Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stations of the Christmas Season - Part 3

The liturgy of New Year’s Day, in both the Mass and the Divine Office, is one of the richest and most complex of the Church’s year, joining together elements of several different traditions. It is historically known as the feast of the Circumcision; the Gospel, St. Luke 2, 21, recounts that the infant Jesus, in fulfillment of the ancient covenant given to Abraham, was circumcised on the eighth day after His birth. Likewise, following the custom of the Jewish people, He was named on the same day, with the holy name given to Him by the Angel before He was conceived. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, following the tradition of the Fathers, refers to the Circumcision as the first shedding of Christ’s blood for our salvation: “Worthily indeed is He called ‘Savior’ when He is circumcised, this Child who was born unto us, because already from this moment He began to work our salvation, pouring forth that immaculate blood for us.” This Gospel is repeated on the feast of the Holy Name, the Sunday after the Circumcision, and the homily quoted above is read at Matins of that day.

The Circumcision of Christ, depicted in a stained-glass window by A.W.N. Pugin, Bolton Priory, 1853. Photograph by Br. Lawrence Lew, O.P.

The first of January is, of course, the octave day of Christmas, and the circumcision and naming of Christ are set by the Mass as the consummation of the feast of His Nativity. The chant propers are repeated from the third Mass of Christmas Day, with the exception of a special Alleluja; the epistle, however, is repeated from the first Mass. In many uses of the Roman Rite, such as those of Sarum and of the Dominican Order, the three prayers of the Mass are an ancient set which refers explicitly to the octave of the Nativity. In the Missal of the St. Pius V, however, the prayers of the Mass refer neither to the Circumcision, nor to the octave of Christmas. It was formerly the custom of the church of Rome to celebrate the last day of the Christmas octave as a feast of the Virgin Mary, much as the Byzantine Rite keeps December 26th as the "Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God". The Collect and Post-communion of the Roman Mass of the Circumcision are a reminder of this ancient custom, both referring to the Virgin Mary. The office of the Circumcision, one of the most beautiful of the entire year, brings together aspects of all three parts of the day’s feast.

The medieval liturgist Sicard of Cremona, writing in about 1200 A.D., explains the tradition of the two observances which were later united into a single feast:

On Christmas Day, two feasts come together,… (one) of the Mother and (one) of the Son; but because of the festival of the Son, we cannot fully celebrate the Mother. We have therefore reserved Her solemnity to the eighth day, signifying thereby that if we shall serve Christ in this life, we shall rejoice in the glorification of the Church, which Mary prefigures, on the eighth day, that is, in the life to come; and therefore the office (of Matins and Lauds) belongs in large part to the Virgin as she gives birth; therefore also two Masses are celebrated, the first of the Mother, Vultum tuum (now the votive Mass of the Virgin in the Christmas season), and another of the Son, Puer natus est nobis; but if anyone wishes to omit one of them, let him not omit the one that regards the Virgin, so that he may say the prayer Deus, qui salutis æternæ.
There is, however, a fourth element to the day’s observance, which was formerly of the greatest importance. In the ancient Roman world, as in our own, New Year’s was generally celebrated with a great deal of raucous behavior, dancing and drinking of a sort not in keeping with Christian morals. In many places, therefore the liturgy of the day was celebrated as a day of fasting and penance, against the excesses of the pagan world. A few traces of this survive in various places; for example, the Mass of the Circumcision repeats the epistle of the first Mass of Christmas because of the words “…instructing us that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and justly, and godly in this world.”

The station of New Year’s Day was originally assigned to the Pantheon, the “temple of all the gods”, which was dedicated as a church in honor of the Virgin Mary and all the martyrs in the year 609 by Pope Boniface IV. The choice was clearly made so that the commemoration of the Mother of God could be celebrated in a place which also symbolizes the victory of the Christian faith and the one God over all of the many gods of the pagan world.

Mass celebrated in the Pantheon on May 13, 2009, the 1400th anniversary of the building's dedication as a church. Photo courtesy of Orbis Catholicus.

The station for this day was later transferred to another Marian church, Saint Mary’s in Trastevere, the foreigners’ quarter of ancient Rome. We do not know why or when the change was made, but we do know why this particular church was chosen. Its site was a place of Christian worship at least a century before Mary Major was built, possibly more, although there is no reason to believe it was originally dedicated to the Virgin. The pagan historian Cassius Dio records that in the year 38 B.C., a fountain of oil sprang from the ground in Trastevere, near a tavern frequented by retired solders, (called a 'taberna meritoria' in Latin). This event is understood by Saint Jerome, in his continuation of the Chronicle of Eusebius, as a prophecy of the grace of Christ flowing forth to all of the nations; later on, the miraculous flow of oil was believed to have happened on the night of Christ’s birth. In the late thirteenth century, the Roman artist Pietro Cavallini added to the apse of Santa Maria in Trastevere a beautiful series of mosaics of the life of the Virgin; the third of these shows the birth of Christ, and the fountain of oil flowing forth from the taberna meritoria. (pictured right) The place believed to be the site of the fountain is now within the church, very close to the main altar; and the motto of the church itself and of its chapter is still to this day “Fons olei.”

There are no stations assigned to the days between the Circumcision and Epiphany. The second, third and fourth of January were traditionally kept as the octave days of St. Stephen, Saint John and the Holy Innocents respectively, and octave days very rarely have their own station. The feast of the Holy Name was only added to the universal Calendar in 1721, although the devotion is, of course, much older; it was not assigned to its current place, the Sunday after the Circumcision, until the reign of Pope Saint Pius X.

The very ancient vigil of the Epiphany on the fifth of January also does not have a station. It is likely, however, that just as the vigil of Christmas was kept in the same church as the first Mass of Christmas, so the vigil of Epiphany was kept in the same church as the feast. This station is assigned to the basilica of St. Peter, for the same reason that the third Mass of Christmas was originally celebrated there as well; a very large church was necessary to accommodate the large congregation on one of the greatest solemnities of the year.

Interior view of Saint Peter's Basilica, by the workshop of Raphael, ca. 1520

One of the most beautiful antiphons of the office of the Epiphany, sung at the Magnificat of Second Vespers, reads: “We celebrate a holy day adorned with three miracles; today a star led the Wise Men to the manger; today water became wine at the wedding feast; today in the Jordan, Christ did will to be baptized by John that he might save us.” All three of these aspects of the feast are mentioned daily in the office of the Epiphany and its octave; the Mass, however, has always been principally focused on the coming of the Magi. In the Byzantine rite, on the other hand, the Gospel of the Magi is read on Christmas, and the Epiphany is more markedly the feast of the Lord’s Baptism. The Latin church has reserved its principal commemoration of the Lord’s Baptism to the octave day of the Epiphany; despite the great antiquity of this custom, it does not have a stational observance.

As mentioned above, the Roman Rite has preserved a few traces of the early Christian reaction to the pagan celebration of the New Year; in the traditional Ambrosian Rite, this aspect of the day is far more pronounced. At Vespers, psalm 95 is sung with the antiphon “All the gods of the nations are demons; but our God made the heavens”, and psalm 96 with the antiphon “Let all those who worship the idols be confounded, and those who glory in their statues.” The first prayer of Vespers and of the Mass reads, “Almighty and everlasting God, who commandest that those who share in thy table abstain from the banquets of the devil, grant, we ask, to thy people, that, casting away the taste of death-bearing profanity, we may come with pure minds to the feast of eternal salvation.” All seven of the antiphons of Matins, and most of those of Lauds, refer to the rejection of idol worship. In the Ambrosian rite, there are two readings before the Gospel; on the Circumcision, the first of these is the opening of the “letter of Jeremiah”, (Baruch 6, 1-6 in the Vulgate), in which the prophet exhorts the people not to bow before the idols of the Babylonians. The great antiquity of this tradition is shown by the fact that this reading is preserved in the Ambrosian Missal in the text of the Old Latin version, rather than that of the Vulgate.

The Basilica of Sant'Eustorgio in Milan. The previous church on this site was destroyed in 1164, and the relics of the Three Kings removed to the Cathedral of Cologne by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

Notre-Dame d'Avenas

In searching out a few of the photographs for yesterdays post on Romanesque altars, I ran into this rather wonderful Romanesque church in France, Notre-Dame d'Avenas.

Baptismal Font cover

You will note at the top the colour that may be yet seen.

Images source

How to Properly or Improperly Wear a Conical Chasuble

[The topic of conical chasubles has come up on the NLM a number of times, and usually going hand-in-hand with it is the question of how cumbersome they might be, how to properly wear them and so forth. Accordingly, when I came across this article, written in The Catholic Art Quarterly in 1957, which addresses these very questions, I could not resist reprinting it here. Some may find it of interest as a view into the 20th century Liturgical Movement in its more monastic-influenced aspects, while others may indeed find it of some practical value as there is yet interest in the use of this ancient style and we do see them from time to time.

The conical chasuble is a very dignified manifestation of the fuller form of the chasuble, and something rather iconic given its long-standing usage within the Western church.

How To Wear the Classical Chasuble

Dom Samuel Stehman, O.S.B.

UNLIKE other varieties of the vestment, the classical chasuble has to be worn in a special way. It is not enough just to settle it on the shoulders. Since the garment covers the whole body, including the arms, it is obvious that these must be disencumbered. It is the freeing of the arms that causes the pattern of folds characteristic of this type of chasuble. Everything depends on disengaging the arms correctly, in a way that gives the garment the full beauty of its specific "hang", and at the same time gives the celebrant a reasonable freedom of action.

The illustrations show the stages in this movement. A few words of explanation may help.

First, put on the chasuble, pulling it a little backward but not enough to stretch the crosspiece at the neck opening. Make sure that the vertical orphrey is exactly centered in front. Let both arms drop at the sides. This stage is indispensable. To omit it changes the effectiveness of the action. (fig. 1)

Figure 1

Next, with the elbows straight, slowly raise the arms, keeping them a little towards the back. The arms should be roughly at right angles to one another, repeating the right angle formed by the chasuble when laid out flat. (fig. 2)

Figure 2

Continue the action, lifting the arms slowly with slightly bent elbows. The chasuble begins to lift and to form folds. (fig. 3)

Figure 3

Raise and lower the arms gently two or three times somewhat in the manner of a flying bird. This will cause the folds to slide together of their own accord into the angle of the elbows, and will expose about four inches of the sleeves of the alb. (fig. 4). Join the hands.

Figure 4

During Mass, the priest's gestures are of course limited to those enjoined by the rubrics. The very shape of the classical chasuble precludes exaggerated movements such as the wide stretching out of the arms either horizontally or vertically, and the lifting of the elbows, especially in genuflections. Instead, the vestment itself imposes the reserve that is required by the ceremonial. The most pronounced gestures of the Massare the elevation of the host and chalice, and if these are made properly, they are perfectly adapted to this chasuble. The same is true of the genuflections. If these are correctly made, the hands being placed on the altar and the elbows kept close to the sides, the chasuble falls gracefully into the beautiful pattern of folds shown in fig. 5.

Figure 5

The annoying and graceless dragging which results when these restraints are not observed is shown in fig. 6.

Figure 6 (Incorrect)

If the chasuble tends to slip during Mass, either on account of the nature of the fabric, or of the lining, or because of the gestures, it may be pushed back into the angles of the elbows. Such slipping is always from front to back rather than towards the hands, as is obvious on account of the conical shape. Therefore the folds must be gathered into the elbows as well as towards the front. Slip the hands under the edge of the garment, leaving the thumb on top. This makes it easy to lift the mass of the material and move it over the elbows towards the front.

It takes but a short while to learn to put on the chasuble properly, and once this is learned it will be found to move very little. Even when the hands are placed on the altar, its folds stay caught in the angle of the elbows, its edge resting on the sleeves of the alb.

Seen from the back, the chasuble sits higher and lower on the wearer's neck depending on the breadth of his shoulders. (If the shoulders of the cassock are padded it rises especially high and makes an awkward angle. The classical vestment presumes the absence of such artificialities.) The point of the cone -- slightly modified, of course -- comes just at the top of the back.

There are two ways of escaping the difficulty thus imposed, and the choice between them depends on how the amice is worn. Only one of these solutions, however, is really a satisfactory one, and that is with the amice pulled down like a cowl. This is the better solution aesthetically, for the amice so pulled down finishes off the top of the chasuble, and also because it is a return to the original meaning of the amice. (A former issue of L'Ourvoir Liturgique No. 20, 1954 was devoted to a description of the classical way of wearing the amice.)

All this shows how important it is that the classical chasuble be put on correctly. What happens if is not? If you neglect the three gestures we have described, and free your arms as is possible with a chasuble of the "gothic" type, the garment lifts up a great deal too much, and in the front only. (fig. 7) In front you have a sort of half-chasuble (fig. 8), and from behind the effect is that of a vertically falling cope. (fig. 9)

Figure 7 (Incorrect)

Figure 8 (Incorrect)

Figure 9 (Incorrect)

And finally, as to size. The chasuble shown in the illustrations (cut from the pattern given in L'Ouvoir Liturgique No. 26 and No. 27, 1956) is too large for priests of small stature only if wrongly worn. Well draped and straight, it lifts up enough to be adapted to all figures. The priest who appears in the illustrations is five feet eight inches in height.

The custom of wearing the amice inside is so well established that we can hardly hope to change it before the general adoption of the classical chasuble. So, for the priests who will continue to fold the amice around the neck the solution is to turn down the top of the chasuble itself.

For this it is best to make use of the assistance of another person. The band that surrounds the neck opening makes this easy. The folder over of this band gives a finished appearance to the chasuble with no trouble. (fig. 10) This band takes somewhat the place of the apparels with which the folded over amice may be ornamented.

Figure 10

One last piece of advice. It is most important that the alb should reach down as far as possible. The classical chasuble loses much of its dignity when worn with a short alb. To be exact, the bottom of the alb should just brush the insteps.

This article was originally published in The Catholic Art Quarterly, 1957, Vol. XX, No. 3, Pentecost.

The Sounds of Salvation: A Recreation of the Mass for St. Donatian by Jacob Obrecht

I'm excited to tell you about a thrilling project, a completed project about which I had previously heard nothing. It is a full reconstruction of a mass by Jacob Obrecht (1457/1458 – late July, 1505). Here is the full DVD/CD, which looks like a treasure to own.

What we have here is liturgical reenactment of a commemorative Mass service endowed by the widow of the fur merchant Donaes de Moor and first celebrated in the Sint Jacobskerk in Bruges in October 1487. The Dutch ensemble Cappella Pratensis sings the plainsong and Obrecht’s polyphony from the original notation displayed on a large music stand, with organ improvisations by Wim Diepenhorst and the assistance of clerics from Bruges. A documentary segment explores the structure of the Mass, the stories of the people involved, the church, the chant, and the documents, all filmed on location in Bruges.

This film is of great interest to colleagues who teach the history of Renaissance sacred music, to those who perform this repertoire, and to anyone interested in the cultural history of this time and place. The DVD+CD, entitled Missa de Sancto Donatiano (Bruges 1487), appears on the Challenge Classics FineLine label (FL 72414) and was released in the US and Canada on October 13.

Most of all, have a look at this wonderful website in support of the project. Here you can listen to the whole Mass, look at the score with annotations, and even see clips of the film with the singers. And get this: the singers are singing from a single edition sitting on a high music stand - it is that faithful to the original. They are all gathered around in the most wonderful way, and they look like they are enjoying every instant of this music.

For my part, I'm getting the DVD so that I don't have to deal with a fussy web connection. What a magnificent project!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Some Romanesque or Romanesque Inspired Altars

The recent post from Le Barroux put me to mind of a style of altar which is worthy of wider imitation; the Romanesque. Here are some particular examples, mainly from a monastic context, both modern and ancient, which show forth some of its potentialities. It bears a simplicity, but one characterized by dignity, nobility and gravitas.

21st century side altar, Clear Creek Monastery

20th century altar from a Belgian Abbey

Abbey of Le Barroux

Notre Dame d'Avenas, France

Finally, just a little Romanesque treat from the Abbey of Sant'Antimo in Tuscany.

The Monastic Vocation: Some Random Thoughts

It is always a good day to share something from the Benedictine Abbey of Le Barroux and I noticed today that the Polish site, Nowy Ruch Liturgiczny, have up various videos they took from Abbey this past summer.

Here they begin the recitation of the Divine Office.

I am always struck by the peacefulness and sense of spiritual refreshment I am provided by scenes of the monastic life as these.

I have commented before that I believe the monastic vocation seems too often neglected as a vocational consideration today, and what a shame that is if so, particularly when one understands, as Benedict XVI recently highlighted in his homily for the midnight Mass, that God and his worship through the liturgical prayer of the Church is of such centrality and priority for us. While we are all called to this in varying degrees, the most concentrated form of this is without question to be found within the context of the monastic vocation; a life entirely formed by the ebb and flow of the Mass and the Divine Office.

In part this may be due simply to a lack of familiarity; the monastic vocation is often less seen -- especially in the new world due to both vast geography and shorter history -- and so it may not enter as readily into one's considerations as other vocational callings might.

In part this may be influenced by our modern emphasis on and understanding of "utility" and "doing"; a utility which is often restricted to certain forms of activity -- something that also is seen to extend to "active participation" in the sacred liturgy and what that is popularly understood to entail -- and which might therefore make the monastic vocation seem somehow of less relevance or value. The liturgy and liturgical prayer are indeed "doing" however; it is activity -- and extremely important activity at that; the activity of divine worship, the centre from which all else flows. Meditation, silence, and prayer are also forms of activity.

In part this may be influenced by the frenetic pace and tone of modern life which is filled with noise and technology at every turn; where we have become somewhat divorced from our sense of dependency on creation and our awareness of its serene beauty, where, if a television isn't filling the void, then a radio is, a video game, a telephone or something else. In short, silence, quietude, and the meditative reflection and listening that comes forth from it -- all features of the monastic life -- is rather foreign to modern life, and by virtue of that, often also felt uncomfortable. Yet how important it is.

Finally, in part this may also be influenced by a forgetfulness or lack of understanding of what the liturgical prayer of the Church primarily is, divine worship, and what its place is within the Christian life: central. We need to constantly recall: "In the Church's liturgy the divine blessing is fully revealed and communicated. The Father is acknowledged and adored as the source and the end of all the blessings of creation and salvation. In his Word who became incarnate, died, and rose for us, he fills us with his blessings. Through his Word, he pours into our hearts the Gift that contains all gifts, the Holy Spirit." (CCC, para. 1082) The sacred liturgy is the worship of God and the work of the Holy Trinity "in which God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified." (CCC 1089)

Of course, even if our calling isn't to the monastic life, we cannot simply dispense with these things as though they were only relevant to the monasteries and not to those of us in other vocations. The liturgy and liturgical worship of God is of central importance to all Christian life, and all people need times of prayerful silence and listening. As our Holy Father reminded us, "For monks, the Liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later. In its essence, though, this saying applies to everyone. God is important, by far the most important thing in our lives."

Mary Mother of God

For Mass on Friday, we have some very beautiful propers, which, if you are in an Ordinary Form parish, you are not likely to hear and hence you will miss the music that is intended to be sung alongside the Mass text. It's a tragedy, as the Vatican has said consistently from the late 1960s to the present. To hear what you likely miss, browse over to the Isaac Jogues Chant and hear them one by one.

Book Notice: The Liturgical Subject: Subject, Subjectivity and the Human Person in Contemporary Liturgical Discussion and Critique

An interesting looking collection of essays has come forth from the University of Notre Dame Press with some names that will be familiar to many NLM readers already. It also comes with some praise from Dr. Lauren Pristas and Dom Cassian Folsom.

The Liturgical Subject

Subject, Subjectivity, and the Human Person in Contemporary Liturgical Discussion and Critique

Edited by James G. Leachman, OSB

The Liturgical Subject brings together in one volume a wide—sometimes divergent—range of understandings of the liturgy. Written primarily by Roman Catholics, with one important ecumenical contribution, the publication of these essays at this moment is particularly apt. There is widespread reassessment of various aspects of especially the post-Conciliar period of liturgical reform. The essays reflect the breadth of concerns that arise in that debate. At the same time the collection indicates how liturgical study is called to account by, and is itself able to question, the philosophical aspects of its work. This is an area of enquiry as yet in its infancy, whose contours are nevertheless already discernible in the papers gathered here. This volume is a landmark for research of this kind, pointing toward further ecumenical dialogue and contributing to more fundamental studies of liturgy.

Contributors: Laurence Paul Hemming, Robert Barron, Angelo Manuel dos Santos Cardita, László Dobszay, Eduardo J. Echeverria, Bruce E. Harbert, Zsolt Ilyés, Peter A. Kwasniewski, James G. Leachman, O.S.B., Daniel P. McCarthy, O.S.B., Enrico Mazza, Simon Oliver, Denis Robinson, O.S.B.

Fr. James B. Leachman, O.S.B., is professor of liturgical spirituality and professor of liturgy of the Churches of the Reformation at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Rome.

ADVANCE PRAISE: “This collection of essays makes a significant contribution to the field of liturgical studies. Many are original in the best sense that theological work can be: grounded in the authentic tradition, perceptive, imaginative and capable of giving readers new insights into, and a fresh appreciation of, timeless truths. Taken together they will attract readers from a variety of disciplines, in the first place because worship is an essential aspect of every Christian life, and in the second because the essays are written from, or informed by, the perspectives of a range of related disciplines: doctrinal and spiritual theology, history, philosophy, and liturgical studies.” — Lauren Pristas, Caldwell College

“The essays in this book grapple with the basic question: ‘Who celebrates the liturgy?’ By delving into the complex interrelationship between the divine initiative (liturgy as opus Trinitatis) and the human response (liturgy as opus hominis), between the action of Christ and the Church and the participation of the individual Christian, the authors—coming from a wide range of theological disciplines—make a stimulating contribution to contemporary liturgical theology.” — Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., Pontifico Instituto Liturgico, Rome

Paper Edition 2009
288 pages
ISBN 10: 0-268-03410-9
ISBN 13: 978-0-268-03410-8

To order: The Liturgical Subject, University of Notre Dame Press

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Further Evolution of Comments

It seems to be fast becoming the standard that comment registration is being required on the part of commenters. I am not speaking of comment moderation, whereby each comment must be approved, but instead where only users who register in some fashion, or with some identification, are permitted to comment.

Go to various news sites and only their subscribers will be allowed to comment; go to various blogs and some form of registration is becoming more and more common. This is now the case on the NLM as well.

As a further reminder, please remember that the new comment service has two options listed beneath each comment made:

Flag - If you find a comment which you believe is inappropriate, simply click "flag" and we will be pointed to the comment. Using this feature is very useful.

Reply - Clicking on the reply function will allow you to respond to a specific comment, and it will "thread" the discussion beneath it. This helps to better contextualize your comment.

A Sign of Change: Liturgical and Musical Programme for the 'Year for Priests' - Clergy Conference Rome 2010

As many of our readers will be aware of, this coming January 4 – 8, 2010, in response to the Holy Father’s designation of 2010 as the Year for Priests, there will be a joint conference of the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy and the (American) Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in Rome, the 'Year for Priests' - Clergy Conference Rome 2010. Recently, details of the liturgical and musical programme were made available. The musical programme as well as the fact that Mass and Vespers in the Extraordinary Form are included on a par with Mass and Vespers in the Ordinary Form, and that the Prefect and the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship will be the ones celebrating according to the usus antiquior, are real signs of the sea change which is beginning.

Music in the Liturgical Programme

Jan 4, 2010
Solemn Pontifical Vespers & Benediction in the Ordinary Form
Domus Sanctae Marthae
Celebrant: Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett
Magnificat Octavi Toni: Lassus
Exposition Motet: Lassus - Tui sunt Caeli
Motet: Palestrina - Alma Redemptoris Mater

Jan 5, 2010
Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Ordinary Form
Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere
Celebrant: Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos
Mass Ordinary: Lassus - Missa Vinum Bonum
Offertory Motet: Palestrina - Hodie Christus Natus Est
Communion Motet: Lassus - Ave Verum Corpus
Thanksgiving Hymn: Alleluia, Sing to Jesus
Recessional: Organ postlude

Jan 6, 2010
Solemn Pontifical Vespers & Benediction in the Extraordinary Form
Celebrant: His Grace Archbishop Joseph Augustus Di Noia, OP
Church of St Stefano of the Abyssinians
Plainchant from Liber Usualis
Magnificat Primi Toni: Palestrina (8 part)
Exposition Motet: Victoria - O Magnum Mysterium

Jan 7, 2010
Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form
Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran
Celebrant: Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera
Mass Ordinary: Haydn - Missa Cellensis (Mariazellermesse)
Mass Propers: Gregorian chant
Offertory Motet: Stanford: Beati Quorum Via
Communion Motets: Mozart: Ave Verum & Laudate Dominum
Recessional: Mozart - Epistle Sonata, K. 278

Jan 8, 2010
Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Ordinary Form
Papal Basilica of Saint Peter
Celebrant: Archbishop Raymond Burke
Mass Ordinary: Palestrina - Missa Tu Es Petrus
Gospel Acclamation: Durufle - Tu es Petrus
Offertory Motet: Bruckner - Ave Maria
Communion Motet: Palestrina - Tu Es Petrus
Thanksgiving Hymn: Holy God, we praise Thy Name.
Recessional: Organ Postlude

Introit from the Midnight Mass, Westminster Cathedral

An excerpt from the midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral, London, England with Archbishop Vincent Nichols. This excerpt shows the Introit and incensation of the altar.

I would note, as I have in the past, how the chanted introit so effectively emphasizes the proper tone and character of the sacred liturgy. The recovery of the chanted propers, beginning with the introit chant, should be high in the list of pursuits for the reform of the reform in my own estimation.

December 29th: King David and St. Thomas Becket

From the Roman Martyrology for the 29th day of December:

"At Jerusalem, St. David, King and Prophet."

Icon of King David

(Read a summary about King David in this article in the Catholic Encyclopedia.)

* * *

"At Canterbury in England, the birthday of St. Thomas, Bishop and Martyr, who for his defence of justice and ecclesiastical immunity was smitten with the sword in his cathedral by a faction of wicked men and passed a martyr to Christ."

Mass from the Birmingham Oratory this day

(Birmingham photo and video courtesy of Jackie Parkes)

Feast of the Holy Innocents - Ad Orientem in Cologne Cathedral

Yesterday, on the feast of the Holy Innocents, His Eminence Joachim Cardinal Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, celebrated a Solemn Pontifical Mass at the high altar of Cologne Cathedral, in front of the Shrine of Three Magi. The holy sacrifice of the Mass was offered for the defence of life. Here are some photographs of the Mass:

Celebration at the high altar is not uncommon in Cologne Cathedral. Here are two other examples, the second of which shows Mass on 23 July 2009, the feast of the translation of the relics of the Three Magi.

All photos come from NLM friend Stanislaus.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Station Churches of the Christmas Season - Part 2

By the end of the fifth century, there were a number of Roman churches dedicated to St Stephen the First Martyr, including a monastery behind St Peter’s in the Vatican, and a large basilica on the via Latina. That which was chosen as the station church of his feast day, St Stephen’s on the Caelian Hill, is the one closest to the pope’s ancient residence at the Lateran. It is now often referred to in Italian as “Santo Stefano Rotondo – Round St Stephen’s”, and is the only round church built in ancient times in the Eternal City. (The Pantheon was often called “Santa Maria Rotonda”, but was not, of course, built as a church.)
The Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo; watercolor by Ettore Roseler Franz, 1880
The station remained at Santo Stefano Rotondo, even after a portion of the Saint’s relics were brought to Rome and placed within the tomb of St Lawrence, in the basilica of St Lawrence outside the Walls. There are two reasons for this, the first being that, after the long trip around the city for the stations of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the papal court would probably prefer to stay close to home on the day following. More importantly, the round shape of Santo Stefano was chosen in imitation of the ancient church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the city of both the Lord’s Passion and the martyrdom of Stephen. The ancient custom of keeping the feast of St Stephen immediately after the birth of Christ serves as a powerful reminder of the mission of the Christ Child, who came into this world to die for our redemption. The eighth responsory of St Stephen’s office expresses this most beautifully when it says that “…he first rendered back to the Savior the death which he, Our Savior, deigned to suffer for us.”
The station on December 27th, the feast of St John the Apostle, is not kept at the basilica of St John in the Lateran, which is officially named the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior. The dedication of this church to the two Saints John, Baptist and Evangelist, postdates the fixing of the traditional stations; so does the church of St John at the Latin Gate, where the Apostle was traditionally said to have been thrown into a vat of boiling oil, and miraculously preserved from death. Instead, the Papal court returned to the basilica of Mary Major. The reason for this is first of all the traditional association of St John with the Virgin Mary, whom the Lord entrusted to His beloved disciple, shortly before He died on the Cross. The office of St John refers to this twice: “At last, when He was to about to die upon the Cross, he commended His Virgin Mother to this virgin, (i.e. Saint John.)
The rood screen of the church of Saint Giles in Cheadle, England, by A.W.N. Pugin, showing the Virgin Mary and Saint John at the Cross; 1841-46. (Photograph by Br. Lawrence Lew. O.P.)
As mentioned previously, the third Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 431 to refute the heresy of Nestorius, who claimed that it was improper to call the Virgin Mary “Mother of God”. The city chosen for this council, Ephesus in Asia Minor, was also the place where St John is traditionally said to have died and been buried; the site venerated as his tomb was enclosed within a basilica by the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. The station for his feast day is therefore also a reminder of the traditional association of both St John and the Virgin Mary with the city of Ephesus, the ancient church of which was also, of course, the recipient of a letter from St Paul and a divine message in the Apocalypse of John (2, 1-7).
On the following day, the station for the feast of the Holy Innocents is kept at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, the site of the Apostle’s tomb, along the road to the ancient Roman port of Ostia. It may be that this church was chosen because of the relics of the Innocents which were placed there at an uncertain date; on the other hand, the relics may have been placed there because it was already the station church for the feast. (Major relics of the Innocents are also kept at Mary Major in Rome, the Basilica of St Justina in Padua, and the cathedrals of Milan and Lisbon.)
Detail of the Cross in the apsidal mosaic of St Paul’s outside the Walls, with five of the Holy Innocents underneath it. (Photograph by Br. Lawrence Lew O.P.)

The Blessed Ildephonse Schuster notes in The Sacramentary that nearly all of the major solemnities and seasons of the liturgical year include a stational visit to the churches of both St Peter and St Paul; it may be that St Paul’s was chosen in regard to this custom, after the station at St Peter’s on Christmas Day. He also points out that St Paul is the most illustrious son of the tribe of Benjamin, and of Benjamin’s mother, Rachel. When she died in giving birth to Benjamin, Rachel “was buried on the way that leadeth to Ephrata, which is Beth-lehem”; she represents the mothers who wept over the slaughter of their children, as foretold by the prophet Jeremiah. (Genesis 35, 19 and Matthew 2, 18, the conclusion of the Gospel of the Holy Innocents, citing Jeremiah 31, 15.)
There is no station assigned for the feast of St Thomas of Canterbury, who was martyred on December 29, 1170, and whose feast was accepted throughout the Latin church almost immediately after his canonization. By the twelfth century, the church of Rome had long ceased to institute stations for new feasts; even Corpus Christi does not have one. Likewise, the common Sundays and ferias within octaves rarely have stations, with the notable exceptions of Easter and Pentecost.
Pope St Sylvester I, who died on December 31, 335, is one of the first confessors, (i.e., non-martyrs) to be honored by the Church with a liturgical feast, the other being St Martin of Tours. His feast was originally kept with a station at the place of his burial, a basilica which Sylvester himself had built above the Catacomb of Priscilla, in honor of the martyrs Ss Felix and Philip. Prior to the eleventh century, it was the common custom for the pope to go the principal church of each major Roman Saint on their feast day; in fact, the oldest Roman liturgical calendar is partly a list of such papal celebrations. We may imagine that the popes of that era welcomed the two days’ rest between the station of the Holy Innocents at St Paul’s outside the Walls, and that of St Sylvester, a few miles in the opposite direction, up the Salarian way. In the year 761, however, his relics were translated to the church of St Sylvester, in center of the city; this church is now much more famous as the resting place of the head of St John the Baptist, for which it is named “San Silvestro in Capite, i.e. where the head is.” His feast, like that of St Thomas, is kept only as a commemoration in the Roman Missals of 1962 and 1970; a memory of its former prominence remains in the custom of calling New Year’s Eve “Sylvester’s night” in German and other languages.
(Pictured above; The Donation of Constantine, from the Chapel of Saint Sylvester at the Basilica of the Four Crowned Martyrs in Rome; roughly 1250.)
The third part of this article will discuss the stations of the Circumcision and the Epiphany.

Standards, Funalia or Candelabra Magna

The following question was sent in by a reader last month.

"On your post for the Birmingham Oratory Requiem one can clearly see in the foreground one of the very large candlesticks standing on the floor of the sanctuary that are often found in Roman churches... [what was] the origin and purpose of these "standard" candlesticks - when does one light them, etc.?"

An example of one of these is pictured to the right. (One is also put to mind of the Carthusian chapels which often see the sanctuary lined by a number of similar great candlesticks. See here and here for examples.) Readers may also be familiar with their presence in Ss. Trinita, the FSSP parish in Rome.

It is a good question, and one which would seem to require us to consider some of the history of "lights" in our churches, and also the broader possible manifestations of "standards".

O'Connell's Church Building and Furnishing is one of the few resources I have found in briefly researching this question that has anything to say explicitly on the subject:

Standard candlesticks (funalia, candelabra magna) -- either those that take a single large candle, or those that take a number of candles -- figure very early in the list of church equipment.

The emperor Constantine, in the 4th century, gave seven great bronze candlesticks to be set before the high altar of the Lateran in Rome; and four were placed before the tomb of St. Peter. The number seven may have been inspired by the seven golden candlesticks of the Apocalypse. These great candlesticks are mentioned in the liturgical books, either as sources of extra necessary light (e.g. on Christmas Eve at Matins) (Caeremoniale Episcoporum, II, xiv, 3), or for greater splendour at solemn Mass, especially when celebrated on great days, when candles in six or seven large candlesticks may be placed on the balustrade of the chancel. (Caeremoniale Episcoporum, I, xii, 20). Two candles in standard candlesticks, standing in the sanctuary, may, when necessary, replace the torches that are carried at the private Mass of a bishop, for the Consecration and up to the Communion. (Caeremoniale Episcoporum, I, xxix, 7) The Clementine Instruction (para. VI) speaks of two such candlesticks in use before the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. Standard candlesticks, for use on great days, in the sanctuary are, then, a traditional, dignified and appropriate adornment and sign of festivity in churches. (p. 213)

A few points stand out. The first is that in addition to the large floor candlesticks with a single candle within them that our reader is referring to, O'Connell also identifies other forms of standards; namely those that take more than one candle (i.e. candelabra) and those which stand on some sort of balustrade. Second, on the question of usage, the three mentions of the Caeremoniale Episcoporum and the further mention of the 18th century Clementine Instruction on the ordering of Forty Hours are certainly of interest. Finally, from the perspective of earlier origins, the mention of Constantine and the Lateran certainly merits some inquiry.

Let us look at the latter for the moment, then broaden our consideration to the use of lights in our early churches generally.

Constantine and the Lateran Archbasilica

O'Connell makes a specific point of mentioning Constantine's gift to the Lateran basilica, while also noting the presence of similar items in other church inventories.

Book one of the Liber Pontificalis, under the entry for Pope Sylvester, notes Constantine's gift as follows:

"7 brass candlesticks before the altars, 10 feet in height, adorned with figures of the prophets overlaid with silver, weighing each 300 lbs."

Evidently, what we don't know from this are the specifics beyond the fact of being some form of great lights in proximity to an altar. The Catholic Encyclopedia, in its entry for "candlesticks", makes note of this:

Of the earliest form of candlesticks used in Christian churches we know but little. Such records as we possess of the magnificent presents made by Constantine to the basilica of the Lateran and to St. Peter's seem from the descriptions to refer principally to the stands and the hanging chandeliers destined for lamps. We hear also of two sets of seven bronze candelabra, each ten feet high, placed before the altars, but we cannot assume that these candelabra aurichalca were necessarily used for wax tapers.

Tapers or not, what remains a point of interest is the fact of such grandiose forms of lights in relation to our early altars. The point of consideration that naturally follows is whether there is a relationship (direct or as a development) between these specific examples and the standards we see today.

The Early Use of Lights and the Altar

Earlier within our liturgical history, candlesticks were not placed upon the mensa of the altar but were instead hung or placed in various ways around or near the altar. Various sources speak to this point:

"In the early centuries of Christianity, lights were certainly placed round and near the holy table, but they were suspended from the ceiling or from the ciborium over the altar, or on brackets round the walls... The first altar lights were the processional candlesticks carried by the acolytes, which were placed on the steps of the altar when not in use." (Peter F. Anson, Churches: Their Plan and Furnishing, p. 106)

(A medieval fresco from the lower church of the basilica of San Clemente which depicts St. Clement saying Mass, shows lamps hanging from the ciborium.)

One will note the small, cube shaped altar without candles on it, and the ciborium which sees various lamps hanging down from it

"It does not seem to have been customary to place lights upon the altar itself before the eleventh century, but the "Ordines Romani" and other documents make it clear that, many centuries before this, lights were carried in procession by acolytes, and set down upon the ground or held in the hand while Mass was being offered and the Gospel read." (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Archdale King notes similarly in The Liturgy of the Roman Church and adds: "The placing of candles before rather than on the altar seems to have been the general practice in the early middle ages, and the usage is attested by the monastic customaries. (p. 104)

With regard to religious, it might be worth noting that a similar sort practice may yet be seen -- though with only two candles and with candlesticks on the altar of course -- in the liturgical usages of the Dominicans and Carmelites for instance, when the acolytes carry their candles in procession and for the gospel, but otherwise place them on the steps before the altar.

A Dominican Rite liturgy in Rome. One of the acolyte candles is visible on the step. See right.

Of course, none of this is to suggest that the acolyte candles are precisely the same as candlebra magna. Not at all. It is simply to provide some context in relation to candles and the altar itself.

Lights Near the Altar and in the Churches Generally

Looking beyond the altar itself and the matter of the acolytes' candles, and more generally to other forms of lights historically found within our churches and sanctuaries, Fr. Daniel Rock, in his study, The Church of Our Fathers (which looks at mediaeval and mediaeval English liturgical usage in particular) comments:

Upon this "beam" [above the altar, between the two eastern columns around the altar] there stood, at Salisbury, six lights. At that cathedral too, a corona for light hung down in the presbytery; there was a seven-branched bronze candlestick standing on the pavement, as at Canterbury, and upon the pulpit wall four tapers burned on high feasts. Only two lights seem ever to have been placed upon the altar itself, though for holy days many were put about and near to it. (vol 4, p. 243)

Returning to our initial quotation of O'Connell, he mentions "candlesticks may be placed on the balustrade of the chancel"; this might put us in mind of the screen at the Sistine Chapel.

These are of course seen without candles in them. In this historical photograph, we see the candlesticks in use:

Pugin notes in his work, A Treatise on Chancel Screens and Rood Lofts, that "Father Bonanni, who wrote in the seventeenth century, describes the [Sistine] chapel as arranged in the following manner... A sort of balustrade... at the top of this balustrade are placed four, six or seven tapers, according to the solemnity of the time." (p. 24)

Similar usage may be found in the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore at the entrance to the Cappella Paolina, where seven candlesticks and candles are on the screen:

Within that chapel as well, we also see a pair of standards:

Writing in the late fourth or early fifth century, St. Paulinus of Nola spoke of the use of lights within the church of St. Felix:
The bright altars are crowned with thronging lamps. Lights burnt fragrant with waxed papyri. Day and night they burn; thus night is radiant with the brightness of day, and the day itself, bright in heavenly beauty, shines still more, its light doubled by countless lanterns.

Speaking of this same early writer, D.R. Dendy in The Use of Lights in Christian Worship notes that elsewhere in Paulinus' poems, "two other points appear important for later history: extra lights were burnt on festivals..."

Dendy further quotes from the Vita Desiderii (a life of St. Desiderius of Cahors), which makes reference to "standing candles": "The crowns of light shine, the candelabra are brilliant: there are also standing candles..." (Migne, P.L., LXXXVII, 235.)

Finally, while it only vaguely relates to our question, how can we fail to mention Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (or simply, Prudentius), one of the great Latin Christian poets who lived in the 4th century, who wrote the Hymnus ad Incensum Lucernae (A Hymn for the Lighting of the Lamp), and who gives us a glimpse of the lights found within some of our early churches:
Lest man ever forget that his one hope of light
On the body of Christ has its foundation sure,
He desired to be called stone of the Corner firm,
Whence we kindle the flame lighting our little fires.

This we nourish in lamps dripping with dewy oil,
Or dry torches are lit from the celestial fire;
We make candles with wicks dipped in the flowery wax,
From which honey was pressed, hidden in yellow combs.

Bright the glittering flame, whether a hollow urn
Feeds the oil to the wick thirsting for nutriment,
Or the resin of pine burns on the flaring torch,
Or coarse fibre of flax drinks up the waxen round;

Warm nectar from the crown, burning with lively flame,
Tears, sweet-smelling, distills, flowing down drop by drop,
For the force of the heat causes the molten wax
To descend in a shower from the taper's point.

Now our temples and halls shine with Thy gifts, O God,
Splendid tapers ablaze, praising the Fount of Light;
Their rays vie with the day gone with the setting sun
And dark night, in defeat, flees in her tattered robes.


Festive vigil Thy flock keeps on this holy night [the Easter Vigil]
Through the hours til the dawn, chanting the praise of God,
And on altars upraised offer the Sacrifice,
Glad in hope of the grace granted to fervent

Ceilings fretted with gold gleam with brilliant light
Shed from pendulous lamps swaying on supple chains;
The flame fed by the oil languidly swims about,
Casting flickering rays through the translucent glass.


Some Considerations

Returning then to the question of the origins of standards, we hear of various examples, in various locations, of standing lights in the form of great candelabra and standing candles. We hear also that, within the first millennium, candlesticks were not placed on the altar itself, but rather were either hung or stood nearby. We hear tell in some places of additional lights being used for more festive times. We further see examples of candles in places like the choir screen for greater solemnity. Finally, we see examples of these standard candlesticks within certain sanctuaries.

As it relates to the matter of history then, the question which arises is whether the standards we yet see today are related to (or remnants of) these earlier standing lights, and to the time when candles were not placed upon the altar itself. Certainly their presence in Rome, noted for its conservativism in these regards, would lend itself to such a thought; the same might also be said of the Carthusians.

As for usage of standards, according to O'Connell in reference to the Caeremoniale Episcoporum and Clementine Instruction, they are used,"for greater splendour at solemn Mass, especially when celebrated on great days"; when necessary to "replace the torches that are carried at the private Mass of a bishop, for the Consecration and up to the Communion"; for extra illumination when necessary; and further, when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

Here are the paragraphs from the Caeremoniale which O'Connell references to support his position:

"Nocte sequenti, hora competenti, prout ab Episcopo fuerit praeordinatum, celebrantur Matuntinae, prout in cap. V, ejusdem lib.II, de Matutinis dictum fuit. Haec tamen particularis in his Matutinis observanda erunt. Prim ultra luminaria solita altaris et abaci, praeparanda erunt sex, vel octo funalia cerae albae, vel quot erunt necessaria pro consuetudine et dispositione loci ad illuminandum chorum et tribunam, seu presbyterium, quae super totidem candelabris ferreis magnis, spatiis aequalibus inter se distantibus, collocabuntur: praeparabuntur etiam aliquot parvae candelae albae pro Episcopo, et Canonicis cantaturis lectiones." (CE, II, XIV, 3)

"Vasa quoque argentea ampla et magnifica, si haberentur, ad ornatum adhiberi possent, maxime celebrante aliquo S.R.E. Cardinali: sed neque crux, neque Sanctorum imagines in ea ponendae sunt. Prope ipsam mensam in loco opportuno, et ab oculis populi, quantum fieri potest, remoto vel in sacristia, erit vas cum carbonibus accensis, ac forcipibus pro usu thuribuli. Funalia pariter cerea pro elevatione Sanctissimi Sacramenti ad minus quatuor, ad summum octo, item alia sex, vel septem ad summum funalia apponi possent in alto loco, in frontispicio tribunae; maxime si celebraret aliquis S.R.E. Cardinalis, et locus esset ad id aptus." (CE, I, XII, 20)

"Si vero non adsint tres capellani, poterunt ad cereos supplere duo scutiferi, aut alii familiares, arbitrio Episcopi, decenter vestit; sed, et si copia non esset eorum, qui sustinerent dictos cereos, poterun iidem positi super duobus candleabris magnis accendi, dum elevator Corpus et Sanguis Domini, et post Communionem exstingui" (CE, I, XXIX, 7)

* * *

I would invite any reader input if they feel that might have further details to offer, either on the matter or historical origins or practical usage.

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