Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Station Churches of the Christmas Season - Part 2

By the end of the fifth century, there were a number of Roman churches dedicated to St Stephen the First Martyr, including a monastery behind St Peter’s in the Vatican, and a large basilica on the via Latina. That which was chosen as the station church of his feast day, St Stephen’s on the Caelian Hill, is the one closest to the ancient Papal residence at the Lateran. It is now often referred to in Italian as “Santo Stefano Rotondo – Round St Stephen’s”, and is the only round church built in ancient times in the Eternal City. (The Pantheon was often called “Santa Maria Rotonda”, but was not, of course, built as a church.)
The Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo; watercolor by Ettore Roseler Franz, 1880
The station remained at Santo Stefano Rotondo, even after a portion of the Saint’s relics were brought to Rome and placed within the tomb of St Lawrence, in the basilica of St Lawrence outside the Walls. There are two reasons for this, the first being that, after the long trip around the city for the stations of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the papal court would probably prefer to stay close to home on the day following. More importantly, the round shape of Santo Stefano was chosen in imitation of the ancient church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the city of both the Lord’s Passion and the martyrdom of Stephen. The ancient custom of keeping the feast of St Stephen immediately after the birth of Christ serves as a powerful reminder of the mission of the Christ Child, who came into this world to die for our redemption. The eighth responsory of St Stephen’s office expresses this most beautifully when it says that “…he first rendered back to the Savior the death which he, Our Savior, deigned to suffer for us.”
The station on December 27th, the feast of St John the Apostle, is not kept at the basilica of St John in the Lateran, which is officially named the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior. The dedication of this church to the two Saints John, Baptist and Evangelist, postdates the fixing of the traditional stations; so does the church of St John at the Latin Gate, where the Apostle was traditionally said to have been thrown into a vat of boiling oil, and miraculously preserved from death. Instead, the Papal court returned to the basilica of Mary Major. The reason for this is first of all the traditional association of St John with the Virgin Mary, whom the Lord entrusted to His beloved disciple, shortly before He died on the Cross. The office of St John refers to this twice: “At last, when He was to about to die upon the Cross, he commended His Virgin Mother to this virgin, (i.e. Saint John.)
The rood screen of the church of Saint Giles in Cheadle, England, by A.W.N. Pugin, showing the Virgin Mary and Saint John at the Cross; 1841-46. (Photograph by Fr. Lawrence Lew. O.P.)
As mentioned previously, the third Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 431 to refute the heresy of Nestorius, who claimed that it was improper to call the Virgin Mary “Mother of God”. The city chosen for this council, Ephesus in Asia Minor, was also the place where St John is traditionally said to have died and been buried; the site venerated as his tomb was enclosed within a basilica by the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. The station for his feast day is therefore also a reminder of the traditional association of both St John and the Virgin Mary with the city of Ephesus, the ancient church of which was also, of course, the recipient of a letter from St Paul and a divine message in the Apocalypse of John (2, 1-7).
On the following day, the station for the feast of the Holy Innocents is kept at the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls, the site of the Apostle’s tomb, along the road to the ancient Roman port of Ostia. It may be that this church was chosen because of the relics of the Innocents which were placed there at an uncertain date; on the other hand, the relics may have been placed there because it was already the station church for the feast. (Major relics of the Innocents are also kept at Mary Major in Rome, the Basilica of St Justina in Padua, and the cathedrals of Milan and Lisbon.)
Detail of the Cross in the apsidal mosaic of St Paul’s outside the Walls, with five of the Holy Innocents underneath it. (Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew O.P.)

The Blessed Ildephonse Schuster notes in The Sacramentary that nearly all of the major solemnities and seasons of the liturgical year include a stational visit to the churches of both St Peter and St Paul; it may be that St Paul’s was chosen with regard to this custom, after the station at St Peter’s on Christmas Day. He also points out that St Paul is the most illustrious son of the tribe of Benjamin, and of Benjamin’s mother, Rachel. When she died in giving birth to Benjamin, Rachel “was buried on the way that leadeth to Ephrata, which is Beth-lehem”; she represents the mothers who wept over the slaughter of their children, as foretold by the prophet Jeremiah. (Genesis 35, 19 and Matthew 2, 18, the conclusion of the Gospel of the Holy Innocents, citing Jeremiah 31, 15.)
There is no station assigned for the feast of St Thomas of Canterbury, who was martyred on December 29, 1170, and whose feast was accepted throughout the Latin church almost immediately after his canonization. By the twelfth century, the church of Rome had long ceased to institute stations for new feasts; even Corpus Christi does not have one. Likewise, the common Sundays and ferias within octaves rarely have stations, with the notable exceptions of Easter and Pentecost.
Pope St Sylvester I, who died on December 31, 335, is one of the very first confessors, (i.e., non-martyrs) to be honored by the Church with a liturgical feast. His feast was originally kept with a station at the place of his burial, a basilica which Sylvester himself had built above the Catacomb of Priscilla, in honor of the martyrs Ss Felix and Philip. Prior to the eleventh century, it was the common custom for the Pope to go the principal church of each major Roman Saint on their feast day; in fact, the oldest Roman liturgical calendar is partly a list of such papal celebrations. We may imagine that the popes of that era welcomed the two days’ rest between the station of the Holy Innocents at St Paul’s outside the Walls, and that of St Sylvester, a few miles in the opposite direction, up the Salarian way. In the year 761, however, his relics were translated to a church dedicated to him in the center of Rome; this church is now much more famous as the resting place of the head of St John the Baptist, for which it is named “San Silvestro in Capite, i.e. where the head is.” His feast, like that of St Thomas, is kept only as a commemoration in the Roman Missals of 1962 and 1970; a memory of its former prominence remains in the custom of calling New Year’s Eve “Sylvester’s night” in German and other languages.
(Pictured above; The Donation of Constantine, from the Chapel of Saint Sylvester at the Basilica of the Four Crowned Martyrs in Rome; roughly 1250.)
The third part of this article will discuss the stations of the Circumcision and the Epiphany.

Solemn Mass for Epiphany in New York City

On Monday, January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany, the Society of St Hugh of Cluny and the Roman Forum will sponsor a Solemn High Mass at the church of the Most Holy Redeemer in New York City, featuring the Missa Sancti Wilhelmi by John Taverner. The Mass will begin at 6pm, with a reception to follow; the church is located at 173 East 3rd Street.

This is Spiritual Warfare - But Take Heart, the War is Won!

Are you worried about the state of the world and where it’s all going? Don’t be. The war is already won and here is the victor, our King, Jesus Christ.

Here is His Mother, the Queen of Heaven, whose support is so vital.
And here is his Sargeant-at-Arms…
We can be His footsoldiers and participate in the assured victory.
I am delighted that Sophia Institute Press is going to use a painting of mine for the cover of an upcoming book, Spiritual Warfare and the Discernment of Spirits, that addresses this important subject, and which will be published next month. I like the way that they have adapted the image for their cover. Their president, Charlie McKinney, told me that he chose it because he likes the sense of effortlessness with which St Michael deals with evil personified, the Devil.
The portrayal of effortlessness was deliberate. I wanted to communicate that it is our fear that is the greatest barrier to victory. Once we put one foot in front of the other, in our own humble ways we participate in that victory. While their may be some difficulties along the way, ultimately we win.

Monday, December 30, 2019

A Litany of Subdeacon Saints

Ordination of a Roman subdeacon
As promised in my article “A Litany for Sacristans and Those Receiving Minor Orders,” published on October 7, 2019, today I publish a similar litany for those men about to receive the major order of subdiaconate, in accord with the theological and liturgical tradition of the Roman Catholic Church as maintained in certain institutes and communities (e.g., the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter; the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest; the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer or Transalpine Redemptorists; the Carmelite Monks of Wyoming; the Benedictine monks of Norcia).

The litany has been compiled from the last edition of the traditional Roman Martyrology (hardcover; paperback without front and back matter). Those who wish to incorporate this liturgical book into their daily prayer may find instructions here. As before, I have adopted the general format of the Litany of the Saints. After the litany are the corresponding entries from the Martyrology, with the dates.

Subdeacon fulfilling one of his liturgical roles
This litany is intended for private recitation by those who are either already subdeacons or who may soon be promoted to this office. What could be better than to call upon the intercession of the glorious martyrs and confessors of the Faith who, in their own lifetimes, died with the subdiaconal dignity and are forever remembered by Holy Mother Church in that manner? (There is one saint included who became a bishop, but since he is mentioned as subdeacon who was designated by heaven as the next bishop, it seemed appropriate to include him. Naturally, some other men listed in the Martyrology might have been subdeacons, too, but here we are relying on whether they are expressly identified as such.)

A Litany for Subdeacons and Those Receiving the Order of Subdiaconate
(For private recitation)
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us. 
Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us. Christ, graciously hear us. 
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us. 
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.

St Baldomer, devoted servant of God and worker of miracles, pray for us.
St Andeolus, beaten with thorns and cut asunder with a sword, pray for us.
St Leo, faithful companion of the priest St Caius, pray for us.
St Januarius, companion of SS. Felicissimus and Agapitus, pray for us.
St Magnus, great in the eyes of the Lord, pray for us.
St Vincent, conqueror over the fear of death, pray for us.
St Stephen, faithful imitator of the Protomartyr, pray for us.
St Servus, tortured, nailed, burnt, and smitten, pray for us.
St Rusticus, witness to Catholic truth against Arian heresy, pray for us.
St Evortius, elevated from subdeaconhood to the episcopacy, pray for us.
St Martyrius, slain by heretics, pray for us.
St. Quadragesimus, who raised a dead man to life, pray for us.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord. 
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord. 
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. 

Let us pray. Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that the intercession of holy Mary, Mother of God, and of all the holy apostles, martyrs, confessors, and virgins, and of all Thine elect, may everywhere gladden us, that, while we commemorate their merits, we may experience their protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Parallels between East & West: a Greek subdiaconal ordination
Source of the Litany: Entries from the Martyrology
– At Lyons, St Baldomer, a subdeacon, devoted servant of God, whose tomb is glorified with many miracles. (February 27/28)

– In France, in the Vivarais, blessed Andeolus, Subdeacon, whom with others St Polycarp sent from the East into France to preach the Word of God. He was beaten with thorny rods under the Emperor Severus, and at last suffered martyrdom, his head being cut crosswise into four parts with a wooden sword. (May 1)

– The holy martyrs Caius, Priest, and Leo, Subdeacon. (June 30)

– Likewise, at Rome, SS. Felicissimus and Agapitus, Martyrs, Deacons of the same blessed Sixtus, Januarius, Magnus, Vincent and Stephen, subdeacons, who were all beheaded together with him and buried in the cemetery of Praetextatus. There suffered also with them blessed Quartus, as St Cyprian relates. (August 6)

– At Carthage in Africa, the holy martyrs Liberatus (Abbot), Boniface (Deacon), Servus and Rusticus (Subdeacons), Rogatus and Septimus (monks) and Maximus, a boy; in the Vandal persecution under King Hunneric they were assailed by various unheard-of tortures for confessing the Catholic faith and defending the non-repetition of baptism. Last of all they were fastened with nails to pieces of wood wherewith they were to be burnt; but although the fire was kindled again and again, yet by the power of God it was each time extinguished, and by command of the king they were smitten with oars and their brains dashed out, so that they were slain, and thus, being crowned by the Lord, they fulfilled the splendid course of their battle. (August 17)

– At Orleans in France, the death of St Evortius, Bishop, who was at first a subdeacon of the Roman Church, and then by the divine grace was designated Bishop of Orleans by means of a dove. (September 7)

– At Constantinople, the passion of SS. Martyrius (Subdeacon) and Marcian (a chanter), who were slain by heretics under the Emperor Constantius. (October 25)

– Likewise, St. Quadragesimus, a Subdeacon, who raised a dead man to life. (October 26)

One of the duties of the Eastern subdeacon

Christmas 2019 Photopost (Part 1)

We begin this year’s series of your photogaphs of Christmas liurgies with a nice variety - the EF, the OF, and the Ordinariate and Byzantine Rites. There’s still plenty of time to send in more photos, since we will definitely have at least one more in this series (more likely two) before we move on to Epiphany; send your contributions to photopost@newliturgicalmovement.org, and don’t forget to include the name and location of the church, along with any other information you think important. Evangelize through beauty!

Damenstiftkirche – Munich, Germany (FSSP)
Mater Ecclesiae – Berlin, New Jersey
Photos by Tom Tonelli

Sunday, December 29, 2019

St Ambrose’s Christmas Hymn Veni, Redemptor Gentium

The Roman Breviary traditionally has only two proper hymns for Christmas, Jesu Redemptor omnium, which is said at Vespers and Matins, and A solis ortus cardine at Lauds. The church of Rome took a long time to accept the use of hymns in the Office at all, and in its habitual liturgical conservatism, adopted fewer of them than other medieval Uses did; although the major liturgical seasons have three proper hymns, one for Matins, one for Lauds and one for Vespers, most feasts have only two, that of either Vespers or Lauds being sung also at Matins.

One of the gems which is therefore not found in the historical Roman Use is the Christmas hymn Veni, Redemptor gentium, which is attributed on strong evidence to St Ambrose himself. It is quoted by Ss Augustine and Pope Celestine I (422-32), both of whom knew Ambrose personally, the latter attributing it to him explicitly, as does Cassiodorus in the following century. It was sung at Vespers of Christmas in the Ambrosian Rite, of course, in the Sarum Use, and by the religious orders which retained their proper liturgical Uses after Trent, the Dominicans, Carmelites, and Premonstratensians.

In many parts of Germany, it was sung in Advent, rather than Christmas; the last stanza before the doxology “Praesepe jam fulget tuum – Thy cradle here shall glitter bright” was omitted, however, until it was sung for the last time at First Vespers of Christmas. In the post-Conciliar Office, it is sung in Advent without the German variant, and without the stanza “Egressus ejus a Patre.”

Here are two versions, one in plainchant, and a second in alternating chant and polyphony. The English translation by John Mason Neale (1851) is one of his finest such efforts, both for its literary merit as English and its exactitude as a translation.

Veni, Redemptor gentium,         Come, Thou Redeemer of the earth,
Ostende partum Vírginis:           And manifest Thy virgin birth:
Mirétur omne saeculum:            Let every age adoring fall;
Talis decet partus Deum.           Such birth befits the God of all.

Non ex viríli sémine,                   Begotten of no human will,
Sed mýstico spirámine               But of the Spirit, Thou art still
Verbum Dei factum caro,           The Word of God in flesh arrayed
Fructusque ventris flóruit.        The promised Fruit to man displayed.

Alvus tumescit Vírginis,             The virgin womb that burden gained
Claustra pudóris pérmanent,    With virgin honor all unstained;
Vexilla virtútum micant,            The banners there of virtue glow;
Versátur in templo Deus.           God in His temple dwells below.

Procédens de thálamo suo,       Forth from His chamber goeth He,
Pudóris aulo regia,                     That royal home of purity,
Géminae gigans substantiae     A giant in twofold substance one,
Alácris ut currat viam.               Rejoicing now His course to run.

Egressus ejus a Patre,                From God the Father He proceeds,
Regressus ejus ad Patrem:        To God the Father back He speeds;
Excursus usque ad ínferos        His course He runs to death and hell,
Recursus ad sedem Dei.            Returning on God’s throne to dwell.

Aequális aeterno Patri,              O equal to the Father, Thou!
Carnis trophaeo accíngere:      Gird on Thy fleshly mantle now;
Infirma nostri córporis             The weakness of our mortal state
Virtúte firmans pérpeti.            With deathless might invigorate.

Praesépe jam fulget tuum,        Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
Lumenque nox spirat novum,   And darkness breathe a newer light,
Quod nulla nox intérpolet,        Where endless faith shall shine serene,
Fidéque jugi lúceat.                    And twilight never intervene.

Gloria tibi, Dómine,                   O Jesu, Virgin-born, to thee
Qui natus es de Vírgine,            Eternal praise and glory be,
Cum Patre et sancto Spíritu,    Whom with the Father we adore
In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.    And Holy Spirit, evermore.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Holy Innocents, Hidden Metamorphosis

For several summers, we have obtained a small number of painted lady butterfly caterpillars and watched them change into butterflies. It is always fascinating to see each caterpillar shape the chrysalis around itself and afterwards remain suspended, motionless, as if in death. Then there is the day when the chrysalis starts to vibrate, eventually shivering, as if impatient to be done with change. It shivers a long time, so much so that one fears it will fall off the branch. But the moment of emergence has always eluded us. We go to sleep, or go out of the house for some reason, and the next time we look at the container, we see — as if substituted by a magician’s sleight-of-hand — a magnificent butterly next to its empty bedchamber.

The ancients often used the image of the caterpillar transformed into the butterfly to speak about the resurrection of the body. As the caterpillar, not known for beauty or dexterity, is wrapped in silk like the winding-sheets of burial, it seems that all life is extinguished. The coming forth of a far more beautiful creature, free of earth to soar in the skies, aptly tells us of the glory of the resurrected body. As the Preface for the Mass of the Dead says: For Thy faithful, life is not ended, but changed.

Thoughts like this often occur to me on the strangely melancholy post-Christmas feast of the Holy Innocents. I say melancholy because, right after Christmas, we have a feast of unspeakable slaughter, bloodthirsty egotism, the ugly shadow of corrupt politics looming over the cradle of Bethlehem, the chill breath of the world against the cheek of humility. I cannot be the only one who winces when the Gospel passage is read out, and thinks of all the ways in which our world has still not let itself be redeemed, is still waging war against the Christ-child, is still scheming to suppress the King of kings.

But then I remind myself why it is a feast and not a day of penance like January 22nd. The Holy Innocents are true martyrs who stood in for Christ: they anticipate in their flesh the scourging, the nails, and the spear by which our salvation was wrought, and by which theirs was completed. What a triumphant victory, to have won without fighting, to have rushed ahead into the mystery of the Cross, without waiting for leave!

By being circumcised into the covenant with Abraham, the Holy Innocents professed their faith in the coming Messiah who, indeed, had just come into the world. Because of this, they were able to greet Him when He harrowed hell. For it was meet that unfailed innocence should greet the sinless One.

They were spared the bitter test of fallen human life, the risk of mortal sin, the all-too-real possibility of eternal damnation. We consider it a terrible tragedy when human life is cut short, and it always is, for us; but the Holy Innocents remind us that there is a higher vantage, a divine comedy, in which this life plays the part of a prelude to eternity. They rejoice forever in the vision of God’s glory, in the joyous dance of all the saints and angels; to them earthly life looks like a mere moment, as it will look to all of us.

Washed in the blood of the Lamb, the Holy Innocents bask in the light of the beauty of Christ the Savior born in Bethlehem. The sacred liturgy immortalizes their mortal story. We know they are transformed in soul and will be resurrected in their mature bodies — as great a surprise to their mothers as ever a butterfly was, compared to the caterpillar.

Icon of the Holy Innocents

Friday, December 27, 2019

Station Churches of the Christmas Season (Part 1)

The Station Churches of Rome are nowadays perhaps thought of as a particular feature of Lent, since that season is the only one that has a station for every day, and the Lenten stations are the only ones which are still kept in Rome itself. However, the Missal of St Pius V, preserving the ancient traditions of the Roman Church, lists stations for several other periods of the liturgical year, such as the Sundays and Ember days of Advent, the pre-Lenten Sundays, and the octaves of both Easter and Pentecost. Prior to the 70-year long removal of the Papacy to Avignon, it was still the custom for the Pope to personally celebrate the principal liturgies at the stations, although one safely assume that this was kept more assiduously by some and less so by others. The following article in three parts will examine the station churches of the Christmas season, from the vigil of Christmas to the feast of the Epiphany.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

According to a very ancient custom of the Church of Rome, Christmas Day is celebrated with three Masses: one at midnight, preceded by Matins and followed by Lauds; one at dawn, after the hour of Prime; and a third during the day, to be celebrated, as on all major feasts, after Terce. In the Roman Breviary, we still read a homily of St Gregory the Great (590-604) at Christmas Matins, which begins with the words “Because, by the Lord’s bounty, we are to celebrate Mass three times today…” Like most of the great solemnities, Christmas is also preceded by a vigil day, particularly dedicated to fasting and penance in preparation for the feast. Thus, there are in fact four Masses on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of December.

Of these four Masses, three currently have the same station listed, the great Basilica of Saint Mary Major. This is, of course, the oldest church in the world dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and the most important of the many Marian churches in Rome. It was built by Pope St Sixtus III (432-440) to honor Her after the third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus had rejected the heresy of Nestorius, and formally defined Her title “Mother of God.” It is the traditional home of the famous icon known as the “Salus Populi Romani – Salvation of the Roman people”, one of the oldest icons in existence. Almost directly above the main altar of the church, the great arch still preserves the original mosaics of Pope Sixtus’ time, depicting events from the life of the Virgin. The Nativity of Christ, however, is not shown among them; it seems that the Annunciation and Epiphany, prominently depicted one above the other on the left side, were felt to contain between them the whole of the Nativity story.
Santa Maria Maggiore in an 18th century engraving by Giuseppe Vasi.
It is almost certain that already in St Gregory’s time, on the twenty-fourth of December, the canonical hour of None and the vigil Mass of the Nativity were both celebrated by the Pope and his court in the main basilica of Mary Major, to be followed by solemn First Vespers of Christmas. After a rest of some hours, the Pope and clergy would arise in the early part of the night for Matins, the first Mass of Christmas, and Lauds; thus, the Church kept watch for the Nativity of the Lord alongside the Virgin Mary in the stable at Bethlehem. By the middle of the seventh century, however, a small oratory had been built on the right side of the basilica, called “Sancta Maria ad Praesepe”, that is, Saint Mary at the Crib. This chapel was for many centuries the home of the relics reputed to be those of the Lord’s Crib, first attested in Rome in the reign of Pope Theodore (640-49). From roughly that time, the station of the Midnight Mass was kept in the chapel, while the services properly belonging to the Vigil of Christmas remained in the main basilica.
The second Mass is kept at the church of St Anastasia, located at the base of the Palatine hill, very close to the site of the great chariot racing stadium of Rome, the Circus Maximus. The standard opinion among liturgical scholars has long been that this was originally not part of the celebration of Christmas at all, but a Mass in honor of the church’s titular Saint, who was martyred during the persecution of Diocletian in the city of Sirmium, the modern Mitrovica in Serbia. (See the article on St Anastasia by J.P. Kirsch in the Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, vol. 1.2, col. 1923, and Bl. Ildephonse Schuster’s The Sacramentary, vol. 1, p. 368.) This strikes me as extremely improbable, since her feast is not included in the oldest liturgical books of the Roman Rite. The so-called Leonine Sacramentary gives her name last among a group of seven martyrs whose feast is on December 25th, but there is no mention of her (or any of the others) in any of the nine different Mass formulae for Christmas that follow; she is completely absent from the Gelasian Sacramentary. The lectionary of Wurzburg, the oldest of the Roman Rite (ca. 650 AD) lists the Gospel for the second Mass as Luke 2, 15-20, the account of the shepherds coming to Bethlehem, which continues the Gospel of the first Mass, Luke 2, 1-14. This does not exclude the possibility that the station was chosen because the day was also St Anastasia’s feast; in the later Gregorian Sacramentary, her Mass and that of Christmas are given together, with the proper texts of the martyr first. In the Missal of St Pius V and its late medieval predecessors, she is kept as a commemoration at this second Mass.

The third Mass of Christmas was originally celebrated not at Mary Major, but at Saint Peter’s in the Vatican. This would certainly be because the sheer size of the church, just over 100 meters long, would allow for a greater crowd to attend the most solemn of the three Nativity Masses, that which commemorates the eternal birth of God the Son from God the Eternal Father. St Ambrose tells us in the De Virginibus that his sister Marcellina was veiled as a nun by Pope Liberius in St Peter’s on Christmas Day; it is also known that Pope St Celestine I (422-32) read the decisions of the Council of Ephesus to the faithful on the same occasion. One of the most important events in the history Christendom is also connected with this stational observance; on Christmas Day, 800 A.D., Charlemagne was crowned as the Emperor of Rome by Pope St Leo III, before the celebration of the Mass.
The Coronation of Charlemagne, from the Grand Chronique de France, ca. 1455
In about 1140, a canon of St Peter’s Basilica named Benedict records in his account of the ceremonies held in his church, now known as the eleventh Ordo Romanus, that the station of this third Mass was still kept there, but a half a century later, the twelfth Ordo tells us that it is at Mary Major. For most of the Middle Ages, the population of Rome was roughly 20,000 people, living in a city built for a million and a half, and a large church was no longer necessary for the papal Mass of Christmas. Furthermore, for much of the period, the city was ruled by military strongmen, and the Pope, though nominally temporal sovereign of the city, had little or no control over it. For these practical reasons, the station was sometimes kept in the 12th century at Mary Major, which is very much closer than St Peter’s to the Pope’s residence at the Lateran Basilica, and would have been easier and safer for the Papal court to reach. There were in fact several such “double stations” at various periods, and the definitive transfer of this one was probably not made until the later 14th century. The liturgical writer Sicard of Cremona still speaks of the station at St Peter’s in roughly 1200, and explains that “in the Communion of this Mass… ‘All the ends of the earth (have seen the salvation of our God.’); and because the blessed Peter saw this, and confessed it more than the others, as the Father that is in Heaven revealed it to him, therefore the station is at St Peter.”

On the mosaic arch over the altar of Mary Major, the lowest part of the right side depicts the city of Bethlehem, and the left side the city of Jerusalem; this pairing of the two holy cities is a common motif in early Christian art. It is interesting to note that the oratory of the Crib was also frequently called “Sancta Maria in Bethlehem”, and represented, as it were, the city of Christ’s Birth within the Eternal City. For this reason, when the relics of Saint Jerome were moved to Rome from the real Bethlehem, where he died, they were placed once again “in Bethlehem.” In like manner, the church which housed the relics of the True Cross was called “Holy Cross in Jerusalem.” The union of the two holy cities was further shown by the fact that the relics of the Crib of Christ, who was born in this world so that He might die for our sakes, were formerly arranged in the shape of a cross.

(Pictured right: the relics of the Lord's Crib in a reliquary of 1830.)

This chapel also has a special connection with two of the great Saints of the Counter-reformation. St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Company of Jesus, celebrated his first Mass on the principal altar of the Crib chapel; so great was his devotion to the Mass that he deemed a full year necessary to prepare himself properly to celebrate it. In the same place, St Cajetan of Thiene, founder of the first order of Clerks Regular, was graced on Christmas Eve with a vision, in which the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and handed him the Infant Jesus to hold. Both of these events are still commemorated by marble plaques near the altar of the now rebuilt Sancta Maria ad Praesepe.

The chapel was severely damaged during the sack of Rome in 1527, and almost entirely rebuilt in the later 16th-century; it is now often called “the other Sistine Chapel” in honor of the Franciscan Pope Sixtus V (1585-90), under whose auspices the rebuilding was carried out. Like many of the Popes of this era, he was not buried at St Peter’s, which was still under construction during his pontificate. The place which he chose for his monument, therefore, was the great chapel of the Crib, placing opposite himself the monument of his now sainted predecessor, Pius V. To this day, their spiritual brothers are still present in the Virgin Mary’s most ancient church; Dominican friars hear confessions in several languages through most of the day, and Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate serve as sacristans and chaplains. The relics of the Crib have long since been moved to the main altar, so that they may be seen more easily by the many pilgrims who come to church each day.

The second part of this article will discuss the Station churches of the feast days within the Christmas Octave.

A Cathedral Celebrates Its Centenary in Australia

On December 12th, the cathedral of Ss Mary and Joseph in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia, celebrated the centenary of its consecration; this was commemorated with a solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the presence of the tenth Bishop of Armidale, His Excellency Michael Kennedy. Fr Mark Withoos celebrated the Mass; the choir, led by the cathedral’s Director of Music, Mr Warwick Durham, sang Haydn’s Mass no. 7 in Bb, the “Little Organ Mass”, while the Gregorian schola, directed by Mr Ronan Reilly, sang the Mass for the Dedication of a Church Terribilis est. The liturgy was well attended by many of the local local faithful, in what many hope may become an annual celebration. Thanks to Mr Reilly for sahring these picures with us.
Apparelled albs are making a big comeback Down Under! The servers bring the bishop his liturgical garments.
In a Mass coram praelato, the prelate officiates in a cope, and participates in the prayers before the altar before returning to his throne.
As a sign of his authority, he also performs the three blessings of incense during the Mass, and of the water at the Offertory.

EF Mass of the Holy Name in Brooklyn, January 5th

On Sunday, January 5th, the church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Brooklyn, New York, will have a solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form for its titular feast, beginning at 5 pm; the church is located at 245 Prospect Park West.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Minor Orders at the Monastère Saint Benoît

Last Saturday, December 21st, His Excellency Dominique Rey, bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, France, ordained a member of the Monastère Saint Benoît to the minor orders of Exorcist and Acolyte. The day was the Saturday Ember Day of Advent, one of the very ancient traditional days for the conferal of holy orders, which this year was kept in the EF as a commemoration on the feast of St Thomas the Apostle. Congratulation to the new acolyte, Dom Ildephonse (who received this name in religion in honor of the Bl. Ildephonse Schuster), and to his community - feliciter!

The ordinand comes forward at the call to receive orders.
The traditional ordination rites contain an admonition to the ordinands, the text of which is fixed and included in the Pontifical, in which the bishop explains the duties of each order to the ordinands, who kneel before him holding a lit candle.
There follows a “porrectio instrumentorum – the handing over of the instruments”, in which the bishops gives the ordinand (or has him touch) an object associated with the exercize of the order he is receiving. For the exorcists, this is a book containing the text of various rites of exorcism (e.g. that of the salt used in making holy water), but a Missal or Pontifical, both of which contain several such exorcisms, may be used instead.
The bishop then says a prayer over the ordinands.

St Stephen the First Martyr 2019

The gates of heaven were laid open to Christ’s blessed martyr Stephen, who was the first found in the company of the martyrs; * and therefore he triumpheth crowned in heaven. V. For he was the first to render back to the Savior the death which He deigned to suffer death for us. And therefore he triumpheth crowned in heaven. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. And therefore he triumpheth crowned in heaven. (The eighth responsory of Matins of St Stephen)

The martyrdom of St Stephen, from the Bedford Hours, ca. 1430
R. Patefactae sunt januae caeli Christi Martyri beato Stephano, qui in numero Martyrum inventus est primus: * Et ideo triumphat in caelis coronatus. V. Mortem enim, quam Salvator noster dignatus est pro nobis pati, hanc ille primus reddidit Salvatori. Et ideo triumphat in caelis coronatus. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Et ideo triumphat in caelis coronatus.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!

Quem vidistis, pastóres? dícite, annuntiáte nobis, in terris quis appáruit? * Natum vídimus, et choros Angelórum collaudantes Dóminum. V. Dícite, quidnam vidistis? et annuntiáte Christi nativitátem. Natum vídimus. Gloria Patri. Natum vídimus. (The third responsory of Christmas Matins.)

The Adoration of the Shepherds, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1483-5, from the Sassetti Chapel at the church of the Holy Trinity in Florence. The artist portrayed himself as the shepherd closest to the Christ Child, pointing Him out to the others; his hand is also right next to the garland sculpted on the sarcophagus being used as a manger, since his name derives from the Italian word for ‘garland.’ The Latin inscription on the sarcophagus refers to a legend that when the Romans captured Jerusalem in 63BC, an augur named Fulvius, who was killed in the seige, had prophesied  the coming of Christ: “As he fell by Pompey’s sword in Jerusalem, the augur Fulvius said ‘The urn that covereth me shall bring forth a god.’ ”
R. Whom have ye seen, o shepherds? Speak, and announce to us what ye have seen; who hath appeared upon the earth? * We have seen a new-born Child, and choirs of angels praising the Lord. V. Tell us, what have ye seen? and announce the birth of Christ! We have seen. Glory be. We have seen.

A glorious polyphonic setting by Victoria.

On behalf of the publisher and writers of New Liturgical Movement, I wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas, and every blessing from the Child that is born unto us! By the prayers of the Holy Mother of God and all the Saints, may God grant the world peace in the coming year.

Solemn Mass of St John the Evangelist in Lafayette, Louisiana

This Friday, December 27th, the feast of St John the Evangelist, a solemn Mass will be offered in the traditional rite at the cathedral of Lafayette, Louisiana, which is titled to him, beginning at 7 pm. The church is located at 914 St John Street.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas 2019 Photopost Request

Our next major photopost series will be for the liturgies of Christmas, whether in the OF or the EF, or any of the Eastern Rites, Ordinariate Use, etc.; as always, we will also be very glad to include other liturgical ceremonies, such as Prime on Christmas Eve, Vespers, the vigil Masses, and any liturgies celebrated during the Octave. Please send your pictures to photopost@newliturgicalmovement.org, and don’t forget to include the name of the church and its location, and any other information which you think worth noting. Evangelize through beauty!

From our first Christmas photopost of last year, Mass at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Aldershot, England.
From the second post, Mass of the Patronal feast day at Holy Innocents in New York City.
From the third post, incensing the manger scene at St Josaphat’s Church in Queens, New York.

Biblical Typology for Christmas in a Liturgical Hymn: Words, Music and Art

I am unusual among Christians, perhaps, in that, I have no fondness for the traditional Victorian Christmas carols that are commonly sung around this time of year. I always hated them as a child, and today I find the texts superficial, and the music saccharine and sentimental, although perhaps appropriate to the text.

Here is a hymn that we have been singing at my church over Advent which I do like. You can click the link below to hear the audio file.
First, the key of the music is Byzantine Tone (Mode) 1 and sung with a drone. The combination of chant melody with a drone has a strong spiritual quality (I discuss why I think this is in a past post here: Using Drones As Harmony - A Simple Way to Add to the Spiritual Effect of Sacred Music). Second, the way in which this is sung, in natural voices, invites the congregation to participate in the singing. As it is repeated several times during the season (we sing twice each Sunday) they have a chance to learn the melody and join in. This is a style that invites both men and women to sing along with melody or drone. Our pastor sends out this recording and the score out to the congregation in our weekly mailing.
Biblical typology: this hymn teaches us how the Old Testament points to the New, and the New fulfills the Old. These are images that should be in people’s minds as they sing the hymn, and ideally will be presented to them in the schema of art in the church building so that they know precisely where to look as they sing. In this hymn, we have, for example, the Tree of Jesse, Jonah and the Whake (or “Sea Monster”), and the three children in the fiery furnace from the book of Daniel.
This presentation of biblical typology is important in so many ways. Aside from deepening our faith by impressing upon us in a profound way the grand narrative arc of salvation history, it builds up in us the facility for connecting perceptible realities with the imperceptible truths they reveal. The triple effect of art, music, and words here, in harmony with our worship of God, will transform us.
In his little book Of Water and Spirit - A Liturgical Study of Baptism, Orthodox theologian, Alexander Schmemann describes (on page 152) the essence of Mystagogia as the harmonious teaching of Scripture, doctrine, liturgy, and spirituality. This deepening grasp of the mysteries of the Faith must be taught so that we put it all into practice in the daily living of our Faith. A liberal arts education on its own cannot do this. However comprehensive it may be in its content, and however skillfully a curriculum is transmitted in the classroom, it isn’t a Christian education unless the student is simultaneously formed as a Christian so that they integrate what they learn into their lives in a Christian way. This liturgical pedagogy will do this almost regardless of the intellectual capabilities of the person.
To come back to Christmas carols, I would rather see them replaced with the traditional liturgical hymns and propers presented in the context of the liturgy itself, than the concocted Lessons and Carols service that is so much more common and superficial in its effect.
The words in the caption below are taken from the Katasavia itself.
“Rod of the Root of Jesse and flower that blossomed from his stem you have sprung from the Virgin.”
The sea monster spat forth Jonas as it had received him, like a babe from the womb, while the Logos having dwelt in the Virgin and taken flesh did come forth from her yet kept her uncorrupt.
The children who were brought up together in godliness scorning the impious decree feared not the threat of fire but standing in the midst of the flames they say: “O God of our fathers, blessed are You. We praise, we bless and we worship the Lord.” The furnace moist with dew was the image and the figure of the supernatural wonder, for it burnt of the children whom it had received, even as the fire of the Godhead consumed not the Virgin's womb into which it has descended.

Monday, December 23, 2019

On the Insertion of St Joseph’s Name into the Roman Canon

Traditional Catholics place a strong emphasis on the Roman Canon as an essential quality of the Roman Rite, something that enters into its very definition. Where you have the Roman Canon as the singular and necessary anaphora, you are dealing for sure with one of the Western or Latin Rites of the Church; certainly where you have the Roman Rite, you always have the Roman Canon. If this Canon is not present or if it is merely optional, you may have a valid Mass (provided all conditions are met), but you do not have the Roman Rite in any but a 30,000-foot sense of the term.

Given this premise, people like to ask about John XXIII’s insertion, in 1962, of the name of St Joseph into the first list of saints in the Roman Canon. The background story is told well enough by Fr Joseph Komonchak in this article at Commonweal, in which a quotation from Yves Congar’s diary certainly clues one in to the mentality of the progressives. In his Council daybook, Xavier Rynne relates more about the behind-the-scenes cause of Pope John’s unexpected and unilateral decision. A picture of the Latin decree may be found here. The insertion into the text is highlighted in bold:
Communicantes, et memoriam venerantes, in primis gloriosæ semper Virginis Mariæ, Genetricis Dei et Domini nostri Iesu Christi: sed et beati Ioseph, eiusdem Virginis Sponsi, et beatorum Apostolorum ac Martyrum tuorum, Petri et Pauli, Andreæ, Iacobi, Ioannis, Thomæ, Iacobi, Philippi, Bartholomæi, Matthæi, Simonis et Thaddæi: Lini, Cleti, Clementis, Xysti, Cornelii, Cypriani, Laurentii, Chrysogoni, Ioannis et Pauli, Cosmæ et Damiani et omnium Sanctorum tuorum; quorum meritis precibusque concedas, ut in omnibus protectionis tuæ muniamur auxilio. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
It is hard, at this point, to dispute that Joseph’s name should not have been inserted into the Canon. It was seen at the time by liturgical progressives as a mighty breach with the fabric of tradition and a sign that “hey, anything can be changed, as long as the pope says so!” In short: it played into the same growing hyperpapalism that enabled Pius X, Pius XII, and Paul VI to make deep and radical changes to inherited liturgical forms of 500, 1,000, or even 1,500 years’ duration, and encouraged the future members of the Consilium to stop at nothing in the magnitude and detail of their reformatory projects. [1]

Let no one misunderstand what I am claiming. I love St Joseph and pray to him daily. Not only is there nothing wrong with venerating him publicly, there would be something wrong if we did not venerate him publicly. The problem consists, rather, in making the Canon conform to momentary enthusiasms. Joseph had never been mentioned in this most solemn of prayers for 1,400 years, and we can’t say that the Holy Spirit, by willing or at least permitting this “lacuna,” intended him any disrespect, or caused any lack of the honor due to him as the foster-father of Jesus. If anything, it seems more in keeping with Joseph’s hidden sanctity that he be a light that shines out gradually from behind the constellation of the more famous saints. When we parachute him into the Canon, we are letting our devotional preferences shape the core prayers of the inherited liturgy. (John XXIII was well-known for his strong personal devotion to Joseph, which was his middle name, and is still one of the most popular names in Italy. [2])

Consider these incisive words of liturgist Bernard Botte in the 1950s:
We should be grateful to the people of the Middle Ages for having preserved the Canon in its purity and for not having allowed their personal effusions or theological ideas to pass into it. One can imagine the complete mess we would have today if each generation had been permitted to remake the canon to the measure of their theological controversies or novel forms of piety. We can only hope for a continuing imitation of the good sense of these people, who had their own theological ideas but who understood that the Canon was not their playground. In their eyes, it was the expression of a venerable tradition, and they felt that it could not be touched without opening the door to every sort of abuse. [3]
For those who wish to read more about this subject, I recommend (although without a blanket endorsement) Carol Byrne’s article “St Joseph in the Canon: An Innovation to Break Tradition.” [4] The late Fr. Carota observed:
Although different readings and saints feasts were added in the Roman Missal, the exact words of the Roman Canon were never changed since the slight change Pope St. Gregory the Great made in 600 AD, when he added a few words to it. The Roman Canon was unchanged for 1362 years. It was not altered at all until 1962 when Pope John XXIII permitted the name of St. Joseph to be inserted. Although St. Joseph is such a wonderful powerful saint for the Catholic Church, the Church carefully guarded the integrity of the Roman Canon from any alteration. In 1815, hundreds of thousands of signatures of clergy and laity were gathered to have his name inserted in the Canon. But the Church would not dare change it.
Fr Carota here steps beyond what is strictly true historically. We do not know with certainty that the final redaction of the Canon was the work of St Gregory, although a good case can be made for that view; we do know that minor variants were introduced here and there after his time, e.g., variable Hanc igiturs. Particular local saints were occasionally introduced into the lists of saints. [5] But a local devotional practice is one thing, a universal imposition from the pope is another.

From a strictly liturgical point of view, moreover, one may ask where in the Canon the name St Joseph best belongs, if his name is to be included in it. The Communicantes is not an ideal place to put him, seeing as the 24 names (12 Apostles and 12 Martyrs) were obviously chosen in reminiscence of the 24 elders in chapter 4 of the Book of Revelation. On the other hand, the Nobis quoque has 15 names (8 men and 7 women), which has no obvious symbolic value. If Joseph had been added after John the Baptist, nothing important would be disturbed, and the last Patriarch of the old covenant would be put next to the last Prophet, which is a very sensible arrangement.

When Fr. Carota says “the Church would not dare change it [the Canon],” he is alluding to a popular legend, the source of which I have not yet been able to track down (I would not be surprised if, as is often the case with legend, it rests on a true story). When Pope Pius IX was presented with support for inserting the name of Joseph, he is said to have responded: “I cannot do that; I am only the Pope.” Would that all of the successors of St Gregory the Great, even to our time, had maintained this attitude of sober humility and religious veneration!

Today, with the ongoing reevaluation of so many foolish changes in the 20th century, some raise the question of whether or not it may be worthwhile to seek the omission of Joseph’s name, so that the Canon may be restored to its perfect form (since, as just mentioned, the introduction of the extra name throws off the Canon’s careful design). Given the magnitude of other decisions facing the traditional movement, such as the restoration of the pre-1955 Holy Week, and given the ecclesiastical climate, it would seem that now is not the time to revisit this question. The addition of St Joseph’s name is a fait accompli we may regret, but we are not obliged to attribute to it the sinister meaning that the progressives of the 1960s and certain rad trads today are wont to do; we may simply accept it as one of those things we cannot change at the moment. It would be an ideal candidate to add to the raft of restorative changes yet to be made under a future pontificate, with a view to purifying the Roman Rite of the damage caused by post-World War II tinkeritis.

We can learn a lesson in this regard from the PCED’s flip-flop on the Confiteor before Communion. At first, they said: “No, this is not in the rubrics of the 1962 missal, so it shouldn’t be done.” Then later, they winked at it and said: “Well, wherever this is a custom, it can be preserved.” Rapidly, the somewhat Jesuitical argument spread: “This Confiteor had been a universal custom everywhere, and now that we are starting up the Latin Mass again in continuity with how it was being celebrated before the silly season of the 1960s, we will also retain this longstanding custom. Besides, only the legalistic sticklers at this point care about whether there’s a second Confiteor. We’ve moved past that phase for the most part.”

There we are — and I like to think that the intercession of St. Joseph, a wonderworking carpenter, might have something to do with this healthy spirit of rebuilding.


[1] The Roman psalter supplanted by Pius X was about 1,500 years old; some of the aspects of Holy Week modified by Pius XII were 1,000 years old; the prayers at the foot of the altar were in the Roman Missal for about 500 years when Paul VI removed them. Of course many other examples can be given.

[2] There is another story, possibly apocryphal, that Roncalli wanted to call himself Pope Joseph, but was dissuaded from doing so by the cardinals, since the name was not a traditional one. It seems that cardinals of such mettle were not on hand in March 2013.

[3] “Histoire des prières de l’ordinaire de la messe,” in B. Botte/C. Mohrmann, eds., L’ordinaire de la messe. Texte critique, traduction et études (Paris: Les éditions du Cerf/Louvain: Éditions de Abbaye du Mont César, 1953), 27.

[4] In contrast, Fr David Friel takes a relaxed, irenic approach in his article “Adding Joseph to the Eucharistic Prayers.”

[5] Here, for example, is folio 144r of the Gellone Sacramentary, a sacramentary of the Gelasian type, and one of the oldest in existence (later 8th century). The names of Ss Hilary, Martin, Augustine, Gregory, Jerome, and Benedict are added to the Communicantes. You can also see that the words pro quibus tibi offerimus, which are a later addition, are missing from the Memento; Pope Benedict XIV already noted in the 18th century that these words were missing from all of the oldest manuscripts of the Canon that they had at the time.

Visit Dr. Kwasniewski’s website for articles, sacred music, and classics reprinted by Os Justi Press, his SoundCloud page for lectures, interviews, and readings, and YouTube for lectures and sacred music.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: