Monday, June 29, 2015

Feast of Ss. Peter & Paul

"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, where from 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."

Pope St. Leo the Great, first sermon on the feast (second nocturne of Mattins)

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Concelebration has been abused in the West since its reintroduction in 1964. Originally an act of unity between the priests and their bishop, it has become a quick and normal setting for the celebration of Mass in the parish and at large events. The modern manner of concelebration involves the concelebrants sitting off to the side, inactive, until the anaphora, at which point they utter every single word said by the celebrant. After Communion, which they may or may not distribute based on the number of church ladies trying to get their part, the concelebrant disappear again. This is a clear misuse of an ancient practice which, given how the Roman rite evolved since the 9th century, may not have been wise to re-introduce without very stringent guidelines.

In the Greek churches concelebration has continued and does not sideline the concelebrants until the anaphora nor does it envision the sole function of the concelebrants to utter the words of the Eucharistic prayer simultaneously. The concelebrants can say parts of the anaphora or sing the litanies or the prayer before the ambo in place of the celebrant, but only the bishop says the more important parts of the anaphora—the words of Christ and the epiclesis.

Much of this likely existed in the Roman church in the first millennium when the Canon of Mass was still sung in the preface tone, allowing the concelebrants to sing particular parts. Concelebration likely died on a large scale when priests began to recite rather than sing the anaphora, but the practice did not disappear overnight. As late at the 13th century Innocent III reports concelebration of the Cardinal-Priests with the Pope. In the Papal rite of Mass as well as in Pontifical Mass according to local usages, present priests vest in chasuble, stole, and maniple as for Mass and function as attendants to the celebrant. In the Papal rite as in the neo-Gallican rites the "concelebrants" join around the altar according to one's place in holy orders: bishops at the footpace, priests below them, and deacons lower still. On Holy Thursday, before Pius XII, twelve priests joined the bishop in breathing on the oil that was consecrated as holy chrism during the Canon of Mass itself.

Concelebration in its ancient form and in the rites of local usages that retained a whisper of the older praxis had a value unto themselves. These rites made the full unity of the local church visibly present before the faithful and God. This simple fact makes this one point out of an otherwise good book and review something of a head-scratcher:

The author reaches many important conclusions in this work of highly readable scholarship. Among the more immediately practical conclusions are: (1) although concelebration is licit and occasionally opportune, particularly when the presbyterate is led in worship by the bishop, it was never historically, and should not now be, the normal or default mode of offering the Mass; (2) much of our contemporary theory and praxis are based on a fundamentally flawed concept of what concelebration historically was—a flaw that found its way into the Council debates and subsequent implementation; (3) in either sacramental or ceremonial concelebration, no differently than in a ‘private’ Mass, one sole Mass is offered to God; (4) because “each Mass pours the redemptive Blood of Christ upon the Church and the whole world,” the Church and the world benefit from a multiplication of Masses and suffer loss from their reduction; (5) it can be demonstrated from documents of Tradition and of the Magisterium that the Church herself greatly desires that Masses be thus multiplied

One wonders why when a new pope was elected, the attending clergy dispensed with private Masses and the Office in favor of one great Mass celebrated by the Pontiff amidst his brethren.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Feast of the Forerunner: What's in a Name?

St. Ambrose prominently mentions the significance of the Forerunner's naming in his commentary on Luke, read at Mattins today: "His name is John that is, it is not for us to choose a name now for him to whom God hath given a name already. He hath a name, which we know, but it is not one of our choosing." Augustine's teacher continues: "Thus was it that our Lord Jesus was named before He was born, with a name not given by an Angel, but by the Father. Thou seest that Angels tell that which they have been bidden to tell, not matters of their own choosing."

The Bible recounts many occasions when the Lord has given a man a new name a makes him a new person in that same moment. Abram became Abraham and the father of men as "numerous as the stars" in faith. Peter was not the first called of the Apostles—that honor went to Andrew—however he was made the "rock" upon which the Church was to be built; the "one church" and its "one chair" found its place in Peter, according to St Cyprian. Most famously in the New Testament is the case of St. Paul. Saul was a Jew keen not only on the Law, but the persecution of the Church; as Paul he would be the "doctor to the Gentiles" and the sower who planted the seeds for the conversion of the Mediterranean world. We continue this in part at Baptism and Confirmation when the neophyte receives a new name by which God knows the person and which replaces the colloquial name known in the prior life. The new name is new life and new creation.

None of this applies to John. He did not become anything. He was not refashioned into a new and better person. He was a man conceived of a woman like us, but born like Jesus and Mary, fully what God wanted him to be, fully holy, fully human. None of this would be so apparent had Zachariah not had to dispute his son's name with his wife. No one debated the name of Moses or Solomon. No one cared much about the name of John the Evangelist. They did care about the name of the Forerunner. His purpose and his purity were to him by God before he was even born. Abram, Simon, and Saul had to wait. What he was in the desert he was destined to be from eternity. 

He was fully human like us, and the prefigurement to the One Who was fully human and fully divine. "God became man," wrote St. Athanasius in On the Incarnation, "so that man might become God." Despite his perfection, St. John the Baptist was still a prophet of the old covenant, which possessed the Law, but not grace (John 1:17). John's humanity was one un-encumbered by sin and spent, likely, living in the desert with the Essenes—an aesthetic sect of Judaism which valued personal austerity over outward devotion. John did not have the grace of Sacraments, into which "Christ's work has passed" according to Leo the Great. He was the most a man of the old covenant could be. Christ, imbuing the Sacraments with divinity and allowing the recipients of them to receive God in fact and symbol, is its fulfillment and, worrisome for us, is the most a man of the new covenant could be. John had his name given to him by God. All those baptized have the name Christian, "little Christ."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

“The Lord hath called me from the womb”

(Rogier van der Weyden)

[Some selections from Vespers on the Vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.]

Capitulum Responsory Hymnus Versus

Isa 49:1
Give ear, ye islands, and hearken, ye people from afar. The Lord hath called me from the womb, from the bowels of my mother he hath been mindful of my name. [v. 2: And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword: in the shadow of his hand he hath protected me, and hath made me as a chosen arrow: in his quiver he hath hidden me.]
R. Thanks be to God.

R. Among them that are born of women * there hath not risen a greater
V. Than John the Baptist.


Ut queant laxis resonare fibris
Mira gestorum famuli tuorum,
Solve polluti labii reatum,
Sancte Joannes.

Nuntius celso veniens Olympo,
Te patri magnum fore nasciturum,
Nomen, et vitae seriem gerendae
Ordine promit.

Ille promissi dubius superni,
Perdidit promptae modulos loquelae:
Sed reformasti genitus peremptae
Organa vocis.

Ventris obstruso recubans cubili,
Senseras Regem thalamo manentem:
Hinc parens nati meritis uterque
Abdita pandit.

Sit decus Patri, genitaeque Proli,
Et tibi compar utriusque virtus
Spiritus semper, Deus unus, omni
Temporis aevo.


O for thy spirit, holy John, to chasten
Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen;
So by thy children might thy deeds of wonder
Meetly be chanted.

Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending,
Bears to thy father promise of thy greatness;
How he shall name thee, what thy future story,
Duly revealing.

Scarcely believing message so transcendent,
Him for season power of speech forsaketh,
Till, at thy wondrous birth, again returneth
Voice to the voiceless.

Thou, in thy mother's womb all darkly cradled,
Knewest thy Monarch, biding in his chamber,
Whence the two parents, through their children's merits,
Mysteries uttered.

Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten,
And to the Spirit, equal power possessing,
One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages,
Ever resoundeth.

Sts. John, Zachary, and Elizabeth, pray for us!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Josephology Sidebar: St. Joe the Environmentalist

"We're going to be late for the encyclical reading club!"
There is an interesting tidbit in today's papal encyclical Laudato Si:

241. Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power. Completely transfigured, she now lives with Jesus, and all creatures sing of her fairness. She is the Woman, “clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). Carried up into heaven, she is the Mother and Queen of all creation. In her glorified body, together with the Risen Christ, part of creation has reached the fullness of its beauty. She treasures the entire life of Jesus in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51), and now understands the meaning of all things. Hence, we can ask her to enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom.

242. At her side in the Holy Family of Nazareth, stands the figure of Saint Joseph. Through his work and generous presence, he cared for and defended Mary and Jesus, delivering them from the violence of the unjust by bringing them to Egypt. The Gospel presents Joseph as a just man, hard-working and strong. But he also shows great tenderness, which is not a mark of the weak but of those who are genuinely strong, fully aware of reality and ready to love and serve in humility. That is why he was proclaimed custodian of the universal Church. He too can teach us how to show care; he can inspire us to work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us.
Just, hard-working, strong, tender, loving, in touch with reality, humble, and now an environmentalist. Does poor St. Joseph have any identity save for that which we wish to impose upon him?

St. Joseph, crafter of free-trade lumber, pray for us!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Strange Churches: Pius XII Edition

The list of architecturally deficient Catholic parishes in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex seems inexhaustible. Just the other day, I thought, dear reader, that we must have seen at least every style of bad ecclesiastical architecture available somewhere in this area until I re-visited a church I last saw on Good Friday—St. Maria Goretti, which was hosting relics of the True Cross that morning.

St. Maria Goretti in Arlington is a strange artifact from that transitional pontificate of Eugenio Pacelli, an age in which everything looked stable and constant on the surface, but a violent storm brewed beneath Pius' Italian crust. I last saw a church approaching this style—merging traditional concepts with modernist and minimalist art and materials—at St. Bridget in Cheshire, CT, my original parish. It, too, was built during the Pacellian era and it too represents that transitional period.

Minimal lighting, indiscernible stained glass, and varnished wood are the choices in this eclectic contribution. The shape of the church is something between thatched hut and collapsing log cabin. 

Other than Stations of the Cross, the church has one place for private prayer. Even the kitsch plaster statues have been hidden atop the confessional boxes. When the faithful added chapels to the ancient Roman basilicas, they intentionally put them throughout the temples so that nothing would detract from the integrity of the sanctuary. In St. Maria Goretti, the sanctuary has an altar and all other manner of thingamajigs with only one concession to private prayer.

Perhaps there is additional lighting in the ceiling that was not illuminated, but through the natural glow of the sun, St. Maria's is gloomy.

St. Benedict? Infant of Prague? Franciscan crucifix? St. Maria Goretti? Whichever you please....

The church was built c.1952 for the old Mass. The sanctuary is alarmingly original and un-"Bugninized" from the 1960s because it was already quite bad. Other than the movement of the altar, I cannot definitively say anything in the sanctuary is new. The altar was clearly atop the footpace at first and has descended to become a "forward" altar for versus turbam Masses, but the back wall, Crucifix, carpeting, altar rail design, and the rest are all quite of the age.

There are three ambos. Why, pray tell? Are three different people really speaking during the Mass? I know!—they are for the deacons to sing the Passion during Holy Week!

A Ukrainian Catholic deacon I know one complained that the Roman Church seems to have no sense of joy. One enters the church and sees only a crucifix. This is actually a relatively new phenomenon, and an unhealthy one at that. The gigantic crucifixes that now dominate the eastern walls of Roman parishes result from brutalistic styling that minimalizes decoration and resorts to the crucifix as the one external sign of the Catholicity of the building. Previously, churches would present images of Christ ruling, the Virgin, the patron saint or mystery of the parish, or just a stylized wall.

Also interesting is the pseudo-canopy. The 1950s saw a very brief and half-hearted revival of the baldachin, a cover over the sanctuary that all the Roman and Eastern churches possessed in the first millennium. The open gothic style of the Latin middle ages and the creation of the iconostasis in the Greek church during the decadant Palaiologan dynasty meant that only the far Eastern churches retained the tradition when constructing new edifices, St. Peter's in Rome being a famous exception. The 1950s resurgence rarely resulted in a full baldachin, only strange sounding boards hanging from the ceiling, as at St. Bridget's.

A side altar for daily Masses. St. Joseph and Our Lady watch over the two additional altars, each flanking the sanctuary.

Alas, a traditional church in DFW!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Josephology Part 10: Francisco Suárez and the Order of the Hypostatic Union

“Suarez, whose judgment is equivalent to that of an entire university.” –Edward Healy Thompson
A contentious figure in many respects, Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) was a well-learned Spanish scholar, philosopher, and theologian of the scholastic tradition. He taught in many cities, was by many accounts given to acts of great penance, and was even invited by P. Paul V to refute the errors of King James of England. Later Thomists make reference to Suárez with some regularity even to this day. Like all brilliant men, he was not content merely to learn, but was driven to develop his own school of thought, called “Suarism” by some.

While the majority of his ideas are beyond my own ability to critique or absorb, and even though the majority of his works appear to remain untranslated into English for our benefit, there are a few oddities about his legacy that are relevant to the subject at hand. One of his obsessions was developing the theology concerning the Blessed Virgin, particularly the nature and extent of the graces imparted to her. The commonly found opinion that the graces of the Virgin are greater than the graces of all the angels and saints combined appears to have originated with Fr. Suárez. He also developed the idea of the Order of the Hypostatic Union, which he uses in his Life of Christ to describe the graces give to St. Joseph:
There are certain ministries which pertain precisely to the order of sanctifying grace, and in this order, I see that the apostles occupy the place of highest dignity, and that in such a place, gifts of grace are necessary (above all of wisdom and of grace: gratis data) superior to the gifts of others. There are, however, other ministries found within the order of the hypostatic union (an order of itself more perfect, as we have said elsewhere, treating of the dignity of the Mother of God) and, in my opinion, it is within this order that the ministry of St. Joseph must be situated, even if it occupies the lowest place there; and for this reason, his is a dignity superior to the highest in other orders because he is in a higher order. (De mysteriis vitae Christi in tertiam partem divi Thomae, tomus secundus, disp. VIII, Sec. 1.; quoted by Don Joachin Ferrer Arellano, “The Virginal Marriage of Mary and Joseph according to Bl. John Duns Scotus,” in Blessed John Duns Scotus and His Mariology (2009), p. 383, note 33)
What is the Order of the Hypostatic Union? Its proponents reference an article in the Summa (I.108.6) describing the celestial hierarchy of the angels, but I have found no original reference in Thomas to this particular order. The twentieth-century Thomist Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange says that the ordained divine power operates within three orders: the natural, the supernatural, and that of the hypostatic union (cf. Christ the Savior, p. 88). This third order is something that operates above and beyond even the already extraordinary order of sanctifying grace; the super-supernatural realm, if you will, in which the mystery of God made Man takes place.

This third realm is where the Blessed Virgin received such graces as to exceed the combined graces of all the blessed in Heaven, by virtue of her Divine Maternity. It is also where St. Joseph supposedly received the graces to exceed all other saints, by virtue of being the spouse of the Virgin, and by the necessity of performing the ministry of protector of the Incarnate Word.

It is an interesting work of theological speculation, to be sure. Many later Thomists, like Garrigou-Lagrange, seem to take the Order of the Hypostatic Union as a given. Edward Healy Thompson popularized—and perhaps banalized—it in his Life and Glories. Taylor Marshall has blogged in recent years about the importance of this order in regards to Josephology.

Unfortunately, it is an idea that seems to be used as a sort of “black box” for theological speculations. I have not found any precisely agreed upon definition of the Order of the Hypostatic Union, and it seems to morph slightly depending on the theologian using it. Garrigou-Lagrange uses it occasionally when writing about Christ, but most often it is used to defend the hyper-exaltation of Joseph among the saints.

If Joseph is hyper-exalted because of his proximity to the mystery of the hypostatic union, why not also John the Baptist (who preached the Incarnate Word even from the womb), or Elizabeth (who named the pregnant Mary the mother of her Lord), or Simeon (who circumcised the Christ Child), or Joachim and Anne (the parents of the Second Eve), or David (ancestor and messianic type of Jesus), or Gabriel (who announced the Incarnation itself)? It’s a fascinating idea in concept, but I do not think it predates Suárez in any substantial way, and it has only really gained traction among Josephite devotees.

Charles II
But there is also a cultural momentum at play. The Hispanic lands began developing Josephite devotion much earlier and with greater fervor than the rest of the Church. In 1555 Joseph was named patron of the conquest of Mexico, and in the 1670s the Spanish King Charles II replaced St. James with Joseph as the patron of his kingdom. From the early 1600s Spanish and Mexican artists began producing more images of the Holy Family, often changing his appearance from an elderly to a younger man. St. Teresa of Ávila (in Spain), about thirty years Francisco’s senior, worked to popularize Josephite devotion after receiving a miraculous cure from this saint. Suárez was thus working within the religious culture of his time and place, perhaps striving to find a theological apologetic for the growing devotion to the Stepfather of Christ and to the Holy Family. Even to this day, devotion to Joseph seems to be the strongest in Spain and among other Spanish-speaking Catholic communities.

The influence of Francisco Suárez on later Josephology should not be underestimated, although he was part of a much larger devotional movement. His own work is largely neglected outside of the few remaining Thomistic schools, and even then he rarely seems to be studied in his own right. One wonders if he had any inkling that his many volumes of work would be forgotten aside from a few developments in Marian and Josephite devotion.

St. Joseph, honorary member of the Order of the Hypostatic Union, pray for us!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Binary Barrier: Sacra Liturgia Conference

John R has published his account of the speakers at the Sacra Liturgia conference in New York City. Conferences and other forms of controlled mob interaction allow leaders to influence their potential cliques, for the cliques to share their ideas, for prejudices to be confirmed, or for new ideas about piety and theology to be inculcated. This year's conference is interesting both for what it discussed and what it failed to discuss.

A constantly reiterated goal of this blog is to broaden conversation about the Catholic Church's liturgy beyond the duality of the "OF" and "EF" Roman books—the liturgy of Paul VI and the rite of Econe John XXIII. The 1962 liturgy is not an accurate reflection of the Roman tradition nor is the Roman tradition the only legitimate liturgy in the Latin Church, much less in the Church universal. The speakers at the Sacra Liturgia conference seem blissfully aware of this pair of simple facts. John recounts that all the speakers on the docket engaged in the same predictable and tired lecture formulae that we have heard since mid-2007: commence with turgid quotations from Sacrosanctum Concilium, explain how the glorious document was ignored, commend the reverence of the "EF", speak at length about how the "OF" can learn from the "EF," and gratuitously add that the "OF" does have a number of significant improvements that could benefit the "EF."

Every supposedly traditional liturgist has some item on the list wherein they believe that the "OF" praxis could improve the "EF", yet they never have a consensus as to what. Dom Anderson OSB favors the variety of prefaces in the Pauline rite. Other writers applaud the Pauline lectionary for "opening" Scripture to the people. The local tongue allows for greater participation. It is almost as though to baptize one's views on the "EF" one must agree that the "OF" has something to offer the Church not contained in the other rites practiced now or in history by the faithful.

Only Alcuin Reid broke beyond this binary set of numbers, and he did so because he wanted to prevent a third figure from entering his set of 1s and 0s. At the local level, priests and some laity are increasingly interested in the genuine old rite, particularly in the un-Pianized Holy Week. This past year saw a proliferation in Holy Week celebrations according to older usages, celebrations wisely un-publicized by the faithful. The diocesan bishop is unlikely to care, but the district superior of the FSSP is. 

Reid spoke of the improvements wrought by Pius XII which ought not be undone. The veritas horarum meant that the "Easter Vigil" was "restored" to the right time, and hence it properly should conclude with Lauds as the liturgy welcomes the morning of the Resurrection rather than the nightfall of Vespers (one wonders if he has read any medieval accounts of Holy Week or attended the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil the Great). Communion ought to be given on Good Friday, even if it was not done anywhere else East or West. The celebrant need not read texts already read by other ministers—as though it detracts from the celebration in some way. Reid emphasized  that the "Liturgy is not frozen in amber and one cannot glorify a certain year or cut-off point for pristine Liturgy." Reid is right, but does not mean this in the same way that I would mean this. Reid is warning people not to nurture too strong an interest in the liturgy as it existed before Pacelli. He wants to preserve the binary barrier.

This is at the heart of the conference's short-comings and the defect in modern scholarship on the Roman rite. With rare exception, clerical and mainstream commentators are inextricably linked to the rite of Paul VI and of Econe John XXIII. They love one and hate the other. They love one and like the other. They are "pro-Benedict" and "anti-Francis." No one asks what the Roman liturgy actually is or why it matters. They will adumbrate their points with favorable quotations from Byzantine liturgists to reiterate the necessity of tradition without actually understanding what their liturgical heritage is.

The Roman liturgy is the liturgy used at St. Peter's basilica and by the Popes of the mid-first millennium. It consisted of the major hours of the Office to praise God throughout the day, not to "get graces," but because He is God and He deserves it. It also consisted of the Mass, served by the Pope and his ministers and centered on the ancient and venerable anaphora, the Roman Canon. Devotion and maximalism on the part of the Roman laity and monastics throughout Europe augmented the hours, added to the ritual of the Mass, and made of the tone of the Roman rite more reflective and subtle than those of its oriental counterparts. Reverence for the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles and expediency popularized its celebration throughout Europe. Ss. Gregory VII and Pius V tinkered with the ritual and with psalter a bit. It permeated the lives of the monastic and ordained faithful, many of them saints, for fourteen centuries. They did not write about it, nor did they hold conferences to debate how much of it was worth keeping. They prayed it and they lived it. Throughout those centuries, the local furnished the office with hymns, added prayers to the Mass, and created extravagant variations on the ritual. None of them dared to remove the essentials, though. 

I often muse that had I entered Canterbury Cathedral during the age of Innocent III and bad king John, I could approach a monk about to celebrate his daily Mass. He would probably concede that many of the ecclesiastical issues of the day were open to debate: whether the pope was right to excommunicate John, whether the local embellishment of readings was legitimate, whether the resident cardinal or the Archbishop of Canterbury had primacy in England. He would scoff, though, at the idea he or anyone could alter the hours or the Canon of the Mass. Similarly, he would scoff at the idea every gesture at the hours or Mass was subject to regulation, either by Rome or by freestanding conferences. 

Perhaps a future conference will delve into the depths of the Roman liturgy and explore what fruits it could offer to us today in our daily lives, how it can permeate the parish like it did the lives of the saints. Has anyone mentioned the simplicity of pre-1911 Compline? The same psalms and antiphons more or less every day with minimal variation? This would be an easy accommodation to the local church. Coped cantors in the sanctuary? An easy way to assimilate men into the choir who do not want to join the female clique in the loft. Octaves? A protracted celebration of the great feasts which aids us in understanding the magnificent things Christ has done for us. The old Holy Week times? Very helpful for families. 

Above all, the Roman rite is not to be found in a set of particular books, but in a set of features (the kalendar system, the psalter, the Canon, and the rites for the great feasts). A deeper understanding of its origins and the near-constant veneration of it might give future speakers reason to pause before consigning portions of it to the dustbin because it does not belong to their binary number set.

Why No Bragan Novus Ordo?

Why did the Dominican Order, whose rite was celebrated globally prior to the 1960s, not revise its liturgy in according with the Pauline promulgation while Milan, one diocese, created its own Novus Ordo Missae, essentially the Pauline rite with some gratuitous bits of the old tradition tossed in?

The answer is found in the spirit of the times and could be gleaned from Marco's review of the Report on the Bragan Rite for the Congregation for Divine Worship, a study on everything supposedly wrong with Portugal's native rite—its confusing and embarrassing deviations from what everyone else did—and how those things had to be removed in the new Bragan liturgy. Eventually, the bishops of Portugal decided that the new Roman rite was superior and that retaining Bragan idiosyncrasies would be frivolous. Initially, they intended to create a hybrid rite, something like the 1964/5 revised Roman liturgy in anticipation of the full blown reform, but the change never came. Instead they discarded everything wholesale for the Pauline rite.

I have a hard time blaming Ultramontanism for this. The more responsible culprit is what Hull called the "idol of uniformity." The mob mentality that prevailed at Vatican II and continues to bully bishops into line at local episcopal conferences was present in the liturgical reform process. Everyone was "fixing" or "renewing" their rites, so why be the dowdy exception? 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Corpus Christi: "Being Himself Man So That Men Might Become Gods"

"He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him." To dwell in Christ, therefore, and to have Him dwelling in us, is to "eat of that Bread and drink of that Cup," and he which dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, without all doubt doth not spiritually eat His Flesh nor drink His Blood, although he do carnally and visibly press the Sacrament with his teeth but, contrariwise, he " eateth and drinketh damnation to himself," because he dareth to draw nigh filthy to that secret and holy thing of Christ, whereunto none draweth nigh worthily, save he which is pure, even he which is of them concerning whom it is said " Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." St. Augustine of Hippo 26th Tract on John (third nocturne of Mattins)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Lost Octaves: The Ascension

Christ rose from the dead on the eighth day of the week, capping a week that began with His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with His entry into Hades, its harrowing, and His return to this earth glorified. Since then, the Church has traditionally marked the great feasts with eight day long celebrations, commemorating the marked significance of what Our Lord did either Himself or through His saints with protractions of the Office, Mass, and associated festivals. We recently concluded the octave of Pentecost, or Trinity Week in the Byzantine rite, one of the few octaves remaining in the 1962 Roman liturgy. The liturgy of Paul VI lacks this octave. Traditionally the Church celebrated numerous octaves until the pontificate of Pius XII, among them the octave of the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven. 

Octaves give the faithful seven days to digest a great feast. Rogation days, three days of penitential services and processions, precede the feast of the Ascension. St. Mamerus of Vienne instituted what eventually became the Rogation days while he was bishop of that see. The saint wanted his people to do penance so that they might repair for the wars of that region. The Council of Tours championed the practiced in 567 and in the ninth century it found a champion in St. Leo III, the pope of the age. 

Originally the Rogation days resembled the Roman observance of Ash Wednesday: the clergy and faithful wore poor clothing, marked themselves with ashes, and processed from church to church singing psalms and litanies. Over time the Rogation days, owing to their proximity to the Ascension, became spiritualized lamentations at the end of Paschaltide for the impending departure of Christ. Dom Gueranger wrote that observance of the Rogation days to their full extent with abstinence "would express how [the Church] feels at the loss of her Spouse, who is soon to be taken from her."

The Gospel of the Ascension and what occurs immediately after its reading are among the most subtle acts in the subdued Roman liturgy. In the 16th chapter of St. Mark's Gospel, Christ commands the Apostles to preach to the good news to the ends of the earth, telling them that they shall cast out devils, speak in new tongues, and survive poison, for no harm shall impede them from their charge. While this sounds hyperbolic, it means that the sign of the Church is miracles—God acting apart from conventional expectation to draw people's attention to the truth of Christ. If the sign of the Church is miracles, then the sign of the Church is holiness above all. Miracles are not part of the message of Christ or of the Church, rather they point to it and enable it.

After the deacon has read the Gospel, an acolyte snuffs the Paschal candle, which will not burn again save for at the blessing of the font on the vigil of Pentecost. In the middle ages this act would have made more sense to us than it does in the 1962 form or the Pauline form (if it is still done). The other candles in a church would have been light from the Paschal fire, which burned without pause from Holy Saturday through the Ascension. Devotional candles, candles on side altars, and other candles in the sanctuary would have been lit from the Paschal candle before the acolyte extinguished it. Christ has taken the Apostles to the top of Mt. Olivet. Peaks of mountains and hills, as the "closest" point to heaven for those on earth and places of isolation, have special significance in the Scriptures. Moses ascended Mt. Sinai and received the Ten Commandments. Reflectively, Christ brought the Apostles up Mt. Tabor to show the congruity between the Jewish covenant and the one to come when He transfigured before them. At this moment atop Mt. Olivet, the Apostles again assume, again wrongly, that Christ will now restore the kingdom of Israel to its Davidic glory, forgetting the Lord's condemnation of Israel on Palm Sunday. A new covenant will be accompanied by a new Jerusalem, one based in heaven and present on earth, descending from one to another. God outwardly signified His presense in a cloud over the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. Now, His presence would descend from heaven to earth and diffuse through the working of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Church, its opus Dei.

Saturday morning's Mattins delve more explicitly into the extinction of the Paschal candle. The Lord "has given us great and precious promises, that by [faith and knowledge (cf. 1-2)] you may be made partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). Grace is given freely, not seen instantly. It must be perceived by faith, just as the presence of Christ is no longer seen physically in human form, only by faith. St. Leo the Great explicitly states in the second nocturne of Saturday "the seen presence of Our Redeemer in the body has been changed for the unseen presence of sacraments, and hearing was given to the Church instead of seeing." As she can no longer "see" her Spouse, the Church turns to externals like the Holy Fire to as reminders of Christ's humanity and His perpetual presence. Some Greek churches expand beyond the medieval Roman practice by reserving the Holy Fire for the entire year and lighting all candles until the next Holy Saturday from it.

The Apostles are left at the peak of Mt. Olivet with the Virgin, confused and disconsolate, none the wiser than they were when Jesus said "The Son of Man must suffer" or "I go to My Father." For understanding they had to await the descent of the Holy Spirit. The Ascension of the second person of the Holy Trinity necessarily implicates the descent of the third. The first nocturne at Mattins on the octave day contains the greeting "peace from God the Father, and from Christ Jesus, the Son of the Father", stopping short of St. Paul's Trinitarian greeting in 2 Corinthians 13:14. As the Holy Spirit has not yet descended in liturgical time, the Church does not draw further attention to the Paraclete, only anticipation. Instead, she continues to focus on Christ's assumption of our humanity both at the Incarnation and the Ascension. St. Augustine of Hippo emphasizes in the second nocturne of Mattins that Christ had to be man for the Cross to matter and that he similarly had to God for the Resurrection to transpire. Local uses further expurgate on the communion between God and Man in the Ascension. The rite of Lyon, in the French tradition, offers additional readings at Mass within the octave. On Wednesday before the octave day the French church reads Christ's prayer: "I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them that you have given me, because they are yours. All things are yours and they are mine, and I am glorified in them" (John 17:9-10). The soul naturally drifts to the words recorded in Exodus 33:20, that "no man has seen my face and lived." Now that Christ has taken our humanity into heaven and left the promise of His divinity with us on earth, what was hopeless in the old covenant is now hoped for in the new. Adam fell and could not see God. Christ rose so that we may.

From that same state bear back
From whence by sin he fell,
To the joys of Paradise,
When Thou as Judge dost come
To doom the universe,
Grant, we beseech thee, Lord,
Eternal joys to us
In the Saints' blessed land,
In which we all to Thee
Shall Alleluias sing.

From the Sarum sequence for the feast