Friday, December 31, 2021

Great Rites Think Alike!

On Christmas Eve, an old and dear friend of mine asked an interesting question on a Facebook discussion group for the Breviary and Divine Office, of which I am a moderator. On the same day, I happened to discover a very interesting parallel between the Roman and Byzantine Rites which ties in with his question.

My friend asked, “Does anyone know a particular significance to the ‘cras(tina die)’ in most of today’s Little Hours, while Terce and the Mass have ‘hodie (scietis)’? Why do Prime, Sext and None focus on tomorrow, while Terce and the Mass focus on today?”

The first two antiphons of Lauds of the vigil of Christmas, Judaea et Jerusalem and Hodie scietis, in an antiphonary made in 1757 for the Swiss abbey of St Gallen. (St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 1762: antiphonary, winter part, p. 45;
As a premise to the answer: from the absence of Advent in the so-called Leonine Sacramentary and the oldest list of Roman Gospel readings, from the fact that the most ancient Roman liturgical books all start with the vigil of Christmas, and from the fact that the oldest Roman sacramentary puts Advent at the end of the Sanctorale, rather than in the Temporale, it seems clear that the season was added to the Roman Rite sometime between the compilation of the Leonine Sacramentary in the mid-6th century, and the days of St Gregory the Great, who died in 604. This would mean that originally, the vigil of Christmas did ALL the liturgical work of preparing for Christmas, just as the other great solemnities (Ss Peter and Paul, Lawrence, Assumption) only have the one day of preparation.

All of the HODIEs on the vigil of Christmas (Today ye shall know that the Lord will come) are joined to the statement “et mane videbitis gloriam ejus – and in the morning ye shall see His glory.” Which is to say, today, on the vigil, you shall know that God’s salvation is revealed in the Birth of Christ, but you will not actually see it until tomorrow. This forms a parallel with the vigil of Easter, at which we know that the Lord will rise, but we only come to see Him risen on Easter morning.

The verses of which “Hodie scietis” is a paraphrase, Exodus 16, 6-7, are part of the Epistle added in the post-Carolingian era to the blessing of palms on Palm Sunday. As I explained in an article last year, in the context of that blessing, the precise words of that verse, “Vespere scietis quod Dominus eduxerit vos de Aegypto – In the evening you shall know that the Lord hath led you out of Egypt”, refer to the Gospel of the Easter vigil, Matthew 28, 1-7, which begins with the words “Vespere autem Sabbati – on the eve of the Sabbath.” The second part of it, “et mane videbitis gloriam Domini – and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord,” look forward to the second verse of the Gospel of Easter morning, Mark 16, 1-7, “Et valde mane una sabbatorum – And very early in the morning, the first day of the week.” (We may reasonably guess that the medieval cleric who added this Epistle to the blessing of Palms was inspired not only by the reference to palms at its beginning, but also by the use of this verse on the vigil of Christmas.) In exactly the same way, the Gospel of the vigil of Christmas, Matthew 1, 18-21, quotes the Angel saying to St Joseph that the Virgin “will give bring forth a Son”, with the verb in the future. The Gospel of the Midnight Mass of Christmas, Luke 2, 1-14, says that “she brought forth Her firstborn Son”, with the same verb in the past, to signify that what is foretold “today”, i.e. on the vigil, is fulfilled “tomorrow”, i.e., on the feast.

The contrast of Hodie and Cras, today and tomorrow, therefore expresses the vigil’s purpose, which is not an early show of the feast itself, but a day of preparation; today we make ready for what we know is coming tomorrow.
The Introit of the Vigil of Christmas
Later in the day, I just happened to take a look at the Byzantine liturgical texts for December 24th, and made a fascinating discovery of a similar parallel between the vigil of Christmas and Holy Saturday. The Hour of Orthros, the longest and most complex part of the Divine Office, has every day one or more Canons, a group of chants based on a series of Biblical canticles called Odes. (I explained this feature in greater detail on the feast of the Transfiguration.) The Canon of Holy Saturday is rightly considered one of the finest masterpieces of this liturgical genre; on the vigil of Christmas, it is partly rewritten to make it appropriate for that occasion. For example, these are the first chants from the two versions of the Canon sung with the first Ode, Exodus 15, 1-19, the song which Moses sang at the crossing of the Red Sea. A decent English translation requires changing the word order, but the parallels are even more evident in the original Greek.
Holy Saturday, First Ode: The children of them that were saved hid beneath the earth Him that of old hid the persecuting tyrant beneath the wave of the sea. But let us, like the young women, sing to the Lord, for He is greatly glorified. (This is a poetic way of saying that the Israelites buried Christ, who had saved them from Pharaoh at the crossing of the Red Sea; the “young women” are Miriam and the other Israelite women who repeat the Song of Moses in Exodus 15, 20-21.)
Christmas Eve, First Ode: Herod seeketh to kill Him that is hidden in the manger, who of old hid the persecuting tyrant beneath the wave of the sea. But let us sing with the Magi, let us sing to the Lord, for He is greatly glorified.
There are over 30 examples of these parallel texts between the two Canons, so I will give only the first from each set. (The second of the Biblical Odes, Deuteronomy 32, 1-43, is only sung in Lent, and has no corresponding chants for the Canon on either of these days, which is why we skip from first to third.)
The canticle of Anna, 1 Samuel, 2, 1-10
Holy Saturday, Third Ode: Beholding Thee, who without restraint hung the whole earth upon the waters, hanging upon Golgotha, creation was seized with much amazement, crying out “There is none holy beside Thee, o Lord!”
Christmas Eve, Third Ode: Beholding Thee, who without restraint hung the whole earth upon the waters, being born in the cave, creation was seized with amazement, crying out “There is none holy beside Thee, o Lord!”
The canticle of Habbakuk, 3, 1-19
Holy Saturday, Fourth Ode: Foreseeing Thy divine emptying upon the Cross, Habakkuk was astonished and cried out, “Thou didst break the might of the powers (i.e. of hell), o Good one, speaking to those in hell, as the Almighty.”
Christmas Eve, Fourth Ode: Foreseeing Thy coming from the Virgin, Habakkuk was astonished and cried out, “Being incarnate, Thou didst come from Theman (vs.), o Redeemer, to call back Adam who had been rejected.” (Here there is a something of a pun between “Adei - hell” and “Adam” in Greek.)
The canticle of Isaiah, 26, 9-20
Holy Saturday, Fifth Ode: Isaiah, having seen the light that knows no setting of Thy manifestation, o Christ, which was made unto us in Thy compassion, he woke before done from the night and cried out, “The dead shall rise, and they that are in the tombs shall be raised up, and they that are on the earth shall rejoice.”
Christmas Eve, Fifth Ode: Isaiah, having seen the light that knows no setting of Thy manifestation, o Christ, which was made unto us in Thy compassion, he woke before done from the night and cried out, “Behold the Virgin shall conceive, and shall bear the Word made flesh, and they that are on the earth shall rejoice.”
The canticle of Jonah, 2, 3-10
Holy Saturday, Sixth Ode: Jonah was caught but not held in the belly of a whale, for bearing the type of Thee, who suffered and wast given to burial, he leapt up from the beast as from a bridal chamber, and cried out to the guards, “Ye who keep guard falsely and in vain have forsaken your own mercy.”
Christmas Eve, Sixth Ode: Jonah was caught but not held in the belly of a whale, for bearing the type of Thee, who wast born and made manifest in the flesh, he leapt up from the beast as from a bridal chamber; for having been begotten according to the flesh, and undergone burial and death in the flesh, Thou shalt rise up on the third day.
The Prayer of Azariah, Daniel 3, 26-56
Holy Saturday, Seventh Ode: O ineffable wonder! He who in the furnace delivered the Holy Children from the fire, being dead in the tomb, is laid down without breath for the salvation of them that sing, “O Redeemer, Thou art the blessèd God.”
Christmas Eve, Seventh Ode: O ineffable wonder! He who in the furnace delivered the Holy Children from the fire, as an infant is laid down in a poor manger for the salvation of them that sing, “O Redeemer, Thou art the blessèd God.”
The Song of the Three Children, Daniel 3, 57-88
Holy Saturday, Eighth Ode: Be astonished and shudder, o heaven, and let the foundations of the earth be shaken; for behold, He is reckoned among the dead, who dwelleth on high, and received as a stranger in a small tomb; whom do ye bless, o children, and lift up in song, ye priests; exalt Him above all, ye people, unto all ages.
Christmas Eve, Eighth Ode: Be astonished and shudder, o heaven, and let the foundations of the earth be shaken; for behold, He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, who beareth all things in His hand, and received as a stranger in a small manger; whom do ye bless, o children, and lift up in song, ye priests; exalt Him above all, ye people, unto all ages.
The Magnificat, Luke 1, 46-55
Holy Saturday, Ninth Ode: Weep not over me, Mother, as Thou beholdest me in the tomb, Thy Son whom Thou didst conceive in the womb without seed; for I shall rise and be glorified, and as God, shall unceasingly exalt in glory them that magnify Thee in faith and love.
Christmas Eve, Ninth Ode: Be not now astonished, Mother, as Thou beholdest me an infant, whom the Father begot from the womb before the daystar (Ps. 109, 3); for of this counsel to raise up glorified with me the fallen nature of mortals, that magnifieth Thee in faith and love.
A Greek icon of the Nativity of Christ, by Moskos Ilias, 1658. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.) 

The Mostly Marian Orations of the Christmas Octave

Cosmè Tura, Circumcision, 1474
Lost in Translation #67

Although the official title for the feast on January 1 in the 1962 Missal is the Octave of Christmas, for most of liturgical history it was also called the Feast of the Circumcision. In accordance with the Law, Jesus was circumcised eight days after His birth (see Gospel), and thus, if He was born on December 25, He was circumcised on January 1. Our Lord’s circumcision is an important event to commemorate: 1) It underscores the faithful Jewish piety of the Holy Family; 2) It is the occasion on which the Infant was, again in accordance with the Old Law, formally given the Holy Name of Jesus; and 3) It marks the first time that Our Lord shed His Blood for humanity. The slightly dolorous note of this last fact also ties into the Church’s earliest known observance of January 1 as a day of fasting and penance in opposition to the revelries of the pagans.

The day also has a Marian motif. The station church on January 1 is Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest churches in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and this location no doubt influenced the choice of the Collect and Postcommunion.
The Collect for the feast, which is at least as old as the late eighth century, is: [1]
Deus, qui salútis aeternae, beátae Maríae virginitáte fœcunda, humáno géneri praemia praestitisti: tríbue, quáesumus; ut ipsam pro nobis intercédere sentiámus, per quam merúimus auctórem vitae suscípere, Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum: Qui tecum.
Which I translate as:
O God, who through the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary didst bestow upon mankind the rewards of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech, that we may feel interceding for us her through whom we have been made worthy to receive the Author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son: Who with Thee.
The protasis or first half of the prayer includes a delightful description of Mary’s virginity as fruitful. In St. Hildegard of Bingen’s Play of the Virtues, the Devil says to the personified virtue of Chastity:
You don’t know what you are nurturing, since your womb is bereft of the beautiful form that is received from a man; therefore you transgress the precept that God commanded in the sweet act of copulation; therefore you don’t know what you are!
To which Chastity replies:
How on earth could this touch me, which your foul suggestion has polluted through its uncleanness? I did bring forth one Man, Who through His Nativity gathers mankind to Himself, against you. [2]
Paradoxically, chastity is indeed a fecund virtue.
The apodosis or second half is a bit of a brain twister, but when the initial confusion gives way to comprehension, there is greater delight. Mary, who has paradoxically authored the Author of life, makes us worthy to receive Him as well through her constant intercession. And we pray not only for this continued intercession but for an awareness of it. We want to feel her intercession, for the experience of Mary watching over us brings with it consolation, hope, and inspiration to do better.
The Secret, on the other hand, has no explicit Marian theme:
Munéribus nostris, quáesumus, Dómine, precibusque susceptis: et caeléstibus nos munda mysteriis, et clementer exaudi. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Having received our offerings and prayers, we beseech Thee, O Lord: cleanse us with these heavenly mysteries and mercifully hear us. Through our Lord.
Curiously, the prayer appears several times elsewhere in the 1962 Missal but only for a martyr: Boniface (May 14), Romanus (August 9), Hadrian (September 8), Menna (November 11), and a martyr outside of Paschaltide. Perhaps on January 1 the Secret pays indirect tribute to Mary as Queen of Martyrs, who on this day felt the pain of true compassion as she saw her Son’s Precious Blood shed. Or perhaps the washing or cleansing with heavenly mysteries calls to mind the Precious Blood itself.
The Postcommunion returns us to Mary as the Mother of God:
Haec nos communio, Dómine, purget a crímine: et, intercedente beáta Vírgine Dei Genitríce María, caelestis remedii faciat esse consortes. Per eundem Dóminum nostrum.
Which I translate as:
May this communion, O Lord, purge us from all guilt, and with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, interceding for us, make us partakers of the heavenly remedy. Through the same our Lord.
The prayer is also used for the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on October 11 and in the Saturday Mass of Our Lady from Christmas until Candlemas (February 2). Aside from these usages, it is, as with the Secret, only used only for martyred Saints. [3]
The prayer has both medical and legal imagery: paired with “remedy,” “purge” (purget) connotes healing, and paired with “guilt” (crimen), it suggests a clearing from accusation or condemnation. [4]
It is noteworthy that we ask to be made partakers of the heavenly remedy after partaking of the heavenly remedy a few moments ago in Holy Communion. The juxtaposition of “communion” and “remedy” is similar to the distinction between the res et virtus (reality and power) and the sacramentum (sacramental symbolism) of the Eucharist that St. Thomas Aquinas makes in his Prayer before Holy Communion. It is one thing to receive Holy Communion sacramentally, that is, on the tongue and under the appearance of bread; it is another to receive the power of its healing and sanctification. Having done the first, we now ask for the second.
And on January 1, we ask for it with the help of Our Blessed Lady. Most of the old hand Missals translate intercedente beáta Vírgine Dei Genitríce María as “through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” but I prefer to translate this ablative absolute in a more dynamic way. The first translation could suggest that Mary intervened at only one point to help us get the medicine we needed, like a helpful nurse who called our pharmacist and got the prescription filled. But I believe that this clause, which is in the present tense, asks for Mary’s ongoing intercession (like the Collect) so that she can advocate for us now, tomorrow, and at the hour of our death. After all, if on this day we celebrate Mary as the mother of Jesus Christ, we implicitly celebrate her as our mother as well. And a good Mom constantly has her children’s back.
[1] Corpus Orationum 3: Orationes 1708-2389 (Brepols, 1993), 2113b, Br 440, p. 182.
[2] Ordo Virtutum 235-241, translation mine.
[3] Eusebius (December 16), Blaise (February 3), Stanislaus (May 7), Gervasius and Protasius (June 19), Januarius and Companions (September 19), Vitalis and Agricola (November 4), Several Martyrs, and a martyred Pontiff. Only once in the 1962 Missal is the prayer used without reference to a Saint’s intercession: the ferial Mass of Monday during the third week of Lent.
[4] Sr. Mary Pierre Ellebracht, Remarks on the Vocabulary of the Ancient Orations in the Missale Romanum (Dekker & Van de Vegt N.V.), 185.  

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Guest Article: Who Actually Delegitimizes the “Novus Ordo Missae”?

The following detailed analysis of the Responsa ad dubia of the Congregation for Divine Worship by Clemens Victor Oldendorf was published in two parts, “The Fundamental Theoretical Question” and “The Preparedness for Concelebration,” on December 25 and 29, at (here and here). The following translation, prepared by Peter Kwasniewski, has been approved by the author.

The fundamental theoretical question

If one recalls the motives for which the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum legally established a bifurcation of the one Roman Rite, and stated that the older of these expressions had never been abrogated by Pope Paul VI or any of his successors, and had therefore always remained permitted in principle, it is clear that there was an abstract theoretical construct and legal fiction aimed precisely at justifying, formally and above all substantively, the post-conciliar liturgical reform of 1969 and Pope Paul VI, who had decreed and implemented it.

For my own part, I have often argued that the coexistence of different editiones typicae of the Missale Romanum (and other liturgical books) need not in itself pose a compelling problem if, as in our specific case, one edition is the latest one based on the reform mandate of the Council of Trent (1545–1563), and the other is the most recent one based on or following the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). Here, an evaluation of the origins and liturgical structure of the rite in each case remains out of consideration for the time being, as do the advantages or disadvantages in the rite’s expression of Eucharistic dogma.

Traditionis Custodes, however, now says that the liturgical books promulgated by Paul VI and John Paul II after the Second Vatican Council are the “sole expression” of the lex orandi in the Roman Rite. Note: this is to say more than just that the Missale Romanum of Paul VI replaced the Missale Romanum of 1962, and replaced it completely. What is says is that the Tridentine missal or celebrations according to it are no longer even part of the Roman Rite; above all, that they are no longer an expression of the Latin-rite Church’s lex orandi.

At this point, it is not merely about the problem that, if this were true, then—despite protestations to the contrary—logically the Church’s lex credendi must have changed. But if the Tridentine rite is no longer Roman, and the rite resulting from the liturgical reform of Paul VI binds the entire Latin Church, a Tridentine Mass celebrated after July 16, 2021, finds itself in an ecclesiastical vacuum, both in terms of its ritual affiliation, and ultimately, in terms of ecclesiology.

It must be made very clear that given the nature of such claims, it will not be possible to comply with the new regulations in force from July 16 if one desires to hold on to the liturgical tradition with deliberation and conviction or to maintain one’s connection to it.

Funeral of Paul VI
Rome now openly claims the post-conciliar liturgical reform as a breach

It is not the traditionalists who are using Traditionis Custodes to question the legitimacy of Paul VI’s post-conciliar liturgical reform. Quite apart from the fact that Benedict XVI had built golden bridges to this legitimacy in Summorum Pontificum, one could easily concede—even without necessarily having to use the new liturgical books oneself on account of this concession—that a newer usus of the Roman Rite, where it has meanwhile been observed for decades in a manner faithful to its own prescriptions, could develop some legitimacy and a justification of its own, even if one thinks that it did not originally possess them, or at least is open to the possibility that it might have lacked them at the start.

All previous old-rite indults, and likewise the Motu Proprio of 2007, could be understood in a such a way that one could make these concessions if it was important to be in tension-free agreement with the ecclesiastical authorities, despite one’s own adherence to the Tridentine Mass and liturgy, and if one wanted to do everything correctly in purely formal canonical terms.

The premises that have now been established with Traditionis Custodes and reaffirmed by the Responsa of the Congregation for Divine Worship are for the first time clearly unacceptable to anyone who has hitherto preferred the liturgical books of 1962 for reasons other than preference or a sympathy of mentality. Indeed, now the liturgical tradition up to the Second Vatican Council is quite blatantly relegated to an allegedly deficient, even lacking, conformity with the Church’s lex orandi, and pushed out of the realm of what is to be henceforth considered the Roman Rite.

Thus, the liturgical reform of Paul VI is claimed, not by obscure or extremist critics of Vatican II, but by the highest authority itself, to be a rupture. This must, at least in strict theory, deprive it of the legitimacy it may have originally had formally, or may have gained in the meantime through long-continued use in the numerically predominant part of the Church.

Those who felt obliged by ecclesiastical obedience to accept the post-Conciliar liturgical reform, and yet endeavored not to make use of the new rite of Mass in conscious opposition to the previous one, are equally challenged, by the interpretation given to the liturgical reform in Traditionis Custodis and the related explanations from the Congregation for Divine Worship, to reconsider their previous attitude and liturgical practice.

Concelebration: an indispensable gesture of communion or of acceptance of the liturgical reform?

From its treatment in the Responsa ad dubia, it is quite clear that this document of the Congregation for Divine Worship is by no means addressed only to local bishops in whose dioceses Masses have already been celebrated according to the Missale Romanum of 1962, nor only to diocesan priests who have already celebrated them, those who are to be commissioned to do so in the future, or those who would like to celebrate in the future according to this missal. The answers clearly also concern the former “Ecclesia Dei” communities and the priests who belong or will belong to them. In this regard, it is worth recalling what Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2007 in the letter accompanying his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum: “In order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.”

This willingness in principle, however, has until now been a purely theoretical one that has never materialized or had to be demonstrated in practice. Incidentally, it is striking in Benedict XVI’s formulation that it is not even specifically about concelebration according to the new liturgical books. The dubium here under examination asks: “If a priest who has been permitted to use the 1962 Missale Romanum does not recognize the validity and legitimacy of concelebration—refuses to concelebrate, especially at the Chrism Mass—can he continue to avail himself of this permission?” The answer to this question of doubt is a resounding no.

But priests of the former Ecclesia Dei communities are obviously among those who have been “permitted to use the 1962 Missale Romanum.” What is interesting in the wording of the question is the talk of recognizing the validity and legitimacy of concelebration, and the implicit presupposition that such recognition can consist only in occasionally concelebrating in person, and especially at the Chrism Mass with the local bishop in whose diocese one resides and ministers. The explanatory note speaks of the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform, so “concelebration” and Pope Paul VI’s post-conciliar “liturgical reform” are, as it were, used synonymously. In other words, the practice of concelebration is seen as an exquisite achievement of this liturgical reform, like an emblem. And although current canon law guarantees the right to individual celebration, as is well known, one should not be surprised at such an interpretation, since in St. Peter’s itself, individual celebrations even according to the post-conciliar missal have been de facto abolished in favor of concelebration.

In this dubium on concelebration in particular, with the answer and explanatory note, it is therefore clearly a question of priests who up to now have exclusively used the old Missal and were allowed to do so.

Evidently, the vast majority of diocesan priests or religious priests who celebrated indult Masses or, after 2007, have used the 1962 Missale Romanum on the basis of Summorum Pontificum, have predominantly celebrated (and, where appropriate, concelebrated) in the post-conciliar renewed rite of Paul VI, and have already thereby sufficiently demonstrated that they recognize the validity and legitimacy of the post-conciliar liturgical reform.

The members of the earlier Ecclesia Dei communities also did so in theory, for, like all others who made use of Summorum Pontificum, they thereby accepted, at least by implication, that the one Roman Rite had two forms and even, de iure, that the newer form enjoys a certain primacy of place, as it had emerged from Paul VI’s liturgical reform following the Second Vatican Council.

But if one now considers that Traditionis Custodes can logically address itself only to traditionalists who have already claimed, as the basis of their adherence to the liturgical tradition, the papal indults or the preceding motu proprio of Benedict XVI, and who, with the local bishops’ approval, have developed and continue to develop their activity mostly in regular places of worship where they have celebrated and continue to celebrate as guests with the approval of the pastor, then it is once again questionable why they should have to offer additional proofs of the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform by concelebrating in person.

Although there is the exception of the Archdiocese of Vaduz, where the diocesan bishop has celebrated the Chrism Mass according to the old liturgical books for several years in the past (which will no longer be possible in the future, unless he is willing to ignore the prohibition), concelebration is not the only way to express one’s hierarchical communion with the bishop.

Practical signs of accepting the validity and legitimacy of the reformed rites

By receiving from the local ordinary the sacred oils consecrated in the new rite, a priest also accepts its validity, and furthermore—with the exception of the Apostolic Administration of the Holy Curé of Ars in Campos, Brazil—none of the former Ecclesia Dei communities have their own bishops, consecrated according to the old Pontifical. Even if the priests themselves have been ordained according to the old Pontifical up to now, from this point of view, none of the priests of these communities is, so to speak, “purely Tridentine” because the prelates ordaining them were ordained using the 1968 Pontifical; and even the SSPX accepts into its ranks priests ordained in the new rite, or at least collaborates with them. (Only if there are doubts about validity in a concrete individual case and the priest in question explicitly draws attention to the possible problems can there sometimes be a discreet conditional re-ordination, at the priest’s explicit request.)

Furthermore, it can be pointed out that probably the majority of the Masses celebrated on the basis of Summorum Pontificum using the Tridentine Missal were celebrated in churches and chapels where otherwise the post-conciliar Missal is predominantly used, and moreover, that at such Masses, in the Vetus Ordo, Communion for the faithful may be taken from ciboria in the tabernacle whose hosts were consecrated in celebrations according to the new missal. Such a thing would certainly not be possible if there was a denial of the validity and legitimacy of the new rite.

In the dubium about concelebration under closer consideration here, therefore, an unrealistic construct is present, one which, strictly speaking, cannot have existed in the case of anyone who has ever applied to benefit from an old-rite indult, or who, from September 14, 2007 to July 16, 2021, celebrated Masses on the basis of Summorum Pontificum according to the Missale Romanum of 1962, or assisted at Masses celebrated on this legal basis. In short: a much higher threshold of evidence than could possibly be necessary has been introduced, which gives the response a punitive character.

The traditionalists whom Traditionis Custodes is targeting have never asked for “permission” to hold on to the traditional liturgy—they consider it a patrimony prior to and deeper than the whim of the pope—and will not now suddenly allow it to be taken away and forbidden by Pope Francis. However, many of those who, until now, have attached importance to the requesting and receipt of such permission may now start to think it over again, and, possibly even more, to rethink the basic legitimacy of the liturgical reform, including the Pauline Pontificale Romanum of 1968 and the Pauline Novus Ordo of 1969—especially since the post-conciliar liturgical books have now been claimed to be the sole (!) expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite. Such unreality handicaps this declaration that it compels a re-examination of the delicate (and, some might say, unsustainable) peace on which Summorum Pontificum was constructed.

The faithful who feel committed to the liturgical tradition of the Latin Church and who want to be nothing but Roman Catholics are thus pushed out, and it becomes clear: Pope Francis and the Congregation for Divine Worship are obviously not really concerned with the high good of genuine ecclesial unity, but at most with a positivist loyalty to authority.

A New Reading Course on Sacrosanctum Concilium with the Veterum Sapientia Institute

Next month, I will begin working with the Veterum Sapientia Institute, an organization which seeks to promote knowledge and study of the Latin language in accordance with both the tradition of the Church and its law, as stated in Pope St John XXIII’s Apostolic Constitution. In addition to an introductory Latin class, I will be offering a reading class on Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. We will read through several of the most important passages in the original Latin version, and hopefully clarify what these passages really say and intend. All VSI classes are online; the reading course will be held on Tuesdays at 7pm Eastern time, starting, appropriately, I think, on the feast of St Peter’s Chair in Rome, January 18th. VSI is also offering some other courses of specific liturgical interest, one on the hymns of the Divine Office, taught by Fr Thomas Buffer, and an introduction to the Roman Missal, taught by Dr John Pepino. There will also be a course on the reading and translating of Scholastic texts, taught by Fr Dylan Schrader, and readings in Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, with Dr Nancy Llewellyn. (Earlier this year, we shared Dr Llewellyn’s excellent essay about Veterum Sapientia and its fate after the Council.) I have known most of the staff of VSI for many years, and they are all superbly talented Latinists, very much dedicated to sharing their knowledge and passion with their students. For more information about the courses and how to enroll, visit the VSI website. You can also find more information about all its activities on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I make bold to ask for a prayer or two for myself as I start in on this new endeavour.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Mass of St David, King and Prophet

In the Roman Martyrology, the second entry after that of St Thomas of Canterbury reads as follows: “At Jerusalem, (the birth into heaven) of St David, King and Prophet.” David is not among the handful of Old Testament Saints to whom there is any historical devotion in the West, but his feast is extremely ancient in the East. In one of the oldest liturgical books of the Rite of Jerusalem, he is commemorated in a joint feast with St James, the Holy City’s first bishop, and assigned to December 25th; this indicates that this observance is even older than the adoption of Christmas as a separate feast in the East, which happened towards the end of the fourth century. It was soon moved, however, first to the 26th, then to the 28th; in the modern Byzantine Rite, it is kept on the Sunday after Christmas, whatever its date may be, and St Joseph has been added to it. (See Liturgy and Byzantinization in Jerusalem, by Dr Daniel Galadza, table 4.5; Oxford, 2017)

In the Roman Rite supplement for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem issued in 1935, his feast is kept as a double major, and has its own proper Mass. English translations of the texts, and some recordings of its chant parts, most of which come from other Masses, are given below. The Mass is celebrated with commemorations of St Thomas of Canterbury and the octave of Christmas.

The Introit is that of the Fourth Sunday after Easter, with the extra Allelujas of the Easter season removed. This was obviously selected to celebrate David’s role as the author of the Psalms; Psalm 97, from which it is taken, also figures prominently in the Roman Divine Office of Christmas. “Sing to the Lord a new song, for the Lord hath done wondrous things; before the sight of the nations He hath revealed His justice. Ps. His right hand hath wrought for Him salvation, and His arm is holy. Glory be... Sing to the Lord...”

The Collect: God, almighty Father, who by the mouth of David made hymns to be sung in Thy Holy Spirit; grant, we ask, that by his intercession, we may be able to worthily make the sacrifice of praise. Through our Lord...”
The Epistle, 1 Samuel 16, 4-13, recounts David’s election as the new king of Israel in place of Saul, through the anointing administered to him by the prophet Samuel.
The Anointing of David, 1555, by Paolo Veronese. In this typically overcrowded Mannerist composition, there are fourteen people to either side of the central figures of Samuel and David, reminding us of the three groups of fourteen into which St Matthew divides the ancestors of Christ named at the beginning of his Gospel. That this is a deliberate reference is demonstrated by the presence of three women, as there are three women mentioned in the Genealogy, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah, i.e. Bathsheba. (Image from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Gradual is taken from the first Mass of a bishop and martyr, even though David himself fits neither of these categories, since he is mentioned in it by name. “I have found David my servant: with my holy oil I have anointed him. For my hand shall help him: and my arm shall strengthen him. V. The enemy shall profit nothing against him: nor shall the son of iniquity hurt him.” Psalm 88 from which both it and the Communio are taken is also sung at Matins of Christmas.
The Alleluja is taken from the book of Judges, 5, 3, which is very rarely cited anywhere in the liturgy, and appears to be unique to this Mass. “Hear, O ye kings, give ear, ye princes: It is I, it is I, that will sing to the Lord, I will sing to the Lord the God of Israel.”
Of the various Gospel passages that mention King David, Matthew 22, 41-44, seems to have been chosen for this Mass because in it Christ, whose Birth is celebrated a few days before, obliquely asserts His own divinity. The Messiah must come from the house of David, yet David himself calls him “the Lord”, which would make no sense if the former were no more than a distant descendent. The liturgy of the Christmas octave is very much concerned to assert that the Child who is born in Bethlehem is not a mere mortal, but God Himself revealed in the Incarnation for our salvation.
“At that time: the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, ‘What think you of Christ? whose son is he?’ They say to him, ‘David’s.’ He saith to them, ‘How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool?’ ”
The Offertory is taken from the First Sunday of Advent. “To thee have I lifted up my soul; in thee, o my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed; neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on thee shall be confounded.”
The Secret: God, who are moved by humbling and appeased by satisfaction, look with kindness upon the contrite and humbled heart of Saint David, that by his example, we, being filled by the spirit of compunction, may be able worthily to offer Thy sacrifice. Through Our Lord... ”
The Communio is also taken from the first mass of a martyr and bishop, another clearly appropriate choice for this feast. “Once have I sworn by my holiness: His seed (i.e. Christ) shall endure for ever. And his throne as the sun before me: and as the moon perfect for ever, and a faithful witness in heaven.”
The Post-Communion: “Lord God, whose only-begotten deigned to be the son of David, , grant we ask, that we by the participation on the his mystery, we may be joined by adoption to the sons of the King of kings by adoption. Through the same...” This also obviously reflects the Christmas season.

The Byzantine Divine Office has an enormous number of proper texts for each feast, and for many days of the temporal cycle. (In the liturgical seasons which are equivalent to the Roman times after Epiphany and Pentecost, most of the proper of the season is repeated on an eight-week rotation.) Two of these texts, which are called the Troparion and the Kontakion, are then repeated as the specific liturgical day requires at the Divine Liturgy, which has far fewer variable parts than the Roman Mass does. Here are the troparion and kontakion of King David, Joseph the Betrothed, and James, the brother of Lord and first bishop of Jerusalem, which unite the Saints in a very clever way for their joint commemoration.
The Troparion  Proclaim, o Joseph, the good and wondrous tidings to David, the father (i.e. ancestor) of God; Thou didst see the Virgin with child, thou didst adore with the Magi, thou gavest glory with the shepherds, divinely warned by the angel. Beseech Christ God that our souls may be saved.
The Kontakion  Today the divine David is filled with rejoicing, and Joseph brings forth praise with James, for having received a crown by their kinship with Christ, they rejoice, and in hymns exalt Him that is ineffably born on earth, and cry out: O Merciful One, save them that praise Thee!
A 17th century Russian icon of King David; image from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

St Thomas of Canterbury 2021

St Thomas à Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on December 29th, 1170, less than a month after he had returned from six years of exile in France, where he had been driven by a long persecution at the hands of King Henry II of England. The murder was followed by a wave of revulsion throughout Europe, which did much to promote the reforms within the Church that St Thomas had died to defend. He was canonized by Pope Alexander III, who had received him in audience during his exile, just over two years after his death, in no small measure because of the innumerable miracles that took place at his tomb.

The following piece is one of the earliest known musical compositions that refers to St Thomas, and very cleverly associates him the Holy Innocents, whose feast is kept the day before his; England is likened to Rama, King Henry to King Herod, and Thomas to the first-born sons whom Herod killed. France then becomes Egypt, and since Egypt was also the place of the exile of the Patriarch Joseph, St Thomas is called “the Joseph of Canterbury.” The implication of this is, of course, that just as Christ’s exile delayed His unjust death, so did that of St Thomas.

In Rama sonat gemitus / plorante Rachel Anglie: / Herodis namque genitus / dat ipsam ignominie. / En eius primogenitus / et Joseph Cantuarie / Exulat si sit venditus, / Egiptum colit Gallie.

Lamentation sounds forth in Rama, as the “Rachel” of England weepeth. A new Herod gives her unto ignominy. Behold the first-born of the realm, the “Joseph” of Canterbury, as if he were sold, dwells in the “Egypt” of France. (On the YouTube channel that posted this, the first word of the 7th line is correctly transcribed “exulat,” but the singers clearly say “exsultat.” This book gives a better reading for the same line “exsul, ac si sit venditus - an exile, as if he had been sold.” Thanks to Dr Jeffrey Morse and Jesson Allerite for this information.)

Here is a very early reliquary of St Thomas, made at Limoges, France in the 1180s, showing the scene of his assassination in the lower part, his burial and the ascent of his soul into heaven in the upper. Devotion to him was incredibly powerful in the Middle Ages and afterwards, especially in England until the Reformation. (It is to his shrine that the pilgrims of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are making their way.) More than 40 such reliquaries are still extant.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Second Roundup of Articles on the CDW Responses

As with the first roundup from a week ago, we publish this list without endorsing the content of any particular article. Once again, if you see that something important is missing, please shoot me an email so that I can either add it here, or hold on to it for the next roundup.

December 20, 2021
Larry Chapp, “Pope Francis vs. the Traditionalists: It was Never About the Liturgy” (Gaudium et Spes 22)

December 21, 2021
Traditionis Custodes: New Instructions from the Vatican” (FSSPX.News)

Monika Rheinschmitt, “Assertions without reasons: A Statement in Protest of the CDW Responses from Pro Missa Tridentina” (Rorate Caeli)

Phil Lawler, “The Vatican’s one-way ticket to liturgical reform” (Catholic Culture)

Anthony Esolen, “The Mass and Our Unity” (The Catholic Thing)

David G. Bonagura, Jr., “The Death of Liturgy” (The Catholic Thing)

December 22, 2021
Gregory DiPippo, “Announcing the New Congregation for Monitoring Church Bulletins” (New Liturgical Movement)

Peter Kwasniewski, “Are Traditionalists Guilty of ‘Private Judgment’ Over the Popes?” (OnePeterFive)

Joseph Shaw, “The Latin Mass Society’s Canonical Notes on the Responsa ad dubia” (Rorate Caeli)

Latin Mass Society, “Some Notes on the Congregation for Divine Worship’s Responsa ad Dubia in light of Canon Law

Fr John Hunwicke, “The Sacrament of Confirmation” (Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment)

Gregory Hillis, “I love Pope Francis’ commitment to dialogue—which is why his Latin Mass restrictions confuse me” (America)

Michael Fiedrowicz, “When the shepherd becomes a wolf, the flock must defend itself” (Rorate Caeli)

Roberto de Matti, “Motus in fine velocior (2): With a Divisive, Useless, and Unjust Persecution, the Francis Crisis is Gathering Even More Speed” (Rorate Caeli)

Interview: “Bishop Schneider on Latest Vatican Crackdown on Tradition” (The Remnant)

Phil Lawler, “The Liturgical Edsel” (Catholic Culture)

December 23, 2021
Joseph Shaw, “Responsa ad dubia: back to the future, forward to the past” (LMS Chairman)

Joseph Shaw, “Canonists cast doubt on the force of Responsa ad dubia on the Traditional Latin Mass” (Catholic Herald)

Damian Thompson, “Why the Catholic Chuch is facing chaos this Christmas” (The Spectator: audio file)

Fr. Timothy Ferguson, “‘Pomposity cannot stand ridicule’: A canon lawyer draws lessons from Communist history” (Rorate Caeli)

Edward Pentin, Interview: “Archbishop Roche on ‘Traditionis Custodes’ and Its Guidelines: ‘The Liturgical Possibilities Are in Place’” (Nat’l Catholic Register)

Michael Haynes, “Virginia diocese announces massive restrictions on traditional sacraments following Vatican crackdown” (LifeSite News)

Tom Seykora, “Catholic Fathers: A Call to Arms” (OnePeterFive)

Patrick Benedict, “Traditionis Custodes: The Very Latest Super Duper Update” (Remnant)

A Christmas Message from the Prior of the Fraternity of St. Vincent Ferrer” (Canticum Salomonis)

December 24, 2021
Fr. Christopher Basden, “What is behind the papal strangulation of the old Mass?” (Rorate Caeli) [Excellent!]

Fr. John Hunwicke, “You Need to Read This Stuff” (Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment)

Rev. Fr. Louis-Marie de Blignières, “A Christmas Message from the Prior: On the Subject of the Motu Proprio” (Rorate Caeli; original dated Dec. 23)

Fr. Zuhlsdorf, “Ed Pentin interviewed the Prefect of the CDW about Traditionis custodes and the Dubious Dubia” (Fr. Z’s Blog)

December 26, 2021
Cri de Coeur: I feel like I have become an ‘undocumented Catholic’” (Fr. Z’s Blog)

At St Germain (France), Catholics celebrate Christmas before the closed doors of a church because of the obstinate will of Pope Francis” (Rorate Caeli)

Christophe Geffroy, “Never before has the Church seen such a malicious treatment of a movement within it” (Rorate Caeli)

December 27, 2021
Fr. John Hunwicke, “Egeneto de en tais hemerais ekeinais...” (Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment)

Fr. Laurent-Marie Pocquet du Haut Jussé, “Very Instructive Paradoxes” (Rorate Caeli) [Excellent!]

Joseph Shaw, “Responsa ad dubia: good news on private Masses” (LMS Chairman)

Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, “Cardinal Blase Cupich publishes policy implementing Traditionis custodes” (Vatican News)

Peter Kwasniewski, “Cardinal Cupich’s Chicago Template: The Vatican-endorsed Litmus Test” (Rorate Caeli)

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, “Archdiocese of Chicago drops the axe on more than the Traditional Latin Mass” (Fr. Z's Blog)

Michael Charlier, “Francis Has Already Lost” (Rorate Caeli, originally published Dec. 16, so prior to the Responsa, but still highly relevant)

Martin Mosebach, “What if Rome no longer wants to be Roman?”: Interview (Rorate Caeli)

A Description of the Theory of Harmony and Proportion in Renaissance Architecture

Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism by Rudolph Wittkower

Here is a book that is, in my opinion, an excellent source for people who are interested in understanding the basis of harmony and proportion. In the past, I have posted numerous examples of buildings that use traditional harmony and proportion, and contrasted them with the ugliness of modern architectural design (e.g. Monotony and Cacophony are the Twin Principles of Modern Design - Whatever Happened to Harmony?) As well as focusing in detail on the mathematical proportions used and described by men like Alberti and Palladio in architectural textbooks, there is a lot of context provided, and the author describes well the philosophical ideas behind the movement. 

Rudolph Wittkower (1901-71) was a German art historian who went to London when the Nazis came to power, and subsequently taught at the University of London. In this book, first published in 1949 with multiple subsequent editions, he contrasts the approach of architects from the High Renaissance period, who relied largely on musical theory for their mathematics, with those of the ancient Greek and the medieval period, the latter relying on geometric constructions based upon the triangle, the square, and the pentagon. As such, it is a good resource for someone who wishes to get a broad introduction to the subject. He also describes how the developing thought of the Enlightenment and its new understanding of what beauty is contributed to the gradual abandonment of the use of mathematically derived harmony and proportion, starting at the end of the 18th-century, and culminating in its almost total rejection in architectural schools by the mid-20th century.
As well as the main text, there are four appendices with talks given by the author, the last of which is particularly is recommended reading for a concise overview of the subject.
Those who are interested in going more deeply into the subject might be interested in taking my course, The Mathematics of Beauty which can be taken online, for audit or for credit, from www.Pontifex.University

Nostell Priory in England, built in the Palladian style, in Nostell near Wakefield in Yorkshire in 1733.

Monday, December 27, 2021

The Alleluia of Christmas Day, the Protomartyr, and the Beloved Disciple

I always feel that the feast of the Beloved Disciple, the Eagle Evangelist, the Divine, the Theologian, the Seer of Patmos, ought to receive much more attention than it does. Part of the reason for that feeling might be personal: my wife and I chose this feastday for our nuptial High Mass twenty-three years ago. But it also has to do with my study of St. John’s Gospel and St. Thomas Aquinas’s commentary thereupon, which is his most profound biblical work; it has to do with my brushing up against St. John nearly every day in the form of the Prologue that serves as the traditional Mass’s “epilogue.” And ever since I read Scott Hahn’s book The Supper of the Lamb, I have thought about St. John’s Book of Revelation as the template for Catholic liturgy.

As a church musician, it pains me that the feast of St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents, indeed every day of the Christmas octave until the Circumcision, relatively rarely sees a sung Mass or a solemn Mass. Most clergy and musicians are exhausted after the liturgical (and other) excesses of Christmas, so church tends to be sparsely attended on these octave days. I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon during the octave of Easter. Even though each day of the octave has a splendid proper Mass, all of them graced with some of the most sublime chants of the entire repertoire, one will be lucky to see a motley group sprinkled in the church for low Mass. I wonder if it has been ever thus. Perhaps readers more knowledgeable of historical precedents regarding the observance of days within these two octaves could add some observations in the comments.

Fortunately, over the past three decades, I have been called upon, at one time or another, to sing Mass for most of these octave days, and thus have slowly become acquainted with their more exotic riches. Singing for the feast of St. Stephen last year, I was surprised by the challenge presented by the grand Offertory “Elegerunt Apostoli Stephanum levitam”—with its exultant flourishes on the words plenum fide and Domine Jesu, and its climbing figures on lapidaverunt and spiritum—and the equally grand Communion “Video caelos apertos.”

What really caught my attention was the fact that the same melody is used for the Alleluia on December 25th (Mass of the Day), December 26th, and December 27th, with only the words changing. In this way, the liturgy establishes a subtle but profound connection between these three feasts and their respective Gospels. The Christ-child, Word made flesh, the faithful witness, “the only man who was born to die” as Fulton Sheen once said, is accompanied in the Gospel procession by His first martyr, and by the virgin disciple who followed the Lamb whithersoever He went, even to the foot of the Cross and the empty tomb. The great light descends to the earth; the heavens are opened for the just; true testimony is borne to the Light who is the Life of men.

Dies sanctifícátus illúxit nobis: veníte, gentes, et adoráte Dóminum: quia hódie descéndit lux magna super terram. (A sanctified day hath shone upon us: come ye Gentiles and adore the Lord: for this day a great light hath descended upon the earth.) [The Gospel of the day is the Prologue of St. John.]


Video cælos apertos, et Jesum stantem a dextris virtutis Dei. (I see the heavens opened, and Jesus standing on the right hand of the power of God.) [The Gospel of the day is from Matthew 23, Christ's prophecy of the coming persecution of His disciples, and His lament over Jerusalem.] 


Hic est discipulus ille, qui testamonium perhibet de his: et scimus, quia verum est testimonium ejus. (This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things: and we know that his testimony is true.) [The Gospel is from John 21, the curious passage where St. Peter asks Jesus about John, and receives a response that is then said to be misinterpreted as John not dying.]

A pragmatically-minded person might point out that it’s also a mercy to the singers to give them the same melody three days in a row, so that if they are going to sing all these Masses right after Christmas, some of the weight has been lifted off their shoulders. How like the tradition of the Church, to do something at once so beautiful and so practical!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Ambrosian Gospel of St Stephen

In the Roman Rite, the Gospel of the feast of St Stephen is St Matthew 23, 34-39, as attested in the very oldest surviving lectionaries.

“Behold I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them you will put to death and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: That upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. Amen I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not? Behold, your house shall be left to you, desolate. For I say to you, you shall not see me henceforth till you say: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

This passage was perhaps chosen because of what St Jerome writes about it in his commentary on the Gospel of St Matthew, as read in the Breviary, that among the prophets, wise men and scribes named by Christ, “Stephen was stoned, Paul killed, Peter crucified, and the disciples scourged (as stated) in the Acts of the Apostles.” (Commentary on Matthew, book 4)

In the Ambrosian liturgy, on the other hand, a completely different passage is used, Matthew 17, 23-26. This is the only Milanese Gospel of the Christmas octave which diverges completely from the Roman lectionary tradition. [1]

“When they were come to Capharnaum, they that received the didrachmas, came to Peter and said to him: Doth not your master pay the didrachmas? He said: Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying: What is thy opinion, Simon? The kings of the earth, of whom do they receive tribute or custom? of their own children, or of strangers? And he said: Of strangers. Jesus said to him: Then the children are free. But that we may not scandalize them, go to the sea, and cast in a hook: and that fish which shall first come up, take: and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater: take that, and give it to them for me and thee.”

The Tribute Money, by Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone (1401-28), better known as Masaccio, 1425; in the Brancacci Chapel of the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence.
St Hilary of Poitiers (ca. 310-365, bishop ca. 350) interpreted the fish in this episode as a figure of St Stephen, the first to be caught by the hook of St Peter’s preaching, (Commentary on Matthew, cap. 17, 13), who then “preached the glory of God, beholding the Lord Christ in his passion.” St Ambrose, who became bishop of Milan roughly a decade after St Hilary’s death, repeats this interpretation in three different places.

“Therefore, he cast the nets, and seized hold of Stephen, who was the first to arise from the Gospel, having the stater of justice in his mouth.” (Hexameron, 5, 6, 16)

“And perhaps this first fish is the first martyr, having the didrachma, that is, the price of the census, in his mouth. Christ is our didrachma. Therefore, the first martyr, Stephen, had in his mouth the treasure, when he spoke of Christ in his passion” (Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke, 4, 75)

“In this ship, Peter is fishing, and is ordered to fish now with the net, now with a hook. A great mystery! For this seems to be a spiritual fishing, by which he is ordered to cast the hook of teaching into the world, so that he might raise up the first martyr, Stephen, from the sea, who contained the price of Christ within himself; for Christ’s martyr is the Church’s treasure. Therefore, that Martyr who was the first to come up to heaven from the sea, captured as a minister of the altar by Peter, is lifted up not with a net, but with a hook, so that by the stream of his blood he might be lifted up to heaven. And in his mouth was the treasure, when the spoke of Christ in his confession.” (On Virginity 120)

We see, therefore, that St Ambrose was well aware of the tradition that linked this Gospel to the passion of St Stephen. As in many other cases, he bears witness to the earliest stage of the codification of a liturgical tradition, which he receive from his predecessors, and from which he then draws inspiration for his own theological and catechetical reflections. And indeed, this tradition is also attested in the very oldest liturgical books of both the Ambrosian and Gallican rites, although they date from several centuries later.

In yet another example of the false irenicism so predominant among the post-Conciliar reformers, the traditional Roman Gospel for St Stephen was not just changed on the feast itself, but deleted from the lectionary entirely. When the time comes to reform the liturgy correctly, and fix the innumerable mistakes of this sort which plague the new lectionary, we would do well the follow the example of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, who received what was passed on to them, and faithfully transmitted it to the generations that followed, rather than change liturgical tradition to chase after the approval of the passing age.

The lighting of the “faro” at the parish church of St Stephen in Santo Stefano Ticino (west of Milan) in 2018.

[1] At the three Masses of Christmas, the Ambrosian Rite reads the same Gospels as the Roman, but exchanges the places of those of the Midnight and Day Masses. At the Midnight Mass, the Prologue of St John is shortened to just five verses (9-14), but the complete passage is read at the Mass within the octave on December 31. The Ambrosian Gospel of St Thomas of Canterbury is longer by two verses (John 10, 11-18).

This article is partly taken from an item written by Nicola de’ Grandi.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!

Beáta víscera Maríae Vírginis, quae portavérunt aeterni Patris Filium: et beáta úbera, quae lactavérunt Christum Dóminum: * Qui hodie pro salúte mundi de Vírgine nasci dignátus est. V. Dies sanctificátus illuxit nobis: veníte, gentes, et adoráte Dóminum. Qui hódie... (The seventh responsory of Christmas Matins.)
The Adoration of the Shepherds, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1483-5, from the Sassetti Chapel at the church of the Holy Trinity in Florence. The artist portrayed himself as the shepherd closest to the Christ Child, pointing Him out to the others; his hand is also right next to the garland sculpted on the sarcophagus being used as a manger, since his name derives from the Italian word for ‘garland.’ The Latin inscription on the sarcophagus refers to a legend that when the Romans captured Jerusalem in 63BC, an augur named Fulvius, who was killed in the siege, had prophesied the coming of Christ: “As he fell by Pompey’s sword in Jerusalem, the augur Fulvius said ‘The urn that covereth me shall bring forth a god.’ ”
R. Blessed be the womb of the Virgin Mary, which bore the Son of the Eternal Father, and blessed be the breasts which give milk to Christ the Lord, * Who on this day hath deigned to be born of a Virgin for the salvation of the world. V. A hallowed day hath dawned upon us; o come, ye nations, and worship the Lord. Who on this day...
A recording in Gregorian chant by the seminarians of the Fraternity of St Peter’s European seminary, from their recently released album of the whole of Christmas Matins, Sancta Nox.
A polyphonic setting by the Portuguese composter João Rodrgues Esteves (ca. 1700-51).
On behalf of the publisher and writers of New Liturgical Movement, I wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas, and every blessing from the Child that is born unto us! By the prayers of the Holy Mother of God and all the Saints, may God grant peace and healing to the Church and to the world in the coming year.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Gaudete Sunday and Rorate Mass Photopost 2021 (Part 5)

With our last Gaudete Sunday and Rorate Mass photopost of this year, we surpass last year’s record with the same number of posts (five), but more photos and more churches (almost 50), in twelve countries and fifteen American states. Once again, our heartfelt thanks to everyone who sent these in, and don’t forget to  have your cameras ready for Christmas and the following feasts. We wish you all a most blessed and peaceful Christmas Eve - today you shall know that the Lord will come, and in the morning, you shall see His glory.

St Mary’s Catholic Parish – Helsinki, Finland
The following four sets all come from one of our favorite photographers, Allison Girone. I wish we had room to include every one of the many beautiful images she sends our way, but that would required a whole separate blog; I did here include here one particularly nice shot, even though it’s off topic, of a veil at a wedding ceremony.

St Mary – Conshohocken, Pennsylvania (FSSP)
Gaudete Sunday

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