Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent Begins

And as it begins the local parish has removed its statues of the Holy Family
in favor of this voluptuous felt offering.

Rad Trad's Advent Challenge

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!"
No, not that secular commercial holiday called Christmas (not to be confused with the Holy Day called Christmas) which is preceded by a month or so of mindless ditties about snow and "40% off overpriced stuff" sales. The most wonderful time of the year for the Rad Trad is Advent, the time during which we contemplate the unspeakable mystery of the Incarnation and the period before it, an epoch of hope for a salvation not then visible.
Advent is a time for thinking about sin, more so than Lent in my book. During Christ's 40 days in the desert and the days leading up to the Triduum He at least dwelt on earth and walked among men like us. The people of prior times had no such consolation. They had hope, or at least those aware of their own sins had hope. Without sin why yearn for redemption? Without falling why rise? Without darkness why seek light? When I sin I can drive a few miles to a parish that has daily Confession and take a "spiritual shower." What about the peoples of that time before Christ, whose difficulties are recalled during Advent? Advent seems to be the proper time for reflection on sin, on one's burning need for God's mercy in every moment of life, and on the great gift given to us at the end of it, the Incarnation. As St. Athanasius wrote, "God became man so that man might become God."
My challenge to readers is, if you do not already, to pray one major hour of the older Divine Office every day of Advent and through the Octave of Christmas. Oh no, that's a whole month! Exactly. You will appreciate Christmas all the more when it comes at the end of a month's rumination on sin and forgiveness with the Church. It will mean all the more when its mysteries permeate your life for an entire week. As always, I suggest Vespers or Lauds. It is customary during Advent and Lent to pray the Office of the Dead on Mondays in addition to the Office of the day. If you do not have the time for both (although Vespers/Lauds can easily be recited in seven minutes or so) I would pick the Office of the Dead on Mondays and the regular Office on weekdays just for the sake of some balance. However, if you do this do not pray the Office of the Dead on Monday December 23rd; instead pray the Office of the day so that you might have the seasonal "O" antiphon.
On a related note, please notice that the tab for the Officium Defunctorum is now gone as there will be no more opportunities to pray for the dead this month.
A happy feast of St. Andrew to all!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Quick Word on Confirmation

A friend recently asked what the Byzantine perspective on Confirmation was. I thought I would share my reply since the perspective might differ a little from what we all learned in religious education at the hands of a lay catechist (or in my case, a Jesuit).

We often think of Baptism as "washing away Original Sin" and Confirmation as a "strengthening" (confirmo in Latin means "I strengthen") in the Church Militant. 
Baptism is actually prefigured in the Great Flood and in the Parting of the Sea by Moses. It is the washing away of sin, to be sure, but it is, more importantly, the crossing over into a new and renewed creation, the new promised land and the new Jerusalem which is the Church (and which the old covenant and the old Jerusalem anticipated). We enter the Church in Baptism ("baptism" means "plunging" in Greek, hence when one is "baptized into Christ" one is plunged into the body of Christ, the Church) we enter into something pure and our sins are washed away as a consequence. 
Confirmation, or Chrismation, is a similar story. The anointing with oil is actually an Old Testament style anointing to the priesthood. In this case it is the anointing into a priestly group of people (1 Peter 2:9—that passage Luther so abused). In the ancient days the priests came from the Levites. Christ has transformed all members of the Church into members of a new type of people that has this priestly charism, that is, the power and ability to spread the Gospel, which is of course not the same as Holy Orders. It is perhaps a very small participation in Christ's priesthood in spreading the Gospel. The priests and bishops in Holy Orders have a much stronger participation since they have the power to confect the Sacraments. Either way it is a very real participation in the Divine Life. Because it is a joining to a new people, Confirmation was always done in tandem with Baptism: one entered into the new creation and the new people of God at the same time. As infant Baptism (which was always done) became the norm the Byzantines Confirmed infants and the Romans reserved it for the bishop to do. There is, in both the traditional and Novus Ordo Roman books, a remnant of Confirmation of infants: the priest anoints the baptized child with Chrism saying nothing. Thankfully we do confer Confirmation after Baptism with converts now.
Also at Confirmation one receives the Holy Spirit. Because one enters into a priestly people one must receive the Holy Spirit to be guided in truth (1 John 2:20). The traditional Roman rite loses sight of this. The form in the Roman rite is "I sign you with the sign of the Cross and strengthen you with the chrism of salvation in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The Byzantine rite, which the new Roman books copied in this case, is far clearer "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit" which really means "Be sealed with the gift that is the Holy Spirit."
Makes me wish I appreciated my own Confirmation more!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

World is Going to Hell

Figuratively and—I hope not but possibly—literally.

Today at the store I saw a teenage couple, neither of them could have been more than 16 or 17 years. Her skirt barely covered the skin of her posterior and he had an enormous smile on his face. They were buying a box of those foul little rubber balloons and he made her pay. Sigh. One wonders if they are yet eligible for the new healthcare law's coverage?

At times I wonder if I am judgmental or if I am just one of a few people justifiably frustrated with the deterioration of social standards for youth and the spiritual decay it brings.
Image from

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monastery of Mt Sinai

Today, in both the Byzantine and older Roman rites, is the feast of St Catherine of Mt. Sinai  the virgin martyr and daughter of an Alexandrian king whose rare education endeared her to Christ to the point of death. According to tradition her remains were miraculously taken to Mt. Sinai where they were discovered by an already established monastic community, which cares for her veneration to this day.
The monastery—built around the Burning Bush—is now, of course, Eastern Orthodox, but that does not make it less interesting to us as Catholics and as people appreciative of liturgical historical. Mt. Sinai houses possibly the oldest extant icons in the Christian world, icons which were written when Byzantium was thriving and St. Gregory the Great just an infant. Below is a very short documentary on the monastery which focuses on the place's unique place in icon history.
The beginning, for the uninitiated, is the Hajmeh, the first part of the night-long celebration of Pascha which transitions into Mattins and Lauds and ends with the Divine Liturgy. The faithful take "light  that never fades" from the Paschal candle blessed at the Vesperal "vigil" Liturgy earlier that [Saturday] morning. I found my first experience with this rite simultaneously awe inspiring and frightening, much how the two women felt when they encountered the Empty Tomb that day in the year 33, when the Sun was only just rising.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Quick Thoughts on Liturgy and the End of the World

Today was, in the Roman rite, the last Sunday after Pentecost, a Sunday which in liturgical terms signifies the end of the world and the Last Judgment when the "Lord with woundes redde will come to judge the quick and the dedde." In the Roman rite, and by extension all the Latin uses except the Mozarabic rite, the liturgical year reflects the process of salvation history. The year begins a week after it ends. The beginning's Gospel actually has something of an apocalyptic tone, picking up on the desolation and judgment themes of the last Sunday. Advent signifies the wait of the Jews and of the entire sin-riddled world for a redeemer, which culminates in the birth of Christ. Interestingly, the first Sunday of Advent is significant because it establishes the need for salvation and the third, Gaudete Sunday, is important because it rejoices in the immanence of that salvation; the other two Sundays, of lesser import, can be superseded by the Immaculate Conception and the Christmas Vigil. After the celebration of His Nativity and the other relevant feasts (Circumcision, Epiphany, Baptism in the Jordan, and the Purification) the focus shifts to His time in the desert and His teachings on salvation in Lent, culminating in His redeeming work during Holy Week and life in the Resurrection during Paschaltide. The time after Pentecost is significant in that it is after the coming of the Holy Spirit, the age of the Church and the Saints. Revelation has ended, but the Divine Life for us believers is constant until the End finally comes. And then it starts all over again.
In contrast the Byzantine rite's kalendar does not focus as much on the seasons as it does on the major feasts on the Church. Days that we Romans would not consider feasts they do, such as Palm Sunday. Feasts dictate the liturgical year. Indeed, in any well appointed Byzantine parish there should be icons on both sides of the nave depicting various events in the process of revelation. One would notice that the icons are arranged chronologically, beginning with the birth of the Blessed Virgin and ending with her Dormition/Assumption at the end of her life. In between would be the events of Her Son's time on earth: the Annunciation (which can compete with Good Friday in the Byzantine rite), the Nativity, Theophany, Palm Sunday, Pascha, the Ascension, Pentecost and more.
In contrast with the broader approach of the Roman rite, with its many seasons, the Byzantine rite's year is very personal and seen through the eyes of our Lady. As one who has experienced both I prefer the Roman kalendar myself, particularly because of Advent, by far the richest and most beautiful time of the liturgical year in either rite (just my opinion).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What is the Roman Liturgy? Who Owns It?

Very organic liturgy with Fr Quintin Montgomery-Wright
source: Jean Erik Pasquier's Daily Life series, 1986
A question has circulated in my minds for several years and I would like to put it to the readers. What exactly is the Roman liturgy? Who possesses it? Who has authority over it?
My personal opinion is that the Roman liturgy does not exist in a particular year or edition of Mass and Office books, but in certain distinct elements that became apparent after the liturgy's shape coagulated after the fluid years that followed the emergence from the house churches. I would venture to say that the three main features of the Roman liturgy are:
  1. The Roman Canon: the Eucharistic prayer which is central to the Latin rite's observance of Our Lord's command and which is found at the heart of the Roman Mass and its local uses from the time of St. Gregory the Great onward.
  2. The Roman Psalter: the distribution of the psalms marked the hours and the days, forming the Roman Church's celebration of feasts and its weekly prayers.
  3. The Roman kalendar system: this dictated how feasts and ferial days would be observed and set the cycles of the liturgical year.
None of these elements was without change or some evolution over time. Advent, my favorite time of year, was relatively late in entering the Roman rite. The psalter is clearly ancient (as it existed before the Pian reforms), but it was not the central point of the proto-Office, the lucernarium; the focus of that service was readings, which survived in the Holy Saturday rites (making the other Pian reforms all the more difficult).
Another thing to realize with these elements is that they are elements and not a strict unit. In some sense the local rites used in religious orders and throughout Northern Europe were usages and variations of the Roman rite rather than distinct liturgies. Far from undermining their value, this means that the Roman rite consists in a multiplicity of practices united by basic liturgical principles.
Which brings us to our next question: who owns the Roman liturgy? One might be tempted to say the Roman Patriarch, the Pope. There are two problems with this simple answer in my view. The first is that, after the missionary expansion under Gregory the Great, the Roman liturgy, under my broad definition, was no longer limited to the Church of Rome, but rather became invested in all the Christian lands of Europe and beyond (Asia, North and South America, and now Africa). Many of these places, particularly in Europe, developed their own local expressions under monastic, parochial, episcopal, and devotion rule, not under the direction of a far off office in Rome. Which brings us to the second issue, that the liturgy, arguably, ought to belong to those who pray it. Right?
If both of these are true, particularly the second, then we might find ourselves in a little bit of a dilemma. Lay liturgical formation in the Roman Catholic Church is horrendous in most places, aside from the sort of parishes which promote lay knowledge of the liturgy (and not liturgy lite). Among those with liturgical knowledge there is often a fear of violating the legal norms established in the books. And yet, if everyone "said the black and did the red" would we not all be gathering at 7PM on  a Saturday night at a dinner table, listen to a few Bible fragments, listen to the priest consecrate, eat and drink, and then go home? The communal and dynamic nature of the liturgy is why the Mass and Office took their shape, first in Rome and then in other dioceses. In a recent day spent in discussion with some liturgically capable men at a Catholic college I realized just how interested people are these days in the "organic" nature of the liturgy and yet how timid some are to depart at all from the rubrics. One fellow wanted to know if it would be legal to use the full Orbis factor Kyrie, with the litany-like vocative exclamations of the Middle Ages' farced settings; did those who wrote that setting follow the rubrics or did they have a different understanding? Which brings us back to the original question: what is the Roman rite and who owns it?
As a point of interest, there was, many years ago, a highly eccentric convert from Anglicanism, a Fr. Quintin Montgomery-Wright, who finding England unfriendly to non-cradle Catholics, packed up for Normandy and acted as pastor of a parish there from 1956 until his death in a car crash in 1996. Fr. Q initially said Mass in French and versus populum in the 1950s but, finding the reforms of the 1960s bothersome, pushed his altar back against the wall and switched back to Latin. He ignored the Pauline liturgy's introduction between 1968 and 1970, but did not do the "EF" liturgy either. He "tweaked" the liturgy with some French variations, as Anthony Chadwick tells us:
"Fr. Montgomery was an amazing fellow. He had stacks and stacks of vestments, and did the liturgy the old Norman way, like Sarum. There were little blue dalmatics for altar boys, and I often sang as a coped Ruler at Sunday Mass at Le Chamblac. He vested on the Lady chapel altar (the church's south transept). The Judica me psalm was said at the Lady altar and in procession. He likewise said the Prologue of St John on the way from the high altar back to the Lady chapel. At the time, I though he was just being odd, but this was the medieval and pre-Tridentine way of celebrating."
The 1568 and 1570 books that came out of Roman during the Papacy of St. Pius V and the creation of the Congregation for Rites in 1588 under Sixtus V (if I am ever elected Pope I will be Sixtus VI) did not freeze the Roman rite, but those events did slow any sort of development and eased off any communal interest or local variations. The Pauline books, and the "EF" books, were both issued by offices. How do we form the laity in the liturgy? The answer is simple, although difficult: pray it. Pray it all the time.
Hopefully interest in this subject will increase in the coming years. I believe it to be on the upswing.
Your thoughts?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dr. Russell Kirk

Recently we have discussed some of the absurdities in American politics and American history, both of which leave Catholics cognizant of the Church's historic understanding of "Church and State" uneasy and wanting. One reader, Patrick, left a comment mentioning a name that has dwelt in the back of my mind for a great many years, a name which, to be honest, most formed my early political and social perspectives and which, for good or ill, most influenced my long-term views. I of course mean the distinguished Dr. Russell Kirk.
Russell Kirk was a short, stalky man from Michigan who served America in the Second World War and studied philosophy during the years after the War's conclusion. His studies took him to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where he was the first American to earn the degree Doctor of Letters there. His dissertation, which initially focused on the thought of Edmund Burke, became a compendium of vignettes on then-forgotten political conservatives from the Anglophonic world, among them John Adams, John Q. Adams, Hamilton, James Fenimore Cooper, John Randolph, Benjamin Disraeli, John Henry Newman, Paul Elmer More, and James FitzJames Stephens. His two principle ideas were that "liberty"—that most American of ideas—is "ordered" by society and not properly a state of moral and political chaos; and that society has a "natural aristocracy" of people who occupy their given places within it. His dissertation was published in 1951 as The Conservative Mind. This was the first of Kirk's books I read in college. Later I found a copy of his Roots of American Order, which traced the intellectual and cultural origins of the United States' political system to ancient Rome, which, after the collapse of Rome, came to England through the missionary efforts of Ss. Gregory the Great and Augustine of Canterbury, was rebuilt during the legal and theological highpoint that was the Middle Ages, solidified itself in an English expression after the 1688 Revolution, and came to North America during the 17th and 18th centuries. His books are nothing groundbreaking to the modern reader, who is well accustomed to the sight of piles upon piles of political buncombe for $15 in the nearest bookshop, department store, or newsstand. During his time though Kirk was the only writer who openly questioned the progressive system put in place by Roosevelt and the force of his words made his case particularly interesting. He eventually teamed up with National Review founders William Buckley and Brent Bozell to spearhead the modern conservative movement in the 1950s, a movement which died in 2001.
Kirk was a gifted writer and wordsmith, certainly formed by his intimidating grasp of his large library's contents. The work of his I found most engaging was not a political work, but Ancestral Shadows, an anthology of ghost stories he collected during his summers at St. Andrews and in his home state of Michigan (his mother was an occultist). Kirk converted to Catholicism later in life, around 1963 I believe. He housed a great many poor children in his family estate and had a reputation for his generosity and charity. Despite his religious interest he found very little time to go to Confession, saying something to the effect that he did not find thinking about himself that interesting.
Aside from his ghost stories my favorite Kirk work is this essay on libertarianism, a mad Anglophonic philosophy back in vogue in the United States, one which more or less encourages distrust of any moral or political order and offers an idolatrous view of the free market. Some of the phrases in this essay are outright hysterical:
"The ruinous failing of the ideologues who call themselves libertarians is their fanatic attachment to a simple solitary principle-that is, to the notion of personal freedom as the whole end of the civil social order, and indeed of human existence. The libertarians are oldfangled folk, in the sense that they live by certain abstractions of the nineteenth century. They carry to absurdity the doctrines of John Stuart Mill (before Mill's wife converted him to socialism, that is)."
"Because genuine libertarians are mad-metaphysically mad. Lunacy repels, and political lunacy especially. I do not mean that they are dangerous; they are repellent merely, like certain unfortunate inmates of “mental homes.” They do not endanger our country and our civilization, because they are few, and seem likely to become fewer. (I refer here, of course, to our homegrown American libertarians, and not to those political sects, among them the Red Brigades of Italy, which have carried libertarian notions to grander and bolder lengths.) There exists no peril that American national policy, foreign or domestic, will be in the least affected by libertarian arguments; the good old causes of Bimetallism, Single Tax, or Prohibition enjoy a better prospect of success than do the programs of libertarianism. But one does not choose as a partner even a harmless political lunatic."
"The first Whig was the devil, Samuel Johnson informs us; it might be truer to say that the devil was the original libertarian. “Lo, I am proud!” The perennial libertarian, like Satan, can bear no authority temporal or spiritual. He desires to be different, in morals as in politics. In a highly tolerant society like that ofAmerica today, such defiance of authority on principle may lead to perversity on principle, for lack of anything more startling to do; there is no great gulf fixed between libertarianism and libertinism."
The Rad Trad no longer identifies with Dr. Kirk's thesis that America, at heart, is the continuation of Roman and British culture, even a freer perfection of them. If that was ever true, it no longer is. That said, I still admire his erudition, his integrity, and the simple fact that, with his mind, he made a positive difference in this country.

Feast of St Felix

Today is the feast of St. Felix of Valois, the Trinitarian priest and late vocation who is the patron saint of this blog and to whom I pray for you readers and your intentions every Monday.
Please consider praying for me to St. Felix!
From the second nocturne of Mattins:
Felix de Valois, who afterwards took the name of Felix, was born (in the year 1127) of the same family of the de Valois which in after times became Kingly. From his earliest childhood he gave tokens, especially by his pity toward the poor, of the holiness of his coming life. When he was still a little lad he distributed money to the poor with his own hand, with the seriousness of an old man. When he was a little bigger he used to send them dishes from the table, and took especial delight in treating poor children with the most toothsome of the sweetmeats. As a boy he took clothes off his own back more than once, to cover the naked. He begged and obtained from his uncle Theobald, Earl of Champagne and Blois, the life of a felon condemned to death, foretelling to him that this blackguard cut-throat would yet become a man of most holy life which did indeed come to pass as he had said.
After a praiseworthy boyhood, he began to think of withdrawing from the world in order to be alone with heavenly thoughts. But he first wished to take orders, to the end that he might clear himself of all expectation of succeeding to the crown, to which, in consequence of the Salic Law, he was somewhat near. He became a Priest, and said his first Mass with deep devotion. Then, in a little while, he withdrew himself into the wilderness, where he lived in extreme abstinence, fed by heavenly grace. Thither, by the inspiration of God, came the holy Doctor John de la Mata of Paris, and found him, and they led an holy life together for several years, until they were both warned of an Angel to go to Rome and seek a special Rule of life from the Pope. Pope Innocent III. while he was solemnly celebrating the Liturgy received in a vision the revelation of the Order and Institute for the redemption of bondsmen, and he forthwith clad Felix and John in white garments marked with a cross of red and blue, made after the likeness of the raiment wherein the Angel had appeared. This Pope also willed that the new Order should bear, as well as the habit of three colours, the name of the Most Holy Trinity.
When they had received the confirmation of their rule from Pope Innocent, John and Felix enlarged the first house of their Order, which they had built a little while before at Cerfroi, in the diocese of Meaux, in France. There Felix wonderfully devoted himself to the promotion of Regular Observance and of the Institute for the redemption of bondsmen, and thence he busily spread the same by sending forth his disciples into other provinces. Here it was that he received an extraordinary favour from the blessed Maiden-Mother. On the night of the Nativity of the Mother of God, the brethren lay all asleep, and by the Providence of God woke not to say Mattins. But Felix was watching, as his custom was, and came betimes into the Choir. There he found the Blessed Virgin in the midst of the Choir, clad in raiment marked with the Cross of his Order, the Cross of red and blue; and with her a company of the heavenly host in like garments. And Felix was mingled among them. And the Mother of God began to sing, and they all sang with her and praised God; and Felix sang with them; and so they finished the Office. So now that he seemed to have been already called away from glorifying God on earth, to glorify Him in heaven, an Angel told Felix that the hour of his death was at hand. When therefore he had exhorted his children to be tender to the poor and to slaves, he gave up his soul to God (upon the 4th day of November) in the year of Christ 1212, in the time of the same Pope Innocent III., being four-score-and-five years old, and full of good works. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dedication of Ss. Peter & Paul

Today is the feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Ss. Peter and Paul, two of the four patriarchal basilicas of the Roman Church. The current buildings are fairly recent (St. Peter's is a 16th century replacement of a 4th century basilica and St. Paul's is a 19th century reconstruction of the original, which burned and imploded). The Rad Trad did not get to St. Paul outside the Wall during his visit to Rome, but did manage to spend a full day in St. Peter's Basilica. The current building has very little to do with the one which preceded it, other than that it too houses the relics of the Prince of the Apostles. For more on the previous building have a look here (and watch the video at the bottom, it is quite something).

I have re-posted some older material, a photo tour of the current basilica, for readers' edification. As stated on our previous post for the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran, these photos are perhaps better than what one will find online because they were taken during a progression through the church and hence give a clearer impression of the arrangement, scale, and style of the place. Some photos towards the end show the Rad Trad in personal horror (not a fan of heights).

The second lesson in the second nocturn of Mattins today seems to be based upon the fictitious Donation of Constantine (did Benedict XIV not want to rid us of this sort of thing?), but concludes with the interesting, and more historically feasible, statement that the consecration of a stone altar by St. Sylvester, Pope at the time, marked an official point of transition from wood to purely stone altars.

Happy feast!

Approach from the square

Sneak by the Swiss Guards

Our Lord watches this place

Where we hear "Habemus Papam"

Friends of the Rad Trad awaiting entry into the nave

First altar on the right contains the Pieta

Peering through the right-side door

A rather ugly statue of Pope Pius XII, among many statues of saints and popes

Looking back from the first chapel. This place is big!

A shot across to the altar of the Presentation

The baptismal font is enormous. Scale dominates this place

The dome over the baptistery

The coffered ceiling

Tomb of St. Pius X

The domes under the side chapels are quite colorful

The chapel of the choir, south of the high altar, which contains relics of St. John Chrysostom

Tomb of St. Gregory the Great. The Pope once vested for Solemn Mass here
while the schola sang terce

Apse of a transept

The baldacchino over the high altar is over 70 feet in height,
the largest piece of bronze work in the world

St. Andrew. There are many statues in the nave, but none of Apostles or Our Lady.
Those of the Apostles are to be found around the (ill-defined) sanctuary.

The entrance to the tomb of St. Peter and the Clementine chapel

St. Peter presiding at the basilica. A line of people wait to kiss his foot.

Confession in 22 languages from 7AM to 7PM

Looking from the altar to the nave

A friend of mine, who is over six feet tall, for size comparison

St. Gregory the Illuminator, disciple to Armenia

"I saw water flowing from the right side of the temple...."

The altar at the Petrine Throne with the Holy Ghost descending upon it.
It makes much more sense to see this during a Mass, which we did!

Saints watch and keep vigil

As we depart....

Later that day the Rad Trad visited the dome

The Rad Trad does not like heights

The Rad Trad really does not like heights.
Grabbing the cornice for dear life!

The Four Evangelists at the corners of the sanctuary

The inside of the dome

That ant below is a person! We were well over 200 feet above the floor

Friends delighting in the Rad Trad's fears

One last shot of the altar

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Liturgy and the Eighth Day

Discussion about the Roman liturgy varies in Catholic circles. For most liturgically interested Catholics the debate is between the "EF" and the "OF," or how the "reverence" of the "EF" might improve the "OF," or even how an amalgamated rite could be fostered. Others, the SSPX/FSSP type traditionalists who attend churches not staffed by diocesan priests, contrast the "theology" of the "Traditional Latin Mass" with that of the Mass of Paul VI, praising the emphasis on sacrifice in the former and criticizing the excessive focus on the meal elements of the Eucharist in the latter. Even more radical traditionalists focus on the "pre-1955" Missal, which is most typical editions published, versus the 1962 rite; people in this crowd inevitably dwell on Annibale Bugnini's role in crafting Pius XII's dodgy new Holy Week rites, in some sense inferior to those in the Pauline Missal (regardless of what one may think of the Ordo Missae in the Pauline books). Something neglected in all these discussions is the liturgical year itself and its contributions.

It is safe to say that the older rites, 1962 or 1474, have a more involved liturgical year, with more vigils, the ember days, and richer texts in the Office and at Mass for Advent and Lent than the modern books. But what of another long neglected aspect of the kalendar: octaves.

Octaves merit little attention these day, aside from discussion of the Octave of Pentecost in the 1962 rite, because both the Pauline kalendar and the Johannine kalendar have so few, two and three respectively. Prior to 1955 octaves occupied a very prominent place in the liturgical year of the Roman Church. For well over a thousand years the Church set aside eight day periods for the observation and re-visitation of the mysteries and salvific action of God in His works and in His saints. Most recently we would have finished the octave of All Saints, one of the most recent octaves, on November 8th. So what is an octave and what does it matter?

"In the beginning God created heaven and earth," thus begins the Holy Scripture in the Book of Genesis. On the first day gave began creation, a gradual effort in which He fashioned everything for six days and then, on the seventh day, left it as it was. In light of the Resurrection, which occurred the day after the day of the rest, the Christian sees the eighth day as the beginning of a new creation, which is, in effect, a renewal and a re-vivification of the old creation. As Christ rose from the dead with the same body, but glorified and transformed (Philippians 3:21), so the Christian will at the end of time at the Last Judgment. But this process is not so removed from our current time and current needs.

In Greek, so the Byzantines tell me, the phrase the "Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:14, Matthew 3:2, Matthew 10:7) does not mean that the end of the world is immanent, but that the Kingdom of God, which was formerly inaccessible, is now immediately accessible, although in a less tangible form than what will be found at the end of time. Christianity, which is a fundamentally liturgical religion, is a fundamentally eschatological religion. What will happen in the end happens to the Christian now. He is joined to events that have happened, such as the Resurrection or the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and to things yet to come. In short, the Christian's baptism binds him to mysteries of God that exist outside of time and which will transform the world at the end, at the eschaton. Our participation in the eschaton through baptism on earth necessitates our observation of God's creation and recreation, of the Son's Life and Resurrection in this time. This is what was foreshadowed in the Old Testament for us and what was done in the Roman liturgy in a very complete way until 1955, and in a very reduced way after 1955.

In chapter 23 of Leviticus the Lord establishes the Day of Atonement, the beginning of a seven day cycle of sacrifices for the sins of the people called the "Feast of Tabernacles" or the "Feast of Booths"—called such because the Jews would build booths out of palm branches in which they would live during those seven days. On the eighth day the offering of sacrifices was renewed with greater solemnity (Leviticus 23:36), forming the first octave, a foreshadowing of what was to come on the eighth day many years later. Not only did the Feast of Tabernacles begin on the Sabbath, a day of rest, and end on the Sabbath, a day of rest, but God prohibited servile work on the days between (Leviticus 23:35), extending the penance—or celebration for the Christian—for eighth days.

On Palm Sunday, to my view, Christ began the first Christian octave. The Jews often enthroned their king during the Feast of Tabernacles (Danielou Bible and the Liturgy 335). On this day the Jews sang psalm 117, a psalm the Byzantine rite still sings during Communion and which the Roman Mass utilizes on Pascha, which includes that renown word "Hosanna." What did the Jews sing on Palm Sunday? "Hosanna to the Son of David" (Matthew 21:9). What were they doing? Holding branches of palms, as they would during the Feast of Tabernacles (Ibid 21:8). The narrative draws a clear parallel between the coronation of the king and the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. The inhabitants were enthroning Him as their new king, Why was the Feast of Tabernacles observed? To remind the Jews of their deliverance. Why did Christ enter Jerusalem? To observe the Passover and to fulfill the true deliverance, deliverance from sin and death. He would "rest" on the seventh day and rise again, in a renewed body, on the eighth day.

In some sense, although not strictly part of the liturgy, the period from Palm Sunday to Low Sunday forms consecutive octaves, the first ending with the new Creation and the second concluding with a greater clarity and invigorated spirit which only adds to that new Creation (Christ giving the Holy Spirit and power to forgive sins to His Apostles in the Upper Room).

As God made the Jewish people do penance and offer sacrifice for their sins for seven days,  creation lasted seven days, and as they redoubled their efforts on the eighth, He renewed creation on the eighth in His Son's Resurrection from the dead. This process of creation, exploration, growth, and renewal is at the heart of Christ's work and, as it exists in time, makes His work accessible to us on earth, for us living in the eschaton terrestrially. The Church observes octaves—and observed even more—precisely for this point.

Many readers will know that Pascha, Christmas, and, in the older rites, Pentecost mandate octave length celebrations. Formerly well over a dozen occasions did so. Among them we see great evidence for the above analysis. St. John the Baptist's Nativity took an octave, the only Saint other than Our Lady whose birthday rather than death day is observed as a feast, suggesting that St. John was born without sin. If so, his own conception, birth, and life are a great act of God's restoration of human nature into its holier form. The same can be said of the Octave of All Saints.

A more startling example might be Epiphany, a feast of greater importance than Christmas if we are to be theologically honest with ourselves. Why was Epiphany observed as an octave until the last years of Pius XII? What renewal or improvement did it offer on the eighth day? "Epiphany" literally means a "showing" of something, in this case the showing of God in the flesh to Gentiles, a revelation that this Child's work would benefit all men, not exclusively Jewish people. On the eighth day, the octave day of Epiphany, an even greater revelation is shown to us, that of the Holy Trinity. The octave day of Epiphany is the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan by St. John, wherein the Holy Spirit descended upon the Son and the Father said He was "well pleased" with the Son (John 1:29-34). This was the first direct revelation of the Holy Trinity to mankind, an even greater, but not segregated, revelation than that of Epiphany.

Octaves did not regularly appear during Paschaltide (except for the 19th century feast of St. Joseph), owing to the already Paschal nature of the season, and of course not during Lent. Instead the Church of Rome gave her faithful octaves to observe throughout the rest of the year, particularly during the time after Pentecost, during which the faithful might always recall how the Saints were in themselves new creations (Ss. Peter & Paul, John the Baptist, Lawrence of Rome, the Assumption of Our Lady, the Nativity of Our Lady, and All Saints all occur during the "green" Sunday season).

Yet does not the evidence oppose my eschatological hypothesis? Were these octaves so important and were the eighth day so relevant in liturgical theology surely the Church of Rome would have devised unique Masses for the days within the octaves, as she did for Pascha and Pentecost, rather than repeat the festive Mass again and again. Not so! In older times, outside of monasteries and collegiate churches, Mass would only be observed on Holy Days and Sundays. The repetition of Masses is the consequence of filling in the days between the feast and the nearest Sunday or Sunday and the octave day. Where octaves are truly to be observed is in the Divine Office. The lessons at Mattins would progress through didactic material germane to the mystery at hand for eight days and the antiphons repeated at the major hours would do much the same.  Gregory DiPippo has been doing a fascinating series on the Mattins lessons for the Octave of All Saints in the Roman Curial Breviary which can be read here. The use of the festive office, with shorter psalms and no penitential prayers as would be found on ferial or simple days, contrasted starkly with the almost brutal daily cycle of prayers found in the ferial psalter. Octaves were clearly a time of joy, a period of living out some holy mystery in the present (although some of this was lost in the 1911 re-distribution of the psalter).

Liturgical octaves observe the eighth day of creation, the renewal of creation in the Resurrection of Christ. They make what is distant to us immanent and accessible as Christ's own salvific work made it immanent and accessible to those who had longed for it and observed it in its type for so long. We, on the other end of salvation history, observe its anti-type, its eschaton. For this reason, and for reasons better stated by those more liturgically learned than myself, we should push to re-introduce octaves into the Roman rite for feasts of saints and for feasts of Our Lord's work.

God bless!