Sunday, November 27, 2016

Rood People

After first encountering Our Lady of Walsingham two years ago it has become my regular haunt when I visit family in Houston. I was pleasantly surprised when arriving for this morning's First Sunday of Advent Mass to hear choral Mattins underway, psalms, lessons, and all. It is the first time I have encountered a non-oriental church in Texas that has bothered with the Divine Office, much less on Sunday when most people just want their Mass and coffee.

I noticed one other difference, only after some discernment: some way, some how a rood screen had appeared in medio templi. I thought back and recalled accurately that there had not been one before, just a vestige of one above the altar rail, not unlike St. George's in Sudbury. According to the bulletin the rood screen was added and dedicated the prior week during the Mass for Paul VI's date of Christ the King. The cathedral rector, Fr. Charles Hough IV, writes:
"From the earliest times, Christian architecture has always given special prominence to the Altar as the focus of attention and nucleus, the beating heart of the faithful gathered before it to share in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to feed on Jesus the Bread of Life. Indeed, the church building is essentially a canopy raised over the Altar with corresponding environs for those who attend on the holy mysteries. Reflecting the tripartite structure of the Hebrew Temple, the traditional parts of Christian churches delineate sacred space and mark a path of ascent toward the Altar. The nave represents the "Inner Court," while the chancel mirrors the "Holy Place," and all rises and points to the sanctuary figuring forth the 'Holy of Holies' and the very dwelling place of God with His people....
"After the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 affirmed the teaching of transubstantiation and promoted the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in tabernacles at the high Altar, even modest parish churches acquired beautifully carved chancel screens. These screens raised the vision of the faithful to the cross above with its image of our crucified Lord, flanked by the Blessed Virgin Mary and the beloved Apostle John. And these screens also directed the gaze forward, as through a doorframe or window, to the sight of the priest at the Altar elevating the Sacred Species at the moment of their consecration....
"In the sixteenth century, when the Reformation came to England, many of these screens were destroyed, though some survived. The roods and statues, however, were invariably removed and frequently replaced by images of the royal coat of arms, usurping the place of our suffering Lord with the painting of earthly power....
"Around the same time and certainly after the Council of Trent (1545-1563), rood screens began to disappear from Catholic churches in continental Europe for very different reasons. During the Counter-Reformation and under the influence of a baroque aesthetic, medieval styles gave way to neo-classical fashion. Newer churches modelled after the Jesuit church in Rome Il GesĂș were built featuring open proscenium arches and lofty altarpieces for a more 'theatrical' staging of the miracle of the Eucharist as inspired, in part, by the nascent arts of the opera and secular drama.... But the real credit for the revival of fully appointed rood screens belongs to the brilliant English Catholic architect Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-1852). His influence was vast and spurred a return to medieval models in building both Anglican and Catholic churches amid the Victorian gothic revival."
Bishop Lopes, Fr. Hough, and the community of Our Lady of Walsingham are to be commended for their superb efforts. Let us hope a few other parishes follow their example.


  1. One quick correction - the piece about the history of the Rood Screen was written by Dr. Clint Brand. He deserves much praise for his able editing help in the Ordinariate Missal and Divine Office (and has been named a knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great for this continuing work - I'm a bit proud of my old professor).

    The Office is currently being finalized for more public use (e.g. get it out of binders and actually printed as a book) - it's arguably a more proper "parochial" office (the Anglicans did somethings right!), though some of us remain rather attached to the monastic form. We have a Solemn Choral Evensong once a month and celebrate Mattins during the Sundays of Advent and Lent. If you happen to see a bearded man in a wheelchair next time you're present for the high mass, feel free to say hi.

    1. My mistake. I assumed that the italicized line at the bottom of the leaflet was a quotation from Dr. Brand and that, hence, he did not pen the rest of the article.

      Did you read from Romans during the Mass?

  2. I had not heard about this. This is an astonishing but very pleasing development. May it be a precedent to be followed by many other Latin Rite Catholic churches across the fruited plain.

  3. Great news re: the Office! My family and I are members of the OCSP, but we pray the LOTH currently.

    I do hope the new Office will be a little more... Catholic, I suppose, than the 1928 Prayer Book (which our pastor recommended that the congregation pray in the interim), which we, not having had any Anglican heritage beforehand, found to be rather dry and didactic. I understand a lot of serious Anglicans' (and minted Catholics') spirituality was nurtured by it, but we just had a really hard time "getting into it." Maybe we'll give it another shot once the new Office is published.


    1. *was supposed to say "newly minted Catholics'"

    2. It's definitely still Anglican, which is admittedly one of my original hangups. My exposure to the Office was in going from LOTH to using the Anglican Breviary then settling on the Monastic Diurnal. The shift to the Divine Office I made this summer was jarring. I did so in order to not have schizophrenia of officiating the Office for our Homeschool community and keeping the Diurnal for private use - I had enough with calendar issues between the Diurnal and the Ordinariate calendar (basically Novus Ordo with certain additions like feast days, rogation days, ember day).

      At first, I disliked the way it "shoved" scripture into it ("let's stop our prayers and have a reading!"), had so few psalms (monthly rotation or a seven week (grrr!) rotation), and chained together collects with abandon (if you go with the recommendation, four to five collects on a typical day) but the more I experienced it, the more I really felt like it was a proper layman's office.

      It's built to have six hours, but honestly the day hours and compline are a bit tacked on to fulfill the priestly regulations. The scripture is a lectio continua, so while some argue that so much scripture (around 2 chapters in morning and evening) is didactic, it's really just a way to make sure you're reading scripture in a prayerful setting. I personally think the 7 week rotation is far too few psalms, but the monthly rotation is actually pretty good. And the collects? Well, I've actually learned to love the exuberance in praying to everyone and about everything your heart feels called to.

      It's got some optionitis (a disease we are manfully seeking to curb in the ordinariate - notice we only have two eucharistic prayer and one is relegated to Ferias!), but outlines pretty well what should be the norm. And the Cathedral is trying it's best to model that in it's practice.

      But it's not Benedict's monastic office and needs to be recited with that understanding (though this awesome Benedictine makes a good try at explaining the way they are similar - The Ordinariate Office is made to be recited by parishes, which, arguably, is one of the few things the Anglican reformers got right.

      Rumor has it Canada is trying to put together an Office which is basically the LOTH in proper hieratic with a few patrimonial flourishes. No idea when that might appear.

    3. Thanks for relating your experiences, Tomas. I too have prayed the LOTH, the secular Roman Breviary (1960), LOBVM (1960), and the Anglican Breviary, among others. In fact, if it weren't for the calendar discrepancy, I think we'd just stick to the Breviarium Romanum, as we all love it.

      So, all that said, "jarring" is a good way to describe our experience as well when we tried the '28 BCP for the first time!

      Interestingly, my wife (who had a stronger adverse reaction) said she doesn't necessarily feel the same way about the Customary of OLW, which we also tried, even though it's based on the same basic structure, also lacks psalm antiphons, etc. We'll see how she feels about Divine Worship: The Office.

      I'm personally happy about the restoration of the separate Compline. I always felt shoving the Nunc dimittis into Evensong (stripped of its antiphon!) and "calling it a day" was just... wrong somehow!

      I hope the new LOTH translation that brings collects in line with the 2011 MR, retranslates the intercessions (and gets rid of "Be with us as we build the earthly city!" Jesuit nonsense), eliminates the superfluous and annoying Psalm Prayers, and includes proper hymns corresponding to the Latin editio typica, comes out sooner rather than later... though I won't hold my breath!

  4. Apropos of all of this: Happy first anniversary, Divine Worship: The Missal!

    Ad Multos Annos!