Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Byzantine Fast of the Dormition

In addition to Great Lent, the Byzantine tradition has three other fasts connected with major feasts. The liturgical year begins on September 1st, so the first of these is the fast of the Nativity, which runs from November 15th to December 24th; this is almost exactly the same span as Advent in the Ambrosian and Mozarabic Rites. Another fast is kept from the Monday after the feast of All Saints (which is celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost) to the feast of Ss Peter and Paul; because of the variable date of the former, this can run as long as 42 days, or as short as 8. The fast of the Dormition is kept from August 1-14, and is the strictest of the three, with no consumption of meat, dairy, fish, wine or oil; the last two may be taken on weekends, and fish on the feast of the Transfiguration. There are also a number of interesting liturgical features connected with this period.

An icon of the feast of the Procession of the Cross
The first day, August 1st, is a feast known as the “Procession of the Honorable and Life-Giving Cross”, which is celebrated jointly with one of the most ancient and universal Christian feasts, that of the Seven Maccabee Brothers. In Constantinople, on the evening of July 31st, the relics of the True Cross were brought from the imperial treasury to Hagia Sophia, and laid upon the main altar. Over the next two weeks, they were processed through the streets and venerated by the faithful; this was done also in part to ward off the various illnesses which frequently afflicted the city in the intense summer heat. This procession was last celebrated in 1452, the year before the fall of the city, but the memory of it is still preserved in the liturgical books. As on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and the Third Sunday of Lent, the rubrics prescribe that at the end of Orthros, an icon of the Cross be brought from the sanctuary to the nave, and solemnly venerated, after which the following hymn is sung.

Come ye faithful, let us adore the life-giving wood on which Christ, the King of glory, willingly stretched out His hands, and exalted us unto the ancient blessedness, whom once the enemy, having despoiled us by pleasure, banished from God. Come ye faithful, let us adore the wood by which we were made worthy to break the curses of the invisible foes. Come, all ye nations of the gentiles, let us honor the Lord’s Cross with hymns. Rejoice, o Cross, the perfect release of fallen Adam. In Thee our most faithful kings make their boast, as they mightily subject the Ishmaelite people by thy power. Greeting thee now with fear, we Christians glorify God, Who was nailed upon thee, saying ‘Lord, who wast nailed upon this, have mercy upon us, as Thou art good and love-mankind.’

The words “the Ishmaelite people” mean the Saracens, over whom the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus (1143-80) gained a major victory in 1158, and instituted the feast in commemoration thereof. The same day is also the anniversary of the Baptism of the Rus’, a crucial event for the Christianization of the Eastern Slavs, which took place in the year 988, in the reign of the king Saint Volodymyr. For this reason, it is the custom of some of the Slavic churches to bless water on August 1st, in the form known as the Lesser Blessing, to distinguish it from the Great Blessing held on Epiphany. In both forms, a hand-cross is passed through the water three times in the form of a cross; at the Lesser Blessing, the following troparion is sung. “O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance. Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries, and by virtue of Thy Cross, preserve Thy habitation!”

(A recording made last September at the Greek-Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, on the patronal feast day.)
During the Dormition fast, the Greek tradition also prescribes the celebration of a service known as the Supplicatory Canon, or Paraklesis, modelled on the hour of Orthros; there are two forms of it, the Greater and Lesser, which are said on alternate days, beginning on the evening of August 1st. (In the Slavic tradition, these are shortened very considerably by the omission of most of the long series of hymns which is properly known as a “canon.”) Both of them are supplications to the Virgin Mary to intercede to Her Son on behalf of mankind; the lesser canon may also be sung at any point in the year, especially in times of suffering and difficulty. The following troparia, which are sung shortly after the beginning of the service, give the general theme; these are the same in both versions.

Let us sinners and lowly ones now fervently run to the Mother of God, and fall down in repentance, crying from the depths of our soul: o Lady, have mercy on us and help us; hasten, (for) we are lost in the multitude of our errors. Do not turn Thy servants away, for we have received Thee alone as our hope.
We, the unworthy, will never cease to speak, o Mother of God, of Thy mighty deeds, for if Thou didst not stand to intercede for us, who would have delivered us from such great? Who would have preserved us until now in our freedom? O Lady, we shall not depart from you, for you always save your servants from every sort of tribulation.

Towards the end, the following exapostilarion is sung, looking forward to the upcoming feast. The Virgin Mary addresses the Apostles, who, according to a very ancient tradition, were all present for Her dormition, and laid Her to rest in the same place where Her Son had once been laid.

O ye Apostles, gathered together here from the ends of the earth in the place of Gethesemane, take care of (or ‘bury’) my body; and do Thou, my Son and my God, receive my soul.

The Dormition of the Virgin, by Pietro Cavallini, 1296-1300; mosaic in apse of the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Arranging the Breviary for the Rest of the Liturgical Year

This is our annual posting on one of the discrepancies between the traditional arrangement of the Roman Breviary and the new rubrics of 1960; the first such discrepancy appears at Vespers this evening. In some years, but not this one, there is also a discrepancy between the traditional placement of the September Ember Days, and their placement according to the new rubrics.

One of the changes made to the Breviary in the revision of 1960 regards the arrangement of the months from August to November.

The first Sunday of each of these months is the day on which the Church begins to read a new set of Scriptural books at Matins, with their accompanying responsories, and Magnificat antiphons at Saturday Vespers. These readings are part of a system which goes back to the sixth century: in August, the books of Wisdom are read; in September, Job, Tobias, Judith and Esther; in October the books of the Macchabees; in November, Ezechiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor Prophets. (September is actually divided into two sets of readings, Job having a different set of responsories from the other three books.)
Folio 97r of the antiphonary of Compiègne, 860-77 AD. At the top of the page are the antiphons at the Magnificat for Saturday Vespers in the first period after Pentecost, taken from the books of Kings; in the middle, there begin the Matins responsories taken from the books of Wisdom. (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Latin 17436)
The “first Sunday” of each of these months is traditionally that which occurs closest to the first calendar day of the month, even if that day occurs within the end of the previous month. This year, for example, the first Sunday “of August” is actually July 31st, the Sunday closest to the first day of August.

In the 1960 revision, however, the first Sunday of the months from August to November is always that which occurs first within the calendar month. According to this system, the first Sunday of August is the 7th this year.

This change also accounts for one of the many peculiarities of the 1960 Breviary, the fact that November has four weeks, which are called the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth. According to the older calculation, November has five weeks when the 5th of the month is a Sunday. (This is also the arrangement that has the shortest possible Advent of three weeks and one day.) According to the newer calculation, November may have three or four weeks, but never five. In order to accommodate the new system, one of the weeks had to be removed; the second week of November was chosen, to maintain the tradition that at least a bit of each of the Prophets would continue to be read in the Breviary. However, in some years, November only has three weeks, and the first one is also omitted; this is the case this year.

The Sundays for the rest of the liturgical year, according to the traditional system:

July 31 – the 1st Sunday of August (VIII after Pentecost)
August 7 – the 2nd Sunday of August (IX after Pentecost)
August 14 – the 3rd Sunday of August (X after Pentecost)
August 21– the 4th Sunday of August (XI after Pentecost)
August 28 – the 5th Sunday of August (XII after Pentecost)

September 4 – the 1st Sunday of September (XIII after Pentecost)
September 11 – the 2nd Sunday of September (XIV after Pentecost)
September 18 – the 3rd Sunday of September (XV after Pentecost; Ember week)
September 25 – the 4th Sunday of September (XVI after Pentecost)

October 2 – the 1st Sunday of October (XVII after Pentecost)
October 9 – the 2nd Sunday of October (XVIII after Pentecost)
October 16 – the 3rd Sunday of October (XIX after Pentecost)
October 23 – the 4th Sunday of October (XX after Pentecost)

October 30 – the 1st Sunday of November (XXI after Pentecost, commemorated on the feast of Christ the King)
November 6 – the 3rd Sunday of November (XXII after Pentecost, )
November 13 – the 4th Sunday of November (XXIII after Pentecost)
November 20 – the 5th Sunday of November (XXIV and last after Pentecost)

The Sundays for the rest of the liturgical year, according to the 1960 system:

July 31 – the VIII Sunday after Pentecost
August 7 – the 1st Sunday of August (IX after Pentecost)
August 14 – the 2nd Sunday of August (X after Pentecost)
August 21– the 3rd Sunday of August (XI after Pentecost)
August 28 – the 4th Sunday of August (XII after Pentecost)

September 4 – the 1st Sunday of September (XIII after Pentecost)
September 11 – the 2nd Sunday of September (XIV after Pentecost)
September 18 – the 3rd Sunday of September (XV after Pentecost; Ember week)
September 25 – the 4th Sunday of September (XVI after Pentecost)

October 2 – the 1st Sunday of October (XVII after Pentecost)
October 9 – the 2nd Sunday of October (XVIII after Pentecost)
October 16 – the 3rd Sunday of October (XIX after Pentecost)
October 23 – the 4th Sunday of October (XX after Pentecost)
October 30 – the 5th Sunday of October (XXI after Pentecost, omitted on the feast of Christ the King)

November 6 – the 3rd Sunday of November (XXII after Pentecost)
November 13 – the 4th Sunday of November (XXIII after Pentecost)
November 20 – the 5th Sunday of November (XXIV and last after Pentecost)
I include the following information for the sake of completeness, but this year, it is not applicable.
The calculation of the Sundays after Pentecost also calls for a note here. (The discrepancies between the Missals of St Pius V and St John XXIII are very slight in this regard.)

The number of Sundays “after Pentecost” assigned to the Missal is 24, but the actual number varies between 23 and 28. The “24th” is always celebrated on the last Sunday before Advent. If there are more than 24, the gap between the 23rd and 24th is filled with the Sundays after Epiphany that had no place at the beginning of the year. The prayers and readings of those Sundays are inserted into the Mass of the 23rd Sunday (i.e., the set of Gregorian propers.) The Breviary homily on the Sunday Gospel and the concomitant antiphons of the Benedictus and Magnificat also carry over in the Office. This year, therefore, on November 7th, the Mass is that of the V Sunday after Epiphany resumed, and on November 14th, that of the VI Sunday after Epiphany resumed.

If this all seems a little complicated, bear in mind that the oldest arrangement of the Mass lectionary that we know of was even more so. The oldest lectionary of the Roman Rite, a manuscript now in Wurzburg, Germany, dates to ca. 700, and represents the system used at Rome about 50 years earlier. It has a very disorganized and incomplete set of readings for the period after Pentecost; the Sundays are counted as 2 after Pentecost, 7 after Ss Peter and Paul, 5 after St Lawrence, and 6 after St Cyprian, a total of only 20. There are also ten Sundays after Epiphany, even though Septuagesima is also noted in the manuscript, and the largest number of Sundays that can occur between Epiphany and Septuagesima is only six.

Friday, July 29, 2022

St Martha Kills a Dragon

At that time, there was in a certain grove by the Rhone, between Arles and Avignon, a dragon, half beast and half fish, bigger than a cow, longer than a horse, having teeth like swords that were as sharp as horns, and fortified, as it were, with two shields on either side; and it would lay low in the river, and destroy all those who passed along it, and sink the ships. … Besought by the people, Martha came to it, and found it in the grove as it was eating a man. She threw holy water on it, and showed it a cross, and so it was immediately beaten, and stood still like a sheep. Martha tied it up with her belt, and the people at once destroyed it with spears and stone. The dragon was called by the inhabitants “Tarasconus”; wherefore in memory of this, that place is still called “Tarascon”… (From the Golden Legend)

St Martha and the Tarascon, from the Hours of Louis de Laval, 1470-85; Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms Latin 920, folio 317v 
This story from the Golden Legend was included in the Roman Breviary even so late as 1529, in one of the last editions before the Tridientine reform. All trace of it was removed in the revision of Pope St Pius V, but it survives to this day in the folk traditions of southern France. The monster, also called “Tarasque” in French, appears on the shield of the city of Tarascon, where the legend is commemorated in a folk festival held every year, and an effigy of the creature is carried through the city in a parade.

(Image from Wikipedia by Gérard Marin)
He also appears in some of the Corpus Christi festivals in Spain, as seen here in Valencia.
(Image from Wikipedia by Chosovi)

The Four Most Important Lessons of Childhood

The four principal ends of the Mass are also the four most important things to teach our children—and ourselves.

One of the questions of the old Baltimore Catechism is, "What are the purposes for which the Mass is offered?" The answer given is fourfold:

First, to adore God as our Creator and Lord.
Second, to thank God for His many favors.
Third, to ask God to bestow His blessings on all men.
Fourth, to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against Him.[1]
Adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and satisfaction—mention of these four ends found their way into many an old missal and are still a familiar feature of any traditional catechesis on the Mass. What is often overlooked, however, is the relation of these ends to our own concrete lives as human beings. How exactly do these four things relate to our psychological, emotional, and spiritual welfare?
One way to approach this question is to consider the four most important things that we learn to say as children: "I love you," "Thank you," "Please," and "I’m sorry." These four simple sayings are not only capable of putting both young and old onto the path to human happiness, but they also provide a useful analogy for what happens at every Sacrifice of the Mass.
Lessons for Life
Although we speak of the importance of teaching our children to "say" please and thank you, our ultimate goal is really to have them say these things and mean them, to have their words align with their hearts. When a mother makes her son apologize to his sister for pulling her hair, she is usually not content with an icy "sorry" and a defiant, unrepentant glare. Clearly her objective is to make the boy understand that what he did was wrong so that he may feel genuine regret for his action and seek to correct the injustice, not simply to utter a particular sequence of sounds. And this is true for the other three things she instructs her children to "say" as well.
Implicit, then, in the objective to raise children who say "I love you," "thank you," "please," and "I’m sorry" is something more than a trivial habit of politeness, a meaningless conformity to social convention. Somehow, the aim is to form a young mind into the kind of person who is loving, grateful, deferential, and, when necessary, contritely determined to make amends.
Perhaps the reason for this goal is that such qualities are not only choiceworthy in themselves, but they also lead to the acquisition of other virtues. Someone who knows the importance of repentance and has experienced the need for it also knows the importance of offering forgiveness and has greater empathy for someone sharing the same plight. And someone who is truly grateful to one person is more easily inclined to be generous to another. We probably find the Unforgiving Servant in the parable of that name so reprehensible because he grossly violates both these principles (Mt. 18:23–34). The cruel man presumably learned to say “please,” “I’m sorry,” and “thank you” well enough, but he did not let their meaning sink into his life, nor did he show any genuine love.
Behind these four simple expressions, then, lies a sound moral anthropology, a broad outline of the good life.
Ideally speaking, a person who is capable of saying "I love you" and meaning it is capable of commitment, devotion, and self-sacrifice.
A person who is capable of saying "thank you" and meaning it recognizes, as we will see, the unmerited gift of his existence and his debt to a broader world he did not create.
A person who is capable of saying "please" and meaning it confesses his dependence on a reality outside himself and rejects the principle that might makes right, transcending the debilitating egoism that would leave him, to paraphrase Sir Walter Scott, a vile wretch concentered all in self.
And finally, a person who is capable of saying "I’m sorry" (or for more minor offenses, "excuse me") and meaning it makes the difficult but crucial breakthrough into unflattering and unglossed self-knowledge, mustering the courage to acknowledge his faults and the resolve to redress them.
By contrast, a person who has not been brought up on these four dictums has been done a grave injustice, for he was either discouraged from overcoming his selfishness or, what ends up being the same thing, from understanding the reality of the human condition.
The Four Ends of the Mass
This fourfold path to authentic human flourishing, as it were, bears a remarkable similarity to the traditional theology of the Mass. Specifically, saying "I love you" at home is analogous to the act of adoration that takes place in the Mass, "thank you" to thanksgiving, "please" to petition, and "I’m sorry" to satisfaction.
When Our Lord offered Himself on the Cross as a living sacrifice, that sacrifice included an infinite act of adoration of his Father, of thanksgiving to Him, of petition or impetration on our behalf, and of satisfaction (also known as propitiation or expiation) for the sins of mankind. Those four components of this perfect act of worship, in turn, are re-presenced by Christ through the agency of His priest at every Mass. One can even think of the four great prayers of the Ordinary of the Mass, as does Peter Kwasniewski, in terms of these four categories:
The Kyrie corresponds to contrition (“have mercy on us”);
The Gloria to gratitude (“we give thee thanks”);
The Sanctus to adoration (“holy, holy, holy…”);
The Agnus Dei to petition (“grant us peace”).[2]
And we the faithful participate in the Mass in order to partake of and be enriched by these ends. Our own acts of devotion are, to be sure, not identical to Our Lord’s. Christ’s expiation, for example, did not include "I’m sorry" in the way that ours must, for He had nothing to be sorry about. But our meager attempt to make good on our failings in an act of expiation is made efficacious by the infinite liberality of our crucified and risen God, and hence the bond between the two is profound.
The Four Stirrings
One reason why this analogy is significant, then, is that it indicates that the Sacrifice of the Cross—and by extension that of the Altar—contributes powerfully to the supernatural perfection of our natural potential for the good as well as to the restoration of our nature after its fall from perfection.
As a further demonstration of this point, we need only consider man’s basic emotional range in light of the soul’s four "stirrings" (perturbationes): joy, desire, fear, and sorrow. This useful taxonomy was employed by Cicero,[3] who himself borrowed it from the Stoics, and was to be later picked up by Christian thinkers like St. Augustine.[4] The four emotions Cicero cites bear an interesting relationship to the four sayings we have discussed and the four ends of Mass—not that they align neatly with each other in the same way but that truly good acts of adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and contrite restitution bring to perfection our most basic instincts of delight, appetite, fear, and sorrow.
On the natural level, raw desire is humanized and sublimated by the simple and sincere act of saying "please." Rather than grabbing what we want, we recognize a boundary of ownership and humbly request that that boundary be redrawn, and in so doing we relinquish the brutality of coercion for the gentility of courtesy. Supplication at its best, then, is a sublimation of desire, not in the bastardized Freudian sense of suppressing libido but in the original sense of making desire sublime or lofty.
It is this sense of sublimation that finds its highest expression in the Mass, where personal desire is perfected supernaturally in the ultimately altruistic petition we make therein not just for ourselves but, as the Baltimore Catechism reminds us, for all men. How far this is from the gussied-up materialism of "the prayer of Jabez" fad, in which Christians are encouraged to pray for the trinkets of this life as if they had no eternal longings at all. The Mass, by contrast, is designed both to expand and reorder our desires so that higher goods take priority over lower on the one hand, and then to transcend even them on the other.
This schooling of desire is particularly obvious in the Collects of the Tridentine Missal. These ingenious orations reflect a recurring focus on retooling and heightening the desire of the faithful. For in addition to asking for a granting of our wishes, they ask for a change in what it is we wish for: "make us love what You command" (Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost), "graft in our hearts the love of Your name" (Sixth Sunday), "make us ask for things that please You" (Ninth Sunday), etc. And once our desires have been converted or turned to these much greater goods, the Church goes on to assert that God will surpass even these and give us, as it is said in the Collect for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, what "our prayer does not even dare to ask for." This entire theology of desire, petition, and transcendence is perhaps no more beautifully or succinctly expressed than in the collect for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost:
God, who hast prepared for them that love Thee such good things as pass understanding: pour into our hearts such love towards Thee, that we, loving Thee in all things and above all things, may obtain Thy promises which exceed all that we can desire.
A close contender for title of Master Prayer for the Schooling of Love is the Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Easter:
O God, who makest the minds of the faithful to be of one purpose, grant to Thy people to love that which Thou dost command, to desire that which Thou dost promise; so that, amidst the changing things of this world, our hearts may be there fixed where joys are true. Through our Lord.
The Postcommunion for the Fifth Sunday after Easter also sums it up nicely:
Grant to us, O Lord, that having been satiated by the power of this heavenly table, we may both desire the things that are right and obtain the things we desire. Through our Lord.
A not-infrequent paradox in the Roman Postcommunions is how the Eucharist is a food that increases our hunger. Here we see a contrast between satiation and desire: filled with the Eucharist, we ask to be made hungry for the good.
The petition also adds to our schooling in how to approach the things that are right. Not only our minds and our deeds must be corrected, but our hearts must fall in love with what is right in order to achieve the good life. It is a recurring temptation to think of happiness as simply getting what one wants; if I want a nice house, a nice car, and a nice bank account and get them, I will be happy. But this view overlooks one crucial factor. As Cicero writes:
To want what is not decent is itself the very worst misery. And not obtaining what you want is not so miserable as wanting to obtain what is not right, for depravity of the will brings more evil than fortune brings good to anyone.[5]
Fear and Sorrow
Fear and sorrow, on the other hand, are both accounted for in the act of apologizing and making amends, though only if those acts are genuine. An imperfect apology stems solely from a motive of fear: I am apologizing to you not because I am truly sorry but because I am afraid of what you will do to me if I do not apologize. Perfect apology, by contrast, is concomitant with the emotion of sorrow: I see that I have hurt you in some way and I in turn am truly saddened by this fact.
But a perfect apology also involves fear, not the fear of reprisal as in the previous case but the fear of being alienated from a loved one. St. Thomas distinguishes two kinds of fear: servile fear, like that of a slave afraid of being punished by his master; and a noble or filial fear,[6] like that of a husband afraid of doing something to his wife for fear that she will lose respect for him, not for fear that she will beat him for what he has done. While servile fear has its place in this life (it is even sufficient for making an act of contrition, albeit an imperfect one), it is clearly inferior to that filial fear which is motivated by a love higher than mere self-preservation.
Rosa Sweninger, "The Apology," ca. 1918
And so it is with propitiation in divine worship, which presupposes a sorrow for the injustices we have committed and a fear that we offended the God whom we love and who has done so much for us. True, the fear involved may sometimes be merely that of going to Hell, that presentiment that if I sleep in on Sunday instead of going to Mass I am committing a mortal sin; and that fear, base though it may be, may succeed in getting me to Mass and even opening me up to the graces that can be obtained there. But as St. Augustine once wryly observed, "people who are afraid of sinning because of Hell are afraid, not of sinning, but of burning." Just as the emotionally mature man is motivated by noble rather than servile fear, so too is the spiritually mature man more afraid of the intrinsic destructiveness of sin and the effect that it has on his close friendship with his Lord and Master than of the extrinsic judgment awaiting him at the end of his life.
Finally, the stirring of joy accompanies the genuine acts of saying "I love you" and "thank you." True, love is not always accompanied by the elation of gladness, as often love’s commitments bring with it sorrow and hardship. Nevertheless, in an odd sort of way even love’s pain is better than love’s absence (assuming that we are speaking of well-ordered and not concupiscible love), and it is only through love that genuine joy is ever experienced.
The same is true for gratitude, though this is not as easy for us to recognize as it used to be. For thinkers like Immanuel Kant, having to say thank you is more an occasion of sorrow than of joy, for by his reckoning, gratitude betokens indebtedness, and indebtedness is a threat to personal autonomy, the bedrock of Kantian philosophy and modern liberal democracy to boot.
Yet as Fr. Paul McNellis, S.J., has pointed out, such a legalistic mindset ignores the liberating effect that extensive human ties have on the individual.[7] For the ancients, the proper response to the wickerwork of human interdependence was pietas, that noble devotion to one’s family, one’s country and, ultimately, one’s God. This was a "debt" one was happy to have, for it rested on a superfluity of goods one had undeservedly received. The act of remembering these benefits, in turn, was a source of gladsome gratitude. In the words of Seneca:
The most ungrateful man of all is the man who has forgotten a benefit . . . there is no possibility of a man’s ever becoming grateful if he has lost all memory.

Gratitude, therefore, is not only an important component of one’s moral character, it is a symptom of one’s hold on reality, that is, of one’s ability to remember accurately the real benefits one has received from real beneficiaries and to react to these realities accordingly.

And needless to say, all of this bears poignantly on giving thanks to God in the Mass, that supreme, divinely-initiated act of anamnesis, of remembering and thus re-presenting the greatest good ever given in human history. No wonder that Aquinas sees gratitude as a virtue rooted in love, one that is not unreasonably without limit. And how appropriate and how beautiful it is that the last words of the Mass, in both the old rite and the new, are simply, "Thanks be to God."[9]

Old and New
Reflecting on these themes, Peter Kwasniewski sees a difference between the usus antiquior and the Novus Ordo:
[W]hat do you suppose would happen if the spiritual fathers of the Church, the bishops and priests, failed to form their spiritual children in the proper habits of saying “I’m sorry” and “thank you,” “I love you” and “please” to Almighty God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? What if, instead of ensuring a true discipline of self-denigrating sorrow, prompt thanks, adoring love, silent respect, and humble petition, they provided a relaxed, casual environment, where the priest and people face each other in a self-congratulatory and self-celebrating circle, to the accompaniment of folksy, trite, sentimental, trendy music? Would the children of the Church ever learn how to worship God that way? Or would they become little self-centered spiritual barbarians, over-confident toward their heavenly Father, chummy with their neighbors, and altogether bereft of the “fear of the Lord” that is the beginning of wisdom? [10]
Our comparison between the four ends of the Mass and the four great things we learn as children also gives one final insight into the importance of the Eucharistic sacrifice. To think of Mass "attendance" as a legalistic burden imposed on us by the Church is as impoverishing as thinking of manners as mere extensions of parental power and caprice. Though by no means sufficient, manners are nevertheless instrumental in orienting us to the created order, and when they are appropriated properly, they help actuate our full potential as human beings. Similarly, the adoration, thanksgiving, petitions, and satisfaction we make at Mass orient us to the Creator of our nature, actuating not simply our native potential, but our capacity to participate in the very Godhead itself.
To be able to say "I’m sorry," "I love you," "please," and "thank you" to our Heavenly Father through the mediation of His Son and under the guidance of His Spirit is not only a unique privilege for a lowly creature; it is a steadily transformative act. And to that we can only say, Deo gratias. [11]

[1] The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism no. 2, explained by Rev. Bennet Kelly, C.P. (NY: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1969) no. 361, p. 173.
[2] Bad Liturgical Parenting,” November 8, 2018,>.
[3] 3.10.35; Disputationes Tusculanae 4.6.11.
[4] Confessions 10.13.22.
[5] Hortensius frg. 39 (Muller), trans. mine.
[6] Cf Summa Theologiae II-II.19.4f, also 2; II-II.7.1.
[7] "Rights, Duties, and the Problem of Humility," in Gladly to Learn and Gladly to Teach: Essays on Religion and Political Philosophy in Honor of Ernest L. Fortin, A.A., eds. Michael P. Foley and Douglas Kries (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2002), pp. 125–143. The following paragraphs on gratitude are deeply indebted to Fr. McNellis’ article.
[8] De beneficiis 3.1, trans. John W. Basore, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935), pp. 128–9.
[9] Summa Theologiae 2.
[10] Bad Liturgical Parenting.”
[11] An earlier version of this article appeared in Lay Witness Online (Nov/Dec. 2006), The latest version appeared as “The Mass and the Four Most Important Lessons of Childhood,” in The Latin Mass magazine 31:2 (Summer 2022), pp. 52-56. Many thanks to the editors for allowing its republication here.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

A Reliquary from the Time of St Ambrose

Today is the feast of a group of four Saints, the martyrs Nazarius and Celsus, who are traditionally said to have died at Milan in the middle of the first century, and Popes Victor I (ca. 189-99) and Innocent I (401-17). On the Ambrosian Calendar, the two martyrs have the day to themselves, and their feast is kept with a vigil; there is also a feast of the translation of Nazarius’ relics on May 10th.

The high altar of the church of the Holy Apostles and St Nazarius, commonly known as “San Nazaro in Brolo”, with the relics of St Nazarius.
In 395 AD, their bodies were discovered by St Ambrose in a garden outside the city; when the tomb of Nazarius was opened, his blood was seen to be as fresh as if he had just been wounded. His relics were then taken to a basilica which Ambrose had constructed about 15 years earlier, and dedicated to the Twelve Apostles; a large apse was added to the church, and the relics laid to rest in a crypt in the middle of it. In 1578, in the course of building a new altar for the church, a silver reliquary contemporary to the original construction of the basilica was discovered under the high altar, with relics of the Apostles Ss Peter and Paul inside it. St Ambrose himself attests that these relics had been given to him by Pope St Damasus I, for the first dedication of the church to the Twelve Apostles; St Charles was rather disappointed to find that they were not relics of their bodies, but relics “by contact”, pieces of cloth that had touched the Apostles’ bones. Nevertheless, he donated one of his own copes to wrap up the relics of St Nazarius, the Apostles, and four of his Sainted predecessors among the archbishops of Milan, who were buried in the church. The reliquary is now displayed in the museum of the Archdiocese of Milan; thanks to Nicola for all of these pictures.

On the lid of the reliquary are shown Christ and the Twelve Apostles. On the lower left are seen the baskets of fragments collected by the Apostles after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes; on the lower right, the six vessels of water turned into wine during the Wedding at Cana. The custom of representing Christ beardless to distinguish Him from the Father was still common in this era, although soon to fade away. The classical style of all five of the panels is very typical of the highest quality artworks of the era, as one would expect from a work commissioned by a man of aristocratic background and high political rank like St Ambrose; this is particularly evident in the pose of the standing figures, which are very reminiscent of the better Roman statues.

Joseph sitting in judgment on his brothers; the young prisoner on the left is Benjamin, the older one on the right is Judah. The hat worn by Joseph and the other brothers, known as a Phrygian cap, was generically associated by the Romans with peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond, and often adopted by the Christians to represent the characters in the Old Testament.

The Three Children in the Furnace, also wearing the Phrygian cap, and the angel that comes to make the inside of the furnace cool.

The Judgment of Solomon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

International Gregorian Chant Conference, Sept. 25 - Oct. 2

The Gregorian Chant Academy will host its very first online International Gregorian Chant Conference from September 25 to October 2. The conference will be held on the Academy’s YouTube channel (accessed by private link only), and consist of 8 distinguished speakers, experts in the fields of Chant, Liturgy, Theology and Philosophy. Each day at 3:00pm PST, a 45-minute pre-recorded lecture will be presented on a specific aspect of Gregorian Chant, followed by a live 45-minute Q&A session. To register, please visit The videos will remain available for viewing after the event if you are not able to attend live. 15% of all profits will be donated to the Benedictine Monks of Norcia Foundation.
Free admission to all priests/religious: simply email Mr Christopher Jasper at, indicating that you would like to attend and what diocese/religious house you belong to. Referral Rewards: Get 3 others to sign up and get the full amount of your ticket refunded back to you! Simply have them mention your name as the referent when they sign up.
Speakers and Lectures:
  • Sunday, 09/25: Dr Peter Kwasniewski, PhD: The Liturgical and Spiritual Primacy of Gregorian Chant in Sacred Music
  • Monday, 09/26: Dr Edward Schaefer, DMA: The Nature of Rhythm: Mocquereau and Beyond (a case for Semiology)
  • Tuesday, 09/27: Fr Mark Bachmann, OSB: Beauty and Benefits of the Solesmes Method (a defense)
  • Wednesday, 09/28: Mr Nicholas Lemme: How to Analyze and Prepare a Chant for Mass & Improve Your Schola
  • Thursday, 09/29: Dr William Mahrt, PhD: The Form and Function of the Alleluia and Its Melisma
  • Friday, 09/30: Mgr Alberto Turco, PhD: Recitatives and Psalmody: the Basis for Modality and Gregorian Aesthetics
  • Saturday, 10/01: Fr Chad Ripperger, PhD: Gregorian Chant and the Spiritual Life
  • Sunday, 10/02: Bp Athanasius Schneider: The Importance of Gregorian Chant in the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy

Muphry’s Law Comes After Mass of the Ages (Part 2)

This is the second part of my response to a video which attempts and fails to “challenge” the second installment of the Mass of the Ages documentary series. As I noted in the first part, this video makes one fully legitimate critique, but attempts to do almost all the rest of its “work” by stating only a part of the pertinent information, a process known by the Latin term “suppressio veri – suppression of what it true.” And as it begins, so it goes on. Once again, this is not by any means a complete list of the mistakes of the remainder of the video; such a list would be as exhausting for you to read as it would be for me to write. If you want a quick-take which shows just how utterly shoddy the research that went in to this really is, scroll down to the last paragraph.
The video objects (5:50) to an image which compares the post-Conciliar Rite of Mass to a tree which has had most of its limbs lopped off, by stating that “practically all of the old form elements are still there, or at least available in the new.” suppressio veri: it does not acknowledge that many of these elements are available in theory, but in practice, usually not available, and in many places, ruthlessly or even unlawfully prohibited. It does not acknowledge that some of them (e.g. the Mass lectionary) were radically changed, and in many ways very much for the worse. It does not acknowledge that it was in no way the intention of Sacrosanctum Concilium for such elements to become completely optional, and in many places, ruthlessly or even unlawfully prohibited. There is no point in saying “the Novus Ordo can also be said in Latin” if many priests dare not do so for fear of punishment from their superiors. There is no point in saying that “you can still have chant and polyphony” if the schola was replaced by a guitar band 50 years ago and has never been reformed.
The video objects that MOTA “ignores the fact that in other eras, elements were taken on and left out of the liturgy.” MOTA is not about this, but I can assure our readers that I know personally several of the people who appear in it, and they would never deny such a thing. The video’s account of the post-Tridentine liturgical reform squeezes a truly remarkable amount of gross over-simplification into less than a minute, and makes several mistakes. Of these, the most inexcusable is to claim that it introduced a new calendar. The Tridentine reform kept the Roman ordo temporalis, a stable part of the rite for many centuries, completely intact, and lightly pruned the calendar of Saints. It falsely claims that it took out the “Prayers of the Faithful”, more properly known as bidding prayers. These did exist in some pre-Tridentine rites, by no means all, and in any case, have no relationship to the free-for-all Prayers of the Faithful of the post-Conciliar rite. It repeats the canard that other forms of the Roman Rite were largely prohibited after 1570, another gross over-simplification. In more than one place, it asserts that the Dominican Use did not have the offertory prayers of the Roman Rite. suppressio veri: the Dominican Use has offertory prayers which are much shorter than those of the Roman Missal, but in this regard, is very much an outlier among medieval uses.
There follows an attempt to provide a definition of “organic growth”, which I will not contest, because “organic growth” is not a useful way of describing how the liturgy changes. The video then falsely imputes to MOTA the following “faulty premises”:
“1. Everything added to the liturgy must stay.” MOTA does not say this. suppressio veri: of course, the post-Conciliar reform went far beyond the letter and spirit of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and took out of the Roman Rite many things that ought not to have been taken out, some of which are attested in every pertinent liturgical book of that rite as far back as we have them.
Folio 214r of the Gellone Sacramentary, ca. 780 AD, with the prayer “Deus honorum omnium” in the rite of episcopal consecration. (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Latin 12048.) This prayer appears in every single pertinent liturgical book of the Roman rite from the so-called Leonine Sacramentary in the mid-6th century until 1968, when it was replaced by another prayer from the pseudo-Apostolic tradition of pseudo-Hippolytus, which has no historical relationship to the Roman Rite.
2. “Restoration of ancient custom is not legitimate”. MOTA does not say this either. suppressio veri: almost none of the putative restorations of ancient customs in the Novus Ordo restored them in their integrity, that is to say, as they are actually found in the ancient liturgical books. With few exceptions, they were almost all rewritten according to the bright ideas of the members of the Consilium, who at the same time, gave the lie to their own work by throwing out completely many aspects of the Roman Rite of the greatest possible antiquity. And of course, many such “restorations” (the canon of Hippolytus, the epiclesis, the Old Testament reading, the Solemnity of Mary on Jan. 1) are not “restorations” at all, because they never existed.
3. “The substance and accidental elements of the Mass are equally important”. MOTA does not say this either. suppressio veri: the creators of the post-Conciliar liturgy clearly had no good sense at all as to which accidental elements of the liturgy best express the substance of the Mass. If they had, they would not have subjected the prayers of the Mass and the Bible itself to the ruthless campaign of ideological censorship which took out so many expressions of what the Church wants us to receive from the Mass and know about the Faith.
The video then attempts to defend the indefensible by claiming that MOTA misrepresents how much was taken out of the Mass, since many such things are present in “modified or unmodified forms.” suppressio veri: the word “modified” is yet another gross oversimplification, and does not address how badly so many of those modifications were done, or the atrocious historical scholarship on the basis of which they were done. For example, the “proper chants” are counted as “still present” because they are an “option”, without saying that they are an option that is almost totally disused, and that this is the diametric opposite of what Sacrosanctum Concilium wanted to happen, and what Paul VI himself originally claimed would happen.
The Gloria, the preface, the Pater etc, can all still be sung, and in Latin, and indeed, the whole Mass “including the canon may be sung!” suppressio veri: it is also completely licit, and very much more common, for them all to be said in the vernacular at any Mass, however, “solemn”, even on the most important feast days. The Offertory prayers are declared to be “made more applicable” in their newer form, a meaningless statement and another suppressio veri, since this change was not asked for by Sacrosanctum Concilium, and serves no good purpose. Yes, the Roman Canon “may always be used”. suppressio veri: it may also never be used. Etc.
At 9:04 there begins a section introduced by the header, “False Ideas of Vatican II”, which purports to explain MOTA’s false ideas about “the Vatican II liturgy.” suppressio veri: the post-Conciliar reform is not the liturgy of Vatican II. It accuses MOTA once again of a failure to acknowledge that a priest can say the Mass with nearly all of the elements of the pre-conciliar rite, and shows footage of some exemplary Masses from churches like St. James at Spanish Place in London and St John Cantius in Chicago, (suppressio veri), without mentioning how few such churches are and how far between.
suppressio veri: at no point does the video even hint at the fact that while the liturgy has indeed changed in the past, never before did it undergo so many changes and so rapidly as it did in the post-Conciliar reform.
At 11:40, the video degenerates into a parody of itself when it effectively reproves the Tridentine Mass for being, of all things, too enculturated, because it could be celebrated with Baroque music in the 18th century, Gothic-revival vestments in the 19th etc. This is especially hilarious, considering that it is said in defense of a liturgy that was deliberately designed to be subject to constant change, based on the constant change of the surrounding culture. suppressio veri: the objective forms of the old liturgy meant that, whether for good or ill, the culture was put to the service of it, whereas enculturation in the post-Conciliar rite means that the liturgy is put to the service of the culture.
This is followed by the even more absurd contention that the post-Conciliar reform represents, through Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Church’s embrace of the pre-Conciliar liturgical movement. suppressio veri: the post-Conciliar liturgy is the betrayal and overthrow, not the fulfillment, of both the liturgical movement and Sacrosanctum Concilium. Ironically, it quotes Sacrosanctum Concilium to the effect that it is the wish of the Church to undertake a careful general reform of the liturgy. suppressio veri: everyone who has read the memoires of people like Fr Bouyer or Cardinal Antonielli knows that the post-Conciliar reform of the liturgy was careless in the extreme.
Weirdly enough, the video does finally get around to saying something useful when it claims that “we’re obviously still at the stage where most people have very limited and rather distorted ideas about the Mass.” proclamatio veri: yes, the liturgical reform has indeed absolutely failed to achieve what Vatican II wanted it to achieve. We already knew that. It also quotes the recent apostolic letter on the liturgy to the same effect, because when the Pope says that he “would like this letter to help us to rekindle our wonder for the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration, to remind us of the necessity of an authentic liturgical formation, and to recognize the importance of an art of celebrating that is at the service of the truth of the Paschal Mystery and of the participation of all of the baptized in it, each one according to his or her vocation”, he acknowledges, whether he means to or not, that the post-Conciliar reform has achieved none of this.
This is followed immediately by seven pictures of the post-Conciliar Rite: a boy’s choir, a beautiful missal, a beautiful vestment, the elevation of the host at a Mass celebrated ad orientem, a beautiful altar set, a picture of a Gregorian chant, the minor elevation at another Mass, by a priest wearing a beautiful vestment. These do exactly what the beginning of the video accuses MOTA of doing: presenting the new liturgy at its best, without acknowledging that these things do not represent the experience of many ordinary Catholics. It is hypocritical in the extreme to reprove MOTA for presenting the traditional Mass at its best because the traditional Mass was often not celebrated at its best, and then show the post-Conciliar Mass at its best, when that best is far rarer than it ever was in the traditional rite, as everyone knows.
Just to end by adding insult to injury, the video then exhorts us to put an end to the “damaging liturgical wars”, a few seconds after citing a text by the person most responsible for inflaming them in recent times.
The last three minutes are occupied by a series of informational slides which are, of course, chock full of mistakes and falsehoods. At 15:37, we are treated to the comically absurd contention that the traditional liturgy is not a really a bulwark of orthodox belief, because it is also used by some communities which are wildly heretical (e.g. the Old Catholics.) suppressio veri: these communities are all tiny, and there is a tiny number of them. A caption at the bottom says that something called the “Gallican schism” has been using the “traditional” rite (sneer quotes theirs) for 700+ years. This “information”, which is all completely wrong, was garnered from the website of a woman named Cherry Chapman, whose principal interest in it comes from the fact that a certain church in Paris allows her to attend Mass with her dog. The fact that the video repeats information from a random personal webpage without fact-checking any of it demonstrates better than anything else how fundamentally unserious the whole project actually is.
Yes, of course I made a screen shot...

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Obiter Dicta

Liturgical scholarship in the mid-20th century was a bit less scientific than astrology, but far more pretentious and powerful.” - A Italian friend of mine, Mr Francesco Righini, won the internet yesterday with this obiter dictum.
“Exhume, surmise, assert, repeat.” – a gloss on the previous by a priest.

“Your young priests and seminarians are not trads because they haven’t studied the liturgical reform. They’re trads because they have.” – Mr Urban Hannon

“At least we know he accepts the Second Vatican Council, because he is celebrating Mass facing the people.” – a priest who won the internet today, commenting on this by-now-notorious photo of a priest celebrating Mass in the sea, without any kind of vestment, and using an inflatable swim toy as the altar. (Yes, it’s completely real.)

(By the way, this is in the modern Ambrosian Rite, which was in some ways far more respectful of tradition than the post-Conciliar reform of the Roman Rite, and retains the ancient custom of the priest stretching out his arms in the form of a Cross immediately after the Consecration.)
UPDATE: Nicola de’ Grandi informs me that the public prosecutor’s office in the city of Crotone where this took place has opened up an inquiry regarding the possible prosecution of this priest for “offending a religious confession.”
“At the same time, I am saddened by abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides. In common with Benedict XVI, I deplore the fact that ‘in many places the prescriptions of the new Missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions.’ ” – another Francesco.

Something Harmonious, Something Monotonous, Something Cacophonous

As a regular photo feature, I am going to post a photo of a building that displays clear harmonious proportion. Each time I will try to contrast it with either something either monotonous - with dull, even spacing - or cacophonous, which has random proportions. For more information on the mathematics of beauty and proportion see my book, The Way of Beauty or the Mathematics of Beauty course at Pontifex University, which goes into even greater depth. This course is offered both for Master“’s credit or Continuing Education Units. These trace the development of this field back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and early Christian figures such as Boethius and Augustine. 

Today, we have a side view of the Parry Mansion, an 18th-century house in New Hope, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which is now preserved in historical form and houses the local historical society. I took the side-on snaps myself on a walk around the town. The engraved stone block set into the structure up high say Benj.n Parry 1784.
The windows show a perfect chord in stone. Three different magnitudes work together visually like three notes in a major triad. As we move upwards we get a sense of the rhythm: the first relates to the second as the second relates to the third. For some context, I have added photos of other views below too.
And in contrast here’s some cacophony. This house has random proportions. The porch doesn’t fit the entrance and bears no relation to the windows to the right. It’s probably a nice house to live in, since as long as you are inside, you can only look out of it, and therefore don’t need to be worry too much about how ugly it is

It has clean-cut sharp lines that give it some attractiveness, perhaps, when viewed in isolation, but there is no discernable pattern of proportion here that relates the parts to each other. I want to strip that porch away so that I can see what the rest of the house looks like! Similarly, its randomness means that it will be almost impossible to harmonize its design with other buildings around it, which will make the neighborhood look random and ugly, with houses that bear no relation to each other. It will sit unhappily in a natural setting too, looking like a concrete scar on the landscape, for the dimensions of traditional harmonious proportion which this artist rejected are based upon the observation of the cosmos. The only way to stop it from looking as though it doesn’t belong is to remove as much nature from around it as possible, as has been done here, and hide the view of nearby buildings: alternatively, one could have so much climbing ivy and shrubs that the proportions of the building itself are hidden from view altogether.

So long, Frank Lloyd Wright. Or at least his influence, we hope.

Monday, July 25, 2022

The Chop-Chop Reform and the Mass of the Ages

An altar missal ca. mid-1960s, hand-edited to reflect mandated changes

About two years ago, I was paging through my Liber, and as I looked again at the Order of Mass at the front, I thought: “Wouldn’t it be interesting... eye-opening... to make a photocopy of this Ordo Missae, and then strike out, in different colors, the things that were removed or changed or made optional by the Novus Ordo.” So I made the copy, and got out the highlighters... and then promptly lost the pages in a big pile of paper (that’s the way it goes in my office).

Fast-forward to Mass of the Ages Episode 2 (which was yanked off of YouTube by YouTube’s overlords at close to 1.8 million views because of an unjust copyright-strike from Sony, but which may now be viewed via the Mass of the Ages website here). The moment I saw, a few months before its release, a prototype of the now-famous animation sequence, I realized: “They have done it: they have succeeded in showing how much was changed, and how radically.” Most of you know by now the one-minute segment of the episode that I’m talking about. Here it is as a video clip posted at my YouTube page (with permission of MotA):
I’m convinced that, as the number of total views now surpasses 2 million (with the number of individuals affected being actually higher than that, since the movie-watching often takes place with families or groups of friends), this episode and its unforgettable lessons will transform mentalities and pull down idols from their high places. Even tendentious critiques of MotA 2 will not be able to stop the momentum and the effects.

(It goes without saying that this animation sequence shows only the heart of the iceberg, focusing on the fixed Order of Mass; it does not show the equally great or greater deformations that were visited upon the changing parts of the Mass, that is, the orations, antiphons, and readings. When one realizes that the entire reform — that is, of the missal in all its parts, of every other sacramental rite, of the pontifical rites, of all sacramentals, and of the breviary — shared the same character and that such animation sequences could be produced for all of them, one is perhaps for the first time in a position not only to know cognitively but to feel viscerally the magnitude of the revolution.)

A friend was telling me that his parents for a long time wondered “what’s the big deal, why are so many young people going back to the Latin Mass.” He then asked them to watch episode 2 with him. They were deeply moved by it, not to say disturbed and troubled, and felt a new openness to the old liturgy. For some, watching it confirmed what they already suspected or dimly understood; for others, it opened up a whole new way of seeing the past sixty years. For everyone it has underlined the abject failure of the 1960s reform to obey explicit provisions of the Council and, most of all, to respect tradition as the Council Fathers pledged to do and as the pope is bound by office to do.

There is nothing, nothing, the Vatican can do that will overcome the effect of the truth finally getting out in the central information/entertainment medium of our time, namely, online video. (As a writer, I’m not terribly happy that this is our society’s main medium, but in this case we can see the copious benefits Divine Providence has arranged to draw from it.)

Sure, the opponents of the Western liturgical heritage can thunder and fulminate, call names and wag fingers, ghettoize and demonize, cancel and suppress—they can try all of that, as their forebears did decades ago after the Council, and often with the same tactics. Yet they will ultimately fail, because those of us who hold on to the traditional Roman liturgy (and with it, the traditional Catholic Faith in toto) do so as a matter of principle, not as a pragmatic “take it or leave it” affair, and there are more of us all the time — far, far more than there were in the dark days of the 1970s. Moreover, our human enemies are much less diplomatic and guarded about their intentions; they have made no attempt to hide their modernist agenda. They have made it easy for us to see through their specious reasons and disdain their illicit acts.

Just recently when organizing my office papers, I happened to stumble across the aforementioned pages photocopied from my Liber and decided to post them here. What you are seeing is the fixed or unchanging parts of Mass, not the Propers (which were also, for all intents and purposes, abolished in the reform). Black means the text was removed altogether. Blue means this text was rewritten. Orange means this text is optional but typically unused.

One benefit of seeing the Ordo Missae laid out like this over seven dense pages is that it shows just how simple and brief the traditional Roman Rite of Mass actually is, compared (say) with the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which would cover at least twice, maybe three times the number of pages. Our authoritative and venerable Roman Rite is already concise and sparse compared with all other Eucharistic rites of tradition.

It is therefore impossible to believe — rationally and with good will — that it needed to be further simplified, abbreviated, or cleared of redundancies and accretions; and the experience of priests and laity today who become familiar with it by a humble and trustful disposition can bear out the ascetical-mystical value of every one of its existing elements, from the prayers at the foot of the altar all the way to the genuflection in the last Gospel. The brutal amputations of the Novus Ordo are born of rationalistic prejudice, impatience with cultic prayer, and a grossly utilitarian activism that thinks it has something better to do than the opus Dei and would, if it could get away with it, simply replace the Mass with a communion service — preferably one in which a female is distributing the host, wearing a rainbow-colored stole.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

A Pontifical Mass for St Bridget in Sweden

Yesterday was the dies natalis of St Bridget of Sweden, the patron of the country, and, as of 1999, one of the co-patrons of all of Europe, together with Ss Benedict, Cyril and Methodius, Catherine of Siena and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. At the church of Greyfriars Abbey in Ystad, Sweden, His Excellency Czeslaw Kozon, bishop of Copenhagen, Denmark, celebrated a Pontifical Mass for her feast; here is a nice video from EWTN with some excerpts. In her native place, St Bridget would have known one of the local uses of the Roman Rite, which in the Nordic countries had a lot in common with the Use of Sarum. However, she spent most of the last twenty-three years of her life in Rome, and it is pleasant to remember that in almost every way, this Mass would have been perfectly familiar to her. We thank Bishop Kozon for his fatherly solicitude towards those who love the traditional rite.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Muphry’s Law Comes After Mass of the Ages (Part 1)

Muphry’s Law is the principle, well-known to copy-editors, that in the coarse of correcting someone else’s errors, one inevitably makes a few of one’s own. The parameters of this law are stretched almost to their furthest limits in this attempt by an Australian group of Dominican sisters (see note in following paragraph) to challenge the second part of the Mass of the Ages documentary series. In a quarter of the run-time, it manages to commit a genuinely astonishing number of mistakes about and misrepresentations of the history of the liturgy and the post-Conciliar reform. Perhaps that is why, unlike Cameron O’Hearn, the producer of MOTA, the good sisters, in the truest spirit of the Listening Church™ (formerly known as the Dialoguing Church™), have not allowed comments on the video. (MOTA part 2 has been removed from YouTube because of a fair-use challenge involving ten second of soundtrack, as Mr O’Hearn explains here, but comments are open on all his channel’s videos. You can watch it here on its own site:
UPDATE: thanks to Mr Eamonn Gaines for pointing out in the combox that the sisters who produced this video are a diocesan congregation, not formally affiliated to the Dominican Order.

Before all else, I must state that I do not attribute to the sisters any deliberate lying. Some of the mistakes which they make result from an evident failure to do very basic research; this is regrettable, but does not make for proof of mendacity. But many of the others are simply articles of faith among the defenders of the post-Conciliar reform, much as “Constantine made Jesus into a god at the Council of Nicea” is an article of faith among certain kinds of new atheists. And just like “Constantine made Jesus into a god at the Council of Nicea”, they rest on very sandy foundations, but have been repeated so long and so often that many people have no idea how sandy those foundations really are.

However, while I do not impute to them any suggestio falsi (with one exception), it is impossible to avoid the charge of a massive suppressio veri. In this regard, the video winds up committing so many errors that I can hardly hope to document them all without writing far more than you are likely prepared to read. I therefore will limit myself to explaining only the most egregious among them, which are more than sufficient.
At 0:18 there occur the terms “Extraordinary Form” and “Ordinary Form.” At no point does the video acknowledge that this terminology has been officially suppressed, as part of a doomed (but for that, no less pastorally harmful) attempt to save face over the post-Conciliar reform’s failure to produce any of the fruits which Sacrosanctum Concilium looked for in its opening paragraph.
At 0:55, we are presented with the classic canard that the old Mass was often celebrated very badly before Vatican II. As a friend of mine once observed, “The TLM was celebrated poorly; we needed a new liturgy!” but somehow, “Just because the Novus Ordo is nearly ubiquitously celebrated poorly doesn’t mean we that we need a new liturgy!”
First, we see footage of traditional Masses being done well nowadays. (I pause to say, “Good job, lads! Way to fulfill the Council’s vision for liturgical renewal!”) Then we are told that “we should note that before Vatican II, the liturgical practice was largely that of the Low Mass.” This is a perfect suppressio veri, which fails to make the all-important distinction between “before Vatican II”, which is more than 95% of the Church’s history, and “immediately before Vatican II”, which is, um, less. It therefore also fails to acknowledge that the best of our liturgical culture, from the cathedral of Chartres to the music of Palestrina (which is to say, everything that Vatican II wanted to thrive, and which has in the ensuing decades conspicuously failed to thrive), is also a product of the Roman Rite, and that the post-Conciliar rite has inspired almost nothing to match any of it.
‘Charles,’ said Cordelia, ‘Modern Art is all bosh, isn’t it?’ ‘Great bosh.’
It also fails to acknowledge that by abolishing the formal and prescriptive distinction between low, sung and high Mass, the Novus Ordo has normalized the low Mass with hymns, not improved it.
“The Mass … was often said in quite ordinary settings.” This is simply not true; most Masses were said in churches, and most churches, even when not very good artistically, made an effort to be beautiful, and in any case, distinctly church-like. I say “most” advisedly, because in the period immediately before Vatican II, especially after World War I, there was an emerging trend to build ugly churches totally devoid of any sense of the sacred. The video does not acknowledge that this harmful trend was normalized after the Council, and still flourishes in much of the world.
“the people in the pews were often involved in their own personal prayers”: another suppressio veri, which again ignores the crucial distinction between “before Vatican II” and “immediately before Vatican II”, and the fact that this phenomenon was realized very unevenly through the Church. My father used to say that it was quite common in the ethnically Italian churches he grew up in (of which two out of three are now not just closed, but gone), while an Irish former co-worker of mine who went to Catholic school in the same city at the same time used to say, with great indignation at the idea that she was “ignorant” of the Mass, “We ALL had our own missals, and those sisters made darn sure that we knew how to use them!”
Card. Ratzinger once wrote that if the point of the liturgical reform was popular participation, it was not necessary at all in Catholic Germany. In 1884, a Benedictine monk named Anselm Shott published a hand-missal which became so popular that German Catholics to this very day still use the term “Schott-Meßbuch” to mean a hand-missal for the Novus Ordo. In other words, the video sums up a very complex and lengthy aspect of the Church’s history, which would itself be worthy of its own documentary, as if one tiny part of it were representative of the whole.
At 1:36, we see footage of Richard Cardinal Cushing, the archbishop of Boston, saying President Kennedy’s funeral Mass in 1963. (This is captioned “A Mass prior to Vatican II…”, which had begun over thirteen months earlier.) This Mass is, frankly, bizarre; His Eminence doesn’t just say the quiet parts aloud, but does so in a weirdly affected stentorian voice. Another suppressio veri: it is not mentioned that he was doing so against the rubrics of the Missal, which had not yet been modified. (Sacrosanctum Concilium had not yet even been issued.) And another: it is not mentioned that the combined effect of saying rather than singing the Mass, the vernacular, versus populum, and standing at the people’s eye-level, has made the Novus Ordo a hostage to the priest’s personal quirks 1000 times more than was ever the case before the reform.
At 2:12, under the heading, “Coincidence = Cause Fallacy”, the sisters take MOTA to task for suggesting that “the new form of Mass as such caused the decline in faith practice (sic) over the past fifty years.” It is another article of faith among the post-Conciliar Rite’s defenders that this decline is in no way attributable to what Catholics were actually experiencing when they went to church, but rather to the secularization of society. I have never seen how this claim made any sense. “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” is a fallacy in logic; the fallacy lies in the “ergo”, but that doesn’t change the fact that causality moves forward in time.
Another suppressio veri: the Church’s authorities did not present the liturgical reform as if it would have no effect in halting the slide of Catholic societies into secularism. They presented it as if it were exactly what was needed to strengthen the faith of practicing Catholics, bring back those who had fallen away, and reconvert secularized Western man to Christ. And when that not only didn’t happen, but practicing Catholics began abandoning the Faith in droves, they assured their dwindling congregations that all was well, or soon would be. Only when it became too obvious to hide that all was not well did the official line change to, “Well, it’s all just too bad, but there was nothing to be done about it, because of secularism.”
At 3:03 begins a section of “the Bugnini myths”, and it is here that, after more suppressio veri, the sisters finally make their one and only genuinely serious criticism.
First, they attempt to downplay the importance of then-Monsignor Annibale Bugnini’s role as the gate-keeper and coordinator of the activities of the Consilium ad exsequendam. Yes, the Novus Ordo “is not a one-man production”, but it is a production in which the influence of that one man was not merely significant, but determinative. This fact is sufficiently well demonstrated by the memoires of Bugnini himself and of Fr Bouyer, among many others, as to require no further comment here.
They go on to say that the Consilium worked for four years, as if four years were not an outrageously short time in which to do a top-to-bottom radical reform of a liturgy into which the Church had poured some 15 centuries of wisdom and experience. They state that the Consilium worked in consultation with the bishops of the world, which is true as far as it goes, and say nothing about how little satisfied many bishops were with their work. But later on (11:02), they criticize MOTA for “not drawing our attention to the fact that the worst destruction of the Novus Ordo was done by priests and bishops formed in the years prior to the Council. Obviously there were flaws in their theological and liturgical formation…” The question is, of course, neither asked nor answered whether these flaws ALSO affected their consultation with the Consilium.
They say that the Consilium worked with the Congregation for Worship, without noting that that Congregation was completely sidelined, reduced by the Pope to rubber-stamping all its decisions. (Mons. Piero Marini, a colleague and admirer of Bugnini, documents this very well in his book “A Challenging Reform.”) And they say that they worked with the Pope, without mentioning Fr Bouyer’s well-known story of how Bugnini routinely deceived the Pope, or how the Pope himself did not bother to even look at their work in inventing a new lectionary.
Myth no. 2 touches the vexed question of Bugnini’s reputed Masonic affiliation. Here, I readily declare my agreement with Dom Alcuin Reid, who says in MOTA (54:30) that his work should be judged above all by its fruits. However, the sisters make a legitimate suggestio falsi when they asked why Paul VI then “promoted” him, rather than defrock or excommunicate him. To take a man who had been at the head of the liturgical reform for over a decade, someone with no diplomatic experience whatsoever, and make him nuncio to the tottering regime of the Shah of Iran, which has a Catholic population of less than 3 hundredths of a percent, is most unmistakably NOT a promotion. And of course, if they had done any research on Paul VI at all, the sisters would have known that if he had made such a grave mistake as to entrust such an important reform to a mason, he would never have admitted it by defrocking or excommunicating him.
Thus far, the suggestio falsi, but we also should not ignore the suppressio veri of the fact that, despite the supposed perfection and magnificence of their work, there has been suspiciously little celebration of ANY of the members of the Consilium since they finished it and went home lo these many years ago.
At 4:21, we come to the video’s one serious and substantive critique. Starting at 31:06, MOTA gives a quote famously but incorrectly imputed to Bugnini: “The road to union with our separated brethren – the protestants – is to remove every stone from the liturgy, every prayer from the Mass that could (even remotely) be an obstacle or difficulty.” (Osservatore Romano, March 19, 1965)
This should be given in a fuller form and translated as, “And yet, the love of souls and the desire to help (or ‘make easier’) in every way the road to union for the separated brethren, by removing every stone that could even remotely constitute an obstacle or source of difficulty, have driven the Church to make even these painful sacrifices.” And furthermore, this was said, not in reference to a general reform of the liturgy, but specifically, to the revision of one of the solemn orations of Good Friday.
A photograph of the relevant page of the Osservatore Romano, provided to Dr Kwasniewski by a reader, which is admittedly not easy to read, even when enlarged. The relevant article is titled “Ritocchi ad alcune preghiere...”, the third header on the left side of the page.
The video correctly notes that this is a very serious flaw in MOTA, one which should without question be corrected. I urge Mr O’Hearn and his team not only to do so as quickly as possible, but to formally acknowledge the mistake, which undermines the credibility of their otherwise excellent work.
However, as Dr Kwasniewski rightly pointed out to me, the statement is nevertheless a fair summary of the ethos of the reform as a whole. The reformers unquestionably saw their mission not as the restoration of the liturgy which the Council had asked for, but the remaking of it in their own image and likeness. Ferdinando Cardinal Antonelli, who was a member of the Consilium, and in principle very much in favor of reform, stated this outright in his memoirs. And furthermore, this remaking did unquestionably consist in the reformers identifying, each according to his own personal ideas, what in the liturgy constituted an “obstacle”, whether it be to the comprehension of the faithful, ecumenical progress, or some other hazily identified but unquestionably desirable goal, and taking it out. And this is why they took advantage of the highly imprudent ambiguity of Sacrosanctum Concilium’s statement that “elements which … , were added (to the liturgy) with but little advantage are now to be discarded”, and discarded any number of elements that are attested in every single pertinent liturgical book of the Roman Rite as far back as we have them.
From this point forward (5:50), the sisters’ video behaves very much like a badly outclassed prize-fighter who, having landed one very solid punch on his opponent, has completely exhausted himself. But as one begins, so must one go on, and go on it does, with a long string of half-truths which will be enumerated in the 2nd part of this article.

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