Friday, September 30, 2016

St Jerome and Caravaggio

Yesterday was the birthday of the famous early Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi, who was born in Milan in 1571, and named for the Saint of the day. “Michelangelo” is a fairly common name in Italy, and he shares it with more than one artist of the same century, of whom the most famous by far bore the last name Buonarroti. The young Merisi would discover this to be a problem for his career when he came to Rome in 1592 at the age of 21, less than 30 years after the death of the painter of the Sistine Chapel, sculptor of the Pietà, and architect of St Peter’s; to set himself apart, he used the name of the village where his parents had been born, Caravaggio.

Today, he is without question one of the most admired painters of his era; between 2000 and 2010, there were five major shows dedicated to him in the city of Rome, where many of his works can be seen in various churches and museums. In his own lifetime, while certainly successful, and very influential on other painters, he was also a controversial figure, for reasons which are far more interesting than those given by the silly anti-clerical fantasies of certain modern writers. His life can most charitably be described as disordered, but was rarely described charitably by his contemporaries; the introduction of the Wikipedia article on him states with clever restraint that “he handled his success poorly.”

More than one of his paintings was rejected after completion. The best-known of these, the Madonna dei Palafrienieri (“of the grooms” of the Papal court), was first displayed in St Peter’s, but soon moved to the parish church of the Vatican, dedicated to St Anne, and thence to the private collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese.
Ss Joachim and Anne were traditionally held to have been childless for many years when they conceived the Virgin Mary by a special grace; therefore, by the time Mary herself was the mother of a toddler, Anne would be very old indeed. Caravaggio, who believed intensely in the use of radical naturalism and realism in his works, paints her as a very old woman, whose face has none of the sweetness one might expect an Italian (of all peoples) to show in the face of Jesus’ grandma. Much more importantly, the whole orientation of the painting, the lines and the sweep of the light, sends the eye downwards; this, and the intense darkness of the background, are wholly out of keeping with the architectural spirit of the churches in which it was only very briefly displayed, both of them bright spaces with bright domes that lift the eye up to heaven.

It is perhaps no more than a coincidence, but a very interesting one, that Caravaggio did three fairly similar paintings of the Saint whose name he would perhaps have received if he had been born only one day later. I suspect Jerome was a figure with whom he must have felt a strong affinity. The great project of this Doctor of the Church, to produce a fresh translation of the Bible from the “truth of the Hebrew text (Hebraica veritas)”, as he often called it, was as controversial in the late 4th century as Caravaggio’s work would be 12 centuries later. In his prologues to the various books, St Jerome complains frequently of those who ignorantly criticize him for “changing the Bible”, not realizing how much and how often the older Latin and Greek versions had themselves been changed. In the prologue to Ezra and Nehemiah, he even pleads with the people he was sending it to not to circulate it publicly, lest it stir up further hatred against him. (This is, of course, a purely rhetorical plea from a master polemicist who knows full well that his work will be widely circulated, and in the end vindicated.) In a similar vein, Caravaggio was once called “that Milanese fellow who wants to destroy the art of painting.”

The most famous of the three is the one now displayed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, directly across the room from the Madonna dei Palafrenieri.
It is possible that Scipione Borghese commissioned this shortly after becoming a cardinal in 1605. Jerome had served for a time as the secretary of Pope St Damasus I, and is therefore traditionally depicted as a cardinal, which the contemporary Pope’s secretary would normally be. In addition to a host of other roles, Card. Borghese was made Secretary for Apostolic Briefs, the equivalent of Jerome’s position, by his uncle, Pope Paul V.

Caravaggio was trained in youth as a still-life painter, and never really learned to paint as anything else. He was completely dependent on models, and this accounts for some of the flaws in his work. The Counter-Reformation period laid heavy emphasis on the fact that St Jerome was not merely a learned man, but a monk, a response to the Protestants’ misuse of his learning in support of their theological innovations. His robes are therefore opened to show his body emaciated by an ascetic life of the kind rejected by the early Protestants. (This will become the standard way of representing him for the rest of the 17th century.) The anatomy of Jerome’s chest in this painting is not so much incorrect as absent; the elderly model simply cannot stay in that odd position long enough for Caravaggio to paint him properly. On the other hand, the figure on the left, whose model is long past feeling fatigue, shows no distortion at all.

One may also imagine how the featureless black background appeared to those who were used to seeing St Jerome in a rather more cluttered study. This version by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Michelangelo’s painting teacher, is typical. (From the church of All Saints in Florence, 1480)
His other two paintings of St Jerome are less well known than that of the famous Borghese Gallery, but in point of fact both done rather more precisely. One of them, St Jerome in Meditation, is thought to be contemporary to the Borghese one, and commissioned for another Cardinal, Benedetto Giustiniani; it is now at the Museum of the Abbey of Montserrat.
The same model is used as in the Borghese painting; for an artist who is wholly dependent on the use of models, it is easier to learn a face and use it repeatedly than to constantly learn new faces, and there are several models who appear in more than one work by Caravaggio. The less strained position has given the artist time to paint a much better figure in regards to anatomy; the background is now completely featureless, bringing Jerome the ascetic to the fore, with no hint of Jerome the scholar.

The other dates from two years later, when Caravaggio had gone to Malta to work under the patronage of the Knights of Malta, and is kept in the cathedral of St John in Valletta.
Here the various traditions for representing St Jerome are finely balanced. The scholar writes at his table, but the crucifix and skull show us that he is also a monastic and a contemplative. The table itself, which is almost sticking out at the viewer, the section of a wall on the right, and especially the wall on the left where the galero hangs, create a much more realistic sense of space. (The galero also reminds us, against the idea of a “Protestant” Jerome, of his close association with the Papacy.) Most notably, the radical chiaroscuro of the earlier paintings is considerably tempered by the lighter background; it is a far less showy painting, one which speaks of an artist who is maturing.

Caravaggio is today known by many for the shocking realism of some of his works, such as the very bloody “Judith Decapitating Holofernes” in the Barberini Gallery in Rome, or the “Martyrdom of St Ursula”, which captures the very moment at which she is shot in the chest with an arrow. It is probably fair to say that that is what makes him so appealing to modern tastes, just as it made him widely detested in the 19th century. (One English guide book of Rome which was well-known in that era did not mention his “Madonna of Loreto” in its description of the church of St Augustine.) And yet it is in the painting of an elderly man quietly working in his study, or alone in silent contemplation, that we see this maturation taking place.

EF Solemn Mass for St Thérèse of Lisieux in Madera, California

The church of St Joachim in Madera, California, (401 West 5th St) will hold an EF Solemn High Mass, this coming Monday, October 3rd, for the feast of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, patroness of the Diocese of Fresno. The Fresno Traditional Mass Society will be assisting in the preparations; the Mass begins at 6 p.m. This is the first Solemn Mass held in the church since since the post-Conciliar reforms were instituted.

Participatio Actuosa in the Current Magisterium: Guest Article by Fr Peter Stravinskas (Part 2)

We continue with the second part of a paper by Fr Peter Stravinskas, originally delivered at the CIEL conference in Paris in 2003. The first part examined the question of how the famous words “actuosa participatio” in Sacrosanctum Concilium were originally meant to understood; this second part continues with its treatment after the liturgical reform, and particularly, the continued emphasis on interior disposition.  Our thanks once again to Fr Stravinskas for allowing us to reprint the article here on NLM.

Taking on the rearing of iconoclasm’s ugly head in modern guise, Paul VI addressed the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Art on 17 December 1969. Therein, he rehearsed Church teaching on sacred art, revisiting Nicaea II, Trent and Vatican II:
Their (sacred images’) purpose is to raise the spirit beyond the figure to what the figure stands for. . . . The Church entrusts art with a mediating role, analogous, we might say, to the role of the priest or, perhaps better, to that of Jacob’s ladder descending and ascending. . . . The Liturgy superbly fulfills this (artistic) vocation in both beauty of form and profundity of content. . . . The alliance between art and the life of religion will also succeed in giving again to the Church, the Bride of Christ, a voice that love inspires and that inspires love. . . . As always, we must begin with the education of the person.
The Holy Father reflects a strong incarnational sense here, seeing beauty as bearing a meaning beyond its own objective value. Once more, he connects liturgical significance to “the education of the person.”

Cardinal Villot picked up that theme in comments made to the Italian bishops’ committee on the liturgy for the 21st Italian Liturgical Week (4 September 1970): “There is cause for comfort in the increased measures to bring about a deeper knowledge of the Liturgy and an ever more intelligent, active, and personal participation by the faithful in the rites of the Church.” Was this his honest appraisal of the situation or wishful thinking? It is hard to tell, but there is no mistaking the linking of proper catechesis to any true actuosa participatio.

The Sacred Congregation for the Clergy presented the Church with the landmark General Catechetical Directory on 11 April 1971. In tackling our theme, we find that catechists ought to be engaged in “forming the minds of the faithful for prayers, for thanksgiving, for repentance, for prayers with confidence, for a community spirit, and for understanding correctly the meaning of the creeds. All these things are necessary for a true liturgical life.”

In a general audience on 22 August 1973, Paul VI spoke about the preservation of “Latin, Gregorian chant,” and prayed, “May that be God’s will.” He linked this intention up to full liturgical participation.

The ill-advised Directory for Masses with Children made its début on 1 November 1973, but even there we find this salutary reminder: “In all this, it should be kept in mind that external activities will be fruitless and even harmful if they do not serve the internal participation of the children. Thus religious silence has its importance even in Masses with children. The children should not be allowed to forget that all the forms of participation reach their high point in eucharistic communion, when the Body and Blood of Christ are received as spiritual nourishment” (n. 22). Then quoting the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 23, it repeats: “Even in Masses with children, ‘silence should be observed at the designated times as part of the celebration,’ lest too great a place be given to external action. In their own way, children are genuinely capable of reflection” (n. 37).

Iubilate Deo, which provided a basic repertoire of Latin chants and hymns deemed essential for every parish community, was promulgated on 11 April 1974; this document was presented to the whole Church as a way of implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 54, “that the voice of the faithful be heard in both Gregorian chant and vernacular singing.” The musical dimension was hit upon again by Cardinal Villot in an address to the 21st National Congress on Sacred Music (13 September 1974): “All the parts of the Mass are in themselves already a form of evangelization, because they revivify faith and transform into adoration. But in singing and music, the parts of the Mass can find a powerful and expressive way to foster the participation of the faithful.” Noteworthy, too, are the references to evangelization and adoration.

In a general audience on 26 March 1975, Pope Paul returns to our theme, this time relying on both Scripture and St. Thomas Aquinas:
But there is an essential difference in the liturgical drama. . . . In contrast, the liturgical drama not only brings to mind again Christ's deeds but reactualizes His salvific action (see ST 3a , 56.1 and 3); . . . as He is the always active source of our salvation. . . . In any believer who participates in the Liturgy there is no sense of remoteness or of being on the outside. Consequently, in celebrating the Paschal Mystery, the believer is taken into and overcome by the dramatic power of the “hour” of Christ, “my hour” as he called it.
Later that year (6 August 1975), exactly three years before his death, the Holy Father gave a very fully developed appreciation of what is entailed in liturgical participation:
The Liturgy is a communion of minds, prayers, voices, agape or charity. Passive presence is not enough; participation is required. The people must see in the Liturgy a school for listening and learning, a sacred celebration presented and guided by the priest, but in which, as a gathering of hearts and voices, they join by their response, their offerings, their prayers. . . . Remember that Liturgy is believing, praising in song, alive to earthly experience, on pilgrimage toward the celebration of the eternal revelation.
Finally, on 6 June 1976, Paul VI sent a message to the bishops of the United States, commemorating the bicentennial of the nation. He urged the bishops to bring their people “to a deeper realization of the centrality of the Eucharist in their lives and of their need to participate therein,” and “to a profound sense of reverence for the eucharistic mystery.” He recalled for priests “their special duty: sancta sancte tractanda.” This dimension of worship, he said, is connected to “the very holiness of God, of Jesus Christ, (which) demands reverence and profound respect.”

Three years later (4 October 1979), Pope St John Paul II, during his first pastoral visit to the United States, reminded priests in Philadelphia that “all our pastoral endeavors are incomplete until our people are led to the full and active participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. . . .” Throughout his pontificate, the Holy Father underscored numerous elements of what he understands by “full and active participation.” To cite them individually would be nearly impossible and would overload the circuit unnecessarily, especially since they reiterate the very elements presented by the Magisterium of the 20th century.

What is interesting, however, is to look up the topic of participation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The references deal with how we participate in the Lord’s Paschal Mystery (e.g., nn. 618, 654, 668, 1006). The Catechism links our participation in a definitive manner to the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist. We are taught that “grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ” (n. 1997, emphasis in the original). This grace likewise brings about our “participation. . . in Christ’s mission as Priest, Prophet and King,” particularly through Baptism and Confirmation (n. 1546). We also learn that Baptism confers “the sacramental character that consecrates (us) for Christian religious worship.” It goes on to speak of how this “enables and commits Christians to serve God by a vital participation in the holy Liturgy of the Church and to exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and practical charity” (n. 1273). All this is brought to its culmination in the Eucharistic Sacrifice: “This ‘how’ exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith. Yet our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ’s transfiguration of our bodies” (n. 1000). How is this so? Because “the Liturgy is also a participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit. In the Liturgy, all Christian prayer finds its source and goal. Through the Liturgy the inner man is rooted and grounded in ‘the great love with which (the Father) loved us’ in His beloved Son” (n. 1073). An awareness of Christ’s unique presence in the Eucharist “moves us to an ever more complete participation in our Redeemer’s sacrifice which we celebrate in the Eucharist” (n. 1372).

We should notice, therefore, how all our attention is focused on interior dispositions, rather than merely external postures, gestures and other such activities (as important as these are for body-soul unities to worship). Why might this emphasis be given? I venture to say that the experience of two decades of liturgical confusion and frenzy caused the editors of the Catechism to attempt to balance the matter in favor of fundamental truths that had been lost in the post-conciliar shuffle – at least at the practical level or lived experience of the average person in the pew.

For several years, Angelo Cardinal Sodano sent letters to the annual liturgical conferences in Italy, which in later years took a decided cautionary turn. And so, we read the following sent on 2 August 2001:
. . . it is necessary to keep in mind the particular nature of the Sacred Liturgy. As the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council explained, “every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of His Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree” (n. 7).
He continues:
According to the famous statement, used for the first time by the Magisterium in the motu proprio, Tra le Sollecitudini (22 November 1903) of Pope St. Pius X, the Constitution on the Liturgy desires: “that all the faithful be guided to that full, conscious and active participation in the liturgical celebrations, which is required by the very nature of the Liturgy” (n. 14). Today this participatio actuosa (active participation) of the faithful is sometimes reduced to their performing some liturgical ministry. However, the Council wishes to invite all believers to take part, consciously and actively, in the liturgical prayer itself, by offering to God the sacrifice of praise and adoring Him “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23).
Once more, the interior dimension is highlighted.

Surely we cannot ignore Holy Thursday of 2003, when Pope John Paul II promulgated Ecclesia de Eucharistia on the silver jubilee of his accession to the Chair of Peter. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that the entire encyclical can be viewed as an essay on the meaning of genuine participatio actuosa. He mentions three serious obstacles to full, conscious and active participation: liturgical abuses (n. 10); lack of full ecclesial communion, both visible and invisible (n. 35f); the presence of grave sin in a participant (n. 37). All of Chapter Five is devoted to “the dignity of the eucharistic celebration” as he considers how the interior and external aspects of Christian worship should interact, including art, music, architecture and liturgical discipline. It was in reference to that last item – liturgical discipline – that the Holy Father took the occasion to announce the preparation of a “juridical” document confront the abuses which have marred the life of the post-conciliar Church. In a powerful line, he declares: “No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands. It is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and universality” (n. 52).

At the end of his encyclical, we hear echoes of the words he spoke to the priests in Philadelphia at the beginning of his pontificate:
Every commitment to holiness, every activity aimed at carrying out the Church’s mission, every work of pastoral planning, must draw the strength it needs from the eucharistic mystery and in turn be directed to that mystery as its culmination. In the Eucharist, we have Jesus, we have His redemptive Sacrifice, we have His Resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience and love of the Father. Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency? (n. 60)
And then comes the clarion call to live the mystery of the Eucharist in all its fullness:
The mystery of the Eucharist – sacrifice, presence, banquet – does not allow for reduction or exploitation; it must be experienced and lived in its integrity, both in its celebration and in the intimate converse with Jesus which takes place after receiving Communion or in a prayerful moment of eucharistic adoration apart from Mass. These are times when the Church is firmly built up and it becomes clear what she truly is: one, holy, catholic and apostolic; the people, temple and family of God; the Body and Bride of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit; the universal sacrament of salvation and a hierarchically structured communion. (n. 61, emphasis in original)
Finally, he takes on the pernicious dichotomy between the head and the heart introduced by the Enlightenment (1), following Blaise Pascal’s trenchant observation, “The heart has reason that reason knows not.” “If, in the presence of this mystery,” he says, “reason experiences its limits, the heart, enlivened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, clearly sees the response that is demanded, and bows low in adoration and unbounded love.” He then turns to St. Thomas Aquinas, whom he describes as “an eminent theologian and an impassioned poet of Christ in the Eucharist,” urging us to “turn in hope to the contemplation of that goal to which our hearts aspire in their thirst for joy and peace” (n. 62).

Participatio Actuosa: A Synthesis and a Re-direction

On October 8, 2033, Francis Cardinal Arinze, in his capacity as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, addressed the national meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions in San Antonio, Texas. I think he admirably summarized the picture I have been trying to sketch when he asserted, “It is important that the internal aspect of participation is indispensable as a basis, a requirement and the aim of all external participation. That is why personal prayer, scriptural meditation and moments of silence are necessary.” And even more to the point: “A sense of reverence and devotion is conducive to interiorized active participation.”

The Reverend Michael R. Carey, O.P., offers a succinct explanation of the terms of the debate and excoriates what he calls “liturgical activism.” He maintains that our participation “is conscious in that it engages the rational part of our soul – mind and heart. It is active in that it also engages our body. But the main point is that it must not be merely active, but full.” Good Dominican that he is, he expands on the question, relying on the Angelic Doctor:
So, a first principle of active participation is that whatever we do bodily should be a sign of what ought to be happening in our souls. For this, we have to look to what we are doing and to the words we are praying. Are we listening to the Word of God? Then it is appropriate to sit. Are we humbly beseeching God? Then it is appropriate to kneel. Are we contemplating after Holy Communion the Lord we have just received? Then it is appropriate that we close our eyes and bow our heads in silent prayer.
He seals his argument in this fashion: “External acts which inhibit or contradict the natural movements of the soul in prayer are simply wrong, and will instinctively be felt to be wrong.” (2)

As I read that last line, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a Sister who informed me she had just finished preparing her second-graders for their First Holy Communion. I said she must be thrilled and proud. She replied, with great sadness in her face and in her voice: “Father, I have taught them everything the Church wants them to know and believe about the Holy Eucharist, but I just have the impression that they do not believe what I believed at their age.” I then asked her about eucharistic practices in her parish. Like most parishes in the West, just about anyone distributes Holy Communion to anyone in any position and in any degree of disposition. Until those situations are dealt with, I told the nun, her children will never be able to believe what she believed and, hopefully, still does believe. Why? Because our praxis is under-cutting our theology. The interior participation is not allowed to flower because of external modes of participation which are problematic.

What, then, is the image of participatio actuosa with which to conclude? That of another Dominican, Colman E. O’Neill. More than three decades ago, he offered the following definition:
(It is) that form of devout involvement in the liturgical action which, in the present conditions of the Church, best promotes the exercise of the common priesthood of the baptized; that is, their power to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass with Christ and to receive the sacraments. It is clear that, concretely, this requires that the faithful understand the liturgical ceremonial; that they take part in it by bodily movements, standing, kneeling or sitting as the occasion may demand; that they join vocally in the parts which are intended for them. It also requires that they listen to, and understand, the Liturgy of the Word. It requires, too, that there be moments of silence when the impact of the whole ceremonial may be absorbed and deeply personalized. (3)
What has been suggested by Father O’Neill is no more and no less than what Aristotle would have referred to as a “catharsis,” namely, that a would-be spectator so enters into the dramatic action that he becomes a participant. And I think the word we have been searching for is not “active” but “actual.” To illustrate the validity of this suggestion, let me finish with this scenario.

You have decided to go to the opera for Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. You have paid your hundred dollars or euros and have a superb seat. The orchestra is outstanding. The sets are splendid. The performances are stellar. You are so drawn into the action that you completely identify with the protagonist, experiencing all the emotions the composer envisioned. In short, by the end of the work, you have run out of handkerchiefs and tissues. The only drawback, however, is that you did not get up on the stage and sing the final, heart-tugging aria yourself. I ask you: Did you have a genuine experience of catharsis in the Aristotelian sense? Was it an example of participatio actuosa? I believe it was. Was it “active” participation? I think not. What was it, then? I submit it was that form of real participation which we should call “actual.” And that, I further submit, is the kind of participation the post-conciliar Magisterium has had in mind. May it become a reality in our day.

(1) For a fine discussion of this problem and for some healthy remedies, see: Stratford Caldecott, “The Heart’s Language: Toward a Liturgical Anthropology, Antiphon, 2001 [Number Two].
(2) “Active Participation Again,” The Priest, July 2003, 32.
(3) “The Theological Meaning of Actuosa Participatio in the Liturgy,” in Sacred Music and Liturgy Reform after Vatican II. Rome: Consociatio Internationalis Musicæ Sacræ, 1969, 105.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Consecration of St Elias Church This Weekend

Two years ago, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church of St Elias the Prophet in Brampton, Ontario, was completely destroyed by fire. Ever since then, the community has been diligently working to rebuild its church, and after just over 2½ years, it is ready to be consecrated. (Back in June we posted a rather astonishing video of the main dome being lifted into place by a crane, which really has to be seen to be believed; wait for the end, when the bells of the church are rung to celebrate.)

This weekend, the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, will consecrate the finished church. The complete schedule of services, which begin tomorrow evening at 6 pm, may be consulted at the website The main ceremony takes place on Saturday, October 1st, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; this is also the day of an especially lovely Byzantine feast called The Protection of the All-Holy Mother of God. If you are anywhere near the area, you should certainly attend the ceremony if at all possible. St Elias has and deserves a reputation as a place where the Byzantine liturgy is cultivated in the fullness of its richness and beauty, and this will be a truly unique opportunity to witness a ceremony of even-greater-than-usual magnificence.

If you cannot attend the ceremony, you can still watch it on a Youtube live-stream at the following address:

The finished church can be seen on the outside in this video.

St Michael and All Angels 2016

The church keeps the feast of the Angels for two reasons. The first is that they minister to us, “for they are all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation.” (Hebr. 1, 14) The second is that they fight for us against the wicked angels, and do not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. (cf. 1 Cor. 10, 13). Of this battle it is said in the Apocalypse, “There was a war in heaven.” (12, 7) This war will be especially in the time of the Antichrist, but it has also been and is always in the death of the martyrs. “And the dragon was cast out”, that is, the devil was cast out of heaven, which is to say, out of heavenly men, and down into the hearts of evil men.
St Michael Fights the Dragon, from the Livre d’heures d’Étienne Chevalier, by Jean Fouquet, 1452-60
The leader of this war is the most blessed Michael, and therefore the feast is kept for him, although he is of the last hierarchy, of a lower order. For there are nine orders of Angels…, and although they are all sent (by God to various tasks), they are sent but rarely, … but the prince of those who are sent is Michael, …

But since this is the common feast of all the Angels, why is it specially named the feast of Michael, rather than of Gabriel or Raphael? I answer that it was Michael who was sent into Egypt, and wrought the famous plagues, who divided the Red Sea, who lead the people out through the desert and into the promised land. He is set in charge of Paradise, and the guardian thereof; he receives souls into it, and is the Prince of the Church, and therefore we ought to reverence him more. … (Another) reason is that men by venerating the Angels may come into their fellowship, and for this reason on Sundays and solemn feasts, nine psalms, nine readings and nine responsories are sung, that by singing these things we may come to the company of the Angels, whose proper role is to sing to God. (William Durandus, Rationale 7, 12)

The Archangels Raphael, Michael and Gabriel by Michele Tosini; from the choir of the Abbey of St Michael in Passignano, Italy, ca. 1550.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Participatio Actuosa in the Current Magisterium: Guest Article by Fr Peter Stravinskas (Part 1)

The following paper was originally delivered at the CIEL conference in Paris in 2003; we here present it in a modified form with the permission of the author, Fr Peter Stravinskas. In it, he examines the question of how the famous words “actuosa participatio” in Sacrosanctum Concilium were originally meant to understood. The second part will appear on Friday, arguing that “actual” participation better expresses the mind of the Church and the Magisterium after the Council and the liturgical reform. We are grateful to Fr Stravinskas for allowing us to reprint the article here on NLM.

Many of our problems in the contemporary Church can be laid at the doorstep of a mistaken notion of participation – liturgical and otherwise. The Latin adage says, “Discimus docendo.” And that has surely proven true as I went about the preparation of this paper. I knew that the “participatio actuosa” of Vatican II had a long pedigree, indeed, all the way back to Pope St. Pius X. I thought, however, that rendering it as “active participation” was just a mischievous English translation, only to discover that at least all the Romance languages have the equivalent translation.1 My next suspicion was that using the equivalent of “active” in the various vernaculars was a modern attempt to create a new vision or reality through linguistic manipulation. Once more, an historical search revealed that “active” was the word of choice going back to translations of Pius X’s landmark document, Tra le Sollecitudini.

That said, I am still going to suggest a better translation of actuosa, at least for our moment in history. Perhaps “active” did not carry all the baggage it does today. At any rate, it seems to me that if Pius X or the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had wanted to say “active”, they could have used activa, but they didn’t; they used actuosa.

What, then, is the difference between actuosa and activa? The methodology of this paper will be to “back into” my suggestion for a more appropriate vernacular rendering of actuosa by reviewing the use of participatio actuosa over the past forty or so years, so as to come up with a picture of what the contemporary Magisterium has had in mind. Then, we can settle on a word that might more adequately capture the reality.

Participatio actuosa in Historical Perspective

Monsignor Richard Schuler, an eminent student and promoter of the Sacred Liturgy as well as an accomplished musician, has traced out for us a good deal of the historical background to this important phrase, and I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to him for this. (“Participation” Sacred Music, Winter 1987) As noted earlier, the first magisterial use of our expression occurs in Tra le Sollecitudini, wherein the Pope observes: “. . . the faithful assemble to draw that spirit from its primary and indispensable source, that is, from active participation in the sacred mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church” [emphasis added]. Twenty-five years later, Pope Pius XI in Divini Cultus opined that through the restoration of Gregorian chant to the people, “the faithful may participate in divine worship more actively” [emphasis added]. Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis [1943] and in Mediator Dei [1947] likewise used the term. In 1958, the Sacred Congregation of Rites in De Musica Sacra distinguished several levels of participation. We find the following: “The Mass of its nature requires that all those present participate in it, in the fashion proper to each.” First of all, this participation should be “interior”, that is, union with Christ the Priest. The participation becomes plenior if the interior participation is yoked to external participation [e.g., gestures, posture, responses, singing]. The highest degree of participation is achieved when sacramental participation is added to the other forms.

The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Vision of Participatio Actuosa

One might arguably say that the most-cited and perhaps the most-misunderstood text of the Second Vatican Council is the following from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: “Valde cupit Mater Ecclesia ut fideles universi ad plenam illam, consciam atque actuosam liturgicarum celebrationum participationem ducantur, quæ ab ipsius Liturgiæ natura postulatur. . . .” That has come into English as: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the Liturgy” [n. 14].

The conciliar use of participatio actuosa takes for granted the understandings of the term as I have just outlined them. Oddly, though, Sacrosanctum Concilium employs our expression without providing a single reference as to its source or history – almost as if it were a novel concept.

The same article observes that such participation by the Christian people is their “right and duty by reason of their baptism.” The passage goes on to speak of this actuosa participatio as the primary goal of all liturgical renewal, which will endow the faithful “with the true Christian spirit.”

Lest we get too far afield, however, let us return to the vision set forth in article 14. A context is given for it three articles earlier, where we read: “But in order that the Liturgy may possess its full effectiveness, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds be attuned to their voices, and that they cooperate with divine grace, lest they receive it in vain.”

Most realistically, the Council Fathers note “pastors must therefore realize that when the Liturgy is celebrated something more is required than the mere observance of the laws governing valid and lawful celebration; it is also their duty to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects” [n. 11]. And how will this occur? The clergy “themselves must become imbued with the spirit and power of the Liturgy and capable of giving instruction about it” [n. 14]. And hasn’t that all too often been the very problem with our liturgical life in the post-conciliar era? Indeed, could we not even refer to this as a locus classicus of the trahison des clercs?

Subsequent articles flesh out just what is envisioned for this program of actuosa participatio. Thus, we read in article 30: “To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper time a reverent silence should be observed.” Eighteen articles later, this is spelled out in even greater detail:
The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God’s Word, and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s Body. They should give thanks to God. Offering the immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn to offer themselves. Through Christ, the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into an ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.
Clearly, no kind of shallow or superficial “participation” is being advocated. Nor is any type of frenetic activity anticipated or encouraged. Even the Consilium, in its document restoring the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, on 13 January 1965, stresses the importance of “participation through silent prayer.”

A little more than a month after Sacrosanctum Concilium, Pope Paul VI promulgated Sacram Liturgiam [25 January 1964], wherein he pleaded with bishops “to set at once about teaching their people the power and the interior worth of the Sacred Liturgy, taking into account their age, condition in life, and standard of religious culture,” with the hoped-for result that “their shared knowledge will enable the faithful to take part in the religious services together, devoutly, body and soul.”

Pope Paul was quite exercised about ensuring the proper implementation of the Council’s liturgical document, never missing an opportunity to share its vision with clergy and laity alike. In an address to the pastors of Rome on 1 March 1965, he said: “You must be convinced that the objective is to reach the heart of today’s people through the Liturgy as the truest, most authoritative, sacred, and effective way and so to rekindle in them the flame of love for God and neighbor, the awesome, intoxicating power to commune with God – authentically, consolingly, redemptively.” Less than a week later [7 March 1965], he explained to a group of lay faithful that the Church had embarked on this liturgical reform, “so that you may be able to unite yourselves more closely to the Church’s prayer, pass over from being simply spectators to becoming active participants.” Inexplicably, he saw this goal necessitating, in his own words, the “sacrifice” of Latin!

A year later, during a homily at a Roman parish [27 March 1966], the Pontiff informed the congregation: “A second undertaking of the Council is the reform of the Liturgy, and in a most beautiful and fruitful direction. The Council has taken the fundamental position that the faithful have to understand what the priest is saying and to share in the Liturgy; to be not just passive spectators at Mass but souls alive; to be the People of God responsive to Him and forming a community gathered as one around the celebrant.” Within ten days, he took the occasion of his general audience during Holy Week [6 April 1966] to assert: “If there is any liturgy that should find us all drawn together, attentive, earnest, and united through a participation that is ever more full, worthy, devout, and loving, it is the Liturgy of Holy Week.”

Prescinding from some judgment calls Paul VI made, one can see a consistent trajectory of thought on his part: The participation of the faithful needs to be interior as well as exterior, arising from personal faith and knowledge and bringing about an ever deeper life of faith and holiness.

From this time forward, one also finds the Holy Father becoming much more cautious and reserved in his praise of liturgical developments. Thus, in an address to a national congress of liturgical commissions, on 4 January 1967, he warned that the primacy of the sacrament itself “does not in any way justify arbitrarily stripping Church-established worship of the sacral and aesthetic forms that surround it and present it to the People of God. Such a course would do more than cast aside the elements of art gracing divine worship; it would trivialize the meaning of the mystery celebrated, undermine the principles of community prayer, and could lead ultimately to doubt or even denial of the reality of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.”

Musicam Sacram, promulgated on 5 March 1967, offered a most balanced depiction of our topic:
The faithful carry out their proper liturgical function by offering their complete, conscious, and active participation. . . . This participation must be: a. internal, that is, the faithful make their thoughts match what they say and hear, and cooperate with divine grace; b. but also external, that is, they express their inner participation through their gestures, outward bearing, acclamations, responses, and song. [n. 15]
Tres Abhinc Annos, issued by the Sacred Congregation for Rites on 4 May 1967, indicates that reports from bishops around the world attest to “increased, more aware, and intense participation.” One might have hoped that such an assessment was an accurate reflection of the reality; having been a boy in high school at that time, that is certainly not my recollection. Indeed, as catechesis began to fall on hard times, we were less aware than ever of the mysteries being celebrated.

It would seem officials in that dicastery may have been less impressed by episcopal assurances than first meets the eye, for within a month, Eucharisticum Mysterium makes its appearance. Article 5 addresses our area of concern by underscoring the Congregation’s notion of what is involved in participatio actuosa:
The active part of the faithful in the Eucharist consists in giving thanks to God as they are mindful of the Lord's Passion, Death, and Resurrection; offering the spotless Victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him; and, through the reception of the Body of the Lord, entering into the communion with God and with each other that participation is meant to lead to. . . . All these things should be explained to the faithful in such a way that in consequence they share actively in the celebration of the Mass by both their inner affections and the outward rites, in keeping with the principles laid down by the Constitution on the Liturgy.
Do not miss the strong emphasis on a participation which springs from a clear understanding of a truly Catholic appreciation of the eucharistic mystery – the whole point of the document.

In yet another general audience address [19 November 1969], Pope Paul highlighted his hopes for the liturgical renewal: “The result anticipated – or better, longed for – is the more intelligent, more effective, more joyous, and more sanctifying participation by the people in the liturgical mystery” [emphasis added]. Again, the internal aspects occupy center stage.

Jean Cardinal Villot, as Secretary of State, in December 1969, sent a message to the 12th International Congress of Les Petits Chanteurs:
A few words may be said about the liturgical aspect. A more immediate and active participation in the Liturgy calls for and even demands a sense of the sacred, a knowledge of the significance of the feasts, liturgical seasons, and rites. . . . Preparation of this kind is a necessary prerequisite for the opening of the spirit to the knowledge of what singing as the service of God is meant to achieve. . . . The singing will become a true harmony to the degree that it is a blending of skilled technique and of a genuinely religious spirit that allows the voice to become the devout expression to the soul.
While the Cardinal was addressing choristers, his insights apply across the board. Notice certain key phrases: “a sense of the sacred,” “knowledge of the significance,” “preparation,” “service of God,” “a genuinely religious spirit,” “devout expression to the soul.” Are these not the very elements whose loss is experienced and so lamentable in all too many post-conciliar liturgical events?

On 30 January 1969, L’Osservatore Romano took a rather unprecedented step in publishing an article by the Reverend Hubert Jedin, renowned scholar of the Reformation and the Council of Trent. Entitled, “Crises in the Church,” it delineates three crises: of the liturgy, of authority, of the Faith. Of course, these three are inextricably bound to one another. I wish to quote him in some detail because I think he really captured significant aspects of our question. Writing before the final liturgical reforms were enacted, he says, “Only with great circumspection would I wish to express my opinion about the liturgical crisis.” Not at all opposed to liturgical reform, he nonetheless warns:
A liturgical renewal which proceeds step by step with a deepening of our concept of the Church can be regarded as one of the most important processes in the history of the Church of our century, as the overcoming of formalism which for many years has prevented the development of the liturgical life. A famous liturgist said, when the new Easter Vigil was introduced: “Now the ice age is over.” But let us remember: Liturgy is a disciplined service of God, a common actio of the celebrant and the community. The previous or concomitant reading of the texts of the Mass by the community is not the only, nor the most important form, of active participation (actuosa participatio) in the carrying out of the Liturgy; the decisive form is the interior participation of the faithful in the sacrifice and in the eucharistic meal.
He goes on: “Let us also remember this, that the Constitution of the Council on the Sacred Liturgy [nn. 22, 23] demands that all reforms take account of the sana traditio, the sound tradition, and that the venerable heritage of the tradition. . . should not be lightly jettisoned.” He sums up his analysis in this way: “The Catholic divine service is both mystery and catechesis. As mystery, it is and remains impenetrable to our reason, and this fact cannot be changed in the least by the translation into the vernacular.”

Why have I spent so much time citing a non-Magisterial source? Because I have a suspicion that his article’s publication in L’Osservatore Romano was anything but happenstance and, further, that Magisterial statements thereafter adopt his approach with much greater clarity and force, as should become evident as we proceed in our survey of texts.

ICKSP Takes on New Apostolate in Naples

Two years ago, we reported that the Archdiocese of Naples, Italy, had established a new home for the regular celebration of the Traditional Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation at the church of the Archconfraternity of Santa Maria del Soccorso all’Arenella. We recently received word from the organizers of the Mass, the Coetus Fidelium «Sant’Andrea Avellino», that His Eminence Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, has now entrusted the celebration of this Mass to the priests of the Institute of Christ the King, beginning last week on the feast of the city’s principal Patron Saint, Januarius.

The Coetus fidelium «Sant’Andrea Avellino» wishes to express their gratitude to Cardinal Sepe for his paternal and pastoral solicitude in their regard, and likewise to the superiors of the ICK, Mgrs Gilles Wach and Michael Schmitz, and to Don Aldo Scatola, the parish priest of Santa Maria del Soccorso, and head of the Archconfraternity, for his generous hospitality. (Below, various Masses at the church of Santa Maria del Soccorso all’Arenella.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Basilica of Ss Cosmas and Damian

For today’s feast of the martyrs Ss Cosmas and Damian, our friend Jordan Hainsey sent in some photographs which he took of the Roman basilica dedicated to them, which is one of the oldest in the city. In 2007, he did some work with the art conservator who was restoring the church’s high altar, which he describes as “an amazing opportunity to see decades of dirt and soot removed from precious marble, and see precious frescos regain their brilliance and clarity.” In the first photo, he is standing on the high altar helping to lift up and place the 75 pound gold candlesticks. Of special interest, the candlesticks had fascinating 19th century extenders which allowed for smaller candles while giving the illusion of a tall candle. The descriptions which follow are all by Jordan.

The Basilica of Ss Cosmas and Damian is located in the very heart of ancient and modern Rome. The building was originally a Roman structure that belonged to Vespasian’s Forum of Peace, and may have been one of the libraries of that forum. It was rebuilt and consecrated as a church by Pope St Felix IV in 527. The circular structure known as the Temple of Romulus in the Roman Forum is incorporated into the church. The basilica was entrusted to the Franciscan Friars T.O.R. in 1503 and remains in their care. Over the past decade, it has been extensively restored, starting with the high altar in 2007. Since then, the side chapels have been cleaned and restored, along with the choir in the apse behind the altar.
The high altar was designed by Domenico Castelli at the order of Fr. Ludovico Ciotti, and constructed in 1638. The four black and white marble columns formerly supported the baldachino above an ancient altar in the crypt. In the 18th century, the tabernacle was fashioned from ebony and stone, mixed marble, and bronze.
This cosmatesque ambry was donated by Cardinal Guido Pisano in 1150. It is of white marble, with a mosaic of patterned glass set into the wall; the wooden doors are painted in gold leaf.
The apse mosaic dates from 527-530 A.D. Christ the Judge stands above the dramatically colored clouds; this is the first time in Western art that Christ is depicted as an Easterner, like the Saints to whom the church is dedicated, who were from Arabia. The Apostle Peter presents Cosmas and the Apostle Paul presents Damian so that they may receive the crown of their martyrdom. At the far left, Pope Felix IV presents the model of the basilica, and to the far right stands the soldier St Theodore; the latter is dressed as a Byzantine official in a cloak with a square purple cloth sewn on it, one of the insignia of a magistrate in the court of Justinian. A procession of sheep make up the lower band, moving from Bethlehem and Jerusalem towards the Divine Lamb from Whom spring up the rivers of life: the Geon, Phison, Tigris and Euphrates.

Two Items of Interest from Newman House Press

Speaking of prayers in preparation for Mass, Newman House Press wrote to let us know that they have available a prayer written for that purpose by the Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, addressed to the Virgin Mary.

This can be ordered on a printed card for $5 plus $1 shipping and handling through their webpage noted above; just mention the item in an email to the address given under the link Contact.

They are also offering a special discount on a treatise by Fr Peter Stravinskas on “The Rubrics of the Mass”, a useful explanation of why rubrics ought to be followed, which then goes through the Mass and explains the basic rules. The special offer price is 100 copies for $10 plus shipping and handling. Here is the first page (click to enlarge).

EF Solemn Mass in Manhattan for St Michael

On Thursday, September 29th, the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, a Solemn High Traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated at 7:00 p.m. in the historic Church of the Most Precious Blood, located in New York City’s Little Italy. The intention of the Mass will be for the spiritual and physical well being of all police and law-enforcement officers. This Mass and the Mass at Holy Innocents at 6:00 p.m. will make for two Solemn Traditional Latin Masses being celebrated almost simultaneously a few short miles from each other in Manhattan; such an occurrence, just a few short years ago, would have seemed impossible.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Perfect Prayers for Before and After the Liturgy

Those who are familiar with the traditional Roman missal will know that it features quite a number of prayers of priestly preparation before Mass and of thanksgiving after Mass. Often a sampling of these orations, antiphons, psalms, veriscles, etc., were (and still are) printed in Daily Missals intended for the use of the laity.

It would be interesting, apart from anything else, to know how many of the clergy and laity actually employ these prayers. It must be admitted that some of them are quite long, and for some while before Mass, the priest is occupied with putting on vestments (using the appropriate vesting prayers), holding quiet parleys with MCs, servers, choir or schola directors, and well-meaning folks seeking "a word or two with Father." And while the post-Mass period is usually less chaotic, it still requires at times a heroic effort to withdraw, like Our Lord in the Gospels, into the wilderness where heartfelt thanksgiving becomes possible. (For a more in-depth treatment, see my article "Priestly Preparation Before Mass and Thanksgiving After Mass.")

Given all of these things, it has often seemed to me that it would help to have a short, well-made prayer for before liturgy and another one for afterwards -- something that could be recited in the midst of any circumstances and still wonderfully focus the mind on what is about to transpire or what has transpired.

This past summer, I finally found these prayers, and found them as the result of a happy accident. My son and I were in Chicago for a retreat, and on the way back I decided to swing by St. John Cantius, a legendary place that I had never visited. After Sunday Vespers, I bumped into one of the canons, a very affable priest whom I had met at Sacra Liturgia in Rome a few years ago, who offered to give me a tour of the hidden rooms of the immense church. One of these rooms is a Gothic side chapel with a life-size reproduction of a famous carved altar from Krakow [update: a reader has pointed out that this is a scale model]:
The chapel is beautifully appointed with Gothic furnishings:
And it was at a Gothic side altar that I spotted the two prayer cards.
The priest giving me the tour said that this was his favorite place to offer a morning private Mass and that he and other canons often used the prayers on either side of the altar:
Here is a transcription of the texts:
Let us pray:
Almighty and Merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast invited us to participate in this worship with Thy beloved Son, our High Priest and King. Grant us the grace to fulfill our sacred duty with faith, reverence, and love, so that we may please Thee, edify Thy people, and deserve to obtain the fruits of this holy service, through Christ our Lord.
We adore Thee and bless Thee because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world. Amen.
Let us pray:
We give thanks, heavenly Father, for the honor bestowed upon us by assisting at this holy service. Accept, we beseech Thee, our most humble ministry and forgive us whatever failings we have committed before Thy Divine Majesty. Enlighten and strengthen us, Lord, so that we may always render Thee praiseworthy homage through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, world without end. Amen.
These really do seem to fit the need of the moment, and therefore I gladly share them with the readers of NLM, in case others may find them suited to their needs.

But now that I am writing about my visit to St. John Cantius, I have to share a few more photos of the back rooms. What a treasure trove of relics they have!

Monstances galore, all of them (I believe) gifts to the canons -- and they use them regularly:

 A rare set of Italian papier mâché Nativity dolls:

And -- why not? -- the last pair of papal shoes worn by Pope Pius XII:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Early-Modern Reforms of the Dominican Liturgy

I recently posted the following item at Dominican Liturgy, but it has been suggested that readers here might also find it interesting.
The Dominican Rite, both for the Mass and Office is famous for its stability and resistance to liturgical changes. And, at least for the text of the Mass, this is certainly true. The Office, however, after resisting many changes affecting
Elevation at the Solemn Mass (Star of the Sea Church, SF 2015)
other Latin rites, such as the adoption of the reformed hymnal of Pope Urban VIII, did conform to the new Psalter arrangement of the Psalms in 1923.
My recent historical work on the history of the Dominican lay brothers (today called “cooperator brothers”), included reading through the nine volumes of Acta of the Dominican General Chapters from 1220 to 1843. As I was doing this, I noted the legislation that reformed or modified the liturgy. Here are the major reforms.
For me, the most interesting piece of legislation was not directly liturgical, but involved the preparation of priests. In 1345, the General Chapter at Manresa, required that the prior of the local priory (priestly formation was the responsibility of each priory in those days) make sure that any friar to be ordained “understand the Canon of the Mass from the Te igitur to the Pater noster.” Ignorance of the meaning of the Latin was such a problem that neither subpriors or vicars were allowed to make this decision. But now on to liturgical changes.
Today some of the most controversial issues for Catholics in church involve how to show respect to the altar, cross, and Blessed Sacrament. In the Middle Ages, the profound bow was the usual way of showing respect. The Dominican Rite only slowly adopted genuflection that became the Roman practice in the later Middle Ages.

Dominicans added the Elevation of the Chalice in about 1300
The General Chapter of Rome 1569 (Acta Capitulorum Generalium S.O.P., 5: 90) explicitly required that the priest bow (“inclinet”) after each of the Consecrations, a clear sign that some Dominican priests were imitating the Roman practice of genuflecting. This chapter also strictly forbade the priest to say the Words of Institution in the Canon out loud, “which certain priests are doing contrary to many chapters and the decree of the Council.” It was only some forty years later, at the Paris General Chapter of 1611 (ACG 6:145) that the Dominican Rite finally suppressed the use of bows at the Consecration and Elevation, replacing them with the modern four genuflections. This was also the point that the rite adopted the use of a genuflection before and after touching the Sacred Species, a practice often considered traditionally Dominican.
Introduction of genuflections where the medieval Dominican Rite prescribed bows had actually begun earlier than that. For example, the General Chapter of Rome 1569 (ACG 5: 90) instructed the priest to simply bow while all others present knelt at the words Incarnatus est in the Creed. Rome 1580 (ACG 5: 192) then introduced kneeling at the word “procedentes” in the Epiphany Gospel, during the Te Deum, and at the word “vereremur” in the hymn Tantum Ergo, “following Papal Chapel’s example.”  And finally the chapter of Lisbon in 1618 (ACG 6:300) confirms for general use the “pious custom” in Spsnish provinces of kneeling at the words “Eia ergo” in the Salve Regina.
A Dominican Deacon Sings the Gospel (ca. 1950)
Early modern chapters also changed the texts of the medieval liturgy and modified rubrics to conform to Roman practice or developed theology. For example, the Rome Chapter of 1569 (ACG 5: 102) changed the collect of Pope St. Gregory the Great from “ex poenis aeternis” to “ex poenis purgatorii,” to reflect the developed doctrine of Purgatory. Famously, and against considerable resistance, the Chapter of Rome in 1589 (ACG 5: 281) mandated the reading of the Last Gospel at the end of Mass, as in the Roman Rite. Later, the chapter of Rome, 1656 (ACG 7: 390) required that the priest at Solemn Mass read the Gospel quietly before deacon chanted it, duplication finally made optional by rubrical reforms in 1960. I find nothing about the priest’s reading the Epistle quietly at sung Mass. Probably introduced by custom about this time like the Gospel. Another change in practice, that of Rome 1656 (ACG 7: 394), which required the priest to say the Sign of the Cross and the verse “Confitemini Domino” in a loud voice at Low Mass, which explains this practice during the use of the “moderate” voice during the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, something I have often wondered about.

The early modern period also so introduced ritual changes that friars often think of as dating back to the
Salve Procession after Vestition, St. Dominic Church, SF, 2012
days of Humbert of Romans in the thirteenth century.  Take, for example, the lighting of the Sanctus Candle during the Canon at Low Mass.  This was not made obligatory until the Rome Chapter of 1580 (ACG 5: 169), although it does seem to have been a custom at Solemn Mass already. This introduction was again approved at Lisbon in 1618 (ACG 6: 296). Bologna 1625 (ACG 6: 241) introduced the wearing of the cope and stole when incensing the Sacrament during Benediction, as well as requiring the singing of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin during the procession after Compline on Saturdays. Finally, in 1622, the Chapter of Milan (ACG 6: 325) introduced the “Dominican” practice of moving to center of the altar for the Dominus vobiscum when Mass is before the tabernacle so that the priest’s back not be turned to the Sacrament. This is a clear sign that Dominicans were adopting the modern practice of reservation of the Sacrament on the main altar. This chapter also introduced the practice of  priests wearing the stole over their cappas when receiving Communion on Holy Thursday, as well as placing over the cappa of a deceased friar prior to interment.
I had always wondered about the origin of the idea that medieval friars broke sleep to rise for “Midnight Matin” and then returned to their cells for a couple hours rest before Lauds. This was not the case. In the Middle Ages, the friars rose early, usually around 3 a.m., to sing both Matins and Lauds together, finishing before dawn. I now know that the first example of breaking sleep is only witnessed at the Chapter of Valencia in 1647. It was then confirmed at Rome in 1650 (ACG 7: 282), where the usus of rising for Midnight Matins is required of all priories in the order, “according to the custom of the provinces as to when midnight is.” This is the first time Matins is separated from Lauds as a “midnight” office. But small houses, at least, could rise before dawn for the traditional single office of Matins-Lauds. In the north the combined office of Matins-Lauds should be at 4 am in winter and 3 am in summer, as it was usually in all the middle ages.
Finally, I now know when the Order finally adopted a ritual for distributing Communion to the laity present
at conventual Masses, something not done in the Middle Ages. The Chapter of Rome, 1583 (ACG 5: 239) provided as follows: First, the Confiteor was recited by the laity with the priest giving the two absolutions. Then he asked each communicant, “Credis hunc esse verum Christum Deum et Hominem?” as he displayed the Host. The recipient responded “Credo” and then recited the formula “Domine non sum dignus, etc.” three  times. The priest then gave Communion using the usual formula, “Corpus Domini nostri Iesu Christi etc.”

I have also found some interesting legislation on music and the use of the organ, but will save that for another post.

As I cannot, for some reason unclear to me, post or reply to comments in the NLM combox, you may post your comments here.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Façade of Assisi Cathedral: Guest Article by Julian Kwasniewski

The Cathedral of St Rufino in Assisi, the third church to be built on the same site, was begun in 1140 A.D., about 40 years before St Francis was born. It is perhaps less visited than the major Franciscan sites in the city, but it was certainly very important in the early history of the Order. It was while hearing Francis preach in the church (where they both had been baptized as children, along with many of their early followers) that Clare decided to follow him in his life of poverty. We are very glad to share with our readers these marvelous photographs of the church’s façade, along with the accompanying commentary, both by Julian Kwasniewski, Peter’s son; I think that the use of black and white really conveys very well how intricate these carved decorations really are. You can see some more of his excellent work recently publish on the website OnePeterFive (here and here).

The Façade of the Cathedral of Assisi: A Personal Discovery
Introduction: Where and How
“Terrible is this place: it is the house of God, and the gate of heaven; and it shall be called the court of God.” (Genesis 28, 17, the Introit for the Dedication of a Church.) 
This past July, I was blessed to be able to visit Assisi, the magnificent city of St. Francis, and of medieval Christendom. Although we saw many famous places of beauty and majesty, here I wish to share my thoughts about an obscure place of wonder, that of San Ruffino, the Cathedral of Assisi. At this church I found a beauty which, after reflecting on it later, filled me with delight and fear at the truth shown therein.

Having glanced briefly at the interior and exterior and said the usual sort of thing that you say about another great edifice, my group of family and friends prepared to move on, hoping for some lunch and gelato! However, I was about to have the scales lifted from my oblivious eyes. Some of our group ended up taking a look at the crypt–treasury, and my father and I were left to wait in the square in front of the church. Then I discovered the real beauty and complexity of this court of God.

This is what I wrote in my journal: “July 16th 2016 …The Façade of the Cathedral of Assisi is exquisite: not awe-inspiring like the façade of Chartres, but in the way that one must ‘get to know it.’ It took me a good half hour to appreciate its workmanship. Going over the façade again and again, each time bringing to my eyes new details: heads, faces, people, and animals, all secretly hidden only for the attentive. The idea of a church that is so extensive in its decoration that no one man can appreciate it is a lost principle—and only God can really understand and value the offerings that these churches make. Also, in Christendom there is no sense of ‘we have built some great churches, now we can do something else.’ No, rather: ‘nothing we do can satisfy God—but a little bit more makes a little bit more…’ ”

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