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    It is a well-known fact that the first letters of the seven titles with which the O antiphons begin, when read in reverse order, form an anagram, ERO CRAS, Latin for “tomorrow I shall be.” The order in which they are sung, however, is not purely casual, nor arranged solely for the sake of the anagram; it also forms a catechesis on the history of salvation in Christ.

    O Sapientia” refers to the eternal pre-existence of the Word, and His role in creation, an idea of which the Church Fathers often speak. St Paul calls Christ “the wisdom of God” in 1 Corinthians 1, 24; the antiphon says that Wisdom “came forth from the mouth of the Most High”, i.e. it is spoken, like the Word. St Hilary of Poitier writes in his book On the Trinity, 3, 21, commenting on the figure of Wisdom who speaks in Proverbs 8, “There is with God Wisdom, begotten before the worlds; and not only present with Him, but setting in order, for it was with Him, setting them in order. Mark this work of setting in order, or arranging. The Father, by His commands, is the Cause; the Son, by His execution of the things commanded, sets in order.

    An icon of Holy Wisdom, Russian, ca 1670, from the Church of St Nicholas in Yaroslavl. The figure of Wisdom is painted red in accordance with a well-known, although now archaic, feature of the Russian language, that the word “ krasni” means both “red” and “beautiful.”
    The words of this antiphon “fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia – mightily and sweetly ordering all things” are taken from Wisdom 8, 1, the conclusion of a passage (7, 21 – 8, 2) in which the author lists the attributes of Wisdom: “the worker of all things … holy, one, … having all power, overseeing all things, and containing all spirits … more active than all active things: and reacheth everywhere by reason of her purity. … a certain pure emanation of the glory of the almighty God … the brightness of eternal light, and the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty, and the image of his goodness.” Catholic Biblical commentaries rightly note that these words are similar to the beginning of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which describes the Son of God as the “brightness of His glory, and the figure of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power.”

    O Adonai” speaks of Christ as the one who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the Law on Mount Sinai; “Adonai”, Hebrew for “My Lord”, is the word which Jews, when reading the Bible, say in place of the Divine Name YHWH that was revealed to Moses in Exodus 3. The prayer to “come to redeem us with arm extended” refers to God’s own words when speaking to Moses in Exodus 6, 6, “I am the Lord who will bring you out from the work-prison of the Egyptians, and will deliver you from bondage: and redeem you with a high arm, and great judgments,” as well as the canticle which Moses sings after the crossing of the Red Sea, “Let fear and dread fall upon them, (i.e. upon the Egyptians) in the greatness of thy arm.” (Exod. 15, 16)

    Moses and the Burning Bush, by Nicholas Froment, 1476, in the Cathedrale Saint Sauveur in Aix-en-Provence. The artist is here inspired by one of the Lauds antiphons of the feast of the Circumcision: “The bush which Moses saw unburnt, we acknowledge as Thy praiseworthy virginity; Mother of God, intercede for us.” This also refers to the Law of Moses, in obedience to which Christ was circumcised on the eighth day after His birth.
    O Radix Jesse” quotes two chapters of the prophet Isaiah (11 and 52) which are cited by St Paul in Romans 15, although the citations are not exactly the same. (After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most often quoted in the New.) This antiphon and its predecessor demonstrate that in the Old Testament, both the Law and the Prophets bear witness to the coming of Christ, just as Moses and Elijah appeared to either side of Him at the Transfiguration, the former as the representative of the Law, the latter of the Prophets. St Leo the Great, in a homily on the Transfiguration, says that in the preaching of the Word, “the pages of each covenant agree with each other; and the splendor of the present glory shows manifestly and clearly that which the signs that went before it had promised under the veil of mysteries.”

    The O antiphons do not explicitly mention the Incarnation, to which the whole season of Advent is dedicated; nor do they anticipate the birth of Christ, which is celebrated at Christmas. Likewise, it would also be out of keeping with the joyful nature of the season to work in any explicit reference to Christ’s passion and death; instead, these are spoken of obliquely in the fourth and fifth antiphons.

    O Clavis David– o key of David” and the term that follows, “scepter of the house of Israel” refer to the Angel Gabriel’s words to the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, that Her Son would be given the seat of David, and rule in the house of Jacob, whose other name is Israel. Where the antiphon prays that Christ may come “to lead out the prisoner from the house of the prison, and him that sitteth in the darkness and the shadow of death”, the prisoner is Adam, the forefather of the human race, and by inference, all the just who died before the death and resurrection of Christ had opened the gates of heaven, and thus remained “in darkness and the shadow of death.” Note in the image below how Christ at the Harrowing of Hell is shown holding the Cross, which is suggestive of a key in its form. Behind, the locks and bars of the Limbo of the Fathers are broken. Of course, the Harrowing of Hell is necessarily preceding by the passion and death of Christ, which in turn are necessarily preceded by the Incarnation.

    O Oriens” is about the Resurrection, since “Oriens” means “the rising one.” This antiphon describes Christ as “the splendor of eternal light, the sun of justice”, which is to say, the Light and Sun that shall see no setting. Here the Church professes its hope in the future resurrection, by speaking of the “eternal light” on December 21, the winter solstice and the shortest hours of daylight. It is surely not a coincidence that this is also the shortest of the O antiphons. The object of the prayer at the antiphon’s end is repeated from yesterday, but now in the plural: “come and shine upon those who sit in the darkness, and the shadow of death.” This indicates that the fruits of Christ’s passion and resurrection are to be shared with the whole of the human race in each of its members.

    O Rex gentium”, therefore, refers to the Ascension, Pentecost, and the establishment of the Church. On the feast of the Ascension, the first words of the Magnificat antiphon at Second Vespers are “O Rex gloriae”, sung in the same mode and with the same notes as the beginning of the O antiphons. These are the only two antiphons of the ancient corpus in general use throughout the Roman Rite that begin with these words. The word “gloriae – of glory” is substituted by “gentium – of the nations” to symbolize the nations that come into the Church, beginning with the Apostles’ preaching to nations of diverse languages at Pentecost.

    Christ is then called “desideratus earum – the one desired by (the nations)”, words taken from the prophecy of Haggai 2, 8, in which God says that He will fill His house, i.e. the Church, with glory when He stirs up all nations. He is also called “lapis angularis – the corner stone”, in reference to the corner stone rejected by the builders in Psalm 117, and also to the Lauds hymn for the Dedication of a Church, “Angularis fundamentum – Christ is sent as the corner stone and foundation.”

    On the morning of December 23rd, the Church sings the canticle Benedictus with the antiphon “Behold, all things are completed which were said through the Angel about the Virgin Mary.” This being so, the last O antiphon, “O Emmanuel”, addresses Christ with the name meaning “God is with us”, the name of the child whose coming was prophesied by Isaiah when he foretold that “a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son”.

    There follow the titles “our King and lawgiver, the expectation of the nations, and the Savior thereof.” In the previous antiphon, the word “desideratus – the desired (of the nations)” is a past participle, indicating that the longing of the nations for the first coming of Christ has been fulfilled. Here He is “the expectation of the nations”, the Latin word “expectatio” indicating an ongoing action, as we await the Second Coming of Christ, who “shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom shall have no end.” This returns us to a theme which has been present from the very beginning of Advent, which recalls both the First Coming of Christ in the fullness of time, and His Second Coming at the end of the world.

    Christ the Savior, by El Greco, 1610-14  

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    Our third and final post of your photos of Gaudete Sunday liturgies and Rorate Masses, and once again, our thanks to all those who sent them in. Our next set of photoposts will be for Christmas and its octave; a reminder will be posted during the coming week.

    St Michael - Budapest, Hungary

    Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe - LaCrosse, Wisconsin
    Pontifical Mass celebrated by His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke, who founded the shrine during his time as the bishop of LaCrosse. (The Mass was a Rorate Mass, although not celebrated by candlelight.)

    St John Vianney - Northlake, Illinois

    Shrine of St Therese - Pasay City, Philippine Islands

    St John Cantius - Chicago, Illinois

    St Martin - Zagreb, Croatia

    St Mary - Pine Bluff, Wisconsin

    St Mary - Kalamazoo, Michigan

    St Pius X - Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
    new rose vestments from India, worn of the first time this Gaudete Sunday

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    Here is a chance to join monks from the US and UK on a pilgrimage from Burgundy to Elgin in Scotland.

    I just received an email from Fr Dunstan who is one of the monks at St Mary’s Monastery, Petersham, Massachusetts. ( He asked me to publicize a pilgrimage that is taking place this coming summer organized by St Mary’s mother house, Pluscarden in Scotland, which will cover over 1200 miles, broken up into week long, 100 mile stages.

    The pilgrimage goes from the mother house of Pluscarden in Burgundy to Pluscarden itself, which is just inland from the coastline in Scotland that runs from Inverness to Aberdeen.

    More information:
    Pluscarden Pilgrimage
    Pluscarden Abbey
    St Mary’s Monastery

    For those who can’t make the trip to France and Great Britain, you can join them spiritually with prayers for their mission, as explained in the website, or even go and visit St Mary’s in Massachussetts on a personal pilgrimage. Both Pluscarden and St Mary’s have full chanted liturgy in Latin according to the Vatican II reforms - seven Offices and Mass each day.

    The pilgrimage is a fundraiser to complete the restoration of the buildings at Pluscarden Abbey, which date back to 1230, when King Alexander II built a monastery for a community of monks from Burgundy.

    After the Reformation of Parliament in 1560, religious life at the monastery was discontinued and the property passed to a series of lay owners, who allowed it to fall into ruin. In 1897, the monastery was bought by the third Marquis of Bute who hoped to restore the buildings to religious use, but died only three years later. The property passed to his youngest son, Lord Colum Crichton-Stuart, who lacked the means to continue the restoration work. Eventually, Lord Colum gave the property to the Benedictine monks of Prinkash Abbey, near Gloucester, for them to restore to its original use. In 1947 Ian Lindsay drew up plans for the complete restoration of the buildings.

    In 1948, five monks took up residence, monastic life began again, and restoration work on the buildings commenced. In the 66 years since then, about two thirds of the original buildings have been restored, and an ivy-clad ruin has become a working Benedictine Abbey.

    I have been to Pluscarden many times and love it there. The above picture is of the potato harvest at the abbey. I occasionally went on a retreat to Le Barroux in southern France and was struck by the contrast. In Scotland it’s cabbages and potatoes, in France it’s vineyards and rows of rosemary and lavender. You can decide which represents an authentic example of labora!

    I have a personal interest in that I am an oblate of Pluscarden, and one my paintings, a two-sided San Damiano crucifixion, hangs over the altar in the abbey. It is six feet long and painted on both sides, so that both congregation and the monks in the choir can see it.

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    Probably this has been discussed at length by others elsewhere and I’m just a bit slow on the uptake, but I noticed this Advent as if for the first time — attending the EF and the OF every Sunday because of my dual choir responsibilities — how strikingly different in content and tone are the Collects of the Sunday Masses in the two forms. Then I decided to look into the contrast between the totality of their Advent Collects.[1]

    In the traditional Latin Mass, the Collects of the first, third, and fourth Sundays of Advent address the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity:
    Stir up Thy power, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come: that from the threatening dangers of our sins we may deserve to be rescued by Thy protection, and to be saved by Thy deliverance: Who livest and reignest with God the Father… (Collect, Sunday I, MR 1962)
    Incline Thine ear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to our petitions: and, by the grace of Thy visitation, enlighten the darkness of our minds: Who livest and reignest with God the Father… (Collect, Sunday III, MR 1962)
    Stir up Thy power, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come, and with great might succour us: that by the help of Thy grace that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness: Who livest and reignest with God the Father… (Collect, Sunday IV, MR 1962)
    On the Second Sunday, the Father is addressed:
    Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of Thine only-begotten Son: that through His coming we may deserve to serve Thee with purified minds: Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost… (Collect, Sunday II, MR 1962)
    If we look at the Ember days, the picture is more complex. Ember Wednesday’s first Collect addresses the Father (“Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God … through our Lord”) while its second Collect addresses the Son (“Hasten, we beseech Thee, O Lord, tarry not”). Ember Saturday’s six different Collects address the Father four times — namely, the second through the fifth Collects — but the first and last are to the Son:
    O God, who seest that we are afflicted because of our iniquity, mercifully grant that we may be comforted by Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest with God the Father… (Ember Saturday, first Collect, MR 1962)
    Mercifully hear, O Lord, we beseech Thee, the prayers of Thy people: that we who are justly afflicted for our sins may be comforted by the visitation of Thy loving kindness: Who livest and reignest with God the Father… (Ember Saturday, last [sixth] Collect, MR 1962)
    The Collect on Ember Friday likewise addresses the Son:
    Stir up Thy might, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come: that they who trust in Thy loving kindness may be the more speedily freed from all adversity: Who livest and reignest with God the Father… (Ember Friday, MR 1962)
    Apart from special Collects for feastdays (e.g., the Immaculate Conception), these are the only Collects found in the traditional Roman Missal for the Advent season as such (and, importantly, they are never omitted, because even on feasts, the Advent feria is always commemorated). Therefore the missal furnishes a total of 7 distinct collects addressed to the Son, and 6 to the Father, in the following pattern:

              First Sunday – SON
              Second Sunday – FATHER
              Third Sunday – SON
              Ember Wednesday – FATHER, SON
              Ember Friday – SON
              Ember Saturday – SON, FATHER, FATHER, FATHER, FATHER, SON
              Fourth Sunday – SON

    Going out on an allegorical limb with my betters, such as William Durandus, I would note that, according to the Fathers of the Church, the number 6 represents creation, because of the 6 days in Genesis, and because 6 is one of those rare numbers whose component parts, 1, 2, and 3, are equal whether they are added (1+2+3) or multipled (1x2x3), suggesting the relative integrity and solidity of the created order: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” At the same time, six falls one short of the number seven, the number of perfection and of rest, indicating that creation, particularly the rational creature, is incomplete until it rests in God — and that, after the fall of Adam, it is groaning for redemption from sin. Jesus Christ, in other words, is the One who, “added” to creation, brings it to its perfection and ultimate rest in the beatific vision. Thus, a group of six Collects for the Father, to whom is appropriated the power of creating the universe, and a group of seven collects for the Son, to whom is appropriated the wisdom and mercy of redemption, appears beautifully fitting.

    In the redaction of the Ordinary Form, on the other hand, many of the ancient Advent Collects were scrapped or reconfigured, and nearly all of the Collects were forced into the Patricentric mold so favored by reformers in the grip of archaeologism or antiquarianism, who removed prayers directed to the Son whenever and wherever possible.[2] We have this new series of Sunday Collects, none of which addresses the Son:
    Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… (Sunday I, Collect, MR 1970/2002)
    Almighty and merciful God, may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son, but may our learning of heavenly wisdom gain us admittance to his company. Who lives and reigns with you… (Sunday II, Collect, MR 1970/2002)
    O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing. Through our Lord Jesus Christ… (Sunday III, Collect, MR 1970/2002)
    Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Who lives and reigns with you… (Sunday IV, Collect, MR 1970/2002) [3]
    The ferial Collects added to the new missal also follow the same subordinating pattern, with only two exceptions addressed to the Second Person: Friday of the first week uses the same prayer as the first Sunday of Advent in MR 1962, and the Collect of the morning Mass on December 24 uses a version of the second collect for Ember Wednesday in MR 1962. Because there is a different Collect every day in the MR 1970/2002, while the MR 1962 uses certain prayers again and again, a little math will give us telling results. Of all the Advent Collects in the usus recentior, 27 are addressed to the Father, and only 2 to the Son. During the same season, the usus antiquior will have prayed Collects addressed to the Son as God 21 times, and to the Father 12 times.

    What do we make of this difference?

    These Christocentric Collects of the usus antiquior, both in their addressee and in their repetition, emphasize the urgency of the Church’s cry during the Advent season, the cry of all mankind and of all creation longing for its very Lord to come, by an ineffable miracle, into its bosom, to heal it and elevate it from within: VENI, DOMINE— Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay. Maranatha. Rise up and save a fallen race. Come to rescue us from our misery and sin. We are calling out to the Messiah, the Christ of Israel, who has already come to earth, whom we wish to invite again into our hearts, and who will return to judge the living and the dead. Advent is the season of expecting the long-awaited Redeemer and Savior, and we, in our holy impatience, cannot resist calling out to Him. EXCITA, we boldly say, over and over: Stir up Thy power and come, do not delay, do not be silent, do not be invisible, do not leave us to our wretchedness. O Word, eternal Life, take on flesh and touch us with Thy flesh. Only Holy Mother Church, filled with the Spirit of God, could dare to pray thus, placing these words on the lips of our ancestors and of so many saints who worshiped with the traditional Roman Rite.

    In short, the usus antiquior missal presents us with a spirituality of Advent that is distinctive and fitting to it, whereas the usus recentior missal conforms its prayers to a generic rule prescribed by academic liturgists. The old Collects are highly expressive, emotionally charged, as of the longing of the bride for her Bridegroom, to whom she sings and whispers directly. In her passionate love she is more caught up in beseeching Him whose face she longs to see than in politely asking His Father to send Him when the time is right (though, of course, with her gentle courtesy, she also speaks humbly to His Father, since the two are inseparable in their Godhead). It is the fervor of the Song of Songs carried over into liturgical prayer.[4]

    Modern liturgists approach liturgy as if it were an a priori science: you start with principles and deduce consequences. Therefore you have to change around the Collects (for instance) if they don’t conform to your particular set of principles. In reality, liturgy is thoroughly a posteriori: it is an historical testament to which countless individuals contributed, a massive organic complexus of particulars that could have been otherwise but are the way they are, a river running down the ages into which innumerable streams have flowed. Thus, we must look to the liturgy as it is and seek to understand why it unfolded in this manner, rather than doing violence to it by forcing it to embody one’s mental presuppositions.

    The change to the Advent Collects is a good exampe of the cold rationalism of the reformers. It would be one thing if a liturgical rite had always addressed prayers to the Father on a certain feast or in a certain season. No one, obviously, is saying there is anything wrong with doing that, for it is the customary mode of address in all historic missals. But it is quite another thing if one's actual liturgy for many centuries, perhaps for as long as we have records (and, moreover, the liturgy that one had prayed oneself!) always prayed to the Son on certain days, marking them out as special and deserving of a special devotion to the Lamb of God. To care little or nothing about the fact that, by a series of committee decisions, one would be cutting out and ceasing to utter those hallowed prayers to Our Lord in the weeks running up to His Nativity shows the extent to which the liturgy, for these men, must have already ceased to be something deeply felt and lived. It had become, instead, the prey and sport of their theories of improvement, and in this sense, something believed to be inferior to their wills and intellects. This is perhaps the worst indictment of their entire modus operandi: that prayers for which Catholics would in former ages have been prepared to lay down their lives were treated as so many raw ingredients to be chopped and mixed in an industrial kitchen.

    Indeed, it is more than a little ironic that the Epistle for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in the traditional Roman Rite is 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, wherein St. Paul says, in words that are repeated again and again at Lauds and Vespers throughout the fourth week:
    Brethren: Let a man so account us, as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now here it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful/trustworthy.
    St. Paul is telling us that the minister of Christ, the steward of His mysteries, is required to be faithful to that which he is dispensing or administering, namely, the sacraments, the liturgy, the heritage he receives from another, in regard to which he is not a master but a servant. Of course, this reading, too, disappeared from Advent in the sack of the Roman Rite, no doubt because it was deemed seasonally inappropriate.

    These final days of Advent, when we address the Son of God in the great “O Antiphons” at Vespers, let us cherish the many subtle and obvious blessings He has given to us through the traditional liturgy. Let us thank Him for the countless ways it forms and nourishes our souls in the school of the Lord’s service. And let us seek its return on the widest possible scale to churches everywhere. For this intention, too, we pray to our Sovereign King and Eternal High Priest: Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni.


    [1] Lauren Pristas is naturally the preeminent scholar on all such questions. See chapter 3 of her The Collects of the Roman Missals.

    [2] I discuss the many instances of this subordinating tendency and their implications in chapter 6 of my book Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis.

    [3] I am aware that much of the language in these prayers is drawn from historical sources, but their placement and arrangement here, and the corresponding displacement of the customary prayers, is, for the Roman Rite, an innovation pure and simple.

    [4] Readings and antiphons from the Song of Songs are found much more often in the traditional Missal and Divine Office than in the Novus Ordo books, but to explore the reasons behind that anti-medieval shift would require a separate article.

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    Thanks to the Orthodox Arts Journal for bringing to my notice the icons of contemporary Russian icon painter, Maxim Sheshukov.

    Here is a modern style that works within the icongraphic prototype. I notice that he does not feel compelled to follow one of the “rules” of iconography. When I first started to paint icons, I was told that the background had to be gold, or painted gold (a mixture of white and yellow ochre) or cinnabar, a bright red that denotes the presence of the Holy Spirit. This rule seems to have fallen by the wayside now, and as long as there is no illusion of depth created, it seems just about any background color will do.

    Without further comment I’ll let you enjoy them...

    Zacchaeus climbing the sycamore tree.

    The stoning of St Stephen.

    Peter weeping.

    St Euphrosynos the Cook.

    The Sacrifice of Isaac

    The betrayal of Christ

    St Joseph the Betrothed Dreaming

    The Martyrdom of St Ignatius the God-bearer

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    On December 25 at Midnight, a Missa Cantata in the Dominican rite will be offered at the Church of St. Catherine of Siena, located 411 E 68th St in New York City. The schola will sing the following music:
    Missa Angelus ad pastores ait– Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629)
    Angelus ad pastores ait – Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)
    Quaeramus cum pastoribus á 8 – Giovanni Croce (c. 1557-1609)

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    This past Saturday, His Excellency Dominique Rey, bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, conferred the minor orders on four seminarians of the diocese, and one of the Fraternity of St Joseph the Guardian, and ordained to the priesthood a Frenchman incardinated in the Scottish diocese of Argyll and the Isles. The ordinations were performed in the course of a Pontifical Mass of the Ember Saturday in Advent, an occasion traditionally designated as one of the proper days for ordination rites; back in very ancient times, one of the seven orders was conferred before each of the readings. The ceremony was held in the magnificent basilica of St Maximin, where the relics of St Mary Magdalene are kept; Dom Alcuin Reid, who needs no introduction to our readers, served as the MC. The full set of images can be seen on the Fraternity’s Facebook page.

    Our thanks to Bishop Rey for this edifying example of cultivating these ancient and beautiful traditions of the Church, and our congratulations to the ordinands.

    The ordinands come forward for the minor orders.
    A porter receives the key of the church...
    ... and performs his new office.

    The bishop’s exhortation before the priestly ordination.
    The Litany of the Saints
    Towards the end of the Litany of the Saints, the bishop rises, receives his crook and miter, then turns to the ordinand, and sings the invocations, “That Thou may deign to bless + this chosen one. - That Thou may deign to bless + and sancti+fy this chosen one. - That Thou may deign bless +, sancti+fy and conse+crate this chosen one.”, making the sign of the Cross over him where I have put the + sign.
    The new priest is vested in a chasuble.
    The “traditio instruementorum,” the handing over of the instruments, a crucial part of all ordination ceremonies.

    Until the end of the ceremony, the new priests chaubles is pinned up at the back; at the end of the ordination rite, it is unpinned by the bishop, as a symbol that he has released him to the exercise of his priestly ministry.

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    A friend brought to my attention this fascinating footage of the consecration of St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope. The church was built in the reign of Cyril VI (1959-71), and consecrated by him on June 25, 1968; the ceremony was attended by the President of Egypt, Gamal Nasser, and by the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. (It may be noted in passing that one of the first acts of Cyril VI’s reign was to grant autocephaly to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, according to an agreement reached in the reign of his predecessor.) The cathedral is named, of course, for St Mark the Evangelist, who is honored as the first bishop of Alexandria and the founder of the Coptic Church. Before this ceremony took place, Pope Paul VI ordered that a portion of the relics of St Mark, which were stolen by Venetian merchants in 828 and kept in their city’s most famous church, be returned to the Coptic Church; they are now housed in a special shrine within the cathedral.

    Our readers are certainly aware that only ten days ago, during the Sunday morning liturgy, a suicide-bomber killed 27 people and injured 47 others in a chapel dedicated to Ss Peter and Paul, right next to this cathedral. Let us remember, as we await the coming of the Prince of Peace, to ask the Lord to visit all of the persecuted Christian churches of the Middle East, and grant them a peaceful and permanent respite from the evils of the persecution visited upon them for their faith.

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  • 12/21/16--14:00: St Thomas the Apostle
  • The mercy of God brought it to pass in wondrous manner that this doubting disciple, as he touched the bodily Wounds of his Master, should heal in us the wounds of unbelief. For the unbelief of Thomas did us more good than the faith of the disciples that believed, because, as he is brought back to faith by touching, our minds are strengthened in faith, every doubt being laid aside.

    Doubting Thomas, by Francesco Barbieri, known as “il Guercino”, ca. 
    For after His Resurrection, the Lord permitted that His disciple should doubt, but yet did not leave him in his doubt, just as before His birth, He willed that Mary should have a spouse, who yet did not come to her marriage bed. The disciple who doubted and touched became a true witness of the resurrection, just as the spouse of His Mother was the keeper of Her intact virginity. He touched, and cried out “My Lord and my God!” Jesus saith unto him, “Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed.” (St Gregory the Great, Homily 26 on the Gospels, from Matins of the feast of St Thomas the Apostle in the Breviary of St Pius V.)

    Many medieval breviaries have a special O antiphon for Vespers of this feast:
    O Thoma Didyme, per Christum quem meruisti tangere, te precibus rogamus altisonis, succurre nobis miseris, ne damnemur cum impiis in adventu judicis.

    The St. Thomas Altarpiece, by the Master of the St. Bartholomew Altar, 1501
    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. 

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    Dom Benedict Andersen, Sub-Prior of Silverstream Monastery in Ireland, gave a lecture at the last Society for Catholic Liturgy conference and has asked NLM to make available a link to the audio recording. I will say this much: the talk is dynamite. It is quite possibly the best statement I have seen of the intimate relationship between a serious commitment to liturgy as central in the Christian life and the success of any attempted evangelization of the modern world. Yes, it is a theme familiar to the pages of NLM, but Dom Benedict brings together a veritable compendium of the best authors and ideas on the topic, and synthesizes them with great skill. Highly recommended.

    With his permission, I am attaching a short excerpt of the talk, to whet the appetite.

    Dom Benedict Maria Andersen, OSB
    The year is 988. Emissaries of Vladimir, the grand prince of Kiev, have been sent out on mission on a vitally important mission. Their orders are to find among the various nations a new religion which will be able to lure their tribes away from servitude to the cruel gods of their fathers, and which can forge them into one people, praising one Creator with one voice, one heart, and one mind. After many months of searching, the emissaries of Vladimir finally find what they had been looking for within the walls of the great imperial church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople. They sent the following report home:
    [T]he Greeks led us to the edifices where they worship they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth, there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty.
    Fast forward about a thousand years, to rural Kentucky, 1941. A young bohemian writer, a recent convert to Catholicism, arrives at the Abbey of Gethsemani to consider his vocation in life. Early in the morning, before the dawn, he witnesses simultaneous celebrations of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by an army of priest-monks. The experience somehow hits the young man with the full force of a mystical revelation, akin to the lifting of the veil separating heaven from earth. “The overpowering atmosphere of prayers so fervent that they were almost tangible,” he says, “choked [him] with love and reverence” to the point where he “could only get the air in gasps.” “Here,” he writes,
    even through only ordinary channels, came to me graces that overwhelmed me like a tidal wave, truths that drowned me with the force of their impact: and all through the plain, normal means of the liturgy — but the liturgy used properly, and with reverence, by souls inured to sacrifice. […] The eloquence of this liturgy was even more tremendous: and what it said was one, simple, cogent, tremendous truth: this church, the court of the Queen of Heaven, is the real capital of the country in which we are living. This is the center of all the vitality that is in America. This is the cause and reason why the nation is holding together. These men, hidden in the anonymity of their choir and their white cowls, are doing for their land what no army, no congress, no president could ever do as such: they are winning for it the grace and the protection and the friendship of God.
    Reflecting on this first experience of monastic worship, Father Louis Merton remarks:
    Certainly one thing the monk does not, or cannot, realize is the effect which these liturgical functions, performed by a group as such, have upon those who see them. The lessons, the truths, the incidents and values portrayed are simply overwhelming.
    I open with these stories — from 10th century Russia and the 20th century American South — to illustrate something which, I believe, is absolutely crucial to the challence of carrying out the New Evangelisation: the leading of souls along the via pulchritudinis, a glimpse of that heavenly splendor that so seduced the Kievan pagans to Christ, and caused a young American man to leave all and take up his Cross in the obscurity of the cloister. And where better to find a school of Catholic spirituality so thoroughly infused a sense of this primacy than in traditional monasticism? If, as history shows us, monasticism was the spiritual engine of the “Old Evangelization” of Europe, then it stands to reason that a healthy, robust, renewed monasticism might once again become for the Church a source of inspiration and new vitality as she labors for the turning of believers and unbelievers alike to Christ, so that they, with St Ambrose, can say: “Face to face, thou hast made thyself known to me, O Christ; I have found thee in thy mysteries.”

    Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote: “How we attend to liturgy determines the fate of the faith and the Church.” When we cannot pray aright, we as a Church can’t think aright, we can’t live aright — and we certainly can’t evangelise aright. If there is some kind of malfunction in the Church’s approach to the sacred mysteries, there will always be a corresponding malfunction in the Church’s ability to evangelize. Is this not a serious betrayal of the mandate we have been given by the Church to become true agents of the New Evangelization?

    (Listen to the whole talk here.)

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    Our next major photopost will be for the liturgies of Christmas, whether in the OF or the EF, or any of the Eastern Rites, Ordinariate Use, etc.; as always, we will also be very glad to include other liturgical ceremonies, such as Prime on Christmas Eve, Vespers, and any liturgies celebrated during the Octave. Please send your pictures to, and don’t forget to include the name of the church and its location, and any other information which you think worth noting. (Last year we did two full posts, and one extra with a couple of late entries - maybe this year we can get up to three full posts, as we did for the Rorate and Gaudete Masses.) Evangelize through beauty!

    From our second Christmas photopost last year - Mass at the St Joseph’s Church in Singapore.

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    Many older editions of the Missal and Breviary contain in the supplement “for certain places” a feast called “The Patronage of the Virgin Mary”, usually assigned to the second Sunday of November. Liturgically, one might almost describe it as a “generic” feast, since it has no proper texts for either the Mass or the Office. Cardinal Prosper Lambertini, the future Pope Benedict XIV, noted in his treatise on the feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady that it was instituted in the Spanish Empire in 1679, and adopted in the Pontifical State by Pope Benedict XIII (1724-30). By the later 19th century, it had been added to the calendars of a number of religious orders, including the Dominicans and Discalced Carmelites.

    After Pope St Pius X’s reform of the Breviary Psalter, the calendars of the religious orders were relieved of a number of feasts perceived for one reason or another as superfluous, and the feast of Our Lady’s Patronage was often among them. It is included in one of my copies of the Missal, printed by Desclée in 1913, but missing from their 1941 edition. It was removed from the calendar of the Discalced Carmelites, certainly because the idea of it was already “covered”, so to speak, by the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which they celebrated with an octave at the same degree of solemnity as Epiphany and Corpus Christi.

    The Dominicans, however, kept it, and fixed it to December 22nd, the day on which their Order was canonically approved by Pope Honorius III in 1216. They also maintained a proper Collect for the feast, which refers to the institution of the Order as follows.

    Deus, qui sub beatissimæ virginis Mariæ singulari patrocinio Ordinem Prædicatorum ad animarum salutem institui, ejusque perpetuis beneficiis cumulari voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis, ut cujus hodie commemorationem colimus, illius protecti auxiliis ad cælestem gloriam perducamur. Per...
    O God, who willed that Order of Preachers be instituted for the salvation of souls, under the special protection of the most blessed Virgin Mary, and be increased by Her constant benefits: grant to Thy suppliants that we may be led to the glory of heaven, protected by aid of Her whose commemoration we keep today. Through Our Lord...

    Pope Honorius III Approves the Rule of St Dominic, by Leandro Bassano; from the Dominican church of Ss John and Paul in Venice. (Click to enlarge)
    In the 1960 reform of the Dominican Missal and Breviary, which was exceedingly careless about the history and traditions of the Order, the feast was reduced to a mere commemoration at Lauds, and in the Mass of the feria of Advent. This defect and a great many others like it have been remedied in the Dominican calendar of the Novus Ordo, on which “the feast of the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary over the Order of Preachers” is now assigned to May 8th.

    This means, of course, that today is the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Order, and we should take the occasion to thank God for the many benefits which have accrued to the Church from the Order of Preachers over so many centuries, and pray that it may always flourish.

    The current Dominican Jubilee began in a broad sense in 2006, with the 800th anniversary of the foundation of their very first convent in Prouille in 1206. It now ends 10 years later with a commemoration of the formal founding of the friars. Since the original bull of Pope Honorius was confirmed by a second bull on January 21 of 1227, there will be a closing Mass on that date this coming year, celebrated by the Pope at the Basilica of St John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome.

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    The St Ann Choir will sing the following Christmas services at the church of St Thomas Aquinas in Palo Alto, California. Please note, however, that Vespers on New Year’s Eve will be held at St Ann Chapel, as indicated below and in the poster.

    Saturday evening, December 24, 12:00 midnight
    Christmas Midnight Mass: Lasso, Missa Laudate Dominum
    Carols and organ music beginning at 11:30

    Sunday morning, December 25: 12:00 noon
    Christmas Day Mass: Victoria, Missa O Quam Gloriosum

    Saturday evening, December 31: 8:00 p.m.
    St. Ann Chapel, Melville at Tasso, Palo Alto
    Vespers of New Year’s Eve: Gregorian chant and Josquin’s antiphon cycle

    Sunday morning, January 1, 2017: 12:00 noon
    New Years’ Day—Solemnity of Mary, Morales, Missa Caça

    Sunday morning, January 8: 12:00 noon
    Epiphany: Victoria, Missa O Magnum Mysterium

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  • 12/23/16--09:02: A New Regular TLM in Belgium
  • Beginning on Sunday, January 1st, the feast of the Circumcision, a traditional Latin Mass will be held every first Sunday of the month in the Basilica of Our Lady of Dadizele, Belgium. The Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. by Fr de Martin of the Institute of Christ the King.

    Dadizele is a small village about 15 kilometers from Ypres, the site of two major battles of the First World War. The origins of the Marian shrine at Dadizele date back to the 15th century; the present neo-Gothic basilica was designed by the English architect Augustus Welby Pugin, and built in honour to the Immaculate Conception after the proclamation of the dogma in 1854.

    For further information about celebrations in the Extraordinary Form in Belgium, see the blog Mysterium Fidei:

    Images from Dutch Wikipedia by Paul Hermans

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    The Royal Hours are a special service which is held three times a year in the Byzantine Rite, on Christmas Eve, Epiphany Eve, and Good Friday. It consists of the Hours of Prime, Terce, Sext and None, followed by a service called the Typika, the closest parallel to which in the Roman Rite would be the so-called dry Mass. They are known as “Royal” from the tradition that the Byzantine Emperor and his court would attend them at Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; a memory of this is preserved in the singing of “Many Years” during the service in cathedrals and monasteries, now in a modified form, but originally for the Emperor, whose presence was understood to be an act of submission to Christ the King, and also for the imperial court, and the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The service is traditionally said to have been instituted by St Cyril of Alexandria.

    Royal Hours of Good Friday at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Toronto in 2014. (Photograph from Wikipedia by ΙΣΧΣΝΙΚΑ-888)
    Several features mark the Royal Hours off from the service of the same Hours on other days. It is served by a priest and deacon in their sacred vestments, where these Hours are usually sung by a reader, with a priest saying the conclusions of the prayers (e.g. “for Thine is the kingdom…”) and the blessing at the end. A bell is rung at the beginning of each Hour, once for Prime, thrice for Terce, etc., and twelve times for the Typika.

    In addition to a large number of very beautiful proper chants, a series of Scriptural readings, a prophetic reading from the Old Testament, a New Testament epistle (called “the Apostle” in Byzantine terminology) and a Gospel are added to each Hour as well. (Normally, there are no readings from Scripture at the minor Hours; however, they are often done at Vespers.)

    The Psalms of the Hours are the same every single day, but at the three sets of Royal Hours, special Psalms more appropriate to the day are chosen to replace some of the regular ones, although one of the daily Psalms is retained. (The Byzantine Rite does not have antiphons for the Psalmody analogous to those of the Roman Rite.) At Prime, Psalms 5, 44, and 45 are said, instead of 5, 89 and 100; at Terce, 66, 86 and 50, instead of 16, 24 and 50; at Sext, 71, 131, and 90, instead of 53, 54 and 90; and at None, 109, 110 and 85 instead of 83, 84 and 85. This selection is taken in part from the group traditionally known as the Mesianic Psalms (2, 44, 71, 88 and 109), all of which are said in the Office of Christmas Day in the Roman Rite.

    The readings which are added are as follows:
    At Prime, Micah 5, 2-4, Hebrews 1, 10 - 2, 3, and Matthew 1, 18-25.
    At Terce, Baruch 3, 36 - 4, 4, Galatians 3, 23-29, and Luke 2, 1-20 (the Roman Gospels of the Midnight and Dawn Masses of Christmas.)
    At Sext, Isaiah 7, 10-16, and 8, 1-4 & 8-10, Hebrews 1, 1-12 (the Roman Epistle of the Day Mass of Christmas) and Matthew 2, 1-12, the Gospel of the Roman Epiphany, which is also read at the Divine Liturgy of Christmas.
    At None, Isaiah 9, 6-7, Hebrews 2, 11-18, and Matthew 2, 13-23.

    During the reading of the Apostle, there is always an incensation of the Church, whether at this or any other service; some churches add an extra incensation at the beginning of Prime and end of the Typika service as well. Another interesting feature is that the Royal Hours are considered to be a service for a fasting day, and penitential services may not be held in either Saturday or Sunday. Therefore, whenever Christmas or Epiphany falls on either a Sunday or Monday, the Royal Hours are said on the preceding Friday. This may seem rather odd, but in point of fact, Christmas is preceeded by a series of 5 days, December 20-24, which are known as the “pre-festal” days; the Royal Hours thus anticipated to either the 22nd or 23rd of December fall within this special period of preparation.

    On the evening of December 24th, Vespers is served together with the Divine Liturgy of St Basil; this one of the ten occasions on which the anaphora of St Basil, which is much longer than the daily use anaphora of St John Chrysostom, is said. (The others are his feast day, which is also that of the Circumcision, the eve of Epiphany, the Sundays of Lent except Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday.) The service contains a series of eight prophecies, although in practice, some of these may be omitted, since four of them are repeated from the Royal Hours. Here again we see a practice which is broadly analogous to that of the Roman rite, in which the Midnight Mass of Christmas was traditionally preceded by Matins and followed by Lauds.

    The full text of both of these services can be read at the following links.
    Royal Hours:
    Vesperal Divine Liturgy:

    Here is recording of both of services (3 hours and 10 minutes long altogether) by the superb choir of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow.

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    A Vigil is traditionally a full liturgical day, penitential in nature, in preparation for a major feast, including the whole day’s Office from Matins to None. The Mass of a Vigil is not an anticipation of the feast, but a part of the preparation for it, said after None, without Gloria in excelsis, Alleluia or the Creed; First Vespers said after Mass is then the official beginning of the feast itself.

    In various medieval uses of the Roman Rite, although not in that of Rome itself, the Vigil of Christmas was often extended back to include the Vespers of the preceding day, December 23rd, with the addition of a special responsory to be sung between the chapter and the hymn. (A similar custom is found in the Breviary of St. Pius V on the Epiphany, the vigil of which runs from Vespers of January 4th to None of the 5th.)
    R. De illa occulta habitatione sua egressus est Filius Dei; descendit visitare et consolari omnes, qui eum de toto corde desiderabant. V. Ex Sion species decoris ejus, Deus noster manifeste veniet. Descendit. Gloria Patri. Descendit.

    R. From that hidden habitation of His, the Son of God shall go forth; He hath come down to visit and console all those, who long for Him with all their heart. V. Out of Sion the loveliness of His beauty, our God shall come manifestly. He hath come down. Glory be. He hath come down.
    In his curious work On the Correction of the Antiphonary, the first liturgy critic, Agobard of Lyon (ca. 780-840), says that this responsory should be rejected “with great severity”, since its “vain and presumptuous author … lyingly asserts that He visited and consoled all those who long for Him, when rather He caused those whom He deigned to visit, to acknowledge and long for Him.” His opinion was not accepted, and the responsory is found in a great number of medieval antiphonaries and breviaries; in the post-Tridentine period, however, it appears to have been retained only by the Premonstratensian Order and a few local uses.

    A page of the Breviary according to the Use of Prague, 1502; the responsory De illa occulta is in the middle of the left column.
    The Office and the Mass of the Vigil begin with almost the same words, adapted from Exodus chapter 16, “This day ye shall know that the Lord shall come, and will save us, and on the morrow ye shall see His glory.” The medieval commenter Rupert of Deutz, (a man of much finer poetic sensibility than Agobard), explains the sense of this text in the liturgy of the day. Speaking first of the Office, in which these words are sung six times:
    On the vigil of the Lord’s Birth, that beautiful prophecy of divine consolation is most frequently and solemnly spoken by the Church. “This day ye shall know that the Lord shall come, and on the morrow ye shall see His glory.”
    And then, in reference to Introit of the Mass:
    When the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, “Behold, I will rain bread from Heaven for you,” Moses and Aaron said to them, “In the evening you shall know that the Lord hath brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord.” (Exod. 16, 4 and 6-7) … (this) invites us to consider that that manna, which was given to the sons of Israel when they had come out of the land of Egypt, and were marching for the promised land, was a figure of the Word of God, which took on the flesh through the Virgin, and came to feed us that believe in Him, … The interpreter of this similitude is not just any man, but the very One who said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the desert, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that if any man eat of it, he may not die.” (John 6, 48-51)
    The Miracle of the Manna in the Desert, by Tintoretto, 1577
    The homily at Matins in the Breviary of St. Pius V, is taken from St. Jerome’s commentary on the days’ Gospel, St. Matthew, 1, 18-21, explaining the reasons why Christ was born of a virgin.
    Why was the Lord conceived not simply of a virgin, but of one espoused? First, that by the begetting of Joseph, the origin of Mary may be shown. Secondly, lest she be stoned by the Jews as an adulteress. Third, that She might have a protector as She fled to Egypt. The martyr Ignatius (of Antioch) added a fourth reason why He was conceived of one espoused, saying, “that His birth might be concealed from the devil, who would think that He was begotten not of a virgin, but of one married. “Before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” She was found so by no other, but only by Joseph, who had already almost an husband’s privilege to know all that concerned his wife. But where it is said “Before they came together,” it followeth not that they came together afterwards; but the Scripture showeth what did not happen.
    On Christmas Day itself, there are three different Masses; at Matins of Christmas, therefore, there is read in the Third Nocturn a brief homily on the Gospel of each of the three, the first by St. Gregory the Great, the second by St. Ambrose, the third by St. Augustine. The inclusion of a passage of St. Jerome completes the number of the four doctors of the Latin Church; between the vigil and feast, each of the four preaches to us on the Nativity of the Lord.

    The Ascension of Christ, depicted in the cupola of the church of Saint John the Evangelist in Parma, Italy. In the corners are depicted the Four Evangelists, each of which is accompanied by one of the Four Doctors. St. Matthew and St. Jerome are depicted together in the lower right.
    Nowadays, the most famous liturgical text of Christmas Eve is certainly the notice of the feast of Christmas from the Martyrology. In the traditional Office, the Martyrology’s entry for the following day is read at the Hour of Prime, after the first prayer. Christmas Eve is the only day on which this is done with a particular ceremony, rather than simply being sung by a reader. A priest in violet cope, accompanied by a thurifer and two candles, incenses the book, and then sings the following notice of the Christ’s Birth.
    In the year from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, five-thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine; from the Flood, two-thousand, nine hundred and fifty-seven; from the birth of Abraham two-thousand and fifteen; from Moses, and the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt, one-thousand five-hundred and ten; from the anointing of David as King, one-thousand and thirty-two; in the sixty-fifth week, according to the prophecy of Daniel; in the one-hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; in the seven-hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome; in the forty-second year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus; while the whole earth was at peace, in the sixth age of the world, Jesus Christ, Eternal God and Son of the Eternal Father, wishing to hallow the world by His most gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Spirit, nine months having passed after His conception, at Bethlehem of Juda is born of the Virgin Mary, having become Man.
    The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
    At the words “at Bethlehem of Juda” he raises his voice, and all kneel. The final words, “The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh,” are sung “in the tone of the Passion” according to the Martyrology’s rubric, a reminder that the coming of Christ was also so that He might suffer, die and rise for our salvation.

    In the Roman Use, the priest who has sung the Martyrology departs at the end of this notice, and those of the other Saints of December 25th are sung by another reader. In the Premonstratensian Use, however, the Breviary directs that all shall prostrate themselves and say Psalm 84 Benedixisti, followed by Kyrie, eleison, Pater noster, a versicle, and the prayers of the vigil of Christmas and the Advent Mass of the Virgin.
    O God, who gladden us by the annual expectation of our redemption, grant that we who now joyfully welcome thy Only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, may also behold Him without fear when He cometh as our Judge.
    O God, Who didst will that Thy Word should, by the message of an Angel, take flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grant unto us, we beseech thee, that all we who do believe Her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by Her prayers before Thee.
    The rubric continues thus: “Giving thanks to God, who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, let them for a time in silence, with devout elevation of the mind, consider the grace of the divine goodness, which is so great towards man.”

    With the abolition of the Hour of Prime, the liturgical use of the Martyrology has all but vanished from the revised Roman Rite; a new version for the post-Conciliar liturgy was not published until 2001. A prominent exception is the proclamation of the notice for Christmas, which is now often read before Midnight Mass. In the following video, taken in St. Peter’s Basilica, a more-or-less official revised version of the text is sung in a special tone written for the purpose, a tone which was also widely used before the modern reform. It begins with the date according to the famously inconvenient and complicated Roman dating system, in which “December 25th” is “the eighth day before the Kalends of January”. This is followed by the phase of the moon, the nineteenth in this case.

    When numberless ages had passed from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and made man according to His image; and likewise many ages, from when after the Flood, the Most High had placed the rainbow among the clods, as a sign of His covenant and peace; in the twenty-first century from the migration of Abraham, our father in the Faith, from Ur of the Chaldees; in the thirteenth century the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt, led by Moses; in roughly the one-thousandth year from the anointing of David as King; in the sixty-fifth week, according to the prophecy of Daniel etc. (The rest of the text is the same as above, except for the omission of the words “in the sixth age of the world”)

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    Some photographs taken tonight at Midnight Mass at the London Oratory. Merry Christmas!

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  • 12/25/16--07:13: Merry Christmas!
  • Hodie nobis caelorum Rex de Virgine nasci dignatus est, ut hominem perditum ad caelestia regna revocaret: * Gaudet exercitus Angelorum: quia salus aeterna humano generi apparuit. V. Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis. R. Gaudet exercitus Angelorum: quia salus aeterna humano generi apparuit. V. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. R. Hodie nobis caelorum Rex ... (The first responsory of Christmas Matins.)

    Illustration for Christmas Day from a Missal printed by the Desclée publishing house, late 19th century.
    R. Today the King of heaven deigned to be born of a Virgin for us, that He might bring back to the kingdom of heaven man who was lost. * The host of Angels rejoiceth, because eternal salvation hath appeared to the human race. V. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth. peace to men of goodwill. The host of Angels... Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. Today...

    On behalf of the publisher and writers of New Liturgical Movement, I wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas, and every blessing from the Child that is born unto us! By the prayers of the Holy Mother of God and all the Saints, may God grant the world peace in the coming year.

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    People who read NLM and therefore take a keen interest in the use and abuse of the sacred liturgy are probably aware that the concept of the Eucharistic Congress, while noble and excellent in itself, has fallen in recent decades on very hard times. I won't go through the horror stories (there's enough bad news already), but anyone with a strong stomach can find photos and videos for themselves, which exhibit all the progressive liturgists' worst tendencies, so frequently and justly skewered by the theological pen of Joseph Ratzinger. Whether it be dancing or balloons, ridiculous vestments or happy-clappy music, space-age arena sanctuaries or brutherly luv, it's all there. The only thing lacking is . . . well, an appropriately reverent and beautiful celebration of that most profound mystery of the faith, the Most Holy Eucharist, the true Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Sacrifice by which He works out our salvation.

    But it wasn't always this way -- far from it. Not long ago I had the opportunity to linger lovingly over a splendid book produced in commemoration of the 1926 Eucharistic Congress in Chicago, which was in so many ways a land of thick Catholicism, before the postconciliar collapse. This volume had such treasures, both historical and liturgical, that I wished to share photos of it with the readership. It's also just a marvelous example of publishing, back when ecclesiastical publishers knew what a "commemorative volume" of this sort should look like. One of the things I find most striking is the extravagant welcome extended to the papal legate, who was honored, feasted, coddled, and exalted much more than even a pope is today when he visits the USA. These pictures speak a thousand words about the massive post-1960s collapse of societal dignity, formal respect, and veneration for religious authority. Plus, things like the Gregorian Children's Choir of 62,000 (I'm not kidding) point up the absurdity of saying that the Church "was in desperate need of renewal." In one sense, she always does; but never more so than after the Council that was called for that purpose.

    For me, the most remarkable thing of all is the outdoor Mass. A noble baldachin modeled after that of St. Paul's-Outside-the Walls in Rome was constructed for the occasion, and a massive pipe organ was installed. While one may reasonably question (as did Ratzinger) the trend towards ever-larger outdoor liturgical events, it seems to me that the Chicago Congress proved that it could be carried out well -- something we have rarely seen at World Youth Days.

    One of many "chapel train cars" that traveled around the USA bringing the Mass to Catholics in remote places
    A view of the baldachin and sanctuary erected for the main Pontifical Mass
    Vestments from China!
    Oceans of nuns
    Back when a priest's private Mass was a non-negotiable priority

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    Here’s a quiz: I am holding a paint brush. I am dipping it in paint. I am applying the paint to the surface so as to manifest a two dimensional picture of an image that is held as an ideal in my imagination. What am I doing?

    Answer: painting, right?

    Wrong. It’s writing. Or at least it is according to some people, if the object you are working on is a holy icon. So, for example, they might say that St Luke not only wrote inspired scripture, he also wrote an icon of Our Lady and Our Lord!

    But is this right? Is painting really an activity inherently distinct from and inferior to writing, as the insistence on the use of the word write would seem to suggest? Also, why pick out a verb that relates to one particular aspect of Christ every single time, i.e. the Word? We say also that Christ is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1, 15), so why not make this aspect govern the use of verbs in reference to creating holy images? If Christ is an image, then it seems that references to the “painting” of an image are reasonable. After all, this is part of the justification for creating images worthy of veneration, according to the Seventh Ecumenical Council. And if we really do have to only think of Christ as the Word, then (reductio ad absurdum) why not be consistent and rather than talking of Our Lady giving birth to Our Lord, why not say she “wrote” the Word made flesh?

    Furthermore, why not use the principle of hierarchical vocabulary when we are talking as writing as well: writing - stringing words together to make sentences and paragraphs. We might say that the writer St Luke wrote his gospel, but hack David Clayton only hacked this blog piece together, for example.

    To my knowledge it is only in the English language, and only since the 20th century, that people have referred to the writing of icons in this particular way. It is true that in Greek and (I discovered recently) Russian, that the verb used for “painting” a picture is the same word for “writing.” However, the same word is used for the painting of all pictures: not just icons, but landscapes, portraits, and so on. The verb “to paint” which does exist in Russian is used for a lesser form of painting, as in the painting of houses and fences.

    This doesn’t mean that those of us who speak English can’t decide to use the word “write” for an icon if we want to. Perhaps it would be valuable to distinguish the creation of holy icons not only from the painting of the walls of a room, but also from other, lesser forms of art. However, as Catholics we do not necessarily acknowledge that the iconographic style is inherently superior to other all other styles of sacred art. If we follow the ideas of Benedict XVI, then we could refer to Gothic and baroque art as works that are “written” too. So Blessed Fra Angelico wrote this Annunciation:

    To be consistent, we should extend the use of the word “write” beyond just icons, or stop using it for paintings altogether and be happy with saying that just as Fra Anglico painted, so did St Luke.

    Also, contrary to what some Catholic believe, it is not the case that all icon painters or Eastern Christians use the word “write” for what they do. My own teacher, who is Orthodox, always used to say that he thought that the use of the word “write” was “a bit precious”. This did not mean that he didn’t think that the painting of icons wasn't a noble activity.

    In 1975, Tom Wolfe, author of TheBonfire of the Vanities, wrote a brilliant essay about the absurdities of modern art called The Painted Word. He pointed out that the whole art scene is a business driven by gallery-art, in which the sellers manipulate the market by appealing to the vanity of buyers and intellectuals. They flatter them into thinking they must be very clever to understand the nonsensical art theory that was used to justify the art they were looking at, and which mystifies all clear thinking people who have no pretenstions of being aesthetes.

    The title The Painted Word arose from the fact that flattering clients became so important to sales that the ideas behind the theory were considered more important than physical manifestations of them, the art itself. To be an aficionado of modern art is to be clever because you understand it, not necessarily because you like it. The artists, faithfully following the theorists in order to sell their work at inflated prices, gradually moved into greater and great abstraction, trying to show the pure non-physical idea through a physical medium. They struggled to do so because the ideas weren’t really coherent. In the end, the connection between art and ethos was so obscure that they had to write a long explanation to accompany their exhibits in order for anyone to understand what was going on. The natural extension of this, Wolfe points out, is to abandon conventional art altogether and just paint the words that represent the idea. This is indeed what happened to modern art, which became a high stakes game of painted word association.

    Wolfe’s description of the inadequacies of modern art highlight by contrast the richness of traditional sacred art. Because the ethos of Christian sacred art is rooted in truth, we can manifest those ideas well. We there have not only have writers who write the Word in words, we also have painters who paint the Word made flesh as an image, and can even do so in such a way, so the Catechism tells us, that they are able to communicate things that words alone cannot. Furthermore, the Christian tradition also has those who paint words beautifully when they write the Word - they are called calligraphers! The creator of the Lindisfarne gospel, shown below, was simultaneously a painter of words, and writer of the Word.

    Where do I stand on this issue? Personally, I am less worried about what you call the activity of painting/writing icons than I am about how well it is done. To insist on the use of the word “write” in a way that is not common practice in the English language feels to me like a bit of unnecessary faux-theological political correctness. I don’t mind if others do it, but I feel no need moved to do it myself. I think that it is much simpler to use the words with their common meanings, so that people understand what you are talking about. As far as I am concerned, the word “paint” describes more than adequately what the sacred artist does, and the word “write” describes what I am doing now at the keyboard of my computer. We don’t need to play word games in order to raise the status of the artist’s vocation. Ultimately, it is artists themselves who will do that by raising the quality of the art that they paint...just as the nobility of the bloggers’ vocation will be judged on the quality of their writing.

    Postscript: those who wish to know a range of views held by Orthodox Christians on this matter might be interested in these three thoughtful articles in the Orthodox Arts Journal, here: Is Write Wrong?, here: A Symptom of Modern Blindness; and here: From Logos to Graphos, Lost in Translation. (I love the headlines of the articles by the way. Congrats to the OAJ sub-editor who composed them - they’re so good I thought of stealing them for myself!)

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