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Articles on this Page
- 11/05/16--04:20: _Dostoyevsky on Pray...
- 11/05/16--17:04: _The Feast of All Sa...
- 11/06/16--10:28: _The Feast of All Sa...
- 11/06/16--16:06: _All Saints and All ...
- 11/07/16--06:19: _Book Review: T&T Cl...
- 11/07/16--16:26: _The Feast of All Sa...
- 11/08/16--05:00: _Should It Be Curtai...
- 11/08/16--07:21: _Dominican Rite Cale...
- 11/08/16--16:46: _The Octave of All S...
- 11/09/16--05:00: _Eucharistic Process...
- 11/09/16--17:07: _CMAA Sacred Music W...
- 11/10/16--05:00: _In Memoriam: Norcia...
- 11/10/16--17:14: _Thomas Aquinas on t...
- 11/11/16--05:00: _First Weeks of St J...
- 11/13/16--17:43: _Tradition is for th...
- 11/14/16--18:10: _Is Traditionalism a...
- 11/15/16--05:00: _Can Small-Scale Ill...
- 11/15/16--18:11: _Catholic Artists So...
- 11/16/16--09:53: _EF Confirmations in...
- 11/16/16--18:13: _Tradition is for th...
- 11/05/16--04:20: Dostoyevsky on Prayer for the Dead
- 11/05/16--17:04: The Feast of All Saints 2016 - The Patriarchs and Prophets
- 11/06/16--10:28: The Feast of All Saints 2016 - The Apostles
- 11/06/16--16:06: All Saints and All Souls Photopost 2016
- 11/07/16--06:19: Book Review: T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy
- Chapter 7, “In Pursuit of Participation — Liturgy and Liturgists in Early Modern and Post-Enlightenment Catholicism” is a fine overview of the ways in which, from the late medieval period down to the end of the 19th century, lay participation in liturgy was understood, practiced, and advocated, together with some of the bright and not-so-bright ideas proposed to intensify the people’s engagement with the sacred mysteries.
- Chapter 8, “The Twentieth-Century Liturgical Movement” continues the historical investigation by looking at the rise of efforts to immerse the Christian faithful in the riches of the inherited liturgy, some of the opposition they met with, and the later radicalization of the movement as its self-styled representatives shifted from the study and love of the Church’s tradition to a desire for changing or jettisoning even age-old liturgical rites and fabricating new ones in the name of pastoral effectiveness and adaptation to modern man.
- Chapter 14, “After Sacrosanctum Concilium — Continuity or Rupture?,” tackles the thorny question of whether the liturgical reform that took place in the name of the Council merits to be considered a faithful implementation of the limited demands of the conciliar fathers. There is no doubt that it is asserted to be so, but gratis asseritur gratis negatur. Reid deftly works through the many viewpoints on this question, drawing heavily on historical documentation and noting how much a partisan version of the history has impeded accurate scholarship (one is reminded of another adage, “to the victors go the spoils”).
- Chapter 16, “Pastoral Liturgy Revisited,” shows that the term “pastoral,” like “authority,” can be a wax nose of almost infinite malleability. In reviewing how the term was used and abused in the decades surrounding the Second Vatican Council, Reid orients us with respect to a correct definition that does not oppose pastoral to sacred, solemn, traditional, symbolic, hieratic, or beautiful, but rather sees proper initiation into the spirit and power of the liturgy as the key towards overcoming the gap between the unprepared faithful and the Christian who is drinking deeply from the mysteries of Christ.
- Chapter 21, “The Usus Antiquior — Its History and Importance in the Church after the Second Vatican Council,” fills a lacuna in liturgical scholarship by taking seriously the question of what the revival of the older form of the Mass (and the sacraments and sacramentals) means for the life of the Church today. Reid offers a history of the fate of the classical rite in the period after the Council (including the role of such figures as Heenan, Lefebvre, and de Castro Mayer), discussing the way in which the climate changed under John Paul II and, of course, the content and implications of Summorum Pontificum. Although Reid’s purpose is irenical, the examples he cites of the bitter hatred of progressives for the liturgical tradition of the Church are enough to singe one’s eyebrows.
- 11/07/16--16:26: The Feast of All Saints 2016 - The Martyrs
- 11/08/16--05:00: Should It Be Curtains for the Rood Screen?
- 11/08/16--07:21: Dominican Rite Calendar for 2017 Available
- 11/08/16--16:46: The Octave of All Saints 2016
- 11/09/16--17:07: CMAA Sacred Music Workshop for Winter 2017
- 11/10/16--05:00: In Memoriam: Norcia's Co-Cathedral and Madonna Addolorata
- 11/10/16--17:14: Thomas Aquinas on the Rite of Mass: Lecture Coming Up in NYC
- 11/11/16--05:00: First Weeks of St Joseph Oratory, Detroit
- 11/13/16--17:43: Tradition is for the Young
- 11/14/16--18:10: Is Traditionalism a Spiritual Malady?
- 11/15/16--18:11: Catholic Artists Society Lecture in New York, November 19
- 11/16/16--09:53: EF Confirmations in Ireland and England
- 11/16/16--18:13: Tradition is for the Young (Part 2)
Remember, too, every day, and whenever you can, repeat to yourself, ‘Lord, have mercy on all who appear before Thee today.’ For every hour and every moment thousands of men leave life on this earth, and their souls appear before God. And how many of them depart in solitude, unknown, sad, dejected that no one mourns for them or even knows whether they have lived or not! And behold, from the other end of the earth perhaps, your prayer for their rest will rise up to God though you knew them not nor they you. How touching it must be to a soul standing in dread before the Lord to feel at that instant that, for him too, there is one to pray, that there is a fellow creature left on earth to love him too! And God will look on you both more graciously, for if you have had so much pity on him, how much will He have pity Who is infinitely more loving and merciful than you! And He will forgive him for your sake.” (The Brothers Karamazov, book 6, chapter 3 (g) - Conversations of Fr Zossima: Of prayer, of love, and of contact with the other worlds)
The video above is a choral setting of the words “Eternal Memory” (Вѣчная Памѧть in Old Church Slavonic, from the Greek Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη) from the Byzantine Rite’s equivalent of the Requiem service. The author of this setting, Pavel Chesnokov (1877-1944), was a remarkably prolific composer of sacred music, with over 400 pieces to his name; very sadly, when the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, where he has served as choirmaster, was destroyed in 1933, Chesnokov was so distraught that he stopped composing altogether. (The church was demolished to make way for a gigantic public building that was never realized, and reconstructed on the same site from 1995 to 2000.)
Although All Souls’ Day has passed, it has become a common custom to extend the special season of prayers for the dead through the whole of November. Rorate caeli recently published a useful reminder of the original intention of Pope Benedict XV, when in 1915 he granted all priests permission to say three Masses on November 2nd, a custom originally observed only in Spain and Portugal, namely so that they might pray for those who had been killed in war. We also ought to persevere in this holy intention, and remember especially to pray for the many Christians who were killed in the War-to-End-All-Wars, and the many wars that have happened since, for “it is ... a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”
From the Breviary according to the use of the Roman Curia, 1529, the continuation of the sermon for the seventh day in the Octave of All Saints.
|Jamb sculptures of the north portal of Chartres Cathedral, to the right of the central door; 13th century. From left to right, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Simeon (holding the infant Christ), John the Baptist, and St Peter. (image from Flickr by François Philipp, Creative Commons license.)|
From the Breviary according to the use of the Roman Curia, 1529, the continuation of the sermon for the seventh day in the Octave of All Saints.
|Giotto di Bondone, The Last Judgment, in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, 1306|
|This photo only looks like it came from a copy of Life magazine ca. 1955. The magic of filters!|
|Altar decorated with relics for veneration bu the faithful on All Saints’ Day|
I was having a conversation with a colleague the other day, a Scripture scholar, about the phenomenon of “fashion” in scholarly circles. Scholars are, by definition, supposed to be studious, objective, fair-minded, but the painful reality is that scholars are just as likely to succumb to selective evaluation, private agendas, and emotionalism as anyone else. One can see certain fashionable theories or opinions conquering whole fields and holding them captive for years, decades, even centuries, in spite of the fact that the evidence is wanting or equivocal or problematic.
If Scriptural exegesis provides copious examples of theories treated as quasi-dogmas, liturgical studies afford many examples, too: the fashion for inserting epicleses in all anaphoras (and seeing their absence as a defect); the championing of ancient “anaphoras” that have turned out to be non-liturgical after all; the fashion for reconstructing early Christian liturgy so that it would, by a surprising twist, look like mid-20th-century liberal Protestant worship, with “people’s altars” and versus populum; the denial of a practical and conceptual distinction between the sacred and the profane, or the attributing of such a distinction to paganism; and on and on the list goes.
Fortunately, fashions have their brief day in the great arc of history, and when the sun sets on their empire, they give way to new ideas, new theories, and new attempts at analysis or synthesis. We have seen this happen abundantly in the arena of Scripture, where sophisticated literary analysis has put the Humpty-Dumpty of textual fragments and sources back together again in an intentional unity, and where it is no longer laughable to suggest that a certain stance towards the text, namely that of religious faith, is required for understanding it. The same is happening in the arena of liturgical studies, as a new generation of scholars sheds the psychedelic costumes of the 1960s and 1970s and takes a wider and deeper view.
Naturally, such a paradigm shift — which, for convenience, we might call a hermeneutic of continuity — will never be greeted with enthusiasm or even a fair hearing by those who are still institutionally committed to the paradigm of rupture and discontinuity. (One may predict already what the review in Worship will sound like; it could nearly be auto-generated.) There will, moreover, always be those post-modern relativists who maintain that every generation is imprisoned by its fashions, and that we are merely witnessing the inevitable upheaval and revisionism of the young Turks, before they settle into their hardened prejudices, ready for defeat at the hands of scholars yet to come. But this view seems entirely too pessimistic to me. In the generational currents of scholarship, it does happen, in some fortunate instances, that authors produce judicious, insightful, well-founded treatments of their subjects, in such a way that we may dare to say a classic text is born, a “must-read.”
While I am nervous about bestowing the label of “classic” on any brand-new book, the T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy is eligible for it. As with any multi-author work, the chapters vary in style and methodology, but the majority of the contributions are definitive summary treatments of their topics, bringing the reader to a refreshing perspective that goes well beyond the hackneyed progressivism of the conciliar and post-conciliar periods. The authors writing for this volume are, for the most part, people who suffered through or lived after the dismantling and reconstruction of the Western Catholic liturgical tradition, and who, equipped with the irrefutable evidence of widespread collapse as well as the surprising (at least to intellectuals) revival of traditional practices, are in a position to offer a truly balanced assessment of, if I may borrow the title of a popular book on liturgy, “what we have done and what we have failed to do.” Those who are looking for substantial theological thinking on the liturgy together with probing critiques of the recent past — two features often missing from the standard fare — will find this book a goldmine.
Now to more specific comments on the content. In the interests of space, I will highlight chapters that seem especially strong in achieving their purpose.
Chapter 2, “The Jewish Roots of Christian Liturgy,” by Robert Hayward, helpfully assembles what we know about the Jewish worship and ritual practice on the eve of Christ’s coming, so that we can see the backdrop against which Jesus himself and his disciples introduced a sacramental economy with an eschatological finality.
Chapter 3, “The Study of Early Christian Worship” by Daniel Van Slyke, is one of the most brilliant, with its dissection of the seductions of archeologism or antiquarianism (seen above all in the misplaced veneration for the so-called Canon of Hippolytus, the model for Eucharistic Prayer II). Van Slyke describes the current theories that seem to undermine any appeal to ancient Christianity, and suggests that we do better to learn from the ancients certain principles that are truly trans-temporal, such as the centrality of doxology, the power of ritual to deliver us from the devil, and conservatism with regard to received rites.
In Chapter 6, “The Roman Missal of the Council of Trent,” Anthony Chadwick furnishes a masterful synopsis of the complex history of the codification and revision of the Missale Romanum in the centuries just before the Council of Trent and up to Quo Primum of 1570. The summary of the problems and abuses identified in the Tridentine period and the careful analysis of the 1570 missal and its sources are superb. Chadwick concludes that the commission’s work must be described as a work of conservative “restoration, not compilation or fabrication,” such that “the continuity of tradition is assured”: “very little was changed in the ordinary of the Mass compared with the missal of 1474” (119). What was unprecedented about the missal of 1570 was not its content but the codification and enforcement of the rite “from above.”
Alcuin Reid contributes several chapters to this volume, and, as one would expect from the author of The Organic Development of the Liturgy and other works, his contributions are among the finest:
The progressive perspective is also present in this volume, which was a deliberate choice of the editor. (Reid mentions in his introduction that he had invited Piero Marini, John Baldovin, Keith Pecklers, Massimo Faggioli, and John O’Malley to contribute to the book, but implies that all of them refused.) Anscar Chupungco in Chapters 12 and 13, and James Leachman in Chapter 9, come strongly to the defense of the liturgical reform, and offer the reader abundant material for reflection. It is fascinating to see how supporters of the liturgical revolution justify its aims, methods, and results, even down to the present day when the entire project is looking dated and dull, like civil and ecclesiastical architecture of the same period, and when its philosophical and theological assumptions have been exploded by a variety of critiques, whether traditionalist, sociological, or post-modern. Making the weaker argument the stronger is never an easy task; those who continue to prop up the establishment are surely notable for their determination.
Chapter 15, “A Reform of the Reform?” by Fr. Thomas Kocik is the single best summary of this at times nebulous phrase and pluralistic effort, which is perhaps more of a longing for authentic Roman liturgy or a hope for institutional change than a coherent platform. Certainly, Kocik pulls no punches when it comes to describing the extent of rupture and discontinuity in the reformed liturgical books, as a way of explaining why there has been widespread discontent and a growing desire for pruning novelties and restoring lost or maimed elements. Unfortunately, in spite of grassroots support for both the recovery of the preconciliar liturgy and the “re-enchantment” of the postconciliar liturgy, it seems that senior ecclesiastical officialdom has, for now, turned its back on the Reform of the Reform, as can be seen in the insulting responses to Cardinal Sarah.
For Chapter 17, “The Liturgy and Sacred Language,” no better author could have been chosen then Fr. Uwe Michael Lang. Those who are seeking a pithy statement of the properties of sacral or liturgical language and how the Roman liturgy has exhibited and embodied these properties will find this dense paper admirably suited to the purpose.
Something similar can be said for Chapter 19, “Liturgical Music,” in which Timothy McDonnell discusses music in the liturgy after the conciliar reforms, the principal documents in the reform of liturgical music, the eclipse of the Graduale Romanum, the challenge of setting vernacular texts to chant, and the alarming manner in which the prescribed role of genuine liturgical music has been utterly obscured by layer after layer of gratuitous musical construction of shoddy workmanship.
If I have any substantive complaint about the book, it would simply be the onerous price. The publisher evidently conceives the book as a reference work for libraries, but, as one who is in charge of accessions at a small liberal arts college, I suspect the price would discourage even librarians working under pinched budgets. Nevertheless, if you have any say in library acquisitions, you should strongly recommend this book. Moreover, if you are a serious student of the liturgy, you should save your pennies until you can afford a copy, for this book is uniquely weighty and important.
In sum, the T&T Clark Companion to Liturgy is an invaluable resource on a host of subjects that have, until now, tended to receive either superficial or biased treatment, while providing a number of outstanding scholarly summaries of different areas of study. Readers who take a more traditional stance on matters liturgical will find in its pages incisive critiques of modern trends and an abundant apologia for tradition; readers who are of a more progressive bent will no doubt find grist for their mills and, just possibly, a challenge to their own triumphalistic paradigm. All readers will find thought-provoking engagement of some of the most controversial issues that arise in this field. Congratulations to Dom Alcuin Reid and Bloomsbury T&T Clark for publishing such a ground-breaking volume.
From the Breviary according to the use of the Roman Curia, 1529, the continuation of the sermon for the seventh day in the Octave of All Saints.
If you consult Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars, you will note that an integral part of the Pre-reformation rood screen was the curtain. During various parts of the liturgy this was opened and closed, thus revealing and hiding the liturgical action at the altar.
Note the similarity here with the Royal Doors of the iconostasis! The only picture I could find of a rood screen with curtains was used by the Orthodox Western Rite.
Of course, we should remember why the rood screen fell away in the 16th and 17th century in the Roman Rite - it was in response to the Council of Trent, which, while not mandating their removal did ask for greater visibility. It’s a judgement call!
Anyway, our commentator goes on:
This is not surprising when one recalls that in the English Church in the pre-Great Schismatic era there were many Byzantine influences. Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, was a monk of the Eastern rite sent by the Pope to be Archbishop of Canterbury - he brought with him his ecclesiastical household. Four hundred or so years later look at the Bayeux tapestry, the Archbishop of Canterbury is portrayed in Eastern rite vestments rather than those of the Latin West!
Dominican Liturgy. You can now download it at the link called "Dominican Rite Calendar 2017." Or down load it directly here.
This calendar gives the Mass to be said on each day of the year, cross references for the 1933, 1939, and 1965 Missals when the feast is on another day according to the 1962 calendar, and, in Italics, any extra collects that should be said at Mass, Lauds, and Vespers.
At the end there is also a supplement with the local feasts for all dioceses where there are houses of the Western Dominican Province, as well as that for Washington D.C. The calendar itself includes particular feasts of the United States in brackets. Optional local Dominican blesseds are listed at the end of the Calendar with an indication of the provinces where they would be used. Finally, Dominican saints canonized and placed on the Order's Calendar by a General Chapter since 1965 are included in the calendar with references to where suitable commons may be found in the Missal.
Should you notice any errors, please let me know in the combox below. Should members of any other Dominican province wish to compile the local feasts for their houses using the same style and format I have used, send them to me and I will add an appendix for that province. My email is found at at Dominican Liturgy on the left sidebar at the bottom.
From the Breviary according to the use of the Roman Curia, 1529, the conclusion of the sermon for the seventh day in the Octave of All Saints.
|The Trinity Adored by All the Saints; Spanish, ca. 1400. Retable from the Royal Monastery of Valldecrist, a Carthusian house founded by King Martin I of Aragon in 1385. The Saints on the left and right sides are arranged in their traditional ranks: from top to bottom, Patriarchs and Prophets, Apostles and Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins and Holy Women. (From the website of the Matropolitan Museum of Art in New York City)|
On the following day, the College celebrated the Commemoration of All Souls with an all-usus antiquior schedule: a Requiem Missa cantata before lunch, Vespers for the Dead before dinner, and finally a nighttime visit to the cemetery, where we prayed the Rosary, said prayers for the faithful departed, and returned to the church for Compline for the Dead (EF).
|The co-cathedral of Norcia (no longer with us)|
But as NLM readers know, this was not the only casualty: all the churches of Norcia collapsed in the last earthquake. Of the many churches in town, two others were particularly dear to me and my family: the Co-Cathedral and the Chiesa della Madonna Addolorata. (Norcia used to be its own diocese, but when it was fused with Spoleto to become the Spoleto-Norcia diocese, each town retained a cathedral for the single bishop.)
Pictures have their own eloquence that words cannot match, now that these noble buildings lie in ruins. Suffice it to say that the co-cathedral was beloved to many because of its beautiful fresco of SS. Benedict and Scholastica in the Blessed Sacrament chapel, and its various side-altars that had more beauty than the main sanctuary.
|The Cathedral tower, seen from the bell tower of the Basilica|
|Side altar with image of SS. Benedict & Scholastica|
|The same, past the iron grill|
|The altar of the Crocifisso|
|The facade of Madonna Addolorata|
|(This picture was not taken by us. The lighting is better than we had.)|
|The choir loft|
|The main altar with the venerated image|
|My children and some friends singing medieval music in the church last July|
While focusing on the traditional and innovative aspects of Thomas’s liturgical thought within his 13th century context, these lectures aim to help us to enter more deeply into the liturgy as experienced in its various forms today. The first lecture takes place at 1:00 pm, the second at 2:30 pm, and Mass will be offered at 3:45 pm. Refreshments will be available before the first and second lectures. The event will take place at the Catholic Center at NYU (238 Thompson Street, New York, NY), and are part of The Wisdom of St Thomas Aquinas series sponsored by the Thomistic Institute at NYU (thomisticinstitute.org). To register for the lectures, which are free and open to the public, visit thomisticinstitute.org/upcoming-events.
This admittedly rather vague memory came back to me as I was preparing our photopost for All Saints and All Souls earlier this week; we had far more submissions for the latter, and in all of them, the vestments were black. I then received this late entry from St Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Oberlin, Louisiana, and I am happy to give these photos their own post, because they show us very clearly that the memory of our Catholic traditions need not be lost to the young. Since the motu proprio came out, we have the means to make sure that it is not, and, thank God, more and more people have the will to do so. Surely we must be encouraged by seeing these young men participating in an ancient and solemn liturgy for which they are so clearly not just nostalgic.
The parish priest, Fr Jacob Conner (who hardly looks to be thirty), writes “So many have been working diligently the past three years here at St Joan of Arc, and, while there’s so much more to be done, I’m very hopeful because of our ‘upward’ trajectory. The Diocese of Lake Charles, moreover, is blessed with a wonderful Bishop who supports the EF. (Bishop Glen Provost will be celebrating a Pontifical on Dec. 28th; he offers a Pontifical twice per year at his cathedral.) The EF is in several parishes in the diocese, and there were other solemn or sung Masses in the diocese, in addition to ours ... The young and young at heart seem to be gradually, but consistently, awakening to these beautiful treasures of Holy Mother Church. As the Scripture says, there’s much cause for rejoicing here! The servers pictured at the All Souls Mass are a fraction of the number of altar boys at this small, country parish. Ever since we made the move to exclusively male service at altar, the number of servers has continually increased.”
The commenter maintained:
There is nothing wrong with a robust and loyal devotion and defense of Tradition, but the Pharisee temptation, the temptation to a fanaticism that protects us from what we neurotically fear, usually some post-traumatic-stress form of fear of contamination and intimacy and loss of control, is as powerful among those with the particular charism to defend Tradition as it is undetectable by them once it is given in to. I speak from personal experience. I have found that the awareness of this temptation, and one’s susceptibility to it, once it is has been given in to repeatedly, decreases as a function of the spiritual urgency of one’s need to recognize it in order to be free of it through repentance. In other words, it is the kind of sin that makes repentance nearly impossible — for it is “they” who need to repent, who are impure and disloyal and traitors to God, not me! … [W]hat is seldom mentioned is the possibility of “adherence to tradition” becoming a sign of one’s spiritual superiority and initiation into the “inner circle” of the REAL Catholics. Or, even worse, when adherence to tradition becomes a way of avoiding intimacy with God, oneself, and other people.In reply, I wrote:
Indeed, being a “traditionalist,” in the best sense of this term, meaning, simply, being steeped in Holy Tradition as the indispensable means — not an end in itself! — to encountering and loving God as He truly is in Himself, is a prerequisite for holiness, and hence the humble simplicity that is its essential quality.
It seems that you are saying that while we cannot and should not try to escape from tradition, we can and must try to escape from pride. This is absolutely correct — but for that very reason, your position should never lead to contempt for tradition, the kind of contempt that is all too obvious in the past 50 years of experimentation, novelty, and the rationalistic (and Americanist) “we can do it better than everyone before us.”My interlocutor retorted:
The great saints would agree with all you have said about finding God in the present moment — but they would not then pit that against being fully and traditionally Catholic. This is not an either/or but a both/and situation.
If Tradition is an indispensable means, let us love it and treat it precisely as such. For example, if there were a single bridge by which one could cross a river, one would love, value, repair, and frequently use that bridge, not because it is an end in itself, but because by it one can reach the land one is seeking.
I agree with everything you have just written, and you put it beautifully, as usual. But I do not think you got the essence of my point, which is not simply that we should avoid pride, and that loving and being loyal to Tradition is precisely the way to avoid such pride. It’s a more subtle point I am making, one that suggests that there is a dangerous temptation bound up with the adoption of a certain “inner circle” stance and attitude vis-à-vis the Church and the world and other people, and a unhealthy spiritual and psychological and emotional condition as both its cause and effect.Here is my response to that objection.
Subtlety can be the undoing of us. Sometimes good, plain, honest judgment is better. When you look at something beautiful, noble, and reverent, you say (and you ought to say): “This is good, this is as it should be. Let’s embrace it wholeheartedly and use it to praise God and win eternal life.” When you see something that is the opposite, you say (and you ought to say): “This is bad, it will not help us, and it deserves to be rejected.” This is how matters stand, for example, with the proposal that bigamists or adulterers should be admitted to Holy Communion. A true Catholic simply says: “No way, not in a million years. Jesus taught the evil of adultery; St. Paul taught it; St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas More died over it; I am ready to die for it, too. I don’t care who says otherwise.”
Yes, sometimes we will make mistakes in our particular judgments, but it is a peculiarly modern (post-modern?) temptation to want to float in a region of non-judgment, where we can avoid the painful necessity of making up our minds and coming down on this or that side of the fence. We’d rather sit on the fence and pretend we have a superior disposition because we are not like those Pharisees down there on the one side, or those liberals on the other, all of whom have chosen decisively. Ironically, it sounds like the “view from nowhere” myth of the Enlightenment, which is a still subtler form of Pharisaism whereby those who keep themselves pure from definite positions can consider themselves clear-seeing, free from ideology. According to this stance, the people most free are those who do not bind themselves to a particular path, a way of life, a body of spiritual practices, a worldview. After all, since we could always be wrong, we need to refrain from such commitments.
This, of course, is the very essence of modernity’s error — an error no less pernicious for its being utterly incapable of actually being lived. For it is notoriously true that men who claim to be free from all prejudices often prove to be the most entrapped by a web of them. It is more honest to admit that all human beings have loves and hatreds, and that we are responsible for getting them sorted out and well-aimed, not for ridding ourselves of them. It is a form of reverence to God to acknowledge that He intends for us to seek true knowledge, to reach real conclusions, to make judgments about right and wrong, and to lay our lives on the line for what we believe.
We have to make choices about how and what we are going to do with ourselves as Catholics. Anyone who thinks that it’s as easy as “just listening to the Church” had better have his head examined. Who or what is the Church? Is it just whatever the Pope or any bishop says? Would that it were so simple, but it has almost never been so — and now, far less than ever before. From the dogmatic battles of the early Church to the political chaos of the Dark Ages, from the tangled allegiances of the Great Western Schism to centuries of compromise with worldliness (and, at times, overzealous opponents thereof), the story of Christian orthodoxy cannot be mechanically derived from the hierarchy as if one were retrieving files from a hard drive.
Our forebears in the Faith were content to believe and to do that which was handed down to them; there was no legalism, no hyperpapalism, no need to study reams upon reams of Vatican documents, no need to apologize for loving what one’s ancestors loved. While it is impossible, at this time, to recapture fully that blissful simplicity of yore, there is much to be said for imitating it to the extent that we can. It uncomplicates Catholic life by focusing it on what is tried and true, rather than on this decade’s academic theories or this week’s tabloid revelations.
It is easy to bring up the specter of the Pharisees and Sadducees (for each of us has a little or a lot of them inside of us) without recognizing who, in the Church today, most fits their profile. Jesus, after all, was the one who had the vastly more demanding teaching on marriage and family, and on the worship of God “in spirit and in truth.” Compared to Him, even the most rigorous Jews were compromisers and materialists. How about the neoconservatives who think they are the only “reasonable” and “moderate” people? Or the liberals and progressives who are convinced that the future would be theirs, if only ignorant throwbacks like NLM writers and readers would bite the dust? If one is not careful, one will end up saying that only those who are superficial and ignorant are spiritually safe, because, having no deep attachment to orthodoxy or orthopraxy, they are free of all Pharisaical dangers.
But the problem we are dealing with today goes deeper. It is not enough to stay on the level of spiritual generalities. One must also have the courage to look at the particular ways in which the Catholic Faith and its practice have been dismantled and corrupted. For this has had and will continue to have the most profound consequences for the encounter of men with God in Christ.
Let me put this point as succinctly as I can. There is no way to circumvent the temptations my objector pointed out, which will come upon every serious Catholic; and running away from traditional dogma, morals, liturgy, and devotion, as so many have been doing for decades — as indeed some have always done in every age — is never going to be a successful solution to the temptations that confront us in the spiritual life, any more than Protestantism was a solution to the corruption of the late medieval Church. It is a “solution” that contradicts the very essence of Catholicism, one that tosses out the baby with the bathwater.
The desire to not know or to look away; to not care whether one is divorced from one’s inheritance, and to assume that as long as churchmen are okay with deracination, one need not think twice about it; to imagine that these hard questions cannot or need not be asked; to be unaware of the enormous problem of rupture and discontinuity — these are signs of a spiritual sickness far more pervasive and dangerous than the supposed Phariseeism of traditionalists. For it is easier to be aware of a discrepancy between one’s noble ideals and one’s personal sanctity than it is to be aware of a fundamental disjunct between a modern reinterpretation of Catholicism (call it neo-modernism, with its paradoxical ultrapapalist commitment) and the Catholicism of the ages, that is, what would have been recognizable to any Father, Doctor, scholar, king, or peasant for the first 1,900 years of the Church. The reason is simple: we have to live day after day with our limitations, our flaws, and our sins (and if we are married or have good friends, we won’t be allowed to go for long without being reminded of them), but most people alive today cannot remember what things used to be like in past generations, do not make an effort to know history, and have little knowledge of the relevant principles by which to evaluate ecclesiastical affairs. This, incidentally, is why the battle of the modernists has always been a battle of attrition: if they can make their fabrications and falsehoods last long enough, they feel sure of triumph.
No wonder St. Pius X was so earnest and intent on smoking out the clever, subtle, and “edifying” errors of modernism. He did not call it the “synthesis of all heresies” for no good reason. It would be the most amazing naivete to think that the modernist crisis was a flash in the pan at the start of the 20th century and that it doesn’t exist anymore. On the contrary, as Hilary White said, apropos the last half-century: “The New Modernism had, in fact, become the new conservatism.” That is what we are seeing all around us, as Catholics scramble to rewrite their catechisms based on the latest Mormon-style revision from above.
For those who close their eyes or stop up their ears, of course, there is no problem; nothing’s really the matter. Such culpable cluelessness is a great spiritual malady of our times — one that prevents the Church, always in need of reform, from actually reforming her post-conciliar self.
|A metaphor of the post-conciliar Church|
 It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that contemporary churchmen have created a new form of Rabbinical Judaism, in which only canonical experts can sort out the big and little questions.
 I highly recommend this article: "The Pharisees and Sadducees of Our Time" by Roberto di Mattei.
I think that it was a fair point to raise. In all the examples I gave, there was an intimate feel to the compositions that one could imagine in a Psalter, but not necessarily in a ten-foot tall work of art behind a high altar! Also, the narrative style of some the compositions is different from that of most large scale works, as in this example which shows one of the papal legate at work.
In response to the reader, I do think that the School of St Albans can be adapted to a full liturgical style. I think that what our questioner is seeing in the examples I showed is not so much as a result of the style, as it is a reflection of the composition. These pictures were designed by Matthew Paris to speak to a text which is close by; and relate to the viewer in an intimate way, because he knows that the viewer’s nose is just a few inches away.
In contrast, when the artist is painting on a large scale and knows that most people will be seeing the work from a distance, he will alter the composition accordingly. Also, any good artist will consider the setting for his work and try to make it speak appropriately both to other pictures and to the architecture around it. That means that an illustration in a book is very different from an altarpiece in design.
I will try to illustrate how I have approached this problem with examples that I have created from illuminations. Not all are in the St Albans style, but I hope they illustrate the points I am making. This has been a process of learning for me. I have been discovering these principles as I have been going along, and please bear in mind that as I look at them now, I don’t think that all of the following are perfectly successful by any means, but at least you can see what I am trying to do. As an artist, I try to be critical of what I do so that I can improve. (On that point, I am different from many artists. I don’t agonize over how bad my work is. When I first complete a work I am almost always pleased with it; it’s only as time progresses that I start to see my flaws!)
So here’s the first example. I saw the following image of St Michael and the devil, which is from an German early Gothic psalter. I decided to adapt it for a large scale work to go in Thomas More College chapel. The image I created is 6 feet by 3, and hangs high up on the wall behind the altar. The bottom of it is perhaps 10 feet from the ground. I have deliberately made my composition less busy so that it will have an impact at a distance. In the development of the underlying line drawing, I deliberately made the figures slightly more naturalistic in style, because I felt that these would connect with the contemporary viewer more easily. I looked to Greek style icons from the same period for inspiration here, especially in the drawing of St. Michael.
You can see two examples below. In other respects, these are not like the Paris drawings, which are more naturalistic in style, but the restraint used in painting is similar.
When commentators describe these Russian icons, they feel that this is a less-is-more approach. What appears shallower physically draws us into something deeper spiritually. My thinking - only time will tell if I am right - is that this is what we can hope to replicate in looking to the School of St Albans too.
James Patrick Reid is a painter and scholar specializing in the intersection of art and theology. He has taught at Union College, the New York Academy of Art, and the Art Students League, and is currently on the faculty of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Mr. Reid has lectured at Thomas Aquinas College and the Franciscan University of Steubenville, among many other distinguished venues. His writings have appeared in the monograph Intimations of Paradise: the Photographs of Christopher Burkett, in the American Arts Quarterly, and in the journals Prosopon, Seen and The Catholic Thing. His article, Invisible Things Clearly Seen: Visual Art in the Drama of Salvation, will appear in the January/February issue of the Saint Austin Review.
|Music was provided by the Lassus Scholars.|
On Saturday, November 12, twenty-one candidates, both adults and children, received Confirmation at St James, Spanish Place in London from Bishop Sherringham, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster; this ceremony was also followed by Pontifical Benedcition. Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society said, “It is always a joy to see both children and adults receiving the sacrament of confirmation in the traditional form, and it becoming more and more common all around the country. The service at St James’ organised by the Latin Mass Society is open to any Catholics from England and Wales or beyond - we have had candidates from Scotland and France - and we are very grateful to Bishop Sherrington for conferring the sacrament and to the Archdiocese of Westminster for facilitating it.” Photos by John Aron, reproduced with permission courtesy of the Latin Mass Society. from their Facebook page.