Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Nostalgia or Tradition?

We are bound by tradition, not by nostalgia. Tradition is, of course, the passing on of some genuine and discernible thing—be it an idea, an action, a view—while nostalgia is a yearning for a golden age that did not exist. The religious parallels are obvious, but do we not appreciate this distinction everywhere?

Brideshead Revisited, a novel I mention often on this blog, is often panned by critics writing both from their armchairs and from desks of prominent journals for its supposed nostalgia, its gilded and impossible vantage point of the fleeting Christian and aristocratic era. Brideshead Revisited is many things, but not that. There is a yearning, more to youth and better times with friends than for the age of the Dukes' of Marlborough and Buckingham real world significance. I can sympathize with this preference. We all can. It is quite real.

Contrast this with some pockets of Old Believer Russians. As far as scholarship says, the Old Believers were right in asserting that the then-used Slavic liturgical books were closer to the original Byzantine liturgy than the contemporary Greek Church's, which were foisted upon them and which caused many deaths, an unhealed schism, and discontent among the laity whose main means of encountering the Almighty was the exercise of the liturgy. Today, however, the most notable Old Believers are "Russian Amish," those vagrant communities clinging to 17th century Russian clothing and bread making methods, not those who use the old Greek rite. They may use it as far as they can (priestless or priest-full), yet their main function is to preserve Russian life as it was at the time of Nikon and Alexei. This is nostalgia for a pure Russia that never was.

We value traditions everywhere: in the Church, family, and in other aspects of life. Compare the modern phenomenon of electric bell towers with this chime duet played at my old university, where the students have taught each other the craft year after year, class after class for over a century.

In all aspects of life pass on the good things you have received.

NB: A great many Old Believers have reconciled with either the Greek Orthodox Church, ROCOR, or the Russian Catholic Church (yes, there is one). I think we can say that their motivation was primarily religious.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

New Series: Missing Octaves

Since J.'s recent liturgical addendum to the Josephology series sparked discussion and corrections concerning the feast and octave of "St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church," I thought it appropriate to begin a little series of my own on the missing octaves of the modern Roman kalendars, both 1962 and 1970. I would cover the subject in part on:
  • The octaves of the Comites Christi: Ss. Steven, John, and the Holy Innocents
  • Epiphany and its octave day, the Baptism in the Jordan
  • Octaves of the Virgin (Assumption and Nativity, later Immaculate Conception, too)
  • Holy men of the Lord, the lost octaves of St. John the Baptist and Ss. Peter & Paul
  • Octaves of the Lord, Corpus Christi and Ascension
  • The greatest Roman octave: Pentecost
  • Local octaves: patronal feast of the parish etc.
Look for words on the Comites Christi in the near future!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Josephology Sidebar: St. Joseph's Defunct Octave

While March 19 was the only feast day given for St. Joseph in the West since the 10th century, P. Pius IX saw fit to add an extended celebration that would not consistently fall within the season of Lent. On September 10, 1847, he added a solemn octave of the "Patronage of St. Joseph" starting as a double feast of the second class to be celebrated a few Wednesdays after Easter. It was eventually raised into a first class feast in 1870. This feast and its accompanying octave remained in place until P. Pius XII replaced it in 1955 with the feast of "St. Joseph the Worker."

The breviary readings for these feast days can still be found at the Divinum Officium site. Unlike the rather banal readings for the Pacellian feast, the 19th-century feast's readings are quite interesting and are drawn mainly from typological Old Testament passages about the Hebrew patriarch Joseph, ruler of Egypt. This octave begins today for those using the pre-Pacellian missal.

It is interesting how difficult it has been for new Josephite feasts to stick in the Roman missal. Pacelli's own feast was demoted a mere fourteen years later in the 1969 revisions to an optional memorial, and John XIII's 1962 insertion of Joseph's name into the canon was similarly lost in the tide of aggiornamento. Will P. Francis' reinsertion of St. Joseph into the Novus Ordo eucharistic prayers result in a similar deletion within a few decades?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Josephology Part 6: Jerome Contra Patres

“Good job, James!”
 “Anyone who speaks about St. Joseph in the early Church should begin with a warning to his hearers: don’t expect too much. For the first millennium of Christianity, St. Joseph was all but ignored in preaching, liturgical celebrations, martyrologies, and theological writing.... To our knowledge, no Father of the Church ever preached a homily on St. Joseph.” –Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J., St. Joseph in Early Christianity
I will be relying somewhat on Fr. Lienhard’s short work throughout this post. He was a strong promoter of Josephite devotion, and he has scoured the patristic era for even the slightest hint of positive writings on St. Joseph. Likewise, the Oblates of St. Joseph have a similar collection of texts, beefed up with endless commentary on their website. Promoters of the “young and pure” version of St. Joseph are at a loss to find their beliefs in the early Church, but will stretch any inch into a mile.

When Joseph is mentioned at all in patristic texts, it is almost always as an ancillary character in their Nativity sermons. A few of the Fathers go out of their way to argue that Joseph was the true husband of Mary, and not just her betrothed or her protector (e.g., Irenaeus, Ambrose, Augustine), although some argue explicitly against theirs being a true marriage (“She is called the mother of Christ... not the wife of Joseph, for that she was not” –St. Hilary, Commentary on Matthew). The Fathers are, however, unanimous in stating that Joseph and Mary never shared marital relations, and that Mary remained virginal in all their time together.

Those few Fathers who did write about Joseph were largely in agreement about his great age and his previous, fruitful marriage. The OSJ website gives this list of Fathers who wrote that the “brethren of the Lord” were Joseph’s natural children from a former marriage: Origen, Epiphanius, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, Theopylact, Theodoret, Chrysostom, Ambrose, and Hilary of Poitiers.  A few selections from these theologians follow:
“They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or The Book of James, that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honour of Mary in virginity to the end.... And I think it in harmony with reason that Jesus was the first-fruit among men of the purity which consists in chastity, and Mary among women; for it were not pious to ascribe to any other than to her the first-fruit of virginity.” –Origen (c. 184-253), Commentary on Matthew, 17. 
“If there had been sons of Mary who were not rather produced from a previous marriage of Joseph’s, Mary never would have been transferred to the apostle John as his mother at the time of the Passion.” –Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300-368), Commentary on Matthew, 1.4. 
“And in Bethlehem he came to a house with his own mother and Joseph, who was an old man but was Mary’s companion.” –Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 310-403), On the Incarnation, 1.5.
“Joseph took his first wife from the tribe of Judah and she bore him six children in all, four boys and two girls, as the Gospels according to Mark and John have made clear.” – Epiphanius, Against Antidicomarians, 7.6.
“The ‘brethren of the Lord’ could have been born from Joseph and not from Mary.  This indeed anyone will find if he looks at the question more diligently.” –Ambrose of Milan (c. 340-397), On the Birth of the Virgin and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, 6.43.
“But as he considered that he had a share in the august titles of the Apostles, he exalts himself by honoring James; and this he does by calling him the Lord’s brother, although he was not by birth His brother, but only so reputed.” – John Chrysostom (c. 349-407), Homily 1 on Galatians.
“The reputed brethren of the Saviour not yet recognizing God the Word indwelling in His Holy Flesh, nor knowing at the time when they are saying these things, that He was made Man, have still petty conceptions of Him and think far too little of the grace and excellence that is in Him, seeing nothing more than the rest, deluded by the common opinions of Him, thinking that He too was in truth begotten of their father Joseph, and not seeing the hidden provision of the Mystery.... Very watchfully did the Prophet [Jeremiah], having named His brethren, profitably add, ‘The house of Thy father,’ lest they too should be supposed to have been of the blessed Virgin, rather than of His father Joseph alone.” –Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444), Commentary on John, IV.461-2.
“The Lord had brothers and sisters, the children of Joseph which he begat by the wife of his brother Cleopas. For when Cleopas died childless, Joseph took his wife in accordance with the law and had six children by her, four boys and two girls, Mary, who was called the daughter of Cleopas, in accordance with the law, and Salome.” – Theophylact (c. 1050-1108), Explanation of the Gospel of Matthew, 13.54-57.
“‘Mary the mother of James and Joses’ means the Theotokos, the Virgin Mother of God, for James and Joses were the sons of Joseph by his first wife. And since the Theotokos was called the ‘wife’ of Joseph, she is rightly called the ‘mother’ of his children, meaning ‘stepmother.’ The mother of the sons of Zebedee was named Salome. They say that she also was a daughter of Joseph.” –ibid., 27.54-56.
All these patristic witnesses are supposedly swept away by the authority of St. Jerome (c. 347-420) in one tract he wrote defending the virginity of Mary, Against Helvidius:
If we adopt possibility as the standard of judgment, we might maintain that Joseph had several wives because Abraham had, and so had Jacob, and that the Lord's brethren were the issue of those wives, an invention which some hold with a rashness which springs from audacity not from piety. You say that Mary did not continue a virgin: I claim still more, that Joseph himself on account of Mary was a virgin, so that from a virgin wedlock a virgin son was born. For if as a holy man he does not come under the imputation of fornication, and it is nowhere written that he had another wife, but was the guardian of Mary whom he was supposed to have to wife rather than her husband, the conclusion is that he who was thought worthy to be called father of the Lord, remained a virgin. (21)
But this must be taken in context, for Jerome was writing in response to an outrageous heretic who was claiming all manner of impropriety against Our Lady: to wit, that she had engaged in marital relations with Joseph and had herself borne many more children, who are listed in the Gospels as the “brethren of the Lord.” Jerome’s tone is over the top in its counterclaims, and this is evident even from his first paragraph:
It is a difficult matter to maintain the truth and refute an ignorant boor who has scarce known the first glimmer of learning.... There was the further consideration that a turbulent fellow, the only individual in the world who thinks himself both priest and layman, one who, as has been said, thinks that eloquence consists in loquacity and considers speaking ill of anyone to be the witness of a good conscience, would begin to blaspheme worse than ever if opportunity of discussion were afforded him.... The axe of the Gospel must therefore be now laid to the root of the barren tree, and both it and its fruitless foliage cast into the fire, so that Helvidius who has never learned to speak, may at length learn to hold his tongue. (1)
His anger is well-founded, but in his zeal to defend Mary’s honor he invents many arguments for the “brethren” to be the cousins of Christ (thus giving Mary a wide berth), attacks events from the Proto-Gospel of James as “the ravings of the apocryphal accounts” (10), presumes that this book is the only reason for the belief in Joseph’s previous marriage, and then discards the belief itself entirely. Much in the way that modern-day Josephites claim that belief in Joseph’s previous marriage and older age was concocted merely in order to preserve Mary’s virginity, so does Jerome remove it in order to preserve the very same thing! He wants the “brethren” a safe distance away in the family tree, and so eliminates the necessity for Joseph to have been married previously, making him a virgin at his betrothal to Mary.

Thus does Jerome create a virginal St. Joseph out of thin air.

There is no clear evidence that St. Augustine (354-430) agreed with Jerome, in spite of claims to that effect. However, in his Exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians he writes that “James the brother of the Lord should be taken either as one of the sons of Joseph from another wife or as one of the relations of Mary his mother” (8.5), thereby leaving open the possibility that the “brethren of the Lord” were not the sons and daughters of Joseph. That seems to be the closest thing to agreement that Jerome found among his patristic peers.

Needless to say, the East was unchanging in the tradition that Joseph was a widower and a father before his betrothal to Mary. In the survey by Fr. Florent Raymond Bilodeau on the OSJ website, however, we get a bit of Latinizing peevishness in this regard:
This list [of Fathers], at first sight, seems to outweigh the evidence we have just presented. However, a closer look at the statements of these men gives us a different impression. First of all it is important to note that most of them, save Ambrose and Hilary of Poitiers, were Greek Fathers. The Eastern Fathers were highly influenced by the Apocrypha, a group of writings of a religious character which at times made pretensions to divine authority. These writings elaborate on Saint Joseph. Very little of what they say is of historical value. (source)
It is unfortunate to see an apologetical work treat the Eastern “lung” of the Church as a bunch of gullible chumps. There may be an Eastern theologian here or there who speculates on the possibility of the Lord’s brethren having sprung from someone other than Joseph, but the overwhelming majority retain the traditional belief to this day. If for no other reasons than ecumenical ones, we should take that seriously.

Next time, we will make a survey of those few theologians who were convinced of Jerome’s novelty before it was more widely popularized by St. Thomas Aquinas.

St. Joseph, bemused by all this attention, pray for us!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Divine Office: For God's Sake Alone

After Spy Wednesday evening's Tenebrae services, I conversed with a small clique about our upcoming plans for the rest of the Triduum. We agreed to attend one of the area's Byzantine rite churches on Friday for Vespers, the procession, and the burial service (Slavic tradition, different from the Greek and Arab praxis). A woman proximate to us inquired as to what the service entail. After explaining it, she asked, "So what, there's no Communion? I'll go to [Tradistan] instead. There's Communion here." Retrospectively, this was a formative moment in my understanding of why the Divine Office's popularity tapered off in recent generations: because we expect something whenever we go to church.

In the Mass or Divine Liturgy, we take bread and wine and the Lord gives us His Body and Blood which we offer "for the sins of all Christians, living and dead" (Roman offertory), "we offer You Your own from what is Your own, from all and for all" (Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom). In return, we are permitted to partake of the Lord's mystical supper and benefit definitely from the propitiatory sacrifice made. The result satisfies our prehensile souls. 

The Divine Office has no such trait. In it we pray for many things, including the specific intentions of the litanies of the Eastern rites as well as the preces and suffrages of the Latin tradition. Still, nothing concrete is given in return, which we have grown accustomed to expect. For centuries people attended weekday low Masses in the Western Church without any distribution of Communion at all. Perhaps this was a deviation from the purpose of confecting the Sacrament, but the point stands: the congregants attended the Mass not because they were expecting something to be given to them, but because they wanted to see the "Miracle of the Mass," they believed that the action itself had value before God. 

The same is true of the Office. Nothing tangible and immanent should be expected in return for praying it. Praying the Divine Office is praising God for God's own sake alone. 

Or I could be wrong!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Paschaltide Musings: John 20

The following beginning verses from chapter 20 of St. John's gospel were read during the octave last week at Mass and the Office. I attended the Divine Liturgy for Monday of Bright Week. The pericopes there, the priest explained, already anticipate the mission of the Church and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Byzantine tradition has a unique focus on the Trinity and the Holy Spirit which is not found in the Roman Church. The Roman rite, solidified in its fundamental elements when the fluid Byzantine Church was the battle ground of heresies, glosses over many of the matters concerning the Godhead mentioned in the Greek liturgy. Instead, the Roman liturgy is very Christ-centered, centered on Christ as God and as Man. This Scriptural pericope is quite fitting for the Roman tradition:

"And on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre; and she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre. She ran, therefore, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith to them: They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went out, and that other disciple, and they came to the sepulchre. And they both ran together, and that other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And when he stooped down, he saw the linen cloths lying; but yet he went not in. Then cometh Simon Peter, following him, and went into the sepulchre, and saw the linen cloths lying, And the napkin that had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but apart, wrapped up into one place. Then that other disciple also went in, who came first to the sepulchre: and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead."

At face value, the Evangelist recounts the startling news given to the Apostles that the tomb in which Jesus once laid was now empty and that "they believed." What did they believe? Nothing that we would recognize, at least not yet. Before the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles were faithful and foolish friends, quick to sing the Lord's praises and endear themselves to Him, but not entirely sure why. One thinks of them squabbling over who would have a place of honor in the kingdom of heaven. Even after the Resurrection they seem no better off that before, asking at the Ascension if Christ would finally become the terrestrial and material Messiah for which the Jews longed, one who would free them from Roman oppression and begin a tangible reign of the kingdom of God on earth. When John says "they believed," we are not unfair to ask "What did they believe?"

Living two thousand years later, we enjoy the wisdom of the Fathers, the teachings of the popes, bishops, and their convened councils, as well as the accumulation of centuries of common sense. We know that miracles were outward acts of mercy on the part of Our Lord to point people to His Divinity, to draw people to His teachings and His words. Peter and the rest might have understood the miracles to have shown His favor with God, but not that He was God. Peter's confession of faith was that Jesus was the "Christ, the Son of the living God." None of the brethren understood that He was God made Man or that He must rise from the dead, as the last verse of the Johannine passage reveals. 

It would not be unlikely that Peter and the other apostle, likely John, saw the empty tomb, which had been guarded by soldiers from the Sanhedrin's forces, and presumed an assumption of Christ's body into heaven like that of Elijah when he was alive and possibly Moses after his death. Christ may, to them, have been the greatest and most amazing of all the prophets, those witnesses to God. Yet what could Jesus have accomplished as a prophet, a man, who worked miracles, died a gruesome death at the hands of his own people, and was then bodily removed from the earth? They "believed" without understanding what they believed because they could not possibly know without seeing Him and touching Him that He was God and that, unlike the miracles of prophets of old, He rose from the dead without the prayers of another man. Later, He appeared to the Apostles and to Thomas, and there He revealed His divinity most explicitly.

This is the Catholic paradigm of God. God is Who He is ("I am Who I am" is His name in Hebrew) regardless of what we want God to be. We encounter Him and He tells us about Himself if we listen. We can know about God by reason. We cannot know Him intimately without knowing Him as a person though. "The Lord is God and has revealed Himself to us" from Byzantine Mattins always seemed plain to me until I considered that it was an adaptation to refer to the "Lord" God as a master, a personhood Who comes before creatures of far lesser capacity to understand and tells us what we need to know about Him. This is the Incarnation! This is the purpose of the great condescension! Without this great consideration we demote Christ and the faith to an intellectual proposition, not what "faith" is—a word that shares a Latin root with the same word that means "loyalty." Peter had not understanding, but when he saw the empty tomb his loyalty returned and prepared him to meet his master, risen from the dead.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Josephology Part 5: Patron of Holy Deaths (or, Joseph Gets a Feast Day)

I first came across the History of Joseph the Carpenter narrative through a post on Taylor Marshall’s blog. (For those who don’t already know, Dr. Marshall is a frequent apologist for the “young-and-pure” version of St. Joseph, and he has written rather voluminously on the point.) The text of the History is interesting not only as an early testimony to the saint’s old age and peccability, but also to a developing Josephite devotion.

The History is dated anywhere from the 4th to the 7th century, depending on the scholar. It appears to be largely an Egyptian/Coptic work. Indeed, we seem to find the earliest evidence of Josephite devotion among the Egyptian Christians, perhaps even as far back as the 4th century. Most likely it flourished there because of the stories about the Flight into Egypt, and the recognition of many locations along the Flight’s route as pilgrimage sites.

The Narrative of the History

The bulk of the text purports to be a first-hand account of the life and death of Joseph as told by Jesus himself to his disciples on the Mount of Olives before the Crucifixion (1). The early life of Joseph and his betrothal to Mary is a much shorter version of the Proto-Gospel story (2-9). Then begins a longer account of his illness, death, judgment, and burial (10-29). What we find here is not so much a collection of possibly apocryphal fantasies, but a fully-developed theology of preparation for a holy death.

As with other important events in his life, Joseph is visited by an angel to inform him of his impending death at the age of one-hundred and eleven (12). He is described as working in his carpentry shop with “youthful vigor” (10) even in his extreme old age, so this death would otherwise have been unforeseen. Fearing judgment, he goes to the Temple and pours out his soul to God in a kind of proto-Dies Irae:
If now my days are ended, and the time draws near when I must leave this world, send me, I beseech You, the great Michael, the prince of Your holy angels: let him remain with me, that my wretched soul may depart from this afflicted body without trouble, without terror and impatience. For great fear and intense sadness take hold of all bodies on the day of their death, whether it be man or woman, beast wild or tame, or whatever creeps on the ground or flies in the air.... Now therefore, O Lord and my God, let Your holy angel be present with his help to my soul and body, until they shall be dissevered from each other. And let not the face of the angel, appointed my guardian from the day of my birth, be turned away from me; but may he be the companion of my journey even until he bring me to You.... And let not demons of frightful aspect come near me in the way in which I am to go, until I come to You in bliss. And let not the doorkeepers hinder my soul from entering paradise. And do not uncover my sins, and expose me to condemnation before Your terrible tribunal. Let not the lions rush in upon me; nor let the waves of the sea of fire overwhelm my soul—for this must every soul pass through—before I have seen the glory of Your Godhead. O God, most righteous Judge, who in justice and equity wilt judge mankind, and wilt render unto each one according to his works, O Lord and my God, I beseech You, be present to me in Your compassion, and enlighten my path that I may come to You; for You are a fountain overflowing with all good things, and with glory for evermore. (13)
One is inevitably reminded of the medieval Ars Moriendi devotionals and more recent popular moral guides concerning preparation for death. The invocation of St. Michael and one’s guardian angel are very important in this preparation, as is the renunciation of the devils who hope to pull the dying soul into Hell.

Joseph returns to Nazareth and immediately falls ill. He continues his prayers with a general confession of sins:
Woe to the day on which I was born into the world! Woe to the womb which bare me! Woe to the bowels which admitted me! Woe to the breasts which suckled me! Woe to the feet upon which I sat and rested! Woe to the hands which carried me and reared me until I grew up! For I was conceived in iniquity, and in sins did my mother desire me. Woe to my tongue and my lips, which have brought forth and spoken vanity, detraction, falsehood, ignorance, derision, idle tales, craft, and hypocrisy! Woe to my eyes, which have looked upon scandalous things! Woe to mine ears, which have delighted in the words of slanderers! Woe to my hands, which have seized what did not of right belong to them! Woe to my belly and my bowels, which have lusted after food unlawful to be eaten! Woe to my throat, which like a fire has consumed all that it found! Woe to my feet, which have too often walked in ways displeasing to God! Woe to my body; and woe to my miserable soul, which has already turned aside from God its Maker! What shall I do when I arrive at that place where I must stand before the most righteous Judge, and when He shall call me to account for the works which I have heaped up in my youth? Woe to every man dying in his sins! Assuredly that same dreadful hour, which came upon my father Jacob, when his soul was flying forth from his body, is now, behold, near at hand for me. Oh! How wretched I am this day, and worthy of lamentation! But God alone is the disposer of my soul and body; He also will deal with them after His own good pleasure. (16)
Thus the writer of the History insists upon the necessity of making a good confession when death is approaching. Soon after this prayer, Jesus arrives at the deathbed, and Joseph confesses to him his original suspicion of Mary’s virtue:
You are altogether my God; You are my Lord, as the angel has told me times without number, and especially on that day when my soul was driven about with perverse thoughts about the pure and blessed Mary, who was carrying You in her womb, and whom I was thinking of secretly sending away.... Do not for this cause wish me evil, O Lord! For I was ignorant of the mystery of Your birth. (17)
Mary joins Jesus at Joseph’s side (19), holding Joseph’s hands as he passes out of this life. Death arrives with the armies of Hell behind him, but Christ holds them back until Michael and Gabriel can safely carry his soul “into the dwelling-place of the pious” (23).

(Paolo de Matteis)
At the burial Christ promises that Joseph’s body will remain incorrupt until the Final Judgment, and describes all the blessings that will be given to those who keep a hearty devotion to his earthly father:
And whosoever shall make an offering on the day of your remembrance [the 26th day of the month of Abîb, according to the text], him will I bless and recompense in the congregation of the virgins; and whosoever shall give food to the wretched, the poor, the widows, and orphans from the work of his hands, on the day on which your memory shall be celebrated, and in your name, shall not be in want of good things all the days of his life. And whosoever shall have given a cup of water, or of wine, to drink to the widow or orphan in your name, I will give him to you, that you may go in with him to the banquet of the thousand years. And every man who shall present an offering on the day of your commemoration will I bless and recompense in the church of the virgins: for one I will render unto him thirty, sixty, and a hundred. And whosoever shall write the history of your life, of your labour, and your departure from this world, and this narrative that has issued from my mouth, him shall I commit to your keeping as long as he shall have to do with this life. And when his soul departs from the body, and when he must leave this world, I will burn the book of his sins, nor will I torment him with any punishment in the day of judgment; but he shall cross the sea of flames, and shall go through it without trouble or pain. And upon every poor man who can give none of those things which I have mentioned this is incumbent: viz., if a son is born to him, he shall call his name Joseph. So there shall not take place in that house either poverty or any sudden death for ever. (26)
It’s a list reminiscent of the promises attached to certain later devotions to Mary and to the Sacred Heart. I don’t know enough about early Catholic devotions to say if lists of promises (especially concerning a holy death) were common, or if this is one of the earliest examples.

The story closes with one final compliment to Joseph’s physical stamina, even at the end of his life: “Never did a tooth in his mouth hurt him, nor was his eyesight rendered less sharp, nor his body bent, nor his strength impaired; but he worked at his trade of a carpenter to the very last day of his life” (29). The text then recounts some peculiar but unrelated speculations about the details of the eschaton, and that’s the end.

The Influence of the History

The most obvious influence of the History of Joseph the Carpenter is in his place as patron of the dying. It is a reasonable assumption that Joseph died in the presence of Christ and Mary, even without a clear tradition to that effect. In his preparation for death, the Joseph of the History admits his sinfulness and begs for the mercy of God, then places himself in the care of Jesus and the holy angels to carry his soul to Paradise. What better way to learn the art of dying than by this example?

A more indirect influence is the clear celebration of an annual feast for St. Joseph on Abîb 26 (July 20 on the old Julian calendar, or August 2 on the 1582-revised Gregorian calendar), and this feast seems to have continued uninterrupted into modern times with the Coptics. The various minor feasts of St. Joseph in the West fell on different days than this, and would not develop until much later. The earliest western Josephite feast I can find is a March 20 commemoration for a Benedictine abbey in the eighth century.

Still, this document falls neatly into the Patristic era, and it should be weighed accordingly. Recognition of St. Joseph as the patron of holy deaths is early enough to avoid any potential scruples concerning it, and it is fully in line with the older tradition that Joseph was elderly and subject to concupiscence.

Next time, I will move away from the legends and stories to look at what the Church Fathers wrote about St. Joseph.

St. Joseph, protector of the Blessed Virgin, pray for us!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Rite of Gricigliano

You have heard of the Rite of Econe. It is the 1962 liturgy with bows toward the Cross, St. Joseph in the Canon, the Confiteor before Communion, perhaps birettas in the sanctuary, and, in some daring places, no kneeling at the prayer for the Jews on Good Friday. This, not the 1962 typical edition, is what most traditionalists use as their base liturgy. But there once existed another usage of the 1962 Roman liturgy, one which was short lived and has since fallen into disuse: the Rite of Gricigliano.

Nowadays the Institute of Christ the King does 1962 with a few tweaks: Tenebrae in the evenings of Holy Week, violet during the Candlemas processions, proper doxologies during former octaves at the little hours of the Office, proper Last Gospels and commemorations, as well as the former ritual for solemn high Mass wherein the priest reads the lessons while they are sung. This is not the Rite of Gricigliano, but the rite of 1962 in the hands of Frenchmen. The Rite of Gricigliano is the old rite in the hands of a German.

When they began in 1990 in Gabon, the Institute of Christ the King was doing the pre-Pius XII Roman liturgy, as were most traditionalists outside of the FSSPX. Indeed, even many of Msgr. Lefebvre's independent allies used the old rite. This continued when they moved to their current house at Gricigliano in Tuscany. Their liturgy professor and master of ceremonies Abbé Franck Quoex assiduously taught and practiced the Roman liturgy with Pius XII's accession as the cutoff date, a praxis confirmed to me by a former rector of the Institute's seminary. The 1962 Missal was in the "hell" section of the library, with all the other books no one ever used. The Pacellian-Johannine book was be withdrawn from hell in case an astute jurist visited from Rome only to be returned swiftly to the folios and flames. Internal politics and the expulsion of a great number of priests caused for some changes within the Institute early last decade (a blog is not the appropriate place to discuss these issues). Around 2003, when a photographer took the photographs of Holy Week on this blog, the Institute ceased to use the old rite.

Rome decided to put all its traditional eggs in one legally uniform basket. The Pope, or those writing with his pen, resolved to place all communities using a pre-Conciliar form of the liturgy under the facies of the indult Ecclesia Dei and the pontifical commission of the same name. Fr. Wach was told to switch to 1962 and most of the Institute did. They were celebrating Holy Week according to 1962 by 2005 in most locations, but a few places held out with the inventiveness and ingenuity of a German priest within the Institute who did not obstruct the liturgical transition, but rather made it a process. Good Friday in many places saw the Gregorian Mass of the Pre-Sanctified celebrated, but with the administration of Communion—reserved on the credence table—during Vespers. Holy Saturday was done at the Pian times and with the Pian lessons rather than the ancient ones. The baptismal font would be blessed rather than a container of water during the Vigil and Pian Lauds replaced ancient Vespers. Thus was born the Rite of Gricigliano, a mix-and-match of the old and transitional forms of the Roman rite, a rite meant to transition from the old to the transitional! This went on for a few years. The oratory in St. Louis last celebrated the Rite of Gricigliano in 2008. I have heard of some celebrations in Europe that lasted as long. 

As more communities reconsider their usages, the larger priestly groups are more entrenched in the Pian and Johannine years because of oversight. A diocesan bishop will neither know nor care about happened in 1956, but the local FSSP rector might! The Rite of Gricigliano lasted less than a decade. Now the Roman options of between the old rite, the middle rite, and the new rite.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What the Heck Happened

What the heck happened to the FSSP seminary's church in Wigratzbad? It was never exactly a beautiful temple of God, but someone has thoroughly wreckovated the place: neutral colored stone floors, a stone ambo in place of the old wooden one, the icons of Christ and the Virgin gone (not just covered), the high altar gone atop a step gone, a stone table put where the altar was, a giant steel canister akin to the ones used to store rations during wartime used as a tabernacle, and a thinly veiled Crucifix like the ones seen in diocesan American churches crowns the dome. 

Josephology Part 4: Crossing the Streams

Continuing our examination of Nativity narrative cycles jumps us a few centuries ahead to somewhere in the A.D. 400-600s range with the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, or the Book about the Origin of the Blessed Mary and the Childhood of the Savior, as it was known in antiquity. As noted in earlier posts, there was a line of Infancy narratives that had more to do with unorthodox and Gnostic influences than any plausible orthodox traditions. This retelling we’re looking at now combines the more plausible Proto-Gospel of James with the blasphemous Infancy Gospel of Thomas in ways that unfortunately would be influential for many centuries.

Prefacing the text is a correspondence between St. Jerome and the bishops Cromatius and Heliodorus. Or so it claims. Even though these letters of Pseudo-Jerome have some pretension of scholarly fairness in expressing doubts against any absolute certainty concerning this text, he does concede that it was possibly written by “the holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew himself” in Hebrew as a preface to his canonical Gospel. He also says that the stories contained within “can be believed and read without damaging their faith or imperilling their souls.” Considering how dismissive the real Jerome was about the Proto-Gospel of James (“the ravings of the apocryphal accounts”), it seems impossible that he would be so casual about a retelling of the Proto-Gospel combined with outright blasphemous stories. The Jeromic forger probably knew of this Doctor’s hatred of anything non-canonical, and used it to his advantage to ease any suspicions about this text.

St. Jerome, lover of whimsy.
Chapters 1-17 are a retelling of the Proto-Gospel with a few interesting changes:

  • While Joachim is grieving his childlessness in the desert, Anne is visited by an angel and apparently miraculously conceives without him: “I am an angel of the Lord, and I have today appeared to your wife when she was weeping and praying, and have consoled her; and know that she has conceived a daughter from your seed, and you in your ignorance of this hast left her” (3). (He has been missing for five months by this point.)
  • Mary performs miracles during her childhood in the Temple, and explicitly desires to remain a perpetual virgin (6-7).
  • Joseph’s complaint about being chosen as Mary’s protector include a reference to his children and grandchildren, enforcing his advanced age (8).
  • Mary’s companions give her the title “Queen of Virgins” as a mockery, but are humbled when an angel appears and tells them, “These words shall not have been uttered by way of annoyance, but prophesied as a prophecy most true” (8).
  • Joseph considers the option of fleeing and sending Mary away when he finds out she is pregnant, apparently to escape any accusations against himself (10).
  • The two men who appear to Mary on the road to Bethlehem are explained as symbolizing the Jewish and Gentile peoples (13).
  • The text is explicit that Mary experienced no pain in childbirth: “But there has been no spilling of blood in his birth, no pain in bringing him forth” (13).

Chapters 18-25 are a new addition to the Infancy narrative cycle, detailing an account of the Flight to Egypt and what happened in that country. As far as I know, there are no written precursors to these stories. Here, the Christ Child tames a cave full of dragons, wild cats and other beasts follow the pilgrims tamely through the desert, Jesus miraculously shortens the road to Egypt, all the Egyptian idols bow before the Child and shatter, and the governor of the city is converted.

Most important for posterity is the story of the palm tree (20-21). Taking their rest beneath the shade of the tree along the road, Mary looks hungrily at the fruits in its high branches, and declares her wish that she could eat some. Joseph says this is impossible, and is worried more about replenishing their water. But the Christ Child asks the tree to bend down and allow his mother to taste of its fruit. It obeys, Mary eats, and Jesus rewards the tree by commanding his angels to carry a shoot of its branches into Paradise where it will flourish forever. This story would become very popular, and in England it eventually became the Christmas song The Cherry-Tree Carol.

Chapters 26-41 are a retelling of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas with a few minor changes, but nothing to make the stories acceptable for an orthodox readership. One small change to Joseph’s character is his initial reluctance to chasten Hermus: “I dare not speak to him; but you [Mary] must admonish him, and say: Why have you raised against us the hatred of the people?” (26). Joseph also cooperates with Hermus in performing a miracle of resurrection for another man named Joseph (40).

Chapter 42 is a brief coda describing a feast shared with Joseph’s children and Mary’s side of the family. It serves little purpose but to describe their family trees in moderate detail. (Joachim and Anne apparently had a second daughter they also named Mary because they missed their first daughter, and this second Mary is the one who had other children and stood at the foot of the Cross.)

St. Joseph has more to do in Pseudo-Matthew than in some Infancy narratives, thanks mainly to the additions for the Flight into Egypt which would become so popular in art and iconography, especially among Egyptian Christians. He comes off slightly worse than he did in the Proto-Gospel, where he is a man of moderately better character. If the Gnostic additions are ignored, he is an almost buffoonish player, an aspect that would only increase in the popular Catholic mind over time.

Next time, we discover the roots of devotion to St. Joseph as the patron of holy deaths.

St. Joseph, who never had to stop to ask for directions, pray for us!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Christ is Risen!

To all readers I wish a blessed and happy Sunday of the Resurrection. Where ever you dwell and which ever language you speak, I say unto you Christ is risen! 
"If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.
"And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
"Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
"O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen."

Greek and Roman

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday: Anticipation (repost)

First, let me say that contrary to many contemporary opinions the old Holy Saturday liturgy was not at the wrong time. It was at an unusal time, morning, rather than after the canonical hour of None, around 3:00 pm or 4:00 pm, but it was never a night time liturgy. Also, it is not Easter's Mass done the day before, nor is it a midnight Mass, as at Christmas. It is a Mass and liturgy meant to help us anticipate the Resurrection. Let us see what the Church has given us.

The liturgy begins after None, the last "little hour" of the afternoon. The deacon and subdeacon still wear the folded chasubles, their penitential vestments. The clergy and laity gather outside the church, where, hopefully, someone has lit a fire. The priest, vested in violet, sings three luminously themed prayers: the first referring to the "brightness of Your Son," the second calling God the "Creator of all lights," and the third an actual blessing. This is very reminiscent of the Eastern blessing at the end of Divine Liturgy, which quotes St. James in calling God the "Father of Lights," of all that is perfect, luminous, and good.

A server ignites coals and the priest imposes and blesses incense. He sparges the Holy Fire with blessed water and then incenses it. He also blesses five grains of incense which he be inserted into the Pascal Candle, representing the light of Christ throughout Easter season, inside the church.

The deacon then changes his penitential folded chasuble for a white dalmatic and maniple. He takes a large, triple-branched candle and, lighting a new wick from the Holy Fire, enters the church exclaiming Lumen Christi—"The Light of Christ." This happens twice more until we are in the church proper.

A deacon with the triple-candle preparing to enter the church.

The deacon then petitions the priest for a blessing, approaches the Paschal Candle, which is off to the Gospel side of the altar, and sings the Exultet, a long blessing. The Exultet is rich with imagery of light in the night and the deliverance from Egypt. This day is the deliverance from our spiritual Egypt: Sin and Death. Part way through, the deacon inserts the five grains of incense, calling them an "evening sacrifice," and lights the Paschal Candle. The video to the left is a singing of the Exultet at St. Peter's Basilica two years ago. I find the continued use of the prayer in the newer rites odd, given that none of the actions mentioned in the text are performed, nor is the intention any longer to bless! The prayer concludes with a petition for the Pope and the, no longer extant, Holy Roman Emperor. The lights of the church go on at the words Vere beata nox—"Oh, truly blessed night!" In the middle ages, when this ceremony took place in day light, the windows of the church would be covered in dark cloth, which would be removed at those words, washing the church in God's light after a spiritual slumber.

The deacon returns to his penitential folded-chasuble and, along with the priest and subdeacon, read twelve prophecies, which are chanted by lectors in the middle of the choir. The prophecies together form the story of salvation, both in anticipation and in prediction of Christ:
  1. Genesis 1:1-31, 2:1-2: The creation of the world by God, the ruler of all things. He sees that it is good.
  2. Genesis chapters 5-8: The Great Flood and God's commissioning of Noah to build an ark. The ark is a foreshadowing of the Church, which God gives us to protect us from the Flood of Sin.
  3. Genesis 22:1-9: Abram is about to offer his son, Isaac, but an angel intervenes. For his love of God, the Lord makes a covenant with him and renames the man Abraham.
  4. Exodus 14:24-15:1: God lets the Israelites pass through Egypt unto freedom through the Red Sea, which drowns the pursuing forces of the Pharoah. Baptism will be our watery means of passing unto freedom.
  5. Isaiah 54:17, 55:1-11: God has heard the cry of His people and will honor the promises to David.
  6. Baruch 3:9-38: God has absolute knowledge and dominion over His creation.
  7. Ezekiel 37:1-14: The bones of the fallen will rise again under the spirit of the Lord.
  8. Isaiah 4:1-6: The Lord will wash away the "filth of Jerusalem" and build a covenant.
  9. Exodus 12:1-11: God prescribes the Passover sacrifice of a lamb to the Jews, which will deliver them from God's plague over the first-borns of Egypt. They will be free. Christ is the perfect, spotless Lamb, the perfect sacrifice. He will intercede for us before the Father.
  10. Jonah 3:1-10: The prophet Jonah convinces the city of Nineveh to repent of their sins and do penance, averting their impending destruction. Penance is necessary to pay the debt of sin, not just to be forgiven.
  11. Deuteronomy 31:22-30: Moses provides for his death and the continuation of the Israelites into the promised land. This succession of leaders will continue until Christ.
  12. Daniel 3:1-24: King Nabuchodonosor attempts to kill three Jewish children for not worshiping his idols. They are thrown into a fire, but angels guard them.
In between these readings are sung various prayers and sung psalms. A procession forms and heads to the baptismal font. The priest blesses the empty font and the water in it by plunging the Paschal Candle three times. He sprinkles water towards the four points of the compass and then the faithful with Holy Water from the font, and then infuses Holy Oils into it. He proceeds to baptize and confirm any converts present in the normal manner. The procession then returns to the altar as the choir sings the Litany of Saints, doubling the invocations and answers (ex: choir: Pater de caelis, Deus, Miserere nobis people: Pater de caelis, Deus, Miserere nobis). If there is no font, everything until the Litany is excluded.

Everyone kneels for the duration of the Litany, which takes the place of the Introit of the Mass. The intention of the Litany is mainly to pray for converts, but also for the Church as a whole, as She enters the Paschal mystery. The priest, deacon, and subdeacon remove their outer vestments and prostrate themselves.

Towards the end of the Litany the priest and his ministers rise and head to the sacristy to vest in white vestments for Mass. Servers prepare the altar with the missal and put on the best, most festive frontal.

The altar candles are lit from the Paschal Candle. The ministers of Mass return and sing a normal solemn high Mass. The Gloria is the lovely Lux et Origo setting. The Epistle is from St. Paul's letter to the Colassians, in which the Apostles tells us that if we are dead with Christ, Christ will rise and us with Him.

The priest sings Alleluia for the first time in two months. Absorbed in joy, he sings it three times, each higher and each repeated by the choir. The Gospel, taken from St. Matthew's account of the myrrh-bearing women finding the empty tomb, is accented by the fact that candles are not carried in the procession, emphasizing that the Resurrection has not yet happened for us, but that we are anticipating it. All of this subtlety is indicative of the restraint of the old Roman rite.

The celebrant reads the Gospel before the deacon sings it.

As this is a vigil, the Creed is not sung. There is no verse or chant prescribed for the offertory, so the organ  is played or Latin hymns are sung.

The preface is of Easter. During the Canon of the Mass, the Communicantes prayer is unique: "Communicating, and keeping this most holy night of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh; and also reverencing the memory...." The Pax is not given and the Agnus Dei is omitted. This may be for two reasons: (1) the Lamb is not yet risen and with us or (2) this liturgy is so old that it pre-dates the eighth century introduction of the Agnus Dei

After communion and the cleansing of the vessels, a short Holy Saturday Vespers is sung rather than a communion chant. It is psalm 116, surrounded by a triple Alleluia. The priest begins the antiphon on the Mangificat: Vespere autem sabati....  During the Magnificat everyone is incensed as usual. The priest sings the post-communion prayer, which I have given below:
Pour forth, O Lord, we beseech thee, the Spirit of thy love into our hearts, and by thy mercy make all them to be of one mind to whom Thou hast given to eat of thy mystic Passover. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God for ever and ever. Amen.

The dismissal is Ite, missa est, alleluia! Alleluia. The Deo gratias response is also given a double alleluia. The priest says the Placeat, gives the blessing, and recites the Last Gospel as normal. It is traditional to end the liturgy with the Regina Coeli.
Queen of Heaven, rejoice! Alleluia!
For He Who you did merit to bear, Alleluia!
Has risen as He said, Alleluia!
Pray for us to God, Alleluia! 
These rites would end about four hours after they started. The main point of celebrating this liturgy early was so that Paschal Mattins and Lauds could start at a reasonable time. The twentieth century de-emphasis of the Divine Office saddens me. Paschal Mattins and Lauds are the most important liturgical event of the entire week, more so than any Mass or office. In these offices we formally begin the celebration of the Resurrection. In Eastern Churches the people wander the church looking for Christ, but not finding Him! He is risen! They then sing Mattins and Lauds at midnight, followed by Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is of Easter Sunday, it is not a vigil nor is it a midnight Mass, as we have on Christmas. The reformers lost this critical difference and canned the most important office of the year in the process.

In the West there would be a Resurrection ceremony, which would find the sepulcher created on Good Friday empty, the crucifix would be adored again as on Good Friday, and Mattins and Lauds would be sung. Mattins has one nocturn, with lesson from a sermon of Pope St. Gregory the Great, in which the saintly pontiff says we, the Church, must come to Christ's tomb bearing gifts like the women if we are to be surprised and rejoice. The Te Deum is sung de tempore for the first time in two months. At Lauds, the first antiphon declares that an angel descended from heaven to roll back the stone. The antiphons for this Lauds are among the most beautiful of the year. There is no hymn at Mattins or Lauds. The dismissal has a double Alleluia, as at Mass. The office ends with the Regina Coeli again. Easter has begun at this point.

Jerusalem Mattins

After Crucifixion Vespers and the funerary service at the Ukrainian Catholic parish, a group of us stayed as sang the Lamentation "Jerusalem" Mattins well into the night in a very rushed and abbreviated form. I had forgotten this beautiful chant and wished we used it

Coming to Your tomb at dawn, the ointment-bearing women sprinkled
sweet and fragrant spices on You!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Σήμερον Κρεμάτε - Today Is Hung Upon the Tree

Today is hung the tree He Who suspended the earth above the waters.
A crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of the Angels is arrayed in .
He is wrapped in the purple of mockery Who wrapped the heaven with clouds.
He was struck Who freed Adam in the Jordan.
He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church.
He was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin.
We worship Thy Passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection.

Good Friday (repost)

I will endeavor to give a very brief explanation of the old, pre-Pius XII, Good Friday "Mass of the Pre-Sanctified." The name is such because the structure, vestments, music, and prayers of this services, particularly towards the end, follow the structure of a Mass, although using a Host consecrated at yesterday's Mandy Thursday Mass.

The priest and his two deacons, who wear folded chasubles rather than dalmatics, prostrate themselves before the altar for enough time to pray psalm 50, the Miserere, in silence, while servers spread a cloth on the altar. Like at Mass, the crucifix and candles remain on the altar, though unlit.

A lector sings a prophecy of the prophet Osee (or Hosea, in the Hebrew spelling), which foretells the suffering, burial, and third day rising of Christ. Then the subdeacon sings chapter 12 of the book of Exodus, which recounts the manner in which the finest lambs were killed during the first Passover in Egypt. This sacrifice liberated the Israelites from the bondage of the Pharoah. The sacrifice of the perfect victim, Christ, liberated the world from the bondage of death. God does not want a sacrifice because He wants things to be destroyed. A true sacrifice is the gift of what is precious to one's self unto another. This was the intent of the Israelites in Egypt, and more so on the Cross. A tract, psalm 139, is sung: Eripe me Domine ab homine malo—"Deliver me, Oh Lord, from the wicked man!"

Three deacons then sing the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. John, beginning with His arrest in the Garden and ending just after His death on the Cross. The deacon of the "Mass" removes his folded chasuble, as at Mass, and sings the burial of Christ as the Gospel, suggesting that this, not the general narrative, is the most important text of the day.

Priest and subdeacon listen to the Passion.

Then deacon, now wearing the "broad stole," returns to the other ministers. Returning to the epistle corner, the priest sings the Solemn Collects, some of the oldest continuously used prayers in the Church. Moreover, these prayers give us some indication as to what the structure of the Mass was like in the mid-first millennium and for what those Christians prayed. There is a preface to announce the prayer intention, followed by Oremus—"let us pray," Flectamus genua—"Let us kneel," and Levate—"Let us stand" before the actual prayer itself.

The prayer intentions were:
  • For the welfare of the Church universal
  • For the Pope
  • For the clergy, people in religious life, virgins, and widows
  • For the enlightenment of the catechumens and the remission of their sins
  • For the cleansing of the world of errors
  • For the rescue of heretics and schismatics
  • For the conversion of the Jews
  • For the end of idolatry and conversion of the pagans
No genuflection was made during the prayer for the Jews. A genuflection was added by Pope John XXIII in the revised rite of Holy Week in 1959, although John XXIII seems to have continued to celebrate the old Good Friday in the Sistine Chapel!

The prayer that caused so much consternation is as follows:
Orémus et pro pérfidis Iudaeis: ut Deus et Dóminus noster áuferat velámen de córdibus eórum; ut et ipsi agnóscant Iesum Christum, Dóminum nostrum.
Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui étiam iudáicam perfídiam a tua misericórdia non repéllis: exáudi preces nostras, quas pro illíus pópuli obcæcatióne deférimus; ut, ágnita veritátis tuæ luce, quæ Christus est, a suis ténebris eruántur. Per eundem Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Unlike the other solemn intercessions on Good Friday the clergy and people make no genuflection between the announcement of the intention and the actual collect.
Initially I did not think this prayer bigoted, but I did consider it unnecessarily inflammatory given the use of the term "pro perfidis Iudaeis." That all changed when then-Pope Benedict issued a shiny new prayer for the Jews to be used during 1962 rite Good Friday services. A friend of mine reacted positively to the new prayer, saying it brought us away from "tribal hate" and towards a more brotherly outlook on our antecedent religion. At this point I began to re-consider my position. Benedict's prayer, although different from the traditional one, at least asks for conversion, in stark contrast to the vague platitude in the Pauline Missal's Holy Week.

The first clue in my re-evaluation was the true contextual meaning of that term "perfidis," which does not mean "perfidious" in the modern understanding (wretched, wicked, evil), but rather "faithless." This ought not be anti-Semitic. It is merely a deduction. Anyone who does not believe in Christ lacks proper faith.

The next, and most profound, point makes the loss of this prayer a liturgical, historical, and theological travesty. The intention asks that God might "remove the veil from their hearts," which the collect proper continues to petition that the Jews might "acknowledge the light of Your Truth, Which is Christ" and that they may be "rescued from their darkness." To understand the deeper meaning and truth of this prayer we must recall what happened at the end of the Crucifixion.

"Jesus, when He had taken the vinegar, said: 'It is consummated.' And bowing His head he gave up the ghost" (John 19:30). In tract 119 St. Augustine writes "What, but all that prophecy had foretold so long before? And then, because nothing now remained that still required to be done before He died, as if He, who had power to lay down His life and to take it up again, had at length completed all for whose completion He was waiting." Our Lord's death on the Cross completes everything the Father promised in the Old Covenant and which He appointed His Son to do for our sake. The prophecies and promises are, at this point, fulfilled. Fulfillment, in the Church, does not mean something finished. Rather it means something brought to fruition.

Consequently, the covenant God made with the Jews did not vanish entirely, but became something else, something greater and, as the angel told the shepherds when He was born, a great thing "for all peoples" (Luke 2). The God Who dwelt only among the Jews and Who only revealed His intentions to them and Who only acted among them now dwells and reveals Himself and acts among all people and for the good of all. "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22), but not limited to the Jews. The Old Covenant, now something greater, ends as it was. The Temple veil "was rent in two from the top even to the bottom" (Matthew 27:51). The veil, which concealed the awesome qualitative presence of God within the Temple, is entirely torn when a new, and greater, covenant is sealed in the Blood of Christ. Here is a New Covenant for all people. God, no longer hidden behind the Temple veil, is now accessible to all people. St. Paul reflects on this in his epistle to the Hebrews (9:1-8):

"The former indeed had also justifications of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made the first, wherein were the candlesticks, and the table, and the setting forth of loaves, which is called the holy. And after the second veil, the tabernacle, which is called the holy of holies: Having a golden censer, and the ark of the testament covered about on every part with gold, in which was a golden pot that had manna, and the rod of Aaron, that had blossomed, and the tables of the testament. And over it were the cherubims of glory overshadowing the propitiatory: of which it is not needful to speak now particularly. Now these things being thus ordered, into the first tabernacle the priests indeed always entered, accomplishing the offices of sacrifices. But into the second, the high priest alone, once a year: not without blood, which he offereth for his own, and the people' s ignorance: The Holy Ghost signifying this, that the way into the holies was not yet made manifest, whilst the former tabernacle was yet standing."

We have come halfway to understanding the significance of the older Good Friday prayer, but only halfway.

What does a veil, curtain, or wall do? It keeps something concealed, but also protects that something from exterior elements, usually light. Our Lord said "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). The Jewish leaders persuaded the crowds gathered in the Roman praetorium to reject Jesus and ask for the release of a bad man. After dissolving themselves of the Savior promised to them Jerusalem fell and the Temple, the place of God's covenant with them, burned to the ground. What survived was not Judaism in the pre-Christian sense, but a new sort of Judaism meant for scattered local communities and based on the Jewish people's experiences as the minority in an increasingly Christian world (the so-called "modernist" George Tyrrell wrote an interesting letter on this subject, concluding that Catholicism is the real continuation of Judaism). Rabbis replaced priests; synagogues replaced the Temple; and the Talmud became a new holy book to the Jewish people rather than the New Testament books. This reformed, leaner Judaism would help Jewish culture survive its coming difficulties and would also insulate Jewish people from the light of Christ—as it was founded partially in reaction to what Christ did. When the Father tore down the Temple veil to reveal Christ's light to all a new veil ascended to shield that light.

No one should conclude that this is anti-Semitic. Fr. Hunwicke points out that Arabs are Semites, too. This prayer is about Judaism, not Jews as an ethnic group. On some level the concepts "faithless" persons and of hiding the light of Christ with a "veil" applies to all non-believers. And yet the Jewish people, given their unique place in the chain of event that led to Christ's Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection, surely warrant a unique place in the liturgical prayers, particularly given their once exclusive covenant with God.

I have never felt comfortable with the description of practitioners of post-Temple Judaism as our "older brothers" in the faith, given that the Judaism which preceded Catholicism no longer exists. I suspect the shift in attitude towards Judaism and the eventual revision of this prayer results from [humanly understandable] European guilt that followed the Holocaust. The pope who initially altered this prayer (John XXIII) aided Pius XII's efforts to obstruct deportations of Jews in Turkey. The pope who introduced the 1970 prayer (Paul VI) served the same Pius XII as his secretary during the War. And the pope who issued a new prayer for the 1962 Missal (Benedict XVI) was a young German man during the War and who, certainly, has a greater cultural association with the Holocaust than the other two.

And yet I maintain that the loss of this prayer is something worthy of re-consideration. It contains a wealth of lessons about covenants, the meaning of the Crucifixion, the openness of Christ's grace, and the danger of veiling Christ's light. During the first fourteen or so centuries, or more, of this prayer's use no one decided to attempt mass extermination of the Jewish people. Hitler's anti-Semitism had nothing to do with Catholicism. His was a neo-pagan, racially-based hatred steeped in the eugenicist delusions pervading secular culture in the early 20th century—not that modern "intellectuals" have disowned the spirit of this delusion. Axing this prayer added very little and pushed aside very much.

The ministers, probably for mobility in ancient times, remove their outer-most vestments and the deacon retrieves the veiled crucifix from the altar and gives it to the priest. The priest, beginning at the bottom of the epistle side, steps higher and towards the center of the altar, unveiling part of the crucifix and singing Ecce lignum crucis—"Behold the wood of the cross"—as he rises. The people respond In quo salus mundi pependit. Venite, adoremus!—"On which hung the salvation of the world. Come, let us adore!"

This happens three times, after which the entire crucifix is visible. It is then laid upon a pillow or cloth and adored by the people. First the priest, then the ministers of the service, then any other present clergy, and the servers. They all adore barefoot. Then the congregation adores, making three prostrations before their kiss of the cross.

Although the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified supposedly died in 1956 under Pope Pius XII, John XXIII continued to use it in the Sistine Chapel, as seen in this 1959 celebration.

Ecce lingum crucis, in quo salus mundi pependit.

Venite, adoremus!

Whilst the laity make their adoration, the altar is prepared for the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified and the choir sings the Reproaches, which includes the Trisagion.

The crucifix is then placed upon the altar, where it would normally go, and is reverenced with a genuflection for the rest of the day.

The clergy, and laity if they wish, process to the altar of repose, where the Blessed Sacrament has been over night.

The Sacrament is then incensed by the priest, who assumes the hummeral veil and takes the Sacrament back to the main altar.

This is a full Blessed Sacrament procession, with incense and the processional cross carried before the priest and the Sacrament. The great hymn Vexilla Regis is sung.

The procession returns to the main altar.

The deacon arranges the chalice and its veil, containing the Sacrament, as it would be at Mass.

The Blessed Sacrament is then incensed by the celebrant.

The subdeacon prepares the chalice with wine and water, as he would at Mass and the "Gifts" are incensed in the same way they would have been at a regular Mass. The priest turns to the people and says the Orate, fratres... ("Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours....) as at Mass.

One English friend of mine always insisted that the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified is indeed an actual Mass. He had something of a point. Its prayers are those of a Mass. It is not a simple communion service. Although there is no consecration of the Host, the actions imitate those of a Mass in order to emphasize the relation between the Mass and Calvary, that they are one and the same sacrifice of Christ.

The celebrant then sings the Pater Noster, "Our Father," and elevates the Host for public adoration as he would after consecration at Mass. He then fractures the Host as at Mass and mingles a fragment of the Blessed Sacrament with wine. Liturgical reformers particularly disliked the pious medieval belief that the fragment consecrated the wine into the blood of Christ (which Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox still believe).

The union between the offering of the Body and Blood here and the same sacrifice that took place on the Cross cannot be emphasized enough. There are two reasons why no active consecration takes place here: the first is that the Eucharistic (which comes from the Greek word for "thanksgiving") has a celebratory character to it, which makes it ill suited for today; the other is that today the priest is less an agent of Christ, in persona Christi, than the rest of the year. Today Christ does everything. He offers Himself on His own and by His own accord. So the priest elevates the Sacrament as at Mass both for adoration of the people and to parallel the same work of Christ that takes place at a normal Mass.

The priest then says the communion prayers of Mass and consumes the Host as normal. He consumes the chalice's contents saying nothing, leaving some mystery as to whether consecration occurred or not!

Today the congregation and attending clergy do not and cannot receive Holy Communion. As we have the Real Presence one could say that today we have the Real Loss. The gravity of this Loss is lost on us today. For one day out of the year there is no Blessed Sacrament, there are no holy images, there are no candles, nor is there any vibrant color. All there is after the Pre-Sanctified Mass is the Crucifix. One is reminded of Cordellia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited lamenting the de-consecration of the family chapel during which a visiting priest consumed the Sacrament and took the altar stone and relic with him. Cordellia asked Charles must "every day be Good Friday?" As a matter of principle when I attend the Pauline Good Friday I do not receive Communion. Doing so misses the point today.

The priest purifies his fingers and the subdeacon cleans the chalice as normal at Mass.

Vespers, the same as yesterday except for the addition of mortem autem crucis ("even unto death on a cross") to versicle and a proper Magnificat antiphon, are chanted in a monotone immediately.

The clergy then leave in silence unless they intend to follow the custom of deposing the corpus from a Crucifix and "burying" it in a sepulcher, a medieval practice which is still alive and well in parts of England, Poland, and the Byzantine rite. One such ceremony, at the monastery of the Franciscans who care for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, is shown below.

This marvelous rite was replaced with a general communion services. The revised rites, from 1956 until 1969, involved a maddening three changes of vestments. Prayers and readings, in both the 1956 rite and the Pauline rite, take place at the chair, the altar, at a podium, and any where else you can find. Odd.

A blessed Good Friday to you all.

For those interested here is a video of the first third or so of the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified celebrated as a pontifical Mass from the Faldstool.