Monday, February 28, 2011

The Divine Liturgy by Hieromonk Gregorios

I was recently sent notice of this by one of our readers and a blogging colleague. It looks rather interesting for those interested in the study of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy.

Hieromonk Gregorios

The Divine Liturgy
A Commentary in the Light of the Fathers

Translated by Elizabeth Theokritoff

The Divine Liturgy was first published in Greece in 1982 (by the theological journal ‘Synaxi’) since when it has been continuously in print and there have been four new editions. From 1993 it has been published by the Cell of St John the Theologian, Koutloumousiou Monastery, Mount Athos. This translation into English has been made from the most recent 2006 edition. The commentary is addressed to anyone who wishes to learn about the Orthodox Divine Liturgy in an esoteric rather than scholastic manner and draws widely on the words and meditations of holy people through the ages who themselves have celebrated, participated in, and experienced it.

From the Foreword: ‘When Christ first spoke about the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, He called Himself the “Bread of life” which came down at the moment of the Eucharistic annunciation into the virgin Church, and the holy Church becomes the “good earth and blessed” which brings forth the Bread of life. It is this reality of Christ's descent and His presence within the Church that we experience in the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is Christ in our midst. The holy Evangelists and the God-bearing Fathers spoke to us of Christ as they experienced Him when He was with them and as they experienced Him as a living reality in the Divine Liturgy: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life (John 1 : 1). It is from the writings and eucharistic experiences of these saints, who have seen the true Light, who have heard the Word and “touched the immaculate head of the Master”, and who are eternally contemporary, that the present commentary is compiled.’



I. Preparation for the Liturgy: The Rite of the Kairos, The Vesting of the Celebrants, The Service of Preparation of the Eucharistic Gifts

II. The Divine Liturgy: The Litany of Peace and the Antiphons, The Entrance with the Gospel Book and the Sacred Readings, The Litany and the Great Entrance, The Litany of the Proskomide and the Creed, The Holy Anaphora, Diptychs and Prayers, Holy Communion, Dismissal

III. Thanksgiving after Holy Communion

Glossary and Indexes.

‘I highly recommend this book to any devout Christian, Orthodox or not, and to those interested in the worship of the Orthodox Church, and to theologians of any tradition, who will find in its pages a wonderful exposition of Christian worship that brings together Scripture and the Patristic tradition in a cogent, compelling, and inspiring manner. . . . No Orthodox library could be complete without this classic text, in my humble view.’

Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna, in Orthodox Tradition

‘There are, of course, lots of commentaries on the Divine Liturgy, but whereas some of them give the impression of having been written by someone who has never attended it, this one has the clear purpose of deepening our experience of participating in the Divine Liturgy. This is mainly achieved by Fr Gregorios sharing with us his own profound experience of praying (at) the liturgy, an experience that has been seasoned by his wide and wise knowledge of the commentaries and comments of the Fathers from St Cyril of Jerusalem to St Nikodimos the Hagiorite and St Symeon of Thessaloniki, by way of Dionysios the Areopagite, St Maximos the Confessor, St Germanos of Constantinople, Theodore of Andida, to mention those most quoted, as well as some comments from recent Athonite elders.

‘This is a book that deserves a warm welcome and a wide readership. In taking us ever more deeply into the wealth of meaning of the Divine Liturgy, it is a wonderful gift to the Church.’

Fr Andrew Louth, in Friends of Mount Athos Annual Report, 2010

‘This book resolves all the questions that each Christian might have concerning the Divine Liturgy. ... No detail is left unanswered. Each moment, each step, each action. Of value to the priest, the teacher, the student, or anyone who wishes to learn and profit from it.’

Kathimerini newspaper

* 390 pages, 21.6 x 14.4 cm, Cell of St John the Theologian, Koutloumousiou Monastery, Mount Athos, 2009

ISBN 987-960-89067-9-2 cloth bound €30.00

For more information: The Divine Liturgy, Denise Harvey (Publisher)

Cover of the New English Edition of the Roman Missal

The Catholic Truth Society's Catholic Compass blog has up an article on the New Missal’s Cover Explained where they give a preview of the binding of the new edition of the Roman Missal for Great Britain, whose pages will include the new English translation.

We have advocated in the past here the need for a renewal in the tradition of qualitative altar missal binding and interior printing. From what I can see, this new CTS missal definitely seems to be going in the right direction.

Abbaye Saint Joseph de Clairval

More video of the liturgy (Ordinary Form) from the Abbaye Saint Joseph de Clairval in France.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nuptial High Mass in Oxford


It's not often that one has the chance to attend a Nuptial Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and still more beautiful and (so I'm told) more rare is the Nuptial High Mass. I was delighted to be asked by Fr John Saward, who is priest-in-charge of the lovely Arts and Crafts church of Saints Gregory and Augustine in Oxford, to serve as deacon at a Nuptial High Mass for Emily Shaw and Owen Curry. As it was my first time ministering as a deacon at a High Mass in the usus antiquior, I found the experience to be very moving, and the nuptial rites to be theologically rich.

The wedding took place on Saturday 26 February, with Ole Martin Stamnestrø, a seminarian from Oslo as sub-deacon, and Fr Jerome Bertram of the Oxford Oratory preached an excellent sermon on the sacramentum of marriage in which the husband is called, by the grace of God, to image Christ Crucified in his love for his wife, and she to honour and revere him with the love of the Church for Christ.

Unlike a Nuptial Mass in the Ordinary Form, the couple are married before Mass begins. So, they exchange vows and the rings before Mass begins. As husband and wife, then, they are given a prominent place in the Mass which unfolds like any other High Mass, except at two points. After the Pater noster, and after the Dismissal the priest turns and imparts a blessing to the bride and groom. In the first place he blesses the bridegroom and the bride, calling to mind the holy women of the Bible, that she be "dear to her husband like Rachel, wise like Rebecca, long-lived and faithful like Sarah", and asking God to endow her with every virtue for her state in life. At the second instance, he prays that God "may fulfill his blessing in you: that you may see your children's children even to the third and fourth generation, and afterwards possess life everlasting..."

Below are more photos from James Bradley's Flickr set.






Of your charity, please pray for Mr. and Mrs. Owen Curry.

Friday, February 25, 2011

St Paul and St Bonaventure by Manuel Farrugia

I am grateful to a Maltese reader for sending us these pictures. The artist, Manuel Farrugia, is a young man just 22-years old from Gozo, Malta.

Most of the skilled naturalistic painters today have received the traditional academic training in a form that resembles that offered in the ateliers of the 19th century. This is an excellent training for portraiture and still lives particularly, but it sometimes causes problems when painting sacred art.

Regular readers will be aware from past articles, for example here and here, of how I feel that a strong emphasis on individual facial expressions and characteristics, which is appropriate in portrait painting, creates overly sentimental sacred art. It is this recurring theme of the balance of the general and the particular, which is so difficult to get right in naturalistic styles of sacred art. I do not know anything about the training that Mr Farrugia is receiving (at the Malta School of Arts) but it does look to me as though he is aware of the need to strike a different balance when painting sacred art as compared with portraiture.

Some Notes on Byzantine Pre-Lent

Guest article by John Vernoski, moderator of

The current Byzantine Liturgy and the Roman usus antiquior have a point of unity in their respective observances of Pre-Lent.

In Constantinople, in either the sixth or seventh century, a week of Pre-Lent developed gradually, and was commonly called “The Week without Meat”. It is likely that this is in imitation of the Church in Palestine, which calculated Lent in forty days, Monday through Friday, over eight weeks. Byzantines did not need the extra days, since they counted the forty days continuously. So the compromise to the eight weeks of Palestine was to add a week of gradual fasting prior to the Great Fast. Now commonly known as “Cheese-Fare Week”, during this week Byzantines begin fasting from meat but continue to eat cheese and other dairy products right up until “Pure Monday”, the first day of the Fast (two days before the Roman “Ash Wednesday”).

There are four Sundays within Byzantine Pre-Lent. The “Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee” calls us to consider our life, and to repent of our sins for repentance is the door through which we enter the Holy Forty Days Fast. The “Sunday of the Prodigal Son” calls us to “come to ourselves” and return to the Father, who eagerly awaits our return. The “Sunday of the Last Judgment” reminds us that while the Lord’s mercy is immeasurable even He does not forgive those who do not repent. And, finally, on “Forgiveness Sunday” we remember Adam’s expulsion from Paradise and the proper method of fasting (don’t put on a gloomy face).

This time of Pre-Lent is also used to ease us into fasting. The week before the “Prodigal Son” is totally fast free (we eat meat, even on Friday). The following week we fast from meat on Wednesday and Friday (the “Sunday of the Last Judgment” is also known as “Meat-Fare”). During the week just prior to the Fast (“Cheese-Fare Week”) we start our abstinence from meat, but we continue to eat cheese and other dairy products. The full fast from both meat and dairy begins with the first day of Lent.

Terror seizes me when I think of the unquenchable fire,
Of the bitter worm,
the gnashing of teeth,
and soul-destroying hell;
yet I do not turn to You with true compunction.
O Lord! Lord! Before the end strengthen Your fear within me!

-- Matins, Seventh Ode, Sunday of the Last Judgment

Reprinted: Geoffrey Webb, The Liturgical Altar

I was pleased to learn from Romanitas Press that they have recently reprinted Geoffrey Webb's excellent work, The Liturgical Altar.

We have made reference to this work many times here on the NLM, and speaking personally, I find it an absolutely invaluable work which covers everything from its symbolism and historical development, to the ciborium magnum and the vesting of the altar with the antependium (or frontal). It also considers the various other ornaments and elements of the altar.

The book is a treasure-trove of information and will give readers a particular appreciation for altar and its theological symbolism. I cannot but highly recommend it and thank Romanitas Press for bringing it back into print. In fact, I would not only recommend it, I would actively encourage readers to purchase it -- priests and seminarians in particular -- for it has much value for a new liturgical movement today.

120 pages, 7 ¼" x 4 ¾”, softcover perfect bound. $15.00 USD.

* * *

To give you a sense of Webb's work, here is a quotation we have shared before, coming from his section on the antependium.

The purpose of a frontal is threefold.

(1) It is a covering of honour for the body of the altar which, as we have already seen from the liturgical books, represents Christ Himself; and if further proof is necessary, it is provided by the five crosses incised upon the upper surface of the altar, representing the five wounds in Our Lord's Body on the cross. Van der Stappen, Sacra Liturgia, ed. 2, vol. iii, Q. 42, i., says, "For the altar is Christ, therefore, on account of its dignity, it is clothed in precious vestments, as the Pontifical says in the ordination of sub-deacons." Moreover, on Maundy Thursday this frontal and the cloths are stripped off during the recitation of the psalm, Deus, Deus meus, in which the verse foretelling the parting of Our Lord's garments occurs...

(2)The frontal is a means of employing colour to bring out the full meaning of the very beautiful symbolism in that same office of ordination of subdeacons which speaks of "the faithful with whom the Lord is clothed as with costly garments." The red frontal, for instance, reveals the victory of the Rex Martyrum, realized afresh in yet another of His members...

Our Lord, as represented by His consecrated altar, puts on robes of majesty to identify Himself with those in whom His victory has borne fruit; His own purity reproduced again in the white robe of the virgin saint; His own heroic fortitude in the red robe of the martyr: and thereby additional emphasis is given to His invitation to be approach through the intercession of the saint with whose colour the altar is robed. And when the Robes of Majesty are all removed on Holy Thursday, more is indicated than the removal of His garments. His faithful, His costly garments, His disciples, are all stripped from Him; and His desolation is made the more evident by this complete annihilation of colour. But in addition to emphasizing the union of the Head with the saint commemorated by the feast of the day, the coloured frontal also serves to bring into clear prominence the union of the Head with His ministers of the altar, who are vested in the same colour...

The instinct to provide colour seems less vigorous today than in most other centuries, and one doubts whether its place is sufficiently realized as one instrument of a concerted orchestra, in whose harmony its omission forms a gap. Cardinal Schuster dwells on this accumulated harmony when describing the Introit for Whit-Sunday: "It is well known," he says, "that all the present texts of the Missal and of the Breviary have beautiful melodies attached to them. As no one, for instance, would desire to judge of an opera simply by reading the libretto of the author, but would wish also to hear the music and see the full effect of the mise en scène, so, in order thoroughly to appreciate the sense of beauty and inspiration, the powerful influence produced by the sacred liturgy on the Christian people, it is necessary to see it performed in the full splendour of its architectural setting, of the clergy in their vestments, of the music, the singing and the ritual, and not to judge it merely from a curtailed and simplified presentment."

(3) The frontal serves to give to the altar that architectural promimnence which its central position in the liturgy requires...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval

A reader alerts us to the following video excerpt from the Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval, Flavigny, recorded in 1992 on the occasion of the elevation of the Abbot.

St. Francis and the Divine Office

When people think of St. Francis of Assisi, they typically do not think of the sacred liturgy. This is not because Francis was aliturgical or anti-liturgical of course, simply that this particular aspect of the saint's life has not penetrated into the popular piety which surrounds him. (That said, today if St. Francis is mentioned in relation to the sacred liturgy, it will likely be to defend or promote some kind of liturgical minimalism -- and one particularly popular film about his life could even leave some with the impression that he was a precursor to 20th century liturgical progressivism, but I digress.)

We have spoken of this co-opting of Francis just under a year ago, where his concern for beauty was noted by contrast. Recently, another quote came to my attention, this time commenting upon him in relation to the praying of the Divine Office.

In this as in all things Francis gave the most splendid example. He chanted the psalms with such interior recollection as if he beheld God present. Although he suffered from illness of his eyes, his stomach, his kidneys and his liver, he would not lean on anything while reciting the Office, but prayed in an upright position, with his hood thrown back, never allowing his eyes to wander, or interrupting in any way. If he happened to be on a journey, he would make a stop; if in the saddle, he would dismount. Even when the rain poured down upon him he would not depart from this custom.

Hilarin Felder, The Ideals of Saint Francis of Assisi, p. 402

Obviously this particular quotation comes from a modern author, rather than being a direct quotation from contemporary sources, but it is interesting nonetheless, giving us another lens in which to consider this saint.

Perhaps some of our Franciscan readers could give some of the source material that the above author may be this drawing from.

Dino Marcantonio - Parts of the Church Building: The Altar Rail

I recently noted that architect Dino Marcantonio has continued his "Parts of the Church Building" series which he sets within the context of a discourse by St. Germanus of Constantinople (ca. 641-733 A.D.) -- you may wish to read Benedict XVI's own discourse on St. Germanus himself, given April 29, 2009, which also includes some liturgical considerations.

Here is an excerpt from his most recent entry:

Parts of the Church Building: the Altar Rail

Continuing our series on the parts of the church building, St. Germanus goes on to say:

8. The entablature is the legal and holy decoration, representing a depiction of the crucified Christ by means of a decorated cross.

9. The chancel barriers indicate the place of prayer: the outside is for the people, and the inside, the Holy of Holies , is accessible only to the priests. The barriers, made of bronze, are like those around the Holy Sepulchre, so that no one might enter there by accident.

An entablature is a decorated beam supported by either a wall or at least two columns. (More on that here.) In this case, it is supported by columns as St. Germanus is referring to the barrier dividing the nave from the chancel, or sanctuary. In fact, the word chancel derives from the Latin word for gates, cancelli (pronounced kan-chelly).

However, St. Germanus is not describing what we call a chancel screen in the West. A chancel screen separates the nave (the area traditionally reserved for the laity) from the choir and the sanctuary (the area traditionally reserved for clergy). The barrier St. Germanus describes separates the sanctuary from the choir. It is the boundary of the Holy of Holies, and is the forerunner of the eastern iconostasis and the western altar rail.

A view from the choir looking toward the
sanctuary at Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.
Columns and entablature atop the low wall,
or templon, mark the boundary of the sanctuary.
In antiquity, curtains hung between the columns

[Image source]

Read the remainder of the piece here: Parts of the Church Building: the Altar Rail - Dino Marcantonio, Architect.

While inviting you to read the remainder there, I cannot resist showing you this image, which Dino shares later on in his article, of the beautiful Church of Elijah the Prophet in Yaroslavl, Russia.

Dominican Rite On-Line Tutorials

Our readers know that the Eastern Dominican Province have made a series of training videos available for friar priests to learn to celebrate Dominican Rite Low Mass. As I am teaching a Practicum this term at the Western Dominican Province House of Studies to prepare our Western Dominican students to celebrate the Dominican Rite Mass after their ordinations, I am making these videos available with comments reflecting minor variants usual in our Province. For those interested, this posting may be found here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Prayers for New Zealand

Photo from AP Photo: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

As many of you will no doubt know by now, there was an earthquake in New Zealand on Tuesday which caused deaths as well as destruction. Below is an image of some of the damage to the Cathedral of Christchurch. (Source: Daylife)

Please keep them in your prayers, most particularly the dead.

Norcia's Discernment Program

We have noted and promoted here before the importance of the monastic vocation in the context of a new liturgical movement, and accordingly, I wished to bring the following to our readers attention: a three and a half week, summer vocational discernment program at the Benedictine Monastery of San Benedetto in Norcia -- the birthplace of St. Benedict. (For those not familiar, Dom Cassian Folsom, OSB, is the prior of this monastery, and the monks are English speaking.)

As the flyer below notes, this programme is not simply for men discerning a monastic vocation, but any vocation -- however, it certainly would be a particularly good opportunity for those who might be discerning a call to the monastic life.

The programme course is drawn from Sacred Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, as well as from the monastic tradition and includes weekly outings to important places in the life of St. Benedict.

The Monastery of San Benedetto in Norcia will hold its 11th annual summer vocational discernment program in 2011 from July 4 – July 29.

The purpose of the program is to offer young men (usually age 18-30) a time to discern God’s will for their life in a more concentrated way than normal worldly circumstances permit. Attendees will be invited to participate in the life of the monks as a way to guide their decision.

Participants should try to arrive a few days early to get over the jet lag. To apply, please write to the Novice Master at

See: Monastero San Benedetto Discernment Program

Also see: A Word from the Novice Master

Decorations of the Vatican Basilica on the Feast of St. Peter's Chair

As on the other feast days of St. Peter, special decorations are put up in the Vatican Basilica on February 22nd for the Feast of St. Peter's Chair. The bronze statue of the Apostle attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio (1240 - 1310 ca.), made in all likelihood for the Jubilee of 1300, is dressed in pontifical robes similar to those formerly worn by the Pope.

The statue as it normally appears. The feet are famously much worn by the constant kissing and touching of the faithful.

The statue "dressed" on the feast day.

The altar is decorated with two bronze statues of Saints Peter and Paul, donated to the Vatican Basilica by the family of Pope Urban VIII Barberini in 1692.

The enormous sculpture of St. Peter's Chair by Bernini at the back of the Basilica is covered with candles. Here we see the Chair as it normally appears, in an older photograph that also shows the former altar of the Cathedra beneath the sculpture.

The Cathedra as it appears on the various feasts of St. Peter's. (Decorating it in this fashion must have been a rather messy business before the modern electric lights which we see here.) In the foreground may be seen the modern altar, which recently replaced an earlier free-standing altar installed in this same part of the Basilica.

A closer view.

It is perhaps easy to forget that the feast of Saint Peter’s Chair is not only the commemoration of his ministry as chief of the Apostles, but also the feast of a relic long reputed to be his actual throne. Although it never attained to the popularity of the Veil of St. Veronica, the Vatican Basilica’s relic par excellence in the High Middle Ages, it was regularly seen and venerated by the faithful, being first explicitly named “the Chair of St. Peter” in 1237. Before the long period of the Popes’ residence in Avignon, (during which many medieval customs of the Papal liturgy disappeared,) the Pope was enthroned on the relic for part of his coronation ceremony, and used it as his liturgical throne in the Basilica on the feast of February 22. Its veneration continued through the Renaissance and the Counter-Reformation periods; but since 1666, it has been kept within Bernini’s Cathedra Petri at the back of the Vatican Basilica, and very rarely brought out. The very magnificence of the sculpture, and its presence as the visual culmination of the church, has overwhelmed its purpose as a reliquary; all the more so since the relic itself cannot be seen within it, and has so rarely been removed from it for viewing. It was last exposed in 1867, at the behest of Blessed Pope Pius IX, during the celebrations of the eighteenth centennial of the martyrdoms of Ss. Peter and Paul. A copy (pictured below) is displayed in the treasury of St. Peter’s, but with little to indicate the prominence which the original formerly held.

This is not the place to explain in detail the much-discussed question of the authenticity of the throne itself; suffice it to say that as it exists today, it now known to be largely a work of the ninth century, given to the Pope by the Emperor Charles the Bald in 875. On the other hand, the ivory panels on the front of the chair are much older, although it is impossible to say how much older; they may have been removed from another chair which was earlier regarded as a throne of St. Peter. It may be supposed that if these panels were incorporated into the Carolingian chair from a much older object, there was a very good reason for doing so. In any case, whether or not any part of it was once used by St. Peter, it may be venerated as are other relics of uncertain authenticity, such as those of Christ’s Crib at St. Mary Major, as a kind of icon in three dimensions. (Pictured below, the original chair in an image made during the exposition in 1867.)

The End of Orientation

By “end” in this context I don’t mean cessation but purpose. Most readers are probably aware of the theological underpinnings of the Church’s ancient practice of celebrating the Eucharist ad orientem, toward the east – if not geographical east then the “liturgical east” of the cross and apse. A common orientation of priest and people represents the Church on pilgrimage, through history, toward the heavenly banquet of the Kingdom. It points us toward the rising sun symbolizing Christ, the “oriens ex alto” whose coming in glory is anticipated in the Eucharistic liturgy. It expresses the sacrificial character of the Eucharist: priests, whether pagan, Jewish, or Christian, have always offered sacrifice standing before an altar, not behind it. And it symbolizes the faithful reaching out for the transcendent God.

Opponents of the traditional orientation generally dismiss it as contrary to the Second Vatican Council’s emphasis on the full and active participation of the faithful in the liturgy. James White’s remarks about the post-Vatican II “turning of the altar” can be taken as typical:

It was hard to think of ever again turning one’s back on the people of God while at the altar. The personal encounter of facing the people of God may be the most important shift of all, for it proclaims louder than words that the action now belonged to the whole community and was not something the priest did for the community. Now it was with the community.[1]

While I don’t dispute that many Catholics in the past (especially before the Liturgical Movement, or where the movement had little influence) viewed the Mass as something done by the priest on their behalf, I propose this had much less to do with “orientation” than with sacerdotal monopolization of the liturgy resulting from the ascendancy of Low Mass. In support of this claim I point to the Eastern Churches, which, with the exception of the Latin-influenced Maronites, have kept the tradition of celebrating the Divine Liturgy ad orientem without ever having lost a strong sense of corporate worship.[2] When people insist that Mass "facing the people" is crucial to the work of fostering congregational participation, I have to wonder whether the Eastern rites enter at all into their thinking. Do they really want to imply that Eastern Christians have gotten it wrong all this time?

A more recent and, in my opinion, more sophisticated challenge to eastward orientation comes from Jesuit liturgical scholar John Baldovin (Boston College). In an essay published last September in Worship, Father Baldovin argues that Mass facing the people better expresses, not only the communal dimension of the liturgy, but also the sacrificial and Christocentric character of the liturgy. As he sees it, people who hold that the sacrificial nature of the Mass is more evident when the Mass is celebrated ad orientem betray an inadequate, even “dangerous” theology of sacrifice. For Baldovin, the deepest meaning of Christ’s sacrifice is found, not in the “outdated categories” of expiation and atonement, but in the shared meal:

The sacramental sharing of that without which we cannot exist is the perfect way of representing the true meaning of Christ’s sacrifice and of his priesthood, which I take to mean his offering of himself in faith and obedience to the one he calls Abba.[3]

He contends that Catholics who prefer Mass ad orientem for the sake of "facing the Lord" miss the point that

the liturgy requires both vertical and horizontal engagement with Christ. [...] One faces Christ in the assembly, one faces Christ in the presider, one faces Christ in the altar, and of course one faces Christ in the consecrated gifts.[4]

I'll leave aside the apparent relativizing of the substantial Presence of Christ in the Sacred Species, troubling though that is. Although Baldovin does not explain how sacramental communion is the best external representation of the Lord’s sacrifice, this view is not to be dismissed casually. The Church, he points out, has cautiously avoided explicit doctrinal pronouncement about the nature of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. Baldovin’s stated preference for speaking of every stage of Christ’s life – not just His Passion and death – as a sacrificial offering is consistent with the patristic understanding of Christ’s whole life as a “recapitulation” and thereby a sanctification of every aspect of human life.[5] Furthermore, there is an intrinsic connection between sacrifice and sacred meal in both pre-Christian religions and Christianity. Still, it is not apparent to me why the richness of the sacrificial meanings of the gospel embedded in the celebration of the Eucharist should be thought to preclude a common orientation of priest and people. After all, the sacrificial meal of the New Covenant is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet toward which the Church journeys, and eastward orientation has a lot (if not everything) to do with eschatology.

But even if we grant – what seems exceedingly implausible – that Mass versus populum is a better way of representing the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, there remains more to consider. The question of Christian sacrifice, like that of “facing Christ,” distracts from what I believe is the soundest justification for the traditional eastward orientation: a common orientation of priest and people when addressing God symbolizes the end or telos of the liturgy. That end, according to the economy of salvation, is ascribed not to Christ but to the transcendent Father, the source of the Godhead.

The Latin theological tradition views the liturgical re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice (however conceived) as an offering of the whole Christ, Head and members, to the Father through (and with) the Son in the Holy Spirit.[6] In the Roman Canon as well as in the other Eucharistic Prayers of the modern Roman Rite, the First Person of the Trinity, God the Father, appears as both the starting point (principium a quo) and the end (terminus ad quem) of the Eucharistic action, while Christ, the incarnate Son, appears there as High Priest, through whose mediation the Father has been gracious to us and we render praise and glory to Him. In contrast, but not in disagreement, with the Western structure of liturgical prayer, the traditional Eastern liturgical prayer ends with the words: “For unto Thee are due all glory, honor, and worship, to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.” From this I reason that the celebration of Mass facing ad orientem symbolizes a movement not only toward the “east” of Christ, but also toward the Father through, with, and in Christ (“Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso...”).

Whether the traditional topography reflects an outmoded theology of Eucharistic sacrifice, or neglects the true presence of Christ in the assembly, are questions that can be argued in good faith until the Parousia. To some extent, these questions distract from what I consider to be the real question at hand: Which liturgical typography, versus absidem or versus populum, better symbolizes the inner dynamic or Christocentric-Trinitarian movement of the liturgy? A common orientation of priest and people toward a transcendent reference point, it seems, comports well with the fact that it is not Christ but the Father who is terminal in man’s relation to the triune God: the Father is the “end” of liturgical orientation. That, I believe, is the most significant of all the theological reasons for the traditional orientation.


[1] James F. White, Roman Catholic Worship: Trent to Today (Pueblo/Liturgical Press, 2003), p. 125.

[2] Timothy (Bishop Kallistos) Ware, The Orthodox Church (Penguin Books, 1963; reprint 1983), p. 278: "The worship of the Orthodox Church is communal and popular. [...] Orthodox laity do not use the phrase 'to hear Mass', for in the Orthodox Church the Mass has never become something done by the clergy for the laity, but is something which clergy and laity perform together. [...] In the Orthodox Church, where the Liturgy has never ceased to be a common action performed by priest and people together, the congregation do not come to church to say their private prayers, but to pray the public prayers of the Liturgy and to take part in the action of the rite itself."

[3] John F. Baldovin, "Idols and Icons: Reflections on the Current State of Liturgical Reform," Worship 84 no. 5 (Sept. 2010): 386-402, here at 396.

[4] Ibid., 396-97.

[5] E.g. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses III, 18, 7.

[6] Cyprian Vagaggini, OSB, treats of this at length in the chapter 7 of Theological Dimensions of the Liturgy ("From the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to the Father: The Liturgy and the Christological-Trinitarian Activity in the Divine Plan"). Eng. trans. Liturgical Press, 1976.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Te Deum Institute of Sacred Liturgy: Sacred Time, the Liturgical Year and Bishop Peter J. Elliott

Time Drawn Into Eternity, A Conference on Sacred Time and the Liturgical Calendar

The Te Deum Institute of Sacred Liturgy of the Diocese of Tulsa will host a conference on Sacred Time and the Liturgical Calendar on March 11th and 12th, 2011, featuring the internationally recognized liturgical scholar and author Bishop Peter J. Elliott of Melbourne, Australia. The conference will be held at the Downtown DoubleTree Hotel, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Bishop Elliott, author of Ceremonies of the Roman Rite and Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, will give the keynote address, entitled: "The Glory of the Liturgy: Pope Benedict's Vision" on Friday evening (March 11) with presentations on Saturday (March 12) by Fr. William Christ (Holy Trinity Orthodox Church), Fr. Angelo Van der Putten, F.S.S.P, and Pastor Mason Beecroft (Grace Lutheran Church, LCMS).

A panel discussion in which all the presenters will come together to answer questions will follow.

"The Liturgy and the Eucharist are the source and summit of our life in Christ," insisted Bishop Edward Slattery, Bishop of Tulsa. "When we are joined with Christ in the Eucharist, we participate in the eternal now of God and time is drawn up into Eternity." Participants who attend this conference will deepen their understanding of the importance Sacred Time, the manifold ways by which Sacred Time is expressed in the Church's liturgical calendar, and how the liturgy and the Church Calendar can open up new meaning in our secular calendar.

This conference is open to the public. Cost for the entire conference is $165.00. Special room rates at the DoubleTree are available for those who will stay overnight or for the weekend. For more information or to register, please contact the Te Deum Institute at

Te Deum Institute of Sacred Liturgy
PO Box 690240
Tulsa, OK 74169-0240

Further information available off the Diocese of Tulsa website.

I note that the other papers to be delivered will be:

Rev. Mason Beecroft, “The Advantage of the One-Year Lectionary.”

Fr. Angelo Van der Putten, F.S.S.P, on “Reconciling the Liturgical Calendars of the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms.”

Fr. William Christ on “How Sacred Time Informs Secular Time.”

Sounds like a very interesting liturgical conference.

Ordinariate: Ordination of Fr. David Silk, Former Anglican Bishop of Ballarat

Thanks to the Ordinariate Portal for pointing out the following photos showing the ordination to the Catholic priesthood of Fr. David Silk, former Anglican bishop of Ballarat. He was ordained by the Bishop of Plymouth at Buckfast Abbey, on Friday, February 18th.

Photos copyright the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

* * *

Altar Edition of English Missal (etc.) Sought

On a related matter pertaining to the Anglican Ordinariate. I should like to find an altar edition of the English Missal (i.e. the so-called Knott Missal) as well as other similar High Anglican/Anglo Catholic liturgical books for the purpose of study and consideration in relation the liturgical question as it pertains to the Ordinariate.

I realize some of these, such as the English Missal, have come out in non-liturgical editions, but I should like to find the proper liturgical editions.

If you think you can help, contact me:

The Feast of Saint Peter's Chair

The Altar of the Chair

Today, the 22nd of February, the Roman Martyrology announces: "The Chair of St Peter at Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians". The earliest mention of a celebration of the See of St Peter on this day is in a calendar dating to 311. It is believed that on this day St Peter made his confession of faith, and accordingly an older Collect for the feast said that on this day the Lord gave St Peter to the Church to be its head, as Christ's Vicar on earth. Other ancient martyrologies also attest to 18 January as the day on which St Peter first celebrated Mass in Rome, hence a second celebration of the Chair of St Peter was held, and that was called "The Chair of St Peter the Apostle, who established the Holy See at Rome". In fact, the older of the two feasts is today's, and the oldest manuscripts assign it to Rome, and not to Antioch. According to Pius Parsch that attribution was only made in 1558 when both feasts were extended to the universal Calendar. In Rome itself, the Mass for the 22nd of February was always celebrated in the Vatican basilica, while that of the 18th of January was observed at the cemetery of Priscilla on the Via Salaria.

The photo above shows the familiar 'Cathedra Petri' reliquary by Bernini in the apse of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. In front of it is a new Altar of the Chair, installed in 2008. In 2006 on the occasion of today's feast, Pope Benedict XVI said:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica, as you know, is found the monument to the Chair of the Apostle, a mature work of Bernini, made in the shape of a great bronze throne, supported by the statues of four Doctors of the Church, two from the West, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, and two from the East, St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius.

I invite you to pause before that evocative work, which today it is possible to admire decorated with so many candles, and pray in a particular way for the ministry that God has entrusted to me. Raising one's gaze to the alabaster glass window that opens precisely above the chair, invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he will always sustain with his light and strength my daily service to the whole Church. For this, as for your devoted attention, I thank you from my heart.

It is well that we pray for the Holy Father on today's great feast, and ask the Lord to confirm him in the faith of St Peter, so that he in turn may strengthen his brothers.

The video above, which I made for today's feast, is of Britten's 'Hymn to St Peter', which he wrote in 1955. It seems to me a fine example of a vernacular setting of the Gradual text, interwoven with Latin Gregorian chant.

Benedict XVI has also written an extended reflection on the 'Cathedra Petri', which is available online here, and I would commend it to you for prayerful reading today.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Juventutem London

I was recently informed that a new Juventutem blog has been established for Juventutem London. Juventutem, for those not familiar, is a young adults association that is for young adults who have a particular interest in or attachment to the usus antiquior.

Photo by Joseph Shaw


Some of us are now in the season of pre-Lent over the course of the next few weeks. While we hope to have some new pieces up on this, I thought it would be good to share some pieces we published on the pre-Lenten season from last year:

The Station Churches of Septuagesima

Some Notes on the Origins and Character of Pre-Lent (Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima)

The Question of the Septuagesima Season and the Modern Roman Liturgy: Possible Enrichment?

A Good Editorial About Comments and Comboxes

We are fast approaching Lent, and while we should always make a good examination of conscience, Lent provides opportunities to ever more deeply do so, acknowledging our sinfulness, while also looking to cultivate the virtues.

The internet brings with it great resources, but also brings with it challenges.

I was recently struck by the following commentary by Fr. Chori Seraiah on the Anglo-Catholic simply titled Comments. It is worth quoting here in full, as I think it is an important reflection on the sometimes problematic aspects of the "combox" on internet forums, be they blogs, news sites or otherwise.

He was seven and he already knew how to crush someone's spirit. It had happened to him enough times that he had a decent understanding of what was involved. His body had been hit with fists more times than he could remember, but those bruises healed easily by comparison. It was the crushing of words that would not heal so quickly. He knew that words can hurt more than a fist ever did. The Scriptures tell us that a tongue is a fire that can burn many things, and that it is a full of poison. I, myself, have heard and read a lot of poison words in my day, and I can honestly say I am tired of them. Yet, I believe that there are some who are not tired of poison words.

When I read comments in various places around the web, as well as listen to people's conversations, I am amazed at how easily people tear others down–and I am not speaking only about non-Christians. I have read some of the most hateful words come out of the mouths (and computer keyboards) of the people of God. Yes, on this blog also. I have deleted some comments because they merely dripped with bitterness and spite. I personally would be ashamed to have typed some of the things that show up in a comments section. Although some have the shamelessness to put their name with their hateful speech, those who choose to remain anonymous are only hiding themselves from men–Jesus knows exactly who they are! No this is not the first time this has been said, but we are fallen men and we forget easily.

When it comes to the internet, it appears that some people believe that there is more freedom allowed in what they say; but this is illusory. Those things that we write and post on the web are placed there for anyone to see, and they do not always get deleted. This technology is so new, and we are behaving like children with a brand new shotgun–we have not yet learned which end is the dangerous one. The book of Job refers to the attacks of words as the "scourge of the tongue" and that is a wonderful description. A "scourge" was essentially the same as a flogging. That is what the Romans did to Jesus before His crucifixion. I will not go into details here, but it was not pleasant.

Our tongues can cause scars that do not heal easily, and our fingers on the keyboard are not terribly different. I can recall a number of times when I have looked at comments that Christians have written on the web and asked myself [insert sound of hand slapping forehead here] "what were they thinking"? The Bible tells us that we need to keep a bridle on our tongues to control them; I believe that there are some people (including some who read this blog) that need to keep a set of Chinese handcuffs on their fingers to prevent them from writing any more hate.

The "sharp razors" of our tongues have merely transferred to the sharp scalpels of our fingers, and we are still cutting other people with them. What is worse is that we are cutting our brothers. Our pride gets hurt by something someone says and we want to snap back to make ourselves feel better. So we write a stinging comeback and hit "publish" or "post" and then let it fly. Yet, since we are not there to look the other person in the face, we do not realize the consequences of our actions so easily. We do not see that look that says the other person has a "pit in the stomach", and thus we are not forced to deal with the fact that we caused that "pit".

A look of contempt on someone's face can tear your guts out. Words filled with contempt and guile can do the same thing. When those words are written down, however, we are not released from accountability. We too easily dismiss other people as wrong, and thus unimportant, when we speak down to them (or "at" them). A heart touched by the Spirit of God will feel sadness when they see error in another. That same heart will seek to help the errant brother see the truth, and will do so in a way that creates peace. The heart that is guided by pride and self-importance will seek for its own glory, and thus ignore the needs of the one in error.

Jesus, Who knew how to hold His tongue, calls us to something more. He calls us to show grace and seek peace when we find ourselves in disagreement with our brother. He encourages us to be gentle in our attempt to correct another. He is watching the keys you are typing on, and knows exactly what you are saying. I delete enough comments that are filled with bile; I would like it if I never had to delete another. I exhort you to think before you type; and when you have typed, pray for wisdom and grace before you hit "publish comment", for he who does not love his brother whom he does see, cannot love God Whom he does not see.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in Architecture

Aedes Christi

I recently came across an article by the art critic and philosopher Graham Carey in the Michaelmas 1949 issue of The Catholic Art Quarterly. At the time he was Chairman of the Catholic Art Association, and was on the Advisory Board of this journal. In the article Carey presents detailed plans for what appears to be an ideal "small country church which would be at once traditional and contemporary", and he draws on a rich tradition of symbolic geometry and Christian iconography and Scriptural references. The result is fascinating, and I confess it drew me because he had, to my surprise, described the plan of an ideal church which I myself had envisaged over a decade ago, while doodling during a lecture!

However, it was Carey's theological conclusion drawing on the transcendentals of truth, goodness and beauty, rather than his architectural plans, which I wish to share with our readership today. Carey said:

What is truth in architecture? Truth is a relationship of congruence between a thought and a thing. Absolute or ontological truth is the likeness between what things are and God's idea of them, and ordinary relative truth is the likeness between what things are and what we think them to be. Architectural truth has two similar divisions. The principles of architecture ought to be closely related to God's universal principles. In other words, the architectural theology should be sound. And secondly, the material expression of the principles should be adequate. The building should be what it seems to be. Such is truth in architecture; its spirit the true theology, and its body expressing that theology truly...

What is goodness in architecture? Goodness is the relation of things to their final causes. Here again we get two meanings to one word. Goodness means that the final cause of a thing is what God wants it to be. A good man's purpose is the same as God's purpose for him. But goodness also means a congruence between what he himself wants and what he succeeds in achieving. A good building is one which has a good purpose, one congruent with the needs of man as God created him, and it is also one that fulfills its purpose whatever that purpose may be. A church may be good in the former sense, and an atomic bomb in its latter. A really good building is good in both senses; it has a noble use, and its structure serves that noble use nobly.

And what of beauty? Beauty is the radiance of perfection in a thing, a perfection which the mind may understand directly through the service of the senses. If a thing is what it should be, true and good, it will appear as it should, beautiful, to anyone who has a mind capable of receiving beauty... The beauty of architecture is a direct result of the truth and goodness of architecture. This is the meaning of Lethaby's often misunderstood dictum that, given truth and goodness, beauty will look after herself.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Concerns Over Possible Instruction on Summorum Pontificum Leads to Discussion of Liturgical Principles

As you all know by now, recently an appeal was launched, which is ongoing, expressing first and foremost thanks to the Holy Father for the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, and wishing at the same time to express some concerns to our Supreme Pastor about reports which have been circulating about potentially limiting/restrictive aspects or language in relation to a forthcoming instruction pertaining to the same motu proprio.

As I noted originally, while we cannot presume to know what the, as yet, unpublished instruction might say, there was and is credible enough reason to have at least some concern and, therefore, to calmly and respectfully lay this matter before the feet of our beloved Holy Father, noting our concern about this prospect, while also sharing with him our hopes, desires and needs -- both with him, and really with our pastors generally. (In addition, many others have also made the very sound recommendation to take the matter to prayer. This should never be forgotten, and should be primary in fact.) Come what may, this is a worthwhile exercise, and as also previously noted, if these concerns should prove to have been unnecessary (which we may never know), then we shall happily rejoice.

This said, I do wish to mention -- as it sets the context for what I am about to share with you -- that various sources are suggesting that two of the purported aspects which may be contained within the forthcoming instruction, and which are causing some of the concern, pertain to, (a) the matter of the other rites/uses of the Western Church -- e.g. the ancient Ambrosian rite, the Dominican rite, etc. and (b) the ability of bishops in diocesan circumstances to use the rite of ordination as found in the 1962 Pontificale Romanum.

Again, I would be quick to note that at this point, this is merely purported and we can know nothing for certain until we see a document, nor do we know if this represents the entirety of the reasons that various sources are suggesting reasons for concern, but, regardless, these two points are interesting to use as a springboard for general discussion in and of themselves, for they invite a consideration of what the motu proprio might mean for the liturgical life of the Church; that discussion would be worth having regardless of this other matter.

With regard to the aforementioned question of the other liturgical rites and uses, a quick comment. It will probably come as little surprise that those should continue to be understood as falling under the jurisdiction of their respective Sees and religious orders. (I doubt anyone should reasonably expect otherwise.) But this said, certainly there would be potentially important liturgical matters at stake (of both principle and spirit) if these were to be explicity exempted. But aside from the particular matter of the instruction, this has been a point of some debate in the past years since the motu proprio, for it asks some fundamental questions of what place those liturgical rites and uses should also have in continuing the life of the Church. Should not the underlying principles and spirit of Summorum Pontificum (unity, generosity, mutual enrichment, continuing sacrality and riches) apply equally (at least in principle if not in law) to the other liturgical rites and uses in the Western Church? -- which are, after all, also an important part of our liturgical patrimony. Should we not, here too, "preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and... give them their proper place." (Explanatory Letter on "Summorum Pontificum", Benedict XVI) How then should what has been applied within the context of the Roman rite apply in these cases as well, and how can and ought that be manifest? It is an interesting and important discussion and one which I hope will be explored further and specifically in the near future.

As to the other purported matter, which relates to the use of the Pontificale Romanum, this will be our primary point of focus today. Dr. Alcuin Reid has written an article that is relevant in the light of the matters currently under discussion. Here it is for your own consideration and discussion: Summorum Pontificum: A New Foundation for Liturgical Law

Friday, February 18, 2011

Urgent: International Appeal for the Preservation of the Integrity of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum

[This post is being kept at the top of the blog posts today. See newest posts below this posting.]



(Please note: If you are brought to a donation page after signing the appeal, please just close that window. That donation does not go to the motu proprio initiative.)

* * *


This appeal came out of information coming from a variety of sources, suggesting that the forthcoming Instruction on Summorum Pontificum may contain restrictive elements (or, at very least, elements that could be interpreted restrictively) thereby having the adverse effect of limiting the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in some manner – or at least making this more possible.

Obviously, we do not presume to know what the text may say. However, in checking in with a variety of our own sources, we have confirmed that there is a very real and substantive reason for some concern here. Substantial enough that a joint, multi-blog, international appeal has been launched:

The appeal does not presume to know or state what the actual contents of this proposed instruction are, however, in the light of the aforementioned reports, and given credible confirmations that there is reason for concern, it simply wishes to calmly and respectfully share our concern with the Holy Father about this potentiality, asking that, whatever is finally released, that the integrity of the letter and the spirit of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum be clearly and unambiguously fostered.

If, in the end, there is nothing to any of this, then we shall all be very thankful indeed and rejoice. But if there is substance to this, then at least our concern will have been respectfully voiced to our beloved Holy Father and also to our pastors.

Who should then sign this? Everyone who is concerned with liturgical patrimony and mutual enrichment. Whether you are attached to the Ordinary Form and see a reform of the reform, a re-enchantment, as your primary liturgical focus, or the usus antiquior, the other Western liturgical rites/uses, or even Eastern Christian, I believe we all have something potentially at stake here, either in practice, in effect, or in principle at very least.

Please sign this appeal as soon as possible and please spread the word.

Institut St. Philipp Neri

We have shared items with you before from the Institut St. Philipp Neri in Berlin, Germany, and I wished to inform readers that this priestly society has now made an English edition of their webpage available.

The Institute of St Philip Neri is modelled on the Oratory of St Philip Neri and is the first German foundation which offers the Mass exclusively in the usus antiquior. It also relies solely on private support, including financial support. (For those who are curious about this, the Institute explains it as follows: "In Germany, a special “church tax” ordinarily provides for the essential needs of parishes and dioceses. Since the Institute is directly responsible to the Holy See it falls outside this system. This means, however, that it is unable to benefit from receiving church tax.")

Do take a look at them.

Musica Sacra Florida

We were recently contacted by Musica Sacra Florida about a forthcoming workshop there, sponsored by the Florida Chapter of the Church Music Association of America in conjunction with the Department of Music, Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, Florida:

This two-day workshop will present both beginning and advanced musicians with lectures, breakout sessions, and rehearsals that will enrich their knowledge of Gregorian chant and its use in the Roman Catholic liturgy.

Led by a faculty of chant specialists from around the state and beyond, attendees will learn more about the history of Gregorian chant and its role in the liturgy as well as experience the chant in the context of both the Divine Office and the Mass. Beginning chanters will be introduced to the basics of notation and rhythm according to the classic Solesmes method. Experienced chanters will learn new repertoire and advance their understanding of rhythmic and interpretive nuance. Resources and practical methods for the cultivation of Gregorian chant in the life of the parish will also be discussed. A special breakout session will be devoted to helping priests and deacons with their liturgical chants.

The keynote speaker will be William Mahrt of Stanford University. Also participating will be:

The Reverend Brian T. Austin, FSSP – Christ the King Church, Sarasota, FL
Mary Jane Ballou – Director of the Schola Cantorae, St Augustine, FL
Jeffrey Herbert – Director of Music, Church of the Incarnation, Sarasota, FL
Rebecca Ostermann – Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, FL
Jennifer Donelson – Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Susan Treacy – Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, FL
The Reverend Samuel Weber, OSB – Archdiocese of St Louis, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, Institute for Sacred Music

Here is the conference brochure with further information:

Musica Sacra Florida Conference

To register: Musica Sacra Florida

More Photos from Cardinal Ranjith's Mass in His Titular Church in Rome

Further photos of Cardinal Ranjith taking possession of his titular church in Rome have been provided by John Sonnen.

Here are a few.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Saint Agnes, NYC, Explores Latin Music of Anglican Composers

With much consideration these days so rightly focused on the Anglican Ordinariate, this particular announcement coming from the Church of St. Agnes, a part of the Archdiocese of New York.

Schola Cantorum of Saint Agnes explores Latin Music of Anglican Composers

Herbert Howells and Charles Stanford, two preeminent figures of the 20th century British musical firmament are remembered mostly for their contributions to the musical repertoire of the Anglican Church, especially their settings of the canticles sung in the Anglican liturgies of Matins and Evensong.

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) was a professor at the Royal College of Music and Cambridge University, teaching an entire generation of significant composers, including Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Ireland, Frank Bridge, Charles Wood, and Herbert Howells.

Howells, born in Glouchestershire, began to study at the Royal College of Music in 1912. Upon arrival, Stanford immediately sent Howells to the recently built Westminster Cathedral (Roman Catholic) to hear the already-acclaimed choir of men and boys under Sir R.R. Terry, a leader in the revival of Renaissance polyphony. Terry ‘was the first conductor in recent times to perform the Masses of Byrd, Tye, and Tallis liturgically’ and this ‘had the effect of transforming national perceptions of England’s musical history and heritage.’ (Herbert Howells, Paul Spicer, Pg. 36). Also encouraging of new compositions, Terry motivated Howells to write his Mass in the Dorian Mode (Missa Sine Nomine) that reflects his affinity with and admiration for his Tudor musical inheritance. First heard at Mass in Westminster Cathedral on November 24, 1912, Mass in the Dorian Mode was the first professional performance of any kind in London of Howells’ music. In the years to follow, several Latin motets also were written for Terry and the Cathedral Choir.

The Schola Cantorum of the Church of Saint Agnes in midtown Manhattan, in a concert on February 23, 2011, is presenting a sampling of Howells and Stanford’s compositions of Latin sacred music. Howells’ still rarely performed Mass in the Dorian Mode, published in 1990, nearly eighty years after its premiere, will anchor the program. It will be supplemented by several motets likewise premiered at Westminster Cathedral including Haec Dies (1918), Regina Caeli (1915), and Nunc Dimittis (1914). Stanford’s trio of Latin Motets, Op. 38: Justorum Animae, Coelos Ascendit Hodie, and Beati Quorum Via, dedicated to Alan Gray and the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge will comprise the second portion of the program.

The concert’s choice of repertoire was inspired by the new Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham promoted by Pope Benedict XVI.  The concert’s theme COR AD COR LOQVITVR (Heart speaks unto heart), the motto of Blessed John Henry Newman, explores the bonds between Anglican and Roman Catholics which is linked through a mutually well-developed musical history. Newman, an Anglican priest and influential proponent of the Oxford Movement (which promoted Catholic liturgical practices within the Anglican Church) who eventually converted to Catholicism and was made a Cardinal, perfectly illustrates the brotherhood that remains between Rome and Canterbury. Equally illuminating of this is the power of music to cross boarders and to serve as a stimulus for conversation and conversion. Even in the recent visit to Westminster Abbey by His Holiness, music was perhaps the most visible (and audible) portion of the service to which the Pope so positively responded.

The concert, on Wednesday, February 23, 2011, is at 7:30 P.M. at the Church of Saint Agnes at 143 East 43rd Street in Manhattan. A suggested donation of $15/$10 (students and seniors) will benefit the music program of the Church. Contact Organist & Choirmaster James D. Wetzel at for details.

Thomas More College and Gregorian Chant

We are always eager to report on liturgical revival and re-enchantment within the context of a university setting, and so I am pleased to bring to your attention the following news from the Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire, which I had the pleasure to visit this past Autumn.

Thomas More College Reviving Gregorian Chant Through Choir, Summer Workshop

Over the past several decades, the use of sacred music in Mass has greatly diminished. Choirs have been dismissed, and polyphonic music has been abandoned. Most Catholics today have had no exposure to Gregorian Chant—the type of music that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says “holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman liturgy.”

Pope Benedict XVI has been marked by new efforts to promote excellence in sacred music. In 2006, for example, the Holy Father said that, “An authentic updating of sacred music can take place only in the lineage of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony.”

To answer the Church’s call for a renewal of sacred music, the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts announced today that it has launched several programs aimed at restoring an appreciation for the history and beauty of sacred music, as well as its role in leading to greater devotion and reverence to Christ during Mass.

The College’s flagship effort is its two-week Workshop in Gregorian, held from June 27th thru July 9th as part of a series of Way of Beauty Ateliers in sacred art and music.

Participants will learn how to sing Gregorian chant through training in sight-singing and the study of chant theory. To this end, participants will chant the Divine Office and the Mass daily. Each class day is centered on and receives its fruition in the liturgy, with classes culminating in a fully sung final Mass in the Thomas More College Chapel.

Studies will also include a survey of chant history, a discussion of the principles of Sacred Music and their implementation in parish life.

“There is no question that students will leave with a deeper understanding and appreciation of Sacred Music and with the tools necessary to continue chanting on their own,” said Elizabeth Black, Director of the workshop.

Formal training in music is not required to participate in the Workshop in Gregorian Chant, said Black.

“The program was developed to benefit choir directors, music teachers, and priests, as well as those with little or no exposure to sacred music who simply desire a firm introduction to Gregorian Chant. The program is open and accessible to anyone.”

In addition to hosting workshops for the public, Thomas More College offers its students formal instruction in chant from Tom Larson. Larson is the director of the Shuler Singers, an adult choir that is committed to preserving and promoting Gregorian Chant and Renaissance polyphony within the Sacred Liturgy.

Each week, Larson takes the students through the Ordinaries (those parts that are in the Mass each week such as the Kyrie, the Gloria and the Sanctus) and the Propers (those parts that vary depending on the particular Sunday, for example the Introit). While the choir leads the singing at Mass, all members of the college are learning as well simply through regular exposure to many of these chants, and all are encouraged to join in.

Larson’s classes are open to students of any level of knowledge and experience. Plainchant is difficult to sing well and through his guidance the students learn the melodies of the Ordinaries and Propers, as well as the techniques of singing, such as breathing properly.

“Each morning and evening during the week I lead students in chanting the Liturgy of the Hours,” said David Clayton, director of the Way of Beauty Program. “Students not only learn how to chant, they are also led to apply the liturgy of the Church to their daily lives by structuring life around the rhythms and patters of the liturgy. In this way, they are breathing with the Church.”

Clayton noted that Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of the spiritual value of music in leading us to God.

In 2008, the Holy Father said, “It is no coincidence that Christian tradition shows the spirits of the blessed as they sing in chorus, captivated and enraptured by the beauty of God. But true art, like prayer, is not foreign to everyday reality, rather it calls us to ‘irrigate’ that reality, to make it sprout that it may bring forth fruits of goodness and peace.”


More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: