Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Byzantine Paschal Hour

In the Roman Rite, the minor Hours of Easter and its octave are celebrated according to a very simple and archaic form, which consists solely of the psalmody, the antiphon Haec dies, and the prayer, with the usual introduction and conclusion. (Haec dies is labeled as an “antiphon” in the Breviary, but it is identical to the first part of the gradual sung at Mass each day of Easter week, and is called a gradual in the liturgical books of some other Uses.) This is said from Prime of Easter Sunday to None of the following Saturday. An analogous form is used at Compline, which consists of just the psalmody, an antiphon of four Allelujas, the Nunc dimittis, the Haec dies and the prayer, again, with the usual introduction and conclusion.

The Byzantine Rite observes a very similar practice; from Prime of Easter Sunday to None of Bright Saturday, the minor Hours, including Compline and the Midnight Office, are all sung according to the same brief and highly simplified form, without varying any part of the text from one Hour to another. This form is meant to be sung by the choir, whereas normally, the minor Hours are done by a single reader, with the priest saying the opening and closing formulas, and the doxologies (e.g. “For thine is the kingdom…” after the Lord’s Prayer.)

After the brief introduction “Blessed is Our God …”, the Paschal troparion is sung three times. “Christ is risen from the dead, having trampled down death by death, and bestowed life upon those in the tombs.” Another hymn is also sung three times. “Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless one. We worship Thy Cross, O Christ, and we sing of and glorify Thy holy Resurrection; for Thou art our God, beside Thee we know none other, we call upon Thy name. Come, all ye faithful, let us worship Christ’s holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross joy hath come to all the world. In all things blessing the Lord, we sing of His Resurrection; for, having endured the Cross for our sake, by death He hath destroyed death.”

There follows another hymn called a hypakoë, which is sung once. “Coming with Mary before the dawn, and finding the stone rolled away from the tomb, the women heard from the Angel, “Why do you seek among the dead Him That liveth in everlasting light, as though He were (merely) a man? See the grave-clothes, run and proclaim to the world that the Lord is risen and hath slain death; for He is the Son of God Who saveth the race of men.”

In the Byzantine Rite, the second Sunday after Easter is dedicated to the Myrrh-bearing Women; the Gospel is St Mark’s account of the burial of Christ, followed by their discovery of the empty tomb (15, 43 – 16, 8.)
Then the kontakion of Easter is sung. “Though Thou didst descend into the grave, o Immortal One, yet Thou didst destroy the power of Hades, and arise as victor, Christ God, calling out to the myrrh-bearing women, ‘Rejoice!’ and giving peace to Thy Apostles, Thou Who grantest resurrection to the fallen.”

This is followed by a series of three troparia, sung with the doxology; the concluding hymn of such a series is always about the Mother of God.

“In the grave bodily, but in Hades with Thy soul as God; in Paradise with the thief, and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit wast Thou, o Christ, who fillest all things, uncircumscribed. – Glory to the Father…
How life-giving, how much more beautiful than Paradise, and truly more resplendent than any royal palace was Thy tomb shown to be, O Christ, the source of our resurrection. – Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
O sanctified and divine tabernacle of the Most High, rejoice! For through thee, o Mother of God, joy is given to them that cry out, ‘Blessed art thou among women, o Lady immaculate.’ ”

The Paschal Hour concludes with a slightly shorter form of the regular conclusion, which includes the text of the Paschal troparion. “Lord, have mercy (forty times). Glory to the Father… More honorable than the Cherubim, and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim, who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, the very Mother of God; we magnify Thee. Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen. Christ is risen from the dead, having trampled down death by death, and bestowed life upon those in the tombs (three times). Glory to the Father… Lord, have mercy (three times). O Lord, give the blessing. Thou that didst rise from the dead, O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, for the sake of the prayers of Thy most pure Mother, of our holy and God-bearing fathers, and all the saints, have mercy on us and save us, for Thou art good and the Lover of mankind. Amen.”

For those who follow the Julian calendar, today is Bright Saturday, and the last day on which this form of the Hours is used. In the following video, recorded yesterday at the monastery of St Michael in Kyiv, Ukraine, the Paschal Hours begins at 4:40, followed by the Divine Liturgy. (This complex is traditionally known as the Golden-Domed Monastery; see picture below. There doesn’t appear to be a Greek version available on YouTube.)

Image from Wikimedia Commons by Rbrechko, CC BY-SA 4.0

Friday, April 29, 2022

The Tomb of St Peter Martyr in Milan’s Portinari Chapel

Here are some great photos from our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi of the Portinari Chapel at the Basilica of St Eustorgio in Milan. They were taken during a special night-time opening made possible by a new lighting system; as one might well imagine, the Italians are extraordinarily good at this sort of thing, and more and more museums throughout the country are now offering occasional visits in the evening or night. The chapel is famous as the place where the relics of St Peter Martyr are housed in a large medieval “ark”, which, as noted several years ago in a guest article by our friend Dr Donald Prudlo, was designed so that the faithful could pass under it to touch and kiss it.

The ark of St Peter Martyr was carved by Giovanni di Balduccio in 1339, but has only been in the Portinari Chapel since the 18th century. The major panels on the front show St Peter’s funeral, his canonization, and a posthumous miracle by which he saves a ship in danger.

On the back, St Peter heals a mute, causes a cloud to cover the sun while he preaches outdoors, and heals a sick man and an epileptic.
This inscription records the praises of St Peter by his confrere St Thomas Aquinas. “When St Thomas Aquinas had visited the grave of St Peter as he was traveling to France in the year 1265, wondering at so great a martyr, he said ‘A herald, lantern, fighter for Christ, for the people and for the faith, here rests, here is covered, here lies, wickedly murdered. A sweet voice to the sheep, a most pleasing light of spirits, and sword of the Word, fell by the sword of the Cathars. Christ makes him marvelous, the devout people adore him, and the Faith which he kept by martyrdom adorns him as a Saint. But Christ makes new signs speak, and new light is given to the crowd, and the Faith spread (thereby) shines in this city.”
The dome and vaults of the chapel, painted by Vincenzo Foppa from 1464-68. 
On the left, the miracle of the cloud; on the right, a very famous apparition in which the devil appeared to St Peter in the guise of Virgin, but was driven off when St Peter showed him a Eucharistic Host and told the apparition, “If you are truly the Mother of God, then adore your Son!”

Professions of Faith: the Perennial Value of Ceremony, According to the Angelic Doctor

Solemn High Mass, St. Stanislaus Church, New Haven, Connecticut, 2013

Among the religions of the world, Christianity stands out for its concern for—one might even say obsession about—the truth. [1] Whereas the other two great monotheistic creeds of the West, Judaism and Islam, focus on a right observance of the Law (orthopraxy), the critical controversies of Christianity have been over the right beliefs (orthodoxy). [2] Our phrase “an iota’ worth of difference” comes from the period after the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325), when the bishops of the world agonized over whether Jesus Christ was truly God (homoousios) or merely godlike (homoiousios). The entire identity of the Faith hinged on whether the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet should be added to the middle of a word; there is literally one iota of difference between orthodoxy and heresy, yet that iota makes all the difference.

Christianity’s fixation on truth would seem to put it at odds with a strict observance of ceremony. Judging by the paucity of ceremonial detail in the New Testament, one might be tempted to conclude that it is irrelevant to Christian practice and perhaps even detrimental to it. It is not difficult to think of rubrical exactitude as a Pharisaical prissiness that strains gnats and hardens hearts. Or worse, perhaps religious ceremony misleads the faithful into thinking that a mere pro forma performance of a ritual is adequate for salvation, that redemption is wrought like some kind of witchcraft or voodoo. Such, at least, appears to be the opinion of many free-church Protestants, and it is arguable that some version of anti-ceremonialism was in the drinking water of Catholic liturgical reform a half-century ago.

So where does ceremony fit in a religion which has as its primary aim the Truth and the double love of God and neighbor and not conformity to a particular code of rituals? Does the Good News disdain ceremonialism as legalistic and Pharisaical or as something akin to works righteousness and superstition? Does it tolerate ritual if only kept to a bare minimum, or does it embrace ritual splendor enthusiastically? To answer these questions, let us heed the admonition of Pope Pius XI and go to Saint Thomas Aquinas and to his Summa Theologiae (henceforth ST). [3] It is there that we will find a clear yet rather surprising assessment of ceremony in light of the New Law promulgated by the Son of God.
St Thomas Aquinas, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, ca. 1486
The Meaning of Matthew 5, 17-18
In Matthew 5, 17-18, our Lord states that He has come not to abolish but to fulfill every jot (iota) and tittle of the Law. Since the Law obviously contains ceremonial precepts, perhaps the Son of Man is implying that the Christian life will continue, albeit in modified form, the requirements of Jewish ritual observance.
But as Saint Thomas notes, Jesus Christ’s remark, as well as the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount in which it is found, concerns the moral precepts of the Old Law such as the Ten Commandments rather than the ceremonial precepts, which regulate Israel’s external worship of the Lord God. Christ’s statement does not apply to the ceremonial precepts, for by fulfilling them He did abolish them. (ST 1, ad 4) The ceremonial precepts, such as the rubrics for Temple liturgy and the rules governing ritual purity, were designed by God to foreshadow the coming of the Messiah. Once the Messiah has come, these precepts are automatically nullified: indeed, Aquinas goes so far as to state that observing the ceremonies of the Old Law after the time of Christ’s Passion is a mortal sin (see ST I-II.103.4). The reason for this is that unlike the moral precepts, which are reflected in the natural law and are therefore perennially valid, the ceremonial precepts have the character of a promise, and once a promise is fulfilled, it no longer exists. (ST 1) Persisting in the practice of the old Hebrew rites is therefore tantamount to denying that God has kept His promise to Abraham and the fathers in the person of Jesus Christ. It also smacks of that “works righteousness” to which St Paul was so adamantly opposed. [4]
Joshua Passing the River Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant, by Benjamin West, (cropped), 1800
Further, Aquinas is equally clear about the salvific value of certain Christian ceremonies. God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, instituted the seven sacraments whereby we obtain grace, but the rest He left to the discretion of the Church. (see ST I-II.108.2) And although the things that the Church declares sacred are indeed sacred, such as a church building or an altar or the celebration of a feast, they do not in themselves give grace:
In the sacraments of the New Law grace is bestowed, which cannot be received except through Christ: consequently they had to be instituted by Him. But in the sacred things no grace is given: for instance, in the consecration of a temple, an altar or the like, or, again, in the celebration of feasts. Wherefore Our Lord left the institution of such things to the discretion of the faithful, since they have not of themselves any necessary connection with inward grace. (ST 2)
A small side note. I am struck by the precision of Thomas’ language: the institution of sacred things outside the seven canonical sacraments is left to the discretion not of the Magisterium or the clergy alone but of the faithful as well (fideles). Put simply, the laity also play a role in determining what is sacred and what is not. When a Vatican office or even an ecumenical Council ignores the sensus fidelium and rules on the sacred by fiat alone, does it act in accord with this principle?
Rationale for Ceremony
St. Thomas’ rejection of the ongoing observance of the ceremonies of the Old Law leads one to wonder if there should be any ceremonial observances apart from or added to the seven sacraments after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Saint Thomas, however, answers that there should be, and for three reasons.
Marcus Aurelius (head covered) sacrificing at the Temple of Jupiter. Bas-relief from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, now in the Capitoline Museums.
First, because it is morally obligatory—obligatory not in the sense that specific ceremonies are prescribed by the natural law but in the sense that the general precepts of the natural law need to be determined or specified by additional human or divine legislation; and one of those general precepts is to practice the virtue of religion. Citing Cicero, Aquinas identifies the virtue of religion as one that offers worship and ceremony to God. (see ST I-II.99.3.obj 2) Therefore, while this virtue does not require this or that particular ceremony, it does require that some ceremony be a part of religious practice. (see ST 2) Today we tend to draw a sharp line between the subjects of morality and liturgy or morality and the sacraments, but no such lines exist in the writings of Saint Thomas. In fact, Aquinas’ ethics has been called a “liturgical morality.” [5]
Second, man creates and observes ceremony because it is natural—again, not in the sense that this or that ceremony springs from nature but in the sense that ceremonies as a whole stem from a need inherent in human nature. “Since man is composed of soul and body,” Saint Thomas explains, he needs both external and internal worship, with the external ordered to the internal. (ST I-II.101.2) Good Aristotelian that he is, Aquinas holds that as human beings we ascend to the intelligible through the sensible. This ascent is not obliterated by the gift of supernatural faith; on the contrary, grace presupposes nature, healing and elevating it. Rather than eliminate man’s basic need for external gestures, Christianity fulfills that need with appropriate ceremony. Citing Pseudo-Dionysius, Saint Thomas argues that “the things of God cannot be manifested to men except by means of sensible similitudes.” (ST 3) The sensible similitudes developed by the Church are therefore an essential part of Christian life and understanding. “All ceremonies,” Aquinas writes, “are professions of faith.” (ST I-II.103.4)
Third, Christian ceremony is essential because of our place in sacred history. During the time before Christ, ceremonies foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah as well as the glory of Heaven. In Heaven itself and at the end of time, there will be a divine liturgy [6]—indeed, that is all there will be—but it will have no ceremonies, insofar as there will be no physical similitudes (corporeal gestures, paraphernalia, etc.) mediating our encounter with God. (see ST I-II.101.2) We, the current Church militant, on the other hand, live in between these two times, and so long as the Church militant remains on this world-pilgrimage, she should have ceremonies testifying to Christ’s first coming as well as anticipating the state of the Blessed. Hence Saint Thomas writes that after the Old Law fulfilled its purpose, “other ceremonies had to be introduced which would be in keeping with the state of divine worship for that particular time, in which heavenly goods are a thing of the future, but the Divine favours by which we obtain the heavenly boons are a thing of the present.” (ST I-II.103.3) Aquinas also comments that it is God’s will that these ceremonies should come not from Divine Law only but, as we have noted previously, “from the discretion of the faithful” as well. (ST 2)
Principles of Good Ceremony: The Seed of the Old Law
From the Summa Theologiae we may also cull several operating principles behind good Christian ceremonies. First, although Christian ceremonies should not be a slavish repetition of the Hebrew, it is nevertheless appropriate that they stand in some relation to the ritual and liturgical life of ancient Israel. Aquinas compares the relationship between the Old Law and the New to that of a seed and a tree or an ear and its corn. (ST I-II.107.3) There is obviously a great difference between a seed and a tree, but they also share an affinity and a continuity and a principle of identity as well. In terms of external worship, the early Church did not replicate the altar of incense in the Holy Temple, but she has used incense in her own way. She did not duplicate the High Priest’s vestments and ephod, but she has embraced the practice of sacred vestments with a style all her own (indeed, several styles varying with time, place, and liturgical patrimony). And she did not face west when she offered sacrifice like the Levites on the Temple Mount, but she did adopt the concept of directional prayer by facing east and orienting her altars accordingly. [7] While servile reproduction is forbidden, resourceful and prudent development is an entirely different matter. [8]
The High Priest Offering Incense at the Altar, from Henry Davenport Northrop’s “Treasures of the Bible,” 1894
The example that Aquinas gives is how the “solemnities of the Old Law are supplanted by new solemnities” in the liturgical year. The Lord’s Day replaces the Sabbath. Good Friday and Easter replace the Passover. Pentecost or Whitsunday replaces the Jewish Festival of Weeks, or Shavu’ot. Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, replaces the monthly feast of the New Moon, or Rosh Chodesh, for it is with the Annunciation that there “appeared the first rays of the sun, i.e. Christ, by the fulness of grace.” The feasts of the Apostles replace the Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah. The feasts of martyrs and confessors replace the Feast of Expiation, Yom Kippur. Feasts celebrating the commemoration of a Church replace the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, or Sukkot. Michaelmas, or the Feast of the Angels, and All Saints’ Day replace the feast of the Eighth Day of Assembly, Shemini Atzeret. (ST 4)
The Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, by Francesco Hayez, 1867
The 1962 Roman Missal provides additional examples of this principle. The September Embertide hearkens to the Feast of Tabernacles and to Yom Kippur, not only by virtue of the time of the year during which it takes place but by its biblical readings. And the same can be said for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, which echoes the Jewish fast day of Tisha B'Av that commemorates the Roman destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. In the Gospel reading for the Ninth Sunday (which like Tisha B’av occurs sometime in July or August), our Lord sheds tears over Jerusalem’s fate after coming from the Mount of Olives, the spot where, more than thirty years later, the Roman legions would commence their devastating campaign against the holy city. By remembering the Destruction of the Temple in this way, the Church offers not only a sober reminder of divine justice and the need for our repentance and conversion, but she also locates our pilgrimage within sacred history and connects our lives to it.
Type and Antitype
Second, the relationship between the ceremonies of the Old Law and the New should be seen in light of biblical types and antitypes. In Catholic thought, a “type” is a person or event or thing in the Old Testament that serves as the foreshadowing of a reality revealed in the New Testament, called the “antitype.” According to this reading of the Bible, which has animated the Church’s exegesis since the days of Saint Paul, it is not simply various prophecies here and there that foretell the Christ event; it is virtually every verse. The Flood and Noah’s ark, for instance, are not simply an example of God’s anger and mercy but an anticipation of the sacrament of Baptism. (1 Pet. 3, 20-21) The Sacrifice of Isaac does not simply reveal Abraham’s great faith but God’s ultimate solution to the problem of sin, the sacrifice of His own miraculously-born-according-to-a-promise, only-begotten Son. And the Exodus story about manna from heaven is, like the Gospel miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, not simply an instance of divine compassion but a type or figure of the Eucharist.
The Deluge, by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1864
To return, then, to ceremony. For Saint Thomas, the Levitical precepts have both a literal and a figurative meaning or “cause”; that is, there is both a historical or practical reason behind a particular ceremony as well as a spiritual or figurative or mystical explanation. (ST I-II.102.2) Moreover, the same can and should be said of the ceremonies of the New Covenant. The Levitical rites foreshadowed, or were types of, both Christ and our future glory in Heaven. The rites of the New Covenant, on the other hand, are both types of our future glory as well as antitypes of Old Testament figures, reminders of the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham; (ST I-II.101.2) and the Eucharist itself is a figure or representation of our Lord’s Passion. (ST 2). Like the Holy Bible and like sacred architecture, good liturgical worship is woven of things with figurative or typological significance, a fact that is abundantly clear when studying the traditional Roman rite and the Eastern rites of the Church.
Moderate but Splendid
Third, the new Christian ceremonies and observances should be hearty but not burdensome. In comparison to the Old Law, which prescribed numerous outward acts, the New Law of Christ and the Apostles “added very few precepts to those of the natural law, although afterwards some were added, through being instituted by the holy Fathers. Even in these,” Aquinas continues, “Augustine says that moderation should be observed, lest good conduct should become a burden to the faithful.” (ST I-II.107.4)
To offer a few examples: Instead of a long litany of dietary prescriptions, the Church only has us abstain from flesh meat on Fridays and a few other days of the year. Instead of specific instructions about dress and hair, she only says that both sexes should comport themselves modestly and, traditionally, that certain customs regarding headdress be observed in church. (And even when these precepts were more faithfully observed prior to the Second Vatican Council, they still admitted of exceptions and numerous variations based on local circumstance. ) And instead of prescribed rituals for every significant event in the year, the Church provides optional various blessings in the Rituale Romanum (to which we will turn next week).
Saint Thomas’ sense of moderation in ceremony, however, should not be confused with a Gnostic or Manichean disdain for externals, a rationalist intolerance of “useless repetitions,” a pragmatic obsession with efficiency, utility, and time management, or a Puritanical “simplicity” that eschews the gratuitous and effervescent splendor of beauty in sacred worship. When commenting on the Mass, for example, Aquinas writes that “since the whole mystery of our salvation is comprised in this sacrament, therefore is it performed with greater solemnity than the other sacraments.” (ST III.83.4)
That solemnity includes (which Aquinas goes on to defend and explain) an elaborate series of rituals beginning with the Introit that are designed to render the faithful more fit for and open to participation in the divine. Although a priest can validly consecrate bread and wine without the sacred and inessential ritual accoutrements added by the Church, he would be wrong to do so. Indeed, Aquinas concludes, such a priest “is guilty of grave sin in not following the rite of the Church.” (ST 8)
Thanksgiving, by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, 1914
Bias Against Change
Fourth, ceremonies not instituted directly by God may continue to develop or be altered, (ST III.83.4) but with due respect for tradition and human psychology. In response to the question “whether human law should always be changed whenever something better occurs,” Aquinas replies in the negative. Saint Thomas begins by citing a passage from the Decretals: “It is absurd, and a detestable shame, that we should suffer those traditions to be changed which we have received from the fathers of old.” [10] From there he notes that although it is good to change positive law when such “change is conducive to the common weal,” it should also be borne in mind that
to a certain extent, the mere change of law is of itself prejudicial to the common good: because custom avails much for the observance of laws, seeing that what is done contrary to general custom, even in slight matters, is looked upon as grave. Consequently, when a law is changed, the binding power of the law is diminished, in so far as custom is abolished. (ST I-II.97.2)
The mere fact of change, in other words, has a destabilizing effect, even if the change is objectively for the better; for changing the law undermines respect for the law. Therefore, great discretion is to be observed in this matter, with a bias in favor of leaving things as they are. In these passages Saint Thomas is writing of civic law, and so we may imagine how much more he would apply this principle to laws and rubrics regulating the sacred. Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, for example, once described what happens when this Thomistic principle is scuttled:
The different phases of liturgical reform have let the opinion be introduced that the liturgy can be changed arbitrarily. From being something unchangeable, in any case, it is a question of the words of consecration; all the rest could be changed. The following thinking is logical: If a central authority can do this, why not a local one? And if the local ones can do this, why not the community itself? [11]
Ratzinger goes on to describe this easygoing itch for change as a recipe for introducing New Age ideologies into the worship of the Church.
We began this essay with a brief consideration of Christianity’s unique purchase on orthodoxy, the correct grasp of matters pertaining to faith and morals. Yet as Cardinal Ratzinger points out in the same speech, the word ortho-doxy means not only right opinion but “right glorying.” To be orthodox is not simply to believe the right things: it is “to know and practice the right way in which God wants to be glorified.” [12] Therefore, even though the orthodox Christian life can never be reduced to a “code of rituals,” the very essence of orthodoxy refers “to the cult [cultus, worship] and, based on the cult, to life.” Man’s ultimate joy, Saint Augustine reminds us at the beginning of his Confessions, is to praise God, and that praise inescapably involves a ritual and ceremonial ordering. We even have a term for such formal, solemn, and vivacious professions of faith: sacred liturgy.
This article, which first appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of The Latin Mass magazine, has been since updated. Many thanks to the editors of TLM for allowing its publication here. For a more scholarly treatment of this topic, see Michael P. Foley, “Rituale Romanum: Fulfilling the Jots and Tittles,” in Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal 15:1 (2011), pp. 78-91.
[1] This article was adapted from a previously published essay, “Rituale Romanum: Fulfilling the Jots and Tittles,” Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal 15:1 (2011), pp. 78-91.
[2] This also applies to some religions of the East. See Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “Relativism: The Central Problem for Faith Today,” May 1996,
[3] Pope Pius XI, Studiorum Ducem 28.
[4] See Rom 3, 20; 3, 27-28; Gal 2, 16; 3, 2-5; 3, 10-14; Tit 3, 5.
[5] See Thomas Harmon, “The Efficacy of the Sacraments for Christian Living,” Antiphon 14.3 (2010), pp. 247-260.
[6] That is, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb variously described in the Book of Revelation.
[7] See Rev. Uwe Michael Lang, Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009).
[8] I add the qualifier “servile” to signify a certain kind of replication or reproduction, the kind that replicates an act in conscious subjection to the requirements of the Old Law. The replication of a Levitical practice is not per se sinful. A Christian can dine exclusively on a kosher diet, as long as he is not doing so for religious reasons; and a Christian boy can be circumcised as long as the reason is medical or cultural, not as a necessary sign of the covenant between God and Abraham.
[9] St Thomas, for instance, teaches that a woman who lives in a place where women do not cover their heads in church does not sin when she follows this local custom rather than the admonition of St Paul (I Cor 11:5-10), “although,” he adds, “such a custom is not to be commended.” (ST II-II.169.2) For some of the (amusing) exceptions to, or rather interpretations of, abstinence from flesh meat, see Michael P. Foley, “Fish on Friday: The One That Got Away,” The Latin Mass 19:3 (Summer/Fall 2010), pp. 43-44.
[10] Decretals, Dist. xii.5, quoted in ST I-II.97.2.sed contra.
[11] “Relativism.”
[12] “Relativism.”

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Holy Thursday 2022 Photopost (Part 1)

We continue with our regular series of photoposts of your liturgies of the Triduum. As is usually the case, it’s a slow process to gather all the albums together, select the photos among the larger albums, size them down, etc., which means there is plenty of time to send more in to, remembering to include the name and location of the church, and any other information you think important. As always, many thanks to the contributors for keeping up the good work of evangelizing through beauty.

Oratory of Ss Cyril and Methodius – Bridgeport, Connecticut (ICRSP)
The stripping of the altar
The Mandatum

A Medieval Hymn for Eastertide

Many medieval breviaries, including those of the Sarum Use, the Cistercians, Carmelites and Premonstratensians, have a hymn for the Easter season which is not found in the Roman Breviary, Chorus novae Jerusalem by St Fulbert, bishop of Chartres, who died in 1029. The original version of the Latin text, and the English translation of John Mason Neale (1867), are given below. In this recording, the monks of the French abbey of Ligugé sing the revised version which Dom Anselmo Lentini made for the Liturgy of Hours; the differences are explained in the notes below the table.

Chorus novae Jerusalem,
Novam meli dulcedinem,
Promat, colens cum sobriis
Paschale festum gaudiis.
Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem!
To sweet new strains attune your theme;
The while we keep, from care releas’d,
With sober joy our Paschal Feast:
Quo Christus, invictus leo

Dracone surgens obruto
Dum voce viva personat
A morte functos excitat.
When Christ, Who spake the Dragon’s
Rose, Victor-Lion, from the tomb,
That while with living voice He cries,
The dead of other years might rise.
Quam devorarat improbus
Praedam refudit tartarus;
Captivitate libera
Jesum sequuntur agmina.
Engorg’d in former years, their prey
Must Death and Hell restore to-day:
And many a captive soul, set free,
With Jesus leaves captivity.
Triumphat ille splendide,
Et dignus amplitudine,
Soli polique patriam
Unam facit rempublicam
Right gloriously He triumphs now,
Worthy to Whom should all things bow;
And, joining heaven and earth again,
Links in one commonweal the twain.
Ipsum canendo supplices,
Regem precemur milites
Ut in suo clarissimo
Nos ordinet palatio.
And we, as these His deeds we sing,
His suppliant soldiers, pray our King,
That in His Palace, bright and vast,
We may keep watch and ward at last.
Esto perenne mentibus
Paschale, Jesu, gaudium,
Et nos renatos gratiae
Tuis triumphis aggrega.

(in the recording, but not in the
original text)
Per saecla metae nescia
Patri supremo gloria,
Honorque sit cum Filio
Et Spiritu Paraclito. Amen.
Long as unending ages run,
To God the Father laud be done;
To God the Son our equal praise,
And God the Holy Ghost, we raise.

A literal translation of the hymn’s first two lines would read “Let the choir of the new Jerusalem bring forth the new sweetness of a song.” The word “meli – song” is the genitive singular form of the Greek word “melos” (as in “melody”); this is unusual in Latin, and the line was emended in various ways. The Premonstratensians, e.g., changed it to “nova melos dulcedine – Let the choir of the new Jerusalem bring forth a song with new sweetness.” Dom Lentini disturbed the original text less by changing it to “Hymni novam dulcedinem – the new sweetness of a hymn.”

This manuscript of the mid-11th century (British Library, Cotton Vesp. d. xii; folio 74v, image cropped), is one of the two oldest with the text of this hymn.
Unfortunately, he then decided to remove altogether the original doxology, which is unique to this hymn, in favor of his re-written version of the double doxology used at most hymns of the Easter season.

Esto perenne mentibus
Paschale, Jesu, gaudium,
Et nos renatos gratiae
Tuis triumphis aggrega.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui morte victa praenites,
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula.

“Be to our minds the endless joy of Easter, o Jesus, and join us, reborn of grace, to Thy triumphs. – Jesus, to Thee be glory, who shinest forth, death being conquered, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto eternal ages.”

It is not difficult to figure out the rationale behind this change, since it appears in other features of the reform as well. As the wise Fr Hunwicke noted two years ago, “The post-Conciliar reforms made much of Easter being 50 days long and being one single Great Day of Feast. They renamed the Sundays as ‘of Easter’ rather than ‘after Easter’, and chucked out the old collects for the Sundays after Easter ... because they didn’t consider them ‘Paschal’ enough.” (The “old” collects to which he refers are all found in the Gelasian Sacramentary in the same places they have in the Missal of St Pius V.) Likewise, St Fulbert’s original conclusion makes no direct reference to Easter. For further reference, see these articles about the supposed restoration of the 50 days of Easter:

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

A Qualified Defense of St Pius X’s Breviary Reform

Recent events have provoked a good deal of discussion in various fora about papal actions in matters of liturgical reform. In several of these discussions, and indeed, on articles here on NLM, the contention has been made that St Pius X’s significant reform of the breviary was, as it were, the breaching of the fortress, leading to further and highly deleterious reforms. It is not my purpose here to refute any of these contentions, least of all, those of my esteemed colleague Dr Kwasniewski. I intend rather to outline some important qualifiers in the light of which this reform needs to be understood, and particularly, understood as something very different, in kind, and not in degree, from the reforms that came after it. It is also not my purpose to claim that every aspect of this reform was perfect, or done as well as it might have been, or even necessary. I have always considered the whole project to be an imperfect solution to an intractable problem.

Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
The essence of the reform was the re-ordering of the very ancient Roman arrangement of the weekly psalter. I described the original order and its rearrangement in detail in my series of article on the reforms (and note the use of the plural here) of the breviary in 2009-10 (part 7.1; part 7.2; part 7.3), so I shall here give just a very basic summary. (In order to stick to the main point, it will be necessary to oversimplify just a bit.)
In the very ancient traditional arrangement, the psalms of Lauds and Prime are partly variable and partly fixed, while those of Terce, Sext, None and Compline are completely invariable. These include only 24 of the 150 psalms; of the rest, the Roman weekly psalter puts those from 1-108 at Matins (18 on Sunday and 12 on weekdays), and those from 109-147 at Vespers. However, on the majority of feast days, the daily psalms of Matins and Vespers are replaced by proper psalms, and on all feast days, the psalms at Lauds are taken from Sunday. This means that many psalms were said only in the office of Sunday or on ferial days.
The problem which the reform of St Pius X was intended to deal with was that by his time, the number of feast days had multiplied very considerably, and it had become the custom to allow most of them to take precedence over the office of most Sundays and almost all ferias. I have a breviary printed in 1829 for the Franciscans in the Papal State, in which there are only 18 free days on the calendar. Therefore, the daily psalter was only used very, very rarely, on the tiny number of days (e.g. the major Sundays, Christmas Eve, Ash Wednesday) which could never be impeded. (This is also, incidentally, why one sees fewer really nice green vestments in the great churches of Europe; since the Sundays after Epiphany and Pentecost were so often impeded, green was hardly needed, since it was only rarely used.)
The calendar page for July of a Benedictine Breviary printed in 1770. There are only five days in the month that are not taken up with either a double or semidouble feast. 
The first point to note, therefore, is that the part of the Divine Office which St Pius X was principally concerned to reform, the weekly psalter, was mostly (not entirely) obsolete at the time that he reformed it. Regardless of whether one thinks that the problem was resolved well or badly, or somewhere in between, it was nevertheless a real problem, to which a real solution was given. And regardless of whether one thinks that the subsequent reforms were done well or badly, or somewhere in between, one cannot call the objects of them (e.g. Holy Week or the order of Mass) obsolete.
Secondly, St Pius X was certainly not the first Pope to make significant changes to the breviary. St Pius V rearranged the psalms of Prime, but in so minor a way as to be hardly pertinent to this topic. Far more importantly, he made a very considerable change to the readings of Matins. Urban VIII promulgated a radical (and justifiably much-criticized) reform of the hymns of the Divine Office, changing texts that were in some cases more than twelve centuries old, which is to say, older than the offertory prayers of the Mass are now. However, neither of these reforms swiftly led to a cascade of other, more dramatic reforms, sweeping away the customs of centuries to no good purpose. It is therefore safe to say that St Pius X could never imagine, and indeed, that he had no reason to imagine, that his reform of the psalter would do so either.
Of course, as a matter of history, it cannot be denied that after St Pius X’s time, the twentieth century saw more changes happen to the Roman Rite more swiftly than in all its prior history. But each of these later changes differs not in degree, but in kind, from his.
The first of these is NOT, by the way, the new psalter of Pius XII, for which I personally have no patience whatsoever, but which was nevertheless in a very real sense an ideal reform. The use of it was never obligatory, and therefore, it was, as military men say, run up the flagpole to see who would salute it. People soon stopped saluting, and it was quickly taken down.
However, the real breaching of the fortress did take place on the watch of Pius XII: first, with his general reform of the rubrics; second, and far more importantly, with his reform of Holy Week. In the case of the former, it cannot be denied that the rubrics of both the missal and the breviary had become very complicated. However, the reform enacted in 1955 to remedy the problem actually made it worse, as such reforms are wont to do. More importantly, it was the first reform to change the text of the liturgy (and that, mostly by way of hacking things out of it), for the sake of the rubrics. In other words, the liturgy was changed to benefit the rubrics, and not the rubrics to benefit the liturgy. It should require no explanation to demonstrate the danger of this principle.
A page of a breviary printed in the mid-20th century, a former owner of which elegantly, but incorrectly, noted the new rubrical changes of 1955. 
Now, it has to be said that no small part of this complication of the rubrics actually came from the reform of St Pius X, and furthermore, that that particular aspect of his reform might well have been done differently and better. But it most certainly can not be said that his reform was done with disregard for the text of the liturgy per se; its care for the text of the liturgy was minute, and one might even say too minute.
Pius XII’s other major reform, of the Holy Week ceremonies, was also done to deal with a real problem, namely, that in many places (by no means all), they were not well attended. But in this case, that problem was used as a pretext to introduce all kinds of changes that had no bearing on it, and which cut deep into the bone of the Roman liturgical tradition. If greater participation was the goal, there was obviously no need to cut down the blessing of the palms so radically, or cut the synoptic accounts of the Last Supper out of the Roman Rite, or suppress the very ancient rite of the Presanctified on Good Friday, etc. But by the time this reform was enacted, the liturgical bien pensants had already fully embraced the highly damaging principle that popular participation can only be brought about by giving the people much less to participate in. It hardly needs to be added that the claims about the history of the liturgy on which it is based are a mixture of half-truths and outright falsehoods.
These principles, simplicity for its own sake, and callous disregard for the texts and rites of the Roman liturgical tradition, justified by atrocious scholarship, would carry through to the rest of the 20th century liturgical reforms: first, John XXIII’s mutilation of the breviary, and unnecessary removal of many more things from the missal; a new “simplified” set of rubrics which are anything but; and then within less than a decade, the total revolution of the post-Conciliar period.
Whatever its flaws may be, the Pius X reform is not based on these principles. It did not claim to simplify the Office for the sake of simplifying it. It did not claim that the reform was necessary to engender greater interest in the Office on the part of the faithful. It did not make false historical claims that it was returning to an earlier custom, and it honestly acknowledged that it was returning to an earlier custom in a novel way.

The Paschal Stichera of the Byzantine Rite in English

This past Sunday was Easter on the Julian calendar, and to all those who celebrate the Feast of Feasts this week, we wish you every blessing in the Risen Lord - He is truly Risen!

Yesterday, I happened across this video of one of the most magnificent features of the Byzantine Rite, known as the Paschal stichera. These are sung at Orthros and Vespers each day of Bright Week, as the Easter octave is called, and thenceforth on the Sundays of the Easter season, and on the Leave-taking of Easter, the day before the Ascension. As with all things Byzantine, there are variants in local usage; and they are also often sung during the Divine Liturgy in Eastertide while Communion is distributed. This particular church, St Simeon Orthodox Church in Birmingham, Alabama, uses an English translation which keeps the traditional music of the Slavonic tradition, a wonderful example of how it is perfectly possible to employ the vernacular in sacred worship without destroying the musical patrimony of a rite. They also follow the custom of swinging the chandeliers on feast days; I have asked friends of mine who are quite knowledgeable about the Byzantine Rite what the significance of this is, and the answer is always pretty much, “It’s festive!” (I have tried to conform the translation below to what is actually being sung, but for obvious reasons, it is not always easy to make out exactly what they are saying.)

Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered! (Ps. 67, 2)
Today, a sacred Pascha is revealed to us, a new and holy Pascha, a mystical Pascha, a Pascha worthy of veneration, a Pascha that is Christ the Redeemer; a blameless (i.e. immaculate) Pascha, a great Pascha; a Pascha of the faithful; a Pascha that hath opened to us the gates of Paradise; a Pascha that sanctifies the faithful!
As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish! (Ps. 67, 3)
Come from the vision, O ye women, bearers of good tidings, and say ye to Sion: receive from us the good tidings of the Resurrection of Christ; adorn thyself, exult, and rejoice, O Jerusalem, for thou hast seen Christ the King come forth from the tomb like a bridegroom in procession.
So let sinners perish at the presence of God and let the righteous be glad! (Ps. 67, 3-4)
The myrrh-bearing women in the deep dawn stood before the tomb of the Giver of life; they found an angel sitting upon the stone, and he, speaking to them, said thus: Why seek ye the living among the dead? Why mourn ye the incorruptible amid corruption? Go, proclaim unto His disciples.
This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad therein! (Ps. 117, 24)
Pascha the beautiful, Pascha, the Lord's Pascha, the Pascha all-venerable hath dawned upon us. Pascha, with joy let us embrace one another. O Pascha! Ransom from sorrow, for from the tomb today, as from a bridal chamber hath Christ shone forth, and hath filled the women with joy, saying: proclaim unto the apostles.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
It is the day of Resurrection, let us be radiant for the feast, and let us embrace one another. Let us say: Brethren, even to them that hate us, let us forgive all things on the Resurrection, and thus let us cry out: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, And on those in the tombs bestowing life! (3x) 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

A Lecture on Modernism by Dr Kwasniewski, This Friday, Near Sacramento, California

This Friday, April 29th, I’ll be about 40 miles east of Sacramento (see info in poster), to give a lecture on the topic: “Church Meltdown Under Pope Francis: How Did We Get Here?” (or, for an alternative title, “Pius X to Francis: From Modernism Expelled to Modernism Enthroned”).
I realize the notice is short and distances can be far, but certainly I’d be happy to see any NLM readers from the central CA / Bay Area if you can make it. The organizers ask for a simple RSVP so they can plan for the size of the audience (send to

Obstinate Artists Who Stood Out By Following Tradition - John Singer Sargent

The reason for my choice of John Singer Sargent in the latest of this series of artists who successfully followed tradition and by doing so went against the trends of their time may surprise some. Many will assume that his style of naturalism spoke for the mainstream in art around the turn of the last century. But as we will see, he went against the mainstream and made his style dominant. By the time of his death in 1925, he was one of the most famous artists of his day. After his death, however, his work quickly fell out of favor, because he was not progressive or modern enough. For example, one of his most famous series of paintings, the wall paintings in the Boston Public Library entitled The Triumph of Religion, completed in 1919, was neglected and almost destroyed. and it is only in the last 30 years or so that his reputation as a great artist of the past has waxed once again.

When an 18-year-old Sargent chose a studio in which to draw and paint in Paris in 1874, he did not select the French Academy, which favored a strongly classical influenced style. Nor did he choose to follow the style of the emerging Impressionists, whose first show took place the same year. Rather, he looked back to the Baroque style of the 17th-century Spanish school, epitomized by the great master Velazquez.

J Singer-Sargent: Portrait of Rockefeller
To the modern eye, accustomed to the brutalizing ugliness of modern styles, these three options seem similar. Each is naturalistic and requires a high level of drawing skill compared to what is needed to graduate from the art schools of our universities today. However, there are three distinct worldviews behind them, and when one style finally came to dominate the art world - the loose-focused style of the Impressionists - it quickly devolved into the artistic forms of modernity that are intended to undermine and speak against traditional Western values.
First, consider the clean-edged and brightly colored look of the Academy, reminiscent of Raphael from the High Renaissance. This style had dominated the French Academy since Davide, Napoleon’s favored artist of the Revolution, introduced it. It is intended to represent the anti-Christian rationalism of the Continental Enlightenment, and, rejecting the need for Revelation in the search for truth and justice, identified itself with pre-Christian classicism. It sought also to identify the State with the grandeur and power of Imperial Rome.
Jules Lefebvre: Allegory of Victory, late 19th century French
There are paintings by artists who worked in this style depicting Christian scenes, such as those by Bouguereau, but as with all painting in which the content conveys a message in a style that is not suited for it, the result is a forced sentimentalism. The modernist descendant of this style is photorealism, in which every detail in a painting is represented in precise focus, and creates an image that overloads the senses with detail.
There is a re-emergence of the teaching of Academic method in a number of art schools and studios around the country today, mostly outside the university system. While it is a good thing that such skill in drawing and painting is being taught once again, it is unfortunate that it is this particular style, often referred to as “classical realism”, that is generally adopted along with it. We are starting to see paintings in this style appear in Catholic churches, in the mistaken belief that they are re-establishing Christian traditions.
As a reaction against this style in the mid-19th century, you have the Impressionists, who were just beginning to become dominant in Singer’s time, and whose work is so familiar today. The Impressionists claimed to look at a scene with radical disinterest. They did not see people, the sky and cows in a field, for example, but simply colors and light manifested by a single extended substance consisting of atoms and molecules. They tried to represent scenes so as to communicate this even disinterest, and in contrast to the neo-classical style, their paintings had no focus at all. There is an absence of sharp edges. In practice, the Impressionists were poor at applying their own ethos because they could not escape the fact that they were highly trained artists who almost by instinct composed paintings well. So the Impressionists were popular for the beauty of their landscapes which was manifested despite, and not because of their ethos.
Claude Monet: The Grand Canal in Venice.
A dividing line between these styles, one which balances idealism and realism as Christian styles ought to (as Pius XII described in Mediator Dei, 70 years later), is that of the Baroque of the 17th century. This is why Benedict XVI describes this, and not neo-classicism, as an authentic liturgical Christian style.
This is the style that Sargent decided to paint in. It was not the dominant style of the period, but there were a few who sought to re-establish it, including Sargent’s teacher, Charles Durand, known as Carolus Duran.
The baroque grew out of a Christian understanding of the world, in which there is a hierarchy of beings. So for a Christian, a person is not simply a collection of atoms but an entity that is distinct from other beings. When we look at any scene, we have more interest in some parts and less in others, and this uneven interest usually reflects this hierarchy of being, which we observe instinctively. So we look at people before animals and animals before plants; this places people highest. Furthermore, when we look at people, we look at those aspects that reveal to us their souls, that is, the eyes and the facial expression, and perhaps also a gesture that tells us what the person is doing or thinking. A Christian representation of these things, therefore, balances sharp edges and blurred detail, in order to focus on those elements that are of greatest interest to us naturally. Through this subtle variation in focus, metaphysical truths are communicated by visible signs embedded into the painting.
If you look at this painting of the Crowning of the Virgin by Velazquez, at first impression it seems sharp and clear, but close inspection shows how loosely he paints those areas that are not the main focus, and that the face of the Virgin is rendered in the finest detail. This draws the eye naturally to the point that he wishes us to focus on primarily.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Experiences That Make One a Traditionalist

Those who have assisted at the traditional Roman liturgy for some time can usually name many things about it that they noticed over the years — things that impressed, provoked, consoled, puzzled, that made them wake up, question more, dig deeper. There is a moment of transition, I find, from being one who appreciates the old liturgy, perhaps now and again, or as a field trip, or as a pastoral duty, to being one who has fallen in love with it, who makes it his spiritual home, and who, accordingly, may justly be called a traditionalist. (As much as some people protest against the use of that word, it remains immensely handy for naming a phenomenon, which is what language is supposed to do.)

My books mention many such experiences, but here are two that are especially appropriate to share in Easter week.

The first was the contrast I noticed, several years in a row, between the modern (Paul VI) Easter Vigil and the Easter Sunday Missa Cantata of the Roman Rite. The reason for comparing these two is that I was involved at the time in providing music for both — the “Ordinary Form” on Saturday night and the “Extraordinary Form” (how quaint are those terms now!) on Sunday morning.

The Paul VI vigil had no “spaces,” no obvious opening to mystery through which one could enter. It was a flood of didactic text, spoken aloud, with musical interludes. Modern people are already awash in words. Do we really need more? In the N.O. Easter Vigil, one felt that one had been thoroughly drenched in the Bible readings conducted in Nabbish, a lengthy homily, the unsatisfying glamor of receiving some people into the church in a ritual that culminated in applause, and a celebration of the Eucharist wholly lacking in supernatural resonance or fearful majesty. It made an impression for sheer length, number of lilies, and candles, but otherwise it was like cookie dough — the same consistency throughout. 

The Easter Missa cantata, on the other hand, was full of the sound of Alleluias sung in Gregorian chant — sixteen of them (not counting the repetitions of the Communion antiphon). The chants for Easter are strong, sometimes strange, always unearthly, already half-dwelling in the realm of eternity. The church, ablaze with white and gold… the ritual nailed to the altar, from which salvation pours out like blood and water… the clouds of incense billowing… all point to the mysterious reality of the Crucified and Risen One — and this is something that can be perceived by anyone seeking God or even seeking some meaning in life. Marshall McLuhan said, decades ago, that modern culture is obsessed with images and that the Church must therefore provide images of great power: visual and audible images that are startlingly different from what secular culture offers. At the Easter morning sung Mass, I had an almost unnerving sense of stepping back through time across all the centuries that separated me from the resurrection of Christ and coming once again into His powerful presence. This was a ritual that somehow poured from His glorified wounds to bathe me in their light. There was a holy awe about the place, a restrained joy coiled like a spring ready to leap to heaven, a hushed adoration like that of Mary Magdalene when she discovered Christ in the garden and He would not let her touch Him.

Let me not be misunderstood: I am not calling into question the good will of anyone who contributed to the Easter Vigil. On the contrary, there was abundant good will, which I remember fondly. The problem is deeper than the individuals: it is in the rites they are using and the customs that have grown up around them to the point of having nearly the force of law. The face liturgy presents to us depends much more on the rites and customs than it does on the personnel who happen to be using them; the former determine and delimit the possible range of influence for the latter.

The second experience was singing, and then reflecting on, Lesson III of Holy Saturday’s Tenebrae: “Incipit Oratio Jeremiae Prophetae.”

Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us:
consider and behold our reproach.
Our inheritance is turned unto aliens:
our houses to strangers.
We are become orphans without a father,
our mothers are as widows.
Our water we have drunk for money:
we have bought our wood for a price.
We were dragged by our necks,
we were weary and rest was not given unto us.
Unto Egypt, and unto the Assyrians have we given our hand,
that we might be satisfied with bread.
Our fathers have sinned, and are no more:
and we have borne their iniquities.
Servants have ruled over us:
there was none to redeem us out of their hand.
Our bread we fetched at the peril of our lives,
because of the sword in the desert.
Our skin was burnt as an oven,
by reason of the violence of the famine.
They have oppressed the women in Sion,
and the virgins in the cities of Juda.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
be converted unto the Lord thy God.

Pondering these prophetic words led me to see their application to our current liturgical situation, and the parallels have only grown clearer with time. We are alienated from our inheritance; our houses of worship are sold off to Masonic lodges or Hindu ashrams; we are become like orphans without a father in Rome or, in some cases, a father in our diocese; we bought our reforms for a steep price, and were dragged along without our consent; we grew weary of hyperactive participation and longed for a contemplative rest that was denied us; we exchanged our birthright for a seat at the United Nations and the European Union; those who fomented our disasters are mostly long-gone and we suffer from their sins; slaves of fashion rule over the sons of God; we fetched our traditional bread wherever we could find it, afraid of the sword of church authority in the desert of the post-Council; the spiritual famine has been violent, and it has extended even to threatening the religious life of consecrated virgins. Jerusalem, O Church on earth: be converted unto the Lord thy God!

Someone once said of the liturgical reformers: “They took the faith out of our hands and knees.” The reform stripped away, or allowed to be stripped away, bodily spiritual formation. Catholics can get a visceral sense of the contrast when they attend their first Tridentine Mass and find that there’s a lot more kneeling than they are accustomed to (even at High Mass) and more demands placed on their attention in general. It is a liturgy that pre-dates the invention of television, so it expects a long attention span, and the ability to be quiet and sit still. The faith has to penetrate into our bones and muscles or it remains cerebral and ineffectual.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the contrasting practices of Holy Communion. In too many churches, the faithful walk up in multiple lines and receive the Body of Christ in their hands, like people queueing for bus tickets, after which they take a cup to wash it down, like teammates sharing Gatorade. In traditional communities, the faithful kneel along the communion rail and wait until the priest comes to them to bless them with the Host — “Corpus Domini nostri + Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam, Amen” — and places it gently on their tongues. These two contrasting scenes are, in reality, expressive of two different ideas of religion, if we take religion in the sense of the virtue by which we offer God our worship through concrete words and actions.

This is why I am not surprised that the former Benedictine monk Gabriel Bunge, a world expert on the Trinity icon of Rublev, left the Catholic Church to become Eastern Orthodox. No one ever introduced him to the real Western tradition that corresponded to what he was studying from the East. He came to the conclusion that the only authentic tradition left was the East. His conclusion should rather have been that the modern West had abandoned its own authentic tradition, and that we have an urgent calling to recover it.

After experiences like the two I recounted, one’s soul is seared with the truth, at once liberating and daunting: I cannot go back to the 60s and 70s, to those pathetic works of human hands. Let the dead bury the dead. It is the perennially youthful Roman Rite that gives joy to me, that shines forth light and truth.

CMAA/NLM Fundraiser Update

I announce to you with the greatest joy that we have achieved and surpassed our goal of raising $10,000.00 from our members, subscribers and friends. As I told you last week, another generous donor pledged to match $10,000.00 if we could raise $10,000.00. Well, you have done it, and with lightning speed and awesome generosity. We may have reached a total of nearly $25,000.00 as of today, April 25, and the fundraiser will continue until this Saturday, April 30.

If you have not been able to donate up until now, please help as much as you can. It would be beyond our wildest dreams if we could surpass the $30,000.00 mark. It is very possible and I will continue to update you during the week.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Low Sunday 2022

With his inquisitive right hand, Thomas searched out Thy life-bestowing side, O Christ God; for when Thou didst enter while the doors were shut, he cried out to Thee with the rest of the Apostles: Thou art my Lord and my God. (The Kontakion of St Thomas Sunday.)

Who preserved the disciple’s hand unburnt when he drew nigh to the fiery side of the Lord? Who gave it the daring and strength to touch the bone that was flaming? Surely, it was that very thing which was touched! For if that side had not bestowed might unto that earthen right hand, how could it have touched those wounds which caused both things above and below to quake? This grace was given to Thomas, that he might touch and cry out to Christ: Thou art my Lord and my God. (The Ikos, which at Orthros comes right after the kontakion, and provides a commentary on it.)

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Palm Sunday 2022 Photopost (Part 5)

We finally get to the last of our Palm Sunday photoposts, just in time for the end of the Easter octave! There is still plenty of time to send in your photos of the Triduum and Easter to, always remembering to include the name and location of the church, and any other information you think important. Our thanks to everyone who contributed, and to all our readers, we wish a most blessed Easter season - He is truly risen!

Prince of Peace – Taylors, South Carolina

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