Articles on this Page
- 12/28/15--06:22: _A Medieval Fresco o...
- 12/29/15--06:52: _Holy Innocents, Hid...
- 12/29/15--08:11: _Priest Disciplined ...
- 12/30/15--07:13: _St Thomas of Canter...
- 12/30/15--10:10: _New Recording of a ...
- 12/30/15--15:02: _Christmas 2015 Phot...
- 12/31/15--07:43: _Two New Recordings ...
- 12/31/15--08:23: _Education for Epiph...
- 12/31/15--13:15: _Month’s Mind for Em...
- 12/31/15--17:00: _Picture of the Year
- 01/01/16--08:49: _The Feast of the Ci...
- 01/02/16--06:45: _Solemn Mass, Epipha...
- 01/02/16--08:21: _Christmas 2015 Phot...
- 01/02/16--10:02: _Dominicans in NYC t...
- 01/03/16--11:05: _In Memoriam - Fr. F...
- 01/03/16--14:40: _The Holy Name of Jesus
- 01/04/16--13:03: _Card. Burke Celebra...
- 01/04/16--16:22: _Liturgical Notes on...
- 01/05/16--06:00: _Photopost Request f...
- 01/05/16--13:07: _Should We Stop Purs...
- 12/28/15--06:22: A Medieval Fresco of the Holy Innocents
- 12/29/15--06:52: Holy Innocents, Hidden Metamorphosis
- 12/29/15--08:11: Priest Disciplined for Liturgical Abuse (Another Small Brick)
- 12/30/15--07:13: St Thomas of Canterbury
- 12/30/15--10:10: New Recording of a Medieval Votive Mass of the Sacrament
- 12/30/15--15:02: Christmas 2015 Photopost - Part 1
- 12/31/15--07:43: Two New Recordings from St John Cantius, Chicago
- 12/31/15--08:23: Education for Epiphany
- 12/31/15--13:15: Month’s Mind for Emmanuel Leemans In Jersey City, January 2
- 12/31/15--17:00: Picture of the Year
- 01/01/16--08:49: The Feast of the Circumcision 2016
- 01/02/16--06:45: Solemn Mass, Epiphany of the Lord – Hyannis, MA
- 01/02/16--08:21: Christmas 2015 Photopost - Part 2
- 01/02/16--10:02: Dominicans in NYC to Host Special Events for Week of Christian Unity
- 01/03/16--11:05: In Memoriam - Fr. Franck Quoëx (Reprint from 2010)
- 01/03/16--14:40: The Holy Name of Jesus
- 01/04/16--13:03: Card. Burke Celebrates Christmas with FSSP in Rome
- 01/04/16--16:22: Liturgical Notes on the Feast of the Holy Innocents
- 01/05/16--06:00: Photopost Request for Epiphany 2016
- 01/05/16--13:07: Should We Stop Pursuing Excellence to Avoid Moral Danger?
This was painted in the 1330s by Pietro Lorenzetti, along with the brothers Francesco and Niccolò di Segna. The scene is set in Siena itself, the famous cathedral of which is seen at the middle of the top. Below the border is a famous quotation from Macrobius, a writer of the early fifth century, from the second book of his Saturnalia, “Melius esse porcum Herodis quam filium. - It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.”
The full citation is as follows: “Cum audisset inter pueros quos in Syria Herodes rex Iudaeorum intra bimatum iussit interfici filium quoque eius occisum, ait: Melius est Herodis porcum esse quam filium. - When (Augustus) heard that among the children whom Herod, the king of the Jews, ordered to be killed in Syria, within the age of two years, his own son was killed, he said, ‘It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.’ ” As a Jew, King Herod would have no reason to kill a pig which he could not eat (a Jewish dietary custom which Roman writers often remarked upon,) but did not scruple to massacre the children in Bethlehem, and several of his own relatives. (The Wikipedia article about King Herod cites the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia to the effect that he was “prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition.”) In Greek, which Augustus knew well, these words would make a pun, since the word for “pig” is “hus (ὗς)”, while the word for “son” is “huios (υἱός).”
The ancients often used the image of the caterpillar transformed into the butterfly to speak about the resurrection of the body. As the caterpillar, not known for beauty or dexterity, is wrapped in silk like the winding-sheets of burial, it seems that all life is extinguished. The coming forth of a far more beautiful creature, free of earth to soar in the skies, aptly tells us of the glory of the resurrected body. As the Preface for the Mass of the Dead says: For Thy faithful, life is not ended, but changed.
Thoughts like this often occur to me on the strangely melancholy post-Christmas feast of the Holy Innocents. I say melancholy because, right after Christmas, we have a feast of unspeakable slaughter, bloodthirsty egotism, the ugly shadow of corrupt politics looming over the cradle of Bethlehem, the chill breath of the world against the cheek of humility. I cannot be the only one who winces when the Gospel passage is read out, and thinks of all the ways in which our world has still not let itself be redeemed, is still waging war against the Christ-child, is still scheming to suppress the King of kings.
But then I remind myself why it is a feast and not a day of penance like January 22nd. The Holy Innocents are true martyrs who stood in for Christ: they anticipate in their flesh the scourging, the nails, and the spear by which our salvation was wrought, and by which theirs was completed. What a triumphant victory, to have won without fighting, to have rushed ahead into the mystery of the Cross, without waiting for leave!
By being circumcised into the covenant with Abraham, the Holy Innocents professed their faith in the coming Messiah who, indeed, had just come into the world. Because of this, they were able to greet Him when He harrowed hell. For it was meet that unfailed innocence should greet the sinless One.
They were spared the bitter test of fallen human life, the risk of mortal sin, the all-too-real possibility of eternal damnation. We consider it a terrible tragedy when human life is cut short, and it always is, for us; but the Holy Innocents remind us that there is a higher vantage, a divine comedy, in which this life plays the part of a prelude to eternity. They rejoice forever in the vision of God’s glory, in the joyous dance of all the saints and angels; to them earthly life looks like a mere moment, as it will look to all of us.
Washed in the blood of the Lamb, the Holy Innocents bask in the light of the beauty of Christ the Savior born in Bethlehem. The sacred liturgy immortalizes their mortal story. We know they are transformed in soul and will be resurrected in their mature bodies — as great a surprise to their mothers as ever a butterfly was, compared to the caterpillar.
|Icon of the Holy Innocents|
In the modern age, it is easy for social media and news aggregators to give these things a circulation far beyond their origins (in this case, the Philippines), and this is not a bad thing, in my estimation. Imagine how much easier the really terrible liturgical abuses would have been to denounce and control if the internet had existed to name and shame them when they were really a going concern. But sometimes, after we have sighed and moved on, something good actually does come of them, which does not make it onto our facebook feed or preferred Catholic news site. And since this has proven to be the case with the liturgical hoverboard, here is the relevant statement of the Diocese of San Pablo, where the incident took place. Our thanks go to Bishop Buenaventura Famadico and the other authorities of the diocese for an exemplary response.
That was wrong.
The Eucharist demands utmost respect and reverence. It is the Memorial of the Lord’s Sacrifice. It is the source and summit of Christian life. It is the Church’s highest form of worship. Consequently, it is not a personal celebration where one can capriciously introduce something to get the attention of the people.
The priest said that it was a wake up call for him; he acknowledged that his action was not right and promised that it will not happen again. He will be out of the parish and will spend some time to reflect on this past event. He would like to apologize for what happened.
(reproduced from the facebook page of the Diocese of San Pablo. See also this article by Philippine journalist Paterno Esmaquel II, who also confirmed the statement of the diocese for us.)
The following piece is one of the earliest known musical compositions that refers to St Thomas, and very cleverly associates him the Holy Innocents, whose feast is kept the day before his; England is likened to Rama, King Henry to King Herod, and Thomas to the first-born sons whom Herod killed. France then becomes Egypt, and since Egypt was also the place of the exile of the Patriarch Joseph, St Thomas is called “the Joseph of Canterbury.” The implication of this is, of course, that just as Christ’s exile delayed His unjust death, so did that of St Thomas.
In Rama sonat gemitus / plorante Rachel Anglie: / Herodis namque genitus / dat ipsam ignominie. / En eius primogenitus / et Joseph Cantuarie / Exulat si sit venditus, / Egiptum colit Gallie.
Lamentation sounds forth in Rama, as the “Rachel” of England weepeth. A new Herod gives her unto ignominy. Behold the first-born of the realm, the “Joseph” of Canterbury, as if he were sold, dwells in the “Egypt” of France. (On the YouTube channel that posted this, the first word of the 7th line is correctly transcribed “exulat,” but the singers clearly say “exsultat.” Thanks to Dr Jeffrey Morse for bringing this to my notice. UPDATE: Jesson Allerite has linked a source in the combox that gives a better reading for that line, “exsul, ac si sit venditus - an exile, as if he had been sold.”)
Here is a very early reliquary of St Thomas, made at Limoges, France in the 1180s, showing the scene of his assassination in the lower part, his burial and the ascent of his soul into heaven in the upper. Devotion to him was incredibly powerful in the Middle Ages and afterwards, especially in England until the Reformation. (It is to his shrine that the pilgrims of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are making their way.) More than 40 such reliquaries are still extant.
“Among the best-known music manuscripts produced at the Habsburg-Burgundian court of the Netherlands, the ‘Occo Codex’ was created under the supervision of the celebrated scribe Alamire for the Amsterdam banker Pompeius Occo. A deluxe, decorated item on a large scale, this choirbook brings together major works of composers such as Isaac, Mouton, and Josquin, in addition to anonymous and lesser-known compositions, notably a collection of polyphony in honor of the Blessed Sacrament (Corpus Christi). On the basis of paleographical and historical evidence, the book can be newly dated to c. 1515-17 and associated with use in the Amsterdam chapel of the Sacrament known as the Heilige Stede (Holy Place), where Occo served as churchwarden at the same time. The combination of liturgical focus, careful craftsmanship, and early transmission of a number of masterworks makes this one of the most valuable witnesses to the musical life of the Early Modern Netherlands.”
|An engraving of the year 1664, showing the Heilige Stede, which was converted to Protestant worship in the later 16th-century, and destroyed by order of the city of Amsterdam in 1908.|
It includes a rarely heard setting of the Magnificat by the German composer and organist Buxtehude, and another by the French Baroque master, Charpentier. The CD also includes excerpts from the famous Bach Magnificat, as well as the famous Ave Maria settings of Schubert and Bach/Gounod, arranged for chorus by Fr. Scott Haynes, SJC. There is also a setting of the Alma Redemptoris Mater by Legrenzi for two sopranos and basso continuo.
Two of Mozart’s Marian motets are included, Sancta Maria (K. 273) and Alma Dei Creatoris (K. 277) and the CD concludes with Corelli’s famous Christmas Concerto. The concerto’s Pastorale movement paints an image of the shepherds visiting the manger of the Christ Child in Bethlehem. For more information and to purchase, please click here. A sample track appears below.
The second CD, entitled Te Deum, presents the complete Midnight Mass (Extraordinary Form) for Christmas Eve from St. John Cantius in Chicago. The Schola Cantorum of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius sings the Gregorian chant Propers of Midnight Mass, and the clerical chants (the orations, Epistle, Gospel, Preface of Christmas, “Ite missa est”) are also included.
The Ensemble Cor et Vox sings the jubilant Missa Brevis in C K. 258 (‘Piccolomini’) of Mozart, which is included on the Te Deum CD as the Ordinary of Midnight Mass. Charpentier’s exuberant Te Deum H. 146, presented in its entirety, completes the CD and ushers in the festivity of the Christmas Octave. For more information and to purchase, please click here. A sample track appears below.
Our liturgy is a form of education, and Catholics too have experts who suggest certain worship aids, lighting schemes, boutique liturgies, color palettes, and gimmicks to “shock and awe” the faithful, hopefully spurring them on to become “dynamic” Catholics and buy the next book. Even if these folks don’t claim their materials and approach are the “best practice,” they usually are not advocating for the Roman Rite done well and done obediently. At best, the Roman Rite is seen as the springboard, the point of departure.
I would like to propose that the Roman Rite is itself the accumulation of two thousand years of best practices. The lectionary, the liturgical calendar, and the rite of Mass itself all attempt to put Christian teaching into a three-year (or one-year) curriculum, one which is suitable for the young and the old, the wise and the foolish. According to current educational models, this is a preposterous and ridiculous goal, akin to a one-room schoolhouse for pre-K through doctorate. It’s easy to criticize, but the reality is that it works.
It could work better.
Long ago, John Dewey introduced the idea of pragmatism within education. Dewey has long been on the naughty list for conservative Catholic educators, because they associate him with Venn Diagrams, Powerpoint, the disappearance of Dante and Shakespeare from reading lists, and other evils. But truth can come from the most unlikely sources. Dewey’s basic idea is that a student needs to demonstrate comprehension by doing something. This shouldn’t be novel to us. Saint James says, “if you say you have faith, show me your works” (2:18). Liturgy needs a response, whether that is internal understanding or something outward like singing along or going out and feeding the hungry. Faith makes this possible.
Faith at its most simple level means we believe God exists and is interested in us. Specifically, we believe that eternal God is eager to show mercy and kindness toward us, despite the hot mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Faith permeates the Mass, such that an explanation would quickly seem pedantic. Furthermore, our human wounds are private and we don’t want to bare them to others. So this sort of understanding and healing is uncomfortable, but it’s precisely what is needed. People everywhere are crying out for the mercy and redemption which is visible at the altar, and they can’t see it.
I’m not suggesting a play-by-play narration, and I offer no twelve-step road to success. What I am suggesting, however, is quite simple: do the Roman Rite obediently and without gimmicks. Attempt to connect the pieces of the Mass together in a way that brings about literacy and understanding, first for yourself and then for others. Plan for understanding, for success, for literacy, and even for ongoing personal renewal.
This seems pedantic, I know. But the problem is that so often we don’t make room for understanding, let alone a warm-blooded, sentient response, in our liturgy. In fact, we often steamroll over it. So often there is a priest who doesn’t expect anyone to be listening, and the faithful who don’t expect to hear anything worthwhile and therefore don’t listen. We don’t expect the Gospel to be good news, and we don’t think that God could have anything relevant to say about our situation. We would rather wallow in the status quo, so we can complain about it. As it turns out, help is hiding in plain sight.
As we approach Epiphany once again this year, let’s knock on the doors of wisdom and seek out understanding. The pieces of the puzzle are laid out, and with God’s help, it’s our task to put them together.
Long-time Hoboken resident Emmanuel V. Leemans died on November 19, 2015, one day after suffering a heart attack. Manny combined faith, culture, intelligence, decency, courtesy, and diligence in a manner that above all was humble and without the slightest pretension. He was a true gentleman of the old European sort.
Born to a Flemish-speaking family in Belgium, where he endured four years of the Nazi occupation, he attended the Royal Music Conservatory in Brussels, and studied with Flor Peters, one of the most prominent organists and composers of the 20th century. Manny came of age in a musical culture still wed to the Church where the liturgical renewal had flowered in an extraordinary way, before it all went to the after the Second Vatican Council. He would often remark how every Belgian school child could sing the entire Gregorian repository of standard ordinaries by memory!
Manny immigrated to the United States in 1958, taking the position of musical director and accompanist for the Boys Town Choir in Omaha, Nebraska. Together with the famous Monsignor Francis Schmitt, he produced a sound that at Boys’ Town that set a national standard (recordings of which can still be purchased). He would assist Fr. Schmitt at his famous yearly Liturgical Music Workshops, and with publication of the Cecilia periodical, and was there when the Catholic Music Association of America (CMAA) was founded.
After moving to New York, and later New Jersey, Manny studied composition and musicology at the Julliard School of Music, and received a Master’s degree from Columbia University, where his thesis topic dealt with the Bach chorales. He directed these short but beautiful pieces with unique enthusiasm and insight, in churches and choruses, for the next fifty-plus years.
Over his career, he served as organist and music and choral director at St. Michael’s Monastery in Union City, NJ, and later at Our Lady of Grace Church in Hoboken. Manny had an almost symbiotic relationship with the church’s great organ, a 1907 Wirsching, which he used to great expressive effect. He also taught music at the church’s school.
For many years, Maestro Leemans directed the Hoboken Renaissance Singers; he loved classical music of all styles and eras, but his favorite composer was Johann Sebastian Bach. At the time of his death, he was in the process of completing his collection of recordings of Bach’s two hundred and nine surviving cantatas. He was also a member of the American Guild of Organists, the American Choral Director’s association, and the Columbia Club.
Long before anyone had heard of the phrase, Manny was putting the hermeneutic of continuity into practice. In 1965, when suddenly all over the United States (and soon the world), Latin become stigmatized and there was a rush to sing in the vernacular, Our Lady of Grace had the singular benefit of his translation of texts into English in a way that fit the ancient chants. Thus, the parishioners of Our Lady of Grace in Hoboken were never bereft of “that choir from which is removed this language of wondrous spiritual power, transcending the boundaries of the nations, [whose] melody proceed[s] from the inmost sanctuary of the soul, where faith dwells and charity burns – We speak of Gregorian chant.” (Sacrificium Laudis, Paul VI.) One has the feeling that if Manny had been in charge of music in the Church, everything would have been all right. Yet in this corner of NJ, he kept the candle burning and passed on the art of Gregorian Chant to new generations, handing on the collected wisdom, as it were, of generations, and of the Solemes school in particular. Who can forget being instructed by him how to properly articulate the thesis and antithesis of a Gregorian phrase? And who could forget the marvel of an octogenarian having better breath control than anyone else in the choir as he demonstrated the expressive articulation of an extended melisma?
From fall of 2003 through the mid point of 2004, Manny took over the reins of the Cantantes In Cordibus Choir which sings the Latin Liturgy in downtown Jersey City (then at Holy Rosary, now at St. Anthony’s), saving it from dissolution after a difficult period. Although he only directed the choir for less than a year, he left an imprint on it that has sustained the group ever since.
Manny’s aesthetic was expansive, however, and commanded not only Renaissance polyphony, but the entire repertoire of sacred music. Indeed, he kept all the glories of sacred music in parochial settings during even the darkest period. At Our Lady of Grace, at a time when Hoboken had not yet been re-discovered and was still a working class city on the waterfront, the music of kings was resounding, as Mozart Masses with full orchestra thrilled the common man and raised their hearts to God.
His efforts extended beyond the church. The aforementioned Hoboken Renaissance Singers were founded in 1976 and brought the avant garde of the early music scene to New Jersey. This group, made of music lovers of all faiths, sang together continually until the week before his death, constituting a true musical family. Famously, Manny was able to inspire the most gifted singer while also put at ease the less talented who together made sublime music.
He is survived by his beautiful wife, Antoinette, and his brothers Paul and Constant, who live in Belgium. Also surviving are children through marriage Daniel, Annette and Angelo DePalma, plus eight grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.
He will also be remembered for his intellect, musical accomplishments, and dry humor by scores of friends, students, and colleagues. Dostoevsky famously said that beauty would save the world. This, truly, was a motivating thread through Manny’s long life.
A Month’s Mind Mass (delayed by Christmas) will be offered on Saturday, January 2, 2016, at 11:00 AM at St. Anthony of Padua Church. (see poster above for information) The combined choirs of Cantantes in Cordibus and the Renaissance Singers will sing the Morales Requiem. An original setting of the In Paradisum by Emanuel Leemans will conclude the liturgy
New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time to thank God for the blessings received through the course of the year. Let us remember to thank Him for all the blessings and mercies He gives us through the ministry of the priesthood, for the families in whom religious vocations are born and fostered, to pray for their increase, and for all of our bishops and clergy.
(This photograph was posted in late November to our Instagram account, which automatically reposts everything to our Facebook page as well. Since then, it has surpassed every record for views and likes by an enormous margin, and continues to be shared and liked 5 weeks later. Our thanks to Mr Michael Thomas Kramer for sharing it with us.)
|The Circumcision of the Lord, and the beginning of the Mass for the feast, from the Salzburg Missal.|
|The Martyrology at Prime|
|Placing the statue of Baby Jesus in the Creche|
|Magnificat at Second Vespers of Christmas|
Monday, 1/18, 6 pm (Church of St. Vincent Ferrer): Opening Mass for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Tuesday, 1/19, 7 pm (St. Vincent Ferrer Parish Hall): Parish Study “St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Catherine of Siena, and the Great Western Schism,” lecture by Fr. Innocent Smith, O.P.
Wednesday, 1/20, 7:30 pm (Church of St. Vincent Ferrer): Holy Hour for Christian Unity (Meditation on John 17 by Fr. Walter Wagner, O.P.)
Thursday, 1/21, 7 pm (Church of St. Catherine of Siena): Lecture on Christian Unity (TBA)
Friday, 1/22 (both churches, all Masses): Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
Saturday, 1/23: (Church of St. Catherine of Siena): Day of Prayer for Christian Unity
12 pm: Solemn Mass (celebrated according to the Anglican Ordinariate Divine Worship: The Missal)
1 pm: Refreshments
2 pm: “More Than Mere Words: Anglicans and the Journey to Christian Unity” lecture by Fr. James Bradley (Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham)
3 pm: “Unity and Diversity in the Liturgy” lecture by Fr. Innocent Smith, O.P.
4 pm: Eucharistic Adoration
4:30 pm Evensong
The Mass and Evensong of this will be celebrated according Divine Worship, a liturgical form authorized by the Holy See that draws on the richness of the Anglican liturgical patrimony. Please RSVP to email@example.com.
Monday, 1/25: 6 pm (Church of St. Vincent Ferrer): Closing Mass for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Fr Franck Quoëx passed away on January 2, 2007. He is remembered not only for his important work as a scholar, but, I would dare say, even more for the way his dedication to the liturgy, his example as both a celebrant and a Master of Ceremonies, taught so many people, both clergy and laity, to love the traditional rites of the Church. This was almost the first thing I ever published on NLM after officially coming on board as a writer.
In May of 2006, Abbé Quoëx was diagnosed with cancer, which took his life less than nine months later. In the final days of his illness, when he had become too weak to celebrate Mass, he would have friends sit at his bedside and read the Mass to him. He passed away at the age of thirty-nine, on January 2, the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, and is buried in the cemetery of Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had been serving the faithful of the traditional Mass community. The joy of his eternal rest has most surely been increased beyond measure by the promulgation of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, and the flourishing of the traditional Mass to which he dedicated his all-too-brief life in this world.
The legacy of the Lord, the Mass is the Sun of our lives and our treasure. We love it due to the fact that it is substantially and principally of the Lord's [own] institution. But we love it also as the Church, to which Jesus entrusted its celebration, has transmitted it to us down through the centuries by means of the various liturgical traditions. Because the prayers and rites developed through the centuries in order to explain and manifest before the eyes of the entire Church the unfathomable riches of the essential rite bequeathed by the Lord. ... We cannot in any way forswear a heritage slowly built by the faith of our fathers, their burning devotion, and the theological reflection around the sacrament of the Passion of the Lord. In contact with the Mass of Saint Pius V -- in which we also contemplate the purest masterpiece of Western Civilization, hierarchical as well as sacral -- our souls lift up and our hearts expand, while our minds taste the most authentic Eucharistic doctrine. This is why we wish to understand and love, at all times more, the Traditional Mass, our treasure, and we will not cease to defend and advance it.
|The Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus, from the ceiling of the church of the Gesù in Rome; by Giovanni Battista Gaulli, generally known as Baciccia; 1674. (Image from Wikipedia by LivioAndronico)|
|The Massacre of the Innocents, by Tintoretto, 1582-87, from the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice.|
Writing about a century later, William Durandus rejects Sicard’s idea that these customs refer to the Innocents descent to the Limbo of the Fathers, since if that were the case, the same would have to be observed with St John the Baptist. He does agree with Amalarius, citing his words very closely, and then explains that “the songs of joy” (i.e. the Gloria, Te Deum and Alleluia) are sung if the feast falls on Sunday, and always sung on its octave, “to signify the joy which they will receive on the eighth day, that is, in the resurrection. Although they did go down to (the Limbo of the Fathers), nevertheless they will rise with us in glory; for the octaves of feasts are celebrated in memory of the general resurrection, which they signify.” This is exactly the custom prescribed by the Missal of St Pius V and its late medieval antecedents. Durandus also knows of the custom “in many churches” that the dalmatic and tunicle were not worn, but this is not followed by the Tridentine Missal. (Rationale Divinorum Officiorum VII, 42, 11-12)
The Collect of the Innocents traditionally reads as follows: “O God, whose praise the Innocent Martyrs on this day confessed, not by speaking, but by dying, mortify in us all the evils of the vices; that our life also may proclaim in its manners Thy faith, which our tongues profess.” The phrase “mortify in us all the evils of the vices (omnia in nobis vitiorum mala mortifica)”, which has been removed in the Novus Ordo, refers to the traditional interpretation of the last line of Psalm 136 (137), in which the Psalmist curses the “daughter of Babylon” that had sent the children of Israel into exile: “Blessed be he that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock.” For obvious reasons, this passage was used by the early Church’s critics as an example of evil behavior purportedly sanctioned by the Bible, as also by heretics who rejected the Old Testament, such as the Marcionites and Gnostics.
|The Masses of the Holy Innocents and Pope St Sylvester I, in the Sacramentary of St Denis, (folio 26v); Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 2290|
(T)the little ones of Babylon (which signifies ‘confusion’) are those troublesome sinful thoughts which arise in the soul, and he who subdues them by striking, as it were, their heads against the firm and solid strength of reason and truth, is the man who dashes the little ones against the stones; and he is therefore truly blessed. God may therefore have commanded men to destroy all their vices utterly, even at their birth, without having enjoined anything contrary to the teaching of Christ” (Contra Celsum, 7.22)This explanation is accepted and elaborated upon by several of the Latin Fathers. St Hilary refers to “vices – vitia” eight times in his Treatise on this Psalm; he would also seem to be the first to associate the rock against which the vices are dashed in their “infancy” with the rock which St Paul says was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10, 4). He is followed in this by St Jerome in his 22nd Epistle, written to his spiritual daughter Eustochium, and by St Augustine (Enarratio in Ps. 136). Hilary and Jerome in particular were quite familiar with the Greek Fathers, and especially the famous Origen. Continuing this tradition, St Gregory the Great writes in his Commentary on the Penitential Psalms, “We dash our little ones upon the rock, when we mortify illicit impulses (or ‘passions’) as they arise, by directing the mind towards the imitation of Christ. For it is written ‘But the rock was Christ.’ ”
Of course, the actual children who died in Bethlehem at the hands of King Herod’s soldiers do not represent our vices, and their death does not represent the mortification of our vices. The prayer refers, rather, in this oblique way, to the transformation of evil into good. The curse of the Psalm becomes an exhortation to virtue, the words that precede it, “blessed shall he be who shall repay thee thy payment which thou hast paid us,” replaced by Christ’s command, “Bless them that curse you.” The murder of the Innocents in Bethlehem, a sin that cries to Heaven for vengeance, will bring them to glory in Heaven, after the murder of another Innocent opens its gates and effects the redemption of the human race.
This may also be the reason why the Roman Rite developed the custom, which is unique to it, of referring to these children as “the Holy Innocents”, since they did not live long enough to commit any sin, and never lost or struggled to keep the innocence which adults must preserve or regain by the mortification of the vices. In other rites, they are referred to simply as a “children” or “infants.” In the Epistle of their Mass, Apocalypse 14, 1-5, St John the Evangelist, whose feast is kept the previous day, sees “a Lamb (also a symbol of innocence) stood upon Mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads. … these were purchased from among men, the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb: And in their mouth there was found no lie; for they are without spot before the throne of God.” Medieval authors in the West, having no idea of the true size of Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth, often assumed on the basis of this reading that their number must have been 144,000, but the Byzantine tradition says they were 14,000. (The whole population of the city today is just over 25,000.)
|A Greek icon of the Massacre of the Innocents, ca. 1580|
Holweck also states, incorrectly, that the pre-Tridentine Breviary sang the hymns of Christmas at the Office of the Innocents; in point of fact, the Common hymns of Several Martyrs were used. The Pian Breviary, which is in most regards extremely conservative, introduced two new proper hymns for the feast, stanzas from the Epiphany hymn of the 5th century poet Prudentius; the first three of these are sung at Matins, and the other two at Lauds, to be repeated at Vespers. The latter hymn has become famous in connection with a story about St Philip Neri. He lived for many years at the Roman church of San Girolamo della Carità, right across the street from the Venerable English College, many of whose young students died as martyrs in England under Queen Elizabeth I. He used therefore to greet them with the first line of the hymn “Salvete, flores Martyrum! – Hail ye flowers of the martyrs!”
Salvete flores martyrum, / Quos lucis ipso in limine / Christi insecutor sustulit, / Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.
All hail, ye little Martyr flowers, / Sweet rosebuds cut in dawning hours! / When Herod sought the Christ to find / Ye fell as bloom before the wind.
Vos prima Christi victima, / Grex immolatorum tener, / Aram sub ipsam simplices / Palma et coronis luditis.
First victims of the Martyr bands, / With crowns and palms in tender hands, / Around the very altar, gay / And innocent, ye seem to play.
Jesu, tibi sit gloria, / Qui natus es de Virgine, / Cum Patre et almo Spiritu, / In sempiterna saecula. Amen.
All honor, laud, and glory be, / O Jesu, Virgin-born to thee; / All glory, as is ever meet / To Father and to Paraclete. Amen. (English translation by Msgr. Hugh Thomas Henry and J. M. Neale.)
|From last year’s Epiphany photopost - Solemn Mass at the church of St Stephen in Cleveland, Ohio|
Through the centuries, and even to the present day, the faith of the Church has been communicated by music, as much as by words; the very Word, through the Church, embodied in music. … It is an essential function; it was never merely decorative. The Mass in its nature is sung, chanted; and the innumerable musical settings of the Mass are intrinsic to its meaning, to its universality, to the dimensionality: it is not “just words.” … I am convinced that the recovery of the musical traditions, within Holy Church, can do more to evangelize than any quarrelling with the world. For what we must do is not argue, but proclaim; and music in its nature does not argue. It proclaims.This statement seemed to me as resonantly unarguable as a well-played Prelude and Fugue. To my surprise, however, an argument broke out, in which it soon became evident that those who hold a position like Warren’s were being accused, whether directly or implicitly, of snobbery, judgmental elitism, holier-than-thou aestheticism, pastoral callousness, and other unpleasant things.
It seems to me that Warren is making a triple claim: first, that religious worship, being the sublime act of reaching toward the transcendent God in awestruck homage and receiving the benediction of His grace, is inherently musical — that music is part of the very activity (in a McLuhanite sense of the medium being the message); second, that great music is therefore a moral imperative, not a kind of window-dressing that we can take or leave; third, that “the recovery of musical traditions … can do more to evangelize” modern men than other approaches that have been tried and found wanting. Why is this? Men who are drowning in desacralized materialism, in the close confines of practical atheism, are in desperate need of anti-secularizing shock treatment. They need not worldly reassurance but otherworldly elevation to the Fear of Jacob. In other words, I believe that Warren is talking about the arresting, converting, and evangelizing power of supernal beauty.
Given the knowledge and talent demanded by excellence in the realm of the sacred arts, it is no more surprising that the danger of pride would lurk therein than that the danger of self-indulgence or power trips would lurk among the clergy, who have special temptations in that regard. What a fool’s bargain if we tried to get rid of pride by getting rid of beautiful and difficult things that elicit pride and going rather for something banal and homely, about which nobody could be proud. Even worse, just as a poor man can be possessive about a spoon, so fools would be proud of their banality. The pride would have migrated to the lowest common denominator and we’d be doubly cursed, with moral and artistic unworthiness.
Allow me to propose seven points on which Catholics, looking to the Church’s tradition and learning from the mistakes of the past half-century, should be able to agree.
1. We need to move from today’s comfortably content-free religion of moralistic therapeutic Deism to traditional Catholic faith and worship in their fullness.
2. This move should generally be an incremental one, guided by prudence and characterized by a patient pursuit of excellence — although never by tolerance of that which is, strictly speaking, liturgical abuse (cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum).
3. In Christianity, the interior and exterior dimensions ALWAYS go together: one must have the beautiful liturgy AND the pure heart. It seems surprising that a discussion of what is objectively best, and most in accord with Church teaching and tradition, should turn towards the problem that some people pursue these things in the wrong manner or with the wrong motives. Isn’t this simply a universal and timeless problem of fallen human beings? We can’t settle the question of what music should be used at Mass by looking at people’s inner motivations. Rather, we must do what is right and call people (including ourselves) to continual conversion of heart. Otherwise we risk paralysis through introspection — inaction, lest we be acting imperfectly.
4. After all, a liberal/progressive Catholic (think of the self-celebrating celebrant) can drive people away from Christ and His Church just as much as an obnoxious or elitist traditionalist can do. But on the objective side, it’s not completely equal: anthropocentric and/or ugly liturgy will always deform the faith of the people, whereas liturgy that is theocentric and aesthetically elevated has, in and of itself, an inherent truth and power — regardless of the mixed degrees of sanctity and sinfulness of its ministers. In other words, it is sophistical to argue that, because some traditionalists are imperfect, therefore a traditional manner of worship is imperfect, but it is quite true to argue that a contemporary manner of worship is imperfect and therefore produces moral, intellectual, and spiritual imperfections in our contemporaries. That is why it must be guarded against where it does not exist and, where it does, phased out as soon as possible.
|Priests from and for the Divine Beauty|
6. At this point one is likely to hear the barb “anything good can become an idol” (implying: you lovers of tradition are idolaters of some sort), but it seems dangerous — indeed, heretical — to argue that promoting the liturgy and its associated traditions, as received, preserved, loved, and honored by the Church down through the ages, can ever be dangerous in itself. After all, even the Eucharist can be dangerous per accidens, when It is received by someone in a state of mortal sin. There is nothing so good that it cannot be abused, except the divine nature itself. Nevertheless, we would never say that the Eucharist is dangerous without qualification. Nor should we say that excellence in the sacred arts, the aspiration to it and the use of it once acquired, is dangerous without qualification.
7. Jesus preached in parables both to reach people through images and to say something they wouldn’t be able to get (yes, that’s written in all three Synoptic Gospels, and it always makes people uncomfortable). In the Church’s Tradition the Logos is preached in a way that makes it clear that it IS the Logos and not a mirror held up to our own philosophies or lifestyles, a way that makes it possible to accept the Logos as our salvation from outside ourselves or to reject the Logos as an imposition on our disordered freedom.
In its superabundant language of signs that strain their own boundaries and push the human mind to the very edge of rationality, the Latin liturgical heritage is and must be alien in many ways to all of us — whether European or American, African or Asian. Its symbolic and musical languages, its hallowed formulae and sacred gestures, speak a language that has always transcended the quotidian customs of any group of people, and rightly so. For it is thus (and only thus) that we are all drawn into that supranational unity called the Catholic Church, a process that is painful, demanding, and liberating for every earthly creature, stretching and reconfiguring us all in various (perhaps different and complementary) ways.
If the Holy Mass had ever been merely “European,” an expression of this or that aesthetic form common in Europe at any given time, it would have been incapable of forming the Mystical Body of Christ and extending its visible and invisible dimensions through missions to every tribe and tongue and people and nation. In fact, it would have been something equivalent to opera, or cinema, or whatever else happens to be our favorite way of entertaining ourselves. The liturgy is most decidedly not any of these, nor has it ever been. Who “owns” Gregorian chant? For whom is the mystical oblation of the God-Man a matter-of-fact reality? Do Gothic chasubles and zucchetti belong anymore to the Italians, French, and Germans than to Sub-saharan Africa or Kazakhstan? Even in the beginning, the earliest Roman faithful surely trembled in awe as the sacred mysteries were enacted before them. The Jewish converts themselves, no strangers to the awesome worship of the Temple, would have trembled when they heard St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s catechetical homilies before their baptism.
The liturgy is always and everywhere, by the grace of God, a transcendent ritual form, and never just a paltry artifact of history whose richness can be reduced to a particular cultural aesthetic. Because it must immerse everyone in that mystical reality that is the whole Body of Christ worshipping together in spirit and truth, it will always do so by being alien to the daily lives of everyone and every time — precisely in order to infuse into that daily life a heavenly grace and blessing from the Lord’s holy and mystical altar.
|Not your everyday cup|