Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Being Sure

A younger generation of Catholics have become attached to various particular aspects of the Church in a way that prior ages would have found curious. The "JP2 generation" admired the Polish pontiff's life and morality teachings; an educated, hipster-esque demographic have assigned themselves to the so-called "EF" (whatever that is) and artful celebrations of the Pacelli-Montini rite; perhaps a slightly older, but relatively youthful, group of proto-Libertarian Americans have found solace in the social teachings of Leo XIII and Pius XI of happy memory. And it all begs the question, why? Is there something wrong with these "rigid" neo-Pelagian people or is something else at play?

Years ago the then-pastor of the FSSP parish in Roma and liturgical restorationist, Joseph Kramer, observed that the rebels immediately responsible for the Church's current state of affairs were reared under "super discipline", their parents having grown up during the Great Depression and two World Wars. Post-modern youths live under antipodal circumstance and seek greater direction in the practice of faith.

That discipline and direction once upon a time came from Catholic culture prevalent in ethnic communities in America and in the village life back in the "old world." It was devotions, catechism, family customs, patron saints, Blessed Sacrament processions, the romanticism of the Mass, and so on. All of that is gone, or near gone, in most parishes; where it exists it has been recrafted, not continued from previous times. Bereft of these cradle-Catholic inheritances and living in a secularized society, Catholics understandably latch on to the firmer things that make sense to them, older things with clear continuity to the past, things that possess a gravitas that assures one that the object of interest carries a greater weight than the one engaging it. No one you know may care about the significance of additional ministers at Pontifical Mass or Rerum Novarum, but for many years faithful Catholics did, and in caring one can normalize one's interests in their company.

Converts felt a similar struggle a century ago. Louis Bouyer, who came to the Church from French Lutheranism, was drawn to the Church by study of the Fathers and the Roman liturgy only to be told by cradle co-religionists that "real Catholics don't care about that sort of thing." Bouyer buried himself in the Scriptures and the liturgy, which directed him to the Church through the ancient Fathers, knowing that these artifices did not belong to a vague Christianity, but were in fact proper to the Church, irrespective of others' disinterest in that fact. John Henry Newman had a similar struggle upon entering the Church and leaving his prestigious position as a don at Oriel for the religion of the Irish. 

These aren't necessarily unhealthy trends on their own; the Apostolic Fathers possessed no Catholic culture, nor a Jewish one after the failed revolt of Simon bar Kokhba. They lived merely on the certainty of what the Apostles and their immediate students told them. But what of the muddled middle who do not seek out special interests? Culture once fortified their hewing to the Church, but without it they wane....

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Triggered by Trads

Karl Keating's dislike for Latin-loving traditionalists is well known. He formed his cadre of apologists at Catholic Answers according to his own preferences during his long tenure as president. In his retirement he has published a full-length book about the imminent danger posed by geocentrists and many smaller collections of essays on apologetics and hiking. While his public Facebook page has been filled mostly with thoughts on hiking and self-publishing, most recently he could not help himself from dancing on the graves of a few newly deceased traddy friendships:
Louis Verrecchio, who once made a living explaining and defending Vatican II at parishes around the country, now decries the council, calling it heretical, and thinks the current pontiff and his immediate predecessors have been heretics. 
But he finds heretics elsewhere, too, such as in the Fatima movement. He says the Fatima Center, which was headed by the late Fr. Nicholas Gruner, has gone off the rails since Gruner's 2015 death. It has betrayed Verrecchio's understanding of the Fatima message. 
As a result, he has castigated the group and in return has been criticized by its supporters, such as Christopher Ferrara, a long-time associate of Gruner. In a post at the Fatima Center's website, Ferrara faulted the group's opponents without naming Verrecchio, though it was clear he had Verrecchio in mind. (He referred to "a grandstanding Catholic blogger.") 
In turn, Verrecchio has responded, saying that, under Gruner, the Fatima Center never would have had nice things to say about a "celebrity cardinal"--a reference to Cardinal Raymond Burke. And so on....
[F]issionble material keeps fissioning. Uranium 238, when it's done fissioning, ends up as lead. That may be a trope for what's happening among a good chunk of the Traditionalist movement. 
The unchristian glee Keating takes in the fallout of friendships among fringe figures is especially aggravating considering the fission among Catholics "in good standing" that he spent his career sweeping under the rug. The man who could never find anything negative worth saying about Cdl. Mahoney's reign of bad taste and doctrine never found himself short of words against doctrinally sound if intemperate traditionalists.

Today's Catholic Answers radio show regularly tackles tough, troubling questions like "Why do nuns but not priests take vows of poverty?", "Is it really a sin to vote in favor of homosexual marriage?", and "Why do Catholics pray to saints?" His apologists condemn the iconoclasm of mobs attacking statues of St. Joan, but never the iconoclasm practiced by the clergy. Mediocrity with a sheen of intellectual pretension is Keating's major legacy to American Catholic apologetics, swiftness to wrath against trads his minor legacy. I am convinced this man has done more damage to the traditionalist movement in America than many bishops combined:


In many ways he reminds me of E. Michael Jones, a man who prides himself on properly interpreting arcane aspects of canon law concerning the criticism of bishops while loudly slandering and defaming everyone else in sight. Karl similarly is very intelligent about a small set of outdated apologetics and extremely modern ecclesiastical legislation, while lacking a broader wisdom about the life of the Church as a whole. He is a more learned version of Mark Shea, who once had his feelings hurt by trads long ago and, just like a good Christian, never forgave and forgot.

What future is there for Catholic apologetics? If it is to pull itself out of the depths of irrelevance, it must engage with the more urgent questions of the age. I agree with Dr. Edward Feser that atheism and insufficient philosophies of being are some of the greatest threats to the Faith, but one cannot expect niche-burrowers like Keating or intellectual lightweights like his apprentices to bother engaging with these in any tangible way. Total faithlessness is on the rise, and who will stand against it? Much easier to shoot the easy targets of Protestants and trads than mount a defense against a real menace.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Great Blight


As far back as the 1600s winemakers were trying unsuccessfully to transplant European grape varieties to North America. For reasons unknown at the time these grapes would never grow in American soil, so they settled for cultivating local varieties and occasionally grafting European grapes onto American rootstock.

In the mid-1800s American vines were being transported to France to be grown there, and by the 1860s local vineyards were being obliterated by blight. Vines in the midst of a vineyard turned yellow and red, with the few grapes being produced yielding little good taste. The blight would spread quickly outward, with entire vineyards mysteriously drying up over a few years.

It turned out that the European rootstocks were unable to take root in American soil because of an aggressive species of aphid that European vines had not developed an immunity towards, and the newer transportation by steamboat finally allowed these aphids to survive the journey across the ocean. Once discovered, the reaction was swift but tardy. Insecticides proved slow to work, and many vintners turned in desperation to the aphid-resistant American rootstock.

The Great French Wine Blight was well under way. Over the course of 15 years about 40% of vineyards were affected, the French economy was shaken, workers in the wine industry had their pay cut in half, and many migrated to America. Because wine production dropped so precipitously, the French turned to another source of alcohol from Switzerland to whet their palettes—absinthe.

Pre-Blight wine quickly became a collector's item, and today only a few untouched vines remain. Although mocked as "Americanists" by the diminishing purist population, vintners found success by grafting the local vinifera onto the aphid-resistant American roots. This was dubbed "reconstitution" and hailed as a victory. Still, many claim that the robust flavors of pre-Blight wine were never again reproducible.

The public's taste had been greatly diminished due to their consumption of wormwood, leaving wine at least for a time to the connoisseurs. Wine makers joined the fight against the spread of absinthe, and the green devil was blamed for an increase in violence and general drunkenness. Jean Lanfray, a Swiss farmer, murdered his family in 1905 while presumably under the influence of absinthe. Many countries banned the drink, including Switzerland, France, and the United States. Only the Great War stopped the bans from increasing.

Today Americans can be found patting themselves on the back for saving the French wine industry with our rootstocks, completely forgetting the problem originated with us.

There is more than one way to devastate a vineyard, and sometimes it never recovers.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Last Gospel: Participatio Actuosa?

Do you have a ministry in your parish? I vividly recall during freshmen week in college the campus chaplaincy would advertise the various "ministries" available to students: reading, Eucharistic ministering, making sick visits, "singing", usher jobs, and hospitality. To the priest were reserved the words "This is my body", "I baptize you", and "I absolve you"; otherwise, it was open season on liturgical roles in this protracted state of infancy.

What if I told you that there were ways that the faithful informed the practice of the Latin liturgy without clericalizing themselves and laicizing the clerics? What if I told you that England was once an exemplar of participatio actuosa in the Mass? What if I told you that the priest's private devotion at the end of Mass was also, in many cases, the congregation's public devotion?

The medieval Roman liturgy and its local variations almost always concluded with the so-called Last Gospel, the first fourteen verses of the Johannine prologue. A 1474 printing of the Roman Missal in my possession makes no mention of it. The Dominicans did not add it until after Trent. And the last public words in the Sarum Mass were In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritu Sancti. Amen. Yet, the Last Gospel was near ubiquitous as a private devotion before the Council of Trent. The celebrant would recite In principio erat Verbum until plenum gratiae et veritatis quietly on his way back to the vestry. The neo-Gallican rites retained this for high Mass, although they generally followed the Tridentine arrangement of low Mass. The Roman rite continued the medieval custom for Pontifical Mass and Quintin Montgomery-Wright retained it at Le Chamblac. So, how was the clerical devotion an act of lay participation?

Prior to modern printing people did not "know the Bible", but through sermons, catechesis (as far as it was available outside cathedral cities), stained glass, and mystery plays commoners could certainly be expected to know the main stories from the Old and New Testaments that the Scriptures record. The faithful often asked for particular passages to be read at the end of Masses celebrated for their specific intentions, believing that, aside from any instructional value, the readings contained a latria efficacious as prayer to God, that the readings were an act of worship themselves if done for the proper purpose.

Where do these readings appear in the Missals of the day? No where at all. They were recited at private Masses before the Johannine In principio, not in place of it. Benefactors, with the consultation of the celebrant, could select votive orations for the commemorations at the Masses they endowed, but did not alter the structure of the Mass. Instead, they had their own liturgical devotion along with the celebrant, one that they believed "especially powerful, to bring particular blessings or protection from certain evils.... Even the unlettered laity noticed, and valued such variations" (Duffy).

In those days before the 40 hour work week attendance at weekday Masses for special intentions was normal. A private Mass was not a Mass said in a private place, but rather any Mass that was not the canonical norm for the community; cathedrals, monasteries, and collegiate churches had to celebrate the Mass of the day every day, while a parish needed only celebrate the Mass of the day for feasts and Sundays. Anything beyond that—from a Marian votive Mass to an anniversary Requiem—could reasonably be called a "private Mass" and the prayers within it subject to the needs of those who asked for it (KL Wood-Legh).

The "people" valued the readings as both instructions and as a form of prayer for their own needs and so added them to the liturgy, albeit not the public liturgy, of the Church in their time. Whether or not they comprehended every word, they understood the general thrust of what was happening and valued it, knowing they did their duties as providers for their caring parsons and monks, who offered their desired votives. It is rather like the act of baking the prosphora for the Divine Liturgy.

Could there be a more grounded example of participatio actuosa? I may go down to a local parish and ask for Gospel passage of the crowd demanding Our Lord's death when I next commission a Mass for the conversion of those who worship at the Galleria shopping mall.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Eastern Church Five Years On, Part I: Teach Me Your Statutes

Almost five years ago, to the Sunday, I walked entered the Greek Church aloof to its mysteries and eager for an alternative to the insular world of worship which I knew. After some light digging online I found that I should not expect a holy water stoop nor a genuflection on entry to the church. I walked into a Melkite church in New Hampshire half an hour before the proper start to the Divine Liturgy, providing a sufficient cushion for getting lost. I approached the church with the trepidation one feels when leaving one’s element, like going away from home for the first time or going off to university. Vaguely, some rough, pulsating noise resonated from the opened windows of the parish; they sang words I could not discern.

As told, I found no holy water stoop upon entering the narthex nor anything toward which to genuflect. After the initial doors a stand bore an icon of the Dormition. I passed the icon and saw wonders. A great gate demanded all attention. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Mother, John Chrysostom, and Basil the Great looked upon me in blessing from four panels. Four cantors surrounded a podium to the left of the icon screen and two deacons stood around a similar podium to the right. They continued the hymn which I heard only faintly from outside, bowing to the floor at each refrain.

Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes

The order of the angels was amazed,
When they beheld You, O Savior, among the dead,
Destroying the power of death, and raising Adam with You,
And releasing all from Hades.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me Your statutes

After four or five years living in the traditionalist segment of the Latin Church I found myself uncomfortably staring at true worship with no strings attached. Like the ancient Roman liturgy I came to love there was a “flesh of my flesh” sort of devotion and worship here, but bereft of any political affiliation or symbolic status on one’s opinions. Without the positive reinforcement that comes from selecting a satisfying position against one’s imagined foes, I was left to see this act of latria in a way I had viewed no other before it, as the worship of God for God’s own sake.

Very early in the morning the myrrh-bearers ran lamenting to Your tomb,
But the angel stood by them and said,
“Do not weep, the time for lamenting has passed,
Announce the Resurrection to the Apostles.”

Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes

Hitherto, my understanding of the Church came from a narrow set of arguments that effectively said, “What preceded 1962 was original to the Apostolic tradition and your ideas are novel.” While that generally continued to be true in the limited sense I understood the situation in the Church, I had little knowledge, and no wisdom, for the actual Tradition of the Church properly understood. Other than St. Augustine, I had not seriously engaged a Church Father. Other than the Tridentine Mass, I had not seen a traditional liturgy, and certainly not in so normative a setting; the Tridentine Mass was always the exception in parishes. Like most traddies, I was a modern Cordelia Flyte: I knew little and believed it madly.

Since you gave birth to the Giver of Life, O Virgin,
You delivered Adam from sin,
And you granted joy to Eve instead of sadness,
For He Who took flesh from you, God and Man, restored to life him who had gone astray.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Glory be to You, O God!

It is the purpose of this post and a short succeeding series to ruminate on my five years living, thinking, and worshipping in the Greek Churches. In short, it has been a slow withdrawal from the toxic political atmosphere prevalent in some corners of the traditionalist world and an introduction to wonderment at the act of worship of the Holy Trinity.

In this Melkite Church there was no sense of “right” and “wrong”, meaning that one side of opinions was right and the one I did not belong to was in error. There was simple worship of God. Having spent the past few years preaching the wickedness of removing the Introibo ad altare Dei prayers I was ill prepared to hear the Great Doxology sung at the end of the Orthros (Mattins) service and then witness the Divine Liturgy begin with such words as to arouse one’s long dormant spiritual imagination.

Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Neo-Gallican Antidoron

Marko has directed some interest in our series on the Lyonese liturgy over here from NLM, for which we are grateful. It reminded me to post this remarkable snapshot of French parish life as it would have been before the 20th century.


This image, La bénédiction du pain by Francoise Archange, portrays the end of a Sunday Mass in the neo-Gallican rites. A first communicant holds bread to be blessed after Mass, similarly to how the remainder of the prosphora is divided for consumption after the Divine Liturgy in the Greek Churches.

The Mass is a Missa Cantata, which was quite rare before the 1960s; the Roman rite was normatively practiced as a solemn Mass with minimalist variations such as spoken or sung low Mass when three ministers were unavailable (I believe Missa cantata was never legal in the diocese of Rome, at least as of Fortescue's time). The French rites permitted local adaptations to maximize the resources of a parish, which in this case included three young boys (one looks bored) singing with three coped rulers of the choir, one of which is singing the antiphon accompanying the blessing of the bread from medio choro, the same place where the Epistle and Gospel were proclaimed in the pre-Tridentine Roman rite and where they continued to be proclaimed in the French rites.

Within the church the full span of local society sits according to rank and order. A nun teaches catechism in the Marian chapel, which houses an image of Saint Jerome in prayer. The women make their thanksgiving after the Mass. The men in the choir are likely officials such as the mayor or magistrates, which was the custom before the 20th century; all society presented itself before the Church, according to rank and duty.

This was the sort of parochial Catholicism Quintin Montgomery-Wright sustained at Le Chamblac over the course of four decades. Montgomery-Wright's parish, as well as the diocese of Campos in Brazil, are interesting experiments in what might have been if the liturgical revolution had not transpired, but Le Chamblac was also blessed with a pastor who kept a Catholic spirit alive in town which, while foppish, was not out of place or [entirely] affected. As much as the Church needs a liturgical restoration, of one kind or another, it needs a re-invigoration of parish life in the modern day, one that is genuine and humbles the world before the Church rather than one which invents lay "ministries" for old ladies in pant-suits. The old French world is gone, but there is much we can learn from it today.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Matrimony in the Post-Collapse

The news that Cdl. Burke and his now-two compatriots are slowly moving forward with the process of the dubia has us traddies in a tizzy about how slow the whole thing is, as if the Vatican has ever moved in a good direction at anything higher than a glacial pace. I do not know if the cardinals will get this declaration of orthodoxy signed or clearly rejected before the Fatimaversary is through, but doing so would help calm a lot of people down.

Meanwhile, my own experience with the married seems to be ever-increasing in variety and alarm. I know those once-divorced, once-separated, and constantly online-dating; those hastily wed after a pregnancy; those in active concubinage; those with children and an annulled marriage; and those young, in love, and getting engaged against the judgment of their parents (God bless them). Marriage is an increasingly messy proposition, but it is still the natural end of healthy adulthood. One not vowed to celibacy nor afflicted with some serious disability finds his proper and natural end in marriage and child-making, and woe to those who put stumbling blocks along the way of those who seek it.

That goes double for vocation-obsessed busybodies who demand years of prayer and preparation for the state of life in which God created our race. "It is not good for man to be alone" is not a complex maxim, and derailing a young man or woman seeking marriage with vocational retreats and the accompanying scrupulosity is to be creating an occasion of sin.

It is also true for those who spread cynicism about marriage as such, frightening young men with horror stories of ex-wives taking everything in the divorce and encouraging a culture of mistrust. Serial fornicators are made of such stuff as this.

And I think it is true also of the matrimonial spiritualists, those who elevate marriage to a state of life equal to the religious and contemplative, who gush at excruciating length about the theology of carnal bodies and birth control the "going green" way. There is a theology of matrimony, it is true, but mostly marriage is practical, down to earth, and humble. Catholic apologists do not need to spice it up with charismatic pretensions. Even the old manualist definition of the home as the "Domestic Church" veers off the rails when it demands a pseudo-monasticism instead of the perpetuation of folk traditions.

But from the beginning it was not so.

We live in an unthinkable age when people suffer simply for marriage. Chinese wives have their bodies invaded to slaughter the children within. Wedding planners and chefs are financially ruined for not supporting perversion. Governments encourage a great burden of collegiate debt on young people who simply wish to work and support a family. Subhuman fools deride mothers of more than 2.5 children publicly in the supermarket.

"Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God?"

Now, blind clerics lead blind adulterers to the cliff. Would that Henry VIII had lived in our times, he would still be a proud papist! When Elias returns in the final days, do we think he will be condemning the Antichrist for his Satanic pacts, or will he perhaps rather be condemning him for his three divorces? Like the Forerunner who came in his spirit, Elias might very well be martyred for defending the primordial state of marriage.

"It is not good for man to be alone.... It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." Those are two hills worth dying on.
 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Assumptiontide II: Te Matrem Dei Laudamus

What was the eliminated lesson from the pre-Tridentine Mattins for the Assumption? A good question deserving of an answer I could not find when parsing my 1554 edition of the Breviarium Romanum, a Parisian printing of the most complicated structure. The Tridentine reforms and modern printing brought some order to the ordinary, sanctoral, commons, and temporal of the Office. By mere chance I happened upon this troped version of the Te Deum. Doubtless, readers will be aware that the medieval dioceses troped the Kyrie according to the season, a practice which survived even in early printings of the Missal of St. Pius V. What readers may not know is that the Gloria and Te Deum were frequently troped, too, according to the feast, especially feasts of the Virgin or concerning the Incarnation. Here is a version of the Ambrosion hymn for use on Marian Saturdays.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Assumptiontide: Veneranda (POST 1,000!)

For eight days, the Dominican Missal presents us with one of its more memorable orations:
"Veneranda nobis, Domine, huius diei festivitatis opem conferat salutarem: in qua sancta Dei Genetrix mortem subiit temporalem; nec tamen mortis nexibus deprimi potuit, quae filium tuum, Dominum nostrum, de se genuit incarnatum: Qui tecum."
This prayer has generated some discussion at NLM because of its more explicit reiteration of Our Lady's temporal death, a contrast to the confusion some "immortalists" created in recent centuries. The prayer first appears in the 10th century Gregorian Sacramentary, a Gallican redaction of the Roman liturgy given over a century early and likely after some period of development. The slightly older Gelasian Sacramentary, also a mixture of Roman and Gallican elements, contains two collects for the "Assumption of Saint Mary", one of which resembles a common Roman Marian prayer and another which the Rad Trad is unfamiliar. Henry Austin Wilson notes that in one manuscript, the penmanship for the vigil and feast of the Assumption differs from that before and after, which a curious reader might reasonably take to mean either the Assumption was a relatively new feast to France and Germany in 800AD or that the liturgical formularies were not as concrete, outside of Sundays and long-established feasts, as they would be by the high Middle Ages. Regardless, Veneranda post-dates these formularies, seemingly.

Yet Veneranda illustrates the proliferation of liturgy after the export of a few Roman books to the Frankish kingdom. This non-Roman prayer is to be found in the Sarum Missal used in southern England, as well as in a few other descendants of the Norman liturgical family. The Missale Ordinis Praedicatorum contained it until the Dominicans adopted the Roman books after Vatican II. Also, in Iberia, the Bragan rite offers this prayer. And yet Braga, Léon, and Salisbury are closer to the monastery of Fulda than Fulda is to Rome. It is a fitting reminder that the post-Gallican rites are indeed usages, "dialects" (cf. Fortescue), of the Roman rite from which they sprang, comprehensible to those who know the original, but still different and enriching.

....And speaking of enriching.... This marks post 1,000 on this blog. I would like to thank those who read now, those who have read from the beginning, Fr Capreolus and J, and all who pray for us. We appreciate your dedicated readership, astute comments, and your prayers. May the next thousand be as enriching as the first.

Gaudeamus Omnes! Assumpta Est Maria!

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


*     *     *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

After the Reformation V: Barren Society, Revolutionary Government & the Lonely Individiual

A month ago President Trump went to Paris to commemorate Bastille Day with the toy-boy president of the French Republic. The respective republican governments both boast three item founding slogans; one is “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”; the other is “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” While the America motto represents an early form of Western individualism, the French doggerel reflects the end result of decades of proto-collectivism developed in the salons and parlor rooms of intellectuals who could not fathom being denied power. And still, these seemingly disparate traditions share one common term that binds their place in the Western cultural legacy, Liberty.

Liberty, seemingly, implies liberation from something. The thirteen very different American colonies were liberated from taxation laws and the obligation to do business with the East India Company. The lack of universal social structures and the newness of the colonies made the break more palpable at the local level than it would have been if America had been one well established colonial organ. From what, then, did the French Revolution liberate France? Why it liberate France from every cultural and social structure that made one a Frenchman in the past thousand years.

Revolutionary and post-revolutionary France became a decade-long case study in the evolution of an individualistic society. Gone was the king, the noble patronage, trade associations, guilds, charities, parish vestries, episcopal conferences, and kind reference to any history that predated one’s birth. Nature abhors a vacuum and people abhor nullity. Rather than exist as intersections of various associations of society, Frenchmen now found themselves equality at the bottom of a new, two-tiered social system topped by the National Assembly. The Assembly precociously judged the orthodoxy and patriotism of every new and existing organization, giving them permission to exist according to its own adjudications. In the fullness of time Napoleon Bonaparte replaced the National Assembly as the progenitor of the French nation and hence of anything that might characterize the millions of newly individualized, lonely Frenchmen.

This has become the modern political paradigm throughout the Western world: the collective state and the lonely individual. Previous Western societies had their cliques, their rooted conflicts on matters of succession, ethnicity, and invasion of one group by another. This particular shift—often ascribed to the intellectual legacy of the Enlightenment, but in fact a social legacy of the Reformation—was nothing short of a fundamental change in the way common folk looked at their place in society in relation to their new masters, who they wrongly thought to be themselves.

The French, German, and Scottish Enlightenments took place within the context of a coherent society, if one less coherent and bound than it had been two or three centuries earlier. While the Reformation discarded the concept of Apostolic Succession and denied the potency of bishops and priests to confect the hocus pocus of Sacraments, the Reformers retained the latent authority of teachers of the faith to interpret Scripture. Indeed, all mainline Reformed denominations, aside from the uniquely created Church of England, derived from the Scriptural exegesis and eisegesis of some preacher. In theory, the existing late medieval communities continued as they were, perhaps with different Sunday rituals and different beliefs. In practice, the substitution of a broader tradition with the views of singular teachers and the discardment of religious works gradually impoverished the places where the Reformation had any influence. Customs such as feasts, processions, veneration of relics, and pilgrimages belonged too much to ideas of penance and intercession for the new religious outlook. Plays about the Nativity, the Passion, and the Dormition came from spurious sources, left too much to the imagination, and failed to lean exclusively on the explicit words of vernacular Scripture. Guilds dedicated to providing Masses for the Dead could no more be tolerated than the doctrine of Purgatory, so people’s memories died when the people themselves died. Worst of all, the practice of public almsgiving and parish charity stank of salvation by works; and so the Christian religion no longer institutionally provided for the poor and destitute within a city or village. Layers of order peeled way as the Reformers lessened the define doctrines that could be justified with Scripture; practices, too, fell by the wayside. Preachers reduced the barriers between themselves and the faithful, and so also reduced the barriers between the faithful and the preachers’ teachings. It all vaguely resembles Jean Jacques Rousseau’s conviction that if not for the albatross of institutional society, all men left freely to their own dispositions would agree with Jean Jacques Rousseau.

Sixteen century religious savages were no more able to create a consensus opinion or govern themselves than were Rousseau’s eighteenth century savages. Permissibility for any idea or act of religion fell upon the judgment of the Reform party leader just as it fell upon the National Assembly two centuries later. The General Will of religion and state incarnate is nobly savage bureaucracy.

Today our elected governments and religious authorities exercise far more power over our actions and ideas than any Renaissance pope or Bourbon king ever did. Yet we can satisfy ourselves that they are of our own choosing and that they reflect a general consensus of equally able individuals. The consequence of the Reformation is not a liberated society, but rather one with fewer social safeguards and a much larger ruling class. The barren society left behind by the Reformation could be paraphrased by Robert Bolt’s invented defense of law by Saint Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons. Could it not?


Thursday, August 10, 2017

St. Lawrence and the Antiquity of the Roman Canon

St. Lawrence and the Holy Graal

The great Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, whose glorious feast is kept today has, in addition to his many other distinctions, the added one of attesting indirectly to the great antiquity of the Roman Canon--one might say, the Apostolic origin of the Canon, at least in part.


As is well known, St. Lawrence, as archdeacon of the Holy Roman Church at the time of the Valerian persecution (ca. A.D. 258), was charged by the Holy Father, St. Xystus II, to disperse the treasures of the Church, to prevent them falling into the grasping hands of the Roman authorities. (Valerian's persecution, like others, was aimed at the higher clergy and ecclesiastical possessions, probably not so much to extinguish the possibility of celebrating Mass as out of good old, commonplace greed.) After St. Xystus, his other deacons, and subdeacons were put to death, St. Lawrence distributed in one form or other whatever he could to the poor faithful of Rome. Some things, however, were too precious to merely consign to "relief" efforts: above all, the chalice in possession of the Roman See and held to be passed down from the Prince of the Apostles himself.


The holy deacon managed to have the chalice spirited out of Rome to the provinces, namely his native Spain, where through many twists and turns it remained safe from the clutches of the faithless and no less grasping hands of the Vandals, Visigoths, Moors, and other such undesirables. Eventually, so it seems, it ended up in the possession of the bishops of Valencia, in southeast Spain. And, as our readers may know, there it is kept in the cathedral in its own chapel for the veneration of the faithful to this day: the chalice of the Last Supper, better known in English as the Holy Graal.

The purported Holy Graal (specifically the agate cup, not the ornate handles and "foot" added later)

The Graal and the Roman Canon

The close connection between the diaconate and the service of the chalice is fairly common knowledge. A vestige of this connection remains in the traditional rite of Mass (even, when the rubrics are observed, in the Novus Ordo Missae) at the Offertory and in some of the ceremonies of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. St. Lawrence, therefore, would have had an intimate acquaintance with the chalice saved by his foresight and now located in Valencia. Further, he would have been close to the holy pontiff at the moment of consecration and heard him utter the somewhat curious phrase: "Accipiens et hunc praeclarum calicem" ("And taking up this most precious chalice"), etc.

There seems to be little reason why the Canon at use in Rome would go to such pains to indicate that the chalice is one and the same as that used at the Last Supper by Our Lord unless it was indeed believed to be just that. Consequently, there is every likelihood that such an inestimable relic would have been the object of special concern during the Valerian persecution, that it would have been under the care of Lawrence in particular, and that it would have been taken to a place where the Saint had relatives and friends in the Church, namely Spain.

And of course, if the Roman Canon preserved in its formula of consecration the identification of the papal chalice with that of the Last Supper, the conclusion seems unavoidable that such a unique tradition could only have descended from the Prince of the Apostles himself, including the ritual prayer (or at least that part of it) that became known as the Canon Romanus.

Naturally, over the passage of so many tumultuous centuries, a clear chain of literary or other evidence is lacking. A prosecutor might say that the case is circumstantial, at best. It is intriguing, though, to consider that after so many endeavors of Knights Errant and scholars alike to find the Holy Graal, clues to its true whereabouts may have been hidden in plain sight all along, whenever the Roman rite was celebrated and the mysterious words were uttered by the celebrant over that most precious chalice.

Considerably greater detail can be supplied to this entire historical surmise by consulting the very readable and interesting book by Janice Bennett: St. Laurence and the Holy Grail: The Story of the Holy Chalice of Valencia (Ignatius Press: 2004).




Saturday, August 5, 2017

Irish Piety

Inspired by a nasty comment at Mr. Rotondi's blog, I am compelled to explain why so we liturgomaniacs convulse and shiver at mention of the Irish legacy on the liturgy.

I am ethnically Irish. My name is entirely Irish. My father was born in an Irish neighborhood in Connecticut. And I like whiskey. I have little against the Irish.

The aversion to mentions of the Irish derive more from their influence on the American and British practice of the Roman liturgy than any aversion to orange hair and Guinness (although I oppose beer in all its forms). I once helped a local MC rehearse a seminarian on the subdiaconate at solemn Mass. Standing in for the deacon, I intended to turn the page in the Missal, stand at the priest's right, and kneel at the Qui pridie; the "subdeacon" knelt when I did. The MC said, "Nope. It's at the Hanc igitur in this country that the ministers kneel." Confused, I asked why. He smiled and replied, "Irish piety."

Whether out of external acts of devotion or the commonality of low Mass during the persecution of the priesthood in Ireland, the Irish exported the normalization of a low Mass wherein everyone kneels for the entirety of the service, save for the proper and final Gospel readings. This is precisely the liturgy that came to England and America with the diaspora of Irish outside the Emerald Isle. This writer, for one, has not seen an Irish church in America with a proper quire where solemn Mass was ever the norm. In an ironic contrast, Maynooth seminary had choral Mattins until 1967 (cf. Rubricarius) and solemn Masses were regularly available in the cities until around the same time. The Church in Ireland was less a problem than the influence of the Irish on the Church outside Ireland.

There also existed the Irish penchant for clericalism. Despite the influx of Poles, Slavs, Italians, Hungarians, and Germans into America from the 19th century until World War II, one seemingly had to be Irish to be an archbishop in the United States. Priests in Ireland and in Irish-American communities became un-official figure heads in communities, almost honorary mayors. A priest would often present trophies at sports games, give introductions or speeches at events, and his judgments, on account of his higher state of life, were presumed to be wiser than most even if the topic at hand had no relevance to the faith. In this world of social respectability, mothers would be overjoyed when their sons decided to attend seminary, regardless of whether they had a genuine vocation or not.

By contrast, French and Italian communities (and English up to the time of Adrian Fortescue) called their priests by variations of the title Mister; I think the axiom that "No Italian has ever been impressed by a pope" reflects a well grounded view of the humanity of clergy. One can scarce imagine the sex abuse crisis going as far as it did in Ireland if "No Irishman was ever impressed by a bishop." Much like the Watergate scandal in 1972, the cover-up proved more damaging than the actual crime and deep feelings of betrayal coincided with new wealth under the Eurocentric regime. Mass attendance plummeted from 90% to 30% within two decades. What the liturgical reform could not do, clericalism accomplished. Is it any coincidence that the American archdioceses hardest hit by the sex abuse crisis (moving bad priests for years, pay offs, cover-ups) were under the Irish clerical mafia for years?—Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston? Of course the situation was more complicated than I make it out to be, but while Irish clericalism did not cause the scandal, it was a necessary condition for it to continue.

A local parish of the Orthodox Church of America planted its years ago but up until now has struggled to find funds to build a proper church and graduate from their double-wide. Their main trouble is turnover: people pass through the doors looking for the most authentic and intensive practice of Byzantine Christianity, and they find it, but after five years of all-night vigils, akathists, and 19th century Russian clothing, they burn out. Irish piety is much the same. Too much exertion for too long takes a toll and eventually everyone becomes tired of it.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Old Testament Saints: King David

Saints of the Old Dispensation rarely grace our Eucharistic sacrifices and Offices. They generally make the odd appearance at Prime in the Roman Office (and presumably somewhere in the daily reading handbook Consilium wrote). Today, almost uniquely, the Roman Office and Mass commemorated the holy Maccabee brothers as martyrs for Christ (cf. St. Gregory Nazianzen). The Byzantine tradition is more generous with the Old Testament saints, although not too much more. Saint Elias constitutes a major feast in the Constantinopolitan tradition; off the top of my head I can recall the prophet Habakkuk receiving a commemoration in my Melkite days. Still, there is no feast of Saint Moses or Saint Aaron to supersede Sunday in the way Ss. Peter & Paul or John the Forerunner do. And yet there are a pair of interesting exceptions.

For one, the Carmelite order, by reason of its origin and its proximity to other oriental rites, carries a feast of Saint Elias. Similarly, the Latin Patriarchate of the Holy Land boasted a slew of idiosyncratic feasts and votive Masses of the Passion of Christ and of Old Testament saints. One such feast, which I spent years vainly essaying to find and which Marco related to me from a monk of Silverstream, is that of Saint David the King, Prophet and Confession.

The texts of his Mass, celebrated with the comites Christi on December 29th with a commemoration of Saint Thomas Becket of Canterbury, emphasize the auditory relationship between God and David. The Introit is Cantate Domino canticum novum. More interesting is the Collect:
Deus, Pater omnipotens, qui per os David in Spiritu Sancto tuo hymnos cantare fecisti; tribue, quaesumus, ut euis intercessione digne sacrificium laudis perficere valeamus. Per Dominum nostrum.....
The lesson, from 1 Kings (1 Samuel), recounts Samuel finding David tending his father's sheep and anointing him king, receiving the spirit of God which had just left Saul. While this pericope seems an obvious choice for the feast of Saint David the King, it is hardly the only plausible choice. The time of its celebration, within the octave of the Nativity, doubtless made the kingly anointing of a poor, modest shepherd tending his father's flock a more fitting example of typology than the battle with Goliath.

Herein is an interesting example of how additional Scripture and feasts could be extended to the older liturgy without disrupting its internal integrity with the insertion of a disjointed three year lectionary: make the Missae pro aliquibus locis more broadly available, even if only as votive Masses for one particular day a year. Perhaps in fifty years a consensus approach to such Masses would warrant an updated version of the older kalendar. Many of these Holy Land votive Masses or unique feasts have Scriptural pericopes unrelated to the Commons which dominate the baroque French and Italian saints whose feasts squeezed all sense of the ferial from the kalendar and made the late Tridentine Office into the "rite of Iste Confessor."

Additionally, many saints got on the kalendar early because of feasts associated with the translation of their relics. That is certainly true of numerous Apostles. Since that is now rarely the case, the old liturgy could prove its vivacity in testing the faithful's openness to devotion to Old Testament saints. At the very least the typology, especially when exercised with discretion as the Patriarchate of Jerusalem did in writing the Mass of King David, may enrich understanding of Christ and the saints under the new and eternal Law.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friends Don't Let Friends NFP

The week of July 23-29, 2017—as my dear, humorous wife informed me out of the blue, earlier today—is National NFP Awareness Week. For the five or so Catholics in America who are blessed never to have heard of NFP, it stands for "No Fun or Posterity."

The USCCB has produced an extensive media kit and educational program on its website, complete with suggested homily talking points, bulletin inserts, and prayers of the faithful. This year's promotional poster, attached immediately below, is indicative of the narcissistic, child-fearing culture in which the Gospel of NFP finds such purchase: a 20-something couple drink terrible alcohol whilst announcing their engagement to friends and family with a so-called selfie by way of text and/or social media. The fearful look in his eyes complements her look of vacant inebriation.

But let's hope "the time" doesn't happen on the honeymoon!
The recommended bulletin inserts range from the banal to the obscene. Some of these risqué selections will have parents burning the bulletins and scattering the ashes before the little children (who may or may not exist) can get their wee hands on this lewd material:
NFP is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and avoid pregnancies. These methods are based on observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Couples using NFP to avoid pregnancy abstain from intercourse and genital contact during the fertile phase of the woman’s cycle.
The couple... are acting as “ministers” of God’s plan and they “benefit from” their sexuality according to the original dynamism of “total” self-giving, without manipulation or alteration. [All quotation marks sic, by the way. No, really.]
Couples who adopt NFP to space the births of children find that it brings about many positive changes in their relationship and even becomes a way of life. It begins with acceptance, and even wonder, at the way the human body is made.
But enough sex ed. For all the "wonder" and "total" self-giving that NFP is supposed to engender, "God's Plan for Married Love" in fact baffles and frustrates newlyweds who are unhappy with the insertion of periodic celibacy into their marital bliss. The FAQs about the whens and whys of NFP practically forbid any tangible interaction with the grave (translated less gravely here as "serious") reasons that permit its practice. Instead, the assumption is that regular continence should be the norm and the old method of "just havin' them babbies" is for third-world weirdos who don't know any better:
In this view of "responsible parenthood" married couples carefully think about the just reasons they may have to postpone pregnancy. When making decisions about the number and spacing of children in their family, they weigh their responsibilities to God, each other, the children they already have, and the world in which they live.
Or, well, they don't.

Not so long ago, experienced adults would have recommended to young men and women who were itching for a scratch that they had better be prepared for parenthood before walking down the aisle. Indulging in God's gift of intercourse between the sexes came with the great joy of fatherhood and motherhood, which was its natural end. Those who presume to indulge had better be ready for the results, emotionally, morally, and financially. The perversion of this end used to be so despised that it was even illegal in the secular state. Now it is claimed as a right.

"Be Her Joseph!" one JP2-generation Catholic writes, but one can hardly imagine the chaste St. Joseph penning something like this about the Blessed Virgin: "Much to my surprise, I also learned how grateful my wife was that I was willing to learn how her body worked!" But one might suppose that the celibate marriage of Joseph and Mary is a somewhat fitting model for the quarter-celibate lifestyle promoted by NFP missionaries and mommy bloggers who cannot abstain from venting their periodic frustration on the rest of us innocent bystanders.

Evelyn Waugh mocked the rise of the birth control movement in his 1932 novel Black Mischief, when the Minister of Modernization in a small African nation attempted to spread propaganda to the uneducated masses by means of a colorful poster design:
It portrayed two contrasted scenes. On one side a native hut of hideous squalor, overrun with children of every age, suffering from every physical incapacity — crippled, deformed, blind, spotted and insane; the father prematurely aged with paternity squatted by an empty cook-pot; through the door could be seen his wife, withered and bowed with child bearing, desperately hoeing at their inadequate crop. On the other side a bright parlour furnished with chairs and table; the mother, young and beautiful, sat at her ease eating a huge slice of raw meat; her husband smoked a long Arab hubble-bubble (still a caste mark of leisure throughout the land), while a single, healthy child sat between them reading a newspaper. Inset between the two pictures was a detailed drawing of some up-to-date contraceptive apparatus and the words in Sakuyu: WHICH HOME DO YOU CHOOSE?
Interest in the pictures was unbounded; all over the island woolly heads were nodding, black hands pointing, tongues clicking against filed teeth in unsyntactical dialects. Nowhere was there any doubt about the meaning of the beautiful new pictures.
See: on right hand: there is rich man: smoke pipe like big chief: but his wife she no good: sit eating meat: and rich man no good: he only one son.
See: on left hand: poor man: not much to eat: but his wife she very good, work hard in field: man he good too: eleven children: one very mad, very holy. And in the middle: Emperor’s juju. Make you like that good man with eleven children.
And as a result, despite admonitions from squire and vicar, the peasantry began pouring into town for the gala, eagerly awaiting initiation to the fine new magic of virility and fecundity.
Our desires are today so divorced from nature and being that those few who welcome all of God's gifts are expected to explain themselves to the "normal" married couple with 1.5 children and a dog. Anyone can slap "God's Plan" on a poster. Few consider the consequences.

"Dear St. Joseph, please make my husband like you: young, hunky, and never too grabby."

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Three Calm Thoughts on Sarah's "Liturgical Reconciliation"


Cardinal Sarah's recent suggestion of a "liturgical reconciliation" between the Pauline Mass and the Pacellian-Johannine Missal has set the Tradosphere blogosphere on fire. There are the Ordinariate-like ideas of inserting elements from the 1962 Missal pertaining to the priest's piety (Introibo ad altare Dei, a real offertory, and the Last Gospel), but also the obligatory lip service to the new liturgy's more of a good thing is better: more disorganized Scripture, more green Sundays. Anyone who thinks more of a good thing must be a good thing should try drinking Chartreuse every night; he will first be drunk and broke, and then in withdrawal and homeless.

Here are three calm thoughts, after the storm, about Cardinal Sarah's idea.

I: A Useful Reminder

Cardinal Sarah's proposal is a useful reminder to proponent of pre-Conciliar liturgical forms that "conservatives" may be helpful allies, but they will never truly be their friends. Benedict XVI Ratzinger was a bona fide liberal to the core. He lamented the mediocre outcome of the liturgical reform while defending its purpose to the end, whilst some fight over whether or not he ever celebrated the 1962 Mass privately as Pope of Rome. After Summorum Pontificum we heard that the liberation of Pacellian-Johannine Missal was not primarily an overture to the Fraternity of St. Pius X; of course it was, while also running a part-time job in Benedict's desire to jump-start discussion of organic "reform of the reform" in the modern liturgy.

Just as Ratzinger is no conservative, the conservatives are neither traditionalists nor Traditionalists. Their interest in the 1962 Missal is not primarily an overture to the Fraternity, but as a template to make the Pauline Mass more acceptable. Ratzinger, aside from any lingering guilt over the botched negotiations with Archbishop Lefebvre, also had a pastoral interest in those who may have been left behind in the liturgical changes of the 1960s, then an older crowd. Modern prelatial celebrants of the old rite share this interest in pastoral welfare, doubtlessly, but also have other interests. They were not ordained in the old rite for the old rite and are too young to have been caught up in the post-Summorum traditionalist movement; instead, these good spirited men are dedicated to making the most out of what they were given and refuse to believe what they were given was so thoroughly bad that it was not in some way a substantial renewal of what preceded it. One must not forget that a conservative conserves what was given to him, while a traditionalists, colloquially speaking, lives within a tradition given to him.

II: An Academic Idea If Ever There Was One

Anyone who has spent more than a minute within a university seminar perceives that the seminar leader thinks other people should think his ideas are relevant to the world at large. More commonly, they are not. While doing something about the Mass nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand Roman Catholics attend is relevant, expending an equal quantity of effort on the Mass the other fellow attends is merely wasteful. Could this be a nod to the history books, which would show reform of one Mass and not the other as an acknowledgement of one's unique lacking? The term "reconciliation" offers some insight, since a reconciliation, in the spoken understanding of the word, means a coming together at a mid-point. Raymond Cardinal Burke pushed the hybrid Mass four years after Summorum and gained little for it. While one can fathom putting effort into making a "hybrid" Mass for general use with the Novus Ordo as a template, it would be far more difficult to make the old Mass (1962 or the real thing) into something consonant with the average parish liturgy and not make a shambles of it.

On an academic level, the things the "Reformers of the Reform" would insert into the new Mass are the newest features of the old Mass (Introibo ad altare, the Tridentine offertory, the Last Gospel) while the very features Cardinal Sarah would like to impose on the old liturgy are the more ancient features of the Roman rite so unceremoniously tossed to the curb by what Louis Bouyer aptly called "three idiots" (the kalendar and the lectionary upon which it is based, as well as the matching Vespers and Lauds antiphons). Priests might benefit from the piety of the old Mass, but the laity would also benefit from its liturgical stability in the propers, which predate the separate sacerdotal elements.

On a practical level, the parts of the new liturgy worthy of imposition into the "extraordinary form" simply do not fit with the proper chants, orations, or kalendar. There is no Pentecost octave, Septuagesima, or series of Ember Days in the Pauline lectionary; there is no feast of "Saint John Paul the Great" in the old liturgy, or Ascension Thursday Sunday. To revise the Ordo of the Pauline liturgy could be done with a small committee (it's the Vatican, folks) of translators after a year of internal deliberations. To ensure that a similar, countervailing force hit the propers in the old liturgy would take a team of "scholars", researchers, translators, "liturgists", and bureaucrats unseen since the original Consilium and likely involve several years of work.

Would it be worth three years of work by eighty men to ensure 0.1% of the Latin Church is met with the same effect as ten men in one year could assert on the other 99.9%? 

III: A Minority Opinion

The last thing worthy of consideration, and perhaps most important, is that the "conservative" liturgist is among the rarest creatures in the Church. Many who we, in imitation of American political divisions, we call "conservatives" are pro-life, JP2 generation Catholics who frankly do not give a hoot about the Mass as long as it is valid. We know where liberals stand. We know where Traditionalists stand. As state in section I above, the conservative liturgist is often of an older generation that feels fidelity to the reformed liturgy and at the same time wishes for something more vivacious and reverent for the Church. This is a noble idea, but it was never popular and is fading with the priests ordained in the '70s ad '80s, In many Western dioceses now, outside of Latin America, one can find a few old rite Masses, the odd outrageous liberal Mass, and a ubiquitously mediocre parish Mass; what one almost never finds is the idealized "Reform of the Reform" new rite Mass, which few priests have the courage or interest to practice and even fewer bishop wish to permit. In America and England these are limited to a select few parishes in a select few metropolitan cities. On continental Europe they seem even rarer, aside from pilgrimage sights like St. Peter's in Rome.

A Closing Recommendation

Reread the previous article The Future of the Roman Liturgy & the Ordinariate Option. It touches on the phenomena behind Cardinal Sarah's remarks within the perspective of recent trends and an eye towards the future. I believe it is the most worthwhile thing I have written this year.

A blessed feast of Saint Pantaleon to all.