Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Collegiate Church of San Gimignano (Part 2)

In the first post in this series, we noted that the façade of the Collegiate Church of the Assumption in San Gimignano has two doors, one to the left and one to the right, but no central door. The left door was for the men, who congregated in the church’s left nave, while the right side was for the women; this division of the sexes was an important factor in the choice of subject matter for the frescos painted on the external walls. In the year 1367, the Sienese painter Bartolo di Fredi (1330 ca. - 1410) came to the town to do the frescos of the left nave, which all show stories from the Old Testament. They are arranged in three bands which run from left to right; within the decorative bands around them, captions are written in Italian which explain each story. (The stories on the women’s side are all from the New Testament, and have no captions, since they are all easily grasped, and the literacy rate among women was negligible.) Continuing with Nicola’s photos taken during a visit this summer, here are three photos which show an overview; the individual stories will be explained in detail below.

San Gimignano was a prosperous center of cloth manufacture, leather working, and the production of an excellent wine called ‘vernaccia’, which is made with one of the few varieties of white grape that flourish in Tuscany. (In the Divine Comedy, Purgatory XXIV, 23-24, Dante sees Pope Martin IV, who reigned from 1281-85, on the ledge of the gluttons, “purg(ing) by his fasting / the eels of Bolsena (a lake near Viterbo) and vernaccia wine.”) The stories depicted in this cycle are therefore largely chosen to speak to the concerns of men in business, and encourage within them a sense of their duties as Christians, as the heads of families, and merchants upon whose work many livelihoods depend. Within the arches of the top band, we see first the world, then the creation of Adam, “the first man.” As in most medieval images of the Creation, God is shown in the act of creation as the Son, rather than the Father.
God charges Adam with the naming of the animals.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Photopost Request: All Saints and All Souls 2020

Our next photopost will be for the feast of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls, this Sunday and Monday. As always, we welcome pictures of Mass in either Form, or the Ordinariate Rite, as well as the vigil Mass of All Saints, celebrations of the Divine Office / Liturgy of the Hours on any of these days, and displays of relics. We will also include celebrations of the EF feast of Christ the King, if anyone sends them in. Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important; email them to (Zipfiles are preferred.) Evangelize through beauty!

From our first All Saints’ and All Souls’ photopost of last year: Solemn Mass on the feast of All Saints at the church of St Joseph in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Allison Girone.)

From the second post: the Absolution at the catafalque on All Souls’ Day at the church of Ss Peter and Paul in Wilmington, California, served by the Norbertine Fathers of St Michael’s Abbey.

From the third post: relics displayed at Immaculate Conception Parish in Port Perry, Ontario.

From the fourth post: Mass on the titular feast day at the chapel of Christ the King in Zagreb, Croatia.

The Orations of All Saints’ Day

The “Wise Order of the Doctors”, from the vaulting of the Chapel of Saint Brice in Orvieto Cathedral, by Luca Signorelli, 1499.
Lost in Translation #23
This year, the Feast of All Saints falls on a Sunday, affording us the opportunity to ponder the mysteries of its Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion Prayer.
The Collect
Omnípotens sempiterne Deus, qui nos omnium Sanctórum tuórum mérita sub una tribuisti celebritáte venerári: quáesumus: ut desiderátam nobis tuae propitiatiónis abundantiam, multiplicátis intercessóribus, largiáris. Per Dóminum. 
Which I translate as:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given us under one celebration [the opportunity] to venerate the merits of all Thy saints; we beseech Thee, that with this increased number of intercessors, Thou mayst grant to us the abundance of Thy mercy for which we long. Through our Lord.
The prayer attributes the feast of All Saints not, as a historian might, to Pope Gregory III (d. 741), who in the eighth century replaced a May 13 celebration of the feast of Holy Mary and the Martyrs with an expanded Feast of All Saints on November 1, or to Pope Sixtus IV (d. 1484), who made All Saints’ Day a holy day of obligation for the entire Latin Church, and gave it an octave that was observed until 1955. Rather, the prayer claims that God gave us the feast. It is not unusual for the Christian imagination to prescind from intermediary causes and to focus our gratitude on God as the ultimate and highest cause. The traditional blessing for beer in the Rituale Romanum does as much when it credits the production of beer to God’s “kindness and power” and fails to mention the brewer, and so does Jesus Christ when He credits God the Father rather than a host of natural processes with feeding the birds of the air (Matthew 6, 26). In the case of the Collect, the exclusive focus on God’s role in instituting the feast reminds us of the agency of the Holy Spirit in guiding the organic development of the sacred liturgy. Our liturgical traditions are more than the work of human hands; they are a divine gift for which we should be grateful.
Both parts of the Collect (the subordinate clause and the petition) are wonderfully crowded. The word celebratio technically refers to a festival celebrated in great numbers. Perhaps this is an allusion to the vast numbers that came to Rome for the feast day, so many that the Pope, it has been speculated, transferred the feast from May 13 to November 1 in order to better feed the pilgrims with the bounty from the autumn harvest. [1] But it could also be a reference to the great cloud of witnesses themselves, the Saints rejoicing in Heaven. Either way, the Collect aspires to take advantage of the great number of heavenly intercessors now gathered for the occasion, so to speak, in order to increase God’s mercy upon us.
The Secret
Múnera tibi, Dómine, nostrae devotiónis offérimus: quae et pro cunctórum tibi grata sicut honóre justórum, et nobis salutaria, te miserante, reddantur. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
We offer to Thee, O Lord, the gifts of our devotion, that they may be pleasing to Thee in honor of all the Saints and that, by Thy mercy, they may be salutary for us. Through our Lord.
The interesting word here is justi, which I have translated as “saints.” According to Sr. Mary Ellebracht, the word migrated from meaning a Christian or someone who lived to according to the divine law to “a technical term for the saints in heaven, those fixed in justice.” [2] (This migration in some respects parallels that of sanctus or “holy.”) In any event, the wording, which is also found in the Secret for Several Martyrs, nicely complements the feast’s Offertory Verse from Wisdom 3, 1-3
The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of malice shall not touch them: in the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, but they are in peace. Alleluia.

The Postcommunion Prayer

Finally, we come to the Postcommunion Prayer:

Da, quáesumus, Dómine, fidélibus pópulis omnium Sanctórum semper veneratióne laetari: et eórum perpétua supplicatióne muníri. Per Dóminum.

Which I translate as:

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thy faithful people may ever rejoice in the veneration of all Thy Saints and may be defended by their unceasing supplication. Through.

In the Collect at the beginning of Mass, the Church prays that this celebration bring an abundance of mercy. In the Postcommunion, the Church prays that the effects of this celebration will last far beyond the close of day. The word used here for being defended is munire, originally a military verb for building a wall (munus) in order to protect. In Postcommunion Prayers, munire is often used to signify the effects of the Eucharistic action on our souls. It is also often paired with verbs of purification, an arrangement that echoes the idea articulated by Our Lord in Luke 11, 21-16, namely, that once you purge a space from a demon, you need to fortify it to keep him and seven of his more wicked friends from reconquering it. Regardless of one’s position on immigration and the morality of a border wall, walls are essential in the spiritual life as a bulwark against evil. The contribution of this Postcommunion Prayer is that it identifies the intercession of the Saints as a part of the wall keeping our spiritual enemies at bay.

[1] Francis X. Weiser, SJ, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1958), 307-8. See Gregory DiPippo for other thoughts on the Origin of All Saints’ Day.

[2] Sr. Mary Pierre Ellebracht, Remarks on the Vocabulary of the Ancient Orations in the Missale Romanum (Dekker & Van de Vegt N.V.), 39.

Solemn Mass Tomorrow in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.

The church of St Titus in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania (Beaver County), will have a solemn Mass tomorrow evening at 7 pm for the vigil of All Saints, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Woodlawn Council 2161. Confessions will be heard and the Rosary said before the Mass, starting at 6:30; the church is located at 952 Franklin Avenue. The church also has a regularly scheduled traditional Mass on the First Friday of each month at 7pm, and on the third Sunday of each month noon; check the website linked above for updates.

Mass of the vigil of the Assumption at St Titus.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Collegiate Church of San Gimignano (Part 1)

Our thanks once again to our Ambrosian writer Nicola de’ Grandi for sharing with us photos taken during his recent travels. The cathedral of San Gimignano, although small, is full of interesting artworks, and will be presented in a series of five posts.

A bit more than 20 miles to the north-west of Siena, the town of San Gimignano stands on a hill in one of the most beautiful parts of Tuscany. Today, the city is well known for having preserved 13 medieval defensive towers (it used to have 72), which can be seen for miles around; tour guides are wont to jokingly refer to it as the medieval Manhattan. In the Middle Ages, when violent faction-fighting was a common feature of political life, most towns and cities bristled with such towers, but very few have survived to modern times. The city was also an important center for the manufacture and dyeing of cloth, and some scholars believe that the towers were built to such heights so that long bolts of newly dyed cloth could be hung up to dry inside them.
San Gimignano is not an episcopal see; it was part of the diocese of Volterra until 1782, when it was transferred to Colle Val d’Elsa (which itself was united to the archdiocese of Siena in 1986.) In the early 12th century, when it had become quite prosperous and powerful, it decided to build a large church in the city center which was served by a college of canons, and is therefore known as a collegiate church (“collegiata” in Italian). As is so often the case in Italy, different parts of the church were built and decorated in different eras; the 12th century Romanesque façade gives no idea of the artistic treasures that are seen inside. The door on the left was originally the entrance for the men, whose place within the church was in the left nave, and that on the right for women, who gathered in the right nave. As will be explained in subsequent posts, this division of the sexes determined which Biblical stories were depicted on the two sides of the church.
This plaque in the middle of the façade records that the Blessed Pope Eugenius III (1145-53) consecrated the church on November 21, 1148.
The baptismal font is located outside of the church within the cloister on the building’s left side. In the High Middle Ages, when most of the cities in northern and central Italy were independent states, many of them customarily delayed the baptism of healthy infants until the feast of the Annunciation, when they were all baptized together at a single ceremony. This rite signified that one became not only a member of the Church, but also of the specific place whose citizens were all reborn unto God in a common font; even to this day, a city as a legal entity is called a “comune” in Italian. Since the ceremony involved all of the infants, and their parents and godparents, many cities built very large baptisteries to accomodate the crowds; San Gimignano, however, never reached quite the degree of prosperity that would permit such a project, and so it settled for a very small font in a more open space.
Directly in front of the font, as one walks forward to enter the church, is this fresco of the Annunciation, the feast on which the common baptismal ceremony was held, dated to the year 1482. (Until the 1749, March 25 was New Year’s Day in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.) In 1475, the Florentine painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, the future teacher of Michelangelo, came to San Gimignano to decorate the chapel within the collegiata which houses the relics of St Fina, a native of the city and one of its patrons; this fresco is attributed to his brother Davide, who often worked alongside him.
Just about uniquely among Italian churches, the walls of the church’s side aisles are still almost completely covered in frescos of Biblical stories, which are not intact, but in a remarkably good state of preservation, considering that they were done in the 14th century. (These will be shown in detail in the next two posts of this series.)
Here we see a piece of an older layer of fresco, showing the feet of St Christopher, which was left in place when the newer layer was added in the left aisle.

Call for PhD Applicants in Liturgical Studies at Notre Dame

The Graduate School at the University of Notre Dame accepts up to two fully-funded PhD students per year in Liturgical Studies. The program integrates three sub-disciplines, Liturgical History, Liturgical Theology, and Ritual Studies, and offers a wide range of research opportunities, with particular strengths in early and late antique Christian ritual and material culture, medieval liturgy, Byzantine Christianity, manuscript studies, contemporary liturgical theology, and ritual studies. All applications must be submitted to the Graduate School by January 2, 2021. More information and a link to the online application may be found here: For those without a Master degree, the Theology Department also offers a two-year Master of Theological Studies (MTS) with a concentration in Liturgical Studies:

The Liturgical Studies program was founded in 1947 as the first graduate program in the Department of Theology, and quickly grew to become an international center for the study of liturgy. Pioneers in the discipline who have taught at Notre Dame include Josef Jungmann, Louis Bouyer, Robert Taft, Paul Bradshaw, and many others. The program is currently comprised of seven faculty members and represents one of the largest concentrations of liturgical scholars at one place in the world.

In addition to its core strengths, Liturgical Studies offers a variety of opportunities for research collaboration with other institutions at Notre Dame, including the Medieval Institute, the Program in Sacred Music, other departments at the university (esp. History, Anthropology and Sociology), and other programs within the Theology Department, including Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity (CJA), the History of Christianity (HC), and Systematic Theology (ST). The Hesburgh Libraries system has extensive holdings in theology and one of the nation’s largest collections in medieval and Byzantine studies, including the Milton Anastos Collection. The Theology Department also offers a broad range of ancient languages, including courses in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Hebrew, Coptic, Armenian and Ge’ez, with additional opportunities for studying Georgian, Slavonic, and Jewish Aramaic.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Legends of Saints Simon and Jude

In the Breviary of St Pius V, the lives of the Apostles Simon and Jude are summed up in a single lesson of fewer than sixty words. It is noted that St Simon was called “the Chananean, also the Zealot”; the term “Chananean” was thought by some of the Church Fathers to refer to Cana of Galilee, where the Lord turned water into wine, but it is simply a hellenization of the Hebrew word “qanna’i – zealous.” St Thaddeus, more often called Jude, was the author of one of the seven Catholic Epistles. After the Ascension, the former went to evangelize Egypt, the latter to Mesopotamia; they later met in Persia, where they continued to preach the Gospel, and were eventually martyred.

The pre-Tridentine Roman Breviary, on the other hand, gives a much more elaborate account of their lives after the Lord’s Ascension. St Simon is said to have preached the Gospel in many places, which are not specifically named. When St James the Less was killed in 62 A.D., Simon was chosen by the other Apostles to succeed him as bishop of Jerusalem. Having governed the mother church of Christianity for many years, and reached the age of one-hundred and twenty, he was tortured and crucified under the Emperor Trajan. In reality, these stories derive from the life of a different saint with a similar name, Symeon of Jerusalem, who is mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260-340) in the third book of his Ecclesiastical History.
Chapter 11. After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem … it is said that those of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh … to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James. They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention, to be worthy of the episcopal throne … He was a cousin, as they say, of the Savior; for Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.

Chapter 32. (Citing Hegesippus again) Speaking of certain heretics, he adds that Symeon was accused by them at this time; and since it was clear that he was a Christian, he was tortured in various ways for many days, and astonished even the judge himself and his attendants in the highest degree, and finally he suffered a death similar to that of our Lord. But there is nothing like hearing the historian himself, who writes as follows: “Certain of these heretics brought accusation against Symeon, the son of Clopas, on the ground that he was a descendant of David and a Christian; and thus he suffered martyrdom, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, while Trajan was emperor and Atticus governor. … And after being tortured for many days he suffered martyrdom, and all, including even the proconsul, marveled that, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, he could endure so much. And orders were given that he should be crucified.”
The Martyrdom of Saints Simon and Jude
In his famous Golden Legend, Bl. Jacopo de Voragine writes that the confusion between Symeon of Jerusalem and the Apostle Simon was noted by Eusebius, St Isidore and Bede the Venerable. In the Tridentine reform of the Breviary, therefore, the error was corrected; the story of St Symeon of Jerusalem was detached from that of the Apostle, and he was given his own feast day on February 18.

In each of the Synoptic Gospels, when the Evangelists give the names of the Twelve Apostles, Simon and Jude appear together at the end of the list, right before Judas Iscariot; Ss Matthew (chapter 10) and Mark (chapter 3) give the name of the latter as Thaddeus, but St Luke (chapter 6) calls him Jude. St John does not give a list of the names of the Twelve, but recounts in chapter 14 that Jude “not the Iscariot” at the Last Supper asked Christ, “Lord, how is it, that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not to the world?” It is with the name Thaddeus that he is mentioned in the Communicantes of the Roman Canon, and by this name he also came to be associated with one of the most beloved stories of the Christian tradition, the legend of King Abgar, and the painting of the Holy Face of Edessa.

The Holy Face of Edessa, often called the Mandylion from the Syriac word for the cloth on which the image was made.
As recorded by Eusebius in the Ecclesiastical History (I. 13), King Abgar of Edessa suffered from an incurable disease of some kind; having heard of the many healings wrought by the Lord during His earthly ministry, he sent Him a letter asking Him to come to Edessa and heal him. The Lord replied by letter that He would not come personally, but that after His Resurrection, one of His disciples would be sent to cure him; and in due time, the Apostle Thomas sent one of the seventy disciples, a certain Thaddeus, to perform this office. Eusebius gives what purport to be the texts of the two letters, which were kept, he claims, in the public archives at Edessa. The story is repeated in a much more elaborate form in an early fifth-century apocryphal work, “The Doctrine of Addai,” in which the name of the disciple sent to King Abgar appears as Addai, rather than Thaddeus.

By the late fifth-century, the so-called Gelasian decree, in the section “on books to be received and not to be received”, (i.e., which may be used in the liturgy), already notes the spurious character of the letters exchanged between Christ and King Abgar. (The decree itself would later be spuriously attributed to Pope Gelasius I, and is commonly called after him.) As is the case with many apocryphal writings, formal rejection did not in the least diminish the popularity of the story, which continued to be embellished in various ways. The Doctrine of Addai simply adds that Abgar’s messenger made a picture of Christ’s face to bring back to the King; by the Bl. Jacopo’s time, the legend states that on receiving the reply of Christ, King Abgar sent a painter to make an image of the Lord’s Face on a piece of cloth. The painter was unable to do this himself, however, “because of the exceeding brightness that came forth from His face”; the Lord Himself therefore took the cloth and laid it over His own face, leaving an impression of the image upon the cloth, which was then taken to Abgar. Among Byzantine Christians especially, the Holy Face of Christ is still to this day the object of great veneration; it is known as the Holy Mandylion, a word which derives from the Syriac “mandil – a cloth.” Although Eusebius clearly says that the Thaddeus of the Abgar legend is one of the seventy disciples, and not one of the twelve Apostles, the Golden Legend and the Roman Breviary of 1529 both identify him with the Apostle called Thaddeus in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and Jude in those of Luke and John. Because of the association with the King Abgar legend, he is sometimes shown holding an image of the Lord’s face.

In modern times, a new devotion has emerged to Saint Jude as the Patron Saint of Lost Causes, the origins of which are quite obscure. There are many variations of the following prayer to ask for his intercession, and it is still a fairly common custom to thank the Saint publicly for his intercession by placing a message of thanksgiving in a newspaper.
Oh glorious Apostle St Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the traitor who delivered thy beloved Master into the hands of His enemies has caused thee to be forgotten by many, but the Church honors and invokes thee universally as the patron of hopeless cases--of things despaired of. Pray for me who am so miserable; make use, I implore thee, of that particular privilege accorded thee of bringing visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolations and succor of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations and sufferings, particularly (mention your request), and that I may bless God with thee and all the elect throughout eternity. I promise thee, O blessed St Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, and I will never cease to honor thee as my special and powerful patron, and to do all in my power to encourage devotion to thee. Amen.

A Comparison of the Roman and Carmelite Rites

Our thanks to a Carmelite friar for sharing with us this summary of some of the differences between the Roman and Carmelite Masses, and the accompanying pictures.
By the late 12th century, a community of hermits had formed on Mount Carmel, northwest of Jerusalem. Around 1210, the Carmelites requested and received their Rule from St Albert of Vercelli, Patriarch of Jerusalem, which prescribed Conventual Mass and Canonical Hours “according to the practice of the holy Fathers and the approved custom of the Church.” The church mentioned here is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, in which the liturgy was celebrated by a community of Canons Regular which originated in Paris. Thus Archdale A. King writes, “The rite which [the Canons of the Holy Sepulcher] observed was therefore a Gallo-Roman variant in which local influence played an important part.” (Liturgies of the Religious Orders, p. 247) As the Crusader States became more dangerous, the Carmelites migrated back to Europe, and they brought their liturgy with them. Before the Order was officially approved in the West at the Council of Lyon in 1274, Pope Innocent IV appointed Dominicans to revise their Rule and Constitutions, and their liturgy was likewise “Dominicanized”. However, the Ordinal of 1312, produced by Sibert de Beka, which helped regularized liturgy throughout the Order, sought to restore the original customs of the Carmelite liturgy. Thus the Constitutions of 1324 stipulated, “Let the brothers celebrate the Divine Office with uniformity according to the Rite of the Holy Sepulcher.”
Frontispiece of the last edition of the Carmelite Missal
Although the bull Quo Primum, issued by St Pius V in 1570, protected the continued celebration of the Carmelite Rite, as an approved Rite practiced for over 200 years, the Carmelite Missal was subsequently revised several times to conform more to the Roman Rite. The last edition of the Missale Carmelitarum, published in 1935, was the result of a revision made to comply with the 1911 constitution Divino Afflatu of St Pius X. Therefore, the Carmelite Rite could be described as a Gallo-Roman liturgy from the Holy Land, Dominicanized and Romananized through its history.
In this essay, I will compare the Carmelite Rite of the 1935 Missal to the Roman Rite of the 1962 Missal in five areas of difference. This will not be an exhaustive comparison, and I will not even approach matters of the calendar, but only a brief summary of some notably unique elements of the Carmelite Rite. I will also comment on the origins and meanings of these unique elements with help from a series of articles written on the Rite by Fr Leo Walter, O.Carm., published in the May 1946 issue of the Carmelite journal The Sword. (pp. 136-215)

Prayers at the Foot of the Altar
In the Roman Rite the priest and the server alternately recite Psalm 42, Judica me, Deus, with its antiphon, Introibo ad altare Dei, after having arrived at the altar, but in the Carmelite Rite the priest alone recites Psalm 42, with no antiphon, while going to the altar accompanied by the server. Additionally, in the Roman Rite, after their Confiteors, the priest and the server recite the verses Deus, tu conversus, etc., but the Carmelite Rite does not include this dialogue; instead the verse Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini follows the Confiteors, and then the priest prays Aufer a nobis, and ascends to the altar. Leo Walter writes that the practice of the priest reciting Psalm 42 secretly while going to the altar is a primitive custom, as deduced from Ordos and Ceremonials of the 11th through the 13th centuries.
Preparation of the Chalice and Offertory
In the Roman Rite, the chalice is prepared after the Offertory Prayer, but in the Carmelite Rite the chalice is prepared at the beginning of a Low Mass, before the Confiteors, and between the Epistle and the Gospel in a Solemn Mass. The custom of preparing the chalice at the beginning of Low Masses is also found in the Dominican, Carthusian, Cistercian and other Rites. According to Walter, this practice probably originates from the Gallican Rite, in which the oblations were prepared by ministers before the entrance of the priest to the altar. The practice of preparing the chalice after the Epistle in Solemn Masses was also common in many churches in France. Additionally, in the Roman Rite the host is offered with the prayer Suscipe, sancte Pater, and then the chalice is offered similarly with the prayer Offerimus tibi, Domine, but in the Carmelite Rite, the chalice, on which rests the paten with the host, is offered together with the prayer:
“Suscipe, sancta Trinitas, hanc oblationem quam tibi offerimus in commemorationem passionis, resurrectionis, ascensionisque in caelum Domini nostri Jesu Christi: et honore beatae et gloriosae Dei Genitricis semperque Virginis Mariae, et omnium Sanctorum, qui tibi placuerunt ab initio mundi: ut illis proficiat ad honorem, nobis autem ad salutem: et omnibus illis pro nobis intercedentibus in caelis, sit in salutem vivorum, et requiem defunctorum: Qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum.
Accept, most Holy Trinity, this offering, which we are making to Thee in remembrance of the passion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of the glorious mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and of all the saints who have been pleasing to Thee from the beginning of the world, in order that it may add to their honour and aid our salvation. Through the intercession of all the saints in heaven, may it prove to be the salvation of the living and eternal rest of the dead. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.”
According to Walter, the rite of offering bread and wine together is found in several ancient churches and ancient monastic missals. The Suscipe, sancta Trinitas prayer is derived from collects of the ancient Gallican liturgy.
Pictures of a solemn Carmelie Mass celebrated on a priest’s silver jubliee in 1946.
Gestures at the Altar
There are several unique gestures at the altar in the Carmelite Rite, but I will only discuss three. First, during the post-elevation rites, while praying Unde et memores, in the Roman Rite the priest assumes an orans posture with arms raised and extended to chest height, but in the Carmelite Rite the priest extends his arms in the form of a cross (ad modum crucis). Splitting the difference, in the Dominican Rite the priest extends his hands more than usual (mediocriter tamen). Leo Walter writes that this usage of extending the arms in the form of a cross is derived from the Gallican liturgy, adding, “The Gallic usage no doubt received a special meaning when it was carried to Jerusalem to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the territory of which the very place of Christ’s crucifixion can be seen.”
Secondly, during the Supplices te rogamus, in the Roman Rite the priest bows profoundly with hands joined, but in the Carmelite Rite the priest bows profoundly with arms crossed over his chest.
Third, during the Libera nos, quaesumus, in the Roman Rite the priest takes up the paten, signs himself with it, kisses it, and then slides it under the Sacred Host, but in the Carmelite Rite, the priest takes up the paten, kisses it, covers first his left eye with the paten, then his right eye, and then crosses himself. He then places the paten on the corporal to the right of the Sacred Host. According to Walter, the gesture of reverently touching the eyes with the paten was customary in several Gallican and Roman churches in the Middle Ages. The meaning of kissing the paten is debated among liturgists, and most favor the opinion that the purpose of the gesture is to venerate the paten on which the Sacred Host is to be placed, but Leo Water notes a liturgical anomaly. “According to our Rite, the Sacred Host is never placed on the paten, unless something has disappeared from our Rite or the Gallo-Roman Rite of the Holy Sepulchre.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Vigil of Ss Simon and Jude

In the Roman Rite, the term “vigilia – vigil” traditionally means a penitential day of preparation for a major feast. The Mass of a Saint’s vigil is celebrated after None, as are the Masses of the ferias of Lent or the Ember Days, and in violet vestments; however, the deacon and subdeacon do not wear folded chasubles, as they do in Lent, but the dalmatic and tunicle. The Mass has neither the Gloria nor the Creed, the Alleluja is simply omitted before the Gospel, not replaced with a Tract, and Benedicamus Domino is said at the end in place of Ite, missa est.
Folio 116v of the Gellone Sacramentary, ca. 780 AD, with the Mass of the vigil of Ss Simon and Jude, and the beginning of the Mass of their feast. (Bibliothèque National de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 12048)
The joint celebration of the Apostles Simon and Jude in a single feast originated as a proper custom of the Roman Rite, which was then copied by both the Ambrosian and Mozarabic Rites. (In the Byzantine Rite, St Simon’s feast is kept on May 10th, and St Jude’s on June 19th.) As with the feast of Ss Philip and James, this custom seems to have arisen from the presence of their relics in a Roman church; they have been venerated in St Peter’s Basilica since the 7th or 8th century. Neither the vigil nor the feast appears in the very oldest liturgical books of the Roman Rite such as the Old Gelasian Sacramentary and the Wurzburg lectionary, ca. 750 AD. However, both are found only about 30 years later in the Gellone Sacramentary, and their place in the liturgy is certainly well established by the mid-9th century.

In the common Mass for the vigil of an Apostle, all of the proper texts except for the Gospel refer to a single person, as for example the Epistle, which begins with the words “The blessing of the Lord is upon the head of the just man.” The vigil of Ss Simon and Jude therefore has a different Mass, the texts of which all refer to more than one person, in keeping with their joint celebration. The three orations of the Mass in the Missal of St Pius V are the same as those found in the Gellone Sacramentary, and originated with this vigil, but the Gregorian propers and Scriptural readings are all also used in other Masses.
The altar of the left transept of St Peter's Basilica, in which are kept the relics of Ss Simon and Jude; the altar itself is now also dedicated to St Joseph.
The Introit, Gradual and Communion all take their text from Psalm 78, which the Church Fathers often associated with those who, like the Apostles, had given their lives for the Faith. An anonymous “Exposition of the Psalms” previously attributed to St Jerome says e.g., in regard to the words which begin the Introit, “Why should I not understand this to be simply said about the martyrs who were shut up in prisons? … And I say that God does truly hear the voice of those prisoners.” (PL 26, 1289B)
“Intret in conspectu tuo, Dómine, gémitus compeditórum: redde vicínis nostris séptuplum in sinu eórum: víndica sánguinem Sanctórum tuórum, qui effúsus est. Ps. 78 Deus, venérunt gentes in hereditátem tuam: polluérunt templum sanctum tuum: posuérunt Jerúsalem in pomórum custodiam. Gloria Patri. Intret. – Let the sighing of the prisoners come in before Thee, O Lord; render to our neighbors sevenfold in their bosom: repay our neighbors sevenfold into their bosoms; revenge the blood of thy servants, which hath been shed. Ps. 78 O God, the heathens are come into thy inheritance, they have defiled thy holy temple: they have made Jerusalem as a place to keep fruit. Glory be… Let the sighing…”
Likewise, in his Exposition of the Psalms, St Augustine says of the psalm verse, “I believe the words ‘as a place to keep fruit’ should be understood to mean the laying-to-waste caused by the devastation of persecution: … And certainly, when the Church seemed to be laid waste because the heathen were persecuting it, the spirits of the martyrs passed to the heavenly banquet, as if they were many of the sweetest fruits from the Lord’s garden.” (Enarratio in Ps. 78)
This choice may also reflect a long-standing hagiographical confusion, by which the Apostle Simon was thought to be the same person as a kinsman of the Lord named Symeon, who became bishop of Jerusalem after the death of St James the Less, and was martyred at the age of 120 in the reign of the Emperor Trajan.
St Simon the Apostle; statue by Francesco Moratti, 1704-9, in the Lateran Basilica. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0.)
The Epistle is taken from the fourth chapter of St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (verses 9-14), in which he describes the duties of an Apostle. “We are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.” A commentary on the Epistles of St Paul which was traditionally (but incorrectly) attributed to St Ambrose says about this, “the Apostles became a spectacle, because they were publically mocked, and set to the injury and the death which they suffered. By ‘the world’, he means both angels and men, because there are also evil angels, … (and) the injuries done to the Apostles delighted them.” (PL 17 205A)
This reading first appeared in the Roman Rite in the mid-8th century on the feast of two martyrs named Abdon and Sennen, Persians who were killed at Rome in the 3rd century; they are still commemorated in the Extraordinary Form on July 30th. Their bodies were left to lie “before the image of the sun god,” a colossal statue of the Emperor Nero which stood next to the Colosseum, one of the places where gladiatorial “spectacles” were held and Christians were martyred. It makes for an interesting coincidence, but no more than that, that their native land, Persia, is traditionally said to be the place where St Jude died for the faith.
The Gospel, John 15, 1-7, is one of two traditionally read on the feasts of Martyrs in Eastertide, the other being verses 5-11 of the same chapter. This is the only place where this passage is read outside that season, but the reason for doing so is not readily discernible. The concluding words “you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you” may seem to reflect the devotion to St Jude as the patron of lost causes, but this devotion is extremely recent, no earlier than the 19th century, and its origin obscure.
The Offertory is taken from an Old Latin version of Psalm 149, and includes a small variant from the Vulgate version of St Jerome. “Exsultabunt sancti in gloria; lætabuntur in cubilibus suis. Exaltationes Dei in faucibus (“gutture” in the Vulgate) eorum. – The Saints shall rejoice in glory: they shall be joyful in their resting places. The high praises of God shall be in their mouth.”
The first part of this is frequently said in the Office of Several Martyrs, and was chosen in reference to the fact that the original focus of devotion to the Saints was always at the place of their burial. This same chant is sung on the feasts of Ss Processus and Martinian, whose relics are also kept at St Peter’s; in the modern basilica, they are in the main altar of the right transept, directly opposite that of Ss Simon and Jude in the left transept. It is also sung on the octave day of Ss Peter and Paul, and on the feast of the Holy Maccabees, whose relics are in another church dedicated to St Peter, the basilica which houses his chains.
Like most Masses in the ancient sacramentaries, this vigil originally had its own proper preface, which refers to the ancient character of such days as preparation for a major feast.
VD: Quia tu es mirabilis in omnibus sanctis tuis, quos et nominis tui confessione praeclaros, et suscepta pro te fecisti passione gloriosos. Unde, sicut illi ieiunando orandoque certaverunt, ut hanc possent obtinere victoriam, ita nos potius quae exercuere sectantes, convenientius eorum natalicia celebremus. Per Christum. – Truly it is worthy … because Thou are wondrous in all Thy Saints, whom Thou has made honorable by the confession of Thy name, and glorious by the passion which they accepted for Thee. Wherefore, just as they strove by fasting and praying, that they might be able to obtain this victory, so may we also, by follow their practices, more fittingly celebrate their birth into heaven.

Is There Any Place for Classical Music In Our Culture Today?

I recently wrote a feature (on my blog) on some new classical music by the English composer Tony Banks. You can read it here. These are pieces of music written for performance by a conventional symphony orchestra.

I enjoyed listening to these compositions, and so my intention was simply to recommend them to others who might like them too. Banks’ work reminds me of a style of English romantic music from the turn of the last century, before the dissonant forms of the mid-twentieth century started to dominate. So we might think, maybe, of Vaughan Williams, Elgar or Delius, with the occasional sprinkling of Russian romanticism of say, Rimsky-Korsakov (I’m not sure where that came from).

I was prepared to give these a listen because Banks has not attempted to incorporate the ugly dissonance of modern music theory into his work. This is unusual today, even for those composers who acknowledge that modern classical music is generally, to coin a phrase, every bit as bad as it sounds to you or me, and feel that they must try to square the circle and somehow create accessible modernism. Although he has made a living as a composer for over 50 years, he was never formally trained in composition, and so I’m guessing he felt no pressure to conform to the opinions of the contemporary conservatory and the critics. Either that, or he has integrated modernism into his music so well that you don’t know he’s done it!

As I listened, I wondered whether this is the sort of music that might contribute to the evangelization of the culture that so many Catholics, including me, hope to see. To create a popular culture that is beautiful and Christian, we need beautiful contemporary music with mass appeal, which stimulates and nurtures a desire for Beauty itself in those who hear it.

On reflection, I would like to think that it might happen but I doubt if the compositions of Tony Banks will do this.

This is not a commentary of his musicality - he is not a Christian to my knowledge, and probably doesn’t care about evangelizing the culture anyway. Furthermore, he has several such collections published which are issued by Naxos records, so presumably, they are selling reasonably well. Rather, I am thinking here of the value and relevance of the whole genre today.

I am wondering if classical music itself is a dated form, and if consequently, any attempts to revive it by contemporary Christian classical composers who do share my goal are futile. Don’t misunderstand: I wish the best to all who try, and will happily publicize any who create music that I enjoy. But the goal here is to reach and appeal to a much broader audience than me with my eclectic tastes.

I use the word “classical” here in the broadest sense, thinking of music that is considered today to be highbrow, and is generally written for the instruments that Mozart or Beethoven would have written for. I would include everything from Bach and Beethoven to Birtwistle and Boulez. Those who compose such music today are generally trained in the conservatories attached to our university system.

Regardless, whether those contemporary classical composers opt to work in modern dissonant forms or buck the trend and risk the ire of the critics by attempting, as Banks has done, to work in the older, more accessible harmonies, virtually none have a wide appeal. It used to be the case that high-brow and popular culture were one. Mozart and Shakespeare were as interested in getting “bums on seats” at performances of their work as the elevation of the souls of those who listened or watched their work. The highly regarded classical composers of today, to the extent that they are well known, do not achieve renown because their works are popular or listened to by many people. It is simply because the musical establishment of educated elites approves of what they do, and can influence media coverage and patronage.

I wonder if the answer lies in taking musical training out of the conservatory as it is today, which seems, invariably, to direct its students to an ever narrower and less popular genre, and redirecting those who have the requisite talent first to the composition of new sacred liturgical music, and then building upon that foundation, up to new contemporary music styles.

A culture that is not rooted in a living culture of faith is like a tree with rotting roots. It has lost its sustenance and is destined to topple over, which is what modern classical music has all but done. The right response to this is not to try to revive a dead plant, but to plant new saplings.

Therefore, the first task in the evangelization of music culture is the development of modern forms of sacred music that spring from a culture of faith and contemplation of God. Whether newly composed chant, polyphony, or something else not yet imagined, we need this new music before we can look outwards to draw new people in with a beautiful and fresh contemporary culture. This is not an argument for guitars and drums - I am talking about music that conforms to the essential criteria outlined by St Pius X in his encyclical Tra Le Sollecitudini. Nor am I suggesting that this new music displace the canon of traditional sacred music. Rather, I foresee forms that slowly add to its treasures: that “the new work will form a new part in the musical heritage of the Church, not unworthy of its past.” (Musicam Sacram, no. 59). Only to the extent that we can create profane music that is derived from and points to these new sacred forms will we once again have healed the rift between popular and high culture.

How might such a formation occur? I am not a musician, so can only draw parallels with sacred art, and particularly the iconographic tradition which was re-established in the mid-20th century without any help from our universities, or art schools. It began with a small group of gifted artists with authentic faith, some who did have a modicum of formal training, but who very quickly rejected the mainstream, and working with theologians trained themselves. These are people of great insight, who not only have the artistic skill, but also the intelligence and insight to be able to teach and develop an artistic style themselves. Then these few taught students who came to them individually. Now, 70 years later, we are into the third and fourth generation of artists who are influenced or directly taught by these pioneers, and we begin to see schools being set up to teach iconography.

Christ Pantocrator painted by pioneer, Leonid Ouspensky, 1902-87
So this is a long term project that I do not expect to see developing in my lifetime, but nevertheless, I do believe that it will happen. In the meantime, give me Banks over Boulez every time.
Tony Banks
And for those who are curious, here is some Boulez. It’s bad; you have been warned.

Told you so!

Monday, October 26, 2020

An Allegorical Rationale for the Ministers Sitting During the Gloria and Credo

Seated clergy removing birettas at the Name of Jesus
In discussions of the classical Roman rite and the twentieth-century liturgical reform, one example that always comes up of “something that just had to change” in the Tridentine Mass — one among many things targeted as supposed flaws by reform-minded people — is the custom whereby the ministers (the priest at a Missa cantata, the priest, deacon, and subdeacon at a Missa solemnis) return to their seats for the duration of the sung Gloria and Credo after they have recited the text themselves at the altar.* The reform-minded protest against both the “duplication” of the text and the alleged oddity of everyone sitting during the singing of these parts of the Mass Ordinary. Shouldn’t the clergy sing the texts together with the people, and everyone remain standing?

In an earlier article at NLM, “Is It Fitting for the Priest to Recite All the Texts of the Mass?,” I defended an affirmative answer to that question on spiritual and liturgical grounds. I shall not rehash the same arguments here. Nor will I comment on practical reasons for sitting, such as lengthy pieces of polyphony, or giving older or infirm clergy a chance to rest. I also would not dispute that the monastic custom (at least, I have seen it most often at monasteries) of the ministers remaining standing during the entirety of the Gloria and Credo is fitting for the relatively short duration of chanted Ordinaries; I do not maintain that the ministers should always sit down. The rubrics allow them to remain at their places; sitting is a concession.

Rather, taking it for granted that there are theological reasons for duplicating and practical reasons for sitting, I would like to consider some theological connections that have occurred to me over the years as I have watched this custom and thought about it. The contemplative atmosphere of the classical Roman liturgy has nurtured in me a patient, open-minded, speculative disposition towards texts, music, and ceremonies. My habit of mind is now to ask, in accord with the allegorical method of our ancestors: “What meanings can I glean from the liturgy as it exists in front of me?,” rather than: “How ought it to be improved?”

I can honestly say that I had never pondered the mystery of the “session” or seatedness of the Son of God until I had seen ministers moving from the altar in a liturgically dignified manner and sitting down ceremonially at the High Mass and Solemn Mass. Until then, “sits [or is seated] at the right hand of the Father” had been no more than a line rattled off when reciting the Apostles’ Creed or the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. Yet it is a mystery important enough to receive many mentions in the New Testament (cf. Mk 16:19, Acts 7:55, Rom 8:34, Heb 1:3, Rev 3:21), and in liturgical texts. In the Gloria itself: Qui sedes at dexteram Patris, miserere nobis: “Thou who art seated at the right [hand] of the Father, have mercy on us.” In the Credo: Et ascendit in caelum, sedet ad dexteram Patris: “And He ascended into heaven, [and] is seated at the right [hand] of the Father.”

Moreover, in a church that had no pews in the nave, the sitting of the clergy would more obviously accentuate their special role in the liturgy. St. Thomas Aquinas quotes St. Gregory the Great (Hom. xxix in Evang.): “It is the judge’s place to sit, while to stand is the place of the combatant or helper” (Summa theologiae III, q. 58, a. 1, ad 3).

It is not exactly scripted in the rubrics when the ministers are to sit down, nor are they required to do so; they may remain standing the whole time, a posture that will always retain its resurrectional significance, as it does to this day in the Eastern tradition. Nevertheless, it was the Solemn High Mass that made the custom of being seated “click” for me.

At the "Et incarnatus est"
The ministers all kneel at the altar, as is appropriate, for the Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine: et homo factus est. Then they rise and return to the sedilia at the side of the sanctuary. The priest, who primarily represents Christ in the offering of the Mass, is seated. Around this time, the schola (and in some places the people too) are singing: passus et sepultus est — Christ, having suffered, was laid in the tomb. The Creed almost suggests this natural moment of rest as it mentions the lowest and humblest point of the Savior’s descent among us.

At the same time, the subdeacon remains standing while the deacon proceeds to the credence, receives the burse from the MC, and brings it to the altar to set forth the corporal. During this time the schola is usually singing Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas, et ascendit in caelum. The reason we can turn from the Scriptural part of the service (the Mass of the Catechumens) to the Eucharistic sacrifice (the Mass of the Faithful) is that Christ is indeed risen from the dead, and death hath no more dominion over Him. He is able to renew His sacrifice among us sacramentally precisely because He is glorified. His rising on the third day was the great opening not only of the kingdom of heaven but of the sevenfold font of sacramental grace that brings us to heaven.

Deacon carrying the burse and corporal to the altar during the Credo

Call it accidental if you wish, but I find it very beautiful that as this Christological confession is sung, the principal minister occupies a seat as does Christ the Lord in heavenly glory, while the deacon, also bearing His image, prepares the altar for the “return” of the King, and the subdeacon stands at attention. The Creed then acknowledges the seating of Christ at the right hand of the Father, and His return in glory: sedet ad dexteram Patris: et iterum venturus est cum gloria. Around this time, the deacon returns to the side, and both he and the subdeacon take their seats. In this way, the various intertwined mysteries the Creed mentions at this point (around the resurrection, ascension, and session) are all somehow put on display, as if being acted out before our eyes.

Then, when the schola sings: Et vitam venturi saeculi, “[and I believe] in the life of the world to come,” all make the sign of the Cross, the ministers rise, and the people rise as well. This final strophe of the Creed has just mentioned the general resurrection of the dead and the life without end in heaven, when all the blessed will share the glory of the risen Lord. How appropriate that the “general rising” takes place right at this point in the Creed!

It is as if we are permitted to “act out,” in a sense, certain of the mysteries confessed, even as the priest during the Canon “acts out” some of Christ’s gestures, as Michael Fiedrowicz describes:
The traditional rubrics of the Roman Canon call for a “reenacting” of Christ’s actions through the celebrating priest. He not only reads aloud the words of institution, but copies Christ’s gestures as they are described: at the moment of the accepit panem/calicem he takes the offerings in his hands, which were anointed by the blessing (in sanctas et venerabiles manus suas), lifts his eyes (elevatis oculis), gratefully (gratias agens) bows his head, makes a sign of the Cross at the benedixit, and in a humble attitude completes the transubstantiation, with his arms touching the altar, once more emphasizing the union with Christ. (The Traditional Mass, p. 274)

Years after the above “picture” was formed in my mind, I decided to consult William Durandus, whose Rationale Divinorum Officiorum had recently entered my library. Sure enough, he had beat me to the main point, once more demonstrating that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccles 1:9). Book IV, chapter 18 concerns “Of the Seating of the Bishop or the Priest and the Ministers,” of which the following lines are apropos (pp. 168–69 in the Thibodeau trans.):
He is seated in a prominent place, so that just as the vinedresser cares for his vineyard, he cares for his people; for the Lord, seated in the highest heavens, guards His city (cf. Ps 126:1)…. Sitting down after the prayer signifies the seating of Christ at the right hand of the Father after His Ascension, for the seat naturally goes to the victor. Thus, the seating of the priest designates the victory of Christ… The seating of the ministers signifies the seating of those to whom it is said: You shall also sit on the twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt 19:28): namely, those who now reign in heaven; those who labor in the choir signify those who are as yet pilgrims in this world… Some ministers sit with the bishop, through whom is understood that the members of Christ at last have repose in peace, about which the Apostle says: He seated us together in heaven, in Christ (Eph 2:6), or else those who judge the twelve tribes of Israel; others remain standing, through whom is understood those members of Christ who continue with the struggle in this world.

* NOTE: I have decided not to address here the question of the sitting of the clergy during the Kyrie, although the enterprising reader will find it pleasant to meditate on the allegorical interpretations that might be proffered.

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Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Feast of Christ the King 2020

He hath on his garment, and on his thigh written: King of kings, and Lord of lords. To him be glory and empire for ever and ever. (The antiphon at the Magnificat for 2nd Vespers of Christ the King.)

The Rider on the White Horse and the Army of Heaven (Apocalypse 19); from an illustrated manuscript of the Commentary on the Apocalypse by Beatus of Liebana, made by a scribe called Facundus for King Ferdinand I of Castille and Leon, 1047 AD, now in the National Library of Madrid. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
Aña Habet in vestimento et in fémore suo scriptum: Rex regum, et Dóminus dominantium. Ipsi gloria et imperium, in sáecula saeculórum.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Very Curious Legend of St Raphael

The revised version of Butler’s Lives of the Saints, in the notes to the entry for the feast of St Raphael the Archangel, says that “In the Ethiopic Synaxarium... is a curious account of the dedication of a church to St Raphael in an island off Alexandria early in the fifth century.” A reference is given for an English translation of this Synaxarium, which is basically the Eastern version of the Martyrology, but no further information is given about the dedication or what makes it curious. In the marvelous age of the internet, I was able to track the text down at the following website, ( where I discovered what a spectacular understatement “curious” is in describing this legend.

“On this day are commemorated the glorious angel Raphael the archangel, the third of the vigilant, holy and heavenly archangels; and the dedication of his church, which was built to him on an island outside the city of Alexandria in the days of Saint Theophilus the Archbishop (385-412, the predecessor of St Cyril); and the miracle which was made manifest therein, and took place thus.

A certain rich woman from the city of Rome came to Saint Theophilus the Archbishop, and with her were her son and a picture of the glorious Archangel Raphael, and much money, which she had inherited from her parents. ... And Saint Abba Theophilus built many churches, and among them was the church, which was on the island outside the city of Alexandria, and was dedicated in the name of the glorious Archangel Raphael; and Abba Theophilus the Archbishop finished the building thereof and consecrated it as it were this day.

And whilst the believers were praying in the church, behold the church trembled, and was rent asunder, and it moved about. And they found that the church had been built upon the back of a whale... on which a very large mass of sand had heaped itself. Now the whale lay firmly fixed in its place, and the treading of the feet of the people upon it cut it off from the mainland; and it was Satan who moved the whale so that he might throw down the church.

And the believers and the archbishop cried out together, and made supplication to the Lord Christ, and they asked for the intercession of the glorious Archangel Raphael. And God, the Most High, sent the glorious angel Raphael, and he had mercy on the children of men, and he drove his spear into the whale, saying unto him, ‘By the commandment of God stand still, and move not thyself from thy place’; and the whale stood in his place and moved not.

And many signs and wonders were made manifest, and great healings of sick folk took place in that church. And this church continued to exist until the time when the Muslims reigned, and then it was destroyed, and the whale moved, and the sea flowed back again and drowned many people who dwelt in that place.”

The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore has a mid-19th Ethiopian painting in tempera on canvas which represents this legend, in which we see the Archangel fixing his spear through the church building. Unfortunately, the lower part of it, which would have shown the whale, is missing.

Here is a more complete representation of the story, depicted in a mural in a monastery in Ethiopia. This image is reproduced by the kind permission of Sara Genene, author of the blog Ethiopian Wanderlust.

The Grave of St Peter and the Ancient Vatican Basilica

Here are a couple of interesting things I recently stumbled across about the grave of St Peter and the basilica originally built over it by the Emperor Constantine in 320s. The first video gives a detailed explanation of each archeological phase of the site, from the original burial to the time of the first church’s construction. The site was rediscovered by excavations that began after the death of Pope Pius XI in February of 1939, when his tomb was being installed in the Vatican grottos. Workman accidentally broke through the floor, revealing open spaces underneath it whose existence was until that point unknown.

The second video is a “sketch” made with a modern architect’s model-drawing program, which shows how the ancient basilica would have been built step-by-step. (A lot of time is devoted to the large courtyard in front of the basilica.)

This video, which I have shared before, gives a good sense of the interior, although not of the decorations.

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