Thursday, March 31, 2022

Laetare Sunday Photopost 2022

Once again, our thanks to everyone who sent in these pictures; along with the rose vestments used on Laetare Sunday, we have a few pictures of the feasts of St Joseph and the Annunciation as well. Our next photopost series will be of Passiontide veils, so a reminder will be posted tomorrow. Keep up the good work of evangelizing through beauty.
Church of St Anne – Vilnius, Lithuania
A private chapel
St Dominic’s Church and Shrine of the Holy Rosary – London, England
Our own Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P., celebrating the Dominican Rite on a beautiful sunny day.

New Resources to Restore the ’54

Last year, we published notice of Mr Nicholas Morlin’s book A Sacristan’s Guide to the Traditional Roman Rite, which covers all of the major things a sacristan needs to know to properly prepare for the celebration of the traditional rite: vessels, veils and vestments, and the use of liturgical colors; other ceremonial items; the altar; the furniture in the sanctuary, with notes for particular ceremonies. There is also a section on the specific events of the whole liturgical year, based on the customs of the Roman Rite before the pre-Conciliar changes (folded chasuables, old Holy Week etc.); the celebration of the other Sacraments, the Divine Office and Benediction. The book is now available in an updated hardcover edition which includes every single Pontifical Ceremony (Vespers, Mass, Consecration of a Church, Imposition of Relics etc.) in its pre-55 version, new illustrations and diagrams, sacristy and sanctuary preparations for functions in the Dominican Rite, and an English translation of the Clementine Instruction for the 40 Hours Devotion.

https://www.lulu.com/en/gb/shop/nicholas-morlin/a-sacristans-guide-to-the-traditional-roman-rite/hardcover/product-y6keq8.html?page=1&pageSize=4

His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider writes: “The worldwide rediscovery of the riches of the traditional Latin liturgy, especially in its older (pre-1955) form, has brought about the need for adequate handbooks. The present guide is intended specifically for sacristans who play a usually unseen but nevertheless vital role in preparing for the ceremonies and ensuring that all is done in accordance with the best principles, customs, and authorities. I warmly commend this text and hope that it will bring further beauty to the liturgy and greater glory to God.”
Our own Dr Peter Kwasniewki provided the foreword for this book, in which he writes, “With plentiful experience of the classical Roman Rite at his disposal, Nicholas Morlin has done us all a service by creating the present guide as to how these liturgical ceremonies should be prepared. I thank him for his effort and express my hope that this work will come in handy at places where the traditional liturgy is the norm as well as those that are yet to experience the solemn beauty of the classical Roman Rite. ... As we see a younger generation stepping forward to embrace their inheritance as Catholics, we can offer up thanks to Almighty God that He who inspired our great liturgical tradition to begin with will not in the end abandon it, but will keep it alive in the hearts of believers, and in their churches. This guide will play its modest part in reversing the amnesia and indifference that have called down wrath upon our sanctuaries, and counts as a step towards that long-overdue restoration of right and worthy worship, by which we give to God that which befits His nature and our needs.”
In the same vein, the Restore the ’54 website has just recently begun publishing a daily ordo, which gives all the basic indications for both the Mass and Office, and have also added a useful comparison table of all the changes instituted in the later 1950s. We are sure many of our readers will find this an extremely helpful resource; multa ceciderunt ut altius resurgerent.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Feast of St John Climacus

In the Byzantine liturgy, each of the Sundays of Lent has a special commemoration attached to it. The first Sunday is known as the Sunday of Orthodoxy, because it commemorates the defeat of iconoclasm and the restoration of the orthodox belief in the use of icons; many churches have a procession in which the clergy and faithful carry the icons, as seen in this video from the Sacred Patriarchal Monastery of St Irene Chrysovalantou, in Astoria, New York.


The Third Sunday of Lent is called the Sunday of the Adoration of the Cross; in place of the Trisagion are sung the words “We venerate Thy Cross, O Lord, and we glorify Thy holy Resurrection.” A cross is placed in the middle of the church, and “We venerate Thy Cross” is sung again three times, as all prostrate themselves before it, and then come forth to kiss it. The traditional Church Slavonic melody is in my opinion one of the most beautiful pieces in the repertoire.


The Fourth Sunday is dedicated to St John of the Ladder, whose Greek title (“tēs klimakos - of the Ladder”) is often improperly Anglicized as “Climacus”; he also has his own feast day on the calendar, March 30, which falls on or near that Sunday when Easter is later. (Three years ago, on the Gregorian calendar, his feast day was on Saturday, and followed immediately by the Sunday dedicated to him.) The title refers to his popular and extremely influential spiritual treatise, the Ladder of Paradise, still commonly read, and especially in Lent, among Eastern Christians. The treatise is also known as the Ladder of Divine Ascent, and outlines thirty steps by which, through the acquisition and exercise of the various virtues, one may seek to ascend to attain to salvation. The icon of his feast shows him indicating the ladder by which a group of monks are shown the ladder to Heaven; with an important touch of realism, all versions of this icon show some of the monks being pulled off the ladder by devils with grappling hooks, and falling into the mouth of hell on the lower right.

Very little is known about St John’s origins and life, and even the exact period in which he lived has been the subject of academic debate. A letter of Pope St Gregory the Great in the year 600 is addressed to one John, the “abbot of Mount Sinai”; John Climacus certainly held this office at one time, and he is traditionally said to be the recipient of letter, and to have died at around the age of 75 a few years later. Others place his life at a later period, from roughly 580-650.

The Troparion: With the streams of thy tears thou didst till the barren desert, and with sighs from the depths of thy soul, thou didst render thy labors fruitful a hundredfold, and became a shining light for the world, resplendent with miracles. O John, our holy father, entreat Christ our God that our souls be saved.
The Kontakion: The Lord truly set you on the heights of abstinence, to be a guiding star, showing the way to the universe, o our Father and Teacher John.

An Easter Card from Silverstream Priory

Last summer, Silverstream Priory in Ireland launched a new website for its online store, the Cenacle Press, and I am sure our readers will be interested in exploring what it has to offer, from Catholic books from dozens of publishers to items made by hand by the monks themselves. Here are a couple of interesting videos from their YouTube channel; the first shows the steps of the process of making a very nice block print of a Paschal Agnus Dei motif, which can be purchased as an Easter card, a once-common tradition that should definitely be revived.

And the second shows the making of a rosary, with an explanation of the symbolism behind the knots with which it is tied together.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2022 (Part 4)

Every year, this series suffers one or more interruptions for various reasons, and this time around, our friend Agnese has been unable to attend several of the recent stations. Fortunately, Jacob has been able to visit and make videos about almost all of the churches that she missed. Once again, we grateful to them both for sharing this annual Lenten pilgrimage with us.

The Third Sunday of Lent – St Lawrence Outside the Walls
This is one of Rome’s oldest churches, built by the Emperor Constantine in the first years of the peace of the Church, over the site of the great martyr’s burial. Pope St Sixtus III (432-40) built a second church on the site, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, flush with one of the walls of the Constantinian structure; this wall was then taken down in the time of Pelagius II (579-90, St Gregory the Great’s predecessor), transforming the Marian church into the nave of St Lawrence’s. The sanctuary was then rebuilt at a rather higher level than the nave, with a large crypt beneath it. The dedication to the Virgin Mary of what is now the nave is remembered in the traditional Gospel of the day, which ends with the verses from Luke 11 commonly read on Our Lady’s feasts, and at Her Saturday Votive Mass. “And it came to pass, as He spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to Him: Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps that gave Thee suck. But He said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.”

Monday of the Third Week of Lent – St Mark
The church was originally dedicated by Pope Mark, who reigned for less than 10 months in 336 AD, to his namesake the Evangelist. Because the latter is the Patron Saint of Venice, which nicked his relics from Alexandria in Egypt in 828, it has often been given as the cardinalitial title to the bishops of that city; six Popes have been elected while cardinal of this church, four of whom were Patriarch at the time of their election. (Gregory XII, 1406-15, the last Pope to resign before Benedict XVI; Paul II, 1464-71; Clement XIII, 1758-69; and John Paul I, 33 days in 1978.) The church is now surrounded on three sides by the Palazzo Venezia, formerly the embassy of the Venetian Republic to the Papal States, and later on, of the Austrian Empire to Italy.

More Paintings of Old Testament Events that Point to The Annunciation

The feast of the Annunciation was on March 25th and so we are within its octave, although this is not celebrated liturgically. Octaves are periods that extend the period of our meditation upon on the meaning of an event over a whole, so, as with last week’s post in anticipation, I will highlight some paintings that illustrate how this moment in history touches all of Salvation History in some way.

First, here is a painting of the Annunciation by a Dutch or Flemish painter called Matthias Stom, known for his work painted when he lived in Italy in the 17th century, and was much influenced by Caravaggio. This is less of a narrative-style composition in which many connected events in the story orbit the central moment, the engagement of Mary by the Archangel; instead, this one focuses almost exclusively on the moment of the Annunciation itself, and portrays Mary’s response psychologically through a beautifully rendered expression.

The work is evocative of paintings by a Frenchman of the same period, Georges de la Tours, in which the central point is the Light, signified by a candle in the dark.
From Byzantine Small Vespers on the eve of the feast:
“Why does your form blaze with fire?” said she whom we venerate to Gabriel in her amazement. “What is your rank and what the value of your words? You announce to me that I shall bring forth a child, het I have no experience of man. Lead me not astray, O man, with crafty words, as the crafty serpent once led astray Eve our mother.”
And earlier, from the same Office:
“Your words are as strange as your appearance! Strange is the news which your words announce to me!” said Mary to the Angel. “Do not seek to deceive me. I am a virgin, and I know not marriage; yet you tell me that I am to conceive the One whom no spirit can even comprehend! How can I contain within my womb Him whom the immense heavens themselves cannot contain?” “O Virgin, learn the lesson of the tent of Abraham, which once welcomed the Trinity. This prefigured your womb that would receive God!”
Above we see a painting from the studio of Rembrandt which depicts the Hospitality of Abraham, which is, coincidentally as far as I am aware, compositionally similar to that of Strom. 
Elsewhere among the hymns of the feast, Mary is described as the Ladder and the Gate, which leads to heaven. A path made possible for us by the Annunciation. 
The Holy Scriptures speak of you mystically, O Mother of the Most High. For Jacob saw in days of old the ladder that prefigured you and said: “This is the stair on which God will tread!” Therefore, as is meet, you hear the salutation: “Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you!”
The Dream of Jacob, by Ferdinand Bol, Dutch, 17th century. 
Finally, here is a hymn in the form of a litany, from Great Vespers on the eve which reveals many such types:
Gabriel came to you, O Maiden and disclosed God’s plan which was from all eternity. He joyfully offered you his greetings and cried out: “Hail, O land without human seed! Hail, O bush untouched by fire! Hail, O depth not human eye can fathom! Hail, O bridge that leads up to heaven! Hail, O fleece receiving the heavenly manna! Hail, O dissolution the curse! Hail, O Maiden who returned Adam to grace! The Lord is with you.”

Monday, March 28, 2022

A Tale of Three Holy Cards

One of the most hackneyed of all clichés is that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But there’s a reason certain familiar sayings arise in the first place, and that’s because they express a truth beyond gainsaying.

Some time ago, as I was visiting with a dear Benedictine friend of mine, I happened to notice two holy cards in his monastic breviary. The first was a card with nutty looking geometric shapes and a font that screamed 1970s. The other was a card that could have been from the 19th century.

I told the monk I’m a collector of vintage holy cards (sometime I’ll have to put pictures of some of them up on NLM), and that I’d enjoy giving these two a closer look. My guess of the 1970s was off just a little. The card featuring geometric shapes and the saying “The Creator has made the world…Come and see it” from the Pima Indians was an ordination holy card from May 30, 1965.

Ordination Holy Card (1965)
The other card, once I held it, felt surprisingly new. It turned out to be an ordination holy card from May 24, 2014. The text on the back of this card (not shown here) was not taken from the Pima Indians but from Hebrews 5, in the Knox translation no less:
The purpose for which any high priest is chosen from among his fellow men, and made a representative of men in their dealings with God, is to offer gifts and sacrifices in expiation of their sins. He is qualified for this by being able to feel for them when they are ignorant and make mistakes, since he, too, is all beset with humiliations, and, for that reason, must needs present sin-offerings for himself, just as he does for the people. His vocation comes from God, as Aaron’s did; nobody can take on himself such a privilege as this. … Thou art a priest for ever, in the line of Melchisedech.
Ordination Holy Card (2014)
I went to my holy card collection and pulled out a holy card from 1909, printed in Csákova, Romania, for the first Mass of a German priest. This card is smaller and narrower, as is often the case with older cards, and says at the bottom: “Das Himmelsbrod will ich empfangen und anrufen den Namen des Herrn. – I will receive the bread of heaven and call upon the Name of the Lord.” On the back, it says: “Heiliges Herz Jesu, ich vertaue auf dich! – Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee!”

First Mass Holy Card (1909)
What do we notice when we look at this progression—1909, 1965, 2014?

The 1909 card, with sensitive rendering, evokes the natural order elevated to the supernatural through the liturgy, with the wheat and grapes yielding themselves into the chalice surrounded by light, mounted on an altar book that is wrapped in a stole embroidered with crosses, the whole graced by a Eucharistic text. Two world wars and fifty-six years later, the 1965 card lacks any Christian symbols or texts, any indication that it has anything to do with the priesthood, or even any representational art to speak of. Forty-nine years later, the 2014 card shows a priest bowing humbly before the altar, where, in mystic vision, the High Priest blesses him as he mediates for the people, in the midst of a great church. Light—the light of grace and truth—cascades from Jesus, the Head of the Mystical Body, to the priest and people, in that hierarchical order. The 2014 card, with different imagery, is saying the same thing as the 1909 card: here is the source of light and life; here is the elevation of nature by grace; here is the special work of the ordained minister.

When we look with pained embarrassment at the 1965 card, we cannot help feeling that the 1960s are, with rare exceptions, thoroughly dead—and never was a death so welcome. Like the priests of centuries past, today’s youthful clergy have surrendered themselves to a genuine priestly vocation, with a spirit of awe, reverence, and veneration for the sacred mysteries. They are (just as the Letter to the Hebrews teaches) chosen mediators who offer gifts and sacrifices. The luminous liturgical theology of Pope Benedict XVI and the joyful rediscovery of the ancient Roman Rite of Mass have had much to do with this renewal. May they continue to bring in a harvest of vocations, men who wish to serve in union with, and in imitation of, the Heart of Jesus.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Laetare Sunday 2022

Laetáre, Jerúsalem, et conventum fácite, omnes qui dilígitis eam: gaudéte cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis, ut exsultétis, et satiémini ab ubéribus consolatiónis vestrae. Ps. 121 Laetátus sum in his, quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Dómini íbimus. Gloria Patri. Laetáre... (The Introit of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, here sung in a polyphonic setting by the Italian composer Andrea Gabrieli, 1532-85.)

Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come together, all you who love her: rejoice with joy, you who have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. Ps. 121 I rejoiced at the things that were said to me, We will go up to the house of the Lord. Glory be... Rejoice, O Jerusalem...

Saturday, March 26, 2022

The Story of Susanna in the Liturgy of Lent

In the Roman Rite, the story of Susanna is read as the epistle of Saturday of the third week of Lent, the longest epistle of the entire year. This episode is not in the Hebrew text of Daniel, but in the manuscripts of the Septuagint, it appears as the beginning of the book, probably because in verse 45 Daniel is called a “younger man”, which was apparently understood to mean “younger than he was when the rest of the story happened.” When St Jerome produced the group of translations now known as the Vulgate, he relegated the story to the end of the book, along with the other “apocryphal” episode known as Bel and the Dragon; hence the common designation of Susanna as chapter 13 of Daniel. Well before Jerome’s time, however, the great biblical scholar Origen had defended the canonicity of Susanna in a letter to his friend Africanus, who claimed that the Greek puns in the book proved that it could not be part of the original text. It is very important to note that Origen’s defense of the story, and of the other deuterocanonical books, repeatedly refers to the “use” of the book in the churches, i.e., in the liturgy. He also cites a saying of the book of Proverbs, “Thou shalt not remove the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set,” (22, 28), a passage long understood by Jewish commentators as a command to preserve the ancient traditions of religious practice. His opinion, and not that of St. Jerome, is clearly that of the majority of early Christians, as reflected not only in theoretical consideration, but also in early Christian art, and the ancient traditions which find their way into the lectionaries.
(Pictured above: Daniel in the lion’s den, from the Dogmatic Sarcophagus in the Vatican Museums, ca. 340 A.D. On the right, the prophet Habakkuk bringing food to Daniel.)
A contemporary of Origen provides an exegetical basis for understanding the importance of the story of Susanna to the early Church. Among the fragments of a commentary on Daniel written by Hippolytus of Rome (died ca. 236) we read in reference to Susanna that she “prefigured the Church; and Joachim, her husband, Christ; and the garden, the calling of the saints, who are planted like fruitful trees in the Church. And Babylon is the world; and the two elders are set forth as a figure of the two peoples that plot against the Church – the one, namely, of the circumcision, and the other of the gentiles.” (On Susannah 7: the reader will understand, of course, that this quotation is in no wise chosen in endorsement of Hippolytus’ anti-Jewish sentiments.) And later on, “it is in our power also to apprehend the real meaning of all that befell Susannah. For you may find this also fulfilled in the present condition of the Church. For when the two peoples conspire to destroy any of the saints, they watch for a fit time, and enter the house of God while all there are praying and praising God, and seize some of them, and carry them off, and keep hold of them, saying, ‘Come, consent with us, and worship our gods; and if not, we will bear witness against you.’ And when they refuse, they drag them before the court and accuse them of acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, and condemn them to death.” (On Susannah 22)
We cannot be certain that it is Hippolytus’ interpretation specifically which influenced the early Church to assign the story of Susanna to Lent. However, we can say with certainty that the Lenten readings for Mass were largely chosen as lessons for the catechumens who would be baptized at Easter, and that the story of Susanna was read to prepare the new Christians for the reality of persecution in the Roman Empire. This is reflected in the art of the catacombs, where stories from the Lenten lectionary are always very prominent, Susanna among them. In the catacomb of Praetextatus, for example, she appears as a lamb (the name Susanna is written over her), with two wolves on either side of her labelled “seniores – the elders.”
Susanna as a lamb between two wolves, from the Arcosolium of Celerina in the Catacomb of Praetextatus, mid-4th century.
In the catacomb of Priscilla, the story appears in three parts in the burial chamber known as the Greek Chapel, made in the second half of the second century A.D. On the right side, the two elders are pointing at Susanna’s midriff, indicating that “they were inflamed with lust towards her” (verse 8); on the left side (further from the camera in this photo), the two elders, having been refused by Susanna, accuse her before the people of adultery by placing their hands upon her head (verse 34). She is condemned to death, but the prophet Daniel, inspired by the Lord, saves her by asking the two elders separately where exactly in Joachim’s garden they witnessed the supposed adultery. When they give different responses, the Jews of Babylon realize she is innocent, and put the two elders to death; in the final scene, Daniel (not visible in this photograph) and Susanna give thanks to God for her deliverance.
The so-called Greek Chapel in the Catacomb of Priscilla, second half of the second century. The stories of Susanna appear on the side walls, with white backgrounds.
In Rome, the Station for today is kept at the church of St Susanna, who is traditionally said to have been martyred, like her uncle Pope St Caius (283-96) and her father, St Gabinus, under the Emperor Diocletian. This station was clearly chosen for the coincidence of names; in the Ordinary Form, it has been moved to Monday of the week traditionally known as Passion Week, although the stations have not been rearranged accordingly. In the lectionary of 1969, it may also be read in an abbreviated form which begins directly with Susanna’s condemnation at verse 41.
The façade of Santa Susanna, by Carlo Maderno, 1603
In the Ambrosian Liturgy, which in many respects provided inspiration for the post-conciliar revisions, the association with the Lord’s Passion is made even more explicit. The reading is assigned to Holy Thursday, which in the Milanese lectionary is focused much more on the Passion than on the institution of the Eucharist. At a service of readings and prayers said after Terce, the first reading is that of Susanna; the psalmellus (the equivalent of a gradual in the Roman Rite) which follows is taken from Psalm 34, “Unjust witnesses rising up have asked me things I knew not. They repaid me evil for good.” The second reading is from the book of Wisdom, chapter 2, 12 – 25, beginning with the words “In those days the wicked said to each other: Let us lie in wait for the just, because he is useless to us, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life.” The Gospel that follows immediately after, Matthew 26, 14-16, tells of the betrayal of Judas, who sells the Lord for thirty silver pieces.

Although the reading was chosen to prepare the catechumens for membership in a persecuted sect, it continued in use after the liberty of the Church, as did many other early liturgical references to the Age of the Martyrs. In the Breviary of St. Pius V, we read an explanation of this in the second nocturn of Passion Sunday, from the ninth Lenten sermon of Pope St Leo the Great.
(In Lent) a greater fast was ordered by the holy Apostles, taught by the Holy Spirit, so that by a common sharing in the Cross of Christ, we too may in some measure partake in what He did for our sake, as the Apostle says, ‘If we suffer with Him, we will be also glorified with Him.’ Certain and sure is the hope of blessedness promised to us, when we partake of the Lord’s Passion. There is no one, dearly beloved, who is denied a share of this glory because of the time he lives in, as if the tranquility of peace was without occasion for virtue. For the Apostle foretells us, ‘All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution’; and therefore, there will never lack the tribulation of persecution, if the observance of godliness is not lacking. For the Lord himself says in his exhortations, ‘He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.’ And we must not doubt that these words apply not only to his immediate disciples, but belong to all the faithful and to the whole Church; who all heard of His salvation in the person of those present.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Congregational Book for Pre-55 Holy Week Now Available at Discounted Prices

Three weeks ago, I announced here on NLM the publication of “A New Deluxe Congregational Booklet for Pre-55 Holy Week and Pentecost Vigil.” The news was greeted with much rejoicing. However, the price remained a sticking point.

The publisher has asked me to relay following message:

“We are very pleased to update you on a big discount we’re able to run for the book. We’re now able to sell the book ourselves through www.romanseraphicbooks.com, rather than Barnes & Noble, and offer the book at a 20% Discount across the board for all purchases. The shipping cost is also cheaper than Barnes & Noble’s, and all the bulk order discounting is still available.

International Shipping is also available through our store, for individual and bulk orders, so that the books will (hopefully) get there in time for Palm Sunday! Unfortunately B&N didn’t have this international option, but we are able to do it.

The link to the purchasing page is the same:

https://romanseraphicbooks.com/product/pre1955holyweek/.

This price change is temporary while we deplete our current stock, but we will try to replenish our stock to accommodate the demand if they go too quickly. Hopefully, demand for the book will enable us to maintain this pricing and purchasing option; otherwise we may have to go back to selling through Barnes & Noble, which would unfortunately drive the price up again.

We pray you are having a blessed and fruitful Lent so far.”

A Modern French Painter in Love with Our Lady: Maurice Denis’s Remarkable Annunciation Paintings

Annunciation (1912)
Until a couple of years ago I had never heard of the painter Maurice Denis (1870–1943). The beautiful autobiography of the painter and, later, Benedictine monk Jan Verkade (Dom Willibrord, 1868–1946) introduced me to him. Here is a brief description from The Art Story website:

Maurice Denis is perhaps unique amongst avant-garde French painters of the late-nineteenth century in combining a strong commitment to formal and stylistic innovation with an equally profound sense of the significance of tradition: in art, culture, and, perhaps above all else, religion. His boldly colored, vibrant paintings, like those of the artists with whom he is generally grouped together - Paul Sérusier, Pierre Bonnard - express a commitment to abstraction, and to relaying the inner life of the soul, which is, at one level, quintessentially modern. But unlike his peers, the soul which Denis sought to express was integrally shaped by his religious faith which can already be sensed from his earliest paintings as a member of the Nabi group which he co-founded in 1888, and which would lead him, later in life, to activities such as church renovation and altarpiece design. By the end of his life, Denis was also renowned as an art critic, having produced a series of influential essays on aesthetics and spirituality.
There is much one could say about his life and art, so thoroughly integrated with his Catholic faith and with a happy marriage and family—such unusual traits, it sadly seems, in the annals of famous artists. As another website, Sacred Art Pilgrim, explains:
There is a feeling of great intimacy in Denis’ religious art. A devoted husband and father, the artist often used his beloved first wife, Marthe, and their six children as models, placing sacred figures in settings from his daily life in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the Breton seacoast, where the family spent their summers, or an Italian villa they had visited in Fiesole, near Florence. Denis was especially drawn to maternal images of the Virgin Mary, making paintings and prints of the Annunciation and the Madonna and Child in multiple variations… French Dominican Friar Marie-Alain Couturier, a onetime student and leading proponent of Modernist sacred art, offered what is, perhaps, the most fitting epithet for his former mentor. Denis was, in his words, the painter of “the sweet presence of God in our life.”
Today, in honor of the great Marian feast we are celebrating, I wish to share a few of the vast number of strikingly original depictions of the Annunciation that Denis painted over his fruitful career. He seems to have had a particular fascination for this biblical subject over all the decades of his output. The titles are linked to the online sources from which the images were taken. (N.B.: If anyone has access to better images, please send them to me by email so that I can swap them in.)

May this gallery be like a bouquet of flowers to the Blessed Virgin Mary on Lady Day.

In the first image, we see a theme to which Denis will return again and again: the depiction of the Archangel Gabriel as a deacon bearing a book, almost as if Our Lady is the priest at Solemn Mass to whom the book is carried for her to kiss. In this very early depiction, painted when the artist was 19, he has even included a couple of acolytes bearing tapers.

Le mystère catholique (1889)
We see something similar in this depiction from ca. 1914, except that here the deacon-angel bows his head and raises his arms in a gesture of homage, while Our Lady bows her head in a reciprocal greeting. She is dressed as a bride.

Annunciation at Assisi (c. 1914)
As mentioned above, Denis loved Fiesole, where Fra Angelico used to live, and painted many religious paintings there. St Gabriel is looking especially diaconal in this 1919 depiction. Once again the Virgin is dressed in white as a bride, and the Holy Ghost is imaged as a dove with rays from the upper right corner stretching to Mary’s womb.

Anunciación en Fiesole (1919)
In another version, Denis switches the roles, and has the Virgin kneeling near vessels (of water? wine? an allusion to the Cana yet to come?), on a rug, while the angel stands monumentally above her with hands outstretched in a priestly gesture.

Annonciation à Nazareth (1929)
In the very different medium of a monochrome lithograph, Denis has the angel kneeling but with the same outspread hand gesture, while Our Lady stands with serenity, almost looking beyond the scene at a future vista. Is it meant to capture the moment before she is fully aware of her visitor?

The Annunciation (no date given)
Denis’ love of the Italian landscape around Fiesole was such that it sometimes becomes the main subject of the painting. Perhaps he is attempting to set the great mystery against everyday surroundings, to emphasize the penetration of the divine into the human and natural? Our Lady herself, it seems, was engaged in some menial task such as watering or cutting flowers...

The Annunciation in Fiesole (no date given)
One of my favorites is a depiction in which we see the familiar deacon-archangel holding a Gospel book, accompanied by the candlebearing acolytes, approaching the Blessed Virgin on what appears to be a rooftop terrace, with the sun streaming behind her (which is somewhat unconventional; usually the beam of light comes across the scene from the other direction). The sublimity of the setting and its vertiginous perspective hint at the lofty grandeur of the miraculous conception. (How I wish I could find a better graphic than this!)

The Annunciation at Fiesole (no date given)
Here is a Denis looking more fauvist and cubist than usual. For whatever reason he has decided to give Gabriel a chasuble this time rather than a dalmatic, and no book, but something more like a priestly orans gesture. The servers, too, do not bear candles, but simply walk ahead. The haloes are more pronounced.

Annunciation at the Window in Prayer (no date given)
The whole series thus far have been landscape-oriented; here we have an unusual portrait-oriented setting, which allows for ample attention to the wonderful arches and their almost Boethian musical-ratio relationships. The plants exercise a prominent role, with one growing on top of the wall, the potted lily, another flower pot at the front right, and, most strikingly, the “burning bush” directly behind Our Lady. St. Gabriel here is almost timid, afraid to disturb the Virgin’s reverie.

The Annunciation under the Arch with Lilies (no date given)
The tenth and last that I found online seems to be only a portion of a larger whole that I have not had success in locating.

It is usually my colleague David Clayton who provides us with in-depth analysis of modern sacred art (and I hope he will enjoy this post!), but my concluding thought is simply this: if Maurice Denis could return again and again to a great mystery of the Christian Faith and find inexhaustible inspiration and joy in looking at it from every angle his imagination suggested, why cannot our artists today do the same? No subjects for painting can be greater, richer, nobler, more evocative, dynamic, or rewarding. May God grant us more painters like this, through the prayers of His most holy Mother.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Laetare Sunday 2022 Photopost Request

Our next major photopost will be for Laetare Sunday, the second Sunday of the liturgical year when rose-colored vestments may be used. Please send your photos (whether of the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form, Ordinariate Rite etc.) to photopost@newliturgicalmovement.org for inclusion. Photos of Vespers and other parts of the Office are always welcome, as well as those of the recent feast of St Joseph, tomorrow’s feast of the Annunciation, or any other recent liturgical events. For our Byzantine friends, we will be glad to include photos of the Veneration of the Cross on the Third Sunday of Great Lent. Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important. Evangelize through beauty!

From our Laetare Sunday photopost of last year: the Asperges before the high Mass at the collegiate church of St Just, home of the FSSP Apostolate in Lyon, France. 
From our first Passiontide photopost of last year, the feast of St Joseph at the church of Our Lady of Grace in Żabbar, Malta.

From the second Passiontide photopost, the feast of the Annunciation at the church of Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces in Cebu City in the Philippines.

The Expectant Orations of the Feast of the Annunciation

Leonardi da Vinci, Annunciation, ca. 1472
Lost in Translation #72

The Annunciation, one of the oldest and greatest Marian feasts that we have, is filled with meaning and expectation. First, it marks the beginning of the end of Satan’s rule over mankind. Just as the first Eve’s no to God led to our slavery under sin, the New Eve’s yes or fiat to God opens the way to our salvation. Pope Benedict XVI beautifully describes this fiat as saying Yes to a marriage proposal:

As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes. [1]
And just as the Annunciation is a kind of wedding between God and man, it is also a kind of wedding between Mary and the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. The Mother of God is hailed as the Spouse of the Holy Spirit because on this day the power of the Holy Ghost overshadowed her (see Luke 1, 35). As if that weren’t enough, the Annunciation is, along with Christmas, a great feast of the Incarnation. This is the day that that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity united Himself to our humanity by humbly becoming a zygote, a single eukaryotic cell, in Our Lady’s womb. Or to put it more plainly, this is the day that the Word first became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1, 14), and the place where He first chose to dwell—or to translate the original Greek more literally, to pitch His tent—was within this maiden of Nazareth, making her a holy tabernacle and a new and truer Ark of the Covenant. This is the day, as the Maronite liturgy proclaims, that “the peace of God is planted, and the heights and depths cry out: ‘O come, Lord Jesus!’ ” [2]
Some of these themes are present in the traditional Roman orations for the feast. The Collect is:
Deus, qui de beátae Maríae Vírginis útero Verbum tuum, Angelo nuntiante, carnem suscípere voluisti: praesta supplícibus tuis; ut, qui vere eam Genitrícem Dei crédimus, ejus apud te intercessiónibus adjuvémur. Per eundem Dóminum nostrum.
Which I translate as:
O God, who hast willed that Thy Word should take flesh from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the Angel's announcement: grant to Thy suppliants, that we, who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her intercessions in Thy presence. Through the same our Lord.
For the first part or protasis, most translations have “in the womb” of Mary instead of “from the womb,” but the preposition in question is not in but de, which means “from” or “out of.” We can forgive the ancient author for the biological inaccuracy: babies are not formed from the tissue of their mother’s womb but from an ovum that is in the womb, a fact which was not discovered until the nineteenth century. But the main point of is worth contemplating: when the Word became flesh, Its flesh came entirely from Mary’s flesh rather than from a commingling of a mother’s flesh with a father’s. To put it in modern terms, 100% of Jesus Christ’s DNA came from Mary of Nazareth.
In the second half or apodosis of the prayer, we ask for help from God through Mary’s intercession in almost a plea-bargain manner: we are going out on a limb and believing that this maiden bore God; in return, can’t we have some special favors from her? The phrasing of ejus apud te intercessionibus. Although it can be translated as “through her intercessions with Thee,” I chose “by her intercessions in Thy presence” to highlight the distinctive character of the preposition apud, which is the Latin equivalent of the French chez (“in the house of”). There seems to be an implicit contrast between the Incarnate Word being in the womb of Mary and Mary now being in the eternal abode of God. She who “enclosed” God is now enclosed in His Paradise.
The Secret is:
In méntibus nostris, quáesumus, Dómine, verae fídei sacramenta confirma: ut, qui conceptum de Vírgine Deum verum et hóminem confitémur; per ejus salutíferae resurrectiónis potentiam, ad aeternam mereámur perveníre laetitiam. Per eundem Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Strengthen in our minds, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the mysteries of the true faith: that we who confess the Virgin’s Son to be truly God and man, may deserve, by the power of His saving resurrection, to reach eternal joy. Through the same our Lord.
Sacramenta, which I have translated as “mysteries,” also means “sacraments.” Given that the sacrament of the Eucharist is about to be confected, it is a fitting ambivalence. Salutiferus, which I have translated as “saving,” literally means “salvation-making.” When we think of the Incarnation, we think of the salvation-making power of His Resurrection.
The Postcommunion is:
Gratiam tuam, quáesumus, Dómine, méntibus nostris infunde: ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnatiónem cognóvimus; per passiónem ejus et crucem, ad resurrectiónis gloriam perducámur. Per eundem Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts: that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by an angel announcing it, may, by His passion and cross, be brought to the glory of His resurrection. Through the same Lord.
The prayer is well-known to Catholics as the conclusion to the Angelus, which in itself is an interesting choice, insofar as a Marian devotion ends with a prayer that makes no explicit mention of Mary. As the Postcommunion to the Feast of the Annunciation, the prayer contributes to an interesting pattern of mysteries that are or are not mentioned:
The Collect mentions Mary, the Angel, and the Incarnation;
The Secret mentions Mary and the Incarnation;
The Postcommunion mentions the Angel and the Incarnation.
Again our thoughts go naturally from the Incarnation to the Passion to the glory of the Resurrection. Why did God become man? To die for us and to rise again to give us glory. It is message from an angel almost too good to be true. But it is so good that it has to be true.
Notes
[1] “On God’s Marriage Proposal,” Angelus address at the 2008 World Youth Day Closing Mass, Zenit News, July 19, 2008, http://zenit.org/article-23282?l=english. St. Bernard of Clairvaux has a beautiful commentary on this theme in his Homily 4.8-9, available in translation here
[2] The Book of Offering to the Rite of the Antiochene Syriac Maronite Church (2012), 28.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

A 12th-Century Coptic Gospel Book (Part 3)

This is the third and final part of a series of images from a Coptic Gospel book of the later twelfth century, which I stumbled across on the website of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. (Département des Manuscrits. Copte 13) In the first post, we saw the majority of the images, concentrated in the Gospel of St Matthew, and in the second, those from Mark and Luke, so here is John. I have cropped the pages to highlight just the illustrations.
Each Gospel is preceded by one of these elaborately decorated crosses.
The beginning of the Gospel itself. The Coptic alphabet is the same as the Greek alphabet, with seven letters based on late demotic Egyptian script to represent sounds for which Greek has no letter. The language also borrows a huge number of words from Greek, as for example in the very first line, “ⲁⲣⲭⲏ – beginning.”

St John the Baptist sends his disciples to follow the Lord.
The Wedding at Cana
The Samaritan Woman

The Messenger Angel

Anonymous, the Archangel Gabriel, depicted on the predella of the high altar at the subsidiary church of Pesenbach, Upper Austria, 1495

In the traditional Roman calendar, the feast days of saints are sometimes clustered together to form archipelagos of holiness that allow the faithful to meditate longer on a sacred mystery. These archipelagos do not always consist of consecutive days. On January 15, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Paul the First Hermit, and two days later she celebrates the Saint who discovered that Saint Paul was the first hermit, St. Antony the Abbot. September 29 is the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, and three days later is the feast of the Guardian Angels (October 2). On February 11, the universal Church celebrates the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes, and one week later, some locales are permitted to celebrate the feast of the Saint to whom Our Lady of Lourdes appeared, St. Bernadette Soubirous (even though she died on April 16). St Agnes’ feast day is January 21, and on January 28 the Church commemorates the apparition of St. Agnes to her parents when they were praying at her tomb eight days later. September 8 celebrates the Mother of God’s birthday, September 12 Her most holy name, and September 15 her Seven Sorrows.

Often, however, the clusters of which I speak are formed by two consecutive feasts. On January 25, the Church celebrates the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, and the day before she remembers Paul’s faithful companion Saint Timothy. The feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is August 15 and that of her father Saint Joachim August 16. The Exaltation of the Holy Cross is September 14 and the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin September 15. The Augustinian friars celebrated the Conversion of Saint Augustine on May 5, and as a result, the feast of St. Monica, who was so instrumental in her son’s conversion, was placed on the Roman calendar on May 4. [1]

We should not be surprised, then, to see in the 1962 Roman calendar the feast of St. Gabriel the Archangel on March 24, and the Annunciation on March 25. What is surprising is how long it took to make this obvious pairing. While the Annunciation is one of the oldest feasts in Christendom, the feast of Mary’s messenger did not find its rightful place until 1921. But before we turn to that feast, let us learn more about the angel that it honors.
The Angel
Along with Saints Michael and Raphael, Gabriel is one of only three angels mentioned by name in the canonical Scriptures. [3] Unlike Michael, the Bible does not refer to Gabriel as an archangel, but he is nonetheless recognized as such by the Church. As Pope St. Gregory the Great explains, angels as an order are the spirits that deliver messages of lesser importance, and archangels are, among other things, the order of spirits that deliver messages of greater importance. [3] Since the message that Gabriel was delivering was of the utmost importance, it stands to reason that he was an archangel.
Gabriel appears four times in the Bible, twice in the Old Testament and twice in the New. In Daniel 8, 15-26 and 9, 21-27, the archangel explains to the prophet Daniel the meaning of his perplexing visions. Gabriel may also be the subject of Daniel 10, 5-6, which describes a dazzling man clad in linen and gold. Jewish tradition holds that Gabriel is also the angel who destroyed Sodom and the host of Sennacherib, the angel who buried the body of Moses (as opposed to Michael? See Jude 9), and the angel who marked the figure Tau on the foreheads of the Elect (Ezekiel 9:4). [4]
Gabriel also appears in apocryphal literature. In the Book of Enoch, he is a ferocious guardian of Israel, ordered by God to “proceed against the bastards and the reprobates, and against the children of fornication” (1 Enoch 10, 9).
In the New Testament, Gabriel appears once to Zachary (Luke 1, 5-25) and once to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1, 26-38). However, it is not unreasonable to believe, as some in the early Church did, that Gabriel is also the angel who appeared to Saint Joseph (Matt. 1, 20 & 24; 2, 13 & 19) and the shepherds (Luke 2, 8-12), and that he consoled or “strengthened” Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22, 43). Accordingly, on his feast day we pray that he console and strengthen us as well. [5]
And what will Gabriel’s role be at the end of time? Matthew 24:31 mentions angels with a trumpet foretelling the end of the world, but Gabriel is not named. The earliest reference to “Gabriel’s horn” is in a hymn by the Armenian Saint Nerses the Gracious (1102-1173); from there it passed into Armenian Christian art. Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) is the first time that Gabriel blowing his trumpet appears in English; the trope later became ubiquitous in Black spirituals and songs such as “The Eyes of Texas” (1903). Although there is no authoritative Catholic source for this belief, it is not unreasonable to imagine that the angel who announced Christ’s First Coming will announce His Second.
The name Gabriel is Hebrew for “God is my strength” or the “strength of God.” If Gabriel did indeed destroy Sodom as well as a host of bastards and reprobates, the appropriateness of the name is not difficult to grasp. But how does divine strength relate to his all-important role as messenger to the Blessed Virgin Mary? According to Gregory the Great, “God’s strength” (“Gabriel”) announced the coming of the Lord “of heavenly powers, mighty in battle”—in other words, an angel whose name refers to divine power is the herald for the Person who wields divine power. Similarly, St. Bernard of Clairvaux notes that since Jesus Christ is “the power of God” (1 Cor. 1, 34), it is fitting that His Incarnation be announced by an angel of that name. “On one hand, Christ is called the strength or power of God,” Bernard preaches, “on the other, the angel: the angel only nominally, but Christ substantively as well.” [7]
Theological Tutor
Saint Gabriel deserves special attention in our thoughts and imagination because he is a stern but merciful teacher of theology done rightly. When he visits the Levite priest Zachary, the archangel announces the good news that he is to be the father of the Forerunner of the Messiah despite his age and that of his wife. Zachary, however, perhaps puffed up on his pedigreed learning, balks. “Whereby shall I know this?” he asks. “For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1, 18). Zachary’s question springs from doubt rather than faith; the message of God does not fit into his paradigm of what he thinks he knows, and so he is apt to reject it. Consequently, Gabriel rebukes him:
And the angel answering, said to him: ‘I am Gabriel, who stand before God: and am sent to speak to thee, and to bring thee these good tidings. And behold, thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be able to speak until the day wherein these things shall come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which shall be fulfilled in their time’ (Luke 1, 19-20).
James Tissot, "The Vision of Zacharias," 1886-1894
Gabriel’s next apparition is to a fifteen-year-old girl in Nazareth named Mary. When he announces a far more momentous event, that she will be the Mother of God, the simple maiden too asks a question: “How shall this be done, because I know not man?” (Luke 1:34). Mary knows how the birds and bees work, and she also knows (according to St. Thomas Aquinas)[8] that she has made a vow of perpetual virginity. She does not doubt the angel, but she bravely asks a question of a different order: in light of what I hold, how will things (which I know by faith will come to pass) come to pass?
Rather than punish her, the angel rewards her with an answer. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee,” he explains, “and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Leonardo da Vinci, "The Annunciation," ca. 1472
God does not mind when we ask pressing questions: as St. John Henry Newman famously stated, a thousand questions do not add up to a single doubt. The key is whether our questions are an outgrowth of faith seeking understanding (fides quaerens intellectum) or an attempt to undermine the faith in light of our own fancy druthers. St. Gabriel’s schooling of Zachary and Mary offers an invaluable lesson in how to do, and how not to do, Catholic theology. All Catholic theologians, I submit, can be divided into two categories: Zecharian theologians whose uncertainties dead end into heresy and apostasy, and Marian theologians who push the envelope but never doubt the first principles of the Faith. Thanks be to God, Zachary learned his lesson the hard way, and we pray that his modern counterparts will do the same.
Patronages
As the most important messenger in the history of the universe, the Archangel Gabriel is the patron saint of a wide array of trades and hobbies that involve communication. The heavenly herald is a patron of broadcasters, communication workers, diplomats, information workers, messengers, military signals, postal workers, radio, telecommunications, telegraphs, telephones, and television. And if the angel is a patron of postal workers, why not stamp collectors? Hence Gabriel is the protector and promoter of philatelists.
What is less clear is why St. Gabriel is invoked against rheumatism. Perhaps the angel’s alacrity in carrying messages back and forth from Heaven gave hope to people suffering from bad joints, or perhaps artistic portrayals of Gabriel genuflecting limberly before the Virgin were a similar source of inspiration.
The Feast
Angels were added to the Church calendar gradually. In A.D. 530, Pope Boniface II consecrated a basilica in Michael’s honor on the Salarian Way about seven miles from Rome, with the ceremonies beginning on the evening of September 29 and ending the following day. Subsequent celebrations of this dedication were held first on September 30 and later on September 29. In the traditional calendar, “Michaelmas,” as it is also called, maintains the official title “The Dedication of Saint Michael the Archangel,” even though the basilica it commemorates disappeared over a thousand years ago.

Michaelmas also commemorates all the heavenly hosts (including Gabriel and Raphael by name in the Divine Office), but the primary focus is on St. Michael. Over time, the Church began to see the wisdom of singling out particular angels for liturgical veneration. In 1670, Pope Clement X included the Feast of the Guardian Angels on October 2 of the universal calendar, the first available day after Michaelmas. And in 1921, Pope Benedict XV added separate feasts celebrating the divine missions of the Archangels Gabriel and Raphael, the latter on October 24 and the former on March 24.
Pope Benedict XV
The Holy Father’s rationale is worthy of reflection. According to the official annals of the Holy See, Benedict XV acted “in compliance with the hopes and wishes of many bishops” and “was deeply moved by their specific, valid arguments.” In consultation with the Sacred Congregation of Rites, he authorized a mandatory Office and Mass for the Feasts of the Holy Family, Gabriel, and Raphael. “It escapes no one’s notice,” he writes,
how right and salutary (aequum et salutare) it is for the domestic family and for society itself to foster and propagate the association of the Holy Family that has been established by the Apostolic See, strengthened by laws, and honored with indulgences and special privileges for sodalities and parishes—and, with this same end in mind, to worship and celebrate the Holy Family of Nazareth in the universal Church through a particular liturgical rite and with a continual and fruitful meditation on their kindnesses and imitation of their virtues.
The Pope continues:
It is no less fitting as well, for the increase of piety and of actual association with the Holy Family, to commemorate with religious celebration the divine mission of both Archangels, namely, Saint Gabriel for announcing the mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation, and Saint Raphael, whose kindnesses bestowed on the family of Tobias are described in the Sacred Scriptures.[9]
The feast instituted by Pope Benedict XV is a great gift to the Church: the Divine Office draws the faithfuls’ attention to his appearance in the Book of Daniel as well as his disciplining of Zachary in the Gospel according to Saint Luke, which is nowhere highlighted properly elsewhere in the liturgical year, old or new. Drawing from a sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (which is in the Matins readings), the Collect of the Mass focuses on a wondrous fact: that of all the billions of angels created by God, Gabriel was chosen from all eternity to announce the mystery of the Divine Incarnation:
O God, who among all the other angels didst choose the Archangel Gabriel to announce the mystery of Thine Incarnation, grant kindly: that we who celebrate his feast on earth may feel his very patronage in Heaven. Thou who livest.
The Postcommunion Prayer for the Mass is likewise instructive:
Having partaken of the mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, O Lord our God, we beseech Thy clemency: that as we know that Gabriel announced Thine Incarnation, so too with his help, may we obtain the benefits of the same Incarnation. Thou who livest.
The Postcommunion artfully connect the archangel’s message to the Incarnation in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Incarnation that happens at every valid celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We address Jesus Christ in this prayer (as we did at the Collect) as the Person who became Incarnate for our sake, at the announcement of his servant Gabriel. But the fact of the Incarnation is one thing, the benefits thereof another. The demons figured out that God became man, but it did not profit them. We pray that the (non-fallen) angel who helped bring out the Incarnation will help us benefit from its effects.
The Novus Ordo
In the 1969 Roman Missal, September 29 is the combined “Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels.” No official reason was given for what Dr. Peter Kwasniewski calls an “almost rabid smushing together” of feasts [10] (as opposed to the archipelagic clustering mentioned earlier), but it may have had something to do with the antiquarian tendencies of Archbishop Bugnini and his colleagues, who disdained relatively recent additions to the calendar. Whatever the reason, it was, in our view, an unhelpful reduction, and for four reasons.

First, it is more appropriate to honor St. Gabriel on March 24 than in late September. So what if for most of the history of the Roman Rite Gabriel was indirectly honored only on Michaelmas? The Ethiopian Church has honored Gabriel with his own feast for centuries, the Coptic Church honors him with three feasts, and the Byzantine Rite does with two. (In the latter, one of the feasts falls on March 26, the day after the Annunciation.) For Rome to give Gabriel his own feast on the eve of the Annunciation is a no-brainer, and for Rome to annul this long overdue development (which is in keeping with the other apostolic churches) forty-seven years later is lamentable and, we might add, hardly ecumenical.
Second, it is beneficial to meditate on the nature and ministries of the angels, especially in a materialist age such as ours that forgets or denies a vast unseen spiritual world and the countless invisible acts of angelic mediation that are taking place right now in the realms of both nature and supernature. Peppering the calendar with commemorations of angels heightens “angel awareness” throughout the year, and that is good.
Third—and continuing with the topic of angelic ministries—having different feasts for different angels is fitting because different angels have different missions, as the Scriptures make clear. The Church reserves a day to celebrate all the Saints in Heaven (November 1), but she still observes individual saints’ days in order to honor their peculiar talents and graces. Similarly, the Church can institute an All Angels’ Day if she wishes (which I am not recommending since Michaelmas arguably fulfills this function in both calendars), but she should still honor some angels on other days.
Fourth, the family is arguably under assault like never before, and it needs all the resources it can get. If Pope Benedict XV was right in his belief that devotion to Gabriel increases devotion to the Holy Family (and we believe he was), then the calendar is now less effective in “increasing piety” and tightening our bonds to the “association” of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. And that is not good for the family or for society. 
Let us pray that Saint Gabriel the Archangel is once again given the honor he is due by the people of God—before he blows his horn.

This article appears in the 2022 Winter/Spring issue of The Latin Mass magazine. Many thanks to the editors of TLM for its republication here.

Notes
[1] In the Novus Ordo calendar, a similar batching occurs by moving Monica’s feast day to August 27, the day before the Feast of St. Augustine. It is, however, less appropriate, for Monica is closely tied to Augustine’s conversion rather than his death, which occurred four decades after hers.
[2] In the book of Tobias / Tobit, Raphael states that he is one of the seven Angels “who stand before the Lord” (12, 15). Filling in the blanks, Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Christians identify the other four Archangels as Uriel, Jegudiel or Jehudiel, Selaphiel or Salathiel, and Barachiel. The names of these angels, however, are taken from Jewish and Christian apocrypha and not from the Bible.
[3] Homily 32, 8-9.
[4] See Hugh Pope, “St. Gabriel the Archangel,” The Catholic Encyclopedia,. vol. 6. (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909), 23 Jan. 2022.
[5] See the Lauds Hymn Placare, Christe, Servulis.
[6] Homily 32, 8-9.
[7] Homily 1 on Missus est, 2, trans. mine.
[8] See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III.28.4.
[9] AAS 13 (1921), 543, trans. mine.
[10] Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Angelico Press, 2017), 222.

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