Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Festival of St Louis IX in St Louis, Missouri, Aug. 23-25

For the fifth year in a row, the Oratory of Ss Gregory and Augustine in St Louis, Missouri, will hold a special series of events for the feast day of the city’s patron Saint on August 23-25, including several celebrations of the Divine Office, solemn Mass, and a procession to the statue of St Louis in Forest Park. This year, a special concert of music from the Crusader era has been added to the program, on Friday Aug. 23. The oratory is hosted at St Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, located at 7230 Dale Avenue; see the posters below for details (click to enlarge).

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Interesting Saints on July 17

Prior to the 1960 reform of the Missal and Breviary, July 17 was kept in the Roman Rite as the feast of a confessor named Alexius. The single proper Matins lesson for his feast states that he was of a noble family, and that on the night of his wedding, “by a particular command of God”, he left his bride untouched, and went abroad as a pilgrim for seventeen years. After spending much time in the Syrian city of Edessa (once a very important center of Christianity), he returned to Rome. There he was welcomed, wholly unrecognized, into the house of his own parents, and died after another seventeen years; when his body was discovered, he had with him a written account of his whole life. The martyrology adds that at his death, he was recognized not only by the writing he had left behind, but also “by a voice heard throughout the churches of the City.” The common tradition, attested in many other versions of his legend, states that after he came back to Rome, he lived under the staircase of the house like Harry Potter; the purported stairs can still be seen to this day in the Roman basilica dedicated to him on the Aventine Hill.

The chapel with the basilica of Ss Boniface and Alexius, which contains the relics of the latter; the stairs under which he lived are mounted on the reredos. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Kent Wang, CC BY-SA 2.0.)
It hardly needs to be stated that no aspect of this prima facie improbable story can be taken as true. Among many other things, it is said to have happened during the papacy of St Innocent I, who reigned from 401-17, and yet there is no trace of it in any Western source before the later 10th century. That includes the many writings of Pope Innocent’s contemporaries such as Ss Jerome, Augustine and Paulinus of Nola, all of whom had regular contact with Rome.

And indeed, the church of Rome was long very chary of including this legend in its liturgy. Before the breviary of St Pius V was published in 1568, St Alexius had regularly appeared in Roman liturgical calendars for over 350 years, and likewise, on the calendars of many other medieval Uses. However, the feast was otherwise not mentioned in the Roman liturgical books; no Mass was indicated in the proper of the Saints in the missal, and no lesson or collect was given in the breviary.
It is now generally recognized that the story of Alexius is based on that of a saint from Edessa known only as “the man of God”, who lived there as a homeless beggar in the early 5th century. He is said to have given most of the money which he received to those even in even worse condition than himself, and to have confided to someone in the hospice where he died that he was the son of a Roman nobleman. By the later 10th century, the legend had expanded to give this man the name Alexius (or Alexis in Greek), and when a metropolitan of Damascus called Sergius, exiled to Rome from Syria, was given charge of a basilica dedicated to an equally legendary martyr called Boniface, he added Alexius as its co-titular Saint. (The breviary lessons for St Benedict Joseph Labré (1748-83), a Frenchman who lived by begging his way from shrine to shrine as a pilgrim, describe him as one who “followed in the arduous steps of St Alexius.”)
This icon, known as “the Madonna of Saint Alexius” or “of Edessa”, is traditionally said to have been in Edessa in the time of St Alexius, and greatly venerated by him when he lived in that city, then brought to his Roman basilica by the bishop Sergius mentioned above. It is now generally thought to have been made in Byzantium in the 12th or 13th century. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons, by Beloved Olga.)
On the same day, the martyrology notes the death of the Scillitan Martyrs, a group of twelve Christians, seven men and five women, from a town called Scilla in North Africa, who were martyred for the Faith at Carthage in 180 AD. (Scilla was a suffragan of Carthage, about 172 miles to the southwest of it.) Their written acts are universally recognized as historically accurate, and are also the first account of a martyrdom preserved to us from that region, which gave the Church many martyrs in the early centuries. A basilica was dedicated to them at Carthage, and three sermons which St Augustine preached in it on their feast day are preserved. In the first of these, he refers to the ancient custom by which the acts of the martyrs were read during the Mass, the custom which led to their preservation.
“The holy martyrs, the witnesses of God, preferred by dying to live, lest by living they should die; they disdained life by loving life, lest by fearing death they should deny life. The enemy promised life, so that Christ might be denied, but not life such as Christ promised it. Believing, therefore, that which was promised by the Savior, they laughed at the threat of the persecutor. Brethren, when we celebrate the solemnities of the martyrs, we know that examples have been set forth for us, which we can obtain by imitating them. For we do not increase the glory of the martyrs by keeping this assembly; their crown is known to the companies of the angels. We could hear what they suffered when it was being read, but that which they received, ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.’ (1 Cor. 2, 9)” (Sermo 299/D in init.)
The cathedral of St John the Baptist in Lyon, France. Amid the violence of the ninth century, described below in reference to Pope St Leo IV, the relics of St Cyprian and the Scillitan Martyrs were brought here from Africa for safe keeping; some of the latter were later brought to the basilica of Ss John and Paul on the Caelian hill in Rome. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Otourly, CC BY-SA 3.0
In the Ambrosian Rite, July 17 is the feast of St Marcellina, the older sister of St Ambrose, who helped her mother to raise him and their brother Satyrus after the death of their father. From her youth, she wished to dedicate herself entirely to God, and was consecrated as a virgin and veiled by Pope Liberius on Christmas of 353 in St Peter’s Basilica. (This event is an early attestation of the Roman system of station churches.) St Ambrose addressed his treatise On Virginity to her, and at the beginning of the third book, preserves the address which Liberius gave at the time, beginning as follows:
“You… my daughter, have desired a good espousal. You see how great a crowd has come together for the birthday of your Spouse, and none has gone away without food. This is He, Who, when invited to the marriage feast, changed water into wine. He, too, will confer the pure sacrament of virginity on you who before were subject to the vile elements of material nature.”
The monument and relics of Saint Marcellina, in the Milanese basilica dedicated to her brother. Photo by Nicola de’ Grandi.
After her brother’s election as bishop of Milan, Marcellina visited him there many times, and advised him on the pastoral care of consecrated women, but continued to make her home in Rome, living, as aristocratic woman often did, in a private home, but very austerely. She outlived Ambrose, who died on April 4, 397, but the exact date of her death is unknown.
July 17 is also the anniversary of the death of Pope St Leo IV in 855, after a reign of just over eight years and two months. In his time, Saracen pirates were wreaking havoc throughout the western Mediterranean; the year before his election, they had sailed up the Tiber and sacked the basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, destroying at least a large portion of the Apostle’s relics. His papacy began with the construction of major works to defend the city, including a new set of walls around the Vatican, which are still called the Leonine walls to this day, and the complex as a whole was known as the Leonine city. (This used to be the name of the bus stop in front of Cardinal Ratzinger’s old apartment building, ‘Città Leonina’ in Italian.)
In the year of his election, 847, he put out a fire which had broken out in the Borgo, the neighborhood in front of the Vatican, by giving his blessing from the balcony of St Peter’s. Two years later, he formed a league with the maritime states of Naples, Gaeta and Amalfi; at the battle of Ostia, their combined naval forces destroyed a massive Saracen invasion force which had set out from Sardinia. Both of these events are depicted in one of the rooms now within the Vatican Museums known as the Stanze of Raphael, but these specific paintings are really the works of his students.
The Fire in the Borgo, by the workshop of Raphael, 1514-17. The three male figures on the left are a nod to the story of Aeneas escaping from the burning of Troy; their exaggerated musculature, and that of the man next to them hanging from the wall, reflects the exaggerated influence of the recently discovered statue of Laocoön, which also greatly influence the work of Michelangelo. This painting was much admired for the cleverly designed figure on the right of the woman with a water-jar on her head, who has just turned the corner, and opens her mouth in astonishment at the scene. ~ A few years prior to the commission of this painting, Pope Julius II and his architect Donatello Bramante had begun the process of replacing the ancient basilica of St Peter, then almost on the point of collapse. This image is an important historical record of what its façade looked like at the time.
The Battle of Ostia, also by the workshop of Raphael, 1514-15. Pope St Leo IV presides over the battle from the far left in cope and papal tiara, as one does; his face is that of the contemporary Pope, Leo X Medici.
The collection of papal biographies known as the Liber Pontificalis contains an enormous list of his works in and benefactions to Roman churches, and he translated the relics of many Saints from the catacombs outside the city to churches within it. He is also traditionally, but erroneously, credited with the invention of the Asperges rite, and the sermon on the duties of a priest which the Pontificale appoints to be read by the bishop at their ordination.
The revised Butler’s Lives of the Saints also includes on this day St Clement of Okhrida, who is reckoned as one of the seven Apostles of the Bulgarians. His feast is kept on July 27, but this was apparently the day of his burial, ten days after his death.
Clement was born ca. 835; his ethnic origins and place of birth are not quite certain, but he is generally thought to have been a Slav, born in the Balkan territories of the Byzantine Empire. It is disputed whether he was a Bulgar himself. (The Bulgars were not originally Slavs, but of the same Turkic stock as the Huns and the modern Turks, later Slavicized when they settled in the Balkans.) He became a disciple and collaborator of Ss Cyril and Methodius in their mission to Great Moravia, and led it after Methodius’ death, but was soon expelled from the area, and came down to Bulgaria. The king at that time, Boris I, was to Bulgaria what Constantine had been to Rome, and what Saints Vladimir and Olga would later be to Kyivan Rus’. But Boris was much concerned to keep his kingdom politically free of his Byzantine neighbors, and therefore wished the Church in his domain to use Slavonic, rather than Greek.
An icon of St Clement of Okhrida, with his teachers Ss Cyril and Methodius above him, the former (on the right) holding a scroll with some of the letters of the Glagolitic alphabet. From the Bulgarian monastery on Mt Athos, Zographou, founded in the later 10th century by monks from Okrida. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Yane Bakreski, CC BY-SA 4.0)
The invention of Church Slavonic as a literary idiom, created specifically to translate the Bible and the Byzantine liturgy, was the work of Cyril and Methodius. They also created an alphabet to write it with, since there are many sounds in the Slavic languages for which the Greek and Latin alphabets have no letter. This alphabet, however, was not the one which bears Cyril’s name, and which is still used to write Church Slavonic in modern liturgical books, and (with variations) its many daughter languages. It was rather a very different kind of script known as Glagolitic, from an old Slavic word for “word”.
The so-called Cyrillic alphabet was actually invented about 30 years after Cyril’s death at one of the two literary schools which Clement and his collaborators founded in Bulgaria. Ironically, although this was done to favor Bulgaria’s cultural and political independence from the Greek-speaking Byzantines, it is effectively the Greek alphabet with several letters added for Slav-specific sounds, and some of the Greek letters relegated to use only in Greek loan-words. After the controversies which brought the mission of Ss Cyril and Methodius to naught, it was the work of these schools which definitively established Church Slavonic’s place as a liturgical language.
The early Cyrillic alphabet.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Recent Items About the Traditional Latin Mass

Today is the third anniversary of Traditionis Custodes. The rumor that an even harsher and more pastorally harmful set of restrictions would further mar the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has proved to be baseless, but the rumors continue to circulate that such restrictions may nevertheless still be in the works. (I note that the most credible sources reporting on this, the blog Rorate Caeli and the Rome-based journalist Diane Montagna, have said nothing about any specific date.) So of course, it is imperative to continually pray that God avert such a calamity from His Church.

There have been quite a few things worth noting of late regarding TC. First of these is the issuance of a new “Agatha Christie” letter, published in the Times of London on July 3rd. Among the signatories who would be most likely known to our predominantly American readership are Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, novelist Antonia Fraser, historian Tom Holland (not Spiderman), writer A.N. Wilson, actress Bianca Jagger (the former wife of Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger), composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber, and opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa. The second paragraph is particular well stated:
“Recently there have been worrying reports from Rome that the Latin Mass is to be banished from nearly every Catholic church. This is a painful and confusing prospect, especially for the growing number of young Catholics whose faith has been nurtured by it. The traditional liturgy is a “cathedral” of text and gesture, developing as those venerable buildings did over many centuries. Not everyone appreciates its value and that is fine; but to destroy it seems an unnecessary and insensitive act in a world where history can all too easily slip away forgotten. The old rite’s ability to encourage silence and contemplation is a treasure not easily replicated, and, when gone, impossible to reconstruct. This appeal, like its predecessor, is “entirely ecumenical and non-political”. The signatories include Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and non-believers. We implore the Holy See to reconsider any further restriction of access to this magnificent spiritual and cultural heritage.”
Subsequently, one of the signatories, the Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan, has launched a petition for the preservation of the Latin Mass, which has already reached well over 12,000 signatures. I urge all of our readers to add their own signature, and share it with others, perhaps repeating the paragraph cited above as a way of encouraging them.
Rorate has also just today published the news that Juan Cardinal Sandoval Iñíguez, Archbishop Emeritus of Guadalajara, Mexico, has issued his own personal appeal to the Pope directly that the traditional Latin Mass not be further restricted. His Eminence writes as follows, repeating the wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI:
“It cannot be wrong what the Church has celebrated for four centuries, the Mass of Saint Pius V in Latin, with a rich and devout liturgy that naturally invites one to penetrate into the Mystery of God. Several individuals and groups, both Catholic and non-Catholic, have expressed the desire for it not to be suppressed but preserved, because of the richness of its liturgy and in Latin, which alongside Greek, forms the foundation of not only Western culture but also other parts. Pope Francis, do not allow this to happen. You are also the guardian of the historical, cultural, and liturgical richness of the Church of Christ.”
Another item of interest has also come up today. One of the writers of National Review, Michael Brendon Dougherty, stated in a recent column, “Pope Benedict’s argument for granting liberty to Catholics to attend the TLM is true, and comports with the deep truths of the faith. Pope Francis, in banning it, advanced a sociological argument that was untrue at the time he made it and proved more untrue in implementation.” This was always obviously the case, and recently, two sociologists have set out to document the pertinent facts. In a post titled Data and the Traditional Latin Mass, published on on a Substack called What We Need Now, authors Stephen Cranney and Stephen Bullivant have set out their preliminary finding about the attitudes of those who attend the Latin Mass, particularly towards the Second Vatican Council and the authority of the Pope, “striving to remedy the lack of transparent, systematically collected, objective data on the TLM community.” What they have discovered, not at all surprisingly, is that the grave accusations of schism so casually made against the TLM community are largely unfounded, as so many good bishops already know perfectly well.
The authors write in conclusion, “What we need now is a serious scientific examination of who TLM Mass-goers are, what they believe, and how a suppression of their preferred form of worship will impact them and the Church more generally. This is a case where sociology and its scientific methods can help the Church make decisions based on facts rather than just impressions or anecdotes. God willing, she will make use of them.”

The Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel

Seen above is the central panel of the altarpiece painted by Pietro Lorenzetti (ca. 1280 - 1347) for the Carmelite church of his native city of Siena, San Niccolò del Carmine. The altarpiece is now dismembered and removed from its original frame; most of the surviving pieces are in the National Gallery of Siena, but the two narrower panels originally on either side of the central one are in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, and a smaller piece from the top is at Yale University.

To the left of the Virgin stands St Nicholas, to whom the church is dedicated; to the right is the prophet Elijah. On the scroll in his hands are written the words which he speaks in 3 Kings 18, 19: “Nevertheless send now, and gather unto me all Israel, unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty.” The Carmelites have traditionally honored the prophet Elijah and his disciple Elisha as their founders; in the liturgical books of both the Old Observance and the Discalced, they are each given the title “Our Father”, as is St Dominic in the Dominican Use, St Benedict in the Monastic Use, etc. Both orders also add the name of Elijah to the Confiteor, the Discalced even before that of St Theresa of Avila. Their feasts were kept with octaves, a traditional privilege of patronal feasts, even before an octave was given to the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16th.

The tradition behind this is recorded in the lessons of the Roman Breviary for the latter feast, with the cautionary parenthetical note “ut fertur – as the story goes” added at the beginning. In the Books of Kings, there are several references to a group of holy men called “the sons of the prophets”. They foretell to Elisha that Elijah is to be taken away by the Lord, although Elisha already knows this, and afterwards bear witness that “the spirit of Elijah resteth upon Elisha,” who then works several miracles on their behalf. The traditional Carmelite legend claims that a group of men dedicated to God remained on Mount Carmel until the days of the New Testament, when they were “prepared by the preaching of John the Baptist for the coming of Christ”, and “at once embraced the faith of the Gospel.” They are also said to be the first Christians to build a chapel in honor of the Virgin Mary, on the very spot on Mount Carmel where Elijah had seen the “little cloud”, understood as a symbol of the Virgin Mary.

One of the two pieces now in Pasadena shows St John the Baptist; it was originally placed to the right of the central panel, so that he would be next to Elijah, since John went before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, and the Lord Himself said in reference to him, “Elijah has already returned.” On the left was the panel of Elisha, looking very much like an Eastern monk, despite his Carmelite habit; on his scroll is written “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw him, and cried: My father, my father, the chariot of I[srael, and the driver thereof.]” (4 Kings 2, 11-12)

Even for an age in which the veneration of the Virgin Mary may truly be described as omnipresent, the city of Siena stood out as a place of particular devotion to Her. In 1260, before the crucial battle of Montaperti, the city placed herself by a special vow under the protection of the Virgin, and proceeded to heavily defeat her long-time rival Florence, whose army was nearly twice as large as her own. Both the cathedral and the city hall were prominently decorated with famous paintings of the Virgin enthroned, of the type known as a “Maestà”; the former had that of Duccio di Buoninsegna, commissioned less than twenty years before Lorenzetti’s Carmelite altarpiece, and the latter that of Simone Martini from just twelve years before. When Lorenzetti’s work was finished, the mendicant Carmelites could not afford to pay for it, and so the artist’s fee was provided by the city itself.

Despite all this, the panels at the bottom of the altarpiece are not dedicated to the principal subject of the main panel, as they would normally be, but rather to the prophet Elijah. In the first, an angel appears to his father, with a prophecy of his son’s future greatness, just as an angel would later appear to the father of St John the Baptist.

In the second, we see hermits in the desert around a fountain, which was said to have been built for them by Elijah. These would be the spiritual ancestors of the Carmelite Order, men who lived as monks in the Greek tradition in the Holy Land, before being organized under a rule during the period of the Crusader kingdoms.

The striped mantle which they are wearing is part of the habit worn by the Carmelites when they still lived in the Holy Land; because of it they were often called in Latin “fratres barrati – barred friars”, or “fratres virgulati – striped friars.” A tradition of the medieval Carmelites held that these stripes represented the tracks of the chariot that took Elijah into heaven, and had been inherited as part of their habit from Elisha.

When the Carmelites were forced to abandon the Holy Land at the fall of the Latin kingdoms, they brought their traditions, including the habit, with them to Western Europe, where the striped mantle was considered completely outlandish for religious of any kind, but especially for medicants. Many of the universities refused to admit them dressed that way; hence, the decision of a general chapter held at Montpelier in 1287 to replace it with the white mantle still worn to this day. This was a matter of some controversy within the order at the time, and the prophets are shown by Lorenzetti in the “new” habit probably as a gesture to persuade the friars to accept it.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Fiddling with the Collects of Ss Henry II and Louis IX: Wokeness Avant la Lettre

Stained glass window from St Dominic’s in London (Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew OP)
On July 15 in the old calendar, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Roman Emperor St. Henry II. His Collect in the Roman Rite reads as follows (the rationale behind the italics and underlining will become apparent in just a moment):

Deus, qui hodierna die beatum Henricum confessorem tuum e terreni culmine imperii ad regnum aeternum transtulisti: te supplices exoramus; ut, sicut illum, gratiae tuae ubertate praeventum, illecebras saeculi superare fecisti, ita nos facias eius imitatione, mundi huius blandimenta vitare, et ad te puris mentibus pervenire.
       O God, who on this day brought blessed Henry, your confessor, from the summit of earthly sovereignty into the eternal kingdom, humbly we implore you, that, as you, going before him with the abundance of your grace, granted him to overcome the enticements of the age, so may you grant us, through imitation of him, to shun the allurements of this world and attain unto you with pure minds.

The modern rite of Paul VI replaces this Collect with the following, loosely based on it:

Deus, qui beatum Henricum, gratiae tuae ubertate praeventum, e terreni cura regiminis ad superna mirabiliter erexisti, eius nobis intercessione largire, ut inter mundanas varietates puris ad te mentibus festinemus.
       O God, who having gone before blessed Henry with the abundance of your grace wondrously raised him from care of earthly government unto things caelestial, grant, through his intercession, that amid the diverse things of this world we may hasten toward/unto you with pure minds.

A similar set of changes may be observed in the Collect for St. Louis IX, King of France, whose feast we celebrate next month on August 25. The original Collect:

Deus, qui beatum Ludovicum confessorem tuum de terreno regno ad caelestis regni gloriam transtulisti: eius, quaesumus, meritis et intercessione, Regis regum Iesu Christi Filii tui facias nos esse consortes.
       O God, who brought blessed Louis, your confessor, from an earthly kingdom into the glory of the heavenly kingdom, we beseech you through his merits and intercession, grant us to be partakers of Jesus Christ, your Son, the King of kings.

The modern rite replaces it with this:

Deus, qui beatum Ludovicum, e terreni regiminis cura ad caelestis regni gloriam transtulisti, eius, quaesumus, intercessione concede, ut, per munera temporalia quae gerimus, regnum tuum quaeramus aeternum.
       O God, who brought blessed Louis from care of earthly government into the glory of the heavenly kingdom, we beseech you, grant through his intercession, that, through the earthly responsibilities that we bear, we may seek your eternal kingdom.

Fr. Antoine Dumas, who worked on the Consilium’s coetus for “prayers and prefaces,” wrote a famous article explaining why such a large number of Collects were revised, which Dr. Lauren Pristas, an expert on the subject of Collects, translated and commented on in her important article “Theological Principles That Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal (1970),” in The Thomist, vol. 67 (2003): 157–95. She first quotes what Fr. Dumas says about the above prayers:

It is easy to understand why, in certain collects for Christian leaders, the expression: culmine imperii was changed to cura regiminis (Saint Henry), while terreno regno gave way to terreni regiminis cura (Saint Louis): a simple change of perspective for the same reality.

However, as Lauren Pristas points out:

The actual revisions to the two collects were far more extensive than Dumas reports. The revisions as a whole are underscored; those of the kind that Dumas mentions are also italicized. We will begin with the small change in each prayer that Dumas names.

She then continues (and I shall now quote at length from her article):

Window in St Sulpice in Paris (Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew OP) 
« Henry, a German king who became Holy Roman Emperor, died in 1024; Louis, king of France, died in 1297. The original collect for Henry describes his rule as it was understood in his own day. The revised version describes it in terms that reflect modern democratic sensibilities. It is anachronistic. The original collect for Louis does not explicitly mention his rule as king. This is supplied in the revision—but, again, in terms more reflective of our historical circumstances than his own. The revision may have been designed to accommodate a modern mentality. Its effect, however, is to obscure the truth that holiness is found in persons of every age and social rank. Henry and Louis were not simply entrusted with the care of earthly government; they were Christian rulers who became holy as they ruled because of the Christian way in which they ruled.
       In order to appreciate the nature of the other changes made to the collect for Henry, we need to know what the editors sought to achieve in their revision of the sanctoral orations. Dumas tells us: “In the sanctoral prayers we . . . put greater emphasis on the personality of the saint, his mission in the Church, the practical lesson that his example gives to men of today. All the corrections or new compositions in the new missal proceed in this direction.”
       When the editors excised mention of Henry “overcoming the enticements of his age” by the grace of God, they created a prayer that tells us nothing about Henry’s personality or his way of holiness. The failure of the corrections to this prayer to proceed in the direction established for all the sanctoral orations suggests that the editors of the new missal did not view Henry’s example of freedom from worldly enticements as something suitable for imitation by modern Christians, or that they thought the original collect posits too great an opposition between heaven and earth, or possibly both. Since these themes recur and become more explicit in later examples, we shall consider them as they reappear below.
       There are three other differences that a more extensive treatment would examine that can only be identified here. The new text (1) omits the reverential formula “humbly we implore you,” (2) asks that Henry intercede for us rather than that we imitate him (a change that flows directly from the decision to omit reference to Henry’s particular virtue), and (3) severs the connection between purity of mind and freedom from the attractions of this world established by the original prayer.
       The change in the petition of the revised collect for Louis is striking and shares common features with the new oration for Henry. The 1962 prayer for Louis begs that we may have partnership with Christ who is the King of kings—here, particularly, the King of King Louis—whereas the revised text asks that we may seek, but does not specify that we also find, “your eternal kingdom.” The petition of the revised text, therefore, is stunningly effete in comparison to that of the original collect which seeks nothing less than full incorporation into Christ. Similarly, the old collect for Henry begs that God make us attain unto, or reach (pervenire), himself, whereas the new version asks only that we hasten (festinemus) unto him. The verb pervenire stipulates arrival, festinare does not.
       A second feature common to both revised collects is a new emphasis on the things of this world which, in addition, are presented in a wholly positive light. In the revised prayer for Henry, we hasten “amid the diverse things of this world,” instead of asking, as in the original version, to be able to shun its allurements. In the somewhat convoluted revised collect for Louis, we ask God to grant, through the intercession of the saint, that we may seek his eternal kingdom “through the earthly responsibilities that we bear.” In the source text we ask to be granted partnership with Christ “through the merits and intercession”of the saint. »

By way of summary, Dr. Pristas concludes this section of her article with a warning:

The changes to these prayers, which are much more extensive than Dumas indicates, highlight the methodological importance of returning to the sources. Those who desire to gain a full and accurate understanding of the work of the Consilium must examine all the pertinent primary texts, and not rely exclusively upon even those articles, like Dumas’s own, that were written by the reformers themselves for the express purpose of describing and explaining their work. The number of changes is too great, and their nature too substantial, for even the most thorough summary to be adequate.
She is too kind to say it expressly, but authors like Dumas are not actually telling you the whole story. And it very doubtful that they are doing so because they are unaware of it or have just forgotten to do it. These men were über-experts in their subdisciplines, conversant with many languages, and compelled by committee work to share and explain themselves frequently. If, when they address a broader audience, they leave a lot out, it’s probably because they are aware that their audience will trust them to tell the truth and not bother to do the heavy lifting of consulting all the sources. Indeed, that is why certain defects in the new liturgy have taken decades to emerge into the light of day.

Turning our attention to the saint of today, Henry II, I would simply point out that the authentic Collect of his feast exhibits to perfection several aspects of the Catholic worldview:
  • The subordination of the temporal to the eternal
  • The need for self-denial and mortification
  • The legitimacy and fittingness of earthly monarchs reflecting the divine kingdom

Thus, we can confidently say this figure would be hated by modernists and liberals for several reasons:

  • They would despise his vow of virginity; even “conservatives” would likely mock it as contrary to the demands of the “theology of the body” popularly understood (aka, The Joy of Ethical Sex);
  • They despise monarchy because they hold the ideological view—essentially indemonstrable and contrary to available evidence—that democracy is the best and perhaps the only legitimate form of government;
  • They do not see political authority as being inherently from God and therefore given with a view to worshiping God and building up His kingdom on earth through the construction of churches, the endowment of monasteries, and the like.

That is, Henry II manages to wrap up in one package celibacy, monarchy, and integralism—a few of the least favorite things of the self-consciously modern and modernizing Christian. It’s actually rather surprising he was kept in the general calendar, where he manages to hang on to the status of Optional Memorial on July 13. I wonder how many choose the option… Meanwhile, at my parish, we will celebrate today the obligatory feast of the only Western Christian emperor-saint.

Window by Capronnier in St Stephen’s Catholic Church, Skipton (Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew OP)

The feast prompts a few melancholy reflections. The old Mass was sustained by a love of chivalry and ceremonial, noblemen and kings; indeed, these men were its principal benefactors who led Catholic culture to unequaled heights of magnificence. But that whole world was swept away by the Revolution: and the Mass has been in decline since then: the cathedral chapters were eradicated, noble patronage of art and religious orders ceased; and ideologically, nothing in that world will appeal to our latter-day Marxists (whether they proudly claim the label or merely correspond to its content).

We can see a strange change that comes over liturgical commentary in the later modern period. Commentators in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries have an instinctive love for ceremony and splendor. Their ideal is the imperial Rome of the Ordo Romanus I, with its high station liturgy. Later, after the Revolution… all of a sudden, everyone is tired of those things. The rich ceremonial life of pre-Napoleonic Europe gave figures like Benedict XIV, Bona, and Cancellieri a native understanding of and taste for liturgical ceremony that nineteenth and twentieth century writers generally sorely lack. The ceremonialists knew that their own experience was in direct continuity with St. Gregory’s seventh-century stational liturgy. Even if not moved by a particular ideology, a twentieth-century bourgeois has little to nothing in his experience of life that can relate to the ritual of the pontifical liturgy. So, he likes the simpler pseudo-apostolic “domus ecclesiae” house liturgy better.

The old Mass presupposes a whole culture that is vanished; and yet it hangs on, like St. Henry’s optional feast, by a thread: it is the option chosen, as a matter of principle, by a resolute minority who are as displaced as it is possible to be in a social body, enjoying neither official support nor ample resources. If John Senior is right to say that Christendom grew up around the Mass, will we discover over time if the old Mass still retains its inherent power to rebuild the world around it, as some creatures can rebuild their damaged bodies?

The liturgy cannot stand for long without a surrounding culture. That culture, in the West, was already teetering in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, wavering between sentimentalism and nihilism, and then came the coup de grâce of the Council and the reform. The revival of the traditional Mass is a risky experiment because it is like a floating city without a determinate “place” yet.

Reading the history of the Latin rite, I’m more and more convinced that communities of clergy are vital for liturgical life. The cathedral chapters and the monasteries are the only organizations that can do the full liturgy, from Matins to Compline, from the silent devotional Mass to the Solemn High Mass and pontifical ceremonies. They are the ones chiefly responsible for the health of the liturgical culture that they receive, foster, and hand down. When chapters and monasteries are strong, they set the tone for an entire territory. When they are weak or non-existent…

And yet, is it not strange, and hopeful, that so many young people today respond, at some level, even if incoherently and postmodernistically, to lavish displays of liturgical ceremony? That political conservatism is growing stronger again among the youth? I cannot imagine (in a sort of Freudian reductionism) that it is all about an emotional frisson or a fetishism for color and spectacle in a world of gray fashion and greenbacks. If depth calls to depth, then the depth of tradition calls to the depth of denuded, alienated postmodern man, and summons him to the heights of liturgy, fine art, political order, in the company of Henry II and Louis IX.

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

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Durandus on This Sunday’s Introit

William Durandus explains why the Introit of the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost is repeated from the feast of the Purification.

“There follows the Eighth Sunday, on which the Church teaches us to avoid all vanity. For this must be the effect of its teaching within us, because in its teaching it teaches us to become spiritual men, and be removed from bodily desires, unto the likeness of the Blessed Virgin, whose feast (i.e. the Assumption) is approaching. For this reason the Introit begins, ‘We have received Thy mercy’, that is, Thy Son, Jesus Christ, given to us out of mercy, ‘in the midst of Thy temple’, that is, in Thy universal Church. ‘According to Thy name, o God’, for God is named everywhere; ‘so also is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth’, that is, everywhere. For the ‘temple’ is also the Blessed Virgin, in whom we have truly received the mercy of God; wherefore, reasonable do we sing the current Introit around the time of Her feast, since she is the temple of the Lord, and the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit.” (Rationale Divinorum Officium, VI.122.1)

Durandus’ understanding that on the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost the Church “teaches us to avoid vanity”, depends on an assumed correspondence between the Scriptural readings at Matins and specific Sundays, based on a rather late date for Easter, and a period of 24 weeks after Pentecost. This would put the Eighth Sunday on the second Sunday of August, when the Scriptural readings at Matins are taken from Ecclesiastes, with its famous opening words “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.” In point of fact, this correspondence rarely occurs because of the variable date for Easter; the Eighth Sunday can fall as early as July 5th, which is closer to the Visitation (which did not exist as a feast in Durandus’ time) than the Assumption. For all this, we can nevertheless appreciate his understanding that the Church’s received liturgical texts, like the Scriptures themselves, may be explained as having a mystical significance greater than their mere letter.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

The Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel, Living Icon of the Incarnation

The primary feast day of the archangel Gabriel in the Byzantine rite is March 26th, but the calendar also includes the Synaxis of Gabriel on July 13th. The latter feast is especially dedicated to all of Gabriel’s beneficent interventions in salvation history.

As Michael Foley explained in an article posted on NLM a couple years ago,

Along with Saints Michael and Raphael, Gabriel is one of only three angels mentioned by name in the canonical Scriptures. Unlike Michael, the Bible does not refer to Gabriel as an archangel, but he is nonetheless recognized as such by the Church. As Pope St. Gregory the Great explains, angels as an order are the spirits that deliver messages of lesser importance, and archangels are, among other things, the order of spirits that deliver messages of greater importance. Since the message that Gabriel was delivering was of the utmost importance, it stands to reason that he was an archangel.

The name “Gabriel” is thus of exceptional significance: this chosen messenger announced the Incarnation of the eternal God, and furthermore, out of the innumerable host of angelic beings, Holy Scripture assigns names only to three of them. The name “Gabriel” is typically explained as meaning “man of God” or “strength of God.” Even if we concede that ancient cultures naturally associated physical strength with masculinity, the two interpretations are rather different.

The Annunciation. France, late fifteenth century. Tempera and shell gold on parchment.

The first part of the name derives from the Hebrew noun גֶּבֶר (gever), which means “man” but more in the sense of Latin vir than of Latin homo. The uncertainty arises because gever may also refer, by the metonymic extension that is common in biblical Hebrew, to a man’s strength. In the Book of Job, for example, God twice exhorts Job to “gird up now thy loins like a man,” where “like a man” translates כְגֶבֶר, i.e., the preposition כְ (“like, as”) prefixed to gever. The evident meaning is that Job should gird himself with (manly) strength, or perhaps even with the strength and courage of a warrior, for gever (by another metonymic extension) can signify “soldier.” The word’s connection to strength is more direct in Isaiah 22, 17: “Behold, the Lord will carry thee away with a mighty captivity, and will surely cover thee”; in this rendering from the King James Bible, the adjective “mighty” corresponds to the noun gaver (gever with a vowel change). The verse is a difficult one and was thoroughly reworked in the 1885 Revised Version: “Behold, the Lord will hurl thee away violently as a strong man; yea, he will wrap thee up closely.”

This is all to say that “Gabriel” can indeed convey either “man of God” or “strength of God,” but “man of God” is more faithful to the core meaning of gever. It is also more faithful to Gabriel’s role in salvation history, and this is what I wish to emphasize: given the literary sophistication of the Bible—which of course reflects the supreme literary sophistication of its Author, whose words are also deeds, and whose stories are scenes in the factual drama of human history—we would expect to find poetic resonance between Gabriel and the incomparably momentous message that he brought to Mary of Nazareth. His name supplies this resonance, and his appearances in the Old Testament intensify it.

The Annunciation. Switzerland, early fourteenth century. Tempera, ink, and gold on parchment. 

As shown above, Hebrew gever is a terrestrial sort of word, denoting the physical, male being called man and expanding to man’s strength, man’s vocation as warrior, man’s role as husband (Proverbs 6, 34), and male offspring (Job 3, 3). To name an immaterial, celestial being “man of God” is highly paradoxical—and yet eminently fitting, for this is the celestial being whose privilege it was to announce the all-surpassing Paradox of the hypostatic union. Gabriel is thus a living icon of the Incarnation, and the Hebrew Scriptures surround him with incarnational language. When Gabriel is sent to explain the vision that Daniel received, Daniel saw someone standing before him “as the likeness of a man” and heard “a man’s voice” (Daniel 8, 15–16). Later, Daniel identifies the archangel as “the man Gabriel” (9, 21), not because he is a man but because he, like Christ, appears in the form of a man; here, “man” is אִישׁ (ʾish), which is closer than gever to Latin homo (or to English “human being”).

Gabriel interprets Daniel’s vision. Spain, thirteenth century. Courtesy of the Morgan Library & Museum.

Finally, Daniel speaks of “a certain man” who may again be Gabriel, and if not, he is some other glorious being who is certainly much more than a man:

Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with finest gold: his body also was like chrysolite, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like the color of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude. (Daniel 10, 5–6)

Troparion of the Archangel Gabriel

O people, with a candlelight assembly let us sing the praises of the leader of heaven’s hosts. He is the servant of light sent from the Light divine to enlighten all who sing with love: O Gabriel, leader of the angels, rejoice with all the powers of heaven. 

Friday, July 12, 2024

Ss Nabor and Felix, Martyrs at Milan

July 12th is traditionally the feast day of two early martyrs of the church of Milan, Ss Nabor and Felix, who have long occupied a prominent place in the Ambrosian Rite. Together with their fellow soldier St Victor, they are named in the Communicantes of the Ambrosian Canon, and their Mass has some interesting propers. In the Roman Rite, they have been kept as a commemoration on the feast of St John Gualbert since the early 17th century. But well before that, in both the pre-Tridentine editions of the Roman liturgical books, and the edition of St Pius V, their feast was kept at the lowest rank, and had no proper hagiographical lesson in the breviary, a sure sign that the traditional account of their lives was considered historically unreliable.
The Virgin Mary Crowned by the Holy Trinity, with Saints Francis, Claire, John the Baptist, Saint Mary Magdalene, Catherine of Alexandria, and (in the foreground) Nabor and Felix; painted by Orazio Samacchini ca. 1575 for the church of San Francesco Grande in Milan, now in the National Painting Gallery in Bologna. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Sailko, CC BY-SA 4.0)
The hymn for Vespers of their feast, which was composed by St Ambrose himself, refers to them as “Mauri genus – Moors by birth”, since they were from the Roman province of Mauretania. (The modern nation of Mauritania in western Africa was named by the French during the 19th century colonial period after the Roman province, but includes none of the same territory.) It is also sung on the feast of St Victor on May 8th, since he was also a Moor, and martyred in the same persecution; they may have all belonged to a Berber tribe known as the Gaetuli, a great many of whom served in the Roman armies in the 3rd and 4th centuries. A later tradition associates all three of them with the Theban Legion, partly because they were in Milan in service to the Emperor Maximian, who made his headquarters in that city, and was the persecutor of that legion.
Their 5th century acts recount that they refused to sacrifice to the gods worshipped by the Empire and the army, and were therefore beheaded at the city of Laus Pompeia (now called Lodi Vecchio). A noblewoman named Savina, a native of Milan married to a patrician of Laus Pompeia, is said to have comforted them in prison, and then to have secretly buried them in her own house after their execution. Once the persecution had ceased, in the year 310, she brought their relics to Milan, where they were laid to rest in the chapel of her family, the Valerii; this chapel then came to be known as the Basilica Naboriana.
Within the basilica of St Ambrose in Milan, the chapel known as “San Vittore in Ciel d’Oro – St Victor in the heaven of gold” contains a mosaic portrait of the bishop of Milan at the time of this translation, St Maternus, with the martyrs to either side of him. On the opposite wall are St Ambrose with Ss Gervasius and Protasius, underlining the parallels between the two bishops in their devotion to the martyrs. And in point of fact, the place where St Ambrose discovered the relics of Gervasius and Protasius was very close to the Basilica Naboriana.
By 1249, the ancient church was in very poor condition, and it was decided to entrust it to the then very new order of the Franciscans, recently arrived in Milan. A much larger church was built to replace it, which was long known as San Francesco Grande. Devotion to the martyrs was renewed to such an extent that in 1396, their feast was declared a public holiday in Milan. In 1472, the relics were moved to be closer to the high altar; the skulls of the two martyrs were separated from the other bones, and placed in their own bust-shaped reliquaries, which were traditionally exposed on the altar on major feast days.
An inscription formerly in the atrium of San Francesco Grande, which lists the relics kept in the church, a copy made in 1464 from the 13th-century original.
In 1798, when the French armies under Napoleon invaded northern Italy, and the religious orders were suppressed throughout the region, the church of San Francesco Grande was destroyed. The martyrs’ relics were fortunately saved, and brought to the Basilica of St Ambrose; since 1960, they have been enclosed within this reused Paleo-Christian sarcophagus.
A reliquary with some of the martyrs’ relics.
It was probably at this point that the reliquaries containing the skulls disappeared, most likely stolen by French soldiers. It was not until 1959 that they were rediscovered, with both the relics and authentication papers sealed and intact, in an antique shop in Namur, Belgium. The bishop of Namur, André Charue, to whom they had been handed over, then generously returned them to Milan; the cardinal archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, had them installed in a new parish built on the outskirts of the city, where they remain to this day, after solemn expositions at both Milan and Lodi.
The high altar of the parish church of Ss Nabor and Felix, dedicated in 1959.
The recovered reliquary busts of Ss Nabor and Felix.
The New Testament Epistle for their feast, Ephesians 2, 13-22, begins with the words “you, who some time were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” This refers to the shedding of the martyrs’ blood in a land far from that of their birth, by which Milan became the place of their true birth into heaven. This same verse is repeated in the Hallelujah that follows it. The Gospel is St Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, chapter 9, 28-36, an unusual choice which seems to present the three martyrs as privileged witnesses of God’s glory, like the Apostles Peter, James, and John. This same theme pervades their very beautiful proper preface.
Truly it is worthy… through Christ our Lord. Who so enkindles the hearts of His faithful with fiery love, that they disdain the failing glory of the world, and through torments, come to the fellowship of the citizens of heaven. For this also, the most learned martyrs of Christ Nabor and Felix, having departed from the furthest ends of the earth, handed themselves over as exiles to this land, lest they be subject to the bloody rule of Caesar. And so that they might come to the court of heavenly King, they chose long to lie hidden beneath the cloak of earthly military service, awaiting the call of the Rule on high. Having firmly taken up the shield of Hope and the breastplate and helmet of Faith, fearlessly they ran into the enemy’s line. They overcome the most fierce torments, prison, beatings, the rack, fire and claw; they bow their neck beneath the groaning of chains, with their hands bound, they are drawn away by the wicked. In the end, their blood being shed by a sword, distinguished by the gory of their triumph, they came unto the citizens of heaven with the palm branch of victory. Through the same Christ our Lord. Through whom the Angels praise Thy majesty…
VD. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Qui suorum fidelium corda ignifero amore ita succendit, ut mundi caducam contemnant gloriam, et per tormenta consortium adeant civium supernorum. Ob hoc et doctissimi milites Christi Nabor et Felix, a summis terrarum digressi finibus, huic terrae se exules tradiderunt, ne cruento Caesaris subjacérent imperio. Et ut ad aulam Regis aetherei pergerent, sub chlamyde terrenae militiae latére diutius voluerunt, praestolantes desuper vocationem Imperii. Acceptoque constanter Spei clypeo, sumpta Fidei lorica et galea, securi incedunt in hostis aciem. Vincunt poenarum tormenta saevissima, carcerem, et verbera, equuleum, ignem, et ungulas: stridoribus catenarum colla subjiciunt, trahuntur a noxiis manibus vinculati. Ad ultimum mucrone sanguine fuso, triumphali gloria decorati, ad cives superos cum palma victoriae pervenerunt. Per eundem Christum.

The Gloria in Excelsis (Part 1)

Gloria in excelsis (Italy, 16th century)
Lost in Translation #99

In January of this year, we began a new “Lost in Translation” series on the Ordinary of the Mass and got as far as the Kyrie. Today, we resume the series by examining the Gloria in excelsis. But before we turn to some of the hymn’s linguistic oddities, let us consider its development and use, which can shape our understanding of its meaning.

Also called the Angelic Hymn and the Greater Doxology (in contradistinction to the Lesser Doxology “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…”), the Gloria in excelsis is one of the most recognizable features of the Mass of the Roman Rite even though it was not composed for the Mass or in Latin. One of our earliest versions of the hymn is from the fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions, where it is recommended for use in the morning Office of Lauds. Here is a translation of the Greek:
Glory be to God in the highest, and upon earth peace, good will among men.
We praise You, we sing hymns to You, we bless You;
We glorify You, we worship You by Your great High Priest;
You who art the true God, who art the One Unbegotten, the only inaccessible Being:
For Your great glory, O Lord and heavenly King, O God the Father Almighty,
O Lord God, who takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
You who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us, for You only art holy;
You only art the Christ, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen. (VII.xlvii).
The Churches that use the Byzantine Rite or the Alexandrine Rite (e.g., the Coptic) continue to chant some version of this doxology in their morning Divine Office.
Changing Use
The Roman and Ambrosian Rites, on the other hand, incorporated the Gloria into the Mass. Beginning sometime in the sixth century, a bishop intoned the hymn during the Christmas Midnight Mass; later, the privilege was extended to Sunday and the feasts of the martyrs. A bishop was seen as the natural mouthpiece for the Angelic hymn for he was considered to be a messenger or “Angel of the Church.” (see Rev. 2, 1 - 3, 22) One vestige of this association is the rubric in place until 1960 that paired the Gloria with the Ite, missa est. If the Gloria was not said at Mass, then Benedicamus Domino would be said instead of the dismissal, for both were considered the purview of the bishop. Eventually, however, priests were given permission to say the Gloria. Beginning in the eleventh century, they could intone the hymn on Easter Sunday and later, other feasts.
Over time, the Gloria had more to do with the focus of the occasion than with the rank of the celebrant. Even though the Gloria contains petitions for mercy, the hymn’s content overall is more joyful than the Kyrie eleison which precedes it. For St. Thomas Aquinas, the Kyrie commemorates our present misery while the Gloria commemorates the heavenly glory towards which we strive. The Gloria thus fits naturally with feasts, since heavenly glory is a prominent theme during a feast, but it is out of place with “mournful liturgies, which pertain to a commemoration of our misery.” [1]
Consequently, in the 1962 Roman Missal the Gloria is also used for all feasts (first, second, and third class) and every day of the Church’s two most joyful seasons, Christmastide and Eastertide. During the “green” Times after Epiphany and Pentecost, the Gloria is used on Sundays but not on ferias. And during the “violet” seasons of Advent, Septuagesima, and Lent, the Gloria is not used at all. Adam Wood has rendered these rules into a clever poem:
If red or white, to sing it’s right.
(Excepting Palms or Friday night)
Pink, purple, black—you best cut back,
The rites a “glory” that day lack.
With green o’er rabbat, the usual habit
Is sing it only on the Sabbit.
And there are interesting exceptions. Prior to 1955, the Church could not bring herself to experience joy as her first reaction to mass infanticide. The feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28 was celebrated with violet vestments, the suppression of the Gloria, and a Tract instead of an Alleluia as the Church assumed the voice of Rachel and the mothers of Bethlehem, mourning and weeping over their children because they were no more. (see Matt 2,18) But once this grief had been expressed (and within the Christmas Octave no less), the Church could then rejoice in the heavenly glory that the Holy Innocents are enjoying by celebrating the same Mass on January 4 (the octave day of the feast) but with red vestments, the Gloria, and an Alleluia. This touching tradition was destroyed in two stages. When Pope Pius XII suppressed the Octave of the Holy Innocents in 1955, the “red Mass” on January 4 was dropped. And with the changes to the rubrics in 1960, the “red Mass” took the place of the “violet Mass” on December 28, which is the current configuration in the 1962 Missal.
The Massacre of the Innocents: Not a happy occasion
But with the death of a baptized person who has not reached the age of reason, the Church insists on joy from the start. When a baptized infant dies, a Votive Mass of the Angels is celebrated instead of a Requiem Mass, and the Gloria is used. It is as if the Church is inviting the child’s grieving family to picture their little loved one in Heaven singing the Gloria with the Angels. And it is an astonishing practice: the Church shows greater joy over the entrance of one infant into Heaven than she initially does over the same entrance of the Holy Innocents, who are canonized saints.
Votive Masses
Another peculiarity are the rules governing the use of the Gloria at Votive Masses. In the Tridentine Missal, if a pope or bishop ordered a Votive Mass to be said for a certain grave occasion (pro re gravi), the Gloria was to be used unless the color was violet. The Gloria also appears in Votive Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday and the Votive Mass of a Saint on a day in which the Saint is named in the Martyrology or during his or her octave. And the Gloria is always said, as the Missal explicitly states, during a Votive Mass of the Angels.
As for a Nuptial Mass, which is a Votive Mass for the Bride and Groom, the Gloria was not said until the rubrics were changed in 1960, even though the liturgical color has long been white.[2] The official reason is that the Nuptial Mass is a private Votive Mass, and private Votive Masses do not have a Gloria. It also makes sense that even though a wedding is a celebration, it should also have a plaintive aspect (to which an omitted Gloria contributes) as a way of poignantly begging God for a successful, happy, and long marriage. Not inviting the Gloria to a wedding is therefore liturgically appropriate, so long as one does not go on to call weddings “mournful liturgies, which pertain to a commemoration of misery.” The bride might not like that.
[1] Summa Theologiae III.83.4, trans. mine.
The third part commemorates heavenly glory, which we are striving for after this present misery, by saying, "Glory to God in the highest." [The hymn] is sung during feasts, on which heavenly glory is commemorated, but it is omitted during mournful liturgies, which pertain to a commemoration of our misery.
Tertia autem pars commemorat caelestem gloriam, ad quam tendimus post praesentem miseriam, dicendo, gloria in excelsis Deo. Quae cantatur in festis, in quibus commemoratur caelestis gloria, intermittitur autem in officiis luctuosis, quae ad commemorationem miseriae pertinent.
[2] But apparently, exceptions to this rule were made, as when the daughter of General William Tecumseh Sherman was married in 1874.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Solemnity of St Benedict 2024

O caelestis norma vitae, doctor et dux, Benedicte, cujus cum Christo spiritus exsultat in caelestibus, gregem, pastor alme, serva, sancta prece corrobora, via caelos clarescente fac te duce penetrare. – O rule of the heavenly life, teacher and leader, whose spirit rejoiceth with Christ in heaven, Benedict, preserve thy flock, a kindly shepherd, strenghten it with thy holy prayer; lead it and bring into the heavens by the bright path. (The antiphon for the Magnificat at Second Vespers of the Solemnity of St Benedict.)
The Triumphal Way of St Benedict, by Johann Michael Rottmayr, 1722; fresco on the ceiling of Melk Abbey in Austria. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Uoaei1; click to enlarge.) – The pomp of the world is represented on the left side by a book full of alchemical symbols, two demons, one of which holds a censer, and a figure with a theatrical mask, being speared in the throat by an angel. (The censer refers to the pagan sacrifices which St Benedict found still happening on Monte Cassino when he moved there, and to which he put an end.) On the right, a figure with a Cross and a whip drives away two other female figures, one bare-chested, the other holding rich clothing and a crown; below them, a figure with thorny branches drives away another demon, a reference to St Benedict’s conquest of the vice of lust by rolling around in a bramble. Underneath St Benedict are angels holding a miter and crook, used by the abbot of Melk, a book with the opening words of the Rule, and a glass with serpent emerging from it; the last refers to an attempt by some very bad monks to poison St Benedict, who made the sign of the Cross over the glass, “which broke as if he had thrown a stone.”
St Benedict died on March 21 in the year 543 or 547, and this was the date on which his principal feast was traditionally kept, and is still kept by Benedictines; it is sometimes referred to on the calendars of Benedictine liturgical books as the “Transitus - Passing.” There was also a second feast to honor the translation of his relics, which was kept on July 11. The location to which the relics were translated is still a matter of dispute, with the Abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy, founded by the Saint himself, and the French Abbey of Fleury, also known as Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, both claiming to possess them. This second feast is found in many medieval missals and breviaries, even in places not served by monastic communities. (It was not, however, observed by either the Cistercians or Carthusians.). The second feast was in a certain sense the more solemn in the traditional use of the Benedictines; March 21 always falls in Lent, and the celebration of octaves in Lent was prohibited, but most monastic missals have the July 11 feast with an octave. In the post-Conciliar reform of the Calendar, many Saints, including St Benedict, were moved out of Lent; in his case, to the day of this second feast in the Benedictine Calendar.

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