Monday, June 30, 2014

Joe the Communist & Bad Wine

Last night I attended a small dinner gathering and got to chatting with a like-minded fellow about a range of things from Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies to hobbits. Somehow we came upon the topic of S. Ioseph Opifex, the feast of "Joseph the Worker," or, as more adept people have called it, Joe the Communist. The discussant, who attends Mass at the local FSSP parish featured in a previous post, recounted a feeble attempt to pray the 1962 Lauds on a day that happened to be May 1st. He had to quit, so he told me, before even finishing the psalms because the antiphons were so remarkably bad. Here are the Lauds antiphons for the displaced feast of Ss. Philip & James and then the antiphons for the Apostles' Red Replacement:
  • Lord, show us the Father, * and it sufficeth us. Alleluia.
  • Philip, * He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. Alleluia.
  • Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me * Philip, he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. Alleluia.
  • If ye had known Me ye should have known My Father also, * and from henceforth ye know Him and have seen Him. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
  • If ye love Me, * keep My commandments. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
The new feast:
  • God, maker of the world, * has stationed man to dress and keep the earth, alleluia.
  • Christ, the Son of God, * deigned to work with his hands, alleluia.
  • The craftsman, * holy Joseph, faithfully exercising his trade, shines forth as a marvellous example of work, alleluia.
  • Faithful servant, * and prudent, whom the Lord hath appointed over his family, alleluia.
  • O Joseph, holy workman, * defend our work, alleluia.
When I told the same fellow what the Mattins lessons were for the new feast his reaction was one of understandable incredulity. Here is the fifth lesson
"The same Pontiff supplied a new proof of the Church's solicitude for labor organization, when, upon the occasion of a convention of workingmen held in Rome on the first of May in the year 1955, he took the opportunity of speaking to a large multitude gathered in the square before St. Peter's Basilica, and commended most highly the instruction of workingmen. For in our day it is of prime importance that the workers be properly imbued with Christian doctrine in order that they may avoid the widespread errors concerning the nature of society and economic matters. Moreover, such instruction is needed that they might have a correct knowledge of the moral order established by God as it effects the rights and duties of workers, and which the Church discloses and interprets, so that by partaking in the needed reforms they might work more effectively toward their realization. For Christ was the first one to promulgate in the world those principles which he delivered to the Church and which still stand unchangeable and most valid for the solution of these problems."
My night ended with a horrific viticultural experience. Older American readers may remember Paul Masson commercials featuring Orson Welles, the film maker who produced the greatest movie ever made at age 25 and whose career only declined from there. Welles was often inebriated during commercials, but revealed in an interview he never drank Paul Masson wine. Clearly he was bringing his own stuff. The motto for Paul Masson wine was "We will serve no wine before its time." Out of morbid curiosity a friend just had to buy a bottle jug. 

He poured me a quarter of an inch of this so-called wine in a tumbler. I smelled it. The scent was like that of very, very ripe apples. The sugar and fruitiness overwhelmed me. I gave it a swish and found it had no body of any kind. The scent, on a closer sniff, was positively pungent. I then put the liquid in my mouth where it committed first degree assault on my taste buds. I then spat it into the sink, which is when this experience became even worse. This so-called wine leaves an aftertaste I have only encountered with one other product, Robitussin cough medicine. When was this wine's time?

Editing was able to salvage this from the above takes:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

More Dallas Churches: Mater Dei

Today I was compelled by a friend to attend the Missa Cantata at Mater Dei church in Irving, TX, a parish staffed by the St. Peter Fraternity under diocesan auspices. The parish was jammed wall to wall with adults and children. A polyphonic Mass was sung. Sunday was commemorated, but the Last Gospel was In principio. The sermon was an instruction on some manualist theologian's five criteria for rebuking people fraternally. The Rosary was prayed prior to Mass. My friend, Mr. "Lord of Bollocks," grabbed me and took me out of the church during the recession to avoid Faith of Our Fathers.

From what I understand the building was once an Asian Baptist church before the FSSP purchased it to escape the chapel of a cloistered Carmelite convent where they had previously celebrated Mass.

The decor has some positives, namely the stenciling, but other parts seem
to conform a bit too much to 1950s architecture.

Although difficult to see, there are actual choir stalls used
by the acolytes during Mass and by the clergy during Tenebrae.

In my opinion the altar design does not work very well. Too many
bulbous bits and gradines. A table altar with a metal tabernacle in the center
and the candles on the altar would look better. Perhaps also so color, either
in the form of paintings or mosaics. The statues next to the altar give an entirely
new meaning to "We who mystically represent the cherubim...."

There is a true baptistery, with an octagonally shaped room and font!

My friend opined that the plaster statues on the side altars
need to be replaced with crucifixes and some source of color.
I couldn't agree more. Still better than more churches in the
Dallas area.

Not sure what is happening with the windows. Is it
stained glass or is it a printed plastic sticker?

Hymnals compliments of the FSSPX and Bishop Richard Williamson.

Ss. Peter & Paul

"Dearly beloved brethren, in the joy of all the holy Feast-days the whole world is partaker. There is but one love of God, and whatsoever is solemnly called to memory, if it hath been done for the salvation of all, must needs be worth the honour of a joyful memorial at the hands of all. Nevertheless, this feast which we are keeping to-day, besides that world-wide worship which it doth of right get throughout all the earth, doth deserve from this city of ours an outburst of gladness altogether special and our own. In this place it was that the two chiefest of the Apostles did so right gloriously finish their race. And upon this day whereon they lifted up that their last testimony, let it be in this place that the memory thereof receiveth the chiefest of jubilant celebrations. O Rome these twain are the men who brought the light of the Gospel of Christ to shine upon thee These are they by whom thou, from being the teacher of lies, wast turned into a learner of the truth." Sermon of St. Leo the Great, 2nd nocturn of Mattins of the feast

O Roma felix, quae duorum Principum
Es consecrata glorioso sanguine:
Horum cruore purpurata ceteras
Excellis orbis una pulchritudines.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Correcting the Moderates

I read Fr. Hunwicke and generally like what he has to say, but on this matter he and some of those who comment on his blog are just plain wrong! Of what could I be speaking? Of how far back to turn the clock on the Roman rite. As his Holiness, Sixtus VI, has written before there were actually five different incarnations of the Roman rite last century, which can loosely be categorized as:
  1. 1900-1910: the ancient rite, although swollen with Double rank feasts.
  2. 1911-1954: the liturgy of St. Pius X. A new breviary, loosely based on the old Roman Office and the neo-Gallican psalters. New, but balanced, kalendar system.
  3. 1955-1964: the liturgy of Pius XII. Deranged Holy Week, novel kalendar system, reduction in many prayers, and experimentation in the liturgy to come.
  4. 1965-1969: the liturgy of Vatican II. The Pian (XII) rite without Prime and with varying degrees of vernacular.
  5. 1970-present: the liturgy of Paul VI.
Fr. Hunwicke essentially proposes to go back before the nineteen regrettable years of Pius XII and the liturgical destruction of that papacy. Some readers and commentators agree with the good, learned, and wise Fr. Hunwicke about the shortcomings of the "EF" Mass and Office, but disagree that now is the time to worry about such things. Should we not be more concerned with spreading use of the "EF" and of traditional Roman Catholicism, hitherto satisfied with what Pope Benedict gave us in Summorum Pontificum? Would it not be better to worry about such things in say 100 years, when surely Traddieland will have had its victory? His Traddiness says "No and hell no!"

While the pre-Pius XII liturgy is vastly superior—and I cannot emphasize that enough—to what came after it, that ritual is still not entirely the old rite. I propose to turn the clock all the way back to 1570, with its full psalter and kalendar system. Yes the kalendar is sparsely populated with saints, but that is a good thing. It means a chance to re-consider which saints from the Counter-Reformation period and from more modern times (like Padre Pio) should be added as well as an opportunity to re-visit the isse of ownership of the liturgy. Does it belong to a congregation in Rome or to those who use it?—which includes 1400 years of dead Roman Catholics, many of whom have gone to their eternal reward after praying the old rite.

I am convinced a return to a living liturgical tradition will be a key element in the recovery of the Roman Church from her long malaise and spiritual dormancy. If God is a living God and the Church is His body, why ossify the liturgy in the tomb of 1962? Rigor mortis is no less attractive in liturgical matters than it is in a morgue. The 1570 rite has the potential to be that living liturgy the Roman Church needs because it could be developed organically. In my research on the French rites and some other local liturgies I have observed that few of the Roman simplex rank saints are celebrated and in their place is celebrated French or Portuguese or English saints, depending on the area, emphasizing that the saints, those friends of God, did the same things we do now, in the same way, and in the same place, giving us hope for our salvation. I have also proposed a return to the "minster" manner of running a diocese, a proposal which I doubt will ever get any traction, but some religious communities are thriving and diocesan ordinaries should ask why.

End of rant. For more on the pre-Pius XII rite, see the Saint Lawrence Press. To understand what my proposal would look like in action, take a peek at the Current Tridentine Ordo.

Learning Something New

Last night, after a wonderful excursion into the world of gastronomy, a friend and I were taking a stroll through a shopping district when we came up a fellow with quartercards who wanted "Just a minute of our time."

"Do you know Jesus?" he asked.
"Yes. Or at least we think so. Laudetur Iesus Christus!"
"Uh, oh. Cool! So do you guys go to church?" he continued.
"Yes," I replied. "A Greek Catholic church."
"Does that mean everything is in Greek?"
"No, my friend. In ancient times the Catholic Church had many places that gave rise to their own traditions of worship and theology. To be a 'Greek Catholic' just means following the way of worship that came out of Greek Christianity."
"Oh, well that's, uh, that's really cool."
"Thank you for your time and God bless," I closed.
"Yeah. Yeah, man thanks and have a good night."

The Lyonese Missal Part V: Two More Masses, Votive Prayers & Conclusions

Initially I intended to finish this series on the purportedly Jansenistic rites of France by considering the votive prayers of the Lyonese Missal. One reader was kind and enterprising enough to find and share with me a copy of the Rouen rite, which shares lineage with Sarum of course. I will do a one post overview of that Missal rather than an entire series and then we will begin our series of the lesser known founders of the traditionalist movement before the great hijack of the late 1970s.

Before covering some select votive orations let me share with readers two interesting votive Masses from the Missal, one for the celebration of a synod and the other for the election of a bishop, remnants of the days of local episcopal election and local synods that carried primatial weight.

The votive orations themselves are largely unremarkable in their content. Some orations, as with the proper texts of the Masses, are the exact same as in the Roman rite, with the same collects, but other orations, often the secrets and most commonly the post-Communions, differ. For example in the Roman rite the familiar collect A cunctis nos is followed by the secret Exaudi nos and the post-Communion Mundet et muniat. The Lyonese rite has A cunctis nos and the post-Communion Mundet et muniat, but with the secret Oblationem nostram, a prayer not found in the Roman liturgy.

The Missal contains some unique prayers, such as one specifically for the Lyonese church, for the King, for the Queen if she is pregnant, for the royal court, to know the will of God and others. The prayer for knowledge of the will of God again does not seem to bode well for accusations of Jansenism, given that it petitions "you may illuminate our minds with the light of clarity." As with the Parisian rite, these differences are deviations, but not heretical.


The local rites of France drew of the ire of the Ultramontanists who wished in their heart of hearts for everything Catholic to be everything Roman, for Roman liturgy and theology to become the only acceptable expression of the Catholic faith. Diocesan uses dating to the middle ages and new variations that developed either through legitimate variation or 17th century anti-Roman politicking fell to the cruel ax of centralization.

The rites of Paris do not directly descend from the glorious Norman family of rites. Instead it is clearly the Roman rite with conscientious differences, differences that could be categorized in any number of ways: ritual returns to the cathedral liturgies of France, new prayers that reflect a vibrant religious and literary culture, and unambiguous departures from uniquely Roman liturgical traditions such as the folded chasuble. The Lyonese use is more medieval in its origins, always a variation of the Latin liturgy and never the Roman original. Its rites, particularly the rites surrounding pontifical Mass, preserve many now lost aspects of liturgical theology, such as the apocalyptic significance of the seven candles held by the acolytes (also done in 8th century Rome according to the Ordo Romanus Primus). 

Certain facets of the Lyonese rite definitely depart from the Roman patrimony, not the least of which is the use of the Gallican psalter of St. Jerome over the traditional old Roman psalter in the proper chants. Earlier manuscripts of both the Lyonese and Parisian rites clearly indicate that the Roman texts were once followed. Aside from some of the late 20th century vernacular versions of the Pauline rite, a translation is not heretical. The use of the Gallican text instead of the old Roman one suggests bishops were giving in to the anti-Roman spirit in fervor in the royal court of the 17th century. It does not suggest rampant heresy. The need for correction does not necessary mean deviation.

Happily, I am told, the FSSP clergy in Lyon still celebrates this rite semi-regularly. Let us hope that this French gem, untainted by the Jansenists, is not lost in the vault of liturgical history as so many other Latin traditions are.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sign the Petition

Or write to Cardinal Dolan....

Holy Innocents is a wonderful little spiritual refuge on 37th street in New York. A neo-gothic church and debtless parish, recently re-modeled at a cost of $300,000, it has a daily 1962 Mass and has been noted to do the real old rite with increasing frequency. It is also the primary pro life shrine in the Big Apple. The church has enormous foot traffic daily and is under the pastoral care of the ubiquitous Fr. George Rutler. There really is no reason to close this parish, so sign the petition and write to the Cardinal.

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St. John the Baptist, Ordinary Time & Us

"This is my first time wearing a green stole," said the gleeful deacon, recently ordained on St. Joseph's day during Lent. It was the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and a deacon, priest, and his all Traddiness were in the sacristy of an English church preparing for Mass. "I like Ordinary time," he continued.
"There is no such though," I rebutted.
"Now don't get me started!"
"Gentlemen," interjected the priest, "it is time for Mass now."

To this day I do not believe in "Ordinary time," that prolonged green season turgid with readings that have no natural cycle to them and which, somehow, masks all but a few feasts. Recently we relaxed our festivities after the fifty days of celebrating the Resurrection and then the octave of Pentecost. Now we should be returning to a more general consideration of the mysteries of Christ and a penitential spirit. Personally I interpret the kalendar differently from most traditionalists and reformers. In my view the temporal and sanctoral cycles could be eschewed as categories in favor of "Time of Christ" and "Time of Mysteries." The period from the first Sunday of Advent until Pentecost Sunday re-live the actual life and ministry of Christ, His salvific work on our behalf, His Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, Ascension, and the sending of the Spirit. The second part, the "Time of Mysteries"—a poorly concocted and spontaneous title—is the time to reflect on what the things Christ did actually mean and how they should influence us. The Church does not return to strict penance and fasting after None on Ember Saturday, but rather begins the celebration of Trinity Sunday, finally celebrating the Godhead completely revealed to mankind. The Jews knew God, but only as one person and not as a Father. Christ revealed Him as a Father and, after the Resurrection, was known to His Apostles as God. And through the Holy Spirit the Triune God became known to the entire world. Of course the Trinity was revealed at the Baptism in the Jordan, but the Trinity was not comprehended or realized until some time later, after the Ascension.

Then we came to Corpus Christi, the feast of the Body of Christ. The Church is a Sacramental body, the "Body of Christ" as St. Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth. The Eucharist is, more than bricks and mortar, the fabric of the Church. 

Now, only two weeks removed from Pentecost, we are asked to celebrate and consider St. John the Baptist. Pentecost, as I wrote here, is a feast concerned with baptizing people into the Risen Christ and diffusing the Church through the whole of the world. With John the Forerunner we return to Baptism. St. John is, more than any other saint I think, the archetype of what the Christian should be. He was given a name different from his father's, one that was to be special to God. St. Ambrose wrote:
"His name is John that is, it is not for us to choose a name now for him to whom God hath given a name already. He hath a name, which we know, but it is not one of our choosing. To receive a name from God is one of the honours of the Saints. Thus was it that Jacob's name was no more called Jacob but Israel, because he saw God face to face. Thus was it that our Lord Jesus was named before He was born, with a name not given by an Angel, but by the Father. "
He was a holy man from the womb, proclaiming the presence of Christ before birth and continuing to do so more perfectly after. And above all he pointed those attracted to him towards Jesus. Is this not our lot?

We did not proclaim Christ in the womb perhaps, but at Baptism we became saints, "holy ones," in a new birth, having been reborn of "water and the Holy Spirit." At Baptism and Confirmation we are given names used before God and the Church. In our Baptism we are called both to repent, as was John's call of baptism, and to live a new life sanctified by the Resurrection of Christ, as is the Baptism of Trinity. And above all we must point to Christ for others. Most of us will not have particularly interesting or noteworthy lives. Our spiritual battlefield is the office, the classroom, the home, the restaurant. There are myriad ways to show God in these settings if only we have the fortitude to ask for the opportunity. Before Christ rose from the dead and gave us the Trinitarian Baptism, St. John showed us what Baptism does, completing his place as the Forerunner to our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Urban VIII?

Does any body know if the following verses, taken from the hymn Ut queant laxis, are "improvements" to a lost original text made by Pope Urban VIII? I could be off on this one, but did Paulus Diaconus really write this!?

Nuntius celso veniens Olympo,
Te patri magnum fore nasciturum,
Nomen, et vitae seriem gerendae
Ordine promit

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Trad Fashion

Joseph Shaw of the LMS Chairman blog is currently running a series on traditionalists and their fashion outlook in reaction to Tracey Rowland's comments that the old Mass can seen culturally inaccessible to outsiders because, essentially, many traditionalists dress as though the year is 1952. Generally I support reverent, dignified dress at Mass, but wish people would keep the rules few. The local FSSP church has a sign with bullet point list of dress requirements. The neckline on women's tops cannot go more than the width of two fingers below the base of the neck. The Ukrainian parish I attend has one guideline on its website: Dress as though you are entering a house of God.

Perhaps the best anecdote about traditionalists and modesty, which is more a frame of mind than any particular article of clothing, comes from the fellow who comments here as Lord of Bollocks. His mother, during her days with the FSSPX, was pregnant during a Texas summer and did not wear a veil lest she pass out from dehydration and heat. After several lectures from the priest and parishioners about how seductive female hair is to men and the temptation men endure during Mass on account of un-veiled women, she found the perfect solution. She buzz-cut her hair off.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hemingway, Humanism & Post-Christianity

I am reading Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, which he wrote as a thinly dissimulated narrative of his time fighting for the "Republic" during the Spanish Civil War. One exchange, between American guerrilla bomber Robert Jordan and his elderly guide Anselmo, perfectly captures the urge of 20th century secular humanists to have Christian values without Christianity:

"You have killed?" Robert Jordan asked in the intimacy of the dark and of their day together.
"Yes. Several times. But not with pleasure. To me it is a sin to kill a man. Even Fascists whom we must kill. To me there is a great difference between the bear and the man and I do not believe the wizardry of the gypsies about the brotherhood with animals. No. I am against the killing of men."
"Yet you have killed."
"Yes. And will again. But if I live later, I will try to live in such a way, doing no harm to any one, that it will be forgiven."
"By whom?"
"Who knows? Since we do not have God here any more, neither His Son nor the Holy Ghost, who forgives? I do not know."
"You do not have God any more?"
"No. Man. Certainly not. If there were God, never would He have permitted what I have seen with my eyes. Let them have God."
"They claim Him."
"Clearly I miss Him, having been brought up in religion. But now a man must be responsible to himself."
"Then it is thyself who will forgive thee for killing."
"I believe so," Anselmo said. "Since you put it clearly in that way I believe tat must be it. But with or without God, I think it is a sin to kill. To take the life of another is to me very grave...."

I think I would have fought for Franco in spite! Hemingway at least invented the Montgomery.

End of Free Will (Again?)

Every decade or so some coterie of scientists run an experiment or series of studies that seemingly put the final nail in the coffin of free will. All discussion of free will seems to revert to Aristotle. Yes, there is a cause for everything that happens, but to what degree is a person in control of those causes? A recent study as UC Davis suggests free will is nothing more than "background noise"—very scientific language there—electric currents firing in the brain.

I am inclined to doubt the study on several levels. In the study participants were asked to react to a symbol that appeared on a computer screen. Researchers would analyze electrical currents in the brain and use them to predict reactions. I never thought I would recommend something by Noam Chomsky, but I will recommend to anyone interested in the subject his review of B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior here. Verbal Behavior was write up on an experiment Skinner conducted in the 1950s with laboratory animals. He created levers in cages that would disperse food to the critters either always or occasionally. The conclusion was that free will does not exist because the creatures felt compelled to get food, having no independent control over their actions. The actual thesis is more complex than what I have crudely adumbrated here, but Chomsky gives Skinner's conclusions a fair summary. Chomsky then proceeds to demolish Skinner's thesis, really the proto-modern thesis for doubting free will. Why, Chomsky asks, must we conclude the animals press the lever to obtain food they need? Could they not be pressing the lever for the sake of novelty? For entertainment? Out of boredom? Skinner, much like the UC Davis researchers, presumed too much in his conclusions and his career never recovered.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Corpus Christi

source: FSSP Roma
 "The immeasurable benefits, which the goodness of God hath bestowed on Christian people, have conferred on them also a dignity beyond all price. " For what nation is there so great, who hath gods so nigh unto them, as the Lord, our God, is" unto us? Deut. iv. 7. The Only-begotten Son of God, being pleased to make us " partakers of the Divine nature," 2 Pet. i. 4, took our nature upon Him, being Himself made Man that He might make men gods. And all, as much of ours as He took, He applied to our salvation. On the Altar of the Cross He offered up His Body to God the Father as a sacrifice for our reconciliation He shed His Blood as the price whereby He redeemeth us from wretchedness and bondage, and the washing whereby He cleanseth us from all sin. And for a noble and abiding memorial of that so great work of His goodness, He hath left unto His faithful ones the Same His very Body for Meat, and the Same His very Blood for Drink, to be fed upon under the appearance of bread and wine." St. Thomas Aquinas, from 2nd nocturn of Mattins

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Latinizations Revisited

Tomorrow is the feast of Corpus Christi, one of the great feasts and octaves of the Church year in the Roman rite. It is also, in some Eastern Catholic Churches, the feast of the "Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ."

This brings up a self-critical question for the Eastern Catholic Churches: what is Latinization and what is a genuine contribution from the Latin Church to the Church Catholic? Use of hosts as altar bread, episcopal gloves, side altars, spoken "low" Liturgies, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Filioque in the Greek version of the Creed are all Latinizations that the Byzantine Churches and most of the other Eastern Catholic Churches (except the Maronites) have eliminated, having longed viewed them as extrinsic to their tradition. Other pieces of Western influence, such as the March 19 feast of St. Joseph and the feast of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ have been retained because particularly Eastern communities enjoy celebrating these feasts. One Byzantine priest I knew, very anti-Latin in his theology, liked the feast of the Body and Blood because of its texts and because it celebrates something obscured during the greater events of Great Week. In Eastern settings these feasts do not approach the weight they carry in the Latin Church, but parishes will often celebrate these feasts with a Divine Liturgy if they fall on a weekday.

As an aside, Latinizations seem to have been more prevalent in the United States than in the Eastern Churches' home patriarchates. The Melkite bishops in the United States were wearing chasubles, episcopal gloves, and holding adoration while their counterparts in Lebanon never stopped practicing the Greek tradition.

All this requires some further thought....

Monday, June 16, 2014

Always Right

As a 13 year old boy, one in flesh with the American spirit that reigned, I eagerly supported the sanguine efforts of the United States government to do something finally about radical Islam and its connections to terror. Eleven years, two presidents, four secretaries of state, and several Iraqi governors later, we are still in that country next to Iran. The situation there is now the worst it has been since Saddam Hussein was at the peak of his powers and killing Kurds by the thousands. Soon Iraq will be an Islamic state more radical, although less technologically advanced, than Iran and we have nobody but ourselves to blame.

Contrary to what libertarian and liberal conspiracy theorists will say about oil, America invaded Iraq with the intention of being there for a year or so and then continuing on a tour of the Middle East, replacing terrorist-friendly regimes with democratic states. Iran, Lybia, Syria, and Pakistan were all potential candidates for improvement. Since that time we have not moved on to the next project and Deo volente never will. American democracy was supposed to be self-evidently superior to the existing system. The Iraqis would see this and stabilize their own government by removing hostile forces within their country. Freedom and prosperity, the two great prongs of American culture, would prove irresistible. And then it failed.

Bush's policy failed, partially due to his inability to apply and enforce Donald Rumsfeld's ideas more forcefully. By 2006 President Bush had to implement his "surge" to regain control. It seemed to work, at least enough to enable America to leave Iraq a democracy and save face. Then the current cretin took office and through nothing but negligence has permitted the situation to devolve into a catastrophe mired in death. No one person is to blame, even if I think the current president bears the brunt of the responsibility for the current level of trouble. The entire endeavor is the result of our American view that we are always right.

When I lived in England, among the few patriotic people I met, I learned a valuable lesson in understanding international affairs, namely that people can support their countries and disagree with their policies or even support their countries for irrational reasons. Margaret Thatcher put it best: England was founded by history and America by philosophy. What does it mean to be English? To have been born in England. What does it mean to be an American? To believe that every human being is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of temporal happiness. To have opposed imperialism in 19th century England would have put one at odds with the public's material happiness. To have opposed the Iraqi invasion for any reason in 2003 would have put one at risk of being called un-American. To be American one must support American principles and seek to apply them everywhere.

Now in fairness, most who opposed the Iraqi invasion in 2003 were hipster peaceniks crying for the days of free love and Woodstock. A few though were wise enough to know that America was wholly unsuited to effect a major regime and paradigm change in the heart of the Islamic world. Our military was ill equipped and ill trained for the occupation period. The neo-conservatives who planned the new government and who administered the war had no understanding or appreciation for religion other than as some sort of cultural artifact and it showed. And lastly, we Americans are not very good at making mild militaristic changes. No country is or ever has been. Either fish or cut bait. Either invade a country and make it a satellite state or leave it alone. High on patriotic fever we thought we could do something no other nation could ever do. Why? Because we must always be right.

I wonder at times if our Israeli policy is not a fruit of the same tree. The creation of the state of Israel seems to have wrought nothing positive. I still support Israel as a country for the lack of better options. It is the lone pro-Western state in the middle of an anti-Western powder keg, but what happens when someone lights a match? Zionism was an ideologically and religiously predicated movement, in part supported today by American Evangelicals eager to usher in the end times. It was not in America's best interest or in the best interest of Jewish people. It was a mistake yet we must live with it and make the best of it.

Today I am bereft of political ideology. I no longer identify as a conservative or a neo-conservative. Liberalism is still odious in my sight. Monarchism is impractical right now. The Tea Party movement has many positives, but the centrist Republican party's refusal to integrate it means the Tea Party will remain the haven of political Luddites, conspiracy theorists, and 1920s styled isolationists—the sort Richard Hofstadter analyzed in his essay Paranoid Style. I usually pull the lever for Republicans in local races, although not always. I doubt I will be able to vote in the 2016 national elections though. We were always right, and now we are dead in the wrong.

How Many Councils?

Since I ventured outside of the common Church establishment into the traditionalist movement and now into Byzantine Christianity one question simmers in the background, never quite coming to a boil, but always on heat: how many ecumenical councils have there been?

Fr Gregory Hesse
Most Catholics, traditionalists of most shades included, would say that there have been twenty-one councils, from the first Nicene gathering until the Second Vatican Council. Some of the more fringe-edged traditionalists like the FSSPX are divided on the matter. Many, like Bishop Bernard Fellay believe Vatican II to be an awful council, a council they would like voided, but a council by legal definition nonetheless. Others, such as the late Fr. Gregory Hesse, adamantly maintained that Vatican II, by not defining doctrine and by teaching heterodoxy, was not a valid council.

A debate along different lines continues within Byzantine Catholicism. The non-Byzantine eastern Catholic churches—the Maronites, Malankara and Malabar, Copts etc—seem at ease with the councils of the last millennium. The Greek Churches do not. Something I have heard commonly in Greek Catholic churches, particularly from clergy, is that there are only seven ecumenical councils, the first seven that the Eastern Orthodox recognize (long having renounced Constantinople IV, Lyon II, and Florence). The reason generally given for their dismissal of the more recent councils is that neither they nor their Orthodox counter-parts were represented at those gatherings.

At first there is a logic to this. Can one be bound to that which one did not consent or agree? Were the Byzantine churches even invited to Trent?

After some further thought on the matter I have come to wonder if the Byzantine view currently in vogue about the recent councils is an allergic reaction to three centuries of Latinization by lunatic Franciscan missionaries and American eastern Catholics suffering from an inferiority complex after Fr. Alex Toth's scandalous debacle with Msgr. John Ireland.

Perhaps the first seven councils reign high in the Byzantine mind because they occurred when Byzantium dominated the Church. Councils from within and without Byzantium met at the emperor's calling. The orthodox Greek Fathers with their keen insight into neo-Platonic philosophy and their pastoral zeal always found an expression of true doctrine. Monks and ascetics formed the fluid Greek spiritual life. The Church of Constantinople itself was a battlefield for heretics and true worshippers, the victory of the latter always confirming and strengthening the existing taxis. One could say Nicaea II and the defeat of iconoclasm was the birth of the Orthodox church. Then it all slowly came apart. The empire decayed under the duress of Muslim, Latin, and Serbian presence. The Latin church developed its own theological tradition during the middle ages. The papacy in Rome underwent an immense spiritual and political revival, returning to a level of prominence lost since the days of Gregory the Great. The newer councils adopted Latin terminology and were focused around the person of the pope rather than the emperor. The paradigm shifted and the Greek Christian world receded.

This begs deeper questions. Can Byzantines be bound to accept concepts beyond their theological vocabulary? I have never met a Byzantine Catholic who believed in Original Sin, a transmitted stain or guilt. Without variance, they believe in the Fall, making us all, to quote one Ukrainian deacon, "spiritual crack babies." Josef Ratzinger famously stated that the Greeks cannot be bound to believe anything unaccepted in the first millennium. The reasoning seems logical at first, but has flaws upon historical inspection. How could Coptic, Latin, or Indian Christians be bound to the Creed of Nicaea? The idea of "essence" is hopelessly tied up in Greek philosophy as is "consubstiantiality." Are those optional for the Syro-Malabar Catholics?

There are even liturgical implications to this question. A great number of Byzantines missed many of the medieval and Counter-Reformation councils, but did reconvene with the Roman Communion in the 18th century. These Byzantines continue to this day to revere post-schism Greek saints like Gregory Palamas, John Cabasilas, and Theophan the Recluse. Some even venerate Mark of Ephesus as a saint! If we take Eugene IV's Cantate Domino at face value then a sizable portion of the Church is venerating in the liturgy and imitating in life the damned. 

Fr. Hunwicke some time ago pointed out that Robert Taft, SJ goes un-censured in his rejection of post-8th century councils. Does Rome take any recent councils other than Vatican II—the birth of the modern political establishment in Rome—seriously? I think if they did we would have more firm criteria as to what constitutes a council and the degree to which it binds the constituent parts of the Catholic Church.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Liturgizing Devotion

We should liturgize devotion as far as we can, rather than devotionalize the liturgy as happened in the last several centuries when low Mass became the norm, public practice of devotions replaced the Office, and some odd feasts crept into the kalendar (several Marian apparitions, the Miraculous Medal, Precious Blood, the Sacred Heart etc).

I for one like to adapt the way I pray the Rosary to the season in order to "synch" all my prayers with the time of the year. I do not really use the John Paul II mysteries. On Sundays per annum and of Paschaltide I pray the Glorious Mysteries. Sundays from Advent until, but excluding, Septuagesima I pray the Joyful Mysteries. And during Lent on Sundays the Sorrowful Mysteries. I only use the Fatima prayer during per annum time. During Paschal week or "Bright Week" and during Pentecost I replace it with a triple alleluia. For the rest of Paschaltide I say "Christus Resurrexit, alleluia." During Christmas season it is "Christus natus est." During Lent it is "Miserere mei, Deus." When Passion Sunday comes I eliminate the Gloria Patri. Whenever I pray the Office of the Dead on a given day I will omit the Gloria Patri and the seasonal ending in favor of Requiem aeternam dona.... Another thing to do is to utilize the array of mysteries available during octaves. Monday will be the first time in several weeks that I have not prayed the Glorious Mysteries because I used them through Ascension time and the octave of Pentecost. One should, I think, consider using the Sorrowful Mysteries every day of Holy Week, the Joyful during the Nativity and Epiphany octaves and the like. One last thing I like to do, depending on the time of the year, is to swap the Salve Regina for the seasonal Marian antiphon. Today I used the Regina Coeli for the last time until 2015.

If someone does not want to learn the Office or finds private liturgical prayer difficult, this could be a great way of becoming familiar with the mysteries and feasts of the Church without adjusting one's prayers too much. This sort of variation was very common in the Middle Ages. Salisury, the diocese of the Sarum rite, had a public liturgical Rosary that looks very little like what we use today. Variation is acceptable within reason.

Again, let us liturgize our devotion so we do not devotionalize our liturgy.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pentecost: Old Rite, EF & OF

A correspondent and I were recently musing over the abolition of the vivacious, rich, and Paschal-like Roman vigil Mass of Pentecost in the "EF" rite, the 1962 liturgy. As one familiar with both the Pauline and the Pian/Johannine books will know, the 1970 books removed much ancient material and yet, in a twist of irony, re-inserted some other texts and rites that were cast aside under Pius XII. Pentecost exemplifies this queer phenomenon.

In 1951 Pius XII created the Easter Vigil as we know it today. He and his commission revised it the following year. Originally the Easter Vigil eliminated Vespers entirely in favor of a Communion verse. The renovators put psalm 116 back into the rite in 1952, but turned it into Lauds (????) and scrapped Compline, Mattins, and [real] Lauds. Also in 1952 celebration of the Pentecost vigil was automatically suppressed whenever the Easter Vigil had been celebrated, likely to avert Catholics from the fact that the sacred rites of Pentecost resembled most closely the sacred rites of Holy Saturday. Everyone would favor the shorter, easier Pian novelty, making the elimination of the old rite's unique ceremonies seamless.

Now the Pauline Missal allowed for an "extended" Pentecost vigil Mass with four Old Testament prophecies, something of a restoration in principle, although given the very different Ordo Missae one can hardly call it a complete restoration. Buyer's remorse?

Then there is the elimination of the octave in the Pauline rite, preserved in the 1962 rite. It was the second most important, and certainly the most beautiful, octave after that of Pascha. My correspondent did note the logic in axing the octave, that Pentecost is the 50th day and not the 51st, 52nd, 53rd etc. I would respond by noting that an octave is an extended celebration of one feast and that Pentecost, above any other feast, deserves an octave celebration. It is the Holy Spirit creating and re-creating for the first time since the creation of the world. The Resurrection happened on the eighth day of the week and Pentecost, as I said two posts ago, makes the Resurrection permanent in the world. The plunging of the Paschal fire into the Baptismal font means all who bath in the waters of regeneration are plunged into the Resurrection. We eventually agreed upon the matter.

Why does it have to be one or the other? Why must we have either the old Ordo and octave with no vigil or the new Ordo with a vigil and no octave? Were I a parish priest, and I am certainly not, I would not have the slightest hesitation about observing the un-reformed vigil and the full octave!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

For the Sake of Enjoyment

Ton Koopman is a musician and scholar of Bach, priding himself on
his keen talent for recreating the sound and performance methods
Bach employed by using period instruments set at higher tones.

This performance is simply wonderful.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Liturgical Theology of Pentecost

Pentecost is too big, too vast, too intimidating for any singular explanation, but the Roman liturgy's rich vigil for this feast nurtures the faithful with some food for thought. Let us consider the liturgy of the Roman rite for this great feast, second only to the Sunday of the Resurrection in importance.

The vigil commences with the celebrant—vested in a violet chasuble—kissing the altar and following the lectors, who read six prophecies from the Old Testament, interspersed with collects sung by the celebrant. The first lesson is the familiar story of Abraham ascending a mountain with his son Isaac, prepared to sacrifice his only child in obedience to God. An angel intervenes and tells a relieved Abraham that God would never really do such a thing. All of this was proclaimed on Holy Saturday, prefiguring Christ's willingness to sacrifice everything to the Father on behalf of the world. Pentecost enters this passage late at the point when God rewards Abraham's fidelity by promising "I will bless thee and multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the seashore.... and in thy seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because thou hast obeyed My voice."

The second prophecy is an extraction from Exodus 14, wherein the Pharaoh's forces chase the Israelites through the desert and into the Red Sea, which St. Moses has just parted by the Lord's command. The Lord then tells Moses to close the Sea and drown the Egyptians, which he does. The tract continues the passage:
"Let us sing to the Lord, for He is gloriously magnified: the horse and the rider He hath thrown into the sea: He is become my helper and protector unto salvation...."
These two prophecies speak of the same thing, Baptism. Water is a symbol of creation and the essential ingredient of all that lives. Yet water is also uncertain, difficult to control. Genesis chapter 1 speaks of water roaming the earth before it had form. God used water to protect the Israelites from the Egyptians. Egypt itself is a type, a parallel, an example of sin and loss and here God saves His people—fulfilled and most perfectly expressed in the Church—through water. Through water He will "multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven," only He will no longer multiply Abraham's progeny through obedience, but Christ's Church through Sacrament. The second collect of the vigil demands this interpretation:
"O God, who by the light of the New Testament hast made clear to us the miracles wrought in earliest times, prefiguring unto us the Red Sea as an image of the sacred font, and Who in the deliverance of Thy people from the bondage of Egypt, hast foreshadowed the sacraments of the Christian dispensation; grant that all nations who have merited by faith the privilege of the children of Israel, may be born again by partaking of Thy holy Spirit."
The third prophecy, take from Deuteronomy 31, compares and contrasts closely with the Ascension of Christ. Moses, nearing death, has taken care to write down his encounters and history with God. He abjures and confronts his fellows Israelites for their infidelity to God, "For I know that, after my death, you will do wickedly, and will quickly turn aside from the way that I have commanded you." The scripture, excluded from this passage, goes on to tell us that his bones were never found. This is extraordinary. Moses joins Elijah, Enoch, and the Blessed Mother among those whose bones have not been found and the others were taken bodily by the Lord, Elijah in a chariot of fire and our Lady after her death in Jerusalem. Moses, a prefigurement of Christ who leads God's people out of bondage, many believe, Jews included, was also taken up by God. Should he have been assumed by God then an strong parallel with the Ascension presents itself. Christ of course was not assumed into heaven, but rather ascended through His own power as God. Moses brought people forth from human bondage and Christ from spiritual bondage. Both died and were raised, so to speak, and rebuked their followers for their lack of faith. Moses's followers would continue to fail God, even if they would eventually reach the promised land and create a kingdom of Israel. Christ, in a marked contrast, promises something perfect that will never be lost, a "Helper" (meaning of the word Paraclete) to preserve the faithful "in all truth." He ascends telling the Apostles to "baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.... For I am with you always, even until the end of the world." Moses's deliverance from slavery is made perfect in Christ's words.

The fourth prophecy again anticipates the inception of the Church in the Baptism of its members, "the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Sion, and shall wash away the blood of Jerusalem out of the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning" (Isaiah chapter 4). At this point perhaps the faithful should consider what Baptism is. It is the movement of water over a person's skin with a Trinitarian formula, yes, but it is so much more, too. "Baptism" derives from a similar Greek word meaning "to immerse" or "to plunge." To be "plunged" into Christ and in the name of the Trinity is more than to enter a visible community or lose a sentence of punishments condine to one's sins. To be "plunged" into Christ is to be immersed and filled with the very life of Christ given by the Holy Spirit, Who, St. Gregory reminds the Church of Rome during Mattins of the feast, is the love of God Himself. The Holy Spirit, to be simplistic, is God's love working and doing something, creating or renewing. The Holy Spirit accomplishes this rebirth in Baptism through water, the physical essential in life and the material, again referencing Genesis chapter 1, which formlessly covered the earth before creation. Water is also like the Holy Spirit, or "Holy Wind" to take a very literal translation, in that water is not easily contained, limited, narrowed, or defined. It enters through crevices unseen and can also be lost by poor care through other unanticipated openings. It is this in water that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, renews His creation. It is for this reason so many commentators have adduced the psalm from the Vidi aquam "I saw water flowing from the right side of the Temple, alleluia; and all to whom this water came were saved...." Therefore the Church uses as her last prophecy in the vigil Ezekiel 37:1-14:
"Thus saith the Lord God, Come, spirit, from the four winds, and blow upon these slain, and let them live again. And I prophesied as He had commanded me; and the spirit came unto them; and they lived; and they stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army.... Thus saith the Lord, I will open your graves, and will bring you out of your sepulchres, O My people, and will bring you into the land of Israel.... and you shall have put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall make you rest upon your own land; saith the Lord almighty."
A procession then brings the sacred ministers to the baptistry where the font's waters are again blessed and infused with chrism, itself a priestly thing, as on Holy Saturday. The Paschal candle, extinguished on Ascension Thursday after the Gospel, reappears. Let not the importance of its reappearance be lost. As Dr. Laurence Hemming adumbrates in his Worship as Revelation, all the fires in a church are to be lit from the Paschal fire much as the Presence of Christ in the Sacraments comes from Christ's Incarnation and work on earth. The Paschal candle is extinguished at the end of forty days because, as with Christ and the Sacraments, its purpose, to diffuse holy fire, is accomplished. The fire remains without the candle's use just as Christ remains in the Church without a bodily physical presence. The candle returns because it symbolizes the Resurrection, the event which made this new life in the Holy Spirit possible. The celebrant plunges the candle into the font, almost baptizing the font with the candle rather the other way around. The celebrant sparges the faithful with the blessed water, infuses the chrism, and baptizes catechumens into Christ and His Resurrection. More adept parishes will also have the good sense to administer confirmation at this time, giving the neophytes the Holy Spirit and His "sevenfold gifts."

After the baptisms all who have been "baptized into Christ" on earth sing the Litanies of Saints, imploring the intercession of those in heaven who are the perfection of God's promise to Abraham, "multipl[ied] as stars of heaven." The saints, together with those on earth baptized into Christ, form the Church and carry that same Spirit and fire found on Holy Saturday. Pentecost makes the Resurrection permanent on earth, preserved in the Church unto ages of ages.

Mass follows immediately during the vigil. The lesson, taken from Acts of the Apostles, recounts Paul's preaching of the Baptism of Christ, or into Christ, to the Ephesians, hitherto only aware of St. John the Baptist's baptism of repentance. The alleluia is the same as on Holy Saturday. And in the Gospel St. John tells of Jesus saying "If you love me, keep my commandments." What is the Holy Spirit other than the strength to do this? This simple, demanding sentence of Christ calls to mind James 2:18, "I will show you my faith by my works." The Holy Spirit creates, re-creates, renews, strengthens, and preserves the Church in Christ, of Christ, and for Christ, as foretold to the prophets long ago. He makes all things anew, fashioning a new, holier creation out of the materials and persons of the existing, fallen creation. And He will remain with us until the very end.

In a rare moment the Byzantine tradition has a far simpler and more understated take than the Roman Church. The Greek theology of this feast can be found in the troparion of Penteost, which I heard today at Divine Liturgy and last evening at Vespers:
"Blessed are You, O Christ our God, You have filled the fishermen with wisdom by sending down the Holy Spirit upon them, and Who through them have caught in Your net the whole world. O Lover of mankind, glory to You!"

And who can turn down a chance to listen to Veni Creator Spiritus?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Evelyn Waugh & Leonard Feeney

"I went one morning by appointment & found him surrounded by a court of bemused youths of both sexes & he stark, raving mad. All his converts have chucked their Harvard careers & go to him only for all instruction. He fell into a rambling denunciation of all secular learning which gradually became more & more violent. He shouted that Newman had done irreparable damage to the Church then started on Ronnie Knox's Mass in Slow Motion saying 'To think that any innocent girl of 12 could have this blasphemous & obscene book put into her hands' as though it were Lady Chatterley's Lover. I asked if he had read it. 'I don't have to eat a rotten egg to know it stinks.' Then I got rather angry and rebuked him in strong words. His court sat absolutely aghast at hearing their holy man addressed like this. And in unbroken silence I walked out of the house. I talked to some Jesuits later & they said that he is disobeying the plain orders of his provincial by staying there. It seemed to me he needed an exorcist more than an alienist. A case of demoniac possession & jolly frightening." —Evelyn Waugh on meeting Fr. Feeney in Boston, MA. 
"...on the list of [Knox's] recurrent callers, was Mr. Evelyn (pronounced Evil-in) Waugh, whose father, a London publisher, supplied his sons with early printing privileges in pornography, before one of them (Evelyn) turned to hagiography, and whitened his sepulchre with the life of a saint." —Fr. Feeney on Waugh's literary career 
Would it be fair to say they did not get along?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book Review: Interpreting the Liturgy, Nicholas Cabasilas, the Divine Liturgy & the Roman Rite

During the final two centuries of the Byzantine Empire Eastern Roman culture underwent a resurgence in art and philosophy which was both introspective and nostalgic. As the Serbs and Ottomans shrank the outer realms of the remnant of the Roman Empire, the spiritual eye turned inward, towards things of religion. During these last years the Greek Church experienced the Hesychast movement and the accompanying Christian renaissance. New writings on religious subject proliferated as did scholarship of past texts. Ironically, this new found vibrancy served to stagnate Byzantine Christianity in the form of the age, much as Counter-Reformation legalism did with Roman Christianity. Men like St. Gregory Palamas, Mark of Ephesus, Nilus Cabasilas, and others created the expression of Greek Christianity that now survives as the Orthodox Church.

During this period the Byzantine liturgy evolved from a long, mystical, public action to a symbolic action adaptable to various settings, perhaps the reason why Byzantine Christianity, although rarely missionary is never the less durable under persecution. This process involved a spiritual imagination. An example of this transformation can be seen in the world of iconography. The icon of Christ above currently resides on Mount Sinai, but originates in 6th century Constantinople. In contrast the icon is fairly indicative of modern non-Russian iconography. Which looks more realistic? Precisely. Contrary to the wide-spread belief that icons are unrealistic, ancient icons were highly realistic and attempted to give hue and color to the flesh of Christ and the saints. The inward seeking renaissance, like most revivals, romanticized the past to some extent and made the icons less realistic and more mystical. The same could be said of the Divine Liturgy. Many practical things became imbued with spiritual meaning. For instance, the bread to be consecrated was hidden under a small cage called an asterisk (used in Papal Mass, too) which protected it from the cloth which covered the elements. Our feature today interpreted the asterisk as a mystical symbol of the star which covered over Bethlehem during the Nativity of the Lord. What is wrong with this interpretation? Nothing at all, and that is something liturgical critics must recognize. Praxis derives from meaning and the synthesis of various elements of rite clarifies that meaning.

Today let us consider Interpretation of the Divine Liturgy by the Greek saint Nicholas Cabasilas. Nicholas was born in the early 14th century in Thessalonica and lived most of his life as a layman. Contrary to what some believe, he was never a bishop. Robert Taft SJ believes that later in life he may have lived as a monk in Constantinople. His brief work, Interpretation, is hardly long enough to be considered a book, but we will review his essay and use it as a conversation piece to discuss the Roman liturgy.

He begins by taking the liturgy as a given, as something received and to be esteemed in virtue of what God does during its course:
"The prayers, chants the scriptural readings and all those things that are performed and said during the liturgy aid this work and purpose. In these it is as if we are seeing the whole life of Christ depicted in painting, from beginning to end. Because sanctification of the gifts, the sacrifice itself, in other words, proclaims His death, resurrection, and ascension. Since these gifts are changed into the Lord's body itself, into that which was crucified resurrected and ascended. Whatever precedes the sacrifice, reveals the events that happened before the Lord's death, that is His coming into the world, His public appearance, His miracles and teaching. The things that follow the sacrifice, symbolize the Holy Spirit's descent on the Apostles, people returning to God and their communion with Him."
Nicholas first considers why bread and wine are used as the elements of the Eucharistic liturgy. He concludes that it is because these two things are essential foods, for "when one offers food, it is like offering life itself" because life depends on material sustenance. Christ "wanted us to offer Him temporal life, and He would offer us back eternal life." Yet the Eucharist is not merely an offering of bread and wine. It is a sacrifice which remembers, in the most mystical and vividly real ways possible, the sacrifice of the Cross:
"How shall we remember the Lord in the Liturgy and what will we narrate about Him? Maybe those things that prove He was the almighty God? That, in other words, He resurrected the dead, granted light to the blind, commanded the winds to cease, fed thousands of people with a few breads? No, Christ did not ask us to remember these things, but rather those things that revealed the weakness, that is the crucifixion, the passion, the death. Because the passion was more necessary than the miracles. The sufferings of our Christ cause salvation and resurrection, whereas His miracles prove only that He is the true Savior."
Contextually, the writer comments on the proskomide, the rite by which the bread and wine were prepared in the sacristy of Hagia Sophia for the Divine Liturgy, or later in a table to the left of the altar in the Holy Place. The priest cuts out a large piece from the loaf called the "Lamb," symbolizing Christ, the innocent "led to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7). The prayers over the Lamb do not consecrate, but prayers such as "The Lamb of God is sacrificed, Who takes away the sins of the world" clearly anticipate the sacrifice much as the pre-Pauline offertory prayers did in the Roman rite.

The Divine Liturgy commences with the familiar "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen." Then follows the Great Litany of Peace. The first petition is "For peace from on high and the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord." Why? Nicholas writes that the purpose is to ask for the Christian idea of peace to prevail among the congregation. Peace "does not only [mean] peace between us, when in other words, we do not have animosity against others, but also peace towards our own selves, when, in other words, our heat does not accuse us of anything."

Then follows the antiphons, taken from the psalms. These are both instructional and prophetic. They sanctify and prepare the believer for the mystery and harkens the believer to Christ's life before His ministry, when He would have prayed to the Father with the psalms of David, and even further back to those who awaited the coming of Christ. The writer underscores the importance of psalms, texts of prophecy, being sung during the synaxis. They could not be sung in full during the second half of the liturgy because Christ, at that moment, has come.

The antiphons give way to the small entrance and the Trisagion. Then the faithful come to the readings. Nicholas reflects that the deacon instructs "Wisdom" and the priest "Let us be attentive" because "he reminds the believers of the wisdom with which they must participate in the Liturgy. These are the good thoughts that those have who are rich in faith and foreign to everything human. It is truly necessary for us to attend the Liturgy with suitable thoughts, if we want, of course, not to spend our time in vain." Could there be a better definition of participatio actuosa?

A sermon traditionally follows the Gospel and then comes the great entrance and the "symbol of faith," the Creed. Nicholas' commentary on this section again indicates the spiritualizing of once practical actions. The exhortation "The doors! The doors! In wisdom, let us be attentive" once expelled the catechumens and shut the doors behind them, restricting the miracle of the consecration to the faithful. Nicholas interprets it as meaning "Open wide all the doors, that is, your mouths and ears."

The Thrice Holy Hymn is then sung followed by the anaphora. The beginning of the anaphora is a thanksgiving for all that was done for mankind's sake. The "Lord's words" from the Last Supper are repeated as a justification and narration as to why the Eucharist is celebrated. This gratitude culminates in the priest's turning towards the Father and saying "We offer You Your own from what is Your own, from all and for the sake of all." It is the offering of Christ, without human change or touch. The Father is given the most precious thing He gave mankind, His Son. This divestment from human intervention is critical to Nicholas, who writes "Neither is this manner of worship our own intervention, but You taught it to us and You urged us to worship You in this manner. For this reason, all that we are offering You is completely Your own." The priest, who Nicholas calls the "liturgist," then invokes the Holy Spirit to change the species. The commentator's reflections are entirely familiar to Roman ears at this point: "The sacrifice took place! The great victim and slaughter which was sacrificed for the sake of the world is found before our eyes, on the Holy Altar Table! Because the bread is no longer a type of the Master's body. It is the all holy Body of the Lord itself."

The Holy Spirit is given to the priest as a strength, a confirming grace to perform the divine mysteries. The priest is the servant of the Holy Spirit, not offering anything of his own. Consequentially, the validity of the Sacrament, Nicholas writes, has nothing to do with the priest's personal condition or worthiness. Indeed, the change of the species into the Sacred elements can happen in spite of the priest's sinfulness. The priest, before preparing for his own Communion, shows the Body to the faith, almost as to say "Here is the Bread of life! You see it, so run to commune of it. Not everyone, however, but whoever is holy. Because holy things are allowed only for holy people." By "holy" he means the baptized.

The priest pours warm water into the chalice, symbolizing the descent of the Holy Spirit into the Church, the Body of Christ. Then comes the Communion of the congregation:
"Christ's Body and Blood are true food and true drink. When one communes of them, they are not altered into the human body, as happens with customary foods, but the human body is altered into them, just as when iron comes into contact with fire, it also becomes fire. It does not make the fire iron."
The people communicate. The priest gives the dismissal and the blessing. The faithful partake of antidoron, a blessed bread left over from when the matter for the Eucharist was cut out prior to the Liturgy.

Here, if anywhere, is an argument against the typical "East vs. West" badinage spouted by elitists on both ends. Roman and the Greek Church were both under one cultural and political system for centuries, so one would expect the liturgy and the liturgical theology to be very similar. Indeed, their Holy Week rites were virtually identical until the deforms of 1955. Common concepts abound: the Eucharist as a sacrifice instructed by God the Father of God the Son, Communion as sanctification by union with Christ, participation as a frame of thought and not just mouthing the words, the priest as the servant of God and not his own person, and Christ as a victim on the altar. Particularly worthy of attention is the concept of the priest as servant of the Holy Spirit. The old Roman consecration rite for bishops revolved around the phrase "Receive the Holy Spirit," which many thought was the formula of ordination until Pius XII decided it was something else. Even the phrase Pius picked and the formula his successor Pope Paul VI promulgated reflect a similar theology of priesthood—ironic given the 20th century reformers' efforts to further distinguish the priesthood from the episcopacy. 

A point of difference between the two is that while the vibrant East spent the waning years of Byzantium spiritualizing the practical in its praxis, the Roman Church, just as liturgically vibrant and alive, both retained ancient practices and added new ones with specifically spiritual aims. There is not, nor was there ever, a "practical" point to the prayers before the altar or the Johannine prologue at the end of the Mass. These elements were enhancements which completed the Ordo Missae, which perfected it as a literal symbol of the work of Christ, beginning with sinners pleading for mercy, the Incarnation amid cries of "Glory be to God in the highest," the preaching ministry of Christ, the Cross and Resurrection, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the sending of the Apostles into the world. As with the practical elements in the Byzantine rite, many integral parts of the Roman Mass came to their place by happenstance. The Gloria was once an awkward interpolation into the Mass reserved to the Pope. Yet, like the Byzantine liturgical praxis, it became something coherent with an underlying spiritual order which reflects the work of Christ. Why can the Roman Church not do the same with its Ordo Missae and, particularly, with the rites of Holy Week and the Divine Office.

The growth of the Roman liturgy during this period remains something of a sore spot to me precisely because it stopped with Trent. The Office of the Blessed Virgin, the Office of the Dead, the rites of Pontifical Mass, the ceremonies of Holy Week, the hourly and seasonal pattern of the liturgy, and the synthesis between these features with art and music all occurred from late antiquity through the high Middle Ages. Many local rites kept parts of the pre-Gregory VII Roman rite, such as Sarum having more than one psalm verse in the Introit or Lyons retaining use of the Apocalyptic seven candles held by acolytes, while fostering new liturgical expressions based on a reverence for the received Order. This, if anything, is what Geoffrey Hull called "authentic" liturgy in his masterful Banished Heart. The liturgical fallout also underscores Hull's thesis that the Rome-Constantinople schism has been an unmitigated disaster for the Roman liturgy, having lost the "heart" to the "head."

Trent did not smash all of this to bits. Trent simply froze the liturgy in place, or at least chilled it. Some trimming was due, such as feasts of local saints and excessive local use of octaves, but was too much lost in the process? The liturgy became something administered by an office in Rome rather than something held dear by the various intimate communities (dioceses and monasteries) that used it. The liturgy fell out of use and no one opposed the new Divine Office of 1911. Some opposed, rightly, the Pian Holy Week. Then of course came the Pauline Mass the following decade. Could any of this have happened had not the old liturgy froze and then shattered like grass on a cold New England morning? The greatest of these ironies is that the Greek liturgy changed quite a bit when strong authority existed in the Byzantine Church and the liturgy has remained ossified since that authority disappeared, whereas the Roman liturgy thrived locally without centralized authority, but was stilled and killed with it.

For deeper thoughts about how to read the liturgy spiritually, for an understanding of liturgical theology, and for material on the commonalities of Byzantine and Roman liturgy read Nicholas Cabasilas' Interpretation of the Divine Liturgy, available online for free.