Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Saints' Day

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino, diem festum celebrantes sub honore Sanctorum omnium: de quorum solemnitate gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Filium Dei.—from Introit of Mass

Today is the feast of All Saints. I have always loved this feast, as well as tomorrow's exercises for the Faithful Departed, because they put our lives in perspective. This is an opportune time to assess where we will stand before the awesome judgment seat of Christ. Am I on the road to Heaven, with all the Saints? Will I have to make a painful purification in Purgatory? Or am I on my way apart from God, into the eternal fire given to the Devil and his fallen angels?

Holy Mother Church gives us a simple blueprint for sanctity to consider in today's Mass: Our Blessed Lord's eight beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew's account of the Gospel. St. Augustine tells us that these beatitudes command our kindness towards our temporal commonwealth, but that our great focus must winnow at Heaven:
Neither is it marvel that the greater commandments be given touching the kingdom of heaven, and the lesser touching a commonwealth upon earth, since both are alike the gifts of that one God Who is the Maker alike of heaven and of earth. The higher and greater righteousness, then, is that whereof the Prophet saith: Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God. Thus is that Teacher, Who alone can give such teaching, mystically represented as teaching upon a mountain. And when He was set. The attitude of sitting while teaching appertaineth to the majesty of His instruction. His disciples came unto Him nearer in the body, to hear those precepts, by the fulfilment of which they should be nearer in spirit. And He opened His Mouth, and taught them, saying These words And He opened His Mouth, appear redundant to the sense. It may possibly be that this more pompous introduction is adopted on account of the exceptional length of the discourse to follow. But it may also be that these words are not really redundant, but the pointed declaration that He now opened His Own Mouth, Who, under the Old Law, had been used to open the mouths of the Prophets.—from the third nocturn at Matins
 Have we abided by Jesus's precepts? Let us keep the Saints, those venerable friends of God, close by as our own friends and our models in life. We are already blessed to have God's Virgin Mother as our own Mother (John 20:27) and a guardian angel. We may also ask the prayers of the Saints in Heaven (Apocalypse Ch. 5), not only those canonized Saints who have their great devotions and feasts, but those recalled today, who lived life as unassumingly and quietly as we do, who wanted nothing other than an eternity with God.

The introit of today's Mass:


Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a feast day in honor of all the Saints, on whose solemnity the angels rejoice, and join in praising the Son of God.
Ps 32:1
Exult, you just, in the Lord; praise from the upright if fitting.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a feast day in honor of all the Saints, on whose solemnity the angels rejoice, and join in praising the Son of God.

No Halloween?

No, I am not talking about Hurricane Sandy!—although I do live in the northeast and the trick-or-treating has been delayed in my unaffected town for two days.

I meant that there is no Halloween, the real Halloween: All Hallow's Eve, the Vigil of All Saints' Day.

One of the inexplicably odd things about both the 1962 Roman calendar and the calendar for the Mass of Paul VI is the wearisome attitude towards glorifying any feast other than Easter, Christmas, and Pentecost. No Octaves, few—if any—vigils, no eighth day commemorations. When Pius XII purged the calendar in 1955/6, the Vigil of All Saints' met the ax.

Bring it back!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ss. Simon and Jude

Ss. Simon and Jude in Persia
We hear a lot about our Lady, Ss. Peter and John, and St. Paul in the Gospel and Acts of the Apostles, but for information on the other Apostles we tend to rely upon secondary sources, traditions, and martyrologies. Today we celebrate the feast of Ss. Simon and Jude—transferred after the feast of Christ the King superseded it yesterday—one of those days whose Apostolic saints requires a look beyond the Gospel and Acts.

From the Roman Martyrology:
Simon the Canaanite, called also Zelotes, went through Egypt preaching the Gospel, while as the like was done in Mesopotamia by Thaddaeus, called also in the Gospel Jude the brother of James, and the writer of one of the Catholic Epistles. They met together afterwards in Persia, where they begat countless children in Jesus Christ, spread the faith far and wide in those lands, amid raging heathens, and glorified together by their teaching and miracles, and, in the end, by a glorious martyrdom, the most holy name of Jesus Christ.
In St. Jude's epistle he exhorts the Church to hew to the faith given to believers, as the Jews received faith from God during tribulation in Egypt, and expel those who contaminate it with their perverse belief and lax reverence:
1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James: to them that are beloved in God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.
2 Mercy unto you, and peace, and charity be fulfilled.
3 Dearly beloved, taking all care to write unto you concerning your common salvation, I was under a necessity to write unto you: to beseech you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.
4 For certain men are secretly entered in, (who were written of long ago unto this judgment,) ungodly men, turning the grace of our Lord God into riotousness, and denying the only sovereign Ruler, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
5 I will therefore admonish you, though ye once knew all things, that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, did afterwards destroy them that believed not:
6 And the angels who kept not their principality, but forsook their own habitation, he hath reserved under darkness in everlasting chains, unto the judgment of the great day.
7 As Sodom and Gomorrha, and the neighbouring cities, in like manner, having given themselves to fornication, and going after other flesh, were made an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire.
8 In like manner these men also defile the flesh, and despise dominion, and blaspheme majesty.
9 When Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses, he durst not bring against him the judgment of railing speech, but said: The Lord command thee.
10 But these men blaspheme whatever things they know not: and what things soever they naturally know, like dumb beasts, in these they are corrupted.
11 Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain: and after the error of Balaam they have for reward poured out themselves, and have perished in the contradiction of Core.
12 These are spots in their banquets, feasting together without fear, feeding themselves, clouds without water, which are carried about by winds, trees of the autumn, unfruitful, twice dead, plucked up by the roots,
13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own confusion; wandering stars, to whom the storm of darkness is reserved for ever. (Epistle of St Jude, 1:1-13)
 St. Jude is also the patron saint of lost causes!—such as St. Jude's parish in the delightful BBC sitcom Bless Me, Father, a pun on 1950s Irish Catholicism in England written by heretical ex-priest Peter DeRosa.

In this episode, one of my favorites, Fr. D tries to beat the Anglican curate to the burial of a dead seaman in order to collect the deceased's insurance policy!

St. Jude was venerated in Armenia from ancient days until the Mohammadan persecutions in the 19th century. He still enjoys veneration in Spain and Italy.

O most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honoureth and invoketh thee universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, and of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, who am so miserable. Make use, I implore thee, of that particular privilege accorded to thee, to bring visible and speedy help where help was almost despaired of. Come to mine assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolation and succor of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (here make your request) and that I may praise God with thee and all the elect throughout eternity. I promise thee, O blessed Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favour, to always honour thee as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to thee. Amen.

Emperor Constantine and the Feast of Christ the King

And He is the head of the body, the Church, Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He may hold the primacy.—Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians 1:18

Today is the last Sunday of October, hence the feast of Christ the King. It is fittingly also the 1,700th anniversary of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in Rome, where Constantine defeated Maxentius for the rule of the great, but declining Empire. From Eusebius's Life of Constantine:
Accordingly he called on him with earnest prayer and supplications that he would reveal to him who he was, and stretch forth his right hand to help him in his present difficulties. And while he was thus praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvelous sign appeared to him from heaven, the account of which it might have been hard to believe had it been related by any other person. But since the victorious emperor himself long afterwards declared it to the writer of this history, when he was honored with his acquaintance and society, and confirmed his statement by an oath, who could hesitate to accredit the relation, especially since the testimony of after-time has established its truth? He said that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, In Hoc Signo Vinces. At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle.
At dawn of day he arose, and communicated the marvel to his friends: and then, calling together the workers in gold and precious stones, he sat in the midst of them, and described to them the figure of the sign he had seen, bidding them represent it in gold and precious stones. And this representation I myself have had an opportunity of seeing.
And whereas, Maxentius, trusting more in his magic arts than in the affection of his subjects, dared not even advance outside the city gates, but had guarded every place and district and city subject to his tyranny, with large bodies of soldiers, the emperor, confiding in the help of God, advanced against the first and second and third divisions of the tyrant’s forces, defeated them all with ease at the first assault, and made his way into the very interior of Italy.
Having then at this time sung these and suchlike praises to God, the Ruler of all and the Author of victory, after the example of his great servant Moses, Constantine entered the imperial city in triumph. And here the whole body of the senate, and others of rank and distinction in the city, freed as it were from the restraint of a prison, along with the whole Roman populace, their countenances expressive of the gladness of their hearts, received him with acclamations and abounding joy; men, women, and children, with countless multitudes of servants, greeting him as deliverer, preserver, and benefactor, with incessant shouts. But he, being possessed of inward piety toward God, was neither rendered arrogant by these plaudits, nor uplifted by the praises he heard: but, being sensible that he had received help from God, he immediately rendered a thanksgiving to him as the Author of his victory. 
"Triumph of Christianity" in the Vatican Palace.
When I visited Rome a year and a half ago I was staying with some friends outside of the main city and attempted to walk to the Vatican by following the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. After meandering around some roads and following the always-late public buses of Rome, we found ourselves at the Milvian Bridge, entirely by surprise.

We as Catholics ought to hold this day with reverence. On this day God liberated us from the shadows and the hidden places of worship where we had been forced under Diocletian. Contrary to the existing political order, whereby the emperor was one of many discursive gods, God imposed Himself as the only God, under Whose permission the emperor served. In short, God manifested Himself as King.

Over the years we have grown too accustomed to Christianity being permissible, or even the normal, and have forgotten how the mystical reign of Christ over us looks. For this purpose, Pope Pius XI issued the Bull Quas Primas in 1925, in which he instituted the feast of Christ the King:
 It has long been a common custom to give to Christ the metaphorical title of "King," because of the high degree of perfection whereby he excels all creatures. So he is said to reign "in the hearts of men," both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind. He reigns, too, in the wills of men, for in him the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the Holy Will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration he so subjects our free-will as to incite us to the most noble endeavors. He is King of hearts, too, by reason of his "charity which exceedeth all knowledge." And his mercy and kindness which draw all men to him, for never has it been known, nor will it ever be, that man be loved so much and so universally as Jesus Christ. But if we ponder this matter more deeply, we cannot but see that the title and the power of King belongs to Christ as man in the strict and proper sense too. For it is only as man that he may be said to have received from the Father "power and glory and a kingdom," since the Word of God, as consubstantial with the Father, has all things in common with him, and therefore has necessarily supreme and absolute dominion over all things created.
The foundation of this power and dignity of Our Lord is rightly indicated by Cyril of Alexandria. "Christ," he says, "has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature." His kingship is founded upon the ineffable hypostatic union. From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures. But a thought that must give us even greater joy and consolation is this that Christ is our King by acquired, as well as by natural right, for he is our Redeemer. Would that they who forget what they have cost their Savior might recall the words: "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled." We are no longer our own property, for Christ has purchased us "with a great price"; our very bodies are the "members of Christ."
Let Us explain briefly the nature and meaning of this lordship of Christ. It consists, We need scarcely say, in a threefold power which is essential to lordship. This is sufficiently clear from the scriptural testimony already adduced concerning the universal dominion of our Redeemer, and moreover it is a dogma of faith that Jesus Christ was given to man, not only as our Redeemer, but also as a law-giver, to whom obedience is due. Not only do the gospels tell us that he made laws, but they present him to us in the act of making them. Those who keep them show their love for their Divine Master, and he promises that they shall remain in his love. He claimed judicial power as received from his Father, when the Jews accused him of breaking the Sabbath by the miraculous cure of a sick man. "For neither doth the Father judge any man; but hath given all judgment to the Son." In this power is included the right of rewarding and punishing all men living, for this right is inseparable from that of judging. Executive power, too, belongs to Christ, for all must obey his commands; none may escape them, nor the sanctions he has imposed. 
 This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things. That this is so the above quotations from Scripture amply prove, and Christ by his own action confirms it. On many occasions, when the Jews and even the Apostles wrongly supposed that the Messiah would restore the liberties and the kingdom of Israel, he repelled and denied such a suggestion. When the populace thronged around him in admiration and would have acclaimed him King, he shrank from the honor and sought safety in flight. Before the Roman magistrate he declared that his kingdom was not of this world. The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross. Christ as our Redeemer purchased the Church at the price of his own blood; as priest he offered himself, and continues to offer himself as a victim for our sins. Is it not evident, then, that his kingly dignity partakes in a manner of both these offices? It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to him by the Father, all things are in his power. Therefore by Our Apostolic Authority We institute the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ to be observed yearly throughout the whole world on the last Sunday of the month of October - the Sunday, that is, which immediately precedes the Feast of All Saints. We further ordain that the dedication of mankind to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to be renewed yearly.—Quas Primas, Pius XI, P.P., given December 11, 1925 at St. Peter's Basilica
Christ is the King of our souls. Constantine's realization of this saved the flailing Roman Empire and transformed the world for the cause of God.

Arch of Constantine, built to commemorate the victory at the Milvian Bridge, as seen from
the Colosseum, where many Christian were martyred.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Fr. Ray Blake recently wrote about stepping "outside [his] comfort zone" by praying aloud with his parishioners at the local abortion clinic. The initial experience of praying or protesting at an abortion center always makes one a bit nervous, not knowing how thing will turn out. Worse yet, our human vanity may fear that others will judge us and mock us. I know I had this misgiving the first time I did it. To hell with social respect.

Planned Parenthood of Ihaca, NY. Looks like grandma's house.
More like the witch's house from Hansel & Gretel

The first time I ever prayed at an abortion clinic, in Ithaca, NY, I went with a college buddy, a few mothers, a few female classmates, and a Franciscan friar. Not a faint bunch. At first we resolved to sing from a "program," hold signs, and attempt "interventions" with the "patients" as they passed—by giving them statistics about when the heart beats and the like.

Inevitably this strategy was less than successful. The most effective thing we could do was just to pray the Holy Rosary. It bears a quiet sort of witness. One hipster scoffed at us, but only after having walked a block past us. Another occasion a car stopped, a lady appeared, and condescendingly recited the Hail Mary in front of us. The Devil really hates the Hail Mary, particularly at abortion factories, where motherhood is so obscured.

Sometimes I still pray a decade there or the St. Michael prayer whenever I am downtown.

Pray, especially to the Blessed Mother. Bear a firm, unassuming witness. Save children.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

St. John Chrysostom on Baptism

St. Raphael the Archangel
Today is the feast of St. Raphael, the archangel mentioned in the book of Tobias. In the first nocturn of Matins St. Bonaventure teaches us that angels point us to God in times of difficulty or when we lose our way: "an Angel does not bestow compuction, but bestows us the way" (5th Sermon on Angels). They pray for us to God (Apocalypse Ch. 8) and excuse us before God, unlike the devils who accuse us.

The "Golden Mouth" speaks of baptism
as a source of grace that we cannot
deplete, like the sun.
But the most marvelous lessons in today's office are to be found in the third nocturn, where St. John Chrysostom teaches us about baptism. His springboard for this lesson is the story of the five-time divorced woman at the well, who is reproached by Our Lord concerning her sinful life:

What manner of mystery is this? What does it reveal? for it is not written without a purpose : but the future is foretold in figure and similitude lest the unexpected occurrence of a wondrous event should in any way disturb the faith of the hearers. What, then is here described ? In the future a baptism was to be given, full of power and of the greatest grace, a baptism that would wash away all sin, that would restore life to dead men. These facts then are depicted figuratively, in the pool and in all the other circumstances. And first in this figure the water is set forth, which washes away stains of the body, and those things that are not actually dirty, though they were thought to be so, such as coming in contact with a corpse, or a leper, and such like: it is to be seen that many things under the old law are cleansed by water, in accordance with this idea.
But let us now return to the subject. First defilements of the body are washed out, and then God heals various infirmities by means of water. For because God would bring us nearer to the grace of baptism, he not only cleanses defilements but heals diseases. For those figures which come nearest to the reality, in baptism, the Passion, and others are seen more clearly than the older ones. For it is the same with those who form a king's bodyguard : they are more splendidly apparelled than those at the other end of his equipage. And the angel came down and troubled the water, and imbued it with healing power; so that the Jews might learn that the Lord of Angels had far more power to heal all the diseases of the soul. But just as here it was not simply the natural property of the water that healed, (otherwise it would have always have done so) but it happened through the work of the Angel : so it is not simply water that works on us, but after the water has received the grace of the Spirit, then it looses us from all sin.
Around this pool lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. But then those who wished for healing were prevented by infirmity from receiving it, while now everyone is able to come forward. For the Angel does not trouble the water, but the Lord of Angels brings all things to come to pass. We may no longer say, While I am coming, another steppeth down before me. But even should the whole world come, the grace would not be used up, neither would its power nor effectual working come to an end. For as the sun's rays shine forth each day without burning out, and as they spread abroad without losing any of their light : far less is the operation of the Spirit diminished by the multitudes who receive it. Now this miracle took place so that as men learned that could heal bodily diseases, and as they become accustomed to this fact over a period of time: so they might they the more readily believe that it could also heal diseases of the soul. —35/36th Sermon on St. John's Gospel
Happy feast day!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fanon Sighting!

This morning His Holiness Benedict XVI canonized seven saints, including ones American nun and one Native American—Ss. Marianne Cope and Kateri Tekakwitha. But there was an interesting twist: the Pope wore the fanon today!

Canonizations this morning in St. Peter's square
What is the fanon? The fanon is a silk shoulder cape striped in silver and gold that the Pope traditionally wears under the pallium. Why does this matter in the least bit? It is just an article of clothing.

This matters quite a bit in the grand scheme of things. The fanon is a traditional Papal vestment that dates back to at least the eighth century. Moreover, it was a vestment unique to the Papacy. In other words, because only the Pope could wear it, it made his Masses unique in some sense.

John Paul II at Santa Cecilia in 1982
When the legendary Cardinal Enrico Dante died after the Second Vatican Council many traditions of the Papal liturgy began to die. The fanon disappeared, as did the Papal tiara from the altars, the use of both Greek and Latin for the readings, the practice of the Pope and his deacons being the only communicants, and many more. Then after the introduction of the Pauline Mass in 1969, most all things that comprised "Papal Mass" vanished entirely. The manner in which the Popes have celebrated Mass since the late 1960s varies insignificantly from that of a local bishop. By bringing back this vestment, Pope Benedict takes a small but firm step in re-establishing the uniqueness and distinction of his office, liturgically manifested.

Between Vatican II and now the fanon was worn just once, by John Paul II in his visit to Santa Cecilia in 1982. Fr. Z recounts knowing the rector of that basilica at the time and the storm that broke out over the Pope wearing a vestment that seemed to suggest that he was not just a plain bishop, I imagine cries of "triumphalism" resounded. The Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Magee, was not very pleased either. John Paul never wore it again. Nor did he ever revive any other unique Papal ceremonies, likely for the same reason.

Let us hope that this returns as a permanent item in the Papal sacristy rather than something brought out of a the museum once every few decades. The Pope is not just another bishop, and this is a sure visible symbol of that.

Paul VI wearing the fanon immediately after his coronation in 1963. If the tiara is ever revived,
pray that  they use  a different one than this space capsule.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sunday's Gospel: A Lesson for Trad Catholics

I have often heard from a lot of Catholics that they would be more willing to attend the old Mass or denominate themselves "traditional" if they met "traditionalists" who were more comely, forgiving, and saintly themselves. This assessment is a bit overboard, but I think has some merit.
Michael Davis, RIP

The late Michael Davies once said in a debate that like the man on the road to Jericho, traditionally minded Catholics were "spiritually mugged." We lost the Mass, spirituality, respect from the hierarchy, and were often cast aside as radicals, Luddites, or sedevacantists. We were understandably bitter.

This separation from the mainstream of the Church, which we did not bring upon ourselves, created something of a like ghetto-attitude for us. We distrusted most priests and bishops—rightfully so in many cases—but sometimes actively disliked them. I have heard many a trad express some form of bitterness towards Popes Paul VI and John Paul II for their pastoral neglect or active opposition of tradition, particularly of the old Mass. Pope Paul VI went as far as to attack Archbishop Lefebvre:

Pope Paul VI
There are those who, under the pretext of a greater fidelity to the Church and the Magisterium, systematically refuse the teaching of the Council itself, its application and the reforms that stem from it, its gradual application by the Apostolic See and the Episcopal Conferences, under Our authority, willed by Christ. —Paul VI, at the Consistory of May 24, 1976

This began to permanently sour relations between Econe and Rome, creating divisions that are only now being reconsidered. Still, this position has made most of us—myself no exception—demand concessions from the Holy See and the bishops to foment use of the old Mass, clear teaching, and condemnation of heresy. Whenever we do not get these, or find those in power actively opposing things, we tend to get our shorts all knotted up. And when we get our concessions, we still do the same thing.

We should crusade for the reign of Christ, in and outside of the walls of our churches, but let us also remember to forgive those whom we dislike or find troublesome. Christ's parable in this Sunday's Gospel speaks well to us:

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a king, who would take an account of his servants. And when he had begun to take the account, one was brought to him, that owed him ten thousand talentsAnd as he had not wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. But that servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant being moved with pity, let him go and forgave him the debt. But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow servants that owed him an hundred pence: and laying hold of him, throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest. And his fellow servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he paid the debt.  Now his fellow servants seeing what was done, were very much grieved, and they came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him; and said to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me: Shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee? And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.—Matthew 18:21-35
 Whether we get what we want, let us forgive those who somehow offend us, love them, pray for them, and leave them with a smile, not to pie-in-the-sky airheads, but to demonstrate that Christ's joy and mercy can be passed on to us through traditional devotion and spirituality. This is quite hard. A personal anecdote might help. When I visited St. Peter's Basilica a while back I passed through the Papal tombs under the main floor. When I found Paul VI's tomb I immediately became irate. Temptation offered an opportunity to dwell on this passed Pontiff's quite sad time upon the Apostolic throne, but this is not what the Lord wants. After regaining control, I said a quick prayer for Paul VI's soul and walked away. I was not much happier after leaving his tomb than when I found it, but doing what Jesus wants is rarely easy.

I do not tell this tale to pat myself on the back. It was not a happy moment, but I just wanted to say that Jesus commands our patience and forgiveness in today's Gospel passage, even if our indignation might have some merit. If we cannot forgive one another, why would God ever forgive us?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dominus Vobiscum, Part I: the Fore-Mass

Usually when people first attend the Traditional Mass, they are struck by its reverence, its staid posturing, and its expressions of sanctity. These three things have something in common other than holiness, tradition, and prayerfulness: they are all physical.

Years ago I bought The Definitve Book of Body Language out of idle curiosity. The author emphasizes in the first chapter that 90% of communication is physical, not verbal. This begs the question: does body language have anything to do with why many are struck by the reverence of the old Mass and find this trait quite lacking in the new? What theology do posture, position, and body language suggest to the faithful?

I intend to compare the traditional Roman Mass and the Mass of Paul VI part by part in order to answer this question. For the sake of honesty, I will examine the Mass of Paul VI both how it is presented in the 2002 Missale Romanum and in the dreary practice of that Mass throughout 99% of the Catholic world.

The first post in this two part series will consider the fore-Mass, or "Mass of the Catechumens" in the old rite and "Liturgy of the Word" in the new.

Part I: Introit through the Collect

In the ancient rite the priest, deacon, and subdeacon arrive at the altar, bend their knees to Christ in the tabernacle, and immediately commence the prayers at the foot of the altar, which faces Eastward and, except in a few Roman churches, usually in the same direction as the people assembled. The ministers bow at the words "Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto" ("Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost), as one always does in the old rite at the mention of the name of Jesus or of the Holy Trinity. The priest and ministers then make a confession of their sinfulness, striking their breasts three times at the words "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" ("through my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault"). The priest makes his own confession, and then the deacons make their own separately. After praying for forgiveness of sins, the ministers ascend the altar. The priest reverences the altar by a kiss and then incenses it.

Fr. Dominic Jacob and his deacons pray before the altar at Blackfriars in Oxford

What does this communicate about the opening of the Mass? First, one should note that the choir sings a chant called the "Introit" during this segment, a series of verses from the psalms which announce or anticipate the mystery of the day. The priest's prayers are inaudible, indicating what he does at this stage is separate from what the laity does. The bows at the mention of the Holy Name of Jesus and striking of the breast imply the unworthiness of the ministers of ascending to the altar of God to offer the same Mystery He instituted. The priest then ascends to the altar, like a mountain, after his efforts at purification. His intimate act of reverence, the kiss, comes after his protestations of his human frailty. He then incenses the altar, which imbues a sweet scent upon the holy sanctuary.

The Pauline Mass is distinctly different and, as we will see, it is hard to derive the same sentiments from the instructions in the Pauline Mass and its common practice. First, let us consider what the priest ought to do: he bows or genuflects to the altar, ascends it without pause, kisses it, incenses it, and moves to the chair prominently placed to the side of the altar, where he turns to the congregated mass and begins with the words "Dominus vobiscum" ("The Lord be with you"), to which the people reply "Et cum spiritu tuo" ("And with your spirit"). The priest then exhorts the people to confess their sinfulness. The priest and people together recite a substantially shorter version of the old confession prayer together, and the priest prays for forgiveness.

Fr Nicholas Edmonds-Smith offering a by-the-book
Pauline Mass in Oxford's Oratory
In practice incense is rarely used, except for "high church" places in metropolitan areas, the priest arrives at a chair placed quite prominently towards the people, perhaps even more prominent than a bishop's throne, and adds his own interpolations to the prayers.

The opening of most Pauline Masses

What message does this convey? Certainly no sentiments of fear of God or substantial unworthiness to stand at his altar, as the priest readily approaches it. Perhaps he is actually afraid of the altar, as he leaves it immediately after kissing it, or incensing it if the priest is of that bend. The focus of the Mass then immediately shifts from the altar to the priest and his, often, prominently displayed chair. The priest's greeting is described in section 50 of the GIRM as "the mystery of the Church gathered together [made] manifest." The priest then faces the people and they recite a common confession aloud. The position of the priest and the common prayer almost indicate that they are confessing to each other and not to God, Who is mentioned but does not receive orientation in these strange rites. The priest says nothing and does nothing in which the people's view is obstructed and the congregation cannot verbally participate. The point is clear: the priest and laity are on very close footing. And we will see in the Pauline Mass, regardless of whether it is by-the-book or loosey goosey, the focus for the first half bounces around several places but never approaches the altar.

This basic relationship between the priest and the laity are quite manifested in modern church architecture. I remember reading in The Law of Civilization and Decay by Brooks Adams that the narrow structure of medieval churches and the singular view of the elevated altar was so that those in attendance could witness a miracle.

Does this space have the same purpose? Moving on....

After incensing the altar in the old Mass, the priest reads the Introit chant and recites the "Kyrie" ("Lord, have mercy") privately with his ministers at the side, where the Missal rests, preserving the view of the crucifix. The ministers then form a line, the priest begins the Gloria, recites it with his ministers, and then sits in his inconspicuous chair away from the altar. The people had been sitting until the Gloria, for which they stand, and then sit with the priest.

The Introit
What are we to make of this? Aside from the private recitation, one notes that the priest and deacons say the entire Mass at the altar, facing the tabernacle and the crucifix, while spending as little time obstructing popular view of these two things as possible. The point of this Mass is What is within the tabernacle and Who is depicted on the crucifix. Also, the people remain in a penitential posture until the angelic hymn, the Gloria. Their sentiments are to not perform actions expressing their humility before God, as the priest does, but to contemplate sin and mercy until the Gloria gives them relief.

The priest greets the people in the old rite

The priest, after the choir and people sing the Gloria, returns to the altar, turns to the people, and greets them with "Dominus vobiscum." The ministers return to the side and the priest sings the collects, or "opening prayers," concluding them with a bow to the tabernacle and crucifix at mention of the Holy Name of Jesus or of the Holy Trinity.

Again, the new rite is quite different: the Kyrie and Gloria are both said standing and by the priest and people, who face each other. The priest, again, strictly done or loosely performed, recites the opening prayer facing the people. Some more conservative priests will turn to the altar at mention of "Jesus," but this is rare.

He's still talking to me!
We can no longer ignore the obsession with the priest and people doing the exact thing thing at the exact same time, while facing each other. The theology of this body language is distinctly oriented towards the community, not to the altar of sacrifice. The priest and people talk to each other. Regardless of what prayers they are reciting, many of them quite profound and beautiful, I cannot neglect that the priest and I are saying them to each other while God has to wait half an hour for some attention.

Part II: the Readings through the Gospel

Now follows a series of readings. The people sit in both rites until the Gospel (sort of).

In the old rite the subdeacon takes a book of readings, reverences the tabernacle by genuflecting, and moves back to the side of the altar where he previously stood, again facing the altar. It is useful, but not necessary in  a post on body language, to note that this reading is in Latin. The priest and deacon huddle around the Missal, following along quietly.

The subdeacon's reading in the old Mass
When finished, the priest blesses the subdeacon, reads the psalm and alleluia verses called the Gradual, and then comes to the middle of the altar for only the fourth time. Here he says two prayers in preparation of reading he Gospel as a private devotion. The subdeacon moves the book to the opposite end of the altar, where he and the priest read the Gospel of the Mass while the choir sings the Gradual aloud.

Priest reading the Gospel quietly

The deacon, after the priest has read the Gospel, places the Gospel book on the altar. The priest blesses incense. The deacon then kneels before the altar and asks the priest for a blessing. A small procession of candle-bearers, the thurifer (Mr. Incense), the subdeacon, and deacon then arrives at an open spot in the sanctuary. Facing north (leftward, perpendicular to the altar), the deacon places the open Gospel book in the subdeacon's hands, greets the people, incenses the book, and sings the Gospel. At the end, the Gospel book is brought to the priest, who kisses it with a prayer and is then incensed.

The deacon sings the Gospel during Mass at Westminster Cathedral in London
Before analyzing the meaning and impact of these gestures and ceremonies, let us consider the new rite.

A lector, in theory and in practice a lay person (not necessarily a man, either), approaches a podium (called an "ambo") facing the people and reads a lesson from the old testament, to which the people make a response. Then a psalm, with a refrain verse constantly repeated, is sung. In practice, and probably in theory, some "cantor," usually the worst member of the parish choir, leads the psalm and raises his/her arms when the people should join in the tune. Another reading, from the new testament, follows.

Would you like to read from the Book of Numbers?

The people, but in practice a guitar-equipped choir, stand and sing the alleluia.

"Sing a new song unto the Lord...."
The deacon takes the Gospel book, sometimes "enthroned" at the altar, goes to the priest, who may or may not bless incense, bows, and gets a blessing. He then processes to the ambo, with or without the candle-bears and incense, and reads the Gospel to the people. At the end he kisses the book, not the priest. Nor is the priest incensed. In practice, the deacon may hold the Gospel book quite high over his head, drawing most all attention to it.

The contrast here is significant. In the old rite the priest has his own devotions and may do the readings quietly. The readings are oriented towards the altar and may rightly be called sacramental in their nature. They are theological commentaries on the day, not primarily for popular consumption. This has long been the Roman tradition.

St. Clement's in Rome. Although ancient, its sanctuary was not re-modeled during
the Renaissance. One sees that even when Latin was the vernacular, there were
ambos for the readings that did not face the people, but rather towards the customary

The Gospel is an event for which people are called to attention out of respect for the Gospel itself, but not necessarily to hear its words. At the end the priest reverences the Gospel book, the words of Christ, and is incensed. This implies honor, as only things of honor are incensed. The priest, this ceremony re-asserts, says the Mass in place of Christ. In other words, he makes it happen. These readings and ceremonies are part of his divine charge and prepare him for the Eucharistic consecration itself.

By contrast, the new rite treats everything as a matter of popular edification. The people sit and listen to lectures, sing along, and stand for the Gospel, which is the only change in their position. It is also the priest's only break, but a part in which his involvement is only a blessing. The similar posture by the priest and laity throughout the entire first half of the Pauline Mass obscures his involvement and demotes him to being a honorary participant, but of the same level as the laity. His distinct function must wait. This is not an overstatement. I can recall once in college the school's chaplain, a well-educated monk, during a marriage ceremony said, "Now the Church—that's you—gives these two it's blessing. So, raise your hands in blessing!"

These two rites greatly contrast in what their body language communicates. The old Mass focuses on the altar and the action eventually performed by God on it, as well as His servant, the priest. The people drift in and out of verbal participation, but have their own prayers and occasionally participate in the priest's especially the sung parts. The new rite focuses entirely on the laity. They talk to the priest for a while, they are given readings, they sings, and then they stand for another reading. In short, it is all about them. With these endless readings, one must wonder if the people are supposed to be praying or watching a performance by the local talent? The minister of God, His priest, is effectively obscured to the point of being unnecessary.

Next: the Credo through the end of Mass

The Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

Today is the feast of St. Luke, the Evangelist who wrote the third account of the Gospel of the Lord. The readings in the second nocturn for the Divine Office today is a series of excerpts from St. Jerome's Book on Ecclesiastical Writers. The grumpy saint tells us that the Evangelist wrote in Greek and had some affiliation with St. Paul, the greatest of preachers.

I enjoy finding distinctly fun, human moments in the Holy Scripture, and St. Jerome points us to one in his biography of St. Luke. St. Paul writes towards the end of his epistle to the Colossians:
For I bear him testimony that he hath much labour for you, and for them that are at Laodicea, and them at Hierapolis. Luke, the most dear physician, saluteth you: and Demas. —Colossians 4:13-14
In other words: Hey, Colossians, Luke's here and he says hi! St. Paul again recounts Luke's greetings in his second epistle to St. Timothy (2 Tim 4:11).

These indications of St. Luke's accompaniment of St. Paul indicates that the Evangelist traveled with the latter to Rome, before St. Paul's execution. As a quick aside, I was honored to see the reliquary above the high altar in the cathedral of Rome, the Archbasilica of Our Savior (aka St. John Lateran), which contains St. Paul's head.

This reliquary above the Papal altar of St. John Lateran contains St. Paul's severed head!

St. Luke may have been associated with St. Paul, but St. Jerome assures us that the Evangelist, born in Antioch, did not learn the Gospel from Paul, but from the Apostles. This is quite reasonable, as St. Peter himself went to Antioch at some point in the 40s AD, that city where the "disciples were first named Christians" (Acts of the Apostles 11:26). St. Luke, after writing the Gospel account, penned a history now honored as Scripture called Acts of the Apostles—which could also be called "A Few Chapters about the Twelves, and Then a Lot About Paul." As the Acts covers several years, St. Luke must have written this account well after the events he recounts. This thesis is also quite reasonable, as St. Jerome indicates that St. Luke lived to be 84 years old.

The Gospel according to Luke is unique in that it is the only version to have intimate knowledge of the Virgin's conception and time leading up to the Incarnation of Jesus. His Gospel tells us that Our Lady, after conceiving the Son of God by the Holy Ghost, sings a canticle prayed many times a day throughout Christendom in Her honor, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55):
My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty,
hath done great things to me;
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generations,
to them that fear him.
He hath shewed might in his arm:
he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant,
being mindful of his mercy:
As he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his seed for ever.
Luke obviously believed it necessary to relay the importance of the Virgin Mary to God. So close were Mary and St. Luke to the early Christians that a tradition exists that St. Luke painted the first ever icon and that in that icon he depicted the Virgin holding the Christ child! Icons enjoy more popularity in the East, but this tradition is quite respected in the West, too.

An icon of St. Luke painting the icon of the Virgin with Christ by the aid of  an angel, perhaps St. Gabriel. One wonders what Protestants, who have an iconoclastic streak, would think of paintings painting paintings?

A more Western depiction by Guercino

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not recount that St. Luke was a doctor, which should be a sign of encouragement for those who seek to combine helpful, as opposed to purely experimental, medicine with Christ's teaching.

The vespers hymn for the feast, well worth a listen:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Great Schism: Old Wounds

As a "radical [Roman] traditionalist" I find it quite ironic that my first post has a distinctly ecumenical theme and perspective. I currently attend a Byzantine rite Catholic parish, specifically the Melkite church in Antioch, and went to my father confessor today to be absolved of my endless offences against the Lord. Afterward the priest, who for privacy will remain anonymous, and I discussed the relations between Eastern rite Catholics and the Orthodox churches. After poking some fun at archbishop John Ireland he stated his belief that the schism between the Catholic Church and the various Eastern churches called Orthodox will only be healed "when the people in the pew stop caring" about the separation.

What did he mean by this? When Catholics and the Orthodox may communicate without hesitation at each other's Masses and Divine Liturgies, and partake of the other Sacraments, or Mysteries. The priest proceeded to tell me of one Melkite priest who semi-regularly concelebrates with a Orthodox priest, albeit illicitly. Similarly, he said, there are Orthodox priests who, when on vacation, attend and communicate at Roman rite Catholic Masses when there is no church from their Orthodox tradition available. This inevitably brings up the question: what are we to think of the schism that occurred in 1054 between the archbishop of Constantinople and the Bishop of Rome, the Pope? First, we should consider that the conventional narrative about the East-West schism is quite wrong.

The conventional narrative goes something like this: Ever since the Apostolic era, the five major bishops of the world (the "patriarchs") were considered quite equal in every way, although the bishop of Rome was seen as having some sort of honorary primacy. This status of church government remained throughout the first millennium until the Westerners, or Latins, began to fiddle with the Creed and the bishop of Rome began to get uppity in his claims to have total and complete authority over the entire Church. In a fit, he ex-communicated the archbishop of Constantinople, who, upholding the purer Eastern tradition would have none of this Papal nonsense, and who then ex-communicated the Pope back. And since 1054 the two sides have not spoken.

The real story is a bit more involved, and perhaps more revealing about the current state of affairs. 

Fr. John Berg FSSP celebrates the old Roman Mass at St. Peter's tomb in the 
Clementine Chapel of St. Peter's Basilica

The case for ancient Roman primacy among the bishops of Christendom is not a very difficult case to make, but defining it in specific terms is quite a challenge. Ss. Peter and Paul died in Rome during the 60s AD. I have been honored by Almighty God to stand at the tomb of the Apostle Peter under the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica. St. Peter clearly possessed some sort of great authority over the other Apostles, and was indeed the "rock" of the Church:

And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ. —The Gospel According to St. Matthew 16:13-20

The Roman Church's closeness to the Prince of the Apostles and to St. Paul, the greatest preacher of the Gospel, would already give Rome a certain amount of prestige. In the second century St. Irenaeus, born in Asia Minor and eventually bishop of Lyon in Gaul, wrote:

Ad hanc enim ecclesiam propter potentiorem principalitatem necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam, hoc est, eos qui sunt undique fideles, in qua semper ab his, qui sunt undique, conservata est ea quae est ab apostolis traditio. —Adversus Haereses, 3:2

In fact, it is with this church, by reason of her more excellent origin, that every church must necessarily be in agreement—with this Church in which the tradition that comes from the apostles has always been preserved by everyone.
Certain proceeding events solidified the foundation for the Roman Church, and her bishop, to enjoy and exert power over the rest of Christendom in doctrinal and jurisdictional matters. The foremost of these was the Council of Chalcedon, which had been called to combat the monophysite heresy so popular in the far east to this day. Pope St. Leo the Great presided over the Council, but through a legate. The Pope, who only spoke Latin and knew no Greek, declined to make the journey from Rome. When Leo sent his analysis and opinion of the monophysite question to the Council, the Council concluded:

After the reading of the foregoing epistle, the most reverend bishops cried out:  This is the faith of the fathers, this is the faith of the Apostles.  So we all believe, thus the orthodox believe.  Anathema to him who does not thus believe.  Peter has spoken thus through Leo.  So taught the Apostles.  Piously and truly did Leo teach, so taught Cyril.  Everlasting be the memory of Cyril.  Leo and Cyril taught the same thing, anathema to him who does not so believe.  This is the true faith.  Those of us who are orthodox thus believe.  This is the faith of the fathers.  Why were not these things read at Ephesus [i.e. at the heretical synod held there]?  These are the things Dioscorus hid away. —Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, tom. IV, col. 368
Chalcedon offered the Pope of Rome the title "universal bishop," not a small matter. In his humility, St. Leo declined its use. Similarly St. Gregory the Great, greatest of all Roman Pontiffs after Peter, only signed himself as "bishop" when addressing international clergy, but he certainly put a stop to contemporary attempts of John IV of Constantinople to style himself as "ecumenical patriarch."

St. Gregory the Great, Pope from 590-604 AD

The second major visible turn in favor of Roman primacy, in my opinion, was the deposition of Photios as archbishop of Constantinople. In 858 AD a bright scholar named Photios, at Emperor Michael's urging, was ordained subdeacon, deacon, priest, consecrated archbishop, and enthroned in the Hagia Sophia on successive days. There was one problem: there was already an archbishop of Constantinople, Ignatios. Pope St. Nicholas, the last Pope called "the Great," sided with the humble and holy Ignatios against Michael and Photios. Emperor Michael was assassinated and went to God's Judgment seat, effectively removing Photios from the Hagia Sophia and banishing him while the new emperor sought better relations with the Pope and the West. The patriarch Photios convened his own council—which no Orthodox church officially accepts, although some Greeks do give it their ascent—and ex-communicated Pope Nicholas on the grounds of heresy and condemned the new(ish) Creed in vogue in the West. Photios was condemned by the Fourth Council of Constantinople, which Catholics accept as the eighth Church council, and Ignatios was re-instated. Years later Photios found his way back to the bishopric of Constantinople. This was a great boon and proof to the claims of the Pope to having real, tangible jurisdiction throughout the Church, even in Constantinople.

Other issues pervaded. Popes, particularly St. Leo IX, often quoted the fictitious "Donation of Constantine" in their claims to temporal authority throughout the world. By far the most divisive issue was the Latin addition "filioque" to the Latin text of the Creed: "qui ex patre filioque procedit" as opposed to the earlier "qui ex patre procedit." Easterners rightfully said that this was not the text of the Creed appointed at the Nicene Council of the Council of Constantinople, which also forbade its alteration. This emendation, which arose either in the Iberian Peninsula or Persia and which traveled to Gaul, attempted to fight remnants of the Arian heresy, which denied Christ's divinity. This clause emphasizes, especially in Latin, the closeness in divinity between the Father and the Son. In Greek though, the word for "proceed" (in Latin "procedere," which means "proceed" as in English) προϊέναι means to emanate from a single source. Not only would this clause be heretical in Greek, it would be grammatically impossible.

The other major controversy was the Western tendency to use unleavened bread for the Eucharist.

Although the Synoptic accounts would seem to indicate the Last Supper utilized unleavened bread, the early Christians simply used whatever they had, almost always leavened bread. Easterners took this to be a major violation of Tradition, and possibly invalidating. The Papacy was an issue, but not the primary or secondary one.

In 1054 Pope St. Leo IX sent Cardinal Humbert to Constantinople after the patriarch Michael condemned the use of unleavened bread. The cardinal, who possessed legatine powers, caused a stir in the patriarchal palace and, although the Pope had died, ex-communicated Michael using his defunct-legatine powers. The patriarch reacted by denying Papal authority and ex-communicating the cardinal and the dead saint. Needless to say, when Paul VI and Athenagoras lifted the ex-communications of each other, they were engaging in a needless exercise, as the initial decrees had been invalid from their inception.

Paul VI and Athengoras in Rome during the 
Second Vatican Council, c.1964

The Crusades, which had uniting potential, went quite awry when the Fourth Crusade, ignoring Pope Innocent III's strict instructions to avoid Constantinople, sacked the great Eastern city to pay war debts to the Doge of Venice (one Oratorian delightfully calls him the "dodgy Doge!"). No living person was raped, killed, or looted during that dark period in 1204, but the wounds still bleed to this day. The Eastern churches, not just Constantinople, legally reconciled, recognized Papal primacy, and the "filioque" (in the orthodox Latin and the doubtful Greek) twice, at the Council of Lyon and the Council of Florence, neither of which any Orthodox church now recognizes.

In the last council, at Florence, only one Eastern attendee, [St?] Mark of Ephesus, refused to sign the Council documents which provided the re-union, much sought by Rome for matters of faith and by Constantinople for matters of survival. Mark went as far to hold Rome and all of Western Christianity in schism and heresy. In the years after the Council the Pope was unable to keep peace in the midst of consolidating nations in Europe, much less provide protection from the ever-encroaching Muhammadans for the East. In 1453 the Ottomans arrived at Constantinople, sacked the city, massacred much of the populace, removed many crosses, and the Hagia Sophia transformed into a meeting place for the vile cult of Muhammad.

A re-construction of what the Hagia Sophia
looked like in its days as a house of God

In the years since then, over five centuries ago, the East has continued to de-centralize and the West has consolidated, both naturally. In the modern day there is very little public authority in the Orthodox churches. The Patriarch of Constantinople is the "first among equals" that the Pope was supposed to be. They have been attempting to call an ecumenical council for centuries now, without any success.

But this is all history! What does it have to do with my discussions with my confessor? Everything!

These are problems which penetrate the soul of the Roman rite Traditionalist, who one could envisage praying in front of an image of the Sacred Heart, and of the Easterner, meditating upon an icon of the Virgin. How does one find union when authority and spirituality have been divergent for nearly a millennium? It would have to be an organic effort. I am not supportive of inter-communion between the Catholic Church (in any rite) and the Orthodox church as a matter of principle: you are either in the Church, or you are not. None of this "partial communion" nonsense. I recently attended a Catholic wedding during which Russian Orthodox attendees were allowed to communicate and could not figure out how to receive in a manner congruent with the disrespect common in most Roman parishes.

I would however support permission given by local Orthodox and Catholic bishops to permit inter-communion. This allows for mutual appreciation between the clergy and laity of both groups to develop. That good will has generational effects, and does not die easily. A macro-level solution would be likely to create problems. Even if Bartholomew I became Catholic tomorrow, the Greek Orthodox Church would not simply enter the Roman communion.

Eastern hearts must be melted. Although I have noticed a genuinely ecumenical persuasion among Orthodox living in the West, many in the East still maintain that the West is heretical and its Sacraments are invalid. Some go as far as suggesting St. Augustine was a source of the West's heresies and ought to be un-canonized! Westerners, fortunately, are too ignorant of Eastern spirituality and Church history to have objections to the Orthodox on these grounds. Another major factor is the continuing cultural discontinuity between Easterners, many of whom still seek a Church on the model of Constantinople in the 5th century, and Rome, the theological deviant and invader. The end of this attitude might be best-accomplished among Orthodox living in the West, away from those social wounds.

During my university days I once attended Compline with members of the Coptic Orthodox Fellowship. In an off-handed question I asked what they do for theology and authority. The answer I received was "the Fathers." I responded with the words "but the Fathers are quite dead. We need living authority." Another person in the fellowship told me later that my comment had offended some people. I was initially contrite, until the same fellowship invited a Greek Orthodox priest to give a talk. During his speech the priest said he saw no impediment to union between the mainstream Orthodox churches and the "oriental" Orthodox churches (which reject every council from Chalcedon onward, much to the chagrin of most Orthodox). He went as far as to say "no one really believes in monophysitism any more." Other than he and I, everyone in that room did. The same priest brought handout on one Orthodoxy differed from Protestantism and from Catholicism. The first handout was barely two pages while the second was eight! We need to change our priorities!

The Catholic Church, particularly the Roman rite, has enough potential improvements to attract Orthodox interest in inter-communion to occupy the Congregation for Divine Rites for years. Without a doubt, the best thing Rome could do to demonstrate to the Orthodox that we are serious about laying bricks for the foundation of an eventual and lasting re-union would be to return to our own liturgical traditions, which are just as old, if not older, than those of most Eastern churches.

A Divine Liturgy celebrated by a bishop

Will the Orthodox take us seriously when Papal Mass 
looks like this?

And it should look like this?

I do not anticipate seeing an end to the schism, rooted it pettiness and continued in ignorance, during my lifetime (I am only 23). I do hope that serious efforts to engender respect between Rome and the rest of Christendom (those with valid Holy Orders, at least) takes place. Perhaps for some future generation the successors of Peter and his brother Andrew, depicted in the first image of this post, may be family again.

I will close with some words of Our Lord:

Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.  And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me; That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me. 
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

~The Rad Trad