Friday, August 31, 2018

The Glorious Mysteries at the Sacro Monte di Varese

Here is the last set of photos from the Sacro Monte di Varese, one of northern Italy’s most beloved pilgrimage shrines, which I visited last week with the Schola Sainte Cécile. The mysteries of the Rosary are represented with life-sized painted statues and frescoes on the walls of a series of “chapels”, with the church at the top of the mountain representing the Coronation. Be sure to listen to the recording of the Schola singing Victoria’s Ave Maria! (The Joyful and Sorrowful Mysteries were posted earlier this week.)

Each group of mysteries begins with a gate; the last one is dedicated to the Patron Saint of Milan, St Ambrose.
The Resurrection
The Ascension
currently under restoration... (ahem...)

Documentary on Chevetogne Abbey

Here is an interesting thing I recently stumbled across, a French documentary (with English subtitles) on the Belgian Abbey of Chevetogne. I am sure our readers already know that the abbey was founded in 1925 by Dom Lambert Beauduin, one of the leading figures of the original Liturgical Movement, as a biritual monastery, using both the Roman Rite and the Russian version of Byzantine Rite, with the aim of working towards the reconciliation of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. It continues to function in this way even today, with services in both rites in the monastery’s two churches. Via the abbey’s website, you can also listen to the services live every day, and the services of the previous few days are always available to enjoy when they are not broadcasting live. (The monks seem to have found a good medium between preserving the proper music of the Byzantine Rite in Church Slavonic, while making judicious use of the vernacular for the recitative parts.)

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Value of Praying the Office - A Beautiful Meditation by Bl. Card. Schuster

We never let August 30th pass without remembering the Blessed Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, who went to his eternal reward on this day in 1954, after serving as Archbishop of Milan for just over a quarter of a century. We have written about him many times on NLM, partly in connection with our interest in the Ambrosian liturgy, of which he was a great promoter, but also as one of the most important scholars of the original Liturgical Movement. I am reprinting this meditation on the value of praying the Office, hoping that our readers will find them an encouragement particularly in their prayers for the Church during these dark days.

I close my eyes, and while my lips murmur the words of the Breviary which I know by heart, I leave behind their literal meaning, and feel that I am in that endless land where the Church, militant and pilgrim, passes, walking towards the promised fatherland. I breathe with the Church in the same light by day, the same darkness by night; I see on every side of me the forces of evil that beset and assail Her; I find myself in the midst of Her battles and victories, Her prayers of anguish and Her songs of triumph, in the midst of the oppression of prisoners, the groans of the dying, the rejoicing of the armies and captains victorious. I find myself in their midst, but not as a passive spectator; nay rather, as one whose vigilance and skill, whose strength and courage can bear a decisive weight on the outcome of the struggle between good and evil, and upon the eternal destinies of individual men and of the multitude.”

At the time Bl. Schuster said this, he was close to death, and too weak to follow the Office very attentively as he prayed it; this in itself must have been a great burden to one whose devotion to the liturgy was so great that it was noted and praised even by the communist newspapers. Despite his weakness in his final days, and his enormous pastoral duties, he never ceased to fulfill his obligation to recite the official prayer of the Church. I think these words may serve as a great consolation to anyone who, for whatever reason and in whatever circumstance, finds it difficult to concentrate when saying the Office, the Rosary, or some other prayer.

For those who know Italian, the passage is well worth reading in the original, as he was a man very skilled in the rich rhetorical language of his era.

“Chiudo gli occhi, e mentre le labbra mormorano le parole del breviario che conosco a memoria, io abbandono il loro significato letterale, per sentirmi nella landa sterminata per dove passa la Chiesa pellegrina e militante, in cammino verso la patria promessa. Respiro con la Chiesa nella stessa sua luce, di giorno, nelle sue stesse tenebre, di notte; scorgo da ogni parte le schiere del male che l'insidiano o l'assaltano; mi trovo in mezzo alle sue battaglie e alle sue vittorie, alle sue preghiere d'angoscia e ai suoi canti trionfali, all'oppressione dei prigionieri, ai gemiti dei moribondi, alle esultanze degli eserciti e dei capitani vittoriosi. Mi trovo in mezzo: ma non come spettatore passivo, bensì come attore la cui vigilanza, destrezza, forza e coraggio possono avere un peso decisivo sulle sorti della lotta tra il bene e il male e sui destini eterni dei singoli e della moltitudine.”

The Ambrosian Sundays “After the Beheading of St John the Baptist”

The oldest lectionary of the Roman Rite, a manuscript now in Wurzburg, Germany, dates to ca. 700, and represents the reading system used at Rome about 50 years earlier. It has a very disorganized and incomplete set of readings for the period after Pentecost, which is divided into four parts; the Sundays are counted as two after Pentecost, seven after Ss Peter and Paul, five after St Lawrence, and six after St Cyprian, a total of only 20.

The second oldest lectionary, from Murbach in eastern France, dates to about 100 years later, and represents the Roman Rite as used in France after Charlemagne had introduced it to replace the older Gallican Rite. It is much better organized and more complete than the Wurzburg manuscript, with 25 Sundays “after Pentecost.” This system has remained in use in the Roman Rite ever since, adjusted for the variable date of Easter, which can leave as few as 23 and as many as 28 such Sundays. The later medieval custom of counting Sundays after Trinity is no more than a variation on this theme.

A page of Ambrosian Misaal printed in 1522; the Ingressa (Introit) of the First Sunday after the Beheading of St John the Baptist is at the bottom of the lower right hand column.
In the Ambrosian Rite, however, the same period is divided into four different parts, as it anciently was in the Roman Rite. There are fifteen Sundays “after Pentecost”, followed by five “after the Beheading of St John the Baptist”; depending on the date of Easter, up to four of the former series will be omitted so the latter can begin. There are then three Sundays of October, on the third of which is celebrated the dedication of Milan cathedral, followed by three Sundays “after the Dedication”, which close the year before the beginning of the six-week Ambrosian Advent.

In the ancient use of the Roman Rite, the Saints whose feast days mark the divisions of this period are three patrons of the city of Rome itself, and one of the most prominent martyrs of the era before the Peace of the Church. The question therefore arises as to why the Ambrosian liturgy marks the second division with a feast which is certainly very ancient, but by no means the most prominent within the same period, where the Assumption might be seen as a more logical choice. This was answered by Prof. Cesare Alzati in his talk given last year at the Sacra Liturgia conference held in Milan.

On the Egyptian calendar, the New Year begins on the first day of the month of Tout, which corresponds to the Roman date of August 29th. [1] The Roman Emperor Diocletian began his reign on November 20th, 284, but the Egyptians backdated his regnal year to the start of their New Year, and the “Era of Diocletian” was thus counted from August 29th, 284. Since it was he who initiated the last, greatest and most systematic ancient persecution of the Church, the “Era of Diocletian” soon came to be known as the “Era of the Martyrs”; this term is still used to this very day by the Coptic Church, whose calendar begins in 284, making their current ecclesiastical year 1734.

A famous icon showing Christ with St Menas, one of the most revered of the early Egyptian Martyrs; his feast was even adopted at Rome, and he is still kept as a commemoration on the feast of St Martin in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. (Public domain image from Wikipedia.) This icon, which is now in the Louvre, is one of the oldest in existence, dated to the 6th or 7th century.
August 29th, therefore, becomes a crucial point within the Ambrosian ecclesiastical year both as the beginning of the Era of the Martyrs, and slightly later, as a feast of the Saint who is both forerunner and prototype of the Martyrs. This tradition, which is attested in the oldest Ambrosian liturgical books, would have come to Milan from the East in the 4th century.

After the Council of Nicea adopted the method of dating Easter followed by the churches of Rome and Alexandria, it became the latter’s responsibility to calculate the date of Easter, and communicate it to the other churches. St Ambrose speaks about this in one of his epistles. “In the eighty-ninth year from the reign of Diocletian, when the 14th day of the moon was on March 24th, we celebrated Easter on March 31st. The Alexandrians and Egyptians likewise, as they themselves wrote, when the 14th day of the moon fell on the 28th day of the month of Phamenoth), celebrated Easter on the fifth day of the month of Pharmuth, which is March 31st, and so they agreed with us.” (Ep. 13, alias 23, 14, PL XVI 1031A)

The church of Constantinople has perhaps preserved a memory of the same tradition, since the ecclesiastical New Year of the Byzantine Rite begins with the first day of the first Roman month after August 29th. The years, however, are counted from the creation of the world, and the year about to begin is reckoned as 7527.

[1] Since the Copts have not reformed their calendar according to the principle of the Gregorian calendar, Tout 1/August 29 currently falls on Gregorian September 11th.

Part of this article comes from notes written by Nicola de’ Grandi.

Bishop Gainer Interview on the TLM and Vocations

Back in May, we posted an item about a new Carmel which has been founded in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, in the diocese of Harrisburg, which uses the traditional Mass and Office, and is undergoing a surge in vocations. Last month, on the feast of St James the Apostle, His Excellency Ronald Gainer, the bishop of Harrisburg, celebrated a Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form to officially open the monastery and bless the new buildings, still, as you will see, very much under construction. After the Mass, he gave this interview in which he speaks among other things of the traditional liturgy as a powerful source of religious vocations. For more information about the Fairfield Carmel, see their website here: We thank and congratulate Bishop Gainer for his support of this important initiative, and pray that it will bear much fruit for the Church in his diocese.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Liturgical Notes on the Beheading of St John the Baptist

The Beheading of St John the Baptist is one of the oldest and most universal feasts that exists, attested in the sermons of the some of the Church Fathers already in the early fifth century; it is kept on the same day in the Roman, Ambrosian, Mozarabic, Gallican and Byzantine Rites. However, even though the Church’s devotion to the Saints in ancient times was very much focused on the martyrs, the day which commemorates John’s martyrdom has always been less celebrated than that of his birth; thus we find among the works of St Augustine fifteen sermons for the feast of his Nativity, but only two for his Beheading. The Nativity also had a vigil from very ancient times, and somewhat later, was given an octave, while the Beheading has neither. Durandus explains that this is because at John’s birth “many rejoiced”, as the Angel said, but at his death, he did not go straight to heaven, which was not yet opened by the death and Resurrection of Christ.

The Beheading of St John the Baptist, by Caravaggio, 1608; from the Co-cathedral of St John in Valletta, Malta.
In the Roman Rite, the feast of the Nativity has a fully proper Mass and Office, while on the Beheading, the majority of the liturgical texts are shared with other Martyrs. The Introit of the Mass is one normally used for Virgin Martyrs, but was selected for his feast day as a text particular apposite to the cause of his death, that he spoke to King Herod the truth about his unlawful “marriage” to his sister-in-law. “I spoke of thy testimonies before kings, and I was not ashamed; and I meditated also on thy commandments, which I loved.”

This is also expressed by the Epistle of the Mass, Jeremiah 1, 17-19, which follows from the Epistle of the vigil of his Nativity, verses 4-10 of the same chapter.

“Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak to them all that I command thee. Be not afraid at their presence: for I will make thee not to fear their countenance. For behold I have made thee this day a fortified city, and a pillar of iron, and a wall of brass, over all the land, to the kings of Juda, to the princes thereof, and to the priests, and to the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee, and shall not prevail: for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee.”

The Roman Rite historically makes very little use of the Gospel of St Mark, notwithstanding the evangelist’s traditional association with the first bishop of Rome. There are three very prominent exceptions: Easter and the Ascension among the feasts of the Lord, and today’s feast among those of the Saints, on which the Gospel is Mark 6, 17-29. The same Gospel is read in the Ambrosian Rite, and also in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, with one additional verse at the end.

In the Roman version of the Divine Office, the majority of the musical propers (antiphons, responsories, hymns) are taken from the common Office of a single Martyr, but there are a number of propers as well, which follow the text of this Gospel fairly closely. At Second Vespers, the antiphon for the Magnificat is slightly more rhetorical than the Gospel itself. “The unbelieving King sent his loathsome messengers, and commanded that John the Baptist’s head should be cut off.”

A page of the Antiphonary of Hartker, written at the monastery of St Gallen in Switzerland at the end of the 10th century. (Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 391, p. 107 – Antiphonarium officii
Other Uses of the Roman Rite have more proper texts, which vary greatly from one to another; most of these are also taken from the Gospel, with some notable exceptions. The Premonstratensians have this extraordinary antiphon, the text of which comes from a sermon by St Peter Chrysologus, (ca. 380-450), bishop of Ravenna, whom Pope Benedict XIII declared a Doctor of the Church in 1729. As Canons Regular, St Augustine is one of the principal patrons of their order, and his feast therefore ranks higher than that of the Beheading; this antiphon is used to commemorate the latter at Vespers on August 28th.

Aña Joannes schola virtutum, magisterium vitae, sanctitatis forma, norma justitiae, virginitatis speculum, pudicitiae titulus, castitatis exemplum, poenitentium via, peccatorum venia, fidei disciplina; Joannes major homine, par Angelis, legis summa Evangelii satio, Apostolorum vox, silentium Prophetarum, lucerna mundi, Praecursor Judicis, Christi metator, Domini testis, totius medius Trinitatis: hic tantus datur incestui, traditur adulterae, addicitur saltatrici.

Aña John, the school of virtues, the master of life, the form of holiness, the norm of justice, the mirror of virginity, the glory of modesty, the model of chastity, the way of penitents, the forgiveness of sinners, the discipline of the Faith; John greater than man, equal to the Angels, the greatest plant of the law of the Gospel, the voice of the Apostles, the silence of the Prophets, the light of the world, the Forerunner of the Judge, that showeth Christ, the witness of the Lord, that standeth amid the whole Trinity; this man so great is handed over to the unchaste, he is delivered to the adulteress, he is consigned to the dancer.

An ancient responsory for Matins places in the mouth of St John as he dies in prison the words later later spoken by his cousin on the Cross; note how the doxology is cleverly incorporated into the repetition. It appears in the Dominican Office with a slight variation.

R. In medio carceris stabat beatus Joannes; voce magna clamavit et dixit: * Domine Deus meus, * in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum. V. Misit rex, et decollari jussit Joannem in carcere, orantem et dicentem. Domine Deus meus. Gloria Patri. In manus…

R. In the midst of the prison stood the blessed John; with a great voice he cried out and said, * “O Lord, my God, * into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” V. The king sent, and ordered John to be beheaded in the prison, as he prayed and said, “O Lord my God. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”

There is also an antiphon used by the Cistercians and Dominicans among others, whose text is actually that of a Collect attested in the Gelasian Sacramentary; a surprising number of collects were set to music in this fashion in the Middle Ages.

Aña Perpetuis nos, Domine, sancti Ioannis Baptistae tuere praesidiis; et quanto fragiliores sumus, tanto magis necessariis attolle suffragiis.

Aña Defend us, o Lord, by the perpetual protection of St John the Baptist; and the more fragile we are, the more do Thou sustain us by such prayers as we need.

A Greek icon of the Beheading of St John from the second half of the 18th century.
The Byzantine Liturgy is famous for the use of highly complex rhetorical language in its Office texts, and those of the “Cutting-off of the Honorable Head of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John” are no exception. The following hymn is sung at the blessing of bread (‘artoklasia’ or ‘litia’) which is held at the end of Vespers on major feast days. Its author seems to presume that Salome is the daughter of Herodias with Herod, rather than with Philip, and that Herod connived with her at the oath, as an excuse for the murder.

Today, the mother of the murder, skilled in the works of impiety, contrives with murderous counsel to send her own wanton daughter, born from a lawless embrace, against the greatest of the prophets chosen by God. For as the most hateful Herod completes the banquet of his unlawful birthday, he contrives with an oath to be asked for the honorable head of God’s herald, whence pour forth wonders. And this he accomplished, the senseless man, giving it as a reward for a vulgar dance, for the sake of his oath. Nonetheless, the prophet of Christ’s coming did not cease to denounce their union that was hated of God, even after his death; but he cried out in rebuke, saying “It is not licit for you to commit adultery with the wife of your brother Philip.” Oh, this birthday that slayeth the prophet, this banquet full of blood! But let us, in accordance with piety, in the beheading of the Forerunner, keep the festival, brightly clad, and rejoicing as if on an auspicious day, and ask him to propitiate the Trinity for us, to deliver us from every danger and calamity, and save our souls.

(In Greek, the words “skilled in the works of impiety” are a single word, “ἀνοσιουργότροπος” (anosiurgotropos), which in Church Slavonic becomes the jaw-cracking eleven-syllable “непреподобнодѣлоѻбразнаѧ” (neprepodobnodjeloobraznaja). )

The Sorrowful Mysteries at the Sacro Monte di Varese

Following up on yesterday’s post about the Sacro Monte di Varese, in which we saw the chapels that represent the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, here are some photos of the chapels of the Sorrowful Mysteries. The gate which leads into this section is dedicated to St Charles Borromeo, who was very devoted to the Sacri Monti, and towards the end of his life, passed a great deal of time meditating on the life of the Lord at the one in Varallo.

 The Agony in the Garden
The Scourging at the Column

A New Regular TLM in the Diocese of Gary, Indiana

The Northwest Indiana Latin Mass Community announces that, for the first time in years, the Traditional Latin Mass will be regularly celebrated in a parish setting, at St Joseph’s Parish in Dyer, Indiana (Diocese of Gary). To begin, Masses will be on first Fridays at 7:00 pm; the Sung Mass with incense will feature Gregorian chant and Renaissance choral polyphony. All are welcome to attend! The church is located at 440 Joliet St.; further details and images are available at

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Joyful Mysteries at the Sacro Monte di Varese

Among the countless pilgrimage shrines up and down the Italian peninsula, there is a famous group of nine sites in the northern provinces of Lombardy and the Piedmont (three in the former, six in the latter) known as the “Sacri Monti - Sacred Mountains.” Each of these consists of a group of chapels arranged around a particular theme: at Belmonte, the theme is the Way of the Cross, at Orta, the life of St Francis, etc. Four of them (Varese, Oropa, Ossuccio and Crea) have the Mysteries of the Rosary as their theme, with the addition in some cases of other episodes from the Virgin Mary’s life. Inside each chapel, one of the sacred episodes is represented by a group of life-sized painted statues, and frescoes on the walls; some of these are quite small and simple, others very elaborate indeed. The pilgrims say the Rosary or do the Stations while passing from chapel to chapel, walking up the mountain through a beautiful park, until they reach the main church or sanctuary at the top. (The chapels, by the way, are so called because of their architectural structure, but they don’t have altars and are not set up for the celebration of Mass.)

Original Sin, the first chapel of the Sacro Monte di Varallo.
Ecce Homo in the thirty-third chapel.
During the pilgrimage I recently participated in with the Schola Sainte-Cécile, we visited two of the Sacri Monti, at Varallo in Piedmont, and Varese in Lombardy. The shrine in Varallo is the most elaborate of them all, with 44 chapels representing the life of Christ from the Annunciation to His burial, and the Fall of Man (seen above) as a prelude. There wasn’t time to visit more than a handful of them, although in compensation, we did have a splendid Mass in the main sanctuary. At Varese, however, we visited each of the fifteen chapels, and said the Mystery represented therein as we walked to the next one; today, I will post the photos of the chapels of the Joyful Mysteries, and the Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries tomorrow and Thurday. The chapels were built between 1604 and 1623, and no, wiseacres, they haven’t added any new ones.

Each group of mysteries is preceded by a gate; that of the Joyful Mysteries is dedicated to the Virgin Mary Herself. Under the statue is an inscription with the words of Ecclesiasticus 24, 26, which the liturgy often reads as if they were spoken by Her, “Come over to me, all ye that desire me.”
The Annunciation
The cleaning staff had left their supplies inside, making it look as if the Angel Gabriel had surprised the Blessed Mother in the middle of getting ready for dinner guests. This was not really very dignified, and in any case, the light inside was very bad for photography.
The Visitation
“And She entered into the house of Zachary, and greeted Elizabeth.”

New Christian Art Web Resources: A Blog and a Weekly Podcast

Readers will be interested, I’m sure, to learn that my colleague here on the NLM, Peter Kwasniewski, is now doing a weekly column on Christian art at LifeSite. He is a daily columnist and will be devoting one article a week to some aspect of Christian art; his art commentaries appear every Tuesday. In addition to writing on artworks with an obviously Christian content, he also discusses more mundane pieces from a Christian point of view. Thus far, he has posting on paintings by TintorettoGiotto, Rubens, and Fra Angelico’s beautiful fresco of the Lamentation,

In each, he gives his personal views and response to the works through the prism of his characteristic deep love of and respect for the Faith and traditional Catholic culture, even when discussing art by non-Catholics on non-religious subjects. Once again, this will be on Tuesdays on his daily blog at Life Site.

In addition to this major item, I have some minor news about my own blog, I am starting a weekly podcast on matters of faith, culture and beauty and all subjects tangential, which you can find at The site has recently been upgraded, and, perhaps connected to that, I was pleased to learn recently that it has been awarded third place in the Top 15 Christian Art Blogs on the Web by the media managing site I would like to put in a plug for Carolyn McKinney at, who did the design of the new site. She is a Catholic who has been a reader of the Way of Beauty for years, and so I asked her for help on this, not only because she understands the technical side of website creation (about which I know nothing), but she also appreciates how the values of a Catholic culture can be highlighted and manifested in this medium.

Monday, August 27, 2018

“They That Are Christ’s Have Crucified Their Flesh with the Vices and Concupiscences”

Monastic authors steeped in lectio divina often bear witness to the “liturgical providence of God.” Experience confirms again and again that the texts offered for us in the sacred liturgy, especially the fixed traditional texts, furnish a key to understanding what is going on in our personal lives at the moment, in our immediate community, in the Church at large, and in the world. The combination of proper antiphons, orations, and readings comes to us from without and presents a message that the attentive preacher or practitioner of lectio divina can tune into. As Dom Mark Kirby writes: “The man who trusts in the liturgical providence of God will never be without a glimmer of light in the night, a spark of fire in the cold, a cup of cold water in the heat, a signpost on the road.”

There are times when the message can be rather subtle, requiring well-trained ears. But there are other times when it seems as if Our Lord is positively whacking us over the head with the obviousness of His message to the Church. One such occasion was surely yesterday’s Mass for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, with readings and orations that the Church has proclaimed on this Sunday for 1,500 years or more — and still does, wherever the Roman Rite endures in its classical form.

The Epistle of the Mass is taken from Galatians, a letter of ever-growing relevance in the ecclesiastical situation in which we find ourselves today (one thinks of such luminous passages as “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema” and “When Cephas [Peter] was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed”), and more particularly, from chapter 5, with its famous contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit:
Brethren: Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh: for the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another, so that you do not the things that you would. But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the spirit is: charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified their flesh with the vices and concupiscences.
As each day brings with it fresh revelations of clerical corruption in high places — indeed, in the very highest place of all, the seat of Cephas in Rome, whence proceeds a Gospel other than the one Christ and His apostles preached to us — we are comforted and strengthened by hearing these uncompromising words of St. Paul, who assures us that whoever does these works of the flesh, as well as they who approve or support those who do them or fail to take action against them, cannot be acting by the Spirit of Christ. (Indeed, as the Apostle teaches in Romans 1:32, with a nod to the death penalty: “Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them.”)

They that are Christ’s have crucified their flesh with the vices and concupiscences. On the very Sunday of the Viganò revelations, this is the message of liturgical providence for the Church in the United States of America, in the Vatican, and everywhere. They that are truly Christ’s will live a mortified life of battle against disordered concupiscence, striving for holiness in a relentless military campaign against interior vices and against the external manifestations of vice over which they have any control, especially if they have been given positions of authority by God.

And lest we rely on our own strength or on that of any earthly protector, the Collect of the Mass and the Gradual teach us where our victory will come from:
Keep, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy Church with perpetual peace; and because the frailty of man without Thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by Thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation. Through our Lord.
The Gradual of this day’s Mass tells us soberly and simply:
It is good to confide in the Lord, rather than to have confidence in man. V. It is good to trust in the Lord, rather than to trust in princes.
The Introit cries out: “Behold, O God, our protector, and look on the face of Thy Christ”! Many are they who feel like sheep abandoned by their supreme shepherd, abandoned to the wolves. At times like this, we feel and we know that God is our sole protector. Because He is looking on the face of His Christ, His well-beloved Son on whom His favor rests, and seeing us in Him, He loves us and will never abandon us.

In The Saint Andrew Daily Missal from 1945, each Sunday is preceded by a lengthy commentary on the readings and prayers of that day in the Divine Office and in the Mass. I am struck by two things about these commentaries: first, how tough they are (the doctrine is clear, its moral demands are stated with no compromise, and salutary rebukes are offered to the reader as an examination of conscience); second, how apropos they are to the tragic situation of the Church today, since they frequently diagnose the very diseases of intellect, will, and passions that harass us on all sides.

Here is part of the commentary offered for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost:
St. Gregory says: “There are men, all athirst for passing joys, who are ignorant or indifferent where eternal blessings are concerned. Poor wretches! They congratulate themselves on possessing the good things of this life without regretting those of the world above, which they have lost. Fashioned for light and truth, they never lift up the eyes of the soul; never betray the smallest desire or longing for the contemplation of their eternal home. Giving themselves over to the pleasures among which they are thrown, they bestow their affection upon a dreary place of exile as if it were their fatherland; and surrounded by darkness, they are full of rejoicing as if they were illumined by a brilliant light. On the other hand, the elect, in whose eyes fleeting goods are of no value, seek after those for which their souls were made. Kept in this world by the bonds of the flesh, each, none the less, is carried in spirit beyond it while making the wholesome resolve to despise the passing things of time and to desire the things which endure for eternity.”[2]
In a rare instance of alignment of liturgical planets, the readings of yesterday’s Ordinary Form Mass, for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B), deliver the same message.

The first reading shows Joshua (Jesus) summoning all the tribes, their elders, their leaders, their judges, and their officers, and asked them whom they will serve — the true God, or the gods of the nations round about. In other words, accommodation to the world, or fidelity to God the revealer? The people respond:
“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.”
This is the state of slavery St. Paul is describing with his “works of the flesh.”

The Sunday psalm declares:
The LORD has eyes for the just,
and ears for their cry.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
The second reading, Ephesians 5:21–32, affirms traditional Catholic doctrine on marriage, with a strong emphasis on its heterosexual essence as a reflection of the relationship of Christ and the Church, with the Church being subordinate to Christ, who calls her to be “holy and without blemish.”

The Gospel, from John chapter 6, begins right after the Lord Jesus has finished His discourse about the Eucharist as the true flesh and blood of the Son of Man: “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” This saying is indeed hard — like the sayings of Jesus about divorce, about celibacy, about welcoming the little children, and about the need for chastity and purity if we would enter the kingdom of heaven. In words that uncannily parallel those of the Epistle in the usus antiquior, Jesus says:
It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe, and the one who would betray him — the lay people, religious, deacons and priests, and bishops, and the Judas in each generation, in whom the features of the Antichrist yet to appear are glimpsed as in a dark mirror.

May the striking liturgical providence of God, displayed on this Sunday of infamy, August 26, 2018, be an aid for us, a confirmation, a consolation, and a challenge, as we strive to reject Satan and his pomps and the works of the flesh, and cleave ever more to Christ the Head of the Church, the gardener who makes the fruit of the spirit grow within and around us.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

God’s Providence for the Church

Truly it is worthy and just, meet and profitable to salvation, that we give Thee thanks always, here and everywhere, o Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, humbly entreating Thy majesty, that in Thy might Thou may drive away from Thy Church whatever is harmful, and give bountifully what is beneficial. Grant to us to preserve a reasonable humility against the proud spirits, and mercifully bestow upon us Thy grace. Leave us not in the uncertainty of human aid, but preserve us by Thine own governance, that cannot be deceived: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy majesty, the Archangels venerate, the Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Principalities and Powers worship. The Cherusim also and the Seraphim, join them in exsultant praise. And we beseech that that Thou order our voices  also to be admitted with theirs, saying with humble confession: Holy, holy, holy ... (The Preface of the 14th Sunday after Pentecost in the traditional Ambrosian Rite. This is the second of a group of 6 prefaces said in rotation through the Sundays between Pentecost and Advent.)

The Most Holy Trinity, by Pieter Coecke van Aelst, ca. 1550
Vere quia dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper, hic et ubique gratias agere, Domine, Sancte Pater, omnipotens aeterne Deus, majestatem tuam suppliciter exorantes: ut ab Ecclesia tua, quidquid est noxium, tua virtute repellas; et quod eidem salutare est, largiaris: nobisque contra superbos spiritus humilitatem tribuas rationabilem custodire, et gratiam tuam clementer impendas: nec nos humani incertos auxilii derelinquas; sed tua quae falli non potest, gubernatione conserves. Per Christum Dominum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudant Angeli, venerantur Archangeli, Throni, Dominationes, Virtutes, Principates, et Potestates adorant. Quem Cherubim et Seraphim socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti iubeas, deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus...

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Assumption 2018 Photopost (Part 2)

Our second Assumption photopost starts with something particularly impressive, a video of the complete Mass celebrated at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. This event is organized every year by the Mater Ecclesiae chapel in Berlin, New Jersey, and always features some truly excellent music, accompanied by an orchestra. The photos below also include a Pontifical Mass celebrated by the HE Czeslaw Kozon, the bishop of Copenhagen, who will be leading the Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage to Rome this year, as well as confirmations, the blessing of flowers, and the Byzantine Rite celebrated in blue vestments. As always, our thanks to everyone who sent these in, continuing the important work of evangelizing through beauty.

Cathedral Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul - Philadelphia, Pennsylvnia

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Experimental Lectionary of the Consilium ad exsequendam (1967)

Between the later stages of the Second Vatican Council and the promulgation of the reformed Ordo lectionum Missae in 1969, various episcopal conferences were granted permission to expand the selection of readings used at weekday Masses, on an experimental basis. Three main schemes were used in this period: the German scheme, [1] the French scheme, and the Consilium scheme. The latter, prepared by Coetus XI of the Consilium, was presented to episcopal conferences that had not asked specific permission to use either of the other two schemes. The Consilium’s scheme was also the subject of “extensive deliberation”, being given to each episcopal conference, to the participants in the 1967 Synod of Bishops, and around 800 periti in various fields such as biblical studies, liturgy, catechesis and pastoral care; 460 responses were received. [2]

The table of the Consilium scheme of readings is now available for download from the following link:

Table of Readings from the Consilium’s Experimental Lectionary (Schemata 233 [De Missali 39], 1967), with the text of the introductory material (PDF)

This scheme is vital source material for studying the work of Coetus XI, and it is worth mentioning that it had eluded me for a number of years until recently. Very many thanks are due to the library staff at Blackfriars Hall (University of Oxford) for allowing me to consult their copy of the Ordo lectionum pro dominicis, feriis et festis sanctorum.

The elusive Schemata 233 of the Consilium ad exsequendam
With this table of readings, all of the primary experimental schemes of readings in use have now been made publicly available for research (see the links above and also my Lectionary Study Aids blog). Though I have yet to do any detailed comparisons of the various schemes, or to compare them with the eventual Ordo lectionum Missae, there are a couple of observations that immediately stand out about the Consilium’s scheme:
  1. It was produced at a point in the post-Vatican II liturgical reform where there was clearly some uncertainty about what the General Roman Calendar would look like in the future. For example, Lent appears to start on the 1st Sunday of Lent rather than on Ash Wednesday, [3] and though we have Sundays labelled as post-Epiphany and post-Pentecost, the ferial weekday lectionary does not make this distinction (there are 34 weeks in tempus per annum).

  2. Compared to the 1969/1981 Ordo lectionum Missae, there are very few short forms of readings, and the majority of those that do exist in the Consilium scheme would seem to conform more to no. 75 of the General Introduction to the Lectionary than those in the 1969/1981 OLM. This issue is more complex than first appears, however, and will be examined in future posts.
Other interesting observations are, no doubt, waiting to be made, and I hope to be able to share some of them at NLM in the future.


[1] The German scheme was the one also used in England & Wales between 1965-69. Closely related to this scheme is the one used in Spain and some other Spanish-speaking nations.

[2] Annibale Bugnini gives more details about the reform of the lectionary in The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990), pp. 406-425.

[3] Bugnini makes it clear that this was a feature, not a bug. Pope Paul VI had to personally intervene in order to ensure that Ash Wednesday and the three days following would be retained in the General Roman Calendar (cf. The Reform of the Liturgy, pp. 307, 310-311).

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Assumption 2018 Photopost (Part 1)

My favorite photoposts are the ones which show not only the beauty, but also the great variety of the Catholic liturgical tradition, and the submissions which we received for the Assumption this year are a great example of this. We have Masses of the feast in the EF and OF, as well as the EF vigil Mass and the Byzantine Rite; the blessing of herbs, fruits and flowers seems to be getting more and more popular every year. We have enough to make two posts out of them; I will do the second one when I get a bit of free time in the next day or so. Our thanks and best wishes to all those who sent them in - Evangelize through Beauty!
Prince of Peace - Taylor, South Carolina
Herbs and wildflowers blessed on the feast day.
St Peter Eastern Catholic Church - Ukiah, California

Gone on Pilgrimage

I just wanted to let our readers know that things will be a little slower than usual this week on NLM. I am currrently in the north of Italy, on a pilgrimage organized by the Schola Sainte Cécile from Paris, visiting a series of major churches and shrines, and attending Masses and Vespers sung by one of the best choirs in the world. The schedule is pretty full, so I won’t have a lot of time to post here, but there will be a lot of beautiful photos, and hopefully some videos, to share with you in the coming days and weeks. Yesterday, we visited the city of Vercelli; here are some photos of the early 13th century basilica of St Andrew, an interesting example of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic. The church was inspired by Cistercian architecture, and in the spirit of Cistercian austerity, does not have a lot of decoration inside, but is an impressively large and luminous space.

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