Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ultamontane Liturgy

"Let the law of supplication," wrote St. Prosper during the reign of Leo the Great, "form the law of belief." Traditionalists will apply these words readily to the Pauline reform of the Roman Missal and, in rare instances, to the Roman Office, but what about to the papal liturgy?

We recently eclipsed the anniversary of the last Papal Mass, the basis of the Roman liturgy and the form of Mass celebrated by the Bishops of Rome on holy days and for stational observances since the middle of the first millennium until the fifteen regrettable years of Giovanni Battista Montini, Pope Pius XII.2. Before Pope Paul knowingly tinkered with the ordo Missae of the normative Tridentine Mass he unknowingly created a novel ordo Missae for Papal Mass which would endure for several pontificates beyond his. Indeed, it is unthinkable that Jorge Mario Bergoglio would ascend to the Petrine chair without this innovation by Montini.

What did Papa "Zio" do? He generally retained the rite of Papal Mass and the coronation with the triple tiara, but he moved it outside. Pius IX celebrated low Mass outdoors for troops in the papal army during one of the many nationalist uprisings in central Italy a century before, but Pope Paul rarely fought anyone who was not a French missionary prelate.

While the Archbasilica of Our Savior at the Lateran Palace is the cathedral of Rome the rites of papal initiation have traditionally been performed in St. Peter's basilica. St. Peter was the Prince of the Apostles, the first bishop of Rome, and the Pope is the "vicar of St. Peter." Moreover, St. Peter's tomb has remained one of the primary destinations of pilgrimage in the world. Conventionally the bishop-elected would be consecrated and celebrate Mass at St. Peter's, be crowned with the tiara, and then proceed to take possession of the Lateran cathedral. St. Peter's is not small either; it is nearly as long as the Titanic and can accommodate 60,000 people. And yet this did not suffice for Pope Paul.

Enter the modern spectacle of the Popes holding Paschal Masses, canonization Masses, and audiences outside the basilica for no reason other than the excess capacity offered by the square. Like a rock concert, the man on stage is the primary point of focus. We may say it is a Mass, but we all know, deep down, that the arrangers of these services are putting the person of the sitting pontiff on display rather than humbling him as a celebrant of Divine service within the more demanding confines of the basilica. Within St. Peter's the pope is one of 266 men to have held the office; the vertical focus of the basilica's inner lines draw attention from the celebrant of the Mass to the One Who the Mass honors. Outside, the celebrant is the one celebrated.

Above, Pope Paul is still vested in the unique garments of the papacy: the fanon, the sub-cincture, and the tiara. Despite the arrant use of an opportunity to show a big crowd in the television age, the pope, atop the sedia gestatoria, is layered well enough by his office that his own person did not dominate the event. A mere three years later those degrees of protection would be laid aside or donated to the United Nations. The modern Popemobile deifies the pope and dehumanizes him much more than the sedia gestatoria ever did: in the latter he was touchable and visible without any degree of separation, save for the previously noted ornaments of office; now he is dressed down to the level of a parish priest, but elevated above and shielded with bullet-proof glass, almost saying "The pope's presence among the people is so necessary that God and the Vatican automotive service demand he risk his Apostolic life." At last, the man's presence is more needed than his office's dignified visibility. This is the Papal version of the Mass of Paul VI, and Msgr. Bugnini had nothing to do with it.

We would like more than Francis, but after Pius XII, Paul VI, and John Paul II do we deserve it?

As an aside, this video shows several moments of the papal election procedure that crystallized during the Renaissance practiced for the last time: the votive Mass of the Holy Spirit at the altar at the throne, the "thrones" with collapsing tops in the Sistine chapel (after election all the cardinals would pull their's down and the canopy would denote the new pope), and cardinals vested in penitential violet rather than scarlet; monsignori wore black.


  1. I don't understand. How could the dignities and honors of the office protect the man or prevent the fusing of the personality of the man and the office?

    1. They didn't, but in the pre-60s liturgies, the Pope had to do his office as any other celebrant, not emphasizing his personality at least; among other things, his facing the same way as the other people (usually to the altar). The Pope may be bad, proud in his office, but at Mass and the Office his personality recedes into the background.

    2. I thank you, sir, for kindly responding to my inquiry. Come to think of it, the honors and dignities of office have fallen to disrepute, and the line between hypocrisy and just use has blurred. How can we distinguish between hypocritical use and just use of ecclesiastical dignity? Or should we judge at all?

  2. Moreover, St. Peter's tomb has remained one of the primary destinations of pilgrimage in the world

    Rightly so for it is our Capitol.

    But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare his virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

    1. I may be mistaken, but I thought our Capitol was Paradise which makes Rome in all its glory (pagan and christian) seem but a gutter.

      "My kingdom is not of this world..."

  3. Very interesting.. and yes! The geometrical analysis made sense. The pope mobile does not deifies but technifies the pope. We all know who is cold unforgiving machine in the spiritual world.
    Violet is penitential? I always thought it is used for its symbolism as elevated spirit somehow... I definitely read too much new age. Except for the zodiac - that is stupid. Look above myriad of stars, no zodiac unless you want to see it. Anyway modern psychology defeated the zodiac with jungian types, creativity types, lgbttqiaa types, people can't get enough of their desire to be measured, bottled and tagged.
    Lord have MERCY!

  4. E.V. Are we, part of a new nation, the church militant, to be deprived of an earthly Capitol?

    When me and The Bride went to Rome, we knew we were visiting our Capitol. Now were you to a ask most American Catholics (That is the right order after all as most are Americans before they are Catholic) What is the Capitol of your nation? 99.99% would answer, Washington, D.C. but they'd also answer What is the Holocaust? by referring to the war crimes committed solely against Jews by the Nazis rather than respond, The Holocaust? That is the Holy Sacrifice of The Mass.

    O, and I'll get back to you on your quote as I think it is not a quote that carries with it the meaning most assume; as I recall, it has rather to do with Jesus saying His kingdom did not come from this world.

  5. Catena Aurea:

    CHRYS. He then tries to bring round the mind of Pilate, not a very bad man, by proving to him, that He is not a mere man, but God, and the Son of God; and overthrowing all suspicion of His having aimed at a tyranny, which Pilate was afraid of, Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. AUG. This is what the good Master wished to teach us. But first it was necessary to show the falsity of the notions of both Jews and Gentiles as to His kingdom, which Pilate had heard of; as if it meant that He aimed at unlawful power; a crime punishable with death, and this kingdom were a subject of jealousy to the ruling power, and to be guarded against as likely to be hostile either to the Romans or Jews. Now if our Lord had answered immediately Pilate’s question, He would have seemed to have been answering not the Jews, but the Gentiles only. But after Pilate’s answer, what He says is an answer to both Gentiles and Jews: as if He said, Men, i.e. Jews and Gentiles, I hinder not your dominion in this world. What more would you have? Come by faith to the kingdom which is not of this world. For what is His kingdom, but they that believe in Him, of whom He says, you are not of the world: although He wished that they should be in the world. In the same way, here He does not say, My kingdom is not in this world; but, is not of this world. Of the world are all men, who created by God are born of the corrupt race of Adam. All that are born again in Christ, are made a kingdom not of this world. Thus hath God taken us out of the power of darkness, and translated us to the kingdom of His dear Son. CHRYS. Or He means that He does not derive His kingdom from the same source that earthly kings do; but that He has his sovereignty from above; inasmuch as He is not mere man, but far greater and more glorious than man: If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. Here He shows the weakness of an earthly kingdom, has its strength from its servants, whereas that higher kingdom is sufficient to itself, and wanting in nothing. And if His kingdom was thus the greater of the two, it follows that He was taken of His own will, and delivered up Himself. AUG, After showing that His kingdom was not of this world, He adds, But now My kingdom is not from here. He does not say, Not here, for His kingdom is here to the end of the world, having within it the tares mixed with the wheat until the harvest. But yet it is not from here, since it is a stranger in the world. THEOPHYL, Or He says, from here, not, here; because He reigns in the world, and carries on the government of it, and disposes all things according to His will; but His kingdom is not from below, but from above, and before all ages. CHRYS. Heretic