Sunday, January 31, 2016

Communion on Good Friday? EDITED

"You know, Rad Trad," said my young conversant, "I think if we were on Pius XII's liturgical reform committee that we would have said 'Ya know, guys, we aren't going to change everything. We're just going to do some reasonable things like Communion for everyone on Good—'"

"NO!" I corrected him in his sinfulness.


"No! No Communion on Good Friday! It's one of the worst features of the Pacellian novelties."

"But, I don't see what's wrong with it. Was not the restriction of Communion to the priest during Mass one of the dumb things in the pre-Vatican II Church?"

"Perhaps, but this matter bears no semblance to that very real defect. The reservation on Communion to the priest on Good Friday," I continued, "is the Roman theology of the Real Presence made true on for the death of the Lord. Just as we have the Real Presence so on this one day we have a Real Loss."

"Huh," said the aspiring liturgist. He was at a loss. "I hadn't thought of it that way."

While the term "Real Presence" derives from medieval Latin theology, its meaning—that the elements on the altar are truly the Body and Blood of the Lord, not representations—is a common element of all Apostolic Churches and can be traced to the Apostolic Fathers and St. Paul himself. The Roman Church held a uniquely high view of the Eucharist as a Sacrament. In interpersonal exchanges with Eastern priests, Catholic and Orthodox, I have found they commonly deride the static view of the Eucharist that has surfaced in the Western Church. "Christ gave the Apostles the Eucharist within the context of a meal, which suggests to me that it is something to be eaten, not stared at. We in the Byzantine tradition don't play with our food." The initial irreverence of this comment caught me off guard, but eventually caused me to consider that the Roman view of the Eucharist was once far more dynamic that it has ever been in the Eastern Churches, but is now more static that any oriental Church has known.

Before monstrances and private receptions on Communion, the Roman Eucharistic praxis saw the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the altar as perpetuating His very real place on earth. In his second sermon on the Ascension of the Lord, St. Leo the Great preached that "that which till then was visible of our Redeemer was changed into a sacramental presence, and that faith might be more excellent and stronger, sight gave way to doctrine, the authority of which was to be accepted by believing hearts enlightened with rays from above." Laurence Hemming connects the Roman Eucharistic theology with the liturgy of the Ascension, when the Paschal candle is extinguished after the Gospel and the remaining candles in the church are lit from the fire, diffusing Christ's light from one source to many places; similarly, the Pope used to send fragments of the Eucharist from his Masses to other parishes of Rome to emphasize the Communion of the bishop with the city and clergy; perhaps most shocking to modern readers is that it was common practice for believers to bring Holy Communion home in a muslin bag and consume it prior to family supper, bringing Christ's presence from the altar to the Christian's home.

The middle ages witnessed a shift in liturgical action, not necessarily one in outlook. Medieval piety valued stillness, shocking the believer, staring at the presence of God before him. Out of this was born the elevation of the consecrated elements during the Canon of the Mass. Perhaps a more dynamic development was that of processions, most apparent in the Norman liturgical family during Holy Week. In Sarum the Eucharist was carrying by the priest, presumably in a pyx, during the Palm Sunday procession; in spiritual eyes Christ's refusal of entry into Jerusalem and triumphant crossing through the door truly was relived; similarly, a host was buried in the sepulcher after the corpus was deposed from the crucifix on Good Friday only to be removed and placed back in the tabernacle for the Resurrection. 

The Mass of the Presanctified fits into this story. One Good Friday no one save the celebrant has anything to do with Communion. In the Holy Temple Christ's Real Presence vanishes. In practice some hosts would be reserved in case of emergency last rites, usually in the rectory or in a side chapel in the church; in these cases, however, no reverence is traditionally rendered to the Sacrament until Pascha.

I know of a few Masses of the Presanctified according to the pre-Pius XII rite that have taken place in recent years and more that will take place this year. In almost all of them Communion will be given, not because the priest thinks it a necessary change, but because if the laity do not receive they may complain to the bishop. This is unfortunate, but, for now, a very necessary accommodation. Perhaps one day we can return to the liturgical theology of the Real Presence and in turn realize the Real Loss on Good Friday.


Since a few commentators below have questioned the significance of reserving Communion to the priest during a service that does not involve the consecration of the elements, I am compelled to offer some perspective.

The Presanctified rite is traditionally attributed to St. Gregory the Great, whose papacy ended at the beginning of the 7th century. The Byzantine rite continues to call their vesperal Presanctified service the "Liturgy of St. Gregory" and invokes him with the liturgical patron at the dismissal blessing. While the Greek rite imitates conventional Byzantine vespers and affixes the Communion service from the Divine Liturgy, the Roman rite retains the primitive Roman ordo Missae and suffixes it with an unceremonial vespers. Given that at the time the Office was the daily opus Dei and Mass was restricted to Sundays and feasts, the insertion of this para-Eucharistic service is quite significant. In that age the celebration of the Eucharist solemnized the day's liturgical observation. Renewing that practice on Good Friday without the consecration was only fitting, adding the highest act of solemnity the Church knows while deferring a renewal of the sacrifice of Calvary in reverence to the fact it took place on that day. As a "Mass," the celebrant must consume the sacrifice, or whatever role inquirers would like assign the Sacrament in the context of this service. 

The exclusion of the faithful from Communion on this day feels quite natural for all the reasons highlighted above. I am unaware of any Eastern rites that communicate the faithful or clergy on Good Friday; the Byzantine tradition certainly does not. Indeed, on this day to know that the sacrifice has transpired and that the victim can no longer be reached only brings us closer to Calvary.

Perhaps the initial Presanctified Mass included Communion for the attending clergy and laity. Its Byzantine companion communicates the faithful during its Lenten celebrations. In the Latin Church, general Communion vanished in the Middle Ages as people shrank in fear of unworthy reception. I would be interested to know what specific medieval books suggest Communion of the faithful on Good Friday, when it likely was not distributed on most Sundays (Sarum makes no mention, Roman books did not indicated Communion of the faithful until 1960); Communion was given as a practice, not as a rubric; when it was given, it could be given within or outside of Mass. Local French rites restored Communion of the faithful during the baroque era and make no mention of Communion of the clergy or laity on Good Friday. It seems contrary to the instinct the Church developed in remembering the death of Our Savior on the Cross.

As a last note, while we looks back on the Mass of the Presanctified and say that there was no consecration, many in the Middle Ages piously believed that the mixing of the Host with wine effected a consecration, something many Greek Christians still believe. The prevailing Latin and Slavic views are decidedly against this interpretation, but that does not change the fact that the Presanctified Mass and the faithful's reception of it may have been influenced by this perspective. As a "Mass" celebrated by a priest with a consecration, the celebrant must consume the sacrifice. 

This is one instance where the received tradition should be taken with reverence and not subjected to excessive rationalization against our interpretation of what may or may not have been done originally in different contexts.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Farcing Chant

One day I was listening to an Ensemble Organum recording of the third Mass of Christmas day (Puer natus est) based on manuscripts of a 13th century composer name Leonin who, following the medieval custom, troped the Introit of the Mass.

The Introit was commonly troped or "farced" (from the Latin farci, or "stuffed") in the Middle Ages, as were the Kyrie, Gloria, and dismissals for Mass and the Office. When sung by a competent choir the Introit can be the most haunting moment of the Roman Mass, when the noise of the outer world is switched off and a noise, hallowed for its reservation to higher ears, resonates through the temple. It presents and makes present again the mystery and action of Christ commemorated that day. The psalm choices for the Introit in the more ancient Masses for feasts testifies as to just how real the Church of Rome understood these mysteries to be ("A child is born unto us...." "I am risen and still with you...." "Behold, the ruler is come...."). The farcing of the Nativity Introit, itself a variation of the medieval farcing of the Paschal Resurrexi Introit, creates a dialogue between heaven and earth in understanding the feast. The image of the vigilant shepherds seeking Christ born in a cave anticipates Mary Magdalen seeking Christ risen from a cave in the morning.

Quem quaeretis in praesepe, pastores? Dicite!
Christum natum infantem pannis involutum secundum sermonem angelicum!
Adest hic parvulus cum Maria matre eius, de quo dudum vaticinando Isaias dixerat propheta:
'Ecce, virgo concipiet and pariet filium!'
Et nunc euntes dicite, quia natus est!

Troped chants survived for a while after Trent. Standardized book publishing probably contributed more to the decline of troping than legislation.

While certainly an innovation I think tropes represent a legitimate liturgical development, a spontaneity that preserves what preceded it while adding something substantial for both the sake of worship and instruction. 

Troping likely will not return, but the liturgical instinct behind must!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Sin Unto Death

Unrelated image.
Some recent discussions about the perceived duty of a Catholic to pray for and think the best of people in the midst of grave, public evils had me thinking of the first epistle of St. John. Particularly this passage in the fifth chapter:
If a man knows his brother to be guilty, yet not of such a sin as brings death with it, he should pray for him; and, at his request, life will be granted to the brother who is sinning, yet not fatally. There is a sin which kills; it is not over this that I bid him fall to prayer. (Knox trans.)
Does this mean we should not pray for certain kinds of sinners? As with so many other difficult passages, the commentary of Cornelius à Lapide is a useful guide, and I quote it below, with apologies for the length.


Ver. 16.—He who knows his brother to sin a sin not unto death, let him ask, and life shall begiven him for him that sinneth not unto death. (S. Ambrose, lib. 1 de Penitent. c. 9, and Tertullian, de Pudicit. c. 2, read, because he sinneth not to death.) There is a sin unto death, &c. Instead of I do not say, S. Augustine reads in this place, non præcipio, I do not command. He means, If any one knows his brother to commit any sin, let him pray for him, and God will give him repentance and forgiveness. I except, however, the sin unto death. If any one sins a sin unto death, I dare not promise, nor have any certain hope, that thou wilt obtain pardon for him. Yet I do not altogether forbid prayer in such a case. Pray if thou wilt, but with a doubt of obtaining.

You will ask, what is the sin unto death? 1st Tertullian (de pudicit. caps. 2 and 19) is of opinion from this passage that there are some sins, like those of the devils while they were yet in a state of probation, so deadly that they are absolutely irremissible in this life. Such a sin was adultery after baptism. But this is an error condemned in Scripture and the Lateran Council under Innocent III.

2d. Origen thinks it is a sin which leads to destruction, and drags down to hell.

3d. Surrianus (lib. 4 pro Epist. Epist. Pont. c. 3) thinks it is a sin which involves excommunication. For an excommunicate person is impenitent. And it is not lawful to pray for one excommunicate in the public prayers of the Church. But S. John is speaking of any kind of prayer, even in private.

4th. S. Augustine (lib. 1 in Serm. Dom.) thought it was the sin of envy, by which any one envies his brother’s grace, virtue, and salvation. But this opinion S. Augustine afterwards modified and retracted.

5th. The same S. Augustine (lib. de corrept. et grat. c. 12) and many others think it is the sin in which any one perseveres unto death. Lorinus thinks that it is the sin of hatred and murder. Others think it means the sins of the reprobate, and of those who will be damned. But it is uncertain who and what those are. Yet S. John says, he who knows his brother sin a sin not onto death.

6th. The Gloss supposes it to be a mortal sin. For to pray for such sins is the duty ex officio, so to say, of the Priest alone. But for venial sins any layman whatever may pray. But what S. John says is opposed to this, for he intimates that he is speaking, not of venial, but of mortal sins, and subjoins, “life shall be given him.”

7th.  S. Jerome (in cap. 14 Jerem.) thinks it is some very grave sin which God has determined to punish. “For he who once,” saith be, “hath been devoted to the sword, or famine, or pestilence, cannot be delivered by any prayers. Wherefore it was said to the Prophet that he should not ask in vain what he could not obtain.”

8th. Dionysius thinks it is the sin of final impenitence. Wherefore the Bishop of Rochester (Art. 17 cont. Luther) proves the doctrine of Purgatory from this passage. For S. John says we are to pray for those who are not finally impenitent, that is, who depart in a state of justification or repentance. And this surely implies prayer that they be delivered from Purgatory.

9th. Anastasius Niceenus thinks it is a sin against God, such as blasphemy, concerning which it is said (1 Sam. ii. 25), “If a man sin against God, who shall pray for him?”

10th. Gagneius thinks it is the sin of apostasy and infidelity, by which any one falls from the faith into heresy or idolatry.

11th.  S. Hilary (in Ps. cxl.) thinks it is the sin which any one commits of set purpose and malice.

12th. S. Ambrose thinks (lib. 1 de Pen. c. 8) it is every very grave sin which is remitted with difficulty.

Most of these opinions are true, and partly explain, but few touch the exact point of the difficulty.

My own opinion is, that the sin unto death is every very grave sin which, either on account of its enormity or long habit, obstinacy or malice, is irremediable according to the ordinary rule of grace which God gives. Such was the sin of Judas in betraying Christ. It was sin unto death because of its enormity; and incorrigible, because of his obstinate persistence in it. So too the sin of the Jews in blasphemy and slaying Christ was a sin unto death, because so heinous and persisted in. Therefore the sin unto death is a chronic and irremediable one, the pardon of which is despaired of, and which so provokes the wrath of God that the ordinary prayers of the saints cannot pacify it, and one therefore which with absolute certainty brings the sinner to the destruction of hell, unless some especially eminent saint, like another Moses, obtains for him from God extraordinary grace and forgiveness. This sin unto death is as if a physician was summoned to a sick man, and after examining, him were to say, I cannot heal him, he is sick unto death, the vital parts are mortifying. In like manner, says S. John, when a Christian sees a heretic and an apostate, let him say, I should not dare to pray for him, he is sinning unto death. His vitality is gone. He casts away faith, which is the principle of spiritual life. This is the mind and general opinion of S. Augustine and Jerome, Origen, Bernard, Bonaventura, S. Thomas, and many others. There is a reference to the words of Christ to the Jews (John viii 21 and 24), “I go away, and ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sin.” From which passage we gather that though the sin unto death be of various and multiform kinds, as impenitence, obstinacy, determination to persevere in any sin until death, and so on, yet strictly by the sin unto death S. John understands and intends a sin by which a Christian departs from the faith and Church of Christ, and maliciously attacks them, and strives to draw others away into his own heresy, or idolatry. This was what some were doing in S. John’s time, to his great fear and grief. Wherefore, in order to deter the faithful from being led away, he calls such persons sinners unto death.

There is a reference to such passages as Jer. xvii. 1, “The sin of Judah is written with an iron stylus, in an adamantine nail, it is ploughed deep upon the breadth of their heart.” (Vulg.) On which verse S. Gregory says, “The finger-nail is the extremity of the body: but the diamond is so hard a stone that it cannot be cut with iron. Now by the iron style is signified the strong sentence, but by the adamantine nail the eternal result. Therefore the sin of Judah is said to be written with an iron stylus in an adamantine nail, because the offence of the Jews by the strong sentence of God is reserved for an eternal end.”

By this sin a man opposes himself directly to Christ, from whom is the only hope of salvation. He drives Him from him, yea he blasphemes Him by whom alone he can be healed. So the disease is said to be incurable which does not admit of food or medicine. Whence S. Paul saith to the Hebrews (vi. 4-6), “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened,” &c.

From what has been said it is plain that the sin unto death is distinguished from blasphemy against the Spirit, spoken of in S. Matt. xii. 21, although it is akin to it. Christ calls the sin of the Scribes blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, because they ascribed His Divine works, such as the casting out devils, which He did by the power of the Holy Ghost, to an unclean spirit. And they did this knowingly and maliciously, because they might and ought easily have known that those works were wrought by the Holy Ghost, and not by a devil. Christ opposes such blasphemy against the Holy Spirit of God to blasphemy against the Son of Man, by which some who were offended at the human conversation and condescension of Christ calumniated His actions as man. They called him a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. And this was a less and therefore more easily remissible sin. But as the sin spoken of in S. Matthew was the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, so here the sin unto death is blasphemy and treachery against Christ. And both one and the other are with difficulty remitted.

This sin is not to be healed by any one but by Christ alone. For such a sinner is like unto Lazarus, of whom Martha said unto Christ, “Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he has been buried four days.” Wherefore Jesus, with great effort, weeping and lifting up His eyes to heaven, and crying with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” raiseth him again to life.

I do not say that any one should pray for it. Thus the Greek and Latin.  S. Gregory has a reading, that any one should pray for him. The meaning is, I do not forbid prayer for such, but I dare not promise that the prayer will be answered. For often God will not hear those who pray on behalf of the sin unto death, according to the words in Jeremiah, vii. 16, “Pray not thou for this people, for I will not hear thee.”

S. Bernard says (de Grad. Humil. cap. ult.), “The Apostle John says, for such a one I do not say that any one should pray. But dost thou say, O Apostle, that any one should despair? Indeed let him who loves him groan. Though he may not persume to pray, yet let him weep. Thus Martha and the Magdalen wept the death of Lazarus, and by weeping obtained his resurrection.”

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Christian Communities & Restoration

The decline of the Catholic Church as an institution in Western human societies is like a negatively sloping equation that in the 20th century hit its inflection point and changed from a soft decline into a quickly dropping roller coaster. For older Catholics better days remain within fleeting living memory. Churches were full, schools were orthodox, Mass was tolerable, vocations were abundant, the pope was binding and loosening, and God watched over the whole thing. Then it all fell apart in the United States, a century after the same transpired in Europe.

Declines and resurgences characterize the history of the Church. After the legalization of Christianity under Constantine the Church enjoyed growth and imperial privilege. The emperor, himself a pagan baptized into Arian Christianity on his death bed, built great basilicas on the tombs of the two greatest Apostles. When Rome fell, Byzantine Christianity ascended, imbuing the Church with a vibrant and varied sort of faith, melding the excesses of Constantinopolitan cathedral worship with ascetic desert theology. Europe's dark age and papal pornocracy permitted the spread of monasticism, which reformed the papacy and turned the Vicar of Peter into the "ruler of the world, earthly resident of our Lord Jesus Christ", who guarded the Church from the ill intentions of both the Muhammadans without and the kings within. Following the corruption of the Renaissance Curia, the Reformation, and the tragic fall of Constantinople came Trent and the reviving force of the Jesuits and Oratorians; the conversion of the Americas after the miracle of Guadalupe almost compensated for the loss of England, the Germanic countries, and the East. Catholics hope for a resurrection of the Church today, but are wondering from where it will come. The Council of Trent closed 46 years after Luther profaned the doors of the Wittenberg cathedral. 46 years after the imposition of the Mass of Paul VI, there is no hint of recovery outside a few isolated communities.

A popular romance with the early Church emerged in the 20th century and the pessimistic are, understandably, smitten with it. A Melkite priest once speculated to me that within a generation the institutional Church would vanish and that we would return to the primitive house churches, where a priest who occupied a day job would serve the liturgy in the evening or the early morning. Consternation underscores a frustration with the collapse of the established Church. One cannot fathom a recovery using the same structures and methods of what has passed. Fr. Anthony has even called for a "hard reboot" of Western Christianity along the lines of the primitive Church, while recognizing that Christ's presence on earth and the preaching of His apostles was within living memory of those believers.

The collapse has hit its breaking point in the northeastern United States, where material comfort has kept those at home who wish to remain home and permitted those who wish to attend Mass to do so at their leisure. Hispanic immigration delays this inevitability in the United States; the emotive Hispanic culture will find evangelical Protestantism more entertaining in one generation and disbelief much easier in two generations.

The decline of institutional Catholicism means fewer parishes, fewer schools, fewer charities, and fewer Knights of Columbus events. No more special dinners to "put a pool in a Catholic school." In a twist of irony the very bishops who earned their episcopal promotions for good administration and fundraising preside helplessly over devolution.

Is a return of the institutional Church in the cards? Or will we have to follow Fr. Chadwick's advice and "hard reboot" the Church? In past ages the Church responded to the needs of the times both by pastoral changes and new paradigms in Christian life. Lateran IV began its decrees with a definition of the Church and proceeded both to condemn clerical corruption and mandate Communion at least bi-annually; contemporaneous with Innocent's council, Dominic of Guzman and Francis of Assisi were revitalizing the religious life through orders which lived in poverty, one for preaching, the other for praying. Trent's doctrinal clarity and lamentable liturgical standardization accompanied the foundation of the Society of Jesus, in its more orthodox days, and the Congregation of the Oratory. Even in France and England, 19th century revivals coincided with the return of Benedictine monasticism.

The modern Church, far from meeting the actual needs of the modern world, has tried to push a square peg into a round hole, or load a .357 magnum into a .22. What is the purpose of Opus Dei? Clerical chatterboxes expound the need for "greater involvement of the laity" and a "church focused on the laity." It was only a matter of time before a religious order for non-religious arose and made the layman into something approaching a celebate cleric. Opus Dei is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The prophets were wrong. What the Church needs is not a promotion of the laity, but a promotion of Christ in the Christian life.

The heart of the Church, Latin or Greek, is monasticism. In monasticism the Christian prays without ceasing and lives in the presence of God, endlessly contemplating Him without demanding anything in return: Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum et vivam, et non confundas me ab expectatione mea. Monasticism thrives no where in the world like it does in France, a secular country that discarded God in 1789 and the Church in 1905. A new monastery clinging to the old liturgy appears every other year there. The monasteries are full, lack heating and air conditioning, sing the full Office, and do not purport to be spiritual retreat centers; they are houses of prayer and they are full. This Financial Analyst recognizes monasticism as the asset generating the greatest return both in present day and in history. While I diversify my own investments, I am very "bullish" on traditional monasticism.

What are the real travails of Western, Latin Christendom? First is obviously the low attendance at Mass. The low Mass attendance challenges bishops who largely seek to retain the "put a pool in a Catholic school" structure they recall from their youths. When the coffers thin the parish is closed or clustered, tiring the priest and deadening the parish beyond its prior state. The second problem is the age of those who do still attend Mass, usually older people. Confirmation is a Catholic graduation for most young people; I did my time, now I can go to prom and maybe "get lucky." Those who do not lapse in high school usually lapse in college, where the faith is scorned upon, it is abnormal to be Catholic, and the chaplaincies do not challenge the soft "youth group" spirit prevalent and even encouraged by professional "ministers". This is particularly damaging at elite universities. With all fairness to those who are not privileged to attend Yale or Cambridge, students at the creme de la creme institutions lead the world and, when they join the oligarchs of modern democracy, influence what everyone else will think for the next generation. It is here that the lack of effort will be most damaging in the long run.

The obvious solution is to do something about it, but what are we to do about it? As she has in other ages, the Church must adjust Christian life to the challenge. Why not rethink diocesan structure and the concept of a parish? Why not found a religious community dedicated specifically to ministering to students at institutions of higher education? What would such communities look like? Could they challenge the complacency of the modern establishment that teaches to the congregation "it's not that serious after all"? "Traditional" and "conservative" Catholics have been very good at creating their own communities to serve their own needs and interests, often refuges from hostiles at the city gate, but they generally do little to bring the faith to others. This is unfortunate. If traditionalists want to have a place in the future of the Church they cannot sit in their pews with their rosaries, awaiting Fr. Zzzzzz's "biological solution." They must take an active part in the future of the Church using the tools at their disposal. Above all they must consider the needs of others and of the entire Catholic Church outside of fortress Tradistan. The future of the Church cannot be based on Traditionalism, but it can be sculpted using the tools of tradition tempered by a visionary, pastoral spirit.

America first formalized the separation of religion from common life, which France legislated in the parliamentary houses of public executions. Although found no where in any founding legal document of the United States, the phrase "separation of Church and State," which Thomas Jefferson coined in a letter to a Hartford newspaper in 1802, epitomizes the modern status of religion in the public sphere. In Germany mixed faculties of protestants and Catholics gave way to secular teachers. Oxford and Cambridge, founded to educate non-nobles for careers in the Church, jurisprudence, and medicine, became all purpose fonts of secular education. Even in America, Harvard College, founded to educate aspiring preachers, accepted a large proportion of students, including John Adams, who wished to study Latin and Greek before moving into a profession. The Church, and all other religion, moved aside to make straight the way of new notions of reason. The Newtonian revolution in physics lent itself to imitation. Enlightenment thinkers presumed formulaic reason based on evidence immediately accessible to one's five sense to be the only admissible logic. With scholasticism gone until the 19th century, the Church offered no alternative and left university life.

Mass at St. Paul's, Harvard Square.
What the Church needs now is a stronger presence on the campuses of top universities. Democratic society is an oligarchy; parties chose who they will allow to rule the populace based on adherence to pre-conceived ideology and fund-raising talents. The democratic infection, which draws its leaders from elite institutions, shows no signs of going away. When a talented young person who has been congratulated for 18 years on his ability to doubt and discern answers walks into a campus Mass and is greeted by a loose minded priest who, between Eagles Wings and One Bread, One Body, preaches on saccharine love and social problems, the student immediately discerns shallow practice, scorns religion within the year, and will not be attending Paschal Mass in two years' time. To secure a future the Church would do well to establish a new pattern in Christian life in places of higher learning, both to challenge the ways of students and to cultivate public acknowledgement.

If, dear reader, you will indulge some speculation, let us speculate about the promise of a new religious community, order, or congregation devoted exclusively to forming vibrant apostolates at universities? Such a venture would accept as candidates for the priesthood only those who had advanced education, preferably in a field other than theology; young men fresh out of high school need not apply. Why? Spending one's time entirely within Church structures narrows the clerical from the reality of the secular world; there are only practiced rhetorical replies to objections to the faith, not practical experience struggling with the problem, like that St. Francis de Sales displayed in re-converting thousands of Calvinists. Priests need to speak to their flocks as both superiors and as sympathizers, ones who understand the struggles and difficulties of the young because they either meet these challenges themselves or have defeated them.

Communities would be well situated to jar the mindset of young Catholics by forcing them to re-examine their faith and their particular sensus fidelium. One of the most fruitful seeds that can be sown is that of music. The old Mass, at least initially, only appeals to some and hard line condemnations rarely have their desired effect without a progression of orthodox teaching. Music stuns the believer by trapping him in his senses and forcing him to hear God as He is. There is no escape and no want for escape. Beauty enthralls, it entrances, and it leaves a God sized hole in the heart once it ends. Excellent music programs allow for broader growth in catechesis, liturgy, and community precisely because it changes the believer without intimidating him. For those who think students will not put aside the time for choral practices, they should consider that most students have one or two dedicated extra-curricular dedications. Harvard maintains a polyphonic choir for occasional old rite Masses; Oxford's Schola Cantorum and the LMS's Schola Alebis maintain several Masses; Cornell University's Catholic chaplaincy had a successful chant choir run by a protestant until the priest fired him in favor of jazz piano and Dan Schutte tunes. Gregorian chant is sung everywhere on university campuses, except in the odd chapel.

From such a springboard a community could reasonably have Vespers, speakers every semester, Lenten retreats, and public processions. While it all sounds impossible, a few years of concerted, un-disrupted effort would yield results worthy of attention. Orthodoxy could be a comfortable norm for a community and a luminous point of interest for others on campus.

An educated clergy could also conceivably angle for greater personal involvement with university education. Enough priests have linguistical talents that go unused except for translation work. If a full professorship would be implausible, an instructorship would not be. Somehow a number of priests educated in physics still populates the Vatican Observatory. Would these men not be more useful at an actual university, progressing both the needs of the Church and of education? The talent exists, but the future of the Church and of common society is being fed with priests of un-sympathetic backgrounds who perpetuate an even softer version of the home parish.

At best, vibrant communities led by intelligent priests would normalize Catholicism in a hostile setting and legitimize the Church in the views and lives of future leaders. At worst, the chaplains would repeat the place once held by Knox and Gilbey at their schools.

The other facet of Christian life in need of drastic change is the home parish itself. Churches are sparsely attended, often clustered, and sometimes closed. Decades ago a priest would spend ten years as a curate, hearing Confessions and assisting in minor functions, before he became a pastor. Now, priests are made pastors in short order and assigned to several parishes without any fraternal support. This scheme of things is both inefficient and unnatural.

Priests, like all people, are social creatures and accustomed to company. In first millennium Rome, married clergy would leave their homes and take up residence with the other priests and deacons of Rome at the basilica houses. The middle ages saw the rise of the "minster praxis." In both settings clergy would provide the full liturgy and Sacraments on a daily basis at the local cathedral or minster, going into the towns to serve local churches on Sundays and Holy Days. Canons and chapters of collegiate churches functioned in the same manner until French decadence turned canonries into hereditary positions for second born aristocrats. St. Philip Neri revived Rome and even founded a religious congregation based on this concept, although his community also involved laymen and based itself on mutual support. Fraternal dwelling and prayer is as natural to the clerical life as the Sacraments, but where is it found today? Can the Church really persist without it?

A large concentration of clergy allows the church to become a destination rather than just a place. The capacity provided by larger clergy enables more solemn celebrations, unique ministerial efforts for troubled groups, better cultural programs, more Confessions, and avoids clericalization of the laity. A church becomes a place to go rather than merely a place to be for an hour. People will seek out such a church and seek to avail themselves of its services frequently, especially if it is near the center of town. Churches are customarily the center of cities. Funds have dried up and we can no longer afford the best real estate, but a proper church becomes an attraction of its own, even if geography is against it. And above all, a single church with a reverent liturgical praxis and strong preaching that provides the services for neighboring parishes is better suited to influence parish life than a solitary, stand alone parish. "Reform of the reform" and "traditional" parishes are fine, but they do little outside of their walls. A minster or collegiate church could do much more for the cause of the liturgy.

The most appealing aspect of all this to an imaginative bishop is that it is substantially less expensive than the current structure. One large church in an urban setting presumably gets a better collection than any smaller parish and the concentration of clergy, means one collection supports a dozen or two dozen priests rather than requiring a dozen separate collections to furnish both them and them their parishes. Small parishes could survive on their collections, which no longer support the priest and weekly bills, but maintenance and utilities when the parish is in service. It would be an unattractive option to those who like neighborhood churches that provide daily Masses and devotions, but if the alternative is more robust then it must be followed.

The institutional Church can survive, but not as it currently exists. In the past the Church has provided reforming institutions suited to serving the peoples of their age. In the current decline no such provision has been made, mainly for lack of imagination. The structure of the Church as we now know is obsolete, but this is not a new problem. The absence of response is a new problem, but not a problem that should go without answer. Revitalize the churches, provide for the next generation of leaders, and support the clergy. Could anything be clearer?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

St. Agnes in Flames

(Ercole Ferrata)
From the Golden Legend:

Then the bishops of the idols made a great discord among the people, so that all they cried: "Take away this sorceress and witch that turned men’s minds and alieneth their wits." When the provost saw these marvels he would gladly have delivered Saint Agnes because she had raised his son, but he doubted to be banished, and set in his place a lieutenant named Aspasius for to satisfy the people, and because he could not deliver her he departed sorrowfully. This Aspasius did make a great fire among all the people and did cast Saint Agnes therein.

Anon as this was done the flame departed in two parts, and burnt them that made the discords, and she abode all whole without feeling the fire. The people weened that she had done all by enchantment. Then made Saint Agnes her orison to God thanking him that she was escaped from the peril to lose her virginity, and also from the burning of the flame. And when she had made her orison the fire lost all his heat, and quenched it. Aspasius, for the doubtance of the people, commanded to put a sword in her body, and so she was martyred.

Anon came the Christian men and the parents of Saint Agnes and buried the body, but the heathen defended it, and cast so stones at them, that scarcely they escaped.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"Idolatry and Divination"?

Our traddiest readers will probably already be aware of the recent radio talk given by the Elderly Gentleman from Argentina, concerning the relationship of disobedience (and "cling[ing] to what has always been done") to idolatry and divination. One might be tempted to consider this yet another example of the modernist's misuse of scripture and doctrine to support whatever program is needing to be pushed.

But it is not only modernists who abuse 1 Sam. xv.23. The bishop of Rome's off-the-cuff remarks remind me very much of a sermon heard last year in a Tradistani parish, regarding the (ahem) sin of disobeying the parish's dress code:

Clericalism is alive and well, and when clergy start accusing those who aren't following their every personal rule of witchcraft and idolatry, it might be because they feel the walls closing in.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Ordinariate Rites

In the last year or so the Ordinariate has made great sense to me, the finalization of the Oxford Movement and a cultivation of constant, sound liturgical practice. It did not make so much sense when I witnessed the erection of the English Ordinariate in 2011, with Msgr. Burnham—a fine man—celebrating a Paul VI Mass on Sunday nights at St. Aloysius. The Ordinariate was not yet using the Anglican Use liturgy, just the reformed Roman rite. To my surprise, while rummaging for my passport (need to escape Texas) I happened upon the booklet for what we were told was the first ever unique Ordinariate liturgy.

It was on a Wednesday and a friend was accompanying me to a lecture on quantum physics. We noticed a mutual acquaintance enter Blackfriars and decided to follow him. No sooner had we greeted him than he shoved this slim volume into my hands, re-assured me it was a "short" service, and turned to the next guest. The church was packed with an unfamiliar crowd. The bell rang and the servers escorted Msgr. Burnham with his two assistants, wearing vestments from the Oratory, to the sanctuary.

What followed was an English-language service of Vespers and Benediction which I am unsure has survived into the observed Ordinariate liturgy.

Msgr. Burnham delivers the sermon. Lots of booklets like the one above. Rad Trad needed a haircut,
but wouldn't get one for another month,
The service began exactly as old rite Roman Vespers, with five psalms, the Veni Creator as the hymn for this votive Evensong of the Holy Ghost, and the Magnificat. A long reading from Exodus replaced the chapter, unless such is the Anglican tradition. Jarringly, there were no antiphons of any sort to frame the service. Another Biblical reading, extracted from Corinthians, followed the Magnificat, then the Nunc dimittis, the Creed, the Our Father, and some versicle prayers.

Then came the collects of the day, for peace, and against perils. Anyone who prays the pre-Pius X Office should recognize the English version of the prayer Deus, a quo sancta.

Then came Benediction, which I did not see, but I did hear in the form of a recording later. Tantum ergo should not be sung in English. My friend, a convert from Anglicanism, felt uncomfortable and wanted to go; "I feel like a protestant again," he whelped. The first half of the service bothered me greatly, in my naivete, for I disliked hearing familiar words in another tongue sung to vulgar melodies.

I had forgotten about the entire service for years until stumbling upon this booklet. After praying Evensong with the Houston Ordinariate I cannot say I recognize much of the service here except for the Nunc dimittis and readings. This clearly was an experimental rite, perhaps one that did not greatly influence what the Ordinariates eventually accepted as their liturgy.

I am happy the Ordinariate exists. I recall many cradle Catholics, especially traditionalists, holding a great deal of resentment back then. We should remember that in the parable of the prodigal son, the good son who never left home was the bitter one. The prodigal returned for less than noble reasons, but the father did not care, for his son is home and making good liturgy.

Friday, January 15, 2016

HJA Sire on the Recent Church

Bookends of an era look at each other.
Fr. Hunwicke continues to plug for H.J.A. Sire's Phoenix from the Ashes, a book about the decline and aspiring restoration of Western Catholic culture. While the book begins very factually and Eurocentric, it develops a broader and spiritual view of the Church and her influence on the West. I have only recently begun the book, but Sire's comments on the Church's last 120 years demand some reflection:
"When Leo XIII died in 1903, distinct progress had taken place in the intellectual life of the Church. Nevertheless, the revival of Thomism had among some an unintended consequence. These fell into treating St. Thomas's work not as a philosophical system but as a store from which infallible answers were to be extracted on any subject. While some were thus making Thomism the basis for innovative thought, others made it into a system that was unlikely to convince minds not predisposed to accept it. Partly for that reason, the extension of the Thomist approach beyond seminaries and its acquisition of a real influence on contemporary thought was not achieved." (137)
"The integrist frame of mind, now as a hundred years ago, may be defined as follows: its exponents are clericalist in their sympathies, and they were also strongly papalist until events since the 1960s forced them to shift their position. Their outlook is distinctly Western and relatively modern, tending to see the period from 1850 to 1958 as the norm of Catholic practice. They regard popes Pius IX, Pius X, and Pius XII as the models of what a pope ought to be, but (with due respect for their sacred office) really look upon Leo XIII and Pius XI as rather letting down the standards of papal authority. They show little sympathy with political and social pragmatism in the framing of religious policy. In philosophy, they hold to Thomism as the bastion of orthodoxy, to the extent of considering any lapse from the pure word of St. Thomas as inherently unsound." (139)
 "What can be said, however, was that [Pius X's] measures [against Modernism] were over-influenced by conditions in Italy, where Modernism was a pretentious, elusive, and even underhand phenomenon, and where there was, in parallel, a strong need to tighten standards in seminary training. In Italy, his measures may have been successful, but in the world as a whole they must be considered to have had a narrowing effect on the clerical intellect. Theologians need to be lean greyhounds, seeking out heresy and hunting it down; instead they became fat lap dogs, yapping foolishly at the enemy beyond the window. The results of Pius X's policy were seen in the Second Vatican Council, when two thousand bishops who had solemnly taken the anti-Modernist oath at their ordination were unable to recognize Modernism when it jumped up and bit them" (140)
"Journalistic opinion, remembering as always nothing beyond last week, worked to give [John XXIII's] reign the appearance of a new era, a distortion that has imposed itself ever since; but at the time those who remembered Pius XI and Leo XIII would have regarded his pontificate, apart from a certain naive optimism that distinguished it, as a return to a familiar style. Essentially, the reign of John XXIII is in the tradition of the period since 1814." (145)
"Linked with this clericalism was the dominance of a seminary-bound school of theology, losing something of the human fullness of earlier centuries. Thus, in natural theology there was a certain over-intellectualisation of the understanding of God, which lost sight of the potency of love as a divine attribute; akin to it, an over-spiritualisation of the doctrine of the Eucharist, obscuring the reality of physical union with Christ." (147)
Sire is fond of the post-Napoleonic period and even equates it with the revivals of the Middle Ages and Counter-Reformation, but also readily acknowledges that its limitations and drawbacks impeded it from influencing society and the Church in the same way.

The below documentary could be a primary source document for Sire's last observation. Ushaw, sadly, had to close a few years ago for lack of students. It had over 400 when this footage was filmed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Epiphany is the Eschaton

(Marten de Vos)
Today's Lauds includes the following antiphon surrounding the Canticle of Zachary:
This day is the Church joined unto the Heavenly Bridegroom, since Christ hath washed away her sins in Jordan; the wise men hasten with gifts to the marriage supper of the King; and they that sit at meat together make merry with water turned into wine. Alleluia.
The eschatological language is clear, especially as the "marriage supper" references the book of the Apocalypse. During Advent, prophetic allusions to the Second Coming are numerous in the Breviary and in Mass readings. Now is the the climax of Christmastide, when the Second Coming mystically occurs, as symbolized in the Gifts of the Magi (the Gentiles entering into the Church; cf. Apoc. xxi.14), the Baptism in the Jordan (cf. the river of the waters of life in Apoc. xxii.1), and the Miracle at Cana (cf. the marriage supper of the Lamb in Apoc. xix.7).

St. Paul uses the Greek word epiphaneia repeatedly to refer to the future Coming of Christ. Epiphany means appearance or manifestation, and every year we celebrate anagogically the Second Coming with the Octave of Epiphany.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bridal Trains

"Bigger is better" has been the maxim of life for any number of Texan truck drivers, Nazi battleship engineers, bridal dress designers, and cardinals' clothiers. A recent feature by Dr. Kwasniewski on the cappa magna swiftly devolved into a debate as to whether or not a cardinal's cappa should be more magna than Diana Spencer's wedding dress (in case any of you are too young, a rather pleasant song about Marilyn Monroe was destroyed in her memory). 

The modern cappa is a baroque elaboration of the cloak cardinals wore in public processions during the high and late middle ages. Similarly, the galero was once a broad brimmed hat for outdoor use. Cardinals wore the vesture of their office (cope for bishops, chasuble for priests, dalmatic for deacons) with the mitre as choir dress in the presence of the Pope. The cassock may have had a bit of train for dramatic effect, but it paled in comparison with what succeeded it centuries later.

No train, no lace. Meets all your processional needs!
Invested with positions of authority, cardinals fused their often dynastic trappings with ecclesiastical vesture. The long trains worn by kings were imitated both by brides and bishops alike, as was the penchant for silk and lace. The pope himself wore an enormous train called the falda at Papal Mass. Pius XII shortened the permitted train only to have John XXIII re-lengthen it. Paul VI's prohibition of the cappa in the city of Rome, possibly concerned that the newly impoverished Vatican liturgy might be overshadowed by one of the titular churches, meant fewer owners of this garish garment. 

True origin of the cappa: statecraft, as practiced by
Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal de Richelieu.
Athwart my instinct to favor historicity in vestments, I am quite happy this particular piece of frippery has declined from general wear. Revivals of its use in solemn ceremonies are remarkably anachronistic. Some older images of the ICRSS employing Cardinals Medina and Stickler show men accustomed to the vestment, since they remembered when it was normal. More modern wearers are less successful. Cardinal Burke is a short, stout man with a stiff gait; trailed by 20 feet of silk he appears in need of liberation from his Tuscan jailers. Shred the lace and cut the capes.

As an aside, this blog's tendency to highlight lingering medieval and pre-medieval liturgical practices is not purely for aesthetic value, although well executed gothic and Roman quash baroque vainglory as Joshua did the Canaanites. The liturgy until the Counter-Reformation era was more organic, more engaging, more instinctive, and more indicative of the religious instinct of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. We can learn much from those periods. That said, I appreciate something unique when it comes my way. Take, for instance, this distinct wedding and nuptial Mass celebrated by the FSSP at the Ordinariate parish, Our Lady of Atonement, in San Antonio, TX. A colorful neo-gothic sanctuary housed under a rood screen, a conical chasuble, Josquin des Prez's Missa Pange lingua, and no pixelation makes for a very photogenic wedding. I am not sure what the bride and groom are wearing, ethnic clothes or something germane to the author's self-professed medievalism. It is worth a peak if you have a "boutique liturgical fetish." The bride does have something of a train. She is fortunate that a cardinal did not attend, his would have been bigger.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Too Late?

An article by Msgr. Charles Pope, a priest of the archdiocese of Washington, DC, is now bothering some circles with the empirical realization that wider legal availability of the 1962 Mass has not been met with standing room only congregations. Pope himself reflects that his once-a-month Latin Mass was full in the 1980s, but now only fills a third of the church (as an aside: the neighboring diocese of Arlington has at least one Latin Novus Ordo Mass and numerous old rite Masses every Sunday, which wasn't the case even ten years ago). After Summorum Pontificum old rite Masses doubled in number and attendance at such Masses increased by volume, although not per Mass. Pope's message is that the old Roman Mass will not save the Church in the modern day, and he is right, but I cannot help but think an interesting point has been missed: did Benedict XVI's legislation come too late?

Popularly, traditionalists correlated the replacement of the old Mass with Concilium's concoction to the decline in Mass attendance. Logically, a reversal of this error would revive attendance, a mistake of thought Pope keenly quashes. What if that was true? I believe it was true once. This author cannot recall the year, but he remembers an old issue of the Tablet, England's "Catholic" magazine, which polled believers in that country as to whether or not they believe the new Mass should be replaced by the old. This survey, done in either 1982 or 1984, found nearly a majority favored the old Mass, the next closest had no opinion, and the smallest group liked the new rites. The Tablet took that survey thirty years ago, when the old Mass was within living memory for most Roman Catholics and laity. In 2016 the old Mass has not been the norm in any form for forty-seven years, two generations going on three. One cannot simply "turn the clock back", although that once would have been a reasonable pastoral option, one the bishops would not have heard.

Today spots of genuine growth, unrelated to immigration patterns, center on fonts of orthodoxy and reverence, not of the 1962 liturgy. While Oratories and vibrant churches do occasionally utilize older rites, they thrive because of the impulse to celebrate those rites, not the rites themselves. Traditionalists will doom themselves if they wall themselves into their parishes—inevitably posting dress codes on the door which as the women to dress as characters from Little House on the Prairie—and expect the unbelieving world to come to them. The old Mass could be an effective tool of conversion if only it and its environs were ordinary rather than extraordinary. Today I met a priest who takes an incrementalist approach with his congregation, singing the Agnus Dei and Pater noster in Latin; he hopes to install a genuine altar that can accommodate the "big six" in his parish of 3,000 families. Perhaps if he celebrates the old Mass once a week in his parish a few years down the road he might gain a side congregation; if he celebrated it thirty years ago he would have converted the city; if he did it now he would lose his flock.

The old Roman rite has a place in the restoration of the Latin Church, but it cannot be the only solution.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Agitation and Propagation

“And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people.” (Lk. i)

“And when it was now noon, Elias jested at them, saying: Cry with a louder voice: for he is a god, and perhaps he is talking, or is in an inn, or on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep, and must be awaked!” (1 Kg. xviii)

Say what you will about the tenants of the Bolshevist revolutionaries, at least they got things done. Their promulgation techniques were brutalistically effective, using posters and traveling theatre to disseminate the communist message throughout the better part of a continent. Using the techniques of the Marxist Georgy Plekhanov, propaganda is the dissemination of many ideas to a small group through reason and discourse, while agitation is the dissemination of one idea to a large mass of people through emotional and often irrational means. In other words, propaganda is for the smarties, and agitation is for the dummies. Both means have the same end: conformity to the state philosophy. Refusal to conform has the same end in each case: imprisonment or execution, depending on which is most convenient.

Or worse, deletion from history.
The Soviets were not the first to use agitprop. Indeed, most societies throughout history have used something along these lines in order to disseminate their ideals. When presenting philosophies, ideas, or doctrines to the unconvinced, it has always been practical to use a two-pronged approach for the various intellectual classes. Most governments use some form of agitprop for rallying the troops, if not for more nefarious ends.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Ambitions of Young Franciscus

The question from the altar girl ("How do you get to be so good always, never angry?") is milk-spittingly funny. One wonders which of the cardinals coached her.

As to the ambitions of young Franciscus to be a butcher, one could argue that he has actually achieved his dreams in an unforeseen way.

"The world can improve!" All it needs is a good butcher's cleaver!

(video via Churchpop)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Reges munera offerent

"Dearly beloved brethren, hear ye from the Gospel lesson how, when the King of heaven was born, the king of earth was troubled? The heights of heaven are opened and the depths of earth are stirred. Let us now consider the question, why, when the Redeemer was born, an angel brought the news to the shepherds of Judea, but a star led the wise men of the East to worship Him. It seemeth as if the Jews as reasonable creatures received a revelation from a reasonable being, that is, an angel, but the Gentiles without, being as brutes, are roused not by a voice, but by a sign, that is, a star. Hence Paul hath it: a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. So the prophesying, that is, of the angel was given to them that believed, and the sign to them that believed not.
"Thus also we remark that afterwards the Redeemer was preached among the Gentiles not by Himself, but by His Apostles, even as, when a little Child, He is shown to them, not by the voice of angels, but merely by the vision of a star. When He Himself had begun to speak He was made known to us by speakers, but when He lay silent in the manger, by that silent testimony in heaven. But whether we consider the signs which accompanied His birth or His death, this thing is wonderful, namely, the hardness of heart of the Jews, who would not believe in Him either for prophesying or for miracles.
"All things which He had made, bore witness that their Maker was come. Let me reckon them after the manner of men. The heavens knew that He was God, and sent a star to shine over where He lay. The sea knew it, and bore Him up when He walked upon it. The earth knew it, and quaked when He died. The sun knew it, and was darkened. The rocks and walls knew it, and rent at the hour of His death. Hell knew it, and gave up the dead that were in it. And yet up to this very hour the hearts of the unbelieving Jews will not acknowledge that He to Whom all nature testified is their God, and, being more hardened than the rocks, refuse to be rent by repentance." Pope St. Gregory the Great

To the reader disgruntled at not getting Mattins last time: are you happy?

A blessed Epiphany/Theophany to all! 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Follow Up on "Losing the Apostles"

There was much discussion on '62ville: Losing the Apostles on commemorations, the precedence of feasts, and related matters regarding the 20th century incarnations of the Roman liturgy. I thought the most astute comment came from this thread on

Going back to the Office, I have often brought up what Antonius mentioned - secular priests should not be required to pray monastic hours. I don't think the Office should have been changed - it should have kept its historic form, and the number of hours the parish priest were required to say daily should have been reduced. The 20th century saw multiple attempts to shorten the Office to make the obligation to pray the whole cursus easier. There was already the permission to say Matins/Lauds in afternoon of the previous day; this was followed by a new psalter, reduced commemorations, removal of feasts from the calendar, shortened Matins, elimination of semidoubles, reduction in rank of many feasts, the removal of many choral elements from the Office, and finally a completely new Office and calendar altogether. All of this to help priests meet an entirely artificial obligation that could be changed (without touching any doctrine) with a stroke of the papal pen. Instead, the invented obligation was made sacrosanct, and the Office received from antiquity was mutilated to fulfill that obligation.

This fellow gets it. Indeed, much of what became viewed as obligatory (daily Masses, private sacerdotal recitation of the Office, folkish hymns and cultural traditions) remained while the integrity of worship was reduced to accommodate it.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Non Nobis, Domine, Sed Nomini Tuo....

The name of Jesus has been revered throughout the history of the Church back to the days of the Old Testament, when the Jews would substitute Adonai ("Lord" or "Master") for the name God gave for Himself to Moses, Yahweh ("I am Who I am"). The name of the God Who called Himself the One Who simply is, Who is being itself, was only invoked by the high priest once a year, on the Day of Atonement. The O antiphons sung at the Magnificat on last seven days of Advent revive the Old Testament names of God in anticipation of the birth of the Son of God and His naming an octave of days later. Parents name their children symbolically, honoring either a person from the past or steering the newborn toward what the mother and father desire them to be. With God this does not suffice. In the case of God, His name reflects Who He is, the One Who is, the Lord of all.

The name of Jesus was not a new one to the Jews or Christians of the first century. Jesus etymologically derives from Yeshua, commonly Joshua today. Ye-shua literally translates as "Yahweh is salvation" and was the name of Moses's companion who led the victorious Israelite army in the conquest of Canaan. Honoring their ancestor, Yeshua was one of the most popular male names in the Second Temple period. The first Yeshua fulfilled the promise of God to deliver the Israelites from the land of bondage to a new place of freedom. The second Yeshua, as God made man, would deliver all Who believe in Him from the bondage of death. After the Resurrection and descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost believers veered away from naming their children after Old Testament figures in favor of martyrs of the New Testament, although Elias remained popular in Greek Christianity. Jesus would cease to be a called name; instead it would become a revered invocation of God Himself.

Lev Gillet observes that the Biblical expression "at the name of Jesus" comes to us weakly in English from weak Latin, in nomine Iesu. The presumably original Greek text bears a stronger meaning, connoting "by the means", "by the command", or "by the authority" of Jesus. The pre-Nicene Fathers did not theologize the name, but they did follow the tradition of invoking it in times of distress, eventually normalizing its liturgical usage (per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum....). 

The name of Jesus eventually became a prayer unto its own. Latin spirituality is difficult to define before the explosion of Benedictine monasticism, though it was presumably liturgical more than personal like the monastic tradition which sprung from it. St. Augustine's small collective may have anticipated communal living and prayer on a more voluntary, less municipal level, but the common liturgical element remained. Eastern spirituality, at least as far as extant information allows us to know, possessed a more personal element. It is here that the "Jesus prayer" originated. 

The "Jesus prayer" has become the focus of Greek spirituality. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy of me [a sinner]" is prayed by Athonites, but also by laymen of the Constantinopolitan tradition, non-Chalcedonians, Latin monks, and the odd Protestant. The prayer did not reach its current form until the Hesychast ascendance in the Palaiologan dynasty, the last ruling family before the fall of Byzantine Empire, when Orthodox tradition ossified more or less in its current form. The Jesus prayer is a concatenation of two separate prayers used in the first millennium, one by the monks of Sinai and the other by the faithful of Constantinople. The monks of Sinai plainly uttered the name "Jesus" as a simple prayer to remind the one saying it of Christ's personal presence. Contrary to later Athonite thought, the Sinaites believed psalms and the name of Jesus were the only spiritual refuges for those not strong enough to confront their sins directly. St. John Climacus confirmed this tradition in his Ladder (28). The second piece of the prayer was Kyrie eleison, a favored ejaculatory prayer of the monks and laity of Constantinople. The merger of these prayers resulted in our modern day Jesus prayer, popularized by the Hesychast tradition of St. Gregory Palamas.

St. Gregory Palamas did not popularize the Jesus prayer, nor did his proximate followers. In contesting Barlaam's claim that God was not Himself knowable, the Hesychasts found in the Jesus prayer the most perfect place to meet Christ God in His un-created energy, the "light of Tabor." It was in this context that Palamas defended the prayer and in which his later followers advocated its central place in Greek spiritual life. Much like how the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation religious orders coagulated the once fluid and vivacious Roman Church, the disaster of 1453, the dissemination of the Greek tradition to the Slavs, the expansion of Athonite monasticism, and the publication of the Philokalia stiffened a once dynamic Byzantine tradition. The Jesus prayer dominated Athos and its descending spiritual houses. Use of the Jesus prayer can substitute for part or all of the Greek Office: 500 times for Vespers or Mattins, 200 for Compline, 700 for the Typika. It should be noted that most non-Athonite communities do not see the name of Jesus as a substitute for the liturgy.

While the name of Jesus did not become its own prayer in the Latin Church, it did continue to be invoked in prayer and as an object of reverence. The Sarum rite has the feast of the "Name of Jesus" on August 7th. Compostela celebrated the feast on January 8th and Liege on January 31st, the Franciscans and Dominicans kept it on sequential January days. Innocent XIII inserted the feast into the Roman rite for the second Sunday after Epiphany, where it is given in my altar Missal. St. Pius X relocated the feast to the Sunday between the Circumcision and Epiphany, displacing the octave days of the comites Christi. Paul VI abolished the feast in promulgating the new kalendar in 1969/1970. The Roman Mass found in the post-Tridentine Missals is remarkably similar to that given in the Sarum books, sharing the Introit and Epistle, but differing in the Gospel (Sarum gives the Angel's relation of the name to Mary while Roman repeats the Circumcision pericope) and orations. While the Roman rite prays:
"O God, You Who appointed Your only-begotten Son to be the Savior of the human race, and commanded that He be called Jesus, mercifully grant that we may enjoy in heaven the vision of Him Whose holy Name we venerate on earth"
Sarum asks:
"O God, Who has caused the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Only Begotten Son, to be loved with the greatest affection by Your faithful, and to be terrible and fearful to evil spirits, mercifully grant that all who devoutly reverence this Name of Jesus on earth may have part in the sweetness of holy consolations in this present life, and in the world to come may attain unto the fullness of joy and eternal praise."
This snippet of the Sarum sequence, given below, highlights the contrast between the post-Tridentine and Norman interpretation of the Name.

The newer Roman feast sadly neglects the historic emphasis on the personal nature of name, that the faithful can call upon "Jesus for our friend" and ask Him to repel all that may come to harm us. The odd Roman Mass instead centers on the fact that the recently born child was given a name, making the feast redundant.

We call Him the Lord, God Almighty, and Our Redeemer. Perhaps in understandable retraction from protestants haphazardly tossing around the name of the Son of God we have reverted to the Old Testament fear of uttering the name of God. This need not be. Due to Him is all reverence in worship, but on our knees we can address Him as a person to be known and kept in company, that He may forgive our sins and we may give glory to His name.

Non nobis, Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam....

Friday, January 1, 2016

Feast of the Circumcision

Old man Joseph and the Virgin present Christ for the rite.

The Circumcision of Christ
by John Keble

The year begins with Thee,
And Thou beginn'st with woe,
To let the world of sinners see
That blood for sin must flow.

Thine infant cries, O Lord,
Thy tears upon the breast,
Are not enough--the legal sword
Must do its stern behest.

Like sacrificial wine
Poured on a victim's head
Are those few precious drops of Thine,
Now first to offering led.

They are the pledge and seal
Of Christ's unswerving faith
Given to His Sire, our souls to heal,
Although it cost His death.

They to His Church of old,
To each true Jewish heart,
In Gospel graces manifold
Communion blest impart.

Now of Thy love we deem
As of an ocean vast,
Mounting in tides against the stream
Of ages gone and past.

Both theirs and ours Thou art,
As we and they are Thine;
Kings, Prophets, Patriarchs--all have part
Along the sacred line.

By blood and water too
God's mark is set on Thee,
That in Thee every faithful view
Both covenants might see.

O bond of union, dear
And strong as is Thy grace!
Saints, parted by a thousand year,
May thus in heart embrace.

Is there a mourner true,
Who fallen on faithless days,
Sighs for the heart-consoling view
Of those Heaven deigned to praise?

In spirit may'st thou meet
With faithful Abraham here,
Whom soon in Eden thou shalt greet
A nursing Father dear.

Would'st thou a poet be?
And would thy dull heart fain
Borrow of Israel's minstrelsy
One high enraptured strain?

Come here thy soul to tune,
Here set thy feeble chant,
Here, if at all beneath the moon,
Is holy David's haunt.

Art thou a child of tears,
Cradled in care and woe?
And seems it hard, thy vernal years
Few vernal joys can show?

And fall the sounds of mirth
Sad on thy lonely heart,
From all the hopes and charms of earth
Untimely called to part?

Look here, and hold thy peace:
The Giver of all good
E'en from the womb takes no release
From suffering, tears, and blood.

If thou would'st reap in love,
First sow in holy fear:
So life a winter's morn may prove
To a bright endless year.