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Sunday, August 23, 2020

The "Latin" Mass


Inaccessibility remains the greatest hurdle of the traditional Roman rite to the faithful of the Latin Church. It is not the priest "facing away" from the people, nor the supposedly ritualized ceremony, nor the quality of the vesture, nor even the music. It is principally the language and the seriousness of the old Mass which shocks people. The older rites intentionally separate the sacred and the profane, simultaneously lifting the profane terrestrial elements of bread, water, wine, and human flesh to the Sacred as Christ Himself did.

In a recent article, Dr. Kwasniewski argued that the Latin language and music form an sonic iconostasis in the old Mass, an expression of the inherent separatedness of God from Man and His lifting of Man up to Himself. This was not meant to keep the people out, only to emphasize the greatness of the mysteries celebrated in past times under a baldachin or behind a rood screen and in modern times beneath a linguistic veil.

Dr. K's observations are in continuity with the Byzantine tradition of viewing the development and enhancement of the liturgy as the work of the Holy Spirit by the means of human accidents rather than as intentional human oddities. Eastern Christians, Catholic or dissident, view their liturgical traditions in their current forms as the work of the Spirit and laden with spiritual meaning. For instance, in prior times the rood screen of the Greek churches separated the people from the sacred action, as in the Latin rite, but during the late Palaiologian empire, the people began to hang their icons on the screen. Although this was an historical curio, the practice stuck and the screen became a solid wall. Far from viewing this change as a corruption or something belonging to the 15th century, they saw this as an elaboration of the old screen's bifurcation of the mystery of the Mass from the world and the obvious presence of the saints at the altar ("invisibly escorted by the angelic hosts").

All this sounds quite good and easily relates to the Byzantine visual veil on the Eucharistic sacrifice, but if this is true it has been true for most of Latin Christendom's history, not all of it. The Latin language was spoken as the vernacular of most of the former-[Western] Roman Empire for centuries after the collapse of Rome under the barbarian invasions of the fifth century. The same language people spoke was the same language as the Roman Mass, however it sounded very different from the Latin one hears at the nearest Traditional Mass today. Indeed, our Latin Masses would have been discernible, if disagreeable, to Cicero and to the Roman Christians of Nero's days. It would not have been too intelligible to sainted popes like Leo and Gregory the Great.

Enter Late Latin and Early Romance by Roger Wright, an influential, but somewhat controversial summary of the evolution of Latin from Cicero through the Middle Ages. The author follows certain changes to pronounced Latin which are visible in misspellings in graffiti at Pompeii or in the journals of contemporaries of the third to sixth centuries. Dipthongs concatenated, words ending in M or T or S started to drop off the last consonant much like how Puerto Ricans speak Spanish, and soft vowels took on longer O sounds. "Multum", for instance, became pronounced "multo", like modern Italian. The more familiar elements of Ecclesiastical Latin, the "ch" sound and modern pronunciation of V, entered the language just after the Julio-Claudian dynasty with the rest coming later.

What's more, Latin, spoken as a vernacular in Iberia, Gaul, some part of Britain and the Germanic lands, and elsewhere, continued to take on characteristics of indigenous languages or the speech patterns of the people in those areas. The result was a Latin not unlike modern English, a language with a written tradition quite different from how it is pronounced today. "How are you?" would phonetically be pronounced "Ho-w ar-eh y-uw" before major changes to our tongue during the Renaissance. Latin underwent a similar change after the Fall of Rome through the age of Charlemagne. There was one written tradition of Latin, universal and unchanging everywhere, pronounced differently almost everywhere, being pronounced as proto-Italian in northern Italy, as proto-French in Gaul, and as proto-Spanish and proto-Portuguese in Iberia. Mass and the Office were likely observed accordingly, with the texts nominally being the same everywhere, but pronounced and sung in a way intelligible only to the people of a given area, a universal language of the liturgy until it was spoken.

Charlemagne desired a revival of classical learning and an accumulation of knowledge, which would require a coherent linguistic tradition among those who were to be educated. His advisor, the deacon Alcuin of York, suggested that the Latin spoken among the educated in England be normalized throughout the lands of the Holy Roman Empire, reaching Rome and becoming the "Church Latin" which today sounds so much like Italian. Wright and other modern Latinists are somewhat derisive of Alcuin's Ecclesiastical pronunciation, believing it artificial. It was in fact the natural evolution of Latin in a particular area which had its own local, Germanic languages, which is why Ecclesiastical Latin sounds closest to Classical Latin which a very few exceptions (Vs, Cs, and dipthongs). The two are mutually intelligible, which cannot be said of either language regarding the proto-Romance languages which evolved elsewhere.

With more provinces of Latin Christendom adopting the Ecclesiastical method, the Mass and Office ceased to be in a spoken vernacular and instead became a semi-intelligible sacred tongue despite the written words remaining entirely unchanged. The resulting situation would have been something very similar to Church Slavonic: something generally intelligible, but entirely so, to Ukrainian and Russian speakers. Speakers of proto-French, proto-Spanish, proto-Italian, and proto-Portuguese certainly would have been able to understand and learn the psalms and ordo Missae over the course of their lifetimes and even understand it, but the variable parts—the readings and orations—would have been lost on them.

As a result, the faithful took on new manners of being occupied during these moments. Educated people often recited the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To the masses, the processions to the altars before Mass, the dramatic events of Holy Week, the blessing of sacramentals, the great feasts of the year, the mystery plays, and the vernacular hymnody associated with these days became their manner of participation in the liturgical life of the Church and remained so in most places until the 20th century.

Even before the "deadening" of Latin by Charlemange and Alcuin, constant abecedarian engagement with the words of the Mass were foreign to the Roman tradition. The Ordines Romani recount that the chants of the Mass were not popularly sung, but delivered by local subdeacons according to seniority. The celebrant dictated how long chants would be sung by signalling when to move to the Gloria Patri. Office and place admitted one to a certain level of participation in the liturgy, not merely language. With the opening of the sanctuaries and simplification of ceremonies after the Reformation the Latin language was the only remaining veil of mystery which surrounded the Mass and the liturgical act for centuries. Latin filled the void of the rood and the sanctuary veil.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Collects for the Assumption

One of the most beautiful Masses in the Roman Missal is that of August 15, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The Mass is an interesting one textually and musically, beginning with the Gaudeamus omnes introit common to certain saints in the Middle Ages and generally used, along with Salve sancta parens, for Marian feasts.

Festively, the Assumption, or Dormition, originated in Constantinople under the Byzantine Emperor Maurice, who was murdered by the man who re-introduced beards to the East. The feast is not present in the Leonine, or "Verona", Sacramentary, but it is present a few generations later in the Gelasian Sacramentary, an early ninth century Gaulish recension of the Roman Sacramentary from a century earlier. There are two collects given, neither which match the noble Famulorum of the Tridentine Mass nor the Veneranda of the post-Gallican rites but which do seem to have inspired the tone and literary character of both.

The first:
"Deus, qui spe salutis aeternae beatae Mariae virginitatie foecunda humano generi praemia praestitisti, tribue, quaesumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamis per quam meruimus auctorem vitae nostrae suscipere."

The second:

"Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui terrenis corporibus Verbi tui veritatis Filii unigeniti per venerabilem ac gloriosam semper virginem Mariam ineffabile mysterium coniungere voluisti, petimus immensan clementiam tuam, ut quod in eius veneratione deposcimus, te propitiante consequi mereamur."

Neither collect mentions the miracle of the Assumption, instead drawing attention to Mankind's hope for salvation in the Mystery of the Incarnation of Christ. The expectation of intercession in exchange for veneration, what Eamon Duffy called a "transactional" aspect of medieval piety, is apparent in the last words of the second collect and survived in the Veneranda collect used in the Sarum, Dominican, and most other non-Roman, Latin rite Missals:

"Veneranda nobis, Domine, hujus diei festivitas opem conferat sempiternam, in qua sancta Dei genitrix mortem subiit temporalem, nec tamen mortis nexibus deprimi potuit; quæ Filium tuum Dominum nostrum de se genuit incarnatum."

One wonders if Veneranda began as the second collect above, Omnipotens, and passed through Byzantine influence. The words "nec tamen mortis nexibus deprimi potuit" call to mind the Greek hymn sung on the feast:

"When you gave birth you kept your virginity, when you fell asleep you did not abandon the world, O Theotokos. You passed into life, you who are the mother of life, who through your intercessions redeem our souls from death."

 As always, the Roman rite favored the more subtle and restrained text, Famulorum:

"Famulorum tuorum quaesumus Domine, delictis ignosce ut, qui tibi placere de actibus nostris non valemus, Genitricis Filii tui Domini nostri intercessione salvemur."

The Roman collect aligns more clearly with the first prayer from the Gelasian Sacramentary, Deus, qui spe salutis, with its emphasis on Mankind's necessity for Mary's intercession and our general helplessness without it. While certainly medieval, the prayer does not embrace the period piety as strongly as the other [proposed] set of prayers.

Both Famulorum and Veneranda appear in the 10th century Gregorian Sacramentary, although the respective Masses proper to the feast varied locally. Interestingly, neither collect retains the ancient, post-Patristic emphasis on the Incarnation that the Gelasian prayers do, and only Veneranda mentions Our Lady's death and assumption directly. Famulorum, however, is not a generic Marian prayer. Outside of local feasts, the Assumption was the Marian feast in the early Middle Ages—the Annunciation being a commemoration of the Incarnation, not solely in dulia of Maria. As the primary Marian feast, the Assumption was worthy of a more generalized petition in the collect.

Not all Missals, however, split into these two neat camps. For example the surviving Missal from the St. Lucia Monastery in Abruzzo gives an entirely different text. The Lyonese rite, even after the neo-Gallican textual vitiations of the 18th century, retained Veneranda on the feast and Famulorum during the octave. Such is the rich history of this rich feast.


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

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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
source: joyfulheart.com
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!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Tolerance Is a Virtue

The old lists of "Catholic Necessaries" once found in missals and prayerbooks include such helpful reminders as the Ten Commandments, the Precepts of the Church, various collections of virtues and vices, and, one that I keep returning to, the Spiritual Works of Mercy. A few of these can be twisted into a kind of know-it-all-ism, like instructing the ignorant or admonishing sinners; others are less susceptible to vanity, like forgiving offenses and praying for the living and the dead. One I meditate upon frequently is phrased variously depending on the source: the USCCB has it as "bearing wrongs patiently," another says "be patient with those in error," but my favorite version (found in the Baronius Press missal) is to "bear patiently the troublesome."

Not as the world giveth does the Church give admonition to tolerance.

The unending Season of Covidtide has given Catholics ample opportunity to revisit old grudges and revive familial squabbles. We have bishops publicly announcing private think-tanks for discussing the radicals of the Catholic world and their problematic online presence. We have wannabe-warriors demanding the clergy offer more Masses and fewer facemask requirements. We have eschatological worriers scribbling crypto-chiliastic timelines for our edification. In saner times such persons could be the source of lightly humorous caricature, but we live in times devoid of a sense of humor. We do not think that those who are troublesome to us, inside or outside the Church, are at all funny. Perhaps we should.

To bear patiently the troublesome does not mean to make excuses for their sins nor to always refrain from calling them out, but it does mean to put into practice one aspect of our Lord's admonition, "Let not your heart be troubled." This work of mercy is also distinct from the simpleton's advice to "never lose your peace" (even when engaged in grave sin). It may mean sometimes that you ought to roll your eyes at stupidity and merely leave a conversation with a slightly insulting but insightful comment, but it should definitely mean that you do not decide it is your mission to "fix" all the faults of your neighbors.

Tell your brother he should stop fornicating with a lady friend? Certainly. Cancel him for dressing in tweed and rambling on forever about St. Bellarmine? Perhaps this is a good opportunity to bear a troublesome person patiently and leave it be.

I do not know where all the boundaries lie. Where does one stop bearing patiently and begin the work of instruction and admonition? The application of wisdom often needs to be subtle, differing much by situation. I have seen too many people work themselves into frenzies over things that are morally minor but greatly annoying. They strain out gnats and risk swallowing camels because they have no tolerance for troublesome people.

In times when stress is imposed by national unrest and global pandemics it is good to be reminded of the patience of Christ in the face of so many troublesome people. He not only had to put up with his own murderers but with his Apostles, and with us.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Three Months of the Late Tridentine Breviary

Vespers in the Church of S Francis in Assisi by Mikhail Petrovich Botkin

My edition of the Breviarium Romanum is an editio post typicam from the era of Pius IX. It includes the feast of Saint Joseph under the title Patron of the Universal Church. Someone printed the additional votive offices of Leo XIII and the instruction to cease transferring Semi-Doubles and put these things in the back at a later date. Since the first week of May I have followed the rubrics and instructions in my Breviary exactly, although I confess my ignorance of when the local cathedral or my home parish were consecrated, so those octaves may have been neglected. What follows are some observances on the late Tridentine Office prior to the alterations of S Pius X.

The Psalter


As noted elsewhere on this blog, by the time of Divino afflatu the Roman Office was encumbered with feasts of nine lessons, bringing out the psalms from the Commons on a near-daily basis outside of Lent and putting the Roman psalter into considerable desuetude. This is largely true in my late Tridentine Office, with even formerly minor saints from the original medieval kalendar of S Pius V receiving promotions of their feasts from Simples to Semi-Doubles. 

That said, there are still a sufficient number of feriae and Simples in a given month to give the psalter its place. This month the 7th and 9th were feriae while Pius I (11th), Praxedes (21st), Pantoleon (27th), Ss Abdon and Sennen (30th), and the vigil of the Apostle James (24th) all employ the psalter of the day on Simple feasts. Simples still use the Dominical Lauds and Prime psalms, but those hours already have very little true daily variability. Most of the variability happen at Mattins, where the ferial psalms would be said on all of these days. However, given the rarity of adjoining Simples and feriae even in as sparse a month as July, the Vespers of the day are rarely sung unless a lesser feast falls on Sunday. This month only the first Sunday was a Dominical Semi-Double. The rest have been impeded by John Gaulbert, Vincent de Paul, and Saint Anne, the mother of Our Lady. This is a remarkable contrast because in the kalendar of S Pius V the month of July compares to Lent in its sparsity of feasts in between the comparatively festive months of June and August. In this kalendar May and June have more feriae than July.

Variety is the Spice of Life


The monotony of the late Tridentine Office can be overstated. Although there is great repetition of the psalms, the differences in feasts and their nature (bishops, martyrs, virgins, confessors etc) means different Mattins responses, chant tones, and lessons are employed throughout the Office. An Orthodox friend once observed that the true treasure of the Roman Office is the second nocturne of Mattins, with the unique readings on the lives of the saints or the mysteries that day celebrated.

Another less obvious source of variety in the late Tridentine Office is the occurring Scripture. Despite the prominence of Double feasts and the de facto ignorance of the ferial psalter most days, the occurring Scripture is generally observed during the first nocturne of Mattins while the lessons from the back of the book only take precedent on the more ancient feasts or feasts which possess unique texts, today's feast of Saint Mary Magdalen being an example.

The Office of Our Lady on Saturday was observed a few times during the last three months and of course the Office of the Dead on the first day without a feast of nine lessons was read, too. These do add something to look forward to and supply the medieval spirit of devotion through liturgy to a kalendar with little room for personal discretion.

Repetition


Variety does have its limitations, however, in this Office. Next month is August, the most festive month of the year in the Roman rite, with the feasts of Peter in Chains—ancient and great, the finding of Saint Stephen, the dedication of Our Lady of the Snows, the Transfiguration, Saint Lawrence and his octave, Our Lady's Assumption and her octave, Bernard of Clairveaux, Augustine, Louis IX of France, the Beheading of John the Baptist, and a number of other lesser days. There is not one day without a feast or vigil, and the 1570 kalendar of S Pius V is not much freer. 

Despite the density of feasts, August has no sequence of identical days. This past week my Breviary called for the exact same texts of a Confessor for four consecutive days (five if factoring in first Vespers). None of the saints were Doctors or martyrs, so aside from the occurring commemorations and Scripture, the exact same Office was said for four days without an octave occurring. This would not be a problem, as octaves are replete in the old kalendar and repeat aspect of the same Office for eight days aside from readings, if not for the fact that this particular Common is used numerous times every single month. At second Vespers of S Camillus de Lellis it instructed me to read Vespers as at first Vespers for a Confessor, non-martyr, non-bishop until the Chapter, at which point I was to switch to the Vespers of S Vincent de Paul, and read onward from the Vespers of a Confessor, non-martyr, non-bishop. By Sunday night I knew instinctively to begin Vespers with Domine quinque talenta tradidisti mihi....

Divino Afflatu


These points are important if only because they mean Divino Afflatu outmoded the ancient Roman psalter to fix one problem without fixing the rest. Every day in the S Pius X system is a day of nine psalms and the occurring Scripture is read just as much. While I would not say Domine quinque talenta tradidisti mihi as often I would continue to say the chapter, Iste Confessor, and the antiphon  Similabo just as often. The quasi-Novus Ordo nature of the Divino Afflatu rubrics—mixing ferial psalms and festive readings on Simple, Semi-Double, and Double days—means that the tonal diversity of even the late Tridentine Office was suppressed in favor of more or less the same thing weekly. 

Divino Afflatu accomplished some reasonable things in the kalendar, making the "lollipop" Dominical feasts optional in favor of fixed days. Formerly the Patronal feast of the Church was always observed on the third Sunday after Pascha, Saint Joachim always fell on the Sunday after the Assumption, the Precious Blood was always the first Sunday of July, and Our Lady of Sorrows was always the third Sunday of September, and Our Lady of the Rosary would always be on the first Sunday of October, permanently suppressing those days. 

What was needed was not necessarily a reform of the psalter, but a reform of the kalendar. Almost every Italian or French founder of a minor religious order after the Council of Trent found his or her way into the kalendar as a Double feast of the universal Church despite the absence of wider devotion to these saints and their lack of enduring interest. Even a reduction of their ranks to Simple would not clear out the clutter. 

We need to relearn the craft of local kalendars. Would it be so bad if Camillus de Lellis and Jerome Aemeliani were only on kalendars in Italian dioceses? While local medieval rites are largely extinct, the principle of local kalendars is not and is a good solution to this problem, allowing these saints' veneration to continue where they are revered. Vincent de Paul would be a proper Semi-Double feast in France, widely loved, but perhaps not on the level of their patrons, Michael the Archangel and Joan of Arc.

Going Forward


Despite its repetition, my Breviary does represent the Roman Office and liturgy more fully than what came after it so I will continue to use it. It is the Roman rite, albeit an imbalanced expression of it. Despite its imperfections it also reflects the kalendar, on most days, as it is in both the pre-Pius XII and 1962 rites used by most traditional Catholics today, differences acknowledged (ex. switching S Dominic and S Jean Vianney).

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Taking Stock of the Roman Rite

Given the surreal state of the world during and after the Corona Contagion it may seem difficult to appraise the state of the Roman liturgy. All the same, the liberalization that Benedict XVI initiated turned into a semi-restorationist movement after the red pill that is the Bergoglian pontificate. Mutual enrichment, improving the Novus Ordo, and minimizing abuses were all lauded for six years and then reality struck.

News of a strange survey to the bishops of the world on the status of the old rite has re-invigorated fortress Tradistan, which is hardly the appropriate response. Two of the questions about the mechanics of how the old Mass is promoted do read oddly, but the idea that the older Missals are under threat looks grossly exaggerated. The supposed plan, rumored a few years ago, that Rome would reconcile the FSSPX, abrogate all permissions, and give the Fraternity total authority seems antipodal to Rome's extension of newer feasts to the older kalendar[s] and the accompanying extension of the old Holy Week, something long gone in the aliturgical FSSPX. After 13 years of ordaining more and more young priests interested in older rites and saying their first Masses the old way, particularly in the United States and some parts of Europe, putting the genie back in the bottle would not be as simple as in 1969.

Instead, it might be worth thinking about what is worth doing in the future for the old rite, which is not necessarily the same as the 1962 rite. The Roman liturgy has expanded in both ex-Ecclesia Dei and diocesan settings, but requires a bit more direction to take more permanent root among the faithful.

Priorities


The foremost priority should be to get the old Mass, in some way or another, in every parish possible. Yes, there is an entire old liturgy. Yes, there is the question of 1962 vs. the real old rite. Yes, there is the Office. The explosion of old rite Masses in the United States in the last decade has shown interest in the older liturgy to be generally infectious, with priests who do the old Mass, if even only on occasion, adapting the manner of bringing Communion to the home bound or the richer texts in the Rituale for Baptism. 

The laity kept the old Mass alive during a long winter, but its future depends on the willingness of priests not only to say it but also to promote it within the right setting. Saint Mary's in Norwalk, CT is an excellent example of this. Thirteen years ago they began a Sunday-only 1962 Mass in the basement of the parish, for the ordinary would not permit the older Mass to substitute for a new rite Mass in any church schedule, only to supplement it. Within weeks the Mass had to be moved into the main church and they configured their Mass schedule so that it became the main Mass on Sundays. All the same, the weekday and other Sunday Masses were still new rite, in the vernacular. There was a Wednesday night old Mass and the old Mass popped up on liturgically interesting days like Candlemas, but the clergy were careful to nurture interest among the laity rather than force it. A decade later there are now half a dozen other churches within a thirty minute drive, yet Saint Mary's still packs them in on Sundays, does the full old rite Holy Week (Tenebrae and all), and recently instituted weekday Masses in the older form. A forced issue could well have killed the parish or created a situation like that of Fr. Michael Rodriguez in El Paso, TX, but the discretion of three successive pastors has proven out over the last decade and a half.

With some place in a parish, the older Roman liturgy is more likely to grow than decline or stagnate. This presents a unique opportunity in the "messy" pontificate of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, where liturgical propriety and centralization are at their all-time lows in the post-Vatican II Church. As said before on this blog and elsewhere, one reason why the old Holy Week took off, even before the Ecclesia Dei permission for certain groups in certain settings, is the knowledge that the '62 Police are busy with other things or just don't care. The 1962 liturgy—Mass, readings on great feasts, kalendar, psalter, processions, Office etc—is not a full expression of the Roman liturgy and how the faithful have been united to God in prayer in the Western world and its spheres of influence. This affords Catholics ample space and power to promote the genuine old liturgy, either on great days (Gaudeamus omnes on Assumption) or lesser days (add the commemorations on Sundays and feriae).

This brings us to the third priority, which is the eventual, fullest practice of the liturgy whenever possible. I don't know what some priests, who protest that sung Mass on November 2 or a procession on February 2 is unnecessary, are really doing in their rectories, but they need encouragement to get out into the liturgical world. Fullness of liturgical practice need not mean pulling out all stops on the rare opportunity, in some parish with a once a month Latin Mass on Saturday morning, that the Mass is sung. No need for lace, polyphony, prissy movements, and daily-shined brass on every occasion, but do the liturgy well and at its highest appropriate expression whenever possible. Try to get your Missa cantata to become a solemn Mass, but don't make a "green" Sunday into a Duplex I Classis feast. Try to get first Vespers for your parish's patronal feast if Vespers would be novel in your parish. Ask if Father could give you absolution the old way—it makes Confession shorter. The restriction should not be your imagination, only your prudence.

The People


People who attend the old Mass generally get a "bad rap", as those bereft of the English language say. This is not entirely unjustified, but given fifteen years of experience with the "TLM" in different American and international settings it is fair to say that the eccentrics and "bohemian lunatic fringe" (cf. Geoffrey Hull) give the broader Traditionalist world a bad name.

This may be a controversial idea, but the best thing people who love the old Mass can do is wait for the day their bishop asks if they want to invite the FSSP or ICRSS into their diocese and then politely decline. Until a few years ago the Traditionalist clerical orders had no presence in New England, save the FSSPX retreat center in Connecticut and one mission Mass they ran elsewhere in the state. There were some of the eccentric Trads to be found, especially the sort who decry the lamentable state of ecclesiastical politics, but generally these were approachable people who had trekked through the difficulties of keeping the old Mass going and hence formed some sort of community, which made the accretion of visitors to the community something very easy. Ten years later many of my old acquaintances threw up their [newly found] fedoras with joy at the news some group was coming to their area. Within weeks the women dressed like characters from Laura Ingalls Wilder, the men complained about the bishops without end, the priests gave nothing but instructional sermons on behavior, and interest in Fatima became the equivalent of moral righteousness. Devotions exceeded interest in the example of the saints. One woman was spiritually unrecognizable seven years later. Those who did not home school suddenly arose suspicion. "Novus Ordo" became a synonym for any disagreeable phenomenon.

The Saint Peter Fraternity, the Institute of Christ the King, and the other groups are not the problem themselves. Isolation is the problem, and restricting the old Mass to a small parish creates a self-imposed ghetto mentality which simultaneously stunts the old Mass and turns its adherents to reactionaries rather than militants.

This is not the case everywhere run by the FSSPX, FSSP, and ICRSS, but it is prevalent enough to be a recognizable pattern is sequential pastors allow or encourage this sort of thing. In a world currently tearing down its history and accusing the non-woke of being inherently wicked persons, the last thing anyone needs is a new brand of crazy.

We should not prefer the old rite because it is less obnoxious than the new, although that is certainly true and a very valid reason for initial interest. We must prefer it because it is the tested means for the Christian to know God and to save his soul, to purify and realize God's image within him. If we accomplish this we may save the Mass and even ourselves.


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

"Science"

"Science" is a word. Some self-purported secularists and rationalists seem to believe "science" is a spell, an incantation which calls wisdom and vanquishes superstition.

I remember some years ago Richard Dawkins and Roger Scruton debated the merits of religion as a social feature on BBC. Agnostic Scruton said Christianity merited its place through its patronage and inspiration for the great arts, namely the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Dawkins, in a trill of intellectual and rhetorical mediocrity, predictably made the platitude that it could have been even more beautiful if a scientist had built it. Applause roared from the mental midgets in the rafters.

Blame the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment philosophers championed a return to the Greek understanding of reason, at least as they read it, and believed science to be the purest expression of reason, despite the fact that hardly any of them were scientists or mathematicians. The romance with science began with Newton. "God said, 'Let Newton be!' and there was light," saith Alexander Pope. Voltaire and his mistress would translate Newton from Latin or English into French before committing the carnal act, the implication being the the gravitational constant drew Émilie to Francois.

At its heart science is not "truth" in a conventional sense. Pure science, the sort that can be tethered to mathematics—like physics and astronomy—is a systemic description of physical phenomena. The scientist is a person of unique talents, but also of a narrow temperament that does not equate well outside his sphere. Newton shook the Baroque world with his seemingly ex nihilo theories about gravity, mechanics of movement, and derivative calculus. Those things may be true, but are they truth?

The Enlightenment writers never said the definition of the derivative is the Truth in such a way as could replace Christ, God, the Church, and conventional morality, but they and their descendants certainly believed that such a mechanical understanding, a discursive sort of deduction could be applied to social and philosophical questions, too.

In following this thought, philosophers have consigned themselves to total irrelevance in the world. The last brilliant philosopher may have been Wittgenstein. The last meaningful one was Nietzsche. Neither one quite fit the Enlightenment mold, although both could be said to have essayed to find their own place and Mankind's place in a world in which rationalism has killed God. The philosophers' bromide, "science", made scientists into social commentators and pop celebrities, men like Hawking, Dawkins, and Tyson (the value of the contributions to science of these three are very different). None of them has added anything of value to government, to morality, to inspiration for quotidian life, nor have they pointed the direction for a shining future for Mankind, despite some cheer-leading. Common people who today say they "believe in science" and who a century ago said they "believe in reason" and five centuries ago said they "believe in the Scriptures" have no more idea what Darwin really wrote about evolution than they know about Aristotle or the Book of Job. All of this would be fine if only we were not told that science is a model of behavior and thinking fit for all problems and questions.

History, as Americans are learning today, is an important subject. It is also a very human and hence personal subject. Science has some place to contribute to History as far as testing the age of the documents or digitally recreating events to test purported narratives, but generally reason and understanding are totally different modes of thinking. The former relies on an objective hypothesis, tests it against available facts, and then sets a precedent for the future that others must accept. Understanding is far less linear, far calmer, and far more nuanced. Information can be destroyed or re-discovered. History is often based on a received understanding that forms modern beliefs and attitudes and which hence, even if scarcely documented, must be accepted as the de facto narrative. It is also a subject which is very personal, that is, involving persons and their reasons and hence involving right and wrong. Were the Senators right to kill Julius Caesar? Or for Catholics, what was the understanding of Holy Orders in the first few centuries of the Church? And because progressives love carnal questions, is homosexuality, as we know it today, something that can be found in every society and generation in the past? Science does not purport to have an answer and "science" certainly wants to have an answer.

Enlightenment thinkers believed reason, and hence science, could answer all Mankind's questions and reform societies in a peaceful, egalitarian manner. They similarly believed education should be more broadly available because it diffused this mechanism for thought. What no Enlightenment writer thought was that reason and the scientific approach was fit for every man. Voltaire wondered what would happen if people ceased to believe in God. Religion became seen as a behavioral educator for the masses while reason was for the educable elite. This understanding of religion and of the non-rational is still espoused by the likes of Jordan Peterson, who still has his merits.

Instead, religion is gone and "science", or scientism, is a widely believed and un-practiced dogma of the new faith of our day, Materialism. It is like a ejaculatory prayer to be uttered against a demon Christian. How hopeless these people would be if they took the time to believe in it.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Fancy Catholics

Are you "fancy"?

"[Rad Trad], you are verrrrry fancy," I was told by a coworker, chewing and spitting out the words in his deep drawl.

An old classmate heard that I began attending the Divine Liturgy some years ago and snarled, "Did those babushka ladies and their fancy liturgy win you over from reality?"

It is with a sense of bedlam and near-resentment that people condescend that which they do not understand as "fancy." Anyone who has attended Vespers at my parish with the Rad Trad himself cantoring knows how very un-fancy the Byzantine rite can be. I was once forbidden to sing the Regina coeli before Mass at the Oxford Oratory, but the Greek rite singing loud is preferable to singing well, making me an ideal cantor for lesser services.

The concept of an ordered taxis is offensive to some Catholics born a generation ago, reared during the post-Vatican II "liturgy wars" between parishes that did not rip out their pipe organs and the more modern parishes with priests refusing to don the chasuble and singers strumming guitars. The general calming down since those days and the revival of the real Roman Mass exposed a new generation to an altogether different type of worship, where order regulates each step and each office dictates ontologically who does what. The choir sings the Introit in the Roman Mass, the subdeacon sings the Epistle in the Roman Mass, the cantor chants the stichera at Greek Vespers. There is no question of which opening song, who lectors, and which cantor will wave her arms during the responsorial psalm. Indeed, the music isn't much harder than secular musical styles, they just require a few months of patience to learn.

So how did liturgically minded Catholics, especially the Traditionalists, get so "fancy"?

It was in part our own making. In order to retain the old Mass during the years betwixt Missale Romanum and Summorum Pontificum, mainstream Catholics had to concoct some reason, other than those expounded by the likes of Michael Davies and Mgr. Lefebvre, to continue the old Mass. In places like France the Liturgical Movement baked the liturgy into the piety of those who wished to continue it. In the Anglosphere this was untrue and required a different approach.

The solution was to champion the old Mass for its cultural value, its great aesthetic beauty, and its unique features like periods of quiet. This is certainly how many American Catholics had to approach their bishops following the 1984 and 1988 "liberalizations" under John Paul II and it was similar to the approach of the the writers of the "Agatha Christie" indult:
"Today, as in times gone by, educated people are in the vanguard where recognition of the value of tradition in concerned, and are the first to raise the alarm when it is threatened. We are not at this moment considering the religious or spiritual experience of millions of individuals. The rite in question, in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired a host of priceless achievements in the arts - not only mystical works, but works by poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs. Thus, it belongs to universal culture as well as to churchmen and formal Christians. In the materialistic and technocratic civilisation that is increasingly threatening the life of mind and spirit in its original creative expression - the word - it seems particularly inhuman to deprive man of word-forms in one of their most grandiose manifestations. The signatories of this appeal, which is entirely ecumenical and non-political, have been drawn from every branch of modern culture in Europe and elsewhere."
Thus, we did not wish to be "fancy," but became fancy for a time nonetheless. Anyone who has ever attended spoken Mass at an FSSPX church or in a pre-Summorum indult Mass at 3pm in a ghetto knows how very un-adorned the old Mass and its attendees really are, unadorned with silly instruments and bored people wanting to take their turn in front.

We have all heard this canard before, but I hear it less and less with each passing year. That is some cause for optimism.