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- 04/03/17--10:33: _Dominican Chants fo...
- 04/04/17--05:00: _Lex Orandi, Lex Cre...
- 04/04/17--16:28: _Passiontide Photopo...
- 04/05/17--07:09: _Speaking in Louisvi...
- 04/05/17--07:16: _Ecclesia Dei Commis...
- 04/05/17--16:51: _An Ancient Pallium ...
- 04/06/17--05:00: _Passiontide Photopo...
- 04/06/17--16:54: _Holy Week Processio...
- 04/07/17--13:14: _The Theology of the...
- 04/07/17--17:14: _Passiontide Photopo...
- 04/08/17--07:03: _Photopost Request: ...
- 04/08/17--12:20: _St Ann Choir Holy W...
- 04/08/17--17:35: _Passiontide Photopo...
- 04/09/17--17:56: _Palm Sunday 2017
- 04/10/17--18:01: _Photos of Pontifica...
- 04/11/17--05:00: _The Apostolic Bluep...
- 04/11/17--13:40: _Tenebrae and Triduu...
- 04/11/17--18:03: _Triduum Schedule fo...
- 04/12/17--05:00: _Palm Sunday Photopo...
- 04/12/17--11:47: _Holy Week Schedule ...
- 04/03/17--10:33: Dominican Chants for Holy Week Available
- 04/04/17--16:28: Passiontide Photopost 2017 (Part 1) - Zeal for Tradition
- 04/05/17--07:09: Speaking in Louisville, Kentucky, This Coming Saturday
- 04/05/17--07:16: Ecclesia Dei Commission Decree on Fatima Centenary
- 04/05/17--16:51: An Ancient Pallium Displayed at the Vatican Museums
- 04/06/17--05:00: Passiontide Photopost 2017 (Part 2) - Zeal for Tradition Continues!
- 04/06/17--16:54: Holy Week Processions in Portugal
- 04/07/17--13:14: The Theology of the Mass of the Presanctified
- 04/07/17--17:14: Passiontide Photopost 2017 (Part 3)
- 04/08/17--07:03: Photopost Request: Palm Sunday 2017
- 04/08/17--12:20: St Ann Choir Holy Week Schedule, Palo Alto, California
- 04/08/17--17:35: Passiontide Photopost 2017 (Part 4)
- 04/09/17--17:56: Palm Sunday 2017
- 04/10/17--18:01: Photos of Pontifical Mass at Rolduc with Archbishop Sample
- 04/11/17--18:03: Triduum Schedule for St Mary Moorfield, London
- 04/12/17--05:00: Palm Sunday Photopost 2017 (Part 1)
- 04/12/17--11:47: Holy Week Schedule for St. Mary’s in Norwalk, Connecticut
Dominican Liturgy Publications is pleased to announce that the volume Hedomada Sancta Pro Liturgia Horarum Iuxta Usum Ordinis Praedicatorum is now available in time for Holy Week. This volume contains all the offices of the Liturgia Horarum from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, with the Dominican Gregorian Hymns, Antiphons, Responsories, and other chants approved for use in the Proprium Officium O.P. and the Ordo Cantus Officii.
This book will be especially of interest to those who want to sing "Tenebrae" as permitted for the Liturgia Horarum, with the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the Preces Litanicae, and the Oratio Jeremiae. It will also serve as a resource for those singing the Office in English, who want to add some of the traditional chants in Latin.
Those who wish to sing the Holy Week Offices according to the use of 1962 can find the resources they need on the left sidebar of Dominican Liturgy.
You can find the order page for this volume (and for other new books)at Dominican Liturgy Publications.
His Excellency James Conley is the Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska. This article first appeared on March 31st as his column in the Southern Nebraska Register. He writes:
Because we are Catholic, sacred liturgical worship should be at the center of our lives.
Jesus, drawing from the words of the Old Testament, taught that his disciples should “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and that each one of us should “love your neighbor as yourself.” In the worship of the Church we work in communion with one another, to love God entirely. And in sacred liturgy, God, who loves us, strengthens us to love him more perfectly and to love our neighbors selflessly and generously.
In worship, we are sanctified—made holy—by the grace of union with Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. In sacred worship, we are configured to Christ; we offer our lives in union with his great act of selfless love on the cross, and thus we are formed to love the world as he does. For this reason, the Second Vatican Council taught that sacred worship of God is “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.”
In heaven, we will join the saints and angels in an eternal and perfect act of worship. This is the destiny for which God made us. In heaven, we will proclaim the words of the prophets and the psalmist, hear the voice of God and, through worship, share a loving communion with Christ himself—the incarnate Word of God.
Worship is an expression of our love and fidelity to God, and a mystical union with his Word, who, as St. John the Evangelist says, “is God, and is with God.”
Worship matters. And because worship is a communion with the Word of God, the words we use in sacred worship matter too.
This week, the Church celebrates the 16th anniversary of Liturgiam authenticam, an instruction of the Church issued to guide the translation of liturgical texts toward the “full, conscious, and active participation” of all Catholics in sacred worship, by calling for renewed attention to the importance of every word we speak and hear when we worship God.
Liturgiam authenticam reminded the Church that when we pray together, in liturgical acts of worship, we draw our prayers from the words of Sacred Scripture, revealed by God, and from the tradition of the saints and martyrs who have come before us, and witnessed in their lives and in their wisdom the importance of our common liturgical prayer. The instruction taught that the words and expressions of our liturgy must be “endowed with those qualities by which the sacred mysteries of salvation and the indefectible faith of the Church are efficaciously transmitted by means of human language to prayer, and worthy worship is offered to God the Most High.”
Liturgical worship does much more than simply deliver information about God. It forms our hearts and our minds and our imaginations, to give us a keen sense of the supernatural in our midst. Liturgical worship, in a very real way, transcends time and space; it takes us from this world, and puts us in contact with the divine.
There is an ancient maxim in the Church’s life—lex orandi, lex credendi—the norms of our prayers are the norms of our beliefs. Sacred liturgy teaches the faith, because its words take root in our hearts. Liturgiam authenticam reminded the Church that because we believe as we pray, our prayers must be absolutely faithful to the deposit of faith which we have been given. We are formed for holiness by the words of the liturgy when they faithfully transmit the revelation of the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.
The fruit of Liturgiam authenticam was a new English translation of the Roman Missal, the official prayerbook of the Mass, which the Church began praying five years ago. This new translation of the Mass strove to express the words of sacred liturgy clearly, directly, and faithfully—not introducing interpretations or innovations, but drawing directly from Scripture and the Church’s ancient tradition, so that our worship might clearly reveal and teach the faith, and so that we might express our love of God in union with the saints who have come before us.
As the Church celebrates the gift of Liturgiam authenticam, we have an occasion to give thanks to God for the “truths that transcend the limits of time and space,” which are proclaimed by the Church in sacred worship. We have occasion to give thanks to God that through sacred worship, “the Holy Spirit leads the Christian faithful into all truth and causes the word of Christ to dwell abundantly within them.” Together, we have occasion to give thanks that God has given us a foretaste of eternity, which frees us, and transforms us, and sanctifies us, so that we can love the Lord, now and forever, with all our hearts, souls, and minds, in the gift of sacred worship.
What an encouraging sign this is of the ever-growing interest in and love for the richness and variety of our Catholic liturgical tradition! Veiling the crosses and statues was never prohibited, but as many of us know, “optional” has too often been treated as liturgical parlance for “discouraged” or “prohibited.” The fact that so many churches are choosing to revive the practice shows that this harmful attitude is fading; slowly, perhaps too slowly for the patience of many, but be assured, the day will come when no one will think to speak of such customs as “pre-Conciliar”, and therefore useless. (A very dear friend of mine likes to remind his congregation, “Jesus is also pre-Conciliar!”) Our headliner, the church of St Anne in Berlin, New Hampshire, put up the veils for the first time in decades, thanks to the initiative of the parishioners. Multa renascentur quae jam cecidere.
“Since many of the Christian faithful who are attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite have a particular and fervent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima, as the centenary of Her first apparition approaches, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, having considered the General Rubrics of the Roman Missal published in 1962 (and especially no. 341), and wishing to encourage the devotion of the faithful to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima, by the force of the ordinary power which it enjoys in this regard (see Universae Ecclesiae no. 9), grants and permits that on May 13th, 2017, a votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (as on August 22nd) may be licitly and freely celebrated as a Votive Mass of the Second Class (which is explained in numbers 341 and 343 of the General Rubrics), by any priest of the Latin Rite, whether secular or regular, in accord with the other General Rubrics that pertain to Votive Masses of the Second Class and to commemorations. All things to the contrary notwithstanding. Given at Rome from the offices of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, April 5th, 2017. ” (Signed by Card. Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faithful, and Archbishop Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Commission.)
Since section 343a of the General Rubrics states that Votive Masses of the Second Class admit one commemoration, the commemoration of St Robert should not to be omitted by those who do avail themselves of the permission granted hereby.
Here are some photographs of the main object in the show; given their extreme antiquity, several of them are of course very fragile, and therefore displayed in sealed plastic cases which do not provide optimal conditions for photography.
The pallium of St Caearius, given to him by Pope St Symmachus (498-518). The two bands of cloth on the right are part of a cover added to it later on to protect it; the original part is the decorated band on the left. (detail below.)
On the left, the painted cover of a reliquary, early 6th century, from the collection of the Papal chapel; on the right, a leather belt once owned by St Caesarius, with a buckle in ivory depicting the soldiers in front of Christ’s tomb.
This set will include a couple of posts from churches of the Ordinariate, an interesting Sicilian take on the veiling, and some photos (not of veils!) from a church of the Byzantine Rite. Evangelize through beauty!
Here are a couple of other videos from Holy Week 2015 in Óbidos. The first shows “the changing of the statues,” when they are moved on the Saturday evening before Palm Sunday to the locations from which they will depart during the Holy Week processions. The second is the Way of the Cross done on Palm Sunday; the video highlights a speech by Veronica, (I’m sorry I don’t know enough Portuguese to tell what she’s saying, but it’s lovely anyway).
The procession on Palm Sunday is led by a traditional character called the “gafaú”, who walks barefoot, with his head covered in a cloth, carrying an instrument known as a “serpentão“, and announcing to the crowd that there will be soon be a condemnation.
This article is the first in a projected series of four, which will discuss the theology of the Good Friday ceremony of the Missal of St Pius V, the revised version of Pope Pius XII, and the Novus Ordo. For reference, complete descriptions of the ceremony are given in part 4.1 and part 4.2 of my series on the reformed Holy Week published in 2009. The portions of this article which discuss the rite of the Presanctified properly so-called are largely taken from part 4.2 of that series, but partially re-written. A fourth article will discuss the history of the fraction rite as part of the Good Friday ceremony. The purpose of these articles is not to comprehensively discuss the origins of the traditional ceremony, or the variants thereof used in the Middle Ages.
The celebrant wears black vestments as for a Requiem. The deacon and subdeacon, however, wear black folded chasubles, the traditional vestments of penitential seasons, which are not used at a Requiem; indeed, black folded chasubles are only used at this service. (Where they are not available, the deacon and subdeacon serve in albs and maniples, the deacon with a stole.) On these days, the Church wishes us to experience the Paschal mystery, not as a mere commemoration, but as something through which we ourselves live, accompanying the Savior. Good Friday is a day of deepest mourning, one that excludes the use of the vestments of joy, the dalmatic and tunicle, which at a Requiem speak of the hope of the Resurrection. On Good Friday, this hope is not in any way anticipated; we ourselves feel the desolation which Christ’s disciples experienced, the better to come to the joy of the Resurrection on Easter.
Papal Good Friday in the Sistine Chapel; the deacon and subdeacon in folded chasubles sitting on the altar steps. (Reproduced from Shawn Tribe’s article of 2009 “Use, History and Development of the ‘Planeta Plicata’ or Folded Chasuble.”
The solemn prayers are said at the Missal on the Epistle side. After each invocation, “Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate” are said as above by the major ministers, followed by the collects. The adoration of the Cross has no analog in the Mass, and was originally a separate ceremony; at this point, the priest and subdeacon remove their chasubles, putting them on again once they have kissed the Cross.
For the final part of the ceremony, the Blessed Sacrament is brought back from the Altar of Repose to the church’s principal altar, with a solemn procession done in reverse order from the procession of the day before. This ritual of the double procession emphasizes in the clearest way possible the connection between the Lord’s Supper and His Sacrifice upon the Cross.
At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the celebrant consecrates two large Hosts, one for the Mass itself, the other for the rite of the following day. One of the most beautiful aspects of the Holy Thursday ritual is the special way in which this second Host is prepared, before the celebrant’s communion. It is placed in a chalice, not in a pyx or ciborium, and then covered with a soft pall, a paten turned upside down, and a thin white chalice veil, which is then tied with a ribbon around the node of the chalice. The Host thus enclosed in the chalice is left on the corporal, until the end of the Mass, when it is brought to the Altar of Repose.
This custom of enclosing the Body of the Lord in a chalice is a sign of His Passion, which He Himself describes as a “chalice” when He goes to pray in the garden. (Matthew 26, 39-42 and Luke 22, 42.) It also serves to indicate the link between the first Mass, the Lord’s Supper, and the Sacrifice of the Cross, which takes place on the following day; the instruments of the Sacrifice of the Mass, the chalice, pall, paten and veil, are used on both days.
|The Sacrament altar at the church of San Marello al Corso in Rome, Holy Thursday, 2015.|
All of the acolytes and attending clergy form a procession, and return to the main sanctuary of the church, while the choir sings the hymn Vexilla Regis. Immediately before the priest, who holds the chalice under the humeral veil, two acolytes take turns incensing the Blessed Sacrament.
When they arrive before the main altar, the deacon receives the Sacrament from the priest, takes It up to the altar, and unties the ribbon which holds the veil on the chalice. He then arranges the veil, without removing it from the chalice, in the same way that a chalice is set upon the altar for the celebration of Mass: another clear sign of the connection between the Mass and the death of Christ upon the Cross. The priest incenses the Sacrament once again, and the “Rite of the Presanctified” properly so-called begins.
The major ministers go up to the altar and genuflect. The deacon removes the chalice veil, paten and soft pall, then holds the paten with two hands over the corporal. The priest takes the chalice, and allows the Host to slide from it onto the paten, then puts it down. He receives the paten from the deacon and places the Host upon the corporal. The deacon puts wine in the chalice, and the subdeacon a drop of water, as at Mass. The deacon gives the chalice to the priest, who places it in the middle of the corporal, and covers it with the pall. All of the Offertory prayers and gestures are omitted.
As at the Offertory of Mass, the thurifer comes to the priest, who imposes incense without blessing it, and, accompanied in the usual way by the deacon and subdeacon, incenses the Host and chalice, Cross and altar as at a Solemn Mass, genuflecting whenever he passes before the Sacrament. (Neither he nor anyone else is incensed.) Then he washes his hands, as at a normal Mass, but saying nothing.
Returning to the middle of the altar, with the deacon and subdeacon in line behind him, the priest says the Offertory prayer “In spiritu humilitatis”; he then kisses the altar, turns to the people and says “Orate fratres”. The response “Suscipiat” is not said, and the priest does not complete the usual turn in a circle. As the rubrics of the Missal say, he “omits the rest”, (Secret, Preface, Sanctus and Canon), and passes directly to “Oremus. Praeceptis salutaribus.” and the Lord’s Prayer, sung in the ferial tone. He then sings the embolism “Libera nos” out loud, also in the ferial tone, omitting all of the gestures which normally accompany it.
The deacon and subdeacon kneel on either side of the priest, slightly back from where he stands; as the priest solemnly elevates the Host, they lift his chasuble, and in place of the bell, the “crepitaculum” or noisemaker is sounded. The deacon and subdeacon rise, and the deacon uncovers the chalice. The priest performs the Fraction of the Host, saying nothing and omitting the signs of the Cross. Bowing over the altar, he says the prayer “Perceptio corporis tui”; following the usual rite of Mass, he communicates with the Sacred Host. He then consumes the chalice with the wine and the Particle in it, omitting the usual rites.
All of this follows, step by step, the rite of the Offertory of the Mass, and the prayers of the celebrant’s communion after the Canon. Obviously, all of those elements which refer specifically to the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice are omitted, along with the Canon itself. (The fraction, however, is done after the Embolism, not during, since the latter is sung aloud.) Here we have another clear sign of the sacrificial nature of the death of Christ. The rubrics of the Missal underline this principal that the rite is modeled on the rite of Mass; everything in them is described in reference to the practice of the normal celebration of Mass.
The priest purifies the chalice and his fingers; the subdeacon then restacks the chalice, and the deacon removes the broad stole and vests again in the folded chasuble, again, all as at a solemn Mass. Since it is a longstanding custom of the Church that only the celebrant receives communion on this day, at this point the liturgy is effectively completed and the priest, the major and minor ministers, and the attending clergy return to the sacristy in silence.
This brings us to the second major point of the ceremony, the silence of the congregation, and the relative silence of the ceremony as a whole. The parts that are said aloud consist almost entirely of the words of Scripture and the prayers, sung by the clergy, and the choir’s parts.
This is the only day of the year on which no part of the Ordinary of the Mass is used, these being the parts most easily sung by the people. The first two lessons are sung without title or “Deo gratias” at the end. The prayer is introduced by a formula that does not require the congregation to answer “Et cum spiritu tuo.” “Gloria tibi, Domine”, and “Laus tibi, Christe” are not said at the Passion. At the solemn prayers, the only word not sung by the major ministers is “Amen.”
At the presentation of the Cross, the major ministers sing “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world”, to which the choir answers “Come, let us adore;” this and the Vexilla regis are really the only parts of the ceremony that some portion of the people will likely be able to sing along with. The two tracts and the Improperia are certainly too complex for popular participation, and during the latter, the people are coming forth to kiss the Cross. To sum up, therefore, the only words which the majority of the congregation will certainly be able to sing are “Amen” and “Sed libera nos a malo.”
The presentation and adoration of the Cross celebrated by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at St Peter’s Basilica in 2011.
The first tract of the ceremony is taken from the song of the Prophet Habakkuk (the whole of his third chapter), according to the Old Latin translation of the Septuagint: “O Lord, I heard Thy report, and was afraid: I considered thy works, and was amazed.” These echo the famous prophecy of Isaiah known as that of the Suffering Servant (chapter 53), “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” The tract continues with the words, “thou shalt be known between two living creatures”; the “two living creatures” were first understood by St Augustine as the two thieves crucified alongside the Lord.
The silence of the congregation expresses this fear and amazement, as we behold the Lord and Creator of the world hung on the Cross, as the sun itself withdraws and the earth trembles at His death, and the tract continues “when my soul is troubled, Thou wilt in wrath remember mercy.” The Byzantine liturgy elaborates upon this point continually, as for example at the first hymn at Vespers of Good Friday; “All creation was changed by fear, when it saw Thee, o Christ, hanging upon the Cross; the sun was darkened, and the foundations of the earth were shaken. All things suffered with Him that created all things; o Lord, who did willingly suffer for us, glory to Thee!”
The final point to note is the fact that Communion is not distributed to the faithful at this ceremony. The “communion” which is received that day is the kissing of the Cross, for which the faithful come forth to the area of the sanctuary as they did the previous day at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Their participation in the Paschal mystery is vividly represented by following as closely as possible those members of the Church who lived it first, the disciples of Christ, who also received Communion on Holy Thursday. Good Friday is likewise lived as the disciples lived it, as a day of lamentation, without the grace of Communion, but with the grace of staying close by the Cross, like the Virgin and St John. This relatively late practice of the Roman Rite is in harmony with the broader tradition of the historical Christian rites. To this day, the Ambrosian rite maintains the custom of having no ritual involving the Eucharist on Good Friday at all; likewise, the Byzantine Rite has the kissing of the shroud of Christ, but no sort of Eucharistic ritual.
|The table of the shroud in a Russian church on Good Friday. (Image from Wikipedia by Pauk.)|
It is also worth noting in this regard that the rubrics of the Missal of St Pius V, and subsequent decrees of the S.R.C. in regard to the ceremony, assume that the same Cross, which comes from the main altar, is kissed by the clergy and all of the faithful. Likewise, the S.R.C. strongly prohibited all attempts at having any kind of Eucharistic adoration or procession on Good Friday, where such customs had arisen as a matter of popular piety.
Since we will have a lot more photoposts to do fairly soon, make sure you send them no later than Holy Tuesday, so we can post on Spy Wednesday. Requests will be posted for the rest of Holy Week and Easter fairly soon. Evangelize through beauty!
|Palm Sunday at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Tagbilaran City, Bohol, in the Philippines, from part 2 of last year’s Palm Sunday photopost.|
The liturgy was glorious. The majesty of the pontifical ceremonies conducted in the elevated sanctuary of a Romanesque church, accompanied by the chanted Propers for a Votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Missa Misericorde by Jacobus Clemens non Papa (1510-1556), raised our minds and hearts to the threshold of the heavenly Jerusalem. The church architecture itself strongly suggested this kind of elevation, as the eye was drawn up from the nave to the choir to the high altar beyond, and finally upwards to the vaults and domes with their elaborate iconography. It was the kind of situation (alas, too rare) in which one felt that Roman Catholic worship could hold its own over against the acknowledged splendor of Byzantine worship.
Although the main point of this post is to make available a gallery of the day's visual beauty, I did want to mention one thought that occurred to me as I reflected on the liturgy afterwards. One hears so much about "active participation," but seldom do its postconciliar proponents dwell on the implications of the fact that participation means, if it means anything, "taking part in" some already existing reality, some action that is larger than us and embraces us. Think of Plato's account of participation: the individual thing participates in its eternal Form, the image reflects its unchanging exemplar. To participate is to receive partial being from the full actuality. Therefore, liturgical participation presupposes the form, the exemplar, which is the Church's celebration of the mysteries. This has to be already taking place so that we can enter into it and derive our momentary worship from it.
That is how I experience a pontifical Mass, as I follow the audible prayers or pray in silence, and hear the music gently pulsing through the spacious temple: it is a certain fullness of worship that already exists, so to speak, outside myself — it exists exemplarily in the heavenly Jerusalem; it exists formally and efficiently in the clergy who offer it on earth; it exists materially in the tradition and liturgical books of the Church — and I am granted the undeserved privilege of entering into it, taking part in it, participating in it.
In contrast, what is usually called participation — that is, producing liturgy out of our own actions, so that a person who is doing more or even inventing more is thought to be "participating" more — is actually the opposite: it should rather be called active fabrication, active projection, active expression, but never active participation, since it is not psychologically and metaphysically an entering into and taking possession of some fullness that is of another, from another, for another. It is the difference between being heated by a fire and making an artwork. The one who sits near a fire and gets warm is participating in that external warmth. The one who makes an artwork is not participating but producing. The liturgy is, at its root, the fire to which we draw near, so that we may undergo its action and assimilate a likeness of its being. It is not the artwork we produce out of our consciousness by the manipulation of raw material.
This fundamental contrast was brought home to me by the very "passivity" of the laity (as the progressive liturgists would have seen it) at Saturday's liturgy. We did not do much of anything, at least outwardly. The Schola sang the Propers; the Choir sang the Mass Ordinary; the ministers in the sanctuary sang and whispered most of the prayers; the people sat quietly in the pews, opening their mouths occasionally for a thunderous "Et cum spiritu tuo" or "Amen." And yet, I felt intensely involved, intensely connected with what was happening around me and before me — indeed, I could barely take it all in, so bright was the fire, so strong the warmth. I was taking part through and through in the whole that was set before me, taking as much a part of it as I could. It was like a fountain bubbling up so abundantly that I could fill my cup with ease and get as wet as I wished. It was refreshing to know that none of this was coming from me, dependent on me, produced by me, or validated by me — any more than water from the ground or rain from the air, light from the sun or song from the birds. It was the greatest privilege to receive, to watch and listen, pray and adore. Nothing more was needed to make this participation complete, as it already summoned and satisfied all of my powers.
Divini muneris largitate satiati, quaesumus, Domine Deus noster: ut hujus semper participatione vivamus. Per Dominum... Filled with the abundance of Thy divine gift, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may ever live by participation in it. Through our Lord... [Postcommunion, Saturday in Passion Week]Looking for an "active participation" worthy of the name — active rather than activist, participation rather than production? Do your best to get to a solemn Pontifical Mass. This experience teaches more than any books can teach.
It is through the re-establishment of Christian community, so it is argued, that a Christian culture will emerge that will help to consolidate the Faith among Catholics, by which they will ultimately become beacons of light that will inculturate, evangelize and transform a post-Christian Wild West into a new and beautiful Christian society.
This being so, the question is, How might such communities be established?
A common response is to look to the monastic model as an antidote. My sense is that the current interest in the much vaunted Benedict Option, in which hope for the West is placed in a Benedictine-led spiritual revival, is as much about fulfilling a desire for Christian community as it is for the transformation of the culture. This looks to the part that the Benedictine monasteries played in the preservation and dissemination of Christian culture in the dark ages. Some elaborate on this and envisage a reestablishment of a picture of the medieval village, with its houses clustered around the monastery as the families walk to Mass or Vespers in the nearby Gothic abbey church.
The disadvantage of such an arrangement can be that the spiritual heart is a religious community, which, by its nature, is separated from the rest of the world and therefore also from the lay people who identify themselves an extension of that community. This is not an insurmountable problem; there is nothing wrong with this if those involved don’t mind, and if the fruits of it are positive. However, given the low number and often the remoteness of monastic communities, even if we put aside the difficulties mentioned, it isn’t a realistic option for most until they can retire to rural France...or Oklahoma...or wherever it may be.
I have seen people try to create lay communities of working people and their families by encouraging those who join to live a compound of homes where all subscribe to some modified Benedictine rule. The drawback of this is that it is difficult to overcome the conflict between the demands of community and of family life; there is often a tension between the two. Some seem to manage it, but others in extreme cases suchcommunities can have a cultish feel to them. By necessity they need to be strongly hierarchical if they are to avoid falling into anarchy; ultimately, one or more people are in charge over decisions in daily living that effect others. This immediately creates conflict because that community authority or influence will tend to interfere with, or even undermine, the natural authority of parents in the family.
Such a conflict rarely arises in parish life, since beyond the mere fact of attendance, the parish itself does not impose rules at all beyond what the Church as a whole requires. There is no rule for parish life, that I am aware of, in the way that there are rules for religious communities. But this is also the source of a weakness for the parish as a basis of community. The connection is usually so loose that it is rare, nowadays at least, for people to feel bound to it at all.
This is where the need for a set of principles for parish community might come useful, and this is what I heard described recently.
St Elias Melkite Catholic Church, in Los Gatos, California, recently had their annual visit from the bishop, Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra, Eparchial Bishop of Newton. I attended Vespers, before which he spoke encouraging words, exercising his pastoral role as bishop. The subject of his talk was how a parish can be a genuine community, or, as he put it, part of the Church and not simply a social club.
He began by going back to Scripture, and in particular, he analysed the growth of the early Church as described by the Acts of the Apostles. He pointed out how the descriptions of the early gatherings seemed to point to four ministries that we should replicate today.
First (of course!) worship: Divine Liturgy (or Mass) and the Divine Office in the Church. Then he spoke of the need to take that worship back into the home by the establishment of the Domestic Church, where the occupants of a house (not always families, this can be people living on their own or single people sharing somewhere) pray the Divine Office in their icon corner. St Elias’ pastor, Fr Sebastian Carnazzo, has produced free booklets which he gives to everyone who walks into the church called Daily Prayer for Melkites. This give a simple stripped down version of the more complex, monastic-derived full Morning and Evening Prayer, which families can do, and by which they participate in the fuller monastic-influenced form that a church might do at Vespers or Orthros. In doing this they are dispersing the liturgy across time and space and taking the Church out to their homes.
Second is social - the bishop spoke of the regular organization of social events, and especially meals connected to the worship, and how newcomers should be spotted and invited to attend the coffee social/meal after the Liturgy. Again, this structure of communal meals after worship can be replicated in the home. There is something wonderful about a social event in a home which is Vespers followed by a meal. He spoke also of how an apparently thriving parish can, detrimentally, allow this social element to dominate at the expense of the others, so creating a social club and not a church. In the long run, a parish that does this will die. When it is done properly, the hope is that this will naturally generate friendships and social cohesion beyond the church, creating a social fellowship amid the parish community which supplements and derives its strength from those parish-based social events, and ultimately the fellowship of the Spirit and the liturgy.
Third is education. He spoke of how great a need there is for constant mystagogy of adults and instruction of the children, and that churches should hold classes for both. The children, he said, should be instructed in the church, in the ideal, by a couple, in such a way that it establishes in the children the habit of looking to parents in the home for education and instruction. And that, of course, is the next step here - the education of the children in the home by the parents.
Fourth is charity - almsgiving. This is the spirit of love by which people donate time and money for the care of others in the church, in the community and beyond. Some of that time will be spent in contributing freely to ministries that provide these four parish functions. Again, we see the model being set in the parish, and then supernatural transformation of those involved so that they take their enhanced capacity to love out to their fellows. This dispersed charity, if I can call it that, participates in that which should be at its greatest in the parish.
Bishop Nicholas suggested that apart from the functions that are necessarily performed by a priest, these are ministries for which lay people should take responsibility. Ideally, they will never prove onerous for anyone. As he described it, this is a natural organization of community and each of us has a charism that suits us to work within one form or another of these ministries. In short, we are made to be members of the Church, and if not religious, very likely part of a parish; when we find our natural niche in which we contribute most powerfully to parish life, we will flourish in a special way as part of it. This would be a true flowering of a liturgically centered “charismatic” movement. Furthermore, when people do what comes naturally to them as part of these ministries, then we shine with the light of Christ and people will see something in us, and this will in turn attract them to parish life.
What he was presenting was a simple “rule” for parish life, a set of guidelines which, if a congregation chooses to follow them, will likely to lead the establishment of a thriving church; and when each is in place the fifth element occurs spontaneously - evangelization.
It occurred to me also that this is a possible pattern for communities that are not monastic, but perhaps bound together in some other way. Little neighborhood groups of families and single people - maybe in an apartment block - can each have their own domestic churches in their individual homes and apartments, but then gather together from time to time as little parish sub-communities in the home of one, reinforcing this parish template for community in all.
I think this may be a practical answer to the desire for community in modern man. Most of us are meant to be parish people, not monastic people (which is a special calling), and when life is organized on this ideal pattern, we will flourish and evangelize others.
The more it is replicated outside the church in different social groups, the more it will create a bond of community for that particular grouping, while simultaneously priming those who have never been to church for participation in the parish community, and further developing the bond to it in those who already have a parish life.
Among those who are thinking about the decline of community and Christian culture in the West, there is a tendency to assume that the post-Enlightenment model of a city is the one of the culprits; perhaps industrialization, electronic communication, and the existence of giant conurbations of millions of people are part of the problem. This is the back-to-the-land, recreate-a-village outlook. There may be something to this, but I do wonder sometimes if this is not based upon an idealized view of what villages and working on the land used to be like. My instincts tell me that the sense of alienation arises not so much from the environment, as from within the person who is alienated. If I feel alienated, then I must become more of a community person; it is by offering fellowship and community to others that I feel part of a community myself. This can happen wherever there are people. I should redirect my work into an effort to participate in the church-as-community in the fullest sense.
Again, this doesn’t mean that we all need to live in a village or even within walking distance of our local church; a parish community can be dispersed quite widely through a wider population base and still be strong. The old maxim “You get what you give” seems to be the operating principle here, and in a city there always people nearby to whom I can offer community. Regardless of whether or not they accept it, I will change in the effort to bring it to them. Certainly, I should admit, Bishop Nicholas’ address made me ask a few questions of myself.
The paintings are all by LS Lowry, who made his name painting the industrial landscapes of the mill towns in Greater Manchester in England after the Second World War.
- Wednesday, April 12, Tenebrae at 7 pm
- Thursday, April 13, Mass of the Lord's Supper at 5:30 pm
The Responsories were composed just two years before Gesualdo’s death in 1611. Written for six voices these extraordinary settings perfectly capture the intensity of the unfolding of the Holy Week narrative.
Other highlights performed by the professional group ‘Cantus Magnus’ include the Mass for Four Voices by Thomas Tallis on Maundy Thursday, Byrd’s Passio secundum Joannem on Good Friday and the Messe à deux voix égales on Holy Saturday. There is also an incredible array of religious music spanning hundreds of years including composers such as Garcia, Isaac, Byrd, Palestrina, Anerio and Gounod.
The Holy Week services commence with Tenebrae at 9 pm on Wednesday 12th April and continue until the great celebration of the Easter Vigil at 18:00 on Saturday 15th April. As well as the services at St Mary Moorfields, Traditional Triduum liturgies will be celebrated at churches throughout the country. Details of Holy Week Mass listings are: www.lms.org.uk/sacredtriduum
|The procession with the Cristo Muerte in 2016, courtesy of Stuart Chessman.|