnant, and would be consecrated by the birth of God, as an even greater mark of humility, should render service to the pregnant mother of Her Son’s Precursor.
The altarpiece of the Lady Chapel in Prague Cathedral, with the Visitation in the central panel. The events depicted on the wings are the other Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary: the Annunciation (upper left), the Birth of Christ (upper right), the Presentation in the Temple (lower left) and the Finding of Christ in the Temple (lower right.)
When the feast was first kept at Prague, it was celebrated on April 28; other dates are attested in other places, but Pope Boniface’s bull fixes it to July 2nd, the day after the Octave of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. This may seem an odd choice, since the Visitation comes right before the Baptist’s birth in St Luke’s Gospel. Wishing to keep the feast with the fullness of solemnity according to the custom of his era, Pope Boniface originally gave it a vigil and an octave; both of these were removed in the Tridentine liturgical reform, although the octave was retained by many religious orders, and all the dioceses of the kingdom of Bohemia. Vigils were not kept in the Easter season, and if the feast were set in May or June, its octave would continually clash with those of the Ascension, Pentecost and Corpus Christi. (The date of the Visitation in the Novus Ordo, May 31, will fall on the Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday or Corpus Christi 13 times in the current century; adding the vigil of Pentecost, its octave and that of Corpus, it will be impeded a further 42 times). By the end of the 15th century, the July 2nd date had been received throughout the western Church, even at Prague, and this is the date that would carry through to the Tridentine liturgical books.

In the Ambrosian Rite, the Visitation is ranked as a Solemnity of the Lord, and as such, may be celebrated on a Sunday, which is not permitted even for the very greatest solemnities of the Saints, such as the Assumption or the feast of St Charles Borromeo. Nevertheless, the texts of both Mass and Office are essentially about the Virgin Mary. The major exception is the first chant of the Mass, the “Ingressa”, repeated from the Sixth Sunday of Advent, which speaks of the first meeting of the Lord and His Precursor as children in their mothers’ wombs.

Videsne Elisabeth cum Dei Genitrice Maria disputantem: Quid ad me venisti, mater Domini mei? Si enim scirem, in tuum venirem occursum. Tu enim Regnatorem portas, et ego prophetam: tu legem dantem, et ego legem accipientem: tu Verbum, et ego vocem proclamantis adventum Salvatoris.

Dost thou see Elizabeth discussing with Mary, the Mother of God: Why hast Thou come to me, o mother of my Lord? For if I had known, I would have come to meet Thee. For thou bearest Him that reigneth, and I the prophet; Thou the Giver of the Law, and I him that receiveth it; Thou the Word, and I the voice of him that proclaimeth the coming of the Savior.

The Byzantine Rite also keeps July 2nd with a feast of the Virgin, called “The Placing of the Honorable Robe of the Holy Mother of God in Blachernae.” Blachernae was the name of a suburb of Constantinople, later enclosed within the city walls, where in the mid-5th century the Empress St Pulcheria built a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary; this church would become the city’s most important Marian shrine, and among all of its churches second in importance only to Hagia Sophia. Shortly thereafter, two citizens of the imperial capital were said to have found the robe of the Virgin Mary while visiting the Holy Land, and to have brought it back to the city, where it was enshrined in the church at Blachernae; an ancient icon of the Virgin was also housed therein, of the type now called from it Blachernitissa.

The Synaxarion of the Byzantine Rite (the equivalent of the Martyrology) tells the story that when Constantinople was besieged by the Avars and Persians in 626, the patriarch Sergius processed various relics around the city walls, including those of the Cross, and the Virgin’s Robe. Shortly thereafter, the besieging armies were completely defeated by the much smaller Byzantine forces, and the enemy fleet wrecked just off the shores of the Blachernae region. The Byzantine tradition states that the famous hymn to the Virgin known as the Akathistos was first sung on this occasion, to honor the Mother of God for protecting and delivering the city. The Virgin of the Blachernae was believed to have delivered the city from at least three other sieges, twice by the Arabs in 677 and 717, and again by the Russians in 860; the icon and robe of the Blachernitissa came to be venerated as the palladia, the protecting talismans of the city.

The Siege of Constantinpole, in a mural of the Moldovita Monastery in Romania, painted in 1537. (Image from wikipedia; click to enlarge.) On the upper part of the city walls are seen the Blachernitissa icon of the Virgin, and the Holy Mandylion, the cloth with the face of Jesus on it.
Later Byzantine writers tell of a miracle which took place in the church so often it came to be known as the “habitual miracle.” This tradition found its way to the West, and is recorded in the rubrics of the Missal of Sarum, as an explanation of the custom of celebrating a Mass in honor of the Virgin every Saturday.
In a certain church of the city of Constantinople, there was an image of the Blessed Virgin, before which there hung a veil which covered the whole image. But on Friday after Vespers, this veil withdrew from the image, with no one moving it, by a miracle of God alone, as if it were being born up to heaven so that the image could be fully seen. Once Vespers had been celebrated on Saturday, the veil descended once again before the image, and remained there until the following Friday. Once this miracle had been seen, it was decreed that that day should always be celebrated in honor of the Virgin.
The rubric continues with a beautiful meditation on the Virgin Mary’s faith in the Resurrection.
Another reason is that when the Lord was crucified and had died, as the disciples fled and despaired of the Resurrection, complete faith remained in Her alone. For She knew that She had carried Him without distress, and born Him without pain, and therefore she was certain that He was the Son of God, and must rise from the dead on the third day. And this is the reason why Saturday (i.e. the day between the death and Resurrection of Christ) belongs more than any other day to the Virgin.
A 17th century copy of the Blachernitissa icon of the Virgin Mary, from the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The original seems to have been lost when the church of the Blachernae was destroyed by fire in 1434.

The History of the Church - An Antidote to Today’s Orwellian Re-Writing of History

We live in an age in which history is being re-written, it seems, by the minute. The neo-Marxist theory that is behind the constantly changing, politically-correct view of history does not care for the factual information of history because those who hold it do not believe in objective truth. They say that all we believe to be true is the product of culture. The only people who can step outside the false grip (as they see it) of cultural influences are the enlightened few who have accepted the faith of scientific socialism - Marxism. These modern-day gnostics hold deeply to their atheist-materialist narrative. When the truth or reason contradict it, they invent facts and rationales to suit themselves and create a “history” that corresponds to what they would like it to be. They are afraid of truth and reason and so must destroy adherence to both.

As Christians, our narrative is salvation history, and unlike the Marxists and their allies in politics, education, and the press (who are either complicit in the deceit or fools are manipulated by them), our narrative is rooted in the truth, and the facts of history support all that we believe. History may not always be what we would like it to be, but we know that it conforms to the ultimate end that God has for us. Christians, contrary to the way we are portrayed, are not afraid of the truth or of reason. We all have an obligation, therefore, to be conversant in those facts of history; otherwise it will be forgotten and the revisionists will win. And the history of the Church is at the heart of all history. It is not the whole of history - there is much else that is important to know - but it is a crucial part of the window by which we see and understand who we are and where we are going.

I am grateful, therefore, to Andy Hickman, from the Institute of Catholic Culture for letting me know of a free semester-long course on Church History taught by Dr. John Pepino, who is a professor of Greek, Latin, History, and Patristics at Our Lady of Guadalupe, the FSSP Seminary in Denton, Nebraska. Registration is open now and until July 9th. Dr Pepino is a respected scholar and an inspiring teacher. His most recent publication is his translation into English of Yves Chiron’s, Annibale Bugnini: Reformer of the Liturgy.

Dr Pepino’s course will cover the period from late antiquity to early modernity. Students will learn about the Roman foundations of Christian civilization, the rise of ecclesiastical institutions in the medieval West, the relationship between Eastern and Western Christianity through this period, the medieval conflict between Christianity and Islam, and the rise of modernity.

You can register to audit the class for free here.

The recently-defaced statue of St Junipera Serra, Los Angeles

First Ordinariate Mass in Western North Carolina This Sunday

This coming Sunday, July 5th, St Barnabas Catholic Church in Arden, North Carolina, will host the first Mass to be celebrated in that area according to the Ordinariate Rite in Divine Worship: The Missal, beginning at 10 am, with Confessions beforehand, and lunch and fellowship to follow. The church is located at 109 Crescent Hill Rd; due to current COVID restrictions, the Mass will be held outdoors. The liturgy will also be live-streamed on the Facebook page of St James Catholic Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

A group of the local faithful hopes this will be the first step to the establishment of a permanent Ordinariate parish. Ordinariate priests will be traveling to the area to offer Ordinariate Form Masses starting in the summer of 2020. Fr. Adrian Porras has graciously offered St Barnabas’s facilities as this new parish community seeks to get started. To learn more or sign up for local updates, call or text Joshua Johnson at 828-748-6251 or email him at

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

The Displacement of the Mysterium Fidei and the Fabricated Memorial Acclamation

July 1st is the feast of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the traditional Roman calendar, into which it was introduced by Pius IX in 1849; it was suppressed by Paul VI in the new general calendar of 1969, or rather, with typical rationalism, was folded into the feast of Corpus Christi (so named since the 13th century) as the feast of the Corpus et Sanguis Christi. The following article, on the postconciliar transmogrification of the formula spoken over the chalice, therefore suits well the liturgical day.

The story of how the words of consecration spoken over the chalice were changed for the Novus Ordo Missae is a potent exhibition of many interrelated problems characteristic of the liturgical reform in general: false antiquarianism; a defective understanding of participatio actuosa; an infatuation with Eastern praxis coupled with a contempt for what is uniquely Western; disdain for medieval piety and doctrine; a lack of humility in the face of that which we cannot fully understand and a lack of reverence for that which is mysterious; a mechanistic reduction of liturgy to material that we can shape as it pleases us (as we try to do with the natural world using our modern technology); and an itch to construct new forms due to boredom or discomfort with old ones. This example, therefore, serves as a crystal-clear illustration of the errors and vices that permeate the reform as a whole.

Pope Innocent III and St Thomas Aquinas
1. The Traditional View

For centuries, going back into the mists of time, the priest has said the words “Mysterium fidei” in the midst of the words of consecration whispered over the chalice. These words powerfully evoke the irruption or inbreaking of God into our midst in this unfathomable Sacrament. The consecration of the wine completes the signification of the sacrifice of the Cross, the moment when our High Priest obtained for us eternal redemption (cf. Heb 9:12), the re-presentation of which, together with the application of its fruits, is the very purpose of the Mass.

On November 29, 1202, Pope Innocent III sent a letter Cum Marthae circa to Archbishop John of Lyon—a letter always included in Denzinger [1]—in which he wrote:
You have asked who has added to the words of the formula used by Christ himself when he transubstantiated the bread and wine into his Body and Blood the words that are found in the Canon of the Mass generally used by the Church, but that none of the evangelists has recorded… [namely] the words ‘Mystery of faith’ inserted into the words of Christ… Surely there are many words and deeds of the Lord that have been omitted in the Gospels; of these we read that the apostles have supplemented them by their words and expressed them in their actions… Yet, the expression ‘Mystery of faith’ is used, because here what is believed differs from what is seen, and what is seen differs from what is believed. For what is seen is the appearance of bread and wine, and what is believed is the reality of the flesh and blood of Christ and the power of unity and love.
The pope’s answer amounts to this: there are many things Christ gave to the Apostles to hand down that are not recorded in Scripture, and this could well be one of them. Writing only about seventy years later, St. Thomas Aquinas turns the Archbishop’s question into the ninth objection against the fittingness of the words of consecration of the wine:
Further, the words whereby this sacrament is consecrated draw their efficacy from Christ’s institution. But no Evangelist narrates that Christ spoke all these words. Therefore this is not an appropriate form for the consecration of the wine. [2]
He responds to this objection:
The Evangelists did not intend to hand down the forms of the sacraments, which in the primitive Church had to be kept concealed, as Dionysius observes at the close of his book On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy; their object was to write the story of Christ. Nevertheless nearly all these words can be culled from various passages of the Scriptures. Because the words, “This is the chalice,” are found in Luke 22:20, and 1 Corinthians 11:25, while Matthew says in 26:28: “This is My blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins.” The words added, namely, “eternal” and “mystery of faith,” were handed down to the Church by the apostles, who received them from Our Lord, according to 1 Corinthians 11:23: “I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you.”
St. Thomas could have noted that the first Epistle to St. Timothy includes the expression “holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience” (1 Tm 3:9). Later, in his treatment of the exact wording of the formulas of consecration, Aquinas reiterates that such liturgical details were deliberately hidden in the early Church; Scripture does not have as its purpose the revelation of the precise manner in which sacramental mysteries are to be celebrated. [3]

2. The Phrase’s Antiquity and Obscurity

Even the great demythologizer of twentieth-century liturgical scholarship, Fr. Josef Jungmann, SJ, does not attempt to dismiss or deconstruct what he calls “the enigmatic words”:
The phrase is found inserted in the earliest texts of the sacramentaries, and mentioned even in the seventh century. It is missing only in some later sources. Regarding the meaning of the words mysterium fidei, there is absolutely no agreement. A distant parallel is to be found in the Apostolic Constitutions, where our Lord is made to say at the consecration of the bread: “This is the mystery of the New Testament, take of it, eat, it is My Body.” Just as here the mysterium is referred to the bread in the form of a predicate, so in the canon of our Mass it is referred to the chalice in the form of an apposition…. Mysterium fidei is an independent expansion, superadded to the whole self-sufficient complex that precedes.
What is meant by the words mysterium fidei? Christian antiquity would not have referred them so much to the obscurity of what is here hidden from the senses, but accessible (in part) only to (subjective) faith. Rather it would have taken them as a reference to the grace-laden sacramentum in which the entire (objective) faith, the whole divine order of salvation, is comprised. The chalice of the New Testament is the life-giving symbol of truth, the sanctuary of our belief. How or when this insertion was made, or what external event occasioned it, cannot readily be ascertained. [4]
Several points are worth underlining. This phrase appears in all the oldest sources of the Mass we have, which suggests a great antiquity for its origin. The critical edition of the Canon of the Mass, published by Brepols in the Corpus Orationum series, shows no variation whatsoever of the position of the mysterium fidei. [5] The Roman text is cited in over fifty manuscripts of various ages and origins, with no significant variations. The Ambrosian text, which is the product of a Romanization of the Ambrosian Rite effected in the Carolingian era, has only five manuscripts—but they have it in the same place as well.

The oddness of such an insertion, and the fact that it would be so jealously guarded and passed on, implies that it was considered not an incidental feature of the rite but something that pertained to the essence of the rite of Rome. While we might disagree with Jungmann’s subtle dig at Innocent III’s interpretation, the notion that the “mysterium fidei” points to nothing less than “the entire objective faith” of the Church, “the whole divine order of salvation,” as localized (so to speak) in the symbol of the chalice and its precious content, is an impressive one. The axis of reality runs through that vessel tilted on the altar.

Jungmann’s account, together with the paleographical records, brings strongly to the fore the basic problem that faces liturgical historians when they cannot know with certainty the origin of a particular custom. In such circumstances it is impossible to exclude the hypothesis that it is of apostolic institution or subapostolic institution in Rome. If even the most rigorous scholarship cannot detect a particular moment in history when the words mysterium fidei were added for the first time, and if we have a monolithic witness of extant manuscripts, is it not far better—indeed, is it not a solemn obligation of reverence for the most sacred things we have in our possession—to preserve the formula exactly as it has been handed down? Doing otherwise would surely risk profanation. This, indeed, would have been both the hypothesis and the attitude of all Catholics until the 20th century.

3. A Campaign to Remove the Phrase from Office

In an act of astonishing hubris, this phrase was removed from its immemorial place and turned into the prompt for a “memorial acclamation” that had never existed in the Roman rite before. What had been a secret and sublime acknowledgment of salvation—hidden, like the Christian, with Christ in God (cf. Col 3:3)—became an extroverted announcement to the public, for the sake of “participation” reductively understood as saying and doing things. How exactly did this take place, and why?

Around the time of the Second Vatican Council, liturgical surgeons had been itching to ply their scalpels on the Roman Canon, as soon as authority would permit them to remedy its “defects.” In a book chapter pompously called “The Principal Merits and Defects of the Present Roman Canon,” Cipriano Vaggagini, OSB, held forth in 1966:
The third important defect in the way it [the Canon] relates the instituting of the Eucharist is the insertion of the phrase mysterium fidei in the midst of the words said over the chalice. This has no parallel in any other liturgy, and within the Roman rite itself its origin is uncertain and its meaning debatable. However, it is obvious that in its present form at least the insertion mysterium fidei serves to break up and interrupt the words of institution. [6]
Bugnini tells us in his mighty tome The Reform of the Liturgy that Vaggagini, “in three months of intensive work in the library of the Abbey of Mont-César (Louvain) during the summer of 1966…composed two models of new Eucharistic Prayers, which he presented to the group for discussion.” [7] Subsequent discussion concurred that something had to be done about that pesky mysterium fidei:
The addition “the mystery of faith” in the formula for the consecration of the wine in the Roman Canon: is not biblical; occurs only in the Roman Canon; is of uncertain origin and meaning. The experts themselves disagree on the precise sense of the words. In fact, some of them assign the phrase a quite dangerous meaning, since they translate it as ‘‘a sign for our faith’’; interrupts the sentence and makes difficult both its understanding and its translation. The French, for example, have been forced to repeat the word “blood” three times: “This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new covenant, mystery of faith, blood shed…” The same is true to a greater or lesser extent in the other languages. Once again, many bishops and pastors have asked that in the new anaphoras the addition “mystery of faith” be dropped. All this explains the course followed in the new anaphoras with regard to the words of consecration. [8]
Moreover, it was felt to be desirable that there be some “acclamation of the congregation after the consecration and elevation of the chalice”; and why?
The practice is native to the Eastern Churches, but it seems appropriate to accept it into the Roman tradition as a way of increasing the active participation of the congregation. Regarding the exact form of the acclamation, the rubric says that it can use “these or similar words approved by the territorial authorities.” Since the acclamations are to be said, or even sung, by the congregation, it is necessary to leave enough freedom for them to be adapted to the requirements of the various languages and musical genres. [9]
At this point in the process, then, the idea was to remove the words “mysterium fidei” altogether and simply have an acclamation follow upon the elevation of the chalice.

On June 26, 1967, Cardinal Ottaviani, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a letter to Annibale Bugnini, [10] expressing the changes that the Congregation would prefer to see made to the four Eucharistic Prayers that had been submitted for doctrinal review. Those who see Ottaviani as a hero for placing his name on the Short Critical Study two years later may be surprised and disappointed to see how readily he was rolling along with the Consilium’s plan:
About the omission of the parenthesis (inciso) “mysterium fidei”: affirmative.
       With regard to the “acclamation” immediately after the elevation, “Mortem tuam...,” we would prefer a text that expresses more clearly an act of faith, and thus replaces the disappeared “mysterium fidei”—[a phrase] certainly inopportune for the position in which it found itself, but obviously indicated as a call to awaken faith at that solemn moment. The evangelical phrase “Deus meus et Dominus meus” has been suggested.
While Ottaviani consented to the removal of the formula, his suggestion that a text other than Mortem tuam be used as the acclamation was evidently disregarded.

At the famous Synod of Bishops in October 1967—the participants of which counted as the first significant body of “outsiders” to be shown the Missa normativa or rough draft of that which Paul VI would later call the Novus Ordo Missae [11] and then asked to vote on it and contribute comments—the following question, among others, was put to the Synod Fathers, as reported by Bugnini:
Should the words “mysterium fidei” be removed from the formula for the consecration of the wine? Of the 183 voting, 93 said yes, 48 no, and 42 yes with qualifications. In substance, the qualifications were these: 1) The words should also be omitted in the Roman Canon. 2) The words should not completely disappear from the liturgy but should be used as an acclamation after the consecration or in some other formula. [12]
If we take the no votes and the qualified yes (placet iuxta modum) votes together, we see that the majority unqualifiedly in favor of removal was narrow: 93 to 90. Nevertheless, it seems that the attitude of most was like that of Ottaviani: why not take advantage of the general upheaval and turn this phrase into a vehicle of participation?

One cannot escape the impression of people “making things up as they went along,” bereft of any real reverence for tradition or fear of the Lord.

4. Paul VI Insists on Repurposing the Phrase

The issue remained controversial within the Consilium. As Bugnini narrates, the topic came up again at the tenth general meeting (April 23–30, 1968), which met to discuss the six changes on which Paul VI had had the temerity (in the experts’ view) to insist in regard to the Missa normativa. “The whole matter caused some dismay, since the Pope seemed to be limiting the Consilium’s freedom of research by using his authority to impose solutions.” [13] The special subcommittee created to deal with the problem included, among others, Rembert Weakland, Joseph Gélineau, and Cipriano Vaggagini.

In regard to our present topic, Paul VI—not surprisingly for a pope who had chosen the title Mysterium Fidei for his great encyclical of 1965 defending transubstantiation and condemning certain heretical tendencies in Eucharistic theology—disliked the idea of going straight from the elevation to the acclamation and had requested specifically that “the words ‘mysterium fidei’ are [still] to be spoken by the priest before the acclamation of the congregation.” Bugnini relates:
What were the difficulties raised by the study group against the adoption of what the Pope wanted?... Mystery of faith. If the words were said by the celebrant before the acclamation of the congregation, (a) this would be an innovation not found in the liturgical tradition; (b) it would alter the structure of the Canon at an important moment; (c) it would change the meaning of the words in question, since they are no longer connected with the consecration of the chalice. If the words are to be kept, the report said, they should be connected either with the formula of consecration of the wine or with the acclamation. [14]
In the end, Paul VI prevailed. We are therefore not surprised to find this change and its pastoral “benefit” announced in the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum of April 3, 1969. The irony of its immediate context, however, deserves close attention:
As to the words Mysterium fidei, removed from the context of the words of Christ our Lord and spoken by the Priest, these open the way, as it were, to the acclamation of the faithful.
       Regarding the Order of Mass, “the rites have been simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance.”… Furthermore, “there have been restored…in accordance with the ancient norm of the holy Fathers, various elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history.”
Unlike the justification for “restoring” the “responsorial psalm,” which is based on false antiquarianism and a reductive theory of participation, here the pope offers no explanation except that it shall “open the way, as it were, to the acclamation of the faithful.” Yet this change to the venerable Roman Canon (and then replicated in all the neo-anaphoras) cannot have been done with “due care” to “preserve [the] substance” of the rites, as the ironic reference to “restoring elements that have suffered injury through accidents of history, in accordance with the ancient norm of the holy fathers” indicates. [15]

In regard to the mysterium fidei, the ancient norm was expressly violated; the only injury inflicted was of the Consilium’s design. It was rather through the accidents of the postconciliar liturgical reform that the Roman rite suffered injury.

Solemn Carmelite Mass in Middletown, NY, on July 19th

On Sunday, July 19th, a solemn High Mass will be celebrated according to the traditional Carmelite Rite, also known as the Rite of the Holy Sepulcher, at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middletown, New York, the motherhouse of the order’s North American Province of St Elias. The liturgy will begin at 10:30 am with a solemn procession of relics of Carmelite Saints, followed by the Mass at 11. This effort is happening with the blessing and support of the Prior Provincial, Very Rev. Mario Esposito, and the Director of Vocations, Fr. Francis Amodio, as part of the Year of Vocations festivities. The events is open to the public; the friars ask that those who wish to attend RSVP at The shrine is located at 70 Carmelite Drive in Middletown, NY.

Mons. Georg Ratzinger, RIP

Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, the elder brother of Benedict XVI, passed away this morning at the age of 96. Our readers will have certainly seen that the Pope Emeritus recently went to visit his ailing brother in Regensburg, Germany, where the latter served for many years as director of the cathedral’s famous boys’ choir. The two brothers were ordained priests at the same ceremony on June 29, 1951, by Michael Card. von Faulhaber, the archbishop of Munich and Freising. Requiescat in pace.

Image from Wikimedia Commons by Ricardo.ciccone, CC BY-SA 4.0
Deus, qui inter apostolicos sacerdotes famulum tuum Georgium sacerdotali fecisti dignitate vigere: praesta quaesumus: ut eorum quoque perpetuo aggregetur consortio. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.

God, who among the apostolic priests made Thy servant Georg to flourish with priestly dignity: grant, we beseech Thee: that he may also be joined unto their perpetual society. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Liturgical Notes on the Commemoration of St Paul

The joint commemoration of the Apostles Peter and Paul is one of the most ancient customs of the Roman Church, attested already in the oldest surviving Roman liturgical calendar, the Depositio Martyrum, written in 336 A.D. A verse of the hymn Apostolorum passio, agreed by most authorities to be an authentic work of St Ambrose († 397), and still used in the Ambrosian liturgy, says that “the thick crowds make their way through the circuit of so great a city; the feast of the sacred martyrs is celebrated on three streets.” These “three streets” are the via Cornelia, the main street running up to and over the Vatican hill; the via Ostiensis, where the burial and church of St Paul are; and the via Appia, on which sits the cemetery “in Catacumbas”.

This last is the ancient Christian cemetery now called the Catacomb of St Sebastian; the word “catacomb” was in fact originally the name of the site of this cemetery specifically, and only later came to be used as a generic term for ancient subterranean Christian burial grounds. The basilica over the cemetery, now also entitled to St Sebastian, was originally known as the “Basilica Apostolorum”, in memory of a tradition that the bones of Peter and Paul were kept there for a time, probably to save them from destruction in the era of persecutions. This is referred to in various ancient sources, including the Depositio Martyrum, and confirmed by modern archeological research. The celebration of the feast “on three streets” would refer then to a procession to visit the site of St Peter’s burial at the Vatican, that of St Paul on the via Ostiensis, and the cemetery where their remains were once kept.
The building of which this wall is a part was constructed over the Catacomb of St Sebastian about 250 A.D., and is covered with dozens of devotional graffiti like the one seen here. “Paule ed (et) Petre, petite pro Victore - Paul and Peter, pray (lit. ‘ask’) for Victor.” 
The poet Prudentius, writing in the very early fifth century, calls the day “bifestum – a double feast”, and attests that on that day the Pope would say a Mass at the Basilica of St Peter, and then hasten to say another at St Paul’s. He does not refer to a visit to the Catacombs on the via Appia, but assuming this visit was made on the way back to the Papal residence at the Lateran, the total circuit is nearly nine-and-half miles, to be made at the height of the Italian summer. However, only seven years after Prudentius visited Rome in 403, the city was sacked by the Goths, then sacked again by the Vandals in 455; over the sixth and seventh centuries, it was largely reduced to ruins and depopulated by the long wars between the Goths and Byzantines, and the invasion of the Lombards.

It should not be surprising, then, that at a certain point the double feast was divided, and kept in a more manageable way as two separate feasts. In the Gelasian Sacramentary, we find three Masses of Ss Peter and Paul assigned to June 29th; the oldest copy of the Gelasianum dates to roughly 750, but much of the material is considerably older, some of it reaching back even to the days of St Leo the Great 300 years earlier. In some manuscripts, however, one of the three, “the proper Mass of St Paul”, has already been assigned to June 30th. In the Gregorian Sacramentary, written roughly a century later, we find the feast of St Peter on June 29th, and that of St Paul on the 30th; each Mass contains references to the other Apostle, but they are nevertheless clearly distinct. Thus, by the time of Charlemagne, the “bifestum” of Prudentius had already been separated into a two day feast.

At the traditional Mass of June 29th, the majority of the texts refer either to St Peter alone (Introit, Epistle, Alleluia, Gospel, Communion) or to Apostles generically, as in the Gradual “Thou shalt make them princes over all the earth.” The sole reference to St Paul is in the Collect, “O God, who hast consecrated this day by the martyrdom of Thy Apostles Peter and Paul, grant Thy Church to follow in all things the teaching of those through whom she first received the faith.” The Office is likewise dedicated almost entirely to St Peter, the notable exceptions being the hymns of Vespers and Lauds, and the antiphon of the Magnificat at Second Vespers. This latter is in both the structure of its text and in its Gregorian melody very similar to the Magnificat antiphon at Second Vespers of Pentecost, to indicate that the mission of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled in the lives and deaths of the Apostles, and thereafter in their successors.

Ant. Hodie * Simon Petrus ascendit crucis patibulum, alleluia: hodie clavicularius regni gaudens migravit ad Christum: hodie Paulus Apostolus, lumen orbis terrae inclinato capite pro Christi nomine martyrio coronatus est, alleluia.

On this day, Simon Peter ascended the gibbet of the cross, alleluia: on this day, he that beareth the keys of the kingdom of heaven passed rejoicing to Christ: on this day, Paul the Apostle, the light of the world, inclining his head, for the name of Christ was crowned with martyrdom, alleluia.

The following day, therefore, the whole of the liturgy is dedicated to St Paul, and is not called a day within the octave of the Apostles, but rather “the Commemoration of St Paul.” The variable texts of the Mass all refer to him, but a commemoration of St Peter is added to the feast, in accordance with the tradition that the two are never entirely separated in the veneration paid them by the Church. (The same is done on the feast of St Paul’s Conversion, and commemorations of him are added to the feasts of St Peter’s Chairs and Chains.) The Office is likewise dedicated entirely to him; both the Mass and Office, however, make use of St Paul’s own testimony in Galatians 2 to the mission of the two Apostles: “For he who worked in Peter for the apostleship of the circumcision, worked in me also among the gentiles; and they knew the grace of God that was given to me.” In the 1130s, a canon of St Peter’s Basilica named Benedict writes that it was still the custom in his time for the Pope to keep the feast of St Peter at the Vatican, but then celebrate Vespers at the tomb of St Paul in the great Basilica on the Ostian Way, “with all the choirs” of the city.

The apsidal mosaic of the St Paul’s Outside-the-Walls, executed in the 1220s, and heavily repaired after most of the ancient church was destroyed by fire in 1823. To the left of Christ are St Luke and St Paul, on the right St Peter and his brother St Andrew.
Originally, the Gospel for the feast was St Matthew 19, 27-29, and from this passage are taken the antiphon of the Benedictus and the Communion of the Mass. This same Gospel is used on several other feasts of Apostles, including the days within the octave of Ss Peter and Paul, and the feast of St Paul’s Conversion. It was changed in the Tridentine liturgical reform to St Matthew 10, 16-22, evidently because of the words “you shall be brought before governors, and before kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the gentiles,” an eminently appropriate choice for this feast. It is also used on the feast of St Barnabas, who, after Paul’s conversion, when the members of the Church feared that it was perhaps a ruse to further the persecution, “took him, and brought him to the Apostles, and told them how he had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken to him.” (Acts 9, 27) The Epistle of the Mass, Galatians 1, 11-20, has been added to the traditional readings for the vigil of Ss Peter and Paul as the Epistle of the vigil Mass in the new rite.
The Apostles Paul and Barnabas at Lystra (Acts 14, 5-18), by Jacob Jordaens, 1645; Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna.
In the Novus Ordo, the Commemoration of St Paul has been abolished, and the texts of both Mass and Office for June 29th rewritten to give equal space to both Apostles. So for example, of the two responsories in the Office of Readings, the first refers to Peter, and the second to Paul. (Inexplicably and unjustifiably, the Magnificat antiphon “Hodie” cited above was not retained in the Liturgy of the Hours.) June 30th is now the feast of the “Protomartyrs of the Roman Church”, the Christians whose martyrdom at the hands of the Emperor Nero is described in a famous passage of the Annals of Tacitus.
But all human efforts … did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration (which destroyed much of Rome in July of 64 A.D.) was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed. (Book XV, chapter 44)
The Torches of Nero, by Henryk Siemiradzki, 1876
Despite the early and explicit attestation of this martyrdom by an historian with no bias in favor of the Christians, there is no historical tradition of devotion to this group of martyrs “whose number and names are known only to God”, as we read in Donald Attwater’s revision of Butler’s Lives of the Saints. A notice of them was added to the Roman Martyrology in the post-Tridentine revision of Cardinal Baronius, but their feast was not added to the calendar of the diocese of Rome until the early 20th century, by Pope Benedict XV.

The “circus” to which Tacitus refers as the site of the martyrdom was a chariot-racing facility that sat immediately to the south of the via Cornelia, next to where St Peter’s Basilica is today. It was allowed to fall to ruins after the death of Nero, and apparently razed to the ground by Constantine to make space for the original basilica. Left in place, however, was the Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome by Caligula, and set up on the “spine” of the circus, as the Romans called it, the wall down the middle around which the chariots raced. The turning posts on the end are called “metae” in Latin, and the apocryphal Acts of Peter, a work of the mid-2nd century, say that Peter was crucified “inter metas”; the obelisk, then, would have been among the last things St Peter saw in this world. After sitting next to the old Basilica for over 12 centuries, it was moved in 1586 to the area in front of the new church, then still under construction, later to be surrounded by Bernini’s Piazza. Its former location is marked by a plaque in the ground to the side of the modern basilica; the surrounding area was renamed by Benedict XV “Piazza of the First Martyrs of Rome.”

The Basilica of St Peter in 1450, according to the reconstruction of H.W. Brewer, 1891. The obelisk is seen immediately in front of the first rotunda on the left side of the basilica.
Gratias quam maximas refero Bono Homini, quo sagacior et diligentior consulendus non invenitur!

The Fallacy of the Claim that Christian Art Generally Portrays Christ as a Northern European

Why I think that those who criticize the Christian artistic tradition for always presenting Christ as a northern European are wrong and it reveals a Eurocentric bias in their interpretation of history.

The following first appeared in January 2016. I am reposting it as a response to the recent highly publicized calls in the US by the Marxist left for the destruction of Christian images on the basis of the idea that they promote a white-European stereotype of Christ as a symbol of oppression. Iconoclasm is a heresy that has appeared before, going back many centuries. This particular justification for image destruction is more recent, dating, to my knowledge, only as far as the period of the Marxist theorists of the US who developed their ideas after the Second World War. The accusation that Christians think Christ is white European is false, as a survey of Christian art shows. The claim seems to be based upon an ignorance of art history influenced, ironically, by a Western, Eurocentric bias in the interpretation of history.

The arguments I made four years ago were in response to some newspaper articles which were anti-Christian, but much tamer in their tone than what we are seeing at the moment. Anyway, here is what I wrote:

I have read a number of articles over the years that criticize the traditional representation of Christ as historically inaccurate and exemplary of historical northern European cultural bias.

Twice recently, I have heard this discussion sparked off by the discovery of human remains in the Holy Land which date from the time of Christ, which have allowed scientists to create an image of the person from whom the bones came. The figure that is recreated is, surprise, surprise, olive-skinned and Semitic-looking, and so this indicates, so the logic goes, what Christ would probably have looked like. This being so, it demonstrates how narrow-minded Europeans are, and how culturally narrow Christianity is for portraying Christ as a white Caucasian.

In short, it would be said, Christ didn’t look like this painting by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, as the Church has often represented:

He looked instead more like this scientific reconstruction of a man, developed from a skull discovered in the Holy Land, according to this article.

Here is my reaction: first, if ever there was a concocted news piece, this was one - do we really need the discovery of a skull as evidence that a Jew living in the Middle East about 2,000 years ago might have been dark-skinned and Semitic-looking? I think nearly every Christian today would at least be open to the idea without feeling that their faith was threatened, and it wouldn’t require the discovery of a skull to convince them.

Second, I think that the argument reveals a narrow understanding of the Christian artistic tradition and a lack of appreciation of just how universally inclusive it is. I will acknowledge that there is a tradition of artists who present Christ as their own race, or the race of those for whom the painting is intended. The idea behind this is to encourage people to believe that Christ is a person to whom they can relate on a personal level. This is natural. Sir Anthony Van Dyck, who was northern European and who spent most of his professional life working in England, might very well naturally paint Christ as a northern European. But why shouldn’t he? I feel that it is as reasonable for a European to paint Christ as European as it is for him to be painted as an African for an African congregation, or as Chinese for a Chinese audience, as in this painting:

This desire to portray Christ in a form that the intended viewers will relate to can manifest itself in other ways. This famous crucifixion by Grunewald shows Christ with the open sores of a fungal infection transmitted through rye grain eaten in the bread of 16th-century France. Those who suffered from this horrible disfiguring disease were given care in a hospital, and this painting was made for the chapel in the hospital. The intention was to give them solace by showing that Christ not only bore the pain of their sins, but was suffering with them physically too. 

On the whole, the depiction of Christ in the Christian artistic tradition does look more like the Van Dyck image than anything else. However, what I would contest the idea that this results from a northern European cultural bias. Look at these two images, first this one:

Monday, June 29, 2020

Ordination and First Mass for the Fraternity of St Joseph the Guardian

On the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, His Excellency Dominique Rey, bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, France, ordained Dcn Danka Pereira, a member of the Fraternity of St Joseph the Guardian, to the priesthood in the traditional rite. Three days later, Fr Pereira celebrated his first solemn Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help; both of these celebrations took place at the church of St Trophime in the town of Bourmes Les Mimosas, which is under the Fraternity’s care. Our thanks to them for sharing these photos with us, and our congratulations to Fr Pereira, to his family, friends, religious family, and diocese - ad multos annos!
Bishop Rey reads the admonition to the ordinand from the Pontificale.
The Litany of the Saints is sung, led by two cantors who kneel at the entrance to the sanctuary; the ordinand prostrates himself, while all others kneel.
After the bishop has imposed hands on the ordinand, all the priests in the church do the same.

The Feast of Ss Peter and Paul 2020

Truly it is fitting and just, right and profitable to salvation to give Thee thanks always, here and everywhere, in honor of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Whom Thy election did so deign to consecrate, that it might change blessed Peter’s worldly trade as a fisherman into divine teaching; so that he might deliver the human race from the depths of hell with the nets of Thy precepts. And then Thou didst change the mind of his fellow Apostle Paul, along with his name; and whom the Church at first feared as a persecutor, She now rejoices to hold as the teacher of divine commandments. Paul was blinded that he might see; Peter denied, that he might believe. To the one Thou gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to the other, knowledge of the divine law, that he might call the nations; for the latter brought them in, as the other opened (the door of heaven). Therefore both received the rewards of eternal virtue. Thy right hand did raise up the one, lest he sink as he walked upon the water, and rescued the other from the dangers of the deep when he was shipwrecked for the third time.

The Stefaneschi Triptych, painted by Giotto and assistants for the high altar of St Peter’s Basilica, ca. 1330. On the left, the Crucifixion of St Peter; in the middle, Card. Giacomo Stefaneschi kneels before Christ in majesty; on the right, the beheading of St Paul. In the upper part of the right panel, Angels bring St Paul’s blindfold to one of the women of the Roman church after his death, as Paul promised her would happen. (Public domain image from Wikipedia; click to enlarge.)
The one did conquer the gates of the hell, and the other the sting of death; and Paul was beheaded, for he was shown to be the head of the Gentiles’ faith, while Peter, followed in the footsteps of Christ, the head of us all. Whom together with Thee, almighty Father, and the Holy Spirit, the Angels praise, the Archangels venerate, the Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Principalities and Powers adore; whom the Cherubim and Seraphim with shared rejoicing praise. And we pray that Thou may command our voices to be brought in among them, saying with humble confession: Holy, Holy, Holy… (The Preface of Ss Peter and Paul in the Ambrosian Missal.)

Vere quia dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper hic et ubique in honore Apostolorum Petri et Pauli gratias agere. Quos ita electio tua consecrare dignata est, ut beati Petri secularem piscandi artem in divinum dogma converteret; quatenus humanum genus de profundo inferni praeceptorum tuorum retibus liberaret. Nam Coapostoli ejus Pauli mentem cum nomine mutasti, et quem prius persecutorem metuebat Ecclesia, nunc caelestium mandatorum laetatur se habere doctorem. Paulus caecatus est, ut videret; Petrus negavit, ut crederet. Huic claves caelestis imperii, illi ad evocandas gentes divinae legis scientiam contulisti. Nam ille introducit, hic aperit. Ambo igitur virtutis aeternae praemia sunt adepti. Hunc dextera tua gradientem in elemento liquido, dum mergeretur, erexit; illum autem tertio naufragantem, profunda pelagi fecit vitare discrimina. Hic portas inferni, ille mortis vicit aculeum: et Paulus capite plectitur, quia gentium caput fidei probatur: Petrus autem praemissis vestigiis caput omnium secutus est Christum. Quem una tecum, omnipotens Pater, et cum Spiritu Sancto laudant Angeli, venerantur Archangeli; Throni, Dominationes, Virtutes, Principatus et Potestates adorant. Quem Cherubim et Seraphim socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti jubeas, deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus…

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Choirs: An Appeal for Common Sense

Choirs throughout the world face extraordinary challenges at present. Effectively silenced for several months, they have been unable to sing together in rehearsal or in the context of liturgical or concert performance. Even as countries begin, ever so cautiously, to emerge from lockdown, a considerable amount of debate has arisen surrounding the circumstances of viral transmission through singing. This panic was initially precipitated by the spread of the virus in a choir in the USA, pre-lockdown, with the assumption that it was the singing, rather than the lack of social-distancing, which caused this. A number of preliminary studies, including two carried out in Freiburg and Munich, demonstrate that singing is perfectly safe as long as sensible precautions are put in place.

However, Britain’s choral tradition is now under major threat due to the UK government’s proposed guidance which will make it difficult or impossible for choirs to meaningfully rehearse or perform. Even though there is no scientific evidence to prove the dangers of singing, the negative narrative means that the onus is now on us to prove that singing is safe: so much for ‘innocent until proven guilty’. However in a world which seems unable to accept any risk at all, the UK government’s response is ultimately driven by concerns about liability.

Aside from the obvious impoverishment of the Liturgy and the wider cultural heritage, many professional musicians now face very bleak times. Amateur musicians will suffer too. However in the case of children’s choirs, and those which include children such as cathedral choirs, this situation is nothing short of catastrophic.

Children’s choirs are in a constant state of flux and development and boys’ voices undergo pronounced change which requires particular management. Throughout a choir, individuals are at different stages of sight-reading proficiency, pitching ability and general musical awareness. The younger ones apprentice from the older ones, with every child at a different stage on the journey. Through this process the transmission of the choral tradition itself takes place, encompassing the shared musical experiences, the collegiate knowledge of specific repertoire, and the choir’s unique sound itself, melded by the building in which it sings.

None of this can be simply put on hold; it has to be active in order to exist. This is certainly the case for the two choirs which I direct, the London Oratory Junior Choir and the London Oratory Schola, on whose behalf I wrote to Oliver Dowden MP, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to express these concerns. Over a week later his department has yet to respond; however, a number of other Members of Parliament including Sir Edward Leigh have contacted me to assure me of their support.

In my letter I wrote that, unlike adult choirs, a boys’ or children’s choir cannot simply pick up where it left off. The process of nurturing and developing cannot be put on ice and then resumed at a later date without significant consequences. It could take three to five years to recover the damage and rebuild, and a generation of singers could easily be lost. Time is of the essence, and the clock is always ticking for a boy treble.

Science is not absolute, even when preceded by the definite article. The risks to the young are absolutely minute. Will institutions such as Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College disappear from the landscape? Will there be no choir at the next coronation in Westminster Abbey? Of course not – common sense will prevail in the end, but the sooner the better.

UPDATE: Today (Fri 3 July 2020) I received a response to my letter to Oliver Dowden MP. The response came from Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of State, DCMS. The letter does not address any of my concerns nor does it make any mention, specific or otherwise, of Children's Choirs.

Kicking St Irenaeus Around

June 28 is traditionally the feast day of Pope St Leo II, who died on this day in 683, after a reign of less than 11 months. The Liber Pontificalis records that on the previous day he celebrated the ordination of nine priests, three deacons, and twenty-three bishops; it is not said that it was the ordination ceremony that killed him, but the heat of Rome in June and the inevitable length of such a ceremony make this seem likely more than coincidence. The principal achievement of his pontificate was the confirmation of the acts of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, the third of Constantinople, which condemned the Monothelite heresy; being fluent in Greek as well as Latin, he personally made the official Latin translation of the council’s acts. It is one of the oddities of hagiography that his predecessor St Agatho, in whose reign the council was held, and whose intervention (through his legates) in its deliberations was acclaimed with the words “Peter has spoken through Agatho!”, has never been honored with a general feast day in the West, but is kept on the Byzantine Calendar. Leo, on the other, was a Sicilian, and therefore born as a subject of the Byzantine Empire, but is not liturgically honored in the East.

In this altar in St Peter’s Basilica are kept the relics of three Sainted Popes named Leo, the Second (682-3), the Third (795-816) and the Fourth (847-55). The altar of Pope St Leo I (440-61) is right next to it, and Pope Leo XII (1823-29) is buried in the floor between them.
Even older than the feast of Pope Leo is the vigil of Ss Peter and Paul. The vigils of the Saints originally consisted solely of a Mass, penitential in character, celebrated after None in violet vestments, without a Gloria, Alleluia or Creed; prior to the Tridentine reform, they had no presence in the Office in the Use of Rome. (Back when there were plenty of canonical and monastic churches, such foundations would have celebrated two Masses in choir, that of St Leo after Terce, and that of the vigil after None, just as was done with the feasts of Saints which occur in Lent.) In the Breviary of St Pius V, vigils were extended to the Office, following a custom of medieval German Uses, an unusual example of change in an otherwise very conservative reform. At Matins, a homily on the day’s Gospel is read, and the prayer of the vigil Mass is said at the Hours; everything else is done as on the feria until Vespers, which are the First Vespers of the feast. However, the vigil of Ss Peter and Paul, because it coincides with St Leo, was reduced in the Office to one lesson at Matins (the ninth) and a commemoration at Lauds.

At Lyon, the ancient primatial see of Gaul, the day was kept as the feast of St Irenaeus, and the vigil as a commemoration. In his book On Illustrious Men, St Jerome mentions the famous martyrdom of St Pothinus, who was Irenaeus’ predecessor in the See of Lyon, but says nothing about the latter’s death, the date and circumstances of which are unknown; it is a rather later tradition that he died a martyr. It may very well be that his feast found its way to the vigil of Ss Peter and Paul at Lyon because of the famous passage in his book Against the Heresies (3.3.2) in which he attests to the primacy of the Roman See as follows. “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority – that is, the faithful everywhere – inasmuch as the Apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those who are everywhere.” In 1921, Pope Benedict XV extended his feast to the general Calendar on his traditional Lyonese date, moving Pope Leo II to July 3rd, the next free day on the calendar, and the day of his burial according to the Liber Pontificalis.

The crypt of the church of St Irenaeus at Lyon. In 1562, the church was severely damaged by the Huguenots, who also destroyed the Saint’s relics, and played a game of soccer with his skull. After more destruction in the revolution, it was rebuilt in 1824, and the crypt renovated in 1863. Despite these vicissitudes, the crypt may still be regarded as one of the oldest religious buildings in France; relics of certain local martyrs were venerated there already in the later part of the 5th century. The church was originally dedicated to St John the Baptist. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Xavier Caré.)
In the Breviary Reform of 1960, St Irenaeus was moved to July 3rd, and Pope Leo II suppressed, in order to free June 28th up entirely for the Mass and Office of the vigil of Ss Peter and Paul. This was fundamentally a rather odd thing to do, since so many of the vigils then on the general Calendar, (including all those of the other Apostles, and, inexcusably, those of the Epiphany and All Saints) were abolished by the same reform. Less than a decade later, however, with the promulgation of the Novus Ordo, vigils in the classic Roman sense, penitential days of preparation for the major feasts, were simply abolished altogether, “freeing” June 28th from the one observance which had hitherto been absolutely universal on that date, the vigil of Ss Peter and Paul. St Irenaeus was therefore moved back to that date, freeing July 3rd for the transfer of the Apostle St Thomas from his historical Roman date, December 21st, to the date on which the Syrian church commemorates the transfer of his relics from India to Edessa.

This may seem to be just another case of what Fr Hunwicke once described as the freezing in pack ice of the EF Calendar, which keeps Irenaeus on a day which he held for ten years, while the OF has restored him to his historical Lyonese date. It should be noted, however, that Lyon itself moved his feast 4 times. After it had been kept on June 28th for centuries, Archbishop Camille de Neufville de Villeroy (1654-93) formally raised St Irenaeus to the title of Patron of the archdiocese, and moved his feast to November 23rd, displacing the very ancient feast of Pope St Clement. Patronal feasts were holy days of obligation in the Ancien Régime, and since adding another holiday to the end of June, right in the middle of harvest season, was judged excessive, his feast was transferred. (Thanks to Mr Gerhard Eger, one of the authors of Canticum Salomonis, for this information.) In the Neo-Gallican reform of Abp Antoine de Montazet (1758-88), which was a catastrophe for the Use of Lyon, it was fixed to the Sunday after the feast of Ss Peter and Paul. In the 1860s, the Missale Romano-Lugdunense was promulgated (basically the Missal of St Pius V, with a great many Lyonese customs added to it, including the rites of Holy Week), and St Irenaeus was fixed to July 3rd. Finally, in the 20th century, he was returned to his traditional date.

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