Monday, July 27, 2015

Roman Feasts

Interior of St. Lawrence by Francesco Diofebi
Each rite and usage has its own peculiar and particular feasts which characterize the diocese of that rite's origin, be it Greek, Latin, or Assyrian. The Greeks have their feasts, like "Mid-Pentecost" and the "Protection of the Theotokos." We Latins have a number, too, many of which are coming up next month.

The month begins with St. Peter in Chains, recalling the chains that held St. Peter while he was imprisoned under Herod and Nero, the Jewish and Gentile persecutors of the Church, as well as the cardinatial church that holds two links of those chains. Pope Julius II's tomb, bearing Michelangelo's Moses, resides in this church. The Greeks have a feast commemorating the chains in January, but Rome possesses the actual church with these relics. Rome held a unique place among the churches of Christendom in that it could claim the two foremost Apostles of Christ as its fathers in faith, prompting the city to do its best to multiply their presence throughout the seven hills for stational liturgies.

Next is the feast of the Dedication of Our Lady of the Snows—the "Liberian basilica" of St. Mary Major. The Constantinian basilicas of Rome were dedicated to Our Lord (Lateran cathedral) and Ss. Peter & Paul, but the Virgin had no church dedicated to her. Snow began to fall over one rectangular space in the city, which St. Liberius took as a sign. The saintly pope began construction on the basilica, which is the Roman stational church for the Nativity of Christ and Pascha.

Lastly, Rome enjoys a vigil and an octave for St. Lawrence, the deacon of Rome who teased his torturers and entered eternal life with true Christian joy (I imagine that were he a martyr, St. Philip Neri would have died in a similar manner). His octave and vigil remind us that prior to Pius XII, the local church occupied a place of liturgical prominence: a Double of the First Class with an octave was observed for both the dedication of a parish and its patron saint. St. Lawrence enjoyed a similar place as a foundational saint for the spirit of the Roman church. When the popes wore the maniple on their left arms, it always bore gold and red thread. Gold for the joy of the Byzantine Church, red for the martyrs of the Roman Church.

In the Apostle Peter, the Roman Church recalls the place given to her by the Prince of the Apostles. In the miracle of Our Lady, she recalls that Our Lady laid the cornerstone of her own enduring presence in the Eternal City. In St. Lawrence, she recalls her happy witness to Christ. These feasts do not celebrate Biblical events nor do they teach theological lessons. These feasts are acts of worshipping God for God's own sake, for thanking Him for counting the saints as the closest intimates of the city of Rome, for showing gratitude for His continuing presence in the Roman Church. August, as much as June 29, is an appropriate time to sing O felix Roma.


  1. An excellent and most interesting Post, The Rad Trad.

    Thank you.

  2. Great post TRT.

    Another off topic question from me lol. Do you have any sources or resources on the sung Canon?

    1. I presume you mean in ancient times rather than the sung settings for the Paul VI Mass. It was sung, presumably, in the same tone as the preface.

      The Ordo Romanus I generally assumes anything said is sung, denoting the exceptions ("the pontiff says the Secret prayer in an undertone"). It states that the Pontiff *begins* the Canon in an undertone when the choir sings the Sanctus, which would suggest that when they are done, he resumes singing it aloud, as he had the preface (very similar to what most Byzantine churches do). The Ordo Romanus I describes Papal Mass around the year 800. Older sources, like the Gelasian sacramentary (only a few generations older), describe the Canon beginning at the Sursum corda of the preface dialogue, meaning that the rest of the dialogue, the preface, and the Sanctus are all part of the Canon (as an aside, it would also mean that the Roman Canon does have a direct element of praise and thanksgiving in the preface—if only the reformers saw it that way); all these elements are sung, so it would only make sense that the rest of what that book says is the Canon is also sung.

      The tones of the Mass, particularly the preface, predate the Middle Ages by centuries. The religious instinct of the Church has always been to sing. Spoken prayer is the result of private devotions on the part of the clergy becoming a normal liturgical element—not always a bad thing, but the point is that spoken prayer postdates sung prayer by leaps of time.

    2. Yes. The unity of the preface and the Canon is the strongest suggestion that the Canon was sung. Also you're not alone in your claim. I've found some book of an anglican author, Occasions of grace, which claims the same thing, somewhere where it describes the rite of marriage in western and eastern Church.

      Also, one could look to the melody of the final doxology of the Missal of Paul VI which is also in the preface tone, which is weird since the melodies for the EP's are not in that tone but in the tone of Gloria XV, which is still compatible with the tone of the preface.

      I wonder whether they just concocted that doxology melody out of thin air or they found some ancient manuscript. If they did, that would be direct proof of the sung Canon.

      I am sorry. I always spam your comment sections with off topics lol.

    3. If I am allowed to break into this digression (a beloved one, from my point of view), I think it would be interesting to compare the Doxology tones as found in the current Pauline missal with those in the 1965 booklet Cantus qui in Missali Romano desiderantur where you can find the new tones for the Secret, the Embolism after the Pater Noster, the new Prayer of the Faithful, the final Doxology and the central part of the Canon (the latter are for use only in concelebrations).

      I still have no copy of it, but my exemplar of the concelebration booklet from the same year also has the Canon and Doxology tones (there are two of each one, if I remember well). Sadly I have not it at hand, son I cannot tell you how "prefacial" they are.

      I must beg pardon from His Traddiness, too, for contributing to this digression.

    4. While we're on digressions, has anyone ever wondered about the age of those prayers in the Baptismal rite which end in "..qui venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos et saecula per ignem."?