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Articles on this Page
- 12/16/15--01:39: _Photopost Request: ...
- 12/16/15--05:00: _New Organ Recording...
- 12/16/15--09:00: _Card. Burke to Cele...
- 12/17/15--02:02: _The Golden Mass of ...
- 12/17/15--03:00: _Missa Cantata for E...
- 12/17/15--07:42: _Advent Stations in ...
- 12/17/15--09:00: _A Crying Shame: the...
- 12/17/15--15:25: _O Sapientia 2015
- 12/18/15--02:25: _A video of Advent L...
- 12/18/15--05:08: _Videos of a Byzanti...
- 12/18/15--08:57: _One More Christmas ...
- 12/19/15--02:47: _O Adonai 2015
- 12/19/15--12:00: _Dominican Rite Sole...
- 12/19/15--11:45: _The Neo-Gallican Pr...
- 12/20/15--03:02: _O Radix Jesse 2015
- 12/20/15--07:19: _Meditations on the ...
- 12/20/15--16:07: _Advent Stations
- 12/21/15--03:26: _The Fourth Sunday o...
- 12/21/15--07:00: _Learning from the T...
- 12/22/15--03:59: _O Oriens 2015
- 12/16/15--01:39: Photopost Request: Gaudete Sunday and Rorate Masses
- 12/16/15--05:00: New Organ Recording: Influences, by Jonathan Ryan
- 12/16/15--09:00: Card. Burke to Celebrate Christmas Eve at Trinità dei Pellegrini
- 12/17/15--02:02: The Golden Mass of Ember Wednesday (Reprint from 2009)
- 12/17/15--03:00: Missa Cantata for Ember Friday in, Alexandria, VA
- 12/17/15--07:42: Advent Stations in Washington DC
- Genesis 49:8-12 – The Lion of Judah
- Numbers 24:15-17 – The Oracle of Balaam
- Isaiah 7:10-14 – The Sign of Emmanuel
- Isaiah 9:1-7 – “For Unto Us A Child Is Born”
- Micah 5:1-4 – He Will Come from Bethlehem)
- Malachi 3:1-4 – “Prepare the Way of the Lord”
- 12/17/15--09:00: A Crying Shame: the Irony is Lost on Some
- 12/17/15--15:25: O Sapientia 2015
- 12/18/15--02:25: A video of Advent Lessons & Carols from St Luke's DC
- 12/18/15--05:08: Videos of a Byzantine Ordination and First Divine Liturgy
- 12/18/15--08:57: One More Christmas Gift Idea — a New Book from Angelico
- 12/19/15--02:47: O Adonai 2015
- 12/19/15--12:00: Dominican Rite Solemn Mass of Christmas Day, Berkeley CA
- 12/19/15--11:45: The Neo-Gallican Preface for Advent
- 12/20/15--03:02: O Radix Jesse 2015
- 12/20/15--07:19: Meditations on the 'O Antiphons' by Mgr Charles Pope
- 12/20/15--16:07: Advent Stations
- 12/21/15--03:26: The Fourth Sunday of Advent - O Clavis David 2015
- 12/21/15--07:00: Learning from the Trees
- 12/22/15--03:59: O Oriens 2015
|From last year’s Gaudete/Rorate photopost, a Rorate Mass celebrated in Quezon City in the Philippines|
This article by Janet Gorbitz is cross-posted from The Chant Café.
Recorded on a specifically chosen European pipe organ famous for its brilliant fusion of German, French, and English Romantic styles, the repertoire centers around music with significant influences from another style or nationality, and which additionally makes strong connections between North America and Europe.
Included are major works by Healey Willan and Marcel Dupre: the German-inspired Introduction, Passacaglia, and Fugue, Op. 149 and Gregorian-chant based Symphonie-Passion, Op. 23 respectively.
Also featured is a commissioned piece by renowned English composer Philip Moore, and the recording premiere of Ride in a High Speed Train by contemporary Dutch composer Ad Wammes.
Colloquium attendees heard two of these works in Jonathan’s 2015 Colloquium recital at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA.
For more information about purchasing, visit Jonathan’s website.
In addition, a special Recording Release and CD Signing Reception is to be held Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at 7:30 pm at Christ Church (Episcopal) in Greenwich, CT. Special guest, renowned English composer Philip Moore: Featuring the premiere performance of his commissioned piece. (map).
(Here are two photos from Trinità’s Christmas celebrations in 2011: the celebrant at Matins, and the consecration at Mass.)
If we were to consider only the Sunday Gospels, it would almost appear that Christ is drawing away from us as we come closer to the day of His Nativity. However, this backwards motion from the end of the world to the days of the Old Testament places in even greater relief the importance of today’s Mass, the Ember Wednesday of the Advent season. On this day, the Church reads the Gospel of the Annunciation (Luke 1, 26-38), at which point, the beginning of mankind’s redemption, the story begins to move forward. On Friday, there follows the Gospel of the Visitation. (Luke 1, 39-47) In the Breviary homily of that day, St Ambrose calls to our attention the first meeting of the Word Incarnate with His Forerunner, while both are still in their mothers’ wombs; “We must consider the fact that the greater one comes to the lesser, that the lesser may be aided: Mary to Elisabeth, Christ to John.” Having announced the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Visitation, the Church then anticipates on Ember Saturday the Gospel of the followed day, the Fourth Sunday of Advent. In the three Ember Day Gospels together, therefore, God becomes Incarnate, goes to the last of His prophets, and sends him forth “to prepare His way.”
The “Missa Aurea – Golden Mass”, as it was often called, no longer enjoys the prominence which it once held; even Dom Guéranger, the founder of the original Liturgical Movement, does not include the text of the Mass in his “Liturgical Year” because it was so rarely celebrated in his time. The Breviary and Missal of St. Pius V permitted more or less any feast to impede it, but in the Middle Ages, it was very often the custom to transfer feasts away from it. This custom was partially restored (for a very brief time) by the rubrical reform of 1960.
In the traditional Roman Missal, all four sets of Ember Days have the same stations appointed at major Roman churches. On Wednesday, the station is at Saint Mary Major, on Friday at the church of the Twelve Apostles, and on Saturday at St. Peter’s Basilica. This last was originally the traditional day for ordinations in the church of Rome; the seven readings (five prophecies, Epistle and Gospel) correspond to the seven orders. The medieval liturgical writer Rupert of Tuy (1075-1129) offers this beautiful commentary on the choice of Mary Major for this day.
“On the first day of the (Ember) fast, the station is fittingly appointed at Mary Major; for it is clear that the whole office of that day, properly belongs to that temple of the Lord… in which God entire, dwelling for nine month, deigned to become man. Indeed, from the Gospel is recited the Annunciation or Incarnation of the Lord, that was proclaimed beforehand by the trumpets of the prophets, brought to be present by the Angel, received by the faith of the blessed Virgin, completed and brought forth by Her incorrupt womb.”
Rupert also notes how all of the texts of the Mass are chosen in reference to the Gospel. The Introit is the famous text Rorate caeli, from the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah, sung in several different places in the liturgy of Advent. These words prophesy the coming of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, the belief of the Virgin, and Her reception of the Word Incarnate. The two Epistles (Isaiah 2, 2-5 and 7, 10-15), chosen for their traditional association with the Virgin Mary, “doubly refresh the souls of those who are fasting.”
In non-Roman Western rites, it was the custom to celebrate the feast of the Annunciation shortly before Christmas; the Ambrosian liturgy keeps the last Sunday of Advent as the “feast of the Incarnation”, while the Mozarabs fix the Annunciation to December 18th. In a similar vein, some churches in the Middle Ages used white vestments for the Ember Wednesday Mass instead of violet, with the deacon and subdeacon in dalmatic and tunicle, the vestments of joy, rather than the penitential folded chasubles. This manner of treating the day almost as a second feast of the Annunciation was observed at Paris, for example, well-known for its strong devotion to Our Lady; it was retained in the neo-Gallican revision of the Parisian liturgy, and continued in use until Paris adopted the Roman liturgy in 1873.
|The Annunciation, the central panel of the Mérode Altarpiece, by Robert Campin, ca 1425|
The Gospel of the Annunciation is not, of course, entirely absent from the traditional texts of Advent before the Mass of Ember Wednesday. It is read as the Matins lessons of the Little Office of Our Lady throughout the season, and it provides the text of many of the antiphons and responsories from the very first day of Advent. When the Church began to celebrate the daily Office and Mass of the Virgin, a special version of both was used in many places for the Advent season, and most of the texts for the Mass of the Blessed Virgin in Advent are borrowed from the “Missa aurea.” Several places retain the custom of celebrating this “Rorate” Mass early in the morning, and by candlelight if possible. King Sigmund the First of Poland loved the Rorate Mass so much that in the year 1540, he built a special Lady Chapel within the Cathedral of Krakow, in which it would be celebrated every day, regardless of the season. (pictured right, exterior view) The choristers of this chapel were called “Rorantists,” and were also responsible for singing the Gloria in excelsis at the principal Mass of the main choir. A similar custom prevails to this day at the Holy House of Loreto, in which all Masses, public and private are the votive Mass of the Annunciation.
Guest post from Mr William Newton.
There will also be a new tradition this year, called the “Canticle of Christ’s Advent.” This is an arrangement of Scriptural verses sung antiphonally between the choir and the congregation, in a dialogue about Christ’s coming. The concept is a bit like the Classical Greek plays, with a protagonist and a chorus exchanging lines, or the dialogues of a Medieval Passion play, but shortened and fit for the season of Advent. Think of the psalm lines “Who is the king of glory?.....He is the Lord of armies.....Let him enter the King of glory,” to get an idea.
One of the real treats for those attending the Advent Stations will be to see the interior of St. Dominic’s lit not by the usual carefully concealed electric light, but by quite literally thousands of candles. These will be placed all over the church, and tapers will be distributed to those in attendance. Not only is the effect visually superb, since only at the Easter Vigil – and sometimes not even then – do we get to see churches illuminated this way, but it ties in well theologically to Advent and the commemoration of the Lord’s Incarnation, when the Light of the World came to dwell among us.
For those who choose to arrive early, confessions will be available at the parish beginning at 6:30 pm. Following the conclusion of the Stations at around 8:00 pm, participants will be able to venerate a relic of the Crib in which the Christ Child lay. I can say from my experience last year, that this a deeply moving way to begin the 4th week of Advent. Afterwards, a reception will be held in the parish hall.
As anyone who attended last year’s inaugural Advent Stations can tell you, the setting for this event contributes greatly to its impact. St. Dominic’s is an enormous, 19th century Gothic Revival stone structure, which seats around 800 worshipers. Its prominent steeple is very familiar to those traveling to and from Capitol Hill, where it juts up into the sky from amid the maze of low, concrete brutalist structures, built in the mid-20th century to house various federal agencies. The interior features 24 stained glass windows with scenes from the life of St. Dominic, as well as a rare Roosevelt Pipe Organ Company instrument, dating from 1887.
A brief video on Advent Stations is posted below; further information can be found on the St. Dominic’s website. If you find yourself in the DC area, this is a wonderful tradition to become a part of, and as they do with their well-known and well-attended celebrations of the Vigil of All Saints and Tenebrae, the Dominicans do a beautiful job in making this evening a very special, very spiritual celebration.
At Christmas, Catholics everywhere come to witness this very paradox, at a celebration of nothing less than the Lord’s Death and Resurrection. To be blunt, the birth of the eternal God-Man, the Omnipotent becoming a little baby, is celebrated in the context of his bloody Crucifixion. If that isn’t confusing and ironic, what is? St. Thomas Becket discusses this very topic at length in the eternal words penned by T.S. Eliot in Murder in the Cathedral... it's worth the read. For Becket, the paradox of death and birth is the core of sanctification and the Christian mystery. So also for St. Athanasius, who wrote in De Incarnatione, “God became man, so that man might become God” (quoted in CCC 460). He was speaking about the divine life which God offers to us through Jesus, the God-man. Anything less than the paradox of the God-man quickly slides into heresy; and heresy is ultimately unfulfilling because it is false.
All of this is really rich for those who know and believe it. But what about those who don’t? Christmas is a time when family and friends who have fallen out of “practice” to return to church, sometimes after a long absence. For parish liturgy to work for these folks, they will need some education to understand the opposites that make up the paradox. Eternal God, per omnia saecula saeculorum, needs to be thoroughly divine, serene, unchanging, timeless, and perhaps even severe. It should seem categorically impossible that God the Creator should come down and enter his own creation. Simultaneously, the Infant Christ needs to be very much a real, live, pooping, and crying baby, with parents facing challenges of foreign oppression, an annoying census, a ruling power hell-bent on killing babies, and no place to stay except some lousy barn with a bunch of animals. In other words, the circumstances of Jesus’s birth must in some way connect with our own human experience, and simultaneously “this little babe, so few days old, come to rifle Satan’s fold,” must wield all of the forces of heaven ("New Heaven, New War" Richard Southwell, SJ).
Now I shall ruffle some feathers: Solemnity and tradition do not necessarily reveal their own secrets, especially for the newbie and the unchurched. In particular, the paradox of the God-man – the central mystery of Christmas – doesn’t teach itself. The weakest demographic in this regard are those who know enough to come at Christmas and Easter, but not enough to come back each Sunday. In other words, the irony of Christmas is lost on some, and it’s not necessarily their fault. Pastors, organists, choirs, altar servers, and cantors all bear the responsibility to be both apostles and teachers, making the richness of our Catholic tradition – and its object – known and loved. It is our job to make present the fullness of the divine paradox, to allow the delicious irony of God-made-man to ooze into the nooks and crannies of our little souls and stretch them until God’s greatness can dwell there. What could be better? So, don’t be shy to hold the baby, and to adore God; to laugh, and to listen in silence; to forgive, and to forge new beginnings in the still-hot embers of yesteryear. If someone at your Christmas celebration is clueless and alone, introduce them to the divine Host. And, from all of us at NLM—dare I say it while it is still Advent—a very Merry Christmas!
O Wisdom, that comest from the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things, come and teach us the way of prudence.
|A icon of Holy Wisdom from Mstyora, Russia, 1860|
The choir sings every Sunday at the 8.30 a.m. Sung Mass at Immaculate Conception Church (featured in the video), celebrated according to Divine Worship, the newly promulgated liturgical provision for the personal ordinariates.
During Advent the choir has sung all three Masses by William Byrd, during Septuagesimatide they will undertake three Masses by Morales, and in Lent they will perform settings written by five living composers: Peter Kwasniewski, Christoph Dalitz, Sir James MacMillan, Thurston Weed, and Cecilia McDowall.
NLM is very glad to offer our congratulations to Fr Summerson, to all his family and friends, and to the clergy and faithful of the Parma Eparchy. Ἄξιος! Ἄξιος! Ἄξιος! многая лѣта!
In spite of what its title might prompt one to think, this book is not primarily about traditionalism in the narrower Anglo-American sense of a movement to restore the traditional Latin Mass, sacramental rites, Divine Office, and the life of devotions that went with them. It is an out-an-out defense of taking a traditional (i.e., Catholic) perspective on human life, culture, family, and religion, which of course includes the TLM, but goes far beyond it. If you are familiar with the magisterium of Leo XIII, Pius X, and Pius XI, including its cultural, political, and economic dimensions, that’s the perspective, but translated into a playful and somewhat zany modern idiom. It is part fairy tale, part romantic novella, part polemic, and part spoof, a potent cocktail of four liquors. Generous, frolicsome, and hospitable traditionalism, none of that sour-faced stuff for which we are often (and sometimes justifiably) reproached.
One of my favorite scenes is where Professor Rigid Dorkins bursts in to sputter out his semi-coherent polemic against religion. Another great scene is the dialogue between GT (the Gentle Traditionalist) and Bee Nice, the relativist. It is Buck's clever use of dialogue throughout that makes the book such a page-turner. It's good strong stuff both for right-thinking people and for those who could be coaxed by a good yarn to become right-thinking as they see a variety of modern idols gently smashed into bits.
It is a most enjoyable and thought-provoking read, and one that is sure to unsettle the reader, in the best sense of the word. If there is someone in your life, a friend or family member, of a skeptical or modern or progressive or neoconservative bent, whom you wish to introduce to the more holistic worldview of traditional Catholicism, this is quite possibly the best thing available for the purpose. I mean, you can't just go around handing people Sire's Phoenix or Ferrara's Facade (two of my favorite books, by the way), if they are not yet ready for a gigantic tome of expository straight talk. Buck paves the way with a delightful insouciance that makes his utterly earnest campaign for the "counterrevolutionary" truth all the more effective.
This book deserves more of a review and I hope to come back to it later on, particularly to highlight some of the liturgical elements that will be of special interest to NLM readers, but I couldn't let any more time pass before mentioning it and recommending it to you.
Roger Buck. The Gentle Traditionalist: A Catholic Fairy-Tale from Ireland. Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2015. viii + 178 pp. Paper: $14.95. Also available in cloth. Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared unto Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the Law on Sinai, come to redeem us with arm outstretched!
|Cloister Garden of the Carmel of the Holy Family|
Along with the other distinctive aspects of the Dominican Rite, this Mass of Christmas has two others. There will be three readings as we have a Prophecy from Isaiah along with the Epistle and Gospel. And our rite includes the famous medieval Sequence, the Laetabundus.
The Carmel has ample parking, but the chapel is small, so to insure yourself seating, come early.
|The two leaves before the Canon of the Mass in a 15th-century Missal according to the use of Paris. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 831)|
The reforms in question, however, are notable not so much because they arose from one of the longest standing “tolerated” abuses in the Church’s history, but rather because they strayed well outside the bounds of liturgical variety which were generally accepted in the Middle Ages and afterwards. Many of the Neo-Gallican liturgies retained (with or without modifications) some of the historical medieval customs of their respective dioceses; a classic example would be the large number of Sequences in the Parisian Missal. Many of them also incorporated ideas which were perfectly fine in principle, such as an expanded corpus of Scriptural readings and Prefaces. As is so often the case, however, these ideas were frequently vitiated, or altogether ruined, by the deadly combination of a lack of respect for antiquity and tradition (or serious misunderstanding of them), the importation of ideological concepts alien to Catholic liturgical practice, and an astonishing lack of literary taste.
The great enemy of the Neo-Gallican movement, Dom Proper Guéranger, at one point in his Institutions Liturgiques, speaks of these reforms as “Honteuses et criminelles mutilations, témérités coupables – shameful and criminal mutilations, rash acts deserving of condemnation.” By this, he refers to such changes as the removal of the Introit Gaudeamus omnes from the feast of All Saints, since one of the movement’s basic ideological conceits was that all such texts ought to be Biblical quotations. On similar grounds, the Parisian Breviary did not hesitate to massively rewrite the oldest pages of the Breviary, namely, the Tenebrae Offices and the Office of the Dead, or the 10th-century Office of the Trinity, or St Thomas Aquinas’ Office of Corpus Christi, just to name a few; the results are in every respect grossly inferior to the originals.
Many of these “criminal mutilations” are to be found in the first Neo-Gallican Parisian Missal, issued in 1685 “by the authority of… François de Harlay, …Archbishop of Paris… with the consent of the venerable (cathedral) chapter of that same church.” However, no change was yet made to the Prefaces from the medieval Use of Paris, which had the same eleven found in the Roman Missal, the standard corpus then in general use for centuries, plus two others, for the Wedding Mass and the Dedication of a Church. Only in the 1738 edition, published by Archbishop Charles de Vintimille, was this corpus expanded with several new Prefaces: for Advent, Holy Thursday (also said at votive Masses of the Sacrament), Corpus Christi, All Saints (also said on the feasts of Patron Saints), Saints Denys and Companions, and for Masses of the Dead.
|The Advent Preface from the 1738 Missal of Paris|
Nevertheless, I think it fair to say that these new Prefaces are really the best aspect of the 1738 Parisian Missal. They avoid the pained obsession with exact Scriptural quotes which does so much damage to so many other aspects of the Neo-Gallican books; the historical corpus is left unaltered, and the new compositions are for the most part well written.
They have also been judged favorably by the Church. The Preface for the Dead from the 1738 Parisian Missal was added to the Roman Missal by Pope Benedict XV in 1919, the first such addition in more than eight centuries. Over the course of the 19th century, the dioceses of France abandoned their Neo-Gallican liturgical uses in favor of the Roman books, and it should be noted in passing that in the process, many customs were lost, some of them quite ancient, that might just as well have been retained. However, many of them were permitted to incorporate Neo-Gallican features into their diocesan propers; and in fact, permission was given to all the dioceses of France and Belgium to retain several of the new Prefaces, first among them, that of Advent. For this reason, they are often found in an appendix in Missals printed for use in those countries.
There appear to be no grounds for using any of them them outside of those places where a formal permission was given, since they are effectively part of the Propers of certain dioceses, no less than the feasts of local Saints. In those places where their use was officially approved, it ought to be regarded as not merely possible, but obligatory; the FIUV position paper on Prefaces is correct to note that the very idea of a Preface ad libitum is completely alien to the traditional liturgy.
Here then is the Neo-Gallican preface of Advent.
Vere dignum … Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Quem pérdito hóminum géneri Salvatórem miséricors et fidélis promisisti: cuius véritas instrúeret inscios, sánctitas justificáret impios, virtus adiuváret infirmos. Dum ergo prope est ut veniat quem missúrus es, et dies affulget liberatiónis nostrae, in hac promissiónum tuárum fide, piis gaudiis exsultámus. Et ídeo etc.
Truly…through Christ, Our Lord. Whom in Thy mercy and fidelity Thou didst promise as Savior to the lost race of men, that His truth might instruct the ignorant, His holiness justify the wicked, and His power help the weak. Therefore, since that the time is nigh that He Whom Thou art to send should come, and the day of our liberation should dawn, with this faith in Thy promises, we rejoice with holy exultation. And therefore etc.
O Root of Jesse, which standest as a sign to the peoples, at whom kings shall shut their mouths, whom the gentiles shall beseech, come to deliver, delay thou not!
|The Tree of Jesse, from the chapel of the Conception of the Virgin and of St. Anne in the cathedral of Burgos, Spain.|
To my shame, when I heard about this I had to ask the question...what are the O Antiphons? Well, for anyone else who is unaware too, that’s why its worth listening or watching! But in brief, they are the antiphons for the Magnificat used at Vespers of the last seven days of Advent in Western Christian traditions. They are also used as the Alleluia verses on the same days in the OF Catholic Mass. They are referred to as the “O Antiphons” because the title of each one begins with the interjection “O.”
Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture. They are:
December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (the name meaning “God is with us.”)
They are a compact and beautiful theology that draws on biblical themes of the Old Testament; as such they proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and hopes. They also express current longings rooted in those themes. And although the prophecies are fulfilled, they remain an ever-lasting aspect of all human hearts.
Note too not only the expression “O” but also the repeated use of the word “come.” These antiphons are memorably and poetically reworked in the beautiful and well-known hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel” which is included here as an appendix.
Introit. Isa. 45 Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One: let the earth be opened, and bud forth a Savior. V. And let justice spring up together: I the Lord have created him. Glory be to the Father. As it was. Drop down.
Note that in this recording, the Dominicans at Blackfrirars, Oxford, sing the introit NOT with the first verse of Psalm 18, as is found in the Roman Missal, but with the rest of the verse of Isaiah, 45,8. This was the common practice with this particular Introit in the Middle Ages, and is also found in the Sarum Use, just to give one example.
In Milan, today is the Sixth Sunday of Advent, one of the days on which two different Masses are said in the Ambrosian Liturgy. On the more important of the two, called the Mass of the Incarnation, the following is sung as the Ingressa; this is broadly the equivalent of the Introit, but is sung only once, without a psalm verse or doxology. The text is actually the translation of an Ode for Matins for the Nativity of St John the Baptist from the Byzantine Rite.
Videsne Elisabeth cum Dei Genitrice Maria disputantem: Quid ad me venisti, mater Domini mei? Si enim scirem, in tuum venirem occursum. Tu enim Regnatorem portas, et ego prophetam: tu legem dantem, et ego legem accipientem: tu Verbum, et ego vocem proclamantis adventum Salvatoris.
Dost thou see Elizabeth discussing with Mary, the Mother of God: Why hast Thou come to me, o mother of my Lord? For if I had known, I would have come to meet Thee. For thou bearest Him that reigneth, and I the prophet; Thou the Giver of the Law, and I him that receiveth it; Thou the Word, and I the voice of him that proclaimeth the coming of the Savior.
And finally, since it is the 20th of December, the following O Antiphon is sung at Vespers.
|The Harrowing of Hell, from an Exsultet scroll of the later 11th century.|
The ancient logicians pointed out that when a particular member of a genus stands above the other members due to some feature that transcends the genus, it often gets a special name to distinguish it. Thus, because man is the noblest of animals, he is not merely called “animal” (although he is an animal), but gets the special name “man,” to set him apart from the vast realm we call (merely) “animals.” In the same way, trees, although they are plants, are so much the noblest of plants that they get their own name, “tree.” Just as we don’t say “let’s have some animals over for dinner” if we want to have people over, so we don’t usually say “our yard needs more plants” if what we mean is “our yard needs more trees.” As man is the greatest of sensate living creatures, so trees are the greatest of insensate living creatures.
No wonder, then, that trees are found throughout the Bible, from start to finish—the trees in the garden; the tree Moses threw into the bitter waters to make them fresh; the fatal tree on which David’s son Absalom was caught; the tree under which Elijah rested and was visited by an angel; the trees cut down and shipped to David and Solomon for building palace and temple; the cedars of Lebanon to which holy Confessors are compared; the trees with medicinal leaves planted along the river of the New Jerusalem. And there is the noblest Tree, beyond compare: the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
One might reasonably think, therefore, that we can learn a lot about spiritual realities by looking at trees. Here I shall only mention a few points and leave the reader to draw out more.
We can see a lovely example in the way the Angelic Doctor utilizes the tree as a metaphor to explain the expression, commonplace in spiritual literature, of the “root of sin”:
Radix autem arboris est qua arbor nutrimentum sumit, per quod convalescit, et fructificat. Ex eo autem peccatum convalescit ex quo homo ad peccatum inclinatur. Hoc autem est bonum intentum, ad quod peccans inordinate convertitur; quia finis efficienter movet; unde oportet quod ex parte conversionis radix peccati assignetur, et dicatur radix illud ex quo peccatum oritur. (In II Sent., d. 42, q. 2, a. 1)
The root of a tree is that by which the tree takes up nourishment, that through which it flourishes and produces fruit. Now, sin flourishes through that which inclines a man to sin. But this is the good sought, to which the one sinning is inordinately turned, because the end moves efficiently. Hence it is necessary that the “root of sin” be put on the side of a turning toward something, and a “root” be described as that from which sin arises.With this Thomistic inspiration, let us consider how a healthy tree works. It takes in water and nutrients from deep within the soil, not only through a vast network of variously sized roots, but also by sending down a taproot that connects with the dampest soil directly below. With the nourishment thus acquired, the tree can produce the cells that expand its roots, trunk, branches, twigs, leaves, and seeds or fruits. Special cells at the tips of twigs divide to produce growth; the same occurs with a layer of cells under the bark, the cambium. But ALL of this wondrous growth depends on the size and health of the root system. When drought occurs, or when diseases and parasites strike the roots, crippling and killing them, the tree’s condition soon deteriorates to reflect that of the roots.
The Catholic Church is like a tree whose roots are Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, and whose trunk is the authentic Magisterium that transmits the precious nutrient-rich fluid up from below into the branches and leaves. As the roots of a healthy tree push further and further down, so too, the Church when healthy puts deep roots into the sources of revelation and the great heritage of the past, literally living by them. The leaves themselves are the faithful, both clergy and laity, and the fruits are the good works, the works of the Spirit. When the roots suffer the drought of forgetfulness or superficiality, when they are attacked by the diseases comprised by the term ‘modernism,’ when they are eaten away by the parasites of worldliness, secularism, and the Zeitgeist, the entire organism grows weak, becomes brittle, hardens, loses its growth, begins to droop and wither. “His roots dry up beneath, and his branches wither above” (Job 18:16). Eventually it would die, if it were not sustained by the hand of the divine Gardener who will not allow it to die — but who does permit it to suffer.
The authentic Magisterium slowly grows in magnitude, like the trunk of the tree, but it is the same tree all along, and the same trunk, transmitting nourishment from the same root system to however many leaves the tree now supports. Formally, it is always the same organism; materially, of course, it grows, develops, old cells die and new ones are produced. The tree can only produce abundant and delicious fruit if all of its parts are healthy, well connected, and properly rooted, and close to an abundant external source of life. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psa 1:3).
Bradshaw has, in any case, problematized past all recovery) and expect it to sustain the tree. Rather, the entirety of the huge and slowly-developed root system is needed, and this is the slow, patient development and expansion of the liturgical tradition over the centuries, under the watering and fertilizing of the Holy Spirit.
If we think about trees, we will understand why and how the Church flourishes with leaves, buds, and fruits (catechumens, virgins, widows, missionaries, priestly and religious vocations, holy marriages, lots of children), and conversely, why and how she fails and falters in this or that part of the world. The circulation of sap from root to fruit must be good and continual, ever renewed, protected from parasite and disease, healed from damage.
To switch metaphors, if the Church is like a garden, are we doing our part as subordinate gardeners to promote or restore the health of this noble plant? There are plenty of diseases and insects that attack the above-ground parts of the tree, and these can damage even a plant with the best possible root system; but a plant with a poor root system can never flourish, no matter how much care one lavishes on its visible extremities. Our priority, then, must always be to nurture the roots.
“In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots, and fill the whole world with fruit.” (Isa 27:6)
“The surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward; for out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isa 37:31-32)
|Watch out for the modernists!|
|A 17th century Russian icon of Christ the High Priest|
O Thoma Didyme, per Christum quem meruisti tangere, te precibus rogamus altisonis, succurre nobis miseris, ne damnemur cum impiis in adventu judicis.
O Thomas the Twin, through Christ, Whom thou didst merit to touch,with prayers resounding on high we beseech thee, come to help us in our wretchedness, lest we be damned with the wicked at the Coming of the Judge.