Thursday, November 30, 2017

Rorate Mass at Holy Ghost, Tiverton R.I., December 9th

Early risers in the East Bay area of Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, and other locals who, in the quasi-penitential spirit of Advent, are willing to rouse themselves before dawn on a Saturday morning, may wish to attend this “Rorate Mass” at Holy Ghost Church in Tiverton, Rhode Island — a Missa cantata celebrated by Father Jay Finelli (the “iPadre”). (Holy Ghost Parish has been the subject of NLM posts several times, most recently HERE). Tapers and Mass propers will be provided. Coffee and doughnuts will be available in the church hall immediately after Mass. The church is located at 316 Judson Street in Tiverton, Rhode Island.

Saints of the Roman Canon - St Andrew, November 30th

Today is the Feast of St Andrew who, as an Apostle, is mentioned in the Roman Canon of the Mass.
Before he was called to follow Christ he was a follower of John the Baptist, and like him, he is depicted with unkempt hair.

Here are two more icons that caught my eye. The second of the two was painted by Sr Petra Clare; it now hangs in Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland. I remember seeing it many times when I visited.

The cross upon which he was martyred, during the persecution of Nero has a characteristic X shape. As someone from the British Isles, I am well aware of this because he is the patron saint of Scotland, and the Scottish flag depicts it symbolically. This was incorporated into the Union Jack sometime after the formal union of the two countries in the 18th century.

The martyrdom itself is depicted in Western portrayals of the Saint. For example here is one by Rubens in characteristically dramatic style. In accordance with tradition he is shown bound, not nailed, to the cross.

Andrew was the brother of St Peter and the portrayal of the calling of the two as fishermen who will become 'fishers of men' is another common scene in Western portrayals, such as this one by Duccio di Buoninsegna.

Here he is represented in an early mosaic from Ravenna; note that Christ is beardless. (I do not know who the figure in the toga is on the right.)

 Below is a baroque painting of the same scene.
The Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew, c.1626-30 (oil on canvas) by Cortona, Pietro da (Berrettini) (1596-1669); 28.7x57.4 cm; Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, UK; Italian, out of copyright
This is one of a series of articles written to highlight the great feasts and the saints of the Roman Canon. All are connected to a single opening essay, in which I set out principles by which we might create a canon of art for Roman Rite churches, and a schema that would guide the placement of such images in a church. (Read it here.) In these, I plan to cover the key elements of images of the Saints of the Roman Canon - Eucharistic Prayer I - and the major feasts of the year. I have created the tag Canon of Art for Roman Rite to group these together, should any be interested in seeing these articles as they accumulate. For the fullest presentation of the principles of sacred art for the liturgy, take the Master’s of Sacred Arts, www.Pontifex.University.

The Septuagesima of Christmas

As Henri de Villiers discussed earlier this year in a series of four articles, it is a universal Christian custom to approach Easter gradually, first in a Fore-lent, followed by Lent proper, then Holy Week, within which the Sacred Triduum forms a distinct part. (See “The Antiquity and Universality of Fore-Lent”: part one; part two; part three; part four.)

The Roman Rite traditionally has a series of subtle transitions within the nine-week period from Septuagesima to Easter which is unique to itself, although in some regards later imitated by other western rites. Ash Wednesday is a Roman invention, instituted somewhat later than Lent; its Divine Office, together with that of the three days “after the ashes”, is distinct from that of Lent proper. Passiontide is also a uniquely Roman development, with ritual customs like the veiling of images, and textual variants like the omission of the doxology from the Mass, which are not part of the first four weeks of Lent. Even more notable is the particular character of the Triduum, during which the Mass and Office are stripped very bare, before all things are restored in the splendor of Easter.

Tenebrae at Holy Innocents in New York City, 2016 (Photo by Diana Yuan)
In the post-Conciliar reform, this series of transitions has been largely removed, or the features that accentuated the differences between them made optional. Septuagesima was suppressed, while the days “after the ashes” and Passiontide were in most respects assimilated to the rest of Lent. Some of the most traditional features of these periods, such as the complete omission of the doxology during the Triduum, were also suppressed. Among those made optional, we may note the veiling of statues and images, (happily making a strong comeback), and the use of the Passiontide hymns in what is now called the fifth week of Lent.

At the same time, however, a series of transitions very much like what was traditionally observed before Easter was instituted for the weeks leading up to Christmas.

This newly created series begins with the feast of Christ the King, moved from its original place on the Sunday before All Saints (Mystical Head before Mystical Body) to the last Sunday of the liturgical year. It is no secret that its texts were recast to remove almost every reference to the purpose for which Pope Pius XI created it in 1925, namely, to assert and celebrate the doctrine of the Social Kingship of Christ. Like so many Catholic things, this had become suddenly and mysteriously quite unfashionable in the heady years after the most recent ecumenical council. (Fr Hunwicke has written very well about this, as he always does.)

The new version of the feast emphasizes the eschatological reign of Christ at the end of the world. The Collect, for example is changed, with the removal of the words in italics. “Almighty and everlasting God, who in thy beloved Son, the King of the whole world, hast willed to restore all things: mercifully grant that all the families of nations, now kept apart by the wound of sin, may be subjected to His most sweet rule.” In the new Missal, it reads, “Almighty and everlasting God, who in thy beloved Son, the King of the whole world, hast willed to restore all things: mercifully grant that all creation, delivered from servitude, may serve Thy majesty and praise Thee without end.

In the traditional Roman Rite, the collect of the last Sunday of the year forms a trait d’union with Advent. Like four of the Advent Collects (those of the 1st, 2nd and 4th Sundays, plus the Ember Friday), it begins with the word “Excita – Stir up.” Unlike those of Advent, however, it is addressed to God the Father. “Stir up, we beseech Thee, o Lord, the wills of Thy faithful, that they, more willingly bringing forth the fruit of divine work, may receive more abundantly the assistance of Thy loving kindness.” The new rite retains this collect without alteration for the weekdays following Christ the King. (Most of the Collects of Advent, and of this season alone, are traditionally addressed to God the Son, to symbolize how the world longed for His coming; here, the new rite has obscured the transition by changing them to address the Father.)

On the same weekdays in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Dies irae is given as a hymn, split into three parts for the Office of Readings, Lauds and Vespers. In his book Te decet laus, Dom Anselmo Lentini, O.S.B., who headed the committee that revised the Office hymns, leaves little doubt as to his low opinion of its removal from the Requiem Mass, describing it as something which the faithful knew very well and sang with enthusiasm. His committee decided to give it a place in the Office, lest it be lost altogether from the liturgy, since the revisers of the Mass had decided that death was henceforth to be treated as a rather cheerier affair. Although its use is optional, its presence in theory continues the new eschatological theme of Christ the King through the rest of the week.

The Prophet Daniel and the Cumean Sybil, by Michelangelo Buonarroti, in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, 1508-12. In accordance with a tradition known to the Fathers, it was believed the the pagan prophetesses known as the Sybils had also foretold the coming of Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of the human race. This is referred to in the Dies Irae in the words “Teste David et Sibilla - as David and the Sybil witness.” 
This theme is further emphasized by the choice of Mass readings for the same period. In year 1, they are taken from the book of Daniel, culminating with his vision of the Ancient of Days, and of strife among the kingdoms of the world, represented by wild animals. (chapter 7) In year 2, readings from the Apocalypse (properly censored to avoid some potentially unpleasant ideas or images) begin in the 33rd week, and continue after Christ the King. On Friday of the last week, the vision of “a great white throne, and one sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away,” cleverly parallels the Friday reading of year 1.

The week’s Gospel readings, which are the same in both years, conclude the lectio continua of St Luke with all but the last two verses of chapter 21: the widow’s mite (1-4), Our Lord’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (5-24), and the signs of His coming at the end of the world (25-36). The last two sections are Luke’s parallel to the Gospel traditional read on the last Sunday of the year, Matthew 24, 15-35, and the traditional Gospel of First Advent (Luke 21, 25-33), partially retained in year C.

Having thus created a special preparatory period right before Advent, analogous to Septuagesima, the new rite also intensifies a traditional distinction within Advent between its first and second parts, analogous to the distinction between Lent and Passiontide. This distinction was traditionally marked by the singing of the O antiphons at Vespers, and the special antiphons that go with them at Lauds and the minor Hours. In the new rite, these features of the Office for the last days of Advent have all been retained as far as possible within its new structure. Furthermore, special hymns never previously used in the Roman Breviary have been added to this period, much as Passiontide is distinguished from Lent most particularly by its hymns.

The Gospels of the season are traditionally divided into two groups, one before and one after the Ember Days. The first three move backwards, from the end of the world (1st Sunday, Luke 21, 25) to St John the Baptist in prison (2nd Sunday, Matthew, 11, 2-10), to the beginning of his ministry (3rd Sunday, John 1, 19-28). With the Gospel of the Annunciation on Ember Wednesday, and that of the Visitation on Ember Friday, the Church begins looking forward again, to the manifestation of Christ’s Incarnation on Christmas Day.

The Annunciation, by Jan de Beer, 1520, now in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid (Public domain image from Wikimedia.)
The new Mass lectionary expands the corpus of readings very considerably, and although the Ember Days were removed, the distinction between the first and second parts of Advent remains. Until December 16th, the Sunday Gospels stick to the traditional themes, centered on the end of the world and St John the Baptist, although the order in which they are presented is changed. The weekday Gospels focus on miracles and discourses; it has to be said that as a group, they give the impression that the committee was struggling to find passages suitable to the season.

When December 17th comes, however, the theme switches to the events leading up to Christ’s birth, in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke. From the former are read the Genealogy of Christ and the Angel’s appearance to St Joseph (verses 1-17 and 18-24); from the latter, the Angel’s appearance to Zachariah and the conception of John the Baptist (5-25), the Annunciation (26-38), the Visitation (39-45), the Magnificat (46-56), the birth of the Baptist (57-66), and the Benedictus (67-79). Three of these Gospels are assigned to the Fourth Sunday of Advent, which always occurs between December 17th and 24th. (Year A, Matt. 1, 18-24; B, the Annunciation; C, the Visitation.)

We therefore have, in the Christmas cycle of the post-Conciliar rite, the parallel of Septuagesima in the redesigned feast of Christ the King and the weekdays that follow it, the parallel of Lent in the first part of Advent, and the parallel of Passiontide in the second part of Advent.

A second part of this article will examine the changes to the liturgy of Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Medieval Frescoes in a Long-lost Crypt

The crypt and church of St John “Domnarum - of the Women” in the city of Pavia, was founded about the year 654 by a Lombard queen named Gundeperga, daughter of King Agilulf and Queen Teodolinda. (We published photos of the chapel dedicated to her mother back in January.) Its name derives from its original purpose as the women’s baptistery of the city; it was also Gundeperga’s burial place. Since the Lombards were Arians, and only slowly converted to Catholicism, it may very well have been the first Catholic place of worship in Pavia.

The crypt, whose very existence was forgotten for centuries, was rediscovered in 1914 by Mons. Faustino Gianani, who began digging for it after researching the history of the church. A good deal of fresco work was found from the 12th century, in varying states of preservation. Here are some photos taken by our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi during a recent visit.

Frescoed vaulting dated 1140-60
St Eventius, an early bishop of Pavia
St Theophilus, a local warrior Saint.

St Sylvester and St Andrew: The End and the Beginning of the Sanctoral Cycle

As anyone who has ever used an altar missal or a hand missal knows, the traditional Missale Romanum is laid out in different sections: the Temporal cycle, beginning with the first Sunday of Advent and culminating in the last Sunday after Pentecost; the Sanctoral cycle, beginning with the Vigil of St. Andrew (if one is using the pre-1955 edition) or the commemoration of St. Saturninus with the Feast of St. Andrew on its heels (if one is following the 1962 edition) and ending with the Abbot St. Sylvester Gozzolini on November 26; the Commons, beginning with the Vigils of Apostles (pre-1955) or the Popes (post-1955) and ending with the Blessed Virgin Mary; the votive Masses; and lastly, diverse prayers, the Mass for the Dead, and local Masses.

While missals have not always been organized thus,[1] it is obvious that the Temporal cycle as it has existed for quite some time makes perfect sense: we say that the Church’s liturgical year begins with the season of Advent and ends with the last Sunday after Pentecost. But, taking St. Andrew as the official beginning of the Sanctoral cycle[2] and Abbot St. Sylvester as its official ending, can we discern a similar fittingness to the way this cycle is set forth in the Missale Romanum?

Before proceeding further, I would like to make two qualifications. First, Abbot St. Sylvester Gozzolini, O.S.B. (1177-1267), founder of the “Sylvestrines,” is a relatively late addition to the General Calendar, having been introduced by Pope Leo XIII in 1890. As a result, he is not found on the calendars of some dioceses and of a number of religious orders.[3] Nevertheless, for the vast majority of Catholics who worship with the usus antiquior, the last saint in the Sanctoral is, in fact, Abbot St. Sylvester.

Second, while the medieval commentators on Scripture (such as William Durandus) say very little about the relationship between the Temporal and Sanctoral cycles, and while many details are initially the result of chance or practicality, we nevertheless know that the liturgy, as it organically develops under the care of Divine Providence, often exhibits a remarkable fittingness in the arrangement or disposition of its parts that goes well beyond the limited scope of human intentions.[4] This is the reason why we can aim the question of fittingness at any aspect of the liturgy and expect to find plausible answers, even as the medieval allegorists could look at the ceremonial actions — the kissing of the altar, the turning around of the priest, the making of signs of the cross — and see in them representations of phases in the life of Christ or of His bitter Passion.[5] Thus, there is every reason for us to offer a symbolic explanation of why the traditional Sanctoral begins and ends as it does.

St. Sylvester Gozzolini, O.S.B.
Let us begin with the ending. As my St. Andrew Daily Missal explains, St. Sylvester “owed his religious vocation to the sight of a relative’s dead body. He at first lived a solitary life, but later founded a monastery under the Rule of St. Benedict.” The slightly macabre story of his “conversion” in the old-fashioned sense of the term is, in fact, thematized in the Collect of the feast:
Most merciful God, who, when the holy abbot Sylvester, by the side of an open grave, stood meditating on the emptiness of the things of the world, didst vouchsafe to call him into the wilderness and to ennoble him with the merit of a singularly holy life: most humbly we beg of Thee, that like him, we may despise earthly things, and enjoy fellowship with Thee for evermore. Through our Lord.
We are not surprised to find the theme of “despising earthly things” in our pursuit of the unum necessarium, since it is a defining feature of the spirituality of the traditional liturgy.[6] We find it present, for example, in the potent Secret of the Last Sunday after Pentecost, which reads, in part: “...turn to Thyself the hearts of us all, that we may be freed from earthly covetings and pass over to heavenly desires [omnium nostrum ad te corda converte, ut a terrenis cupiditatibus liberati, ad coelestia desideria transeamus].” Yet the Collect of St. Sylvester takes on a peculiar appropriateness, falling as it does in the season of Fall. At least in climates of the northern hemisphere, the end of the liturgical year coincides with the time when the natural world darkens and sleeps. The vegetation has lost much of its green, as if the viridescence of the Pentecost season has finally worn off for sheer remoteness from its origin (“when the Son of Man returns, will He find faith left on the earth?”); leaves have browned and fallen to the ground like so many bodies of mortal beings ready to corrupt in their graves. Notable for its melancholy associations, the autumn is nature’s season of letting go and preparing for the long winter that precedes the paschal season of Spring and its supernatural analogue of resurrection. Indeed, the month of November is observed as the month of the dead, and we should see in this no mere accidental association with All Saints.[7]

The traditional Sanctoral, in fact, seems to concentrate our attention on what might be called “personal eschatology”: each of us must be vigilant, sober, ready for the coming of Christ our Judge. The eschatological note of the end of the year was furnished by the Gospels for the feasts of St. Cecilia on November 22nd (Matthew 25:1–13, the wise and foolish virgins) and of Pope St. Clement on November 23rd (Matthew 24:42–47, “be watchful, for you know not the hour…”). The former Gospel was then repeated on November 25th when St. Catherine’s feast took off in the West after the 11th century. Add to this the intensity of the prayers that were appointed for St. John of the Cross on November 24th (not December 14th as in the Pauline missal), and one sees an escalating theme of mortification with a view to our sinful mortality and our longed-for immortality.

Instead of wrapping the end of the liturgical year in the otherworldly, Teilhardian triumphalism of “Christ the King of the Universe,”[8] the feast of St. Sylvester on November 26 lends this juncture a more sober, introspective and retrospective note, as of a memento mori: look at the dead body in the open grave and see your own end; meditate on this in preparation for the start of Advent, when we celebrate the coming of the One who saves man from his sinfulness and mortality; see through the pomps and vanities of what the world counts as valuable, and set your sights on holiness, in imitation of the many saints who, beginning with the precursor St. John the Baptist, sought out the wilderness, or rather, sought God who called them and ennobled them. There is something of irony or paradox in the way the traditional liturgy winds down the year and starts it up again — as if illustrating T.S. Eliot’s line: “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.”[9] At least, that is how the world ends at the death of each one of us, at the moment we breathe our last. The quiet of the grave leads to the quiet of a wintry season that brings before our eyes a poor family, a stable, a manger, an infant in swaddling clothes, and no prospect of divine victory — except for the almost imperceptibly increasing daylight.

Turning to the beginning of the Sanctoral cycle, we find traditionally the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle on November 30th. Since the Sanctoral is concerned with remembering, venerating, and calling upon the disciples of the Lord, it is supremely fitting that the first saint is St. Andrew, who is the first disciple of the Lord in His public ministry. The Byzantine Church gives to Andrew the official liturgical epithet “Πρωτόκλητος,” that is, “the first-called,” and we see in the Roman calendar’s arrangement an analogous priority and prominence.

In this way, the Sanctoral as printed in the altar missal and in our daily missals reflects the priority of the calling of the disciple of Christ — “Come, follow Me” — and the necessary self-renunciation and via crucis this will entail, as we follow Him to eternal glory. We are to follow Christ, “in whom the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9), rather than the emptiness of the things of this world. The entire Christian life is a passage through the wilderness to reach the fellowship of the promised land — and of this passage, the Sanctoral cycle, in general and in detail, is a vivid representation.

The feast of the Apostle Andrew has been celebrated for over a thousand years, while that of Abbot St. Sylvester has been celebrated only for a century and a quarter. But if one views the liturgical calendar as being like the construction of a great cathedral — say, that of Milan, which was begun in 1386 and was officially ended in 1965, taking almost 600 years to complete — we see how its development adds stone after stone, statue after statue, until the whole structure is finished. In adding St. Sylvester Gozzolini to the Sanctoral, Pope Leo XIII added a fitting final stone to the Sanctoral structure, making it yet more spiritually fruitful for those who avail themselves of the usus antiquior.

As a postscript, one must sadly point out that the way in which the new (Pauline) Roman Missal arranges the Sanctoral cycle departs from the framework, stable for over half a millennium, that starts on the cusp of December and ends in the last week of November. In a move illustrative of the conflation of aggiornamento with secularization, the new Sanctoral cycle conforms itself to the now-triumphant secular calendar by starting on January 1st (actually, January 2nd) and ending on December 31st, even though these dates have no special significance in the liturgical year as it unfolds from Advent to the season after Pentecost. The usus antiquior, in its Temporal and Sanctoral cycles alike, bears consistent witness to a more ancient and more authoritative structuring of time.

The beginning of the Sanctoral in the Novus Ordo


[1] There was no uniformity in the layout of missals in the Middle Ages. The very oldest liturgical books began the Temporal cycle with the vigil of Christmas, and ended with Advent (if they had it; some don’t), while the feasts of the Saints were woven in among the Temporal Masses. Obviously, this was not a very satisfactory arrangement, since things move relative to the Temporal every year. Later on, when the Temporal and Sanctoral Masses were separated, one finds books in which St. Andrew is the first Saint, but others in which it is St. Hilary on January 14, since all of the Saints from December 26 to January 13 were integrated into the Temporal.

[2] I speak of Andrew as coming first because the Vigil of his feast, which was observed until the drastic changes of Pope Pius XII in 1954, did come first and obviously took precedence over the Commemoration of St. Saturninus. Therefore it is more correct to say that the Roman Sanctoral begins with St. Andrew. The collateral damage of the removal of this Vigil included the loss of the Gospel unique to it, John 1:35–51. As if to make reparation, the 1962 Missale Romanum included a new votive Mass for Vocations featuring this Gospel.

[3] For example, the Franciscans, along with a large number of Italian dioceses, observe on this day St. Leonard of Port Maurice; the Dominicans never received his feast, but have one of their blesseds on that day, and, before 1911, were running the octave of St. Catherine of Alexandria; the Carmelites were running the octaves of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of St. John of the Cross, the Cistercians never received him, etc. He was removed without compunction by the Consilium in its revision of the General Calendar in the late 1960s.

[4] It makes no difference whether those who disposed the parts consciously intended a certain signification; for they are working with pieces that are ultimate provided to them by God and are orchestrared by Him into a whole that is greater not only than its part, but even than the sum total of its parts.

[5] The number of such interpretations, moreover, is indefinite, for the same reason that Scripture may be legitimately interpreted in many (perhaps even infinitely many) different ways, as St. Augustine explains in De Doctrina Christiana.

[6] As I recently demonstrated here in “A Tale of Two Collects: Different Worldviews in Old and New Prayers.”

[7] All the more, then, is it necessary for symbolic reasons that Christ the King take place at the end of October, prior to this season of decline.

[8] See my article at OnePeterFive, "Between Christ the King and 'We Have No King But Caesar.'"

[9] From Eliot's poem “The Hollow Men.”

My thanks to Gregory DiPippo for assistance with this post.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

FSSP Requiem Recording Featured on PBS

The PBS NewsHour Youtube channel has posted a great video from the PBS/NPR affiliate in Nebraska, NET, about the Fraternity of St Peter’s seminary in Denton, Nebraska, and specifically about their best-selling recording of the traditional funeral services, titled “Requiem.”

As a seminarian interviewed in the video says, “Here we’re singing sacred music, Gregorian chant. We’re not necessarily performing the music, we’re praying the music.” Feliciter!

Rose Windows - Geometric Icons of Heaven

I have just been creating a new online course on the mathematics of beauty, as part of which, I wanted to show how to represent the symbolic meaning of number in the context of the liturgy, in such a way that it might deepen participation. The obvious way to do this is to have a pattern with the symmetry of the number. This will require also some catechesis of the congregations, so that they are reminded of what it is pointing to every time they see it.

It can be part of the decoration of the church, incidental, as it were, to the structure,

or it can be more intimately and obviously bound with the form of the church, as it is in the medieval rose window. Here is a window dating from about 1500 in the cathedral at Amiens in France.

It is important to awaken our innate sense of the symbolism of the natural world and all that is created, as this also stimulates our natural sense of the divine. The awe and wonder that we feel when we contemplate the world around us is, for all its seeming profundity, little better than a shallow emotion generated artificially by a drug if we stop there and do not allow it to draw us closer to its source, which is God. This is its true consummation: we are made to see the glory of God in His creation, and it will be to His greater glory and our greater joy if we allow the beauty of the world to take us to what it points to.

We can consider this to be a form of relationship. Creation is in relationship to its Creator. By virtue of its existence, it is relational, for it is connected to its Creator by the mark of divine beauty which He has impressed upon it. This interconnectivity of all that exists, therefore, is not a mental construct thrust upon the cosmos artificially by mankind. Rather, it is a property of the object that we see. All being is relational by nature, a patterned lattice that has the Creator at its heart.

As created beings ourselves, we also participate in this dynamic, seeing a natural connection between ourselves and the rest of the cosmos. All of mankind is endowed by the Creator with intellect and the capacity to observe the world around us in such as way that we can derive from it an understanding of our place within it. Ultimately, this points to and sheds light on our relationship with the Creator.

Part of our task as people seeking to evangelize the world is to re-awaken the final link in the chain of connection between creation and Creator by re-establishing a culture that is rooted in this principle of interconnectivity through its beauty. This process of evangelization of the culture begins in the church, in which all that we perceive and all that we do participates in this language of symbol and is there to connect us to God.

Coming back to the symbolism of number, it is widely accepted, even in the secular culture, that the natural world is connected to mathematics. The connection is so strong that, for example, few if any doubt the power of mathematics to help the natural scientist describe the processes of the natural world. However, I think we should stop for a moment and consider about this - it need not automatically be the case. Once I realised this, it became a source of great wonder to me that the abstract world of mathematics is so intimately bound in its structure with the behaviour of the natural world.

This had to be noticed before the connection could be made, and it is a figure such as Boethius commented, in his De Institutione Arithmetica, (1.2) that “number was the principal exemplar in the mind of the Creator.” From this is derived the pattern of its existence that the scientist observes.

The natural scientist of today is generally less aware of the symbolism that runs through both nature and mathematics. The medieval thinker would not have rejected the method of today’s natural scientists, but would have added to his description of the natural world the symbolic language of number, which is largely forgotten today. If scientists were to do this today, the technology which they use would enhance their work, and allow its applications to grow in harmony with the flourishing of man. The proponent of sacred number has something that can help him to be a better scientist, rather than stand in conflict with him.

Geometry expresses number in space through matter, which why geometric patterned art ought to be right at the heart of the evangelization of the culture and any sacred art. It is also why the study of the symbolic meaning of number in conjunction with the study of geometry is so important in a Catholic education today. What I propose is a study of geometry that is so much deeper, and more exciting than the dull task of memorizing Euclidian proofs, which sadly seems to be the way it is taught in Great Books schools today. Such a study would connect the pattern of the universe to the creative impulse of man, so that the beauty of the culture can direct us to God even more powerfully than the most beautiful sunset you have ever seen.

This is why I would like to see the rebirth of the Rose Window in our new churches. This is more than simple decoration; if done well, it has the power to stimulate in us a profound sense of our place in the world and in relation to God. Assuming that, even if we got as far as putting them in churches, the catechesis available would be minimal or poor (we’re Catholics!), they would need to be designed in such a way that the symbolism was obvious. There is no reason why Scriptural quotes or other texts could not be added in order to make their symbolism clear, as may also be done in figurative art.

Here I give some examples of such windows with three-, four-, five- and seven-fold symmetry. I have obtained these photographs from a great resource that I discovered online called, run by Painton Cowen, who kindly gave us permission to reproduce his photographs here. This site has photos of windows based upon numbers that aren’t typically used with Christian symbolism, 11 and 13, for example. I would want to consider carefully the basis of these before replicating them today. The past has must to teach us, but not everything that it tells us is true!

Here are some images.

Three, 15th century, Barrien, France

Four and three in a quincunx arrangement of five objects, 15th century, Agen, France

Five, Exeter, England, 13/14th century

Monday, November 27, 2017

“Heaven and Earth Shall Pass Away…”: In My Beginning Is My End

Hans Memling, Last Judgment, 1467-1471
In the usus antiquior, the Mass for the last Sunday after Pentecost and the Mass for the first Sunday of Advent feature parallel Gospel pericopes about the end of the world. These Gospels contain a number of striking verses that seem more relevant than ever — an abomination of desolation in the holy place, the warning against false Christs and false prophets so persuasive or powerful that they will tempt even the elect to go astray; the mention of Christ’s coming from the east, frequently mentioned by the Church fathers as one of the reasons why we worship facing eastwards, “awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13); but above all, in their concluding statements, which match exactly.

The traditional Gospel for the last Sunday after Pentecost is taken from Saint Matthew, chapter 24, verses 13–25:
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: When you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (he that readeth, let him understand), then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains; and he that is on the housetop, let him not come down to take anything out of his house; and he that is in the field, let him not go back to take his coat. And woe to them that are with child, and that give suck, in those days. But pray that your flight be not in the winter, or on the sabbath: for there shall be then great tribulation, such as hath not been found from the beginning of the world until now neither shall be: and unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved; but for the sake of the elect, those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say to you: Lo, here is Christ, or there; do not believe him; for there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold I have told it to you beforehand: if therefore they shall say to you: Behold He is in the desert, go ye not out; behold He is in the closets, believe it not. For as lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even into the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together. And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be moved; and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty; and He shall send His angels with a trumpet and a great voice, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost bounds of them. And from the fig tree learn a parable: when the branch thereof is now tender, and the leaves come forth, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see all these things, know ye that it is nigh even at the doors. Amen I say to you that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.
The traditional Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent one week later is taken from Saint Luke, chapter 21, verses 25–33:
At that time Jesus said to His disciples: There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves: men withering away for fear and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved. And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. And He spoke to them a similitude: See the fig tree and all the trees: when they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away.
With these final statements of Matthew and Luke — Cælum et terra transíbunt, verba autem mea non præteríbunt — Holy Mother Church sets a challenge, as it were, to the entire created order, throwing down the gauntlet to everyone and everything that would attempt to efface or corrupt the words of the Lord, the corrosive effects of long stretches of time, the explosive effects of cultural revolutions, the pervasive effects of original and actual sin. None of it, nothing, will cause the words of the Lord to pass away. Sooner will heaven and earth, the sun, moon, and stars, the land and the sea, and all creatures, pass away into the new heavens and the new earth. This is the solemn, apocalyptic, triumphant message with which the Church closes each liturgical year and immediately starts it again. It is as if the Church desires above all that we hear, and know, and impress forever on our souls, that Christ God is the one and only Teacher and Master (cf. Mt 23:10), that He alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68), that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).[1]

We see a confirmation that this is, indeed, the mind of the Church when we turn to the traditional Benedictus and Magnificat antiphons for the Last Sunday after Pentecost. These antiphons, always derived from the day’s Gospel, provide an interpretive key to the Gospel in its entirety. They give us an authoritative angle from which to approach it, a truth we are especially urged to ponder, as we move from Lauds in the early morning to Vespers in the evening. The Benedictus antiphon is stark:
When you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: let him who reads understand.
This antiphon brings before our eyes the frightening prospect of a massive desecration or desacralization, an emptying or evacuation of the temple, a violation of the innermost precincts of holiness comparable to the violent crime of rape. The abomination in question, whatever it is, is said to stand, as if firmly established, taking possession of the place, imparting to it its own qualities. So horrible is the prospect that the antiphon is not even a grammatically complete sentence: it trails off: When you see this… let the reader understand. What are we supposed to understand? There are almost as many opinions as there are commentators, but this much we can say: we are dealing here with an attack on the most sacred thing, an attack on the temple and what ought to be present in it. (It is curious, is it not, that Pope Paul VI stated in his November 1969 General Audience, right before the introduction of the Novus Ordo: "We are becoming like profane intruders in the literary preserve of sacred utterance.")

Then, almost as if to give us comfort and strength in the midst of this dire prophecy, the Magnificat antiphon tells us:
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have been accomplished. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away, says the Lord.
There it is again: that ponderous and decisive verse, the simultaneously visible and invisible boundary that no heretic, no schismatic, no apostate, no infidel, may ever cross. Thus, for example, should anyone arise who dares to question or in any way weaken the indissolubility of marriage, he is met with the resounding voice of the Lord in Matthew 19: “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. … I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.” Should anyone dare to set aside or relax the superior discipline of celibacy, he is met with “the voice of the Lord upon the waters” (cf. Ps 28:3) — the “many waters” of a millennium and a half of Catholic teaching clearly defending and confirming this discipline as an intimate counterpart to the calling to the clerical state, in which a cleric is made the husband of one wife, the Church.[2] As Challoner sums it up in his heading for Matthew 19: “Christ declares matrimony to be indissoluble: he recommends the making one’s self an eunuch for the kingdom of heaven; and parting with all things for Him. He shews the danger of riches, and the reward of leaving all to follow Him.”

Against the backdrop of our times, the Benedictus antiphon puts us in mind of our liturgical crisis, while the Magnificat antiphon points to our moral and dogmatic crisis. This pair of antiphons reminds us anew of the indissoluble marriage between the lex orandi and the lex credendi.

The usus antiquior Gospels end and begin each liturgical year in a seamless overlap that illustrates and evokes the continuity between time rushing to its end and the now of eternity. The stability of this pair’s recurrence allows us to sense how the words of the Church at prayer and the eternal Word of God in glory are profoundly united — a mystery well expressed in Eliot’s Four Quartets:
…the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
In my beginning is my end.
A final observation: it is not only the Gospels that seamlessly overlap, but the Collects of the Masses as well. The Collect of the Last Sunday after Pentecost begins with the audacious imperative that will characterize several of the Collects of Advent: "Excita, quaesumus, Domine..."
Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful: that more earnestly seeking this fruit of the divine work, they may receive more abundantly the remedies of Thy loving kindness. Through our Lord...
One week later, in the newly begun penitential season of Advent, Holy Mother Church cries out in the same manner:
Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy power, and come: that from the threatening dangers of our sins we may deserve to be rescued by Thy protection, and to be saved by Thy deliverance: Who livest and reignest with God the Father…
We see here the lex orandi reminding us that without God's grace powerfully at work in our wills, we can do nothing pleasing to Him or salvific of our souls; that the fruit we must seek is precisely the Holy One of Israel, the fruit of the opus Dei of the Mass; and that in so seeking, we shall find healing, protection, deliverance. This is a message of and for the end times in which we are always living, and the end we are progressively nearing with the passing of each liturgical year. Excita, Domine: stir up our languid and passive wills, make us actively hunger and thirst for Thy righteousness, now and forever. Amen.


[1] Apart from a general eschatological atmosphere, the reformed calendar with its “Ordinary Time” and the lectionary with its three Sunday cycles makes no such specific connection between the end of the Temporal cycle and its beginning, nor, as I shall show later this week, between the end of the Sanctoral cycle and its beginning.

[2] See Ignace de la Potterie, S.J., “The Biblical Foundation of Priestly Celibacy.”


In meditating further on this Gospel at Mass on Monday (a feria), it occurred to me that this particular verse captures well the postconciliar crisis in Catholic worship: "The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be moved." The sun of our life is the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, whose luminosity was darkened by the liturgical reform. The moon is the Divine Office, which no longer gives its gentle light in the chanted weekly psalter. The stars are the host of devotions, blessings, and sacramentals that fell from the firmament of Catholic life, leaving it bleak and cold. The powers of heaven are the other sacramental rites, which were moved from their doctrinal splendor.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

King of Kings and Lord of Lords

Kevin Williamson sums up very nicely the spirit in which the feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925; click here to read the whole article at National Review Online.

To the encroaching and arrogant spirit of communism and fascism the Vicar of Christ said: “No. You are not the beginning and the end. You are not the dispositive power in this universe. You are not the final judge. There is something above you and beyond you and infinitely greater than you. You, with all your bombs and bayonets and prisons, may command all the known world to kneel at your feet, but we have seen pharaohs before, and emperors and god-kings, too, and we have in the end stood over their graves, and thought on the grave that is empty.”

Lux Fulgebit: A CD for the Christmas Season

As we approach the Advent and Christmas seasons, we remind New Liturgical Movement readers of the CD Lux Fulgebit: The Mass at Dawn of Christmas Day. Produced by the Schola Cantorum of St Mary’s Church in Norwalk, Connecticut, it offers a little-known Mass setting, Christe Jesu, by William Raser; this is possibly the only recording of the 16th Century work, and has with it motets by Ferrabosco, Byrd, and Lambe.
Done in context from the opening bell, the recording includes the Gregorian propers, as well as the lessons of the Mass, Collects, and Preface. The CD includes liner notes explaining the music and the composers; until November 28, it is on sale for only $15, and may be ordered on-line at

Saturday, November 25, 2017

St Catherine of Alexandria 2017

Let Holy Mother the Church gladly receive the glorious solemnity of the Virgin Saint Catherine. Hail, o virgin, worthy of God, hail, sweet and kindly one, obtain for us the joy which you possess with glory. (The antiphon at the Magnificat for First Vespers of the proper Office of St Catherine.)
St Catherine of Alexandria, by Caravaggio, ca. 1598
Aña Inclyta sanctae * Vírginis Catharínæ solemnia suscipiat alácriter pia mater Ecclesia. Ave Virgo Deo digna, ave dulcis et benigna: óbtine nobis gaudia, quæ póssides cum gloria. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Photopost Catchup from the Philippines

We have recently received two photo submissions from Cebu City in the Philippine Islands, the first being of the funeral rites of Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who passed away on October 18th, and the second of solemn Mass for EF Christ the King. Our thanks, as always, to those who sent them in - evangelize through beauty!

At the Cathedral of St Vitalis and the Guardian Angels
The Archdiocese of Cebu recently mourned the passing of its Archbishop Emeritus, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who died on October 18th. He was ordained a priest on March 17, 1956, by the Servant of God Bishop Alfredo Maria Obviar, and served as Archbishop of Cebu for 29 years, from 1982 to 2011. His body was laid in state at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, then placed at the side altar of St Vitalis, the patron saint of the Cathedral.

On October 21, the Cardinal’s remains were brought to the shrine of the martyr St Pedro Calungsod. Cardinal Vidal was instrumental in the cause for canonization of the young Filipino martyr, which took place on October 21, 2012.
He was laid to rest on October 26, following a Requiem Mass in the Ordinary Form celebrated by his successor, Archbishop Jose S. Palma.
The three remaining Filipino Cardinals: Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, and Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato.

EF Sung Mass In Toledo This Sunday with Bishop Thomas

St Joseph Parish and the Latin Mass Community of Toledo, Ohio, have organized a diocesan celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum at the request of His Excellency Daniel Thomas, the Bishop of Toledo. A Sung Mass in the Presence of a Greater Prelate will be celebrated on November 26, the Last Sunday after Pentecost, starting at 9:00am; Bishop Thomas will deliver the homily. St Joseph Parish is located at 628 Locust St in Toledo.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

An Italian Documentary on the Carthusians, 1972

Another great discovery on Youtube, a documentary filmed in the Charterhouse of Vedana in northern Italy (close to Belluno, in the province of the Veneto) by Italian television in 1972. The narration is too long to give a translation, but even if you don’t speak any Italian, it gives a lot of very nice images of the Carthusian life, including a chapter, (ca 10:30) with the general confession of faults (12:00), and a part of the Office towards the end (ca. 22:00).

The soundtrack music is very typical of the era, and perhaps more than a little distracting; it makes me appreciate even more how appropriate it was to have no soundtrack for so much of The Great Silence. At 5:30, it is stated that there were 12 priests (only 1 of whom was Italian) and 10 conversi, of whom 9 were Italian, in this house in 1972. Unfortunately, there are no monks there today, although plans have been discussed to install another community in the complex.

Christ the King with the St Ann Choir in Palo Alto, California

On Sunday, November 26, the Solemnity of Christ the King, the St Ann Choir will sing an Ordinary Form Latin Mass with Gregorian chant and the Missa Nisi Dominus by Ludwig Senfl (1485-1543 ca). at St Thomas Aquinas Church in Palo Alto, California. The Mass will begin at noon; the church is located at 751 Waverly Street.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Feast of St Cecilia in Rome

Like many of the old Roman basilicas, the church of St Cecilia in Trastevere brings out some very nice decorations for its patronal feast day. The church had a lot of visitors this evening leading up to Vespers and the main Mass, including a large group of American college students.

The vase in the lower right of this photo is actually the summit of a fountain in the courtyard in front of the church. As is the case with so many of the city’s ancient churches, various parts of St Cecilia were built in several different eras; here we see the 12th century portico and bell-tower with the 18th century façade.
 The baldachin by Arnolfo di Cambio, signed and dated 1293.
The famous statue of St Cecilia by Stefano Maderno, representing her as she was found when her tomb was opened in 1599, an occasion for which Maderno himself was present.
The red and white flowers mixed together represent the crowns of flowers, “bright with roses and shining with lilies”, with which St Cecilia and her betrothed Valerian, whom she had led to the Faith, were crowned by an Angel, according to the traditional story of her martyrdom. Valerian in his turn converted his brother Tiburtius, who was martyred with him; their feast is traditionally kept on April 14th.
A closer view of the altar and its richly decorated antependium. Several other altars of the church are similarly covered for the feast day, as can be seen below.

Finishing the St Paul Center at UW Madison

Just as a quick follow up to last week’s post about the rebuilding of the St Paul Catholic Student Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Matthew Alderman has shared with us some pictures of the steeple being raised last Thursday. (We may be able to update the post later with a video or two as well.)

Bishop of Copenhagen to Lead Next Year’s Populus Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage

The organisers of the Populus Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage have announced the dates of next year’s pilgrimage to Rome, October 26-28, 2018, and that it will be led by His Excellency Czeslaw Kozon, bishop of Copenhagen, Denmark. In relation to that, here is a video with excerpts from an EF Solemn Pontifical Mass at the throne which Bishop Kozon celebrated for the feast of the Assumption this year to mark the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum.

Mgr. Kozon has been supportive of the Extraordinary Form since taking office in 1995, and especially since Summorum Pontificum; this was the third such Pontifical Mass which he has celebrated in his diocese. He has also celebrated a few in connection with visits abroad, along with diaconal ordinations for the FSSP. The Extraordinary Form is currently celebrated on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of each month in Copenhagen, and occasionally in Aarhus, the second city of the country. It is somewhat dependent on visiting priests, but a few younger priests and seminarians are showing interest. The reader who sent this information asks for prayers for the continued growth of the EF apostolate in Denmark.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Difficult Life of the MC

We have posted a number of videos from the old newsreel maker British Pathé from 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, and especially those of Papal events from that era. I would say that this one, a small part of Pope Pius XII’s coronation on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, March 12, 1939, is quite unique; pay attention to the Master of Ceremonies on the left, starting at 0:47.

Some of the chaos of a ceremony like this is inevitable, given that at this point, they hadn’t had one for 17 years; Pius XI was crowned in February of 1922. Pius XII, of course, remains completely dignified and unflappable, even as the MC gesticulates wildly almost in his face. “May his prayers for peace and goodwill be answered.” Amen! (h/t to long-time reader and commenter Mr Basil Damukaitis.)

Saints of the Roman Canon: St Cecilia, November 22nd

Tomorrow is the commemoration of St Cecilia, one of the saints mentioned in the Roman Canon. Although she was martyred in the 3rd century AD, and devotion to her remained continuous from that time, the imagery of her that comes to mind mostly from the baroque paintings that highlight her role as patron of sacred music.
Here is one painted by Simone Vouet, painted in 1626. St Cecilia is commonly associated with the pipe organ.

In the same period Guido Reni (1606) shows her with with a stringed instrument, rather than organ.

The form of the devotion that associates her with music is relatively recent; earlier images focused more on her martyrdom and her chastity. These aspects of her life were not ignored by later artists, as this famous baroque sculpture entitled The Martyrdom of St Cecilia shows, by Italian-Swiss sculptor Stefano Maderno. It is in the church in Rome which is dedicated to her and has been on this site since the time of her death. (Tradition has it that it is built on the site of her house).
Here is an example in mosaic from Sant’Apollinare in Ravenna, Italy, in the iconographic style, dating from the 6th century, showing her with the palms of martyrdom.

Readers, may be interested, as I was, in the context of this holy image. She is one of a large group of virgin martyrs shown processing down the left hand side of the church, and led by the Magi. (Click to enlarge.)

Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons by Chester M. Wood - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.)

In the detail above you can see that the artist has faithfully given us her name, on the right, so that it is worthy of veneration. 

This suggests another way of portraying the Saints of the Roman Canon in churches today, so that they can be venerated on their feast day in the context of the Mass. If the Saints are shown, as here, processing towards the altar, then during the entrance or recession the Saint of the day could be solemnly incensed while a hymn to her is sung (before the Introit if during the entrance procession). Might this work? Liturgical experts please feel free to comment!

This is one of a series of articles written to highlight the great feasts and the Saints of the Roman Canon. All are connected to a single opening essay, in which I set out principles by which we might create a canon of art for Roman Rite churches, and a schema that would guide the placement of such images in a church. (Read it here.) In these, I plan to cover the key elements of images of the Saints of the Roman Canon - Eucharistic Prayer I - and the major feasts of the year. I have created the tag Canon of Art for Roman Rite to group these together, should any be interested in seeing these articles as they accumulate. For the fullest presentation of the principles of sacred art for the liturgy, take the Master’s of Sacred Arts, www.Pontifex.University.

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