Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

If you are looking for some spiritual edification beyond Mass, look no further. Here are the Mattins lessons for the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ as well as the Introit, my favorite in the Roman rite, for the third Mass of the day. As they say in the East, "Christ is born! Glorify Him!"

From Isaiah:

1 At the first time the land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephtali was lightly touched: and at the last the way of the sea beyond the Jordan of the Galilee of the Gentiles was heavily loaded.
2 The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.
3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and hast not increased the joy. They shall rejoice before thee, as they that rejoice in the harvest, as conquerors rejoice after taking a prey, when they divide the spoils.
4 For the yoke of their burden, and the rod of their shoulder, and the sceptre of their oppressor thou hast overcome, as in the day of Median.
5 For every violent taking of spoils, with tumult, and garment mingled with blood, shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire.
6 For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.
1 Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her: for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven: she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.
3 The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.
6 The voice of one, saying: Cry. And I said: What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field.
7 The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen, because the spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it. Indeed the people is grass:
8 The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen: but the word of our Lord endureth for ever.
1 Arise, arise, put on thy strength, O Sion, put on the garments of thy glory, O Jerusalem, the city of the Holy One: for henceforth the uncircumcised, and unclean shall no more pass through thee.
2 Shake thyself from the dust, arise, sit up, O Jerusalem: loose the bonds from off thy neck, O captive daughter of Sion.
3 For thus saith the Lord: You were sold gratis, and you shall be redeemed without money.
4 For thus saith the Lord God: My people went down into Egypt at the beginning to sojourn there: and the Assyrian hath oppressed them without any cause at all.
5 And now what have I here, saith the Lord: for my people is taken away gratis. They that rule over them treat them unjustly, saith the Lord, and my name is continually blasphemed all the day long.
6 Therefore my people shall know my name in that day: for I myself that spoke, behold I am here.

From St. Leo the Great, Pope of Rome:

Dearly beloved brethren, Unto us is born this day a Saviour. Let us rejoice. It would be unlawful to be sad to-day, for today is Life's Birthday; the Birthday of that Life, Which, for us dying creatures, taketh away the sting of death, and bringeth the bright promise of the eternal gladness hereafter. It would be unlawful for any man to refuse to partake in our rejoicing. All men have an equal share in the great cause of our joy, for, since our Lord, Who is the destroyer of sin and of death, findeth that all are bound under the condemnation, He is come to make all free. Rejoice, O thou that art holy, thou drawest nearer to thy crown! Rejoice, O thou that art sinful, thy Saviour offereth thee pardon! Rejoice also, O thou Gentile, God calleth thee to life! For the Son of God, when the fulness of the time was come, which had been fixed by the unsearchable counsel of God, took upon Him the nature of man, that He might reconcile that nature to Him Who made it, and so the devil, the inventor of death, is met and beaten in that very flesh which hath been the field of his victory.

When our Lord entered the field of battle against the devil, He did so with a great and wonderful fairness. Being Himself the Almighty, He laid aside His uncreated Majesty to fight with our cruel enemy in our weak flesh. He brought against him the very shape, the very nature of our mortality, yet without sin. His birth however was not a birth like other births for no other is born pure, nay, not the little child whose life endureth but a day on the earth. To His birth alone the throes of human passion had not contributed, in His alone no consequence of sin had had -part. For His Mother was chosen a Virgin of the kingly lineage of David, and when she was to grow heavy with the sacred Child, her soul had already conceived Him before her body. She knew the counsel of God announced to her by the Angel, lest the unwonted events should alarm her. The future Mother of God knew what was to be wrought in her by the Holy Ghost, and that her modesty was absolutely safe.

Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Ghost: Who, for His great love wherewith He loved us, hath had mercy on us and, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, that in Him we might be a new creature, and a new workmanship. Let us then put off the old man with his deeds (Col. iii. 9); and, having obtained a share in the Sonship of Christ, let us renounce the deeds of the flesh. Learn, O Christian, how great thou art, who hast been made partaker of the Divine nature, and fall not again by corrupt conversation into the beggarly elements above which thou art lifted. Remember Whose Body it is Whereof thou art made a member, and Who is its Head. Remember that it is He That hath delivered thee from the power of darkness and hath translated thee into God's light, and God's kingdom.

From St. Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome:

By God's mercy we are to say three Masses to-day, so that there is not much time left for preaching; but at the same time the occasion of the Lord's Birth-day itself obliges me to speak a few words. I will first ask why, when the Lord was to be born, the world was enrolled? Was it not to herald the appearing of Him by Whom the elect are enrolled in the book of life? Whereas the Prophet saith of the reprobate Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous. Then, the Lord is born in Bethlehem. Now the name Bethlehem signifieth the House of Bread, and thus it is the birth-place of Him Who hath said, I am the Living Bread, Which came down from heaven. We see then that this name of Bethlehem was prophetically given to the place where Christ was born,.because it was there that He was to appear in the flesh by Whom the souls of the faithful are fed unto life eternal. He was born, not in His Mother's house, but away from home. And this is a mystery, showing that this our mortality into which He was born was not the home of Him Who is begotten of the Father before the worlds.

From St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan:

Behold the beginning of the Church. Christ is born, and the shepherds watch; shepherds, to gather together the scattered sheep of the Gentiles, and to lead them into the fold of Christ, that they might no longer be a prey to the ravages of spiritual wolves in the night of this world's darkness. And that shepherd is wide awake, whom the Good Shepherd stirreth up. The flock then is the people, the night is the world, and the shepherds are the Priests. And perhaps he is a shepherd to whom it is said, Be watchful and strengthen, for God hath ordained as the shepherds of His flock not Bishops only, but also Angels.

From St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

Lest thou shouldest think all things mean, as thou art accustomed to think of things human, hear and digest this The Word was God. Now perhaps there will come forward some Arian unbeliever, and say that the Word of God was a creature. How can the Word of God be a creature, when it was by the Word that all creatures were made? If He be a creature, then there must have been some other Word, not a creature, by which He was made. And what Word is that? If thou sayest that it was by the word of the Word Himself that He was made, I tell thee that God had no other, but One Only-begotten Son. But if thou say not that it was by the word of the Word Himself that He was made, thou art forced to confess that. He by Whom all things were made was not Himself made at all. Believe the Gospel.

A Very Merry and Blessed Feast of the Nativity to All!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve: Born According to the Flesh

Nativity with Ss. Francis & Lawrence
by Caravaggio
In the year 5199th from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, in the year 2959th from the flood, in the year 2015th from the birth of Abraham, in the year 1510th from the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt under Moses, in the year 1032nd from the anointing of David as King, in the 65th week according to the prophecy of Daniel, in the 194th Olympiad, in the 752nd from the foundation of the city of Rome, in the 42nd year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus, in the 6th age of the world, while the whole earth was at peace, Jesus Christ, Himself Eternal God and Son of the Eternal Father, being pleased to hallow the world by His most gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and when nine months were passed after His conception, (all kneel down) was born of the Virgin Mary at Bethlehem of Judea made Man, Our Lord Jesus Christ was born according to the flesh. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, Rex et Legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et salvator earum; veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster.O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expectation and Saviour of the nations! come and save us, O Lord our God! 
O Emmanuel! King of Peace! thou enterest to-day the city of thy predilection, the city in which thou hast placed thy Temple, - Jerusalem. A few years hence, and the same city will give thee thy Cross and thy Sepulchre: nay, the day will come, on which thou wilt set up thy Judgment-seat within sight of her walls. But, to-day, thou enterest the city of David and Solomon unnoticed and unknown. It lies on thy road to Bethlehem. Thy Blessed Mother and Joseph, her Spouse, would not lose the opportunity of visiting the Temple, there to offer to the Lord their prayers and adoration. They enter; and then, for the first time, is accomplished the prophecy of Aggeus, that great shall be the glory of this last House more than of the first [Agg. ii. 10.] ; for this second Temple has now standing within it an Ark of the Covenant more precious than was that which Moses built; and within this Ark, which is Mary, there is contained the God, whose presence makes her the holiest of sanctuaries. The Lawgiver himself is in this blessed Ark, and not merely, as in that of old, the tablet of stone on which the Law was graven. The visit paid, our living Ark descends the steps of the Temple, and sets out once more for Bethlehem, where other prophecies are to be fulfilled. We adore thee, O Emmanuel! in this thy journey, and we reverence the fidelity wherewith thou fulfillest all that the prophets have written of thee, for thou wouldst give to thy people the certainty of thy being the Messias, by showing them, that all the marks, whereby he was to be known, are to be found in thee. And now, the hour is near; all is ready for thy Birth; come, then, and save us; come, that thou mayest not only be called our Emmanuel, but our Jesus, that is, He that saves us. 
From The Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Transitional Mass (1967)

Very occasionally one can find snippets of the transitional liturgical years between the old liturgy and the novelty rite of Paul VI. As this blog has pointed out, the 1962 Missal is a definitive part of that metamorphosis, especially pertaining to the rites of Holy Week, the kalendar, and the structure of the Divine Office.

For the man in the pew, the changes seemed to have something to do with Vatican II. "The Council" met and mandated reforms and suddenly things that had been stable aspects of the Mass to laymen began to evolve by force: the orientation of the priest inverted, the vestments turned into polyester, the music followed the hippie-Protestant trends of the day, and Mrs. Johnson was required to read aloud or serve as the "narrator" of the Mass.

Above is a Mass from 1967 celebrated in then-Soviet Czechoslovakia, in a parish church in Bratislava, now the capital of Slovakia. By 1967 the old Mass had been substantially altered both in law and spirit. Aside from the aforementioned changes, the entire Mass was de facto vernacular, the Last Gospel and Iudica me were gone, the silly play-acting offertory procession had been added, Communion lines of people putting their paws out had infiltrated most of the West, and the Mass seemed directionless.

By contrast, this Mass is positively traditional in many regards, some less obvious than others. First, the approach to the Mass does not seem to have changed as much here as it had in most of the world by this point. The celebrant retains the use of quality vestments rather than adopting the fashions of the day. The poor congregation looks on with the serious, loving, fearful faces that their parents probably wore to Mass 50 years earlier. They sing familiar hymns in vernacular throughout the Mass, as was also the case in Poland before "The Council". The peasants, living under the yoke of Soviet Union and before that under Tito, take their solace in the mystery of the Mass unfolding before them and do not take it for granted. At 7:55 a younger man with an afro seems unsure as to whether or not he ought still be in this church.

Then there is the elderly celebrant. I do not know if Czechoslovakia, like other Slavic territories, had pre-1964 traditions of celebrating the Mass with vernacular, but the priest is unphased and adopts no conversational tone or colloquial nonsense. He retains the Canon of the Mass in Latin using the old gestures. His ars celebrandi, otherwise known as due reverence, is both very unlike that of either progressive clergymen or traditionalists today. Both unrefined and deliberate, he says the Mass properly and without fuss, having done so many thousands of times before. Indeed, he moves like a person and not a robot. Interestingly, he gives the blessing after the Ite, missae est and with the Missal on the Gospel side.

This short documentary was part of a larger collection called A Day of Joy, illustrating cultural celebrations according to old and new values. The old world way of having and hearing Mass seems to betray something long missing, but hopefully returning, which is the heart, a love of the Mass when at the Mass, an appreciation of God's holy presence and a sense of duty to be there. Although perhaps a bit of romanticizing, this short reminds me of Joyce's description of the Church as "here comes everyone", which is really what the Church must be.

O Rex Gentium

O Rex gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum; veni, et salva hominem quem de limo formasti.O King of nations, and their desired One, and the corner-stone that makest both one; come and save man whom thou formedst out of slime. 
O King of Nations! thou art approaching still nigher to Bethlehem, where thou art to be born. The journey is almost over, and thy august Mother, consoled and strengthened by the dear weight she bears, holds an unceasing converse with thee on the way. She adores thy divine Majesty; she gives thanks to thy mercy; she rejoices that she has been chosen for the sublime ministry of being Mother to God. She longs for that happy moment when her eyes shall look upon thee, and yet she fears it. For, how will she be able to render thee those services which are due to thy infinite greatness, she that thinks herself the last of creatures? How will she dare to raise thee up in her arms, and press thee to her heart, and feed thee at her breasts? When she reflects that the hour is now near at hand, in which, being born of her, thou wilt require all her care and tenderness, her heart sinks within her; for, what human heart could bear the intense vehemence of these two affections, - the love of such a Mother for her Babe, and the love of such a Creature for her God? But thou supportest her, O thou the Desired of Nations! for thou, too, longest for that happy Birth, which is to give the earth its Saviour, and to men that Corner-Stone, which will unite them all into one family. Dearest King! be thou blessed for all these wonders of thy power and goodness! Come speedily, we beseech thee, come and save us, for we are dear to thee, as creatures that have been formed by thy divine hands. Yea, come, for thy creation has grown degenerate; it is lost; death has taken possession of it: take it thou again into thy almighty hands, and give it a new creation; save it; for thou hast not ceased to take pleasure in and love thine own work.
From The Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

O Oriens

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeterne, et sol justitiae; veni et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.O Orient! splendour of eternal light, and Sun of Justice! come and enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.
O Jesus, divine Sun! thou art coming to snatch us from eternal night: blessed for ever be thy infinite goodness! But thou puttest our faith to the test, before showing thyself in all thy brightness. Thou hidest thy rays, until the time decreed by thy heavenly Father comes, in which all thy beauty will break upon the world. Thou art traversing Judea; thou art near Jerusalem; the journey of Mary and Joseph is nigh its term. Crowds of men pass or meet thee on the road, each one hurrying to his native town, there to be enrolled, as the Edict commands. Not one of all these suspects that thou, O divine Orient! art so near him. They see thy Mother Mary, and they see nothing in her above the rest of women; or if they are impressed by the majesty and incomparable modesty of this august Queen, it is but a vague feeling of surprise at there being such dignity in one so poor as she is; and they soon forget her again. If the Mother is thus an object of indifference to them, it is not to be expected that they will give even so much as a thought to her Child, that is not yet born. And yet this Child is thyself, O Sun of Justice! Oh! increase our Faith, but increase, too, our Love. If these men loved thee, O Redeemer of mankind, thou wouldst give them the grace to feel thy presence; their eyes, indeed, would not yet see thee, but their hearts, at least, would burn within them, they would long for thy coming, and would hasten it by their prayers and sighs. Dearest Jesus! who thus traversest the world thou hast created, and who forcest not the homage of thy creatures, we wish to keep near thee during the rest of this thy journey: we kiss the footsteps of Her that carries thee in her womb; we will not leave thee, until we arrive together with thee at Bethlehem, that House of Bread, where, at last, our eyes will see thee, O splendour of eternal light, our Lord and our God!
From The Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger 

Friday, December 20, 2019

O Clavis David

O Clavis David et Sceptrum domus Israel, qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit; veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel!  who openest, and no man shutteth: who shuttest, and  no man openeth; come and  lead the captive from prison,  sitting in darkness and in the  shadow of death. 
O Jesus, Son of David! heir to his throne and his power! thou art now passing over, in thy way to Bethlehem, the land that once was the kingdom of thy ancestor, but now is tributary to the Gentiles. Scarce an inch of this ground which has not witnessed the miracles of the justice and the mercy of Jehovah, thy Father, to the people of that old Covenant, which is so soon to end. Before long, when thou hast come from beneath the virginal cloud which now hides thee, thou wilt pass along this same road doing good [Acts, x. 36.], healing all manner of sickness and every infirmity [St Matth. iv. 23.], and yet having not where to lay thy head? [St. Luke, ix. 58.] Now, at least, thy Mother's womb affords thee the sweetest rest, and thou receivest from her the profoundest adoration and the tenderest love. But, dear Jesus, it is thine own blessed will that thou leave this loved abode. Thou hast, O Eternal Light, to shine in the midst of this world's darkness, this prison where the captive, whom thou art come to deliver, sits in the shadow of death. Open his prison-gates by thy all-powerful key. And who is this captive, but the human race, the slave of error and vice? Who is this Captive, but the heart of man, which is thrall to the very passions it blushes to obey? Oh! come and set at liberty the world thou hast enriched by thy grace, and the creatures whom thou hast made to be thine own Brethren.
From The Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

O Radix Iesse

O radix Jesse * qui stas in signum populórum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabúntur: veni ad liberándum nos, jam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, * which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom the kings shall shut their   mouths, to whom the Gentiles shall seek; come to deliver us, make no tarrying! 

"At length, O Son of Jesse! thou art approaching the city of thy ancestors. The Ark of the Lord has risen, and journeys, with the God that is in her, to the place of her rest. "How beautiful are thy steps, O thou daughter of the Prince," [Cant. vii. 1.] now that thou art bringing to the cities of Juda their salvation! The Angels escort thee, thy faithful Joseph lavishes his love upon thee, heaven delights in thee, and our earth thrills with joy to bear thus upon itself its Creator and its Queen. Go forward, O Mother of God and Mother of Men! Speed thee, thou propitiatory that holdest within thee the divine Manna which gives us life! Our hearts are with thee, and count thy steps. Like thy royal ancestor David, "we will enter not into the dwelling of our house, nor go up into the bed whereon we lie, nor give sleep to our eyes, nor rest to our temples, until we have found a place in our hearts for the Lord whom thou bearest, a tabernacle for this God of Jacob." [Ps. cxxxi. 3-5.] Come, then, O Root of Jesse! thus hid in this Ark of purity; thou wilt soon appear before thy people as the standard round which all that would conquer must rally. Then, their enemies, the Kings of the world, will be silenced, and the nations will offer thee their prayers. Hasten thy coming, dear Jesus! come and conquer all our enemies, and deliver us."
From Dom Prosper Gueranger's The Liturgical Year 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

O Adonai

O Adonaï, et dux domus Israël, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extenso.O Adonaï, and leader of the house of Israel! who appearedst to Moses in the fire  of the flaming bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai;  come and redeem us by thy  outstretched arm. 

O Sovereign Lord! O Adonaï! come and redeem us, not by thy power, but by thy humility. Heretofore, thou didst show thyself to Moses thy servant in the midst of a mysterious flame; thou didst give thy law to thy people amidst thunder and lightning; now, on the contrary, thou comest not to terrify, but to save us. Thy chaste Mother having heard the Emperor's edict, which obliges her and Joseph her Spouse to repair to Bethlehem, she prepares everything needed for thy divine Birth. She prepares for thee, O Sun of Justice! the humble swathing-bands, wherewith to cover thy nakedness, and protect thee, the Creator of the world, from the cold of that mid-night hour of thy Nativity! Thus it is that thou willest to deliver us from the slavery of our pride, and show man that thy divine arm is never stronger than when he thinks it powerless and still. Everything is prepared, then, dear Jesus! thy swathing-bands are ready for thy infant limbs! Come to Bethlehem, and redeem us from the hands of our enemies. 

From The Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

O Sapientia

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia; veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.O Wisdom, that proceedest from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end mightily, and disposing all things with strength and sweetness! come and teach us the way of prudence.
O Uncreated Wisdom! that art so soon to make thyself visible to thy creatures, truly thoudisposest all things. It is by thy permission, that the Emperor Augustus issues a decree ordering the enrolment of the whole world. Each citizen of the vast Empire is to have his name enrolled in the city of his birth. This prince has no other object in this order, which sets the world in motion, but his own ambition. Men go to and fro by millions, and an unbroken procession traverses the immense Roman world; men think they are doing the bidding of man, and it is God whom they are obeying. This world-wide agitation has really but one object; it is, to bring to Bethlehem a man and woman who live at Nazareth in Galilee, in order that this woman, who is unknown to the world but dear to heaven, and is at the close of the ninth month since she conceived her child, may give birth to this Child in Bethlehem, for the Prophet has said of him: "His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity. And thou, O Bethlehem I art not the least among the thousand cities of Juda, for out of thee He shall come." [Mich. v. 2; St Matth. ii. 6.]. O divine Wisdom! how strong art thou, in thus reaching Thine ends by means which are infallible, though hidden! and yet, how sweet, offering no constraint to man's free-will! and withal, how fatherly, in providing for our necessities! Thou choosest Bethlehem for thy birth-place, because Bethlehem signifies the House of Bread. In this, thou teachest us that thou art our Bread, the nourishment and support of our life. With God as our food, we cannot die. O Wisdom of the Father, Living Bread that hast descended from heaven, come speedily into us, that thus we may approach to thee and be enlightened [Ps. xxxiii. 6.] by thy light, and by that prudence which leads to salvation.
From Dom Prosper Gueranger's The Liturgical Year 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Choral Mattins & Lauds

Does anyone know of any rubrics for Roman (not Sarum, neo-Gallican, or Dominican) choral Mattins and Lauds? A inquired as to the rubrics specifically for Lauds, which is often celebrated in the same manner of Vespers when done [wrongly] as a standalone service. Is this correct?

In the French family tree of rites the hebdomadarius continues in choir dress until the Benedictus and assumes a cope. The cantors wear copes according to the color of the day to sing the responses at Mattins and the antiphons at Lauds. Is the same true of the Roman rite?

The Roman liturgical books contain very little description of the public observance of the Office, more often just the text and music. Is anyone aware either of a liturgical commentator or a rubric concerning Mattins & Lauds in the Roman rite after Trent?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A New Face on Marian Feasts

Minor and major Marian feasts proliferated after the issuance of the Tridentine Missal under Saint Pius V. The Dominican friar who became Roman Pontiff was himself a part of that expansion, publishing Quo primum tempore and his edition of the Missale Romanum in 1570 and then adding the Feast of Our Lady of Victory the very next year to commemorate the Blessed Virgin's intercession on behalf of the Christian navy at Lepanto.

Pius V's Missal and Breviary follow a very sleek, elegant version of the Roman kalendar. Did he go a step too far in stripping out medieval feasts like those of Ss. Joachim and Anne? Perhaps, but his kalendar does maintain an elegant balance of the temporal, the ferial, the Dominical, the penitential, and the festive. There is never too much or too little of anything. His kalendar retained the two major Marian feasts of the day (Annunciation and Assumption) as well as a handful of Christologically important, albeit less popular feasts (Visitation, Conception, and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin). Additionally, there were two feasts commemorating Marian miracles, first Our Lady of the Snows and a year later Our Lady of Victory (the Rosary).

Consider that after these feasts, seven days plus an additional seven for the octave of the Nativity of the Virgin, took up a fraction of the entire year and yet each of them possessed a Double feast, substantial enough to supersede the Sundays per annum on which they fell, all except Annunciation and the Conception of Our Lady, since in traditional rubrics no day may supersede an Advent or Lenten Sunday.

What followed after Pius V was a long flourishing of new Marian titles, feasts, and devotions. Among them:

  • Our Lady of Lourdes
  • Our Lady of Mount Carmel
  • Our Lady of Ransom
  • Immaculate Heart of Mary
  • Our Lady of Sorrows (September)
  • Our Lady of Sorrows (Passiontide)
  • Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen
  • Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Almost all of these new feasts followed the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary in both the Mass and Office, albeit with some exceptions in the orations and concessions granted to religious orders. What is strange is not the character of the new feasts, but the new face given to the older ones.

Commentary has been made on this blog of Pius XII's mutilation of some parts of the Office and of the entire Mass for the Assumption of Our Lady. Papa Pacelli discarded the entire Gaudeamus omnes Mass, replete with one of the most beautiful collects in the Roman Missal, in favor of something he had a commission create after he confirmed the teaching of the Assumption by solemn proclamation. Yes, it has a predictable Gospel and an insipid Introit melody, but there is more to Pius XII's Assumption feast, but to look at it we must first look back a century earlier.

In 1854 Pius IX, following consultation with all bishops of the Church (one of the last pontiffs so to do), taught "that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin."

The Mass of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, called the Immaculate Conception before the Dominican Pope Saint Pius V, was restored to its pre-Tridentine title. The Mass itself, formerly the exact same formulary as that of the the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin only with "conception" swapped for "birthday" in the collect, was revised into the current Gaudens gaudebo Mass. The Office underwent a more modest change, retaining the psalms and hymns from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but with a notable change to the lessons. 

Traditionally, Marian feasts read from the Wisdom literature at Mattins, either Sirach, the Canticle of Canticles, or the Book of Wisdom. The revision introduced a then-novelty by reading Genesis and a Papal Bull.

The first nocturne of the Immaculate Conception reads Genesis chapter 3, recounting the Fall of Man and God's foreboding to the Serpent "I shall put enmity between you and the Woman, and her seed and yours. She shall crush your head and you shall lurk under her heel." Indeed, given the versicle at first Vespers and Lauds (v. Immaculata Conceptio est hodie Sanctae Mariae Virginis r. Quae serpentis caput virgineo pede contrivit), one might be inclined to believe Genesis was chosen simply to arrive at that last verse. 

While there is nothing inherently wrong with reading Genesis on a Marian feast and drawing to the faithful's attention the typology of between Eve and Our Lady, it is a marked departure from the Wisdom literature wherein the Blessed Virgin is said to be considered part of God's plan from the beginning and one who rests in His dwelling place. The luscious Mattins for the Assumption begin with sensual undertones ("thy breasts are sweeter than wine"), comparing the Virgin's intimacy with God to that of a man and woman in the act. In this Genesis reading, without the broader context provided by the older liturgical texts, Our Lady almost seems a standalone figure, a tool of God much like a prophet or soldier crushing evil on her own accord rather than due to her maternal bond to the Godhead.

The second nocturne of the Immaculate Conception introduces another peculiarity at the time, namely the reading of papal documents as liturgical texts. The sermons of Ss. Leo and Gregory the Great figure prominently in the Mattins lessons throughout the year, but they are mainly in the liturgy for their exegesis on the Gospels of the day and the memorable sanctity of the men themselves rather than because they were popes of Rome. Pius IX's declaration of the dogma in the Vatican basilica forms the sixth lesson in the Mattins of the feast. It reads much like the hagiographies of the sanctoral feasts, recounting the events in a praiseworthy and straightforward manner. 

Pius IX also turned the Immaculate Conception into an octave. Whereas Genesis was read at Mattins of the feast day itself, the occurring Scripture is read instead throughout the octave. However, the second nocturne is occupied with excerpts of Ineffabilis Deus. Readers with more resources are open to correct me, but this appears to be the first time papal documents were read as liturgical, prayerful texts simply because they came from the Roman Pontiff. The texts allude to the consultation of the bishops, the preface of the Mass of the day, the Roman Church's unique devotion to Our Lady, the the Pontiffs' efforts to guard the Virgin's reputation from the assaults of heretics. It is stuff worth reading, but only a Marian feast would one not prefer to read about Mary?

In a case of strange bed fellows—Pius IX a liberal turned arch-reactionary and Pius XII an outward conservative with a liberal demeanor—Papa Pacelli repeated many of his predecessor's steps in re-crafting the Office of a feast, in this case that of the Assumption. The first nocturne of the older feast, again, read the exotic words from Wisdom literature and spoke of Our Lady's intimacy with God. The second nocturne, from Saint Athanasius in the Tridentine books and Saint John Damascene in post-Tridentine editions, recounts the handing down of the tradition of the Assumption and what exactly transpired with the Apostles, the singing of the angels, and the finding of Our Lady's belt. 

"They cut me off!"
Pius XII once again removed the Wisdom texts and substituted Genesis, although unlike Pius IX he only used the snippet with the familiar "I will put enmity between you and the Woman" rather than the entire thing. Awkwardly, the text then switches the passage about the General Resurrection from Corinthians read at Requiem Masses.

Two of the three texts from Saint John of Damascus remain in the second nocturne, but the third lesson is excised in favor of a description of the events surrounding Pius XII's dogmatic definition of an already clear teaching. Pius XII eliminated the octave of the Assumption, along with that of the Immaculate Conception and most others in the Roman kalendar, four years later, meaning the rich texts of Saint John describing the tradition of the Assumption and the actual events themselves, read later in the octave, never appear. Whereas in 1949 a priest would in fact read about the entire event of the Assumption, a priest in 1959 could go the entire liturgical year and never encounter a description of the Assumption, just Pius XII's word that it happened. In liturgically solemnizing the doctrine he eliminated the liturgical evidence for it, contrary to Pius IX who at least expanded the liturgical tradition around the Immaculate Conception.

Pius IX's changes to the Office are noticeable, but hardly jarring. They did set a precedent followed a century later by another Pius. In both cases texts from Genesis are adapted to the feast giving the Blessed Virgin a character unique from the texts previously read on those days and still read on other Marian days. The result is an aesthetic not necessarily at odds with a traditional of Mary, but distinct from the received liturgical outlook.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Resurrection: An Overlooked Advent Doctrine

We lament the rejection of many Church doctrines. The Canadian bishops de facto denied a traceable nineteen century long position on procreation in 1968. South American bishops recently ignored all received understanding of the diaconate and a study this year underlined that most American Catholics do not knowingly accept the teaching of Transubstantiation. Denials abound in our secular age.

What, however, of a doctrine that is not so much denied as much as it is forgotten and overlooked? That of the General Resurrection.

The last Sunday after Pentecost and the first Sunday of Advent, the end and beginning of the liturgical year, jointly consider this teaching. The former reads the Gospel of the Abomination of Desolation, the trials that will arise when the End is nigh. Last Sunday compliments that text with Luke 21, telling of the suddenness and fully visible return of Christ which no one shall miss.

Why, then, do we speak so often now of "going to heaven" as the end goal? Is not the real goal to "save one's soul"?

I have always liked Saint Thomas's definition of the soul as the "form" of the human being rather than as a phantom third aspect of the person, in addition to body and mind, hiding in the pituitary gland as some Baroque figures believed. The soul is the potential behind every act and is yet tied to the body which shall rise again and be judged on the Last Day.

We are sheepish about the idea of the General Resurrection if only because of the joint fear of Evangelical Protestants who always think the end if nigh and secularists who could tolerate us privately to think God exists, but refuse to let us adumbrate our nonsense over the rest of society. It has been conditioned out of us.

The earliest Christians believed the End was near, but then the Roman world converted. During the Reformation, both sides entertained apocalyptic ideas—the orthodox because of the collapse of Christianity and heretics because they viewed the Church as having defected from near the start. American fundamentalists have predicted doom since the '70s while those who read too much about Pope Francis start to plot their own End Times timeline. It all seems too much to handle, but do any of these, aside from Saint Paul's letters to the Christian communities in his care, really consider the General Resurrection?

The General Resurrection became a popular trope of art in the 12th-15th centuries, often in altar pieces and reredros hangings more than stand alone paintings. Why, in an age of the Latin Church triumphant and generally safe from outsiders, did the Last Judgement and the General Resurrection figure so prominently? Perhaps for that very reason. Christian life was simply life, a tangible, fleshly, real fact much like Christ's return in the flesh and our own rising up in the flesh. It was not a furtive struggle, as it was for those avoiding Diocletian, nor a private idea, as it is for us today. Perhaps it is also no coincidence that the hymn Dies irae originated during that time as the sequence for Advent long before it migrated to the Reqiuem Mass.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Marital Regret

In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, till regret do us part.

Thirty years of life affords one to see a fair number of weddings, to know friends' parents and to see friends themselves wed, which in our secular days means I have also been given the chance to see many of those unions fall apart. The reasons are only occasionally infidelity. More often than not they are people who did not grasp the gravity of what they were doing in the first place.

We blame the sexual revolution for destabilizing marriage. It certainly destabilized meaningful acts of intimacy between two people and made them into objects of their own value, but Al Bundy, Ray Romano, Sam Kinison, and '90s chick shows did more damage to marriage by presenting the institution either as an apotheosis of perfect romantic sentiment for women and as a quotidian trap to bore men.

Why marriages fail are unique to each one, but what is strange among people are the tales they tell themselves to exempt themselves from the voice of their own consciences. Some people are simply ill-suited for marriage. Idealists belong either in monasteries or universities. Fathers, either of families or parishes, must be grounded people with firm backing of principles. However, some divorcees do not wish to learn this about themselves and move on. 

And then there are the mental and religious calisthenics that follow. Most recently I witnessed a 25 year union that produced three children end. The father was an atheist, the mother a daily Mass Catholic. He remarried to a woman he does not like. She decided she did not have the proper mindset to contract a marriage and filed for an annulment which was declined four times. She then considered becoming Orthodox simply to get a divorce in a apostolic church in good conscience despite never having seen a Divine Liturgy, read page of the Philokalia, or even knowing anything more than that they are generally like us except permitting some manner of ecclesiastically sanctioned divorce.

I have two protestant coworkers who are both on their second marriage and in both cases it looks to be built for the long haul. What of their first unions? They had something called "Biblical divorce". Divorce according to the Old Testament and the Mosaic Law? No. They both read Our Lord's words to the Samaritan woman that "But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery" as really meaning "If one of you cheats, then you can part." The word porneia, often translated into other languages as "adultery" or "fornication", makes little sense even in its original context. In vernacular it could be read as a permission for divorce, but in the original it is hard to see what it might mean without the lens of Tradition. Porneia, from which we derive "pornography", can mean adultery, fornication, pre-marital sex, sodomy, and, most commonly at the time, prostitution. Greek speakers went centuries reading this passage before instituting ecclesiastical divorce, and when they did so they grounded it on their understanding of ekonomia rather than this passage.

Despite people's good intentions and outward love of God, understanding of God and His commandments often becomes fungible to one's own desires. Saint Paul admonished the Corinthians that those loosed from a wife ought not seek one so as not to be solicitous to terrestrial thing things. Marriage confirms one's place in the natural order and while certainly not disconnecting one from the supernatural order, it does mean one has to balance the world of man and the City of God. The world of man is where we spend most of our time, even the most devout of us, and it rarely preaches in our faces. It whispers in our ears and accustoms us to its wants. In this world, the Word of God is bent to us rather when we should be lifted to it. 

Having failed in marriage need not mean one's eternal damnation or even consignment to temporal unhappiness if one heeds the vows of marriage and seeks not another union. Those who fall can find consolation in penance, joy in friendship, and stability in the Church. Following God's commandments need not be miserable, it just may not mean always having what one wants. Is that not the message of the Cross and Resurrection?

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Reflections on Government: My Night with President Trump

Am I a bad trad? Do I sin if I fail to believe monarchy is inherently a superior form of government to all others attempted in human history? It is generally the most stable, but that is hardly a commending accolade.

Winston Churchill's comment that democracy is the "worst form of government, after all the others" has always resonated with me if only because it acknowledges that the matter of government is practical, not ideal, and that in dealing with human nature it tends to come up short in any application. The current state of the American and British governments are constitutionally perilous, although they do not seem to underpin any innate proclivity toward violence in the issues which cause our crises. Britain's crisis is Brexit, the question as to whether a non-binding vote should be honored and how it should be honored. America's crisis, as always, reflects the divvying up of demographics over the last few decades by both parties to win elections. The result is a deeply divided state in which one side seeks to kick out the legitimately elected, incompetent president, Mr. Donald Trump.

I voted for Mr. Trump. I would repeat my choice if the 2016 election were to happen again and I expect to cast my ballot for him again in 2020, but I have no illusions that he is either a good leader or a good man. He was the least-bad person who was not Hillary Clinton who could beat Hillary Clinton, nothing more.

So, when a friend suggested that I joined him at the Trump rally in Dallas last month I initially recoiled a bit at the idea of standing alongside the great mass of humanity, clad with red trucker hats announcing the MAGA slogan, and listening to chants of "Lock her up!" I found my company's luxury suite was available at the venue that evening, which meant a guaranteed parking space, a shorter security line, and seclusion from the crowd. Conceding that I might learn something, I agreed to attend.

A venue which holds 20,000 people was entirely full with just as many standing in line, zig-zagging through downtown Dallas, waiting for admission. The place was a sea of red MAGA hats. The President was scheduled to begin at 7:00PM, but took the stage 25 minutes late. Before most of the crowd even took notice of him, I recognized that the President was on the floor. His hair, a shade of reddish-gold unknown in the natural world, stood out from the palette of blacks, blues, greys, and reds behind him. The crowd erupted. I had been in the same venue eleven months earlier for an Elton John concert, and this crowd made twice as much noise. By the end of the night my ears were ringing.

"Louis Vuitton. It's costed me a lot money, folks," he opened to a roar of cheers. He had just toured their new factory just outside of Dallas. Five minutes into the night it became clear Mr. Trump spoke extemporaneously, and unlike most public speakers, he did not have a message. Much more akin to a comedian, he had shtick. Although he told many jokes and said many things to incite laughter ("sleepy Joe Biden, whose son got thrown out of the Navy like a dog"), he spoke about political matters while demonstrating a sense of timing on par with the best stand up comics: Dangerfield, Kinison, Norm MacDonald.

On television, Trump appears to stutter, ramble, drift off in vocal tone, and repeat himself quite often. In person these patterns repeat, but with their purpose revealed. He uses these devices, athwart deafening noise unheard on television, to control, redirect, and time the reaction of the crowd. His drifts let them have their final applause before he changes topic. His roars quiet them down so they may hear the punchline. His repetitions let them know he is not yet through with a topic. He continued this mesmerizing spectacle for nearly two hours and the crowd did not subside in enthusiasm. A huge section of "Hispanics for Trump" chanted "Build that wall!" alongside blue collar white men, neither of whom want to pay for Abuelo Alberto to come to Dallas.

By the end of the night I confirmed a theory that I first developed in high school after hearing Bill Clinton speak in a similar manner, albeit with more finesse and refinement. Political figures do not sell ideas, they sell facts. When Obama said "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon" or when Trump said "Mexico sends us some good people, but they're sending a lot of really bad people" they are selling a narrative of reality that resonates with a large segment of the populace even if those stories and ideas fail to correlate with why people feel that way.

The disconnect between voters and reality is stunning, and the people for whom they vote are more connected to reality yet are less connected to the people to whom they appeal. Is the answer to this a replacement of the failed representative system with a direct rule? Unfortunately, the ruler(s) would reflect the values held by the elite of our day and not the values of the monarchs from five centuries ago.

After the event my friend and I shared drinks at a distant watering hole. He awed at "how much the people who like him really like him", and they do. I yearned for a day without universal suffrage, if we are to continue a democratically elected, republican form of government. I do not mean a return to an age without women and blacks voting, but I do think the primitive days of the American republic had some merit to a few of their voting qualifications: one had to be able to read and hence to be an educated person, one had to be a property owner who paid taxes and therefor be a participant with a stake in the matters disputed by government.

Sadly, this purification of the voting system will never happen. The progressives have carved up America for four generations by expanding the effects of voting (lowering the voting age, making Senators into super-Congressmen etc) and concurrently creating a welfare state to make voters reliant on the system for which they voted. The right, always behind the times, continuously picks up yesteryear's disillusioned Democrats on their way to the grave: neo-conservatives, anti-Communists, labor union members.

My expectations for Trump's administration were modest. As an anti-establishment candidate, I expected the system would reject him and that he would accomplish very little of his agenda, which was alright by me. In fact, it would be a welcomed change if a president did not directly influence the lives of the general public for four or eight years. President Trump wants to make America great again. I would be quite happy if he did not do anything at all.

Our Patronal Feast

Do say a prayer to St. Felix of Valois for J, Fr Capreolus, and I today, for it is the feast of this blog's patronal saint, who, before he died in the Lord, was given the gift to sing the praises of God in the company of the Virgin and heavenly choir. Please be sure of our regular prayers for our readers, including those whom we have been privileged to know through correspondence.
"O God, Who by a sign from heaven didst call thy blessed Confessor Felix out of the desert to become a redeemer of bondsmen, grant, we beseech thee, unto his prayers, that thy grace may deliver us from the bondage of sin, and bring us home unto our very fatherland, which is in heaven."

Monday, November 18, 2019

Feast: Dedication of the Vatican Basilica

In a previous post we looked at the first millennium Roman liturgy from a textual and historical perspective, at how the traditional liturgy as we have it today evolved from a remarkably similar Mass around the year 800 AD. Today I just want to "throw" some material at you for your own edification once again, this time pertaining to the setting of the first millennium and medieval Roman liturgy, namely the original St. Peter's basilica. Most of what I have below is republished from last year, but with many improvements.

The original St. Peter's basilica was begun by Emperor Constantine over a shrine on Vatican Hill here Christians had venerated what tradition tells us was the place of St. Peter's burial since the first century—St. Peter's bones were not actually discovered until the reign of Pius XII. The basilica was completed in 360, but constantly remodeled. Originally the tomb of the first Pope of Rome was in the apse of the basilica, behind the altar. Tidal flow of pilgrims necessitated switching these two. A more elaborate throne for the Pope was constructed, as consecration of the Bishop of Rome became more usual at St. Peter's. The proliferation of Papal burials at St. Peter's and a series of ninth century invasions by Saracens necessitated further renovations. One such remodel, around the time of Leo IV, led to an altar embroidered in precious stones, ambos and doors of silver, and mosaics taken from the finest Eastern churches. Like most Roman basilicas, there was a group of canons attached to the church.

A cloister preceded the entrance. I cannot help but think of Dr. Laurence Hemming's theory of the Catholic churches as temples, as fulfillment of the Temple of Jerusalem. The cloister here is more of an enclosed sacred courtyard than anything monastic. It functioned as a gathering place for people to prepare for Mass, an eschaton—a place between the world and eternity. A pineapple, which I believe predates the Christian era, sat at the center of the cloister. The faithful, as late as the eighth century, washed their hands for Communion at the fountains in this area—although reception on the hand differed drastically from the modern practice. In all, it is like the courtyards of the Temples of Solomon and Herod: a gateway through which the faithful would leave the world and prepare for the Divine. Sort of the story of salvation, eh?
Drawing of how the mosaics on the façade of the basilica,
as restored by Innocent III, would have been arranged.

The inside was very much that of a Roman basilica which, before the Christian age, just meant an indoor public gathering place for Romans. The nave would be lined with colonnade, but statuary and imagery was sparse and likely introduced in the early second millennium. The primary source of color would have been through patterns and mosaics on the ceiling, particularly in the apse. While Byzantine churches tend to either depict Christ as a child in our Lady's arms or Christ the Pantocrator in the apse, Roman churches vary more, and St. Peter's would have been no exception. St. Mary Major's apse bears Christ and our Lady seats in power, while the Lateran depicts Him ascended above all the saints—and above us, lest we forget, and St. Paul outside the Wall depicts Him in blessing but with a book of judgment. St. Peter's might have also had some variation of Christ in the apse, above the stationary Papal throne.

The altar was both ad orientem and versus populum, a rarity outside of Rome. During the Canon the faithful would go into the transepts and the aisles of the nave and face eastward with the priest, meaning they did not "see" the change on the altar. Curtains may have been drawn regardless, guaranteeing people did not see the consecration until the Middle Ages at least.

The populistic arrangement, of the Pope facing the people, gives us a clear indication of where the reformers discovered their "Mass as assembly" idea, but neglects the very hierarchical arrangement, which the Bishop of Rome elevated, surrounded by his counsel and the servants of the faithful in Holy Orders. Certainly a more popularly accessible structure than a Tridentine pontifical Mass from the throne, but not remotely as democratic as the reformers would have us believe. Papal Mass continued their arrangement through 1964, the year of the last Papal Mass.

St. Peter's basilica around the year 1450
(taken from wikipedia)

Neglect during the Avignon papacy left the Roman basilicas in ruins, St. Peter's included. The roof of the basilica and its re-enforcement were both wood, which had long rotted. Instability eventually caused the walls and foundations to crack and, although many maintained the basilica was still usable, the decision was made to replace it in 1505 by Pope Julius II. The decision rightly sent Romans into uproar, as the old church had been used by the City and by saints for twelve centuries.

The fate of much of the original basilica is unknown. Elements of the portico survived, as did the Papal tombs. St. Peter's tomb received its own chapel, named for the Pope who built it. The high altar was retained and en-capsuled in the new altar. The altar sanctuary had been walled from the nave by winding pillars, supposedly taken from the Temple of Solomon. They were destroyed, although their design is retained in the new basilica's baldacchino.

Below is a reconstruction of how the sanctuary would have looked during the Middle Ages. Note the wall and doors, much like an iconostasis, betwixt the sanctuary and nave. The semi-circular benches around the Papal throne were for the canons of the basilica, the seven deacons of Rome, the archpriest, and the cardinals. The doors on the sides might have been either for the deacons, for those administering Holy Communion to the people in the transepts, or for those visiting the tomb below the sanctuary.

From New Liturgical Movement
Note the side altars, where the Roman low Mass as we know it was formed. Also, the entrance to St. Peter's tomb from doors under the stairs.
The reconstruction below, however, seems to aim at imitating a medieval version of St. Peter's basilica. The above image, of the basilica in the first millennium, shows a church which has not yet undergone various renovations consequent to medieval piety and style: the barrier above is more of a railing than a wall, there are side-chapels below but not above, and curtains around the altar—emphasizing the mystery of it all, and colonnade around the Papal throne—pointing to the unique place in the sanctuary of the chair of Peter. The walls are also sparser in the pre-Middle Ages image above. I suspect the person who created these images is of the Byzantine tradition, as he has put icons above the altars as decoration rather than more Romanesque mosaics and paintings. Still, quite an effort.

Below is a video from the same source showing a detailed view of the old basilica. I always found the old pineapple funny. It is a pagan bronze work dating to the first century and which resided in the Vatican square for no reason other than its pre-dating the basilica. The video is well worth your time and hopefully will engender some appreciation for the scale and Romanitas of the original church. Of course the details of the inside are mostly lost and would have taken the video's maker an eternity to construct.

Here is an account of the demolition of the original church:

From Idle Speculations:

"At the beginning of Paul V.'s pontificate, there still stood untouched a considerable portion of the nave of the Constantinian basilica. It was separated from the new church by a wall put up by Paul III.
There likewise remained the extensive buildings situate in front of the basilica. The forecourt, flanked on the right by the house of the archpriest and on the right by the benediction loggia of three bays and the old belfry, formed an oblong square which had originally been surrounded by porticoes of Corinthian columns.
The lateral porticos, however, had had to make room for other buildings—those on the left for the oratory of the confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament built under Gregory XIII., and the house of the Cappella Giulia and the lower ministers of the church, and those on the right for the spacious palace of Innocent VIII.
In the middle of this square, at a small distance from the facade of the present basilica, stood the fountain (cantharus) erected either by Constantine or by his son Constantius, under a small dome supported by eight columns and surmounted by a colossal bronze cone which was believed to have been taken from the mausoleum of Hadrian.
From this court the eye contemplated the facade of old St. Peter's, resplendent with gold and vivid colours and completely covered with mosaics which had been restored in the sixteenth century, and crowned, in the centre, by a figure of Christ enthroned and giving His blessing.
To this image millions of devout pilgrims had gazed up during the centuries.
Internally the five-aisled basilica, with its forest of precious columns, was adorned with a wealth of altars, shrines and monuments of Popes and other ecclesiastical and secular dignitaries of every century. The roof consisted of open woodwork. The walls of the central nave, from the architrave upwards, displayed both in colour and in mosaic, scenes from Holy Scripture and the portraits of all the Popes.
It is easy to understand Paul V.'s hesitation to lay hands on a basilica so venerable by reason of the memories of a history of more than a thousand years, and endowed with so immense a wealth of sacred shrines and precious monuments.
On the other hand, the juxtaposition of two utterly heterogeneous buildings, the curious effect of which may be observed in the sketches of Marten van Heemskerk, could not be tolerated for ever. To this must be added the ruinous condition, already ascertained at the time of Nicholas V and Julius V., of the fourth century basilica a condition of which Paul V. himself speaks in some of his inscriptions as a notorious fact.
A most trustworthy contemporary, Jacopo Grimaldi, attests that the paintings on the South wall were almost unrecognizable owing to the crust of dust which stuck to them, whilst the opposite wall was leaning inwards.
Elsewhere also, even in the woodwork of the open roof, many damaged places were apparent. An earthquake could not have failed to turn the whole church into a heap of ruins.
An alarming occurrence came as a further warning to make haste. During a severe storm, in September, 1605, a huge marble block fell from a window near the altar of the Madonna della Colonna. Mass was being said at that altar at the time so that it seemed a miracle that no one was hurt.
Cardinal Pallotta, the archpriest of St. Peter's, pointed to this occurrence in the consistory of September 26th, 1605, in which he reported on the dilapidated condition of the basilica, basing himself on the reports of the experts.
As a sequel to a decision by the cardinalitial commission of September 17th, the Pope resolved to demolish the remaining part of the old basilica. At the same time he decreed that the various monuments and the relics of the Saints should be removed and preserved with the greatest care.' These injunctions were no doubt prompted by the strong opposition raised by the learned historian of the Church, Cardinal Baronius, against the demolition of a building which enshrined so many sacred and inspiring monuments of the history of the papacy. To Cardinal Pallotta was allotted the task of superintending the work of demolition.
Sestilio Mazucca, bishop of Alessano and Paolo Bizoni, both canons of St. Peter's, received pressing recommendations from Paul V. to watch over the monuments of the venerable sanctuary and to see to it that everything was accurately preserved for posterity by means of pictures and written accounts, especially the Lady Chapel of John VII., at the entrance to the basilica, which was entirely covered with mosaics, the ciborium with Veronica's handkerchief, the mosaics of Gregory XI on the facade and other ancient monuments. On the occasion of the translation of the sacred bodies and relics of Saints, protocols were to be drawn up and graves were only to be opened in presence of the clergy of the basilica. The bishop of Alessano was charged to superintend everything.
It must be regarded as a piece of particularly good fortune that in Jacopo Grimaldi (died January 7th, 1623) canon and keeper of the archives of the Chapter of St. Peter's, a man was found who thoroughly understood the past and who also possessed extensive technical knowledge. He made accurate drawings and sketches of the various monuments doomed to destruction.
The plan of the work of demolition, as drawn up in the architect's office, probably under Maderno's direction, comprised three tasks : viz. the opening of the Popes' graves and other sepulchral monuments as well as the reliquaries, and the translation of their contents ; then the demolition itself, in which every precaution was to be taken against a possible catastrophe ; thirdly, the preservation of all those objects which, out of reverence, were to be housed in the crypt—the so-called Vatican Grottos—or which were to be utilized in one way or another in the new structure.
As soon as the demolition had been decided upon, the work began.
On September 28th, Cardinal Pallotta transferred the Blessed Sacrament in solemn procession, accompanied by all the clergy of the basilica, into the new building where it was placed in the Cappella Gregoriana. Next the altar of the Apostles SS. Simon and Jude was deprived of its consecration with the ceremonies prescribed by the ritual ; the relics it had contained were translated into the new church, after which the altar was taken down. On October 11th, the tomb of Boniface VIII. was opened and on the 20th that of Boniface IV., close to the adjoining altar.
The following day witnessed the taking up of the bodies of SS. Processus and Martinianus. On October 30th, Paul V. inspected the work of demolition of the altars and ordered the erection of new ones so that the number of the seven privileged altars might be preserved.
On December 29th, 1605, the mortal remains of St. Gregory the Great were taken up with special solemnity, and on January 8th, 1606, they were translated into the Cappella Clementina. The same month also witnessed the demolition of the altar under which rested the bones of Leo IX., and that of the altar of the Holy Cross under which Paul I. had laid the body of St. Petronilla, in the year 757. Great pomp marked the translation of all these relics ; similar solemnity was observed on January 26th, at the translation of Veronica's handkerchief, the head of St. Andrew and the holy lance. These relics were temporarily kept, for greater safety, in the last room of the Chapter archives.
So many graves had now been opened in the floor that it became necessary to remove the earth to the rapidly growing rubbish heap near the Porta Angelica.
On February 8th, 1606, the dismantling of the roof began and on February 16th the great marble cross of the facade was taken down. Work proceeded with the utmost speed ; the Pope came down in person to urge the workmen to make haste. These visits convinced him of the decay of the venerable old basilica whose collapse had been predicted for the year 1609. The work proceeded with feverish rapidity—the labourers toiled even at night, by candle light.

The demolition of the walls began on March 29th ; their utter dilapidation now became apparent. The cause of this condition was subsequently ascertained ; the South wall and the columns that supported it, had been erected on the remains of Nero's race-course which were unable to bear indefinitely so heavy a weight.
In July, 1606, a committee was appointed which also included Jacopo Grimaldi. It was charged by the cardinalitial commission with the task of seeing to the preservation of the monuments of the Popes situate in the lateral aisles and in the central nave of the basilica. The grave of Innocent VIII. was opened on September 5th, after which the bones of Nicholas V., Urban VI., Innocent VII. and IX., Marcellus II. and Hadrian IV. were similarly raised and translated.
In May, 1607, the body of Leo the Great was found. Subsequently the remains of the second, third and fourth Leos were likewise found ; they were all enclosed in a magnificent marble sarcophagus. Paul V. came down on May 30th to venerate the relics of his holy predecessors
Meanwhile the discussions of the commission of Cardinals on the completion of the new building had also been concluded. They had lasted nearly two years"
[Pastor History of the Popes Volume 26 (trans Dom Ernest Graf OSB) (1937; London) pages 378-385]
The loss of the original St. Peter's Basilica is a long forgotten misfortune for the Church. The current basilica is very impressive in all regards, and yet when he visited it (a day after seeing the Lateran and two days after seeing St. Mary Major) the Rad Trad found the current structure lacking in only one element: continuity with the past. The previous basilicas were truly Roman. And yet they have been updated with gothic flooring, Renaissance ceilings and paintings, baroque altars and décor, and even modern Holy Doors. The newer St. Peter's seems very much a standalone, quite apart from the other Papal churches in the City.
St. Peter's fell into neglect during the Avignon Papacy, when earthquakes could have their way with the Basilica and no Papal coffers proffered repair money. The wooden roof was similarly neglected. Upon return to Rome the Popes moved their major liturgical functions elsewhere and the deterioration worsened.
Perhaps some future oratory or cathedral, looking to maximize return without spending a load of money or choosing a brutally modern look, could go with the Roman basilica arrangement using St. Peter's as a model.

Some didactic abstracts from a conference on the old basilica three years ago.

Lastly, here are some photographs I took while visiting the Petrine basilica three years ago:

Today is the feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Ss. Peter and Paul, two of the four patriarchal basilicas of the Roman Church. The current buildings are fairly recent (St. Peter's is a 16th century replacement of a 4th century basilica and St. Paul's is a 19th century reconstruction of the original, which burned and imploded). The Rad Trad did not get to St. Paul outside the Wall during his visit to Rome, but did manage to spend a full day in St. Peter's Basilica. The current building has very little to do with the one which preceded it, other than that it too houses the relics of the Prince of the Apostles.

I have re-posted some older material, a photo tour of the current basilica, for readers' edification. As stated on our previous post for the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran, these photos are perhaps better than what one will find online because they were taken during a progression through the church and hence give a clearer impression of the arrangement, scale, and style of the place. Some photos towards the end show the Rad Trad in personal horror (not a fan of heights).

The second lesson in the second nocturne of Mattins today seems to be based upon the fictitious Donation of Constantine (did Benedict XIV not want to rid us of this sort of thing?), but concludes with the interesting, and more historically feasible, statement that the consecration of a stone altar by St. Sylvester, Pope at the time, marked an official point of transition from wood to purely stone altars.

Happy feast!

Approach from the square

Sneak by the Swiss Guards

Our Lord watches this place

Where we hear "Habemus Papam"

Friends of the Rad Trad awaiting entry into the nave

First altar on the right is graced by the Pieta

Peering through the right-side door

A rather ugly statue of Pope Pius XII, among many statues of saints and popes

Looking back from the first chapel. This place is big! The current basilica
was built over the previous one, which too was the largest church in the world at
one point. The basilica's interior is a sixth of a mile long. I have sailed on large cruise ships
which would fit within this edifice comfortably.

A shot across to the altar of the Presentation

The baptismal font is enormous. Scale dominates this place

The dome over the baptistery

The coffered ceiling

Tomb of St. Pius X

The domes under the side chapels are quite colorful

The chapel of the choir, south of the high altar, which contains relics of St. John Chrysostom

Tomb of St. Gregory the Great. The Pope once vested for Solemn Mass here
while the schola sang terce

Apse of a transept

The baldacchino over the high altar is over 70 feet in height,
the largest piece of bronze work in the world

St. Andrew. There are many statues in the nave, but none of Apostles or Our Lady.
Those of the Apostles are to be found around the (ill-defined) sanctuary.

The entrance to the tomb of St. Peter and the Clementine chapel

St. Peter presiding at the basilica. A line of people wait to kiss his foot.

Confession in 22 languages from 7AM to 7PM

Looking from the altar to the nave

A friend of mine, who is over six feet tall, for size comparison

St. Gregory the Illuminator, disciple to Armenia

"I saw water flowing from the right side of the temple...."

The altar at the Petrine Throne with the Holy Ghost descending upon it.
It makes much more sense to see this during a Mass, which we did.

Saints watch and keep vigil

As we depart....

Later that day the Rad Trad visited the dome

The Rad Trad does not like heights

The Rad Trad really does not like heights.
Grabbing the cornice for dear life!

The Four Evangelists at the corners of the sanctuary

The inside of the dome

That ant below is a person! We were well over 200 feet above the floor

Friends delighting in the Rad Trad's fears

One last shot of the altar