Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lesser Known Fathers I: St. John of Damascus

First, a very short biography of today's Saint for contextual purposes—you can find the rest with Mr. Google. John was born in the mid-seventh century to a family whose tribal origin is uncertain to us, but which suggests a long history of regional magistrates and administrators. John himself took up service and acted as an administrator for the Umayyad caliph until he left public life for a religious vocation as a monk. The saint was supposedly a polymath, highly capable in geometry and astronomy in addition to theology and philosophy. He most enduring work has been his tracts in defense of iconography and the veneration of icons in prayer, written against the iconoclast heresy of Emperor Leo III. St. John, although not within the domain of the rapidly decaying Empire, constructs some of his language and criticism of his second and third treatises against iconoclasm as though he was a citizen of Byzantium, possibly to give him better ground to abjure the Emperor. The three tracts on icons use the same material, references, and often the same exact phrases and arguments, as they are all really just variants of each other. Therefor we shall discuss them interchangeably. We will then look at his first sermon on the Dormition/Assumption of the Mother of God. Let us begin.
Note: references such as (I:9) mean Treatise I, chapter 9.
St. John's take on icons should arouse our attention, as his arguments are faithfully intuitive and easy to convey to iconoclastic Roman clergy and protestants who cannot fathom the purpose of displaying and venerating holy images. At the very heart of his defense of icons is the fact that icons are images, and images, he tells us, are very sacred and holy things. Images need not be defined merely as pictures, but as likenesses to archetypes. God the Son is a direct image, says the Saint, of God the Father, composed of the same essence, but different in Person (I:9). The Father is the cause and the Son is caused. John elucidates other "images" throughout Scripture of lesser magnitude than the Son as image of the Father, such as the Ark of the Covenant as an image of the Virgin Mary or, he takes from St. Gregory the Theologian, memory as an image of the historic event. We should see by now that to St. John images and types are one and the same thing. Types are not limited to the Old Covenant, nor are images strictly physical planks created with paint brushes. They are real reflections of God, albeit of a lesser degree.
People, then and now, commonly object to the veneration of icons on the grounds of the First Commandment, which prohibits the human fashioning of idols which are worshipped as gods. These people need to read St. Paul, who wrote that the Letter kills, but the Spirit quickens. The Jews of old, John teaches, were prohibited from delving into veneration of physical objects too deeply owing to their tendency toward idolatry and to the incompleteness of Revelation (III:4). The Jews did venerate some physical things, such as Aaron's rod, even things that were images, specifically the cherubim and seat on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. They were forbidden from making any images of something unrelated to their God and were also forbidden from making images of their God because they did not know what He might look like (II:5). The cause of this restriction ended with the Incarnation, when God put on human flesh, sanctified it, and dwelt among us in it. God became intelligible to the human eye and human experience. As St. Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Church in Corinth, "now we see puzzling reflections in a mirror."
In venerating images, we engage in a specific type of veneration, as veneration is not a single action but rather is composed of different grades. All worship is due to God and God alone, as His nature is ineffable and above all things. Yet we can worship in many ways. We can worship God in His nature directly. We can worship Him in veneration of His actions, such as the Incarnation and Resurrection. We can venerate Him in His works. We can venerate Him in ways which we can comprehend Him in His corporeal body. Veneration of icons falls into this last level. We worship God Who became Man, and we do so by showing reverence to depictions of this intelligible and visible work of God.
John quotes the Greek Fathers, particularly St. Gregory the Theologian, constantly driving home the point that he would not need to explain the obvious concerning sacred images had the opponents of iconography only followed the Church's traditional teaching concerning them: "if anyone proclaims anything to you other than what the Catholic Church has received from the Apostles and Holy Fathers and synods and preserved up to now, do not listen to him nor accept the counsel of the serpent, as Eve accepted it and reaped death" (II:6).
The Saint finds other reasons to uphold the veneration of icons and sacred images in the Church's contemporary practice, such as praying to the saints. Neglecting the veneration of the saints, the army of Christ the King, is the same as divesting God of His army (I:21). The same applies to the icons. Does their neglect not neglect Jesus' Revelation to us in our nature? The pagans, who denied Christ's Redemption of the human race, saw their images and statues destroyed and replaced with images of God (images according to John's vocabulary) in the form of icons of Christ, of His Life on earth, of His Mother, and of the Saints (III:9).
Treatises II and III have no real ending, just a brutal series of quotations from various Greek Fathers concerning icons. Treatise I concludes in exhorting the reader to cling to the traditions of the Church (I:68). The removal of a tradition is like the removal of a foundational stone from a building: eventually it all tumbles down.
Lastly, we should consider his first sermon on the Dormition/Assumption of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary. "How can the source of life pass through death to life? O how can she obey the law of nature, who, in conceiving, surpasses the boundaries of nature? How is her spotless body made subject unto death? In order to be clothed in immortality she must first put off mortality, since the Lord of nature did not reject the penalty of death."
Heaven and earth cannot contain God's infinite majesty, but Mary's womb did. Therefor God took her bodily into heaven after her death, so that such a virginal body which bore God the Son would not be subject to decay. She was blessed and unspotted, not after death but from her own conception. And she was considered blessed while she lived, as in the Magnificat she states that "from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed," meaning from Our Lord's conception within her, not years after her death. God planned Mary, says St. John, from the very beginning. In illustrating this point John turns to the many passages from the Wisdom books used in the Mariam feasts and Saturday votive Masses in the Roman rite—a nice nod to modern Roman readers.
By the Incarnation of God the Son the gap between Man and God was filled by God putting on human nature, specifically our Lady's human nature. She is, says St. John, the bridge between God's and Man's natures! John takes the story of Jacob's Ladder as an Old Testament type, or image, of our Lady's role in Salvation.
The Saint from Damascus finds another type of Mary in the Old Covenant by virtue of her origin. Our Lady's parents Joachim and Anne, whose "name means 'grace,'" were a barren couple who bore the spring from which Salvation and grace would flow, much like how flowers sprung forth from the rod of Aaron. The end of Ss. Joachim and Anne's sterility also meant the end of the world's spiritual sterility.
Our Lady of Silence (Assumption)
Mary's body, so pure and holy by virtue of what Our Lord Jesus Christ did through it, could only be taken to heaven, as it belongs to the things of heaven. In another sermon, John concludes by describing the manner in which our Lady's death was followed by her Assumption (since Pius XII omitted it in his pronouncement):
"An ancient tradition has been handed down to us, that, at the time of the glorious falling-asleep of the blessed Virgin, all the Apostles, who were wandering throughout the world preaching salvation to the Gentiles, were caught up aloft in the twinkling of an eye, and met together in Jerusalem. And when they were all there, a vision of Angels appeared to them, and the chant of the heavenly powers was heard; and so with divine glory she gave up her soul into the hands of God. But her body, which bore God in an effable manner, being lifted up amid the hymns of Angels and Apostles was laid in a tomb in Gethsemane. There for three whole days the angelic song was heard.
"But after three days, the chant of the Angels ceased, and the Apostles who were present (for Thomas, the only one who had been absent, came after the third day, and wished to adore the body which had borne God) opened the tomb; but they could by no means find her sacred body in any part of it. But when they only found those garments in which she had been buried, and were filled with indescribable fragrance which emanated from them, they closed the tomb. Amazed at this wonderful mystery they could only think that he, who had been pleased to take flesh from the Virgin Mary, to be made man, and to be born though he was God the Word, and the Lord of glory, he who had preserved her virginity without stain after childbirth, should also have been pleased to honor her pure body after her death, keeping it incorrupt, and translating it into Heaven before the general resurrection."
 I hope you enjoyed this little vignette on a Father who needs more attention these days. The Rad Trad, who is not really that "rad," has yet to decide who to cover next week, given the possibilities, but will make a decision in due time. In the meantime, drop the theology manuals and read the Fathers!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

O Felix Roma!

Ss. Peter and Paul sharing a rather unlikely embrace
"Dearly beloved brethren, in the joy of all the holy Feast-days the whole world is partaker. There is but one love of God, and whatsoever is solemnly called to memory, if it hath been done for the salvation of all, must needs be worth the honour of a joyful memorial at the hands of all. Nevertheless, this feast which we are keeping to-day, besides that world-wide worship which it doth of right get throughout all the earth, doth deserve from this city of ours an outburst of gladness altogether special and our own. In this place it was that the two chiefest of the Apostles did so right gloriously finish their race. And upon this day whereon they lifted up that their last testimony, let it be in this place that the memory thereof receiveth the chiefest of jubilant celebrations. O Rome these twain are the men who brought the light of the Gospel of Christ to shine upon thee These are they by whom thou, from being the teacher of lies, wast turned into a learner of the truth.
"These twain be thy fathers, these be in good sooth thy shepherds, these twain be they who laid for thee, as touching the kingdom of heaven, better and happier foundations, than did they that first planned thine earthly ramparts, wherefrom he that gave thee thy name took occasion to pollute thee with a brother's blood. These are they who have set on thine head this thy glorious crown, that thou art become an holy nation, a chosen people, a city both Priestly and Kingly, whom the Sacred Throne of blessed Peter hath exalted till thou art become the Lady of the world, unto whom the world-wide love for God hath conceded a broader lordship than is the possession of any mere earthly empire. Thou wast once waxen great by victories, until thy power was spread haughtily over land and sea, but thy power was narrower then which the toils of war had won for thee, than that thou now hast which hath been laid at thy feet by the peace of Christ. 
"It well suited for the doing of the work which God had decreed that the multitude of kingdoms should be bound together under one rule, and that so the universal preaching of the Gospel should find easier entry into all peoples, since all were governed by the empire of one city. But this city, knowing not Him, Who had been pleased to make her great, used her lordship over almost all nations to make herself the minister of all their falsehoods and seemed to herself exceeding godly because there was no false god whom she rejected. But the tighter that Satan had bound her, the more wondrous was the work of Christ in setting her free." (Second nocturn of Mattins, from the festive sermon of St. Leo the Great)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Yet More Interesting Liturgy

The Rad Trad is radically irate after the Supreme Court of the United States decided to pass another nonsensical judgment. His series on the Lesser Known Fathers will begin this week, maybe Friday, which a post on St. John of Damascus, in which the Rad Trad will cover the saint's treatises on iconography and the Dormition (Assumption) of the Mother of God. While the readers await this post in suspense, the Rad Trad endeavors to buy himself some more time by posting another video of an absurd liturgy, this time a non-Catholic service in a ecclesial community probably convinced that what it does is not liturgy. When the Rad Trad was 7ish he attended a Catholic Church in Roanoke, Virginia very similar to this, and last year attend a Swedish Baptist/non-denominational worship (social obligation, worry not) of uncanny similarity to this. Enjoy!

SCOTUS Loses Its Mind (Again)

America's beloved Supreme Court, which has previously upheld forced purchases of healthcare packages, has now invented a right to homosexual marriages by striking down Bill Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as what it is: a union between a man and a woman. I would go on, but I already spoke my mind on homosexual unions here. This is the nadir of cultural decadence and it will only get worse. What's next? Monogamy? Age of consent? Animals?

When Earl Warren's highly politicized court blazed through the laws of the land in pursuit of its own agenda, many were enraged and wanted the Chief Justice to be impeached. William F. Buckley Jr. stated that there was no grounds to impeach a justice so we ought to just "hang the bastard."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More Interesting Liturgy

This time from 1963. Cardinals and bishops are rarely a liturgically-oriented bunch, except for the rare Bruskewitz or Burke. This clip is particularly bad. It comes from President John Kennedy's funeral, predictably a low Mass—perhaps to avoid the embarrassment of a long Catholic presentation on the topic of death in a protestant country Kennedy won with his "my faith, not my religion" buncombe. Cardinal Cushing begins the consecration at 4:30. See if you can catch the Simili modo post quam... at 5:10 or even find the Cardinal's nose at 5:22!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Famous Actress Becomes Nun!

That would have been the headline in 1963 when Dolores Hart, who starred as love interest to Elvis Presley and Montgomery Clift, left Hollywood and entered a small, rural convent in Connecticut. There is an interesting documentary blow about her life, her love interest, her vocation, and her coming to grips with it. I found the exchange starting at 31:00 most moving. The title of the film says it all: "God is the Bigger Elvis."

Blogger's loathsome app for inserting videos cannot find the clip, so I am giving you the URL:

Pre-Vatican II Mass

Many are aware of what textual differences exist between the liturgies before and after the changes of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, but most of us, myself included, were born well after the Second Vatican Council and cannot say much about the parish-level practice. In the United States most all Masses, Sundays inclusive, were Low Masses. For three seasons the "four hymn sandwich" was the norm at the main Mass and the choir took the summer off. In cities one could certainly find a solemn if one looked. Most parishes would upgrade to a Missa Cantata or some variation for major feasts. The video below, although of an Italian parish Mass, gives a pretty accurate image of an American suburban/rural area Mass in say 1960. The Mass is something of a hybrid between a Missa Cantata and a four hymn sandwich: vernacular hymns substitute for the Introit, offertory, and communion chants and appear again at the recession; incense is used; the ordinary is sung to the Missa de Angelis; the Gradual is sung in a ferial tone and the Alleluia to the Paschal tone; and the altar boys follow Low Mass ceremonial.
The Rad Trad leaves forming opinions to his readers, but he will say that practice of the older rites is probably better now than it was fifty years ago.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Series: Lesser Known Fathers

The Rad Trad knows his readers seem to like series and t like all things liturgical. The liturgical orientation will not be stopping, but seeking to write something new and at a loss for material, the Rad Trad has decided to begin, starting next week, a series on the Fathers of the Church less known to us. Our tendency is to look primarily to the four original Latin doctors: Ss. Augstine, Ambrose his mentor, Jerome his amusing correspondent, and then Pope Gregory the Great. For diversity we often add the original Greek doctors: Ss. Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Theologian, and Basil the Great. Aside from Athanasius, who figures prominently in Cardinal Newman's conversion, and John the Golden Mouth, whose homilies make many appearances in the Office, we are not readily familiar with the Greek doctors or many other Fathers, East or West. 

I propose to discuss and review works of the following "lesser known" Fathers of the Church on a weekly basis:
  • St. Gregory the Theologian (or Gregory Nazianzus)
  • St. Gregory of Nyssa
  • St. Basil the Great
  • St. Isaac of Syria
  • St. Anthony the Abbot (as told by St. Athanasius)
  • St. John of Damascus
  • St. Hilary of Poitiers
  • St. Maximus the Confessor
  • St. John Climacus
  • St. Cyprian of Carthage
  • St. Isidore of Seville
  • Wildcard: Origen's book on prayer. His posthumous condemnation for heresy gave him a bad reputation until the last few decades. In some sense he was the first person to attempt theology as we know it and no one, to my knowledge, reproached him while he lived. That does not make his odd theories on the soul doctrinally sound, nor do I give much credence to his ideas on salvation, but I cannot help but think the negatives of his reputation are exaggerated. His book on prayer has always been popular in Eastern Christendom and does not involve the dodgy opinions that elicited his condemnation at Constantinople II. This one is a maybe.
  • Any more ideas?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Novus Ordo!

2012 Ordo Recitandi of the St Lawrence Press

I am a fan of Rubricarius' work over at the St. Lawrence Press, which publishes an Ordo according to the 1939 typical edition of the Missale Romanum and the Divine Office that would have been prayed that year. This Ordo is both useful and educational. One only has to pay attention to a few days to realize 1962 is not entirely the "old rite." What you may not know is that the same Rubricarius runs the Tridentine Rite blog, which, for a day or two a week, gives an Ordo according to the 1568 Office and 1570 Missal. I do not believe the Tridentine Rite is linked with a published physical Ordo and is likely educationally oriented. That said it reveals quite a bit about how the kalendar and Office varied in the 20th century from the more ancient tradition. The Tridentine Rite follows the Julian kalendar (and I do not!), and does not purport to be something usable for those praying Mass or the Office daily. Which brings us to our point.

Given that the two Ordines of Mr. Rubricarius follow 1568/1570 and 1939 respectively one might begin to see the old liturgy, encompassing the kalendar and Office as well as the Mass, as a museum piece and that a return to it in any form is not only unlikely but implausible. The Rad Trad himself has written of the issues that plagued the 1910-era Office and suggested that a simple kalendar reform would have done the trick; a full overhaul of the psalter and rubrics was unnecessary. A blogger who sometimes comments here as "John R," a true gentleman, has taken to the task of writing a proposal of what this reformed kalendar might look like, a novus Ordo if you will!—I hope he does not mind the pun. His new blog, the Current Tridentine Ordo, yesterday posted a proposed kalendar effective now through July 6. It is a remarkably clean kalendar which preserves the old ranking system and rubrics, eliminates some obscure medieval/Counter-Reformation saints whose cults  are long gone, adds some saints St. Pius V removed or elevates some (like St. Ephrem) to a rank commensurate with their standing (Doctor of the Church in St. Ephrem's case), and has some methodological notes at the bottom. As you will see the ferial cycle dominates until the Octave of St. John the Baptist (John R has kept St. Pius X's octave ranking system, perhaps not a bad idea), at which point the sanctoral cycle takes over. This system balances the ferial and sanctoral well enough to prove that the old system was not only cleaner and more stable, but it is also just as usable if not more usable than the Pian, Johannine, and Pauline editions. If any of my readers work for the Sacred Congregation of Rites or Ecclesia Dei, click on John's didactic new blog and have a look at what could be. There is even a post for what today's entire BVM on Saturday liturgy could look like.

Note: John has, wisely, used the hymns as they existed before Urban VIII and after Paul VI. See the doxology Gloria tibi Domine qui natus es.... in the little hours.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Roman and Byzantine Triduum

Awareness of the old Holy Week in the Roman rite has grown since then-Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum in 2007, as many eager clergy and faithful sought to understand both the 1962 liturgy and what preceded it. What many do not know, but will in a few moments, is just how close the old Roman Triduum is to the last three days of Great Week in the Byzantine liturgical tradition.

I found this especially jarring when I first realized it, as "restoration" to a more pristine liturgy, as supposedly exists in the East, was often presented as a premise for the Pian and Pauline reforms. It should not be so surprising. Rome and Constantinople are only a few hundred miles apart and were, until the papacy of St. Gregory the Great, under the same cultural and political body. Even after Rome's de facto separation from the Byzantine Empire Constantinopolitan liturgy came to Rome via Milan and via Europe (France and Spain picked up Eastern Roman traditions and practices from North African Christians). The Crusades would have a reciprocal effect centuries later. Contrary to our instinct to view the Rome-Constantinople schism as the compass for liturgy, the two cities probably have more in common than the Byzantine tradition has with the Thomistic Christians of India or the Nestorians or the other various non-Chalcedonian Churches we call "Oriental."

Before we look at the specific rites, let us lay down a few basic principles necessary to understanding the commonality of the two rites:
  1. A liturgical day begins the evening prior to the calendar day with Vespers. This derives from the Mosaic tradition (Exodus 29:38-39) of offering sacrifice in the morning and evening. The Temple eventually came to a regular schedule of prayer hours, much like the Divine Office, which is, in most ways, a Christianized version of the ancient Jewish public prayer. Saturday evening Vespers begin Sunday in the Byzantine tradition, as first Vespers begin a feast—and in some sense, Sunday—in the Roman tradition.
  2. The celebration of the Eucharist, call it Mass or Divine Liturgy, is integral to the mysteries and prayer of a given day, but does not encompass all of it. The Divine Office and Eucharist together comprise the observance of a feast, Sunday, or feria.
Now, let us look at the Triduum!

Mandy/Great and Holy Thursday

Archbishop Soroka washes feet at Ss. Cyril and Methodius
In the Byzantine tradition, dark vestments are used on this day. My parish, which has limited means, uses crimson red. The day begins Wednesday evening with Vespers, with the usual introductory rites and psalm 103 ("Bless the Lord, my soul..."). Psalms 140, 141, and 129 are sung, the emphasis being "crying out" to the Lord. The stichera (hymns), which emphasize Judas' betrayal of the "Creator and Maker of all" to the Jews, are sung thereafter. The emphasis on the guilt of Judas never ceases, which impressed the first time I heard these hymns. All Christians are aware of the great betrayal, but I never thought of singing "the Apostle and Apostate" and the "spawn of the vipers" as a liturgical song. The Evening Hymn is sung, followed by prophecies from Exodus, Isaiah, and Job. This marks a quiet transition into the Divine Liturgy proper, wherein the institution narrative from St. Paul first epistle to the Church in Corinth is read. The Cherubic Hymn is replaced by the normal communion verse "Make me this day a sharer in your mystical supper, Oh Son of God...." (interestingly, this is sung as the communion antiphon this day in the Ambrosian rite) These verses are repeated several times, even after communion. The blessing at the end, which normally speaks of "Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is risen from the dead," instead reflects on the Lord's humility in washing His Apostles' feet and dying for us and them. In the Melkite Church, and presumably the Chalcedonian-Orthodox of Antioch, the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given between Vespers and the Divine Liturgy proper. In most parishes, but not my small parish, the celebrant washes the feet of twelve men after communion and before the dismissal. If the celebrant is a bishop, he is sure to wash the feet of some clergy. The same goes for an abbot in a monastery. The washing takes place outside of the Royal Doors, in the nave of the church. Mattins on Thursday morning continues the theme of betrayal, which is much stronger than in the Roman rite.
Tenebrae sung at St. Mary's in Norwalk, CT USA, an excellent little parish.
The Roman rite, oddly, does not begin with Vespers, as there are no first Vespers during Holy Week. But it does begin, powerfully, with the Wednesday evening service of Tenebrae—Mattins and Lauds of Mandy Thursday. There are no introductory rites and the psalms are actually ferial, not festal. The lessons from the Book of the Lamentations of Jeremias speak of tragic desolation of a lonely city—quomodo sedet sola civitas. The responsories speak of Christ asking for the cup to pass from Him and of His immanent betrayal. The antiphons on the Mattins psalms speak of fear, silence, disturbance, trembling, and judgment. After each psalm a candle on the hearse is extinguished, eventually leaving the church in darkness. Whereas Mattins and Lauds usually lead us out of the darkness of night into the service of God throughout the day, here we go from day into obscurity and trembling as the Divine Redemption begins to unfold. Lauds begins with psalm 50 and then 89, the antiphon on which says "The Lord was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and He opened not His mouth." The Miserere psalm is repeated again as part of the would-be suffrages and the remaining candles on the altar are snuffed, darkening the church. The clergy take their books and smash them to create an earthquake-like noise, reminiscent of the one following the Crucifixion. Mass is sung after None, in practice in the morning. The introit is Nos autem gloriari and the Gloria is sung, but the rest of the Mass pertains to the Last Supper. The Epistle is the same as in the Byzantine liturgy and the Gospel is St. John's account of Christ washing the Apostles' feet. The vestments are white for the Mass but not for the rest of the day. My own cheesy interpretation of this is that it is like a going-away for a beloved friend who you know you will not see again for a long time; festive, but surreal and sad. In reality this is probably a Roman oddity: Byzantium used dark vestments, Milan used black, and the Gallican and Norman rites used red. After Mass a procession brings the Blessed Sacrament to an altar of repose and the Vespers follows. The altars of the church are stripped and washed. At a side altar, in the afternoon, the celebrant washes the feet of thirteen men, after having repeated the Gospel of the Mass. The priest wears a penitential violet for this ceremony, which many once considered a possible Sacrament.

Good/Holy and Great Friday

A typical epitaphios
In the Byzantine rite Great and Holy Friday begins with a long Mattins on Thursday evening. The Byzantine rite, which is actually sparse in its Scripture readings compared to the Roman rite, has twelve lessons on this day, beginning with chapters 13-18 of the Gospel of St. John. In some churches twelve candles are lit and gradually extinguish after each reading. A crucifix with an icon-style corpus is placed in the nave and all adore it. A hymn describing Christ as the "Bridegroom of the Church" transfigured by the nails of the Cross  precedes the adoration. After the Little Hours, around 3:00 PM, a Deposition from the Cross service takes place. It is a Vespers service and the Gospel Passion according to St. Matthew, although with interpolations from all the accounts, is sung by the deacon. The reading encompasses Christ's burial in the tomb of St. Joseph of Arimathea. At the end of the service the icon-styled corpus is removed from the Cross and "buried" in an embroidered cloth called the epitaphios, which is placed within a bier. Once again all adore. Compline follows.
In the Roman rite the day once again begins with Tenebrae and the exact same ceremonies as the previous Tenebrae on Mandy Thursday. The last nocturne of Mattins contained excerpts from St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews, wherein the Apostle describes the two-edged sword of faith, hopes he maintains his, and emphasizes that faith is a living thing. The versicle before the second Miserere at Lauds adds mortem autem crucis. On Friday, in the morning or around noon, the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified takes place. Structured like a Mass, the celebrant and his deacons wear their normal vestments, albeit the black of Masses of death, and take their places according to Mass ceremonial. A prophecy from Osee and from the book of Exodus are read. The Passion according to St. John is sung, followed by collects for the needs of the Church and then, in three successive and dramatic stages, a Cross is unveiled for public adoration. The clergy and the people "creep" to the Cross in three double-genuflections. A Blessed Sacrament procession brings the Host consecrated the previous day to the altar and a "Mass" begins with the offertory and incensing of the altar. The Host is elevated and a fragment is mixed with the wine in the chalice. The celebrant consumes the Host and the contents of the chalice and purifies his fingers and the vessels as usual. Vespers follows immediately, as yesterday. Compline is sung in the late afternoon. Around 3:00 PM a deposition service takes place, during which the corpus is removed from the Cross and "buried" in a sepulcher created in  side chapel. Some churches in England and Northern Europe will put a crown of thorns and nails in the tomb.
A Deposition service

[Great and] Holy Saturday

A bishop before the change of vestments
On the last day of the Triduum the story gets really interesting. Great and Holy Saturday starts Friday evening with Mattins (often called "Jerusalem Mattins," as many Byzantine and Roman ceremonies were inspired or transposed from the Church in Jerusalem), a lengthy service with opening rites, six psalms, and then psalm 118 sung with long interpolations praising Christ's adoration by the angels in the tomb and the conquest of Hades. The Canon follows, concluding with the Laudate psalms from Lauds. The message at the end is that the proscription to rest on the seventh day was a prophecy of Christ's Saturday in the tomb, intimating that the eighth day would be a new creation! A litany, dismissal, and Marian hymn conclude Mattins. The Vesperal Liturgy, theoretically something in the afternoon of Saturday, in practice takes place in the morning for pastoral reasons. It begins with, you guessed it, Vespers! Black, or whatever dark color is available, is the color of the day thus far. The stichera begin to anticipate the Resurrection of the Lord ("for you alone manifested resurrection to the world!") and the lamentation of Hades ("my power is destroyed"). Fifteen Old Testament prophecies are read and any converts are baptized. The Canticle of the Three Children segues into the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. Prior to the Gospel, St. Matthew's account of the Resurrection, the clergy change their black vestments for white—quite a sight! A hymn of "silence" and "trembling" replaces the Cherubic hymn. The Hirmos is one of Jesus comforting His Mother rather than the usual "It is truly right...." Bread and figs are blessed at the end.
The deacon awaiting the Paschal fire in the old Roman Holy Saturday liturgy.
The Roman rite parallels strongly. Tenebrae again commences the liturgical day on Friday night. The Vesperal Liturgy starts Saturday after None, in practice mid-morning. Penitential violet is worn. A fire is blessed outside using three collects and the fire is brought into the church by a triple-wicked candle held by the deacon. The Paschal Candle is blessed and lit by the deacon during the Exsultet. Twelve prophecies from the Old Testament (four of which are to be found in the Byzantine rite) are read, telling of the gradual plan of salvation. The baptismal font is blessed and converts are baptized. The place of the baptisms, in a formerly-empty font, after the reading of the prophecies of old anticipating Christ have an un-mistakable purpose: baptism realizes for us the end of the prophecy and the beginning of the actual salvation; as the church is born anew by blessing, fire, and water from Christ, so too are these converted sinners; they are part of God's eighth day of Creation. The Litany of Saints begins and transitions into the actual Mass, taking the place of the Introit. The ministers change from violet to white vestments. At the Gloria bells are rung in joy. At the Gospel no candles are carried, as Christ's Resurrection, liturgically, is anticipated, but has not actually happened yet. There is no offertory chant and the Agnus Dei is omitted after the Canon. After communion a short Vespers with psalm 116 and the Magnificat are sung. A large [and well deserved] meal follows the Mass with Compline in the late afternoon or early evening.


from: Huffington Post

Pascha in the Byzantine rite could be said to start with the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great in the morning, but it is most firmly felt on Saturday evening, usually an hour or so before midnight, when Pascha Sunday is about to begin. After the midnight office the epitaphios with the corpus of the Lord is venerated once again. All lights are extinguished save for the trikirion, a small candlestick on the altar. The celebrant invites all to come and receive the "light not overtaken by night." The people congregate outside after lighting their own candles and are met by the clergy. The constantly repeated "Christ is risen from the dead and by His death He has trampled upon death and has given life to those who were in the tombs" is sung. An account of the Resurrection is then sung and the celebrant, with his blessing cross, knocks on the door of the church and announces the "King of Glory" to the poor man pretending to be the Evil One inside. The procession bursts into the church, bathed in light and fully illuminated. Mattins follows. The Paschal Canon is sung in full with the litany and Magnificat at the end. Twice during Mattins a deacon censes the people and gives them the Paschal greeting "Christ is risen! He is truly risen!" At the end the priest reads the Paschal sermon of St. John Chrysostom. The hours are sung in a very abbreviated form, entirely without psalms, and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom follows. After the Liturgy the faithful venerate an icon of the Resurrection rather than a blessing cross.
In Rome Pascha began with the Gloria during the Holy Saturday rites. On Saturday evening Paschal Mattins and Lauds are sung. Throughout Northern Europe the images in the churches would be unveiled and the Cross would be "raised" from the sepulcher and adored once more, as on Good Friday. A procession would then arrive at the high altar, vested with the best frontal and all candles in the church lit. Mattins is just psalms 1-3 and a sermon of Pope St. Gregory the Great. No canticles or hymns. The celebrant and cantors them vest in the best copes and begin Lauds. The antiphons on the first and third psalms commemorate the angel rolling back the stone on the Lord's tomb and the earthquake that followed respectively—we are clearly re-visiting the Resurrection at this moment! Haec dies... "This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice therein" replaces the chapter and there is no hymn before the Benedictus. The dismissal has a double-alleluia and the Regina coeli finally ends the service.

Worth Noting

After these long, and possibly trivial, descriptions the similarities might be obscured by an overload of information, so let us consider the Triduum day-by-day:
  • Thursday: it actually begins Wednesday night, in shadows. The office marks the point of transition between days. The office and Eucharist together form the complete prayer of the Church, as the Mass/Divine Liturgy is limited in what it can say to two readings. Tenebrae contains the full realm of Christ's betrayal, His worries, human fear, darkness, and also the institution of the Eucharist. The same is true in the Byzantine rite, which examines the Agony in the Garden and the betrayal in depth at Vespers. Also notable is that the foot-washing does not interrupt the Mass/Divine Liturgy in either rite and follows the Biblical flow of events by coming after the Eucharist.
  • Friday: begins with Mattins on Thursday evening in both rites. A Cross is revealed and adored in both. Vespers precedes the Deposition ceremony in both rites, which are both held when Our Lord has, liturgically, died, at 3:00 PM. The sepulcher and the epitaphios serve the same purpose.
  • Saturday: again begins with Mattins the evening prior, although Tenebrae gets shorter as the Triduum progresses whereas Saturday Mattins in the Byzantine rite is very long. In both rites the Resurrection is anticipated, not outright celebrated. The Byzantine tradition emphasizes the Harrowing of Hades directly while the Roman tradition does so implicitly. The Vesperal Liturgy in both rites would presumably be celebrated in the afternoon but for pastoral reasons is celebrated in the morning. Both include Vespers, a large number of prophecies meant to denote the story of salvation leading to baptism and God's new Creation in the Resurrection, and a joyful transition from a penitential service into a joyful Mass/Divine Liturgy.
  • Pascha: tomorrow still begins tonight! The Cross/epitaphios is venerated one last time and the church is illuminated for Paschal Mattins and Lauds.
The Rad Trad hopes his readers got something out of this lengthy piece. The crossover between the two is significant and should give Roman liturgists who flirt with the "East" some reason to re-evaluate how we have done our Triduum in the last few decades.  Heck, maybe the Latin Mass Society or Una Voce could start doing the old Holy Week on the grounds of ecumenism....

Monday, June 10, 2013

Doubting the Apocryphal.... UPDATE

....story on Rorate-Caeli about Pope Francis derisively musing at traditionally-minded Catholics "counting rosaries." According to the story, brought via Reflexión y Liberación, a liberal Spanish-language site dedicated to "Liberation Theology" and "Neo-Liberalism and Social Justice," Francis called traditionalists a "Pelagian current" in the presence of his visitors. Although not exactly one with the Pontiff's liturgical ars celebrandi or his personality, the Rad Trad stumbles over barriers to credibility concerning this story. Why?
  1. He is the Pope and no shepherd, wise or dull, bemoans his sheep in front of others. His duty is to nurture and watch them, not to pass opinions. Unless the Pope is vindictive, and he does not strike me as such, I see no point in a Pontiff mocking part of his flock.
  2. According to the story Francis finds laughable the idea that the number of prayers one says has any significance. The Pope reportedly finds a spiritual offering of 3,000+ rosaries from a group of "restorationists" amusing and silly. Yet we know the Pope himself asked for the faithful to pray three Hail Mary's for him daily.
  3. "Traditionalists," "restorationists," and people who want to "go back 60 years" are invariably associated with the older liturgical rites. This Pope has publically refused to fire Msgr. Guido Marini and affirmed that Benedict XVI's legislation Summorum Pontificum will not be touched.
  4. Reflexión y Liberación promotes hard leftist politics and theology, which Cardinal Bergoglio opposed, either passively or actively, while a Jesuit priest and as an archbishop. This group might be attempting to manufacture agreement or consensus by using a third party subject as a social cynosure. Left-wing theologians have never been known to resort to dissimulation, have they?
  5. Pantheists can hardly be equated with Gnostics, who hated the physical world.
This strikes me as a non-story....

UPDATE: The Rad Trad was quite wrong about this, although he is not too surprised. The liberals with whom the Pope met have confirmed the authenticity of their release, although the president of the group "lamenta profundamente" at the publication of the off-color remarks. Francis's propensity for speaking whatever crosses his papal mind before the nearest audio equipment might encourage more of this sort of thing in the future, if his handlers are not careful.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Humor from Fr. Fortescue

Fr. Adrian Fortescue had a wicked, acerbic sense of humor that really showed whenever something, usually some centralizing move on Rome's part, infuriated him. Still, he remained a loyal and devout servant of the Church whilst he vented privately. Because Fr. Fortescue needed a laugh, and we need one today, he wrote lines such as the following:
"[The nuns] have given me a picture of a gentleman whom I recognize as that illustrious prelate the present incumbent of the Roman bishoprick: I am informed that if I look at it with the proper spirit it will give me the pontifical blessing—a striking sight which I am naturally anxious to enjoy. Hitherto I have not succeeded in convincing it of my spiritual propriety. I have told it all the things I think it would like to hear, that I am dead nuts on Encyclicals, that ubi Petrus ibi is the whole show, that Roma locuta est (she never stops) nulla salus est (I hope I haven't gotten this mixed); I have even said polite things about its... predecessors of the X & XVth centuries; alas in vain! It hasn't once burst into Sit nome Domini benedittumme."—letter of September 20, 1902, St. Edmund College Archive

Fall and Redemption According to St. Bernard

The Rad Trad is contemplating another series of some kind, since his readers do seem to enjoy them. His series on body language in the Mass, the Papal Coronation, and the Reasons for the Reform of the Roman Rite are by far his most read posts. Rad Trad welcomes any input from readers, or suggestions pertaining to their favorite subjects.
It is Saturday, which means today is Our Lady's day. We celebrate the Resurrection in some sense every Sunday, the day that glorious event took place. The Saturday before the Resurrection Our Lady remained faithful though Jesus was buried in the tomb. So we should always dedicate some time on Saturday to thinking about Mary's devotion to Our Lord. To aid this effort, consider this sermon of St. Bernard on the Apocalypse ch. 12 taken from Mattins:
It was indeed a serious injury that one man and one women inflected on us, dearly beloved; but thanks to God, it was also by one Man and one woman that all things were restored, and with a great increase of grace too. For "not like the offense is gift", on the contrary the benefits received are greater than the loss sustained. Yes, that was how the Maker supreme in good judgment and in kindness plied His craft: what had been bruised, He did not break. Rather, He remade it completely in such a way as to be in more advantage to us: out of the old Adam He made a new Man; Eve He transformed into Mary.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Skateboarding Monk

Will Tony Hawk be a reclusive monk one day?
A priest friend of mine recently made a pastoral visit to a church in Alaska. After some time, in a frigid and remote town, he made his way to the town market where people had set up dozens of booths to sell food, furniture, trinkets, and whatever else people sell in public places. The priest happened upon a booth run by a pair of Orthodox monks, who were selling icons, books by the Church Fathers, and other holy items.
One of the monks, let us call him Fr. A (I will get his real name eventually), told my friend how this monastery is a community of ten monks, all in their 20s or 30s, who dig small caves in the ground, much like the Egyptian hermits, and live private lives of prayer in there, but gather in common to pray the Office and Divine Liturgy daily as well. Midway through this conversation a hipster approached Fr. A with a skateboard and asked him to show some tricks on the half-pipe in the nearby skatepark. Fr. A sheepishly declined, but a few people in the vicinity cajoled Fr. A into accepting the hipster's board.
At this point everyone in the market dropped what they were doing and followed Fr. A into the skatepark, ready and willing to watch a monk, in a cassock made to resist the Alaskan weather, attempt some tricks. Fr. A descends from the top of one end of the half-pipe, coming up to the other and doing a 180. He descends again, comes up the other side and does a 360. He descends again, comes up the other side yet again and this time does a somersault, landing on the board and returning safely to the ground. The Alaskans go wild.
My priest, stupefied, asked Fr. A what "that was all about." Fr. A quietly said "1994 California state champion. At the monastery we are all either former-California sakteboarders or beach-bums." My priest replied, "You must have a pretty sinful past." Fr. A retorted, "Don't most monks?"

Words of Absolution

Compare three different versions:

Byzantine (Melkite)
Roman (traditional)
Roman (modern)
Our Lord and God Jesus Christ, Who gave this command to His divine and holy disciples and apostles; to loose and to bind the sins of people, forgives you from on high, all your sins and offenses. I, His unworthy servant, who have received from these Apostles the power to do the same, absolve you from all censures, in as much as I can and am able, according to your need of it. Moreover, I absolve you from all your sins which you have confessed before God and my unworthiness. In the name + of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God, through Nathan the prophet, forgave David his sins; and Peter shedding bitter tears over his denial; and the adulteress weeping at his feet; and the publican and the prodigal son. May this same God, through me, a sinner, forgive + you everything in this life and in the life to come. And may you stand uncondemned before His awesome judgment-seat, for His Name is blessed forever and ever. Amen.
May Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sin, and bring you to life everlasting. Amen. May Almighty and Merciful God grant you forgiveness, absolution, and remission of your sins. Amen. May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from every bond of excommunication (suspension) and interdict, so far as my power allows and your needs require. + Thereupon, I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
May the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, and all the good you do and the suffering you endure, gain for you the remission of your sins, increase of grace, and the reward of everlasting life. Amen.
God, the Father of Mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Orbis Factor

A recent post on the Abbey of Rievaulx by Zephyrinus concludes with an "organum" setting of the "farced" Kyrie Orbis Factor. Such settings were often named for the opening lines of their "farcing." For instance, "Orbis Factor, Rex Aeterne, eleison! Kyrie eleison!" ("Maker of the world, Eternal King, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!") While searching for other farced settings I came across Christopher Tye's quasi-polyphonic version of the Orbis Factor. The music is an interesting and pleasing blend medieval piety with a controlled, moderated polyphony. Have a listen.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sunday with the Octave of Corpus Christi

I wanted to write something about the Octave of Corpus Christi, but I fear I would not have anything better to say than David Forster of Liturgia Latina. I would encourage you all to read his post on Sunday with the Octave of Corpus Christi here. He reads the Old Testament typology of the prophet Samuel through the eyes of St. Gregory the Great in order to consider the idea of God feeding man. Fittingly, the Gospel reading on this Sunday is from chapter 14 of St. Luke, wherein Jesus speaks a parable of a man who has prepared a great feast, but all the invited excuse their absence. The actual Thursday feast of Corpus Christi is laden with Incarnational undertones (the doxologies, the preface of the Mass, the hymn Pange Lingua to some extent). Earlier I even posted an excerpt from St. Gregory of Nyssa's catechism concerning the Eucharist, which takes an "organic" approach. Point being, there is a great wealth of typology, ecclesiology, theology, and liturgy to consider when trying to understand the Eucharis. This is why the Church gave the feast an octave in the 15th century. It is for our benefit.