Saturday, February 29, 2020

Can a Bishop Require Communion in the Hand to Prevent the Spread of the Coronavirus? (And Would This Apply to the EF?)

A friend posed this question to me: “Our bishop sent out a notice suspending communion on the tongue temporarily in response to the coronavirus, and our pastor thinks that this applies to our Latin Mass. Do you know of any legislation or magisterial statement clarifying that not even a bishop has the authority to do this?”

I’ve been hearing a lot about this lately, and I suspect we will hear more and more as the virus continues to spread. A canon lawyer whom I consulted made the following response:
From my perspective, a bishop cannot require anyone to receive in the hand. Even in the Ordinary Form, the prescription is communion on the tongue, with the right to approach and receive in the hand. The norm is the norm, and it is based on the right of the faithful to choose how to worship God at a moment in the Mass that is deeply personal and not communal in nature. My opinion is based on the repeated jurisprudence from the Holy See upholding the rights of a Catholic to receive communion on the tongue while kneeling during an OF Mass, even if his or her bishop has issued a particular law to the contrary. Such laws are considered suggestive in nature and in no way binding.
Whatever may be the case with the Ordinary Form of the Mass, it must be understood that bishops have no authority whatsoever to modify the rubrics for the Extraordinary Form, which is governed by the rubrics and laws in force in 1962 (as Cardinal Burke also had to remind people in connection with the similar issue of whether girls may act as altar servers). The pertinent legislative document, the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, determines as follows:
24. The liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria are to be used as they stand. All who choose to celebrate according to the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite are required to know the pertinent rubrics and to follow them correctly in celebrations.
28. Furthermore, since it is of course dealt with by special law, in respect of its own subject matter, the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum derogates from all liturgical laws that belong to the sacred rites, promulgated from the year 1962 onwards, and not coinciding with the rubrics of the liturgical books of the year 1962.
At the Extraordinary Form, the laity must receive Communion on the tongue; there is no other way envisioned or allowed by law. To have a new custom established (quod Deus avertat), a bishop or episcopal conference would have to request a rescript from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, just as the bishops of different countries had to ask Rome for a rescript to permit communion in the hand decades ago. And even if a bishop obtained this rescript, it would remain at the option of the layman, who cannot be denied the Blessed Sacrament unless he is a notorious public sinner. A priest who, on his own initiative, told the people they had to receive in the hand would be violating the law and leading the people into the violation of it.

Psychologically, it would be abusive to tell Catholics who love the TLM for its massive Eucharistic reverence to contradict every instinct and rubric of this form of the Roman Rite by putting their hands out and taking the host in a way that (in the traditional understanding) only the sacred minister is set apart to do on Christ’s behalf.

Another canon lawyer I consulted agreed with me about the rescript, and further opined:
I do not think he could require in ordinary circumstances that Holy Communion only be given in the hand at the EF, as the Holy See does not allow that even in the OF. In a medical emergency the bishop has a right to take reasonable steps to protect the health of parishioners. That being said, the faithful should do that they want and feel no obligation to receive Holy Communion in the hand. They cannot be required to do that in either the OF or (theoretically) the EF in emergency circumstances.
On a practical note, many have pointed out that germs are spread as easily by frequent hand contact as by placing the host in the mouth (which, if the priest knows what he’s doing, should not involve any transfer of saliva). As Bishop Athanasius Schneider has recently explained:
Communion in the hand is no more hygienic than Communion in the mouth. Indeed, it can be dangerous for contagion. From a hygienic point of view, the hand carries a huge amount of bacteria. Many pathogens are transmitted through the hands. Whether by shaking other people’s hands or frequently touching objects, such as door handles or handrails and grab bars in public transport, germs can quickly pass from hand to hand; and with these unhygienic hands and fingers people then touch often their nose and mouth. Also, germs can sometimes survive on the surface of the touched objects for days. According to a 2006 study, published in the journal “BMC Infectious Diseases”, influenza viruses and similar viruses can persist on inanimate surfaces, such as e.g. door handles or handrails and handles in transport and public buildings for a few days.
       Many people who come to church and then receive Holy Communion in their hands have first touched door handles or handrails and grab bars in public transport or other buildings. Thus, viruses are imprinted on the palm and fingers of their hands. And then during Holy Mass with these hands and fingers they are sometimes touching their nose or mouth. With these hands and fingers they touch the consecrated host, thus impressing the virus also on the host, thus transporting the viruses through the host into their mouth.
A priest who believed in conscience that the risk of contagion was too great should be prepared to offer a Mass at which he alone communicates. This is not the end of the world; the Mass has its own intrinsic purposes and should not be reduced to a communion service.

In conclusion, any affected TLM communities should continue to follow the rubrics (as indeed they must), and any faithful who are afraid of infection or fear they may be carrying the virus should refrain from approaching communion and make instead a spiritual communion, which so many saints have recommended.

Bishop Schneider suggests a prayer like the following:
At Thy feet, O my Jesus, I prostrate myself, and I offer Thee the repentance of my contrite heart, which is humbled in its nothingness and in Thy holy presence. I adore Thee in the Sacrament of Thy love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive Thee into the poor dwelling that my heart offers Thee. While waiting for the happiness of sacramental Communion, I wish to possess Thee in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, since I, for my part, am coming to Thee! The love embrace my whole being in life and in death. I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, I love Thee. Amen.
We have the tools we need to deal with this situation, without rushing to novelties. Ultimately, as Bishop Schneider says, the Western Church stands condemned of worldliness if it is willing to make compromises about the appropriate treatment of the Body of Christ in order to preserve this mortal and perishable life of ours. We would be justly condemned for seeking first ourselves and not the Kingdom of God:
If the Church in our day does not endeavor again with the utmost zeal to increase the faith, reverence and security measures for the Body of Christ, all security measures for humans will be in vain. If the Church in our day will not convert and turn to Christ, giving primacy to Jesus, and namely to Eucharistic Jesus, God will show the truth of His Word which says: “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watches in vain that keeps it” (Psalm 126:1-2).

To any readers who may be wondering (or who would like to have the wherewithal to respond to those who may be wondering): “What’s the big deal with receiving in the hand (or, more broadly, laity handling the host)?,” I recommend the following three articles:
Second Postscript

Those who, attending the Ordinary Form, prefer to receive on the tongue but do so standing instead of kneeling are part of the problem, not part of the solution. It is extremely awkward for a minister to place the host in the mouth of a standing person who is as tall as or taller than the minister. There is a common sense connection between kneeling and receiving on the tongue: the recipient can tilt his head back a little and stick out his tongue, and the standing distributor has a very easy time of it. (In the Byzantine rite, the communicant usually bends somewhat at the knee, tilts his head back, and opens his mouth wide so that the content of the spoon can be readily deposited. It is the same principle.) In short: if you want to follow the tradition of receiving on the tongue, then please do everyone a favor by also following the tradition of receiving while kneeling. It is completely permissible in the Ordinary Form, as this article demonstrates.

UPDATE (3/4/20):
A kindly reader send me the following letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, dated 24 July 2009, and responding to the same issue during an earlier flu outbreak. It simply reiterates the consistent law of the Church.

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Station of the First Friday of Lent

Many of the stories that form the corpus of Lenten Scriptural readings in the traditional Roman Rite are frequently depicted in frescoes in the catacombs, and on early Christian sarcophagi. We may safely assume that such readings were already part of the Roman Church’s lectionary before the end of the persecutions and the building of the earliest churches. When the tradition of the Roman station churches was formed, some of them were chosen in reference to those readings; an obvious example is the Saturday of the Third Week of Lent, when the Epistle is the story of Susanna, and the station is held at the church of a Roman martyr of the same name. In other cases, such as the octave of Easter, it is clear that the stations were fixed first, and many of the readings were chosen because of them.

There are also days on which it is impossible to determine whether the station church was chosen as an appropriate place for a particular reading, or vice versa, and indeed, it is quite possible that the liturgy was created all of a piece, including both the texts of the Mass and the station, which was considered an intrinsic part of the liturgy. Such a one is the station for today, which is held at the very ancient church of Ss John and Paul on the Caelian Hill.

The facade of the church of Ss John ad Paul, and the dome of the chapel which houses the relics of St Paul of the Cross. Photo by Agnese, from the first post of the 2018 Roman pilgrims Lenten series.
The Saints to whom the church is dedicated are two Roman brothers martyred by the Emperor Julian the Apostate, who reigned from 361-63. The traditional account of their lives states that they had been military officers under Constantine, and later served in the household of his daughter, Constantia, who at her death left them a large fortune with which to take care of the poor. When Julian, the son of Constantine’s half-brother, came to the throne, they refused to attend him at the court because of his apostasy from the Faith. The emperor would have used this as a pretext to seize the money left by Constantia, but granted them ten days to reconsider; the two Saints therefore gave all the money away for its intended purpose. A captain of the imperial bodyguards named Terentian was then sent to their house, bearing a statue of Jove and the Emperor’s promise that they would be greatly honored if they would worship it; otherwise, they would be killed. The words of their response are sung as the second antiphon of Lauds on their feast day: “Paul and John said to Terentian, ‘If Julian is thy lord, have thou peace with him; we have no other than the Lord Jesus Christ.’ ” They were beheaded at once, and buried within their own house on the Caelian hill, directly across from the imperial residence on the Palatine.

The traditional account also states that Jovian, who succeeded Julian as Emperor, immediately converted their house into a church. In reality, this was done about 30 years later by a Roman senator named Byzas and his son Pammachius, and the basilica was at first known as “titulus Pammachii – the title of Pammachius”; this is the name with which the station is indicated in the oldest list of Gospel readings according to the Roman Rite, the Wurzburg Lectionary (ca. 650AD), and earlier than that, as the location of a synod held by Pope Symmachus in 499.

Pammachius was a friend of St Jerome, and several of the letters exchanged between them survive. His wife Paulina was the daughter of another friend of Jerome, St Paula, but when she died in childbirth in 397, after roughly 12 years of marriage, Pammachius became a monk, and devoted his life to study and the works of charity. At the great port city of Rome, known simply as “Portus Romanus”, he and St Fabiola (yet another friend of Jerome) constructed a large hospice for pilgrims and the poor and sick, called a “xenodochium – a place for receiving strangers”, the first such institution founded in the West. (The site of it has been identified and excavated in modern times) In a letter praising his friend and this initiative, St Jerome states that in its founding, all the poor, needy and helpless have now become the heirs of Pammachius and his deceased wife Paulina. “Other husbands scatter on the graves of their wives violets, roses, lilies, and purple flowers, and assuage the grief of their hearts by fulfilling this tender duty. Our dear Pammachius also waters the holy ashes and the revered bones of Paulina, but it is with the balm of almsgiving.” (Letter 66, cap. 5; PL XXII, col. 642). Pammachius died during the Gothic sack of Rome in 410, and is honored by the Church as a Saint.

A detail of a painting of St Pammachius, from the church of Ss John and Paul. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Alekjds, a.k.a. our friend Fr Alek Shrenk; CC BY-SA 4.0.)
Roughly a third of a mile to the east of Ss John and Paul, there now stands a large modern hospital complex known as San Giovanni Addolorata. Underneath it are the remains of a very large Roman house of the early imperial era, which belonged to the one of the city’s oldest families, the Valerii. In the early 5th century, a daughter of this family, St Melania the Younger, another friend of Jerome, inherited it as part of her father’s enormous fortune. In the year 406, she and her husband Pinianus decided to sell the bulk of their property and devote themselves to the poor, but in fact, the house was so large and luxurious that they were unable to find a buyer until after the sack of 410, when the building was severely damaged, and its value thus greatly reduced. By the year 575, when most of Rome had been reduced to a pitiable state, another xenodochium was founded within the ruins of the house, and named for the Valerii.

There can be no doubt that the traditional Epistle of today’s station, Isaiah 58, 1-9, particularly the last part of it, refers to the Christian charity which Saints like John and Paul, Pammachius and Melania exercised on behalf of the poor on or near the site of the church. “Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the needy and the homeless into thy house: when thou shalt see one naked, cover him, and despise not thy own flesh. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall speedily arise, and thy justice shall go before thy face, and the glory of the Lord shall gather thee up.” (vss. 7-8)

The Gradual of the Mass is taken from Psalm 26; as with so many chants of the Roman Rite, the text is taken from one of the Old Latin versions of the Bible which predate the Vulgate. “One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord. V. That I may see the delight of the Lord, and may be protected by his temple.” This is certainly a reference to the unique fact that Ss John and Paul were buried not in a catacomb, or at any rate, outside the city, as Roman law prescribed, but within their own house.

The Gospel, St Matthew 5, 43 – 6, 4, is part of the Sermon on the Mount, in which the Lord speaks of the spirit in which the works of charity are to be done, not only to our friends and neighbors, but also to our enemies. “Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.” (vs. 43) This may perhaps be taken as a reference to Julian, the last pagan Emperor, and a persecutor of the Church, by whom John and Paul were martyred. The basilica also sits next to a large temple dedicated to the divinized Emperor Claudius, who did not persecute the Church, but did expel the Jews from Rome, with many of the first Christians among them, as recounted in Acts 18, 2 and Suetonius’ Life of Claudius (cap. 25). More importantly, the Christians’ refusal to participate in the worship of the divinized Emperors was one of the principal reasons why they were persecuted by the Romans.

The white blocks of marble seen in the lower middle of this photo (also by Agnese, from the first post of the 2015 series), supporting the church’s bell-tower, are just a small part of the surviving section of the podium of the temple dedicated to the divinized Emperor Claudius. Much more of it can be seen when one goes through the door to the left, under the house of the Passionist Fathers, who were given charge of the church by Pope Clement XIV (1769-74).
Likewise, the words of verse 47, “And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this?” may also be understood in reference to Julian, who reverted to heathenism, and like so many pagans before and after him, thought to inspire men to do good solely by philosophy, while living without the grace of Christ. As part of his scheme to revive the largely moribund worship of the Greco-Roman gods, he hoped to institute a program of charitable endeavors to be run by pagan priests (which they greeted with apathy), in emulation of those of the Christians. In one of his letters, he famously complained that “… it is disgraceful when no Jew is a beggar, and the impious Galileans support our poor in addition to their own; everyone is able to see that our co-religionists are in want of aid from us.”

The Wurzburg Lectionary is not a lectionary in the proper sense of the term, in that it does not contain the actual readings, but merely lists them by their first and last words, together with their liturgical date, and the Roman station church whenever one is assigned. During the actual Mass, the reading was done out of a Bible, and many ancient Bibles have markings or marginal notes that indicate liturgical readings. The Gospel for today is therefore noted in the Wurzburg Lectionary as follows:

On Friday, at (the title) of Pammachius. A reading of the Holy Gospel according to Matthew. Canon 40. Jesus said to the disciples, “Ye have heard that it hath been said” (vs. 43) up to “and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.” [Fer(ia) vi, in Pammachi, lec(tio) s(a)n(cti) ev(angelii) sec(undum) Mat(thaeum). k(anon) xl. D(i)x(it) Ihs discipulis suis audistis quia dictum ÷ usq(ue) Pater tuus qui videt in abscondito reddet tibi. – “Canon” refers to an ancient chapter system for the Gospels known as the Eusebian canons.]

Verse 4 and verse 6 of Matthew 6 both end with the words “and Thy Father etc.”, and per se, it is impossible to tell whether the Gospel was meant to end at the one or the other. (The numbered chapters and verses of the Bible are a much later invention.) In fact, already in the 9th century, there are lectionaries that end the reading at verse 4, and others that end it at verse 6. However, the antiphon at the Magnificat for Vespers is taken from verse 6, and is attested in almost all of the ancient antiphonaries, a fact which argues for the longer version of the reading. “Tu autem cum oraveris, intra in cubiculum tuum, et clauso ostio, ora Patrem tuum. – But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father.”

Folio 25v of a late eighth-century lectionary produced in northern Italy (perhaps in Verona or Monza), with the Gospel of the Friday after Ash Wednesday in its longer form, Matthew 5, 43 – 6, 6; most of the final verse is on the following page. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 9451; image cropped)
If the Gospel was originally read in its longer form, including verses 5-6 of Matthew 6, this may also be an oblique reference to Ss John and Paul. The Latin word “cubiculum – chamber” literally means “sleeping place”; the Christians also used it to mean a burial chamber within the catacombs, an expression of the belief that death is really a sleep which will end at the final resurrection. Many of these chambers, though certainly not all, were created for wealthy persons, as evidenced by the beautiful decorations still preserved within them; had Ss John and Paul been buried in a catacomb, they most likely would have been laid in such a space. Instead, they were buried within their own house, which therefore became the “chamber” in which they await “the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”

A painted cubiculum within the Roman Catacomb of Priscilla.

EF Mass for the First Sunday of Lent in Brooklyn

On Sunday, March 1st, the church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Brooklyn, New York, will have a solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the First Sunday of Lent, beginning at 5 pm. The church is located at 245 Prospect Park West, one block from the 15th St/Prospect Pk stop on the F Train, and ample parking is available.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Treasury of the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow

Nicola has just returned from a trip to Krakow, where he visited the cathedral of Ss Stanislaus and Wenceslaus, commonly known as the Wawel cathedral from the hill on which it is located. Here are his pictures of some of the items from the church’s treasury, including a number of very beautiful chasubles. There are also a few items from a museum show about the Piast dynasty, the first royal house of Poland, who ruled from ca. 960 to 1370. We start with one of the rarest of liturgical garments, the rationale, which is similar to the pallium: a collar worn over the shoulders on top of the chasuble, ornamented at the front and back with appendages. The form used at Krakow is quite different from that used in the handful of other places that have retained it, Eichstätt and Paderborn in Germany, and Toul in France.
A chasuble decorated with scenes of the life of St Stanislaus, the bishop of Krakow martyred in 1079, donated by Piotr Kmita, the governor of the city, in 1503, for the 250th anniversary of the Saint’s canonization.
Items from the museum show: a reliquary bust of St Sigismund, a 6th century King of the Burgundians who is widely venerated as a martyr, major relics of whom are kept in several different places. This reliquary was made to house his skull, which is at the cathedral of the Polish city of Płock; it was a gift of King Casimir III, commissioned in about 1370, and made in the Upper Rhine area. The crown with which it is now decorated was formerly used by the Dukes of Masovia.
The Cross of Crowns, a Rhenish work of the second quarter of the 13th century, assembled in its current form in Krakow in 1471-88.
This crown was discovered during excavations at a former Benedictine monastery at Sandomierz in 1910, and is now linked to King Casimir III, known as “the Great”, the last king of the Piast dynasty. The lance seen next to it is a replica of the Holy Lance; it was given to Duke Boleslaw I the Brave in the year 1000 by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, who, while visiting the tomb of St Adalbert in Gniezno, then the capital of Poland, officially recognized the former as King of Poland.

Burying the Alleluja 2020 (Part 3)

We have received a few more sets of pictures of the burials of the Alleluja. The first comes from the Canons of St John Cantius in Chicago, who have for some years done this with a large placard with the word written on it in gold letters, which they carry in solemn procession to the Lady Chapel, and “bury” under the altar cloth. (Some other churches have imitated this custom of theirs, including one of the churches featured in part two.)

At the Church of the Resurrection in Lansing, Michigan, the Alleluja was carried outside the church after Lauds and buried on the grounds of the parish school, with a black cope to boot!

Dominican Rite Chants of the Passion Available

As we begin Lent, I am pleased to remind our remind our readers, especially Dominican friars, that Dominican Liturgy Publications has published the Cantus Passionis Domini Nostri Iesu Christ juxta Ritum Ordinis Praedicatorum for use in singing the Passion during Holy Week, in an attractive hardback volume.

This volume, originally published by the Order of Preachers in 1953, contains the music for the Passions according to Mathew and John sung on Palm Sunday and Good Friday respectively, with the minor changes necessary to make the texts conform to the norms of 1962. In addition, it includes, newly set to music, the Passions according to Mark and Luke, traditionally sung on the Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, but now sung in a three-year cycle with that of Matthew on Palm Sunday.

As the texts of the four Passsions as used in 1962 are the same as those of the current Roman Rite, this book may also be used by friars (and others) celebrating the New Mass in Latin and wanting to sing the chants according to the traditional Dominican music. The cover and a sample age of this volume are given above. Those interested can read more about this volume and order it here. Those planning to use this volume liturgically should order three copies so that the singers of the narrator and “turba” each have their own copies, along with the one singing the part of “Christus.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Liturgical Notes on Ash Wednesday

It is a universal custom of all historical Christian rites not to fast on the day of the Lord’s Resurrection, even in Lent and Holy Week. The original Roman Lent of six weeks therefore comprised forty-two days, but only thirty-six days of fasting, which St Gregory the Great describes as “the tithe of the year.” (Hom. XVI in Evang.) The Roman Missal preserves a reminder of this in the Secret for the Mass of the first Sunday of Lent, which speaks of the “sacrifice of the beginning of Lent.”

Not long afterwards, however, perhaps by Gregory himself, the four days preceding the first Sunday were added to the fast to bring the number of days to exactly forty, the length of the fast kept by the Lord Himself, as well as by the prophets Moses and Elijah. This extension of Lent back to Ash Wednesday, which was once commonly known as “in capite jejunii – at the beginning of the fast”, is a proper custom of the Roman Rite, attested in the earliest Roman liturgical books of the century after St Gregory. It was copied by the Mozarabic liturgy, but never by the Ambrosian, and indeed, the Milanese traditionally make a point of eating meat on this day. In the Eastern rites, Great Lent begins on the Monday of the First Week, two days before the Roman Ash Wednesday.

The Gospel of the Transfiguration, Matthew 17, 1-9, is read on the Ember Saturday of Lent in reference to the forty-day fast of Christ, which is mentioned on the previous Sunday (Matthew 4, 1-11) and of the two Prophets who appeared alongside Him at the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah, both of whom appear in the readings of Ember Wednesday. (Icon by Theophanes the Greek, early 15th century, now in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.)
The Breviary of St Pius V and its medieval predecessors also preserve a memory of the fact that Ash Wednesday is a later addition. Although the fast begins on that day, the proper features of the Lenten Office (the hymns, chapters, versicles etc.) only begin to be sung at Vespers of Saturday before the First Sunday. This is also reflected in the traditional nomenclature of the three days after “Ash Wednesday (Feria IV Cinerum)”, which are called “post cineres – after the ashes,” rather than the first Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Lent. In the titles printed in liturgical books, and in the prayers of the Mass, the use of the Latin word for Lent, “Quadragesima,” only begins on the first Sunday. (An apparent exception is the Secret of the Friday “post cineres”, which contains the words “observantiae quadragesimalis”, but this is a revision of the Tridentine editors; the original reading was “observantiae paschalis.”)

The blessing and imposition of ashes was originally a rite for those who were assigned to do penance publicly during Lent for grave or notorious sins, an extremely ancient discipline and practice of the Church. The extension of this custom to all the faithful began in the later part of the 10th century, and was solidified by the end of the 11th, when Pope Urban II prescribed it at the Council of Benevento in 1091. The rite of “expelling” the public penitents from the church on Ash Wednesday, and receiving them back on Maundy Thursday, remained in the Pontifical for centuries after it had faded from use; another trace is the prayer “for the penitents” among the Preces said at Lauds and Vespers in penitential seasons. Many medieval uses also added a special commemoration of the public penitents to the suffrages of the Saints; in the Sarum Use, it was said as follows at Lauds:

Aña Convertímini ad me in toto corde vestro, in jejunio et fletu, et in planctu, dicit Dóminus.
V. Peccávimus cum pátribus nostris. R. Injuste égimus, iniquitátem fécimus.
Oratio Exaudi, quaesumus, Dómine, súpplicum preces, et confitentium tibi parce peccátis: ut páriter nobis indulgentiam tríbuas benignus, et pacem.

Aña Be ye turned to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning, sayeth the Lord.
V. We have sinned with our fathers. R. We have acted unjustly, we have wrought iniquity.
Prayer Graciously hear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the prayers of Thy supplicants, and pardon the sins of those who confess to Thee: that Thou may kindly grant us both pardon and peace.

The expulsion of the public penitents, in an illustration from a 1595 edition of the Roman Pontifical. (Reproduced by permission of the Pitts Theological Library, Candler School of Theology at Emory University)
In the Missal of St Pius V, the blessing of the ashes is introduced by a chant which is called an antiphon in the rubrics, but is structured like an introit. The blessing itself consists of four prayers, the sprinkling of the ashes with holy water, and their incensation, after which they are imposed on all present, while two antiphons and a responsory are sung. The rite concludes with a brief prayer, and then the Mass begins.

In the Middle Ages, the Ash Wednesday ceremony generally included a procession as well. Historically, processions are regarded as penitential acts by nature; this is the reason why even those of Candlemas and the Rogations were traditionally done in penitential violet, although the Mass of the former and the season of the latter require white vestments. (See note below.)

In the year 1143, a canon of St Peter’s named Benedict wrote the following brief description of the Ash Wednesday ceremony in his treatise on the rituals of Rome and the Papal court, now known as the Ordo Romanus XI. “The ‘Collect’ (i.e. gathering is held) at St Anastasia, where the Pope comes with the whole curia; and there is he dressed, and all the other orders go up to the altar. There the Pope gives the ashes, and the primicerius sings with the schola the Antiphon Exaudi nos, Domine. When the (ritual at the Collect church) is finished, the Pope and all the others go bare-footed in a procession to Santa Sabina, followed by the primicerius with the schola, as they sing (the antiphon) Immutemur habitu. When they reach the church, the subdeacon lays aside the (processional) cross, and goes to the altar during the litany (of the Saints)… the Pope sings the Mass without the Kyrie, because of the Litany”, (i.e., it has already been sung at the end of the Litany.)

Later descriptions of this ceremony, such as the various recensions of the Ordinal of Innocent III (1198-1216), mention that the ashes were made at the church of St Anastasia by burning the palms left over from the previous year’s Palm Sunday, a common custom to this very day. During the Papal residence in Avignon, however, many long-standing traditions of the Papal court dropped out of use and were never revived; thus, the procession is not included in the pre-Tridentine Missal of the Roman Curia, the antecedent of the Missal of St Pius V.

A penitential procession led by St Gregory the Great, from the Très Riches Heures du Duc du Berry, by the Limbourg brothers, 1412-16.
Note: The ancient processions of the Roman Rite, all of which were once regarded as obligatory at major churches, were those of Candlemas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and the Rogation Days. Corpus Christi was added last, as the culmination of the liturgical year; the white vestments used at the procession indicate its purely celebratory character, wholly appropriate to the nature of the feast. However, it should be noted that the procession is not even mentioned in the Missal, nor is any particular music prescribed for it; of course, the Litany of the Saints, the penitential prayer par excellence, is not sung, and the procession is done after the Mass, rather than before it.

Subdiaconal Ordinations at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary

On Saturday, February 8th, His Excellency Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, ordained seven men to the subdiaconate at the FSSP seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska. Our thanks to the photography team at OLG for sharing these photos with us, and congratulations to the newly ordained - ad multos annos!

The ordinands process in carrying lit candles and the tunicles with which they will be vested during the ordination ceremony, and take their place in the choir.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Why is the Feast of St Matthias Moved in Leap Years?

In the traditional Roman Rite, the feast of St Matthias the Apostle is moved from February 24th to the following day every leap year. The explanation for this custom is to be found in the very ancient Roman calendar, which is still part of the Church’s liturgy to this day; it is used in the calendars printed at the beginning of the Missal and Breviary, and in the Martyrology, the names of the days are still read out according to the Roman system.

In the Roman calendar, each month has three days which are called the Kalends, Nones and Ides; the first of these three is the first day of each month. In March, May, July and October, the Nones are on the 7th, and the Ides on the 15th; in all other months, they are on the 5th and 13th. These designations probably arose, like most features of most calendars, from some sort of religious observances fixed to those days, perhaps connected to a very primitive lunar calendar, but we know nothing for certain about their origin.

The first page of the calendar from a 13th century Missal according to the Use of Paris. The large KL at the top is the abbreviation of “Kalendae.” The numbers in the third column give the number of days until the following Nones, Ides or Kalends; the fourth column has abbreviations of “Nonae”, “Idus ” or “Kalendae.” Note that the modern system of dating is not used at all here. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 1112)
The Romans named the days of each month by counting backwards from these three points. Thus, Julius Caesar was killed on the day which we call March 15, but which they called “the Ides of March”; their name for the 14th was therefore “the day before the Ides of March.” As every Latin student knows, this system becomes difficult to keep track of because the Romans counted inclusively, not exclusively; therefore, the day we call “March 13” was called “three days before the Ides of March” (not “two days before”), including the day itself, the day before the Ides, and the Ides themselves. We can only assume that this system is not an example of complexity created for complexity’s sake, and that it served as a way of counting down to and preparing for whatever religious observance was connected to the three points.

When the Julian Calendar was instituted in 46 BC, establishing the regular leap day every four years, the leap day itself was added by counting “the sixth day before the Kalends of March” twice. From this, the Latin term for “leap year” is “annus bisextilis”, meaning “a year in which the sixth day (before the Kalends of March) occurs twice.” This term for leap year is still used in all the Romance languages, as in Italian “anno bisestile”, and was even adopted by the Greeks, (“disekto etos” in the modern language), even though the ancient Greeks had their own very different calendar. (The Romans had an idiom “ad kalendas graecas – until the Greek kalends”, meaning “postponed forever,” since there were no kalends in the Greek calendar; it was a favorite expression of the Emperor Augustus, and also survives in the Romance languages.)

Pilgrims venerating the relics of St Matthias the Apostle in the crypt of the abbey named after him in the German city of Trier. He is commonly said to be the only Apostle whose relics are kept anywhere north of the Alps, but the Roman Basilica of St Mary Major also has relics venerated as his since the beginning of the 11th century.
When the feast of St Matthias came into the Roman Rite sometime between the 9th and 11th centuries, it was fixed to this “sixth” day before the kalends of March, which we call February 24. The precise reason for this choice is unknown, but it is surely not mere coincidence that nine other months have the feast of an Apostle or Evangelist within their last ten days, thus distributing them more or less evenly through the year. In a leap year, when there are two such days, Matthias’ vigil is kept on the first of the two, and his feast on the second. Thus, although his feast is transferred on the modern calendar, it remains in its place on the Roman calendar. This also applies to the feast of St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is kept on the 27th in a regular year, the 28th in a leap year; in both cases, his feast is on “tertio Kalendas Martii” on the Roman calendar. The same would apply to any local feast occurring between February 24 and 28.

The backwards reckoning of the Roman Calendar is also relevant for the dating of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, one of the most ancient of all the Church’s feasts, as it relates to the Birth of Christ. Its date is determined by the words of St Luke’s Gospel that John’s mother Elizabeth was six months pregnant at the time of the Annunciation. It is kept on June 24th, however, where Christmas and the Annunciation are kept on the 25th of their respective months, because on the Roman calendar, all three feasts are on the “eighth” day before the Kalends of the following months.

St Matthias, by the workshop of Simone Martini, 1317-19. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
In the post-Conciliar calendar, St Matthias has been moved to May 14th, so that his feast may occur roughly after the Ascension, since the very first thing the Apostles did after the Ascension was elect him to replace the traitor Judas. Easter can occur within a range of 35 days, from March 22 to April 25. So in point of fact, on the first five days of this range (March 22-26), St Matthias’ new feast day will occur on or after Pentecost; on the last 21 (April 5-25) it will occur on or before the Ascension. This may seem to make the transfer of St Matthias’ day highly illogical; however, the occurrences of Easter are not distributed evenly over this range. The earliest date, March 22, has occurred only four times since the Gregorian Calendar was instituted in 1582, and will not occur again until 2285; the latest date comes only once a century. Factoring in the lamentable and lamentably widespread custom of celebrating the Ascension on Sunday, St Matthias’ feast occurs after it roughly 40% of the time.

Martin Earle: A Catholic Master Iconographer From England

I recently received the notification of the art classes for 2020 offered by the Sacred Art Guild of Alberta (SAGA) which is based in Calgary, and a new name caught my eye. Martin Earle, who for several years was apprenticed to the Orthodox iconographer Aidan Hart, will be teaching a course in mosaic.
I went to his website and looked at the range of work he has done. His style, not surprisingly, is clearly connected to that of his teacher, Aidan, but from that starting point, he has developed his own distinctive voice too. This is a relatively naturalistic form of iconography which is intended to appeal to the modern, Western eye that might be unused to the harsher styles of, say the traditional Russian school, without straying beyond the bounds of what defines the tradition. As well as creating a mosaic, he paints and sculpts with equal ease, it seems.
Mosaic of the archangel Gabriel

Christ in Majesty, relief carving
The Episcopal coat of arms for the Diocese of Shrewsbury (incidentally the diocese the in which I grew up!)
Despite the handicap of going to a conventional art school - he is a graduate of the Royal College of Art - it seems he recognized the error of his ways and decided on a change of tack. He was apprenticed to iconographer Aidan Hart in Shropshire England in 2012. He is Catholic, and so I am keeping my fingers crossed that in the future, as his career develops, he can contribute to the reestablishment of sacred art in the Roman Church.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The “Liturgical Little Way”: The Spiritual Value of Following Detailed Prescriptions

One of the great strengths of the traditional Latin liturgy is that it leaves nothing to the will or imagination of the priest (and the same may be said of every minister in the sanctuary). It choreographs his moves, dictates his words, shapes his mind and heart to itself, to make it clear that it is Christ who is acting in and through him. In the words of the Psalmist: “Know ye that the Lord he is God: he made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture” (Psa 99:3). Sheep are to follow the lead of their shepherd. The clergy is not and will never be the first principle of the liturgy; as St. Thomas Aquinas says with sobering humility, the priest or other cleric is an “animate instrument” of the Eternal High Priest: “Holy orders does not constitute a principal agent, but a minister and a certain instrument of divine operation.”

Ministers are like rational hammers or chisels or saws, by which a greater artisan will accomplish His work of sanctification, while conferring on them the immense dignity of resting in His hand and partaking of His action. Here is how Monsignor Ronald Knox expresses it:
The philosopher Aristotle, in defining the position of a slave, uses the words, “A slave is a living tool.” And that is what a priest is, a living tool of Jesus Christ. He lends his hands to be Christ’s hands, his voice to be Christ’s voice, his thoughts to be Christ’s thoughts; there is, there should be, nothing of himself in it from first to last, except where the Church graciously permits him to dwell for a moment in silence on his own special intentions, for the good estate of the living and the dead. Those who are not of our religion are puzzled sometimes, or even scandalized, by witnessing the ceremonies of the Mass; it is all, they say, so mechanical. But you see, it ought to be mechanical. They are watching, not a man, but a living tool; it turns this way and that, bends, straightens itself, gesticulates, all in obedience to a preconceived order—Christ’s order, not ours. The Mass is best said—we Catholics know it—when it is said so that you do not notice how it is said; we do not expect eccentricities from a tool, the tool of Christ.
The clergy are privileged tools, to be sure, but they are still tools; and the liturgy remains the work of Christ, the High Craftsman, the carpenter of the ark of the covenant, the architect of the heavenly Jerusalem, the New Song and its cantor. In its external form, in text and music and ceremonial, the liturgy should luminously proclaim that it is the work of Christ and His Church, not the product of a charismatic individual or a grassroots community.

In an interview in February 2016, Bishop Athanasius Schneider was asked what lessons he has learned from celebrating the traditional form of the Mass. Here is the bishop’s revealing response:
The deepest lesson I have learned from celebrating the traditional form of the Mass is this: I am only a poor instrument of a supernatural and utmost sacred action, whose principal celebrant is Christ, the Eternal High Priest. I feel that during the celebration of the Mass I lose in some sense my individual freedom, for the words and the gestures are prescribed even in their smallest details, and I am not able to dispose of them. I feel most deeply in my heart that I am only a servant and a minister, who yet, with free will, with faith and love, fulfill not my will, but the will of Another.
How much does a priest stand to gain or lose by his cooperation or lack of cooperation with the “smallest details” of the liturgical rite bequeathed to him by tradition and ecclesiastical law?

Mother Mectilde (Catherine de Bar)
To find an answer, let us turn to a great writer of the golden age of French spirituality, Catherine de Bar (1614–1698), or, in religious life, Mother Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament. In her correspondence with the Countess of Chateauvieux, Mother Mectilde writes:
The first thing I notice in you, my very dear daughter, is that you do not have enough esteem for small things. You do not consider them in the light of divine Providence; that is why you have little attention and respect for them and you lose therein a great deal of grace. … God sometimes asks only for a small act of fidelity in order to make us great saints. You should always be in a state of holy and loving attention towards God, in order to give yourself to Him in all ways . . .  If you could conceive the loss you cause when you act in a purely human way, you would be inconsolable. Is it not a great fault in a soul who is able to give glory to God and who nevertheless deprives Him of it in order to give precedence to his [own] reasoning that the small actions of life are only trifles and that they do not need to be governed. O my child, if you had truly understood how you are ransomed and how you belong to Jesus Christ, you would have much more solicitude about honoring Him. If one beat of your heart does not belong to you, then so much the more your smallest action, which is always more extended than one heart beat.
In these words we find a striking anticipation of the better-known “Little Way” of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Mother Mectilde sees clearly that small acts of fidelity are the proving ground of our desire to be great saints, and that we should try never to act in a purely human way, out of our own creaturely resources.

Applying Mother Mectilde’s doctrine to Msgr. Knox’s comparison and Bishop Schneider’s experience, we can arrive at a new insight into the enormous spiritual benefits of the traditional Roman liturgy for the ministers who submit to its thousand little demands, which are occasions for placing them in a state of holy and loving attention towards God. Not one word or motion is considered a trifle that does not need to be governed; all actions are ordered to honoring Him.

Mother Mectilde develops this point in another passage from the same correspondence:
The gospel tells us today in two words what Christian holiness consists in. It is a wonderful lesson, listen to this please. The law says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind.”  Ponder these things well and you will see how much you are required to give to God, even to the smallest of your actions. …
       You will find in an infinity of places in Holy Scriptures your incapacity to dispose of yourself, indeed even one of your thoughts, if you do not want to steal it from Jesus Christ. For by right you cannot. You have been bought: the one who buys the tree buys the fruit, thus you are not your own. Ponder this truth well, repeat often these words: I am not my own, I belong to Jesus Christ. He has ransomed me by love, I am thus necessarily the slave of His love. O worthy slavery! …
       You see, next, how much you are obliged to give yourself to Him. That is, to consent to all the rights, powers, and authority He has over you, and to remain in Him. That is, to never depart from His holy presence, and to do all things by His spirit. As much as is possible for you, to never have in your ideas any other object than Him. In short, that His pure glory cause you to act in everything, even to the least of your actions. Do not think that there is anything small in regard to God: all is great, all is holy, His love sanctifies everything.
       Be thus very exact in the smallest things. All is done for a great God. It is necessary that you do everything mindfully, that is to say, with attention to God, and with a simple desire to glorify and please Him in everything. … He wants you to have this fidelity [in the smallest things] and then He will raise you to even greater ones. The man who does not value the little things will soon fall into great disorders.
How compelling is Mother Mectilde’s doctrine of holy slavery to Christ, expressed in the constant giving over of every little thing, every small act, done for the great God, the Lord of heaven and earth!

We are looking here at a gloss on Our Lord’s own teaching: “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater: and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater” (Lk 16:10). Note the emphasis on justice: the one who is unfaithful to God in little matters will prove unjust to Him in greater ones, too — not unloving, but unjust. It is about justice, the “rights of God,” since, as we saw Mother Mectilde so vividly saying, we belong to Him as His property.

In speaking of fidelity and justice, Our Lord is making reference to the virtue of religion, that is, giving to God that which we owe Him, to the best of our abilities. If we do not give Him our controlled limbs, our bows, genuflections, kisses, averted eyes, and careful pronunciation of syllables, why would we deceive ourselves into thinking that we shall give him our mind and will, our love, our service to others?

The school par excellence of utmost fidelity in small things as well as great ones is the sacred liturgy, wherein we obey little rubrics as we handle the greatest thing, the very flesh and blood of God. Prompted by Mother Mectilde’s teaching, should we not say that a liturgy that offers the celebrant or the participant a greater number of opportunities to submit to the mind of another and serve His will, especially in the “smallest details,” is a liturgy that will produce more abundant fruits of holiness?

If I may coin a phrase, this is nothing other than the “liturgical Little Way” — the teaching of St. Thérèse applied to that area in which it had always been practiced without fanfare until recent decades, when the rubrics were severely curtailed, celebrant options were multiplied, a casual approach was adopted, and a millennium of Western piety was dismissed as obscurantism. With the abandonment of this Little Way came an ever-increasing flood of infidelity, impiety, and depravity. “The man who does not value the little things will soon fall into great disorders.”

Thanks be to God we are seeing a restoration of the little things, so that someday we may see once again great sanctity emerging from the liturgy.

Visit Dr. Kwasniewski’s website for selected articles, sacred music, and books from Os Justi Press, his SoundCloud page for lectures and interviews, and YouTube for talks and sacred music.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Quinquagesima Sunday 2020

Truly it is fitting and just, right and profitable to salvation, that we give Thee thanks always, here and in every place, Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God, illuminator and redeemer of our souls. Who, when the law of abstinence was transgressed by the first Adam, and we had been cast out of Paradise, did call us back through grace to the blessedness of our ancient fatherland by the remedy of a stronger fast; and by Thy holy instruction, did teach by what observances we might be set free. Through Christ our Lord. Through whom the Angels praise, the Archangels venerate Thy majesty, Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Principalities and Powers adore. Whom the Cherubim and Seraphim celebrated with one rejoicing. To whom we pray that Thou command our voices also be joined, as we say with humble confession: Holy... (The Ambrosian Preface of Quinquagesima Sunday.)

A folio of the Bedford Hours, an illuminated book of Hours produced in France ca. 1420, now in the British Library. At the upper left, God brings the animals to Adam to be named; to the right, on the other side of the tower, God creates Eve. To the lower left of the tower, God brings Eve to Adam; to the lower right, the Temptation of Adam and Eve. Below the tower, God finds Adam and Eve after the Fall (note the serpent represented as a very oddly shaped creature.) At the lower right; the expulsion from the Garden; at the upper right of the image as a whole, the sacrifices of Abel and Cain, and below that, the murder of Abel. At the bottom of the image, God carries the body of dead Adam and lays it to rest outside the gates of Paradise. In each case, God is shown with three faces, to represent the three persons of the Trinity. 
Vere quia dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutáre, nos tibi semper, hic et ubíque gratias ágere, Dómine, Sancte Pater, omnípotens aeterne Deus, illuminátor et redemptor animárum nostrárum. Qui nos, per primum Adam abstinentiae lege violáta, Paradíso ejectos, fortióris ieiunii remedio ad antíquae patriae beatitúdinem per gratiam revocasti: nosque pia institutióne docuisti, quibus observatiónibus liberémur. Per Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Per quem maiestátem tuam laudant Angeli, venerantur Archángeli, Throni, Dominatiónes, Virtútes, Principátus, et Potestátes adorant. Quem Chérubim et Séraphim socia exsultatióne concélebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti iúbeas, deprecámur, súpplici confessióne dicentes: Sanctus...

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Faithful Are Not Morons

Is the presence of the Septuagesima season in the liturgical year “bewildering” to the faithful? This is the contention of an article recently published on by Jennifer Gregory Miller, which defends the suppression of it as a positive development of the post-Conciliar reform, one which better highlights the centrality of the Paschal mystery. If this contention were considered by itself, it could be simply refuted with the five-word Latin saying, “Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur – that which is gratuitously asserted may be gratuitously denied.” There is no reason whatsoever to imagine that the faithful found or currently find it “bewildering.” However, the article merits a more thorough refutation, in part because it accepts and promotes one of the most damaging ideas behind the post-Conciliar reform, and in part because it contains a number of factual errors, and this from a website that purports to promote and encourage Catholic culture.

As proof that the suppression of Septuagesima better highlights the centrality of the Paschal mystery, Miller cites the reaction of her young students (“elementary age children”) to a liturgical calendar wheel, divided into 52 sections which represent the 52 weeks of the year. Each week is marked by its appropriate liturgical color (violet for Advent, white for Christmas, etc.) Since it is based on the post-Conciliar calendar, without Septuagesima, the violet part before Easter occupies six sections of the wheel, while that of the Easter season occupies seven, visually demonstrating that Easter is more important. (“the preparation period before Easter doesn’t equal or outweigh Easter.”) If Septuagesima were still part of the calendar, the same violet section would have nine weeks, and thus appear to be more important. The suppression of Septuagesima is therefore lauded, since it restores “a central focus on the Paschal Mystery in the Liturgical Year. Easter now has the proper position as central and highest feast of the year.”

This is prima facie absurd. With the sole and tiny exception of the Mozarabs, all Christians who adhere to an historical rite, whether Eastern or Western, lived for well over a millennium with a liturgical year in which the preparatory season before Easter was longer than the Easter season itself. All Eastern Christians, whether Catholic or Orthodox, still do. What evidence is there that any one of them has ever drawn from this the conclusion that Easter was somehow less important than Lent?

The assumption that lies behind this was one of the underpinnings of the post-Conciliar reform, a notion which has done and continues to do incalculable damage to the Church. It is, quite simply, that the run of the faithful are morons. Because of their uneducable stupidity, they are absolutely incapable of rising to the level of anything that is in any way complex or subtle; the liturgy must therefore be simplified and dumbed down to the level of their stunted mental grasp. If this seems an unduly harsh way of looking at the matter, notice what serves as the test case for the value of this particular break with a universal tradition of almost 14 centuries – not its effect on the lived faith of maturely formed, practicing Christians, but its effect on the immediate perceptions of elementary school children in catechism class. It is as if to say that the education of the faithful about the features of the liturgical year cannot be expected to go beyond counting colored blocks numbered in the single digits.

Now it may also seem that I am unfairly assuming the degree to which Mrs Miller herself appears to share this notion. I grant that this article may be unrepresentative of her thought. But she does also write, “It’s easy to see how the Septuagesima season could be bewildering.” Not “It’s easy to see how the Septuagesima season could pique the interest or curiosity of the faithful,” much less “It’s easy to see how 14 centuries of Catholics learned the temporal cycle by living it year in and year out from childhood, in all its complexity, including Septuagesima.” She goes on to say that because of the similarity between Septuagesima and Lent (which she overstates), “I can imagine the confusion it caused if a person wasn’t in tune with the Church Calendar. “ ‘Is it Lent already? Did I miss Ash Wednesday? Am I supposed to be fasting?’ ”

I prescind from the notion that the calendar should be redesigned for the sake of those who aren’t in tune with it by giving them less to tune into. The crux of the matter is this: any feature of the liturgical calendar can, in theory, become confusing, if those who are responsible for teaching the faithful neglect their duty. “Wait, it’s Advent, so Jesus is still in His Mother’s womb… so why are we celebrating Her Conception?” “Wait, it’s Christmas, which is a joyful season, … so why are we celebrating a man who was stoned to death and a bunch of murdered babies?” If, on the other hand, those who take responsibility for teaching the Faith assume the best of their charges, and demand the best of them, there is no reason why they may not easily learn what countless generations before them learned, and that, with far fewer resources at their disposal.

From a recent post - children living out the liturgical year by burying the Alleluja on the eve of Septuagesima.
This being said, there are several other considerations which are germane to this topic.

1. As Annibale Bugnini, the principal architect of the post-Conciliar reform, recounted in his memoire, Pope Paul VI himself “compared the complex made up of Septuagesima, Lent, Holy Week and Easter Triduum, to the bells calling people to Sunday Mass. The ringing of them an hour, a half-hour, fifteen and five minutes before the time of Mass has a psychological effect and prepares the faithful materially and spiritually for the celebration of the liturgy.” Of course, having thus noted the season’s importance, he offered no resistance to those who decided that “there should be a simplification: it was not possible to restore Lent to its full importance without sacrificing Septuagesima, which is an extension of Lent.” (The Reform of the Liturgy, p. 307)

2. It is simply not credible to claim, as Bugnini does, that the post-Conciliar reform “restore(d) Lent to its full importance”, given the almost complete abolition of the traditional discipline of Lenten fasting, and the removal of almost all references to fasting from the official liturgical texts of the Roman Rite. In a better age than our own, this will be seen as one of its most embarrassing aspects.

But it must be remembered that this was done not only by suppressing Septuagesima, but also by assimilating Passiontide to the rest of Lent. Having thus flattened out the very ancient and subtle articulation of the Church’s preparation for Easter in four stages, the Novus Ordo then recreated it exactly for Christmas, with Christ the King, the two clearly different parts of Advent, and the vigil of Christmas. If it were so necessary for Septuagesima to be suppressed to restore the importance of Lent, Christ the King should also be suppressed to restore the importance of Advent. (By the way, Advent, with a minimum length of 22 days, occupies 4 blocks on the wheel, while the Christmas season, with a maximum length of 15 days, only occupies three. It might be better to reduce Advent to just December 17-24, so as to restore the centrality of Christmas.)

3. We may take comfort from the fact that the vast majority of commenters on liturgical matters seem to recognize that the suppression of Septuagesima was a stupid mistake. The Church itself has in a small but significant way acknowledged this and corrected it by including it in the Ordinariate Rite.

4. Mrs Miller writes that she “found so few pre-Vatican II writings on Septuagesima.” This can only be for lack of trying. Septuagesima occupies 116 pages of the relevant volume of Dom Guéranger’s The Liturgical Year, and 61 pages of Pius Parsch’s The Church’s Year of Grace (English editions). The latter writes, “A little reflection upon the liturgy of these three Sundays will show a unified and beautifully constructed underlying plan. The three great station churches, St Lawrence, St Paul, and St Peter (arranged in ascending importance) indicate the extraordinary significance the Church attaches to these Sundays.” Bl. Ildephonse Schuster’s The Sacramentary is more succinct than Guéranger and Parsch on almost every topic, but does of course dedicate an article to each of the three Sundays.

5. As documented by our colleague Henri de Villiers, every historical Christian tradition has a Fore-Lent of some kind, and those of the East share many themes with the Roman Septuagesima. You can read his article in the original French on the website of the Schola Sainte-Cécile, or in my English translation in four parts at the following links: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

Adam sat opposite Paradise and, lamenting his nakedness, he wept, ‘Woe is me ! By evil deceit was I persuaded and robbed, and exiled far from glory. Woe is me ! Once naked in my simplicity, now I am in want. But, Paradise, no longer shall I enjoy your delight; no more shall I look upon the Lord my God and Maker, for I shall return to the earth whence I was taken. Merciful and compassionate Lord, I cry to you, ‘Have mercy on me who am fallen’. (From Vespers of Cheesefare Sunday.)

Finally, a list of the article’s factual errors.

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