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    Here is an interesting and very typically medieval hymn for the feast of St Anthony the Abbot, composed in the 14th century. I stumbled across this in the Breviary according to the Use of Passau, Germany, printed at Augsburg in 1490; Passau is one of several churches in southern Germany that adopted this proper Office, which does not seem to have been very popular in other parts of Europe.

    Antonii pro meritis,
    Eiusque gestis inclitis,
    Claris quoque virtutibus,
    Exultet caelum laudibus.
    For the merits of Anthony,
    and his famous deeds,
    and his glorious virtues,
    let heaven exult with praises.
    Natus ex digno genere,
    Verbo puer et opere,
    Festinavit ad meritum,
    Deus, tuorum militum.
    Born of a worthy family,
    a child in word and deed,
    he hastened to the merit
    of thy soldiers, o God.
    Tempus aetatis tenerae
    Non deducebat temere,
    Te diligendo intime,
    Lucis creator optime.
    Not rashly did he pass
    the time of his tender age,
    loving Thee deeply,
    o great creator of the light.
    Hic satanae blanditias
    Contempsit et insidias,
    Tuo fretus solatio,
    Iesu, nostra redemptio.
    He disdained the lures
    and snares of Satan,
    supported by Thy comfort,
    o Jesus, our redemption.
    Omni degebat tempore
    Poenas ferens in corpore,
    Memor tuorum operum,
    Conditor alme siderum.
    Every season he passed
    bearing hardship in his body,
    mindful of Thy works,
    o holy creator of the stars.
    Noctes orationibus
    Deduxit et laboribus,
    Nec cessavit ab opere
    Iam lucis orto sidere.
    He passed the nights
    in labors and prayers,
    nor ceased he from work
    once the sun had risen.
    Ieiuniis se macerans,
    Verberibus se lacerans,
    Desiderabat ingredi
    Ad cœnam Agni providi.
    Wearing himself away
    with fasts and scourging,
    he longed to enter
    the banquet of the Lamb.
    Virtutum tandem titulis
    Imbutus et miraculis
    Migravit ad te Dominum,
    Iesu, corona virginum.
    At last, filled with renown
    for virtues and with miracles,
    he passed to Thee, his Lord,
    o Jesus, crown of Virgins.
    Sit laus Patri cum Filio
    Semper in caeli solio,
    Nosque replendo caelitus,
    Veni, creator Spiritus. Amen.
    Be praise to the Father with the Son,
    ever on the heavenly throne,
    and filling us from heaven,
    come, Creator Spirit. Amen.

    St Anthony the Abbot, by Francisco de Zurbarán, ca. 1640
    There are a few interesting things to note here. The hymn is an acrostic, the first letters of each stanza spelling his name as ANTHONIVS. (The H after the T is a common medieval variant, not found in the original Latin form of the name, or in Greek.) The meter is the iambic dimeter, that of the original hymns of St Ambrose and other early Christian poets, short and long syllables alternating four time for a total of eight. (Substitutions are very common, especially since vowel quantities were already weakened in the 5th century, and hardly perceived as such in the High Middle Ages.) As such, it can be sung in any one of a great many melodies, and may very well have been sung in more than one, according to the traditions of various churches.

    Medieval hymnographers also loved the trick performed by the author of this hymn, in which the last line of each stanza is the title (i.e. first line) of another hymn. (A similarly constructed piece is sung in the Cisterican Office of St Bernard.) The hymns thus quoted are all from the repertoire generally found in all medieval Uses of the Office.

    Exultet caelum laudibus - from the Common of Apostles
    Deus, tuorum militum - from the Common of Martyrs
    Lucis creator optime - from Sunday Vespers
    Iesu, nostra redemptio - from the feast of the Ascension, pre-Urban VIII
    Conditor alme siderum - from Vespers of Advent, pre-Urban VIII
    Iam lucis orto sidere - the hymn of Prime
    Ad cœnam Agni providi - from Vespers of Eastertide, pre-Urban VIII
    Iesu, corona virginum - from the Common of Virgins
    Veni, creator Spiritus - Pentecost

    The difficulty of this trick is to integrate the titles into the words of a new composition in a new sense, and the results here are uneven. Some of the expressions in the vocative case, such as “Lucis creator optime,” could be interchanged with any of the others. (I do not say this as a critique of the author; medievals valued originality far less than we do.) “Deus, tuorum militum,” however, works very cleverly with the second stanza, as “Iam lucis orto sidere” does with the sixth. The citation of the Easter hymn in its original text, “Ad coenam Agni providi,” is the only real flaw, since in the original, the word “providi” does not modify “Agni”, but the main subject of the stanza, which appears in the fourth line. (“Ad coenam Agni providi, et stolis albis candidi, post transitum maris Rubri Christo canamus principi. - Looking forward to the banquet of the Lamb, and clothed in white stoles, after the passing of the Red Sea, let us sing to Christ the prince.”) Here, “providi” is left marooned to modify “the Lamb”, who is now “looking forward” to no stated object; I have left it untranslated above.

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    Central Italy was rocked by earthquakes once again today, three of them within an hour. The first took place at 10:25 a.m. local time, 5.1 on the Richter scale, the second at 11:14, a 5.4, and the third at 11:25, a 5.3. All three were centered in the province of L’Aquila, which is within the Abruzzi region, but very close to the part of Umbria which includes Norcia, and where significant earthquakes struck last year at the end of August, and again at the end of October. (L’Aquila itself was hit by a very powerful earthquake in 2009.)

    I spoke with someone who is very close to the community of the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, who reports that they are fine; however, there will certainly be damage to many of the communities which were already hit by the earlier seismic events, and are also experiencing an unusually harsh winter this year. Thus far, Italian newspapers are not reporting any casualties.

    The Patron Saint of nearby Ascoli Piceno, St Emygdius, a bishop and martyr of the persecution of Diocletian, has long been invoked by the Italians against earthquakes, and was so renowned for this devotion that his feast on August 9th was also adopted by several Californian dioceses. These prayers from First Vespers of his proper Office would be appropriate way to ask that Italy be spared any further harm from this event; I have added the prayer against earthquakes from the Roman Missal.

    Aña : Emygdius spíritu oris sui idolórum cultum et templa subvertit; quos in Christo génuit filios, illos fidéliter a ruínis terraemótus servávit.
    V. Amávit eum Dóminus et ornávit eum. R. Stolam gloriae índuit eum.
    Orémus. Oratio Deus, qui beátum Emygdium, Mártyrem tuum atque Pontíficem, idolórum victoria et miraculórum gloria decorasti: concéde propitius; ut, eo interveniente, malórum spirítuum fraudes víncere et coruscáre virtútibus mereámur.
    Omnípotens sempiterne Deus, “qui réspicis terram, et facis eam trémere:” parce metuéntibus, propitiáre supplícibus; ut, cujus iram terrae fundamenta concutientem expávimus, clementiam contritiónes ejus sanantem júgiter sentiámus. Per Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Amen.

    Aña : Emygdius by the breath of his mouth overthrew the worship of idols and the temples; he faithfully kept the sons whom he had begotten in Christ from the ruin of the earthquake.
    V. The Lord loved him and adorned him. R. He clothed him with a robe of glory.
    Let us pray. Prayer O God, who didst honor the blessed Emygdius, Thy Martyr and Bishop, with victory over idols and the glory of miracles: grant in Thy mercy, that by his intervention, we may merit to overcome the deceits of wicked spirits, and shine forth with virtues.
    Almighty and everlasting God, Who lookest down upon the earth and makest it tremble, spare those who are afraid, show Thy mercy to those who implore Thee; that we who fear Thine anger, which shaketh the foundations of the earth, may evermore enjoy Thy mercy, which healeth its commotions. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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    St. Dominic’s Church in Youngstown, Ohio, will have the blessing of candles, procession and sung Mass in the Dominican Rite on the feast of the Purification, Thursday, February 2, starting at at 7 p.m. The church is located at 77 E. Lucius Avenue.

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    The feast of St Peter’s Chair was originally kept on one of two dates. Some sources, going back to the fourth century, attest to it on January 18th, among them, an ancient Martyrology formerly attributed to St. Jerome. Others place it on February 22nd, such as the Philocalian Calendar, which contains an equally ancient list of liturgical celebrations. It is not at all clear why exactly the same feast is found on two different dates, and even less clear why a surprising number of early Roman sacramentaries and lectionaries make no reference to it at all. However, in the later Middle Ages, the January 18th observance had been completely forgotten, and the liturgical books of the period before the Council of Trent, even those of the Ambrosian and Mozarabic Rites, are unanimous in keeping the feast on February 22.

    In 1558, Pope Paul IV, (pictured right) a strong promoter of the Counter-Reformation, added a second feast of St Peter’s Chair to the calendar, on January 18; a response, of course, to the early Protestant Reformers’ rejection of the governing authority of the see of Peter and the bishop of Rome. The newly restored feast was assigned to the day given in the ancient manuscripts, particularly the Martyrology “of St. Jerome,” which the scholars of the era regarded as an especially important witness to the traditions of the Roman Church, where Jerome had once live and served as secretary to the Pope.

    Although it was then a very new custom to keep two feasts of St Peter’s Chair, both were included in the revised Breviary called for by the Council of Trent, and issued at Rome in 1568 under the authority of Pope St Pius V. January 18th was now qualified, in accordance with the evidence of certain manuscripts, as the feast of St. Peter’s Chair in Rome, while February 22 was renamed St Peter’s Chair at Antioch, where the Prince of the Apostles was also the first bishop, and where “the disciples were first given the name Christian.” (Acts 11, 25) It should be noted that although the January feast was the more recent in terms of the liturgical practice of not just Rome, but the entire Latin Rite, the more important of the two titles is assigned to it, rather than to the better-established feast in February.

    January 18th falls eight days before the Conversion of St. Paul; the restoration of a feast of St Peter to this day was also certainly intended to reinforce the traditional liturgical association of the two Apostolic founders of the church in Rome. The early Protestants claimed justification for their teachings in the writings of St. Paul, several of which became for Luther a “canon within the canon” of the Bible. The two feasts, therefore, form a unit by which overemphasis on Paul is corrected by a renewed emphasis on the ministry of Peter. In accordance with the same tradition, the Use of Rome has always added to each feast of either Apostle a commemoration of the other; thus, the eight day period from January 18 to 25 begins with a feast of Peter and commemoration of Paul, and ends with a feast of Paul and commemoration of Peter.

    The same day is also the feast of St Prisca, who remains in the Tridentine Breviary as a commemoration. It is possible, though by no means certain, that an ancient relic believed to be the actual chair of St Peter was first kept at or near the same catacomb where this obscure Roman martyr was buried, and later moved to the church on the Aventine hill dedicated to her. This basilica keeps its dedication feast on February 22; it is probably more than chance that both the feast and the dedication of St Prisca should be on days associated with St Peter’s Chair.
    The former cathedral of Venice, San Pietro in Castello, also claims to possess a chair of St Peter, that of Antioch. Laying aside the question its authenticity, the writing on it is certainly Arabic, and of the 13th century.
    The Breviary of St Pius V also added on January 24th a feast found in many medieval liturgical calendars, which, however, had not previously been kept at Rome itself, that of St Paul’s disciple Timothy. The addressee of two of the Pastoral Epistles, and the Apostle’s companion in so much of his missionary work, St Timothy is very often called an Apostle himself in medieval liturgical books, as is St Barnabas. In the Tridentine Breviary and Missal, he is given the titles Bishop and Martyr, since he was beaten to death by a mob in his episcopal city of Ephesus, many years after St Paul’s death. His feast forms a kind of vigil to the Conversion of St Paul; by this addition, each of the two great Apostles is accompanied, so to speak, by another Saint prominently associated with him.

    Whether by coincidence or design, an interesting group of feasts occurs between that Ss Peter and Prisca on the one end, and Timothy and Paul on the other. January 19th is the feast of a group of Persian martyrs, Ss Marius and Martha, and their sons Audifax and Abacum. They were said to have come to Rome in the reign of the Emperor Claudius II, (268-70), and after ministering to the martyrs in various ways, were themselves martyred on the Via Cornelia by decapitation.

    January 20th is traditionally kept as the feast of two Saints who died in Rome on the same day, but many years apart. The first is Pope Fabian, who was elected in 236, although a laymen and a stranger to the city. According to Eusebius (Church History 6, 29), he entered the place where the election was being held, and a dove landed on his head; this was taken as a sign that he was the choice of the Holy Spirit, and he was forthwith made Pope. Fourteen years later, at the beginning of the first general persecution under the Emperor Decius, he was one of the first to be martyred. He shares his feast with St Sebastian, said to be a soldier of Milanese origin, as attested by St. Ambrose himself, but martyred in Rome in 286. The relics of St Fabian are kept in one of the chapels of the Roman basilica of St Sebastian, built over the latter’s grave in the mid-fourth century.

    On the following day, the Church has kept since the fourth century the feast of one of Rome’s greatest martyrs, St Agnes, who was killed in the persecution of Diocletian at the age of twelve or thirteen. She is named in the Canon of the Mass, and a basilica built near her grave was one of the very first public churches in Rome, a project of the Emperor Constantine himself, along with those of Ss Peter and Paul, the Holy Cross, and St Lawrence.

    St Vincent of Saragossa, another martyr of the last general persecution, has long been held in a special place of honor by the Church, along with his fellow deacons Ss Stephen and Lawrence, all three of them having been killed in particularly painful ways. The church of Rome added to his feast on January 22 a martyr from three centuries later, St Anastasius; he was a Persian who converted to Christianity after seeing the relics of the True Cross, which had been stolen from Jerusalem by the Persian king. This is a proper custom of the city of Rome itself; I have not found his feast in any other pre-Tridentine liturgical calendar. A church was built in his honor by the middle of the 10th century, directly across from the future site of one of the city’s most impressive monuments, the Trevi Fountain.

    The 23rd of January was long dedicated to St Emerentiana, the foster-sister of St Agnes, whose murderers she bravely rebuked. While praying at her sister’s tomb two days after the latter’s martyrdom, she was spotted by a gang of pagan thugs, who stoned her to death. She was still a catechumen, but the Roman Breviary of 1529 states, “There is no doubt that she was baptized by her own blood, because she steadfastly accepted death for the defense of justice, while she confessed the Lord.” The mortal remains of both women are currently kept in a silver urn underneath the main altar of the church of St Agnes outside-the-Walls on the via Nomentana, and thus, on the very site of Emerentiana’s martyrdom. (Her feast is now a commemoration on the feast of St. Raymond of Penyafort.)
    The Martyrdom of St. Emerentiana, shown on a late 14th century cup in the British Museum.
    To sum up, therefore, Peter is accompanied by a Roman martyr, Paul by a martyr of one of the oldest Greek churches, that of Ephesus, where both he and St John the Evangelist had lived and preached. Between their two feasts are celebrated martyrs from the two extremes of the Christian world in antiquity, Persia and Spain; native Romans, one the highest authority in the Catholic Church, and one the least and last of its members; a Roman soldier from the venerable see of Milan, representing the might of the Empire, subjected to Christ; and a young woman who in the pagan world was a person of no standing at all, but in the Church is honored as one of its greatest and most heroic figures. The eight day period from January 18-25, then, becomes a celebration not just of the two Apostles who founded the church in the Eternal City, but of the universality of that church’s mission to “preside in charity” over the whole Church, as St Ignatius of Antioch says, and bring every person of whatever condition to salvation in Christ.

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    A regular reader from Singapore brought to my attention this article from the Straits Times (named for the strait that separates the island from the Malay Peninsula) about the TLM community there, and the presence and use of Latin in their small, multi-lingual nation.

    “Latin is also alive in St Joseph’s Church in Victoria Street. Every Sunday, some 200 worshippers, most of whom are Singaporeans, fill the pews of the 110-year-old church and sing out phrases such as Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo, et mundabor - Thou shall sprinkle me with hyssop O Lord, and I shall be cleansed.  ... most of the 200 congregants of Singapore’s sole Latin Mass, which started in 2008, have a basic understanding of the language. The service includes singing Gregorian chants and reciting liturgical responses and prayers.

    ... Mr Gregory Tan, 39, a life scientist who sings in the choir for the Mass at St Joseph’s Church, said, up till 50 years ago, Masses worldwide were celebrated entirely in Latin. He added: ‘Latin, being the mother tongue of the Catholic Church, is able to unify Catholics worldwide since it does not belong to any particular country or ethnic community today.’ A number of Catholics, including Mr Tan, aged in their 20s to 40s, became interested in Masses celebrated in Latin as a way of rediscovering the roots of the faith. ... ”

    Like the other Mass attendees, he is also enamoured with the way in which the prayers are chanted. ‘The words are taken directly from the Bible, then the music is weaved in to allow the singer to emphasize and highlight words and concepts of theological significance, thereby elevating the level of prayer. We get to sing the same songs that were sung by our Catholic predecessors 1,600 years ago,’ he noted.

    ... The group was allocated St Joseph’s Church as an official place to worship at in 2013 as part of Archbishop William Goh’s efforts to reach out to all the groups in the archdiocese and encourage them to grow spiritually.”

    The Latin Mass Community of Singapore has regularly contributed to our NLM photoposts, for which we are, of course, always very grateful; their presence is one of many beautiful signs of the true universality of our Catholic liturgical tradition.

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    On Sunday, I published some photos of the Fraternity of St Peter’s German seminary visiting Buxheim Charterhouse, and celebrating Mass there for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. That same day, the community celebrated Vespers at another famously beautiful abbey, Ottobeuren, just ten miles down the road from Buxheim; here are some photos of the ceremony, once again, reproduced by the kind permission of the FSSP. (Click here to see the full album.) It is especially heartening to see how young the fellows are whose priestly formation is grounded in the fullness of the Church’s liturgical tradition.

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    On Friday, February 3rd, at 8 p.m., the church of St John the Baptist in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, a parish of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, will begin a series of celebrations of choral Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, featuring the music of composers such as Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons, Jacques Arcedelt and Tomás Luis de Victoria.

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    Yesterday was the feast of the Holy Theophany on the Julian Calendar, the commemoration of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. It is a tradition of the Byzantine Rite to bless not just water in vessels within the church on this day, but also large bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. If the body of water is frozen (as is often the case, especially in the Slavic nations), they will then cut a hole in the ice, so that people can have a polar-bear swim in the newly blessed water. Part of the ritual of the blessing involves submerging a hand-held cross in the water three times; in many places, it is the custom for the bishop or priest who performs the blessing to throw the cross into the water, after which, people dive in to retrieve it. It is popularly believed that the person who gets it will enjoy good health for the coming year, which will definitely be needed after taking that bath.

    Here we see part of the ritual at the Greek-Catholic Cathedral of the Resurrection in Kyiv Ukraine, celebrated by the Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, (and some ‘polar-bears’ at the end,) from the Youtube channel of Живе Телебачення (Zhyve Telebachennya), the media site of the UGCC.

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    Father Carlos Hamel of the Fraternity of Saint Joseph the Guardian will preach a retreat based on the Ignatian Exercises, at the church of Saint John the Baptist, 1282 Yardville-Allentown Road, Allentown, New Jersey. The Spiritual Exercises comprise an ordered series of meditations and contemplations born from the profound spiritual experience St Ignatius, gained from his conversion and his time as the first Superior General of the Society of Jesus. These exercises purpose to help the retreatant discern God’s will for his own life.

    The retreat will begin on the early afternoon of Friday, February 17 and finish on the afternoon of Sunday February 19 (Presidents’ day weekend).

    In order to cover the expenses (Fr. Carlos’ travel from France, food, donation to the parish, etc) we suggest a donation of $60. Also, please bring a sleeping bag.

    In addition to the meditations, the traditional Mass will be sung each day, as well as parts of the Divine Office; there will also be plenty of opportunities for spiritual direction and Confession.

    To confirm your attendance please read the following Google doc and fill the registration form

    If you have any questions please contact Br. Edmund Kerridge at Feel free to forward this invitation to any else you reckon would be interested.

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    At yesterday’s presidential inauguration, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, read as a prayer a selection of verses from the ninth chapter of the Book of Wisdom. In the original, this passage is a prayer delivered as if from the mouth of King Solomon, and all of the first person plurals spoken by His Eminence (“God of our ancestors…”) are in the singular in the Biblical text. (Accommodations of this sort in the context of prayer are a well-established tradition of the Church.) I say “as if” because it is well-known, of course, that the Book of Wisdom was written hundreds of years after Solomon’s lifetime, and its attribution to him (which is strongly implied, but not explicitly stated, within the book itself) was known at the time it was written to be a literary device.

    A writer on the website of Christianity Today, Daniel de Silva, published an article explaining to their (I assume mostly non-Catholic) readership why a Biblical reading at the ceremony “Isn’t in Your Bible,” namely, because it is from the group of books which Protestants generally call “the Apocrypha,” and Catholics the “Deuterocanonical books.” Both of these terms are really rather unfortunate, but we are now stuck with them after centuries of use. “Apocrypha” is a Greek word for “hidden”, and would be better reserved for things like the Gnostic so-called Gospels, rather than a group of works whose canonicity was almost undisputed in the Church for 15 centuries. (I say “almost” advisedly, as I will explain shortly.)

    The term “deuterocanonical” was coined in 1566 by a scholar called Sixtus of Siena, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, at a point when the Protestant reformation had been going on for almost half a century, and the “disputed” nature of the books had become a fixed feature of Catholic-Protestant debate. I consider it unfortunate because it seems to imply (though this was certainly not Sixtus’ intention) either that there are degrees of canonicity within Scripture, which is heretical, or, as one Biblical commentary states, that their canonicity was recognized later, which is historically false. The Catholic Encyclopedia rightly states, in its article on the Canon of the Old Testament, that “The terms protocanonical and deuterocanonical… require a word of caution. They are not felicitous, and it would be wrong to infer from them that the Church successively possessed two distinct Biblical Canons.”

    At a public debate held at Leipzig in 1519, Johann Eck, a very prominent theologian of the era, objected to Luther’s rejection of the doctrine of Purgatory, and therefore of praying for the dead, by citing a well-known passage from Second Maccabees (12, 46), which has been read at Masses for the Dead from time immemorial: “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” To this Luther replied that Second Maccabees was not a part of Scripture, and hence constituted no valid proof; the Catholic Encyclopedia is equally right to term this, in the article cited above, “a radical departure.” Certain other passages, such Tobit 4, 11, “For alms deliver from all sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness,” became focal points of the controversy as well.

    Subsequently, the debate over the place of the “Deuterocanonicals” in the Church has been very largely framed in terms of what the Fathers have to say about them in their writings. St Jerome is a crucial figure in this regard, because he is the only one who ever rejected them on the same grounds as the Protestants, namely, their absence from the Hebrew Bible; he is cited to this effect in the sixth “Article of Religion” of the Church of England. And thus de Silva writes “Jerome …was the loudest voice in this regard.”

    St Jerome in His Study, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, ca. 1480, from the Church of All Saints in Florence 
    Three things call for note here. One is that not even Jerome was consistent on this point; he included Tobit, Judith, and the Deuterocanonical additions to both Esther and Daniel in his great project of Biblical translations, and in some of his later writings, cites some of them without distinction from the rest of Scripture. (The versions of Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch and the two books of the Maccabees included in the Vulgate are not his.) The second is that the other Church Fathers are similarly inconsistent; St Athanasius, for example, in an epistle of the year 367, includes Baruch in the canonical list, and omits Esther. The third is that citations in the New Testament cannot serve as a definitive yardstick for canonicity, since it contains none from certain books whose canonicity was disputed even among the Jews (Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs), two from the book of Wisdom (2, 13 in Matthew 27, 43 and 7, 26 in Hebrews 1, 3), and an explicit citation from the indisputably apocryphal Book of Enoch. (Jude, 14-15)

    The opinion of the vast majority of the Fathers is best explained by referring to the great Biblical scholar Origen. (ca. 185-255). A friend of his named Africanus, one of his sponsors in the decades-long production of a massive corpus of Biblical exegesis, claimed that the Greek puns in the story of Susanna proved that it could not be part of the original text of the book of Daniel. Origen’s defense of the story, and of the other deuterocanonical books, repeatedly refers to the “use” of the book in the churches, i.e., in the liturgy. He also cites in its defense a saying of the book of Proverbs, “Thou shalt not remove the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set,” (22:28), a passage long understood by Jewish commentators as a command to preserve the ancient traditions of religious practice. This opinion is confirmed by St Augustine, and several early synods whose acts have come down to us.

    As I have written before, the story of Susanna occupies a particularly prominent place in the liturgy of Lent in the West, and in the art of the primitive Church. Readings from almost all of the other Deuterocanonical books are attributed in the ancient Roman lectionaries, most of which carry through right into the Missal of St Pius V. The books of Wisdom and Sirach are particularly prominent, especially on the feasts of Confessors; this is especially significant precisely because St Jerome did not produce either a revised or freshly translated version of either of them. The canticle known from its first word as the Benedicite, Daniel 3, 57-88 and 56, was sung in the Roman Divine Office on every single Sunday and feast until 1913. (It is still, of course, said very often in both Form of the Office to this day.)

    One might cite innumerable examples from other ancient rites of the Church, but I will here confine myself to a few particularly interesting ones. The 7th century Lectionary of Luxeuil, the most ancient lectionary of the Gallican Rite, prescribes that the entire book of Tobias be read on Rogation Monday after None, that of Judith on Tuesday, and that of Esther (with the additions) on Wednesday. (It is no wonder that the clergy of Gaul enthusiastically embraced Charlemagne’s forced transition to the Roman Rite.) The Ambrosian Liturgy makes the same use of the Benedicite as the Roman, and places Susanna in an even more prominent position, on Holy Thursday. A passage from Baruch 3 is read on the Third Sunday of October, the feast of Milan cathedral’s dedication; a longer excerpt from the same chapter was read at the Roman vigils of Easter and Pentecost until 1954.

    Folio 165v of the Lectionary of Luxeuil, with the rubric for Rogation Monday, “Liber Tobith usque ad finem - the Book of Tobit, until the end, and afterwards the Gospel.” (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 9427) 
    In the Byzantine Rite, a prayer said every single day at Vespers cites the Song of the Three Children, which also figures among the group of canticles at Orthros called the Odes. The entire third chapter of Daniel, including the additions, is read at the Easter Vigil, with the choir singing “Sing to the Lord and exalt him above all forever” as a refrain. (Video below; Exodus 13, 20 - 15, 19 is also read in a similar fashion.) Many of the more important feasts have three Scriptural readings at Vespers; among those assigned to the feasts of Confessors, there are two which are titled liturgically as “from the Wisdom of Solomon”, but are actually very complicated centos, composite readings from more than one book, mixing the words of the protocanonical books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes quite indiscriminately with those of Wisdom and Sirach. (You can read them at the following link, where they are the first two readings on the feast of St Nicholas:

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    Catholics who assist at the traditional liturgy of the Church quickly come to love one monumental fact about it: its stability, regularity, constancy. With a few exceptions due to local calendars or unannounced votive Masses, one can come to any usus antiquior liturgy and know within moments which Mass in the missal is being celebrated—and then know, with certainty, exactly how that Mass will unfold for the remaining half-hour or hour, since everything is fixed in place.

    What a consolation to know that the celebrant is not being asked to exhibit the state of his mind in extemporaneous remarks, or his pastoral judgment in choices between this or that prayer! The Mass is simply the Mass—older, greater, stronger, and steadier than any of us mere mortals, and we gratefully submit ourselves to its lofty spiritual pedagogy and accumulated wisdom. We are not the drivers but the passengers. The driver is Christ our Lord, and never once in the liturgy (except perhaps in the homily) are we confronted with a jarring disjunct between the principal celebrant and His intelligent instrument.

    People who have practiced lectio divina know that it benefits from the slow assimilation of a chosen text. One must mortify the desire to read too much or to skip all over the place. One often has to re-read and re-read a passage before it penetrates the mind. In just the same way, the great strength of the one-year lectionary contained in the traditional Missale Romanum is that it affords the worshiper time to absorb a certain set of luminous biblical passages, extremely well chosen for their liturgical purpose. Meeting these texts repeatedly, one puts them on like a garment, or assimilates them like food and drink. One begins to think and pray in their phrases.

    What happens with the lectionary happens, in turn, with the entire liturgy. The fixity of the usus antiquior from top to bottom, from collect to postcommunion, from Psalm 42 to the Prologue of John, faciliates a liturgical lectio divina that can range over the words of the entire missal, in both its repeated (Ordinary) and changing (Proper) parts.

    To have the light and warmth of contemplation, you first need the fire of prayer; to fuel prayer, you need the wood of meditation; and to have meditation, there has to be reading. Reading presupposes something fixed and stable to be read, internalized, remembered, pondered. Any improvisation at this level, or any overwhelming quantity of text or a constantly changing text, will tend to thwart the slow and steady building of memory, the shaping of the imagination, and the fertilizing of the intellect. If you throw too much wood on the fire, you put it out. If the wood is green, the fire smokes. And if there is no kindling and no match, the fire can’t be started.

    All of these things have to be in place: the right ingredients in the right order, with the right proportions and the right timing. Fifteen hundred years of slow and highly conservative liturgical development produced the right content, the right order, the right proportions, and the right timing. Because the new liturgy has vastly more content and the way things play out is subject to the choices of celebrant and musicians, the proportion of parts is quite malleable and liable to enormous imbalance, and the pacing or feel of the liturgy is not comfortingly invariable and focused.

    This, then, is the fundamental problem with praying the new liturgy: it is too pluriform, too gigantic, and too mutable to sustain a meditative or lectio divina engagement with the texts, chants, and gestures. One cannot simply surrender to it and take on its own identity, since the wills and intellects of various secondary agents are too much in play, making its identity like the chameleon’s color. “Will the real Novus Ordo please stand up?”

    In the traditional liturgy, the daily stability of the Mass and its relatively limited selection of readings, together with the recurrence of the psalms in the weekly cursus of the Divine Office, strongly supports a liturgical lectio divina that is decisive in deepening the spiritual life of clergy and laity. In particular, one profits from the immensely powerful correlation of the antiphons and readings of the Office with those of the Mass.[1] It would be hard to deny that there are correlations between the character of the revised liturgical books, the customary crowd-oriented ars celebrandi, the lack of ascetical-mystical life among so large a part of the clergy, and the shallowness, if not heterodoxy, of preaching. All these things reinforce one another; there is little to oppose them from within the form of the liturgy itself.

    Moreover, the overwhelming fixity of traditional liturgical forms makes the times when there are differences in the prescribed liturgy so much more striking. The omission of Psalm 42 and the doxologies during Passiontide makes us feel we are being stripped and humiliated with Christ. The dona eis requiem of the Agnus Dei at the Mass for the Dead reminds us (as do so many other details of the Requiem Mass) that we are offering up our prayers for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed and not thinking of ourselves.[2] One thinks of the rare times in the year when genuflections are called for during the course of a Tract or a Gospel, such as during the octave of Epiphany or during Lent[3]; one thinks of the peculiarities of the Divine Office on All Souls or in Holy Week—examples are numerous. These changes in an otherwise monolithic and highly determined pattern can be shattering in their psychological effect. It is like a great composer who knows how to use a touch of sharp dissonance that makes the prevailing consonance all the more powerful, or a great painter who adds a touch of bright red to an otherwise subdued canvas. The old liturgy shows a masterful grasp of how human psychology works.

    The same rationalistic instinct that multiplied the quantity of texts also abolished almost all such unique features and differentiations, so that there was a simultaneous flattening of rites into uniformity and an uncontrolled expansion of material in the lectionary and missal. Sadly, we can note that both the uniformity and the expansion are characteristic of industrial methods of mass production. Indeed, the word “mass” in contemporary English has two meanings: the density of matter and a widespread group of similarly-minded individuals. The modern Mass exhibits excess of material as well as a democratic leveling of difference within that material. This phenomenon has been demonstrated with regard to the revised lectionary, which, although many times larger than the old one-year lectionary, nevertheless contains less of the total breadth of Scripture’s actual message because of its studied avoidance of any passages that could “offend” or be “misunderstood.”[4]

    But we have reason today to be of good cheer, for these problems are more and more widely acknowledged, and the only sensible solution to them—the restoration of the fullness of traditional Catholic worship—is gaining ground, even in spite of semi-official resistance. What will happen when the last barriers fall down is not difficult to predict. The traditional liturgy—both the Missale Romanum and the Divinum Officium—is ideal for the life of prayer to which we are all called by God, and to which our baptism invisibly impels us. As a locus of lectio divina, the classic Roman rite stirs us to ponder and linger over particular phrases of Scripture or particular liturgical prayers hallowed by tradition and to make them the basis of a most fruitful meditation and preparation for Holy Communion. It will continue to gain ground, one prayerful soul after another, one seminarian, priest, or bishop at a time, one altar and parish to the next.


    [1] I speak here from personal experience. Although I had already attended the usus antiquior Mass and had fallen in love with it at Thomas Aquinas College, I really came to know it well when, at the International Theological Institute in Austria, I was able to attend a daily 6:00 am Low Mass for several years—something, alas, that has not been possible for the past 10 years, and how I miss it! Going through that cycle day by day profoundly formed me and won my heart and mind over completely to the old prayers and calendar. I believe it would do the same for any serious Catholic who was given the grace of such consistent exposure. Later on, as I began to pray the old Divine Office, the connections were a cause of continual delight and strengthened my life of prayer. I know that a similar discovery happened for the monks of Norcia years ago when they finally saw that there was too much of a disjunct between the monastic office and the Novus Ordo Missae. In order to achieve an internal “reconciliation” of all their daily prayer, they chose the Vetus Ordo, albeit retaining an openness to celebrating the Novus Ordo when assisting local clergy or certain groups of pilgrims.

    [2] This in contrast to post-conciliar funerals and Masses for the dead, which are almost entirely focused on the living who are present, due to the assumption (often stated explicitly) that the deceased requires no prayers and is already rejoicing with all his friends and relatives in heaven. The traditional Requiem Mass in a severe manner orders the entire service to the benefit of the deceased soul, which is no doubt why it was particularly loathed by the reformers, both in the 16th century and in the 20th.

    [3] As I noticed in my article “In Defense of Preserving Readings in Latin”: “Among the most moving and beautiful signs of the latreutic or adorational function of the readings in the usus antiquior are those times in the course of the liturgical year when the priest, ministers, and faithful genuflect during the reading of the Gospel at a passage that narrates some reality that cries out for the total response of the believer, in body and soul. Thus, on Epiphany and during its octave, when the priest reads or chants that the Magi fell down and worshiped the Christ-child, he, and everyone with him, bends the knee in silent adoration. In Lenten Masses the priest kneels at the Tract Adiuva nos; on the second Passion Sunday, the Finding of the Holy Cross, and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, at the Epistle (‘ut in nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur’); and on a number of other occasions, such as at the third Mass of Christmas, when the Prologue of John is read; at the end of the Gospel for Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent (Jn 9:1-38); during the Alleluia before the Veni, Sancte Spiritus sequence; and at votive Masses of the Holy Spirit, the Passion of the Lord, and Deliverance from Mortality.”

    [4] See my article “A Tale of Two Lectionaries: Quality versus Quantity” and the further references given there.

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    My last posting was about a monastic chant forum at Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight, which of course I encourage you again to attend! This reminded my of my own visits to Quarr in the years just after my conversion.

    On my first visit, I spent an afternoon with Fr Joe, who was made famous after his death in 1998 by the book written about him by Tony Hendra.

    Hendra is a British comedy producer and actor known on both sides of the Atlantic for his work on, for example, the British program Spitting Image, the American program Saturday Night Live, and for the part that I knew him for, playing rock-band manager Ian Faith in one of my favorite movies of all time, This is Spinal Tap. With Quarr on my mind, I thought I would relate my own experience of meeting Fr Joe there; he made an such an impact on me that I would often tell the story of meeting “a monk at Quarr” even before Tony Hendra wrote about him.

    Hendra, left, in This is Spinal Tap

    When I lived in London in the 1990s, a priest at the Brompton Oratory encouraged me to go on a retreat at Quarr Abbey. I think he suggested it as a way to develop the contemplative side of my spiritual life, and because he thought that perhaps I might have vocation to the religious life. So I duly went down to the Isle of Wight to experience a Benedictine monastery for the first time. Fr Ronald, the Oratorian asked me to “Say hello to Fr Joe” for him when I was there.

    I found my first visit to a monastic community strange; it was so other-worldly that I didn’t particularly take to it on the first occasion. It was only later that I started to love the chanting of the psalms. What I found strange was the way that as a guest, I didn’t seem to have any contact with the residents. I saw the monks at meals, but we weren’t allowed to talk, and in any event sat at separate tables. When I did see any of them walking around the grounds, they would put their heads down and avoid eye contact. It wasn’t until I read the Rule of St Benedict that I understood that in order to promote humility, they generally do not initiate conversations with guests, and will only speak to them if spoken to first. Eventually in frustration, I just approached one of them and said I had a message for Fr Joe: “Fr Ronald says ‘Hello.’ ” The monk I approached came to life and thanked me for the message, and asked if I would like to meet Fr Joe myself and give him the message personally. Hesitantly I said yes; I wasn’t sure what I would say to him after those few words.

    So I was shown up to his room and handed a large cup of coffee, as the monk who showed me the way ushered me into Fr Joe’s cell. Fr Joe himself was sitting up in bed next to a window with a view of the grounds and the sea. I thought I had been told that he was recovering from a stroke. I didn’t think about it at the time, but he had a large padded white patch taped over one eye, which wouldn’t have indicated a stroke. I found out from the book many years later that he had cancer of the sinuses, and it was extremely painful because the tumor was pushing one of his eyeballs out of its socket from behind.

    Despite the pain he must have been going through, he called me over, and I was struck by how cheerful he was. With a broad smile he asked me to sit close to him. I did so and then he looked at me, his one visible eye twinkling, waiting to hear what I had to say. I passed on the message. Then he started to ask me all sorts of questions about how I knew Fr Ronald, and told me a bit about himself. I am sketchy on the precise details, but as I remember it, he told me that he had lived in the monastery since he was 17 years old, and was then 90, so he had lived there seventy-three years. In those days, I couldn’t imagine remaining sane by leading a life where I had nothing to do for seventy years apart from singing, eating and tending the vegetable patch. If anything, I felt sorry for him. The only reason that he could be so cheerful, I thought, was that he had never had any experience of the sort of things that really make like worth living, most of which hadn’t even been invented when he left the world.

    He asked me what I did for a living. I remember hesitating, and thinking that he must be so far from worldly things that I didn’t know if he would have any idea what my life could possibly be like. I wondered if I might even have to explain what a job was, never mind what mine as a recruitment consultant entailed. Nevertheless I told him, and he listened and nodded as I gave him various details and seemed to understand.

    Then he asked me if I had any problems.

    I was going through girlfriend difficulties at the time and rather vaguely indicated this, expecting him to take the conversation no further, as his lack of personal experience would mean that he was unable to make any comment. To my surprise, he not only had some comments to make, but asked me some very pointed questions about my personal conduct. I remember thinking, how do you know about that sort of thing? Because of his warm manner and deep and genuine interest in me, I found myself revealing very personal thoughts and conduct. It struck me later how quickly he had put me at ease and gained my confidence.

    After the questions, he then gave me some advice about what to do. I wish I could remember the details, but I can’t. What I can remember is that what he suggested was so simple and on-the-money that it was obvious, to me at any rate, that it was right. I know that I did resolve to follow his advice. At a certain point, perhaps after about 20 minutes or so with him, he apologized and said that he had to let me go because he was about to receive some treatment. But he as he did so he encouraged me to visit and come and see him again.

    When I returned to London I told a friend of mine, David Birtwistle, all about Fr Joe, and how amazed I was at his wisdom, given his total lack of experience of the things he was commenting on.
    David was my mentor, an artist and a Catholic, who had drawn me to Catholicism when I was a bitter atheist; he was also my sponsor when I was received into the Church. David was, to my mind, as wise as Fr Joe; it was he, for example, who took me through a set of spiritual exercises that allowed me to discern my personal vocation and become an artist, I wrote about it here.

    So when I described the meeting to him, David said something profound to me, and it was his comment, as much as the meeting with Fr Joe itself, that I would relate whenever I spoke of this in the following years. David said, “Well doesn't that tell you something? Fr Joe is close to God. Because God is the Truth, those who have a relationship with God have a grasp of truth, and understand what it means to be in relationship more profoundly than if they relied solely on experience of human relationships.” This was true. I learned from Hendra’s book that many other people were drawn to Fr Joe, and so, in addition to the way that David described, he would have learned things about many aspects of the secular life by listening to so many people speaking about their experiences and difficulties. Furthermore, the monastic community is a place, I now realize, where people experience human relationships intensely, and again, Fr Joe will have learnt from this. Nevertheless, what enabled him to offer insights into my situation so well, I believe, was exactly what David had put his finger on: divine wisdom.

    I would often relate this story in response to an argument often used by Protestants against priestly celibacy, that single priests can’t offer advice on relationships because they have no experience of marriage. Aside from the fact that the primary role of the priest is to minister the Sacraments, and not to act as a marriage and guidance counselors, Fr Joe demonstrated to me that personal experience is neither the only nor the greatest source of wisdom.

    As another facet to this story, David never told me that he also knew Fr Joe personally. He had spent a period discerning a religious vocation himself, and had spent several months at Quarr Abbey in the late 1940s. David is now dead too; he died about the same time as Fr Joe, when he was 70 years old.

    Even though I would not have said at the time that I particularly enjoyed my first visit to Quarr, I found myself thinking of Fr Joe, the beautiful setting and the chant more and more in the following months. I decided to go back, and my intention was to see Fr Joe again, but by the time I got there, he had gone. He had died just a few days before, and there was a huge display flowers and wreaths with dozens and dozens of cards.

    Now, fast-forward to a conversation I was having with a parent of one of the students at Thomas More College about 5 years ago. He was telling me about this amazing book he had just read - the Hendra book - about a wise monk at an abbey on the Isle of Wight in England. Gradually, I realized that he was talking about Quarr Abbey, and I assumed that he must be talking about the same Fr Joe that I had met. I immediately went out and bought the book and realized that it was.

    Hendra more recently

    As I read Tony Hendra’s book and his descriptions of the abbey, of the grounds and of Fr Joe and his conversations with him, it not only reinforced memories, it gave me a lot more detail about the man than I had ever known. All of it supported my friend David’s assessment of him, as one who was close to God. It also struck me that there is a lesson here on how to be an evangelist. Here was a man who lived in one place for pretty much the whole of his life, never wrote an article, or gave a TV interview in his life, yet the Holy Spirit brought people to him and he affected them profoundly.

    It is just as Pope Benedict described in his little paper on the New Evangelization. The method of the Evangelist is prayer....I wonder if Cardinal Ratzinger ever met Fr Joe? It wouldn’t surprise me.

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    This past Sunday, January 22, was the feast of St Theodolinda, queen of the Lombards, who died in the year 627. A daughter of the duke of Bavaria, she was married in 589 to the Lombard King Authari. When he died the following year, she was allowed to choose her own second husband, who would then become the next king. Her choice fell upon Agilulf, the duke of Turin, who at her behest, moved the capital from Pavia to Milan, a move which helped to integrate the Lombards with the Roman population; henceforth, the kings of Lombardy were to be called “Kings of All Italy” instead.

    As a fervent Catholic, Theodolinda contributed much to the restoration of the Nicene faith among the many Arian peoples of northern Italy. On the occasion of her son Adaloald’s baptism, Pope St Gregory the Great sent her a precious Gospel book which is still preserved at Monza.

    The original covers of the Gospel Book of St Theodelinda.
    The foundation of that city, where she kept her summer residence, is traditionally attributed to her; the legend has it that while traveling there, she dreamed of a dove that said to her “modo”, i.e. “here”, to which she answered “etiam.” i.e. “yes!” This is said to be the origin of the Latin “Modœtia”, which became “Monza” in Italian. In her new city, Theodolinda also established a private oratory, dedicated to St John the Baptist, the earliest foundation of the city’s cathedral.

    At the death of Agilulf, she ruled for a time as her son’s regent, and in this period, received a second gift from Pope Gregory, the Iron Crown of Monza. This was said to have been made from a helmet of Constantine, and to include within itself one of the Nails of the Crucifixion, given to the latter by his mother St Helena three centuries earlier. This crown would become the symbol of the title “King of Italy.”

    However, at the very end of her life, her son was deposed by the dukes of Lombard dukes in favor of her son-in-law. She died a few months later, in the year 628, and was originally buried in her oratory in Monza, where she has long been popularly venerated as a Saint. The Iron Crown is preserved in a special chapel of the Cathedral of Monza, dedicated to St Theodelinda, and frescoed with the episodes of her life in the 1440s by the brothers Zavattari. (These pictures, and the text above, are by our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi.)

    Her sepulcher

    St Theodelinda’s dream, and the construction of the city of Monza and the original oratory. 

    In the upper right, next to the stem of the Visconti family (rulers of Milan from 1277 to 1447), Agilulf abjures Arianism and converts to Catholicism; below, first Theodelinda, and then Adaloald, offer various gifts to the cathedral of Monza. (Some of the items represented in these frescoes still exist, and are preserved in the cathedral treasury, of which we will show some photos later this week.)

    The Iron Crown is the crown of the famous episode of Napoleon’s self-coronation as King of Italy. It was last used in 1838, when the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I was crowned as king of Lombardy-Venetia (the Austrian possessions in Italy) by Karl Cardinal von Gaysruck; this ceremony took place in the cathedral of Milan, with a Pontifical Mass in the Ambrosian Rite.

    In the ceiling, three deacons are shown with their stoles above their dalmatics, in accordance with the Ambrosian custom (although Monza is not an Ambrosian city): St Vincent of Saragossa in the center in red, who shares his feast day with St Theodelinda, with Ss Stephen and Lawrence to either side of him.

    Episodes of the Life of St Theodelinda, most importantly, at the bottom, the death of Authari at Pavia (possibly by poison) in 590. In 1447, the last Visconti duke of Milan, Filippo Maria, died without a legitimate male heir, and the title therefore passed through his daughter Bianca Maria to his son-in-law, Francesco Sforza. The story of Theodelinda, who was allowed to choose her husband’s successor, establishes an ancient precedent for such a succession through the female line.

    The Life of Theodelinda: Authari seeks a wife from the King of the Franks and is refused; his emissaries seeks the hand of Theodelinda from her father, the Duke of Bavaria; she comes to Italy; in the lowest part (after the death of Authari), she sends messengers to the duke of Turin, Agilulf, choosing him as Authari’s successor.

    Theodelinda and Agilulf go hunting; during the trip, she will have the dream of the dove that leads to the founding of Monza. In the lower and final scene, the Byzantine Emperor Constans II enters Italy with a great army, intending to conquer the Lombard kingdom. An old hermit dissuades him, saying that it is the will of God that the Lombards remain in Italy, and so the Emperor departs without a fight.

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    At 5pm this Saturday (1/28), there will be a celebration of the Divine Liturgy at Gesu Chapel of the Jesuit School of Theology, located at 1735 Le Roy Ave., Berkeley, California. Dinner will provided following the liturgy.

    This is an outreach of St Elias Melkite Catholic Church, which is based at Los Gatos, California. The liturgy will be celebrated by Fr Sebastian Carnazzo, the pastor of St Elias, and Fr Christopher Hadley who teaches at the Jesuit School of Theology.

    Fr Sebastian has now uploaded recordings of the Melkite chants of the Divine Liturgy in both English and Arabic. This liturgy will predominantly be in English. I encourage you to look it up, here. All are encouraged to sing at the liturgy, even if you just sing the eison (drone) with me. So here's your chance to prepare a bit, if only to get your ear attuned if you are new to it.

    Mark your calendars and plan to attend both the liturgy and dinner if possible.

    As a foretaste, here is their recording of the Great Doxology, which will be the opening hymn of the Liturgy on Saturday.

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    Sacra Liturgia has announced its major activities for this coming summer, a conference to be held in June in Milan, from June 6-9, and the annual liturgical summer school, from August 5-17.

    The conference sessions of Sacra Liturgia Milan, will be held in both Italian and English, with simultaneous translation of all presentations, at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) centrally located in Milan next to the Basilica of Saint Ambrose, where many of the conference’s liturgical celebrations will take place.

    The full program, to be released at Easter, will include Vespers and Mass according to the Ambrosian Rite (in both its ancient and modern uses) in the Basilica of Saint Ambrose, the Metropolitan Cathedral (Duomo) and in other locations to be announced. One afternoon will be kept free for cultural visits, including a special visit to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana and the Duomo.

    Full time registrations are open now. Part time registration will be possible after Easter when the full conference program is published. Delegates are responsible for their own accommodation arrangements; the Sacra Liturgia Secretrariat is happy to give recommendations for local accommodation upon request.

    His Eminence Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon, at last year’s Sacra Liturgia Conference in London.
    The speakers at the conference will be:
    Opening address: Robert Cardinal Sarah – The Sacred Liturgy: Our Encounter With God: A Christological and Ecclesiological Perspective
    Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke – Summorum Pontificum after Ten Years: Assessment and Prospects
    Fr Michael Lang – Liturgical Reform in the Carolingian Age
    Professor Jennifer Donelson – Sacred Music Renewal Fifty Years after Musicam Sacram
    Dom Alcuin Reid – The Reform of the Roman Rite: The work of the Postconciliar Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia
    Professor Cesare Alzati – The Ambrosian and Oriental Rites: Historical events and their ecclesiological signficance
    Msgr Ennio Apeciti – Blessed Ildefonso Schuster: Liturgist
    Msgr Inos Biffi – The Reform of the Ambrosian Missal
    Dott. Andrea Gramegna – Lay Participation in the Liturgy
    Msgr Claudio Magnoli – The Reform of the Ambrosian Lectionary
    Msgr Marco Navoni – The History of the Ambrosian Liturgy
    Fr Vincenzo Nuara OP – The Liturgy and Young People
    Professor Angelo Rusconi – The music of the Ambrosian rite
    Msgr Timothy Verdon – Sacred Liturgy and Art
    Abbot Christopher Zielinski OSB Oliv. – The Liturgical Formation of the Human Person: Awakening the soul of contemporary man.

    The Fourth International Sacra Liturgia Summer School will be held from August 5-17 in La Garde-Freinet (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur), France, an English-language liturgical summer school following on from the international Sacra Liturgia conferences in Rome, New York and London and the summer schools from 2014-2016 organised by the Monastère Saint-Benoît of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon.

    Designed for families, individuals and groups of clergy and laity who wish to holiday in Provence in the South of France whilst having the opportunity to participate in liturgical celebrations according to the usus antiquior of the Roman rite, this year, the summer school will have the privilege of welcoming His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke for the celebration of Pontifical First Vespers and Solemn Mass at the Throne for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon will welcome His Eminence and be present at Vespers; Cardinal Burke will also give a conference on the Sacred Liturgy for participants.

    The summer school includes pilgrimages to and the celebration of solemn Mass in the Royal Basilica housing the relics of St Mary Magdalen at St Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume, and the chapel housing the relics of St Roseline of Villeneuve (†1329). A visit to the ancient Cistercian Abbey of Le Thoronet is also possible.

    Solemn Mass at the Basilica of St Mary Magdalene during the 2016 summer school.
    The summer school includes practical formation in Gregorian chant (for beginners and for those more advanced), and in the ceremonies of the usus antiquior for priests and seminarians wishing to learn how to celebrate Low Mass, how to serve as deacon and subdeacon, and for seminarians and servers who wish to learn more about the rites and how to serve as a Master of Ceremonies. The daily schedule gives over the mornings to practical training (approximately 14 hours of tuition in total), with presentations and discussions (presenters and topics to be announced) taking place in the evenings after vespers. Afternoons are free for relaxation and exploring the region.

    The mountain village of La Garde-Freinet, situated in a wine growing region some 20 km from Saint-Tropez and approximately 15 km from the Mediterranean sea, is an ideal holiday location with mountain walks, a Provencal market, shops and restaurants. English is widely spoken in the village. Participants will arrange their own accommodation, meals and transport.

    For full information, including the daily schedule, the program of training sessions, and practical information about arrangements, see the following page on the Sacra Liturgia blog: 

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    This article was originally published in Homiletic and Pastoral Review ( on January 20, 2017. This version is slightly revised and reprinted by permission.

    Matthew P Hazell & Dr. Peter A Kwasniewski (Foreword), Index Lectionum: A Comparative Table of Readings for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, Volume I (Lectionary Study Press, 2016. See this article on NLM for ordering information.)

    The creation of a new form of the Mass was the single most dramatic change to Roman Catholic life out of all the many changes that followed the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution, Missale Romanum, which was published in 1969, along with the subsequent publication of the new missal with the same name in 1970, altered the Mass in many ways. One of the most significant differences between the Mass of 1969 (which is now called the Ordinary Form) [1], and the Mass according to the Missale Romanum of 1962 (which is now called the Extraordinary Form) was the introduction of many more Scripture readings along with many changes to where and how much of the previously included readings were used in the liturgy of the Mass.

    One unexpected and disquieting thing that becomes obvious when you take a close look at the tables in Index Lectionum, which compare the two sets of Mass readings, is how much Scripture was removed from the new Mass, even though the stated goal was to include more Scripture.

    Let’s start with some of the history and stated motives behind the revisions to the Scriptures read in Masses during the liturgical year. Later on, this article gives an example of the consequences of one notable omission of verses that are doctrinally important: verses 27-32 of 1 Corinthians 11 no longer appear in the New Mass lectionary at any time during the year, even though these verses are essential for understanding why the Church prohibits Catholics in an illicit marriage from receiving Communion and why the doctrine should not be changed.

    Paul VI and Sacred Scripture in the Mass
    Blessed Pope Paul VI was a strong proponent of including more Scripture in the Mass. “Paul VI exhibited a long and consistent record, dating from the years prior to his election to the See of Peter, of promoting, encouraging, and emphasizing at every opportunity the value of the greatly extended use of Sacred Scripture that became such a major feature of the post-conciliar liturgical reform. Indeed, it seems clear that, in his mind, this was the most important and valuable single feature of the reform.”[2]

    Before the council ended, and within a few months after Pope Paul VI’s election, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), was released as the council’s first document. The readings used at Masses were changed based four sections of SC: 24, 35, 51, 92. The most frequently quoted section in support of this change is number 35. § 35: In the sacred rites, a more abundant, more varied, and more appropriate selection of readings from Sacred Scripture is to be restored.[3]

    In 1964, Pope Paul VI established the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, the council for implementing the constitution on the liturgy. Part of the consilium’s assigned task was to create a new lectionary. [4]

    The consilium expanded the lectionary from a single-year cycle to a three-year cycle for Sundays and a two-year cycle for weekdays. The Latin edition of the lectionary was published in 1969, the English edition for the USA in 1970; use of the revised lectionary[5] and the revised Roman Missal began on the First Sunday of Advent: November 30, 1970.

    For Sundays and major feast days, each yearly cycle begins on the first Sunday of Advent (the last Sunday of November or first Sunday of December). In the new lectionary, the readings for each of the three years of the A, B, C cycle for Sundays are mostly taken from the Synoptic Gospels. Matthew’s Gospel was assigned to year A, Mark’s to year B, and Luke’s to year C.

    • Year A: Gospel of Matthew (November 2013 through 2014)
    • Year B: Gospel of Mark (December 2014 through 2015)
    • Year C: Gospel of Luke (December 2015 through 2016)

    Readings from the Gospel of John are assigned during Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide during every year. (For more about the changes to which Johanine verses are used when, see an interesting discussion in Dr. Peter Kwasniewski’s Foreword to the Index Lectionum.)

    For Sundays and feast days, a third reading was added before the Epistle and Gospel, which is taken from the Old Testament except during Eastertide, when the third readings is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. On ordinary weekdays, readings are taken from the remaining parts of the Bible.

    For weekdays, odd-numbered years use the readings for Cycle I; even-numbered years are Cycle II.

    A Responsorial Psalm [6] was also added between the Epistle and Gospel.

    Overview of the Changes
    “The Catholic Lectionary” website by Father Felix Just, S.J., is one useful resource for learning more about the lectionaries before and after the Second Vatican Council. The following summary of the differences between the two lectionaries for the Extraordinary and Ordinary Form is based on the “Historical Overview” page found at Fr. Just’s website. [7]

    Extraordinary Form Lectionary
    Roman Missal / Missale Romanum (various pre-Vatican II editions, based on the Missal of Pope Pius V from 1570)
    • The same readings are read each year on the Sundays and feast days.
    • Most Masses had only two readings: the Epistle and the Gospel.
    • Parts of the Old Testament were read only on a few feasts, vigils, ember days, and within some liturgical octaves.
    • Most weekday Masses did not have their own assigned readings (Propers). On feast days, the readings were from the feast. Otherwise, the readings were usually from the prior Sunday.
    • The biblical texts used for Sundays, vigils, and major feasts include about 22% of the NT Gospels, 11% of the NT Epistles, and only 0.8% of the OT (not counting the Psalms).

    Ordinary Form Lectionary
    Lectionary for Mass (first and second edition after the Second Vatican Council, 1963)
    • A greater variety of readings is included in a three-year cycle for Sundays (A/B/C) and a two-year cycle (I/II) for weekdays.
    • Three main readings are now prescribed for Sundays and major feasts: Reading 1, usually from OT books; Reading 2, from NT Epistles; Reading 3, from NT Gospels.
    • The biblical texts used for Sundays, vigils, and major feasts now include about 58% of the NT Gospels, 25% of the NT Epistles, but still only 3.7% of the OT (not counting the Psalms).
    • Including all the Masses for Sundays, weekdays, rituals, votives, the propers and commons of saints, and special needs and occasions, the Lectionary for Mass now covers much of the NT (about 90% of the Gospels, 55% of the rest: Acts, Epistles, Revelation), but still very little of the OT (slightly over 13%).

    One commentator noted, “It is interesting to know that only 13.5% of the OT and 71.5% of the NT is read in the Ordinary Form. The ‘read the Bible in 3 years’ idea is a myth.”

    Index Lectionum
    Index Lectionum is the first volume in a proposed series titled Lectionary Study Aids, by Matthew P. Hazell. The index is a straightforward book of tables that list all the readings from the Old and New Testaments and indicate where they are used in both forms of the Mass. The index does not cover the use of the Bible in liturgies outside of the Mass, except for the blessings and sacramental celebrations found in each Missal.

    Matthew Hazell is a convert to Catholicism from evangelical Protestantism who lives in Sheffield England. He is a scholar whose particular interest is in the Roman Catholic liturgical reform of the twentieth century. He maintains a blog about his projects and studies at “Lectionary Study Aids”, [8] which is a good resource for anyone interested in liturgical studies, and he is a contributor to the New Liturgical Movement website at

    Hazell is preparing a second volume dealing with the Psalms. The planned second volume will include the entrance (introit), offertory, and postcommunion chants and antiphons, as well as the graduals, tracts, alleluias, and responsorial psalms in both forms of the Roman Rite.

    Hazell mentioned in his Introduction that he hopes also to create another Index to compare the use of Scriptural and other readings in the Divine Office and Liturgy of the Hours.

    An Illustrative Example
    The Index Lectionum is made up of tables with three columns. The first column lists all the verses and pericopes of the Old and New Testaments book by book. (A pericope is a collection of verses that make up a story or a unit of thought.) The middle and left columns indicate where each verse or pericope is included in the liturgical year for both.

    This example excerpt from Index Lectionum shows how certain significant verses from 1 Corinthians 11 are used and not used in the readings for both forms.

    Note: Where a number is shown after NT in the example, it refers to the reading’s place in the ordered list of possible options. So, in the entry for Ritual XV: Institution of Acolytes, NT.4 means the reading is the fourth in a list of options for the New Testament reading that may be chosen for reading in that ritual.

    As shown in the excerpt from the Index Lectionum, the entirety of 1 Corinthians 11:20-32 is read in the Extraordinary form on Maundy Thursday, and verses 23-29 are read on the feast of Corpus Christi and during the Votive Mass of the Most Holy Eucharist. In contrast, the verses show in italics in the passage below (1 Corinthians 11:20-2 and 27-32) are never used in the revised lectionary.
    20 Brethren, When you come therefore into one place, it is not now to eat the Lord's supper. 21 For every one taketh before his own supper to eat. And one indeed is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What, have you not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not. 23 For I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, 24 And giving thanks, broke and said: Take ye and eat: This is My Body, which shall be delivered for you. This do for the commemoration of Me. 25 In like manner also the chalice, after He had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in My Blood. 26 This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of Me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until He come. 27 Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and the Blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man prove himself; and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Body of the Lord. 30 Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you: and many sleep. 31 But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world.
    A Catholic who attends Extraordinary Form Masses is going to hear all of these verses about receiving the Eucharist worthily at least once a year if he or she attends the Mass on Maundy (Holy) Thursday and will hear most of them on the feast of Corpus Christie, or at a votive Mass of the Most Holy Eucharist. A Catholic who attends Ordinary Form Masses is never going to hear any four of these verses during any of the three year cycles. This omission is one of the many striking details that one can discover by studying the Index Lectionum.

    These verses were probably omitted because they fall under the category of difficult verses, which are mentioned in the General Introduction to the Lectionary in sections 76 and 77:
    76. In readings for Sundays and solemnities, texts that present real difficulties are avoided for pastoral reasons. The difficulties may be objective, in that the texts themselves raise profound literary, critical, or exegetical problems; or the difficulties may lie, at least to a certain extent, in the ability of the faithful to understand the texts. 77. .... certain readings of high spiritual value for the faithful [are omitted] because those readings include some verse that is pastorally less useful or that involves truly difficult questions.[9]
    It is not my job or my inclination to criticize the revised lectionary. But, on the other hand, it is obvious to me that the deletion of the warning of St. Paul in verses 27-32 of 1 Corinthians 11 is highly significant because the verses are important doctrinally. To give one recent example of a hotly debated moral issue, these verses are an important help in understanding why the Church teaches that divorced and remarried Catholics in an illicit marriage should not receive Communion. (The verses also apply to anyone who is habitually committing the sin of fornication, or cohabiting, supporting abortion, or engaging in any unrepented mortal sin.) As one blogger at National Catholic Register explained, after quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    “A person who is habitually engaging in sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage (between one man and one woman) is in mortal sin and is not "in a state of grace." St. Paul emphasizes the grave consequences of failure to consider one's spiritual state when going forward to receive Christ in the Eucharist. In 1 Corinthians 11:27, Paul writes: If one eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, he will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” [10]

    As another commentator has written, for the Jews to be guilty of someone’s body and blood was to be a murderer. Someone who has never heard 1 Corinthians 11 verses 27 and 30 may think the Church’s prohibition of Communion for those who are living in mortal sin is prejudiced meddling and heartless interference, instead of as a lovingly offered protection against the sinner becoming “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” to help keep the sinner from sinning even more gravely by receiving a sacrilegious communion, and from becoming like those “who have become weak and sick and some have even died.”

    Interpreting the Differences
    In the Foreword, “Not Just More Scripture, But Different Scripture,” Dr. Peter Kwasniewski discusses and interprets the kinds of changes that can be discerned from a close look at the Index Lectionum. He praises the inclusion of prophetic readings for the weekdays of Advent, the “enrichment” of weekday readings in Pascaltide, and the “occasional felicitous pairing of certain Old Testament and New Testament pericopes that bring out the interrelationships of the covenant.”

    Dr. Kwasniewski goes on to point out that there are many deletions of pericopes, and that some of the verses that were traditionally part of the pericopes included in the traditional Mass are deleted.

    Dr. Kwasniewski prefers the Extraordinary Form for many reasons, and he is far from neutral in his criticisms of the reformed lectionary. To give just one example of his tone, Dr. Kwasniewski’s interpretation of the rationale behind the omission of 1 Corinthians verses 27-32 is as follows, “The methodical elimination of one of St. Paul’s gravest admonitions plays smoothly into the hands of those who wish to redefine morality from the ground up, and with it sacramental theology.”

    You may or may not agree with Dr. Kwasniewski assessment of the motivations behind those who made the changes to the lectionary, but in any case, the Index Lectionum will show you what the changes are, and you may draw your own conclusions.
    [1] Pope Benedict XVI first introduced the terms Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form in Summorum Pontificum in 2007, to differentiate between the Mass of Pope Blessed Paul VI according the Missal of 1970 (which is often called the Novus Ordo Mass) and the Mass of Pope Saint John XXIII according to the Missal of 1962 (which is often called the Traditional Latin Mass or the Tridentine Mass). In Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict affirmed that there are not two Masses in the Roman rite, but two forms of the Roman rite. The Mass of Pope Paul VI is the Ordinary Form, while the Mass of Pope Saint John XXIII is the Extraordinary Form.

    [2] Rev. Fr. Brian W. Harrison, “The Biblical Dimension of Paul VI's Liturgical Vision” (Living Tradition: Organ of the Roman Theological Forum) No. 154; PDF.

    [3] Other relevant SC sections are:
    • § 24: Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony.
    • § 51: The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word.
    • § 92: Readings from sacred scripture shall be arranged so that the riches of God's word may be easily accessible in more abundant measure.

    [4] The lectionary is a book that contains the collection of scripture readings appointed for each day in the liturgical year and for each feast.

    [5] The post-Vatican II Roman Missal is usually published in two parts: the Sacramentary (texts and prayers spoken by the priest at the altar or presider's chair, but not including the readings), and the Lectionary for Mass (biblical readings proclaimed from the lectern or ambo). The current USA edition of the lectionary is in four volumes:
    • Sundays and Major Feast Days - Years/Cycles A, B, C
    • Weekdays, Year I - odd-numbered years, incl. feasts of saints with proper readings
    • Weekdays, Year II - even-numbered years, incl. feasts of saints with proper readings
    • Common of Saints, Rituals, Votives, Masses for Various Needs and Occasions - many more choices of readings than before

    [6] It’s a little known fact, except among cognoscenti in sacred music circles, but the General Instruction of the Roman Missal allows the traditional Gradual to still be recited or sung instead of the Responsorial Psalm before the Gospel in Ordinary Form Masses. One reason why the Gradual is seldom used in the OF is that the Gradual does not appear in the order of the Mass any of the missals; it is available in the Graduale Romanum, which is a separate book that contains music for the Mass, and whose existence is another little-known fact among Roman Catholic church musicians. See also: • “The Real Catholic Songbook” by Jeffrey Tucker at
    • “A Primer on the Gradual” by Jeffrey Tucker at

    [7] “Lectionary Statistics” at the “Catholic Lectionary” Links to various editions of the Lectionary and related resources, see also the Bibliography page.

    [8] Matthew Hazell Lectionary Study Aids: Retrieved August 23, 2016.

    [9] General Introduction to the Lectionary (Second Edition). Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship. 21 January, 1981.

    [10] “Philly Mayor Attacks Eucharistic Doctrine as ‘Not Christian’” by Kathy Schiffer (

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    Our thanks to Dr Ines Murzaku, Professor of Church History at Seton Hall Univerity, for sharing this article with us.

    The theme for this year’s Week for Christian Unity (January 18-25) is “Reconciliation - The Love of Christ Compels Us.” During the General Audience recalling the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis encouraged Christians to look with hope to what “unites us” rather than that which “divides us.” Indeed, this is how bridges are built and foundations for dialogue reaffirmed. I made my students listen to a lecture by Abbot Sergius of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery (an Eastern Orthodox Monastery in Waymart, PA) on the Divine Liturgy, just to understand another view on liturgical theology. The abbot speaks of liturgy as an intimate “encounter” with God through the Incarnate Christ, who unites Himself to us through the sacraments, thus working the great mystery of salvation.

    Moreover, the Divine Liturgy has a double unitive function: vertically with God, and horizontally with each other. Further, the Divine Liturgy is also a public service involving the whole community in an act of prayer, worship, teaching, and communion of the one Body of Christ. In the East, celebrating the Divine Liturgy was saving. In fact, what enabled the Eastern Churches to survive the Communist persecution was the worship and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the local Church. In the East, a Eucharistic community “One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism” (Ephesians 4:5) proved to be a surviving community. The understanding of Divine Liturgy in the East and the West are very similar, as my students observed after the abbot’s lecture, with some differences, the most visible and important being the normative use of ad orientem in worship in the East.

    Divine Liturgy in the Greco-Albanian church of the Most Holy Savior in Cosenza, Italy. (Photo by Alex Talarico)
    Facing sacred places or destinations while praying is the norm in major world religions. The sacred destination for Judaism is towards the dwelling place of God, otherwise known as Shekinah, the Holy city of Jerusalem. “Daniel continued his custom of going home to kneel in prayer and give thanks to his God in the upper chamber three times a day, with the windows open toward Jerusalem.” (Daniel 6:11) Muslims pray in the direction of the city of Mecca, a symbol of religious unity among Muslims.

    The Church of the first millennium in the East and in the West worshipped facing ad orientem. The first Christians, beginning in the second century, directed their prayers facing East, in the direction of the rising sun. While there is no explicit reference to ad orientem in the New Testament, the significance of the East in Matthew 24: 27 is remarkable: “For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” The Eastward liturgical orientation seems important to East and West. For St Cyril of Jerusalem, a fourth century saint venerated by the Eastern and Western Churches, the West was the region of sensible darkness. Instead, he advised “turning from West to East, the place of light.” His contemporary St Basil the Great wrote in De Spiritu Sancto that the unwritten tradition of the Church “has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer.” Christ is Sun of Righteousness and Dayspring, so “the East is the direction that must be assigned to His worship,” wrote St. John of Damascus in De fide Orthodoxa.

    Blessed Jacopo de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa in the 13th century, specified that seeking and looking towards our ancient homeland and towards God, we worship facing East. Bishop Guillaume Durand (13th century), who wrote an indispensable guide for understanding the significance of medieval ecclesiastical art and worship, advised that the priest at the altar and in the Offices should pray towards the East. Consequently, churches were built with altars facing East, a direction which was standard and incredibly useful to the medieval pilgrim who wanted to avoid getting lost in the cities. Churches were natural landmarks to keep track of directions. Theologically, worship facing East was important: it united the local churches, East and West, to the universal Church. Worshiping ad orientem was standard for the united Church in the first millennium and until after Vatican II, praying facing East was the standard in the West, as well.

    What did Sacrosanctum Concilium prescribe for Catholic liturgy?

    The Council required of the Roman Catholic Church that “the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times.” In my view, the main point is that the Council understood the organic growth of the liturgy and the importance of re-visiting or revamping the ancient tradition; by no means was it in favor of the break with ancient tradition. Sacrosanctum Concilium specified that any new forms adopted in the liturgy should in some way grow organically from forms already existing. The Council warned that what must be avoided at all costs in this matter is that eagerness for the “new” exceed due measure, resulting in insufficient regard for, or entirely disregarding, the patrimony of the liturgy handed on. Moreover, the Council distinguished between the mutable elements in the liturgy and “immutable elements divinely instituted,” that can neither be reformed or changed and over which the Church has no control. It also cautioned that “no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.” So, there is no rupture with the ancient tradition that the Council is prescribing for the Roman Catholic Church. The council never said that the liturgy facing the Lord or ad orientem is erroneous and needs to be abolished and replaced.

    Is Revisiting the First Millennium Practices a Solution?

    In the current ecumenical environment, Catholics and Orthodox are considering the practices of the first millennium, including papal primacy, for ways to find commonalities which will help East and West moving forward towards visible unity. If today, at the beginning of the third millennium, we are seeking to restore full communion, it is to the unity of the Church in the first millennium that we must look. The Catholic Church desires full communion to be established between East and West, and the first-millennium experience including facing ad orientem in the Divine Liturgy is inspiring. As a Byzantine Catholic and Church historian, I think that the progressive estrangement between East and West has contributed to abandoning ad orientem in the West.

    The ninth-century Cattolica di Stilo in Calabria.
    St. John Paul II in Ut Unum Sint (On Commitment to Ecumenism) suggested a return to that millennial unity. Pope Benedict XVI looked at the first Christian millennium as an example and as an objective to build bridges with the East. Pope Francis has shown a great deal of ecumenical sensitivity towards the Eastern Churches and their venerated traditions. Why not allow celebration both ad orientem and ad populum, and seriously revisit the ancient traditions of the Church in the first millennium? Ad orientem is of profound value and should be safeguarded. Its celebration “deepens and gives a more visible form to communion” among Christians – Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, as Pope Francis observed in the General Audience on January 18, 2017. Continuity with and reverence for the ancient tradition makes faith credible, and makes us educators and probably Church leaders more attuned to young people and their needs. After all, young people like my students crave authenticity, and to be in touch with the roots of a common tradition as it was celebrated and revered in the united Church of the first millennium.

    Ines Angeli Murzaku ( is Professor of Church History at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. She earned a doctorate from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome and has held visiting positions at the Universities of Bologna and Calabria in Italy, and University of Münster in Germany. Her research has been published in multiple articles and several books, including most recently a Life of St Neilos of Rossano, the founder of the Italo-Greek monastery of Grottaferrata. Dr. Murzaku was the vice-president of the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN) and a United Nations accredited representative for the organization Christians Associated for Relationships with Eastern Europe, and the Founding Chair of the Department of Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University. She is a regular commentator to media outlets on religious matters.

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  • 01/26/17--15:13: The Feast of St Polycarp
  • Among the group of early Christian writers known as the Apostolic Fathers, St Polycarp, whose feast is kept today on the traditional Roman calendar, is the one about whom we know the most. He was a disciple of St John the Evangelist, who appointed him bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor, and the teacher of St Irenaeus of Lyon, who wrote the following about him to the Gnostic heretic Florinus.

    “I remember the events of those days more clearly than those which happened recently, for what we learn as children grows up with the soul and is united to it, so that I can speak even of the place in which the blessed Polycarp sat and disputed, how he came in and went out, the character of his life, the appearance of his body, the discourses which he made to people, how he reported his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord, how he remembered their words, and what were the things concerning the Lord which he had heard from them, and about their miracles, and about their teaching, and how Polycarp had received them from the eyewitnesses of the word of life, and reported all things in agreement with the Scriptures.”

    Ss Polycarp, Vincent of Saragossa, Pancratius and Chrysogonus; from the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, 6th century. (Public domain image from Wikipedia.)
    Then, in regard to the absurd teachings of the Gnostics, he says “I can bear witness before God that if that blessed and apostolic presbyter had heard anything of this kind, he would have cried out, and shut his ears, and said according to his custom, ‘O good God, to what time hast thou preserved me that I should endure this?’ He would have fled even from the place in which he was seated or standing when he heard such words.” (This continues the tradition of St John, who fled from a public bath when he saw the heretic Cerinthus inside, lest the building fall upon them.) Likewise, while in Rome to discuss the dating of Easter with Pope St Anicetus, St Polycarp met the heretic Marcion, who asked him if he knew him, to which the Saint replied “I know the first-born of the devil.”

    In addition to these stories preserved in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea (5, 20 & 24; 4, 14), there also exist a letter of St Ignatius of Antioch written to Polycarp, whom he also mentions in two of his other letters, and Polycarp’s own letter to the church of Philippi, which St Jerome records was still read in the churches of Asia in his own time. This letter begins with a commendation of the Philippians for their devotion to the martyrs.

    “I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because you have followed the example of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied, as became you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord.”

    Of Polycarp himself, it is also recorded that he met St Ignatius as the latter passed though Smyrna on his way to martyrdom in Rome, and kissed his chains.

    The martyrdom of Polycarp is recorded in a letter sent by the church of Smyrna to that of Philomelium and “to all the congregations of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place.” This letter is the first authentic account of an early Christian martyrdom after that of St Stephen’s in the Acts of the Apostles. The Saint was very elderly at the time of his arrest and condemnation, for he himself says when ordered to trample on an image of reproach Christ, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

    When he was sentenced to be burned alive, the soldiers were going to nail him to the pyre, at which he said, “Leave me as I am; for He that gives me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.” He was therefore only bound with ropes, “like a distinguished ram [taken] out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God.” The letter also records his prayer spoken before the pyre was lit.

    “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of You, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before you, I give You thanks that You have counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Your martyrs, in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before You as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as You, the ever-truthful God, have foreordained, have revealed beforehand to me, and now have fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise You for all things, I bless You, I glorify You, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, with whom, to You, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen.”

    However, once the fire was set, it billowed out around Polycarp “in form of a sail” and although he seemed “like gold or silver glowing in a furnace,” would not consume him. This is one of many famous examples of the refusal by Nature itself to cooperate with the persecutors of God’s Saints, forcing them to take the matter into their own hands, and accept responsibility for the evil which they do. At this, his side was pierced with a dagger, and the flow of blood that came forth was so great that the flames were extinguished.

    The official in charge refused to allow the Christians to take the body for burial, but rather had it cremated, the standard pagan practice; this was certainly done in despite of the doctrine of the bodily resurrection. Nevertheless, the Christians of Smyrna “took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.” (Fr Hunwicke rightly noted in an article this past November that “the current post-conciliar Roman regulations do not permit the use within altars of such relics as the tiny fragments gathered up by those who loved S Polycarp,” as described in this beautiful passage, a particularly grotesque example of the betrayal of ‘ressourcement.’)

    It is an oddity of hagiography that although St Polycarp and his martyrdom are so early and so well-documented, his feast is not an ancient one in the West. It is attested at Rome in the mid-13th century, but missing from printed editions of the Roman Missal and Breviary as late as the 1520s. His place on the calendar was only solidified in the Tridentine liturgical books, which were very much concerned to assert the continuity of Catholic tradition (such as the veneration of relics) with the most ancient days of the Christian faith.

    In the post-Conciliar reform, his feast was moved to the day of his death, February 23rd, on which it is also kept in the Eastern Rites. The notes of the Consilium ad exsequendam on the reform of the calendar say that his feast was originally assigned to January 26 in the West by confusion with another saint of the same name, Polycarp of Nicea. I assume that this is stated in good faith and for a good reason, but I can find no evidence for this; no such person is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology or its Byzantine equivalent, the Synaxarion, on any day. (The Bollandists state more cautiously that the reason for the discrepancy is not clear.)

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  • 01/27/17--06:35: Monza Cathedral
  • As a follow-up on Tuesday’s post about the chapel of St Theodelinda in the Cathedral of Monza, Italy, here are some photos of the cathedral itself, also taken by Nicola de’ Grandi. Like many Italian cathedrals, it was completely rebuilt on the site of an earlier structure, in this case starting in the mid-14th century, with the work continuing over a period of a few centuries.

    The façade dates by Matteo da Campione, from the later part of the 14th century. The bell-tower was added between 1592 and 1620, and is just shy of 260 feet tall.
    The altar frontal, by Borgina del Pozzo, dates to 1350-57, and represents episodes of the life of the cathedral’s titular Saint, John the Baptist.

    The altar of the Cross for Requiem Masses
    Matteo da Campione also sculpted this Gospel pulpit, which was converted into an organ loft in the18th century.

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    This article is a follow-up on an article published last Saturday about the Deuterocanonical books and their use in the liturgy.

    There is no law, either human or divine, which positively requires that all liturgical texts like introits and responsories be taken from the words of Holy Scripture. Therefore, the presence of an occasional liturgical text from a non-canonical or “apocryphal” book really does not say anything about how the book itself was viewed; much less does it indicate that it was held on a par with the canonical books. Moreover, while it is certainly true that the vast majority of Mass propers in the Roman Rite are scriptural, the source texts of the Office have always been far more varied.

    The Latin-speaking West has essentially three “apocryphal” books, which is to say, books which were often included in manuscripts of the Bible, and in early printed editions, but are not recognized by the Church as canonical. Each of these is also represented in the Roman liturgy, but just barely. There is a fourth such text which is only very rarely included in Latin Bibles, but is well-known to the Greek Church, and also found its way into the Roman Office.

    From a Bible printed at Nuremberg, Germany, in 1516, the beginning of the Fourth Book of Esdras in the right column, “which is reckoned among the apocryphal books.”
    The three are the Third and Fourth Books of Esdras, and the Prayer of Manasseh. (The nomenclature of the books of Ezra, both canonical and non-canonical, is different in every linguistic tradition, and will be explained later; here I use the names found in the Vulgate, and in the liturgical books which cite them.)

    Third Esdras is a Greek version of the last two chapters of 2 Chronicles, and the entire first book of Ezra, written sometime between 100 BC and 100 AD. (It must be noted that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the origin and date of most apocryphal books.) There is added to it a long interpellation (chapters 3, 1 – 5, 6) which tells how the three bodyguards of King Darius debate as to what thing is the strongest; one of them is Zorobabel, who leads the children of Israel back to the Holy Land from exile.

    This book is cited once in the Missal, in the Offertory of the votive Mass for the election of a Pope. “Non participentur sancta, donec exsurgat póntifex in ostensiónem et veritátem. – Let them not take part in the holy things, until there arise a priest unto showing and truth.” (3 Esdras 5, 40)

    Fourth Esdras is an apocalypse of uncertain date, but generally held to be Jewish in origin, comprising several lengthy visions granted to the “Prophet Ezra.” The Latin version has had two other apocalypses added to it, which comprise the first two and last two of its sixteen chapters; these are entirely absent from the versions in other languages such as Syrian and Ethiopic.

    The Introit of the Requiem Mass, the text of which is repeated in the Gradual and Communion, is cited in the Missal as 4 Esdras 2, 34 and 35. This citation, however, is very broad; the full text of these verses reads as follows: “Ideoque vobis dico, gentes quae auditis et intellegitis: expectate pastorem vestrum, requiem aeternitatis dabit vobis, quoniam in proximo est ille, qui in finem saeculi adveniet. Parati estote ad praemia regni, quia lux perpetua lucebit vobis per aeternitatem temporis. – And therefore I say to you, ye nations that hear and understand: await your shepherd, he will give you the rest of eternity, for he is nigh that shall come at the end of the age. Be ye ready unto the reward of the kingdom, for perpetual light shall shine upon you through the eternity of time.”

    The same chapter of 4 Esdras, verses 36 and 37, is cited in the Introit of Pentecost Tuesday. “Accipite jucunditatem gloriae vestrae, alleluia: gratias agentes Deo, alleluia: qui vos ad caelestia regna vocavit, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Ps. 77 Attendite, popule meus, legem meam: inclinate aurem vestram in verba oris mei. Gloria Patri. Accipite. – Receive the delight of your glory, alleluia, giving thanks to God, alleluia, Who hath called ye to the heavenly kingdoms, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Psalm Attend, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. Glory be. Receive.” (In the video, a version by the Italian composer Giuseppe Tricarico, 1623-97.)

    In this case, the citation is exact, but not the complete text of these verses, which read in full: “Fugite umbram saeculi hujus, accipite jucunditatem gloriae vestrae. Ego testor palam salvatorem meum. Commendatum Domini accipite, et jucundamini, gratias agentes ei qui vos ad caelestia regna vocavit. – Flee ye the shadow of this age, receive the delight of your glory. I bear witness openly to my savior; receive him as one commended to ye by the Lord, and delight, giving thanks to him who has called ye to the heavenly kingdoms.”

    The Prayer of Manasseh purports to be the prayer of repentance offered by King Manasseh when he was deported to Babylon, as stated in 2 Chronicles, 33, 19: “His prayer also, and his being heard, and all his sins, and contempt, … are written in the words of Hozai.” It is found in most medieval manuscripts and early printed version of the Vulgate immediately after 2 Chronicles, before the canonical book of Ezra. Although there is no Hebrew version of it, the standard criterion among the early Protestants for denoting a book as apocryphal, it was included in several of their early Bibles, including that of Luther himself, and the Geneva Bible, the most widely used English version before the King James.

    In the corpus of responsories sung with the readings from the books of Kings between Trinity Sunday and August, the seventh cites the Prayer of Manasseh, together with verses of Psalm 50, the penitential Psalm par excellence.

    R. Peccavi super numerum arenae maris, et multiplicata sunt peccata mea, et non sum dignus videre altitudinem caeli prae multitudine iniquitatis meae: quoniam irritavi iram tuam, * Et malum coram te feci. V. Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et delictum meum contra me est semper, quia tibi soli peccavi. Et malum coram te feci.

    R. My sins are more in number of the sands of the sea, and my sins are multiplied, and I am not worthy to look up the height of heaven, because of the multitude of my iniquity; for I have provoked thee to anger, * and done evil before Thee. V. For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me, for the Thee only have I sinned, and done evil before Thee.

    The Prayer of Manasseh is also said in its entirety at Great Compline in the Byzantine Rite, a more solemn version of Compline said on weekdays in the major penitential seasons. It is read together with Psalms 50 and 101, which are also among the traditional penitential psalms of the Roman Rite.

    Psalm 151; folio 418v of the Paris Psalter, a Greek manuscript dated 940-960. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Grec 139) The rest of the Psalms are written in this manuscript as seen here, filling only a part of the page; they are surrounded by a commentary excerpted from the works of several different Church Fathers, called a Catena, written in a much smaller hand, which can be seen though the page. The Catena does not include anything on the apocryphal Psalm, hence the blank space on this page.
    The final apocryphal text is Psalm 151, which is appended to the Psalter in most of the manuscripts of the Septuagint, with the notation that it is “outside the number.” Although a Latin translation of it was made in antiquity, it is found in fairly few manuscripts, and was therefore not included in early printed Latin Bibles. When Pope Clement VIII had a standard edition of the Vulgate published in 1592, Third and Fourth Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh were relegated to an appendix, “lest they perish altogether,” but only those three, and not Psalm 151. It is also cited in a responsory of the series from the books of Kings, the second in the Roman Breviary, together with 1 Kings 17, 37 in a slightly different text from the Vulgate.

    R. Deus omnium exauditor est: ipse misit Angelum suum, et tulit me de ovibus patris mei; * Et unxit me unctione misericordiae suae. V. Dominus, qui eripuit me de ore leonis, et de manu bestiae liberavit me. Et unxit …

    R. God is the hearer of all; He sent His Angel, and took me from (the keeping of) my father’s sheep, * and anointed me with the oil of His mercy. (Psalm 151 3, 4) V. The Lord, who rescued me from the mouth of the lion, and delivered me from the paw of the bear. R. And anointed me…

    On the nomenclature of the books of Ezra.
    The Hebrew name “Ezra” is transcribed as “Esdras” in the Greek versions of the Bible, and it was this latter form which then passed into the Latin versions. The canonical book of Ezra was designated by St Jerome as “Liber Esdrae,” and that of Nehemiah as “Liber Nehemiae, qui et Esdrae secundus – the book of Nehemiah, which is also called the second of Ezra.” The apocryphal books named above were therefore designated in Latin Bibles as Third and Fourth Esdras, and so they remained until the Reformation.

    The early Protestant English Bibles changed a great many proper names, including those of some Biblical books, away from the traditional Latin versions found in the Vulgate, which is partly filtered though the Septuagint, to a more direct transcription of the Hebrew. Hence the prophet “Sophonias” became “Zephaniah” and “Nabuchodonosor” became “Nebuchadnezzar”; likewise, “Esdras” was changed to “Ezra.” The book of Nehemiah was no longer designated as “also called Second of Ezra.”

    The editors of the King James Bible then made the extremely silly and confusing decision to use “Esdras”, the Greek version of “Ezra”, as the name of the two apocryphal books which had hitherto been known as Third and Fourth Esdras, while also renumbering them. Thus, the books known in the Vulgate as First to Fourth Esdras became “Ezra, Nehemiah, First Esdras and Second Esdras.” The matter is rendered more complex still by the fact that the Greek and Old Church Slavonic Bibles each have yet another different system for naming and numbering these books.

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