Monday, May 02, 2016

The Law of Liturgical Entropy

Caspar David Friedrich, The Wanderer
It feels easier to walk downhill than to walk uphill, but it’s much harder on the knees. It feels harder to climb uphill, but the beautiful view at the top is always worth the effort.

As hikers often experience, you will be walking along on a narrow trail, perhaps in the midst of crowded trees, thinking the small thoughts that go with one step after another, and you turn a bend and suddenly the whole world opens up in a breathtaking vista that almost makes you feel dizzy, as if the beauty might subvert your muscles. That beauty was put there by God, not by you, and yet it took your effort to reach it. We make the trails, we walk on them, but the beauty is from above; it was there before we existed and it will long outlast our mortality.

The same is true of the liturgical tradition: it is God’s gift to us, it comes before us and goes beyond us, but we must work hard to preserve it and to be worthy of it. What we absolutely must not do is think that it would be better to create an alternative “tradition” and attempt to rejoice in it — that would be like planting a giant flat screen at the end of the trail and looking at a filmed sunset.

The notion that we need to make ourselves worthy of our liturgical tradition is one that is, I’m afraid, quite unfamiliar today, because of the decades-long bad habits induced by reformers, revisers, translators, and other committee members who place themselves over and above the tradition as its superiors, its judges, its improvers, its improvisers. This is not and cannot be the attitude of one who, conscious of his own limitations and of the narrowness of any age, people, or culture in and of itself, gratefully and humbly receives a noble inheritance, rejoices in its prayer-saturated beauty and stability, and delivers it integrally to his successors — perhaps embellished with additional signs of reverence and devotion, if he has been prompted to originate them.

A Catholic who is aware of himself, who senses the smallness of his vision and the greatness of the tradition that precedes and carries him, is, in fact, relieved that he does not have to make things up as he goes along; he need not second-guess the river along which he floats. He lets himself be the ready instrument of a far greater actor, the mouth through which the same word continues to sound, the hand or foot that executes the head’s bidding. He does not fear messing up that which was whole and safe and salvific before he even came to be and which will continue long after he is gone.

Nevertheless, there is something very important that the individual, the bishop, the priest, the deacon, the religious, the layman, must contribute in order that the tradition will not die out or shrivel up. True, he does not have to invent the tradition, but neither can he ignore it or treat it lightly. He must embrace it or else it will cease to exist.[1] In a famous interview published in The Latin Mass magazine, Alice von Hildebrand addressed this issue head on:
TLM: I cannot end the interview without asking your reaction to a well-worn canard. There are those critics of the ancient Latin Mass who point out that the crisis in the Church developed at a time when the Mass was offered throughout the world. Why should we then think its revival is intrinsic to the solution?
AVH: The devil hates the ancient Mass. He hates it because it is the most perfect reformulation of all the teachings of the Church. It was my husband who gave me this insight about the Mass. The problem that ushered in the present crisis was not the traditional Mass. The problem was that priests who offered it had already lost the sense of the supernatural and the transcendent. They rushed through the prayers, they mumbled and didn’t enunciate them. That is a sign that they had brought to the Mass their growing secularism. The ancient Mass does not abide irreverence, and that was why so many priests were just as happy to see it go.[2]
The law of entropy states that, left to itself, any system will lose order, will devolve or unwind. The tendency of the material world is towards unraveling. If order cannot somehow be re-introduced, decay is unavoidable.[3]

In the little universe of the liturgy, that necessary principle of order is reverence for traditional texts, music, rubrics, and decorum, sustained by Church authority properly exercised. These things can be contributed only by living human beings who correspond with the grace of the Holy Spirit. As long as they are supplied, and where they are present, the liturgy thrives and continues along its way, undiminished. Without them, however, it is doomed to disintegration.

Liturgical decadence, deviation, and disorder are, like the natural tendency of entropy, a downhill walk for fallen man. Left to himself, left without the guidance of the tradition willed by the Holy Spirit and the example of many saints who have shown us how to walk the often grueling uphill path of fidelity, fallen man will make liturgy conform to his own whims and wants, his own programs and purposes — something easier and more damaging. It is the uphill climb that leads to the magnificent vista, the glimpse of a vast and humbling beauty that can only come from the mind of the Creator.

[1] Along these lines, see the superb article of Joseph Shaw, "Does Tradition preserve us, or we the Tradition?"
[2] For the full text, see here; for some highlights, see here.
[3] I am aware that there is a lot more to the concept than this simplistic layman's version of it: see here. But in the popular imagination, entropy means a continuing decrease in order, and that is the rough sense in which I am using it.

Dominican Rite Missa Cantata, S.F. Bay Area, 5/7/16

St. Albert the Great Chapel
A Dominican Rite Missa Cantata celebrating the First Saturday of May will sung by the student friars of the Western Dominican Province on Saturday, May 7.  The Mass will be at Saint Albert the Great Priory, 6172 Chabot Road, Oakland CA, 94618, at 10:00 a.m. The Mass will be a Votive of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Visitors and guests are welcome; pew booklets with the text of Mass in Latin and English will be provided.  There is ample parking on the street and in the priory parking lot next to the chapel.

Fota IX Conference Dates, and Updated List of Speakers

St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy is pleased to announce that the ninth Fota International Liturgy Conference will be held at the Clarion Hotel, Cork City, Ireland, July 9-11, 2016.

The conference theme is Verbum Domini: Liturgy and Scripture, and will examine aspects of the role of Scripture in the liturgy from a range of disciplinary perspectives.

Among those participating in the colloquium are: Bishop Peter Elliott (Melbourne, Australia); Monsignor Michael Magee (Philadelphia); Joseph Briody (Boston); Sven Conrad (Germany); John M. Cunningham, OP (Rome); Stephan Heid (Rome); Paul Mankowski, S.J. (Chicago); Thomas McGovern (Dublin); Ann Orlando (Boston); Gregory DiPippo (New Liturgical Movement); Kevin Zilverberg (St. Paul, Minnesota).

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Mozarabic Mass to be Said in Rome, Friday, May 6th

A solemn Mass in the Mozarabic Rite will be celebrated in the Roman Basilica of the Holy Cross ‘in Jerusalem’ (Santa Croce in Gerusalemme), on Friday, May 6th, starting at 6 p.m. The main celebrant will be Father Salvador Aguilera Lopez of the Congregation for Divine Worship, a priest of the arcdiocese of Toledo; the Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, who have a regular Mass in the Basilica each first Friday, will be present. The Mass will be in Latin, and the Mozarabic chants will be sung by the cantors of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music. The Mass of the Finding of the Cross will be said, transferred from Tuesday the 3rd, an appropriate choice for the Basilica where the relics of the True Cross are still kept and venerated.

The veiling of the ciboria and chalices during a Mozarabic Mass celebrated last year in St Peter’s Basilica.

Happy Easter!

To all our fellow Christians who on this day celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection on the Julian Calendar, we wish a blessed and joyful Easter! Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Христóсъ воскрéсе!

The Resurrection; fresco in the apse of the parekklesion (mortuary chapel) of the church of the Holy Savior in Chora, in Constantinople. (Image from Wikipedia, by Guilhem Vellut - click to enlarge.)
“And now (Christ)  has snatched the whole of humanity from the vaults of Hell and made it pass upwards to heaven and brought it to its ancient dignity of incorruption. But when he descended into Hell he did raise all, but as many as believed in him were chosen. He freed the souls of the Saints since time began who were forcibly held fast by Hell and made them all ascend to heaven. And so we, rejoicing exceedingly, celebrate the Resurrection with splendour as we image joy with which our nature has been enriched by God’s compassionate mercy. Likewise, to demonstrate the abolition of the enmity and the union with God and the Angels, we give one another the customary kiss.” (From the Synaxarion (martyrology) for Easter Sunday.)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ancient Churches in Northern Italy

Our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi recently paid a visit to the archeological zone of Castelseprio, about 30 miles to the northwest of Milan. This was a Roman military outpost which became a small but important fortress town in the Middle Ages, but was then destroyed by Milan in 1287. Close to the area of the castle are two churches, Santa Maria ‘foris Portas’ (outside the gates), built in the 7th or 8th century, and the 8th-century Monastery of Torba, which remained a Benedictine women’s house until 1492. Although both fairly ruinous now, they still preserve a number of interesting fragments of their ancient fresco decorations; those which remain in the former, an extensive cycle on the Infancy of Christ, are more extensive and in better condition. Those

Santa Maria Foris Portas

Above left, Christ the Pantocrator; in the middle, above, the Angel appears to Joseph; below, the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple.
The Divine Throne with angels to either side.
Above, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem; below, the Nativity
The Adoration of the Magi

Friday, April 29, 2016

Relic of the Curé d'Ars to Visit St Mary’s Church in Greenwich, Connecticut

St Mary’s Church in Greenwich, Connecticut, will host the relic of the incorruptible heart of St Jean-Marie Vianney, the patron Saint of parish priests, this coming week, from Tuesday May 3rd until Thursday, May 5th. Details in the flyer below.

From the church’s website: When (St John’s) coffin was opened his body was found perfectly preserved even though it was never embalmed and is today enshrined in a glass casket above the altar at his parish Church in Ars. As was the custom of the time the heart was removed from the body and placed in a separate reliquary for devotion. This extraordinary relic on occasion leaves France to visits other Churches throughout the world.

Saint Mary Church is delighted to announce that the Bishop of Belley-Ars in France has given his permission for the relic of the incorrupt heart of Saint John Vianney to visit our parish from May 3 to 5! The last time the relic was in the United States was 10 years ago. Bishop Caggiano has requested that during this visit we concentrate on the mercy of God given us through the Sacrament of Penance as well as prayers for an increase in priestly vocations. The Bishop will join us for Mass during the visit and we will have many opportunities for Confession during the three days.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

“The moment has come to normalize the situation of the Society”

In February of this year Fr. Franz Schmidberger, rector of the SSPX seminary in Zaitzkofen, Germany, wrote a short essay expressing his reasons, from a personal point of view, for members of the Society to accept a normalization of relations with Church authorities. Here we present an English translation of the document “Thoughts about the Church and the Place of the Society of Saint Pius X in it”.
Under normal circumstances this is a document we would not have published, because NLM has learned that Fr. Schmidberger wrote it as a private communication. He sent it to the SSPX Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, and to a small circle of colleagues, including fellow professors at the seminary. He did not authorize anyone to release it on the internet, let alone to claim incorrectly that he had sent it to all members of the Society; but in recent days both of these have taken place without his consent.
Now that erroneous translations of the text and untrue stories about the document are doing a disservice to innocent readers, Fr. Schmidberger has approved the publication of this authorized translation in English, in order to clear away the errors.

Thoughts about the Church and the Place of the Society of Saint Pius X in it

I. The Church is a mystery. She is the mystery of the one true God who is present among us, the saving God who desires not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live. This conversion requires our cooperation.

II. The Church is infallible in her divine nature, but she is led by human beings who can go astray and also be burdened with failings. An office should be distinguished from the person in it at a given moment. The latter holds office for a certain time and then steps down—either through death or through other circumstances; the office remains. Today Pope Francis is the holder of the papal office with the power of the primacy. At some hour that we do not know, he will step down and another Pope will be elected. As long as he occupies the papal throne, we recognize him as such and pray for him. We are not saying that he is a good Pope. On the contrary, through his liberal ideas and his administration he causes much confusion in the Church. But when Christ established the papacy, He foresaw the whole line of popes throughout Church history, including Pope Francis. And nonetheless He permitted the latter’s ascent to the papal throne. Analogously, the Lord instituted the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar with the Real Presence, although He foresaw many sacrileges over the course of history.

A Mozart Mass in Tribute to Mother Angelica

Join the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale for a tribute to Mother Angelica, a performance of Mozart’s Spatzenmesse during a Latin High Mass, at St. Agnes Parish in St. Paul, Minnsota, Sunday, May 8, starting at 10 a.m.

Our Lady of the Mount Anjara, Jordan - New Icons of the Mysteries of the Rosary, and a Miraculous Weeping Statue

It is funny how one story leads to another, or in this case two others. On my blog, I recently posted an article about my visit to the seminary of the Argentinian order Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) in Washington, D.C. In response, I was contacted by English icon painter Ian Knowles, who told me that order that had commissioned him to paint icons of the Mysteries of the Rosary for a church which they run in Jordan, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Mount.

I thought that this might be of interest to NLM readers, so I asked him for pictures and started to dig around for information about the church. Then I found out that it is also that it is the site of a miracle, validated by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, in which a statue of Our Lady wept tears of blood in 2010. In 2014, IVE presented fellow Argentinian Pope Francis with an image of Our Lady of Anjara when he visited the site of Our Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan.

The statue is perhaps 150-200 years old, and was purchased by the church shortly before the miracle occurred. Culture, beauty, prayer and devotion to Our Lady are all aspects of the charism of the order, (you can read about the IVE charism here), and somehow all of this is entwined in a dynamic mix for the mission of the Church in this one shrine in the Middle East.

As to the original thrust of the story, the icons: there are some photos below at the bottom of the blog post. Immediately below is artist Ian with one of the panels in progress. (Incidentally I met him several years ago when we both attended a class taught by Aidan Hart!) .

I am so heartened to hear of IVE wanting to encourage “eyes-open prayer” through the commission of these icons. It shows, in my opinion, a true understanding of the New Evangelization, since, regardless of the miracle, the simple beauty of each one of them in the church will surely encourage a deeper prayer that engages the whole person. This will facilitate a supernatural transformation of the person in Christ and lead, in turn, to the transformation of the culture as each person contributes to it, gracefully and beautifully, by simply going about their daily business.

The same can be said of the statue. For all the headlines in connection with the miracle, (which I very happily accept as real), it is the supernatural transformation of mankind in Christ, the partaking in the divine nature, that is the truly astounding fact of the Christian faith. This is an extraordinary privilege that is open to every single human person, and leads to a life of such joy. Sometimes, exceptional, headlining events such as miracles are needed to inspire the prayer that will engender what I think are the greater, yet so often neglected and misunderstood truths of the Faith.

The account of the miracle is here at the National Catholic Register, and an account of the Pope’s visit is on the IVE site, here. The order is devoted to Our Lady with a special devotion to the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Lujan, a South American holy image. This photo is taken from the order’s website.

What struck me in the account of the miracle is how the Argentinian priest of the order who is at the Shrine, Fr Nammat, says quite matter-of-factly that he doesn’t know why the miracle should have occurred, except to remark that the “Arab spring”, which has led to the persecution of so many Christians (and Muslims) in the region began shortly afterwards, and perhaps there is a connection.

Below: Ian’s Sorrowful Mysteries, with detail below that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sacred Choral Works and Other Liturgical Resources from Peter Kwasniewski

In addition to rescuing the forgotten treasures of our Catholic musical tradition from the dust-heap of history, our regular contributor Dr Peter Kwasniewski somehow finds the time to make his own original contribution to it, in the midst of his teaching and writing. His collection of Sacred Choral Works was published by Corpus Christ Watershed in 2014, a treasure-trove of choral music in Latin and English, written in an accessible style.

Recently some new videos of a number of pieces in the collection have been put up at YouTube, and we are happy to share them with NLM readers. We have also decided to add this title to the sidebar of recommended books, in the category Other Liturgical Books, along with his Missal for Young Catholics, and the reprints of Roman Guardini’s Sacred Signs, and the Cantus Mariales about which he wrote on Monday. Here are the videos:

O Clarissima Mater

O Salutaris Hostia

Tantum ergo

Mandatum (in English)

A Note on External Solemnities in the EF

Since the feast of the Ascension is coming up next week, it seems a good idea to address the following matter which was brought to my attention by a regular reader, regarding the concept of the external solemnity of this and other feasts in the Extraordinary Form.

In the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, certain feasts which were traditionally celebrated on a weekday, such as the Ascension and Corpus Christi, may be permanently and entirely transferred to the following Sunday at the discretion of the local bishops’ conference; such is the case with both of these feasts in the United States. In such places, the Thursday on which the feast was historically celebrated simply becomes a ferial day, or the feast of a Saint. To give an example, this year, Thursday May 26th is in the United States the feast of St Philip Neri, an obligatory memorial, because Corpus Christi in its entirety is kept on the following Sunday.

In the Extraordinary Form, however, these feasts are not transferred; it is obligatory to celebrate both their Mass and Divine Office on the traditional days, which this year are May 5th and 26th. The “external solemnity” is a pastoral provision which may be made, but is not obligatory, in cases where a reasonable number of the faithful are unable to attend the feast on the day itself. The Mass of the feast is repeated, but the Office is not changed to match it; the rubrics of the 1962 Missal (numbers 356-361) describe it as “celebratio … festi absque Officio – the celebration of the feast without the Office.” Whereas on the feast day itself, a church may celebrate as many Masses of the feast as are possible, desired, or necessary, only two may be said of the feast on its external solemnity (number 360), and only one of them may be sung.

Further, it should be noted that according to this rubric, there are only two feasts to which an external solemnity is automatically granted, those of the Sacred Heart and the Holy Rosary; the former may be repeated on the following Sunday, the latter on the first Sunday of October, whether before or after its fixed date of October 7.

The original logic of the external solemnity, by the way, was that it applied to feasts which had octaves, and therefore corresponded to at least a part of the Office, namely, the commemoration of the feast in the Sunday within its octave.

Solemn Masses for Pentecost at Shreveport LA Cathedral, OF and EF

The Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport, Louisiana, located at 939 Jordan Street, will have Masses with the music of William Byrd and Franz Schubert inter alios (the latter with an orchestra) for the Feast of Pentecost on May 15. Details in the poster below.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

“Behold the Bridegroom Cometh” - A Beautiful Chant for Julian Holy Week

This post has been updated with a more accurate description of the use of the chant in question, and a video posted yesterday of a live recording of it at the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Cathedral of St George in Lviv. The new video begins with one of the best Alleluias of the Slavonic chant repertoire.

Those who follow the Julian Calendar are now in the midst of Holy Week, and via the Facebook pages of some Ukrainian and Greek friends, I just discovered this especially beautiful chant, a troparion for Matins on the first three days of the week, which has given its name to the service, Bridegroom Matins. Here is a version in Old Church Slavonic, sung by the always-impressive choir of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow.

Behold the Bridegroom cometh in the midst of the night, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching; and again, unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Take care, therefore, oh my soul, lest thou be borne down down with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out of the kingdom. but rouse thyself, crying, Holy, Holy, Holy are Thou O God. * Through the Mother of God, have mercy on us!

Се Женихъ грѧдетъ въ полунощи, и блаженъ рабъ, егоже обрѧщетъ бдѧща: недостоинъ же паки, егоже обрѧщетъ унывающа. блюди убо душе моѧ, не сномъ отѧготисѧ, да не смерти предана будеши, и Царствиѧ вне затворишисѧ, но воспрѧни зовущи: Свѧтъ, Свѧтъ, Свѧтъ єси Боже, Богородицею помилуй нас.

Matins are traditionally anticipated to the evening of the day before, so that the first of the Bridegroom Matins, that of Holy Monday, is celebrated on the evening of Palm Sunday, the second, that of Holy Tuesday, on the evening of Holy Monday, and the third, that of Holy Wednesday, on the evening of Holy Tuesday. According to a Greek Holy Week book which I have, the troparion sung three times in a row, but the final words “through the Mother of God, have mercy on us!” as given above are only sung the third time. On Holy Monday, the first two times end with the words “by the protection of the Bodiless Ones”, on Holy Tuesday, “by the prayers of the Forerunner”, and on Holy Wednesday, “by the power of the Cross.”

Here is a another very beautiful version in Arabic.

From the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Cathedral of St George in Lviv:

Catholic Artists Conference and Faces of Christ Exhibition: Sept 12-13, Shuyler NE

Here is early notice of a conference that will take place in the fall. The Catholic Artists’ Conference is intended to encourage and guide Catholic artists and patrons. The central theme and title of the conference is Prayer: Art from the Heart of God; you can read more about it at Among the speakers will be Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska.
In conjunction with the conference will be the US debut of the Faces of Christ exhibition, with works by living artists from around the world; for more information, go to
I have attached below images of the conference and exhibition promotional material; reminders will be posted as we get closer to the date.

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