Thursday, May 25, 2017

REPOST: Why Look Down, Men of Galilee?


"I may be allowed to say that the disciples' slowness to believe that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead, was not so much their weakness as our strength. In consequence of their doubts, the fact of the Resurrection was demonstrated by many infallible proofs. These proofs we read and acknowledge. What then assureth our faith, if not their doubt? For my part, I put my trust in Thomas, who doubted long, much more than in Mary Magdalene, who believed at once. Through his doubting, he came actually to handle the holes of the Wounds, and thereby closed up any wound of doubt in our hearts." —St. Gregory the Great, 29th sermon on the Gospels

Sunday, May 21, 2017

New Series: After the Reformation

Centennial anniversaries are all the rage in Western Catholic blogs this year, all of them foreboding anniversaries, too. Five centuries ago an Augustian monk with scruples and hemorrhoids entered into a dispute with Leo X. Three centuries ago some Franco-British cleric founded a lodge for like-minded, enlightened people. And one hundred years ago the Virgin Mary appeared to three children in a field in Portugal. It is the first of these anniversaries that elicited the other two, and it is this event which deserves some greater study.

The outward effects of the Reformation are well known. Swiss and German Catholicism devolved into fissiparous sects led by men who assumed the teaching authority of bishops, but who rejected the Sacramental authority there of. Henry VIII split from the Church for his divorce and Catholics became "the other" in England. Swedish and Norwegian Christianity took its own odd turn. The Reformation broke the Church's final authority in temporal matters and ushered in a new era of nationalism, colonialism, individualism, and, the first stage of political cancer, democracy.

But what of the lesser known influences of the Reformation? We have noted Geoffrey Hull's observation that the Reformation replaced Christian Europe with a series of European nations, the majority of which had Christian populations. Robert Nisbet drew attention to the replacement of "intermediary" institutions like the Church and guild with the absolute state and the lonely Christian believer. Much of this blog's early work compared protestant pietism with the Counter-Reformation liturgy and devotional life. Yet, there are other influences from the Reformation, and we hope to explore them throughout the rest of this year, namely: book printing, the objectification of Scripture, art and music, philosophy, and nationalistic politics. Stay tuned. It should be quite a year....

He couldn't have been talking about German music....

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Casual Thoughts on Divine Mercy

Pictured: Doe-eyed mystic.
Recent times have seen a bit of backlash against the JP2-Approved "Divine Mercy" devotion and feast. Last year, Hilary White wrote an extensive hit piece on the What's Up with Francischurch? blog, and a few days ago the equally irascible Maureen Mullarkey expressed her disgust with the phenomenon. My interest in anything related to plenary indulgences has waned considerably as the Holy Father's monthly prayer intentions have become increasingly absurd, and while I have a grudging respect for the "Sacred Heart" movement, I find the prospect of reading Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska's diary to be even less attractive than the prospect of reading Stephenie Meyer's memoirs.

But aesthetic problems aside, the implications of the Divine Mercy Sunday devotion are somewhat troubling. If taken literally, the devotional practice is said to grant graces much greater than that of a plenary indulgence, graces greater than all the Sacraments except for Baptism, at the rank of a second Baptism. Gone is the usual indulgence requirement of complete detachment from sin; now we're in the dispensation of the New Pentecost, I suppose.

Still, what do I know? I cannot say I understand how P. John Paul's 1993 canonization of Sr. Kowalska and the creation of her Divine Mercy feast in 2000 deals with the apparently severe problems of her character and theology, so much as it sweeps them under the rug. The endless gibbering of JP2 2.0 about "mercy" is the logical endgame of mercy without penance.

One of the tragedies of the spiritual life used to be the soiling of one's baptismal garments. Rare even was the saint who never soiled that primordial purity with mortal sin. The stains of sin were difficult to wash out, and the loving desire for self-purification was a great drive for those wishing to please God and his Mother. Now this has been replaced with a yearly return to baptismal purity with little effort on the sinner's part, like Hera at Kanathos. But maybe this is what we require in these dark times? Maybe the Catholic faithful are so far lost in ignorance and apathy that God is reaching down into the depths to pull us up into his good graces. Maybe we have been trained so long to hate penance and perfection that Christ is outpouring his mercy in such a way that he is willing even for that to be abused by preachers, so long as it is received.

There is also a liturgical tragedy, for the old celebration of the Octave Day of Easter in its various forms (Low Sunday, White Sunday, Quasimodo Sunday, Pascha Clausum, etc.) has been lost. Like so many other octaves on the Roman kalendar, the Octave of Easter has been manipulated, though at least not eliminated. I cannot help but think that Karol Wojtyła was inspired by national loyalty rather than careful reasoning when he promoted Faustina's cultus and devotions to universal status.

Still, what do I know? On Low Sunday this year I thankfully heard a sermon that spoke of Jesus and Easter, with only a passing mention of the Divine Mercy stuff. Maybe one day I will dip into Sr. Kowalska's diary and present commentary on a few choice passages, but until then I have more interesting books to read.

Jesus' secretary "in this life and the next," pray for us!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Future of the Roman Liturgy & the Ordinariate Option


In his 2015 article The Silent Action of the Heart Cardinal Sarah wrote in L'Osservatore Romano that he would welcome a return to normative oriented worship in the fourth edition of the Pauline Roman Missal. “Liturgists” decried the cardinal’s assertion of orthopractic worship and let a more intriguing textual suggest slip by, that is, the desirous return of the Roman offertory prayers. Unlike the Canon Missae, offertory prayers originated in the Middle Ages and never enjoyed a universal text, so why reify such a narrow restoration? The old Roman offertory is now the most commonly used Sunday and festive option in the most recently approval Roman Mass books, the Missals for the various Ordinariate communities whose worship descends from Anglican rites. Has the Ordinariate Missal become a test run for the future of the Latin liturgy? No, but the future itself is less certain than it was just a few years ago.

The Ordinariate Liturgy

“Almighty God, unto Whom all hearts be open” are the first distinctively Anglican words at the Ordinariate Mass to an average Roman Catholic who attends either a Paul VI or pre-Conciliar Mass. In fact this prayer is not Anglican at all. It originated in pre-Reformation England and appears in several editions of the Sarum Missal’s prescribed clerical vesting prayers.

The Ordinariate Missal is not the Sarum Mass or the Tridentine Mass celebrated in English. It is an adaptation of Paul VI’s Mass to a manner of liturgical worship that originated in post-Reformation England and done in accordance to the Book of Common Prayer. Several features of the Prayer Book rites of Eucharist are inserted into the Mass at their appropriate times (the litany, the Comfortable Words, the Prayer of Humble Access) and numerous Anglican formularies appear along Roman greetings (“Christ our Passover is sacrificed”). The Missal renders the texts in an early modern-style English rather than the literal translation now in force for the Roman Missal and the heretical translation previously in force.

Paul VI’s Mass is more than a palimpsest for Prayer Book texts in the Ordinariate rite. The eventual outcome of the Ordinariate liturgy reflects Anglican tradition as much as it reflects the sort of Anglicans who took advantage of Benedict XVI’s generous offerings in Anglicanorum Coetibus. While many who have come over to the Church do so from a “high” American Anglican patrimony of sung Prayer Book Eucharist and Evensong services, a similar number of English extraction converts come from an “Anglo-Catholic” background, wherein some variation of the Tridentine Mass or English Missal was done in fiddleback vestments and Benediction followed Vespers. These celebrants and faithful come to the Ordinariate familiar with the prayers before the altar, the priest offering “a flawless victim” for the benefit “of all Christians living and dead,” the triple Domine non sum dignus, and the Johannine prologue. These prayers are medieval Roman prayers which are as proper to the spirituality of many in the Ordinariate as “Almighty and everliving God….” While they do not belong to the patrimony of William Laud they do belong to the patrimony of the Ordinariate.

Anyone who can attend an Ordinariate Mass, even if infrequently, should do so. The Mass captures the illative part of Catholic worship between reverent words spoken to God and the sweetness needed to move a Christian to devotion without delving into profundity. The parishes tend to exceed the average diocesan church in music; the propers are almost always sung as are motets and hymns. The now-cathedral in Houston even has a Rood Screen, an element of pre-Reformation liturgy if ever there was one. The Divine Worship Missal transposes much of what was good in post-Reformation Anglicanism into the contemporary Roman Mass for most excellent use by Ordinariate parishes.

A True Reform of the Pauline Mass?

Benedict XVI’s 2005 Christmas address to the Roman Curia brought the impossibly post-modern academic phrase “hermeneutic of continuity” into the vocabulary of liturgists and students of ecclesiology. A small collective of critics of the modern Church arose from Benedict’s pontificate. These men tended to have been ordained from the time of Paul VI and John Paul II, too young to remember the days before the Council and too old to be caught up in the post-Summorum traditionalist movement; the outlook on what went wrong always included the liturgy, although agreement on what was never universally agreed upon. The one consensus of their liturgical critiques was that the Mass of Paul VI had been misapplied, that those who brought “Pope Paul’s New Mass” into parishes did so with the “hermeneutic of rupture” rather than continuity. In Work of Human Hands: A Theological Critique of the Mass of Paul VI Anthony Cekada personifies this generation of priests as “Fr. Retreaux,” who believes the reformed liturgy requires an ars celebrandi as buttoned up as an Italian cassock.

During Benedict’s papacy a style of Mass emerged in a handful of parishes in every diocese called “Reform of the Reform.” Just as the hermeneuticists of continuity could not agree with what was defective in modern liturgy, they could not agree on a consistent fix. Several different reformed styles of celebrating the reformed Mass proliferated. They included Latin chants for the ordo Missae, use of the Roman Canon, fiddleback vestments, canonical digits, singing of the propers, male altar boys, birettas, six candles around a central crucifix atop the altar, and, when possible, Mass versus Deum.

These applications of the pre-Conciliar praxis to the new Mass reflect an outlook already held by English Oratorians since the 1970s, although the Oratorians’ independence allowed them to anticipate the Reform of the Reform more thoroughly than most diocesan ordinaries will permit their pastors.

Even before the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, interest in the Reform of the Reform waned. No one declared it dead or read its obituary at a CMAA conference, but there was a subtle realization that “Blessed are You, Lord God of the Universe” is a Seder Meal prayer, whether in Latin or Latvian. Moreover, the assertion that Paul VI meant for the reformed Missal to be celebrated like an Institute of Christ the King Mass has no basis in the historical record. The three trial run demonstrations put on for the 1967 synod of archbishops in the Sistine chapel were a low Mass, a low Mass with hymns, and some sort of “high Mass”, all on a free standing table. Paul VI celebrated a hybrid Mass in Italian and Latin versus populum the first day the law permitted in 1964 following the changes of Inter oecumenici.

The faithful welcomed or sought improved celebrations of the Mass of Paul VI, but by 2013 few were still extolling its inherently ceremonial character. If the election of Francis did not end the Reform of the Reform, time would have. The Oratorian celebration of the Pauline Mass can be an aesthetic apotheosis that few bishops would permit; it was easier to celebrate a 3PM indult Mass for the hundred people who want it than to celebrate an improved new Mass as the primary service of the day in full view of a thousand donating parishioners. With the election of Francis to the Petrine See and the conversion of several Reformers of the Reform (notably Thomas Kocik) to the old Mass the movement to celebrate the new liturgy as if it was the old lost momentum.

No broad movement has been born out of the publication of the finalized Ordinariate Missal, but significant anecdotal discussion has come out of it and what it might imply for the Roman rite said in 99% of parishes throughout the world. A celebratory change in the new Mass could only accomplish so much without becoming awkward and uncharacteristic of its intent. The Ordinariate Missal offered something Benedict’s outlook did not, the possibility of fundamental changes to the text in the post-Conciliar Missal. Few if any are interested in the uniquely English flavor of the translation, ceremonial movements, or the character of those for whom it was ratified, merely how it might prove a useful precedent for improving what people have to sit through one hour a week.

What did attract the attention of post-Benedictine Catholics were the Anglo-Catholic features of the Missal, namely the prayers before the altar with the double Confiteor, the Tridentine offertory, the restriction of Eucharistic prayers with an explicit preference for the Roman Canon, and the Johannine prologue at the end of the Mass. All traditional elements of Roman worship present in a ritus for former Anglicans and all absent in the Missal of Paul VI.

So the question arises, could the Mass of Papa Montini effectively remain as is in its lectionary and sacramentary, but find the eventual additions of certain elements from the old Mass, saved only by the miracle of the Ordinariate? Or, put another way, could the Ordinariate Mass, sans its many Anglican texts imported from the Prayer Book, be a template for how the new Mass might look in twenty or fifty years? Is the Ordinariate a typos of the general Roman Church’s future?

No, it is not, but the future is increasingly difficult to ascertain.

The Road Ahead

There are a few hundred traditionalist Mass centers, regular or irregular, in the United States. There is a similar figure in France, which comprises a significantly higher percentage of practicing Catholics in that country. Currently there are a humble 43 Ordinariate parishes in North America with similarly modest figures in England and Australia. Along the same vein various Oratories of Saint Philip Neri have appeared regularly in the Anglophonic world, always styled after their English counterparts rather than their Continental ancestors.

These groups collectively make up a fraction of a percent of the Roman Church throughout the world, yet discussion about the future of the Roman Church tangibly looks at little else if only because there are few other places to look. Countries which once propagated Catholic culture are now utterly bereft of it. The land of Ferdinand and Isabela championed gay marriage long before most European nations would touch the issue; 17% of Spaniards attend Mass. The Fraternity of St. Pius X has served a few Mass centers in Portugal for nearly five decades and has never had a vocation from that country; 19% of self-identified Catholics hear Mass on Sundays. The most stunning collapse of Christianity has transpired in Ireland, where, in the wake of institutional protection of pederast priests and an economic boom in the years after the birth of the Common Market, Mass attendance has dropped from 90% to below 30%; Maynooth seminary operates at 10% its intended capacity. Hardly any of those who still attend Mass go parishes staffed by Ordinariate priests, traditionalists, hermeneuticists of continuity, or reformers of the reform. Yet this topic must necessarily revolve around those very people.

The shortage of vocations to the priesthood in more troubling that the decay of Mass attendance, if only because it offers fewer opportunities for those weak in faith or who attend Mass for habitual reasons to remain somewhere near the bosom of the Church. Jansenism is for the devout, the Church is for all. While Rorate-Caeli could hardly suppress its Alleluias that every parish in Limerick, save for the Institute of Christ the King, will be without Mass every other Sunday, others understand that this marks the beginning of the end for a highly structural, NGO institutional Church that emerged after the 19th political revolutions and normalization of Catholicism in non-Catholic countries. There are enough faithful to justify a few Sunday Masses, but fewer and fewer priests to celebrate them.

Progressive relics from the ages of Paul VI and John Paul II, who for years yearned that the laity might have greater participation in the “ministries” of the Church, may finally get their hearts’ desire, the priestless parish. Meanwhile, the real battle should be over what emerges among those who do celebrate Mass, barring a drastic change in paradigm such as the normative ordination of married men in the West.

Among priest-filled parishes will emerge destination churches, the kinds of parishes people seek in preference to the nearest convenience. Traditional forms of Catholicism are not merely the fastest growing in vocational numbers, they are the only places where there is growth. These various expressions of traditionalist or conservative parish life invariably favor some brand of liturgical orthopraxy, numerous priests living together under one roof, and offer more programs than the average parish. These parishes appeal to a broad range of faithful, from aesthetes to families with children, the simple and the over-educated. Parishes like this currently struggle in bringing the middle of the Church through their doors, the weekly Mass and little-catechized people in suspect marriages. However, as clergy fade without replacement and the less anchored lamentably lapse, the “remnant” may not have much choice but to embrace these destination churches.

In France there are already less than a hundred priestly ordinations a year, between seventy and eighty when excluding the archdiocese of Paris. Various purveyors of “destination parishes”—FSSPX, FSSP, ICRSS, IBP, Communauté de Saint-Martin, the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, and traditionalist monasteries—gradually occupy a larger and larger percentage of the declining total. A similar effect might eventually take root in less “integrist” lands where one off communities like Oratories or canonries become thriving focal points of dioceses, even if they do not make up a significant portion of priests. Destination parishes will never make up the majority of the Roman diocesan churches, but then again neither did the Dominicans, Franciscans, Oratorians, or Augustinian Canons. Movements are never effected by majorities, but vocal minorities whose vigor convinces a surplus to throw in with their cause or become amenable to their view.

The surplus in this case is whatever remains of the diocesan priesthood, men who survive seminary formation and who are spread thin like butter over too much bread in a cluster of parishes in France or alone in a rectory built for five in Ireland. Diocesan formation is as mediocre as it has been since the 1970s, save for a few reputable programs. The “JP2 generation”, however, does not share the political views of its antecedents and often not its liturgical views either. Anecdotally, diocesan seminarians are either friendly to traditional liturgy or indifferent on the matter with the former more resolute in its interest than the latter in its disinterest. This hardly constitutes a movement, but it does constitute a group of people who can be moved, especially if they already have something in common with more vibrant destination churches than they do with those where the weak continue to lapse.

The Growing Rift

The failure of the Reform of the Reform or improved celebrations of the Mass of Paul VI to take root originate in two distinct places, the nature of the new liturgy’s introduction and its regulation.

Conventionally, attempts at Tridentinizing, medievalizing, or simply making more reverent the common celebration of the Montinian Mass came from desire to continue a pre-existing liturgical maximalism in an age where the ceremonies and texts did not agree with symphonic Masses or Palestrina’s motets. This was certainly the case with Msgr. Schuler or the Brompton Oratory. The purpose to prolong a certain liturgical style characteristic to a parish did not apply to the majority of churches after 1970. More relevant today is without formation in the old liturgy few clerics feel compelled to sublimate its genius in the context of the new liturgy.

The other impediment to the various essays at “enriching” the new liturgy is that organic development is both unknown and illegal in the modern liturgy. The new Missal is without essential change since its introduction, not unlike the Roman liturgy from the time of Trent until the nineteen regrettable years of Pius XII. Celebrants follow an intuitive combination of what is in the book and what they have watched since childhood. The ritual imitation of the old rite once called Reform of the Reform comes across as stilted, misapplied, and out of place. It is even more difficult to imagine a textual enrichment of the new Mass from the old, or from other sources, in the current milieu. The books of the reformed liturgy are regulated and published by the Congregation for Divine Worship without the input or approval of local priests, who habitually follow its familiar gestures.

While the number of priests continues to contract and the number of more traditional (broadly understood) Masses proliferate, the very barriers to the long desired “mutual enrichment” remain, the barriers of inorganic formation and of the centralization around the new rite. Diocesan clergy who wish for more to their new rite Mass than the odd Latin Agnus Dei at Christmas may find it easier to throw in their lot with the “stable groups” who want an old Mass or with destination parish clergy who have adopted a different outlook altogether.

One might optimistically tend to think this would eventually effect a more traditional version of the new liturgy. It will not. Unlike diocesan clergy, bishops are selected abroad from among men whose dedication to the current causes of national conferences and Rome outweigh their sympathy for the interests of parish liturgy. As long as this remains true the new Missal will remain as is, without any mutual enrichment, Tridentinisms, or new developments of its own accord.

What might this mean in a world of fewer priests and less ecclesiastical structure to watch over those who remain in parishes rather than in the growing fraternal communities? Diocesan clergy who were interested in the old liturgy, in part or whole (a sizeable minority from purely anecdotal experience), but who were not interested in leaving their hometowns for ‘50s-ism or Nerian spirituality, may find themselves free to expand their offering of the old Missal rather than toy with what they know they may not change. As peculiar as it sounded ten years ago, traditionalist communities have expanded modestly, but diocesan Latin Masses have grown by a multiple. Many remain at odd times for small groups, but the growing normality of the [putative] 1962 Missal could well justify a liturgically-minded pastor’s expansion of his Mass schedule to include a Latin Mass at 11AM rather than at 2PM, especially if he is the only priest in a parish.

The danger in this emerging trend of traditionally minded seminarians, priests, and priests of what we have termed destination parishes is that the Roman Church’s internal divisions would become externally manifested by liturgical praxis. If the French trend continues and diocesan interest in the Latin Mass increases, a third of French clergy may be Tridentine Mass-saying integrists who support the National Front while the other two thirds wear golf shirts around town between celebrating one monthly Mass at each parish in their clusters. Bishops, again, almost always strangers to their own flock, will have less and less in common with a growing segment of their own clergy. What are they to do with such priests? Ghettoize them? Leave them be? Promote them to larger parishes on merit?

Reform or Return?

1982 might have been the optimal year to re-instate the pre-Conciliar Latin liturgy as the normative Mass in the Roman Church. John Paul II re-established a nominal orthodoxy regarding sex, the roles of the sexes, and basic doctrines that were ignored during the stagnant post-Conciliar days of Papa Montini. Regardless of his phenomenology the Polish Pope created an externally sound perception to the Church that hid the liturgical abuse so arrant to those inside. Liturgical experiment continued in some circles, but a general mediocrity, born in suburban American parishes, became the international standard. So why would 1982 have been the best year to return to the old Roman ways?

In that same year The Tablet published results of a poll of English Catholics concerning the liturgical reform. Over 40% desired a return to the old Mass; the next largest block were indifferent; only a quarter preferred the new Mass to the old. The new liturgy’s novelty factor had run its course during an age when the former ways were still within living memory of most priests and laity. A return would have been difficult, but far easier than either a return to the old rite or a revitalization of the new rite has proven today.

There also existed the issue of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who, for what good he did, missed a grand opportunity at this juncture. He founded the Seminary of Saint Pius X in 1970 with permission of the diocesan bishop for the formation and ordination of priests. Doctrine concerned the French archbishop as did clerical education. Liturgy ranked lower on his list of priorities. Originally, the Seminary of Saint Pius X, and the associated priestly fraternity that governed it, was intended for the training of clergy who could return to their home dioceses for regular parish work; Cardinal Siri sent men to Econe in the early years and incardinated a few into his diocese, presumably celebrating the “illegal” Latin Mass until Paul VI noticed. If he had qualms about the new rite, then those qualms arose from what the new rite represented more than the integrity of the rites themselves; how could he celebrate the 1962 rite otherwise? After his 1976 suspension by Paul VI the “rebel archbishop” found himself the subject of religion segments in the newspapers and the topic of shorts in international news. During the same period a significant number of clergy in the United States and Europe, some retired and some forced into “independent” ministry, could have reverted to the old rite with the inspiration that a charismatic, orthodox figure could imbue. As a former missionary who baptized thousands of Africans, Msgr. Lefebvre should have been that very figure. The requisite inspiration never came, and the old Mass remained a symbol of opposition to Dignitatis humanae and French democracy. At the peak of his potential influence Lefebvre quietly began to work with the Vatican for a successor bishop and in the process forced the entire non-Francophonic populace of his Fraternity into adopting the 1962 liturgy over the pre-Pius XII book in force; it seems “pre-Vatican II” and “Latin” were more operative in the Fraternity’s liturgical outlook than “tradition.” Lefebvre never lawfully received his successor bishop; the June 30, 1988 consecrations and the following Vatican pseudo-liberation of the 1962 Mass in Ecclesia Dei adflicta all but ensured the old liturgy would stay in the realm of ghettos for those who could not move on.

Spiritual Health

While a wholesale return to the old liturgy remains an elusive dream, the prominent return of older rites in a larger portion of the Church remains more probable than a reform of the Pauline Mass along the lines of the Ordinariate Missal or a better practice of the current Novus Ordo liturgy. On its own, diverse rites cause little trouble; Lebanese Catholics attend rites based on whether they live in a Maronite village or Melkite village. However, liturgical diversity within narrow geographies, when the liturgical boundary is not also a national or cultural boundary, has a checkered history on a larger scale. Melkite Christians lost their original Antiochian liturgy and were compelled to adopt the Byzantine rite. Roman missionaries in Ethiopia attempted to foist the Roman rite on the locals and separate the priests from their wives. In a divided Church liturgy has historically been used as a symbolic weapon against those with a different idea of how to be a Catholic. Given the turbulence of the contemporary Roman Church the Pauline Mass, old Mass, and reformed new Mass—if the latter two gain sufficient “market share”—may provide visible markers of division between contrasting opinions of what constitutes a Catholic.

In a normatively Catholic world justice would demand those who believe themselves in the right to combat those in the wrong at the parish level as Athanasius did against the Arians and Augustine against the Donatists; even the Great Western Schism, which controverted the legitimacy of the rival popes more than any doctrine, was reduced to the local church with rival bishoprics. We do not live in a normatively Catholic society anymore, any further diversity risks creating an Anglican menagerie if the liturgy merely becomes a banner for other causes.

The broad mission of liturgical restoration must make inroads with seminarians and celebrants for diocesan churches in order to be anything other than a sect within a sect. Anything less than meeting Catholics where they are—poorly catechized, in dubious marriages, and agnostic to Latin—will only succeed in creating more minute groups dedicated to long dresses, home schooling, lace albs, and the National Front. The new liturgy has too little history and too much centralization to reform itself organically while the old is too different from the new to be introduced in a broad stroke; with these challenges, champions of reform—or, more accurately, restoration—would be wise to let reverent liturgy inform the culture of a parish rather than force an arbitrary culture on those who seek reverent liturgy.

Benedict Revisited: Felix Culpa?

Four weeks ago more Roman Catholics celebrated the traditional rites of Holy Week than at any other point since 1955. Deacons sanctified the Paschal candle by inserting blessed incense into the torch that burns with the uncreated light. During the blessing the Levite remembered God’s permitting the Fall of Adam: “O felix culpa quae talem et tantem meruit habere redemptorem.” God, wrote Saint Augustine when he coined the term felix culpa, does not create evil, but he does allow it if a greater good might prevail.

Never before have the futures of both the liturgy and the institutional structures of the Church been less certain. Past attempts to focus the reformed liturgy through the lens of tradition belong to extenuating circumstances in an era gone by, while current attempts, exemplified by the Ordinariate liturgy, are bound to be thwarted by the bureaucratic root of the contemporary Mass. Groups desiring more orthopractic liturgical forms have experienced modest growth, but the most startling numbers lay in the growth of vocations in these “destination” communities, which figure to make up a sizable minority of the shrinking institutional Church within a few generations. Those favoring older rites have a clearer path to influence than Reformers of the Reform, although they lack any clear route to the restoration they so desire unless they are willing to engage younger diocesan celebrants who are amenable to tradition and not weighed down by the baggage of post-Vatican II Traditionalism.

In a Church where some purport to speak for the Magisterium, some for God, some for Kasper, and all for Bergoglio, any liturgical revival threatens to become a battlefield for other conflicts that will make visible those divisions which have already insinuated the subterranean structures of Western Catholicism. Yet does not natural justice demand the right thing be done irrespective of circumstance? It does, and targeting strife within the Church is far apart from trying to survive it. Laity, unfortunately, suffer more than clergy amid disputes between Churchmen and their causes, as happened during the Great Western Schism, the Reformation, and the 20th century liturgical revolt.


Benedict XVI’s liberalization of the 1962 liturgy may well have been a felix culpa in clarifying competing factions and the struggle for the Church’s temporal future. More importantly Benedict’s motu proprio led to a dual effort to revive the ’62 rite and improve the new rite using its existing text. The abandonment of the Reform of the Reform and visible trend to pre-Pacellian rites among diocesan Traditionalists can only mean people have looked at the existing Roman liturgy in both “forms” and found it wanting. While the future is less certain than ever the current revival of the old rite and trend towards the un-revised Roman liturgy represent the first genuinely organic, non-committee driven liturgical movement in the Roman Catholic Church since the original Liturgical Movement a century and a half ago. A grassroots transition through an Ordinariate-style Missal would benefit the faithful, but there exists no viable channel for such a transition.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

St. Gengulphus: Martyr for Marriage

(source)
The cultus of St. Gengulphus (†AD 760) does not appear to have ever been especially large. He was one of the rare "secular" saints of the first millennium, being neither a cleric nor a religious, but rather a martyr of sorts. He lived in Burgundy, and many churches in France still bear his name (or some variant thereof), as do some German churches.

His hagiography is miraculous from its first recounting, and serves as an interesting counterpoint to later women saints who suffered greatly under their wicked husbands. Gengulphus suffered the indignity of a straying wife, who began an adulterous affair with a clerk of some unknown rank while her husband was away from home. When the nobleman was finally convinced of his wife's unfaithfulness, he advised her to repent and himself retired to a distant estate, rather than punish her. The two adulterers feared for their safety and plotted to kill the saintly husband, and one night the clerk slipped into his bedroom and dealt him a mortal blow. After returning to his mistress, the clerk quickly died in the manner of Arius and the wife was ironically cursed after replying to news of miracles performed at her husband's grave with, "If Gengulph can work miracles, then so can my arse." One day a week for the rest of her life, an ignoble sound erupted constantly from the part of the body she thus indicated.

The story of St. Gengulphus was not popular enough to warrant inclusion in the Golden Legend, and his mention in the martyrology of the Roman Breviary for May 11 is terse: Varennis, in Gallia, sancti Gangulphi Martyris. Nevertheless, many of his relics can still be found in the areas surrounding his original cult, as can the aforementioned churches named in his honor.

Some later legends claim that Gengulphus had retired from married life to become a hermit, but there is no such indication in the earliest hagiographies. He never divorced his wife nor sought to annul his marriage. In many ways he is the kind of saint needed in our troubles times. The culture of divorce and "easy outs" from bad marriages has permeated the Church herself. Gengulphus suffered greatly from a bad spouse, but did not use this injustice as an excuse to commit sin.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Benedict Option for Laymen?

A recent short essay published by Crisis Magazine examines the problems that come with an "Abundance of Benedict Options," playing off the social engineering schema popularized by the ex-Catholic Rod Dreher:
The most famous [option] is certainly the Benedict option popularized by author Rod Dreher. But others have written about the Dominican option, the Dorothy option, the Escriva option, the Buckley option, the Boniface option, etc. I have no problems with these suggestions or reflection on this question. It is vital and important to prepare for the full flowering of western liberalism and its possible collapse under its own weight. However, most who are writing on this topic miss the contingency of this question, the participatory nature of the Church, and Ecclesial unity.
The essay by Dr. John Meinert is both short and good, basically trying to calm the contentious option-holders from beating on one another in public, in favor of admitting a variety of valid options within the Catholic sphere of moral orthodoxy.

I wonder if Dreher's repurposing of St. Benedict's name in naming his own social-religious philosophy is unnecessarily confusing. It seems that Dreher is constantly fighting off concerns that he wants laity with family to live like monks. Why invoke the Rule of the great Benedict if you are only going to abstract a few applicable ideas for the common layman? "I came up with the concept," Dreher says, "and I'm not sure what it means."

John Senior was more intentional with his invocation of the ancient Benedictine way of life. He argued that the larger Catholic culture (lay and clerical) can only find a revival if first the monasteries are purified by returning to a strict obedience to the Rule. Fix the monasteries, and the rest of the world will follow. Dr. Senior, I suspect, would accuse Mr. Dreher of putting the cart before the horse. Senior wrote in The Restoration of Christian Culture:
We are creatures of habit, as the nuns used to say. In the moral and spiritual order, we become what we wear as much as what we wear "becomes" us—and it is the same with how we eat and what we do. That is the secret of St. Benedict's Rule which in the strict sense regulated monasteries and in the wider sense, through the influence and example of monasteries, especially in their love of Our Blessed Mother, civilized Europe. The habits of the monks, the bells, the ordered life, the conversation, the music, gardens, prayer, hard work, and walls—all these accidental and incidental forms conformed the moral and spiritual life of Christians to the love of Mary and her Son. (130-31)
While Senior's vision demands a top-down purification of culture, Dreher's vision is born of an impatience with the failures of those in higher states of life in the Church. This is no surprise, considering that clerical corruption was the cause of his own schism. There is something unnatural about creating a "rule" for Catholic families that is divorced from the daily, weekly, and yearly life of a parish or monastery. It is the kind of thing one would expect in a place like pre-20th century Japan, where pockets of Catholic communities were forced to perpetuate themselves without the help of clergy of any kind after the expulsion of Western influences, not in the cybernetically connected 21st century.

Certainly, at times families need to keep themselves Catholic in spite of the local parochial influence. Dreher's vision of the family besieged on every side, even the ecclesiastical side, is not without merit. But it is dangerous to cultivate a lifestyle of seclusion, where the laity arrive at the church once a week for Sacraments, but otherwise refuse to engage with the life of the Church. I worry mostly that Dreher is implicitly recommending a kind of Protestant spirituality, wherein each family is an island that develops a habit of suspicion against all outside influence.

The health of the Church Catholic depends heavily on the holiness of her monasteries, and to a marginally lesser degree on the holiness of her priests and bishops. Any spirituality that places the natural family at its center I consider suspect, and I say this as one recently married and hopeful of a fruitful life, and who also regularly bemoans the disintegration of family life in the West. Our spiritual life revolves around the Household of Heaven, in which the Son is paradoxically greater than the Mother, in which our familial relations become mere metaphors for a more perfect life. Sacramental though our marriages be, they are not intrinsically paradigms for the life of Heaven, where we will neither marry nor be given in marriage.

I am not insensible to the need of securing the moral and traditional aspects of family life. It is an important problem, and one urgent enough that it will not simply wait for the hopeful Benedictine revival in the West. In this respect, I think families need to make peace with the fact that any moral corrections they make against the culture or against malign ecclesiastical influence are going to be limited, imperfect, and temporary. Whatever "option" we take, we should not think it to be a permanent or wholistic solution.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Fox in the Henhouse

Pictured: Staff writers of the Aleteia website.
The Franciscan Reign of Terror has been somewhat eclipsed recently by the antics of the new American president, but the denial-of-service attacks on our intellects by P. Bergoglio continue to buzz in the background. He releases interviews, twitter posts, and ghostwritten encyclicals with a publication cycle that would have made John Paul envious. The sycophants of the Catholic blogging, radio, and magazine worlds refuse to acknowledge any evidence that Francis "The Fox" Bergoglio is anything but praiseworthy; meanwhile, the open-eyed commentators, trad or not, are increasingly alarmed. Even Mr. Corbinian's Bear, Esq. is toying with the thought of sedevacantism as a reasonable alternative to accepting the current bishop of Rome as legitimate. (Congratulations are in order for his recently published novel, by the way.)

Most of us in Tradistan are content to get the dismay out of our systems with a bit of occasional sarcasm and delight at the thought of the pope's eventual resignation. I do not think highly of the thesis that P. Benedict's resignation was invalid, and generally consider the thesis of sedevacantism to be a cheap form of escapism that absolves the believer of the burdensome responsibility of piety towards an unworthy leader.

But the problem of a bad pope is merely the extension of the problem of bad bishops and bad priests. Rare is the layman who does not have horror stories of parish priests and pastors, whether of clearly unorthodox preaching, two-facedness, or outright perversion. Rare, too, is the Catholic who can boast a bishop worthy of imitation or admiration. Why do lower-level Catholics who have found ways to mentally and emotionally survive under bad clerics find it impossible to tolerate a bad pope?

Until Francis, the "JP2, We Love You" crowd could at least pretend that the papacy was mostly fine. They had to do a little see-no-evil, hear-no-evil to accomplish that end, but it was possible. Everyone has his breaking point, and Francis is proving to be the breaking point of many. Some of the usual ultramontanist suspects are wondering when the pope will answer the dubia (likely never), in the hopes that they can get back to their comfortable papal adoration.

One of the few Youtube videographers I follow regularly is Hans Feine, M.Div. of the Illinois-based Lutheran Satire account. His "Frank the Hippie Pope" character neatly summarizes the difficulty of working constant damage control on an out-of-control pontiff. But even the "Hippie Pope" is a whitewash of the real man, appearing in the cartoon merely as a doped up halfwit instead of a sly intellect. In reality he is a bull in the china shop, a snake in the grass, a fox in the henhouse.

But again, so what? We will always have to learn how to live with weak or evil rulers. We will always have to learn how to not simply survive but thrive under their burdensome scandal. When one reads the chronicles of the ancient kings of Israel and Judah, rare was the monarch who did not do evil in the sight of the Lord; should we expect it to be any different today? Let us file our formal complaints and move on to the hard work of perfecting ourselves and our societies, and the harder work of converting the lost to the true Church. Innocent as doves, yet clever as serpents—how else will we keep the foxes from devouring us whole?

Where's a good bear when you need one?

Monday, May 1, 2017

May 1 Repost for Pip'N'Jim

I had entirely forgotten about Jerz the Werz day and even wore a red tie with a matching pocket square to the Divine Liturgy today. A Tradistani chorister, hiding from the novel feast at Byzantine services, reminded me. While reading the Mattins of the feast this morning I recalled that the hagiography of James the Greater fits in quite well with the traditional narrative of St. Joseph.

From the second nocturne:
"So great was James' holiness of life that men strove one with another to touch the hem of his garment. When he was ninety-six years old, and had most holily governed the Church of Jerusalem for thirty years, ever most constantly preaching Christ the Son of God, he laid down his life for the faith. He was first stoned, and afterward taken up on to a pinnacle of the Temple and cast down from thence. His legs were broken by the fall, and he was wellnigh dead, but he lifted up his hands towards heaven, and prayed to God for the salvation of his murderers, saying " Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do " As he said this, one that stood by smote him grievously upon the head with a fuller's club, and he resigned his spirit to God. He testified in the seventh year of Nero, and was buried hard by the Temple, in the place where he had fallen. He wrote one of the Seven Epistles which are called Catholic. "

Ss. Jim'n'Pip, pray for us!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

In Persona Christi?

Maybe, maybe not.
The recent Good Friday article by His Traddiness reminded me of a theological question that has bothered me for a while. Namely, what is the history of the theology of Holy Orders in regards to the idea that the priest acts in persona Christi? (Of similar interest is the theology of the priest as alter Christus—"another Christ"—but this is more rarely found in writings on the priesthood.)

The phrase itself appears to be borrowed from St. Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians, wherein he writes, "I myself, wherever I have shewn indulgence, have done so in the person of Christ for your sakes" ("nam et ego quod donavi, si quid donavi, propter vos in persona Christi").

It appears in its more recognizable form in St. Thomas's Summa, where he distinguishes between Sacraments: some being effected in the person of the minister (e.g., "I baptize you..." or "I confirm you...") and others in the person of Christ (e.g., "I absolve you..." or "This is my Body..."). For Thomas, this appears to be a technical point concerning the meaning of the words effecting these Sacraments, rather than an observation on the effects of Holy Orders on ordained persons.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566), though not quoting the council itself, says, "The priest is also one and the same, Christ the Lord; for the ministers who offer Sacrifice, consecrate the holy mysteries, not in their own person, but in that of Christ, as the words of consecration itself show, for the priest does not say: This is the body of Christ, but, This is my body; and thus, acting in the Person of Christ the Lord, he changes the substance of the bread and wine into the true substance of His body and blood." In this, the catechism is basically following Thomas.

Whereas previously the bishops held a special place as the ministers and missionaries of Christ, the Counter-Reformation seems to have gradually extended of this idea to all priests. St. Alphonsus Liguori (†1787), for instance, wrote tracts on the dignity of the priesthood, at one point opining, "For us it is enough to know that Jesus Christ has said that we should treat his priests as we would his own person."

Similarly, St. John Vianney (†1859) wrote, "After God, the priest is everything! Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is." Like sentiments are found in popular moral manuals and spiritual writings from the Counter-Reformation to the second Vatican Council.

The twentieth century saw an increase of exposition on the exaltation of priests. Even James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) famously depicts a priest trying to encourage the eponymous hero to pursue Holy Orders based on its magnificent dignity: "No angel or archangel in heaven, no saint, not even the Blessed Virgin herself, has the power of a priest of God: the power of the keys, the power to bind and to loose from sin, the power of exorcism, the power to cast out from the creatures of God the evil spirits that have power over them; the power, the authority, to make the great God of Heaven come down upon the altar and take the form of bread and wine."

P. Pius XII wrote in the encyclical Mediator Dei that "Christ is present at the august sacrifice of the altar both in the person of His minister and above all under the eucharistic species" and that priests "represent the person of Jesus Christ before their people."

The Vatican Council increased the danger of clericalism even while giving lip service to the importance of the laity. In Lumen Gentium, the council fathers wrote that the bishops "in an eminent and visible way sustain the roles of Christ Himself as Teacher, Shepherd and High Priest, and that they act in His person." Also that the priests "by reason of their sacred office represent the person of Christ."

In the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church, the phrase is mentioned three times (875, 1348, & 1548), albeit modified into, "in persona Christi capitis." The extension of the persona Christi theology goes even further in 1348: "It is in representing [Christ] that the bishop or priest acting in the person of Christ the head (in persona Christi capitis) presides over the assembly, speaks after the readings, receives the offerings, and says the Eucharistic Prayer." This is the first "official" suggestion that a Sunday sermon should be considered as being preached in the person of Christ.

In 2009, P. Benedict XVI issued a motu proprio in which he modified the Code of Canon Law to clarify that only bishops and priests act in the person of Christ, not deacons.

While I am no expert in the development of doctrine, it seems that the relatively modest proposal of Thomas Aquinas got quite out of hand by the 20th century. His theological writings on the words of consecration have also caused no end of consternation with the various eastern Churches. It seems clear at this point in time that they contributed very unfortunately to the culture of clericalism, the quasi-quietism that idolized obedience even for the common layman.

One might say that a bishop acts in the person of Christ much like an ambassador acts for his country: in an official capacity, but sometimes poorly representing the desires of his fatherland, and being occasionally the cause of international incidents. Indeed, the aforementioned Pauline epistle calls the apostles "ambassadors of Christ," but it seems that St. Thomas had a very different meaning in mind when opining on the effecting of Sacraments.

P. Benedict's legal clarification is welcome, but does little to undo the damage of excessive clericalist spirituality. The recent sex abuse crisis saw many priests manipulating young men by asserting their role as "another Christ," and by claiming that whatever they willed was therefore willed by God. This is an extreme example of clericalism gone wrong, but not an irrelevant one. When your local parish pastor starts asserting his authority as an alter Christus, even for silly things like liturgical preferences in the Pauline Novelty Mass, but especially for more serious matters like demanding complete obedience to all advice given in the confessional, one must wonder why.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

French Elections: A Bad Soufflé?

source: The Sun
Have you ever gone through the bother of making an ornate dinner for a party only to have to eat a disastrous resultant dish? A soufflé that did not rise? Overcooked steak? A béarnaise that scrambled? French voters are going through a similar experience right now.

The French Republic sent God to the guillotine in the 1790s, although the Church was allowed to exist independently until 1905, when the government nationalized Church property including hospitals and schools. Since then the official policy of France has been secularism in a post Christian age. Marine Le Pen herself extols France's take on secularism, which is effectively a resolute irreligion in the public sphere, but tolerance for fragments of the Christian age gone by.

Islam does not fit very well into this narrative. Some French have taken to calling their growing immigrants les rats. Middle Eastern Muslims live in a different narrative of the roles of the sexes, the place of religion in the public sphere, legal procedure, and the nature of God Himself than either Catholic or secular Frenchmen.

And what can they do about it? Nothing. Much like their older brother, the United States, the French government's official irreligion tolerates differences, which peaceably keeps us until we become too different. Even a culturally Christian country nation like Hungary or Poland could reasonably flaunt the E.U. and deny immigrants from Muslims countries. France has no such pretext unless they wish to argue the burqa is unattractive against the backdrop of churches museums. So to stop immigration and related terrorism Le Pen must resort to preaching positive secularism from years gone by while her opponents are more in tune with today's secularism. But as any Catholic knows, there is little more to conservatism than conserving yesterday's liberalism in the face of today's liberalism.

Regardless of how the election turns out there is a fundamental dishonesty in how the question of immigration must be framed. But France has spent over two centuries cooking this secular dinner with the butchered pieces of Christianity, now she must eat it.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bright Friday Abstinence: Surely of the Devil


Some chappy has taken to advocating abstinence from meat and the associated practice of penance during Friday of Bright Week, that is, on Friday during the Paschal octave. He writes:
"Therefore, if one follows the discipline of 1962, then the corresponding practice on Easter Friday remains a day of abstinence.  If one follows the post-Vatican II discipline (which admittedly is the law, just as it would be lawful to feast during 38 of the 40 days of Lent), then grill the steak with one's novus ordo friends." 
I could not think of a greater indictment of the 1962 kalendar system, or really the kalendar as it existed during the century of so preceding Pius XII, Montini, and Bugnini's great brain child, Liturgical Reform. St. Pius V's kalendar had about 180 feasts of either semi-double or double rank, including days within octaves, leaving the rest as ferial or simple days. The few double feasts could supersede Sunday's liturgy. By the time of the 1911 reforms only a few days were left of ferial ranks either because of new feasts inserted at double rank or old feasts promoted so as to curtail the length of the Offices on those days. The 1960 simplification did not clean up kalendar clutter and the lack of rhythm (the liturgical context in which the 1917 Code of Canon Law was created). Rather it simply conceded to the clutter: first class is important, second class is for Sundays and those pesky Apostles, third class is everything else, fourth class means have yourself a votive Mass. The unique ranking of a week that precludes all other celebrating is quite lost.

A cursory glance at some sources indicates no consistent outlook on fasting or abstinence from meat during octaves in the medieval church, when octaves became very important. Sarum seems to have foregone these two during the Paschal and Nativity octaves. It is possible that some octaves were given more festive treatment than others, which would only be reasonable. There would be some abstinence on Friday during the Pentecost octave because the penitential Ember days are more ancient than the week-long extension of the feast.

My Greek rite church will have neither fasting nor abstinence until the Friday after All Saints Sunday (same day as Trinity Sunday in the West).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Paschal Octave Musings: Feast and Fast

"That bread may be brought forth from the earth
and wine that gladdens the heart of man."
source: AZcentral
Wine is the most perfectly Christian potable. It begins as matter of the earth which, through crushing and fermentation, becomes something more perfect than its original state or original purpose. Once opened this imbibable type for Baptism breaths the air and changes for the better after turning over once. It matures in its "spirit" and delights those who participate in its fellowship. Yet, like the Christian life, it can be left out unconsumed and misused, attenuated until it becomes vinegar.

During the Paschal octave we should rejoice and feast after the fast, the nearest beverage to which is water: satisfying, cleansing, and yet some an occasion for joy unto its own; yet, water followed by wine is a pleasing contrast between nourishment and enrichment. No other substances, however delectable, offer what these two offer the believer.

To development my point and to amuse your minds I have reproduced Gilbert Keith Chesteron's The Song of Right and Wrong below. A blessed Pascha to all!
Feast on wine or fast on water
And your honour shall stand sure,
God Almighty’s son and daughter
He the valiant, she the pure;
If an angel out of heaven
Brings you other things to drink,
Thank him for his kind attentions,
Go and pour them down the sink.
Tea is like the East he grows in,
A great yellow Mandarin
With urbanity of manner
And unconsciousness of sin;
All the women, like a harem,
At his pig-tail troop along;
And, like all the East he grows in,
He is Poison when he’s strong.
Tea, although an Oriental,
Is a gentleman at least;
Cocoa is a cad and coward,
Cocoa is a vulgar beast,
Cocoa is a dull, disloyal,
Lying, crawling cad and clown,
And may very well be grateful
To the fool that takes him down. 
As for all the windy waters,
They were rained like tempests down
When good drink had been dishonoured
By the tipplers of the town;
When red wine had brought red ruin
And the death-dance of our times,
Heaven sent us Soda Water
As a torment for our crimes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

An Anniversary Three Days Too Late

"I was visiting my father in his apartment at the Trump Tower, Rad Trad. There was this tiny Asian woman wearing sunglasses behind me, so I held the door for her. When she got closer I saw it was Yoko Ono and I let the door fly."

At first such teenage tomfoolery dismays the well inculcated probity towards good manners, especially for the woman who did music a favor by "breaking up the Beatles," but one must temper expectations for good manners in New York. When my friend first told me this story a decade ago I had to remind myself that New York witnessed some of the last men and women of good manners enter her harbor 95 years ago, now 105 years ago to the day, when the Carpathia brought ashore the 705 men, women, and children who survived the sinking of the Titanic.

The parents of this generation can still recall when a few survivors from modern history's most glamorous disaster could be counted on for television appearances. Now they are all quite dead and the unsinkable ship's maiden voyage survives only in a James Cameron film.

The Titanic was not the only ship to founder on her maiden voyage; the battleship Bismarck went down in 1941 with 2,200 on board, taking over 1,400 British sailors with "him" after sinking the Hood and damaging the Prince of Wales. Nor was the Titanic the greatest civilian maritime sinking; a Soviet submarine torpedoed the Wilhelm Gustloff and sent 9,400 people down to "Davy Jones' locker."

By sinking the RMS Titanic disappointed an era of boundless optimism, a time ebullient with the boundless capacity for ingenuity and invention to better the human condition. Society had matured from the growing pains of 19th century political revolution and could only be better off without the antiquarian altar and throne scheme. Edward style and society retained Victorian standards with brighter colors. Old money was fairly new, inherited wealth made two generations earlier by the Robber Barons (one had to be third generation wealth to join the clubs in Newport). Titanic synthesized all these things in her impermeable iron hull, where the old new money dined a few decks above those disjointed by industry, both propelled at 22 knots in a vessel a sixth of a mile long towards a new world unhindered by lingering social structures.

And then it all came crashing down, breaking in two on the way.

Titanic did not sink quickly like the Gustloff or as a ship of aggression like Bismarck. She died a slow, 160 minute death in which most of what was good in past society also died. Women and children were let off first, although more would have lived if Charles Lightoller did not interpret that order to mean "women and children only." Stokers who knew they would die made no attempt for a "run at it" and instead manned their positions in the boiler rooms to the end, keeping the power on and the pumps running to buy the ship additional life. The band played until the end, hoping to keep passengers calm and add some normality to the surreal sinking on the flat calm night. Contrary to film depictions, those in second and third class were not gated below, but they did not rush the upper decks and cause a panic either. The elderly Ida Straus gave her lifeboat seat to another so that she might pass with her husband, the owner of Macy's. Benjamin Guggenheim put on his white tie and top hat, ordered a cigar, and resigned to "go down as a gentleman."

How comical and carnivalesque to modernity for men in tails to listen to The Blue Danube Waltz during a watery death march, but is it only perverse because we never knew a sense of duty, place, and order and once permeated men and women more forcefully than the cold waters of the Atlantic that hit boiler room six. Their politics and religion were inherited from a revolts of past ages, but their courtesy and gentility inherited from homes more tangibly connected with Christian life than ours.

If the Titanic disappointed a changing world eager to embrace the promises of the machine, World War I yielded no reconsideration of the standing trajectory, and World War II, culminating in man's own Fiat lux on August 6, 1945. The old society died, but the new one failed to live up to billing. "Women and children first" and the band playing on was replaced with dull housewives, television, and rock 'n' roll. When promises disappoint we rarely return to our better paths; instead we wallow in bitterness and try to make the most of a new paradigm, like the child who goes off to college, lapses from faith, fails to get a decent job, and will not admit his live in girlfriend of four years is a waste of his time.

But today is a day to remember better men than we, men from 105 years gone by, all of them dead now. Offer a prayer for them in your charity.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

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."


A blessed Pascha to all!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

He Descended into Hell: Holy Saturday


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.