Sunday, April 14, 2024

Good Shepherd Sunday 2024

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep: And the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling: and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. (John 10, 11-16)

The Good Shepherd, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-82), ca. 1660; Museo del Prado, Madrid. The ruined classical building in the background on the left represents the fallen world renewed by Christs coming, as it does also in Nativity scenes; the flock on the right alludes to the 99 sheep whom the shepherd leaves behind to seek the one that has wandered (Matthew 18, 12-13). The Christ Child wears a purple garment, the color of royalty, to indicate His divinity, and a rough skin in brown over it, to indicate His humbling of Himself in the Incarnation. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Tenebrae 2024 Photopost (Part 2)

This post concludes the Tenebrae part of our Holy Week photopost series; we will move on to the other ceremonies of the Triduum next week. Many thanks to all the contributors - feliciter!

Oratory of Ss Gregory and Augustine – St Louis, Missouri
Courtesy of Kiera Petrick

Blessed Rolando Rivi

On this day in the year 1945, a 14-year old Italian seminarian named Rolando Rivi died as a martyr in a little town called Monchio, in the province of Modena. Rolando was born in 1931, and began serving Mass at the age of five; he made his first Communion on the feast of Corpus Christi, June 16, 1938. In 1942, at the age of 11, he entered the minor seminary at Marola, and was admired by his teachers as an exemplary student, and a boy of sincere and serious devotion. As was the custom in those days, he was clothed in the cassock, and wore the saturno as part of the regular clerical dress; already at that tender age, he expressed the desire to become a missionary. He was noted as both an excellent singer and musician, and participated enthusiastically in the seminary choir.

The young Rolando was the kind of fellow who shows himself to be a leader in every activity, and his grandmother is reported to have said, with the special wisdom of Italian grandmothers, that he would end up as “a saint or a scoundrel.” Many stories are told of him encouraging his friends to come to church for Mass or devotions after a soccer game. During his summer vacation, he continued to dress and live as a seminarian, with no remission from his devotional life of daily Mass, rosary, meditation and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Many times he said that the cassock was a sign “that I belong to Jesus.”

In the summer of 1944, the seminary at Marola was occupied by German troops, and Rolando was forced to return home; he was able, however, to continue his studies with the local parish priest. He continued to wear the cassock in public, despite his parents’ concerns that this would make him a target of the anticlerical violence then rampant in north-central Italy. And indeed, by the time Rolando returned home from the seminary, his former parish priest had been moved out of the area for safety’s sake. In the years immediately after the collapse of Italian fascism in July 1943, nearly 100 priests were murdered by Communist partisans in the part of the Emilia-Romagna known as the “red triangle.”

On April 10, 1945, a group of these partisans kidnapped Rolando as he was studying in a little grove near his home; his parents discovered both his books and a note from the partisans warning them not to look for him. He was taken to a farmhouse, beaten and tortured for three days, under the absurd accusation that he had been a spy for the Germans; he was then dragged into a woods, stripped of his cassock, and shot twice in the head. The partisans rolled his cassock up into a ball and used it to play soccer.

His father and parish priest discovered his body the following day. He was buried temporarily in the cemetery of the town where he was killed, but translated a month later to his native place, San Valentino. Since the day of his death often falls in Holy Week or Easter week, his liturgical feast is kept on the day of this translation, May 29th. The decree recognizing that his violent death was inflicted “in odium fidei” was signed by the Pope on March 28, 2013, and his beatification as a martyr was celebrated on October 5th of that year. His relics now repose in the church of San Valentino di Castellarano; on his tomb is written “Io sono di Gesù”, Italian for “I belong to Jesus.”

I make bold to suggest that Bl. Rolando is a good person to appeal to if you know any seminarians who need prayers, and especially those who are persecuted for their love of the Church’s traditions; and further, that it would not be a bad idea to consider what it was about the Church that Rolando Rivi lived in that enabled him to face martyrdom so bravely at the age of only 14. Beate Rolande, ora pro nobis!

Friday, April 12, 2024

A Review of Eleanor Parker’s Winters in the World

St. Augustine preaching to Ethelbert and Bertha
Eleanor Parker’s Winters in the World: A Journey Through the Anglo-Saxon Year (London: Reaktion Books, 2022)

It is said that when Pope St Gregory the Great commissioned St Augustine of Canterbury to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxons to Christianity after they displaced the Celtic Christian Britons in the sixth century, he instructed the missionary to respect local customs and uproot only what is harmful or impious. If the Anglo-Saxon Christian culture that emerged a hundred years later is the fruit of Augustine’s efforts, then the Apostle of England and his spiritual descendants earn an A+ in inculturation. As Eleanor Parker writes in her latest book, Winters in the World: A Journey through the Anglo-Saxon Year, the Anglo-Saxon liturgical calendar and its attendant beliefs were “at one and the same time, firmly rooted in Anglo-Saxon culture and fully part of the wider international church [sic]” (21).

Parker is well equipped to explain how. The author of two other books on medieval England and of the award-winning blog, A Clerk of Oxford, Parker has a confident command of the primary sources of Anglo-Saxon literature and a good instinct for how to interpret them. She is also a fine storyteller, beginning her chapters with a fetching scenario and perhaps not explaining it until the end.
Parker’s goal in Winters is twofold: to reconstruct the Anglo-Saxon year and to introduce her audience to the under-appreciated but “immensely rich and creative literature of Anglo-Saxon England” (7). The year in question was in some respects profoundly different from our own. Prior to their conversion to Christianity in the seventh century (and by default, to the Roman reckoning of time), the Anglo-Saxons had a lunisolar calendar that consisted of ten months and only two seasons: winter and summer. While we think of late December as the beginning of winter, Anglo-Saxons thought of the same date as “midwinter,” halfway through its course. Similarly, while we think of June 24 as a few days after the start of summer, our forebears thought of it as “midsummer.”
Anglo-Saxon authors often used the seasons of winter and summer as a synecdoche for the year. Folks counted their age by how many “winters in the world” they had spent, while our word year is derived from gear, an Old English word for summer (16). The Christian calendar was itself a synthesis of Jewish and Roman calendars, but at least both were anchored in the Mediterranean. Now that calendar was being applied to a country on the edge of northern Europe with significantly different seasons and agricultural cycles. Yet somehow a successful fusion occurred and was “remarkably durable,” (21) more or less surviving the Vikings, the Normans, and the Reformation until the twentieth century alienated the average Englishman from the rhythms of agriculture and changed the meaning of his holidays.
Henrietta Marshall, “Stories of Beowulf,” 1908
On the surface, the Christian Anglo-Saxon year might appear to be only partially converted. In contrast to other languages, English has a number of ostensibly pagan holdouts: “Yule” and “Midwinter” are used for Advent and Christmas (68-73) while “Lent” (Spring) and “Easter” (a goddess) signify the Great Fast and the Feast of the Resurrection, respectively (17, 123-24). Yet Parker sets the record straight. “For Anglo-Saxon writers, adopting [these] terms…into Christian vocabulary was a way of interpreting their own culture and environment in the light of their Christian faith, finding in these terms a new meaning that was, in their eyes, more true and powerful” (73).
Examples abound. The season of Advent, with its anticipation of the Second Coming, found resonance in Old Norse fears of a winter apocalypse (62). Candlemas, the feast of the Purification on February 2, heralds the coming of Spring, when winter is “carried out of the dwellings”; just as Mary bears Christ to the Temple, so too is winter borne away (89). Lent, the name for which is derived from the Anglo-Saxon for to grow or lengthen, is a reminder that bodily mortifications facilitate spiritual growth (108-17). On Good Friday, Anglo-Saxons interpreted the Crucifixion through their warrior culture, worshiping Christ as the conqueror of death and Hell (133): the Dream of the Rood, Parker notes, “resonates in many ways with the liturgy of Good Friday” (130). The feast of the Holy Cross on May 3 had special significance in the Anglo-Saxon imagination, for according to Scandinavian myth mankind was made from a tree, and trees were associated with a parent’s loss of his child (216) The lesser Rogationtide (or “Gang Days,” from “walking about”) were replete with meaning to the Anglo-Saxon mind, providing a time for social interaction and a blessing of the land (159-62). On Ascension Day, Christ was envisioned as a springtime bird, “moving with ease between heaven and earth” (163):
So the beautiful bird took to flight.
Now he sought the home of the angels,
That glorious country, bold and strong in might;
Now he swung back to earth again,
Sought the ground by grace of the Spirit,
Returned to the world (163).
Ascension folio, 13th century
The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24 mixed with the awe and fears of midsummer (172-78). August 1 was Lammas Day (“Loaf’s Mass Day”), when the wheat harvest reminded Anglo-Saxons that the “lord” was the “bread-guardian” and the “lady” was the “bread-kneader” (193). For Michaelmas on September 29, Michael was a “psychopomp” (a new word for me) “who guided souls to the afterlife and the bearer of the scales of divine justice” (206). In other words, Michael, like the laborers who honored him during this season, was a harvester.
Unlike the Celts who turned their Samhain into All Hallows’ Eve on October 31, the Anglo-Saxons preferred Hallowmas Day on November 1, “which reflected a profound devotion to the saints which was as deeply felt in Anglo-Saxon England as it was anywhere in the medieval church [sic]” (221). “To believe in the saints,” Parker writes, “was to be part of a vast community, a fellowship that encompassed the living and the dead in one” (ibid).
Parker is also good at debunking myths about the Anglo-Saxon appropriation of Christianity. Contrary to popular belief, no literature from the period mentions the Easter bunny or Easter eggs. Eggs are not linked to Easter until the late Middle Ages (after the Norman conquest in 1066), and references to hares and rabbits are much later (126).
Winters in the World is enlightening and entertaining. It is a reminder of the universality of the Gospel, and a testimony to the power of the Gospel to inform, enrich, and transform every people, tribe, and tongue. Would that all evangelizations were so successful.

This review first appeared in  Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal 27:2 (2023), pp. 270-273. Many thanks to its editors for allowing its publication here.

Tenebrae 2024 Photopost (Part 1)

Marching on into the Triduum, here is the first set of photos of Tenebrae services. As always, there is always room and time for more, so please feel free to send yours in to, and don’t forget to include the name and location of the church; and of course, our thanks to all the contributors - feliciter!

St Mary’s Oratory – Wausau, Wisconsin (ICRSS)
Tenebrae of Holy Thursday

Thursday, April 11, 2024

The Newly Restored Façade of Trinità dei Pellegrini in Rome

Thanks to our dear friend Agnese Bazzucchi, the Roman Pilgrim, for sharing with us these pictures of the newly restored façade of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, the Fraternity of St Peter’s church in Rome. It was fully uncovered earlier today after a restoration project of several months’ duration. Felicissime!

In addition to basic repairs, the restoration also cleared off a layer of brown-ochre plaster which was added to the building in the 19th or early 20th century. (There was a major vogue for this at the time, and a lot of buildings in Rome especially, but also in many other parts of Italy, have been returned to their original appearance by removing these layers of colored plaster.) In the first photo above, you can see what the former color was like on the building next door; likewise, in these photo from a 2015 post about the splendid Corpus Christi procession which the church has every year.

Ambrosian Music for Eastertide

Here are three very nice pieces of Ambrosian chant for the Paschal season, sung by the Gruppo di Canto Ambrosiano (Ambrosian chant group) conducted by maestro Luigi Benedetti.

The first is the Confractorium of Low Sunday, the variable chant sung during the Fraction, which in the Ambrosian Mass takes place immediately after the Canon, before the Lord’s Prayer. “Rising, Jesus our Lord stood in the midst of His disciples and said, ‘Peace be with you, alleluia.’ The disciples rejoiced when they had seen the Lord, alleluia.”

The second and third pieces are both Transitoria, the equivalent of the Roman Communion antiphon, but generally rather longer, and very often not taken from the Scriptures. The former is one of a series of twelve sung in rotation on the Sundays after Pentecost, also sung on the Fifth Sunday after Easter; the latter is that of Easter Sunday, and has a particularly beautiful text very much reminiscent of the Eastern liturgies. “Let us love one another, for God is love, and he that loveth his brother, is born of God, and seeth God, and in this the love of God is made perfect; and he that doth the will of God abideth forever, alleluia.

“Come, o ye peoples: the sacred, immortal and pure mystery is to be treated with reverence and faith. Let us come forth with clean hands, let us share the gift of penance; for the Lamb of God has been set forth as a sacrifice to the Father for our sake. Let us adore Him alone, let us glorify Him, crying out with the Angels, Alleluia, alleluia.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Palm Sunday 2024 Photopost (Part 4)

This post concludes the Palm Sunday part of the this year’s series of Holy Week photoposts, and as always, we want to thank all the contributors for sharing these beautiful pictures with us. We will start in with the Triduum soon, and there is always room for more (we just got a large batch of Tenebrae photos yesterday), so please feel to send in yours to, and don’t forget to include the name and location of the church. We wish you all most blessed and peaceful Eastertide!

Church of St Aloysius Gonzaga – Oxford, England (Oratorian Fathers)
Photo taken by Fr Lawrence Lew on Holy Monday
Notre Dame de Lourdes – Libreville, Gabon (ICRSS)
Yes, of course, tradition will always be for the young!

The Exsultet, The Happy Fault, and the Queen of Heaven: Guest Article by Robert Keim

Robert W. Keim is a secular brother of the London Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a linguist, and a literary scholar specializing in the poetic and dramatic literature of the English Renaissance. A longtime student of the arts and spirituality of sacred liturgy, he teaches university courses in rhetoric and is pursuing research into the devotional, scriptural, and liturgical culture of medieval England. We are grateful to him for sharing this article with us.

Roman rite Catholics recently had their once-per-year opportunity to savor the praeconium paschale, an ancient liturgical hymn known in English as the Easter Proclamation and commonly referred to by its supremely fitting first word: exsultet, [1]  “let (the angelic host of the heavens) rejoice.” Chanted by the deacon during the liturgy of Holy Saturday, the Exsultet is a poetic masterpiece that fills the opening moments of the Easter vigil with mystical pathos and brings key paschal motifs—luminosity, deliverance, communal joy—into glorious relief.

A chant setting of the Exsultet from a late-fourteenth-century book of epistle and Gospel readings (Epistolarium et Evangeliarium, Lübeck Municipal Library, MS theol. lat. 2° 5, folio 91 recto ).
O Necessarium Peccatum...
Originally one among various prayers with which western European rites celebrated the lighting of the paschal candle, the Exsultet dates to the fourth or fifth century and came to Rome with the Gelasian sacramentaries. It appears to have been influenced by the thought of St. Ambrose, and it may have been composed by him. As we see in other early Christian writings (and in Holy Scripture), the Exsultet draws much poetic and spiritual energy from the eloquent pairing of opposites that rhetoricians call antithesis. The antithesis of light and darkness is especially prominent and informs the entire hymn; the following examples are from the opening and concluding sections of the text:
Let the earth also rejoice, illumined by such brightness: and, enlightened with the splendor of the eternal King, may it know that the darkness of all the world has been dispersed.
We pray Thee, therefore, O Lord: that this candle, consecrated unto the honor of Thy Name, to destroy the darkness of this night, may unfailingly endure.
The Easter Proclamation treats of another antithetical relation—namely, the mysterious kinship of Adam’s ruin and Christ’s Redemption—that culminates in our most well-known formulation of a famous theological paradox: O felix culpa..., “O happy fault, that deserved to have such and so great a Redeemer!” Holy Church is bold indeed to speak thus of Original Sin, which the Exsultet describes also as the “truly necessary sin of Adam.” [2]  But lovers tend to be bold in their use of language, and so do poets, and since the Church is both a lover and a poet, we should not be too surprised. Theologians, however, must be more circumspect, and indeed, the metaphysical implications of a “happy,” “fortunate,” or “fruitful” sin—all of these meanings are possible with Latin felix—have long been controversial:
Augustine was ambivalent about the idea, while other church fathers opposed it or maintained a discreet silence. In fact, the felix culpa verse was contested and at times even stricken from the liturgy. It does not appear in the influential Romano-German Pontifical (tenth century), and Abbot Hugh of Cluny (d. 1109) purged the offending sentences from the Cluniac Easter rite. [3]
Thankfully, the felix culpa survived and is still with us, returning every Easter to supply the overly analytical modern mind with some much-needed paradoxicality. And though it is sufficiently sublime to regard a disastrous transgression as “necessary” because it occasioned the Incarnation and salvific death of our dear Lord, the piety of the Middle Ages saw fit to exalt also Our Lady as the cherished fruit of Adam’s fateful yet fertile sin.
Folio 93 verso in the manuscript mentioned above, which proceeds directly from ut servum redimeres, filium tradidisti to O (vere) beata nox, quae sola meruit scire tempus et horam. In other words, the references to Adam’s “necessary sin” and “happy fault” were omitted.
Adam, the Apple, and “Heuene Qwen”
The early-fifteenth-century Middle English poem “Adam lay ibowndyn” is found, along with verse of a much less edifying nature, in an artifact known as Sloane Manuscript 2593.
The poem “Adam lay ibowndyn” begins on folio 11 recto, under the first horizontal line, in MS Sloan 2593. Image courtesy of the British Library.
Dr. Kathleen Palti transcribed the text as follows:
   Adam lay ibowndyn bowndyn in a bond
   fowr’ þowsand wynter þowt he not to long
   And al was for an appil An appil þat he tok
   as clerkis fyndyn wretyn in her’ book
   Ne hadde þe appil take ben þe appil taken ben
   ne hadde neuer our lady a ben heuene qwen
   Blyssid be þe tyme þat appil take was
   þerfor’ we mown syngyn deo gracia
Below is a rendering in quasi-modern English.
   Adam lay bound, bound in a bond,
   four thousand winters thought he not too long;
   and all was for an apple, an apple that he took,
   as clerics find written in their book.
   Had not the apple taken been, the apple taken been,
   nor had never our lady been the queen of heaven.
   Blessed be the time that apple taken was,
   therefore we can sing, “Deo gratias.”
When I first came across this otherwise unremarkable specimen of late medieval religious poetry, I had never seen a literary or liturgical text that explicitly connects the celestial reign of the holy Virgin to the felix culpa. It turns out that this theme is not unique to “Adam lay ibowndyn,” but it is perhaps uniquely memorable and touching when encountered in such a homely and heartfelt expression of western European folk piety. And though the text is clearly the work of an unpretentious poet, the rhetorical craftsmanship may be more refined than it initially appears: the author specifically celebrates the coronation of Mary; this event carried a sense of finality and completion because in the mystical chronology of Catholic devotional practice, it was subsequent to the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the descent of the Holy Ghost. [4] The queenship of Our Lady thus functions as a synecdoche for all the glorious moments that followed the seminal triumph of Good Friday, and perhaps even for the glorious totality of salvation history.
A fifteenth-century illumination depicting the coronation of Mary. Ink, tempera, and gold on vellum; image courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The folk theology of “Adam lay ibowndyn” is a lovely complement to the profound liturgical theology of the Church’s praeconium paschale. The readings and ceremonies of the Easter vigil, which are utterly preoccupied with Christ’s momentous and long-awaited victory over sin and death, do not lead us directly into reflections on Our Lady’s role in the paschal mysteries. Thus, I am grateful for the work of an anonymous English poet who reminds me that Adam’s necessarium peccatum brought Mary of Nazareth into my life—O happy fault, that gave us so great a Queen and Mother!
The Marian inflection of the felix culpa also reminds us to honor Our Lady’s subtle presence in the Exsultet. The hymn’s affection for bees [5]  is somewhat curious until we recognize that these favored creatures, whose virginal labors produced the paschal candle, beautifully symbolize the virgin Mother of Him who, as a pillar of fire, led the Hebrews out of bondage: “And now we know the praises of this pillar, which the glowing fire enkindles unto the glory of God.... It is nourished by the melting wax, which the mother bee brought forth for the substance of this precious lamp.”
The Modern Life of a Medieval Poem
Certain works of art have a mysterious ability to survive the ravages of time. The author of “Adam lay ibowndyn” could never have dreamed that this short, simple, vernacular poem would—some five hundred years in the future—inspire several choral compositions and even reach the status of a paraliturgical text. But this is precisely what has occurred, and I myself heard the poem sung by a professional choir as part of a solemn musical oratory of Advent. It was a delightful experience, and I would be even more delighted to hear a fine polyphonic setting of “Adam lay ibowndyn” during this sacred and joyous tide of Easter.
[1] As with other Latin words in which an initial S is preceded by the prefix ex- (e.g., exspiro, exstasis, exsurgo), exsultet can also be spelled exultet (expiro, extasis, exurgo). The available evidence suggests that the exs- spelling was preferred in the classical period.
[2] The complete locution is “O certe necessarium Adae peccatum, quod Christi morte deletum est! - O surely necessary sin of Adam, which has been blotted out by the death of Christ!” The notion of a necessary sin is, from a strict theological perspective, highly problematic. Some scholars have argued that, despite the apparent similarity, “necessary” may not be the intended meaning of necessarium. The only proposed alternative that I find plausible is “unavoidable.”
[3] Barbara Newman, Medieval Crossover: Reading the Secular against the Sacred (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), 14.
[4] In the York cycle of mystery plays, for example, the coronation of Mary was dramatized in the second-to-last play; the last was “The Judgment Day.”
[5] This affection is more conspicuous and emphatic in pre-sixteenth-century texts of the Exsultet, which included an additional section that praised bees as “truly blessed and wonderful” and explicitly mentioned their symbolic connection to the Virgin Mary.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Palm Sunday 2024 Photopost (Part 3)

Hoping to do some justice to the large number of beautiful photos we have received, I have decided to split those that remain from Palm Sunday into two posts, before we move on to the Triduum and Easter Sunday. But of course, we can always make is always room for more, so please feel free to send in images of your Holy Week and Easter liturgies to Don’t forget to include the name and location of the church, and another information which you think important, and keep up the good work of evangelizing through beauty!

Cathedral of St Demetrius the Great-Martyr – Piana degli Albanesi, Sicily
Palm Sunday procession of the Italo-Albanian community of the Byzantine Rite.

Sarum Use Vespers and Liturgical Art – Heaven on Earth

Some NLM readers will already be aware of the Sarum Use Vespers and Benediction that took place on March 1 at the Princeton University Chapel. Here, I present an account of a talk I gave before the event about the art used in the ceremony, which was commissioned especially for the occasion, explaining the choice of content and style, and how it harmonises with the activity of worship.  

I don’t think I have ever seen a more complete harmony of words, music, art, architecture, and action in the liturgy. The music by 16th-century English composers Thomas Tallis and Robert White was sung magnificently by Gabriel Crouch and the Gallicantus early music group. The spectacular Magnificat by White can be heard at the 39-minute mark in the video below, which I give you now in case you missed it the first time. 

The second video is of the three short talks given before the service. The first, by James Griffin of the Durandus Institute, explained the history of the Sarum Use. I gave the second one about sacred art as a part of worship. In my capacity as Artist-in-Residence of the Scala Foundation - a co-sponsor of the event - I was invited to choose the art which was commissioned especially for this occasion. The third was by Gabriel Crouch, the Director of Choral Activities at Princeton University and the Musical Director of the choir Gallicantus, who spoke about the history of music and its composers. 

Peter Carter, who founded The Catholic Sacred Music Project and is the music director for The Aquinas Institute at Princeton University, was a strong driving force behind the evening. In large part, thanks to his vision and hard work, an estimated 1,000 people attended this incredible event at the Princeton University Chapel, built in the 1930s. I wonder whether so many people have ever knelt in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in this magnificent space. Here is the video of Vespers and Benediction.
...and here is the video of the talks...
The following is what I prepared prior to the occasion, and is a combination of what I said and what appeared in the program:
Choosing Contemporary Art for Sarum Use Vespers Today
St Chad and the Holy Face of Christ were painted by a young artist named Ander Scharbach (, from Baltimore, Maryland. The Crucifixion and the Mother of God are painted by an established artist, Ioana Belcea (, based in Princeton, New Jersey. Their work is for sale, and they take commissions.

St Chad by Ander Scharbach
The Crucifixion and St Chad were painted especially for this occasion. Each artist was asked to draw personal inspiration from the English Gothic style of the 13th century School of St Albans, a period when the Sarum Use Liturgy was at its height. This tradition of sacred art is characterized by the description of form with the elegant flow of line, a limited palette with muted colour, and by having ornate, patterned borders.

The results are contemporary yet traditional. No artist would have painted like this in 13th-century England. Still, everyone in 13th-century England would have been able to relate to the images every bit as much as the worshipers in 21st-century America, who excitedly mobbed the artists after the Vespers were over, to ask about the beautiful icons they had seen. This is because the art conforms to traditional principles of liturgical art, which are universal.

Crucifixion by Ioana Belcea, based on the 12th century Winchester Psalter
Sacred art shows us what we do not see with our eyes in the here and now. It portrays the saints and angels praying with us in heaven eternally. It illuminates the truths behind the actions of the liturgy and focuses our attention on what is important at any given time in the course of our worship.

There is a reason that we follow tradition. The art we chose conforms to a style developed gradually over generations and centuries, going back to the early Church, to fulfil its purpose well, which is to aid us in a deep participation in the worship of God. How would one measure such a thing? It is not primarily by whether people like it, or how we respond emotionally. Instead, the Church, in her wisdom, observes the fruits of that worship. Does the art incline people to go out and serve the Lord and love our neighbors as ourselves? Does it lead to lives of greater virtue? While we always hope that all will like the art and wonder at its beauty, there are other goals than this. The purpose of this art is to influence the lives of Christian worshipers so that they become better Christians. Getting this right takes patience and careful observation of many iterations of style and so once we get it right we mess with traditional forms at our peril. If we arbitrarily change things for no good reason, we are playing with people’s souls.

The sanctuary and altar, with the images forming a temporary rood screen,
in the traditional pre-Reformation Catholic manner
The choice of images
Following tradition, we have placed three images at the core of our schema today. Together, they symbolize the broad themes of salvation history and the mysteries of the Faith made present every time we worship God. In addition, we have added St Chad of Mercia (died A.D. 672), the great evangelist of western England and the Midlands, whom we remember today. May we imitate his Christian faith and good works in our lives.

The three core images are:On the left: the Mother of God with her Son. This image symbolizes the life of the historical Jesus and his human nature, which he received from Mary, and we share with Him.
Center: the suffering Christ on the cross. This image portrays the sacrifice he made for us, his suffering, and his death. It reminds us of our spiritual deaths in baptism. This image gives meaning to our suffering in this life, particularly when placed next to the image of the Risen Christ because it reinforces the message that there is always hope in the Resurrection. Christian hope transcends suffering just as the Light overcomes the darkness.

Right: the Holy Face of the Risen Christ in Glory. The halo of supernatural, uncreated light around his head is prominent, constituting the whole background, which is commonly considered ‘negative’ space but here becomes heavenly ‘positive’ space. This tells us visually that we are looking at a heavenly vision of the Saviour. This image speaks of his Resurrection and victory over death, by death. Through the Church, we ‘put on Christ’ (to use St Paul’s words) and rise with him supernaturally, partaking of the divine nature through participation in the sacraments of confirmation and communion.

We are all people loved by God. Each human life is a unique story that simultaneously and paradoxically mirrors the pattern of the life of Christ and the pattern of the whole of salvation history, the story of the people of God. We share in the life, the suffering, the death of Christ and, as Christians, in His resurrection, partaking in the divine nature. This is a supernatural transformation, a great gift, and is our joy as Christians in this life and the next.

Gabriel Crouch and Gallicantus are on the left
How to pray with the sacred art
The worship of God, which we are participating in at Vespers, is the worship of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. Scripture tells us that the Son is the image of the Father, and no one comes to the Father except through the Son. Accordingly, it is a traditional practice to pray to the Father through the Son, who is the image of the Father. This establishes the legitimate principle of praying to a person through their image.

So, each time a prayer is addressed to the Father, let the Holy Spirit draw you in and pray to the Father through the image of Christ. Look at the face in the image and imagine you are speaking to him as he stands before you.

We can use the image of the Son to pray directly to both the Son a much as the Father. So, each time a prayer is addressed to the Son, again, turn to the image and pray to Him through the image. Similarly, each time a prayer is addressed to Mary or St. Chad or is invoking their memory, turn and face their holy icons as the words are sung or recited.

The Magnificat, which the Church sings at every Vespers, is the great hymn of Mary taken from the Gospel of Luke. At this moment, we pray with her, using her words as recounted in Scripture, and it is appropriate to look at Mary’s image when we do so. All the images are incensed during the singing of the Magnificat to draw our attention to them at this heightened moment of prayer.

The censing of the images during the Magnificat
We do not pray to or worship the image itself, as that would be idolatry. Rather, when we pray to anyone other than God, such as Mary or St. Chad, we ask them to join in our prayers and to intercede to God for us, just as we might ask any friend or family member to pray for us.

St Augustine said famously that those who sing their prayers pray twice. In this Vespers, our prayer is not simply two-fold, but multi-faceted: music, art, and incense engage the senses, helping to direct the posture, intellect and will. The heart is the human center of gravity, so to speak, the place where we are, as a person at any moment – the vector sum of our thoughts, feelings and actions. The hope is always that through this multi-faceted engagement, we raise up our hearts to the Lord.

The beauty of the art, the architecture and the music participates in the beauty of the cosmos, which bears the thumbprint of the Creator. This transforming beauty harmonises with the poetic language of the psalms, and of the hymns and the prayers of the liturgy so that the worship stimulates our spiritual imaginations and impresses the pattern of Christ upon our souls. Then we go out and contribute, gracefully and beautifully, in all that we do to the pattern of human life in society. By this, we establish once more a beautiful culture that, like the cosmos, bears the mark of Christ, who did not create it directly but inspired its creation by people.

The Scala Foundation has a mission of transforming American and, hence, Western culture through beauty in education and worship so that we are formed by grace to change society, one personal relationship at a time. To the degree that each of us contributes to this ideal, we will help to create culture of beauty that speaks of the Christian Faith and Western values.

Some may wonder how much an ancient English liturgy such as this might be relevant to Americans in Princeton today. The answer is: a great deal! The American nation emerged out of English culture and the values it incarnated and which were formed by its pre-Reformation liturgy and faith, primarily the Sarum Use of the Roman Rite. It is a truth that worship is the wellspring of culture. These values of English culture were preserved in America subsequently through the liturgical cousins and liturgical descendants of the Sarum Use, and their associated churches formed by them. These are as well as the Catholic Church, the Anglican, Episcopalian and all Christian churches which routinely sang the psalms especially those that used the psalter from the Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer developed directly from the Sarum liturgy.

The practice of praying the psalms can, it occurs to me, be a principle of unity for the American nation today. I speak with such hope, and as one who was born and grew up in England and recently became an American citizen. The hope is that the beauty and the dignity of the worship we participate in tonight, may be simultaneously grounding and elevating for us.

On the one hand, it will establish in us in the desire for humble prayer in the home that mirrors, in spirit at least, tonight’s Vespers. We can pray the psalms in the domestic Church. We may not be able to match the great skill and sublime beauty of this occasion, but in our own humble way, we can daily participate in the ideal it presents. This grounding, humble prayer can be elevating in that it inclines us to cooperated with grace and inspire us in our daily activities, contributing to a noble and accesible culture of beauty. Humble prayer and high culture! That is the motto we bring to you.

Tonight we can raise our hearts to heaven in yet another way. It is a participation in something yet more beautiful, the heavenly liturgy in which the saints and angels worship God, who is Beauty itself. This is our destiny as Christians. Every time there is a pause in the singing, you will hear a faint echo enriched by harmonics and resonance created by the acoustics of the majestic gothic architecture of Princeton University Chapel. At these moments, imagine that the angels and saints singing with us in heaven and worshiping God in the perpetual heavenly liturgy are whispering in your ear, urging you to join in with their worship, in which they accept the love of God and return it to Him in the perpetual song of praise.

I pray that we may all be inspired to pray humbly and to love God and our neighbor.

The celebrants and 1,000 people were on their knees before the Blessed Sacrament during Benediction. I wonder if Princeton University Chapel – built for Presbyterians – has ever seen this before.

Monday, April 08, 2024

The “Private” Mass from Its Origins to the Thirteenth Century — Guest Article by Canon Gilles Guitard, ICRSP

NLM is deeply grateful to the International Centre for Liturgical Studies (CIEL) for permission to publish a translation of an extremely important paper that was given by Canon Guitard at the XIIIth colloquium of the CIEL, Rome, January 25, 2024. The text will be definitively published in the proceedings, scheduled to appear in January 2025.

The “Private” Mass from Its Origins to the Thirteenth Century

Canon Gilles Guitard, ICRSP

Introduction and terminology

The “private” Mass is specific to the Latin Church; it is not present in the Eastern liturgies, and when it is, we note that it has appeared recently, on the occasion of renewed relations with the Roman Church.[1]

Let us make it clear from the outset that by “private” we mean Mass formally celebrated for its own sake, without taking into account the physical presence of servers or a group of the faithful. “The latter may or may not be present, either individually or as a group, but their presence is neither required nor indispensable to the celebration [...]. [The ‘missa privata’ is in this sense [i.e. formally speaking] a ‘missa solitaria’“ [2], even though it is often materially different. Indeed, while a solitary Mass is necessarily “private”, a “private” Mass is not always solitary.

It is also worth recalling here the ontologically public nature of the Mass. Indeed, as Pius XII taught, the “sacrifice [of the Eucharist], everywhere and always, necessarily and by its very nature, has a public and social role”. [3] This is why we use inverted commas for the adjective “private” to describe the Mass.

The adjective “private” therefore does not qualify the intrinsic nature of the Mass, but the way in which it is celebrated.

Having established this, it should be borne in mind that the expression “private Mass” has prevailed throughout the history of the Church, and that it corresponds to a tradition dating back several centuries. [4] We find it, for example, in the Cluniac Customs of Ulrich, abbot of Cluny, in the second half of the eleventh century. [5] Finally, it was used in the various editions of the Missale Romanum, from 1570 to 1960, with a fluctuating meaning: Sometimes “missa privata” (or “privatim celebrata”) refers to a low Mass, as opposed to a solemn or sung Mass [6] sometimes it refers to a Mass where no one would respond or serve, as opposed to a public Mass; [7] sometimes it refers to the Mass celebrated individually by priests attached to a collegiate church, as opposed to the main Mass of a community (the parish or conventual Mass). [8]

These last two cases are clearly those of a “private” Mass. The first, on the other hand, is at least that of a Mass “deprived of solemnity”, but there is no guarantee that it is purely “private”; for this, we would need to know the inner workings of the celebrant: only the context will help us to know this, or at least to assume it. This is often why it is so difficult for the historian of the liturgy to identify a “private” Mass in the multitude of ecclesiastical writings and disciplinary decrees at his disposal.

The best clue for him is the Mass “deprived of solemnity”, since this is most often — if not almost always — the ritual form of the “private” Mass. Once such a ceremony has been spotted, it is its context that will reveal whether it can be considered with certainty or with a certain probability to be a formally ‘private’ Mass.

Historically, the “private” Mass can be traced back without a shadow of a doubt to the 13th century. In the Franciscan missal Regula — published around 1230 and inherited almost word for word from the now extinct missal of Honorius III (1216-1227) — we find the following heading: “Sed si sunt plures sacerdotes in loco, secrete possunt cantare missam quam volunt”. [9] Then, in 1243, an ordo missæ was for the first time devoted solely to the materially “private” Mass: this was the Ordo “Indutus planeta”, written by the Franciscan general Aymon de Faversham. [10] This document marked a turning point in the history of the liturgy: for the first time, the Mass “deprived of solemnity” — which can be considered the most frequent ritual form of the “private” Mass — became the norm for the Eucharistic liturgy to the detriment of the solemn public liturgy, which then appeared to be the result of additions made to the basic model. This ceremonial was the direct ancestor of the Ritus servandus in celebratione Missæ of the 1570 missal.

Paradoxically, only a few years before the publication of the Regula missal, in 1226, Saint Francis of Assisi emphatically recommended to his brothers that, if several priests were in the same place, only one Mass should be celebrated per day, and that all should attend. [11] The “private” Mass was therefore clearly and firmly discouraged by the holy founder from his brother priests, in order to favour the bonds of charity.

The question then must be posed: Was the “private” celebration of Mass something new that appeared in the 13th century? Could its appearance in communities of priests be the cause of the cooling of charity?

The aim of this paper is to show the deep roots of the “private” Mass in the Roman liturgical tradition. We believe that an overview of the history of its existence, and then of its ritual form, will suffice to show its organic development, as Alcuin Reid has been able to establish its criteria: slow, gradual growth, controlled — though not imposed — by authority. [12]

Evidence of its existence

As the Acts of the Apostles testifies, the Mass — then known as the “breaking of bread” — was celebrated from apostolic times onwards in private homes, which were the only places of public worship available at the time. It was celebrated on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) and sometimes even every day in Jerusalem, as the description of the life of the first Christians in that city seems to indicate (Acts 2:46).

It is clear, then, that for the first Christians, the Mass was more than a simple act of devotion: from the outset, it was considered to be the centre of all Christian life.

With this in mind, although scriptural evidence is lacking, it does not seem absurd to us to suppose that Saint Paul and the first missionaries who accompanied him celebrated the “breaking of bread” “in private” when they stayed for a while in places where the natives, not (yet) converted to the Christian faith, did not therefore attend the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice. [13]

Finally, on a more general level, we think it reasonable to agree with Jungmann that it is highly probable that there was a “private” celebration on weekdays from apostolic times onwards. [14] Although we lack explicit proof, there are no serious objections to this possibility.

The persecutions of the first centuries also favoured celebrations attended by a small group of the faithful. Various sources show us the existence of Masses celebrated for a small group, during the week and on Sundays, in secret places or even in prison. [15] The local community, because of the hardships imposed by persecution, was far from being present as a whole. However, even in these cases, the priest would say Mass, because he saw the whole Church in this small audience. [16] This did not mean — at least in most cases — that these were strictly “private” Masses, but it is nevertheless certain that this type of situation necessarily limited the external ceremonial of the celebrations, which were therefore often “deprived of solemnity”.

Subsequently, the religious peace introduced by the Edict of Milan in 313 gave Christians official places of worship, but it did not bring about the disappearance of these particular Masses for small groups of worshippers. On the contrary, they continued to multiply on the fringes of official assemblies, to such an extent that the authorities were forced to legislate on the subject: it was at the beginning of the 6th centurye that a ban was introduced on celebrations in private homes on feast days, outside official places of worship (extra parochias& [17], in villa [18]). This proves that these private Masses were growing in number, especially in Gaul. It should be noted that it was not the “private” Mass as such that was targeted by these disciplinary decrees, [19] but rather the fact that Christians were turning away from the official public services of the local Church, celebrated by the bishop or his delegates. [20]

The reliquary of St Augustine
Reasons for its existence

Why did private Masses persist despite the move from the domus ecclesiae to the basilica? In our opinion, mainly because of

1. Christians’ attachment to votive Masses [21]

Let us quote here — among many others — the anecdote recounted by Saint Augustine: one of his priests celebrated Mass in the house of a Roman officer whose servants and livestock were being subjected to demonic vexations, with the intention of asking for an end to these torments; at the end of this votive Mass, everything stopped [22]

2. …combined with the rise of the cultus of relics.

Inherited from ancient pagan funeral banquets, which were held near or even on tombs, the practice spread — at the time when Christians were granted freedom of worship — of building shrines over the tombs of martyrs (martyria). [23] From this point onwards, it is clear that “veneration of the shrine, relics and celebration of the memoria passionis domini form a single whole” [24] in the minds of Christians of this period. Numerous testimonies testify to the popularity of pilgrimages among the martyrias.

It is therefore not surprising to find in the Sacramentary of Verona numerous Mass forms intended to be celebrated in honour of the martyrs. [25] Some libelli (in the month of April, in section VIII) are even “without indication of names”; [26] the priest therefore had at his disposal this kind of “Common of Martyrs” before its time, applicable to any altar.

Under these conditions, the presence of pilgrims attending the celebration — while remaining a very important reason for celebrating Mass — may nevertheless remain secondary to the honour paid to the Lord through his martyrs. In the long term, therefore, the rise of the cult of relics will be a not inconsiderable cause of the appearance and development of the celebration of Mass “for its own sake”, i.e. the “private” Mass.

One of the consequences of this was the proliferation of secondary places of worship: sanctuaries, oratories and even — probably from the time of Pope Symmachus (†514) and attested to in increasing numbers during the VIth century — secondary altars built in churches. [27]

Low Mass at Prinknash Abbey

Exponential growth

Taking advantage of these favourable conditions, as well as the increase in the number of priests with no specific pastoral responsibilities, [28] the “private” Mass enjoyed considerable growth between the 7th and 11th centuries, particularly under the impetus of the Carolingian reform and in monastic circles. Ecclesiastical documents bear witness to this in great numbers.

The Ordo romanus XV, in particular, provides clear and irrefutable proof of the existence of the “private” Mass. This liturgical book of a purely ceremonial nature, which was compiled in monastic circles between 750 and 775 [29] and addressed to all ecclesiastics — both regular and secular [30] — refers in particular to the different types of celebration, among which it explicitly mentions that of the solitary Mass (which is undoubtedly a “private” Mass. [31]) There can be no doubt, therefore, that this type of celebration was — as early as the third quarter of the eighth century — sufficiently well known and widespread in Frankish lands for it to be officially mentioned.

The consequences of this boom are clear to see. These include the exponential growth in the number of secondary altars in abbey and collegiate churches, and the gradual formation of the plenary missal.

Let us consider for a moment the appearance of this type of missal in the ninth centurye and its gradual development, which culminated in the replacement of the sacramentary in its favour during the twelfth century. [32] The celebration of “private” Mass appeared well before the plenary missal; it was then probably celebrated with the sacramentary alone. Then gradually came the obligation on the celebrant, initiated according to our sources by the Ordo romanus XV, not to omit the recitation of the parts performed at solemn Masses by the singers and sacred ministers. The celebrant is therefore no longer obliged to celebrate with the sacramentary alone, but also with a lectionary and an antiphonary. This is why it became urgent — for the twin reasons of ritual integrity and practical convenience — to design a Euchological book containing all these parts of the Mass; this was the plenary missal. [33] Conversely, as we shall see below, the development of liturgical books had an impact on the development of the ritual form of the “private” Mass.

In addition, the growth of “private” celebration made it necessary for the hierarchy to correct certain abuses, which never fail to occur when a phenomenon spreads. In addition to the restrictions still imposed on domestic Masses, we should mention the case of multiple daily celebrations and solitary Masses.

1. In some places as early as the 8th century, we find decrees recommending that priests celebrate only one Mass per day; [34] this is hardly surprising, given that the number of daily celebrations by a single priest was as high as twenty or thirty in some cases. It was not until Alexander II (†1073) that there was a universal prescription on this point: binating was forbidden, with the exception of the pastoral need for a Mass pro defunctis. [35]

2. As for solitary Mass, it was prohibited from the ninth century [36] in explicit terms; the reason given by the legislator was that the social nature of the Mass should be manifested externally by the presence of at least one assistant who responded and took communion. If the practice of solitary Mass was subsequently conceded on an occasional basis to certain monks or hermits, it was — it would seem — by special indult. [37] It should nevertheless be added that Saint Peter Damian (†1072), in his famous opuscule Dominus vobiscum, [38] was at pains to justify this practice of solitary Mass theologically. Here is the doctor’s main argument. The priest is a part of the body that is the Church; [39] and the office of a single member of the body involves and concerns the whole body (as the analogy with the human body, which is an organic whole, shows); [40] and moreover, the Church is both simple in a multiplicity of members (through the unity of faith) and whole in each of its members (through the bond of charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit). [41] Consequently, the words of the priest at Mass (the priestly greetings, and possibly the responses) are said in the name of the whole Church; [42] as a result, the priest, if he is alone, can provide the plural greetings and the corresponding responses. [43] Moreover,” adds Pierre Damien, “if this were not so, there is no reason why the priest could also say, when he is alone, the plural passages of the Divine Office, such as: ‘Venite, exsultemus Domino’, ‘Venite adoremus’, ‘Oremus’, ‘Benedicamus Domino’. [44]

It should be noted that, although abuses were reprimanded by the hierarchy, “private” celebration itself was not banned at any time or in any region of Christianity. On the contrary, it appears officially in the monastic constitutions of the eleventh century as a monk’s daily practice. [45]

(To be concluded next week.)

Monastic private Masses


[1] This presentation is a summary of the author’s own licentiate thesis, presented at the University of the Holy Cross in 2019, the title of which was: La “célébration privée” de la messe dans le rit romain: des origines au XIIIe siècle.

[2] C. Vogel (1980) Une mutation cultuelle inexpliquée : le passage de l’eucharistie communautaire à la messe privée : “ Revue des Sciences Religieuses “54, 234.

[3] Pius XII (20 November 1947) Encyclical Letter Mediator Dei: “Documentation Catholique” 45, 222. Here is the complete passage: “This sacrifice [the Eucharistic sacrifice], everywhere and always, in a necessary way and by its very nature, has a public and social role, since the one who immolates it acts in the name of Christ and of Christians, of whom the divine Redeemer is the head, offering it to God for the holy Catholic Church, for the living and for the dead (Missale Rom., Canon Missae)”. And also: “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is an act of public worship, rendered to God in the name of Christ and of the Church, whatever the place and manner of celebration. The expression ‘private Mass’ should therefore be avoided” (Sacred Congregation of Rites (3 September 1958) Instruction De Musica Sacra 2: DC 55, 1429).

[4] Cf. V. Raffa (2003) Liturgia eucaristica. Mistagogia della Messa: dalla storia e dalla teologia alla pastorale pratica, CLV-Edizioni liturgiche, Roma, 872.

[5] Cf. Udalricus Cluniacensis Antiquiores Consuetudines Cluniacensis Monasterii 2, 30: PL 149, 719A.

[6] Cf. M. Sodi — A.M. Triacca [edr] (1998) Missale Romanum, Editio Princeps (1570), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, 8*. 33*.

[7] See Ibid. 23*. 25*. 29*.

[8] Cf. Ibid. 8*. 34*. This type of ‘private’ Mass is directly opposed to sacramental concelebration, which is still unknown in the Tridentine Missale Romanum.

[9] M. Przeczewski [edr] (2003) Missale Franciscanum Regulæ (Codicis VI.G.38 Bibliothecæ Nationalis Neapolinensis), Libreria Editrice Vaticiana, Città del Vaticano, 37.

[10] Its full name is Ordo agendorum et dicendorum a sacerdote in missa privata et feriali iuxta consuetudinem ecclesie romane.

[11] Cf. Francis of Assisi, Epistola toti ordini missa una cum oratione: omnipotens, æterne, 30-31: Th. Desbonnets [edr] (1981) Ecrits, (SCh 285), Cerf-Editions franciscaines, Paris 2003, 250-251. We read: “ut in locis, in quibus fratres morantur, una tantum missa celebretur in die secundum formam sanctae Ecclesiae. Si vero plures in loco fuerint sacerdotes, sit per amorem caritatis alter contentus auditu celebrationis alterius sacerdotis.” Quoted in: G. Derville (2011) La concélébration eucharistique. Du symbole à la réalité, Wilson & Lafleur Ltée, Montréal, 15, note 38.

[12] Cf. A. Reid (2004) The Organic Development of the Liturgy. The Principles of Liturgical Reform and Their Relation to the Twentieth-century Liturgical Movement Prior to the Second Vatican Council, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2005, 307-308.

[13] Cf. S.J.P. Van Dijk — J.H. Walker (1960) The Origins of the Modern Roman Liturgy. The Liturgy of the Papal Court and the Franciscan Order in the Thirteenth Century, The Newman Press, Westminster MD & Darton-Longman-Todd, London,45, note 2. The following cases are also cited: Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey; Paul, Timothy and Silas in Thessalonica; Paul alone in Athens (cf. Acts 13-14 and Acts 17). The same thesis is expounded by Righetti (M. Righetti (1966) Manuale di Storia Liturgica, III: La Messa. Commento storico-liturgico alla luce del concilio Vaticano II, Ancora, Milano 2005, 148).

[14] “Since, at the outset, public celebrations bringing the community together were planned only on Sundays and feast days, it could easily follow that, on the intervening days, the bishop or the priest himself would offer a sacrifice in his own name, prompted by a desire for personal thanksgiving and prayer” (J.A. Jungmann, Missarum Sollemnia, 1952). (J.A. Jungmann (1952) Missarum Sollemnia. Genetic Explanation of the Roman Mass. Tome premier, Traduction revue et mise à jour d’après la 3e édition allemande, Aubier-éditions Montaigne, Paris 1956, 266-267).

[15] Saint Augustine attests that Christians celebrated Mass in prison during the persecutions (cf. Augustinus Breviculus collationis cum donatistis III, 17, 33: PL 43, 644).

[16] For example, Tertullian mentions the case of Sunday celebrations in times of persecution. When asked how this should be done, he replies that if it is not possible to gather the community together during the day, there is still the possibility of celebrating at night, and that if it is not possible to gather all the brothers together, the Eucharist should be celebrated, even if only three people are present; the Church is then represented by them (“sit tibi et in tribus Ecclesia”). Tertullian concludes by saying that it is better for the priest not to see his faithful at times than to compromise them: “melius est turbas tuas aliquando non videas, quam addicas” (Tertullianus De fuga in persecutione XIV: PL 2, 120).

[17] Canon 21 of the Council of Adge (506) : Mansi 8, 328.

[18] Canon 25 of the Council of Orleans (511) : MGH Conc. I, 8.

[19] Especially as these domestic masses, although “deprived of solemnity”, were not necessarily “private”.

[20] Cf. C. Vogel (1980) Une mutation cultuelle inexpliquée : le passage de l’eucharistie communautaire à la messe privée : RSR 54, 235. The subsequent history of canon law shows that the authorities have always urged the faithful to attend cathedral or parish masses on Sundays.

[21] From the Latin “votum: wish”, these Masses are celebrated to obtain spiritual or temporal goods, public or private. There are many examples of this, and they often take place in the very place where the special grace is requested: for example, in the home of the sick person whose recovery is hoped for, or at the grave of the deceased for whom eternal rest is requested.

[22] Cf. Augustinus De Civitate Dei XXII, 8, 6: PL 41, 764.

[23] Cf. A.A. Häussling (1965) Ursprünge der Privatmesse: “Stimmen der Zeit” 176, 24. We do not always agree with this author’s theological conclusions, but let us simply quote his historical observation. Already in the time of Saint Cyprian of Carthage (†258), Christians celebrated the torments of the martyrs and their anniversary feasts, i.e. the anniversary of their martyrdom, with sacrifices (cf. Cyprianus Carthaginensis Epistola XXXIV, 3: PL 4, 323A).

[24] A.A. Häussling Ursprünge 24.

[25] Cf. C. Vogel (1966) Introduction aux sources de l’histoire du culte chrétien au Moyen-Age, Centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo, Spoleto, 40-42. It should be remembered here that the Verona Sacramentary, as a collection, is commonly dated to the VIe century (cf. C. Vogel Introduction 33), but that certain formularies may date from the middle of the Ve century (cf. C. Vogel Introduction 39).

[26] Cf. C. Vogel Introduction 40.

[27] See O. Nussbaum (1961) Kloster, Priestermönch und Privatmesse, Peter Hanstein Verlag GmbH, Bonn, 186 and J. Braun (1924) Der christliche Altar in seiner geschichtlichen Entwicklung, I: Arten, Bestandtelle, Altargrab, Weihe, Symbolik, Alte Meister Guenther Koch & Co, München, 369. The original custom, which still exists in the East, was to build only one altar per church (cf. J. Braun Arten 373).

[28] At the synod held in Rome in 610, Pope Boniface IV declared himself in favour of the priestly ordination of monks (Cf. Mansi 10, 504-505). Until then, the disciples of Saint Benedict had been content with their status as monks. More often than not, there were only a tiny number of priests in each monastery — or even just one — who celebrated Mass for the community (Cf. P. Delatte Commentaire sur la Règle de saint Benoît, Solesmes 1985, 484 (on chapter 62 of the Rule of Saint Benedict: “Des prêtres du monastère”). Between the eighthe and tenthe centuries, the proportion of monk-priests to non-priest monks increased significantly in the monasteries of France and Germany, rising from an average of 26% around the year 800 to an average of 55% a century and a half later (see the statistics provided by Nussbaum (Kloster 78-80)).

[29] M. Andrieu (1951) Les Ordines Romani du Haut Moyen-Age. III: Les textes (suite) (Ordines XIV-XXXIV), Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense, Louvain, 18-20.

[30] Cf. C. Vogel Introduction 143.

[31] In n. 121 : “Hoc tamen sciendum est [...] in cenubiis, sive in civitatibus, [...] aut ubicumque sacerdus missas celebraverit, sive dominicis seu cottidianis diebus, vel in aliis solemnitatibus tam sanctorum quam et reliquorum martirum, sive cum clero puplice, vel etiam cum duabus aut unum ministrum, vel etiam si singolorum sacrificium Deo obtulerit, observare debit [...]” (Ordo romanus XV, 121 : M. Andrieu Les Ordines III, 120). And in n. 123: “Et sic incurvati contra altare ad orientem adornant, dicentes Kyriaeleison prolexe unusquisque chorus per novem vicibus. Si autem singolus fuerit sacerdos, novem tantum vicibus inclinatus adornando dicit Kyriaeleison” (Ordo romanus XV, 123: M. Andrieu Les Ordines III, 121). The bold characters are our own.

[32] Cf. C. Vogel Introduction 87-88.

[33] Of the four most popular theories to explain the birth of the plenary missal, Dom Folsom sets out the one we have just described (C. Folsom (1998) I libri liturgici romani : A.J. Chupungco [edr] (1998) Scientia liturgica. Manuale di liturgia. I: Introduzione alla liturgia, Piemme, Casale Monferrato, 285)

[34] Thus Egbert, Bishop of York: “Et sufficit sacerdoti unam missam in una die celebrare, quia Christus semel passus est, et totum mundum redemit; in Levitico quoque scriptum est non debere Aaron ingredi assidue interius in sancta” (Egbertus Eboracensis Archiepiscopus Excerptiones e dictis et canonibus sanctorum patrum concinnatae, et ad ecclesiasticae politiae institutionem conducentes 54: PL 89, 386B).

[35] Cf. Decretum Gratiani III, 1, 53: A.L. Richter — A. Friedberg. [edr] (1955) Corpus Iuris Canonici, I : Decretum magistri gratiani, Akademische Druck-U. Verlagsanstalt, Graz, 1308.

[36] In particular with Théodulfe d’Orléans (†821) and the canons of the Council of Mainz (813) and Paris (829).

[37] Cf. J. Bona (1671) De la liturgie, ou Traité sur le saint sacrifice de la messe (tome premier), Louis Vivès, Paris 1874, 154; Sacra Congregatio de Disciplina Sacramentorum (1949) Instructio Quam plurimum III, 1-2: AAS 41, 506-507. We also know the famous case of Saint Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) who, when he lived as a hermit in the Saharan desert, did not celebrate Mass — until he had received the long-awaited indult from Rome — on the (many) days when he was alone.

[38] Cf. Petrus Damianus Liber qui appellatur Dominus vobiscum ad Leonem eremitam: PL 145, 231B-252B. Others followed him, including Odon de Cambrai (†1113) and Etienne de Baugé, bishop of Autun (†1136).

[39] Cf. Petrus Damianus Dominus vobiscum 10: PL 145, 238D-239A.

[40] Cf. Petrus Damianus Dominus vobiscum 9: PL 145, 238C-238D.

[41] Cf. Petrus Damianus Dominus vobiscum 5: PL 145, 235A-235C.

[42] Cf. Petrus Damianus Dominus vobiscum 10: PL 145, 239A-240A.

[43] Cf. Petrus Damianus Dominus vobiscum 13: PL 145, 241D-242C.

[44] Cf. Petrus Damianus Dominus vobiscum 7: PL 145, 236C-237C.

[45] In this respect, it is interesting to consult the Cluniac monastic customs, and in particular the analysis made by Dom Tirot in this article: P. Tirot (1981) Un Ordo Missæ monastique : Cluny, Cîteaux, La Chartreuse : EphL 95, 44-120.220-251.

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