Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Uselessness of the Old Mass

Because someone had to think it was important
In recent times one of the more overlooked philosophers was Josef Pieper, a German scholastic and advocate of classical and Thomistic thought. Pieper observed that one of the more lasting and pernicious assumptions Immanuel Kant gifted to our culture was the idea that philosophy must be purely rational and useful, that philosophy must follow a narrow approach in developing systems of thought that reflect how the world works in order to matter to the world. This is precisely why Aristotle could write so voluminously on many subjects without having an inherent system of ideas, only good ideas while the philosophers who followed Kant wrote only on a few subjects and interpreted those concepts as absolute reflections of how the world functions. Hegel had his dialectic, Nietzsche had his master-slave relationship, Marx had the exploitation of labor, and Michel Foucault readily stole anyone else's ideas.

Ancients called the linear, rational sort of purpose driven work artes serviles, arts that work toward a particular purpose and end. By contrast the artes liberales are free of such constraints, existing for their own purpose, freely available to all people, and of their own end. Philosophy and theology are liberal arts among academia, but music is also a liberal art and one more readily accessible to everyone everywhere. 

Ratio is the means of servile labor, working under a set of controlled variables  toward an outcome. Only the arrangement thereof can be altered to arrive at the desired conclusion, like solving a system of equations. Since Newton, philosophers and historians have felt an inferiority complex to scientists who used the closed system of mathematics to describe natural phenomena. 

Liberal arts are the realm of leisure, a different kind of work separate from the directional labor of servile work. Rather than ratio a better ancient word for describing leisure is intellectus, understanding. Intellectus is not "discursive", diving down to greater granularity. It is receptive and contemplative. Pieper equates this receptiveness to the Christian's acceptance of the gift of faith and Baptism by the Holy Spirit. God's justification of us flows from His love and not the difficulty of our work. The medieval Schoolmen considered reason (ratio) a uniquely human gift from God. Aquinas, in his Quaestiones disputatae de veritate considered understanding (intellectus) superhuman and divine: "non proprie humana sed superhumana."

"We are unleisurely in order to have leisure", said Aristotle. Religion, art, morality, music, prayer, and aesthetic enjoyment are all the spiritual and temporal expressions of leisure. Sunday, until quite recently in our history, seemed a unique day of the week. It was not a "day off" like Saturday nor was it a day of work. Instead it was a day devoted to the "superhuman", divinely given aspect of our persons. Is there anything more leisurely, "free", and—bluntly—useless than the old Mass in elevating mankind above the servile work of his routine and toward God?

The old Mass, and the other ancient rites of the Church, never invite the faithful to reason about them. Much like their eventual divine Author, they are given, monumental, demanding of our ascent to them. The great acts of the Roman Mass dwarf anything man could or would concoct ex nihilo. No one in past times saw the Iudica me psalm, the offertory, the elevation, and then assumed there was some sort of holy system to be unlocked. 

Quite to the contrary of our mainly rational and end-driven mode of thinking, the old Mass teaches by dramatic acts which reflect God Himself and our place before him. The choir angelically sings a mode of music which exists for no other purpose than liturgical service. The texts—particularly on the most ancient feasts, the feriae of penitential seasons, and the Dominical Masses—are congruous without resorting to the linkage of buzzwords. For example, the Mass of the Resurrection sung on Pascha chooses St. Paul's admonition to "purge out the old leaven that you may be a new dough", referring to the renewal of the Resurrection. The Gospel pericope is that of Saint Mark, who does not directly recount the rising from the dead in this passage since no one actually it. We must instead take the Resurrection on faith. Instead, the accounts of the risen Christ meeting the Apostles are read successively and patiently throughout the octave and Pascaltide, culminating in His Ascension into heaven. By this wisdom, the Church encounters the Resurrection as the Apostles and disciples of the Lord did.

This is not to say the old Mass lacks features of ratio for the mind which follows the liturgy more actively. The prayers of the clergy are in fact directed toward the moment when the priest reiterates the words of Christ and the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of the Lord. The Canon follows a chiastic pattern, beginning with the preface and a prayer of thanksgiving, the petitions of the Church and the living, the commemoration of the saints, the consecration, the petition the sacrifice be accepted, and recollection of the martyrs, prayers for the dead, and the final act of offering the consecrated gifts to the One Who gave them. 

Even these rational and purpose driven parts of the Mass require some degree of leisure, that is, receptiveness and willingness to look beyond the pale of one's thoughts. The elevation of the Host at Mass is a moment of silence savored by leisurely Christians throughout the world. It is a moment when God simply is, a simplicity beyond our reason but not inaccessible to our understanding if we maintain the quiet of heart to hear.

Much has been written about the perceived faults of the Pauline Mass and Office. This blog is less interested in the subject than other writers, but we have spoken on the matter here. Apropos the matter of usefulness and reason, every part of the Novus Ordo conforms, to greater or lesser degree, to one exact purpose: someone on the Consilium study groups thought it was important. Every part of the Pauline Mass conforms to some degree to the scholarly assumptions in vogue in the early to mid-20th century: antiquarianism, arbitrary assignments of Apostolicity of liturgical elements, accessibility, abecedarian use of Scripture, anything post-dating a three-digit year was a corruption, and the like. It is no coincidence that every member of the group was a cleric without a substantial pastoral record. They were men with no understanding of the glorious uselessness of the old Mass to the eyes of the world, that the old Mass existed by God and for God, that it stood out, like Christ atop Mount Olivet, for the faithful's understanding rather than for their education.

In this last regard, the Pauline rite is something of a product of the materialistic age's mindset of "total labor", something latent in both Marx and capitalism. "Total" anything means the exclusion of whatever does not coincide with this fatalism, just as the Total War time between 1939 and 1945 precluded certain foods, vacations, and family gatherings even in the safest places. Total work and total reason precluded time and place for true leisure outside unless active attempts to cultivate it. This was not the fault of the liturgical reformers; in this regard they were nothing more than the product of their age.

While time passes and investors attempt to time the market, social media consultants drive outreach, or home buyers contemplate how to space their children, the Christian must step out of this world and into eternity taking to heart the words of the cherubikon: We who mystically represent the cheribum and sing the Thrice Holy Hymn to the Life Giving Trinity now lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of All, invisibly escorted by the angelic host.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Gaudeamus Omnes! Assumpta Est Maria in Caelum!

Below is an annual repost of one of the more insightful liturgical articles on this blog.

*     *     *

Liturgical theology is, according to Aidan Kavanagh, not a theological examination of the liturgy, but theology done by means of the liturgy. Liturgy is the theologia prima of the Church. When someone asks a Catholic how to learn more about the faith, the believer never directs the inquirer to obtain a copy of Denzinger. Invariably, the believer tells the non-Catholic to go to Mass (and hopefully at a carefully selected location). With this in mind, let us [very succinctly] consider what the Church told and taught us about the Assumption of the Mother of God today.

Apse of St. Mary Major with mosaic of Mary as Queen of Heaven,
crowned by and reigning with Christ.
source: Rad Trad's collection
Mattins—or the "vigil," as Dobszay insisted on calling the first major hour—consists of nine psalms and readings divided evenly into three nocturnes. Contrary to the eccentric and rich local traditions of northern Europe, which created special texts for Marian feasts, the Roman rite retains a primitive and sparse text. The psalms and hymns for the feast are typical of any Marian feast prior to the 1860s when Pius IX issued a unique liturgy for the Immaculate Conception. Where the Assumption stands alone is in the Mattins lessons and the text of the Mass. According to Dom Gueranger: 
"the Lord Pope went to St Mary Major, where, surrounded by his court, he celebrated First Vespers. At the beginning of the night the Matins with nine lessons were chanted in the same church.
"Meanwhile an ever-growing crowd gathers on the piazza of the Lateran, awaiting the Pontiff's return.... Around the picture of the Saviour, within the sanctuary, stand twelve bearers who form its perpetual guard, all members of the most illustrious families, and near them are the representatives of the senate and of the Roman people.
"But the signal is given that the papal retinue is redescending the Esquiline. Instantly lighted torches glitter on all sides, either held in the hand, or carried on the brancards of the corporations. Assisted by the deacons, the Cardinals raise on their shoulders the holy image, which advances under a canopy, escorted in perfect order by the immense multitude. Along the illuminated and decorated streets, amid the singing of the psalms and the sound of instruments, the procession reaches the ancient Triumphal Way, winds round the Coliseum, and, passing through the arches of Constantine and Titus, halts for a first Station on the Via Sacra, before the church called St Mary Minor.... In this church, while the second Matins with three lessons are being chanted in honor of the Mother, some priests wash, with scented water in a silver basin, the feet of the her Son, our Lord, and then sprinkle the people with the water thus sanctified. Then the venerable picture sets out once more, crosses the Forum amidst acclamations.... it at least enters the piazza of St Mary Major. Then the delight and the appluse of the crowd are redoubled; all, men and women, great and little, as we read in a document of 1462 (archivio della Compagnia di Sancta Sanctorum), forgetting the fatigue of a whole night spent without sleep, cease not till morning to visit and venerate our Lord and Mary. In this glorious basilica, adorned as a bridge, the glorious Office of Lauds celebrates the meeting of the Son and the Mother and their union for all eternity." (The Liturgical Year, August 15)
All rungs of Roman society paused regular life and joined Christ and Mary in the divine life for a night and an octave, celebrating Mary joining her Son in eternity and anticipating their own union with Christ in eternity. Mary was the first of what Christ wants all Christians to become by the Sacraments, albeit in a lesser degree.

The first three lessons are extracted from chapter 1 of the Song of Songs:
1 Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth: for thy breasts are better than wine,2 Smelling sweet of the best ointments. thy name is as oil poured out: therefore young maidens have loved thee.3 Draw me: we will run after thee to the odour of thy ointments. The king hath brought me into his storerooms: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, remembering thy breasts more than wine: the righteous love thee.4 I am black but beautiful, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon.5 Do not consider me that I am brown, because the sun hath altered my colour: the sons of my mother have fought against me, they have made me the keeper in the vineyards: my vineyard I have not kept.6 Show me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest in the midday, lest I begin to wander after the flocks of thy companions.7 If thou know not thyself, O fairest among women, go forth, and follow after the steps of the flocks, and feed thy kids beside the tents of the shepherds.8 To my company of horsemen, in Pharao's chariots, have I likened thee, O my love.9 Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtledove's, thy neck as jewels.10 We will make thee chains of gold, inlaid with silver.11 While the king was at his repose, my spikenard sent forth the odour thereof.12 A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, he shall abide between my breasts.13 A cluster of cypress my love is to me, in the vineyards of Engaddi.14 Behold thou art fair, O my love, behold thou art fair, thy eyes are as those of doves.15 Behold thou art fair, my beloved, and comely. Our bed is flourishing.16 The beams of our houses are of cedar, our rafters of cypress trees.

Some of these verses are very sensual and even sexual. Let no one say that the medievals were prudish on matters of intimacy! These verses can be applied both as the Church's acclamation to the Virgin, joyfully exclaiming her maternal nurturing of us Christians working out our salvation in fear and trembling. These words can also, with some care and reservation, be interpreted as a dialogue between Mary and her Creator. The first verse "Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth: for thy breasts are better than wine" speaks to Mary on a level of intimacy that no man ever knew, but Christ did. He nursed from her, yes, but He, in the Father, also created her in accordance with His divine plan for mankind. The image of the breast conjures immature sexual ideas today, but previous peoples instantly affiliated it with nurturing and familial ties: the affection of the husband, the nurturing of the children—two kinds of love, the second generated from the first, which reflects the Divine Love. At this level of power and privacy did Mary know God, of course without the sexual element. Should the dialogue interpretation continue, Mary is both removed from conventions "I am black, but I am beautiful" and presented as close with God on the level of bride in the King's chamber, as the versicle before the third nocturne says.

The readings in the second nocturne come from St. John of Damascus' second treatise on the Dormition of the Mother of God. These readings replaced the writings of St. Dionysius of the [pseudo] Areopagite —which would have been the lessons read at St Mary Minor—with the Tridentine reforms. St. John explains the typology of the Virgin, her prefigurement in the Ark of the Covenant, which housed the old promise between God and mankind, and its fulfillment in her, who housed the new and eternal promise between God and mankind. And like Christ, she did not refuse death, but embraced it as a path to life away from the death wrought by Adam:
"From her true life had flowed for all men, and how should she taste of death? But she yielded obedience to the law established by Him to Whom she had given birth, and, as the daughter of the old Adam, underwent the old sentence, which even her Son, Who is the very Life Itself, had not refused; but, as the Mother of the living God, she was worthily taken by Him unto Himself."
In the treatise from which the above passage in extracted, the Damascene saint goes on to teach that Mary's body could only be assumed into heaven because its use by Christ consecrated it as a thing of heaven. The treatise goes on to recount the entire event of the Dormition and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, which ran the course of three days:
"An ancient tradition has been handed down to us, that, at the time of the glorious falling-asleep of the blessed Virgin, all the Apostles, who were wandering throughout the world preaching salvation to the Gentiles, were caught up aloft in the twinkling of an eye, and met together in Jerusalem. And when they were all there, a vision of Angels appeared to them, and the chant of the heavenly powers was heard; and so with divine glory she gave up her soul into the hands of God. But her body, which bore God in an effable manner, being lifted up amid the hymns of Angels and Apostles was laid in a tomb in Gethsemane. There for three whole days the angelic song was heard.
"But after three days, the chant of the Angels ceased, and the Apostles who were present (for Thomas, the only one who had been absent, came after the third day, and wished to adore the body which had borne God) opened the tomb; but they could by no means find her sacred body in any part of it. But when they only found those garments in which she had been buried, and were filled with indescribable fragrance which emanated from them, they closed the tomb. Amazed at this wonderful mystery they could only think that he, who had been pleased to take flesh from the Virgin Mary, to be made man, and to be born though he was God the Word, and the Lord of glory, he who had preserved her virginity without stain after childbirth, should also have been pleased to honor her pure body after her death, keeping it incorrupt, and translating it into Heaven before the general resurrection." 
The best sermon this writer ever heard preached about the Assumption, or "Dormition" given the setting, was that of a Melkite deacon. Paraphrasing and condensing ten minutes into a few sentences, "Heaven and earth were not vast enough to hold Gods' glory, but Mary's womb was. Christ received His Divine nature when He was begotten of the Father in eternity. He received His human nature when He was conceived and born of Mary in time. When her earthly course was run, Mary died and her body was taken into heaven by the One Who created her because it was inconceivable that the womb which ore God-made-Man could decay in the ground. But this does not separate Mary from mankind. God became united to mankind through her. Mary was the first. We will never know God as closely as she did on earth, except perhaps when we receive Holy Communion, but we can pray to know Him in eternity because of her."

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico
At the third nocturne we arrive at the Gospel of the day, also used in the Mass of the day. The pericope, Luke 10:38-42, is the same Gospel story applied in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the Greek tradition for this feast, adding verses 11:27-28. The last verses used in the Byzantine liturgy highlight the entire point of the Gospel for this day: "And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it." Is any depiction in pre-modern art more popular than that of the Annunciation? Mary became special because she bore Christ. She is a powerful intercessor with Him, indeed the most powerful intercessor with Him precisely for this reason. But also for this reason Mary is not a lone, solitary figure of power. She matters because wherever she is, Christ is nearby. Practically every depiction of the Virgin before the vulgar kitsche artwork of the 19th century showed Mary and our Lord Jesus together. In the various pieta paintings and sculptures, the great paintings depicting the Crucifixion and Norman rood screens recounting the same event, and first millennium holy images—Eastern and Western alike—Mary is with her Son. So let us agree with the woman in the crowd: blessed is the womb that bore the Lord! And then let us turn our attention from Mary to Christ by hearing the word of God and by keeping it.

Culminating with the Mass, the Introit invites us to enter into the heavenly abode of joy, elevated from the earthly joy and instruction in Mattins and Lauds, as well as the rites local to the diocese of Rome described by Gueranger above. In the Mass God's presence begins as a mystic one and elevates into a literal presence that can be seen and touched, a presence similar to the one Mary knew as Christ's mother. The collect of the Mass is among the best in the Roman tradition:
"Forgive, O Lord, we beseech thee, the sins of thy servants: that we who by our own deeds are unable to please thee, may be saved by the intercession of the Mother of thy Son our Lord."
This collect, as Fr. Hunwicke has stated, is the theology of Mary East and West. What words could better express our Lady's place in the plan of salvation? The Mass became the integral part of the Assumption liturgy and, in time, many stunning settings of the Mass were written by the great polyphonic and choral composers. Palestrina's setting of the Ordinary of Mass is a personal favorite. The below sequence of videos has both the proper chants and Palestrina's setting concatenated, as for a Mass.

Lastly, the feast is an octave. This blog has discussed in other posts the concept of the eighth day and the theology of the Resurrection. Christ rose on the eighth day after He entered Jerusalem and He appeared to the Apostles on the eighth day after that, one octave after another. Moreover, the Resurrection constitutes the eighth day of the week, the new day of Creation, or re-creation. Mary's tomb, like her Son's was found empty. While the myrrh-bearing women and the Apostles Peter and John only found a few burial garments in Christ's tomb, Mary's tomb was found full of flowers and sweet scents. Christ's Resurrection brought mystery only clarified with the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Mary's Assumption was clear and a fruit of Christ's Resurrection. 

Unfortunately, this historic and gladsome liturgy was altered in 1950 after Pius XII's definition of the Assumption—wherein he says nothing new and clears up none of the controversy stemming from the chirpy immortalist crowd, even if the accompanying letter did in fact say she died. The Office readings were altered severely: the first reading is now taken from Genesis chapter 3 and the next two readings from Corinthians (the same passage used in the Requiem Mass). The Pope's encyclical Munificentissimus Deus replaces one of the lessons from St. John of Damascus. The hymns are new and utterly ghastly. And the Mass is entirely new. The Introit is no longer an invitation to joy, but instead an excerpt from Revelation chapter 12. The collect is banal beyond belief and the Gospel is the account of the Annunciation heard at practically every Marian feast now other than the Immaculate Conception. Of all the changes to the feast in 1950, the insertion of Genesis chapter 3 at Mattins and the new Introit of Mass stand out most. Far from according to a "hermeneutic of continuity" with the previous liturgy, these texts exude the images of plaster statues and devotional lithographs so common in the 19th and early 20th century. Who has not seen a plaster statue of the Virgin, clothed in blue, perhaps with a bulbous baroque crown rimmed in twelve stars, standing on a blue globe and crushing the head of a green snake? The problem that arises from this depiction of Mary as crushing sin and standing above the moon, crowned with stars is not so much what it says as much as what it fails to say. The Mary of these images, pieces of art, and, to some extent, devotions is an aggrandized Mary not entirely dependent on Christ for her importance. There is nothing wrong with these texts doctrinally, but they replace other texts that were more coherent, beautiful, and holistically reflective of the Church's understanding of our Lady. The octave was stripped in 1955.

As with Holy Week, the same people who created the Pauline liturgy restored a few small portions of what they vitiated in the 1950s. The old Gaudeamus omnes Introit is made available as an option. The Mass as a whole is just as bad as the Pian Mass though. The readings are respectively Revelation 12 and the 1951-1969 Mattins readings from Corinthians; the Gospel is again the Annunciation. Mattins The Office of Readings gives Ephesians 1:16-2:10 and again Pius XII's encyclical as the lessons. The mystical understanding of Mary in union with Christ, representing the Church, and the link between the God-Man and mankind is obscured or forgotten. Who can deny that even the most pious of Roman Catholics—far better people than the Rad Trad—only know of Mary through the kitsch statue or as the object of the line "Hail, full of grace"? Again, there is nothing strictly heterodox about this folkish interpretation, but it comes at the cost of the stronger, traditional interpretation of the feast.

On a happy note I know of at least one priest who celebrated the old Mass and kept the old Office for August 15 and the octave! This feast, like so many of the most ancient feasts in the Roman rite, brings the faithful deep into the mens of the Church and her theology of the mysteries of God.

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino!

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Organic Restoration of the Roman Rite

The Question of the "Traditional" Roman Rite

Do you remember what the Council of Vienne said about anything? No, and no one else does either. The Council of Constance fired all three popes in the 15th century, but its acts were nullified by the following successor of Peter, a pontiff eager to nip any hint of Conciliarism at its bud. In more ancient times, the 382 Council of Constantinople reiterated the Nicene doctrine of Christology and added exposition on the Holy Spirit to the Creed, but the event was disastrous enough to send Gregory Nazianzen to despair.

Councils are strange things, with as many good in history as bad, and enough forgotten out of their lack of enduring relevance. Those who know the history of the Roman rite know that what happened to the Mass and Office in the 20th century had nearly nothing to do with the Second Vatican Council and everything to do with runaway bureaucracies, antiquarians with delusions of piecemealing together an Apostolic liturgy, and an out-of-control papacy. And yet the general justification for the Novus Ordo Missae, the final completion of the liturgical reform, came from the Conciliar constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium (even the Council document's title was about itself!). In the eyes of the ignorant, to discard these mistake is to discard the Council and its legacy, something easy to the student of history but difficult for the Churchmen of Baby Boomer generation.

As Dr. Kwasniewski tightly argues, the integrity of the Roman rite took a major hit throughout the 20th century, especially regarding the Mass. Laymen in the pew may not have noticed much different at Mass after S Pius X's changes other than more green vestments and fewer sanctoral events on sundays, but Mrs. Jones and little Timmy would absolutely start seeing things differ from the time of Pius XII's accession onward. The last typical edition of the old Mass, distinct from the Office, was published by Pius XI in 1939. There is no "1950" or "1954" Missal, just a modified version of the Rattian Missal. The "1965" Missal was simply a further vitiation of the editio typica of 1962.

Ain't nothin' like the real thing
Still, all of these post-1939 Missals have some stain of mangling done out of committee of papal initiative rather than organic change. Is the answer really to go back to 1939? Is that the Roman rite? For the Mass, certainly, but for the Office certainly not.

The point of defining the traditional Roman rite becomes difficult for most traditionalists, even the most learned, at this point. Many would still defend the reforms of Papa Sarto as necessary to correct the Dominical imbalance prior to 1911 and point out that the Office of feasts changed very little aside from the lamentably broken integrity of the Laudate psalms. The Office of Divino Afflatu differs drastically, however, from the old one almost every single day that is not a major feast, especially on days that carry no feast at all. Far from address the imbalance of the kalendar, Papa Sarto mangled the psalter (effectively the same since Gregory the Great split the two Sunday nocturnes into three and moved a few psalms to Prime) while leaving the kalendar laden with Duplex saints.

No one would argue that the Breviary and Mass published by S Pius V do not reflect the Roman tradition. Does anyone wish to return to it? We would now be in the Octave of Saint Lawrence and observe him three more times, including the Octave day with its unique Mass, this week. In the Divino Afflatu schema, he will be commemorated on his Octave day this Saturday and otherwise neglected. Does Saint Lawrence deserve special notoriety when Saint Cecilia and Saint Dominic do not? After the Prince of the Apostles and Doctor of the Gentiles, Holy Lawrence is chief patron of the city of Rome and the older rite of the Roman Church reflects this relationship. In 1962 he will not be mentioned again, outside the Canon, until next August 9th.

None are clamoring, however, to return to the medieval rite of S Pius V and skip 450 years of canonizations. The Tridentine kalendar not only lacks ancient saints like Ss. Joachim and Anne, but also enduring Counter-Reformation saints like Ignatius of Loyola, Philip Neri, and Francis de Sales. A more recent edition of the Roman books prior to Pius X sound appealing to those who would like to observe S Thomas Villanova on a Sunday next month, but to most the merits of a more recent edition would be offset by the same problems which prompted the "solution" of Divino Afflatu in the first place.

On potential and un-discussed solution would be to petition for a new and restored edition of the traditional Missal and Breviary, restoring the Tridentine lectionary, sacramentary, psalters, lessons, antiphons, kalendar, and Ordo Missae with a massaged cycle for the saints. John Rotondi experimented for a few years using his "Current Tridentine Ordo", something similar to what myself and others do. It is effectively an approach that begins with the Tridentine books and adds the enduring post-Trent canonizations as Simples or Doubles depending on their gravity. In practice, almost every saint canonized after Trent was given a Double feast which could replace the Sunday Office (and even if it did not, it "eased" the onus of the ferial Office). This option is certainly far more attractive that trying to go back to an arbitrary date from when my grandparents were younger than I am now.

Is There a Path to Restoration?

source: New York Times
This approach does have its obvious short-comings. Ecclesia Dei was more accommodating in recent years than in the past, authorizing the old Holy Week and even approving diocesan ordinations in the old rite for certain conditions. Perhaps its successor body could be trusted for such an undertaking with reverent consultants, but the more interest the project gains the more [ambitious] hands will find a way into it. Also, a new edition of the old rite would not be a republication of the Roman Missal from an older form, but an alternative, "extraordinary" version of the modern form. While a minor consideration, it would continue the old rite's current legal status as a curio.

On April 15 this year, we watched in horror as Notre Dame de Paris burned into a scorched stone shell. A cathedral which, like so many from that era, took centuries to build burned within hours. Fittingly, many of those cathedrals which took hundreds of years to build succeeded smaller structures which burned to the ground. Like the Roman rite, that which took saints and centuries to build was demolished by modernity and tactlessness within the blink of an eye. President Macron immediately vowed to rebuild the structure within five years, but more realistic minds know that a thorough and proper restoration is a protracted undertaking, much to the chagrin or modern and myopic impertinence. We may want to see Notre Dame whole today, but those who built it were content to wait centuries for their work to come to perfection.

Is this not the story of the Roman rite today? A pope could order a nominal restoration or Ecclesia Dei's successor body in the CDF could issue an updated Missal, but the natural process of maturing the liturgy under the aegis of the Holy Spirit would be neglected. We enjoyed centuries of "organic development", a phrase which sparked a cottage industry of wordsmiths eager to get in their two cents on the Roman rite. Instead, let us have organic restoration.

The process is already underway. The sedevacantist associations of the pre-1962 books have faded in favor of a longer view, a situation possibly eased by the likelihood that this pope is less interested in active management of the Liturgy than his predecessors. Last year saw celebrations of the ancient Holy Week proliferate; one might point out that this followed an experimental permission granted by Ecclesia Dei, but many churches had already been doing the old rite for several years by this time. Also, the last few years, I heard of some churches skipping Saint Joseph the Communist on May 1st.

While outside the envisioned strictures of the "extraordinary form", these developments represent a crystallization of the Roman rite, an effort to rediscover in earnest that which was lost. Sing not Quomodo sedet sola civitas and instead demand allowed, "Give us the Roman rite!"

Monday, August 5, 2019

REPOST: Roman Feasts

Interior of St. Lawrence by Francesco Diofebi
Today, the feast of the dedication of the Liberian Basilica, is a fitting day to revisit this four year old post.

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

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

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

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

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