Friday, November 21, 2014

The Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple

Today is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Byzantine Liturgical Year.  The feasts are divided between feasts that commemorate the work of Christ (Exaltation of the Cross, the Nativity, Theophany, the Meeting of Simeon in the Temple, Palm Sunday, the Annunciation, Pentecost and the Transfiguration) and feasts which commemorate the Theotkos' role in salvation history (Nativity of the Theotokos, Entrance into the Temple, the Annunciation, and the Dormition).  That the Theotokos is prominently featured in seven of the festal icons (in addition to the previous four also the Nativity, the Meeting of Simeon, and the Ascension), makes it a bit harder to distinguish which feasts are principally Christological and which are Marian, but the division  is something like the one offered.

A few years ago, NLM offered a nice account of the vespers for the feast.  Here, I only want to offer some very brief historical notes on the broad developments of its liturgical observance.  According to Vladimir Lossky, it would not be until the fourteenth century when the feast was adopted in the West and celebrated by Pope Gregory XI in Avignon.  In the East, however, the history of the Feast has a much earlier story.

The Feast is derived from the description the second century Protoevangelium of James (specifically sections 6-8).  [Hamatoura Monastery offers a delightful animated greeting card with icon figures of the basic story of the feast.]  Exactly when this story began to be liturgically commemorated remains a matter of some dispute.  The Palestinian Christians maintained a tradition that when the Empress Helen built churches in Jerusalem, she built a church dedicated to this feast.  While I have yet to find anything to confirm the truth of that tradition, it is the case the St. Gregory of Nyssa referenced today's events as an established fact in his fourth century homily on Christ's Nativity.  In that same homily, St. Gregory identified the priest to whom Mary was presented as none other than Zacharias, the father of John the Forerunner.  The basis for this is Gregory's exegesis of Lk. 11:51, as he tries to explain who was this last prophet who Christ says completes the line of prophetic martyrs:
Gregory of Nyssa
 Now, provided we do not digress too far from our subject, it is perhaps not inopportune to adduce Zacharias, who was slain between the temple and the altar, as a witness to the incorruption of the Mother of God. This Zacharias was a priest; and not only was he a priest, but he was also endowed with the gift of prophecy, his power of prophecy being declared expressly in the Book of the Gospel. When the Grace of God was preparing the way for men not to think that birth from a Virgin is incredible, it set the stage for the assent of unbelievers by means of lesser miracles: a child was born of a barren woman advanced in years. This was a prelude to the miracle of the Virgin Birth. For, just as Elizabeth became a mother not by the power of nature—for she had grown old in barrenness—but the birth of her child is ascribed to the Will of God; so also, the incredibility of a virginal parturition gains credibility with reference to the Divine.  Since, therefore, he who was born of the barren woman preceded Him Who was born of the Virgin, and, in response to the salutation of her who was carrying the Lord, leaped in his mother’s womb before he saw the light of day, as soon as the Forerunner of the Word was born, the silence of Zacharias was thereupon loosed by prophetic inspiration. All that Zacharias recounted was a prophecy of the future. Therefore, guided to the knowledge of hidden things by the spirit of prophecy, and perceiving the mystery of virginity in the incorrupt birth, he did not exclude the unwedded Mother from that place in the Temple allotted by the Law to virgins, thereby teaching the Jews that the Creator of existing things and King of all creation has human nature subject to Himself, along with everything else, guiding it by His own Will as He sees fit, not being Himself mastered by it, so that it is in His power to create a new birth, which will not prevent her who has become a mother from remaining a virgin. For this reason, he did not exclude her, in the Temple, from the place of the virgins; this place was the space between the Temple and the altar. When the Jews heard that the King of creation, by Divine Economy, was about to undergo human birth, fearing lest they become subject to a king, they murdered the priest who bore witness to this birth as he was serving at the altar itself.
That St. Gregory tells the story is a testament both to the expanding piety in regard to the Theotokos; that he tells it as part of his Christmas homily suggest that the devotional focus arises from a focus on her role in the mysteries of Christ's life, and that at this point there is not yet a distinct feast in Cappadocia for either the birth of the Theotokos or her Entrance into the Temple.  A bit over a century later, the emerging devotion evidenced by Gregory had blossomed into a liturgical observance of the Nativity of the Thetokos. In a homily for Mary's Nativity, the monk and hymnographer Andrew of Crete also recounts the story of her entrance into the temple:
Andrew of Crete
Thus the immaculate Fruition issuing forth from the womb occurred from an infertile mother, and then the parents, in the first blossoming of Her growth brought Her to the temple and dedicated Her to God. The priest, then making the order of services, beheld the face of the girl and of those in front of and behind, and he became gladdened and joyful, seeing as it were the actual fulfillment of the Divine promise.He consecrated Her to God, as a reverential gift and propitious sacrifice -- and, as a great treasury unto salvation, he led Her within the very innermost parts of the temple. Here the Maiden walked in the upright ways of the Lord, as in bridal chambers, partaking of heavenly food until the time of betrothal, which was preordained before all the ages by Him Who, by His inscrutable mercy, was born from Her, and by Him Who before all creation and time and expanse Divinely begat Him, and together with His consubstantial and co-reigning and co-worshipped Spirit -- this being One Godhead, having One Essence and Kingdom, inseparable and immutable and in which is nothing diverse, except the personal qualities. Wherefore, in solemnity and in song I do offer the Mother of the Word the festal gift; since that He born of Her hath taught me to believe in the Trinity: the Son and Word Without-Beginning hath made in Her His Incarnation; the Father begetting Him hath blessed this; the Holy Spirit hath signed and sanctified the womb which incomprehensibly hath conceived.
Between 715 A.D. and 730 A.D., the  patriarch of Constantinople, St. Germanus, preached two sermons for the feast.  The sermons also seem to have either included hymns used for the feast, or led to into such hymns:
St. Germanus I

Today the gate of the divine temple, opened wide, receives the eastward-facing and sealed gate of the Emmanuel, which is entering into it (cf. Ez. 44:1-3, read in vespers for the feast).  Today the holy table of the temple begins to be made splendid, having assumed the transfer to bloodless sacrifices by participation and the sweetest embrace of the heavenly and life-sustaining bread from a table of divine veneration.  Today she alone is dedicated to the place of propitiation for the floods of errors that have overthrown mortals, being called a new, most godlike cleansing place of propitiation not made by hands.  Today she is about to be welcomed by the sanctity of the Spirit into the holy of holies; she who was raised in a most marvelous way beyond even the glory of the cherubim, is stored up in a most holy way and gloriously in the holy of holies, for a greater sanctity, at an innocent impressionable age.
Hail, the shining cloud that lets fall drops of spiritual divine dew on us, having today, at your inconspicuous entrance into the holy of holies, caused a radiant sun to shine on those held in the shadow of death! Divinely flowing spring from which the rivers of divine knowledge disperse the most discerning and brilliant water of right belief, as they destroy the band of heresies!

A century later, St. Tarasios, patriarch of Constantinople, formally introduced the feast into the Byzantine calendar.  The liturgical observance continued to develop.  In an eleventh century manuscript about the liturgical observances of the Monastery of Mar Saba near Bethlehem, we find the prescription to read excerpts from the Life of the Virgin, attributed to St. Maximus the Confessor, (although whether he is the real author is disputed).  According to the manuscript, the monks were to read the section of the life that begins with Mary passing the age of nursing and stopping with the story of the prophetic revelation she received prior to the Annunciation at 12 years old while living in the Temple, which revealed to her that she would be the mother of the Lord.  The text is devoted to offering a spiritual reflection on the Theotokos' entrance to the Temple more than merely recounting a history, and this is done specifically through an exegesis of Ps. 44.  (The psalm also serves as the Alleluia verses for the Divine Liturgy of the day, as well as the Aposticha antiphons: "She is led to the king with her virgin companions" "They are escorted with joy and gladness; they pass into the palace of the king." "Hear oh daughter and incline your ear" etc.).

According to author of the Life, the psalm is fundamentally a prediction of Christ, but included in the mystery of Christ are necessarily references to either the Church or the Theotokos, and this psalm can be interpreted as applying to both.  And even more specifically, he writes:
Behold, then, how beautifully he foretells not only about the Entrance in the Temple, but also about her other spiritual goodness and beauty.  The queen stood at your right.  This statement foretells her Entrance in the Temple and her location to the right of the altar in the Holy of Holies, which is truly regarded as being to the right of God....And as she grew in age, the adornment of virtues increased greatly. And that is why the king desired her beauty, and he dwelt within her.
While there are undoubtedly more steps in the development of the liturgical observance of today's feast, what is striking is that while the origin of the story seems to be the second century apocryphal Gospel, the theology, details, and liturgical hymns are profoundly formed by a Patristic exegesis of the accepted canon of Scripture.  From St. Gregory of Nyssa's exegesis of Lk. 11, to St. Andrew's veiled references to the Epistle to the Hebrews, to St. Germanus' use of the prophet Ezekiel, and lastly "St. Maximus" exegesis of Ps. 44.  This exegesis also culminates in the icon which is shown in the post below, and interpreted in the work of Lossky, cited above.  For the Byzantine tradition, therefore, this feast is far from merely an apocryphal import, but is rather much more a mystery contained in the deep spiritual sense of God's self-revelation.

The Presentation of the Virgin Mary

Lamp-bearing virgins, joyfully guiding forth the Ever-Virgin, truly prophesy in spirit what will come to pass; for the temple of God, who is the Mother of God, is lead to the temple as a child with the glory of a virgin. (from Vespers of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple in the Byzantine Rite.)

The Entrance of the Mother of God in the Temple, a mid-15th century icon from the Byzantine Museum in Athens. Ss Joachim and Anna, the Virgin’s parents, are followed by a crowd of virgins bearing torches, accompanying them to the temple. The Virgin Mary approaches the high priest with Her hands open, to symbolize that She is offering Herself  to God; in the upper left, the archangel Gabriel brings Her bread, symbolizing that She is nourished by contemplation and a life dedicated to the service of God. 
Λαμπαδηφόροι Παρθένοι, τὴν Ἀειπάρθενον φαιδρῶς ὁδοποιοῦσαι, προφητεύουσιν ὄντως ἐν πνεύματι τὸ μέλλον· ναὸς γὰρ Θεοῦ, ἡ Θεοτόκος ὑπάρχουσα, πρὸς τὸν Ναόν μετὰ δόξης παρθενικῆς νηπιόθεν ἐμβιβάζεται.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review of Treasure and Tradition: The Ultimate Guide to the Latin Mass

Having recently received a review copy of this remarkable new book from its author, Lisa Bergman, I must say that I am dazzled and overwhelmed by what she and her friends at St. Augustine Academy Press have accomplished. It became clear to me that a complete and detailed review of such a packed book would take me so long that it might never see the light of day, and I would vastly prefer that Catholics know about this book and begin obtaining copies before the great feast of Christmas is upon us.
Here is how the publisher describes the 120-page full-color hardcover book:
Have you ever:
* Considered attending a Latin Mass, but found it too intimidating?
* Struggled to jump back and forth between the pages of a Latin-English Missal?
* Wondered what all those people are doing at the altar during High Mass?
* Wished for an effective way to help children to understand and follow along with the Mass?
* Wanted to know more about the history of the Mass and how it came to be the way it is?
* Been puzzled by things like Septuagesima, Rogation Days, and other unfamiliar terms, feasts and practices?
* This Guide is just what you’ve been waiting for!

Whether you’ve been attending the Extraordinary Form of the Mass for years, or are merely curious about it, this guide is designed to open up the riches contained within the Mass to all.  Inside, you will find a word-for-word English translation of the Latin text of the Mass, together with photos, diagrams, notes and explanations that will help you not only to follow along, but also to understand the history and significance of the ceremonies in which you are taking part.  In addition, you will find sections explaining the main differences between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, a discussion comparing the development of the Mass with that of its sister liturgy, the Divine Office, an exploration of the English translations of the Bible, a full glossary, and finally, recommended prayers intended to help you prepare when receiving the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.
The advance reading copy I received adds on the back cover: "The Ultimate Guide is designed to introduce its readers to the many layers of mystery which lend this liturgy its solemn beauty, while breaking down the barriers to understanding that can often be intimidating to newcomers." That is exactly what the book successfully does--in wonderfully clear and apt language, it explains the many layers of mystery, the connections to the Old Testament, the historical development of certain parts of the Mass, the applications to our spiritual life, always with a view to deepening one's participation in the sacred liturgy and receiving its fruits.

While this book is manifestly ideal for children and young adults, it would function no less well as a text for a Catholic of any age who is getting to know the old Mass for the first time or who, being somewhat familiar with it, seeks more knowledge about it. It would serve well for parish catechesis or a discussion group. Homeschooling families could build a whole semester's introduction to the sacred liturgy upon and around this resource. There is a palpable spirit of faith and love in these pages that makes the reading of the book more than an academic exercise; it serves as a prayerful catechesis of the Mass from which I was able to think about many familiar things from a new angle or with a new appreciation.

I decided, in the end, that the best thing I could do is give you a bunch of photos of the pages so that you can explore the format and the kind of rich content the book places at the reader's disposal. Two caveats: first, it seems from the St. Augustine Academy Press website that the book they are publishing is a hardcover. My review copy was a paperback. Second, the pages are more brightly white than in my photographs -- I didn't have the best lighting available.

The cover (with hand and pen to give a sense of the book's size):

 Superb color and B&W illustrations throughout, like this one on the very first page:

 The lovely title page--no pains were spared to make this book beautiful!

 The four ends of sacrifice, which we see perfectly fulfilled in the Mass:

Many fascinating comparisons drawn between ancient Jewish worship and the Mass, which brings it to perfection and thereby supersedes it:

 The overall ascending/descending structure of the Mass depicted as Gothic arches:

In spite of my large liturgical library, I've never seen a number of these lovely line drawings, like the one depicting movable feasts and fixed holydays, or the one presenting the liturgical colors:

 There are several pages on vestments and vessels:

And now we come to the Mass itself. These sample pages display the deft interweaving of Jewish OT precedent and Church history into the explanations of the prayers and rituals of the Mass.

Who knew that four popes were involved in the creation of the Prayers after Low Mass? This is the kind of detail I love to see. The side-bar even mentions the Syllabus of Errors.

I was pleasantly surprised to find all the loving attention that Lisa Bergman gives to the Divine Office as a major part of the Church's liturgy. There are several pages on it, showing, among other things, how it resembles and differs from the Mass and how the Office complements the Mass.

Homeschoolers and catechizers, take note: just when you thought Treasure and Tradition couldn't get any better, we find in it answers to the sort of questions Catholics often have and usually can't find concise answers to -- for example, how did the text of Scripture reach us in the various languages, including English translations up to the Douay-Rheims? What are the parts of a church and their functions? What are the minor orders? The glossary alone would be worth the purchase price.

 Here is a page of prayers for Holy Communion:

More sample pages may be viewed at this link, where one may also purchase the book for $22.50 (discounts available for multiple copies).

Without exaggeration, I can say that this is one of the most stunningly beautiful and most informative introductions to the traditional Latin Mass that I have ever seen. For anyone who needs or wants a crash-course in the theology and spirituality of the classical Roman Rite, and a tour of just about everything connected with it, this is your book at last. If I could wave a magic wand, I'd have copies of Treasure and Tradition suddenly appear in every church, chapel, and Catholic family in the English-speaking world. The next best thing is to have all of you good readers obtain your own copies and start spreading the word among priests, teachers, catechists, families, and converts of your acquaintance. May God bless Lisa Bergman and the good people of St. Augustine Academy Press for their immense and fruitful labors!

Christ the King (OF) Photopost Request

For those who attend the Ordinary Form, I will be compiling another photopost, this time for the feast of Christ the King, which falls this Sunday in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Please send all photos to:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

People Look East! Bishop Conley and His Cathedral Move Ad Orientem for Advent and Christmas

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska has just issued a pastoral column in the diocesan newspaper, The Southern Nebraska Register, explaining the basics of celebrating the Mass ad orientem. His column also reveals a plan for the priests of the cathedral during Advent, and then he himself at midnight Mass on Christmas, to celebrate the Masses ad orientem.
Certainly this is an excellent example of the bishop of a diocese properly claiming his role as the “governor, promoter, and guardian of liturgical life in his diocese.
Jesus Christ will return in glory to the earth.

We do not know when he will return. But Christ promised us that he would return in glory, “as light comes from the east” to bring God’s plan of redemption to its fulfillment.

In 2009, Bishop Edward Slattery, of Tulsa, Okla., wrote that “the dawn of redemption has already broken, but the sun—Christ Himself—has not yet risen in the sky.”

In the early Church, Christians expected that Christ would come soon—any day. There was hopeful expectation. They were watchful—they looked to the sky in the east to wait for Christ. And because they did not know when he would return, they proclaimed the Gospel with urgency and enthusiasm, hoping to bring the world to salvation before Christ returned.

It has been nearly two thousand years now since Christ ascended into heaven. It has become easier to forget that he will come again to earth. It has become easier to forget that we must be waiting, we must be watching, and we must be ready.

In the season of Advent, as we recall Christ’s Incarnation at Christmas, we are reminded to be prepared for Christ’s coming. In the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent this year, Nov. 30, Christ tells us his disciples “to be on the watch.”

“You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,” Jesus says. “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

We remember that Christ is coming whenever we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Holy Mass we are made present to the sacrifice at Calvary, and to the joy of Christ’s glory in heaven. But we also remember that Christ will return, and we remember to watch, to be vigilant, to wait for him, and to be prepared.

The Mass is rich with symbolism. The vestments of the priest remind us of the dignity of Christ the King. We strike our breasts, and bow our heads, and bend our knees to remember our sinfulness, God’s mercy, and his glory. In the Mass, the ways we stand, and sit, and kneel, remind us of God’s eternal plan for us.

Since ancient times, Christians have faced the east during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to remember to keep watch for Christ. Together, the priest and the people faced the east together, waiting and watching for Christ. Even in Churches that did not face the east, the priest and people stood together in the Mass, gazing at Christ on the crucifix, on the altar, and in the tabernacle, to recall the importance of watching for his return. The symbolism of the priest and people facing ad orientem—to the east—is an ancient reminder of the coming of Christ.

More recently, it has become common for the priest and the people to face one another during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The priest stands behind the altar as he consecrates the Eucharist, facing the people. The people see the face of the priest as he prays, and he sees their faces. These positions can have important symbolism too. They can remind us that we are a community—one body in Christ. And they can remind us that the Eucharist, at the center of the assembly, should also be at the center of our families, and our lives.

But the symbolism of facing together, and awaiting Christ, is rich, time-honored and important. Especially during Advent, as we await the coming of the Lord, facing the east together—even symbolically facing Christ together at the altar and on the crucifix—is a powerful witness to Christ’s imminent return. Today, at a time when it is easy to forget that Christ is coming—and easy to be complacent in our spiritual lives and in the work of evangelization—we need reminders that Christ will come.

During the Sundays of Advent, the priests in the Cathedral of the Risen Christ will celebrate the Mass ad orientem. With the People of God, the priest will stand facing the altar, and facing the crucifix. When I celebrate midnight Mass on Christmas, I will celebrate ad orientem as well. This may take place in other parishes across the Diocese of Lincoln as well.

In the ad orientem posture at Mass, the priest will not be facing away from the people. He will be with them—among them, and leading them—facing Christ, and waiting for his return.

“Be watchful!” says Jesus. “Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” We do not know when the time will come for Christ’s to return. But we know that we must watch for him. May we “face the east,” together, watching for Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in our lives.

“Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis” - A New Book by Peter Kwasniewski

Since he first came on board here at NLM about a year and a half ago, Dr Peter Kwasniewski has given us a large number of valuable contributions on a wide variety of topics. He manages to post a thought-provoking and learned essay almost every single week, while raising a family, teaching at Wyoming Catholic College, and contributing to a variety of other publications. Only two weeks ago, we published notice of Sacred Choral Works, his recently published collection of his own compositions of sacred music. Somehow, he has also managed to complete another book, now available from Angelico Press, entitled Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church. This collection of 14 essays discusses many different aspects of the liturgy, the liturgical crisis in the Church, and the remedies thereof, and is full of his accustomed wit and wisdom. I was given the text of the penultimate edit to review, but I will wait for my copy of the final printed version to arrive before publishing my own review of it later on. Let me just say here that I found it interesting on every level, and a great encouragement when thinking about the current state of the Church’s liturgical life; I also enjoyed reading it stylistically, and will certainly come back to it for inspiration for my own writing.

The book can be ordered from or Here are the links:

From Angelico’s website:

Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has experienced an unprecedented crisis of identity, symbolized and propelled by the corruption of the greatest treasure of her tradition: the sacred liturgy. The result has been confusion, dismay, devastation. To the surprise of some, however, the same half-century has witnessed a growing counter-movement of Catholics who find in the Church’s traditional liturgy a perennial witness to the orthodox faith, a solid foundation for the interior life, an ever-flowing source of missionary charity, and a living embodiment of the true Catholic spirit.

In this book, Peter Kwasniewski presents a fearless critique of the path of liturgical novelty and a detailed apologia for liturgical tradition in all its beauty, richness, and profundity, addressing such topics as ­solemnity, sacredness, the language of symbols, contemplation, participation, the symbiosis of lex orandi and lex credendi, silence, music, worship in Latin, and Gregorian chant. He confronts the humanism, rationalism, utilitarianism, and modernism so prevalent in the liturgical reform, assesses the prospects and limitations of a “Reform of the Reform,” and reflects on the great gift of Summorum Pontificum. In the end, Kwasniewski argues for a zealous recommitment to Catholic Tradition in its fullness, starting with divine worship and embracing the whole realm of faith and morals, including integral Catholic social teaching.

Evidently, there is an all-encompassing crisis in the Church, which the Extraordinary Synod unveiled to a global audience. Unexpectedly a resurgence is taking place, with the usus antiquior or classical Roman Rite at the very heart of it. To those who have loved the traditional Mass all their lives, those who have newly come to it, or those who simply wish to learn more about the issues, this book offers abundant matter for reflection.

Eucharistic Procession at Seton Hall University

On Thursday, November 6th, the seminarians of Immaculate Conception Seminary organized a Eucharistic Procession on the grounds of Seton Hall University, led by His Grace Archbishop Bernard Hebda, Coadjutor of the Archdiocese of Newark. Our thanks to the reader who sent in these pictures; as you can see, the event was well attended, and our reader tells me that a lot of people who didn’t participate in the procession itself at least stopped to watch as it made its way through the campus.

Dominican Chants in Honor of Our Lady

I am pleased to announce that the brothers of the Province of St. Joseph have released a new recording of Dominican Chant. It is the complete Mass of the Immaculate Conception, and other Marian chants, including those of Compline (very rich in our Rite).

If you are a lover of chant, or your choir intends to sing the Dominican music for the upcoming feast, this is for you.  It also makes an excellent Christmas gift.

You can hear samples and order here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Dedication of St Paul Outside-the-Walls

When the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls was almost completely destroyed by fire in mid-July of 1823, Pope Pius VII was close to death, after a reign of over 23 years; the dying Pontiff was never told what had happened to one of Rome’s most ancient and important churches, one of his own personal favorites. Over the course of the following thirty years, his successors Leo XII (1823-29), Pius VIII (1829-30), Gregory XVI (1831-46) and Blessed Pius IX (1846-78) rebuilt the church that houses under its altar the tomb of the Apostle of the Gentiles. On December 10, 1854, two days after he had formally defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception at a solemn ceremony in St Peter’s, Pius IX celebrated the consecration of the church, in the presence of a large number of prelates then in Rome. However, the long-standing custom that the Dedication of the Basilicas of Ss Peter and Paul be celebrated together on November 18th was not altered.

In the apse of the church there are six plaques, three to either side, naming all the prelates present for the consecration ceremony on December 10, 1854. Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman, the first Archbishop of Westminster, who had such an influence on the Bl. John Henry Newman, is listed ninth from the bottom of the middle plaque seen here; Gioacchino Card. Pecci, the future Pope Leo XIII, is second from the top on the right.
Since there were no particular decorations set up in the church this morning, I thought I would share with our readers some photos of the treasury museum and cloister instead.

An antiphonary for the use of the celebrant at Vespers, late 18th-century. Only the parts which are actually sung by the celebrant are given; on the left side are the intonations of the antiphons for First and Second Vespers of the Dedication of a Church, on the right side, the first antiphon of First Vespers of Christmas, and the first line of the Hymn.
The letter by which Bl. Ildefonse Schuster was given possession of the Abbey of St Paul Outside-the-Walls in 1918. He served as the abbot of the Benedictine monastery of St Paul until his appointment as Archbishop of Milan in 1929.
A late-18th-century pyx.
Several of the icons displayed in the treasury museum. 

15th Century Wall Paintings Uncovered in a Small Welsh Church

I am indebted to NLM reader Gina S. for bringing to my notice this story of the uncovering of wall paintings in St Cadoc’s, Llancarfan in the Vale of Glamorgan, south Wales. Experts were called in after the architect noticed a single red line high up close to the rafters on a wall where a tiny patch of an estimated 27 layers of whitewash had fallen away from the plaster underneath. Gradually, the whitewash was removed to reveal on one side of the church a large floor-to-ceiling painting of St George and the dragon, and pictorial representations of the seven deadly sins. The church was founded on the site of a monastery around 1200; these painting are thought to date from the late 15th century, largely because of the dress of the figures, which is contemporary to that period. The photo top left is of avarice and the other details are of St George and the princess.

As usual, what strikes me about this is how during this Gothic period the whole church was covered with imagery. BBC Wales has a video describing the restoration here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Sign of Peace - Latest Issue of Sacred Music Journal - Contents and Sample Article

The latest issue of Sacred Music has just arrived in my mailbox, and contains many substantive articles not only of musical interest, but also general liturgical interest. 
Here’s the table of contents, including a sample article from the journal with editor William Mahrt’s commentary on the recent CDW letter about the Sign of Peace:
  • “Memory” - William Mahrt
  • “Liturgical Theology: Are We Only Just Beginning?” - Fr. Christopher Smith
  • Factum est silentium in cælo: The Silence of Sound in the Heavenly Liturgy and the Sacred Liturgical Renewal” - Nathan Knutson
  • “The Celebration of Sorrow in the Roman Rite” - Fr. Eric M. Andersen
  • Research Interview with Domenico Cardinal Bartolucci - Wilfrid Jones
  • “An Exuberant All-Saints Motet: Victoria's O Quam Gloriosum” - William Mahrt
  • Circular Letter: The Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass - CDW
  • “Peaceful Peace” - William Mahrt
  • News
Subscriptions come with a membership in the CMAA; membership also includes book and tuition discounts. One-year, five-year, and parish memberships are available here.

How Sinful Is It to Disregard the Rubrics?

It had never occurred to me to think of liturgical abuse as a possible mortal sin, but a couple of texts I saw recently in St. Thomas prompted me to ponder this question. For some reason, such abuse had seemed to me—to the extent I’d given the matter any thought—a venial sin, more of a nuisance, an inconvenience, an offense to the faithful in the pews who deserve better, but not a severance of the friendship of charity with God. And yet, as I ponder this matter more carefully, it seems to me that there is something very serious indeed happening whenever a minister knowingly departs from the Church’s rule of worship as expressed in the texts and rubrics of the liturgy (which, of course, he is required to be familiar with; ignorance is no excuse). The disregard or violation of text or rubric is an expression of contempt towards Christ and the authorities He has established to rule in His name.

The only exception I can think of would be a case where, in keeping with the hermeneutic of continuity, something wanting in the Novus Ordo is repaired by reaching back to the preceding liturgical tradition and re-integrating it with the newer, as we often see occurring in Bishop Peter Elliott’s Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, where he freely admits that recent rubrics are often lacking in pertinent content or specificity and that one can profit greatly from adopting or adapting past ceremonies. After all, if there is to be (in the words of Pope Benedict XVI) a “mutual enrichment” whereby the Ordinary Form profits from the Extraordinary Form, there must be ways in which the perfection of the latter may spill over into the former. It is harder, of course, to think of positive influences in the other direction, but examples might include taking a cue from the many readings of the Ordinary Form Easter Vigil and restoring the old (pre-Pius XII) Easter Vigil with its many prophecies, or allowing the optional celebration of certain saints’ memorials on available ferial days, so that traditional Catholics could honor St. Pio of Pietrelcina, among others, with a public liturgical cult.

Returning to the text of St. Thomas, here is what we read in an article of the Summa theologiae on the sin of the fallen angels:
Mortal sin occurs in two ways in the act of free-will.
          In one way, when something evil is chosen—as man sins by choosing adultery, which is evil of itself. Such sin always comes of ignorance or error; otherwise what is evil would never be chosen as good. The adulterer errs in the particular, choosing this delight of an inordinate act as something good to be performed now, from the inclination of passion or of habit; even though he does not err in his universal judgment, but retains a right opinion in this respect. In this way there can be no sin in the angel; because there are no passions in the angels to fetter reason or intellect, as is manifest from what has been said above (q. 59, a. 4); nor, again, could any habit inclining to sin precede their first sin.
          In another way, sin comes of free-will by choosing something good in itself, but not according to proper measure or rule; so that the defect which induces sin is only on the part of the choice which is not properly regulated, but not on the part of the thing chosen—as, for example, if one were to pray [which is a good thing], without heeding the order established by the Church [which is a bad thing]. Such a sin does not presuppose ignorance, but merely absence of consideration of the things which ought to be considered. In this way the angel sinned, by seeking his own good, from his own free-will, insubordinately to the rule of the divine will. (ST I, q. 63, a. 1, ad 4)
What I find striking about this text is that, when St. Thomas wishes to find an example of a human sin to which he can fitly compare the kind of sin Satan and the other malicious angels committed, he chooses praying without heeding the order established by the Church! In the heavens there is a rule that the angels must submit to in their pursuit of their own good, and likewise on earth, there is a rule that men must submit to in their pursuit of the good of holiness. A failure to consider the established order in the macrocosm of the universal society of intellectual and rational creatures is reflected in a failure to consider the established order in the microcosm of ecclesiastical society; the latter is a miniature fall from grace, that is, a fall from the divine will, which manifests itself to us as an order into which we can freely insert ourselves, or against which we can freely revolt.

It is, in other words, not the choice of something bad in its very definition that characterizes the fallen angel, but the choice of something good, yet in a perverted way. Those who offer the Church’s prayer, which is man’s noblest and best act as a creature, while changing the rubrics according to their own whims and wishes, are offering a gift vitiated, to some extent, by a will insubordinate to the rule of the divine will. This need not necessarily detract from the objective value of the gift, but it will certainly affect the subjective benefit of the offering for the offerer and possibly for those who share in it.

As a matter of fact, St. Thomas in a different texts seems to say that those who knowingly consent to liturgical abuses deprive themselves of sacramental grace. As long as they know that the Church calls for a certain way of acting and speaking, and they know that a celebrant is deviating from this, they must either consent to it or internally reject that deviation. It makes no difference if they think that these violations of the rubrics are warranted by some political agenda or perceived pastoral “need,” since the liturgy, the ministers, and the faithful are all subject to the Church’s judgment and law. Here is how his argument reads:
Sometimes the one celebrating the sacraments differently [than prescribed] does not vary those things that are essential to the sacrament [i.e., the form and matter], and in that case, the sacrament is indeed conferred; but one does not obtain the reality of the sacrament unless the sacrament’s recipient is immune from the fault of the one celebrating it differently. (In IV Sent., d. 4, q. 3, a. 2, qa. 2, ad 4)
          [Ad quartum dicendum, quod aliter celebrans quandoque non variat ea quae sunt de essentia sacramenti, et tunc confertur sacramentum; sed non consequitur aliquis rem sacramenti, nisi suscipiens sacramentum sit immunis a culpa aliter celebrantis.]
That is an astonishing claim: one does not receive the res sacramenti, the very thing the sacrament was instituted to give us, if one embraces the fault of the minister who unlawfully varies even those things that are incidental to the conferral of the sacrament. Such a claim brings into sharp relief the seriousness with which St. Thomas took the liturgical law of the Church, a perspective widely shared by his contemporaries. It is a perspective that, while slowly reviving among us, still has many converts to win.

Sometimes the itch to be creative or experimental or spontaneous or informal with the liturgy comes from a mistaken view that this is somehow more humble, more “authentic,” more in keeping with people’s needs on the ground. But I think C. S. Lewis put his finger on what’s really happening here:
The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual. (from A Preface to Paradise Lost, ch. 3)
With his usual perceptiveness, Lewis is pointing to a peculiar sort of pride or vanity or vainglory that consists in not abandoning oneself to the structure and content of the rite, in having to be the one who constructs it in mid-air, cleverly (or not so cleverly) adapts it, produces it as if one were its author, and all the while inserting his ego into every nook and cranny. By not surrendering to the rite and its ceremonial demands as established by rubrical law, he cannot forget himself, and he cannot allow others to forget him, either. It is as if the attention that God rightfully demands is compromised, our attention being split between the transcendent object of the ritual as ritual, and the immanent object of the performance before us. A sign of this split is that the “proper pleasure of ritual” is not experienced by the worshiper, or experienced in a muted and unsatisfactory way.

Although examining the claim would take us far afield, it is worth remembering that St. Thomas holds that virtuous action is accompanied by its own proper pleasure and that taking delight in the good is a sign of moral maturity. So we ought to enjoy our worship of God—not the way we enjoy God Himself, obviously, but in a way that recognizes our need (and God’s provision for our need) to leave rejuvenated, enlightened, consoled, strengthened. This, I think, is what Lewis has in mind, and his assessment of the pride of the minister as well as the injury inflicted on the faithful helps us better understand how St. Thomas can compare violation of liturgical order to the pride of the fallen angels and how he can see consent to such violations as a form of self-deprivation of sacramental grace.

(Photo courtesy of Corpus Christi Watershed)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pontifical Mass in Poland at the Shrine of St Hedwig

Our thanks to a reader for sending us links to two sets of beautiful photographs of a Pontifical Mass celebrated by His Grace Marian Gołębiewski, Archbishop Emeritus of Wrocław, at the Sanctuary of St Hedwig in Trzebnica, Poland, on October 25th. The first four come from Mr. Piotr Łysakowski via Le Forum Catholique, the last three from the blog More photos available at their respective links.