Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Suffrages of the Saints


The suffrages of the various saints in the old Divine Office are rarely treated in histories of the liturgy. Gregory Dix and Pierre Battifol make no mention of them. Perhaps Jungmann does, but I am not familiar enough with his scholarship to recall off hand. Yet these intercessions to the Saints were present in the Lauds and Vespers of the Roman rite for nearly a millennium, as stationary and consistent as the antiphons on the psalms themselves.

Devotion to the Saints entered the regular aspects of the liturgy some time between the reign of Gregory the Great and the reforming pontificate of Gregory VII. In the 9th and 10th centuries monks began to dedicate ferial, non-Lenten Saturdays to Our Lady. At the same time demand for additional Requiem Masses birthed the "private" Mass, that is, an additional Mass not specifically required by the liturgy of the day (in contrast to days where the liturgy traditionally does demand numerous Masses, like the Roman rite on Christmas or the pre-Byzantine rites of Jersualem on Pascha). Votive Masses of the Saints came some time later, but from the same popular desire for liturgical devotion. Early chapters of Duffy's Stripping of the Altars has some fascinating discussion of the evolution of votive Mass texts, mainly by means of priests guiding the benefactors through what sort of readings might be most appropriate and even efficacious for a Saint.

It might be safe to say the Suffrages date to around this time, some era shortly after the Gregorian reforms cemented the place of Gallican influences in the Roman liturgy, including Gallican monastic influences. This last point ought not be overlooked. When Saint Peter Damian visited Cluny, sure the monks were slacking on their vows by wearing habits of the daily liturgical color and feasting on huge meals, he was exhausted after participating in several days of their common life, which included the full daily Office, the Office of the Dead, the Office of the Blessed Virgin, and the Office of All the Saints, some ten hours in choro plus the day's Mass and any potential private Masses.

The texts of the Suffrages relate more to the votive Offices of the Middle Ages than they do to the older feasts of the Saints. For example, the collect for Our Lady is that of Vespers in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, not that of any generally celebrated Latin feasts of the Virgin, the Assumption, the Nativity of the Virgin, or the Annunciation. Similarly, the collect for Ss. Peter and Paul is that of the votive Mass of those two Apostles, not that of their feast, although the votive Mass is remarkably similar to that of their Octave day, which presents and "chick or the egg" question about which came first. It would seem possible, if not probable, that the Suffrages were initially instituted as means of honoring Saints on days when their greater veneration was impeded by the presence of Sunday.

Lastly, in the Tridentine Office the Suffrages were sung in choro and kneeling. Was it always like this? Or were the Suffrages sung in the manner of other antiphons prior to Mattins or Mass, that is, as "stations" within the church? Would the antiphons Sancta Maria be sung in procession to the chapel of the Virgin followed by the aforementioned collect from the Little Office? Perhaps readers can chime in on this final point.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Organic Development of the Liturgy Since Trent

Not quite the quire of Westminster Abbey
source: New Liturgical Movement
At its surface, the old Roman liturgy did not appear to change very much between the pontificates of Pius V and Pius X, the former codifying the extant medieval liturgy and the latter initiating sixty years of liturgical tinkering. The texts of the Office and Mass hardly changed saved the addition of numerous Duplex feasts for canonized founders and foundresses of French and Italian communities of religious. The erection of the Congregation for Sacred Rites in 1588 ensured that there could be no further significant textual or structural developments in the Roman rite, like those that happened in late antiquity and in the high Middle Ages. The Roman rite at the dawn of the 20th century, on paper, really looked no different than it did at the dawn of the 16th century, but in fact there had been several organic changes due to circumstance or popular piety which changed the way the liturgy was celebrated and even what was celebrated.

The most obvious changes can be viewed from the lens of architecture. Upon walking into a post-Tridentine church one easily sees the high altar, elevated against the reredros and crowned in the center with the tabernacle. The sacred space is partitioned by a Communion railing [sic], a hint that the sanctuary is something to be viewed and not touched. The ceiling ascends heavenward and without obstruction, an open and breathing arrangement. Additional altars to saints flank the main altar, although their use for Mass is more infrequent than in past times; these altars proclaim tales of heresy, fidelity, damnation, and the glory of the saints; each altar is as much a sermon as it is a shrine. Scattered Confessionals awkwardly stand out of any open space in the nave or aisles of the church, invitations for ambulating sinners to reconcile themselves at a moment's notice. Most obviously, and loathsomely, pews litter the nave itself, confining anyone who desires to witness the Holy Sacrifice to his own static place, a sight-seer and viewer of the Mass and devotions rather than a full participant in them.

Within this casual characterization of a post-Tridentine church rests a thousand assumptions concerning the change in liturgical praxis, although rarely text, that followed the pontificate of St. Pius V. Above all, the post-Tridentine liturgy emphasized witness to the liturgy and Incarnation rather than a personal and communal participation in Christ's Passion which characterized the preceding medieval cathedral rites. Medieval churches, narrow and high, impossible to see straight in unless one was staring down the nave at the Holy Rood, always directed the attention of the faithful to the Cross and then upward; everything else was shrouded in mystery, things one could see and to an extant understand, but not know in entirety. After Trent the prevailing designs suggested a liturgy which could be beheld and known, for it took place in plain sight.

Devotion in this piety shifted away from the Divine Office and more toward new liturgical acts of piety which underscored the arrant nature of the new liturgy. Now, when the priest held up the Sacred Species during the Canon saw the Incarnated Christ in open space. Unlike previous generations, peering through screens at the elevation once a Mass, new generations would extend the elevation of the Sacred Host by means of a new ceremony called Benediction. They sang hymns and offered incense before directly displaying the Sacred Host for a few moments in blessing, a short time to be sure, but more time than was afforded during the Mass. The song of the day was no longer Ave verum corpus, but Tantum ergo Sacramentum.

These new forms of devotion met the mood of the day, still largely communitarian in towns, but more amotized in cities, where Catholicism went from being the religion of the people to being the religion of the majority of people. Personal encounters with grace, be it Confession or Benediction or a quick Mass, replaced the public processions and liturgical anamnesis which would derisively be rebranded as theater in our times.

Mass itself underwent a simplification in its ceremonial observance. As sounds became more complex and polyphony superseded chant as the normative style, people came to see music more as ornamental than as essential. Following the reduced ceremonies of the Roman Curia's Missal published by Saint Pius, servers and ministers followed the prescriptions as to what needed to be done to complete the Sacrifice. Said Mass replaced sung Mass, even without deacon and subdeacon, as normative. Still, a desire for the Mass to be sung and celebrated with as much effort as possible prevailed in some places and a sung version of low Mass evolved into the Missa cantata, styled more as a "high" Mass without the other ministers.

Once of the less obvious liturgical changes since Trent, which was not a variation of something directed in the Missal, was the addition of rose as a liturgical color. The medieval and Pian Missals directed violet for Gaudete and Laetare Sundays. The true differentiation between these Sundays and the other Sundays of Advent and Lent are the use of the dalmatic and tunicle instead of folded chasubles, which would also permit the organ to be used to elevate the music from sober chant into polysonic joy. Rose accomplished a similarly end, providing a break in the exercises of the seasons, to a culture bent towards a simpler liturgy. Rose eventually gave birth to a vast array of colors deemed proper for the Mass and even replaced the seasonal violet in the cardinatial choir dress on those Sundays.

Liturgy as it existed in the years after Trent has been examined and criticized extensively on this blog for its reduction of the Latin liturgy to bare essentials which neglected large pieces of the Church's patrimony. In context, these reductions also reflected creeping individualism and a less communal culture from which sprang the medieval Mass. And yet the post-Tridentine Church was not without its own development in art, architecture, liturgy, and devotion. One wonders what a genuine reform to the liturgy would look like in our even more isolationist age.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

My Breviary was printed in 1865 with the imprimatur of the Archbishop of Mechelin in Belgium. It is a choral book made for the conventual celebration of the Office with a full supplement of proper Offices for the Minorites; evidently, it was a Franciscan book.

For today, the "Solemnity of Our Seraphic Father Francis", and the octave that follows, the medieval hymn Proles de coelo is sung at Vespers. Written by Julian of Speyer in Paris just four years after Francis's death, the hymn follows an older melody commonly sung in the proper Offices of saints prior to the 17th century, including the feasts of Saint Anne and Saint Stephen of Hungary.

Regardless, it is a beautiful melody and offers a welcomed break from the rite of Iste Confessor the Common of a Confessor, non-martyr.


1. Proles de caelo prodiit,
novis utens prodigiis:
caelum caecis aperuit;
siccis mare vestigiis.

2. Spoliatis aegyptiis,
transit dives, sed pauperis
nec rem nec nomen perdidit,
factus felix pro miseris.

3. Assumptus cum Apostolis
in montem novi luminis,
in paupertatis praediis
Christo Franciscus intulit:

4. Fac tria tabernacula
Petri secutus studia,
cuius exemplo nobili
sponte reliquit omnia.

5. Legi, Prophetae, gratiae
gratum gerens obsequium,
Trinitatis officium
Festo solemni celebrat.

6. Dum reparat virtutibus
hospes triplex hospitium:
et beatarum mentium
dum templum Christo consecrat.

7. Domum, portam et tumulum,
Pater Francisce, visita,
et Hevae problem miseram
a somno mortis excita. Amen
1. A son came forth from heaven,
performing new miracles,
opening the heavens to the blind,
crossing the water with dry feet.

2. The spoils from the heathens
made him rich, yet from the poor
never did he fame or goods demand,
he was a blessing to the destitute.

3. Together with the disciples
he was accepted onto the mountain of light
and in his preachings on poverty,
Francis followed Christ:

4. "Make three tabernacles",
following Peter's vow,
whom neither the power nor the omen
of this name deserted.

5. Paying grateful allegiance,
ye Prophets, to the law of Grace,
he celebrates the ceremony
of the Trinity with the holy feast.

6. While he as host restores to the virtues
the threefold hospitality,
and when he consecrates to Christ
a temple of the blessed minds.

7. O Father Francis
visit our door, house and grave
and redeem Eve's poor descendants
from sleep's eternal dream. Amen.



Monday, October 1, 2018

Darken the corner where you are!

(Hannibal Crossing the Alps, J.M.W. Turner)
“[Some] say it is best to dispel the gloom, not make it worse, and stick to the cheery side. I happen to have a small vocation for spreading gloom; my favorite Protestant hymn, slightly emended from the way it is sung even at Catholic Masses today, is ‘Darken the corner where you are!’ because I think, though life is funny, it is not for fun; and we have blurred the distinction between being happy and being blessed.” —John Senior

We ambulate now in the gloomy half-light of a perpetual cloudiness by day, and of a too bright, washed out starlessness by night. Without the sun beating down on us at noon and the stars delighting us at midnight, we lose our way. Everything seems to be a shapeless murk. Light is no longer light, darkness no longer dark. Our celestial signposts are imperceivable. It is the spiritual equivalent of living in one of the urban Sodoms of the American Northwest.

We could look on the cheery side of things—God is still on his throne, the pope is ravaging the last shreds of ultramontanism in his wrath, and Evelyn Waugh was taken from this world before the Novus Ordo could drive him to apostasy—but we look for a more immediate comfort. We want to see evil overthrown. We want to restore the influence of the Church upon the world. We want to have one stupid sermon where the stupid priest says something that isn’t stupid. We want not to worry about whether or not Fr. is going to groom our sons in the confessional and make his advances in the sacristy. We want to not have a sinking feeling every time someone relates that, “Today Pope Francis said…” We want, we want, we want.

God sends us out as sheep in the midst of wolves, and we need to toughen up.

We are not given the Church for our consolation, although it possesses consolations beyond imagining. We are not given our little rare islands of traditionalism and good spiritual fathers so we can simply huddle away from the aerial bombardment of the Enemy.

God sends us out in the midst of wolves. We are not out there solely to save ourselves but to save our brethren. Be as clever as the Devil and as pure as the Virgin.

A city on a hill cannot be hidden, neither from our friends nor from our enemies. In order to be a beacon for the lost and imperiled, it cannot hide itself from the armies of Hell. A hidden stronghold speaks lies to those who hide within; it lies that hiddenness is sufficient for safety, that they can trust on hoarded wealth and unpracticed arms.

Be as gloomy as you please, but do not let that be an excuse for sloth. The ancient Jews were conquered by Rome and fenced in on all sides. By the time of the Incarnation they had ossified and used this oppression as an excuse for an ouroboros-like ethic of scrupulosity. Sloth is sadness at the thought of real spiritual practice, a repulsion against spiritual action that penetrates into the inner man and reaches out for the betterment of others. It is easier to condemn a cardinal than to practice a cardinal virtue.

The early Church faced oppression from without; we are learning what it is means to be oppressed from within. The Roman martyrs could ask, “Why do the nations rage?” We learn to ask, “Do you betray the son of man with a kiss?” We encounter Iscariots everywhere. We are sheep sent out in the midst of wolves. Learn how to survive or be devoured.