Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2024 (Part 1)

This year marks the eleventh time we have run this series on the Lenten station churches in Rome! Last year, our dear friend Agnese Bazzucchi, the original Roman pilgrim, was unable to do most of them due to work commitments, but this year, she is back to attending them regularly. In past years, she has sometimes been joined in this series by other people; one of them, Mr Jacob Stein, whose work we have shared many times, will also be providing photos this year, as well as videos from his YouTube channel Crux Stationalis. Today they are also joined for one of the stations, St Peter in Chains, by another old friend from Rome, Fr Joseph Koczera SJ, and hopefully for some more occasions as the season goes on. We thank them all in advance for helping to keep up one of our favorite annual traditions - feliciter!

We start with a photo by Agnese of the Forty Hours devotion which the FSSP church in Rome, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, does every year on the three days before Ash Wednesday, according to a long-standing and widely-imitated custom which was observed in the Eternal City for centuries.

Thursday after Ash Wednesday – San Giorgio in Velabro
The stational observances are organized by the Vicariate of Rome and the Pontifical Academy for the Cult of the Martyrs; here we see the banner of the latter being carried in procession outside the church. 
His Eminence Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology, comes each year to personally celebrated the station in his title church, which he holds in the illustrious company of (among many others) Bl. John Henry Newman; his predecessor in the title was Alphonse Card. Stickler.
The fresco in the apse show Christ with the Virgin Mary and St George on the left, and on the right, Ss Peter the Apostle and Sebastian. The church was originally dedicated to both of the soldier Saints, and the Gospel assigned to the day is the healing of the centurion’s servant, Matthew 8, 5-13.
Friday after Ash Wednesday – Ss John and Paul
This church has been the home of the generalate of the Passionist Order since it was given to them by Pope Clement XIV (1769-74). In 1887, a member of the order, Fr Germanus of St Stanislaus, began to dig under the church, hoping to identify the precise location of the titular martyrs’ burial. His excavation led to the discovery of a complex of twenty rooms from several different periods (late-1st to mid-5th centuries), which can now be visited by the public. Here we see the clergy and faithful gathered in one of the rooms for the procession which precedes the Mass... 

The Traditional Formation of the Artist is Mystagogical Catechesis

I am often asked by people about the sort of training that they should undertake in order to become an artist. In response I explain that in my understanding, the training should involve not only obtaining the necessary technical skills, but also the formation of the person in virtue, so that they are capable of directing those skills well.

Not many are surprised by that, I imagine. However, many assume that if they are faithful and orthodox Catholics, then they have the spiritual aspect already sorted out, and so all they need to think about is the skills. I am not so sure that this is automatically the case. What is needed, I believe, is an integration of the two, something which doesn’t usually happen spontaneously.

The traditional the training of an artist was meant to bring about this integration. The spirit of humility that develops a capacity to follow inspiration, should God choose to inspire him, is developed through being prepared to follow directions from a living master, and the copying with discernment of the works of Old Masters. Also, there is carefully directed study that gives a formation in beauty that develops the artists intuitive sense of right relationship and harmony. It is a liturgically centered training, so those aspects that form the person are not imposed on him from without, but rather, are offered to him and freely accepted as the fruits of full and active participation in the liturgy. In saying this, it is important to remember also that we cannot instrumentalize the liturgy: worship of God is always the primary goal and does not serve other ends. Accordingly, the ultimate purpose of any Christian education, including artistic training, is mystagogical catechesis: a deepening of understanding of the mysteries of the Faith, in order to participate more fruitfully in the liturgy; by the transformation in the person that ensues they are in turn better able to fulfill their personal vocation and direct all their activities accordingly.

This goal for Catholic education was stated in Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, and reinforced again by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium by his reference to the need for mystogogy (although most commentators I have read seem to have missed this point). If the priorities are right, then through God’s grace, fruits will ensue in order to help the person in the fulfillment of his personal vocation, which in turn point us back to the liturgy as its source and summit.
So to give one small example: consideration of what we look at in prayer is important. I am often struck by how little thought many who tell me they want to paint sacred art give to the dynamic of prayer when visual images are used. How can anyone paint images that helps prayer, if they do not understand this; and how, I wonder, can they understand it if they do not use visual imagery as part of their daily prayer? The main way to gain an understanding of this, I believe, is for the prospective artist to develop the habit of engaging with visual images appropriately during the liturgy. I have found that praying the liturgy of the hours at home with an image corner is fruitful in this regard, because I have control over the images that I use.

Once such a practice becomes a habit, then the artist will quite naturally paint images that nourish his own prayer (assuming that he has chosen the personal vocation that God intends for him), and if he prays well, the imagery that results from his own work will be beautiful. This suggests to me the ideal of worship should not only be very different from that which results from the abuses seen since Vatican II (as one would expect) but also should be very different, perhaps, from the period just before the Council. After all, it is the period before the Council during which most of the styles of very bad sacred art that we know and hate - whether sugary kitsch images or brutal modernist distortions (that only professional art critics and those whose taste has been malformed in one of our contemporary universities claim to like) - originally came into our churches.

I spoke on this topic some years ago, in New York City, for the Catholic Artists’ Society and gave much more detail about what such a training might consist of. The link for the audio is here: www.catholicartistssociety.org/david-claytons-lecture-forming-the-artist/.

Monday, February 19, 2024

“Modern formlessness is repellant... We are beginning, perhaps, to recover from our blindness”

What modern liturgists thought we needed... (source)
The reaction of an Italian reader to the Italian translation of my book Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Nobile bellezza, sublime santità, Fede & Cultura, 2021), struck me as quite interesting and I wanted to share it, slightly adapted, in English.

It is not surprising that the Church has been infected by the temper of the times and its denigration of beauty — albeit as a laggard follower of contemporaneity, with the usual delay and very little awareness of changing fashions. Modernity was already giving up the ghost to postmodernity when a Council was called finally to meet and embrace it.

Since the death of Pius XII, there has been a vocal urgency in Catholicism, fatuous yet urgent, to recover the “Jewishness” of Christ, supposedly obliterated by two millennia of Latinity (there is much irony here, considering that the reformed liturgy removes so many Jewish elements that had had a place there); the “Kerygma” or “original message of the first community,” supposedly obscured by twenty centuries of commentary and interpretation; the “simplicity and poverty” of the liturgy, which is felt to be distorted by Latin and Gregorian chant and really anything elaborate or majestic.

Purveyors of novelty rewrite hymns and paintings to the measure of little kids, who, I suppose, are to them a symbol of a “new” humanity without history or education. They ask ultra-modern architecture to build churches as much like “tents” as possible (because God “pitched His tent among us”), or that at least look like casual, unadorned containers of refugee crowds (since we are a “people on the move”): denied the lofty vaults and uplifting domes, the roofs have to be flat jetties or skylights, the walls of bare concrete so that brutal matter gets the better of form (perhaps form would be a distraction from what is essential…). Everything reminds one of industrial architecture, the highest point of coincidence — according to a certain way of thinking — between the Archaic and the Functional.

The whole approach has an unequivocal meaning: the ecclesiastical innovators believe they are hurling the (original) Revelation against the (subsequent and deviating) Tradition. Neither do they realize, I fear, that the era of the contemporary as a return to the archaic, which has scattered external and internal carnage and ruin, is coming to an end — has run its course. The exhaustion of totalitarian ideologies is its most conspicuous symptom.
...was not the tradition in which Catholics were at home, and in which many still feel most at home, in spite of decades of suppression (photo from 1950s: source).
A subjective indication of that exhaustion is the combination of nausea and boredom we feel in the face of yet another “abstract” or “informal” painting, or yet another rational and functional piece of architecture, even as painters and architects continue to recycle their tired utilitarian forms, unable to find a beautiful form for the “postmodern” breakthrough to which they pay lip service. Yet it was (in some disciplines at least) precisely the penetration of the true archaic layers of humanity that began to put us on the road to recovery, the road to rediscovering the primal sources of religion in awe, wonder, mystery, infinity, and the necessity of sacrifice, purification, and rituality. But our reformers have managed to make the archaic not a source of new life, but a stylized archaeological remnant of past (and sometimes imaginary) phases of Christianity.

Every human coexistence — except our own “mass” one — is the present emergence of a traditionary past. We begin to guess that the archaic removed from the living process of handing-down is nothing more than museum residue, enigmatic and dead. That is why what Christians were arguably doing in the year 300 is much less important than what they were doing, well or poorly, throughout all the modern centuries right into the decades before the Council. That continuity with a truly active tradition, whatever its flaws (and flaws are never absent in human endeavors), was and remains the most faithful channel for us to tap into the origin of our culture: the living Archaic that it preserves and passes on. There is more of the Church of the year 300 in the Tridentine Mass than there could ever be in the reformed one, in spite of this or that oration plucked from an old manuscript.

My hope is that one day the Catholic world will realize this, too. Contemporary forms that disgust us by their vacuity, artificiality, or arbitrariness indicate that we are beginning to miss Tradition, that we feel a terrible want, and that our modern formlessness is repellant, at least among those who have a sense of beauty left within. We are beginning, perhaps, to recover from our blindness.
From a midnight Mass in 2023, in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe: modern men gratefully participating in an age-old ritual.
As a number of authors have emphasized in recent years, it is the stubbornly unmodern character of the traditional Roman Rite that wins for it a uniquely potent place in the "marketplace of ideas" or, for that matter, the "marketplace of religious practices." It does not present itself as a product of our own technical skill, or an expression of our (purportedly) superior judgment as we gaze out over a past littered with discarded prejudices; it is not an appendage to any program, party, or philosophy. It is more like a literary tradition that grows over many centuries and retains a unity-in-diversity that is stronger than the various tendencies of all of its parts, and greater than any one participant in it.

This rite offers itself to us as a whole and complete body of rite, symbol, text, chant, and gesture that belongs to no one and opens itself to every one. This overwhelming trait makes it both deeply challenging (for it is vast and subtle) and serenely unthreatening (for it remains aloof, inevitable, and impersonal) — at least, to those who are serious about prayer.

Right the way it is and has been and will be.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The First Sunday of Lent 2024

Truly it is fitting and just, meet and profitable to salvation, that we should give Thee thanks always and everywhere, o Lord, holy Father, almighty and everlasting God, through Christ our Lord: Who for forty continual days and nights dedicated this fast without hungering. For “afterwards He was hungry”, (i.e. not before: Matt. 4, 2), not for the food of men, but for their salvation; nor did He long for the feasts of wordly foods, but rather, He desired the sanctity of souls. For His food is the redemption of the peoples, His food is the disposition of the whole will, as He taught us to labor not for the food that is set forth in earthly banquets, but that which is received in the reading of the divine Scripture. And therefore... (an ancient preface for the First Sunday of Lent, largely based on a homily of St Maximus of Turin (38, de Quadragesima II; PL 57, 309D et seq.))

Christ in the Desert, ca. 1515-20, by the Italian painter Alessandro Bonvicino (ca. 1498 – 1554), generally known as “Moretto da Brescia – the Little Moor from Brescia.” (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.) 
VD: Qui continuatis quadraginta diebus et noctibus hoc ieiunium non esuriens dedicavit. Postea enim esuriit, non tam cibum hominum quam salutem. Nec escarum saecularium epulas concupivit, sed animarum desideravit potius sanctitatem. Cibus enim eius est redemptio populorum, cibus eius est totius voluntatis affectus, qui nos docuit operari non cibum qui terrenis dapibus apparatur, sed qui divinarum Scripturarum lectione percipitur. Et ideo.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

The Station Mass of the Saturday after Ash Wednesday

The Roman station for the Saturday after Ash Wednesday seems to have been the very last to be instituted in the early Middle Ages. As I have noted in other several other articles, the Thursdays between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week, and the Saturdays after Ash Wednesday and Passion Sunday, were originally kept as “aliturgical” days in Rome, on which no Mass was celebrated. Pope St Gregory II (715-31) added the Masses for the Thursdays, appointed stations for them, and assigned Gregorian propers to them which were all taken from other Masses. When Masses were assigned to the two Saturdays, their Gregorian propers were simply repeated from the Mass of the preceding day, which indicates that this was done by a different Pope.
The introit of the Friday after Ash Wednesday, which is repeated the next day.

However, the earliest sources of the Roman Rite do not offer a clear picture of which Pope this might have been or why he did so. In the Wurzburg lectionary, the oldest of the Roman Rite (ca. 650 AD), nothing is assigned to any these days, but in the oldest sacramentary, known as the Old Gelasian Sacramentary (ca. 700), Masses are assigned to the two Saturdays, but not to the Thursdays. (This manuscript does not list the Roman stations at all.) The Gellone Sacramentary, ca. 780, has a Mass for both days, but no station for either of them; on the other hand, today still appears as an aliturgical day in early manuscripts of the Gregorian sacramentary which are contemporary to the Gellone, and in the Echternach Sacramentary a century later.
Folio 24v of the Gellone Sacramentary, ca. 780 AD. The Mass for today is headed “ the Saturday within Quinquagesima (week)”, and no station is given, whereas the following Mass for the First Sunday of Lent, the station is noted at St John in the Lateran. (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Latin 12048)
When a Lenten station was finally established for the day, it was assigned, for no obvious reason, to a small church dedicated to a martyr named Trypho very close to what is now the Piazza Navona, and the station is still listed there to this day in the Roman Missal. In 1287, this church was given over to the Augustinian friars, who two centuries later, moved next door into a new and much larger church dedicated to their patron Saint. Like many churches in the low-lying area of central Rome known as the Campus Martius, St Trypho was badly damaged by the frequent winter flooding of the Tiber; early in the papacy of Clement VIII (1592-1605), the station was transferred to the church of St Augustine, along with the relics of St Trypho and the titles of its various altars. The last ruins of the former stational church were cleared away in 1746 to make room for the expansion of the Augustinians’ convent.
The Epistle of the new Mass, Isaiah 58, 9-14, continues from that of the previous day, verses 1-9 of the same chapter, which speaks of the appropriate manner of fasting. “Is not this rather the fast that I have chosen? loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress, let them that are broken go free, and break asunder every burden. Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the needy and the homeless into thy house: when thou shalt see one naked, cover him, and despise not thy own flesh.” (verses 6-7) The continuation was also certainly chosen for Saturday also because it contains two references to the Sabbath. “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy own will in my holy day, and call the sabbath delightful, and the holy of the Lord glorious, and glorify him, while thou dost not thy own ways, and thy own will is not found: to speak a word: then shalt thou be delighted in the Lord, and I will lift thee up above the high places of the earth, and will feed thee with the inheritance of Jacob thy father.” (verses 13-14)
St Peter Walks Upon the Water. The original mosaic was made by Giotto on a wall of the courtyard of the old St Peter’s Basilica in 1298, opposite the church’s façade. Only a few fragments were saved from the destruction of the old basilica; this copy is an oil painting made in 1628 from drawings of the original. In 1675, a new mosaic on the same design was mounted in the portico of the new basilica, facing the main door, as a reminder to pilgrims as they leave the church to pray for the Holy Father. (Public domain image from Wikimedia.)
The Gospel, Mark 6, 47-56, appears in the Wurzburg lectionary on the rarely celebrated Sixth Sunday after Epiphany. [note] Within a hundred years, it was rescued from effective disuse and assigned to today in the Murbach lectionary (which, however, records no station for the day.) Despite the tradition that St Mark was the interpreter of St Peter and composed his Gospel in Rome, the Roman liturgy traditionally makes very little use of it, with two very significant exceptions, Easter and the Ascension. (The only other Gospel of his read in Lent is the Passion on Holy Tuesday.)
However, the most ancient lectionaries of the Roman Rite also attest to a system of ferial readings for the seasons after Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost, which is very irregular in Wurzburg, but arranged much in a much more regular fashion in Murbach. In this system, St Mark figures much more prominently, and many of the ferial Gospels are his parallels to episodes from the Gospels of Matthew or Luke read on the preceeding Sunday. It is in this light that we should consider the decision to preserve this particular passage by assigning it to this day.
This reading begins with St Mark’s account of the storm on the sea of Galilee, when Christ walked upon the water to reach the disciples in their boat “in the fourth watch of the night.” St Matthew’s version, chapter 14, 22-32, is the better known because it includes the story of how Peter, with characteristic eagerness, also walked over the water towards Christ, but faltered; this is assigned to the octave of Ss Peter and Paul already in the Wurzburg lectionary. The placement of the Marcan parallel on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday therefore looks back to the station of the previous Sunday, Quinquagesima, and forward to that of the following Ember Saturday, both of which are held at St Peter’s basilica. It also looks to the station on the following day at St John in the Lateran, where St Peter’s successors in the bishopric of Rome lived in the Middle Ages.
The ship in the story is of course a symbol of the Church, which is piloted first and foremost by Peter. As noted by St Bede in the Matins lesson for today, which are every bit a pertinent as they were thirteen centuries ago, “The toil of the disciples in rowing, and the wind contrary to them, signify the various toils of the Holy Church, which amid the waves of a world that fights against her, and the blasts of unclean spirits, seeks to reach the rest of the heavenly fatherland … Here it is well said that the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on the land; for sometimes it the Church is not only so afflicted, but also befouled by such great pressures of the gentiles, that her Redeemer would seem for a the time to have wholly forsaken her, if such were possible. … But He does not forget the prayer of the poor, nor does He turn His face away from them that hope in Him… although for a time He seems to delay in bring help to the distressed, nevertheless in the regard of His love He strengthens them all the while…”
St Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadow, 1425-27, by Masaccio, in the Brancacci chapel of the Carmelite church of Florence.
The Gospel continues with material that is not read on the octave of Ss Peter and Paul. “When they were gone out of the ship, immediately (the people of Genesareth) knew Him: and running through that whole country, they began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard He was. And whithersoever he entered, into towns or into villages or cities, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch but the hem of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.” (verses 55-56) This closely parallels an account in the Acts of the Apostles of miracles of healing performed by St Peter: “they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that when Peter came, his shadow at the least, might overshadow any of them, and they might be delivered from their infirmities. And there came also together to Jerusalem a multitude out of the neighboring cities, bringing sick persons, and such as were troubled with unclean spirits; who were all healed.” (Acts 5, 15-16)
[note] The current system by which the readings and prayer of the Sundays after Epiphany are moved to the end of the liturgical year if they cannot be said in their proper place is an invention of the Tridentine reform.

A New Simple Edition of Martinucci’s Manuale Sacrarum Caerimoniarum

We are happy to share this notice of the republication of one of the classic ceremonial manuals of the Roman Rite, Fr Pio Martinucci’s Manuale Sacrarum Caerimoniarum, in a simplified edition suitable for parish use.

In the recent annals of the Roman liturgical tradition, one name stands out among the great ceremonial writers, that of the papal Master of Ceremonies Fr Pio Martinucci. His Latin Manuale Sacrarum Caerimoniarum meticulously documented the details of the sacred ceremonies as practiced in Rome in his time, providing a compendium highly valued for its precision, from the arrangement of vestments to the orchestration of processions, and became the definitive guide for clergy worldwide. It also provided the foundation of several other works on ceremonies, such as those by Fortescue and Strecky.

After being out of print for over a century and a half, his legacy has now been revived in a new edition, carefully curated by Mr Nicholas Morlin. This editio simplex distills Martinucci’s work to the essential rituals, exploring the intricacies of all forms Mass and Vespers, as well as Benediction, the role of the cantor and much more, enhanced with diagrams and illustrations.
You can order a copy of Martinucci’s masterwork at:
“The republication of the most important and frequently-used portions of the classic liturgical manual by Martinucci is yet another sign of the slow, quiet, but irreversible return of the Roman Rite into churches long bereft of the blessings of immemorial tradition. All that a parish might need can be found in these expertly written pages: Solemn Masses, Low Masses, Requiem Masses, Masses before the Blessed Sacrament Exposed, and much more; in addition the reader will find invaluable information on the roles of cantors and organists, as well as how to deal with common problems that can occur during the celebration of the liturgy. While obviously a specialist’s work, being entirely in Latin, the ready availability of this new edition (when original copies are either nonexistent or overpriced) is a boon to masters of ceremonies, major event planners, professors of liturgy, and students of liturgical science.”
– Dr Peter A. Kwasniewski, author of The Once and Future Roman Rite

Friday, February 16, 2024

Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, Part 4: The Versicles and Dominus vobiscum

St Thomas Aquinas, by the Spanish painter Antonio del Castillo y Saavedra (1616–68); public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
Lost in Translation #92

Before we leave the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, let us take a look at the versicles and the Dominus vobiscum.

Having finished the Confiteor, Misereatur, and Indulgentiam, the priest and servers bow slightly and say:
℣. Deus, tu conversus vivificábis nos.
℟. Et plebs tua lætábitur in te.
℣. Ostende nobis, Dómine, misericordiam tuam.
℟. Et salutáre tuum da nobis.
℣. Dómine, exaudi oratiónem meam.
℟. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
℣. Dóminus vobiscum.
℟. Et cum spíritu tuo.
P. Orémus.
Which are usually translated as:
℣. O God, Thou wilt turn again and quicken us.
℟. And Thy people shall rejoice in Thee.
℣. Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy.
℟. And grant us Thy salvation.
℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.
℟. And let my cry come unto Thee.
℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. And with thy spirit.
P. Let us pray.
The slight bow stands in contrast to previous bodily comportments during the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. The priest and server were erect when they recited Psalm 42 (one standing, one kneeling), and they bowed profoundly during their own confessions (the Confiteor) and when they prayed for each other (the Misereatur). They straightened up again when their sins were forgiven (the Indulgentiam), and now, in the final prayers before the priest ascends the altar, they bow slightly as if to suggest that the profound self-abnegation during confession and absolution is over, but the priest and server are still in the mode of plaintive petition, much like the bow in the Gloria during the verse “receive our prayer” (suscipe deprecationem nostram).
Psalm 84, 7-8
The first two rounds of dialogue are taken from Psalm 84, 7-8. Psalm 84 is a psalm of refugees returning home from the Babylonian Exile, and contains beautiful passages such as “Mercy and truth have met each other; justice and peace have kissed.” (vs. 11) The Psalm is also is a popular source for sacred liturgy: verse 5, “Convert us, O God our Saviour, and turn off Thy anger from us”, is used in the Office of Compline.
Knowing the entire Psalm is useful in understanding the role that verses 7 and 8 play here. Ps. 84, 4 is: “Thou hast mitigated all Thy anger: Thou hast turned away from the wrath of Thy indignation.” Having just received absolution, the priest and server are relieved that God’s wrath has been averted. But they are not done petitioning, for the priest has yet to enter the daunting Holy of Holies.
Verse 7 creates an interesting image. The Douay Rheims translates Deus, tu conversus as “O God, Thou wilt turn again,” but since conversus is a past participle, it can also be translated as “being turned toward us,” which is what God did when He forgave us our sins during the absolution. Con-version, which is literally a turning again or turning around, is usually a human activity, for we who have fallen must turn towards the Lord for help by converting. But here, it is God turning toward us, which is what He does in the Mass.
And when God turns towards us, it bestows new life, for “quicken” in this verse does not mean to speed up but to revive or bring back to life. There is also a hint of the Holy Spirit in the passage, for the verb for quickening (vivifico) is used in the Creed to describe the Holy Spirit as the Lord, the Giver of Life (Dominum vivificantem).
God breathes life into Adam: mosaic in the Palatine Chapel in Palermo, Sicily, 12th cent.
I suspect that like so many Psalm verses, the two statements “O God, Thou wilt turn again and quicken us” and “Thy people shall rejoice in Thee” are simply two ways of saying the same thing, and thus “us” and “Thy people” have the same referent. In the context of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, however, one can think of “us” as referring to the priest and his ministers and “Thy people” as referring to the laity, for plebs (people) is the traditional way to designate the latter. [1] God will breathe new life into his clergy, and the grateful laity shall rejoice. The whole Church will be happy.
The priest and server then pray verse 8, asking God to show mercy and grant salvation. The priest (and congregation) are wonderfully greedy when it comes to grace. They have just been shown mercy through the absolution, and they are about to ask for more mercy in a few moments with the Kyrie, but they want mercy again right now. This, of course, is an example of a liturgical stammer, but it also reflects the restlessness of our fallen hearts and our constant need for divine assistance.
Psalm 101, 2
The Domine, exaudi orationem appears frequently in the Roman Ritual preceding the Dominus vobiscum (as it does here); and in the Divine Office, when the speaker is a layman or minor cleric, it is used instead of the Dominus vobiscum in front of a collect or prayer.
It is the second verse of Psalm 101, which is described in the Vulgate as the “prayer of a poor person who was in trouble”; in sixth century A.D., Cassiodorus listed it as the fifth of the seven penitential psalms. The intensity of the Latin in this verse is difficult to translate. Audi is “listen,” but adding the prefix ex strengthens the plea, as if to say, “O Lord, really, really listen to my prayer.” And while a “cry” in English can be soft, a clamor in Latin cannot; by definition, it is a loud, noisy sound. “Where charity is cold, the heart is silent,” St. Augustine explains. “Where charity is on fire, the heart is all a clamor (clamor). If charity remains forever, the heart is always clamoring (clamans).” [2] Fr. Nicholas Gihr rightly describes this petition in terms of a “holy vehemence” and a “devout impetuosity.” [3]
The Dominus vobiscum
The expression “The Lord be with you” appears several times in the Bible [4], while the reply “And with thy spirit” echoes St. Paul’s greeting to St. Timothy: “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit.” [5] Paul appears to be using a Hebraism, substituting “you” with “your spirit,” (see Job 15, 13) but whatever his intentions, the expression in the Roman liturgical tradition is an allusion to the spirit of holy orders conferred upon deacons, priests, and bishops. Laymen and minor clerics, therefore, cannot use the greeting Dominus vobiscum, for the reply it elicits is for those with major orders only. This usage is not an example of clericalism but a recognition of the burden that major orders place upon the recipient. It is as if the people of God are replying, “And may the Lord be with the spirit of holy orders that made you a deacon/priest/bishop, for that spirit may be a privilege and a grace, but it also comes at great personal cost and exposes you to great spiritual dangers.”
The Annunciation, by Leonardo da Vinci
One grammatical curiosity about the greeting is that it lacks a verb: Dominus is “Lord” and vobiscum is “with you.” Context shapes which mood of the verb “to be” should be used. During the Annunciation, St. Gabriel employs the same form of greeting to the Blessed Virgin Mary--Dominus tecum--and the Church wisely interprets the salutation as “The Lord is with thee,” for Mary is full of grace. [6] Here, however, as we begin our entrance into the numinous, it makes more sense to use the subjunctive: “May the Lord be with you.”
St. Thomas Aquinas sees an allegorical significance to the fact that during the Mass of his day, before the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the Last Gospel were formally added to the rite, the priest greeted the people seven times, six with the Dominus vobiscum and once with the Pax Domini. This, Aquinas speculates, betokens the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the 1570/1962 Missal, Dominus vobiscum is used eight times, and in the same hermeneutical spirit, we can imagine the number betokening the Resurrection, for Christ rose on the eighth day. Such an interpretation fits in nicely with Aquinas’ observance that the priest turns around to the people five times during this Mass, and this denotes “that our Lord manifested Himself five times on the day of His Resurrection.” [7]

[1] See the prayer Unde et memores in the Canon.
[2] Expos. in Psalm 37, no. 14.
[3] The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: Dogmatically, Liturgically and Ascetically Explained, 6th ed (Herder, 1902), 366.
[4] See Ruth 2, 4; Numbers 14, 42; 2 Chron. 15, 2.
[5] 2 Timothy 4, 22.
[6] Luke 1, 28.
[7] Summa Theologiae III.83.5 ad 6.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Artistic Treasures from Milan Cathedral

For the time being, this post will be the last set of Nicola de Grandi’s photos from the cathedral museum in Milan: see the previous posts from December and January. As always we are very grateful to him for sharing them with us; this time, the focus is on artworks rather than liturgical objects.

We begin with a wooden model of the Duomo (recently restored), which was produced in four different stages, by Bernardino Zenale (1519-22), Vincenzo da Seregno (1536-48), Giuseppe Bellora (1841) e Giovanni Brambilla (1889-90). As has been the case for so many of Italy’s great churches, the cathedral of Milan took a very long time to complete, and for centuries, the church simply had no façade at all. The front of the church was not finished until the early 19th century, in a fashion quite different from what we see in the model.

A painting of the façade when it was still fairly new, made to celebrate the coronation of the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I as king of Lombardy and the Veneto in 1838.  
A tapestry of the Deposition from the Cross, made in Brussels 1505-10.
A very beautiful Flemish tapestry of the Passion of Christ, made in 1467-68, donated to the cathedral by the archbishop of Milan, Stefano Nardini, who is here depicted being presented to Christ by St Ambrose. 

The Station Mass of the Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Before the early eighth century, the church of Rome kept the Thursdays of Lent (with the obvious exception of Holy Thursday) and the Saturdays after Ash Wednesday and Passion Sunday as “aliturgical” days. (The term aliturgical refers, of course, only to the Eucharistic liturgy, not to the Divine Office.) This is attested in the oldest liturgical books of the Roman Rite, and in the collection of papal biographies called the Liber Pontificalis, which tells us that Pope St Gregory II (715-31) instituted the Masses of these days. This is why even in the Missal of St Pius V, the Thursdays of Lent borrow their chant parts (the introits, graduals, offertories and communions) from other Masses; the respect for the tradition codified by St Gregory the Great was such that it was deemed better not to add new pieces to the established repertoire. (The two formerly aliturgical Saturdays simply repeat the Gregorian propers from the previous day, indicating that their Masses were added by a different Pope.)
From the first post of the 2018 edition of our annual series on the Lenten stations; part of the portico of St George ‘in Velabro’, and in the distance, the Palatine hill. The hut of Romulus is near the trees seen furthest to the right. (Photo by the Roman Pilgrim, Agnese Bazzucchi.)
The Roman station for the Thursday after Ash Wednesday is held at a church dedicated to St George in an area known as the Velabrum, a small valley at the base of the Palatine hill. (In the Middle Ages, this term was sometimes misunderstood as the romantic-sounding “velum aureum – the golden sail.”) This is a place of tremendous historical importance to the Romans. It is very close to a bend in the Tiber which was said to be where the basket carrying the infant Romulus and his brother Remus came to rest, and where they were discovered and nursed by a she-wolf before being taken in by a shepherd and his wife. When standing in front of the church, one can look up and see the site on the Palatine of an ancient settlement said to be the place where Romulus himself lived; a wooden hut believed to be his very house was still to be seen there in the early decades of the 4th century AD.
The church was originally also dedicated to another soldier and saint, one associated directly with Rome in a way that George is not; namely, Sebastian, who is traditionally said to have been the captain of the imperial bodyguards at the time of the last and worst of the ancient persecutions of the Church, that of the Emperor Diocletian. It seems very likely that this dedication was determined by the church’s proximity to the Palatine, most of which was occupied by the official imperial residence, (and from which the word “palace” is derived). The victors of the persecution, Sebastian and George, are celebrated with proper Christian humility in a low place, while the monument of the persecuting power, the very place from which the edict of persecution was issued and enforced, stands in ruins on a high place.
St George, represented in the apsidal fresco of St George in Velabro, by Pietro Cavallini, 1296; photo by Fr Lawrene Lew, O.P.
The rest of the fresco, with (left to right) the Virgin Mary, Christ, St Peter and St Sebastian, the church’s cotitular; photo by Mr Jacob Stein, from his blog Passio Xpi.
The Gospel of this Mass is that of the healing of the centurion’s servant, Matthew 8, 5-13. In the Gospel of Matthew, the centurion is the first gentile to believe in Christ during His public ministry, saying to Him, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man subject to authority,…” To this Christ answers, “Amen I say to you, I have not found such great faith in Israel.” This text speaks to a very ancient theme of the Roman Lent, the calling of the gentiles into the Church; in one of the first commentaries on Matthew by a Latin Father, St Hilary of Poitiers calls him “the first man (principem) of the nations that were to believe.” (In Matt. Evang. Comment., 7.3; P.L. IX, col. 955B) The importance of this theme was renewed in the days of St Gregory II by the missions of men like Ss Boniface and Corbinian, whom he had sent north to convert the Germans.
As is the case with some of the other new Masses instituted by Gregory II, the choice of this Gospel was also motivated by the political and ecclesiastical difficulties of those days. For much of the preceding century, the Emperors in Byzantium, the heirs of the Roman Emperors whose ancient titles they still bore, had invented and actively promoted the heresy known as Monothelitism, not their first such invention, nor their last. The ecumenical council which finally condemned that heresy (the sixth in number, and third to be held in the New Rome), adjourned without issuing any disciplinary decrees, as had the one before it. In 692, twelve years after it ended, the Emperor Justinian II called a new council, which pretended to issue disciplinary legislation for the entire Church, and impose its decisions even on Rome itself. His attempt to violently force the Pope to accept this council’s decrees failed because of a popular uprising against the Byzantine authorities, but cannot have failed to remind the Roman church of the events of 50 years previous, when Pope St Martin I died in a distant exile in the Crimea for resisting Monothelitism. Within Gregory II’s reign, a new heresy had arisen from the palace in Constantinople, iconoclasm, followed by a new crescendo of imperial violence against the Church.
Christ and the Cenurion, ca.1571 by Paolo Veronese (1528-88); public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
The stational church for this day, therefore, associates the centurion, a representative of the authority of imperial Rome, with the victory of Christ over the powers and principalities of this world. That victory is represented first by him, one who humbly places himself under the authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords; secondly, by two of his fellow soldiers, martyrs at the hands of that same authority which they had all once represented, but which had lately betrayed the Faith by arrogating to itself the authority that properly belongs to the Church.
This same idea led to the choice of the Epistle, Isaiah 38, 1-6, the story of the illness of King Hezekiah. Isaiah tells him that he is soon to die, but his prayer to be spared is answered, and he is given fifteen more years of life. This indicates first of all that the prayers of a just man for God’s mercy are heard, another important theme for Lent. Isaiah also tells him that God “will deliver (him) and this city (Jerusalem) from the hand of the king of the Assyrians”; this is surely intended as a reference to both the violence which the Byzantine Emperors had perpetrated or attempted against Rome, and their ongoing Italian wars with the Lombards.
This reading also looks forward to that of the following Thursday, also instituted by Gregory II. The Epistle of that Mass, Ezekiel 18, 1-9, reads in part, “ ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the teeth of the children are set on edge.’ … this … shall be no more to you a proverb in Israel. … And if a man be just … he shall surely live.” It continues on the following day: “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and the father shall not bear the iniquity of the son.” (Ezek. 18, 20) Hezekiah was a just king, but the son of a wicked one, and the father of the wicked Manasseh, who repented. His son Amon was a wicked king, whose son was the just Josiah. In other words, Hezekiah and his descendants represent exactly what the next week’s readings from Ezekiel say.
Hezekiah, Manasseh and Amon, from the series of Christ’s ancestors painted in lunettes over the windows of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, 1508-12.
As noted above, the Gregorian chant propers for the Masses of these formerly aliturgical Thursday are all taken from other Masses. This day’s Mass is unusual in that three of them, the Introit, Offertory and Communion, are all taken from the same Mass, that of the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost. This is the Sunday on which the Roman Rite reads one of the most prominent Gospels on the theme of repentance, that of the Publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18, 9-14). This choice seems to have been suggested by a passage from the writings of a notary of St Gregory the Great named Paterius, in a book called “On the Exposition of the Old and New Testament, assembled from different writings of St Gregory the Great” (PL LXXIX, col. 1069C in fine – C), which connects this Gospel with the story of Hezekiah.
“It often happens that the just and the unjust have similar words, but nevertheless their hearts are very different. God is offended by the unjust with the same words by which He is appeased when they come from the just. For the Pharisee entered the temple and said, ‘I fast twice each week, I give tithes of all I possess’, but the publican went out justified rather than he. Also King Hezekiah, when … he had come to the end of his life, grew remorseful and prayed, ‘I beseech Thee, Lord, remember, I ask, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart. And yet the Lord did not despise or refuse this confession of his perfection, … Behold, the Pharisee asserts that he was perfect in his work; Hezekiah asserts this also of his thoughts. From the source of the former’s offense did the latter appease the Lord. Why then is this so, if not because almighty God weighs the words of each man from his thoughts, and in His ears, those words are not proud that are brought forth from a humble heart?”
This connection also appears in the Collect of the Mass, which begins with the words “O God, who are offended by sins, and appeased by penance…”; the passage from Paterius twice contrasts “offended” with “appeased.”
The Communion antiphon was also taken from the Mass of the Tenth Sundy after Pentecost, as a reference to the change of the day’s formerly aliturgical status. “Thou wilt accept the sacrifice of justice, offerings and holocausts, upon Thy altar, o Lord.” This is now sung on a day on which formerly, no sacrifice was made and no altar was used.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Lenten Tract Domine, Non Secundum

Dómine, non secundum peccáta nostra, quae fécimus nos: neque secundum iniquitátes nostras retríbuas nobis. V. Dómine, ne memíneris iniquitátum nostrárum antiquárum: cito antícipent nos misericordiae tuae, quia páuperes facti sumus nimis. Hic genuflectitur V. Adjuva nos, Deus, salutáris noster: et propter gloriam nóminis tui, Dómine, líbera nos: et propitius esto peccátis nostris, propter nomen tuum.

Tract O Lord, not according to the sins which we have committed, nor according to our iniquities do Thou repay us. V. Lord, remember not our former iniquities: let thy mercies speedily come before us, for we are become exceeding poor. All kneel. V. Help us, O God, our Savior: and for the glory of Thy name, O Lord, deliver us: and be merciful to our sins for Thy name’s sake.

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, this beautiful tract is traditionally sung every Monday, Wednesday and Friday of Lent until Holy Monday, with the exception of Ember Wednesday. Several composers have put their hand to setting in polyphony, such as the great Josquin des Prez (1450/5 ca. - 1521).
Another version, by his Spanish contemporary Juan de Anchieta (1462-1523).
The next generation is represented by a Frenchman named Jacquet Colebault (), who spent most of his life as master of the chapel in the cathedral of the northern Italian city of Mantua. (He is usually called Jacquet de Mantua, or ‘de Mantoue’ in French.) His very impressive version is nearly 10 minutes long.
Another version, by Jacques Arcadelt (1507-68), who was born in Namur in the County of Flanders (now part of Belgium), but also worked much of his life in Italy, in both Florence and in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and ended his days in the French royal chapel.

Durandus on the Liturgical Customs of Lent

The following selections are taken from book 6, chapter 28 of William Durandus’ Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, which treats specifically of Ash Wednesday, but also of Lent in general. Some of the elisions here are made for the sake of a more succinct presentation of his thought; several others are made in places where he directs the reader to matters he has discussed elsewhere in the work. The translation is my own.

After Quinquagesima follows Quadragesima, (“fortieth”, the Latin word for Lent), which is the spiritual number of penance, in which the Church fasts, and repents of its sins; for by the penance which is accomplished in Lent, we arrive at the fifty days (of Easter), which is to say, the jubilee year, which symbolizes the forgiveness of sins. Lent (Quadragesima) begins on the following Sunday, on which (the Introit) Invocavit me is sung, but the fast begins on Wednesday, as will be mentioned below.

In medieval liturgical books, the days of Lent are often noted by the Sunday Introits; the first Sunday of Lent is “Dominica Invocavit”, the first Monday “feria secunda post Invocavit”, etc. Here we see a folio from the 1502 Missal of Liège, in which today’s Mass is desgnated in the header as “Feria vj ante Invocavit - Friday before the Introit Invocavit.”
The Blessed Peter first instituted the fast of Lent before Easter. Nor is the fact that we are in abstinence for 46 days from the beginning of the fast to Easter without symbolic meaning. For after the Babylonian captivity, the temple of the Lord was built in 46 years; whence we also after the captivity of Babylon, that is, of the confusion caused by the vices, for 46 days build ourselves as a temple to God through abstinence and good works. … (“Babylon” is the Greek form of the Hebrew word “Babel”, which means “confusion”, the site of the confusion of tongues in Genesis 11. Durandus refers the forty-six years of the building of the temple, as stated in John 2, 20, to the post-exilic rebuilding in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah at the end of the 6th century B.C.; historically, the Jews speaking to Christ in the Gospel were referring to the reconstruction under Herod the Great in the first century B.C.)

Again, the fasts were instituted, because in the Old Law, it was commanded to render tithes and first-fruits from all goods to God; wherefore, we must also do the same in regard to ourselves, that is, from our body, our mind and our time. … For indeed, we offer tithes and first-fruits to God when we do good. In Lent a tithe of days is paid, according to Gregory (the Great, hom. 16 in evang., cited by Gratian de consecr. dist. 5, 16). From the first Sunday of Lent until Easter six weeks are numbered, which make 42 days; from these, the six Sundays are removed from the fast, and there remain 36 days of abstinence, which are almost a tenth of the year. Therefore, in order that the number of forty day in which Christ fasted may be fulfilled, four days are recovered in the previous week… To the thirty-six days which are the tithe, four are added … the first of which is a day of sanctification and cleansing, for then do we purify the soul and body by sprinkling ashes on our heads. …

But we in Provence (Durandus was bishop of Mende in the Occitan region of France) begin the Lenten fast on the Monday of the preceding week (i.e. the day after Quinquagesima), and thus we fast two days more than the other nations. This is not only for honesty’s sake, that is, so that being thus purified in these two days, we may begin the holy fast on Wednesday, but also because Lent ends on the great Thursday of the (Lord’s) Supper… Therefore, on the last two days (i.e. Good Friday and Holy Saturday), we fast, not because it is Lent, but because … of the holiness of those days. …

The Cathedral of St Privatus in Mende. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Myrabella; CC BY-SA 3.0)
But since in Lent we are invited (to go) through Christ’s fast … and He began His fast immediately after the Baptism, which is (commemorated on) Epiphany, the question arises as to why we begin the fast at this time, and not at the same time in which He fasted, especially since His deeds should be our instruction. There are four reasons for this. The first is that in Lent we represent the people of Israel, who were in the desert for forty years, and immediately after celebrated the Passover.

The second is that in the spring, men are naturally moved to desire (libido), and fasting was instituted in this period to restrain it.

The third is that the Resurrection is joined with Christ’s Passion; therefore, it was reasonable that our affliction should be joined with the Passion of the Savior. For since He suffered for us, we must suffer along with Him, so that we may finally reign with Him; and after the Passion, the Resurrection follows immediately, according to the Apostle’s word, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” (2 Tim. 2, 12) Likewise, a sick man is more afflicted (by his illness) when he is getting healthier.

An icon of the type known as “Christ the Bridegroom” (ὁ Νύμφιος, Женихъ), placed on the site of Golgotha within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This icon is placed in the church during the first three days of Holy Week, and the Matins of those days are known as Bridegroom Matins. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Adriatikus; CC BY-SA 3.0)
The fourth reason is that just as the children of Israel afflicted themselves before they ate the lamb, and ate wild, that is, bitter lettuce, (Exodus 12, 8, from the Epistle of the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday) so also we, through the bitterness of penance, must first be afflicted, so that immediately after we may worthily eat the Lamb of life, that is, the body of Christ, and so mystically receive the Paschal sacraments.

Now in the Lenten Masses, “Bow your heads to God (Humiliate capita vestra Deo)” is often said, since in that period the devil attacks us even more; for which reason, we must humbly pray God, and humble ourselves before him, …

The prayer over the people (at the end of the Lenten ferial Masses) is also said after “Bow (your) heads”, because of the holiness of the season, and to indicate that in this life, prayer must be offered for us, that in the future we may merit to hear, “Come, ye blessed of my Father etc. (Matthew 25, 34, from the Gospel of the first Monday of Lent.) This prayer takes the place of Holy Communion. For once upon a time, all communicated and the deacon would invite those who were to receive communion to kneel; but now, because many receive the Lord’s body unworthily, in place of Communion we use a prayer, and the deacon fulfills his office as before, saying “Bow your heads to God”, because whosoever humbleth himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23, 12, from the Gospel of the second Tuesday of Lent), and whoever is blessed by good deeds in this life, will be deputed to eternal blessing afterwards. In this prayer, therefore, the priest commends the soldiers of Christ to the fight, to combat the ancient enemy and snares of the enemies, and so he first arms them through his minister (the deacon) with the weapons of humility, saying “Bow your heads to God”. And thus at last, when they have bowed their heads, he pours the protection of his blessing upon them, strengthening them, as it were …

(In many medieval Uses, “Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate” were said before the Collect of every ferial Mass in Lent, not just on the Ember Days as in the Roman Use. This custom is still kept by the Dominicans, who say it in addition to, not in place of, “Dominus vobiscum etc.” In the image above from the Missal of Liège, they are noted in the 7th line from the bottom of the right column.) At the first Collect we kneel in accord with the struggle of the present life, representing the affliction of labor and continence; but at the last prayer, which is for thanksgiving, we bow the head, by which is designated humility of the mind, because in the life eternal, every labor will be excluded, but humility will always remain. …

Now in these days the Church, being set in the great struggle of Lent, frequently repeats the Psalm He that dwelleth, because this psalm tells those who are in a struggle to place their hope in the Lord, and seek all their help from him. (This is Psalm 90, from which are taken all the propers of the Mass of the First Sunday, and the versicles and short responsories of the Office.) …

The Temptation of Christ, from Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry, a Book of Hours illuminated by the Limbourg Brothers, 1416. During this episode, the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent (Matthew 4, 1-11), the devil quotes Psalm 90 to the Lord: “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written, ‘That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.’ ” From this comes the famous line in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”
Also, from Ash Wednesday until Palm Sunday the preface of the fast is said every day, and in some places, even on Sunday. But on Palm Sunday and the following days is said the Preface of the Passion. But it seems to be incongruous that the preface of the fast should be sung on Sundays, since one does not fast on those days, and therefore some people say the daily preface on those Sundays. But even though they are not counted as fast days, they are kept as a fast in the kind of food that is eaten, which is like that of the other days.

(Concerning the anticipation of Vespers on ferial days) … it must be noted that the season of Lent is a time of mourning and penance; but while the penitents are converted to Christ, they pass from darkness to light. Now the evening, because of the failing of the light and the (ensuing) darkness, signifies imperfection. Therefore, because the penitents are pressing forward, not towards imperfection and failure, but rather towards perfection and the light of truth, in regard to Vespers the aforementioned time of light is appropriately anticipated, according to a decree of the Council of Chalon. (Cited by Gratian, de consecr., dist. 1, 50) Vespers are thus said immediately after Mass, though they are otherwise wont to be said close to the night-time.

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