Tuesday, October 31, 2023

All Hallows’ Eve

Controversy continues to surround Halloween, with various voices denouncing or defending it as darkly pagan, harmlessly secular, liturgically Catholic, or historically anti-Catholic. And, interestingly, they are all right.

Halloween began as the Celtic festival of Samhain, the Lord of the dead in Celtic mythology. It was believed that on the night before the feast, the gates of the underworld were opened and that ghosts, demons, and witches were allowed to roam freely. In response to this otherworldly menace, the Celts followed the principle “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and disguised themselves as various kinds of ghouls to escape harm. (From this practice comes our custom of Halloween masquerading). And in addition to blending in with the infernal, the Celts also tried to appease evil spirits by offering them food and wine.

Neopagans celebrating Samhain
The Catholic Takeover
After the Catholic faith came to Celtic lands, the old Druidic festival was associated with the night before All Saints’ Day and was thus called All Hallows’ Eve (a name that gives us the modern appellation of Halloween), even though the institution of All Saints’ Day on November 1 was a complete coincidence. Church officials were gradually able to wean the Celts from their sacrifices, replacing the food offerings to the gods with “soul cakes” that would be made on Halloween and offered to the poor in memory of the faithful departed. This was centuries before the Western Church instituted November 2 as All Souls’ Day, the day commemorating the souls suffering in Purgatory.
The original intention of distributing soul cakes was doubly charitable, ensuring that the poor would be fed on this day, in exchange for which they would pray for the donor’s dead.
Soul Cakes
But eventually, “souling,” as it was called, became more frolicsome as groups of young men and boys began going from house to house and demanding food, money, or ale instead of cakes. The Church, incidentally, also transformed the nature of masquerading during this time from the evasion of evil spirits to the emulation of Christian saints. Large processions in honor of all the saints were held in England and Ireland on the vigil of the feast, with participants either carrying relics or dressing up as angels and saints.
The Irish put an additional spin on the feast with their story about a deceased scamp named Jack. Jack had been kicked out of heaven because he was not good enough and out of hell because he kept playing tricks on the devil. It was thus arranged that Jack would roam the earth with only a lantern to guide him until the Last Judgment, when God would finally decide what to do with him. Hence the ubiquitous Halloween jack-o’-lantern, which in Ireland is made out of the potato and in America out of the more commodious pumpkin.
Jack OLantern Potato
Modern Changes
The Reformation all but eliminated Halloween, since most Protestant ecclesial communities removed the feast of All Saints from their calendar. In England, however, many of the old Catholic customs were transferred to Guy Fawkes Day six days later, the commemoration of a failed plot by several English Catholics to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605. After the plot was foiled, the British government declared November 5 “a holiday for ever in... detestation of the Papists”, and it was illegal not to celebrate the feast in the United Kingdom until 1959. In the United Sates, the anniversary was known as Pope’s Day, and despite George Washington’s admonitions, it continued to be celebrated in some parts of the country well into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
George Washington: No Pope’s Day!
Of the customs that were transferred, the principal one concerns door-to-door begging. Instead of souling, boys in England and later America would solicit lumps of coal on the night before the holiday in order to burn effigies of Guy Fawkes or the pope (usually, Pope Paul V [1550-1621], who forbade English Catholics from taking the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown). After the Irish emigrated to the United States in the nineteenth century, bringing with them their old Halloween customs, the coal-begging of Guy Fawkes Day gradually elided back into the souling of October 31. It is from this combination of Irish Catholic and British anti-Catholic observances that our modern custom of trick-or-treating has emerged.
Burning an effigy of the Pope on Guy Fawkes Day, LIFE Magazine, 1945
What to Do
Halloween today can be celebrated in any number of ways, from innocent costumes and customs (such as bobbing for apples) to teenage vandalism to truly satanic cultic practices. It is because of this checkered past and present that many traditional Catholics prefer to host more explicitly religious events in addition to Halloween or not to observe the standard American Halloween at all. Adopting the old tradition of All Saints’ masquerading, they host costume parties in which children dress as Saints, and in which games and contests are held and prizes rewarded.
An All Saints’ Party at St. Peter Catholic Student Center in Waco, Texas. Three pirates are in the background. In the foreground are four Saints whose lives were forever changed by pirates. Can you guess who they are? [1]
Others infuse the old Christian meaning back into the holiday. Since it precedes the first class solemnity of All Saints’ Day, October 31 was once a day of fasting and abstinence. One family we know teaches their children to think of trick-or-treating as a kind of harvest gathering for the real holiday of All Saints’, and indeed for the entire first week of November. This not only keeps them from gorging themselves on their sweet plunder in a single night, it yokes their harmless fun to a deeper spiritual meaning. In former ages, All Saints’ Day was celebrated for eight days, and though this octave was removed from the calendar by the time of the 1962 Missal, paraliturgical traditions continue to thrive in connection with All Souls’ Day on November 2. Plenary indulgences, for example, are still offered from November 1 through 8 for visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead, and several Catholic cultures have long had special funereal foods and customs for this week. American Catholics of Western European descent have never had a robust “week of the dead” unlike, say, the Mexican people, and so saving Halloween candy for the saints and the poor souls in purgatory could be a way to fill this void and correct the abuses of Halloween to boot. One thing is certain: if the Church can snatch Halloween away from the Druids, she can take it back from secular America.
[1] From left to right: St. Symeon of Trier, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Flavia (in the scarlet robe), and St. Patrick.

Photopost Request: All Saints and All Souls 2023

Our next photopost series will be for the feast of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls, which will be celebrated tomorrow and Thursday. As always, we welcome pictures of Mass in either Form, or the Ordinariate Rite, as well as the vigil Mass of All Saints, celebrations of the Divine Office on any of these days, and displays of relics. We will also include celebrations of the feast of Christ the King, and other feasts occurring in these days, if anyone sends them in. Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important; email them to photopost@newliturgicalmovement.org. (Zipfiles are preferred.) Evangelize through beauty!

From our first All Saints and All Souls photopost of last year: relics displayed on the altar of St Matthew on All Saints’ day at Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, the FSSP church in Rome.
The Office of the Dead said in the Catholic cemetery of Ottawa, Ontario, by the FSSP apostolate at St Clement’s Church.

From the second post: Requiem Mass at the church of the Assumption and St Charles (Karlov) in Prague, the Czech Republic.

Recitation of the Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart at the Oratory of Ss Cyril and Methodius in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on the patronal feast of the Institute of Christ the King.
From a November photopost catch-up: the absolution at the catafalque at the Oratory of St Joseph, the ICRSP church in Hammond, Indiana.

Mass for the feast of St Catherine of Alexandria in a church dedicated to her in Karis, Finland.

Online Classes in Medieval Embroidery Styles, Including Sacred Images

Olga Fishchuk, who is an expert in traditional methods of pictorial embroidery, is now offering online resources in the field, focusing on the style and techniques that were used in the Byzantine Slav world in the 14th-17th centuries. Her work was first brought to my attention by the well-known icon carver Jonathan Pageau, when she was offering in-person workshops in the US, several years ago.

Olga is Ukrainian and lives in Kyiv. For obvious reasons trips, to the US are unlikely in the near future, so she has created these materials to enable people in this country to learn. These instruction materials are available at Ukrainian prices - just $25, which is extraordinarily low. You can purchase them here, and read about the Katrusha studio and her work at www.buymeacoffee.com/Katrusya.studio. The project will offer students master classes at three levels:

The first level is an introduction to the basic methods and techniques of embroidery and needlework, using the example of a simple ornamental composition, as illustrated by this video:

The master class at the introductory level will be interesting not only to those who want to learn ecclesial embroidery, but also to any embroiderers who want to improve and expand their knowledge and skills.

The intermediate level involves the execution of icons with simple embroidered faces.

The advanced level is the embroidery of more complex waist-length and full height icons with embroidered faces and hands.

In addition to the master classes, the project will also offer students lectures on the history of pictorial embroidery in the medieval style, as well as other interesting and useful materials on the topic.

Since the master classes are designed for independent study of the material by students, the instructions are very detailed, with a great many photos and diagrams, as well as videos of the process.

The first master class flower and vine materials include:
  • a 70-page PDF file with detailed step-by-step instructions, including recommendations for choosing materials, tools, and a chart for troubleshooting;
  • 70 quality photos; and
  • 15 videos demonstrating how to prepare and execute the work.
Olga’s instagram is www.instagram.com/katrusya.studio/
Purchase the class and read about the Katrusha Studio at: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/Katrusya.studio

Monday, October 30, 2023

A Defense of Traditional Liturgy from Eastern Catholic Experience and Theology

“Lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them.” (Matt. 2,9)

Much has been written about various aspects of the liturgical crisis and turmoil the Roman Catholic Church has lived through since Vatican II. It is tempting for some to believe that “all was well” before the Second Vatican Council, even if things were a whole lot better than afterwards. Similarly, thanks to a sort of Jesuitical conception of devotion to the principle of visible authority, it is all too easy for faithful Catholics to deny that the Church’s leaders have ever engaged in colossal blunders in their liturgical leadership.

Reclaiming Our Inheritance after Vatican II: Leadership Lessons From Eastern Catholic History and Liturgy puts these views to rest. While scholars such as Alcuin Reid and Ole Martin Stamnestro have drawn attention to the principles and history of the “Liturgical Movement” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, debates over the reforms of the Consilium often overlook and ignore the history and magisterial documents on the Catholic Churches of the East.

Written by a Ukrainian Catholic cleric, Fr. Deacon Christopher, who lives and works amidst the human tragedies experienced by those on the front lines of emergency services today, the present work describes the tragedies—liturgical and otherwise—that Eastern Catholics have lived through over the centuries. The author’s awareness of the daily struggles of people, combined with his knowledge of the history, theology, and liturgy of East (and West), support his ability to present a vision of liturgical reform that anyone can learn from.

It is time for Catholics of the West to embrace their whole Catholic history because the implications are clear: one of the strongest cases for an enduring place for the Roman Church’s traditional liturgy in the West is to be found in the history of, and magisterial documents on, the Eastern Catholic Churches, whose own traditions were once trounced or willingly corrupted but have over time been renewed and are now strongly sustained.

If I have a minor criticism of the work, it would be that it seems to pay little attention to the vast amount of writing in defense of the Roman liturgy that has also frequently made use of comparisons with the East. This comparison was first made, interestingly, in the Ottaviani Intervention, and we saw it given full scope in Geoffrey Hull's The Banished Heart. At NLM, Gregory DiPippo has been notable for his innumerable studies of the Eastern tradition and its parallels or contrasts with the Western (such as his article on the difference between Byzantine concelebration and the Latin novel fabrication). I myself have addressed this topic at NLM and elsewhere over the past ten years (e.g., here; indeed, I have a popular book called Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright, which includes some points reminiscent of Fr. Deacon's). It would have been ideal if the author had shown more awareness of the breadth and depth of the discussion in traditionalist circles. Nevertheless, his familiarity with Alcuin Reid goes a long way, and the case he makes, the information he gathers, and the conclusions he draws are still very worthwhile to consider.

The case for restoration in the West should take into account the critical importance of our Eastern brethren and their experiences, positive and negative. A genuine, knowledgeable, and thorough dialogue with the life and experience of the Catholic Churches of the East must become part of our Western conversations about the necessary place of the traditional liturgy in the life of the Roman Catholic Church. Reclaiming Our Inheritance makes this case convincingly, and does so succinctly, in 145 pages.

Available from Eastern Christian Publications, the book is available in print and e-book formats on November 1st. Paperback copies are now on sale for only $15 if pre-ordered by the end of October.

Thank you, Fr Deacon Christopher, for writing this book.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Visit Dr. Kwasniewski’s Substack “Tradition & Sanity”; personal site; composer site; publishing house Os Justi Press and YouTube, SoundCloud, and Spotify pages.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Feast of Christ the King 2023

Thine is the power, thine the kingdom, o Lord; Thou art above all nations. * Give peace, o Lord, in our days. ℣. God, creator of all things, fearful and mighty, just and merciful. Give peace in our time, O Lord. (The ninth responsory of the feast of Christ the King in the Benedictine Office.)

From the Great Hours of Anne of Brittany, 1503-8, illuminated by Jean Bourdichon. This image accompanies a suffrage of All Saints, and perfectly expresses Pius XI’s intention in placing the feast of Christ the King on the Sunday before All Saints’ day: Mystical Head before Mystical Body. (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Latin 9474)
℟. Tua est potentia, tuum regnum, Dómine: tu es super omnes gentes: * Da pacem, Dómine, in diébus nostris. ℣. Creátor omnium, Deus, terríbilis et fortis, justus et miséricors. Da pacem, Dómine, in diébus nostris.

By the time the feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925, the hour of Matins was very rarely sung outside of a fairly small number of monasteries, and even then, only on major feasts, and this had been the case for quite a long time. To the degree that it was done in choir at all, it was usually done recto tono. (The common exceptions were Christmas Matins before Midnight Mass and Tenebrae.) As a result, there was little impetus to compose new responsories when new feasts were promulgated. For example, when Pope Clement XIII first granted permission for the feast of Sacred Heart to be celebrated in certain places, the Matins responsories of the Office which he promulgated for it were all borrowed from Tenebrae, Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi. Likewise, this responsory is borrowed for Christ the King from the very ancient corpus of Gregorian chants for the month of October, accompanying the readings from the books of the Maccabees, which is why a recording of it is available at all.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

The Legends of Saints Simon and Jude

In the Breviary of St Pius V, the lives of the Apostles Simon and Jude are summed up in a single lesson of fewer than sixty words. It is noted that St Simon was called “the Chananean, also the Zealot”; the term “Chananean” was thought by some of the Church Fathers to refer to Cana of Galilee, where the Lord turned water into wine, but it is simply a hellenization of the Hebrew word “qanna’i – zealous.” St Thaddeus, more often called Jude, was the author of one of the seven Catholic Epistles. After the Ascension, the former went to evangelize Egypt, the latter to Mesopotamia; they later met in Persia, where they continued to preach the Gospel, and were eventually martyred.

The pre-Tridentine Roman Breviary, on the other hand, gives a much more elaborate account of their lives after the Lord’s Ascension. St Simon is said to have preached the Gospel in many places, which are not specifically named. When St James the Less was killed in 62 A.D., Simon was chosen by the other Apostles to succeed him as bishop of Jerusalem. Having governed the mother church of Christianity for many years, and reached the age of one-hundred and twenty, he was tortured and crucified under the Emperor Trajan. In reality, these stories derive from the life of a different saint with a similar name, Symeon of Jerusalem, who is mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260-340) in the third book of his Ecclesiastical History.
Chapter 11. After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem … it is said that those of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh … to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James. They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention, to be worthy of the episcopal throne … He was a cousin, as they say, of the Savior; for Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.

Chapter 32. (Citing Hegesippus again) Speaking of certain heretics, he adds that Symeon was accused by them at this time; and since it was clear that he was a Christian, he was tortured in various ways for many days, and astonished even the judge himself and his attendants in the highest degree, and finally he suffered a death similar to that of our Lord. But there is nothing like hearing the historian himself, who writes as follows: “Certain of these heretics brought accusation against Symeon, the son of Clopas, on the ground that he was a descendant of David and a Christian; and thus he suffered martyrdom, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, while Trajan was emperor and Atticus governor. … And after being tortured for many days he suffered martyrdom, and all, including even the proconsul, marveled that, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, he could endure so much. And orders were given that he should be crucified.”
The Martyrdom of Saints Simon and Jude
In his famous Golden Legend, Bl. Jacopo de Voragine writes that the confusion between Symeon of Jerusalem and the Apostle Simon was noted by Eusebius, St Isidore and Bede the Venerable. In the Tridentine reform of the Breviary, therefore, the error was corrected; the story of St Symeon of Jerusalem was detached from that of the Apostle, and he was given his own feast day on February 18.

In each of the Synoptic Gospels, when the Evangelists give the names of the Twelve Apostles, Simon and Jude appear together at the end of the list, right before Judas Iscariot; Ss Matthew (chapter 10) and Mark (chapter 3) give the name of the latter as Thaddeus, but St Luke (chapter 6) calls him Jude. St John does not give a list of the names of the Twelve, but recounts in chapter 14 that Jude “not the Iscariot” at the Last Supper asked Christ, “Lord, how is it, that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not to the world?” It is with the name Thaddeus that he is mentioned in the Communicantes of the Roman Canon, and by this name he also came to be associated with one of the most beloved stories of the Christian tradition, the legend of King Abgar, and the painting of the Holy Face of Edessa.

The Holy Face of Edessa, often called the Mandylion from the Syriac word for the cloth on which the image was made.
As recorded by Eusebius in the Ecclesiastical History (I. 13), King Abgar of Edessa suffered from an incurable disease of some kind; having heard of the many healings wrought by the Lord during His earthly ministry, he sent Him a letter asking Him to come to Edessa and heal him. The Lord replied by letter that He would not come personally, but that after His Resurrection, one of His disciples would be sent to cure him; and in due time, the Apostle Thomas sent one of the seventy disciples, a certain Thaddeus, to perform this office. Eusebius gives what purport to be the texts of the two letters, which were kept, he claims, in the public archives at Edessa. The story is repeated in a much more elaborate form in an early fifth-century apocryphal work, “The Doctrine of Addai,” in which the name of the disciple sent to King Abgar appears as Addai, rather than Thaddeus.

On Devotion To and Care for Relics (Part 1): Guest Article by Mr Sean Pilcher

This article is the first of a three-part series on the history and care of sacred relics, authored by Sean Pilcher, director of Sacra: Relics of the Saints (sacrarelics.org), an apostolate that promotes education about relics, and works to repair, research, and document relics for religious houses and dioceses. Earlier this year, we shared a Latin hymn in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe which he composed; we thank him for sharing his work with us once again.

Part One – A theological and historical basis for relics

The Church’s practice of venerating relics is a part of our human nature. It reaches to the deepest part of our longing for physical connection on this earth, even though we know the vale of tears is not our final home. Grandmother’s clock, Dad’s leather jacket—one can mention any number of treasured family heirlooms, and nearly everyone has some inclination to hold onto the belongings of a lost loved one or of a dear friend. To one unaware, these things are old, tired objects, but they take on a meaning and a history for those who know them.

The respect paid to the bodies and possessions of great men stretches back centuries: the Greeks went to the tombs of Oedipus and Alexander; Buddhist shrines house the relics of the enlightened who have reached nirvana; Americans venerate the guitar used by Hendrix or the clothes worn by Elvis, the suit worn to the moon, a piece of the Berlin Wall. The Tomb of the Unknown soldier actually houses the bones of the fallen.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, photographed on May 1, 1943. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
Holy Mother Church, in her wisdom, provides for this deep longing and elevates it. We are immortal souls, but we are also flesh and bone, and the sacramental economy of our Divine Savior permeates all created things. What is left behind (reliquia) by those we love gives us solace. And the things we hold onto tell us who we are. Let us not mistake the veneration of relics as mere sentimentalism; their veneration is, at its center, a biblical practice. The bones of the righteous and all that was theirs were means of grace even for the Jews. A dead man was hastily cast into the sepulcher of Saint Elisha the Prophet and “when it had touched the bones of Elisha, the man came to life, and stood upon his feet.” (4 Kings 13, 21)
The Miracle at the Grave of Elisha, 1596, by the Dutch painter Jan Nagel (1560 ca. 1602). Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
The contents of the Ark, physical proof of all God had done for the Israelites, were always carried as they made their camp or marched into battle. These were not mere tokens or mementos; they carried with them the strength and holiness of the Living God. In the New Testament, the faithful brought cloth to touch Saint Paul to take to the ailing. Saint Peter’s mere shadow cured the sick. Since the earliest days of persecution, Christians risked their own safety to recover the bones of the martyrs. The inhabitants of Smyrna, in a letter from the year 156, describe the martyrdom of the Apostolic Father Saint Polycarp: “We took up his bones, which are more valuable to us than precious stones and finer than refined gold. We laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom.” St Praxedes and her sister St Pudentiana, noble ladies in Rome, are said to have gone to retrieve the bodies of the martyrs and use a sponge to collect their blood into a vessel, lest such a precious witness (martyrion) to Christ ever be lost. Thus, the relics of the saints are held by faithful Christians as means of grace and as inspiration for their lives of virtue.
Saint Praxedes, by Johannes Vermeer, ca. 1655 (The attribution to Vermeer has often been disputed.)
This incredible history, from which we have mentioned only a few examples here, shows the enduring importance of relics in the life of the Church. In any place and time which had authentic, orthodox Christianity, the veneration of relics has abounded. In no place where the apostolic Faith is kept are relics denied honour and respect. And thus does St Jerome write in his treatise Against Vigiliantius, opposing those who refuse devotion to relics, “Do you laugh at the relics of the martyrs, and in company with Eunomius, the father of this heresy, slander the Churches of Christ?”
The relics of Christ’s crib in the Roman basilica of St Mary Major. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Jastrow; released to the public domain by the author.) 

In the next article we shall discuss the Church’s care for relics in prayer and in her liturgy.

Friday, October 27, 2023

The Vigil of Ss Simon and Jude

In the Roman Rite, the term “vigilia – vigil” traditionally means a penitential day of preparation for a major feast. The Mass of a Saint’s vigil is celebrated after None, as are the Masses of the ferias of Lent or the Ember Days, and in violet vestments; however, the deacon and subdeacon do not wear folded chasubles, as they do in Lent, but the dalmatic and tunicle. The Mass has neither the Gloria nor the Creed, the Alleluja is simply omitted before the Gospel, not replaced with a Tract, and Benedicamus Domino is said at the end in place of Ite, missa est.
Folio 116v of the Gellone Sacramentary, ca. 780 AD, with the Mass of the vigil of Ss Simon and Jude, and the beginning of the Mass of their feast. (Bibliothèque National de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 12048)
The joint celebration of the Apostles Simon and Jude in a single feast originated as a proper custom of the Roman Rite, which was then copied by both the Ambrosian and Mozarabic Rites. (In the Byzantine Rite, St Simon’s feast is kept on May 10th, and St Jude’s on June 19th.) As with the feast of Ss Philip and James, this custom seems to have arisen from the presence of their relics in a Roman church; they have been venerated in St Peter’s Basilica since the 7th or 8th century. Neither the vigil nor the feast appears in the very oldest liturgical books of the Roman Rite such as the Old Gelasian Sacramentary and the Wurzburg lectionary, ca. 750 AD. However, both are found only about 30 years later in the Gellone Sacramentary, and their place in the liturgy is certainly well established by the mid-9th century.

In the common Mass for the vigil of an Apostle, all of the proper texts except for the Gospel refer to a single person, as for example the Epistle, which begins with the words “The blessing of the Lord is upon the head of the just man.” The vigil of Ss Simon and Jude therefore has a different Mass, the texts of which all refer to more than one person, in keeping with their joint celebration. The three orations of the Mass in the Missal of St Pius V are the same as those found in the Gellone Sacramentary, and originated with this vigil, but the Gregorian propers and Scriptural readings are all also used in other Masses.
The altar of the left transept of St Peter's Basilica, in which are kept the relics of Ss Simon and Jude; the altar itself is now also dedicated to St Joseph.
The Introit, Gradual and Communion all take their text from Psalm 78, which the Church Fathers often associated with those who, like the Apostles, had given their lives for the Faith. An anonymous “Exposition of the Psalms” previously attributed to St Jerome says e.g., in regard to the words which begin the Introit, “Why should I not understand this to be simply said about the martyrs who were shut up in prisons? … And I say that God does truly hear the voice of those prisoners.” (PL 26, 1289B)
“Intret in conspectu tuo, Dómine, gémitus compeditórum: redde vicínis nostris séptuplum in sinu eórum: víndica sánguinem Sanctórum tuórum, qui effúsus est. Ps. 78 Deus, venérunt gentes in hereditátem tuam: polluérunt templum sanctum tuum: posuérunt Jerúsalem in pomórum custodiam. Gloria Patri. Intret. – Let the sighing of the prisoners come in before Thee, O Lord; render to our neighbors sevenfold in their bosom: repay our neighbors sevenfold into their bosoms; revenge the blood of thy servants, which hath been shed. Ps. 78 O God, the heathens are come into thy inheritance, they have defiled thy holy temple: they have made Jerusalem as a place to keep fruit. Glory be… Let the sighing…”
Likewise, in his Exposition of the Psalms, St Augustine says of the psalm verse, “I believe the words ‘as a place to keep fruit’ should be understood to mean the laying-to-waste caused by the devastation of persecution: … And certainly, when the Church seemed to be laid waste because the heathen were persecuting it, the spirits of the martyrs passed to the heavenly banquet, as if they were many of the sweetest fruits from the Lord’s garden.” (Enarratio in Ps. 78)
This choice may also reflect a long-standing hagiographical confusion, by which the Apostle Simon was thought to be the same person as a kinsman of the Lord named Symeon, who became bishop of Jerusalem after the death of St James the Less, and was martyred at the age of 120 in the reign of the Emperor Trajan.
St Simon the Apostle; statue by Francesco Moratti, 1704-9, in the Lateran Basilica. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0.)
The Epistle is taken from the fourth chapter of St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (verses 9-14), in which he describes the duties of an Apostle. “We are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.” A commentary on the Epistles of St Paul which was traditionally (but incorrectly) attributed to St Ambrose says about this, “the Apostles became a spectacle, because they were publically mocked, and set to the injury and the death which they suffered. By ‘the world’, he means both angels and men, because there are also evil angels, … (and) the injuries done to the Apostles delighted them.” (PL 17 205A)
This reading first appeared in the Roman Rite in the mid-8th century on the feast of two martyrs named Abdon and Sennen, Persians who were killed at Rome in the 3rd century; they are still commemorated in the Extraordinary Form on July 30th. Their bodies were left to lie “before the image of the sun god,” a colossal statue of the Emperor Nero which stood next to the Colosseum, one of the places where gladiatorial “spectacles” were held and Christians were martyred. It makes for an interesting coincidence, but no more than that, that their native land, Persia, is traditionally said to be the place where St Jude died for the faith.
The Gospel, John 15, 1-7, is one of two traditionally read on the feasts of Martyrs in Eastertide, the other being verses 5-11 of the same chapter. This is the only place where this passage is read outside that season, but the reason for doing so is not readily discernible. The concluding words “you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you” may seem to reflect the devotion to St Jude as the patron of lost causes, but this devotion is extremely recent, no earlier than the 19th century, and its origin obscure.
The Offertory is taken from an Old Latin version of Psalm 149, and includes a small variant from the Vulgate version of St Jerome. “Exsultabunt sancti in gloria; lætabuntur in cubilibus suis. Exaltationes Dei in faucibus (“gutture” in the Vulgate) eorum. – The Saints shall rejoice in glory: they shall be joyful in their resting places. The high praises of God shall be in their mouth.”
The first part of this is frequently said in the Office of Several Martyrs, and was chosen in reference to the fact that the original focus of devotion to the Saints was always at the place of their burial. This same chant is sung on the feasts of Ss Processus and Martinian, whose relics are also kept at St Peter’s; in the modern basilica, they are in the main altar of the right transept, directly opposite that of Ss Simon and Jude in the left transept. It is also sung on the octave day of Ss Peter and Paul, and on the feast of the Holy Maccabees, whose relics are in another church dedicated to St Peter, the basilica which houses his chains.
Like most Masses in the ancient sacramentaries, this vigil originally had its own proper preface, which refers to the ancient character of such days as preparation for a major feast.
VD: Quia tu es mirabilis in omnibus sanctis tuis, quos et nominis tui confessione praeclaros, et suscepta pro te fecisti passione gloriosos. Unde, sicut illi ieiunando orandoque certaverunt, ut hanc possent obtinere victoriam, ita nos potius quae exercuere sectantes, convenientius eorum natalicia celebremus. Per Christum. – Truly it is worthy … because Thou are wondrous in all Thy Saints, whom Thou has made honorable by the confession of Thy name, and glorious by the passion which they accepted for Thee. Wherefore, just as they strove by fasting and praying, that they might be able to obtain this victory, so may we also, by follow their practices, more fittingly celebrate their birth into heaven.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Origin of the Carthusian Rosary

After seeing our post earlier this month about the Carthusian Rosary, reader Benjamin Whitworth very kindly sent us this translation of part of a treatise about it. This is an excerpt from the Liber Experientiae, the 15th-century autobiography of a Carthusian monk named Dominic of Prussia, who is credited with inventing the particular manner of saying the Rosary observed by the Order.

The Carthusian Rosary
From the Book of Experience by Dominic of Prussia (1384-1460), Carthusian monk of Trier. ~ From the 38th narration: Concerning the experience of true devotion.
Old man: […] This brother Rupert [this is how Dominic refers to himself], of whom I have spoken, generally used to have a devotion to the humanity of Christ and his cross, except when the Lord drew him towards some deeper theme of meditation. This was because one day, when he was singing the Gloria in excelsis in choir with the others, he lifted up his thoughts to our Lord’s sitting upon the right hand of the Father in heaven, and only with the greatest difficulty was he able to bring his mind back down to earth. For he had arrived at such a dizzy height, that he felt as if his heart were closed up, and as if his access to the cross were shut off, so that only by long effort did he succeed in returning to the state of devotion that he was formerly accustomed to. Unless the Lord draws someone’s mind upwards to himself and in himself, it is risky for that person to raise his attention to the purely divine and heavenly mysteries. Therefore he no longer ventured forward without, as it were, leaning on the staff of the holy Cross. Every day he thought and meditated on the Incarnation and Passion of Christ, and on the things that the Lord Jesus Christ did so humbly in this life for our salvation. He preached and said many good things about these matters. He was the first who added those meditations and clausulæ (little clauses) on the life of Jesus to the Rosary of blessed Mary, which we have used in saying this devotion, and still do.
The apse and altar of the Charterhouse of Garegnano outside Milan, with the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, all by Simone Peterzano, 1578. Photo by Nicola de’ Grandi.   
Just how many good things come from this, in heaven and on earth, was revealed on his deathbed to a Vicar of this House (Adolf of Essen, who had previously been Prior of this House, and who had received the same brother Rupert into the Order). He was a devout man and an intimate friend of God, and was often rapt into the heavens, as we discovered after his death from his writings. And among other things that he was shown by God, he once saw in the heavens how the glorious Mother of God, Saint Mary, with all her Virgins, and with all the holy Angels and Saints, sang the Rosary very devoutly, with its clausulæ, before the most high God enthroned, adding Alleluia to every clausula, that is, to all fifty. And each time the name of blessed Mary was named, they all bowed their heads very deeply. When, further, the name of Jesus was named, they all bent their knees very devoutly, according to the exhortation of the Apostle, who said: In the name of the Lord every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, etc. (Phil. 2, 10) He both saw and heard that they all gave boundless thanks to almighty God for the universal benefits that flow from this same Rosary, since God and our Lord Jesus Christ are praised and blessed in it, along with his most holy Mother, in all that he did or suffered in this world for the whole human race, as it is always said at the end of the angelical salutation, “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus Christ,” and there is added: “who did this or that, who suffered this or that,” according as his life is recounted in order from beginning to end.
The Virgin Mary and Saints within a Rosary; German woodcut, ca. 1500. Public domain image from the website of the National Gallery of Art.
Wherefore, not unduly do the Saints themselves dance in the heavens with inexpressible joy, and on earth many, busy with the same exercise, are filled with admirable grace and devotion, for it has been spread now to various parts of the world, and disseminated by our own writings for about thirty years. Indeed the Saints, as that father heard, prayed to the Lord with feelings of great devotion for those who occupy themselves with this Rosary, asking that the Almighty would deign to enlighten and strengthen such devotees with his special grace, so that they might always profit from this or from other good exercises and persevere to a happy end, and especially that they might be happy in heaven after this life. He also saw in the heavens countless, very beautiful, imperishable, flowering, shining and sweet-smelling crowns, resting on those who perform this Rosary to the praise of God and his Mother, Saint Mary. And as often as one of them completed such a thing, so often one of these Crowns was added to the ones already resting on their head, to be kept with them. And that father was told that, of a certainty, any person saying the Rosary in this way, and conforming himself to the power of the Saints in the observances spoken of above, will be given full remission of all his sins, as often as he shall do it. That father had prayed for and obtained bodily strength and courage, and peace of heart, that he might serve God his Maker faithfully. And it was not without great wonderment that we saw him, an old man and full of years, who had borne the burden of the Order for more than 40 years, yet able to work harder than anyone, despite eating and sleeping less than we young ones. Many of us saw in him this extraordinary gift of grace, but we did not understand where he got it from, until after his death we found out from his writings, etc.
So what could we more usefully do in this fleeting time, than to say this Rosary, which might take no longer than it would to celebrate or hear a Mass? For as we read in other revelations, the Lord has told certain devout souls that nothing pleases him as much, as someone devoutly reflecting on the benefits done to himself and to others, and thanking God for each one of them. This is what we are doing succinctly in the present very devout little work, in which, as I have said above, we bless and praise the Lord Jesus Christ in all his deeds, and salute and honour his holy Virgin Mother with blessings.
Young man: I can well believe that we can hardly do anything in this passing hour that is more pleasing to God and useful to ourselves, or that anything can give us more joy and consolation in the doing of it, since the angelical salutation itself is such a sweet utterance, and reflecting on the life of Jesus is fruitful and delightful above all other things. Blessed be God, then, who in these latter days, to stir up our hearts from their numbness, has deigned to pour out so much grace upon us, that if we are not moved to devotion by his present gifts, we might at least be drawn onwards by the greatness of his future promises. Therefore may his name be blessed for ever. Old man: Amen.
Here follows the Rosary of blessed Mary, of which mention was made in the 38th narration, above.
HAIL Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ,
  1. Whom thou didst conceive by the Holy Spirit, as the Angel announced. Amen.
  2. Whom having conceived, thou didst go into the hill country to Elizabeth. Amen.
  3. Whom thou didst bear joyfully, ever remaining a holy virgin in mind and body. Amen.
  4. Whom thou didst worship as thy Creator, and didst feed at thy virginal breasts. Amen.
  5. Whom thou didst swaddle in cloths, and didst place in the manger. Amen (this is always added at the end).
  6. Whom the angels praised, singing Glory in the highest, and the shepherds found in Bethlehem.
  7. Who was circumcised on the eighth day and called Jesus.
  8. Who was worshipped by the three wise men reverently offering their threefold gifts.
  9. Whom thou didst carry to the temple in thy motherly arms, and didst present to God his Father.
  10. Whom Simeon the old man took into his arms and blessed, and the widow Anna recognised.
  11. With whom thou didst flee from before the face of Herod into Egypt.
  12. With whom, after seven years, thou didst return to thy homeland, summoned back by an angel.
  13. Whom, in his twelfth year, thou didst lose in Jerusalem, and after seeking him sorrowfully for three days thou didst find him again in the temple.
  14. Who progressed day by day in age, grace and wisdom in the sight of God and of men.
  15. Whom John baptized in the Jordan, pointing him out as the Lamb of God.
  16. Who fasted for forty days in the desert, and whom Satan thrice tempted there.
  17. Who, having gathered disciples from here and there, preached the kingdom of heaven to the world.
  18. Who gave light to the blind, cleansed lepers, cured paralytics and delivered all those who were oppressed by the devil.
  19. Whose feet Mary Magdalene washed with her tears, dried with her hair, kissed and anointed with ointment.
  20. Who resuscitated Lazarus after four days, and other dead people.
  21. Who, on the day of palms, was received by the people with great honour, sitting on a donkey.
  22. Who instituted the worshipful Sacrament of his Body and Blood at his last supper.
  23. Who went into the garden with his disciples, and, praying there at length, sweated a bloody sweat.
  24. Who spontaneously went to meet his enemies, and willingly gave himself up into their hands.
  25. Whom the servants of the Jews roughly tied up, and the chief priests led away bound.
  26. Whom they accused with false testimonies, hooded, spat at, and rained blows and slaps upon.
  27. Whom they proclaimed a criminal malefactor, deserving of crucifixion, before Pilate and Herod.
  28. Whom, having been stripped of his clothes, Pilate had scourged harshly and for a long time.
  29. Whom the servants crowned with thorns, and, his having been dressed in some discarded purple cloth, worshipped in mockery.
  30. Whom they condemned unjustly to a most shameful death, and led out with two unrighteous men.
  31. Whom they nailed to the cross by his hands and feet, and offered wine mixed with myrrh or gall.
  32. Who prayed for those who crucified him, saying: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
  33. Who said to the thief on his right hand: Amen I tell thee: today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.
  34. Who said to thee, his most holy Mother: Woman, behold thy son. And to John: Behold thy mother.
  35. Who cried out: Eli, Eli, lema sabacthani? That is, [My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?].
  36. Who said: It is finished.
  37. Who said at last: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.
  38. Who died a most bitter and most sacred death for us miserable sinners. Thanks be to God.
  39. Whose side the soldier opened with a lance, and blood and water flowed therefrom for the remission of sins.
  40. Whose most sacred body was taken from the cross, and returned lifeless to thy bosom (as is called the pietà).
  41. Whom righteous and holy men buried, his having been embalmed with spices and wound in a shroud.
  42. Whose grave the Jews sealed up and defended with guards.
  43. Whose most holy soul descended into hell, and comforting the holy fathers led them out with him into Paradise.
  44. Who rose again on the third day, and gladdened thee with inestimable joy. Alleluia.
  45. Who appeared many times to his disciples and faithful believers after his resurrection, and confirmed their hearts in the holy faith.
  46. Who ascended to the heavens in their sight, with thee present and looking on, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father.
  47. Who sent the Holy Spirit to his faithful from the heavens on the day of Pentecost, as he had promised them.
  48. Who at last assumed to himself, called to his right hand, and gloriously crowned thee his most sweet Mother.
  49. Who will deign, at thy intercession, likewise to assume us, his servants and thine, after the course of this wretched life, and settle us in the kingdom of his Father.
  50. Who with the Father and Holy Spirit, and thee, his most glorious Mother, liveth and reigneth an invincible and glorious King, world without end. Amen.
The Coronation of the Virgin, by Jacopo di Mino del Pelliciaio, active in Siena and Umbria in the mid-14th century. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
How the aforesaid Rosary first had its origin, the following exemplum shows.
A CERTAIN man in secular life had the habit of making a chaplet of roses or other flowers, which he would place on an image of blessed Mary with great devotion. Having entered religious life, where he was prevented, by the duty of obedience, from doing this, he was so saddened that he even wished to return to the world. Having thought this over, a certain good man gave him some wholesome advice, namely to remain in the religious life, and to say fifty Ave Marias in place of the previous chaplet, promising him that this would please our Lady more than any material chaplet. When he had been doing this for some time, it happened that the same laybrother was riding through a wood where there were robbers hiding. When he had tied up his horse, and was saying the Rosary of Blessed Mary on his knees, the robbers hastened from afar and would have preyed upon him. But behold! they saw a beautiful virgin standing by him, and after a little while they saw that she was frequently picking up lovely Roses that fell from his mouth, and weaving them into a chaplet. When it was finished, she placed it on her head and ascended into the heavens. They drew near full of wonder, and asked him what he was doing, and who might be the virgin that they had seen. He said that there was no virgin with him, but they forced out of him that he had been making a spiritual chaplet for the Queen of Heaven, as was his wont. Then they related to him what they had seen, and strongly confirmed him in this kind of holy service to the Mother of God. They themselves, as might well be believed, changed their way of life for the better. This miracle being published, as one can read, this Rosary first began to be practised by pious and devout servants of Mary. Later a certain brother of the Carthusian Order, for the sake of greater devotion and attention, added the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, according as it has been set out above. Hence this Rosary is much honoured, and received with great effect by our glorious Lady, her Son, and all the knights of the heavenly court, as is described above in the little book of experience, in the thirty-eighth narration.
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, by Biagio Bellotti (1714-89), also in the Charterhouse of Garegnano. Photo by Nicola de’ Grandi. 
How is this Rosary to be performed?
Whoever, then, wishes to take up this little exercise so pleasing to God and the Saints, and to carry out this Rosary to the praise and glory of God and the Virgin Mary, his Mother, should say the Angelical salutation fifty times, and after each, add any one of the clausulæ on the life of Christ set out above. It is not necessary to observe the form of words laid out for this Rosary either here or elsewhere, but each person can prolong the theme, shorten it, or change it for the better, according to the grace and devotion that the Lord has given him or her; many people have done so, uttering in words the life of the Saviour or silently meditating upon it in thought, now this way, now another way, according to the grace, ability and time that they have. One could hardly find a better way of spending the present moment than by saying this Rosary, for, as has been said, it is pleasing to God and his Saints in heaven, and for those saying it, it is very useful and fruitful, and finds great favour with God, to the increase of their devotion and the improvement of their life, as experience has shown in many examples both of the living and of those now dead.
It is mentioned in the revelations of some devout souls, that nothing pleases God more than a person’s recollecting frequently the good things the Lord has done for the world, and giving thanks for each one. And we do this in the present brief exercise, when at the end of each angelical salutation we say, “… and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus Christ, who did this or that, or suffered this or that,” as above. Constantly praising and blessing the Lord and his most holy Mother in this way, we are beneficiaries of the promise once pledged to the prophets, for it was about our Lord Jesus Christ, and for us, that the Patriarch Isaac prophesied, saying: let him that blesseth thee be filled with blessings, etc. [Gen 27.29]. And he who soweth in blessings, as the Apostle says, shall also reap eternal life in blessings [2 Cor 9.6]. And whoever will crown Christ the King and the Queen of Heaven with this rosy crown, will deserve to be crowned by them in turn with the unfading crown of life in eternity. Amen.
Blessed be the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, world without end. And may the name of his Mother, the most glorious Virgin Mary, be blessed and remain so in eternity. Amen.

St Demetrius the Great-Martyr

On October 26, Byzantine Christians celebrate with great solemnity the feast of St Demetrius of Thessalonica, a soldier and martyr of the early 4th century, whose popularity is almost as great as that of another warrior, St George. The traditional story of his life is that he succeeded his father as military commander at Thessalonica, but was imprisoned by the Emperor Maximian (286-305) for not only refusing his orders to persecute the Christians, but openly preaching the Gospel.

Maximian had a favorite gladiator, a very large German named Lyaeus, who, at his behest, challenged any Christian to wrestle him on a platform surrounded by spears. A Christian named Nestor, brave, but very small of stature, visited Demetrius in prison and received his blessing, after which he wrestled and beat Lyaeus, hurling him down onto the spears. In his anger at losing his favorite gladiator, Maximian sent his soldiers to the prison, where they speared Demetrius though the chest, while Nestor was killed the following day.

This story forms the tropar of St Demetrius’ feast day.

The world has found you to be a great defense against tribulation, and a vanquisher of heathens, O Passion-bearer. As you bolstered the courage of Nestor, who then humbled the arrogance of Lyaios in battle, Holy Demetrius, entreat Christ God to grant us great mercy.
Kontakion God, who has given you invincible might, has tinged the Church with streams of your blood, Demetrius! He preserves your city from harm, for you are its foundation!

Devotion to St Demetrius has always been very strong among the Slavs, particularly as a patron of soldiers, as witnessed by the popularity of the name Dmitry. Attempts have even been made to claim him as a Slav, since he was supposed to be originally from the city of Sirmium, now called Mitrovica, in Serbia; this is in fact in the area of the Balkan peninsula where the Slavs first settled in Europe, but only in the 6th century. His patronage of soldiers was reaffirmed in modern times during the First Balkan War (Oct. 1912 – May 1913), when Thessalonica was liberated from Ottoman control and united to Greece on his feast day in 1912. He is also honored with the titles “Great-Martyr”, as one who suffered much for the Faith, “Myrrh-gusher” from the tradition that streams of scented oil came forth from his relics, and “Wonderworker” for the many miracles attributed to him.

Icon of St Demetrius by Andrei Rublev (and follower), ca. 1425, from the Trinity Cathedral in the Trinity-Sergius Lavra.
The Byzantine Synaxarion, the equivalent of the Martyrology, also still notes on this day a terrible earthquake which took place in Constantinople in the year 740, which killed thousands of people and did terrible damage to the city and its walls. This was the year before the death of the first iconoclast Emperor, Leo the Isaurian, and it was generally believed that the earthquake was a divine punishment for the iconoclast heresy. There are also liturgical texts for the day which refer to this event, which serve roughly as the equivalent of what we call a commemoration in the Roman Rite. As a matter of their deep respect for history and tradition, those who celebrate the Byzantine Rite may omit these texts, but they have never been removed from the liturgical books, a wise policy we would do well to emulate in the West.

Troparion Thou who lookest upon the earth, and cause it to tremble, deliver us from the fearful threat of the earthquake, and send upon us Thy rich mercies, by the prayers of the Mother of God, o Thou who lovest mankind.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Church of San Miniato al Monte in Florence

Today, the city of Florence keeps the feast of St Miniatus (or Minias; “San Miniato” in Italian), who was martyred there during the persecution of Decius in 250-51 A.D. The authentic story of his martyrdom is now lost to us; he is traditionally said to have been either a Roman soldier, or, in another version, the son of an Armenian king, and was beheaded for being a Christian after various torments. He was buried on the large hill that looms over the city on the far side of the Arno river; a small shrine was built over the site of his burial, but replaced in the early 11th century by a magnificent basilica, one of the finest examples of Romanesque art in all of Italy. His relics today are kept in the crypt of the church. In a city much more famous as the home of so many of the great artworks of the Renaissance, San Miniato al Monte serves as a reminder of an earlier and no less glorious artistic past. Since the 14th century, the basilica has been the home of a community of Olivetan monks, who still sing the much of the Mass and Office in Latin and with Gregorian chant. (Unfortunately, Romanesque churches tend to have fewer and smaller windows than a modern photographer would consider ideal.)

The façade, built towards the end of the 11th century, is decorated with a classically Tuscan mix of local white and green marbles, as can also be seen in the city’s Baptistery and the façade of Santa Maria Novella.

As in many Italian Romanesque churches, the choir and principal sanctuary are significantly higher than the floor of the nave, with a crypt directly below them, much lower than the floor of the nave. The relics of San Miniato are in the altar of the crypt-chapel. The small aediculum seen in the middle used to house a famous crucifix. St John Gualbert, a Florentine monastic reformer of the 11th century, once came to pray before it and ask whether he was indeed called to become a monk; his vocation was confirmed when the figure of Christ on the Cross nodded to him.
The nave seen from the choir.
The apsidal mosaic (1297), showing Christ and the Virgin Mary, with the symbols of the Four Evangelists, and St Miniatus, who is here labelled “King of Armenia.”
The choir of the church contains a great deal of very beautiful and elaborate inlaid marble work from the early 13th century, as seen here on the side of the main pulpit.
The balustrade of the choir. The crucifix in the background is attributed the famous Della Robbia workshop, better known for their colored terracotta work.

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