Friday, March 30, 2012

Palm Sunday, Simple English Propers

Watershed has what you need. You can buy the Simple English Propers in hard copy form.

Compare with

The Mystery of Pope Gregory IV and the Square Halo

I was contacted recently by a reader, a priest who had concelebrated a Station Mass at San Marco di Campidoglio in Rome. He had noticed a square halo on one of the figures in the 9th century mosaic in the apse and wanted to know the reason for this. The figure, he told me, was Pope Gregory IV. A square halo signifies that the person portrayed was alive at the time of its creation. Although this church was founded long before Pope Gregory himself lived, he was responsible for much rebuilding, the bulk of what we see today. This is why, I am guessing, he is also portrayed carrying a church. We see also a very clear example of what my teacher Aidan Hart always referred to as hierarchical perspective. The most important figure portrayed, Christ, is by far the largest. Also we see the Evangelist himself is putting his arm around the Pope in a touching detail that gives more of a sense of personal tenderness than one normally associates with iconographic mosaics of this type.

This is church is not always open to the public so it is interesting to have this insight into the interior.

The FSSP at Irsee Abbey for the Feast of St. Joseph

The website of the Fraternity of St. Peter has some interesting photos of the liturgies during a recent excursion of their European seminary in Wigratzbad, Bavaria. Mass for the feast of St. Joseph was celebrated at the former imperial abbey of Irsee; the abbey church (which is now a parish) has maintained a custom from the 18th century of covering the paintings over the various altars during Lent with images of Our Lord’s Passion. (All photographs courtesy - reproduced with permission.)
Christ consoling His Mother before the Passion
The Scourging at the Column. The Roman influence on this 18th century painter is very evident not only in the human figures, which are strongly reminiscent of Michelangelo and his contemporaries, but also in the manner of depicting the column. The church of Saint Praxedes in Rome preserves a small column (probably a piece of a once larger object) venerated as the Column of the Flagellation, similar to the very short piece in this painting.
The Crucifixion over the main altar.
The Pietà. This work is also clearly reminiscent of Michelangelo, particularly in the graceful form of Christ's body.
The church’s pulpit is a shaped like a ship, complete with anchor, sails and rigging, one of only four such pulpits in Bavaria.

Vespers was done later the same day in the church of St. Blaise in nearby Kaufbeuren; the main altar preserves a very elaborate Gothic altarpiece from 1528 by the sculptor Jörg Lederer.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fidel Castro Asks Pope For Explanation of Post-Conciliar Liturgical Changes

As you know, Pope Benedict XVI has recently been in Mexico, followed by Cuba.

I picked up this interesting little tidbit in a Reuters story, "What does a pope do?" Fidel Castro asks Benedict.

In the course of that conversation between the Pope and former Cuban president, Fidel Castro asked an interesting question of the Pope:

Castro questioned Benedict about changes in Church liturgy and asked the pope to send him a book to help him reflect. The pope said he would think of which one to send, but had not yet decided, Lombardi said.

I find the fact that Castro asked this question interesting. Without having full benefit of the conversation, my sense is that this somehow speaks, whether directly or indirectly, to the reality of the effect, and hence the gravity, of changes to the sacred liturgy and why such cannot be done arbitrarily, either by legitimate authority (cf. CCC 1125), nor certainly by any member of the church, lay or clerical, on their own whim and initiative.

I'd be rather interested to hear what book the Holy Father will recommend.

Chasuble of St. Wolfgang (Wolfgangskasel)

Chasuble of St. Wolfgang (Wolfgangskasel), ca. 1050 (reconstructed in 15th cent.)
Domschatzmuseum, Regensburg

An Altar of Noble Beauty: The Altar of the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, Washington, D.C.

We've shown you this tasteful altar before in another context, though I'm not certain we have ever specifically made a point of highlighting the altar itself.

That is a shame, beause this altar, which is found in the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Washington D.C., is to my mind a good example of a design of noble beauty and one which also shines forth some of the very good fruits which came out of the Liturgical Movement. (Needless to say it would also make a wonderful freestanding altar with ciborium, and the beauty of its design, materials and construction should not exclude it from being vested with antependia either -- but I digress.)

Here are two views of it, taken this past Sunday.

(If I were to suggest anything here, it might be around the tabernacle and its veiling, but that is not the point of focus for this piece.)

The noble design and ornamentation of our altars is not an inconsequent matter. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of "the altar, which is the centre of the church" (para. 1182) and Geoffrey Webb in his estimable work, The Liturgical Altar, reminds us of "...the supreme importance which the Church attaches to the altar in her liturgy." He continues:

Not only does she consider it the central focus of the whole liturgy, the raison d’être of the building in which its stands; not only does she indicate that the church exists for the altar, rather than the altar for the church; not only does she look upon it as the sacrificial stone, upon which Christ, our Priest and Victim, offers Himself daily in His Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the central act of her liturgy; but she has proclaimed again and again that in her mind the altar represents her Lord Himself... and the reverence for the altar, expressed in the restraint and dignity of its design, symbolizes the reverence due to Christ Himself.


Holding such a truth as this, it is not surprising that the Church should legislate for every detail of the altar, and should strive to exclude confusion and vulgarity of design as she tries to restrain sentimentality and frivolity in music.

-- Geoffrey Webb, The Liturgical Altar, p. 18-20

I believe this particular altar fits very much into Webb's description of an altar that avoids vulgarity, expressing both a restraint and dignity in design which is befitting the sacred liturgy.

Classical Tradition: Not What Some Might Imagine

I don’t remember how I happened upon it while surfing the Web, but it was a pleasant diversion. It’s an essay, published in 1890, written by Dr J. Wickham Legg, a vice president of the St Paul’s Ecclesiological Society (as in St Paul’s, London).  Though the author and his intended audience were Anglicans, now long deceased, his commentary is not without relevance to Catholic liturgical renewal, past and present.

The variations in the ceremonies practiced in the celebration of the Eucharist make a division into two heads easy: missa solemnis and missa privata.  The missa solemnis is the public, or High Mass, and gives us the rule for the celebration of the Eucharist.  The priest is assisted by a deacon and sub-deacon.... The private, or Low Mass, on the other hand, must be regarded as the exception, and in this the priest is assisted by a server only.  It is the presence of the deacon and sub-deacon which makes the difference between High Mass and Private Mass, and not whether any part of the service be sung.  Now, it cannot be too often repeated that it is only High Mass which gives us the ancient, typical ceremonies of the celebration of the Eucharist, and from which we may learn the true idea of the Eucharistic rites.  Low Mass only gives us the rite in a maimed and imperfect, not to say corrupt and irregular way.  Private, or Low Mass, that is, a celebration of the Eucharist without deacon or sub-deacon, was as little known to the Church at large for the first 800 years, as it is to this day to the Eastern Church.  It seems to have come in when Latin ceased to be understood by the people, who betook themselves, therefore, to their private prayers.  Low Mass robbed the medieval church of the idea of common prayer, which it is the glory of our Prayer Book to have brought back.  The celebration of the Eucharist in private (I am only using the word still used by the Roman Missal) shows but small respect to the Christian mysteries.  It may be borne with in country parishes where there is no one in holy orders but the curate himself, but to see in a church with a large staff the altar served by some boy taken out of the street, who probably does not know his Catechism, and has not been confirmed, while men in holy orders are doing nothing in the stalls of the choir, or only come into church to distribute the Communion, shows that there is little or no zeal for the solemnity of the Eucharist.  It shows a contempt for the practices of antiquity, to which in all questions of ceremonial, as well as in faith and morals, the Church of England appeals....  Even the more learned Roman Catholic authorities dislike the boy server, and tell us that it is the deacon who is the proper minister of the altar.

—“On Some Ancient Liturgical Customs Now Falling Into Disuse,”  in Transactions of the St Paul’s Ecclesiological Society, vol. 2 (London, 1890), 123-24.

I would contest only one point (apart from Anglicanism’s claim to apostolicity and catholicity), based on my reading of Fortescue and Jungmann: the evolution and spread of Low Mass had less to do with Latin than with the fact that more monks were becoming priests and needed to say Mass daily—concelebration not being an option at the time.  Obviously the full complement of liturgical ministers could not be provided for each celebration, so the celebrant himself supplied the parts of the absent ministers, while the people’s parts were divided between the celebrant and server.  Low Mass grew out of those “private” Masses and in time became the most common form of celebration, even when the faithful were present.

The Liturgical Movement dating back to the early 20th-century had as its principal goal the recovery of a corporate sense of worship: the liturgy is the public prayer of the whole Church, hierarchically ordered.  This agenda, as one might expect, involved a renewed emphasis on Solemn Mass—indeed, Mass celebrated by a bishop, with all the orders of clergy and laity present and performing their proper liturgical roles—as the norm of eucharistic celebration.  In the liturgical reform initiated by the Second Vatican Council, elements from the solemn form of Mass, when the celebrant was not restricted to the altar, entered the new rite of Mass authorized by Pope Paul VI in 1969.  That, I am inclined to think, was a good thing—in fact, one among many good things that are easy to lose sight of when rightly denouncing revolution posing as reform.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Of Bees, the Exsultet, a Paschal Candle (and Pius XII)

Recently one of our priests sent in some photos with a brief note about a Paschal candle that he, himself, undertook to design for his parish. He commented to me that "in honor of the return of the bees to the Exsultet" he incorporated them into the design.

What he is referring to, of course, is the absence of the references to the bees in the former English translation of the Exsultet in the previous English edition of the OF Missal. They are back -- though they never left the Latin text itself of course. Here are the relevant parts of the newly revised and corrected English translation:

This is the night of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night dispels all wickedness,
washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.

These same references are, of course, to be found in the Exsultet within the usus antiquior.

At any rate, here is the design our parish priest has been working on:

* * *

With apologies to Urban VIII and the Barberini, some might be asking themselves what all the fuss is about? There are a few angles from which this question could be addressed, but instead, I thought it would be fitting to share this address of November 27th, 1948, made by Pius XII to beekeepers on the lessons of bees for mankind. (I will give credit where it is due; this address was brought to mind when someone referenced it online recently; as it meshed nicely with the purposes of this particular post and so I could not resist quoting it in full.)

Your presence in such large numbers, your desire to assemble before Us, beloved sons, is a real comfort: and so We express our heartfelt gratitude for your homage and your gifts, both particularly pleasing to Us. Beyond its material and technical importance, the work which you represent, by its nature and significance has a psychological, moral, social, and even religious interest of no small value. Have not bees been sung almost universally in the poetry, sacred no less than profane, of all times?

Impelled and guided by instinct, a visible trace and testimony of the unseen wisdom of the Creator, what lessons do not bees give to men, who are, or should be, guided by reason, the living reflection of the divine intellect!

Bees are models of social life and activity, in which each class has its duty to perform and performs it exactly—one is almost tempted to say conscientiously—without envy, without rivalry, in the order and position assigned to each, with care and love. Even the most inexperienced observer of bee culture admires the delicacy and perfection of this work. Unlike the butterfly which flits from flower to flower out of pure caprice; unlike the wasp and the hornet, brutal aggressors, who seem intent on doing only harm with no benefit for anyone, the bee pierces to the very depths of the flower's calix diligently, adroitly, and so delicately, that once its precious treasure has been gathered, it gently leaves the flowers without having injured in the least the light texture of their garments or caused a single one of their petals the loss of its immaculate freshness.

Then, loaded down with sweet-scented nectar, pollen, and propolis, without capricious gyrations, without lazy delays, swift as an arrow, with precise, unerring, certain flight, it returns to the hive, where valorous work goes on intensely to process the riches so carefully garnered, to produce the wax and the honey. . (Virgil, , 4, 169.)

Ah, if men could and would listen to the lesson of the bees: if each one knew how to do his daily duty with order and love at the post assigned to him by Providence; if everyone knew how to enjoy, love, and use in the intimate harmony of the domestic hearth the little treasures accumulated away from home during his working day: if men, with delicacy, and to speak humanly, with elegance, and also, to speak as a Christian, with charity in their dealings with their fellow men, would only profit from the truth and the beauty conceived in their minds, from the nobility and goodness carried about in the intimate depths of their hearts, without offending by indiscretion and stupidity, without soiling the purity of their thought and their love, if they only knew how to assimilate without jealousy and pride the riches acquired by contact with their brothers and to develop them in their turn by reflection and the work of their own minds and hearts; if, in a word, they learned to do by intelligence and wisdom what bees do by instinct—how much better the world would be!

Working like bees with order and peace, men would learn to enjoy and have others enjoy the fruit of their labors, the honey and the was, the sweetness and the light in this life here below.

Instead, how often, alas, they spoil the better and more beautiful things by their harshness, violence, and malice: how often they seek and find in every thing only imperfection and evil, and misinterpreting even the most honest intentions, turn goodness into bitterness!

Let them learn therefore to enter with respect, trust, and charity into the minds and hearts of their fellow men discreetly but deeply; then they like the bees will know how to discover in the humblest souls the perfume of nobility and of eminent virtue, sometimes unknown even to those who possess it. They will learn to discern in the depths of the most obtuse intelligence, of the most uneducated persons, in the depths even of the minds of their enemies, at least some trace of healthy judgment, some glimmer of truth and goodness.

As for you, beloved sons, who while bending over your beehives perform with all care the most varied and delicate work for your bees, let your spirits rise in mystic flight to experience the kindness of God, to taste the sweetness of His word and His law (Ps. 18:11; 118: 103), to contemplate the divine light symbolized by the burning flame of the candle, product of the mother bee, as the Church sings in her admirable liturgy of Holy Saturday: . (For it is nourished by the melting wax, which the mother bee produced for the substance of this precious light.)

* * *

The Arms of the Barberini Pope, Urban VIII

Improperia: Popule Meus for Good Friday

Every year for Good Friday, authentic liturgical choirs face the great decision of whether to sing the Improperia according to its amazing chant version or to vary that tradition with the introduction of polyphony. It is not easy because the chant edition is impossibly beautiful. It seems a tragedy to ever let the opportunity pass and not sing it.

Here it is, and you will see that it doesn't sound like any of the chants throughout the year (though its melody is foreshadowed in this coming Sunday's offertory).

And another edition:

On the other hand, some of the most beautiful polyphony sets the same text. This setting is the most famous one by Victoria.

The Vatican last year used this polyphonic setting:

And here is a more contemporary setting by Polish composer Marian Sawa:

If you are drawn more to the English edition, the best version I've seen is by Fr. Samuel Weber, and it can be found among the chants of his new Gradual, which is being posted week by week in his wonderful archive of chant.

The Cincinnati Oratorians

The following article appeared yesterday in The Catholic Beat about the Oratorian community in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Their photos below the article.)

Oratorians Receive Habits

Early Friday evening, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr conferred the habits of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri to the thee members of the Community-in-Formation in Cincinnati. Two seminarians and a priest active in Over-the-Rhine, the future Oratorians mean to bring the distinctive Oratory spirituality to that historic Cincinnati neighborhood, where they will live and work.

“Our hope for the future is the proclamation of the Gospel to the culture, around Over-the-Rhine, and Cincinnati in general,” says transitional deacon and future Oratorian Jon-Paul Bevak, who will be ordained in May. “We hope to do this through a great devotion to the Sacred Liturgy, Education, and simply living the life of Christ through the Oratorian Spirit.”

Established in the 16th century by an Italian priest now known as the “third Apostle of Rome” (after St. Peter and St. Paul), the Oratory is halfway between a religious order and the life of a typical secular priest. Like monks, Oratorians take a vow of stability (to live in a certain area), which means they cannot leave for or be transferred to a different Oratory. In most matters, they are under the direction of their Ordinary rather than the local bishop. Like a monastery, an Oratory has a more structured day of work and communal prayer than a typical priest’s residence. But unlike monks, Oratorians can have a variety of apostolates, and can change them at will (under the guidance of the Ordinary). They often work in schools, hospitals, prisons, and other areas where priests are needed.

The spirituality of the Oratory is centered on voluntary, joyful service and bonds of friendship. Oratorians do not take vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity; but they offer these things freely in a spirit of love and charity rather than compulsion. Communal life and, especially, communal prayer foster this vocation to service and love.

Permission to form an Oratory comes directly from the Pope, and follows recognition from the Confederation of the Oratory in Rome, and the permission of the bishop. There are seven Oratories in the United States, and last March Archbishop Schnurr established the Oratory here. Fr. Lawrence Juarez, Parochial Vicar of Old St. Mary’s, will be the Superior. Seminarians Rev. Br. Jon-Paul Bevak and Br. Adrian Hilton make up the remaining members of the congregation. Until the Oratory is approved it will be called a “Community-in-Formation” and will live together for one or two years, according to Bevak, much like a novitiate. The men are currently renovating two houses on Clay Street to use as their “Pious House” residence.

Nearly all Cincinnati’s seminarians, as well as several seminary professors bolstered the large crowd of family, friends, and area residents at Friday’s ceremony. Dominican Fr. Paul Keller, Seminary Rector Fr. Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh, Msgr. Frank Lane, and others joined the future Oratorians and Archbishop Dennis Schnurr for the ceremony. The choir of Old St. Mary’s sang ancient hymns, the Litany of Loreto, and prayers in between short prayers by the Archbishop and exchanges with the Community-in-Formation.

“Most Reverend Fathe we ask that you receive us to wear the habit of our holy father, St. Philip, that we may begin community life with you among the clerics according to the constitutions,” the three men asked the Archbishop, in the words of the centuries-old ceremony.

“Freely and with affection of hear in the Lord do we receive you to take this step,” Archbishop Schnurr answered. After blessing the habits (black cassocks with white collars, fastened on one shoulder with five buttons) and sprinkling them with holy water, he presented them to each man in turn, saying, “Receive, dearest son, this blessed Habit, praying almighty Godd that you may wear it without stain, and may the Divine Mercy grantt o you all those virtues which befit the sons of our holy Father.”

Later in the ceremony Archbishop Schnurr blessed chalices and pattens for use in the Community, and blessed everyone assembled with a relic of St. Philip Neri that they were invited to come forward and venerate.

“The step represents for the three of us a deepening of the Spirituality of St. Philip within us,” Bevak says. “This is is taken in a visible way, and it helps to form an identity around us.”

See the Community-in-Formation’s just-launched website here. See a slideshow of Friday’s liturgy at our Facebook Page.

Portrait photo courtesy Donna Franer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ordinariate News: Former Anglican Bishop Ordained Catholic Priest

Former Anglican bishop now Catholic priest

PORTSMOUTH UK - A sixth Anglican bishop has been ordained as a Catholic priest at a ceremony in Portsmouth today.

Fr Robert Mercer, who served as the Anglican bishop of Matabeleland and as a bishop within the Traditional Anglican Communion, was ordained to the Priesthood by the Right Reverend Alan Hopes in St John’s Cathedral in Portsmouth.

Fr Mercer will serve in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, in England and Wales. This is the first structure, set up in 2011, following the provision of Pope Benedict XVI to allow Anglicans, including members of the Church of England and the Traditional Anglican Communion, to become Catholics whilst retaining much of own traditions and heritage.

Serving within the Isle of Wight & Portsmouth Ordinariate Group, Fr Mercer will minister especially to those worshipping at the historic Portsmouth church of St Agatha’s, Landport, who hope to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church this Easter.

Monsignor Keith Newton, the Ordinary (leader) of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, commented on Fr Mercer’s ordination, saying, “Fr Robert’s witness to the truth of the Catholic faith, and his commitment to the unity of all Christians, has led to this very happy day when we can welcome him as a brother Priest in the Catholic Church. His ministry in Africa, in Canada and here in Portsmouth, has been exemplary, and we look forward to his renewed ministry now - bringing many rich gifts from the Anglican tradition into the Catholic Church”.

Fr Jonathan Redvers Harris, who bears overall responsibility for the Isle of Wight & Portsmouth Ordinariate Group, said “As the Ordinariate continues to grow in Portsmouth, it will be good to have Fr Robert’s expertise and great wealth of experience. I welcome him warmly as a colleague and a friend”.

Vicar General of Albenga-Imperia, Feast of the Annunciation in Tavole

Continuing on with some quick coverage of the feast of the Annunciation, I wanted to share a few photos from the diocese of Albenga-Imperia in Italy. This particular Mass was celebrated in the parish church of Annunciazione di Maria Santissima in Tavole, and was celebrated by the Vicar General of the diocese, Monsignor Giorgio Brancaleoni.

One will note some pontifical elements here, such as the use of the Canon Missae on the altar, amongst some other elements. Further, one will no doubt note the use of what are evidently an antique set of blue vestments -- and a beautiful set it is indeed.

Invariably the question will arise, 'is this permitted?' given that this Mass in occurring in Italy and not in places like Spain where permissions for blue do exist. Whether there is a special indult for this particular location I know not, but from what I'm given to understand, the use of blue in parts of Italy for Marian feasts was a strong custom in some parts, whatever else the liturgical law formally was.

I only address the topic since it is otherwise bound to arise anyway.

Exposition and Procession

President of Filipino Catholic Bishops Conference Celebrates Solemn Pontifical Mass in EF

The President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and Archbishop of Cebu, Jose S. Palma, celebrated a Solemn Pontifical Mass according to the usus antiquior this past March 26th for the Feast of the Annunciation.

As seems to be so often the case, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate lent their valuable assistance for the liturgy.

Here are a few photographs of the event which were sent into the NLM.

We begin with the vesting of the archbishop. (And on this point, a brief comment. I've been fortunate to have been in a number of different sacristies in various parts of Europe as this occurs, and I must say that these rites, their associated prayers, and the symbolism which goes with the particular vestural elements, not to mention the symbolism of it all as it relates to the office of the bishop, are extraordinarily moving and very theologically rich. Certainly these and its associated elements are something worthy of reclamation in our pursuit of 'mutual enrichment'.)

The arrival and vesting of the archbishop

The Mass

Congratulations to all who helped effect this event. May it be the beginning of many more like it.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I am sure by now you all know about this bit of news. I am sure most of you have read the letter.

May I encourage you to pray. Pray for good will and good faith to triumph everywhere. It seems to me that now is not the time for focusing on the division, but instead the time to fight for unity and brotherhood.

The regularization of the Society's situation would be good for everyone. That is my firm belief.

Let us not concern ourselves then in this moment with the debates of what was or what might have been in the past. Nor let us be discouraged by the naysayers or the polemicists. Instead, let us persist in our desire for unity and re-double our efforts toward this goal.

New Provost at the London Oratory

Word spread today that a new provost was elected for the London Oratory: Fr. Julian Large. I was able to confirm the accuracy of these reports.

Fr. Julian succeeds Fr. Ignatius Harrison as provost of the London Oratory.

The Catholic Herald also published the following earlier today:

Former Telegraph columnist is elected provost of Brompton Oratory

By Ed West on Monday, 26 March 2012

Fr Julian Large has been elected provost of the Brompton Oratory.

The traditionalist priest replaces Fr Ignatius Harrison in the role, with Fr George Bowen elected vice-provost.

Elections at the Kensington church, which was built in the 1870s and run by the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri community, take place every three years and the results are announced on the Feast of the Annunciation.

Fr Julian, 43, is a former gossip columnist for the Daily Telegraph, and a convert from Anglicanism.

Raised in Merseyside, Fr Julian studied at Mansfield College, Oxford, where he ran the university architectural society.

Fr. Julian Large, cong.Orat. Provost of the London Oratory

Some Passiontide Photos

With yesterday being Passion Sunday, we enter the time when it is traditional for crosses and images to be veiled. A couple of our readers sent in some photos of the veiling as manifest in their parishes.

Parish of St. Leonard of Port Maurice, Madison, Nebraska

Parrocchia della SS Annunciazione in Tavole, Italy

Passion Sunday - The Veil of St. Veronica and the Stational Liturgy at St. Peter's

On Passion Sunday, the Lenten station is kept at the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican. Each year on this day, Vespers is celebrated with particular solemnity, and one of the most beloved rituals of Rome's liturgical year is done, the exposition to the faithful of the Veil of St. Veronica. The altar is decorated with relics in a special arrangement, as also on the Ember Saturday of Lent.
Before Vespers, the canons and clergy in attendance gather on the west side of the main altar, facing the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles; the Litany of the Saints is sung, with the invocation "Sancte Petre, ora pro nobis" repeated three times.
This is the signal for the procession to begin slowly making its way down and back up the longest church nave in the world.
When the procession returns to the apse, Vespers is sung as usual on Sundays on holy days of obligation, underneath the magnificent Chair of St. Peter by Bernini. The celebrant (very often a bishop) is accompanied by two coped assistants, one of whom reads the lesson after the psalmody.
The other coped assistant, (not a thurifer in cassock and surplice) performs the incensation of the choir and the faithful; I have been told that this custom is a holdover from the pre-Conciliar traditions of the Basilica.

The choir then processes to the front of the altar, to the singing of the hymn Vexilla Regis, while two canons of the Basilica ascend to the balcony of the pillar of St. Veronica. (Each of the four pillars that support Michelangelo's massive dome was built also with a staircase inside it, and a balcony from which one of the principal relics of the church could be exposed on solemn occasions such as this one.) An antiphon and versicle are sung by the choir, followed by the prayer of the Veil of St. Veronica. A set of silver bells are then rung, and then the Veil is shown to the faithful from the balcony. This is not the place to comment on the authenticity of the Veil, which has a long and very complex history. I can only say that I have witnessed this ritual several times, and on each occasion, when it is shown to the crowds, the church becomes completely silent, even though many of the people present are obviously tourists who have no idea what is happening. (The canon here on the right is Mons. Camille Perl, former Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei commission; due to a technical fault wholly beyond my kenning, I had to convert this photograph to black and white.)
Here one can see the exposition of the Veil in the year 2008; my thanks to Mr. Lucas Viar for permission to use this video.

The prayer of the Veil as currently used at St. Peter's:
Deus, qui nobis signatis lumine vultus tui imaginem tuam relinquere voluisti: per passionem et crucem tuam tribue nobis, quaesumus; ut sicut nunc in terris per speculum et in aenigmate ipsam veneramur, ita facie ad faciem venientem judicem te securi videamus. Qui vivis.

God, who didst wish to leave Thy image to us, who are marked with the light of Thy countenance: through Thy passion and Cross grant us, we beseech Thee; that as now upon the earth we venerate it through a glass darkly, so in safety may we see Thee face to face when Thou comest to judge. Who livest etc.
The original version composed by Pope Innocent III in 1208:
Deus, qui nobis signatis lumine vultus tui memoriale tuum ad instantiam Veronicae sudario impressam imaginem relinquere voluisti, per passionem et crucem tuam tribue nobis quaesumus, ut ita nunc in terris per speculum et in aenigmate ipsam adorare et venerari valeamus, ut facie ad faciem venientem iudicem te securi videamus.Qui vivis.

God, who didst wish to leave as a memorial of Thee to us, who are marked with the light of Thy countenance, an image impressed upon a cloth at the urging of Veronica: through Thy passion and Cross grant us, we beseech Thee; that we may now upon the earth be so able to venerate and adore it through a glass darkly, that in safety may we see Thee face to face when Thou comest to judge. Who livest etc.

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