Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pentecost 2020

Loquebantur variis linguis Apostoli, alleluia, magnalia Dei, alleluia. V. Repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto, et coeperunt loqui. Magnalia Dei. Gloria Patri. Alleluia. ~ R. The Apostles spoke in various tongues, alleluia, the wondrous works of God, alleluia. V. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and begant to speak of the wondrous works of God. Glory be. Alleluja. (The responsory at First Vespers of Pentecost in the Use of Sarum.)

The Descent of the Holy Spirit, 1618-20, by St Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641); public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
As in almost every medieval Use of the Roman Rite, that of Sarum regularly sang one of the responsories of Matins between the chapter and hymn at First Vespers. Because of its prominence in the English liturgy, it was set by Thomas Tallis in polyphony; here is a really magnificent recording of his version by The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers.

Palestrina also put his hand to it, with equally marvelous results; this version follows the Roman Breviary, where it is sung at Matins of Pentecost Tuesday; after “the wonderful works of God” are added the words “prout Spiritus Sanctus dabat eloqui illis, alleluja. – just as the Holy Spirit gave them to speak forth.” (This recording is also by The Sixteen.)

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Vigil of Pentecost 2020

IN those days: The hand of the Lord was upon me, and brought me forth in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of a plain that was full of bones. And he led me about through them on every side; now they were very many upon the face of the plain, and they were exceeding dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, dost thou think these bones shall live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, thou knowest.” And he said to me, “Prophesy concerning these bones, and say to them, ‘Ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will send spirit into you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to grow over you, and will cover you with skin: and I will give you spirit and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ ” And I prophesied as he had commanded me, and as I prophesied there was a noise, and behold a commotion, and the bones came together, each one to its joint. And I saw, and behold the sinews, and the flesh came up upon them: and the skin was stretched out over them, but there was no spirit in them.

The Vision of Ezechiel, 1630, by Francisco Collantes (Madrid, 1599-1656); Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
And he said to me, “Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, O son of man, and say to the spirit, ‘Thus saith the Lord God: Come, spirit, from the four winds, and blow upon these slain, and let them live again.’ ” And I prophesied as he had commanded me, and the spirit came into them, and they lived, and they stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. And he said to me, “Son of man, all these bones are the house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost, and we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, ‘Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I will open your graves, and will bring you out of your sepulchres, O my people, and will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall have opened your sepulchres, and shall have brought you out of your graves, o my people, and shall have put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall make you rest upon your own land: saith the Lord God.’ ” (Ezechiel 37, 1-14, the sixth prophecy of the Vigil of Pentecost.)

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Paleo-Christian Basilica of St Simplician in Milan

On the Ambrosian calendar, today is the very ancient feast of a group of three martyrs called Sisinnius, Martyrius and Alexander. They were originally from Cappadocia in Asia Minor, but in the days of St Ambrose, came to Milan, then the de facto imperial capital. At that time, all of northern Italy belonged to the ecclesiastical province of Milan, and St Vigilius, the bishop of Trent, had asked his metropolitan for assistance in evangelizing his region. The mission was entrusted to the three Cappadocians, Sisinnius being ordained deacon, Martyrius a lector, and Alexander a porter. In the valley of Anaunia to the north of Trent, they were able to make a good number of converts, and build a church in one of the villages. (All the photos in this article are by Nicola de’ Grandi.)

The relics of St Sisinnius, Martyrius and Alexander in the basilica of St Simplician in Milan. 
Here, they were attacked by the local pagans on the day of a festival, and Sisinnius was beaten so badly that he died a few hours later. In the letter describing their martyrdom, St Vigilius notes that Martyrius was able to hide in a garden attached to the church, but he was unwilling to abandon the sacred place; when he was discovered and taken the next day, the pagans had to fix him to a stake in order to drag him away. Before they could get him to the idol before which they would have sought to compel him to offer sacrifice, he died from being dragged over the sharp stones on the route. Alexander was also taken, and having resisted all attempts to make him repudiate the Faith, he was thrown alive in the fire on which the bodies of the other two were being burned. As happened with many other martyrs, the faithful carefully gathered up the Saints’ ashes, and brought them to Vigilius, who later built a new church on the site of the martyrdom. On two different occasions, Vigilius sent relics of the martyrs to a fellow bishop, once to St Simplician, St Ambrose’s personal friend and later successor, and again to St John Chrysostom; the letters which accompanied them both survive. (Simplician, by the way, was the priest of Milan chosen to complete Ambrose’s instruction in the Faith when the latter, still a catechumen, was chosen bishop by popular acclamation. He outlived his famous student, even though he was older than him, but only by a few years.)

During his time as bishop of Milan, St Ambrose had built four basilicas at roughly the four cardinal points of the city, dedicated to the Apostles, the Prophets, the Martyrs and the Virgins, as a way of reinforcing the city’s Christian character and placing it under the protection of the Saints. When the relics of the martyrs Gervasius and Protasius were discovered, they were placed in the Basilica of the Martyrs on the west side of the city; St Ambrose then arranged for himself to be buried there with them, and the church has subsequently been renamed for him. The same happened with St Simplician, who placed the relics of the three martyrs of Anaunia in the basilica of the Virgins on the north side of the city, arranging for himself to be buried there, and the church is now renamed for him.
The relics of St Simplician in the same church.
As is almost always the case with such ancient churches, the building has undergone many transformations since its original construction. However, the basic structure of the chapel made to house the martyrs’ relics survives; recent archeological study has confirmed that it dates to the very late 4th or early 5th century, the period of Simplician’s episcopacy.

“Lost in Translation” : The Sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus (Part 1)

“Lost in Translation” is a new regular column by Dr Michael Foley, in which he takes passages from the 1962 Missale Romanum and tries to uncover the nuances of the original Latin. Foley is no stranger to the task: his translations of St. Augustine’s first two works (Against the Academics and On the Happy Life) came out last summer and the next three (On Order and The Soliloquies/On the Immortality of the Soul) will be out this fall.

It is our hope that these brief reflections will foster your appreciation of the much-celebrated genius of the Roman Rite and its wondrous ability to communicate truths succinctly and beautifully.

The Sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus, Part 1
Composed in the thirteenth century, the Mass sequence for Pentecost and its Octave, Veni Sancte Spiritus, is not as well-known today as the equally fine hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. In the Middle Ages, however, this liturgical poem was nicknamed the “Golden Sequence,” for even amidst hundreds of sequences in use at the time, it stood out. The sequence captures the ineluctability, so to speak, of Him who appears in the Scriptures under mysterious guises: flames, a dove, a cloud, etc. In thirty tight verses, the Holy Spirit emerges as a Perfecter through contraries, and we learn to draw closer to Him through paradox and juxtaposition. Recognizing the value of this sacred composition, the Holy See used to grant a plenary indulgence to anyone who devoutly recited the Veni Sancte Spiritus for a month. Although this indulgence unfortunately no longer exists, the practice is still worthwhile.

The Holy Spirit; alabaster window in the apse of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1661. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Dnalor_01, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT)
An ideal companion for extended reflection on the Golden Sequence is Fr. Nicholas Gihr’s An Explanation of the Veni Sancte Spiritus (Loreto, 2009), an impressive 54-page, line-by-line analysis. I do not aspire to surpass Gihr’s achievement, but in the coming weeks I hope to shed some light on a few of the sequence’s stanzas. Let’s start today with a translation and an observation about one of its images.

Translating is a tricky business, and translating poetry especially so. Because poetry is a condensed and powerful combination of meaning and emotion (often through lots of word play), translators are faced with a choice: Translate with an eye towards the words’ literal meaning and lose some of the emotional impact, or translate with an eye towards emotional impact and lose some of the meaning.

Most hand Missals have translations that privilege emotional impact, that is, they try to make the translation beautiful and moving while doing their best to keep as much of the meaning as possible—and rightly so, for our hearts should be moved during solemn liturgy. The translation in my Missal of the Veni Sancte Spiritus, “Come Holy Ghost, send down those beams/ Which sweetly flow in silent streams” is a good example of this noble effort. Still, there are some beautiful insights into the Holy Spirit that are inevitably left out by such a strategy. So here is my ugly literal translation, which I hope brings out a little more of the meaning.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Et emitte caelitus
Lucis tuae radium.
Come, Holy Spirit,
And send forth from Heaven
A ray of Thy light.
Veni, Pater pauperum,
Veni, dator munerum,
Veni, lumen cordium.
Come, O father of the poor,
Come, O giver of gifts,
Come, O light of our hearts.
Consolator optime,
Dulcis hospes animae,
Dulce refrigerium.
O best of comforters,
O sweet guest of the soul,
O sweet refreshment.
In labore requies,
In aestu temperies,
In fletu solatium.
In labor, Thou are rest,
In sweltering heat, Thou are the cool,
In tears, Thou art comfort.
O lux beatissima,
Reple cordis intima
Tuorum fidelium.
O most blessed light,
Fill the cockles of the hearts
Of Thy faithful.
Sine tuo numine
Nihil est in homine,
Nihil est innoxium.
Without Thy numinosity
Nothing is in man,
Nothing is harmless
Lava quod est sordidum,
Riga quod est aridum,
Sana quod est saucium.
Cleanse what is dirty,
Water what is parched,
Heal what is wounded.
Flecte quod est rigidum,
Fove quod est frigidum,
Rege quod est devium,
Bend what is rigid,
Warm up what is frozen,
Straighten out what is crooked.
Da tuis fidelibus
In te confidentibus
Sacrum septenarium.
Grant to Thy faithful
Who trust in Thee,
The sacred sevenfold (gift).
Da virtutis meritum,
Da salutis exitum,
Da perenne gaudium.
   Amen, Alleluja.
Grant the reward of virtue,
Grant an exit of salvation,
Grant joy unending.
   Amen, Alleluja.

As for the poem’s imagery, note the prominence of light. The Holy Spirit has a light which sheds rays from Heaven (first stanza) and is a Light of hearts (second stanza), indeed, a most blessed Light that we ask to fill the cockles of our hearts (fifth stanza). The author toggles between two different Latin words for light, lux and lumen. Originally, lux was light (daylight in particular) and lumen was a source of light, like a lamp or torch. Over time, however, the two became interchangeable, so it is difficult to say whether our author has a particular meaning in mind for each. (Today, by the way, lux and lumens are two different ways of measuring light: lumens (in the Anglicized plural) is how much light is emitted by a light source while lux is how much light falls on a surface. If that doesn’t make sense, click here and look at the cool graphic.)

One thing we know: Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, but so in a way is the Holy Spirit. Saint Augustine explains it this way: If the sun is God the Father, then the sun’s shining is God the Son, and the sun’s illumination is God the Holy Spirit (Soliloquies 1.8.15). I wonder if Augustine’s distinction between shining and illuminating is similar to the aforementioned use of lumens and lux, but I hesitate to say. One thing is certain: by using this analogy, Augustine is not promoting a modalist heresy, but trying to deepen our love of the Holy Spirit as He who wakes us up (like the rosy fingers of dawn) and sheds light on the world around us and above us.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Twelve Apostles in the London Oratory

Two days ago, on the feast of St Philip Neri, I posted photos of the church of the London Oratory, and mentioned that a particular artistic feature of it deserves its own separate post. This feature is a group of statues of the Twelve Apostles by the Baroque sculptor Giuseppe Mazzuoli (1644-1725), a native of the Tuscan city of Volterra who worked for most of his life in Rome. When he was young, the artistic climate of Rome was very much dominated by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, whose influence on him was very notable. In 1681, Mazzuoli was hired to make these statues for the cathedral of Siena, a very prestigious commission, inasmuch as his work would be displayed in a place that houses pieces by several of the most important names in Italian sculpture (Bernini himself, Michelangelo, and Donatello, just to name three), along with countless other artistic treasures.

By the later part of the 19th century, however, the Baroque was very much out of fashion in many quarters, and in the year 1895, the cathedral of Siena sold the statues to the Oratory. Here are my pictures of ten of them, starting with St Bartholomew, whose feast was the day I visited the church, hence the candles lit underneath it.
St Paul
St Philip
St James the Lesser
St Jude

The Octave of the Ascension 2020

The Ascension of the Lord was the confirmation of the Catholic Faith, that we may surely believe in the gift which is yet to come, from that miracle whose effect we have already felt; and that every one of the faithful, having already received such great things, may learn to hope for the things which have been promised, and through those which he knows have already been given, and hold the goodness of God, both past and present, as a pledge of the things which shall come later.

The Ascension of the Lord, from a 12th century sacramentary produced for the cathedral of St Stephen in Limoges, France. (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des manuscrits. Latin 9438, folio 84v. image cropped.)
An earthly body, therefore, is lifted up above the heights of heaven; the bones, which but a little while before had lain within the narrow walls of the grave, are brought in among the hosts of Angels. Our mortal nature is given a place in the lap of immortality; and therefore the Apostle’s sacred history which we have read saith “When He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up.” (From St Augustine’s Third Sermon on the Ascension, read on the Octave in the Breviary of St Pius V.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The New Prefaces of the EF Mass, Part 2: The Preface of St John the Baptist

This is the second article in a series on the prefaces which have recently been made optional for use in the Mass of the Extraordinary Form. The first part of the previous article outlines the history of the preface as a feature of the Roman Mass. In it, I explained that when the post-Conciliar reformers decided to broaden the corpus of prefaces, the texts were not taken from ancient sources of the Roman Rite, or from the Ambrosian Rite, which had always maintained a much greater variety of them. It was determined that such texts were unsuitable for modern use, and indeed, “unbearable”, and therefore, new ones were created by various devices. The preface examined in the first article, that of the Angels, is substantially the same as one attested in the very oldest liturgical source of the Roman Rite, the so-called Leonine Sacramentary, with some changes of wording and the omission (for no discernible reason) of one clause.

The preface for the feasts of St John the Baptist, on the other hand, is essentially a new composition, broadly inspired by an historical text. In their book “The Prefaces of the Roman Missal. A Source Compendium with Concordance and Indices,” Fr Anthony Ward, S.M. and Dom Cuthbert Johnson, O.S.B., give six different ancient prefaces as its source; however, this is quite misleading. The first of these, also from the Leonine Sacramentary, provides no more than a single verb and the putative inspiration for a single prepositional phrase. The fifth, a preface for the feast of a martyr, is cited as the source for the “Et ideo” clause which concludes a huge number of prefaces, and might therefore just as well have been omitted. The sixth is not cited as the source of a single word of the new preface, but rather as a text which “seems at some points to have given generic inspiration for adaptation of the texts (listed) above.”

Folio 172r of the Sacramentary of Rodrad, 853AD, with the preface for the Nativity of St John the Baptist “VD. Et in die festivitatis”. This section of the manuscript is a collection of prefaces added to the original sacramentary, which were not integrated into the texts of the Masses to which they belonged; for this reason, the text above it is not another part of the same Mass, but a preface for the vigil, and that below is a preface for the feast of Ss John and Paul. Rodrad is the name of the priest who made this manuscript for Hilmerad, bishop of Amiens, who had ordained him to the priesthood. (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Latin 12050)
The second and third of their sources are in fact the same text, first as it appears in the Leonine Sacramentary in the mid-6th century, and then in a supplement added to the Gregorian Sacramentary in the 9th century, with just four additional words. This was included, without its final section, in the 1771 neo-Gallican Missal of Lyon, which is Ward and Johnson’s fourth source. A slightly different recension provides the first half of the Ambrosian preface for the Nativity of St John the Baptist, as attested in the oldest sacramentaries of that rite; this was still being used at the time of the reform, and is still in use to this day in the Ambrosian Extraordinary Form. Here is the version from the Gregorian Sacramentary; the words in italics are the ones not in the Leonine.

“VD: Et in die festivitatis hodiernae, qua beatus Joannes exortus est, tuam magnificentiam collaudare. Qui vocem matris Domini nondum editus sensit, et adhuc clausus utero, adventum salutis humanae prophetica exultatione significavit. Qui et genetricis sterilitatem conceptus abstersit, et patris linguam natus absolvit, solusque omnium prophetarum Redemptorem mundi, quem praenuntiavit, ostendit. Et ut sacrae purificationis effectum aquarum natura conciperet, sanctificandis Iordanis fluentis ipsum baptismatis lavit auctorem.

A triptych of the Baptism of Christ, 1387, by the Florentine painter Nicolò di Pietro Gerini (active from 1366, died ca. 1415), with Ss Peter and Paul; in the predella, stories from the life of the Baptist (the annunciation to Zachariah, the birth, and the beheading) flanked by St Romuald (right), founder of the Camaldolese Order, and his spiritual father Marinus (left). Originally commissioned for the Camaldolese church in Florence, Santa Maria degli Angeli; now in the National Gallery in London.
Truly it is worthy… and on this day of festivity, on which the blessed John was born, (lit. ‘arose, appeared, came forth.’), to praise Thy magnificence. Who sensed the voice of the Lord’s Mother when he had not yet been brought forth, and while still enclosed in the womb, and made known the coming of mankind’s salvation with prophet rejoicing. Who in his conception wiped away the sterility of his mother, in his birth, set loose the tongue of his father, and alone of all the prophets, showed the Redeemer of the world whom he who foretold. And, so that the nature of water might receive the effect of sacred purification, he washed the very Author of baptism with the streams of the Jordan that were thus to be sanctified.”

Ward and Johnson’s book is purely documentary, and therefore, although it shows by comparison what was changed, it doesn’t explain why any specific change was made. We are therefore left to guess at the motives of the post-Conciliar reformers where they are not obvious, and in this case, it is difficult to see why they felt they couldn’t just leave such an ancient text alone when adding it to the Missal. The final clause, which does not depend directly on any prior source, was made necessary by the absolutely bizarre decision to have one preface serve for both the birth of St John and his Beheading, the latter now renamed as his “Passion” in deference to the delicate sensibilities of Modern Man™. (This name is found, along with a great many other things, in ancient manuscripts.) This is the result of their work.

“VD… per Christum Dóminum nostrum. In cuius Praecursóre beáto Ioanne tuam magnificentiam collaudámus, quem inter natos mulíerum honóre praecipuo consecrasti. Qui cum nascendo multa gaudia praestitisset, et nondum éditus exsultasset ad humánae salútis adventum, ipse solus omnium prophetárum Agnum redemptiónis ostendit. Sed et sanctificandis etiam aquae fluentis ipsum baptísmatis lavit auctórem, et méruit fuso sánguine supremum illi testimonium exhibére.

The Beheading of St John the Baptist, ca. 1635, by the Neapolitan painter Massimo Stanzione (1585-1656), now in the Prado Museum in Madrid. 
My literal translation: It is truly right … through Christ our Lord. In whose Precursor, the blessed John, we praise Thy magnificence, even him whom Thou didst consecrate with particular honor among those born of women. Who, when he had brought man joys in his birth, and though not yet born, had rejoiced at the coming of mankind’s salvation, did alone of all the prophets point out the Lamb of redemption. But also he washed the very author of Baptism with the streams of water that were thus to be sanctified, and merited to bear Him the supreme witness by the shedding of his blood.

The new English liturgical translation: It is truly right … through Christ our Lord. In his Precursor, Saint John the Baptist, we praise your great glory, for you consecrated him for a single honor among those born of women. His birth brought great rejoicing; even in the womb, he leapt for joy at the coming of human salvation. He alone of all the prophets pointed out the Lamb of redemption. And to make holy the flowing waters he baptized the very author of Baptism and was privileged to bear him the supreme witness by the shedding of his blood.”

The words underlined in my translation are taken more or less from the preface in the Gregorian Sacramentary. Ward and Johnson cite the words “among those born of women” to a completely different preface in another Mass of St John in the Leonine Sacramentary; the modern version conforms the original reading “among the sons of men” to the Biblical text (Matt. 11, 11). The same preface is also given as the source of the single Latin word “consecrasti – Thou didst consecrate”, but (as they note without explanation) this is actually an editorial correction of the defective Leonine text made by Dom Leo Mohlberg OSB in his critical edition.

The preface which Ward and Johnson say “seems at some points to have given generic inspiration for adaptation of the texts above” is actually for the Decapitation of the Baptist, and attested in all the same manuscripts of the Gregorian Sacramentary as the preface “Et in die festivitatis” given above. No part of the clause about the Beheading at the end of the modern preface corresponds to anything in it, but phrases like “by the shedding of (his) blood” occur in many liturgical texts of every sort and period.

In the Novus Ordo, many new doxologies were invented for the new prefaces, but in this case, this will not be used in the EF. Here is the conclusion for the preface in the OF.

Et ídeo, cum caelórum virtútibus, in terris te iúgiter praedicámus, maiestáti tuae sine fine clamantes: Sanctus...

My literal translation: And therefore, with the powers of the heavens, we proclaim Thee unceasingly on earth, crying out to Thy majesty without end: Holy…

The new English liturgical translation: And so, with the powers of heaven, we worship you constantly on earth, and before your majesty without end we acclaim: Holy…

As was also the case with the preface of the Angels, the putative Biblical and Patristic sources which Ward and Johnson give for these liturgical texts are too generic to bother mentioning.

The Top 5 Misconceptions about Music at Mass, and more!

We’re drawing a very productive month at Square Notes: The Sacred Music Podcast to a close, and we hope you’ll find the fruits of our labors edifying and enjoyable. Check out the topics and recordings of our episodes below, including the recordings from the 4-part webinar on chanting monastic vespers (the fourth part of which featured NLM’s own Gregory DiPippo).

Click on the titles of episodes below for the links to the YouTube versions, or click on the embedded players for the audio-only source files.

What are the top five things that people don’t understand when it comes to sacred music? In this first part of a two-part episode, we take time to give a substantive response to what many Catholics might not know or don’t get right about music for the sacred liturgy. We look at liturgical and philosophical principles that have been fleshed out through the centuries as the Church has guided musicians in building up the treasury of sacred music, and spend some time on insights from Church documents.

Are you looking for an authentically Catholic curriculum and method for teaching music to children? Something that’s practical, fun, and helps children to grow in love of the Church’s sacred music? This bonus episode looks at the history of the development of the Ward method, its underlying educational principles, its place in Catholic education, and the experience both of those who learn to teach with the method, as well as that of children who learn music using the method. Our guest is Mr. Kevin Collins, an NYC actor and father.

SE02 EP16 – “Lord, Teach Us to Pray”: The Spiritual Fruits of Obedience in Matters Liturgical – with Dom Alcuin Reid, OSB

On this episode, we discuss matters of liturgical formation, both for musicians, as well as for those we serve. Dom Alcuin Reid is the founding Prior of the Monastère Saint-Benoît in the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France, and a liturgical scholar of international renown. His principle work, The Organic Development of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2005) carries a preface by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

Dom Alcuin’s Address at the 2019 Sacred Music Colloquium is available here.

Franz Liszt, haunted by the spectre of God’s grace, was never able to fully shake off his Catholic faith. Our guest, Dr. Jay Hershberger, the president of the American Liszt Society, shares with us a Catholic portrait of the pianist and composer’s life, highlighting his story of conversion, his later years in fervent practice of his faith, his compositions about various Catholic topics and music for the liturgy, and even about his non-musical writings about the theological issues of the day.

You can catch us on our website, YouTube, iTunes, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app. Please note that we have discontinued publishing on SoundCloud.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Church of the London Oratory

Over the years, we have published many photos of liturgies at the London Oratory, but we have never done an article on the church per se. In honor of the feast of St Philip Neri, here are some pictures which I took when I was in London last year on pilgrimage with the Schola St Cécile. (We had the good fortune to stay in a place which is just a few blocks away, and therefore also close to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is next door to the Oratory.) I will have a separate post on a particular artistic feature of the Oratory which deserves special attention.

The church is officially dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At the time of its construction, which began in June of 1880 with the laying of the cornerstone, the neo-Gothic style was very much associated with the Anglo-Catholic and ritualist movements within Anglicanism. The Oratory was therefore deliberately built in the Italian Renaissance style, with elements of the Baroque, partly to emphasize its Roman Catholic affiliation, and partly in honor of the origins of the Congregation of the Oratory. (Westminster Cathedral was built in the Romanesque style for much the same reason.) The façade will immediately remind anyone is who is familiar with Rome of both Sant’Agostino, one of the Eternal City’s most important Renaissance churches, but also of the Roman Oratory, Santa Maria in Vallicelli (still known to this day, more than four and half centuries after its foundation, as “Chiesa Nuova – New Church.”)
Likewise, the architecture of the interior is clearly inspired by any number of Roman churches of the Counter-Reformation; the gigantic order of the columns in the nave, which pass through one cornice to reach up to the second one under the clerestory, the side-chapels engaged deep within the side-aisles, and above all the dome, elevated and pierced with windows, are all very much reminiscent of St Peter’s Basilica, and the churches subsequently inspired by it.
The main sanctuary. 
The chapel of the Seven Sorrows, a devotion which was particularly dear to Fr Faber, one of the founders of the Oratory. It has traditionally been used as a funerary chapel, and as the focus of the activities of the Confraternity of the Precious Blood, a devotion which was very important in pre-Reformation England.
A bronze statue of St Peter, copied from the famous one by Arnolfo di Cambio in St Peter’s in Rome.

A March for Eternal Life, A Holy Crusade for the Conversion of California

A call for Christian chivalry and conversion
In today’s Way of Beauty podcast, Episode 68, my friend Charlie Deist talks about his inspiration for organizing a 50-mile march in the San Francisco Bay Area. It follows a route that encircles the Bay - around three bridges (the Bay Bridge, Richmond Bridge, and the Golden Gate Bridge) starting early in the mornin,g and walking the full distance in a single day. 

Charlie, who is a Bay Area native and a relatively recent convert, has made it his mission to focus on two secular cults, exercise and nutrition, and to Christianize them so that they are in harmony with a Christian spiritual life. You can read about his ideas on his blog

I think he really is onto something here. If there are two aspects of Californian life that symbolize the misdirected desire for the good (along with sexual immorality) it is these.

He has therefore  proposed a march in which we meditate upon the spiritual meaning of marching itself. I see the 50 miles as a symbol of Pentecost, the 50th day after Easter on which the Holy Spirit descended upon the world. I am dubbing this a March for Eternal Life (or The Bay-Area Pilgrimage for Pentecost). Charlie wanted to draw attention to the fact that staying indoors all day is in many ways detrimental to our health, and to encourage people to consider walking in the outdoors. (You can hear him talk about the reasons in the podcast.) But in my discussions with him, it became more than this, a symbol of broader freedom - to worship and gather for human activities that are essential to our well being. Then, I thought also that this might be a pilgrimage that becomes a focus of prayer for the conversion of the unbelievers of the Bay Area and California who cannot see this.

The March takes place on Friday, May 29th, beginning at Treasure Island on the Bay Bridge. You can join him for all or part (I am doing just a part!) of that march by connecting with Charlie through his website My plan is to park at Pt. Isabel Dog Park (9:30) and walk to the Marin side of the Bay Bridge (finishing at 1:30 pm or so at Jean and John Starkweather Park). At this point, there will be a handful of people who will probably stop there and take an Uber back (so bring your masks). I want this to be as much a meditation as a social event, and my hope is to find a crowd to sing boisterously with me the Polyeleos - Psalm 136 the (‘Many Mercies’ psalm). I will bring hymn sheets for anyone who wishes to join in.

Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge near San Francisco
Charlie’s approach to exercise and diet is to make the person of Christ the harmonizing factor. Once we start with a Christian anthropology in our consideration of man, and understand that it is our relationship with Him that governs all human activity, then the dichotomies and conflicts which arise from worshipping lesser gods disappear.

Eating is both a physical and spiritual activity, and considerations of nutritional science and the spiritual disciplines of feasting and fasting are harmonized in the daily, weekly, seasonal and annual cycles of time in the liturgical year and our patterns of prayer and worship. And walking (or marching) done for purposes of both exercise and for the meditation upon things eternal becomes what used to be called…a pilgrimage! So this is The Pilgrimage for Pentecost!

We can conform our patterns of all exercise to this sacred ideal, and this will give us both physical and spiritual benefits. As we argue in the podcast, natural exercise will promote in people the old ideals of chivalry, virtue, and self-control.

This is the Natural Method that Charlie is advocating through his site Similarly, work and recreation are both activities that bolster the dignity of human life when understood in this way.

The misdirected searches for the Good that characterize and fracture society have never been more apparent in the enforced pattern of activity that the response to the coronavirus here in California. It arises, it seems to me, from public policy that does recognize that while there are positive effects that arise from the enforced separation of people from each other, there are also detrimental effects - work and economic activity, social, spiritual and religious, physical, recreational, and so on. Those who formulate public policy in the state do not seem to recognize sufficiently that human dignity requires us to participate in all these activities, and if they are denied to us, this will have a detrimental impact on the whole person.

I do not expect those who govern us to be able to implement the perfect policy that gives us the right balance in a coronavirus lockdown. This is a difficult situation, and it would be hard to know what to do precisely. However, once we accept that the human person is not a compartmentalized being, but rather a profound unity of body and soul in which every activity impacts every aspect of the human person, then we at least have a chance of knowing what that balance is. Neglect of these principles, on the other hand, will almost certainly result in a policy that makes things worse. I feel that we are starting to realize this now.

There is another point here, in that I believe that each of us knows best how to balance these factors in our own lives. We are all unique, and centrally mandated policies that try to dictate the detail of our daily living will create more difficulties on balance for all those people whose needs do not correspond precisely to the average man which they are designed to help - i.e. every single one of us.

What is being neglected here is the importance of personal freedom in society’s response to any crisis. The proper role of the State is to regulate to protect human freedom in accordance with the principles of justice, regardless of whether or not we are in a crisis. Now more than ever, we must trust that maximizing human freedom will allow the Common Good to manifest itself, and that this will produce the best response of our nation to the pandemic.

This principle does allow for the possibility of different forms of regulation under changing conditions and threats. Nevertheless, according to this logic, the only justification for state intervention of the sort that we have seen is that it is protecting the personal freedom of its citizens in accordance with justice. One might consider that the pandemic itself represents a threat to human freedom that justifies extraordinary measures by arguing that most of us are not as free as we otherwise would be if we are confined to a hospital bed and a ventilator. My friend Michel Accad, who is a medical doctor in general practice, as well as a practicing cardiologist, argues in this article that there is no role such for the State, saying:
It is the true economy and the integrity of society that the government should protect or promote. Lockdowns do the exact opposite. They fracture us, harm us, and weaken us all. If maintained long enough, they will disintegrate us. In the meantime, they undoubtedly obstruct our efforts to find the best way to respond to pandemics. They should be opposed—not because of tradeoffs—but because they are antithetical to the economy, that is, to the good of society.
Before you accuse him (or me) of being concerned only with money, I should point out that he using the word ‘economy’ in its fullest meaning, one that incorporates a Christian vision of man and society. He says the following:
The economy is not simply a sum total of exchanges of material goods and services among consumers, businesses, and governments, to be measured as a “GDP.” That is the concept that the utilitarians are accustomed to, and it’s how mainstream political philosophy conceives of the economy. Originally, however, the Greek term Oîkonomia meant “household affairs” and came to refer, by extension, to the entire life of the community as such.
The reason to consider the life of the community as such is that the human being is, by nature, a social animal who depends essentially on the division of labor that takes place within an integrated and wholly interconnected society. We depend on the division of labor from the moment we are born: we need parents who can feed us, and our parents themselves need the specialized work of others to survive—specialized work that invariably crosses different generations. The division of labor forms a more or less tight-knit “political” community that promotes and defends the interests of its own members. That community may be a small primitive tribe or a huge nation-state, it is nevertheless one community engaged in the division of labor in its own unique way.
In light of this, I suggest now is a time particularly, that we hope that those who govern us are inspired by the Holy Spirit as they execute their duties. And so for me, the 50-mile march for freedom, our ‘March for Eternal Life’ evoking the Spirit of Pentecost is an occasion for prayer, meditation, and pilgrimage. We intend to pray for our leaders and ask God to send his Holy Spirit to guide them, and that they might listen to Him, and for their conversion and the conversion of the State of California. This is a Holy Crusade for today.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Newman Society of Oxford Celebrates First EF Mass in Decades

NLM congratulates the Newman Society for this auspicious event. We wish them well and encourage our readers to consider supporting their good initiatives.

On February20th, the Newman Society, the Oxford University Catholic Society, celebrated a sung votive Mass of the Holy Spirit in the Extraordinary Form at Campion Hall. The Mass, held at the Jesuit Hall of the University by kind permission of the Master, Fr Nicholas Austen SJ, was the first Missa Cantata to take place at the Hall for several decades, and was attended by over fifty students of the University, members of the Jesuit community, including Chaplain Fr Nick King SJ, and many friends of the Society.

The celebrant was Fr Joseph Hamilton, a priest of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Chaplain of the Order of Malta, and Doctoral Student in theology at the University; the sermon was preached by Fr Joseph Simmons SJ. The Mass was preceded by a brief talk by Fr Matthew Dunch SJ on the history of the splendid Grade II listed chapel, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the 1930s.

The Society, founded in 1878, which represents one of the oldest continuously extant bodies in Catholic Oxford, and carries the name of Saint John Henry by his own permission, must be one of the oldest Catholic student societies in the world. With its principal focus on catechetical talks exploring the breadth of the dogmatic and practical aspects of the Faith, the choice of the Extraordinary Form for their termly Mass was part of the Society’s efforts to form young Catholics fit for 21st Century Christian life, with thorough appreciation of the Sacred Traditions handed down to them.

The Mass was beautifully accompanied by Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices and Palestrina’s setting of Veni Creator Spiritus, under the masterful leadership of Dominic Bevan, with Tom Neal as the organist. The Society are grateful to the Hall Sacristan for allowing use of the house vestments, with the crest of the Hall clearly visible on the chasuble, further representing the warm welcome the Society’s members received from the Jesuit community.

As the pandemic continues, the Society has moved its events online, with all welcome to join their talks on Thursday evenings at An appeal has been launched to support the Society during this time of lost revenue, more information is available at

Interviews with Catholic Composers — (6) Paul Jernberg

Many NLM readers will need no introduction to Paul Jernberg, whose beautiful music has been mentioned in the past by my colleague David Clayton. Jernberg’s work is characterized by a Byzantine flavor of harmonization that he brings to settings of both Latin and vernacular liturgical texts.

Tell us about your musical background: when and how you began singing or playing instruments, your most influential teacher, how your interest in composing sacred music was enkindled. 

Born in Chicago in 1953, my earliest musical formation came from being immersed in beautiful music in my home and church. My paternal grandmother was a concert violinist, my father was also a fine violinist, and several of my aunts, uncles, and cousins were accomplished musicians. In the Baptist church which we regularly attended, there was always inspirational singing by the choirs and the congregation. Whenever our family gathered for holidays, there was also much singing and music making!

I began piano lessons at six years old, studied and performed throughout high school, and then continued as a music and piano performance major in college. While still in high school, I also began studies in music theory and composition at the American Conservatory of Music in downtown Chicago. It was my great privilege to study privately there with the great Irwin Fischer, himself a student of Nadia Boulanger and Zoltan Kodaly. Although at this time I had no thought of composing Catholic sacred music, Mr. Fischer helped me to discover the greatness of Palestrina and all the Renaissance masters, through my classes with him in Modal Counterpoint. At this point the composing which I did was generally as homework; it wasn’t until many years later that the sense of a vocation to compose music for the Sacred Liturgy became clear.

Salve Regina

Is there a sacred music composer—or are there several composers—whose work you find most captivating, either as a source of delight, or as direct inspirations and models for your own work? 

It is true that as a source of musical delight, I continue to be captivated and transported by the sacred works of the great composers of our Art Music tradition: Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, etc., and their many brilliant successors up until the present. However, as I began to discover the Catholic Liturgy during my time living and working in Sweden (1983-1993), I realized that the great patrimony of Gregorian Chant and Byzantine Chant has a specific genius, distinct from (though related to) the glory of Art Music, for drawing us into the contemplative dimension of the Mass. Part of this genius is in its discreet, sacred character which while beautiful is always pointing away from itself to the Mystery.

In the West, from the Renaissance and onward, the culture became increasingly oriented toward the flourishing of human artistic capacities in secular venues. This new cultural movement was in itself a magnificent thing, strongly influenced by its Christian, Catholic roots, and capable of reflecting the glory of God. Nevertheless, the standard parameters of music composition made a significant shift away from their traditional orientation to the Liturgy, to a new orientation to the secular venues of the opera hall and concert stage. This secular cultural orientation has continued to our present day. Even though there have been many devout Christians and Catholics who have contributed their extraordinary talents to the service of the Liturgy, the standard formation for serious musicians – including these church musicians – has continued to be based upon the Art Music tradition. While such a formation is a good and praiseworthy thing, it is nevertheless distinct from a thoroughly liturgical formation.

By contrast, the great composers of Eastern Europe, while participating in the Art Music movement, tended to maintain a clearer distinction between sacred and secular composition. In this regard I find the liturgical works of Russian Orthodox composers such as Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninoff to be particularly inspiring. Among the several brilliant Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic composers of our own day, I am particularly influenced by those who aim to maintain this “Little Way” of inspired simplicity. One of the greatest of these, in my view, is my friend Roman Hurko. He is a Ukrainian-Canadian composer living in New York; his Liturgy No. 3 (in English) is a magnificent example of the integration of artistry and spirituality in an authentically liturgical style.

But having said all of the above, my own musical identity is deeply rooted in the Roman Rite, and most especially in our patrimony of chant and polyphony. It has been both a duty and a delight for me to be immersed in both of these great forms, which provide an indispensable foundation for anyone who aspires to integrity in composing music for the Mass.

The Lord’s Prayer (from the Mass of St. Philip Neri)

If you were given an unlimited budget for musicians for a solemn pontifical Mass, what works would you put on the program? 

An unlimited budget would not necessarily be a good thing, just as winning the Lottery has often been highly problematic for many people! St. John Vianney’s holy extravagance towards all that was related to the church building and the Liturgy is a radiant model for us; however, this prodigality was in the spirit of the poor widow giving her mite. He gave everything he had out of his poverty, rather than from a surplus of resources. And I am convinced that a vitally important dimension of our work is in recovering the sense of holy littleness that characterizes Our Lady’s Magnificat.

Having said this, I have actually been very blessed, through the generous support of others, to prepare a number of Liturgies in which we have been able to pursue such an “ideal” program. These have always included a combination of Gregorian chant, classic polyphony, and new works which are able to “harmonize” deeply with this chant and polyphony. We have also been able to sing the entire Mass, with Priest, Deacon, Cantor, Choir, and Congregation fulfilling their respective parts of the Ordinary and Propers. In February 2019 we recorded one of these Masses – a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit – which can be viewed and listened to here:

Or for a one-minute taste:

The language of sacred music, as of Catholic worship in general, remains a controversial subject. What are your thoughts about the place of Latin in the liturgy? 

Latin was and is the traditional liturgical language of our Roman Rite. As a healthy piety calls us to honor our liturgical patrimony, it also calls us to honor the language which is an integral dimension of this patrimony. Sadly, most Catholics have now been effectively cut off from this treasure, just as our Western culture has generally been cut off from its vital connection to its linguistic roots in Latin and Greek. This poses the question of how to move forward in a way that integrates piety, prudence, and charity.

In affirmation of the direction of Pope Benedict XVI in this regard, I would advocate an approach that facilitates a robust renewal of the study of Latin, and of its use in the Sacred Liturgy. And the resurgence of the TLM is a sign of such a renewal in those communities which have embraced this form. Beyond this, it seems evident that those who are charged with the formation of priests, deacons, and church musicians have a responsibility to provide them with a thorough immersion in our great Latin liturgical and sacred music traditions. And as they teach them how to do and sing them well, they also need to communicate the fire of love which is at the heart of these traditions.

Having said all this, it is also important to realize that Latin itself was once “secular” in relation to the Sacred Liturgy. It required a long period of holy adaptation, from its Aramaic and Greek precedents, so as to become the great liturgical language that it is. Furthermore, this same process of holy adaptation has taken place in many of the other Rites of the Catholic Church, producing other venerable sacred languages such as Coptic, Ge’ez, Armenian, and Church Slavonic.

The use of the vernacular in the Mass of Paul VI has often caused concern among those who would preserve the integrity of the Roman Liturgy, because of the extent to which it has been used as a tool of desacralization. On the other hand, the longstanding witness of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches indicates that it is possible – however long and difficult the task may be – to adapt and sanctify our vernacular languages for their holy liturgical use.

As a musician, I am grateful to have participated in both of the above dimensions of liturgical renewal: singing, conducting, and composing for the Latin liturgy, but also working within the vernacular (primarily English, but also Spanish, French, and Swedish) to develop a holy repertoire that is worthy of our great heritage.

Lamb of God (from the Mass of St. Philip Neri)

In recent years many have been pointing out the strong generational dynamics in the Catholic Church: older people seem to want the popular or secular styles of art, while (at least some, generally the more serious) younger people are intrigued by traditional forms that have an archaic feel to them. Would you agree or disagree with that assessment? 

I would phrase it a bit differently. From my own experience it does seem indeed that the “Vatican II generation,” those of us who are now in our 50’s and older, have often grown accustomed to the “new way” of celebrating the Mass, which has often been permeated by elements of desacralization, unsound teaching, and moral compromise. If this has been our steady liturgical diet, how could we avoid its having had a strong impact on our general approach to culture and art? Thankfully, there have been many notable exceptions to this generational tendency, who have faithfully pursued integrity in their approach to the Liturgy and culture.

Regarding younger people, we see a multitude who have abandoned the Faith altogether – and consequently, any sense of Christian culture – which in my mind is one of the most tragic, devastating effects of the disintegration of the Liturgy. For those who have returned or remained faithful, I do see a tremendous longing for integrity, for the robust pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty. This holy longing, and this pursuit, is manifested in a variety of ways. Many young people are indeed attracted to more traditional forms of the Liturgy and Art; others are more naturally attracted by opportunities to deepen their philosophical, theological, biblical, and spiritual formation. While none of the above are mutually exclusive, in practice one does see how different personalities and temperaments tend to be drawn to different expressions of the same fundamental aspiration.

If you have experience with the “traditionalist” movement, what are some strengths and weaknesses you see in it, particularly from a musical point of view? 

The first great strength, as I see it, is the rediscovery and cultivation of our great liturgical and sacred music traditions. Secondly, for many people it has given a holy framework of Liturgy and life that has been a life-saver in the midst of a sea of irreverence, corruption, and secularization.

The weaknesses, in my opinion, are not inherent to these traditional forms, but rather the result of our human frailty – and as such they should be addressed and remedied as much as possible. I have observed at times a tendency toward formalism; by this I mean an emphasis on the external observance of the (necessary and holy) forms, without a corresponding emphasis on the spiritual, intellectual, and apostolic vitality of the faithful. In some notable cases, an apparent coldness and insularism among the traditionalist faithful has pushed away seekers who would otherwise be open to discovering the beauty of our sacred liturgical traditions.

Regarding the music of the TLM, I have witnessed some magnificent examples of integrity and artistry over the past ten years or so. However, I think we need a continued vigorous cultivation of both the artistic and spiritual dimensions of the music in the TLM. Without such efforts, the music can easily be “correct” but not particularly inspired or edifying. With such a movement, the singing can become more faithful to the Divine Love which is at its heart, and draw people more effectively to the Mystery which it is meant to serve.

What are you doing now in the realm of sacred music?

I am presently the director of the Magnificat Institute of Sacred Music, based in central Massachusetts, whose mission is to promote an authentic renewal of sacred music in the Roman Rite. This is a full-time job as well as a labor of love, for which I am profoundly grateful. My work consists in composing, conducting, recording, writing, teaching, consulting, and a variety of other related tasks.

What are some of your future plans as a composer? How can people get in touch with you?

Within the coming year I am planning, Deo volente, to publish and record several more of my completed compositions for the Liturgy. These include a Missa Parva (a setting of the Latin Ordinary), the Mass of St. Monica, various settings of Vespers and Compline, many settings of the Mass Propers, and music for numerous other sacred texts in both Latin and English.

Beyond all these, I am also well under way on a new Mass setting – Misa del Camino - that has been inspired by my son’s recent pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.  I hope to be able to share more details about this within the coming months. And as if all of this were not enough, I am always open to requests and commissions for new compositions.

I would ask all of your readers to pray for me, and for the work of our Magnificat Institute. I can be reached through either one of our websites, or And thank you so much, Peter, for this opportunity to participate in the ongoing conversation on NLM!

To listen to more of Paul’s wonderful music, visit his SoundCloud page.

The other interviews in this series:
1. Nicholas Lemme
2. Mark Nowakowski
3. Tate Pumfrey
4. Ronan Reilly
5. Nicholas Wilton

Also pertinent:
Interview with Elam Rotem

Friday, May 22, 2020

The New Prefaces of the EF Mass, Part 1: The Preface of the Angels

As I am sure all of our readers know, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently promulgated seven new prefaces for optional use in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Three of these originated with the French neo-Gallican reforms of the 18th century, while four others came from the Ordinary Form. A reader suggested it might be useful to know something more about these, and so I today begin a new series which will explain each one of them in turn, starting with the ones taken from the OF.

Folio 21r of the Echternach Sacramentary, 895AD, with a stylized V and D joined together as an abbreviation of the first two words of the opening formula of the Preface, “Vere dignum.” This form of abbreviation would remain common even into the mid-16th century, in the printed Missals of the last generation of liturgical books before the Tridentine reform. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 9433; image cropped.)
Some of this information will be summarized from a study by Fr Anthony Ward, S.M. and Dom Cuthbert Johnson, O.S.B., “The Prefaces of the Roman Missal. A Source Compendium with Concordance and Indices.” This useful book gives the full text of each preface of the Ordinary Form in Latin, followed, where applicable, by the text of the ancient source from which it was taken, the parallel text in the Ambrosian Rite (explanation below), Biblical and Patristic parallels, and the official translations in various languages. Since it was published in 1989, the English translation then in use has, of course, been replaced by a new one, and I therefore leave it for the dead to bury.

The preface of the Roman Mass was originally highly variable, as attested in many ancient sacramentaries, and although the corpus of them is not uniform from one manuscript to another, there were a good many which were in general use. The Corpus Christianorum series published by Brepols includes a five volume catalog of them, with close to 1700 entries. At the end of the 11th century, however, their number was reduced to ten, plus the common preface, and with a few exceptions, this remained the general custom for the rest of the Middle Ages and into the Tridentine period.

When the neo-Gallican liturgical reform movement began in the later 17th century, it did not at first touch the traditional corpus of prefaces; this was first done in the 1738 revision of the Missal of Paris, which included new prefaces for Advent, Holy Thursday (also said at votive Masses of the Sacrament), Corpus Christi, All Saints (also said on the feasts of Patron Saints), Saints Denys and Companions, and for Masses of the Dead. This was then widely imitated in the rest of France, usually by copying the Parisian prefaces, but also by composing new ones. (I have a Missal printed in France in the late 19th century, with the supplement of the diocese of Versailles, which contains a special preface for the feast of St Louis IX.)

The preface for the dead in the 1738 Missal of Paris.
The neo-Gallican Uses were gradually suppressed over the course of the 19th century, but some of their features were retained by being incorporated into the French supplements “for certain places” in the Roman liturgical books. Among these, the prefaces were certainly the most prominent, and are almost always found in an appendix in Missals printed for use in France and Belgium. This in turn led to a general rediscovery, as it were, of the preface as a more variable feature of the Mass, starting in 1919, when Pope Benedict XV added the 1738 Parisian Preface for the Dead to the Roman Rite for general and mandatory use, along with one for St Joseph, the first such additions in more than eight centuries. In the years that followed, some religious orders followed suit; the Dominicans, for example, added a new preface for St Dominic to their Missal in 1921. The trend was then given an even greater push by Pope Pius XI’s two major additions to the Missal, the feast of Christ the King (1925), and the upgrade of the feast of the Sacred Heart (1928), both of which included their own newly composed prefaces.

Oddly enough, Sacrosanctum Concilium says nothing whatsoever about further expansion of the corpus of prefaces, or indeed about the preface at all. Early on, however, the post-Conciliar reformers decided that the explicit call to expand the corpus of Scriptural readings in paragraph 51 would be applied also to other features of the Mass, a decision which is far more objectionable on procedural grounds than as a matter of liturgical principle. This was also motivated in part by a widespread and persistent misunderstanding that the Ambrosian liturgy, which never changed the custom of having a different preface for almost every Mass, is an archaic form of the Roman liturgy, and therefore, in order to “restore (the latter) to the pristine norm of the holy fathers”, one had to remodel it on Ambrosian lines as much as possible. (The addition of a third reading to the Masses of Sundays and solemnities in the post-Conciliar lectionary is also a mutilated form of an Ambrosian custom.)

One might imagine that once such a procedure had been decided on, the corpus of prefaces would be expanded by adopting those of the Ambrosian Missal, or of the ancient Roman sacramentaries. However, it was not the procedure of the post-Conciliar reformers to take anything from the sources they were putatively imitating as they actually found it in those sources, and the prefaces are no exception. As explained by Dom Antoine Dumas O.S.B. in an article published in Ephemerides Liturgicae in 1971, a selection was made, based on ancient sources, but a selection nevertheless, since Vatican II “defined the liturgical reform first of all as a response to pastoral needs.” (He does not mention that Vatican II was completely silent on the specific topic of the prefaces.) Since the texts of this “venerable tradition” (!) had to be both “translatable into modern languages, and adapted to the modern mentality”, very few of them could be retained in their entirety, according to Dom Antoine. They required “numerous cuts, and a patient work of centonization,” (composing new texts out of fragments of various old texts); otherwise, “reproduced in their original form, they would be unbearable, if not defective. (insupportables, sinon fautifs.)”

The post-Conciliar preface for the Angels strays very little from its source text, which is found in the so-called Leonine Sacramentary on the dedication of the basilica of St Michael the Archangel on September 29th, and was evidently judged to be mostly bearable and free of defects.

VD: Et in Archángelis Angelisque tuis tua praeconia non tacére, quia ad excellentiam tuam recurrit et gloriam, quod angélica creatúra tibi probábilis honorétur: et, cum illa sit amplo decóre digníssima, et tu quam sis immensus et super omnia praeferendus osténderis.

Dante’s vision of God amid the angelic hierarchies, from Gustave Doré’s illustrations of the Divine Comedy, 1861. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
My (almost) literal translation: It is truly right… almighty and eternal God, and to not keep silent Thy praises in Thy Archangels and Angels. For it redounds to Thy perfection and glory that the angelic creation, which is pleasing to Thee, be honored; and since it is most worthy of great honor, Thou art shown (thereby) to be measurelessly exalted above all things.

The new English liturgical translation: It is truly right and just … almighty and eternal God, and to praise you without end in your Archangels and Angels. For the honor we pay the angelic creatures in whom you delight redounds to your own surpassing glory, and by their great dignity and splendor you show how infinitely great you are, to be exalted above all things.

In the Novus Ordo, a great many new doxologies were invented for the new prefaces, but these will not be used in the EF, except in the case of this one.

“Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Per quem multitúdo Angelórum tuam célebrat maiestátem, quibus adorantes in exsultatióne coniúngimur, una cum eis laudis voce clamantes:”

My literal translation: through Christ our Lord. Through whom the multitude of Angels celebrates Thy majesty; to whom we are joined, adoring in exultation, crying out with them with one voice:

The new English liturgical translation: through Christ our Lord. Through him the multitude of Angels extols your majesty, and we are united with them in exultant adoration, as with one voice of praise we acclaim:

Here is the original version of the preface found in the Leonine Sacramentary; the texts in bold are omitted or changed in the Novus Ordo.

VD: multóque magis in Archángelis Angelisque tuis tua praeconia non tacére, quia ad excellentiam tuam recurrit et gloriam quod angélica creatúra, quae a conditióne sui tuis subjecta servitiis probábilis éxstitit, honorátur: et, cum illa sit digna venerári, et tu quam sis immensus et super omnia praeferendus osténderis.

It is truly right… almighty and eternal God, and much more to not keep silent Thy praises in Thy Archangels and Angels. For it redounds to Thy perfection and glory that the angelic creation, which, being subject in its very condition (or ‘nature’), to Thy service, is pleasing to Thee, is honored, and since it is worthy of veneration, Thou art shown thereby to be measurelessly exalted above all things.

The Biblical and Patristic texts listed by Ward and Johnson have no more than a few glancing similarities to this text, and are of no interest.

The Leonine Sacramentary, by the way, is not actually a sacramentary, the ancient predecessor of the missal, which contains only the priest’s parts of the Mass, namely, the prayers, prefaces and Canon, and it has nothing to do with Pope St Leo I. It is rather a privately made collection of the texts of a large number of “libelli missarum”, small booklets which contained the prayers and prefaces of Masses for specific occasions. These elements often varied from church to church even within the same city; the “Leonine” collection is a wildly irregular gathering of them, and has, for example, twenty-eight different Mass formulae for Ss Peter and Paul, fourteen for St Lawrence, and eight for Ss John and Paul. The collection was certainly made in Rome itself, since it contains numerous specific references to the city. It is generally dated to the mid-6th century; there is only one manuscript of it, which for many centuries has been in the library of the cathedral chapter of Verona.

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