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- 12/26/17--09:00: _Mass for the Holy I...
- 12/26/17--13:21: _A Proper Hymn for S...
- 12/27/17--13:30: _Time for the Soul t...
- 12/28/17--06:57: _Christmas Photopost...
- 12/28/17--09:17: _Octave of Christmas...
- 12/28/17--14:49: _The Feast of the Ho...
- 12/29/17--05:00: _Christmas Homily of...
- 12/29/17--14:59: _What Would the Cano...
- 12/30/17--05:22: _EF Pontifical Mass ...
- 12/30/17--11:09: _Christmas Photopost...
- 12/31/17--11:17: _Tonsure, Minor Orde...
- 12/31/17--23:55: _Picture of the Year...
- 01/01/18--00:20: _The Feast of the Ci...
- 01/01/18--13:14: _Christmas 2017 Phot...
- 01/02/18--12:37: _Using Drone Warfare...
- 01/02/18--14:00: _NLM Quiz no. 21: Wh...
- 01/03/18--06:47: _Time for the Soul t...
- 01/04/18--06:53: _Announcing a New We...
- 01/05/18--00:46: _Photopost Request f...
- 01/05/18--07:15: _Special Chants for ...
- 12/26/17--09:00: Mass for the Holy Innocents in San Angelo, Texas
- 12/26/17--13:21: A Proper Hymn for St Stephen
- 12/28/17--06:57: Christmas Photopost 2017 (Part 1)
- 12/28/17--14:49: The Feast of the Holy Innocents 2018
- 12/29/17--05:00: Christmas Homily of Canon Francis Altiere
- 12/30/17--05:22: EF Pontifical Mass for Epiphany in Nashua, New Hampsire
- 12/30/17--11:09: Christmas Photopost 2017 (Part 2)
- 12/31/17--11:17: Tonsure, Minor Orders and Subdiaconal Ordination in Fréjus-Toulon
- 12/31/17--23:55: Picture of the Year 2017
- 01/01/18--00:20: The Feast of the Circumcision 2018
- 01/01/18--13:14: Christmas 2017 Photopost (Part 3)
- 01/02/18--12:37: Using Drone Warfare in the Battlefield of Sacred Music
- 01/02/18--14:00: NLM Quiz no. 21: What is This Object’s Function?
- 01/05/18--00:46: Photopost Request for Epiphany 2018
- 01/05/18--07:15: Special Chants for Epiphany 2018
One of the gems which is therefore not found in the historical Roman Use is a proper hymn for St Stephen, Sancte Dei pretiose; it was used by the Old Observance Carmelites, Premonstratensians, and the Use of Sarum, just to name a few. Most of these Uses have it at either Matins or Lauds, with the common hymn for one martyr at Lauds or Matins, and again at Vespers. When it originally composed in the 11th century, it had only three stanzas; a number of others were added to it later, but do not seem to have caught on. In this recording, the music turns into a kind of early polyphony at the 2:00 mark; but the second stanza is then repeated, and the doxology is not included.
Sancte Dei pretiose
Qui virtute caritatis
Dominum pro inimico
|O Precious Saint of God,
Stephen, the First Martyr,
Who, by virtue of charity
Surrounded on every side
Didst pray to the Lord
For the hostile people.
Funde preces pro devoto
Tibi nunc collegio,
Ut, tuo propitiatus
Nos, purgatos a peccatis
Jungat caeli civibus.
|Pour forth prayers now for
The assembly devoted to thee,
That, appeased by thy inter-
vention, the Lord, may
cleanse us from sin,
And join us to the citizens
Gloria et honor Deo
Una Patri, Filioque,
Cui laus est et potestas
Per aeterna saecula. Amen.
|Glory and honor to God
The most high in every place;
The same to the Father,
and the Son, to the glorious
Paraclete; to whom belong praise
and might for all ages. Amen.
Today I shall continue my exploration with the rites that take place once the priest and the faithful have received the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord.
After communion, there is a long pause for the people while the priest cleanses his fingers and the sacred vessels, and the other ministers puts things aside or back to their places for the end of Mass. Here again we see the genius of the Roman Rite as it developed organically: there is no unseemly haste in this matter of ablutions, and, as a providential side effect, there need be no haste in the people’s time of thanksgiving. How welcome, how utterly necessary is this time of grace, when the Lord is most intimately present to and within us! Many great saints have spoken about the privileged prayer that is possible only at this time, in the minutes following sacramental communion with the Word made flesh. What a shame if the very form of the liturgy — or, it must be added, the particular customs of a given community, even in the sphere of the usus antiquior — should thwart this communion of minds and hearts!
The Placeat Tibi
Instead of racing to the finish line as the Novus Ordo does, in its eagerness to “send us out on mission,” et cetera ad nauseam, the old Mass takes a moment to beseech the Lord in a prayer of burning intensity, said by the priest bowing before the altar, in between the Ite missa est and the final blessing:
May the performance of my homage be pleasing to Thee, O holy Trinity, and grant that the Sacrifice which I, though unworthy, have offered up in the sight of Thy Majesty, be acceptable to Thee, and through Thy mercy, be a propitiation for me and for all those for whom I have offered it.A magnificent summary of the very essence of the Mass, and a summons to embrace its ascetical-mystical reality! The usus antiquior never forgets and never allows us to forget God’s majesty and our unworthiness, God’s mercy and our dire need of it. Centered from start to finish on the primal mystery of the Holy Trinity, serious about the Father’s business, the Mass is here simply styled “the Sacrifice.” That is what it is — and that is how it should look, sound, feel, and exist for us.
Over the years, one of the things about the Novus Ordo that has grated on me the most is the rapid-fire conclusion. The celebrant may well take his time with the homily (sometimes it seems as if this is viewed as the most important point of the entire Mass), but when it comes to everything afterwards, it’s “life in the fast lane” — particularly when communion is done. The vessels are hastily put away and “Let us pray” booms out like an ultimatum over the heads of people who could not have had the slightest chance to pray. Within seconds, the floodgates are opened and the crowds, impatient to get home to leisure pursuits that are vastly more significant than anything that happened on Calvary, pour into the parking lot to simulate bumper cars. It is thoroughly disedifying for the few devout Catholics who, due to some unanticipated freethinking, wish to stay in the pews to make their thanksgiving after Mass.
At a traditional Mass, this travesty is unheard of. The liturgy itself builds in time for thanksgiving from the ablutions through the Placeat tibi and, finally, the sweet balm of the Last Gospel, which, no matter how slowly or quickly it is read, whether aloud or sotto voce, always seems like a well-placed comma or ellipsis in the grammar of worship. The end is rejoined with the beginning, like the circulation of divine lifeblood: In the beginning was the Word… the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory… Deo gratias.
It is well to recall the beauty of the Last Gospel, the Prologue of the loftiest of biblical books, on this feast of its author, St. John the Evangelist. For it is he who teaches us, perhaps better than anyone else, the very virtue of restfulness in God that I have been arguing is one of the chief characteristics of the ancient Roman rite. The Beloved Disciple took his time at the Last Supper when leaning on the breast of Jesus; he did not think that there were more urgent things to do, be it selling ointments to get money for the poor, strategizing against the enemies of his Lord, or even preaching the good news that he was later inspired to write down. No, at the solemn moment when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was instituted, John knew where he had to be and what he had to be doing: at the side of his Master, in the adoring silence of a friendship so intimate that it would later spill out in the most sublime revelations vouchsafed to man. John heard his Gospel beating in the heart of Jesus, High Priest and Victim; there he learned the meaning of adoration, reparation, supplication, and thanksgiving — Eucharistia. St. John is therefore the patron not only of theologians but of all who “worship God in spirit and in truth.” He leads us back, again and again, to the authentic liturgies of the Catholic Church, whose seeds the Lord sowed into the soil of His apostles’ souls in the Upper Room.
 See Summa theologiae, II-II, qq. 81 to 91.
 Cf. my article "Priestly Preparation Before Mass and Thanksgiving After Mass."
Photos courtesy of and (c) Corpus Christi Watershed and Fr. Lawrence Lew.
|Reliquary of the Holy Innocents, 1449, from the Museum of the Basilica of St Ambrose. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Sailko.)|
This past weekend, my family and I had the great joy of assisting at several Masses at the Institute of Christ the King's Oratory of Old St. Patrick's in Kansas City, MO. I was so struck by the homily Canon Altiere preached for the Christmas Masses that I asked him for (and gratefully received) permission to post the text of it at New Liturgical Movement, along with some photos from the Oratory. Enjoy!
CHRISTMAS HOMILY 2017
Canon Francis Xavier Altiere, ICKSP
These thoughts help us, who have perhaps become too accustomed to the sentimental aspect of the Christmas story, to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time: to come on bended knee into the Crib this year and to remember that the new-born Baby in Mary’s arms beneath the star of Bethlehem will one day lie lifeless in her arms beneath the cross. We already know how the story ends: with a death and a resurrection. Yet we come back year after year, the eternal freshness of Christmas making us forget the passing years.
What do you think we would have heard in the stable if we could have been there at that first Christmas 2000 years ago? Hush, hush, don’t wake the sleeping Redeemer, but come and lean in closely. As God sleeps in his bed of straw, I seem to hear not so much a voice as an echo: even with eyes closed, the tender Babe sees the world around him – the world he made, after all – and from within the depths of his soul he asks the question that one day he asked out loud to Peter: “and he asked his disciples, saying: … But who do you say that I am?” (St. Matthew 16:13-15). One question, so many answers!
Mary, who do you say that I am? Sweet Mother, more than anyone else you understand the true mystery of Christmas. With a mother’s love you gaze upon your baby son, but you look deeper, Mary: you see beyond the outward veil of flesh, the eternal Son of God: born eternally of the Father he now is born in time through you. You ponder the prophetic word which said, “he that made me, rested in my tabernacle” (Ecclesiasticus 24:12). O first and living ciborium, you invite us today not to the stable but to the tabernacle, that we may adore hidden under the veil of bread him whom you adored in his crib of straw. Scripture tells us: “they found the Child with Mary his mother” (St. Matthew 2:11). It will be the same for us, O holy Virgin: if we want to find Jesus, we must find him with you.
People of Bethlehem, who do you say that I am? What: an inconvenience, an unwanted child? You could at least have seen a family in need and yet in your inn there is no room. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (St. John 1:11).
Shepherds, who do you say that I am? You are simple men: the Pharisees of Jerusalem think nothing of you because you do not share their sophisticated learning. But you are men of the promise: you know only that God promised your Fathers a Redeemer and you know that he is faithful; you are not ashamed to live in the backwater of Bethlehem because you remember the prophet’s word: “And thou Bethlehem art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel: and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2). The days marked out by the prophet have elapsed: now is the time for promise made to become promise fulfilled. The angel song is the reward of your humility, and you are the first ones invited to adore in the flesh the one whom even Moses feared to see in the thunders of Mount Sinai.
King Herod, who do you say that I am? O saddest of sinners, the wilfully ignorant. The scribes of Jerusalem open to you the prophetic books: the finger of the centuries points out the Messiah. Not only do you refuse to adore, but you think you can destroy God’s plan! We weep for you, poor Herod, when we see you at the head not of those who adore, but of the long line of dictators who think that they can build a human peace by refusing the Prince of Peace. The Holy Innocents, the victims of Roman persecution, those who fall to Mohammed’s sword, the hordes massacred by Communism: their blood cries out for you, Herods old and new! Your names, O persecutors, pollute the dustbin of history: but the divine Child remains on his throne and he breaks your rod of iron.
And you, what about you, my dear friends sitting here today: who do YOU say that he is? Is he just a family tradition, a little statue we cart out once a year just to put him away again in a box when we have opened our gifts and eaten our cookies? Do we feel threatened like Herod, somehow aware that if he is who he says he is, then we need to give him our whole life? Are we indifferent like the people of Bethlehem: is there no room in our inn, because it is over full with the little pet sins we don’t really want to give up? If we do not come regularly to Mass or if it has been years since our last confession, if we do not pray or if there is someone we still have never forgiven, then this year is the Christmas when we finally decide to put things right. God did not send his only Son, he did not condescend to the poverty of the stable or the shame of the cross, simply so that he could get his picture on a greeting card. He came to save us: “this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (St. Luke 2:11). Yes, brothers, he came to save us because we need to be saved. Because he has come, salvation is now possible – but salvation is not automatic, and salvation is not for the indifferent. If you want to see him one day in heaven, then we must come to him today on bended knee with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds.
Come into the stable with me – we will wait for the shepherds to pay their humble homage – and let us see it anew as if for the first time. Today, heaven is all wrapped up in swaddling clothes. He is there waiting – waiting for you. Christmas is there to remind us that we also must decide. The world can never be the same once God enters it as one of us. It is your turn now to come to the manger. We won’t wake the sleeping Babe, but our hearts whisper our response: “I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
As far as I am concerned, the short answer is: absolutely nothing.
The canonization of a Saint does not change the facts of his earthly life. It does not rectify the mistakes he may have made, whether knowingly or unknowingly. It does not change his failures into successes, whether they came about through his fault or that of others. When St Joseph Calasanz died in 1648, the religious order he had founded, the Piarists, was to all intents and purposes destroyed. Ten years after he was canonized, St Alphonse Liguori was tricked by a close friend and early collaborator into signing a document which badly compromised the Redemptorist Order, and he was openly reproved by his confreres for having destroyed it. (The life of St Joseph Calasanz was one of his favorite books for spiritual reading in his later years.) These are historical facts which were not in the least bit altered by their later canonization and the later restoration of their orders.
Likewise, there have been and still are many Catholic historians who believe that St Pius V’s excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I of England, and his decree releasing her subjects from obedience to her, was a significant error in judgment; they are not bad or disloyal Catholics for holding such an opinion. There are of course others who hold exactly the opposite opinion, and they are not good and loyal Catholics merely for the fact of holding such an opinion.
I mention St Pius V particularly because he also, of course, gave the Church a significant reform of the liturgy. If Paul VI is indeed canonized, it will surely be argued that his liturgical reform must be held in the same veneration shown to that of St Pius V in the post-Tridentine period. This will be a false comparison on every level, and should be flatly rejected as such. The Pius V reform is significant precisely because it was deliberately conceived as a very conservative reform in the proper sense of the term, a reform that sought to conserve the authentic tradition of Catholic worship, and change only what it was felt to be absolutely necessary to change. The Paul VI reform is significant for exactly the opposite reason, because it introduced more changes into the liturgy and more rapidly than had ever happened before in the Church’s history.
The reform of the liturgical books begun by St Pius V and continued by his successors was one of the great successes of the Counter Reformation, and one from which the Church unquestionably drew many spiritual benefits. This does not change the fact that, unwittingly, it also set in motion a process by which the other Uses of the Roman Rite were gradually Romanized, and many valuable things (such as nearly the entire corpus of Sequences) were effectively lost. Many liturgical writers have regretted such losses, and whether one agrees with them or not, they have not been bad Catholics for doing so. The same applies to the reform of the Breviary by St Pius X; and likewise, many Catholics hold Pope Pius XII in the highest regard for a variety of good reasons, while disliking the Holy Week reform which he promulgated.
All of this is to say, the intrinsic merits or demerits of the post-Conciliar reform, and its status as a success or a failure, will not change in any way, shape or form if Pope Paul VI is indeed canonized. No one can honestly say otherwise, and no one has the right to criticize, attack, silence or call for the silencing of other Catholics if they contest that reform. If that reform went beyond the spirit and the letter of what Vatican II asked for in Sacrosanctum Concilium, as its own creators openly bragged that it did; if it was based on bad scholarship and a significant degree of basic incompetence, leading to the many changes now known to be mistakes; if it failed utterly to bring about the flourishing of liturgical piety that the Fathers of Vatican II desired, none of these things will change if Paul VI is canonized. Just as the canonizations of Pius V and X, and the future canonization of XII, did not place their liturgical reforms beyond question or debate, the canonization of Paul VI will not put anything about his reform beyond debate, and no one has any right to say otherwise.
we published it in November) sums up all the good things happening in the Church today: the continual rediscovery of the life of the Faith, and the traditions that enshrine it for every new generation. As we enter the New Year, it behooves us to remember that every age in the Church’s life gives us many reasons to pray and work for reform and renewal, but also many reasons for hope and joy.
I also want to mention this photo from a recent photopost of Rorate Masses, which are decidedly one of the features of the Catholic liturgical tradition that brings out the best and most beautiful. The photographer captured this very impressive shot at the Fraternity of St Peter’s church in Baltimore, the shrine of St Alphonsus; in the upper left part, the priest in the pulpit almost looks like he’s floating in the darkness. The name of the photographer was not sent in with the picture; whoever you are, very nice work indeed!
|The Circumcision of Christ, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1605|
Sunday after Christmas
Here are my thoughts as to why this might be. One of the attributes of beauty, famously listed by St Thomas, is due proportion. When something has due proportion, each part of an object must be in right relation to each other part in a way that is appropriate to the purpose of the whole. What constitutes due proportion in any particular situation is to a degree a matter of judgment, but there are geometric and arithmetical guidelines that can inform that judgment.
Beauty, it seems, is ordered by the number three. Going all the way back to pre-Christian classical culture, it was noticed that in the human response to things in combination - that is, in relation to each other - a minimum of three things were needed to constitute some sense of completeness in the arrangement. If there are just two in combination, such combination can still be beautiful, but there is inherent within it a sense that it is incomplete.
This is most easily explained in the natural response of most people to the combinations of notes in music. When two notes are placed in a relationship to each other, it is called an interval, and when it is pleasing it is described as “consonant”, meaning literally, “sounding together.” However, it was also noticed that when people hear a harmonious interval, it still seems to lack something. If you ask the music theorist why this is, he will tell you that this happens because an interval can be the basis of either a major or a minor chord, and you don’t know which until the third note is supplied. When that third note is supplied, and a full chord is created and the sense of deficiency is removed. This suggests that we have hardwired into us such a pattern of the harmony of music.
The consensus on this differing human response to intervals and chords has never really been questioned. Even the most secular music schools of today would concur and use this as the basis for the theory of musical harmony, although they may then go on to reject consonance as a good, and promote dissonance, which literally means “not agreeing in sound.”
Because musical harmony could be described numerically, by considering, for example, the magnitudes of pipes or strings that produced the separate notes, the assumption was made that the same numerical patterns present in musical intervals and chords could be used in any aspect of time and space in order to make the culture beautiful. It is most obviously applied in architecture, in which the dimensions of buildings can correspond to them. In this 19th-century building in Annapolis, Maryland, we see traditional harmony in architecture based on the principle of three. It has three stories of different sizes; the harmony is made apparent by making the windows different sizes.
This is why we need a minimum of three objects to descript proportion - we can’t have two or more ratios unless we have that many at least. Although the language which describes these proportions (he lists 10 in all) is musical, they are not all derived from musical harmony. They come from the observation of the natural relationships that contribute to the beauty of the cosmos, the human form, and the observation of symmetries that exist within the relationships between numbers and shapes in the abstract world of arithmetic and in geometry. (Note: the Golden Section is not traditionally included among them, despite what many people today assume!)
The assumption was that instrumental music was simply one manifestation of the principle of beauty that runs through all of Creation. For the Christian, these are all facets of the divine beauty that is embodied in the person of Christ.
Now, back to sacred music. The beauty of chant comes from the patterns of intervals that exist between notes from the melodyies which, if not heard simultaneously, are close enough in time that we connect one to the other, just as we can hear a chord in an arpeggio as well as directly in harmony.
Chant is most beautiful, I always feel, when sung in a church with an acoustic that provides resonances and echoes and which faintly harmonize with it. This allows the notes to merge and overlap more, and so enhance our sense of the two together. Also, we grasp on to that faint, suggested harmony, but it always leaves us wanting more because it is not fully expressed. When done well, it creates a longing that takes our imaginations to the non-material realm, and elevates our thinking to grasp the spiritual truths communicated by word and music in combination. When I hear this effect, I always imagine also that I am detecting the ghostly appearance of angels singing with us in the heavenly liturgy. This dynamic of drawing us in through beauty and then directing our imagination to the contemplation of heavenly things is built into the stylization of sacred art as well.
Sadly, many churches today do not have this kind of acoustic, and especially with carpeting, it is hard work to sing chant; in such a situation, this dynamic which draws us in and leaves us wanting more cannot operate in the same way. One way of overcoming this, perhaps, is to add a drone. It brings sacred chant to life, in my opinion. There may be reasons for this that I don’t understand, but I present the following as a possible explanation.
Adding the drone ensures that there are always two notes in relation. As the melody moves up and down, the relationship between drone and melody constantly changes as the intervals vary. In our imaginations, therefore, we grasp for a steadily changing variety of suggested major and minor chords. For this reason, chant in which the pitch of the drone moves relatively little is perceived as musically more complex than music in which the lower note moves much more, as in, for example, parallel fifths. I should say that the drone is striking when the acoustic is good too; shag-pile carpeting is not a necessary condition for the effect to be apparent!
We can hear the drone in this example of Old Roman chant:
Byzantine chant especially comes to life with the ison. Here is the Troparion of the Resurrection, mode 5, from the Melkite Greek Catholic liturgy.
It occurs to me also that this allows for an engagement with congregations that might not otherwise be possible. There is no reason why people can’t sing the drone while the skilled cantor sings the melody. This becomes a form of music that seems less precious and distant to the uninitiated.
Where I live, we have a regular pot-luck with Vespers as a social event. We sing simple psalm tones and I deliberately choose tones that finish on the final of the mode. This final becomes the drone note for the chant. The small group, which is not composed of specialist singers, is divided into two groups, and we sing antiphonally, alternating between melody and harmonizing drone. People catch on quickly and enjoy doing it, and the effect is striking even in our living room! Furthermore, I sing collects to a slightly more complex melody, and begin by asking everybody to hum the drone note before I do so. These are not expert singers; in fact, a number are people who never sing hymns at church, but they find this easier to sing than the usual fare at their Sunday Mass.
There is an additional point in that it seems to give the music an earthy quality that will encourage all, both men and women, to sing, without compromising on the sacred quality.
Also, if I ever find myself trapped in the pews in a Mass that has missalette music I create a little chant-like micro-environment around me by trying to improvise an ison to the hymns and ditties. I aim to make it as deep and reverberating as I possibly can - we are talking Russian-basso-profundo levels of reverberation here. It seems to pull it in the right direction at least.
If you want to read more about my views on the philosophy of missalette music, incidentally, read 'Breaking Bad - Why Missalette Music Is Driving People Away from Mass, Especially the Young.'
In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that the Novus Ordo, in its very design and especially in its typical instantiation, stands in tension with interiority, recollection, self-awareness, and sensitivity to the divine — that keen sensus mysteriorum that is practically convertible with the traditional Roman Rite in any of its levels (Low, High, Solemn, Pontifical). The old rite, in contrast, forces us to develop habits of prayer — self-motivated prayer, since you are thrown, to a large extent, on your own resources. As a blogger once rather insightfully put it:
One can still hold the new rite to be integrally Catholic, and yet consider that the culture of the extraordinary form, where the people are supposedly passive, tends to teach people to pray independently, while the culture of the ordinary form often tends to create a dynamic in which people just chat to each other in church unless they are being actively animated by a minister.Fr. Chad Ripperger expands on this point:
St. Augustine said that no person can save his soul if he does not pray. Now it is a fact that mental prayer and prayer in general have collapsed among the laity (and the clergy, for that matter) in the past thirty years. It is my own impression that this development actually has to do with the ritual of the Mass. Now in the new rite, everything centers around vocal prayer, and the communal aspects of the prayer are heavily emphasized. This has led people to believe that only those forms of prayer that are vocal and communal have any real value…Fr. Ray Blake wonders aloud if the very emphasis on the spoken word has led us away from the interior spirit of worship, to such an extent that we might not be engaged in the supreme act of adoration or latria at all, but only filling the air with well-meaning verbiage, as if the church were a holy lecture hall.
The ancient ritual, on the other hand, actually fosters a prayer life. The silence during the Mass actually teaches people that they must pray. Either one will get lost in distraction during the ancient ritual or one will pray. The silence and encouragement to pray during the Mass teach people to pray on their own. While, strictly speaking, they are not praying on their own insofar as they should be joining their prayers and sacrifices to the Sacrifice and prayer of the priest, these actions are done interiorly and mentally and so naturally dispose them toward that form of prayer. This is one of the reasons that, after the Mass is said according to the ancient ritual, people are naturally quieter and tend to pray afterwards. If everything is done vocally and out loud, then once the vocal stops, people think it is over. It is very difficult to get people who attend the new rite of Mass to make a proper thanksgiving by praying afterward because their appetites and faculties have habituated them toward talking out loud.
True worship leads us to contemplate the God who is always beyond us, the God before whom Old Testament patriarchs and prophets fall on their faces in worship. Practically at every Mass I have celebrated over the thirty years I have been ordained I have felt the need “to break the bread of the word,” to preach — except at the Traditional Mass, where all I want to do is adore the Father through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. I am beginning to believe that if the Word of God does not lead us to the act of worship, there is something wrong in its presentation, and if the Mass does not lead us to fall on our knees to be fed by God, there is something wrong here, too. Contemplating the Mystery of the Trinity should lead us to be lost in the immensity and beauty of God, realising His greatness and our nothingness, desiring only to abandon ourselves to Him, crying out with Christ: “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.” If this realisation is not the result of worship, perhaps we are not worshipping at all!Joseph Shaw contrasts the scripted, regimented participation of the new Mass with the freer “open worship” characteristic of the old liturgy, which generates a peculiar sense of togetherness by the intensity of each individual worshiping the same mystery, each in his own way:
What is quite out of the question, in this kind of liturgy [viz., the Novus Ordo], is that you should engage with it at your own pace, on your own level, in prayer. Prayerful contemplation is simply not allowed: it will be interrupted within a few minutes, and you’ll get funny looks. The opposite is the case with the Traditional Mass. You are, essentially, left alone, but left alone united with the community in the act of worship. You may have things given to you to help you follow the Mass, there may even be responses (especially at a sung Mass), but no one will think you odd if you just look at what is happening on the altar in prayerful silence. And for the Canon, that is what everyone is doing. You are drawn in: it may be to something unfamiliar, if contemplative prayer is unfamiliar, but it is something which you can do your own way. It is not a Procrustean bed; you can make of it what you will.Thus, ironically, considering that the Catholic liturgy was practically turned upside-down and inside-out to promote “active participation,” the faithful who attend the old Mass today evince a superior personal engagement in what they are doing. Why is this the case? Dom Alcuin Reid suggests two reasons: first, that people who are drawn to traditional worship must make significant sacrifices to find it and have often invested seriously in forming their own understanding. But there is a second reason having to do with the rites themselves:
Perhaps also it is due to the very demands they place on the worshipper — one has to find ways of connecting with these rites, or indeed of allowing them to connect with us, because of their ritual complexity. Their multivalent nature has a particular value: it provides varying means of connection with Christ acting in the liturgy that perhaps better correspond to our differing temperaments and psyches.In my book Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness, I talk about the effort involved in carrying out a traditional Tenebrae service at Wyoming Catholic College, and how many hours of practice and years of iteration it has required to reach the stage we are now at: “The best and deepest things take time to assimilate, to understand, to perfect. When it comes to liturgy in particular, we have to fight tooth and nail against the modern spirit of immediate gratification and quick results” (p. 185). Nowadays, prayer and liturgical services are prone to being shortened (perhaps “short-circuited” would be a better term), since the participants are either in a hurry to get to other business, or their span of attention is just too short. For Holy Week, the very highpoint of the Church’s year, one may observe in many places that the customary procession of palms on Palm Sunday is omitted and the blessing is done after communion instead; the Reproaches on Good Friday are skipped, in spite of their immense antiquity, beauty, and spiritual power. The Novus Ordo liturgical books are characterized by the option of shortened versions of readings and prayers. The modern impatience with anything not immediately gratifying extends even to pious/liturgical activities. To this mentality, St. Josemaría Escrivá already replied, years before it reached its peak: “‘The Mass is long,’ you say, and I add: ‘Because your love is short’” (The Way, n. 529).
Let us give the last word to a priest who discovered the liturgical tradition and fell in love with it.
When you truly love God, you are not miserly in sharing your time with Him in prayer, in the Holy Mass, and other liturgical exercises, since He is constantly sharing His time with you, His beloved. Since youth, I had been accustomed to the Vatican II revisions of the liturgy. Thank God, through dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum, I came to discover the solemn beauty of the traditional Latin Mass and other Catholic practices. Yes, these are more demanding of our time, but if one allows them time to penetrate the depth of the soul, one will exclaim joyfully: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”
 Unfortunately this site, The Sensible Bond, was disabled, so this text is available only in cache.
 Online here; text slightly modified.
 From Dom Alcuin Reid’s review of Andrea Grillo’s Beyond Pius V.
I am therefore delighted to announce that Mr Thomas and a number of collaborators have launched a new website, Canticum Salomonis, dedicated to exploring the immense riches of Catholic commentary on liturgy over the centuries and to finding ways to assimilate this treasury of prayerful theology today. As the recently launched Liturgical Arts Journal also demonstrates, we can see in such a venture a promising surge of interest in what our forefathers have to teach us about divine worship, about liturgical ceremonies and their symbolic meaning, about offices, roles, actions, chants, and the whole panoply of material culture that emerges out of and simultaneously reinforces liturgical practice.
Having asked the authors of this new website to provide NLM with a brief sketch of their intentions, I received the following response:
“The authors plan to provide translations of a wide variety of liturgical materials, especially medieval — translations that are difficult or impossible to find elsewhere. Texts chosen for being clear expression of what our fathers thought and said about the liturgy, what questions they thought were important (or unimportant), and the ways they organized their lives around the prayer of the Church. If by opening windows onto the great ages of the liturgy’s flourishing, we can stimulate the interest and devotion of people today, we will have succeeded.
“Occasionally we also publish essays to draw our readers’ attention to salient points about the material in question and invite further reflection.
“The polemical purpose is to remedy a certain lack of imagination in Catholic circles. Those passionate about liturgical culture risk getting caught up in all the narrow difficulties of the present. So “traditionalism” becomes preserving the status quo of the 1962 Missal. That Missal as we experience it today in our oratories and parishes is one small gem in a colorful crown of western liturgical patrimony that includes many other rites: Dominican, Premonstratensian, Lyonnaise, etc. And even the way we experience our Missal today — the Sunday High Mass — is only the cusp of a vibrant liturgical life that used to include so many public offices, processions, devotions, even theatrical performances. In addition, whole genres of commentary and mystical exegesis, shedding light on how cleric and laymen experienced the rites, are little known and studied.
“To have a full understanding of what liturgy is and can be, and make fruitful efforts for its development, requires knowing it in its full breadth, paying attention to times when it was in fuller vigor.
“The title Canticum Salomonis is meant to invoke the nuptial mysticism of Old Covenant, as also to set our standard with the tradition’s typological vision: ‘Novum in vetere latet. Vetus in novo patet.’
I was especially excited to see that Canticum Salomonis will be offering a running translation of a medieval masterpiece, Gemma Animae, about which the site itself explains:
“Commentaries on the Mass and Divine Office form an important yet unhappily understudied body of mediæval writing. Few critical editions exist, much less English translations. In a modest attempt to remedy the situation, we shall undertake the translation of one of the finest instances of the genre, Honorius of Autun’s Gemmae Animae, ‘gem of the soul.’ Little is known about the author; controversy still rages about what city or abbey his demonym refers to. He was certainly a monk, however, and authored sundry works on various subjects, many of them exegetical in nature. The Gemmae Animae is his exegesis on the sacraments, and provides a suitable introduction to the allegorical bent of the mediæval mind.”
I heartily encourage all NLM readers to head over to Canticum Salomonis. Have a look at the posts already up, and subscribe to it in your feeds, if you use one. NLM wishes Mr Thomas and the other collaborators much success in this new venture!
|From last year’s Epiphany photopost, the blessing of gold, frankincense and myrrh at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Philedelphia, Pennsylvania.|
On the website, they have also posted the Parisian and Ambrosian versions, both of which are much shorter than the Roman version.
From last year, I repeat a special tone for the chanting for the Gospel of the Epiphany; I have heard this used at Mass, and it is really quite beautiful. You can click these photos to enlarge them, or see it here in another very nice pdf format.