Thursday, August 15, 2019

Gaudeamus Omnes! Assumpta Est Maria in Caelum!

Below is an annual repost of one of the more insightful liturgical articles on this blog.

*     *     *

Liturgical theology is, according to Aidan Kavanagh, not a theological examination of the liturgy, but theology done by means of the liturgy. Liturgy is the theologia prima of the Church. When someone asks a Catholic how to learn more about the faith, the believer never directs the inquirer to obtain a copy of Denzinger. Invariably, the believer tells the non-Catholic to go to Mass (and hopefully at a carefully selected location). With this in mind, let us [very succinctly] consider what the Church told and taught us about the Assumption of the Mother of God today.

Apse of St. Mary Major with mosaic of Mary as Queen of Heaven,
crowned by and reigning with Christ.
source: Rad Trad's collection
Mattins—or the "vigil," as Dobszay insisted on calling the first major hour—consists of nine psalms and readings divided evenly into three nocturnes. Contrary to the eccentric and rich local traditions of northern Europe, which created special texts for Marian feasts, the Roman rite retains a primitive and sparse text. The psalms and hymns for the feast are typical of any Marian feast prior to the 1860s when Pius IX issued a unique liturgy for the Immaculate Conception. Where the Assumption stands alone is in the Mattins lessons and the text of the Mass. According to Dom Gueranger: 
"the Lord Pope went to St Mary Major, where, surrounded by his court, he celebrated First Vespers. At the beginning of the night the Matins with nine lessons were chanted in the same church.
"Meanwhile an ever-growing crowd gathers on the piazza of the Lateran, awaiting the Pontiff's return.... Around the picture of the Saviour, within the sanctuary, stand twelve bearers who form its perpetual guard, all members of the most illustrious families, and near them are the representatives of the senate and of the Roman people.
"But the signal is given that the papal retinue is redescending the Esquiline. Instantly lighted torches glitter on all sides, either held in the hand, or carried on the brancards of the corporations. Assisted by the deacons, the Cardinals raise on their shoulders the holy image, which advances under a canopy, escorted in perfect order by the immense multitude. Along the illuminated and decorated streets, amid the singing of the psalms and the sound of instruments, the procession reaches the ancient Triumphal Way, winds round the Coliseum, and, passing through the arches of Constantine and Titus, halts for a first Station on the Via Sacra, before the church called St Mary Minor.... In this church, while the second Matins with three lessons are being chanted in honor of the Mother, some priests wash, with scented water in a silver basin, the feet of the her Son, our Lord, and then sprinkle the people with the water thus sanctified. Then the venerable picture sets out once more, crosses the Forum amidst acclamations.... it at least enters the piazza of St Mary Major. Then the delight and the appluse of the crowd are redoubled; all, men and women, great and little, as we read in a document of 1462 (archivio della Compagnia di Sancta Sanctorum), forgetting the fatigue of a whole night spent without sleep, cease not till morning to visit and venerate our Lord and Mary. In this glorious basilica, adorned as a bridge, the glorious Office of Lauds celebrates the meeting of the Son and the Mother and their union for all eternity." (The Liturgical Year, August 15)
All rungs of Roman society paused regular life and joined Christ and Mary in the divine life for a night and an octave, celebrating Mary joining her Son in eternity and anticipating their own union with Christ in eternity. Mary was the first of what Christ wants all Christians to become by the Sacraments, albeit in a lesser degree.

The first three lessons are extracted from chapter 1 of the Song of Songs:
1 Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth: for thy breasts are better than wine,2 Smelling sweet of the best ointments. thy name is as oil poured out: therefore young maidens have loved thee.3 Draw me: we will run after thee to the odour of thy ointments. The king hath brought me into his storerooms: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, remembering thy breasts more than wine: the righteous love thee.4 I am black but beautiful, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon.5 Do not consider me that I am brown, because the sun hath altered my colour: the sons of my mother have fought against me, they have made me the keeper in the vineyards: my vineyard I have not kept.6 Show me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest in the midday, lest I begin to wander after the flocks of thy companions.7 If thou know not thyself, O fairest among women, go forth, and follow after the steps of the flocks, and feed thy kids beside the tents of the shepherds.8 To my company of horsemen, in Pharao's chariots, have I likened thee, O my love.9 Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtledove's, thy neck as jewels.10 We will make thee chains of gold, inlaid with silver.11 While the king was at his repose, my spikenard sent forth the odour thereof.12 A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, he shall abide between my breasts.13 A cluster of cypress my love is to me, in the vineyards of Engaddi.14 Behold thou art fair, O my love, behold thou art fair, thy eyes are as those of doves.15 Behold thou art fair, my beloved, and comely. Our bed is flourishing.16 The beams of our houses are of cedar, our rafters of cypress trees.

Some of these verses are very sensual and even sexual. Let no one say that the medievals were prudish on matters of intimacy! These verses can be applied both as the Church's acclamation to the Virgin, joyfully exclaiming her maternal nurturing of us Christians working out our salvation in fear and trembling. These words can also, with some care and reservation, be interpreted as a dialogue between Mary and her Creator. The first verse "Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth: for thy breasts are better than wine" speaks to Mary on a level of intimacy that no man ever knew, but Christ did. He nursed from her, yes, but He, in the Father, also created her in accordance with His divine plan for mankind. The image of the breast conjures immature sexual ideas today, but previous peoples instantly affiliated it with nurturing and familial ties: the affection of the husband, the nurturing of the children—two kinds of love, the second generated from the first, which reflects the Divine Love. At this level of power and privacy did Mary know God, of course without the sexual element. Should the dialogue interpretation continue, Mary is both removed from conventions "I am black, but I am beautiful" and presented as close with God on the level of bride in the King's chamber, as the versicle before the third nocturne says.

The readings in the second nocturne come from St. John of Damascus' second treatise on the Dormition of the Mother of God. These readings replaced the writings of St. Dionysius of the [pseudo] Areopagite —which would have been the lessons read at St Mary Minor—with the Tridentine reforms. St. John explains the typology of the Virgin, her prefigurement in the Ark of the Covenant, which housed the old promise between God and mankind, and its fulfillment in her, who housed the new and eternal promise between God and mankind. And like Christ, she did not refuse death, but embraced it as a path to life away from the death wrought by Adam:
"From her true life had flowed for all men, and how should she taste of death? But she yielded obedience to the law established by Him to Whom she had given birth, and, as the daughter of the old Adam, underwent the old sentence, which even her Son, Who is the very Life Itself, had not refused; but, as the Mother of the living God, she was worthily taken by Him unto Himself."
In the treatise from which the above passage in extracted, the Damascene saint goes on to teach that Mary's body could only be assumed into heaven because its use by Christ consecrated it as a thing of heaven. The treatise goes on to recount the entire event of the Dormition and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, which ran the course of three days:
"An ancient tradition has been handed down to us, that, at the time of the glorious falling-asleep of the blessed Virgin, all the Apostles, who were wandering throughout the world preaching salvation to the Gentiles, were caught up aloft in the twinkling of an eye, and met together in Jerusalem. And when they were all there, a vision of Angels appeared to them, and the chant of the heavenly powers was heard; and so with divine glory she gave up her soul into the hands of God. But her body, which bore God in an effable manner, being lifted up amid the hymns of Angels and Apostles was laid in a tomb in Gethsemane. There for three whole days the angelic song was heard.
"But after three days, the chant of the Angels ceased, and the Apostles who were present (for Thomas, the only one who had been absent, came after the third day, and wished to adore the body which had borne God) opened the tomb; but they could by no means find her sacred body in any part of it. But when they only found those garments in which she had been buried, and were filled with indescribable fragrance which emanated from them, they closed the tomb. Amazed at this wonderful mystery they could only think that he, who had been pleased to take flesh from the Virgin Mary, to be made man, and to be born though he was God the Word, and the Lord of glory, he who had preserved her virginity without stain after childbirth, should also have been pleased to honor her pure body after her death, keeping it incorrupt, and translating it into Heaven before the general resurrection." 
The best sermon this writer ever heard preached about the Assumption, or "Dormition" given the setting, was that of a Melkite deacon. Paraphrasing and condensing ten minutes into a few sentences, "Heaven and earth were not vast enough to hold Gods' glory, but Mary's womb was. Christ received His Divine nature when He was begotten of the Father in eternity. He received His human nature when He was conceived and born of Mary in time. When her earthly course was run, Mary died and her body was taken into heaven by the One Who created her because it was inconceivable that the womb which ore God-made-Man could decay in the ground. But this does not separate Mary from mankind. God became united to mankind through her. Mary was the first. We will never know God as closely as she did on earth, except perhaps when we receive Holy Communion, but we can pray to know Him in eternity because of her."

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico
source: joyfulheart.com
At the third nocturne we arrive at the Gospel of the day, also used in the Mass of the day. The pericope, Luke 10:38-42, is the same Gospel story applied in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the Greek tradition for this feast, adding verses 11:27-28. The last verses used in the Byzantine liturgy highlight the entire point of the Gospel for this day: "And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it." Is any depiction in pre-modern art more popular than that of the Annunciation? Mary became special because she bore Christ. She is a powerful intercessor with Him, indeed the most powerful intercessor with Him precisely for this reason. But also for this reason Mary is not a lone, solitary figure of power. She matters because wherever she is, Christ is nearby. Practically every depiction of the Virgin before the vulgar kitsche artwork of the 19th century showed Mary and our Lord Jesus together. In the various pieta paintings and sculptures, the great paintings depicting the Crucifixion and Norman rood screens recounting the same event, and first millennium holy images—Eastern and Western alike—Mary is with her Son. So let us agree with the woman in the crowd: blessed is the womb that bore the Lord! And then let us turn our attention from Mary to Christ by hearing the word of God and by keeping it.

Culminating with the Mass, the Introit invites us to enter into the heavenly abode of joy, elevated from the earthly joy and instruction in Mattins and Lauds, as well as the rites local to the diocese of Rome described by Gueranger above. In the Mass God's presence begins as a mystic one and elevates into a literal presence that can be seen and touched, a presence similar to the one Mary knew as Christ's mother. The collect of the Mass is among the best in the Roman tradition:
"Forgive, O Lord, we beseech thee, the sins of thy servants: that we who by our own deeds are unable to please thee, may be saved by the intercession of the Mother of thy Son our Lord."
This collect, as Fr. Hunwicke has stated, is the theology of Mary East and West. What words could better express our Lady's place in the plan of salvation? The Mass became the integral part of the Assumption liturgy and, in time, many stunning settings of the Mass were written by the great polyphonic and choral composers. Palestrina's setting of the Ordinary of Mass is a personal favorite. The below sequence of videos has both the proper chants and Palestrina's setting concatenated, as for a Mass.




Lastly, the feast is an octave. This blog has discussed in other posts the concept of the eighth day and the theology of the Resurrection. Christ rose on the eighth day after He entered Jerusalem and He appeared to the Apostles on the eighth day after that, one octave after another. Moreover, the Resurrection constitutes the eighth day of the week, the new day of Creation, or re-creation. Mary's tomb, like her Son's was found empty. While the myrrh-bearing women and the Apostles Peter and John only found a few burial garments in Christ's tomb, Mary's tomb was found full of flowers and sweet scents. Christ's Resurrection brought mystery only clarified with the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Mary's Assumption was clear and a fruit of Christ's Resurrection. 

Unfortunately, this historic and gladsome liturgy was altered in 1950 after Pius XII's definition of the Assumption—wherein he says nothing new and clears up none of the controversy stemming from the chirpy immortalist crowd, even if the accompanying letter did in fact say she died. The Office readings were altered severely: the first reading is now taken from Genesis chapter 3 and the next two readings from Corinthians (the same passage used in the Requiem Mass). The Pope's encyclical Munificentissimus Deus replaces one of the lessons from St. John of Damascus. The hymns are new and utterly ghastly. And the Mass is entirely new. The Introit is no longer an invitation to joy, but instead an excerpt from Revelation chapter 12. The collect is banal beyond belief and the Gospel is the account of the Annunciation heard at practically every Marian feast now other than the Immaculate Conception. Of all the changes to the feast in 1950, the insertion of Genesis chapter 3 at Mattins and the new Introit of Mass stand out most. Far from according to a "hermeneutic of continuity" with the previous liturgy, these texts exude the images of plaster statues and devotional lithographs so common in the 19th and early 20th century. Who has not seen a plaster statue of the Virgin, clothed in blue, perhaps with a bulbous baroque crown rimmed in twelve stars, standing on a blue globe and crushing the head of a green snake? The problem that arises from this depiction of Mary as crushing sin and standing above the moon, crowned with stars is not so much what it says as much as what it fails to say. The Mary of these images, pieces of art, and, to some extent, devotions is an aggrandized Mary not entirely dependent on Christ for her importance. There is nothing wrong with these texts doctrinally, but they replace other texts that were more coherent, beautiful, and holistically reflective of the Church's understanding of our Lady. The octave was stripped in 1955.

As with Holy Week, the same people who created the Pauline liturgy restored a few small portions of what they vitiated in the 1950s. The old Gaudeamus omnes Introit is made available as an option. The Mass as a whole is just as bad as the Pian Mass though. The readings are respectively Revelation 12 and the 1951-1969 Mattins readings from Corinthians; the Gospel is again the Annunciation. Mattins The Office of Readings gives Ephesians 1:16-2:10 and again Pius XII's encyclical as the lessons. The mystical understanding of Mary in union with Christ, representing the Church, and the link between the God-Man and mankind is obscured or forgotten. Who can deny that even the most pious of Roman Catholics—far better people than the Rad Trad—only know of Mary through the kitsch statue or as the object of the line "Hail, full of grace"? Again, there is nothing strictly heterodox about this folkish interpretation, but it comes at the cost of the stronger, traditional interpretation of the feast.

On a happy note I know of at least one priest who celebrated the old Mass and kept the old Office for August 15 and the octave! This feast, like so many of the most ancient feasts in the Roman rite, brings the faithful deep into the mens of the Church and her theology of the mysteries of God.

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino!

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Organic Restoration of the Roman Rite

The Question of the "Traditional" Roman Rite


Do you remember what the Council of Vienne said about anything? No, and no one else does either. The Council of Constance fired all three popes in the 15th century, but its acts were nullified by the following successor of Peter, a pontiff eager to nip any hint of Conciliarism at its bud. In more ancient times, the 382 Council of Constantinople reiterated the Nicene doctrine of Christology and added exposition on the Holy Spirit to the Creed, but the event was disastrous enough to send Gregory Nazianzen to despair.

Councils are strange things, with as many good in history as bad, and enough forgotten out of their lack of enduring relevance. Those who know the history of the Roman rite know that what happened to the Mass and Office in the 20th century had nearly nothing to do with the Second Vatican Council and everything to do with runaway bureaucracies, antiquarians with delusions of piecemealing together an Apostolic liturgy, and an out-of-control papacy. And yet the general justification for the Novus Ordo Missae, the final completion of the liturgical reform, came from the Conciliar constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium (even the Council document's title was about itself!). In the eyes of the ignorant, to discard these mistake is to discard the Council and its legacy, something easy to the student of history but difficult for the Churchmen of Baby Boomer generation.

As Dr. Kwasniewski tightly argues, the integrity of the Roman rite took a major hit throughout the 20th century, especially regarding the Mass. Laymen in the pew may not have noticed much different at Mass after S Pius X's changes other than more green vestments and fewer sanctoral events on sundays, but Mrs. Jones and little Timmy would absolutely start seeing things differ from the time of Pius XII's accession onward. The last typical edition of the old Mass, distinct from the Office, was published by Pius XI in 1939. There is no "1950" or "1954" Missal, just a modified version of the Rattian Missal. The "1965" Missal was simply a further vitiation of the editio typica of 1962.

Ain't nothin' like the real thing
Still, all of these post-1939 Missals have some stain of mangling done out of committee of papal initiative rather than organic change. Is the answer really to go back to 1939? Is that the Roman rite? For the Mass, certainly, but for the Office certainly not.

The point of defining the traditional Roman rite becomes difficult for most traditionalists, even the most learned, at this point. Many would still defend the reforms of Papa Sarto as necessary to correct the Dominical imbalance prior to 1911 and point out that the Office of feasts changed very little aside from the lamentably broken integrity of the Laudate psalms. The Office of Divino Afflatu differs drastically, however, from the old one almost every single day that is not a major feast, especially on days that carry no feast at all. Far from address the imbalance of the kalendar, Papa Sarto mangled the psalter (effectively the same since Gregory the Great split the two Sunday nocturnes into three and moved a few psalms to Prime) while leaving the kalendar laden with Duplex saints.

No one would argue that the Breviary and Mass published by S Pius V do not reflect the Roman tradition. Does anyone wish to return to it? We would now be in the Octave of Saint Lawrence and observe him three more times, including the Octave day with its unique Mass, this week. In the Divino Afflatu schema, he will be commemorated on his Octave day this Saturday and otherwise neglected. Does Saint Lawrence deserve special notoriety when Saint Cecilia and Saint Dominic do not? After the Prince of the Apostles and Doctor of the Gentiles, Holy Lawrence is chief patron of the city of Rome and the older rite of the Roman Church reflects this relationship. In 1962 he will not be mentioned again, outside the Canon, until next August 9th.

None are clamoring, however, to return to the medieval rite of S Pius V and skip 450 years of canonizations. The Tridentine kalendar not only lacks ancient saints like Ss. Joachim and Anne, but also enduring Counter-Reformation saints like Ignatius of Loyola, Philip Neri, and Francis de Sales. A more recent edition of the Roman books prior to Pius X sound appealing to those who would like to observe S Thomas Villanova on a Sunday next month, but to most the merits of a more recent edition would be offset by the same problems which prompted the "solution" of Divino Afflatu in the first place.

On potential and un-discussed solution would be to petition for a new and restored edition of the traditional Missal and Breviary, restoring the Tridentine lectionary, sacramentary, psalters, lessons, antiphons, kalendar, and Ordo Missae with a massaged cycle for the saints. John Rotondi experimented for a few years using his "Current Tridentine Ordo", something similar to what myself and others do. It is effectively an approach that begins with the Tridentine books and adds the enduring post-Trent canonizations as Simples or Doubles depending on their gravity. In practice, almost every saint canonized after Trent was given a Double feast which could replace the Sunday Office (and even if it did not, it "eased" the onus of the ferial Office). This option is certainly far more attractive that trying to go back to an arbitrary date from when my grandparents were younger than I am now.

Is There a Path to Restoration?


source: New York Times
This approach does have its obvious short-comings. Ecclesia Dei was more accommodating in recent years than in the past, authorizing the old Holy Week and even approving diocesan ordinations in the old rite for certain conditions. Perhaps its successor body could be trusted for such an undertaking with reverent consultants, but the more interest the project gains the more [ambitious] hands will find a way into it. Also, a new edition of the old rite would not be a republication of the Roman Missal from an older form, but an alternative, "extraordinary" version of the modern form. While a minor consideration, it would continue the old rite's current legal status as a curio.

On April 15 this year, we watched in horror as Notre Dame de Paris burned into a scorched stone shell. A cathedral which, like so many from that era, took centuries to build burned within hours. Fittingly, many of those cathedrals which took hundreds of years to build succeeded smaller structures which burned to the ground. Like the Roman rite, that which took saints and centuries to build was demolished by modernity and tactlessness within the blink of an eye. President Macron immediately vowed to rebuild the structure within five years, but more realistic minds know that a thorough and proper restoration is a protracted undertaking, much to the chagrin or modern and myopic impertinence. We may want to see Notre Dame whole today, but those who built it were content to wait centuries for their work to come to perfection.

Is this not the story of the Roman rite today? A pope could order a nominal restoration or Ecclesia Dei's successor body in the CDF could issue an updated Missal, but the natural process of maturing the liturgy under the aegis of the Holy Spirit would be neglected. We enjoyed centuries of "organic development", a phrase which sparked a cottage industry of wordsmiths eager to get in their two cents on the Roman rite. Instead, let us have organic restoration.

The process is already underway. The sedevacantist associations of the pre-1962 books have faded in favor of a longer view, a situation possibly eased by the likelihood that this pope is less interested in active management of the Liturgy than his predecessors. Last year saw celebrations of the ancient Holy Week proliferate; one might point out that this followed an experimental permission granted by Ecclesia Dei, but many churches had already been doing the old rite for several years by this time. Also, the last few years, I heard of some churches skipping Saint Joseph the Communist on May 1st.

While outside the envisioned strictures of the "extraordinary form", these developments represent a crystallization of the Roman rite, an effort to rediscover in earnest that which was lost. Sing not Quomodo sedet sola civitas and instead demand allowed, "Give us the Roman rite!"

Monday, August 5, 2019

REPOST: Roman Feasts


Interior of St. Lawrence by Francesco Diofebi
source: schwarzgallery.com
Today, the feast of the dedication of the Liberian Basilica, is a fitting day to revisit this four year old post.

Each rite and usage has its own peculiar and particular feasts which characterize the diocese of that rite's origin, be it Greek, Latin, or Assyrian. The Greeks have their feasts, like "Mid-Pentecost" and the "Protection of the Theotokos." We Latins have a number, too, many of which are coming up next month.

The month begins with St. Peter in Chains, recalling the chains that held St. Peter while he was imprisoned under Herod and Nero, the Jewish and Gentile persecutors of the Church, as well as the cardinatial church that holds two links of those chains. Pope Julius II's tomb, bearing Michelangelo's Moses, resides in this church. The Greeks have a feast commemorating the chains in January, but Rome possesses the actual church with these relics. Rome held a unique place among the churches of Christendom in that it could claim the two foremost Apostles of Christ as its fathers in faith, prompting the city to do its best to multiply their presence throughout the seven hills for stational liturgies.

Next is the feast of the Dedication of Our Lady of the Snows—the "Liberian basilica" of St. Mary Major. The Constantinian basilicas of Rome were dedicated to Our Lord (Lateran cathedral) and Ss. Peter & Paul, but the Virgin had no church dedicated to her. Snow began to fall over one rectangular space in the city, which St. Liberius took as a sign. The saintly pope began construction on the basilica, which is the Roman stational church for the Nativity of Christ and Pascha.

Lastly, Rome enjoys a vigil and an octave for St. Lawrence, the deacon of Rome who teased his torturers and entered eternal life with true Christian joy (I imagine that were he a martyr, St. Philip Neri would have died in a similar manner). His octave and vigil remind us that prior to Pius XII, the local church occupied a place of liturgical prominence: a Double of the First Class with an octave was observed for both the dedication of a parish and its patron saint. St. Lawrence enjoyed a similar place as a foundational saint for the spirit of the Roman church. When the popes wore the maniple on their left arms, it always bore gold and red thread. Gold for the joy of the Byzantine Church, red for the martyrs of the Roman Church.

In the Apostle Peter, the Roman Church recalls the place given to her by the Prince of the Apostles. In the miracle of Our Lady, she recalls that Our Lady laid the cornerstone of her own enduring presence in the Eternal City. In St. Lawrence, she recalls her happy witness to Christ. These feasts do not celebrate Biblical events nor do they teach theological lessons. These feasts are acts of worshipping God for God's own sake, for thanking Him for counting the saints as the closest intimates of the city of Rome, for showing gratitude for His continuing presence in the Roman Church. August, as much as June 29, is an appropriate time to sing O felix Roma.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Jesuit Character

Today is the feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. As much as Saint Francis and his Minorites, the association of words ("Jesuit" and "Ignatian") conjure thoughts and presumptions irrelevant to the intentions of the original founder. That "SJ" is commonly associated with homosexuality, heresy, violent socialist revolutions in South American, and left wing American universities is a tragedy for a society founded to act as a militant arm of the Church, courageous enough to do what others would not as missionaries.

This is not to say that their charism did not carry innate faults. Perhaps the atomistic, solitary spirtuality of the early Jesuits would have worked have the Society remained small, but a large and well funded order living in community without a public dedication to the Office or Mass inevitably leaves its members to their own devices and formation, of which the liturgy is not a factor.

The militant, furtive Jesuit, bereft of transparency and clear intentions, became a myth in popular culture due to the likes of John Ballard, SJ. The Jesuit as a trickster intent on causing accidental conversion persisted into the early 20th century and even appears in Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies in 1930.

No literary Jesuit so perfectly captures this caricature as René d'Herblay (Aramis) in the Musketeer novels of Alexandre Dumas. When our protagonist, D'Artagnan, meets Aramis the latter reiterates that he is only temporarily taking up the tabard of the Musketeers of the Guard. He is constantly in studies to become a Jesuit priest and speaks of the affair in much the same manner Starbucks baristas speak of "moving to Europe". Confronted by his superiors for his dissertation to complete his studies, he derives a comically legalistic argument on grace to pique their interest, all the while lamenting that he might have to put away his mistress. When he does receive the odd letter from his mistress he finally breaks from his melancholy and expresses himself, "SHE STILL LOVES ME!"

Dumas' Musketeer epic concludes with the anti-climactic story of the Man in the Iron Mask, a novella with a plot line so underwhelming that no film that adopted it faithfully. In the finale, Louis XIV is revealed to be a misunderstood king whose unknown identical twin brother is place on the throne by the unwitting Porthos and Athos. D'Artagnan defends King Louis while Athos escapes and Porthos dies in the fight. Valor and thirst for justice burned in the Musketeers' hearts, but their intentions were not shared by their friend, Aramis.

Aramis is now a bishop and French magistrate intent on advancement. The Jesuit prelate manipulated his friends to replace the Divinely ordained King and put their own lives at stake for treason simply to give France a monarch who might make Aramis his Chief Minister, nominate him for the College of Cardinals, and put him on the path to the Supreme Pontificate.

Such was the reputation of Jesuits many moons ago.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Office of Prime (III): Parvum Officium

The period historians generally called the "Dark Ages", the time after the fall of the Roman Empire and before medieval Christianity accomplished "Europe", saw the gradual enhancement of the ancient Roman liturgy through devout emendations by localized Christian communities. The hymns of the Office, octaves, the feasts of most non-Roman Saints, and the ceremonies of Mass grew up around this time and continued to grow until the years after the Council of Trent and the creation of the Congregation for Rites.

One new tradition that sprang forth from the fertile soil of Early Medieval Christendom is that of the Little Office. Today, the knowledgeable faithful associate the term "Little Office" with the Parvum Officium Beatae Virginis Mariae, but there emerged a multiplicity of Little Offices over those centuries.

Perhaps the oldest is the Office of the Dead, which betrays its antiquity by its form. Its Mattins lack an introduction, omitting psalm 94 unless it is celebrated as a Duplex (November 2 and for funerals), absolutions at the readings, and any introductions. Lauds and Vespers similarly have no hymns, chapters, or opening ceremonies. No other part of the Roman Office resembles the Officium Defunctorum more than the Tenebrae and Horae Minores of the Sacred Triduum, which remained effectively unchanged from the time of Gregory the Great until 1911.

The Office of the Dead emerged as a parallel liturgy in monasteries during the closing centuries of the first millennium and became popularized through other monasteries and collegiate churches, both as means to pray for diseased monks and for canons to pray for their diseased benefactors. While eventually said daily, along with the Requiem Mass, on permitting days, it never developed as fully as the other Little Offices, lacking Little Hours (including Prime) and Compline until the Divino Afflatu reforms of Pius X.

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary emerged slightly later and became the most popular of all paraliturgical functions. Guilds emerged in Northern Europe which commissioned priests uniquely to offer this Office and its associated seasonal votive Masses daily, again, kalendar permitting. The Marian Office has an Inviatory at Mattins, hymns throughout the day, and Little Hours, including our Prime. While Vespers, Mattins, and Lauds repeat the same psalms, antiphons, chapters, and hymns of the Blessed Virgin's feasts throughout the year, the Little Hours of the Little Office derive their psalmnody from the Gradual Psalms except for Prime. The psalms of Prime are Deus in nomine tuo (53), Benedixisti Domine (84), and Laudate Dominum omnes gentes (116). As with festive Prime, the antiphon is the first of Lauds (Assumpta est Maria in coelum). Uniquely, the hymn at Prime and the rest of the Hours is that of Compline, Memento rerum Conditor. Another unique aspect of Prime of the Blessed Virgin Mary is that unlike Prime in the Roman Office, it does not follow a unique structure based around the [assembled] Chapter, with an act of repentance, a reading of the Martyrology, prayers for the intention of the day, and the Dominical statement of faith. It simply follows the normal structure of psalms, the chapter and hymn, and an oration.

The Parvum Officium of Our Lady gained common currency by the high Middle Ages. Whenever Duffy or historians speak of nobles or guilds assembling in a church to sing Vespers or royal women "reading the Mattins" in the morning they inevitably mean that they were following the texts of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Churches and chapters that did not observe the full Office of Our Lady instead celebrated it as an elevated Simplex feast on Saturdays outside of Lent, switching from ferial psalms to Marian chapter, hymn, versicles, and orations midway through the Office.

Less common, although said at Cluny and its sister houses, was the Office of All Saints, the text I which I would one day like to see. With the mandate of all clerics to recite the full Roman Office daily, the tradition of offering these Little Offices remained but in a diluted manner. Counter-Reformation Josephilia and liturgical sloth even gave birth to this Parvum Officium of Saint Joseph, which has a solitary psalm for its Mattins, no Lauds, and a simple hymn for its Prime and following Hours.

Our next and closing post in this series will consider the place of Prime, putatively suppressed, in the Church and Christian life today.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Mighty Ocean of Tranquility


This Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, perhaps the greatest technological-cultural achievement in human history since the Roman Empire connected an entire continent with roads. While the promise to put a man on the Moon was in part a determination not to let the Communists beat the U.S., it was also a natural act of hope. There was hope that mankind would not be restricted to the sublunar sphere, and might someday make the dangerous climb into the material heavens to explore the fullness of God's created glory.

America being the religious melting pot that it is, the mission astronauts made for an odd grab-bag of affiliations. Neil Armstrong was a professed Deist. Michael Collins was a moderate Episcopalian with a wife described by some as "staunchly Catholic." Buzz Aldrin was a Presbyterian elder who celebrated a makeshift communion service after the lunar landing; he was also a practicing Freemason who was deputized to claim territorial jurisdiction on the Moon. Half a year prior, NASA was sued by atheist activists when astronauts aboard Apollo 8 broadcasted a reading from Genesis during Earth orbit at Christmas. In explaining the choice to read from the Bible, command module pilot Jim Lovell said with interreligious magnanimity that "It is the foundation of most of the world's religions.... They all had that basis of the Old Testament."

Earlier poets had imagined fantastic journeys to the moon. Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso includes an episode where the knight Astolfo flies in Elijah's chariot to the Moon in search of his companion Orlando's sanity. Rudolf Raspe's Baron Munchausen includes multiple humorous voyages to the Moon. Greatest of all was Dante's Paradiso, when the poet ascends to the first celestial sphere, wherein the inconstant blessed souls reside. The neglectful Piccarda explains her humble beatitude:
"So that as we from step to step
Are plac'd throughout this kingdom, pleases all,
E'en as our King, who in us plants his will;
And in his will is our tranquillity;
It is the mighty ocean, whither tends
Whatever it creates and nature makes."
God made man to rule over the material creation, and occasionally the magnitude of our ambition reminds us of that primal vocation. The lunar Mare Tranquillitatis should be a reminder of the ocean of rest to be found in the divine will, even though for some it is an opportunity to kick against the limitations of human nature. How far we are today from the humbled aspect of Piccarda's repentant and feminine soul.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Office of Prime (II): How to Say It


Using the rubrics that were in force from time immemorial until 1911 and Divino Afflatu, the Office of Prime mirrors the movements and variations of Lauds. The Roman Office has much variation, but essentially there are three types of days:
  • Duplex feasts
  • Simplex feasts
  • Feriae
A Semi-Double is celebrated in much the same manner as a Double, but with a lesser ranking and some additional prayers. A day within an octave is similar, although without additional prayers. The psalms at Vespers and Mattins are from the common and the Lauds and Prime are sung using the Dominical psalms. The Little Hours never change.

A feria simply observed the Office of the day with no note of any feasts, unless they warrant a commemoration of a superseded Lenten or Advent Simplex feast. Simple feasts use the psalter of the day for Vespers and Mattins, but follow the Dominical psalms for Lauds and an abbreviation of Prime. At first this seems a strange and arbitrary shift away from the purpose of the Office, the recitation of 150 psalms of David every week spread through the day for its sanctification. In fact, Lauds and Prime before S Pius X had very little daily variation. The first psalm of Lauds would be either 50 (Miserere mei Deus) or 92 (Dominus regnavit), the second psalm varied every non-festive day of the week, and the canticle could be one of seven possibilities unless a feast occurred, in which case the Benedicite would be sung. Two psalms varied daily, one conditionally, and five remained constant. 

At Prime, the psalter was as follows:
  • Sunday: 53, 117, 118i (1-16), 118ii (17-32)
  • Monday: 53, 23, 118i, 118ii
  • Tuesday: 53, 24, 118i, 118ii
  • Wednesday: 53, 25, 118i, 118ii
  • Thursday: 53, 22, 118i, 118ii
  • Friday: 53, 21, 118i, 118ii
  • Saturday: 53, 118i, 118ii
The entirety of the psalmody would be wrapped under one antiphon, either from the Office of the day or the first Lauds antiphon of the occurring feast. Like the other Horae Minores, the antiphon on Prime is semi-doubled, that is, read as far as the asterisk before the psalms and read in full after. On a feast, the psalms were always the three of Saturday not not the longer Prime of Sunday. Sunday Prime, before the full antiphon, also includes the Athanasian Creed. On feriae of Paschaltide, the psalms are always festive just as the Lauds are always Dominical.

If the Office is of Sunday, any feast, within an octave, or a weekday of Paschaltide, the chapter is from Timothy; otherwise, it is from Zachariah. Then follows the responsory Christe Fili Dei vivi. On festive days, the collect Domine Deus omnipotens immediately follows. Under any other circumstance the responsory and collect are separated by a series of versicle preces and the Confiteor said as at Mass and Compline. During penitential seasons the preces are expanded, although they do not include an additional psalm as they do at Vespers and Lauds during those seasons. 

Should the Martyrology be read it comes after the collect. The Roman Martyrology for the current day is always that of tomorrow's saints, usually with a word or two about them. At the end, thanksgiving is made and Our Lady and the rest of the saints are invoked for protection. Another comes another responsory, Deus in adiutorium, Gloria Patri, Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison, the Lord's Prayer, another set of versicles, and the collect Dirigere:
O Lord, Almighty God, King of heaven and earth, Savior of the world, bless, lead, rule and govern our hearts and bodies, our senses, words and deeds today, following thy law and commandments, that here and for eternity with thy help we shall be saved in freedom. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. 
If the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is to be sung this day, it begins at once. Otherwise, as with the beginning of Compline, a lector asks the celebrant for a blessing and reads a short lesson varying with the season. On feasts, however, the lesson is the same as the chapter sung at None.

After Adiutorium nostrum the dismissal is sung: Benedicite / Deus followed by the blessing:
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. And may the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  
Again, Prime resembles Compline in how it contrasts the other Hours, this time with its own dismissal (not the usual Benedicamus Domino) and blessing (not the usual Fidelium animae).

Divino Afflatu reordered the entire psalter to revive the de facto recitation of the 150 psalms daily. The better solution would either have been to reduce the number of Duplex feasts or lessen clerical obligations, but instead Papa Sarto initiated a radical overhaul of the Office. To the layman, the only arrant changes may have been more green vestments on Sundays and a strange new antiphon at Sunday Vespers for no apparent reason. In fact, most of the old antiphons of the Roman Office had to be discarded and replaced due to the fragmented psalter introduced in place of the full psalms of the Roman rite. Between its psalms and antiphons, the Little Hours are nigh unrecognizable. Some of the psalter remains unchanged for the great feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady, aside from the reduction of Lauds and the loss of ps. 53 at Prime on Sundays. The rest of it differs greatly every single day. The psalter became as follows:

  • Sunday: 117, 118i, 118ii
  • Monday: 23, 18 (in halves)
  • Tuesday: 24 (in thirds)
  • Wednesday: 25, 51, 52
  • Thursday: 22, 71 (in halves)
  • Friday: 21 (in thirds)
  • Saturday: 93 (in halves), 107
If these psalms look familiar it is because most of them belong to Mattins, not Prime, in the classical forms of the Roman Office. Additionally, the Pian Lauds and Prime represent the first time psalms in the Roman rite would be said out of order. The Byzantine rite Vespers sings some psalms out of order, but following a theme of persecution, deliverance, and thanksgiving. The Pian rite, by contrast, was formed with uniformity and a side glance to Tradition in mind. Its intentions were rational and yet, unlike the preceding Gregorian/medieval and Tridentine iterations, the psalms are printed on the page out of order because they must present the remaining psalm from S Pius V's Office first.

The rules for how to recite Prime are otherwise the same under Pius X as they were under Pius V with the caveat that, again, Prime's variability tracks Lauds. Divino Afflatu limited the potential for proper psalms and texts on feasts below Duplex of the II Class to a handful of ancient Roman feasts, meaning festive Prime (still 53, 118i, and 118ii) would now be said rarely. This system would continue until 1964.