Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Liturgical Notes on the Conversion of St Paul

In light of the Church’s very ancient tradition of celebrating the Saints’ feasts on the day of their death, when they attain to their heavenly reward, the Conversion of St Paul is almost unique in specifically commemorating the beginning of a Saint’s career. I say “almost” because traditionally, many feasts of bishops are kept on the date of their episcopal ordination. However, this custom arose from cases like that of St Basil the Great, who died on January 1st, where another feast was already in place, or St Ambrose, who died on Holy Saturday of 397, April 4th, a date which frequently occurs in Holy Week or the Easter octave. (A more recent example is Pope St John Paul II, who died on April 2, and is kept on October 22, the day of his Papal inauguration.) There is no feast analogous to the Conversion of St Paul for the callings of the other Apostles, although the Gospel accounts thereof may be read on their feast days.

The Conversion of St Paul, from the Hours of Simon de Varie, 1455 (Public domain image from Wikimedia)
The reason for the choice of date for this feast is unknown. An early martyrology attributed to St Jerome refers to January 25 as the “translation” of St Paul. One would suppose that the feast must therefore be Roman in origin, since the only known major translation of St Paul’s relics took place within Rome. However, it actually originated in the Gallican Rite; it is absent from the oldest Roman lectionary, and the most ancient sacramentaries. At the beginning of the eighth century, the feast first appears with the title of “Conversio” on the calendar of St Willibrord, and by 750, in the second oldest lectionary of the Roman Rite.

With its classic liturgical conservatism, the church of Rome was slow to adopt new liturgical formulae even for some of the most venerated Saints. As I have noted in previous articles, it was almost the only place to have no proper Office for St Nicholas, and only a very partial one for St Mary Magdalene. Likewise, the Roman Mass and Office of St Paul’s Conversion are copied, with some adjustments, from the older and specifically Roman feast on June 30th, originally known as the “dies natalis – the birth (into heaven)” of St Paul, and later as the “Commemoration of St Paul”.

Among the Gregorian propers of the Mass, the Introit, Gradual, Offertory, and Communion are the same on both days, while only the Alleluia differs. Of the three prayers, the Collect of the Commemoration is partly rewritten for the Conversion, the Secret is the same, the Postcommunion differs, but the latter two make no reference to the feast. The Scriptural readings of the Conversion, Acts 9, 1-22 and Matthew 19, 27-29, were both originally used on the Commemoration, and then later changed on that day (since the liturgical conservatism of Rome was strong, but not absolute.) The Roman Office of the Conversion has only two musical propers distinct from those of the Commemoration, the Magnificat antiphon of first Vespers (which was suppressed in 1955) and the Invitatory.

The Introit Scio cui credidi

In his History of the Roman Breviary, Mons. Pierre Batiffol dedicates a large portion of the sixth chapter (almost 40 pages in the 1912 English edition) to a congregation appointed by Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58) in 1741 to make and study various proposals for a reform of the Breviary. The consultors agreed that the Commemoration of St Paul should be suppressed from the general calendar, since the Pope no longer went to the Apostle’s tomb on that day, which was the feast’s original purpose. On the other hand, there was no question that the Conversion of St Paul should be retained. This proposal for the secondary feasts of St Paul was implemented in the post-Conciliar reform, which often claimed to return to the original customs of the Roman Rite, but in this case, completely suppressed a feast which is indisputably Roman and ancient, and retained one which is indisputably not Roman and later.

Batiffol also notes that one of the consultors of the congregation, noticing that the musical propers in the Office of January 25th make no reference to the feast, composed a whole new Office for it based on the reading from Acts 9. The congregation, whose work was never implemented, and whose papers were not rediscovered and published until well over a century later, rejected the proposal. For all his trouble, the poor consultor might just as easily have proposed the adoption of the proper Office for the feast then used by the Dominicans, which contains a number of very beautiful texts, such as the third responsory for Matins.

R. A Christo de caelo vocátus, et in terra prostrátus, ex persecutóre effectus est vas electiónis: et plus ómnibus labórans, multo latius inter omnes verbi gratiam seminávit, * atque doctrínam evangélicam sua praedicatióne complévit. V. Inter Apóstolos vocatióne novíssimus, praedicatióne primus, nomen Christi multárum manifestávit gentium pópulis. Atque. Gloria Patri. Atque.
R. Called by Christ from heaven, and laid low upon the earth, from a persecutor, he became a chosen vessel, and laboring more than all others, sowed the grace of the word much more broadly among all, * and completed the teaching of the Gospel by his preaching. V. Last among the Apostles by vocation, but first in preaching, he made the name of Christ known to the people of the nations. And. Glory be. And.

The Preaching of St Paul at Ephesus, by Eustache Le Sueur, 1649 (Public domain image from Wikimedia.)
In this same Office, the Magnificat antiphon at Second Vespers is the only one taken from one of St Paul’s Epistles, Galatians 1, 15-16.

Aña Cum autem complacuit ei qui me segregavit ex utero matris meae, et vocavit per gratiam suam, ut revelaret in me Filium suum in gentibus, continuo non acquievi carni et sanguine. ~ But when it pleased Him, who set me apart me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal His Son in me among the Gentiles, immediately I condescended not to flesh and blood.

New Anthology of Ecclesiastical Documents on Education from the Last 100 Years

Including many documents translated from Latin and published in English for the first time.

Published by Newman House Press, The Mission of Catholic Schools: A Century of Reflection and Direction, is recommended for all those interested in Catholic education. This is the first full anthology of all pertinent ecclesiastical documents published in the last 100 years, with a large proportion translated and published in English for the first time. That rubric includes papal teachings, texts from the Second Vatican Council, the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Fr Peter Stravinskas, the Program Director of Pontifex Universities Masters in Catholic School Administration, and who co-edited this (with Fr Nicholas Gregoris who did all the translation work) told me:

Although the Church has been engaged in the education apostolate from her earliest days, it was deemed necessary to take on a reasonable focus—a century of reflection seemed to fit the bill, beginning with the pontificate of Benedict XV and ending with that of Francis. 

It is a must for libraries of Catholic schools and colleges, and a perfect resource for curriculum development, Catholic identity assessment, professional development seminars and the creation of mission statements.

To order The Mission of Catholic Schools: A Century of Reflection and Direction, go to NCEA.org/store. Product Code: REL-31-1630, here.

Member Price $149 / Non Member Price $225

Monday, January 24, 2022

“Moments of Liturgical Action”: Recovering the Sacramentality of Biblical Lections

In his work Philosophy of Cult — published, so far, only in Russian and in an Italian translation La Filosofia del Culto, from the latter of which the following translation was made by Zachary Thomas — Pavel Florensky articulates the orthodox understanding of Scripture, in contrast to the Protestant one:

The apostolic letters and the Holy Gospel are often considered books. The Holy Gospel and the holy apostolic letters are not “books,” but rather moments of liturgical action, deriving from the liturgy, where they do not have a simply narrative or purely edifying meaning, but one even more important — precisely an active, sacramental meaning.
          In short, even to read the Holy Scriptures is something that acquires its full significance only liturgically, in prayer, and not outside of the liturgy…. To remove it from this context, even if it is very pleasing to do so, would mean to secularize it. Just as it is impossible to walk down the street wearing a chasuble just because it is a beautiful garment; the moment one did so it would be equal to desecrating the holy vestments.
          It is good to reflect on rules of conduct in the same way. The holy fasts, for example, do not have an autonomy or moral order to themselves. They are rather tied to the liturgy; they play a part in the liturgical order akin to the preparation for Holy Communion, the ritual organization of life. They are therefore an ordo, or rather a liturgical moment, a moment of the ecclesiastical function.
          The instruction in our seminaries and in our ecclesiastical schools is mistaken from the start, from the moment that it is characterized by a certain autonomy of theology and even of diverse theologies — “dogmatic,” “moral,” and so on. In this entirely formal program a Protestant mode of thinking is already embedded, because Protestantism is in its essence the negation of the centrality of cult and the substitution of the center of religion with thought that, of its nature, cannot but be autonomous.
          Personally I have not the slightest doubt that orthodox instruction centers itself on cult — not on teaching about cult, but on life in cult — and thus the diverse “subjects” are only moments in the study of cult. But as soon as they become autonomous and forgetful of cult, in spite of their contents they end up in the orbit of Protestantism. In fact, even if they are orthodox in respect to the content delivered, nevertheless by not being centered on cult they are eccentric in respect to orthodoxy — which is to say they are Protestant.
Never have I found so well stated the basic difference between the traditional conception and practice of readings found in the usus antiquior and the modern conception and practice found in the Novus Ordo. The former is orthodox in the broad but precise sense; the latter is Protestant in Florensky’s sense. The observation that the postconciliar liturgical reform emerged from and resulted in protestantization is commonplace, but generally the focus is on something like the reduction and removal of sacrificial language from the Offertory and the Eucharistic Prayer; seldom is it seen how protestantized is the novel approach to the Scriptures.

The Roman tradition shows us attitudes that match Florensky’s account. In his superb biography of the saint, Fr. Augustine Thompson describes St. Francis of Assisi’s attitude towards scraps of parchment that had the words of Scripture or the name of God written on them, which he insisted should be collected and kept in suitable places, because they were a form of divine presence. This would strike many moderns as superstitious only because we live in a world denuded of sacrality, deaf to the transcendent vibration of symbolism:
For Christians of his age, the words of scripture were not merely didactic reminders of past events or moral norms. As divine words, they were a locus of power. Merely pronouncing them, as when the bishop read the beginning of the four Gospels toward the city gates facing the four points of the compass during springtime Rogation processions, put demonic powers to flight. When used by Brother Silvester over the city of Arezzo, the divine words could, by their very power, end civil strife.
          Now, when Francis began to chant from the book of Gospels as a deacon, he himself proclaimed and enacted the words of power. A perplexed brother once asked Francis about his practice of collecting such scraps of parchment, and he replied: “Son, I do this because they have the letters that compose the glorious name of the Lord God, and the good that is found there does not belong to the pagans nor to any human being, but to God alone, to whom every good thing belongs.”....
          Before, as a simple cleric singing the Office, he had chanted the psalms of David; now, as a deacon, he read the very words of Christ. At Solemn Mass, he did so facing north — the direction of darkness and, for medieval minds, paganism, and thus putting both to flight. That certain clerics treated these powerful and holy texts with disrespect outraged Francis’s acute spiritual sense. To leave sacred books on the floor or in dishonorable places was, in its own way, as sacrilegious as the desecration of the Host. Ever more intensely, Francis associated his own experience before the Cross, his transforming encounter with the lepers, and the divine commission to live the Gospel perfectly with the immediate, unmediated presence of Christ given to each Christian in Word and Sacrament.
In the traditional liturgy, the readings are given “eccentrically,” that is, directed away from the people in a different direction (either eastward or northward). This shows that the Word is first of all a glorification of and an exultation in the truth God has spoken, done on behalf of the worshiping congregation, and only secondarily an illumination of the ones present. A sign that this must be right is that the readings are still read even if no congregation is present to be instructed. (Certainly, the priest may be instructed himself, qua baptized Christian, but the scenario seems absurd from an excessively didactic point of view; one would think, on the didactic model, that readings should be skipped when there is no congregation.) Put differently, the Word of God is greater than and exceeds every gathering of the Church; it convokes but also transcends the Church.

Hence the least proper direction for chanting is directly at the faithful, as if the Word is subordinate to them, rather than they to it. Chanting, or speaking, the readings at the faithful betrays precisely that anti-cultic Protestant conception Florensky critiques. In today’s context the directing of readings towards the people has one and only one meaning: this action is enclosed within the present gathering, having its finality in the reception and comprehension (such as it is) of the listeners. This contributes to the “closed circle” phenomenon that Joseph Ratzinger diagnosed as the primary disease of postconciliar worship.

No one denies that the Scripture lessons have an instructional element. They are intelligible words meant to be grasped by intellect. But the most important element of the instruction imparted is not textual biblical knowledge but fear and reverence towards the infallible, inspired, awesome Word of God, such that we intuitively feel that this book is qualitatively different from any other book, that it measures us (our minds are subordinate to its wisdom) rather than being measured by us (the arrogant error of modern biblical criticism).

That I personally should venerate the Word of God as inerrant and infallible, the purest, highest, and most reliable testimony to divine truth available to me in this life, is an attitude and a mentality I learned from the solemnly chanted readings of the traditional Mass, not from the wearisome wordiness of the Novus Ordo that turns the church into a classroom. It is even enough to see the readings devoutly read at a low Mass by the priest facing the altar to acquire a sense that there is something special about these words, since they are being placed on the altar, as it were, as a verbal homage to God.
 
In words reminiscent of Florensky, Martin Mosebach in The Heresy of Formlessness writes about how the liturgical announcing of the readings in general, and of the Gospel in particular, are not mere declarations of texts, but are ways of making Christ present in the church:
The reading of the Gospel is far more than “proclamation”: it is one of the ways in which Christ becomes present. The Church has always understood it to be a blessing, a sacramental, effecting the remission of sins, as is affirmed by the “Per evangelica dicta deleantur nostra delicta” [by these evangelical words may our sins be blotted out] that recalls the Misereatur after the Confiteor. The Gospel’s sacramental character, effectively remitting sins, is surely the decisive argument for its being read in the sacred language. The liturgical signs of the procession make this character particularly clear…. The liturgy had taken over from the court ceremonial of the pagan emperors the symbolic language for the presence of the supreme sovereign: candles, which preceded the emperor, and the thurible. Whenever candles and incense appear in the liturgy, they indicate a new culmination of the divine presence. At the reading of the Gospel the candles of the Gospel procession and the incensing of the Gospel book as well as of the celebrating priest once more indicate the presence of the teaching Christ. The readings are not simply a “proclamation” but above all the creation of a presence.
It is, needless to say, a minority view that the chanting of the readings at Mass is an act of worship directed to God as well as an instruction for the people. In fact, there is something counterintuitive about this idea. After all, it would seem obvious that the reason Scripture is read in the Mass is to educate the faithful. But it is not so simple as a binary “either/or.” The traditional Roman liturgy tends, over the centuries, to turn everything into a prayer directed to God, as if there should be no place in the liturgy for something that is exclusively “for the people.” A great example of this is how the Creed is recited or sung in the usus antiquior. We all know that the Creed is a confession of faith, that it is basically a list of dogmas held by Christians. It has no obvious characteristics of being a prayer directed to God; rather, it looks like a badge of orthodoxy by which we signify our orthodoxy in the sight of the Church. And yet, in the usus antiquior the priest recites the Creed ad orientem at the high altar, bowing the head at the name of Jesus, genuflecting at the Et incarnatus est, and making the sign of the cross at the Et vitam venturi saeculi, concluding with an “Amen.” In this way the profession of orthodoxy has been turned into a prayer to the Triune God, a manner of communing with the One who has graciously revealed His mysteries to man.

What we see with the Credo is what we see with every element in the Mass, Office, and other sacramental rites. The whole liturgy is for God, and in fact its highest educational value consists precisely in communicating to the people the primacy and ultimacy of God, that He is the Alpha and Omega of all our exterior and interior acts, including the act of listening to readings and comprehending them. In a sense, the readings are offered up to God so that we may be offered up to Him in our understanding of the Word and the affections stirred up by it. This is why it does not matter so much whether or not every word is intelligible; what matters far more is to see that this Word is divine, holy, heavenly, that we are standing on holy ground. The verbal comprehension can follow in due time, but we will never grasp the Word rightly if we do not first venerate it as divine and worship the God from whom it emanates and in whose presence it comes alive.

The traditional Roman Rite indicates again and again its fundamental orthodoxy by not treating “the apostolic letters and the Holy Gospel” as mere “books,” but by treating them as “moments of liturgical action, deriving from the liturgy, where they do not have a simply narrative or purely edifying meaning, but one even more important — precisely an active, sacramental meaning.” Once more we see how the true meeting of East and West must take place not by means of papal visits to Cyprus or other staged events fueled by hot air, but by means of recovering our common catholic liturgical heritage and purging forever its protestantized simulacrum.

I would be remiss if I did not close with the following ironic observation. Catholic clergy and academics for decades have tended to align themselves with liberal Protestant biblical critics who end up undermining the inerrancy of Scripture. “Traditional” Protestants (if I may indulge an oxymoron) hold much more closely to the authentic Catholic position than today's Catholics often do. We can therefore say that a Protestant who really understood the implications of his own claims about Scripture (the journey of Scott Hahn from evangelical to Latin Mass attendee comes to mind) would necessarily gravitate toward the orthodox understanding of the primacy of the liturgical presencing of the Word, that is, what we see in the classical Roman Rite. In this way, traditional Catholics and “traditional” Protestants have much more in common than either of them has with the mainstream of Catholic academia or the mentality of the liturgical reformers.

Eastward reading in an oriental liturgy

Sunday, January 23, 2022

A Byzantine Hymn in the Ambrosian Rite

In the Ambrosian Rite, the Third Sunday after Epiphany presents a nice example, one among many, of a text borrowed from the Byzantine liturgy. The Ambrosian corpus of Mass antiphons is much smaller than the Roman one, and many pieces are used on several Sundays over the course of the liturgical year. These are arranged in the antiphonary in a Common of Sundays, and sung in rotation. On the Sundays after the octave of Epiphany, however, an exception is made for the Transitorium, the equivalent of the Roman Communion, of which there are proper ones used only in that period, with particularly beautiful texts.

On the Third Sunday, the transitorium is a Latin translation of a hymn sung on Christmas in the Byzantine Rite, composed by St Andrew of Crete, who was born in the mid-7th century; the year of his death is variously given as 712, 726 or 740. This is the first of a series of “stichera”, as they are called, texts sung between verses of the Laudate Psalms (148-149-150) towards the end of the longest (by far!) of the canonical Hours, Orthros.

Laetamini justi, caeli exultate, jucundate montes, Christo genito; Virgo sedebat, Cherubim imitans, in gremio portans Dei Verbum incarnatum. Pastores stellam mirantur; Magi Domino munera offerunt; Angeli Salvatorem adorantes clamant: Incomprehensibilis Domine, gloria tibi! – Rejoice, ye just; exsult, ye heavens, be glad, ye mountains, at the birth of Christ. The Virgo sat, imitating the Cherubim, bearing in Her lap the Word of God Incarnate. The shepherds wonder at the star, the Magi offer their gifts to the Lord; the Angels, worshipping the Savior cry out, ‘O incomprehensible Lord, glory to Thee!’ (Video by Antonio Maria Abate; cantor Andrea di Martino)

The Greek original, which does not include the phrase “the shepherds wonder at the star” found in the Latin version.
In the following video of the All-Night Vigil of Christmas at the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow this year, the Church Slavonic version of this hymn begins at 19:00. (On the Julian calendar, Christmas is currently celebrated on the Gregorian date of January 7th. - Due to whatever scheduling mix-up, the camera was not turned until Orthros was about half-way over, so most of the vigil is missing here.)
This transitorium is also used on the fifth Sunday after Epiphany, which is very rarely celebrated, and also at the Mass of any feria occurring in the weeks following these Sundays. (As in the Roman Rite, the Ambrosian calendar of Saints is very full in January and the beginning of February, so this doesn’t happen very often.)

The texts of the other transitoria of the season after Epiphany are also very beautiful.

II after Epiphany Mysterium magnum factum est in Babylonia, ut caminus extingueretur. tribus pueris exsultatnibus, dicentibus, “Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.” – A great mystery happened in Babylon, that the furnace should be extinguished, as the three children rejoiced, saying “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

IV after Epiphany Te laudamus, Domine omnipotens, qui sedes super Cherubim, et Seraphim, quem benedicunt Angeli, Archangeli, et laudant Prophetæ, et Apostoli. Te laudamus, Domine, orando, qui venisti peccata solvendo. Te deprecamur magnum Redemptorem, quem Pater misit ovium Pastorem. Tu es Christus Dominus Salvator, qui de Maria Virgine es natus. Hunc sacrosanctum Calicem sumentes, ab omni culpa libera nos semper. – We praise Thee, Lord Almighty, who sittest upon the Cherubim and Seraphim, whom the Angels and Archangels bless, and the Prophets and Apostles praise. We praise Thee, o Lord, in our prayer, who came to destroy (our) sins. We beseech the great Redeemer, whom the Faher sent as the shepherd of the sheep. Thou are Christ the Lord, the Savior, who wast born of the Virgin Mary. As we received this most holy Chalice, deliver us always from every sin.


The Mass of the “Sixth Sunday after Epiphany” is always said on the Sunday before Septuagesima, and the transitorium reflects the beginning of the passage to the penitential season of Fore-Lent.

VI after Epiphany Convertimini filii hominum, dum habetis tempus, dicit Dominus, et ego scribam nomina vestra in libro Patris mei, qui est in caelis. – Be converted, ye sons of men, while ye have time, saith the Lord, and I will write your names in the book of My Father who is in heaven.

As always, thanks to Nicola de’ Grandi, who provided part of the material for this post.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Ss Vincent and Anastasius

Today is the feast of one of the most venerated martyrs of the last and greatest of the ancient Roman persecutions, the deacon St Vincent of Saragossa. Towards the end of the 3rd century, he was ordained and appointed as a preacher and instructor of the faithful by the bishop of that city, St Valerius, and together they were arrested by the governor Dacian when the edict of persecution was issued by the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian in the year 303. The poet Prudentius, who was also from Spain, and is one of the principal sources for his life, tells us that the local governor Dacian killed a group of eighteen martyrs at Saragossa, then soon after arrested Valerius and Vincent, who were transferred to Valencia, and left for a long time in prison, starved and tortured.

St Vincent, by the Spanish painter Tomás Giner, 1462-6; from the archdeacon’s chapel of the cathedral of Saragossa, now in the Prado Museum in Madrid. His millstone (explained below) is seen on the left, behind the kneeing donor, on the right, his rack; note that the Roman persecutor Dacian is represented as a Moor in this painting of late Reconquista Spain. (Public domain image from Wikimedia.)
The point of the persecutions was to get Christians to offer sacrifice to the statue of the emperor, and it was particularly important for the Romans that the clergy should be induced to do this, so as to break down the resistance of the ordinary faithful. Dacian therefore tried by various threats and promises to bend the prisoners to his will, but Valerius suffered from a speech impediment and simply made no answer. St Vincent therefore said to him, “Father, if you order me, I will speak,” to which Valerius replied, “Son, as I committed to you the dispensation of the word of God, so I now charge you to answer in vindication of the faith which we defend.”

Vincent then said to Dacian that they were ready to suffer everything for the true God, and that his threats and promises meant nothing to them. In the days of St Augustine, the acts of the martyrs were often read in church as part of the liturgy, and he says in one of his sermons that Vincent suffered in ways that no man could bear in a merely natural way, while remaining perfectly calm and patient. Completely defeated by the martyr’s constancy, the governor relented, and allowed the faithful to visit him in prison; they dressed his many wounds, and laid him on a bed at which he died. He is sometimes depicted with a raven, in reference to the story that Dacian ordered his body to be left in a field, but a raven defended it from other animals until the Christians could collect it. More commonly, he is seen with a millstone tied to his neck, since Dacian then tried to get rid of his body by throwing it into the sea thus weighed down, but it miraculously returned to the shore anyway.

Many of the details of both St Vincent’s passion and various translations of his relics are regarded as unreliable by hagiographical scholars, but there can be no doubt that devotion to him spread through the Church very early on. St Augustine preached six sermons on his feast day, he appears in some of the earliest liturgical books of the Roman Rite, and is named in the canon of the Ambrosian Mass.

In Rome, his feast day was long joined to that of another martyr, a Persian soldier who was converted to Christianity on seeing the relics of the True Cross when they were taken into his country by the Emperor Chosroes, after the sack of Jerusalem in 614 AD. At his baptism he changed his name from Magundat to Anastasius, in honor of the Resurrection. There were several ferocious persecutions against the Christians in Persia, and Anastasius died as a martyr in the midst of torments as horrible as those of St Vincent. His body was removed first to the Holy Land, then to Constantinople, and finally, in the iconoclast era, when many of the iconodules fled West, to Rome, and placed in a church dedicated to St Vincent. This is the reason for the joint feast of two otherwise unrelated martyrs, but St Anastasius is not found on non-Roman calendars in the Middle Ages. As noted in the Martyrology, one of the arguments adduced in favor of the veneration of sacred pictures at the Second Council of Nicea was that many miracles of healing and exorcism took place at this church in the presence of an image of him and the relic of his head.

The façade of Ss Vincent and Anastasius, added by Matteo Longhi (1644-50) at the behest of Julius Cardinal Mazarin, the successor of Cardinal Richelieu as Prime Minister of King Louis XIV of France. (Photo from Wikimedia by Mister No, CC BY 3.0)

Friday, January 21, 2022

Another Sighting of the “Care Cloth” at a Recent Solemn High Nuptial Mass

Back in September, I published here an article called “The Return of the ‘Care Cloth’ at the Traditional Nuptial Mass.” It turned out to be one of our most popular articles in 2021, with off-the-charts views and shares. It occasioned some sad remarks: “My fiancee and I were hoping to have a TLM wedding, but now it seems we can’t because of Traditionis Custodes and how it’s being implemented locally.” But there have also been heartening signs that TLM weddings are here to stay, as photos continue to be posted here and there of such events taking place in every month since the motu proprio. The time that has passed since July 16 has been a time of gradual awakening on the part of priests to the necessity of “just saying no” to unjust restrictions and policies, even if it means doing things like TLM weddings with more circumspection—and perhaps without sharing photos on social media!

That being said, we are grateful to the wonderful photographer Alison Girone for sharing once again a magnificent batch of photos of a recent Solemn High Latin Mass wedding. While there are very many gorgeous pictures we could share (see here for the full album), here I would like to draw special attention to the appearance once more of the “care cloth” or velatio nuptialis, a custom that is making a return as young people reach ever deeper into the treasury of the Faith. Our congratulations to the newlyweds!
Epistle
Gospel

Elevation
Care cloth during nuptial blessing

Day of the Unborn

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Slaughter of the Innocents, ca 1308-1311
The following was part of an article entitled “Independence Day and the Day of Prayer for the Unborn” that appeared in The Latin Mass magazine 30:2 (Summer 2021). Many thanks to the editors of TLM for allowing its republication here.

In the United States, the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children is obligatory. The 2011 American edition of the GIRM states:

In all the Dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion (373).
January 22 is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand in the United States and that has led to, according to one estimate, the murder of over 61 million unborn children so far. My guess is that the bishops were moved to institute this day of prayer after President Ronald Reagan declared January 22 National Sanctity of Human Life Day in 1984. To date, the states of Louisiana Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama observe January 22 as the “Day of Tears” during which “citizens are encouraged to lower their flags to half-staff to mourn the deaths of unborn children who have lost their lives from abortion.”
One can certainly empathize with the desire to end genocide, but as with the Independence Day Mass, there are two problems: liturgically enshrining such an event on the Church calendar and the content of the propers and rubrics.
Regarding the latter, the day is supposed to petition God for the legal protection of the unborn and be a day of “penance for violations to the dignity of the human person.” In the Mass options, however, one must choose one or the other. Priests can celebrate either the Mass “For Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life” in white vestments, which has no penitential aspect, or the Mass “For the Preservation of Peace and Justice” in violet vestments, which has no petition to protect the unborn. Neither Mass, in fact, supplicates God for an end to legalized abortion or atones for the slaughter it has caused unless it is inserted into the Prayers for the Faithful. Indeed, there are no propers for this obligatory memorial at all.
And regarding the liturgical commemoration of Roe v. Wade: it is one thing to have an annual Votive Mass calling for the overturn of this decision, it is another to list it on the calendar nestled among the feast days of the saints. One wonders what precedent this novelty may set. Should we also mark the anniversary of the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, or the 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, over which LGBTQ+ activists rejoiced? If we add a Votive Mass every time the U.S. Supreme Court disregards the natural law, we will probably end up with an exceedingly cluttered calendar.
Conclusion
When Paul VI became the first Pope to visit the United States, he greeted America by renewing, “as it were, the gesture of your discoverer, Christopher Columbus, when he planted the Cross of Christ in this blessed soil.” The Holy Father went on to make the sign of the cross over our sky and land and to beseech God’s blessing upon us. [Kennedy Airport, AAS 57 (1965), 875-76]
The image of planting the Cross in our soil is one worth cherishing. I believe that the American bishops had this commendable goal in mind when they added civic occasions to our sacred calendar, but I fear that instead of planting the Cross in America they planted the Stars and Stripes in the Holy of Holies. If the Catholic Church in the United States wants to help her country, she should heed the advice given by the Presbyterian minister and Founding Father John Witherspoon: “He is the best friend to American liberty who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion.”

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Traditionis Custodes and the Greek-Catholics

I strongly commend to our reader’s attention this excellent interview with Subdeacon Dr Brian Butcher, a member of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, in which he discusses the ramifications of Traditionis Custodes for the entire Catholic Church, both East and West. Dr Butcher teaches at the School of Religious Studies at McGill University in Montreal, and is also a fellow of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptysky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at the Univ. of Toronto. NLM thanks him profusely for speaking out on behalf of all those who love the traditional liturgy of the Roman Church - На многая і благая літа!

Photos from a Recent Traditional Betrothal Ceremony

At a time when good news is more welcome than ever, I was overjoyed to see the following photographs and descriptions of a recent traditional betrothal ceremony shared in a Facebook group, and wished to spread the joy. The betrothal ceremony is the way in which Catholic couples enter formally into their engagement, making a solemn promise to marry and asking the Church’s blessing on their time of preparation and on their eventual marriage. As the photos and texts reveal, it is a rich ceremony that deserves to be rediscovered and practiced on a wide scale.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I first encountered this ceremony at Thomas Aquinas College (1990-1994), where it was actually rather popular, although I had never heard of it before. I subsequently learned that this custom is found in many of the “Newman Guide” colleges, e.g., Christendom College; and it was brought to Wyoming Catholic College as well. The rite varies in certain small details from place to place or book to book, but the basic outline is always the same. Those who wish to read more about it should check out Sharon Kabel’s absolutely amazing Latin Mass Wedding website

One could say many things about the fittingness of solemnizing an engagement in this centuries-old way, but perhaps the most obvious benefits are that it elevates the mutual promise from a merely human act to an act blessed by Christ and the Church, sanctifies and purifies the intentions of the couple, and asks God’s graces for a peaceful and chaste engagement. It also serves, for any others who happen to attend, as a testimony to the Catholic faith the couple share and to their earnest desire to enter into the honorable state of Christian wedlock, so much under fire today. In that way it is both countercultural and evangelistic.

And lastly, because lots of people are jittery these days, it deserves to be emphasized that no permission is needed (or ever could be needed) for a priest to perform this formal engagement and blessing. 

(1) When a Christian man and woman intend to pledge themselves to marriage, it is praiseworthy and in accord with ancient ecclesiastical custom to have the engagement solemnized and blessed by the Church.

(2) Man: In the name of our Lord, I promise that I will one day take thee as my wife, according to the ordinances of God and holy Church. I will love thee even as myself. I will keep faith and loyalty to thee, and so in thy necessities aid and comfort thee; which things and all that a man ought to do unto his espoused I promise to do unto thee and to keep by the faith that is in me.

Woman: In the name of our Lord, I in the form and manner wherein thou hast promised thyself unto me, do declare and affirm that I will one day bind and oblige myself unto thee, and will take thee as my husband. And all that thou hast pledged unto me I promise to do and keep unto thee, by the faith that is in me.

(3) Priest: I bear witness of your solemn proposal and I declare you betrothed. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

(4) The engagement ring is blessed according to the ritual of the Church.

(5) The man takes the ring and places it first on the index finger of the left hand of the woman, saying, “In the name of the Father,” then on the middle finger, adding, “and of the Son,” finally placing and leaving it on the ring finger, he concludes, “and of the Holy Ghost.”

(6) The priest opens the missal at the beginning of the Canon, and present the page imprinted with the crucifixion to be kissed first by the man and then by the woman.

(7) “May God bless your bodies and your souls. May He shed His blessing upon you as He blessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. May the hand of the Lord be upon you, may He send His holy Angel to guard you all the days of your life. Amen. Go in peace!”

Congratulations, Vincent and Julie Ann!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Liturgical Objects in the Diocesan Museum of Milan

Here are some photos taken by Nicola de’ Grandi of liturgical objects in the diocesan museum of Milan, which is attached to the basilica of St Eustorgius. We have written about this church on various occasions, especially apropos of the relics of St Peter Martyr, which are in a chapel that forms part of the complex around the church, known as the Portinari chapel. Our thanks as always to Nicola for sharing these with us.
A monstrance in the classic form used in the Ambrosian Rite (and formerly in many other places, especially in the later medieval period); 1750-75, from the basilica of St John the Evangelist in the city of Busto Arsizio. Behind it is seen the reverse side of the processional cross seen two pictures down. 
A morse for a cope, from the basilica of Santa Maria della Passione (St Mary of the Passion) in Milan, 1865, by Giovanni Bellezza (a last name which appropriately means “Beauty”; 1807-76)
A processional cross from the same church, made in Lombardy in the 15th or 16th century; the figure of Christ is a later addition.
An embroidered cover for a Missal, from the basilica of Santa Maria dei Miracoli presso San Celso in Milan, ca. 1580.
An altar frontal from the basilica of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary in Erba (about 26 miles to the north of Milan); the central section was made in the 17th century, the bands on the sides were added in the 18th. In the central image, the Virgin of the Rosary appears to two Dominican Saints.  
Monstrance from the church of St Bernardin “alle Ossa” in Milan, 1907, by Eugenio Belloso (1847-1927), a student of Giovanni Bellezza.   

Ukrainian Christmas Customs: A Documentary From 1942

For those who follow the Julian Calendar, today is the feast of the Theophany in the Byzantine Rite. This is as good an occasion as any to share this delightful documentary made in 1942 about the various customs of what many still call “Ukrainian Christmas,” customs brought to the New World by immigrants to Canada, both Catholic and Orthodox. Although it doesn’t show much of the liturgy, it covers a lot of religious and folk traditions associated with the liturgical season. (My thanks to an old and dear friend, Fr Athanasius McVay, a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic priest of the Eparchy of Edmonton, Canada, for bringing this to my attention.)


There is also a second film in the same vein, from a year later, which covers many different aspects of the life of these communities. The first half is about pioneer life and farming, but starting from about 6:50, it talks about the various religious institutions founded by the Ukrainians in Canada.


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