Monday, February 28, 2022

Is the Laity’s Offering of the Mass a Post-Conciliar Re-Discovery?

Archbishop Roche — like everyone trained by modern liturgists — keeps saying that the new rite finally recognizes that the faithful are also part of the offering of the Mass, instead of it just being the priest's work:

In the former [rite], he says, it was the priest who “represented the intentions of the people” and took that to God in the liturgy. Vatican II changed that. “With the understanding of the priesthood of all the baptised it’s not simply the priest alone who celebrates the Eucharist, but all the baptised who celebrate with him. That surely has to be the most profound understanding of what ‘participation’ means.” (Interview with Christopher Lamb in The Tablet, February 24, 2022)
This view is so common that one can stumble upon it as upon a cat or a pair of shoes in whatever direction one walks. Let me give some examples “in the wild.” From the Swinging Sixties:
To understand this religious program and to enjoy its hoped-for results we must all change our settled way of thinking regarding sacred ceremonies and religious practices as calling for no more than a passive, distracted assistance. (Paul VI, General Audience, January 13, 1965)
       The Council has taken the fundamental position that the faithful have to understand what the priest is saying and to share in the liturgy; to be not just passive spectators at Mass but souls alive. (Paul VI, Homily, March 27, 1966)

And a more recent sighting: 

Without going into much detail here, suffice it to say that one of the great scandals of the Roman Rite over the centuries has been its progressive disconnect from the people. Slowly over time, partly from a desire to preserve Latin as the language of worship, partly due to increased complexity and dramatic elements introduced by Frankish liturgists, and partly due to historical factors I will not rehearse here, the Mass became a purely clerical affair. The priests and other ministers would be gathered around the altar saying the Mass, and the people would be observing, almost like they were attending a play…. Why do you think the last 57 years have been liturgically so chaotic? Because the Church is suddenly trying to focus on something that she has not deeply considered for more than a millennium. The Church is trying to answer the question of how to include the people in the liturgical action of the Mass. (Fr. Jeffrey Moore, “Liturgical Participation,” February 2, 2020)

The trouble is, the view recycled by Archbishop Roche, Fr. Moore, and so many others, like its analogues in Pope Paul VI, corresponds to nothing that was ever taught to Catholics, nor does it correspond in the main to the experience of the laity who assist at the Latin Mass. Let’s have a look at two splendid examples from the tradition.

The first is from Fr. Martin von Cochem (1630–1712), who wrote the following in his extremely popular book Die Heilige Messe für die Weltleute [Holy Mass for the Laity], published in 1704:

Ponder well, O Christian, what the holy Catholic Church, infallible in matters of faith, declares to us.... She expressly states, and imposes on our belief, that no other work can be performed by the faithful so holy and divine as the tremendous mystery of the Mass. This does not only refer to priests, but to the faithful in general.
       Priests can indeed do nothing more holy and divine than celebrate Mass; the laity can do nothing more holy and divine than hear Mass, serve Mass, join in offering Mass, have Mass said for their intentions, follow the prayers and unite in spirit with the celebrant. Since to do this is of all works the most holy and divine, it stands to reason that it should also be the most profitable and meritorious....  (238, Benziger edition; TAN Books also has an edition, with different pagination)

And again: 

One of the greatest graces which are granted to the children of the Church is that the privilege of offering to the Divine Majesty the sacred and sublime sacrifice of the Mass is not the prerogative of priests alone, but belongs to the laity as well, to men, women, and children. This favor was not shown to the Jews; no one but the priest was permitted to offer the holocaust, or to kindle the incense in the temple....
       In the New Testament the case is very different; under this dispensation it is graciously permitted to ordinary people to offer, not incense only, but the precious blood of Christ in the holy Mass.... The faithful of either sex are members of a spiritual priesthood, and have received from God the power to offer spiritual sacrifices. But when they offer the Mass by the hands of the priest they do more, they offer what is better than a spiritual oblation, namely, a visible one, even the self-same victim Whom the priest holds in his hands.
       Happy indeed are the laity in being thus privileged, through the divine bounty, to purchase the inestimable treasure of the body and blood of Christ, and with a few words to offer it to God for their own immeasurable profit ! Make frequent use, O pious Christian, of this thy glorious prerogative; it is the easiest way of acquiring eternal riches. This sacrificial act is the chief, the most important, part of hearing Mass, for without it thou wilt neither gain much profit to thyself nor give pleasure to God. “Hearing Mass,” says a spiritual writer, “does not merely consist in being present in person when it is celebrated, but in offering it to God conjointly with the priest.”
       All this is undeniably true. It is not enough to be present at Mass in order to share in the fruits of the Mass: we must make a definite offering of it to God in union with the officiating priest. The Mass is a sacrifice, and it appertains to the nature of a sacrifice that it should be offered to the Deity. Therefore those persons who fail to do this, either with their lips or in their heart, do not derive half the benefit from the Mass that others do, although they fulfil the precept of the Church, whilst piously reciting other prayers that have nothing of the character of an offering. (298ff., Benziger ed.; TAN ed., 320–22)

And yet again: 

Ponder well the immense favor Christ bestows on thee in making thee a mystical priest, and empowering thee to offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass, not for thyself alone, but also for others. Bishop Fornerus tells us: ‘It is not the priest alone who offers the Mass for himself and for others: every Christian who is present may do the same, for his own needs and those of his friends.’ This is expressed in the prayer following after the Sanctus: “Be mindful, O Lord, of thy servants N. and N.; and of all present, whose faith and devotion are known, for whom we offer, or who offer, up to Thee this sacrifice for themselves, their families and friends…” The meaning of these words is too obvious to be mistaken.
       Moreover, when the priest says the Orate fratres, he turns towards the people and invites them to help him  in offering the holy sacrifice: ‘Brethren, pray that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty.’ As if he would say: I am about to perform a work of great importance, to offer an oblation which in my own strength I cannot do; I ask you to pray for me and assist me with your cooperation, for it concerns you nearly, the sacrifice is yours as well as  mine, and for this reason you are bound to help me. (Benziger, 301–2)

A near-contemporary, Saint Leonard of Port Maurice (1676–1751), another popular preacher of his day, addressed the same topic in his book The Hidden Treasure (also still in print from TAN Books). First, he establishes that it is Our Lord Jesus Christ who is the principal celebrant, which I assume no one would criticize as clericalism:

At every hour, then, in various parts of the world, this most perfectly holy Priest offers to the Father His Blood, His Soul, and His whole self for us: and all this He does as many times as there are Masses celebrated in the whole world. O boundless treasure! O mine of inestimable stores thus possessed by us in the Church of God! O happy we if we could but assist at all these Masses! What a store of reward would be thus acquired! What a heaping up of graces in this life, what a fund of glory in the other, would be the fruit of so loving an attendance!

Then he talks about how the faithful also offer the holy sacrifice:

But what is implied in this word “attendance”? Those who hear Mass not only perform the office of attendants, but likewise of offerers, having themselves a right to the title of priests. ‘Fecisti nos Deo nostro regnum et sacerdotes’ (Apoc. v. 10). The celebrating priest is, as it were, the public minister of the Church in general; he is the intermediary between all the faithful, particularly those who assist at Mass, and the invisible Priest, Who is Christ; and, together with Christ, he offers to the Eternal Father, both in behalf of all the rest and of himself, the great price of human redemption.
       But he is not alone in this so holy function, since all those who assist at Mass concur with him in offering the sacrifice; and, therefore, the priest turns round to the people and says, “Orate fratres ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat - Pray, brethren, that mine and your sacrifice may be acceptable to God”, in order that the faithful may understand that, while he indeed acts the part of principal minister, all those who are present make the great offering together with him. So that when you assist at Holy Mass, you perform, after a certain manner, the office of priest.
       What say you, then? Will you ever dare, from this time forward, to be at Mass sitting, prating, looking here and there, perhaps even sleeping, or content yourselves with reciting some vocal prayers, without at all taking to heart the tremendous office of priest which you are exercising? Ah me! I cannot restrain myself from exclaiming, O dull and incapable world, that understandest nothing of mysteries so sublime! How is it possible that anyone should remain before the altar with a mind distracted and a heart dissipated at a time when the holy Angels stand there trembling and astonished at the contemplation of a work so stupendous? (pp. 5-6)

Now, these two authors, Martin von Cochem and St. Leonard of Port-Maurice, were not obscure figures writing esoteric tomes for religious scholasticates. They were, as already mentioned, popular preachers and writers and highly typical figures of Counter-Reformation Catholicism. The traditional doctrine they preached was being spread all over the place as part of the Church’s response to Protestant errors and as a means for encouraging the laity to live a a devout liturgical life.

One might object: Would they need to have insisted so much on these truths if the laity had not forgotten them and if the liturgy they were accustomed to did not foster the contrary attitude?

My response: the truth about the identity of the baptized as co-offerers of the Sacrifice of Christ is always in danger of being forgotten because it is a matter of faith, not something patently obvious to the senses. It will always need to be taught, regardless of the form the liturgy takes. But we can go a step further and say that the form the Mass takes will have a lot to do with how much the laity can perceive it to be the mystical offering of the sublime sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, and how much opportunity and incentive it gives them for entering profoundly into that sacrifice.

Ultimately, the problem is not that the old Mass encourages passivity or laziness. Laity can be uninvolved in any liturgy. (I don’t know when’s the last time Arthur Roche has observed teenagers at the Novus Ordo, texting and surfing on their phones — and not just teenagers, I’m afraid.) The real problem is that the modern liturgists tend to have a Protestant understanding of what active participation means: they think it must look just like what the priest is doing, so if the priest is speaking, the laity must speak; if he sings, the laity must sing; if he stands at the altar, at least some of the laity have to go stand at the altar with him; if he is distributing communion, some of the laity should as well. It is only a barely lingering sense of decency that has prevented (in most cases) laity from lifting up the consecrated host and chalice along with the priest at the elevations.

In short: the Novus Ordo theoreticians tiptoe as close as they possible can to the heresy that the laity are priests in the same way as the priest is a priest, and so it bothers them a great deal if there is a liturgical rite in which there is a clear and sharp distinction externally between how the priest offers Mass and how the laity offer it with him and by his hands. Their complaint, in other words, appears to be directed at the “sacerdotalism” of the Catholic Mass. They would like to overcome it as much as possible, while (at least sometimes) not technically running afoul of the canons and decrees of Trent.

The great irony, then, becomes this: for over half a century, Catholics have been habituated by the Novus Ordo into thinking that if they show up for Mass, sing, speak, sit, and stand, and especially if they “volunteer to minister,” they have actively participated: they can, as it were, punch the ticket. What it all means for my inner prayer life is, sadly, quite untouched; people are too busy and too distracted to get to that level. Yet the Magisterium of the Church, together with the pars sanior of the Liturgical Movement, have always said that the interior spiritual dimension is the more fundamental and the more important dimension of participatio actuosa, and that the external activity is worthwhile inasmuch as it supports the internal engagement in the Mystery of Faith.

With the emphasis on doing and the paucity of intense personal prayer, the current regime strikingly calls to mind the warning of Our Lord: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint, and anise, and cumin, and have left the weightier things of the law; judgment, and mercy, and faith. These things you ought to have done, and not to leave those undone” (Matt. 23:23). That is, translated into this conversation, you should do the little active things with your body when and as appropriate, but don’t forget the weightier things of the spiritual order.

Fr. Hunwicke recently cited a most relevant passage from Dom Gregory Dix:

If the word had not come to have as offensive a sound for many as “clericalism” itself, the old term “sacerdotalism” might well be used to describe the reconciling principle of the primitive church, so dear to S Paul, “that there are diversities of ministries, many members, yet but one Body,” in which they find their hierarchic unity; and that all are necessary to the perfection of the Church, the Body of Christ. Clericalism, I take it, means in itself simply undue exaltation of the person and importance of the minister, whether he claims priestly character and special sacramental power, or not. “Sacerdotalism,” on the other hand, means simply the belief that certain men are given by God certain priestly powers on behalf of their fellows, which their fellows have not got. These are not the same thing ... the pre-Nicene Church was certainly not “clericalist,” but it was profoundly “sacerdotalist.”

The “sacerdotalism” of the old rites, in which the clergy — bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, those in minor orders or their substitutes — are manifestly the primary agents executing the services, and the congregation attends, or to use an old-fashioned term, “assists” in a mostly quiet and apparently passive way, is uniformly deplored by modern liturgists as a form of clericalism and a separation or exclusion of the people from the liturgical action. Yet they fail to grasp the paradox of the spiritual involvement, attraction, and even fascination provoked by the hieratic “distance” of the clergy in the sanctuary, the architectural boundaries and barriers that turn spaces into symbols, and the entrustment of rites to men who exemplify the worship of God in their ceremonial vesture, scripted words, and carefully-controlled motions.

In other words, something that is routinely assumed to be anti-participational and anti-corporate is nothing of the kind. The development that took place in history accentuated features already clearly present in the old covenant and continued in the new covenant in the Cross of Christ — a covenant pre-interpreted in an Upper Room cut off from the marketplace, consummated on a mount cut off from the city, achieved in the torturous separation of Body and Blood, echoed in the Nolite me tangere (“Do not touch me,” John 20:17) of the risen Lord who must ascend beyond us that we may follow him: Trahe me, post te curremus (“Draw me, we will run after thee,” Song 1:3). A certain kind of hierarchic and bodily differentiation and separation is part of the essence of the Christian religion as lived in this in-between time, between the Fall and the Second Coming; when lived rightly, it serves charity and spiritual union.

As our two Counter-Reformation preachers remind us, the message of the laity’s real participation in offering the Mass has always been a part of Catholic catechesis. We should not be too quick to trust the examples of corruption furnished by the class of professional liturgists as pretexts for their radical makeover of the Roman Rite.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Quinquagesima Sunday 2022

Truly it is fitting and just, right and profitable to salvation, that we should always and everywhere give Thee thanks, o Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God; and beseech Thy majesty with humble devotion, that looking upon the small measure of our earthly fragility, Thou may not reprove us in Thy wrath according to our wickedness, but in Thy boundless clemency, purify, instruct and console us. And since without Thee we can do nothing that may be pleasing to Thee, Thy grace alone will grant us to live in a salutary manner: through Christ Our Lord, through whom the Angels praise Thy majesty... (An ancient preface for Quinquagesima Sunday.)

The Mass of Quinquagesima Sunday in the 11th-century Verdun Sacramentary, folio 51r. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 18005)
Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, Domine, sancte Pater, omnipotens aeterne Deus: et majestatem tuam cernua devotione exorare, ut modulum terrenae fragilitatis aspiciens, non in ira tua pro nostra pravitate nos arguas, sed immensa clementia purifices, erudias, consoleris. Qui cum sine te nihil possimus facere, quod tibi sit placitum, tua nobis gratia sola praestabit ut salubri conversatione vivamus: Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam laudant Angeli...

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Pictures of an IBP Ordination in Brazil

On Saturday, February 19, His Excellency Dom Fernando Guimarães, C.Ss.R, Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of Brazil, ordained Thiago de Oliveira Pino, a member of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, to the priesthood at the chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows in Brasília. The Mass was a votive of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, during which choir sang Palestrina’s Missa brevis and various motets by the same author such as the Sicut Cervus, as well as the Pange Lingua by the Brazilian Friar Jesuíno do Monte Carmelo. NLM is very happy to offer warmest congratulations to the newly ordained priests and to his family, as well as to the Institute, and likewise, our thanks to Dom Guimarães for his pastoral solicitude on behalf of the Institute and the faithful who follow the traditional liturgy. Let us remember to thank God for all the blessings and mercies He gives us through the ministry of the priesthood, for the families in whom religious vocations are born and fostered, to pray for their increase, and for all of our bishops and clergy.
Tradition will always be for the young!

Byzantine Great Compline: Second Part

As I described in an article in November of 2020, the Byzantine Rite has a feature called the Inter-Hours, a second Prime, Terce, Sext and None, which are said after the main Prime etc. These are now something of an archaism, and are rarely said, but have not, of course, been removed the liturgical books. The second part of Great Compline, which is much simpler than the first, originated as the Inter-Hour of Compline, as attested in a Horologion (the book that gives the basic structure of the Hours) of the 13th or 14th century at the monastery of St Catherine on Mt Sinai. (Sinai gr. 868, cited by Archimandrite Job Getcha, The Typikon Decoded, p. 93.)
The Usual Beginning is cut down to just its final element, as it normal when one Hour is said right after another. There then follow three Psalms, the first of which, Psalm 50, is also said at three other Hours almost every day. The second is Psalm 101; both of these form part of the group known as the Penitential Psalms in the West.
A lunette over one of the windows of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo and assistants in 1511-12, with King Manasseh on the right, and his wife Meshullemeth on the left, holding their son Amon. Notice that Manasseh’s head is bowed, in accordance with the words of his prayer “I am not worthy to look at the height of heaven”, which are said in one of the Office responsories from the books of Kings in the weeks after Pentecost.
The third psalm is the apocryphal text known as the Prayer of Manasseh, which purports to be the prayer of repentance offered by King Manasseh when he was deported to Babylon, as stated in 2 Chronicles, 33, 19: “His prayer also, and his being heard, and all his sins, and contempt, … are written in the words of Hozai.” In the West, it is found in most medieval manuscripts and early printed version of the Vulgate immediately after 2 Chronicles, before the canonical book of Ezra. The Tridentine editions of the Vulgate relegated it, along with the books known as Third and Fourth Esdras, to an appendix of the Old Testament. Although there is no Hebrew version of it, the standard criterion among the early Protestants for denoting a book as apocryphal, it was included in several of their early Bibles, including that of Luther himself, and the Geneva Bible, the most widely used English version before the King James.
Some liturgical books indicate that this is said by the priest celebrant, rather than the reader, and that all kneel at the words “And now I bow the knee of my heart …”
O Lord Almighty, God of our fathers, of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed; Who made heaven and earth with all the array thereof; Who bound the sea by the word of Thy command; Who shut up the deep and sealed it by Thy fearful and glorious Name; Whom all things fear, and before Whose might they tremble; for the majesty of Thy glory cannot be borne and the anger of Thy threatening toward sinners is unbearable; and yet measureless and unsearchable is the mercy of Thy promise; for Thou art the Lord most high, of great compassion, long-suffering, abundant in mercy, and repentest of the evil of man. Thou, O Lord, according to the fullness of Thy goodness, didst promised repentance and forgiveness to them that have sinned against Thee; and in the fullness of Thy mercies hast appointed repentance for sinners unto salvation. Thou, therefore, o Lord, God of hosts, did not appoint repentance to the just, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, those have not sinned against Thee; but Thou hast appointed repentance for me, a sinner; for my sins are greater in number than the sand of the sea. My transgressions, o Lord, are multiplied, my transgressions are multiplied, and I am not worthy to look up and see the height of Heaven for the multitude of mine iniquities, being bowed down with many iron bands, so that I cannot lift up my head, and I have no respite; for I have provoked Thy wrath and done evil before Thee, having not done Thy will, and not kept Thy commandments.
King Manasseh in Prison; engraving by Maerten de Vos (1532-1603). Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
And now I bow the knee of my heart, beseeching Thy goodness. I have sinned, o Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge mine iniquities; Forgive me, o Lord, forgive me, and destroy me not with my iniquities, and be not angry with me forever, reserving my evils for me; neither condemn me to the depths of the earth; for that Thou, o Lord, art God, the God of them that repent; and in me wilt Thou show all Thy goodness; for Thou wilt save me that am unworthy, according to Thy great mercy, and I will praise Thee for all the days of my life; for all the host of the heavens singeth Thy praise, and Thine is the glory unto ages of ages. Amen.
The Trisagion prayers are then said, followed by this group of tropars, which are the same as those of the Inter-Hour of Prime. On a major feast, they are replaced by one of its proper chants called a kontakion.
Have mercy upon us, o Lord, have mercy upon us; for lacking all apology, we sinners bring to Thee this supplication, as to our Master: have mercy on us. Glory be…
Lord, have mercy us, for in Thee we have placed our trust, be not exceedingly wroth with us, and remember not our iniquities, but look (upon us) even now, as one merciful, and ransom us from our enemies; for Thou art our God, and we are Thy people, all of us the works of Thy hands, and we have all called upon Thy name. Both now and forever…
Open to us the gate of mercy, blessed Mother of God; as we hope in Thee, let us not err; may we be delivered through Thy urgent prayers, for Thou art the salvation of the nation of Christians.
(A setting of the tropar “Open to us the gates of mercy” as a motet, recorded at the Greek-Catholic parish of the Exaltation of the Cross in Krakow, Poland.)
There follows a series of elements also said at the other Hours except for Vespers and Orthros, and which had previously been said in the first part of Great Compline: Kyrie, eleison 40 times, the Prayer of the Hours, Kyrie, eleison 3 times, Glory be, a brief prayer to the Virgin (“Higher than the Cherubim…”), and a conclusion said by the priestly celebrant. The reader then says a brief prayer attributed to a Saint called Mardarius, which is also said at Terce and the Midnight Office.
O Master God, Father Almighty, o Lord, Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit, one divinity, one power: have mercy on me a sinner, and by the judgments which Thou knowest, save me, Thine unworthy servant; for Thou art blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
The third part begins immediately after this, and will be described in a separate article.

Friday, February 25, 2022

“Such a Beautiful Voice Comes from the Heart”

Last week, I posted two videos of people from India reacting to Western music that they had never heard before, which is apparently a rather popular subgenre of reality television in that country. One of the pieces they heard was the Dies Irae in Gregorian chant, and the other was a Greek chant, and I found it very beautiful to see how these fellows immediately appreciated the value of praying with such music. Better late than never, YouTube’s suggestion algorithm (which normally has so many bizarrely counter-intuitive ideas) finally got around to recommending this, in which the same three gentlemen react to Allegri’s Miserere, and much as one would expect, are profoundly moved by it.

Note particularly that Babu, the older gentleman on the right, says that he would like to thank God for the chance to hear such an old piece of music before it is even played, while Raeen, the fellow on the left, asks “what can be more respectful” than preserving a 450-year old piece of music? What indeed...?

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Byzantine Great Compline: First Part

The longer form of Byzantine Compline known as “Great Compline” is celebrated twice in the first week before Lent (this week on the Gregorian calendar), on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. It is also said on the ferial days of Lent (but excluding Friday in the Greek tradition), and the first two days of Holy Week. On the eves of Christmas and Epiphany, it is celebrated with significant modifications and joined to Orthros as part of what is called an All-Night vigil; there is another important change to the order on the first four days of Lent. I shall here describe it as it appears in the liturgical books, and the major variants later. Unlike the shorter form of Byzantine Compline which is said most of the year, and which I described in an article last week, the longer form does require the participation of a choir.
After the opening prayers known as the Usual Beginning, a group of six psalms are said in two blocks: 4-6-12 and 24-30-90. (A similarly arranged group is said at the beginning of Orthros, 3-37-62 and 87-102-142.) These include three of the four Psalms traditionally said at Roman Compline, 4, 30 (the first six verses only) and 90; 6 and 12 were added to the psalmody of Compline on Monday and Tuesday respectively by the reform of St Pius X.
This is followed by a very ancient chant attributed to St Basil the Great, in which the reader sings a verse from Isaiah 8 once, then a selection of verses from Isaiah 8 and 9, after each of which the choir sings the last part of the first verse as a refrain. As with so many liturgical compositions of all traditions, the Biblical texts are not exact citations. While I am a great admirer of the Slavic choral tradition, it has to be said that many of the common settings of this particular text are extremely bombastic. Here is a more properly liturgical version in which the full verse is sung very beautifully at the end, but the doxology is omitted.
God is with us; know this, ye nations, and be defeated, * for God is with us.
– Hear ye, unto the ends of the earth, for God is with us. Isa. 8, 9
– Ye that have grown mighty, be defeated, for God is with us.
– For if again ye grow mighty, again ye shall be defeated, for God is with us.
– And if ye take counsel together, the Lord shall scatter it, for God is with us. vs. 10
– And whatsoever word ye shall speak shall not abide in you, for God is with us.
– And we shall not fear your terror, nor be troubled, for God is with us. vs. 12
– And the Lord our God, Him shall we sanctify, and He shall be our fear, for God is with us. vs. 13
– And if I put my trust in Him, He shall be my sanctification, for God is with us. vs. 14
– And I will put my trust in Him, and shall be saved through Him, for God is with us.
– Behold, I and the children whom God hath given me, for God is with us. vs. 18
– The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, for God is with us. Isa. 9, 2
– We that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, on us hath the light shined, for God is with us.
– For unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given, for God is with us. vs. 6
– And the government shall be upon His shoulder, for God is with us.
– And of His peace there shall be no end, for God is with us.
– And his name shall be called the Angel of Great Council, for God is with us.
– Wonderful, Counsellor, for God is with us.
– The Mighty God, the Great Ruler, the Prince of Peace, for God is with us.
– The Father of the world to come, for God is with us.
– Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
– God is with us; know this, ye nations, and be defeated, for God is with us.
– Both now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
– God is with us; know this, ye nations, and be defeated, for God is with us.
The next two chants were created as choral parts, although in practice, they are now often done by just the same reader who sings the verses of “God is with us.” The rubrics for how they were sung in alternation by two parts of the choir or by both choirs together vary from one tradition to another.
The first is a set of tropars praying for peace in the coming night, in which four words in Greek are varied at each repetition.
Having completed the day, I thank Thee, o Lord; grant, I ask, that the evening with the night may be sinless, o Savior, and save me. Glory to the Father…
– Having passed the day, I glorify Thee, o Master; grant, I ask, that the evening with the night may be without offence, o Savior, and save me. Both now…
– Having run the course of the day, I praise Thee, o Holy One, grant, I ask, that the evening with the night may be undisturbed, o Savior, and save me.
The bodiless nature, the Cherubim, with never-silent hymns glorifieth Thee.
– The six-winged living beings, the Seraphim, with unceasing voices exalt Thee.
– And all the host of the angels with thrice-holy songs praiseth Thee.
– For Thou art before all things, the Father who art, and hast Thy Son, Who with Thee is without beginning.
– And bearing the Spirit of life, equal in honor, Thou showest forth the undivided nature of the Trinity.
– O all-holy Virgin, Mother of God, and ye eye-witnesses and servants of the Word.
– All the choirs of the prophets and the martyrs, as those who have immortal life,
– Intercede fervently for us all, for all we are in dangers:
– That being delivered from the deception of the evil one, we may sing out the song of the Angels:
– Holy, holy, holy, thrice-holy Lord, have mercy on us, and save us. Amen.
The reader continues with the Nicene Creed, which is the only proper element from the first part of Great Compline also said in Small Compline. The two choirs then alternate the following invocations, the first of which is said three times, the rest twice; the members of each choir are supposed to prostrate themselves as the other choir sings.
All-holy Lady, Mother of God, intercede for us sinners.
– All ye heavenly powers of the holy angels and archangels, intercede for us sinners.
– Saint John, Prophet and Forerunner and Baptist of our Lord Jesus Christ, intercede for us sinners.
– Holy, glorious apostles, prophets and martyrs, and all the saints, intercede for us sinners.
– Our venerable and God-bearing fathers, shepherds and teachers of the world, intercede for us sinners.
– Invincible and perpetual and divine power of the honorable and life-giving Cross, forsake not us sinners.
– O God, be gracious unto us sinners. (three times)
– And have mercy on us (once.)
Part of the ceiling of the narthex in the monastery of St Luke (Hosios Loukas) in Distomo, a town on the Greek island of Boeotia. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Shakko, CC BY-SA 4.0) At the left from this point of view is Christ; in the center, the Virgin, the Baptist and the archangels Michael and Gabriel; around them, several of the Apostles.
The reader then says the Trisagion prayers, which are the same as the Usual Beginning, minus the first two and last parts, and then another group of troparia are sung, which are certainly some of the most beautiful in the vast Byzantine repertoire of such compositions. On a major feast, however, they are replaced by its single troparion.
On Monday and Wednesday evenings, the following are sung.
Enlighten my eyes, o Christ God, lest ever I sleep unto death, lest ever mine enemy say: I have prevailed against him. Glory to the Father…
– Be Thou the defender of my soul, o God, for I walk amidst many snares; deliver me from them, and save me, o Good One, as the lover of mankind. Both now…
– Since we have no confidence because of our many sins, do thou, o Virgin Mother of God, fervently entreat Him Who was born of Thee: for the prayer of a mother availeth much to the good will of the Master. Despise not the supplications of sinners, o all-revered one, for merciful and mighty to save is He Who undertook to suffer for us in the flesh. (This last is also said daily at Sext.)
The set for Tuesday and Thursday has four chants.
Thou understandest, o Lord, the sleeplessness of my invisible enemies, and knowest the weakness of my miserable flesh, Thou Who madest me; wherefore into Thy hands will I commit my spirit. Cover me with the wing of Thy goodness, that I sleep not unto death; and enlighten my spiritual eyes in the delight in Thy divine words; and raise me up in an acceptable time unto Thy glorification, as the only Good One and lover of mankind. Ps. 118, 132 Look Thou upon me, and have mercy on me, according to the judgment of them that love Thy name.
– How fearful is Thy judgment, O Lord, when the angels stand round about, and men are led before Thee, and the books are opened, and deeds are searched through, and thoughts examined. What sort of judgment shall be unto me, who was conceived in sins? Who shall quench the flame for me? Who shall enlighten my darkness, if Thou, o Lord, shall not have mercy upon me as the lover of mankind. Glory to the Father…
– Grant me tears, O God, as to the sinful woman of old, and vouchsafe that I may wash Thy feet which delivered me from the path of straying, and bring forth unto Thee as ointment of sweet fragrance even a pure life, fashioned by my repentance, that I may also hear so, hear Thy longed-for voice (saying), “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” Both now …
– Having in thee, o Mother of God, that hope which knoweth no shame, I shall be saved; possessing Thine intercession, o all-immaculate one, I will not fear. I will pursue mine enemies, and drive them away, cloaked round by Thy protection alone as by a breastplate, and fervently imploring Thine all-powerful aid, I cry to Thee: o Lady, save me by Thine intercessions, and raise me up again from dark sleep to Thy glorification, by the power of Him that was incarnate from Thee, even the Son of God.
There follows a series of elements also said at the other Hours except for Vespers and Orthros: Kyrie, eleison 40 times, the Prayer of the Hours, Kyrie, eleison 3 times, Glory be, a brief prayer to the Virgin (“Higher than the Cherubim…”), a conclusion said by the priestly celebrant, and then in Lent, a very well-known prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian, accompanied by three prostrations.
An 18th-century Russian icon of St Basil. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
The first part of Great Compline concludes with a prayer said by the reader, which is attributed to Saint Basil.
Lord, Lord, Who hast delivered us from every arrow that flieth by day, deliver us also from everything that walketh about in darkness. Receive the lifting up of our hands as an evening sacrifice. Vouchsafe us also to pass without blame the course of the night untempted by evils, and redeem us from every disturbance and dread that cometh to us from the devil. Grant to our souls contrition, and unto our thoughts care for the trial of Thy fearful and just judgment. Nail our flesh to the fear of Thee, and mortify our earthly members, that, even in the quiet of sleep, we may be illuminated by the contemplation of Thy judgments. Put away from us every unseemly fantasy and noxious desire. Raise us up at the time of prayer confirmed in the faith and progressing in Thy commandments, through the favor and goodness of Thine only begotten Son, with Whom Thou art blessed, together with Thine all-holy and good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
The second part begins immediately after this, and will be described in a separate article.

Register Now for CMAA Summer Programs

The Church Music Association of America (CMAA) is happy to announce that we will be holding in-person events this year. We hope you’ll make plans to join us for lovely liturgies, inspiration, education, and camaraderie.

SUMMER COURSES will be held on June 14-18, and our SACRED MUSIC COLLOQUIUM on June 20-25, both events at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Both events are also hosted by The Collegium of Hagerstown, Maryland. Our SUMMER COURSES will include:

  • NEW!!! Vocal Training Intensive, Dr. MeeAe Cecilia Nam, Instructor
  • Laus in Ecclesia - Level One (Clear Creek Abbey), Kathy Reinheimer, Instructor
  • NEW!!! Laus in Ecclesia - Level Two (Clear Creek Abbey), Br. Mark Bachmann, Instructor
For details about the courses and the schedule, visit our webpage here: SUMMER COURSES.


The SACRED MUSIC COLLOQUIUM will feature the opportunity to sing in chant and polyphony choirs, hear inspiring plenary talks and breakouts, join in morning and night prayer, and add your voice to the music at liturgies Tuesday - Saturday, plus Vespers on Thursday. The liturgies at St Mary’s Catholic Church will be:
  • June 21, 4:30 pm, Mass, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Novus ordo (NO), Spanish / Latin
  • June 22, 4:30 pm, Mass, Memorial of Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More, NO, English
  • June 23, 4:30 pm, Mass, Nativity of St. John the Baptist, NO, Latin
  • June 23, 7:00 pm, Vespers, 1st Vespers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Usus antiquior (UA), Latin
  • June 24, 4:30 pm, Mass, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (UA), Latin
  • June 25, 10:30 am, Mass, Requiem Mass for Deceased CMAA Members, UA, Latin
For all the details about the Colloquium, including faculty, choirs, repertory, schedule, detail about breakout topics, visit our webpage here: SACRED MUSIC COLLOQUIUM.


If you want to help support our in-person programs, particularly for scholarships and reduced registration fees for seminarians and students, please consider making a donation to the CMAA.


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

A New Booklet on the Stabat Mater, by Fr Armand de Mallery, FSSP

Fr Armand de Malleray of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, who is currently serving at their apostolate in Warrington, England, has just recently published a new booklet of Meditations on the Stabat Mater, which can be ordered in the UK via the website of the Catholic Truth Society, and in the United States via Fraternity Publications, the FSSP’s online bookstore.

In this episode of the Catholic Truth Society’s podcast, Fr de Malleray talks with publisher Pierpaolo Finaldi about the origins of the Stabat Mater and how it became associated with praying the Stations of the Cross, the structure of the hymn and how it gently introduces us to Jesus’ suffering through His Mother. This is a book to help the reader to walk the road from Lent to Passiontide to Easter – and indeed from life to death to eternal life – in the company of the most Blessed and Sorrowful Mother, who stands at the foot of the Cross of her Son.

The booklet has also received some impressive endorsements:
  • “If you truly wish to be transformed by Christ, go to the Cross and contemplate His Passion. If you truly desire to plumb the depths of knowledge of Christ’s Passion, go to His Blessed Mother. There is no other created being in Heaven or on Earth that understands the sufferings of Our Lord better than the one who had a sword pierce her own heart. If you want to know some of what the Blessed Virgin Mary teaches about her Son’s Passion, read this book. With great wisdom, the author has chosen the hymn which best expresses the profound sorrow of Our Lady, a sorrow filled with hope – the Stabat Mater. This hymn forms the landscape in which he skilfully illustrates the mystery of Calvary and the journey of the soul from fall to rise.” Mother Marilla OSB, Superior General of the Tyburn Nuns, London
  • “A Desert Father of the fifth Century commenting on a vision he had of Saint Mary, the Mother of God, weeping by the Cross of the Saviour, famously declared, ‘I wish I could always weep like that.’ The medieval meditation, Stabat Mater, responds to this wish of the Christian soul. Who would not feel moved to comfort the sorrowful Mother of our crucified Saviour? Who would not desire to be taught by her the tears of authentic compunction? The author’s fine and sober commentary leads us ‘to better appreciate [Mary’s] grief so as to be shaped by it, her sorrowful heart becoming the matrix of our souls as they learn contrition.’ A luminous and profound exposition of one of the most powerful and consoling prayers of the Catholic tradition.” Dom Xavier Perrin, OSB, Abbot of Quarr (Isle of Wight), author of The Radiance of Her Face
  • “One could be forgiven for thinking, that as ‘She stood’ beneath the Cross, the sufferings endured by the Blessed Virgin Mary, were in actuality, an ‘event’ in themselves. In a most delicate and imperceptible way, the author, with adept contemplative precision, offers to us these reflections. His Commentary on the Stabat Mater is not for the faint hearted, it is an invitation offered to us all, of ‘standing with’ Mary on Calvary. Alike to that of the Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mary is depicted, comparable with her Son, as a figure pierced to the spot, not by nails, but by a sword of sorrow. This moving Commentary on the Stabat Mater, discloses for us, in a simple, yet most piteous way, at what cost we were redeemed.” Mother Bernadette of the Heart of Mary OCD, Prioress of the Carmelite Monastery in Birkenhead, England
  • “True devotion to Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin is the simplest, safest, and straightest way to loving union with Christ, and contemplation of the compassionate heart of 'the Lady of fair weeping' leads us directly to the Heart of her divine Son, pierced by our sins; it has the power to move us to contrition, to the desire to make reparation, and to a greater assurance of Our Lord's merciful love. This conviction of faith inspired Jacopone da Todi’s writing of his hymn, the Stabat Mater, and animates the author’s new commentary, so clear and sound in its doctrine and lyrical in its language. This beautiful little book, born of prayer, is just what I need, what every Catholic needs, for the fruitful praying of the Stations of the Cross.” Fr John Saward, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, author of Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus Living in Mary

A Reasonable Picture of Papal Authority in a 1950s Catechism

Yesterday was, of course, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter (formerly, the feast of Peter’s chair at Antioch, with January 18 as the feast of Peter’s chair in Rome). It seems a good moment to share some pages from a catechetical resource from the 1950s and to ask ourselves how the office of the papacy was presented at that time.

The title is A Manual of Religion: MY CATHOLIC FAITH—A Catechism in Pictures. The author is Louis LaRaviore Morrow, SDB (1892-1987). The text was initially copyrighted in 1949; the Sarto House reprint is of the 1954 edition. So this lands us straight in the period of Pius XII, when, as can be seen from many famous photos, papal (self-)glorification had reached astounding heights. Here’s just one of countless examples:

It is thus pleasantly surprising to see how Fr. Morrow treats the papacy.

On the first page of the pertinent section, he clarifies that “infallibility” means freedom from error and is to be distinguished from “impeccability”, or freedom from sin. The pope, like every one, is capable of falling into sin; but the Church cannot teach error. Notice the subtle pivot from the pope to the Church. The whole Church (or the pope speaking expressly on behalf of the whole Church) would have to err in order for the promise of Christ to fail.
On the second page, examples of infallible doctrines and morals are given; they are major ones like the Trinity and obeying the Ten Commandments. The mission of Christ and his apostles must continue in all the Catholic bishops and priests so that the truth may reach all men. All Christians agree that the Apostles were infallible; but God loves us as much as He loves the first Christians, so He will make His Church infallible in all ages. Morrow notes that infallibility is involved when the faithful are told “exactly what to believe and what to do in order that they may be pleasing to God and save their souls.”

To underline his point, Morrow states that “the Catholic Church, from the twentieth century back to the first, has not once ceased to teach a doctrine on faith or morals previously held, and with the same interpretation.” He serenely proclaims, “No Pope ever considers himself above the laws of the Church and of God” and “The Church cannot change its teachings on faith and morals.... Year after year the Church proclaims the same unchanging doctrines. Her doctrines need no reform, for they are of Divine origin, the work of the Incarnate God.”
Then, in section 68, we get into the “sphere of infallibility.” Morrow writes with precision: “The Church teaches infallibly when it defines, through the Pope alone, as the teacher of all Christians, or through the Pope and the bishops, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by all the faithful.” He provides two examples: the 1854 definition of the Immaculate Conception by Bl. Pius IX and the 1870 definition of papal infallibility at Vatican I.

He stumbles a bit when nonchalantly stating that we know canonizations to be infallible, when in fact this is a disputed question (and the minority position has plenty of powerful arguments on its behalf).
Resuming his earlier point, Morrow says “the Church teaches infallibly through the Pope alone, when he speaks officially (ex cathedra) as the Supreme Head, for the entire universal Church.” Then he goes carefully into the conditions. “He must pronounce himself on a subject of faith or morals... He must speak as the Vicar of Christ, in his office as Pope, and to the whole Church... He can teach without speaking infallibly, as in his encyclical letters.... Should the Pope, like Benedict XIV, write a treatise on Canon Law, his book would be written in a private capacity, and liable to error, just as the books of other theologians... He must make clear by certain words his intention to speak ex cathedra.

After some remarks on councils, the chapter concludes with the common view that “the daily ordinary uniform teaching of the Church in every place in the whole world is infallibly true.” And it is precisely on this basis that we can know that so many things that have been said in the past fifty-plus years are false, because they conflict with what had been universally taught in the Church by all popes and bishops, as can be seen, e.g., on the death penalty question, where hundreds of approved catechisms over many centuries teach exactly the same thing.
In general, we may say that Morrow’s treatment is typical of most Catholic textbooks, and represents a far more modest account of the pope’s authority and its exercise than one would be able to infer from those who talk glibly of the Holy Spirit speaking practically non-stop through His personal choice who now sits in the papal throne. It is well to remind ourselves that our predecessors, although they were at times naive about their ultramontanism, were not stupid.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The 60th Anniversary of Veterum Sapientia

Several years ago, the actor Bill Murray, who is a practicing Catholic, gave an interview to the British newspaper The Guardian, in which he spoke thus of the Church’s move away from the use of Latin after the Second Vatican Council.

“One new saint he does approve of is Pope John XXIII (who died in 1963). ‘I’ll buy that one, he’s my guy; an extraordinary joyous Florentine who changed the order. I’m not sure all those changes were right. … I think we lost something by losing the Latin. … ’ ”

Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons
St John XXIII was actually from a small village in Lombardy called “Under-the-Mountain (Sotto il Monte)”, near Bergamo. But far more importantly, and contrary to the popular impression evinced by Mr Murray’s words, it was never his intention that the use of Latin should diminish in the Church. Quite the contrary: it was he who issued the Church’s most definitive pronouncement on the importance of Latin, the Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia. This was promulgated by the Pope 60 years ago today, with the greatest possible solemnity, signed on the high altar of St Peter’s Basilica, on the feast of St Peter’s Chair, as his way of communicating its extraordinary importance.
The Constitution begins by outlining the many reasons why the Church has always encouraged the study and use of Latin, as one of the sacred languages which “bear constant witness to the living voice of antiquity.” Latin was “the means for the spreading of Christianity throughout the West. And since in God’s special Providence this language united so many nations together under the authority of the Roman Empire… it also became the rightful language of the Apostolic See.” Latin is also a bond of unity among Christians, a language which “(o)f its very nature …. is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.”
He goes on to cite an apostolic letter of Pope Pius XI, that the “ ‘knowledge and use of this language … is important not so much on cultural or literary grounds, as for religious reasons. … For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time … of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular.’ ”
Latin is a universal language, “the instrument of mutual communication … between the Apostolic See and the Churches which use the same Latin rite,” and it serves this purpose admirably because it is immutable, unlike the vernacular languages, and “has long since ceased to be affected by those alterations in the meaning of words which are the normal result of daily, popular use.” The Latin language “ ‘can be called truly catholic’ ” because it has been consecrated through constant use by the Apostolic See, the mother and teacher of all Churches, and must be esteemed ‘a treasure … of incomparable worth.’ It is a general passport to the proper understanding of the Christian writers of antiquity and the documents of the Church’s teaching. It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity.”
St John has often been misunderstood as one who wanted to uncritically open the Church up to the modern world, as if nothing but good could come from doing so. What he says about Latin in the Constitution, however, reveals this for the misrepresentation it is. It would be better to say that while he did want the Church to take what was best from the world, he was much more concerned that the world should benefit from what was best in the Church. This would, of course, include all that the Church had done for so many centuries to preserve and promote the use of Latin as the vehicle by which its spiritual patrimony was conveyed to and shared among all Her children.
After speaking therefore, of the educational value of Latin, he declares his intention and resolve to “restore this language to its position of honor, and to do all We can to promote its study and use.” And since “(t)he employment of Latin has recently been contested in many quarters … (W)e have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in this document, so as to ensure that (its) ancient and uninterrupted use … be maintained and, where necessary, restored.”
The Pope goes on to repeat his own words delivered three years previously to a congress of Latin scholars.
“It is a matter of regret that so many people, unaccountably dazzled by the marvelous progress of science, are taking it upon themselves to oust or restrict the study of Latin and other kindred subjects. … … Our own view is that the very contrary policy should be followed. The greatest impression is made on the mind by those things which correspond more closely to man’s nature and dignity. And therefore the greatest zeal should be shown in the acquisition of whatever educates and ennobles the mind. Otherwise poor mortal creatures may well become like the machines they build — cold, hard, and devoid of love.”
His Holiness deems this a matter of such importance that he goes on not only to command religious superiors of all kinds to promote Latin in accordance with the Holy See’s directives, but also to forbid anyone to write “against the use of Latin in the teaching of the higher sacred studies or in the liturgy”, or to misrepresent “the Holy See’s will in this regard.”
It will certainly not escape the reader’s notice that these are not the words of a man too enamored with the modern world to embrace the ancient world.
The final part of Veterum Sapientia gives some practical considerations s to how Latin is to be promoted in the Church. The Pope cites the provision of the 1917 Code of Canon Law (can. 1364), that students in minor seminaries must learn both Latin and their native language well as part of their course of studies. (In those days, it was more the norm than the exception for seminarians to attend a minor seminary first, especially in Catholic countries like Italy.) Here we may note in passing that the 1983 Code of Canon Law is no less explicit on this same point, although without reference to minor seminaries. “The program of priestly formation is to provide that students not only are carefully taught their native language but also understand Latin well and have a suitable understanding of those foreign languages which seem necessary or useful for their formation or for the exercise of pastoral ministry.” (Can. 249) Pope John emphasizes that “(n)o one is to be admitted to the study of philosophy or theology except he be thoroughly grounded in (Latin) and capable of using it.”
He goes on to order that where Latin has been eclipsed in favor of other subjects in imitation of secular curricula, that it should be restored, and the subjects which had replaced it curtailed, or the course of studies otherwise adjusted as necessary to make sure that sufficient room is given to Latin. He also specifies that theology is to be taught in Latin and from Latin textbooks, as the best means “to safeguard the integrity of the Catholic faith,” and “to prune away useless verbiage.” This was regarded as a matter of such importance that he also orders professors who cannot teach in Latin should be replaced by others who can.
Although he had previous emphasized the suitability of Latin as a language for the teaching of theology, since its vocabulary is not subject to the vicissitudes of change that affect vernacular languages, at the same time, he had also emphasized its role as a bond of unity between Catholics of many different nations. In order that Latin may continue to serve as the “the Church’s living language”, the Pope also orders the creation of a Latin Academy, which would be similar in its function as the Academie Française, providing a universal reference point for the Latin expression of new concepts and things. To this day, in fact, the Vatican publishes a Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis for that very purpose.
John XXIII celebrating the Byzantine Divine Liturgy in the Sistine Chapel, for the episcopal consecration of Gabriel Coussa, who was soon after appointed pro-secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
A paragraph is also given to the study of Greek, the language of the New Testament and so many of the most important of the Church Fathers, which in turn were among the most important sources for the scholastic theologians of the Latin-speaking Middle Ages.
Finally, the Pope commands the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities “to prepare a syllabus for the teaching of Latin which all shall faithfully observe… designed to give those who follow it an adequate understanding of the language and its use.” This syllabus, known as the Ordinationes, was issued just under two months after Veterum Sapientia, and gives detailed instructions not only concerning the specific texts to be read, but the requisites of how Latin was to be taught and by whom. The first-ever English translation of them was done by Dr Nancy Llewellyn, Vice-President of the Veterum Sapientia Institute, and can be read at the following link:

Be Precise When Drawing a Line, and You Can Be Expressive in the Application of Color

Here are a few more examples of work by the Greek artist George Kordis, whose work was featured here just a couple of weeks ago. I was intrigued by his style, and present these examples today with a slightly deeper analysis of his work, but for the most part, simply for your enjoyment. Kordis is always precise in his use of line, and it is this precision that allows for some looser, more expressionistic (and I use that term guardedly, it is never slapdash) application of paint.

The Three Women in the Garden Find the Empty Tomb
I don’t know with certainty what method that Kordis uses, but that is not the object of the exercise here. As an artist, I am primarily interested in how I might attempt to replicate or incorporate the effects and stylistic elements that I like into my own work. Accordingly, what I am going to describe is the method that I would use if I was to try to adopt aspects of his style, based on analysis of the photographs I have seen. I have a reason for doing this: my iconography teacher, Aidan Hart, would instruct us on how to paint or draw the icon as one might expect, but very often, he would also describe how he worked out the use of a method by analyzing past works of art. Through this additional instruction, I was being taught, in effect, to teach myself, by looking at the work of any artist that appealed to me. When using past masters as a model for my own painting, the motto that I was given was, “Think twice, paint once.” In other words, consider carefully what you think the artist did, then decide what you are going to do, and then do it! This couldn’t be further from the idea of stream-of-consciousness expression, which seeks to disengage from rational thought and be guided solely by the emotion of the moment. In the method I was instructed in, even loose and what we might term expressionistic brushwork is premeditated, however spontaneous it might appear.

This ability to teach oneself is important for artists today, I feel. 
First, in the field of sacred art and especially iconography, most people will not have access to a fully integrated six-year program of instruction that teaches how to paint from soup to nuts, so to speak. Most will have random and varied access to individual workshops. It is for the student, therefore, to choose a range of workshops among those that are available, perhaps from several different teachers, so that they form an integrated pattern of education in art. It is very unlikely that these will combine to give the student everything that is needed. It will be essential, therefore, for the student to be able to fill in the gaps by undertaking focused, self-directed study. The student who has the capacity to learn from a painting without any other direction will always be at an advantage. 
This capacity for self-directed study by analysis of Old Masters’ work can be adapted to any style. So for example, although I learned it in the context of iconography classes, I might then use it to learn to paint in the manner of a 13th-century Sienese Gothic artist like Simone Martini.
Simone Martini: St Louis of Toulouse crowing his brother at Anjou
There is another reason for developing this habit, and this is an antidote to what is almost the opposite problem (although much rarer at the moment), that is, too much hands-on direction from the teacher. This is a risk of attending one of the few schools that teach the naturalistic method of drawing and painting, which is based upon those developed in the High Renaissance. It is called the Academic Method, because the first schools that taught it, 500 years ago or so, referred to themselves as “academies”, attempting to connect themselves in people’s minds with Plato’s Academy, and Greek learning in general.
The 21st-century versions of these academies are steadily establishing themselves; there are a few that have permanent studios and offer a more stable, long-term art education, albeit typically without the advantage of working within mainstream universities. (There are a few which now offer degrees, e.g. The Florence Academy). The form of teaching that is offered is highly prescriptive and systematic. This is appropriate for such a training that aims to give the student a high level of skill, but there is an accompanying danger that goes with this, that students become trapped in the teaching studio because they are so reliant on the teacher’s directions that they are not able to work independently apart from the studios of the school. The capacity for self-study can help give students the confidence to break free and start to work independently, at an appropriate stage of course.
You don’t need to follow Kordis’ color palette. I am aware that he takes risks here. For me sometimes it works spectacularly and sometimes it misfires a bit, but it is always interesting. 
1. Draw the line
2. Describe basic form in monochrome as an underpainting. The goal is to produce, in effect, a grayscale version of the painting in all the detail intended for the finished painting. The color used here is a brown ochre or avana ochre.

3. Then place transparent washes of flat color over the underpainting. This is the stage in which application can be loose. Mottled effects, multiple colors, areas left so that only the underpainting can be seen, are options to be considered. Resist the temptation to use too much opaque color. As you paint this stage, it will feel as though more color is needed, but hold your nerve and keep to layers of diluted and therefore transparent paint. Generally, we want the tonal values of the underpainting to be visible. If multiple layers of transparent washes are used, they will introduce a beautiful optical effect when the icon is later illuminated, especially in flickering candlelight. The light will be partially transmitted and partially reflected at each interface of color. The reflected light emerges from the icon and is seen by the observer as the color of the surface it most recently reflected off. Where there are multiple layers of different colors, you will see light of many colors emerging. This creates a jewel-like effect in which the icon appears to be a source of glistening light.

Monday, February 21, 2022

“Praying from the Depths of the Psalms” and “Scatter My Darkness”: Two New Spiritual Books

NLM readers may recognize the name of Fr John Henry Hanson, O. Praem., of St Michael’s Abbey, who contributed to this site the articles “Encountering the Sacred Mysteries East of Byzantium: The Armenian Liturgy as a Home away from Rome” (link) and “Some Ritual Features of the Armenian Catholic Liturgy” (link) and whose own celebration of the Armenian liturgy has been shared in a colorful gallery (link).

Fr. Hanson has written two spiritual books that would make for excellent Lenten reading (although they are not intended to be limited to that season). The following descriptions are provided by the publisher.
The elemental human experience of the search for God’s presence amidst the hills and valleys of life is revealed within the Psalms. Turning each experience into a poetic, beautiful prayer is their genius. They are a gift to each heart desiring a deeper intimacy with God. In Praying from the Depths of the Psalms, Fr. John Henry describes the Psalter as “the soul’s hymnal,” a place we can all go to as a source of shared realities. Fr. John Henry shows us that, within the Psalms and with the company of the saints, we are in good fellowship in life’s journey. Showing us how to pray them, and not just read them, he reveals an invaluable path of simplicity towards an unbroken unity with God—finding grace in all— amidst the joys and sorrows, tediums and varieties life has to offer.
Do I have dark places in my life? Why are these dark places present, and will they overcome me? How can Christ’s love and grace dissipate this darkness? In his newest spiritual life book, Scatter My DarknessFr. John Henry Hanson helps us to understand the alienation that comes from sin and the redeeming power of Christ. He shows us how, through the beauty of the Liturgy, the dark corners of our hearts encounter and embrace the light of Christ, perhaps for the first time. “The light of Christ is cleansing grace for the soul,” says Fr. John Henry. With light comes hope, “and that hope is the light that will guide our walk from darkness to light, from this side of the veil to the place where Christ dwells in glory.” With a Foreword by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.

Both books are published by Scepter and may be obtained through their website (here and here), or through Amazon.

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