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    Our readers will surely be familiar with the writings of Dr Anthony Esolen, who teaches at Thomas More College in New Hampshire, from a variety of Catholic publications. Every time I mention the topic of Biblical translations and how awful they are, I link this article of his from 2011, in which he explains the underlying principles of Nabbish, the language in which the North American Bible is written. “If the reader wants to learn Nabbish ... he may ask himself, ‘What are the things that make poetry lovely or memorable?’ and eliminate them.”

    In an article published two days ago at Crisis, “Novus Quodlibet: The New Whatever Liturgy”, he tackles, with his usual wit, the problem of the hymns, or rather, one of the problems with the hymns.

    “If you go to Mass every Sunday and every holy day during the year, and if four hymns are sung at each Mass, this gives you the opportunity to sing over two hundred different hymns. Need I say that, outside of the Christmas carols and three or four old Easter hymns, the typical Novus Quodlibet church boasts a repertoire of eight or nine? The same, the same, the same, like the drip, drip, drip of cold rain, without meaning, without artistic coherence, and without any feint toward the whole of the liturgical year and the history of salvation. (my emphasis)
    h/t Kathy Pluth
    Many of them are narcissistic, rather like ‘I Feel Pretty’ from West Side Story. ‘Let us build the City of God,’ really? I cannot build the City of God. I can be made, by God, into a stone for the building of that spiritual city, but the action is his, not mine. ‘We have been sung throughout all of history’? I haven’t been sung even once in my whole life, and if I ever were to be, I would surely want to slug the singer. ‘Here I am, Lord, is it I, Lord?’ Why, who ever would have thought!

    But as the music, so the rest.”

    Further down, he writes, “I am not suggesting that laymen should become liturgists. Was that not one of the plagues of Egypt? Most people are not great artists, or even good artists. The work is already given, and the task of the priest, who alone should determine what the ancillary people are doing or not doing, is to conform the praying of the Mass, in word, gesture, and spirit, to that work.”

    How then, to make the liturgy back into something which forms the Christian faithful, clergy and laity, and not something which they are compelled to form, whether they will so or not?

    First, it has to be recognized, and at a some point, offically acknowledged, that the nearly universal substitution of Gregorian chants by hymns is a betrayal of what Vatican II wanted. The Council wrote “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” That does not mean “other things being equal, except they never are...” The long-term goal of liturgical reform must always be a recognition that hymns are a non-traditional and inferior substitute for Mass chants.

    Second, there needs to be a general bonfire of the vanities, the inanities, and the vacuities that currently dominate this particular musical form. As Dr Esolen says, “No need here to bring up, like ill-digested onions, the specifics.” Suffice it to say that based on the current repertoire in general use in English, a future blacklist of prohibited hymns will be very lengthy indeed.

    Third and most important, each language needs a fixed repertoire of hymns that corresponds to the calendar of feasts and the liturgical year, and the use of that repertoire and no other must be mandatory when chants are not sung. The rubric in the book needs to specify, e.g. “On the First Sunday of Advent, if you do not sing the Gregorian Introit Ad te levavi, this is the only hymn which is allowed to replace it in English. On the feast of All Saints, if you do not sing the Gregorian Intoit Gaudeamus omnes, this is the only hymn which is allowed to replace it in French.” Etc.

    I do not propose that such a project can realistically be done right now, nor do I propose that when circumstances more favorable to a general reform come about, the project should be done all at once. It would be grossly unjust to fob off on ordinary Catholics in the pews yet another liturgical revolution for which they are unprepared and which they do not want. The only thing that would be more unjust would be to leave them to go on singing, or more likely not singing, the terrible music which dominates in so many of our churches today.

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    At the invitation of Dom Mark Kirby, O.S.B., I gave a lecture at Silverstream Priory in Ireland on Friday, July 13, to the gathered community and some friends of the monastery. The monks have made the audio available at their SoundCloud page, with the following description:
    In this talk, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski explores the meaning of Tradition as understood by Catholics from the time of the Church Fathers onwards. Having explained how the notion of tradition is complex, Kwasniewski argues that all of tradition is important to Catholics, because by it the fullness of the Faith is transmitted to us. The liturgy is a primary example. Making too sharp a distinction between what is of the substance of liturgy and what is accidental to it, or what is essential and what is incidental, betrays a reductive, minimalist, and rationalistic viewpoint that is hostile to Catholic identity and worship. The traditional Roman liturgy is a composite reality that speaks to man at every level and draws him powerfully into the sacred mysteries. It is proving to be a major element of the New Evangelization for young adults who are exposed to it.

    A couple of excerpts:
    Although ecclesiastical traditions develop and change, the consistent practice of the Catholic Church over the centuries—it would, in fact, be no exaggeration to call it a rule or a principle—has been to carry along with her whatever is already part of her life, and the more so, the more universally it permeates the body of the faithful. Two corollaries follow. First, the longer the tradition, the more certain it is to be true, fitting, and beneficial. Second, new practices are to be admitted only when they refine, crystallize, amplify, or otherwise enhance traditions already in place.
    Acknowledging with Hervé that there are different kinds of tradition in the Church and that not all enjoy the same immutability or authority, we should nevertheless value the whole of our tradition, because all of its elements constitute the beautiful and subtle tapestry of the Faith. It is therefore not only misleading but dangerous to make too sharp a distinction between what is “essential” or “primary,” and what is “accidental” or “secondary.”
             For example, one hears it said: “All that matters at Mass is that Jesus is present; everything else is secondary.” Undoubtedly it matters a great deal that Jesus is present, for otherwise we are eating no more than ordinary food. But the liturgy has a greater purpose than putting on a meal for us, and even Jesus’ presence has a greater scope and purpose than sacramental communion. The Mass is the solemn, public, formal act of adoration, thanksgiving, and supplication offered by Christ the High Priest to the Father, and by His entire Mystical Body in union with Him. It is the foremost act of the virtue of religion, by which we offer to God a sacrifice of praise worthy of His glory. It is the chief expression of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. It is the inbreaking of the kingdom of heaven into our earthly time and space. It is the nuptial feast of the King of Kings. It is the recapitulation of the entire created universe in its Alpha and Omega.
             Because it is all this and still more, the Church down through the ages has spared no effort and no expense to augment the beauty and elevate the solemnity of her liturgical rites. As Pope John Paul II said in his final encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “Like the woman who anointed Jesus in Bethany, the Church has feared no ‘extravagance,’ devoting the best of her resources to expressing her wonder and adoration before the unsurpassable gift of the Eucharist.” So while it may be true that the only things necessary for a valid Mass in the Roman Rite are unleavened bread and wine of grapes, a priest, and the words of consecration, to see this as sufficient would betray a reductive, minimalist, and parsimonious view of things. Glorifying God and sanctifying our souls are deeply and intrinsically bound up with the fittingness of the worship we offer Him.
    Listen to the audio here.

    Monks praying the Office at Silverstream


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    On Thursday, July 26, the St Ann Choir will sing the Missa de Sancta Ana by Pierre de La Rue, along with the chant propers, for the feast of their Patron Saint. Fr Francisco Nahoe, OFM Conv., will celebrate the Mass in the Extraordinary Form at 8 pm at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, located at 751 Waverly Street, in Palo Alto, California.



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    In the liturgical Calendar of the Byzantine Rite, and in the two Carmelite Orders, July 20th is the feast of the Prophet Elijah. The Eastern tradition keeps almost all of the Prophets as Saints, and honors them as such in the liturgy. Veneration of Saints of the Old Testament is hardly known to the West, however, and where it is observed in the Latin rites, it arose under Eastern influence. The Carmelites, who came into existence as an Order in the Holy Land, honor Elijah as their founder, and keep his day as one of their patronal feasts, along with that of his disciple Elisha, on June 14th.

    Some time ago, I stumbled across this extraordinary icon of the Ascension of the Prophet Elijah, from the website of the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens.


    Painted by Theodore Poulakis in the second half of the 17th century, this icon comes from a church dedicated to St Elijah in Ano Korakiana on the island of Corfu; it was badly damaged after being stolen from the church and cut into pieces, but remains an impressive piece of work, and an interesting example of Western artistic influence on Byzantine sacred art. The central band is based on an engraving by Flemish artist Jan Wierix (see below); according to the Museum’s website, Flemish engravings were widely used as inspirations for icons in the Ionian islands from the 17th century on. It shows the Ascension of Elijah, with Elisha below his chariot receiving his mantle; on the left, Elisha shows the mantle to the “sons of the prophets” who had accompanied them to the Jordan, but not crossed over with them. (4 Kings 2)

    The engraving by Jan Wierix, from the website of the British Museum
    In the lower right of the central band, the patron who commissioned the work, a priest and monk named Sophronios Faskomelosis, identified by the inscription in front of him, kneels in prayer; on the opposite side is the city of Jerusalem. In the other bands are shown other episodes from the life of Elijah; at the upper left are three episodes from 3 Kings 17, where he first appears in the Bible, conversing with the widow at Sarephta, receiving food from a raven, and raising the widow’s son from the dead. In the lower band, the prophet defeats and slaughters the prophets of the idol Baal (chapter 18), and destroys the soldiers of the wicked King Ahab sent to apprehend him. All of the episodes depicted in this icon are traditionally read at Vespers of the Prophet Elijah in the Byzantine Rite. The artist’s signature is given at the lower left.

    An Apolytikion (dismissal hymn) from Vespers of the Prophet Elijah: The one hallowed before his conception, the Angel embodied, the mind of fire, the man of heaven, the godlike forerunner of the second coming of Christ. the glorious Elias, the foundation of the Prophets has spiritually invited all lovers of festivals to celebrate his godly memory. At his intercessions guard your people, O Christ God, untroubled from every kind of harm of the trickster.

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    One of the wonderful things about Italy is that even very small towns often have some really marvelous artistic treasures. As a follow up to a post on Wednesday, we continue with Nicola’s photos from the little town of Gravedona on the lake of Como, with the churches of Santa Maria delle Grazie and San Vincenzo. The former preserves a good amount of fresco work which can be dated from 1509 to roughly 1520; although the names of the families who commissioned them are included in several of the paintings, the artists are unknown.


    Lamentation over the Dead Christ
    A painted Crucifix mounted onto a fresco with the rest of the scene (the fainting Madonna, the two thieves etc.), and in the compartments of the lunette above, the Vision of Costantine and the Finding of the Cross.
    A fresco of Ss Ambrose and Jerome; below, the Madonna smacking the devil with a stick.
    Part of a cycle of the life of St Anthony the Abbot, 
    A fresco cycle of the life of St John the Baptist.
    St Nicholas of Tolentino, the first Augustinian friar to be canonized, with the Virgin and Child and St Augustine, and below, the martyrdom of St Agatha.
    The Madonna and Child with Ss Peter the Apostle and John the Baptist.


    Thre parish church of St Vincent (San Vincenzo) was built in the later 11th century; of the Romanesque church, there remains only the crypt, which is supported by 30 marble columns. The church’s proximity to the lake has left only a few traces of fresco decorations.

    The main church was radically reconstructed in the 17th century, and the sanctuary redcorated starting in 1735 with the work of the painter Carlo Carloni, who did the altarpiece of the Glory di St Vincent, and Michelangelo Bellotti, who painted the episodes of his life on the side walls.
    The trial of St Vincent before the prefect Dacian; note that the Saint is dressed as an Ambrosian deacon, with the stole on the outside of the dalmatic, and the cappino over his neck.


    Another landmark in Gravedona is the Palazzo Gallio, built in 1583 by Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio as his family’s residence, after he received from the Spanish Emperor Philip II the title and feudal rights of this area, which remained with the family until the revolutions of the late 18th century. 

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    In the Missal of St Pius V, the Creed is said on every Sunday, and several categories of feasts: all those of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, Angels, Apostles, Doctors, etc. To this list is added one other woman, St Mary Magdalene, in commemoration of the fact that it was she who announced the Resurrection of Christ, the foundation of the Faith, to the Apostles; for this reason she has often been called “the Apostles of the Apostles.” This custom was widely observed in the Middle Ages, but originally not accepted at Rome itself; the Ordinal of the papal liturgy in the reign of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) specifies that the Creed is not to be said on the feast, indicating that it was known to be done elsewhere. It was still omitted according to the rubrics of printed editions of the Roman Missal in the first half of the 16th century; its addition in the rubrics of 1570 is one of the rare cases where a new custom was added to the Roman Rite from elsewhere in the highly conservative Tridentine reform. (It was removed from her feast in 1955, and from the Doctors in 1961.)
    Two pages of a Roman Missal printed at Lyon, France, in 1500 (folio 95 recto and verso). The rubric about the Creed begins in the middle of the right column of the first page. Note that at the break between the two pages, St Bonaventure is listed as a Saint on whose feast the Creed is said; this edition was printed for the Franciscans, who counted him informally as a Doctor before the title was officially given in 1588. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Réserve des livres rares.)
    The Gregorian propers of her Mass (Introit, Gradual etc.) are taken from the various common Masses of holy women; in the Middle Ages, the Epistle was that of Holy Matrons, Proverbs 31, 10-31, “Who shall find a valiant woman? etc.” In the Tridentine Missal, a new Epistle was created, the Song of Songs, 3, 2-5 and 8, 6-7, which begins as follows.
    I will rise, and will go about the city: in the streets and the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, and I found him not. (quaesivi illum et non inveni.) The watchmen who keep the city, found me: Have you seen him, whom my soul loveth? When I had a little passed by them, I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him: and I will not let him go ...
    St Gregory the Great refers the words “I will seek him whom my soul loveth” to John 20, 11-18, when Mary meets Christ at the tomb and mistakes him for the gardener, in the Breviary homily for Easter Thursday.
    We must consider how great was the force of love that had enkindled this woman’s heart, who left not the tomb of the Lord, though even the disciples were gone away. She sought Him Whom she had not found there, (exquirebat, quem non invenerat) and as she sought Him, she wept, … Whence it came to pass that she alone, who had stayed behind to seek Him, was the only one who then saw Him.
    “When I had a little passed by them” (i.e. the watchmen of the city) then refers to tomb of the Lord being just outside the city, and the words “I held him: and I will not let him go” to her embracing the Lord, until He says to her, “Cling to me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.”
    ‘Noli me tangere’ by Jacob van Oostsanen, 1507. The words of John 20, 15, that Mary Magdalene at first thought the Risen Christ was the gardener gave rise to a delightful tradition of portraying Him with various gardening implements, such as the shovel seen here, or the kind of broad-brimmed hat often worn by gardeners.
    From the time of St Gregory, the Western Church accepted that Mary Magdalene was also the sinful woman who anoints Christ’s feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee, as recounted in Luke 7, 36-50, and this is traditionally the Gospel for her feast. This connection was probably made from the words that immediately follow this passage, or at least reinforced by them, Luke 8, 1-3. “And it came to pass afterwards, that he travelled through the cities and towns, preaching and evangelizing the kingdom of God; and the twelve with him: And certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities; Mary who is called Magdalen, out of whom seven devils were gone forth, And Joanna the wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who ministered unto him of their substance.” (Mark 16, 9 also refers to the seven devils.)

    She is also traditionally held in the West to be Martha and Lazarus’ sister, of whom Christ says in the same Gospel “Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10, 38-42) This passage is read on the feast of St Martha on July 29th, the octave of Mary Magdalene; from it, Martha has traditionally been seen as the symbol of the active life, and Mary of the contemplative. The same passage was then read also on the feast of the Assumption, a custom inherited, like the feast of itself, from the Byzantine Rite; this was understood allegorically in the Middle Ages to signify that in the person and life of the Virgin Mary are perfected both the active and the contemplative life.
    Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, by Henryk Semiradzki, 1886
    The Byzantine Rite (in which the Creed is said at every Eucharistic liturgy) keeps July 22 as the feast of the “Myrrh-bearer and Equal to the Apostles, Mary Magdalene,” and on June 4 commemorates “Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus the Just.” Neither of the two Marys thus distinguished is associated with the sinful woman of Luke 7, but the Gospel of Mary Magdalene’s feast day is the passage from Luke 8 noted above. The two sisters are traditionally numbered among the “Myrrh-bearers” who went to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ on the morning of the Resurrection, although they are not named as such by the Gospel; with them are included also Mary, the mother of James and Joses, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, Joanna and Susanna named in Luke 8, and Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee. They are commemorated as a group on the second Sunday after Easter, along with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. At Vespers of the preceding Saturday, the following idiomel is sung, paraphrasing Matthew 28 and Luke 24.
    Mary Magdalen and the other Mary came to the grave seeking the Lord, and they saw an Angel like lightning sitting on the stone, who said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He has risen as he said; in Galilee you will find him’. To him let us cry aloud, ‘Lord, risen from the dead, glory to you!’
    In the traditional Roman Rite, Matthew 28, 1-7 is the Gospel of the Easter vigil, which concludes with a very much shortened Vespers; the antiphon for the Magnificat is the beginning of the Gospel, “And in the end of the Sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulcher, alleluia.” Even though the term “Apostle of the Apostles” does not occur in the Roman liturgical books, the liturgy itself proclaims this role for her as the first person named in the accounts of the Resurrection.

    The church of Rome was traditionally very conservative about the addition of new texts to the Office; one often finds that the proper Office of a saint hugely popular in the Middle Ages, such as St Nicholas, is found in virtually every medieval Breviary except that of the Roman Curia, the basis of the Breviary of St Pius V. Such is the case with Mary Magdalene, whose Roman Office is mostly that of the common of Holy Women. She has proper antiphons for the Benedictus and the two Magnificats, but none for the psalms; there are also three proper hymns, although that of Matins is a single stanza and a doxology. Three responsories at Matins referring to her are borrowed from Easter, but the rest are taken from the common of Holy Women.

    Other medieval breviaries, however, adopted one of various proper Offices for the feast, of which the most interesting is that found in the Dominican Breviary. At First Vespers, the antiphon of the Magnificat reads as follows:
    Celsi mériti María, quae solem verum resurgentem vidére meruisti mortalium prima: óbtine ut nos visu gloriae suae tecum laetíficet in caelis.
    Mary of high merit, that first among mortals did merit to see the true Sun rising; obtain that He may grant us joy by the vision of His glory in heaven.
    And at the Benedictus:
    O mundi lampas, et margaríta praefúlgida, quae resurrectiónem Christi nuntiando, Apostolórum Apóstola fíeri meruisti! María Magdaléna, semper pia exoratrix pro nobis adsis ad Deum, qui te elégit.
    O lamp of the world, and bright-shining pearl, who by announcing the Resurrection of Christ, didst merit to become the Apostle of the Apostles! Mary Magdalene, of thy kindness stand thou ever before God, who chose thee, to entreat him for us.
    Outstanding among the responsories of Matins is the eighth, (necessarily not as beautiful in my translation).
    R. O felix felícis mériti María, quæ resurgentem a mórtuis Dei Filium vidére meruisti mortalium prima! Pro cujus amore, sæculi contempsisti blandimenta: * sédula nos apud ipsum, quæsumus, prece commenda. V. Ut tecum mereámur, o Dómina, pérfrui felicíssima ipsíus præsentia. Sédula.
    R. O happy Mary of happy merit, that first among mortals did merit to see the Son of God rising from the dead; for whose love thou disdained the blandishments of the world: * by thy prayer, we ask thee, commend us to Him with diligence. V. That with thee, o Lady, we may merit to enjoy his most happy presence. By thy prayer.
    The Office used by the Premonstatensians shares a number of texts with that of the Dominicans; it contains this very interesting and uncommonly long (and hence rather rarely used) antiphon:
    Fidelis sermo et omni acceptione dignus, quia Christus Jesus venit in hunc mundum peccatores salvos facere; et qui nasci dignatus est de Maria Virgine, tangi non dedignatus est a Maria peccatrice. Haec est illa Maria, cui dimissa sunt peccata multa, quia dilexit multum. Haec est enim illa Maria, quae resurgentem a mortuis prima omnium videre meruit Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, quem pro nostris reatibus oret, quaesumus, in aeternum.
    A faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners; and He that deigned to be born of the Virgin Mary, did not disdain to be touched by Mary the sinner. This is that Mary, to whom many sins were forgiven, because she loved much. This is indeed that Mary, who before all others merited to see our Lord Jesus Christ rising from the dead; and we ask that she pray Him forever for our sins.
    Lastly, we may note the Preface of her feast in the Ambrosian liturgy, another text that can only suffer in translation. 
    Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos te, Pater omnipotens, omni tempore glorificare, et in die festivitatis hodiernae Beatae Mariae Magdalenae exultantibus animis praedicare. Quam sic tui amoris igne accendere dignatus es; ut ad Christi Filii tui vestigia devota corrueret, et eadem pretioso unguento perfunderet. Osculari quoque, ac lacrimis rigare, et capillis non cessat extergere, donec audire promeruit, ‘Dimissa sunt tibi peccata, vade in pace.’ O beata fides, divinae misericordiae munita praesidio! O digna conversio, quae tantum munus accepit, ut quae antea draconis antiqui faucibus merito tenebatur astricta, plena jam gaudens libertate, sanctis Apostolis dominincae Resurrectionis mereretur esse praenuncia. Et ideo…
    Truly it is fitting and just, meet and profitable to salvation, that we glorify Thee, Father almighty, in every moment, and on this feast day of blessed Mary Magdalene proclaim Thee with spirits rejoicing. Whom Thou didst so deign to kindle with the fire of Thy love, that in devotion she fell at the feet of Christ, Thy Son, and anointed them with precious ointment; and ceased not to kiss them, to wash them with her tears, and wipe them with her hair, until she merits to hear, ‘Thy sins are forgiven go, in peace.’ O blessed faith, strengthened with the help of divine mercy. O worthy conversion, that merited to receive so great a gift, that she who was formerly deservedly held fast in the jaws of the ancient dragon, now rejoicing in complete freedom, should merit to be the first to announce the Lord’s Resurrection to the Holt Apostles. And therefore with the Angels and Archangels…
    The Penitent Magdalene, by Caravaggio, ca. 1594-95.

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    It is often assumed as a given that the only way to reach youths today with the message of Catholicism is to hand it to them on a platter of their own design, couched in the language of their world, with the soundtrack of their music. And while this approach has had its ephemeral successes, the once-promised mass conversion of young people to the Lord of the Dance has never materialized, with studies showing an accelerating exodus from all organized religion, including Catholicism, no matter how emotional and relevant we think we are making it. (I have frequently addressed what is wrong with the “deculturation” approach and why we should harness the uncanny “shock value” of tradition: see, for instance, here, here, here, and here.)

    What I want to write about today is the fact that there is a quiet counter-witness rising up from the very same young people to whom things like LifeTeen and the charismatic renewal are supposed to appeal, even though they often do not. Now I am not saying that these youths are the norm (if only!), but only that they represent a greater thoughtfulness and spiritual hunger than our society, and all too often, I'm afraid, our Church, believes to be possible in men and women their age.

    So, then, to the quotations I would like to share. In the final examination for my music course at Wyoming Catholic College, students wrote essays in which they tried to express why contemporary styles of music are not appropriate for the liturgy. While most of what they said was a rehashing of Pope Pius X and Benedict XVI (not a bad thing—would that we had more rehashing in a world of forgetfulness), there were certain statements that struck me as well said and full of wisdom. Here are a number of passages I transcribed from their handwritten finals.
    Man should be struck dumb with wonder at the immortal freshness of Christ’s unimaginable sacrifice and wish only to sing what is most like the choir of angels. Bringing in “rock Masses” or Praise and Worship not only fails to grasp the solemnity of the event, but turns it toward the people, who at that moment should be emptying themselves to God. … Far beyond accenting the participation of the individual, sacred music must aid men in decentering and forgetting themselves, so that they can melt like wax into the fire of the divine romance.
    Another student made a similar point about the incurving trajectory (incurvatus in se, as St. Albert the Great says of self-love) of what is fashionable to our own generation and reflective of our preoccupations:
    Instead of coming to worship God and conform oneself to His rationality, popular styles are necessarily the expression of a particular community. This quality encourages worship to cease movement towards God and reflect back to the congregation: it is their music, their choice, their expression of their emotions toward their God. Such action is not worship, but self-indulgence.
    (One has to admit that this student has put a finger on a problem that is now endemic to the Latin rite, with its option-ridden and pluralistic Novus Ordo and the availability of the Tridentine Mass as well as the Anglican Ordinariate, namely, that how we worship as Roman Catholics becomes a matter of choice rather than something inherited, accepted as a given. But discussion of this point surely belongs to a different post than the present.)

    Another student:
    The mysterious nature of the liturgy keeps us from comprehending it, but also draws us closer because of the beauty and depth.  If we destroy this sanctity through a desire for acceptance by contemporary culture, then we have abandoned the great mystery.
    And another:
    Arvo Pärt’s music now contributes to the manifestation and diffusion of God’s holiness, artistry, and universality.
    Could this not be said of all worthy sacred music? Its three qualities, as St. Pius X defined them in Tra le Sollecitudini, end up being a means by which God’s own perfect possession of those qualities is made known in the world.

    Yet another:
    Thus, “relevant” music should not bow to the influences of the century, but rather the truly relevant music of the liturgy ought to influence the people of the century to refocus and worship the presence of the Lord within the Mass.
    I like how this student redefined relevant as that which is inherently so, and therefore informs and impresses itself on people, to make them relevant, in a way, to it, and to the Lord it announces. We are the ones who are clay in the potter's hands, and we need to be reshaped until we are relevant to God, rather than the other way around.

    A different student had written in similar fashion:
    Far from seeking a temporary, debatable, and always shifting “relevance,” church music must retain within itself elements that will keep it relevant to tradition.
    That's a striking thought: our practices themselves, summoned to the court of truth, must defend their own relevance to the tradition we have inherited. If they are foreign to it, in tension with it, at oblique angles to it, they lose and tradition wins.

    Another student, drawing on insights of Ratzinger:
    Liturgical music must reflect the knowledge that liturgical action is an historical, cosmic, and mysterious reality. Pop music rejects the notion that sacred music takes part in a rich history which draws from its past as it develops. It also ignores the notion that worship is larger than any one person, any one group, or any one time; it drives all sense down into the particular alone. Finally, pop music treats worship as something to do, not as something to receive. In other words, the use of popular styles directly undermines the approach to God in the most insidious way possible; it preys on the congregation’s own enthusiasm and emotion towards their God and shuffles it back into themselves.
    The sacred, far from needing help from modern styles, remains relevant: it is a conduit to universal truths. With its ground in transcendent reality, true sacred music needs to shake off modernizing influences like dust from its feet.
    I find in the foregoing words an admirably precise critique of popular musical styles in the liturgy. They are bad, spiritually bad, because they are divorced from history, particularized, and activist, and thus anti-incarnational, anti-ecclesial, and anti-receptive. Essentially, this approach undermines Catholicism as such.

    Again:
    Pop music is not timeless. The music of the Church ought to be like her — transcending age, taste, mood, etc. However, pop music is specific to our modern time. We have decided to make shallow music for shallow men. We must remember that the music of the liturgy should reflect the reality it describes. Since the Mass contains mysteries ineffable and transcendent, should not our music reflect this? 
    Should it not, indeed? That is the million-dollar question, as they say, and it is only our Catholic tradition, in its lofty ideals and clear priorities amidst artistic variety, that furnishes an answer not doomed to premature obsolescence.

    A better paradigm

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    I have made the case in a series of articles (here and here) that a vital part of the antidote to the continued hemorrhaging of believers and failure to attract new converts to the Roman Church is prayer with sacred art. Roman Catholics must once again learn to engage with art in their prayer worship, I believe, if we want the Church to grow faster. And this applies as much to traditionalists as it does to liturgical liberals.

    You can read a simple presentation of the argument here; and a discussion of how St Thomas Aquinas’ 4th Way helps us to understand why sacred art is so vital to the mission of the Church, here.

    In regard to how we pray with sacred art, the general principle I have outlined is that we pray as we would normally, but engage with art visually as we do it. This is especially important in the context of the liturgy. The simple statement of this is: pray with your eyes open and look at a painting as you do so.
    St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child, by Rogier van der Weyden 1435-40
    All the spiritual directors I have had have emphasized the importance of a balanced prayer life which consists of liturgical prayer, i.e. worship at the pinnacle, but also of devotions and para-liturgical prayer, structured prayer done with others, and then personal prayer. While each has value in isolation, the greatest value of the latter two is forming us for the highest form of prayer, which is the first in this list, liturgical prayer. Each of these different sorts of prayers can be done in conjunction with appropriate visual imagery, and will be enriched if we do so.

    When books that I have seen talk about prayer with images, they tend to focus on personal prayer, and usually meditation and contemplative prayer. This is good as far as it goes, but they are less helpful if they do not explain the value of this prayer in relation to our pattern of prayer in general and the liturgy in particular. Unfortunately, they usually do not do this. And again, the point should be made, that the techniques described for prayer with sacred art even in the meditation and contemplative prayer are not really very different from those methods used ordinarily without sacred art, the only difference is that one looks at an appropriate painting while doing it.

    Take for example a method of visual prayer based on the method of praying with scripture called Lectio divina. The link I supply here is a simple explanation of Lectio - without images - I found on a Carmelite website. One point to note in regard to the use of terminology is that since the days of The Beatles and their association with Maharishi Yogi, the words meditation and contemplation have often been used interchangeably; when people say they “meditate”, they often mean one of the methods of Eastern religions in which one seeks to eliminate thought. In the Sixties, this mode of prayer became fashionable, and a plethora of related meditation techniques were spawned, as all sorts of people tried to offer instant enlightenment for the price of a cup of coffee a day, or something similar. There are even new-age influenced “Christian meditation” methods still around today that began in this period. The intention might have been to draw those seeking nirvana away from Eastern religions and to Christianity by offering something similar, but Christianized; but because they don’t come out of the Christian tradition, they often have the opposite effect. They take Christians away from Christianity to what they see as the purer, older, more traditional form of this sort of meditation.

    “Meditation” in the Western Christian tradition is very different, as we can see from the simple explanation given by the Carmelites, above. First of all, meditation and contemplation are two different things. Meditation in the Western tradition, in contrast to the popular understanding of the word, is active - we direct our thoughts to the chosen subject, i.e. we think about something. Contemplation is perhaps closer to the popular idea of meditation, but although passive, we are alert to and receptive to the thoughts that occur.

    Back to sacred art: I have seen a number of books that describe an equivalent to Lectio divina for visual imagery called variously Visio divina or Conspectio divina. (Latin scholars can decide which is the most appropriate). Instead of meditating on texts from the Bible, you meditate on the content of a well-chosen painting. I have heard it said that this technique of Lectio with sacred art can be traced back to St Claire of Assisi. (I don’t know the truth of this.)

    The common way of considering art is to analyze the content in detail, reading it as though it were scripture.

    I suggest that the images should be chosen to harmonize with liturgical practice. These could be images of the Feasts or Saint being celebrated on a particular day. In the ideal (which of course almost never happens in Roman churches) there would be a painting placed in church for that Mass that day, the sight of which immediately brings to mind and compresses all the fruits of the earlier meditation and contemplation into a package that is presented to us in a single moment.

    An alternative is to consider general themes of salvation history which are re-presented to us every time we go to Mass. Themes in salvation history are a pattern of events that relate to each of us in our personal pilgrimage of salvation. Once we grasp the idea of the interrelatedness of all things, by understanding how particular and significant episodes in scripture are related to each other, it facilitates a mode of thinking by which we more naturally place our own story, and hence ourselves into that picture. So, for example, the crossing of the Red Sea relates to the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan and the descent of the Spirit and then also our own sacramental Baptism and Confirmation, by which each of us dies and rises spiritually and receives the Spirit (1 Cor 10:1-5). Our foretaste of eternal life to come, like Israel eating manna in the desert on the way to the promised land, is our reception of Holy Communion, the pledge of our own future life and resurrection (John 6:54). Each of us has a story by which we die with Christ and as Christians are raised up with him too. I am reminded that this applies to me every time I walk into a church and cross myself with the holy water - ‘Jordan water’. Here is one that I do regularly, just to illustrate. It takes about 15 minutes of meditation and then I allow if I have time about the same for contemplation.

    I am not expecting anyone necessarily to do precisely what I do. Just from the passage above, you can see that there are alternative images to the ones that I have chosen below that one could focus on in order to enhance the subject of the meditation. Also, there are many expert theologians amongst you who could develop something far better, I am sure. My thought here is that it might encourage some of you to incorporate something like this into your own prayer lives in a way that will nourish your faith and worship. If you can come up with something than this, then please go ahead!

    So my program has eight meditations. I have offered one image per meditation, but there could be more than one some cases as you will see. I have prints of examples of these prototypes in my own icon corner at home and I look at them as I consider each one. I have done this often enough that if I meditate without the images, they appear strongly in my imagination.

    This little series of meditations takes me on a path that begins in the world and the leads me into the heavenly realm of the Mass and then I return to the world to complete the cycle. First, by Holy Spirit and the prayers of the saints and Our Lady, I come to Christ. Then through the triple sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and communion I enter into the mystery of the Trinity, partaking of the divine nature, and finally I go out into the world, to love and serve God and my fellows and, one hopes, better able to draw them to the Church each time this cycle is repeated.

    Each meditation uses the following structure: first, a statement that characterizes the image I am looking at, second a short hymn of praise (I have memorized Psalm 116(117)), third penitence, fourth petitions. Then there is a brief contemplation in which I repeat slowly the Jesus prayer eight times, ever quieter in my mind, before moving on to the next image.

    After the eight meditations are finished, I then I repeat the Jesus Prayer to myself, allowing it to become quieter and quieter as a thought in my mind - I imagine someone else saying it and that I am listening. I observe the thoughts that pop into my mind as I do this. If the train of thought is good I run with it and might even write a note down if I want to remember it. If it is bad, I return more actively to thinking the Jesus Prayer until it is eliminated.

    Before I start I do a short meditation of gratitude - in which I list 10 or so items from the day that are good and thank God for them and a review of conscience in which I acknowledge my sins and ask for forgiveness.

    Here we go!

    1. Blessed be God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three persons and one God.
                   Psalm 116 (117): O praise the Lord all ye nations, praise him all ye peoples, for his merciful kindness is more and more toward us; and the truth of the Lord endureth forever.
                   Lord have mercy (3 times)
    Prayer: Father, may the Holy Spirit lead me to Jesus, in Jesus Name, Amen.
                   Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner (8 repetitions)


    2. Blessed be God, in His angels and in His Saints.
                   Psalm 116 (117)
                   Lord have mercy (3 times)
    Prayer: Please you saints and angels in heaven, pray for me to Lord our God, that I may have all that I desire and all that is good for me, but only in accordance with His will. Father, hear our prayers, in Jesus Name, Amen.
                   Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner (8 repetitions)


    3. Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
                   Psalm 116 (117)
                   Lord have mercy (3 times)
    Prayer: Mary, Mother of God, please show me your Son, and pray for me to Lord our God, that I may have all that I desire, and all that is good for me, in accordance with His will. Father, hear our prayers, in Jesus Name, Amen.
                   Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner (8 repetitions)


    4. Blessed be Jesus Christ, True God, and True Man. Behold the Lamb of God.
                   Psalm 116 (117)
                   Lord have mercy (3 times)
    Prayer: Oh God, take away my sins and the fears and resentments that arise from them. Let me die with you spiritually through baptism Amen. I ask this through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns...etc Amen
                   Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner (8 repetitions)


    5. Blessed be Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, my Lord and my God.
                   Psalm 116 (117)
                   Lord have mercy (3 times)
    Prayer: Oh God, let me rise spiritually through confirmation and receive the Spirit. I ask this through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns...etc Amen
                   Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner (8 repetitions)
    6. Blessed be Jesus Christ, ascended into heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit the Paraclete descending upon us.
                   Psalm 116 (117)
                   Lord have mercy (3 times)
    Prayer: Oh God, let me partake of the divine nature and enter into the mystery of the Trinity through the Eucharist. I ask this through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns...etc Amen
                   Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner (8 repetitions)
    7. Blessed be God, Our Father in Heaven whom I behold through Jesus in the Spirit.
                   Psalm 116 (117)
                   Lord have mercy (3 times)
    Prayer: Oh Father, grant all that I deeply desire and all that is good for me in accordance with your will. I ask this through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns...etc Amen
                   Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner (8 repetitions)
    8. Blessed be Jesus Christ and His Mystical Body, the Church. Transfigured and shining with uncreated light. 
                   Psalm 116 (117)
                   Lord have mercy (3 times)
    Prayer: Oh God, let me shine with the Light of Christ as I go out into the world, that I may draw others to you, for their joy and peace and Your great glory. I ask this through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns...etc Amen
                   Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner (8 repetitions)
    Contemplation
    Then the contemplation stage begins. I always repeat Jesus Prayers as described in order to eliminate distraction, while being alert to other thoughts that crop into my mind.

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    On the day before Palm Sunday, I posted an image of the schedule of Holy Week services celebrated at Westminster Cathedral in 1939. Courtesy of Mr Richard Hawker, here is a scan of an edition of the Cathedral’s bulletin from the year 1911, which shows the complete regular schedule of services. (Click to enlarge.)

    Note that the entire Office is done in choir every day; of course, most of that would have been in recto tono. We may also note that the traditional discipline was maintained of having two Masses in choir on certain days, one after Terce for a feast, and another after None for a fast day coinciding with it. Mr Hawker informs me that whenever there was only one Mass to be said, Westminster had an indult from the SRC to sat it after Terce, even if it was that of a fast day, which would traditionally have been said after None. I imagine this arrangement must have been settled on as something which worked better with the schedule of the school and the regular congregation. The cathedral also has activities of five different confraternities scheduled during the week (Precious Blood, Blessed Sacrament, Holy Family, the Apostolate of Prayer, and the Holy Rosary), with sermons and benediction at four of them, plus Baptisms, the churching of new mothers, and Confirmations on a regular basis.

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    On November 4, the Catholic Art Guild will host its second annual conference with leading artists, architects, and theologians, to rediscover the power of beauty in the modern world.

    ​The one-day conference, entitled "Formed in Beauty," will feature Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor in Ordinary for Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland; Ethan Anthony, principal architect for Cram & Ferguson; Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, Thomistic theologian, liturgical scholar, and choral composer; and Juliette Aristides, Classical Realist Artist, Author & Founder of Aristides Atelier.

    The conference will open with an orchestral Latin Mass in the baroque splendor of Chicago’s historic St. John Cantius Church, with the Canons Regular who are well known for bringing beauty into worship. Conference presentations and discussions will take place at The Drake Hotel, followed by an elegant banquet and culminating in a stimulating panel discussion.

    Ticket sales help us to cover the cost of putting this and future events together for the Art Guild. We are extremely grateful for your support and hope you will join us for this amazing event!

    NB: Early-bird ticket special ends September 1, and those traveling from out of town should book hotel rooms ASAP so as to avail themselves of the special rate that ends a month before the event. Participants may also wish to consider coming in early for the annual Mozart Requiem on All Souls' Day at St. John Cantius.

    SUNDAY NOVEMBER 4th 2018
    The Drake Hotel & St. John Cantius Church
    Conference Agenda
    ​11:00 am    Choral High Mass St. John Cantius Church
    12:30 pm    Bus departs to Drake Hotel
    1:00  pm     Drake Hotel, Grand Ballroom: Registration
    1:15-2:00    Lunch Buffet, Drake Hotel, Grand Ballroom
    2:00-2:45   Speaker: Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, Catholic Artist
    2:45-3:00   Break
    3:00-3:45   Speaker: Juliette Aristides, Classical Realist Artist, Author & Atelier
    3:45-4:00   Break
    4:00-4:45   Speaker: Ethan Anthony, Principal Architect, Cram & Ferguson
    4:45-5:00   Break
    5:00-6:00   Keynote Address: Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor
    6:00-6:30   VIP Wine & Cheese Reception for Ticket Holders
    6:30-7:30    Dinner in the Gold Coast Room
    7:30-8:30    Q&A and Panel Discussion
    8:30-9:00    Social Time

    For more information about purchasing tickets, dinner, room reservations, and FAQs, please visit this link, or go directly to ticket sales (which repeats much of the same information).



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    In the Synoptic Gospels, St James the Greater appears as a particularly prominent figure among the Twelve Apostles. When the names of the Twelve are given as a group, he always appears in the first set of four, along with the brothers Peter and Andrew, and his own brother John. After his calling, which is described at the beginning of Our Lord’s public ministry in all three Synoptics, he appears with Peter and John as a witness of several notable events: the healing of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration, when Christ first revealed His divinity to his Apostles, and the Agony in the Garden. The Gospel of St Mark (3, 13-19) tells us that Christ gave to James and John the nickname “Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder”; this transcription of the Hebrew “b’nê regesh” may be intended to suggest something like “boan ergon” in Greek, “the work of shouting.” St Luke writes (9, 53-56) that when the Samaritans did not receive Christ, “James and John … said: ‘Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?’ And turning, He rebuked them, saying, ‘You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save.’ ” (The words in italics are missing in many ancient manuscripts.)

    The Transfiguration, by Duccio di Buoninsegna; one of the panels of the dismembered altarpiece of Siena Cathedral known as the Maestà, 1311, now located in the National Gallery in London. (Public domainimage from Wikipedia.)
    In the Gospel of St Matthew 20, 20-23, it is recounted that their mother, Salome, came to the Lord, “adoring and asking something of him. Who said to her: ‘What wilt thou?’ She saith to him: ‘Say that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom.’ And Jesus answering, said, ‘You know not what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink?’ They say to him. ‘We can.’ He saith to them, ‘My chalice indeed you shall drink; but to sit on my right or left hand, is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father.’ ” This is the traditional Gospel of St James’ feast, and also that of his brother John’s feast “at the Latin Gate”, which commemorates his martyrdom, in fulfillment of the Lord’s prophecy that “My chalice indeed you (plural) shall drink.”

    In the Acts, James is named once again with the other Apostles right after the Ascension (1, 13), but then only once more, at the beginning of chapter 12. “And at the same time, Herod the king stretched forth his hands, to afflict some of the church. And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also.” Concerning his martyrdom, the first among the Twelve, Eusebius of Caesarea records that “Clement (of Alexandria), in the seventh book of his Hypotyposes, (a work which is now lost) relates a story which is worthy of mention; telling it as he received it from those who had lived before him. He says that the one who led James to the judgment-seat, when he saw him bearing his testimony, was moved, and confessed that he was himself also a Christian. They were both therefore, he says, led away together; and on the way, he begged James to forgive him. And he, after considering a little, said ‘Peace be with you,’ and kissed him. And thus they were both beheaded at the same time.” (Church History 2, 9)
    15th century reliquary of St James the Apostle in the cathedral of Pistoia, which also contains relics of his mother, Maria Salome, as well as St Martin of Tour, and two local early martyrs, priests named Rufinus and Felix.
    The tradition that St James went to Spain and began the work of evangelizing that country is a fairly late one; it was unknown to writers of the early centuries, and even explicitly denied by St Julian, the archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain in the later 7th century. The Golden Legend of Bl. James of Vorgaine devotes very little space to it, saying merely that “he went to Spain, to sow the word of God there. But when he saw that he was making no progress there, and had made only nine disciples, he left two of them there to preach, and taking the other seven with him, returned to Judaea.” These are traditionally known as the “Seven Apostolic Men”, Saints Torquatus, Ctesiphon, Secundus, Indaletius, Caecilius, Hesychius and Euphrasius; the Tridentine Martyrology has an entry for them on May 15th, which states that the Apostles ordained them as bishops and sent them back to Spain, where they preached the Gospel in various places. The Golden Legend goes on to give a lengthy account of St James’ martyrdom, which includes the conversion of a magician named Hermogenes; at the end, a story is told of how his relics were translated to Spain, one which does much to enhance the author’s reputation for excessive credulity.

    Lest it seem that too much credulity is given here to the hagiographical skeptics, even the pre-Tridentine Roman Breviary shows great reserve about these traditions, giving no space to any part of the legend of St James, not even the very ancient story recorded in Eusebius. All nine of the Matins lessons for the feast are taken from a homily of St John Chrysostom on the day’s Gospel, in which he says much in praise of Salome as one who followed Christ, and was principally concerned with the eternal salvation of her sons. In the Tridentine Breviary, a new set of readings was composed for the second nocturne, which sum up the traditional story as described above. It also notes that James’ death took place around the time of the Jewish Passover, but that his feast day is kept on the day of the translation of his relics to the famous cathedral at Compostela.

    The church of Rome was always very slow to accept new liturgical texts; one often finds that a Saint who was hugely popular in the Middle Ages had a proper Office elsewhere, but was celebrated in the Roman Use with a Common Office. Such is the case with St James. At Compostela itself, an Office was sung with a completely proper set of own antiphons, responsories and hymns, which refer to the tradition of his coming to Spain, the presence of his relics, and his frequent aid to the Spanish kings in liberating the peninsula from the Moors during the Reconquista. One of the best of these antiphons was then received by the Dominicans for the Magnificat at First Vespers of his feast, although they did not take on any of the rest of the propers from Compostela.

    O lux et decus Hispaniae, sanctissime Jacobe, qui inter Apostolos primatum tenes, primus eorum martyrio laureatus! O singulare praesidium, qui meruisti videre Redemptorem nostrum adhuc mortalem in Deitate transformatum! Exaudi preces servorum tuorum, et intercede pro nostra salute omniumque populorum.

    A superb motet by the Spanish composer Ambrosio Cotes (1550-1603), with the first words of the antiphon given above.

    O light and glory of Spain, most holy James, who among the Apostles holdest the primacy, the first of them crowned with martyrdom! Our special defense, who merited to see our Redeemer transformed in the Godhead while yet a mortal! Hear the prayers of thy servants, and intercede for our salvation, and of all peoples!

    St James is traditionally depicted in the garb of a pilgrim, with a broad hat and a staff, even though he is the destination, and not the traveler. This is not done with other Saints whose tombs or relics were popular pilgrimage centers, indicating perhaps that to the medieval mind, a trip to Compostela was thought of as the pilgrimage par excellence. This may have something to do with its location at almost the westernmost point in continental Europe. Compostela is about 48 miles from a town on the Atlantic called “Fisterra”, which literally means “the end of the land”; pilgrims would often take an extra couple of days to go as far as the ocean itself, beyond which it was believed that there was nothing but more water to the other side of the globe. (Technically, Cabo da Roca in Portugal is 15 minutes of longitude further to the west.)
    St James the Greater dressed as a pilgrim, by Ferrer et Arnau Bassa, ca. 1347; from the Diocesan Museum of Barcelona (Courtesy of Schola Sainte Cécile).
    The third element which identifies St James in art is a scallop shell, a custom which ultimately derives from the medieval laws collectively known as the Peace of God. These laws prohibited armed men from bothering various classes of people, including all women and children, clerics and monks, pilgrims, merchants and Jews. Women and children are obviously such, clerics and monks were identified by their tonsure; the other groups habitually wore something to identify them as members of one of the classes entitled to the protection of the Peace of God. For pilgrims, the hat and staff were not at first sufficiently distinct to serve that purpose, and so they would wear something else to indicate their destination. The scallop shell showed that one was traveling as a pilgrim to or from the shrine of St James, along the Galician coast where scallops grow in abundance. This became so well know that even today, the German word for “scallop” is either “Jakobsmuschel – James’ mussel” or “Pilgermuschel – a pilgrim mussel.”

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    The Saint Vincent Gallery has asked us to publish a reminder (which we are very happy to do) that the deadline is drawing near for submissions to the Seventh Nationwide Juried Catholic Arts Competition and Exhibition.

    The Biennial Nationwide Juried Catholic Arts Competition and Exhibition was established in 2001 by the late Br. Nathan Cochran, O.S.B, the fruit of his untiring pursuit of the cultivation and revival of the Sacred Arts. His hope was to give artists who work in Catholic subject matter an opportunity to dialogue with the Church and pastors, in the hope of creating new, original artworks for churches and liturgical spaces. For the third Competition and Exhibition, famed British art historian Sister Wendy Beckett served as judge; she praised Br. Nathan’s endeavors, noting that, “Artists often come to understand their faith by the actual creation of artworks. We need these artworks, these attempts by artists known or unknown, to share with us their understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Would that there were hundreds of Brother Nathans in all countries!”

    Some previous entries: “Crucifixion” by James Langley

    “St Michael” by David and Suzann Miriello

    He has Risen by Jeffery and Anna Koh Varilla
    The postmark entry deadline for artwork is Monday, Aug. 3 and Monday Aug. 3 at 11:59 p.m. for online submissions. Cash prizes will be awarded at the opening of the exhibit on Sunday, Oct. 28. These include a $1,000 best-of-show, $750 second place award, $500 third place award and four juror mentions of $250 each. The exhibition will be held from Tuesday, Oct. 30, through Sunday, Dec. 2, in The Saint Vincent Gallery located on the third floor of the Robert S. Carey Student Center. The competition is open to any artist, professional or amateur, of any religious background, who is age 21 or older. All entries must be original by the submitting artist and created within the past five years. Previously submitted works are ineligible.

    Complete entry guidelines, including submission forms, are available at http://gallery.stvincent.edu

    Click to Submit Your Entry Online

    Click to Download Entry Form

    For information on contributing to the sponsorship of the Competition, see the St Vincent Gallery website, or this downloadable pdf.

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    Come, my chosen one, and I will set thee as my throne, for the King has desired thy beauty.
    V. Pray for us, o blessed Anne.
    R. That we may be made cleansed of all evils in this life.
    Let us pray. O God, who willed that the blessed Anne, that was long sterile, should be made fertile with glorious progeny, also for the salvation of the human race, grant that all who venerate the mother for the love of her daughter may merit to rejoice in the presence of them both at the hour of death. Through Christ, our Lord. R. Amen.

    From a late 15th-century book of Hours according to the Use of Lyon, once owned by Claude of Lorraine, the first Duke of Guise (1496-1550). Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Ms-655 réserve, folio 147 v/r.

    Aña Veni electa mea, et ponam te in thronum meum, quia concupivit (Rex) speciem tuam.
    V. Ora pro nobis, beata Anna.
    R. Ut mundemur ab omnibus malis in hac vita.
    Oreums. Deus, qui beatam Annam die sterilem prole voluisti gloriosa et humano generi salutifere fecundari: da, ut omnes qui ob amorem Filiae Matrem venerantur, utriusque presentia in hora mortis gaudere mereantur. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. R. Amen.

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    Holy Family Parish in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, within the Diocese of Greensburg, recently completed a very nice restoration and de-wreckovation. Under the leadership of Fr Daniel Mahoney, V.F., the parish put back the ornately patterned ceiling, a high altar, murals of varies “modern” Saints around the nave, as well as all new lighting and sound system, etc. The decorative work, murals, and painting were done by EverGreene Architectural Arts; the restored churched was blessed with the dedication of the new altar by Bishop Edward Malesic on June 25, 2017. Our thanks to Mr Christopher Pujol, a seminarian of the diocese of Greensburg, for sharing these photos with us, and our congratulations to Fr Mahoney and Bishop Malesic for bringing beauty back to this church. Ad multos annos!

    The church prior to the renovations of 1967. Notice the murals, ornamented ceiling, and the similarity to the newly restored high altar seen below. Images of the Holy Family crown the arch.
    This is the 1967 renovation of the church as pictured in the commemorative booklet from the consecration; the high altar, pulpit, and all decorative paintings have been removed.
    The altar installed in 1967 was granite, and consecrated with the rite in the revised Pontifical of 1961, according to the commemorative booklet of the day. The relic chamber can be seen in the front of the altar where the relics from the original altar were placed; these have now been moved to the new high altar. The booklet from 1967 notes “This restoration observes the prescriptions given in the tradition of the Roman Church, assigning dignity to the altar by due attention to essentials and not to temporary decorations.”
    A more modern photo of the church prior to the restoration of 2017.
    The restored church played off the original design by returning the Holy Family to the arch; Christ the Divine Teacher takes the center position, as the parish school is claimed in His name. The focus again becomes the great window of the crucifixion in the apse, as well as the restored high altar with tabernacle.
    The new high altar comes from a closed church in the Archdiocese of Baltimore; it is strikingly similar to the original altar of Holy Family. The relics deposited within the mensa are the same from the original high altar.
    The beginning of a celebration of Low Mass at the new High Altar, by Fr Daniel Mahoney, assisted by Mr Christopher Pujol, June 2018.


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    This is our annual post on the discrepancies between the traditional arrangement of the Roman Breviary and the new rubrics of 1960; the first such discrepancy appears at Vespers tomorrow evening. Previous versions of this post were done to explain the difference in dating the September Ember Days, but this year, they are the same in both systems.

    One of the changes made to the Breviary in the revision of 1960 regards the arrangement of the months from August to November.

    The first Sunday of each of these months is the day on which the Church begins to read a new set of scriptural books at Matins, with their accompanying responsories, and antiphons at the Magnificat at Vespers of Saturday; these readings are part of a system which goes back to the sixth century. In August, the books of Wisdom are read; in September, Job, Tobias, Judith and Esther; in October the books of the Macchabees; in November, Ezechiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor Prophets. (September is actually divided into two sets of readings, Job having a different set of responsories from the other three books.)

    The “first Sunday” of each of these months is traditionally that which occurs closest to the first calendar day of the month, even if that day occurs within the end of the previous month. This year, for example, the first Sunday “of August” is actually July 29th, the Sunday closest to the first day of August.

    The beginning of the antiphons and readings from the Sapiential books, in a Breviary of the second half of the 11th century, from the Abbey of St Martial in Limoges, France (now destroyed). Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 775, folio 52r.
    In the 1960 revision, however, the first Sunday of the months from August to November is always that which occurs first within the calendar month. According to this system, the first Sunday of August is the 5th this year.

    This change also accounts for one of the peculiarities of the 1960 Breviary, the fact that November has four weeks, which are called the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth. According to the older calculation, November has five weeks when the 5th of the month is a Sunday, as it was last year. (This is also the arrangement that has the shortest possible Advent of 3 weeks and one day.) According to the newer calculation, November may have three or four weeks, but never five. In order to accommodate the new system, one of the weeks had to be removed; the second week of November was chosen, to maintain the tradition that at least a bit of each of the Prophets would continue to be read in the Breviary.

    The Sundays for the rest of the liturgical year, according to the traditional system:
    July 29th - the 1st Sunday of August (The readings from the Sapiential books begin.)
    August 5th - the 2nd Sunday of August
    August 12th - the 3rd Sunday of August
    August 19th - the 4th Sunday of August
    August 26th - the 5th Sunday of August

    September 2 - the 1st Sunday of September
    September 9 - the 2nd Sunday of September
    September 16 - the 3rd Sunday of September (Ember week)
    September 23 - the 4th Sunday of September

    September 30 - the 1st Sunday of October (The books of the Maccabees begin.)
    October 7 - the 2nd Sunday of October (commemorated on the feast of the Holy Rosary)
    October 14 - the 3rd Sunday of October
    October 21- the 4rd Sunday of October
    October 28- the 5th Sunday of October (commemorated on the feast of Christ the King; Ss Simon and Jude transferred to the following day.)

    November 4 - the 1st Sunday of November
    (The second week of November is omitted this year)
    November 11 - the 3rd Sunday of November
    November 18 - the 4th Sunday of November
    November 25 - the 5th Sunday of November

    The Sundays for the rest of the liturgical year, according to the 1960 system:
    July 29- the 10th Sunday after Pentecost (the second week of readings from 4 Kings.)

    August 5th - the 1st Sunday of August (The readings from the Sapiential books begin.)
    August 12th - the 2nd Sunday of August
    August 19th - the 3rd Sunday of August
    August 26th - the 4th Sunday of August

    September 2 - the 1st Sunday of September
    September 9 - the 2nd Sunday of September
    September 16 - the 3rd Sunday of September (Ember week)
    September 23- the 4th Sunday of September
    September 30 - the 5th Sunday of September

    October 7 - the 1st Sunday of October (The books of the Maccabees begin.)
    October 14 - the 2nd Sunday of October
    October 21 - the 3rd Sunday of October
    October 28 - the 4th Sunday of October (The entire Office of the Sunday, and the commemoration of the Apostles Ss Simon and Jude, are omitted on the feast of Christ the King)

    November 4 - the 1st Sunday of November
    November 11 - the 3rd Sunday of November
    November 18 - the 4th Sunday of November
    November 25 - the 5th Sunday of November

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    The Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in the Lombard town of Agliate was built between the mid-9th and mid-11th centuries, but owes its current appearance to significant restorations done in the 1890s. A significant amount of ancient Roman material was incorporated into the structure of the church, which has three naves, as well as the sacristy, bell-tower and detached baptistery. Thanks once again to Nicola for the pictures.

    The bell-tower and baptistery on the south side of the church.
    In 1578, during a pastoral visit by St Charles Borromeo, the altar in the baptistery’s apse was demolished, and a reliquary in three parts was discovered underneath it, datable to the end of the 6th or beginning of the 7th century. The external container in stone (right), decorated with palms and crosses, had inside it the very finely-made silver capsule seen here on the left, with the round chrismon on the main side, and the alpha and omega. A third container, made of glass and now lost, was inside the silver one, and contained the relics. The form of the reliquary is quite different from any other found in the region, and suggests the shape of the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
    The main apse of the Basilica.
    The elevated sanctuary, with the crypt underneath it (accessed through the low arches on either side of the staircase that leads into the presbytery) is very typical of early medieval Italy. Very little of the church’s fresco decoration has been preserved, and that in rather poor condition.
    The pulpit is a modern work of 1894, successfully imitating the style of the period when the church was originally constructed.
    Part of the relics of St Blaise are kept in one of the side altars.
    A late 15th-century fresco of the Madonna and Child on the wall to the right of the main altar.
    A Roman capital carved with dolphins and a trident, which may have been reused from the ruins of a temple dedicated to Neptune.

    The high, flat walls, typical of the Ottonian period, would originally have been covered with frescoes.
    A Romanesque capital in the crypt.

    The baptistery stands on the south side of the church; the structure has nine sides, two of which are united in the lower part to form a large apse. Here, more of the fresco work from two different periods is preserved, and in better condition.
    The ancient font.
    The apse where the reliquary mentioned above was found.
    A 15th-century fresco of the hermit St Onuphrius.
    15th-century frescos of St Blaise and the Madonna and Child.
    A palimpsest fresco; the Madonna and Child above, and the Apostles Andrew and James below, were painted in the 14th century, covering the original layer of fresco, which is now partially exposed as pieces of the newer layer have fallen off.
    Some of the original frescos from the time of the baptistery’s construction in the 11th century. The scene over the apse was that of the Baptism of Christ.
    Angels coming to attend Christ.
    The Calling of Ss Peter and Andrew.
    A Deposition of the 14th century, in the style of Giotto.
    A paleochristian funerary stone, of “the reader Albinus”.

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    On the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, today is the feast of a group of four Saints, the martyrs Nazarius and Celsus, who are traditionally said to have died at Milan in the middle of the first century, and Popes Victor I (ca. 189-99) and Innocent I (401-17). On the traditional Ambrosian Calendar, the two martyrs have the day to themselves, and their feast is kept with a vigil; there is also a feast of the translation of Nazarius’ relics on May 10th.
    The high altar of the church of the Holy Apostles and St Nazarius, commonly known as “San Nazaro in Brolo”, with the relics of St Nazarius.
    In 395 AD, their bodies were discovered by St Ambrose in a garden outside the city; when the tomb of Nazarius was opened, his blood was seen to be as fresh as if he had just been wounded. His relics were then taken to a basilica which Ambrose had constructed about 15 years earlier, and dedicated to the Twelve Apostles; a large apse was added to the church, and the relics laid to rest in a crypt in the middle of it. In 1578, in the course of building a new altar for the church, a silver reliquary contemporary to the original construction of the basilica was discovered under the high altar, with relics of the Apostles Ss Peter and Paul inside it. St Ambrose himself attests that these relics had been given to him by Pope St Damasus I, for the first dedication of the church to the Twelve Apostles; St Charles was rather disappointed to find that they were not relics of their bodies, but relics “by contact”, pieces of cloth that had touched the Apostles’ bones. Nevertheless, he donated one of his own copes to wrap up the relics of St Nazarius, the Apostles, and four of his Sainted predecessors among the archbishops of Milan, who were buried in the church. The reliquary is now displayed at Museum of the Archdiocese of Milan; thanks to Nicola for all of these pictures.

    On the lid of the reliquary are shown Christ and the Twelve Apostles. On the lower left are seen the baskets of fragments collected by the Apostles after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes; on the lower right, the six vessels of water turned into wine during the Wedding at Cana. The custom of representing Christ beardless to distinguish Him from the Father was still common in this era, although soon to fade away. The classical style of all five of the panels is very typical of the highest quality artworks of the era, as one would expect from a work commissioned by a man of aristocratic background and high political rank like St Ambrose; this is particularly evident in the pose of the standing figures, which are very reminiscent of the better Roman statues.
    Joseph sitting in judgment on his brothers; the young prisoner on the left is Benjamin, the older one on the right is Judah. The hat worn by Joseph and the other brothers, known as a Phrygian cap, was generically associated by the Romans with peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond, and often adopted by the Christians to represent the characters in the Old Testament.
    The Three Children in the Furnace, also wearing the Phrygian cap, and the angel that comes to make the inside of the furance cool.
    The Judgment of Solomon.
    The Virgin Mary seated on a throne with the Christ Child in her lap. The servants to either side offer them precious gifts on plates in a manner reminiscent of the ceremonies of the imperial court.
    A closer view of the relics of St Nazarius.
    The cope given by St Charles to wrap the relics as described above, now itself a relic.
    The church of St Celsus, originally constructed in the 4th century, but completely rebuilt in the 11th.

    The relics of St Celsus.
    The church houses an exceptionally well preserved paleo-Christian sarcophagus made in the first half of the 4th century, perhaps even earlier. On the far left, the Nativity, with the infant Jesus in the stable between an ox and an ass, and the angel over the stable; the Three Magi, all pointing to the star; Christ in the middle with Ss Peter and Paul; the women at the tomb; and St Thomas touching the side of Christ.

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    Like the Byzantine liturgy, the traditional Roman liturgy is characterized by many examples of what we might call “purposeful repetition.”

    The Asperges antiphon and the Introit antiphon are repeated after their verses and doxologies. The doxology is said many times throughout Mass. Psalm 42 as laid out at the start features a number of repeated phrases. The Kyrie, of course, has nine petitions in three sections (3 x 3), of which the outer members are verbally identical. The Confiteor is said by the priest, then repeated by the servers with small differences, and then said again later in the Mass, right before the communion of the faithful. The Domine, non sum dignus is said three times by the priest, and then three times by the servers (either alone or together with the faithful). If we look beyond the Mass to the Divine Office, we see many more examples.

    Most of these repetitions were discarded or brutally reduced in the liturgical reform, purportedly in pursuance of Sacrosanctum Concilium 34, which called for the reduction of “useless repetitions” (repetitiones inutiles, or ineptas as the original draft read).

    St. Gertrude the Great was privileged with some of the most wondrous and detailed visions that any saint has ever received. In her Revelations, we read about a mystical Mass celebrated by Our Lord, in which Gertrude saw the Eternal High Priest Jesus Christ offering the High Mass in the convent. Here is the part that pertains to the Kyrie:
    At the first Kyrie eleison, He granted her the remission of all the sins which she had contracted through human frailty; after which, the angels raised her up on her knees. At the second, He pardoned her sins of ignorance; and she was raised up by these princes, so that she stood before God. Then [at the third] two angels of the choir of Cherubim led her to the Son of God, who received her with great tenderness.
            At the first Christe eleison, the Saint offered our Lord all the sweetness of human affection, returning it to Him as to its Source; and thus there was a wonderful influx of God into her soul, and of her soul into God, so that by the descending notes the ineffable delights of the Divine Heart flowed into her, and by the ascending notes the joy of her soul flowed back to God. At the second Christe eleison, she experienced the most ineffable delights, which she offered to our Lord. At the third Christe eleison, the Son of God extended His Hands, and bestowed on her all the fruit of His most holy life and conversation.
            Two angels of the choir of Seraphim then presented her to the Holy Spirit, who penetrated the three powers of her soul. At the first Kyrie eleison, He illuminated her reason with the glorious light of Divine knowledge, that she might always know His will perfectly. At the second Kyrie eleison, He strengthened the irascible part of her soul to resist all the machinations of her enemies, and to conquer every evil. At the last Kyrie eleison, He inflamed her love, that she might love God with her whole heart, with her  whole soul, and with her whole strength. It was for this reason that the choir of Seraphim, which is the  highest order in the heavenly hosts, presented her to the Holy Ghost, who is the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, and that the Thrones presented her to God the Father, manifesting that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are One God, equal in glory, co-eternal in majesty, living and reigning perfect Trinity through endless ages.[1]
    On another occasion, we read of how “the saint receives a triple absolution and benediction from the  Blessed Trinity, through the merits of Jesus Christ.” Once again this threefold mystical grace was granted precisely during the Kyrie of the Mass:
    As the saint heard Mass one day with the greatest fervour, it appeared to her that her guardian angel took her in his arms as if she were a little child, at the Kyrie Eleison, and presented her to God the Father, to receive His benediction, saying: “Eternal Father, bless Thy little child.” And because for a time He replied not, as if He would testify by His silence that so miserable a creature was unworthy of this favour, she began to enter into herself, and to consider her unworthiness and nothingness with extreme confusion. Then the Son of God arose, and gave her the merits of His most holy life to supply her defects, so that she appeared as if clothed with a rich and shining robe, and as if she had attained to the full age and strength of Jesus Christ.
            Then the Eternal Father inclined lovingly towards her, and gave her His absolution thrice, as a sign of the triple remission of all the sins which she had committed against His omnipotence in thought, word, or deed. The Saint offered in thanksgiving the adorable life of His only Son; and at the same time the precious stones with which her garments were adorned emitted a harmonious concert to the eternal glory of God, which testified how agreeable it is to Him to offer Him the all-perfect and holy life of His Son.
            The same angel then [at the Christe] presented her to God the Son, saying: “Bless Thy sister, King of Heaven”; and having received from Him a triple benediction, to efface all the sins she had committed against the Divine Wisdom, he then presented her to the Holy Spirit, with these words: “O Lover of men, bless Thy spouse”; and she received from Him also a triple benediction, in remission of all the sins which she had committed against the Divine Goodness.
            Let those who read this reflect on these three benedictions at the Kyrie Eleison.[2] 
    By the time St. Gertrude was beholding these visions (she lived from 1256 to ca. 1302), most of the great Kyrie chants of the Gregorian repertoire had already been composed. These chants artistically exploit the musical balance and contrast made possible by a 3+3+3 structure. Perhaps the most stunning example is the Kyrie of Mass IX, the Missa cum jubilo:

    The very fact that an age-old structure, numerologically luminous, on which mystical visions and musical masterpieces had been built up, was put aside by a committee of self-styled “experts,” shows the extent to which the reform proceeded from crass contempt for liturgical tradition and sacred music, in spite of what Sacrosanctum Concilium had said elsewhere. How many examples of this sort of thing, examples sadly available ad nauseam, would it take to convince the fence-sitters that the reform deserves nothing better than the rubbish bin?

    The ninefold Kyrie of the Mass is obviously directed to the Holy Trinity, as its oddness of number blocks any impression of “call and response.” It is not a dialogue between “presider and assembly” but a cry of the faithful to the Most Holy Trinity. The sixfold Kyrie, on the other hand, is a textual expression of the anthropocentric “closed circle” of which Ratzinger wrote: the priest or cantor calls out “Lord, have mercy” to the people, and they respond to the priest or cantor. The object of the prayer (the Holy Trinity) is in tension with the structure of it (a binary this-that, back-and-forth) — since one set of Kyrie eleison/Christe eleison/Kyrie eleison, as in the monastic Office, would have sufficed, if God were the one being addressed.

    Let me try to express this point again: the ancient ninefold Kyrie was replaced with a sixfold Kyrie in order to facilitate an “active participation” construed verbally and extrinsically, for there is no other textual, ritual, or musical justification for it.[3] We see here how utilitarian considerations outweighed continuity with tradition, aesthetics, and theological coherence. The lumbering sixfold Kyrie is symptomatic of the entire mentality behind the Novus Ordo, a point Henry Sire captures well in his book Phoenix from the Ashes:
    The achievement of the liturgical purists, as they condemned the incoherences of the old rite, has thus been to introduce far more incoherences in the rite they have invented. The reason for this is the lack of integrity in their intentions, but it also stems from the method used when the Consilium set about recasting the liturgy. The Mass was divided into sections and each one given to a separate committee to revise. The result was that each part of the Mass had to be slightly tampered with; otherwise the committee concerned would not have justified its existence. The changes made follow no liturgical logic. In the Kyrie eleison, the old threefold repetition, going back to the earliest days of the Church, has been replaced by a twofold one. This was in pursuance of the Modernists’ principle of abolishing ritual repetitions. Yet, if that were logically followed, there is no reason why the prayer should not be reduced to Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, or indeed to Kyrie Christe eleison. Thus both logic and tradition go overboard so that a committee should do its petty meddling. At the same time, while one committee pruned repetitions here, another was introducing them in another part of the Mass, those of the responsorial psalm and the bidding prayers, which show repetitions of a kind from which the old rite was free. In their poverty of conception, the innovators’ rule was that repetition was wrong unless they could think of nothing better themselves.[4]
    Sire has put his finger on an irony that few have dared to speak about, namely, that the Novus Ordo exhibits more and worse defects in some of the very areas against which the cancer-phase Liturgical Movement directed its blazing arrows. Thus, we find far more useless repetition in the Novus Ordo than in the traditional Mass. Think about the Prayer of the Faithful: how many millions of times have we wearily said “Lord, hear our prayer” to the laundry-list of ill-formulated, poorly-read petitions at the podium? Or how many times have we repeated the response to the responsorial psalm, while visions of Hallmark cards danced in our heads, or we wondered if we or the rest of the people would remember the response, or whether all this has any point to it except to give the unemployed some work to do? Those who rejected the repetitions of tradition were punished for their pride with the lackluster redundancies of concocted rites.[5]

    Time for everyone's favorite liturgical gesture! 

    In the Byzantine Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Lord, have mercy is sung over 40 times by the people. The cascading petitions create an aura very like that which silence creates in the Roman Rite. An Eastern Orthodox Christian online wrote the following, to someone’s objection about the number of Kyrie’s in the liturgy:
    I have found that the more I say it, the more genuine I get. It’s like the first 10 times I’m slowly getting rid of all distracting thoughts. The next 10 times, I’m starting to get my myself in the right frame of mind for prayer. The next 10 I’m starting to think about the meaning behind each word. Then during the final 10 I can actually pray it from my heart.[6]
    The fact that lip service is paid to the “ancient and glorious East” by the very liturgists who savagely denuded the Roman Rite (or the Ambrosian or Mozarabic, etc.) or who today defend its naked state shows up the intellectual dishonesty of the reforms and their pursuit of agendas at all costs, even at the price of consistency of principle. The Eastern liturgical tradition contains countless examples of textual and ritual repetition on a scale far more extravagant than anything the Latin tradition ever boasted. Take the liturgy of baptism, with its many threefold statements; or the multitude of prostrations in penitential seasons.

    At the end of the day, the problem boils down to this: is usefulness, “cash value” so to speak, the best or ultimate criterion of whether something belongs in the liturgy or not? Let us ask this question: Is it useful to contemplate God? Do we justify our contemplation by saying that research shows that it strengthens the brain, promotes good sleep and low blood pressure, and leads to statistical improvements in cheerfulness? Or is it something worth doing for its own sake, or rather, for God’s sake — and therefore, not surprisingly, something beneficial to us? Similarly, repetition, which is always meaningful and profitable when done in faith, hope, and charity, is a discipline primarily aimed at offering God praise, adoration, and glorification, an earthly likeness of the song of angels crying out “Holy, holy, holy…” in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity.

    It is therefore strange, passing strange, that the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy should tell us that repetition must be “useful.” It is useful, but not in a utilitarian way, as David Clayton has recently explained — and yet, it is hard to see how the Council meant anything other than a surrender to modern American pragmatism: let’s get things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Boyz, we got things to do!

    The solution, as it always has been and always will be, is to treat with the utmost respect all that proceeds from the mouth of God in His liturgical Providence. The ninefold Kyrie of the Mass was just such a thing, coming to us from ancient times, stretching unbroken through the dark centuries of Roman decline, the bright centuries of the Middle Ages, the tempestuous centuries of Reformation and Revolution. No one would have thought of changing it — no one, that is, until the cretans who believed that their lego-brick liturgies, assembled in study weeks, were superior to the vintages of Christendom matured over long ages. In verses that apply equally well here: “When they knew God, they have not glorified him as God, or given thanks; but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:21–22). And: “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain” (1 Cor 3:20). Or perhaps most aptly of all: “Omnes declinaverunt, simul inutiles facti sunt” (Ps 13:3). Kyrie, eleison.

    NOTE

    [1] Source: The Life and Revelations of St. Gertrude (London: Burns & Oates/New York: Benziger, 1870), of which a typo-ridden version is available here.

    [2] Ibid.

    [3] I am aware that when litanies are recited, there is a doubling of the Kyrie rather than a tripling. But this is the authentic structure of the litanies, even as the ninefold structure was the authentic structure in the Mass. It flies in the face of all respect for inherited rites to do violence to an ancient (6th-century) structure in order to bring it into conformity with a modern predilection for call-and-response mechanisms.

    [4] H. J. A. Sire, Phoenix from the Ashes(Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2015), 261.

    [5] And please do not tell me that the responsorial psalm was something ancient that, having been forgotten, was rightly revived. In the form in which it was re-launched in 1969, and above all in the manner in which it is done, it has nothing to do with ancient practice.

    [6] This comment is from a thread in which various Orthodox laymen are discussing the benefits of repetition in liturgical prayer. It interests me especially because there is no indication that anyone in the discussion is a theologian or a liturgist; they are just ordinary folks trying to live their tradition, as we should do.


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  • 07/31/18--08:05: Modern Russian Relief Icons
  • The Work of Olga Shalamova and Philip Davydov at Sacred Murals Studio

    It is imagined by some today that the iconographic tradition, which we tend to associate first with the styles of Greek and Russian icons, is an unbroken tradition. The Eastern iconographers, it is said, remained true to its principles, unbending, while the artistic traditions of the Roman Catholic Church degenerated under the influence of the Enlightenment and modernity.

    In fact, the story is not so simple as that. While there was no High Renaissance in Russia, for example, some aspects of the Enlightenment did take hold there, and we see neo-classical influences in Russian icons after the time of Peter the Great.

    The great work of restoring the tradition was done largely, but not exclusively, by Russian expatriates living in Paris in the mid-20th century. These are both theorists such as Leonid Ouspensky, Vladimir Lossky, and Paul Evdokimov, and painters who worked them with such as Gregory Kroug, Ouspensky again (who was both painter and theorist), the Greek Fotius Kontoglou, and the Egyptian Copt Isaac Fanous, who died in 1970.


    It is a tribute to how successful they were that many today are unaware of their importance. The quality of iconography we see painted today is so high and consistent with the works of the past that many imagine that the line of quality was never broken. This should be an encouragement to those of us who are seeking to see a similar regeneration of the Western traditions. It is possible!

    Another mark of a living tradition is that it continually reinvents itself without contravening the core principles that define it. Every tradition must reapply its core principles to speak to the people of its age, otherwise it will die. It must discerningly engage with the culture outside the church building, taking those elements that are consistent with its Christian form. Then it is equipped to speak to contemporary man and will, in turn, enrich the contemporary culture in which it now participates.

    This adaptation to the modern age in a way that does not compromise the essential elements is what we are seeing happening in modern iconography. It is exciting to see how iconographers from Russia, for example, are so sure of their own foundations that they can create an authentic 21st-century iconography that nevertheless is connected to that of Andrei Rublev and Dionysius, artists of the medieval Novgorod school.

    The work of Olga Shalamova and Philip Davydov, who together founded the Sacred Murals Studio in St Petersberg, in my opinion conforms to this ideal. Theirs is work that could never have been done in the 15th century; the color palette and the film-animation influenced flow of the line that defines the forms is of today. Yet they are authentic and beautiful holy icons. They are also excellent teachers who regularly give workshops in the US, Italy, and Australia, and I would encourage anyone who is serious about learning to paint icons to consider them as teachers.

    I intend to show some of Philip’s icons next week, but this week offer the relief sculpture of Olga. She “sculpts”, because she builds up layers of gesso (ground chalk set in animal glue) in selected areas, bit by bit, rather than carving, which is cutting down into a deep, flat layer. Gesso is the ground which is usually used in icons as the surface put onto the wooden substrate and on which one paints. This how Olga is able to combine the relief image with some restrained use of color.

    The Last Supper

    St Isaias the Prophet
    The Adoration of the Magi

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    For the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, here is a very Baroque musical setting of the Psalms and hymn of his Second Vespers, composed by Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726), an Italian Jesuit missionary in South America. The Magnificat is done here in Gregorian chant, followed by an instrumental sonata and an orchestral Te Deum.
    A few interesting things to note here. Unlike basically all other religious orders, the Jesuits did not have a proper Office for their founder; these texts are all taken from the Common Office of a Simple Confessor, which can be found in any edition of the traditional Breviary. The first Psalm is done in Gregorian chant, the others in polyphony with orchestral accompaniment, a deliberate gesture of respect, I imagine, to the older musical traditional. I don’t know why Zipoli did not include the Magnificat in his setting; perhaps the church for which he wrote this already had a setting which they did not wish to change.

    St Ignatius and the Jesuits have taken a lot of criticism, much of it fair, and much of it unfair, for their approach to the liturgy, and especially the Divine Office, which they have never done in choir as an order. It should always been be borne in mind that the liturgical situation of Society and the whole Catholic Church was very different before the Age of Revolutions began in the later 18th century. (I outlined this in my series on the reforms of the Breviary several years ago, specifically in reference to the Jesuits: see parts 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3.) And yet, here we have a very elaborate setting, (which I admit is not entirely to my own personal tastes) not of a Mass, but of Vespers, written by a Jesuit, in an era when the solemn celebration of Vespers was still regarded as a very important part of any major feast. I have also read more than once that particularly in South America, the Jesuit missionaries quickly discovered that many of the native populations were incredibly talented at music, and put those talents to good use in the reducciones.

    Domenico Zipoli was born in Prato in Tuscany, and after his early training, which included a brief stint with Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples, he became the organist of the main Jesuit church in Rome, the Gesù, at the age of only 23. A year later, he went to Seville in Spain to join the Society; as a novice, he was sent to Buenos Aires, and from there to Córdoba in what is now Argentina, where he completed his studies, but was never ordained, since there was no bishop available at the time to ordain him. He died on tuberculosis in 1726, at the age of only 38, but his fame as a composer had spread thoughout South America; the Spanish Viceroy in Lima wrote to Córdoba, which is over 2,000 miles away, to request copies of his works, which are also found in the musical archives of many of the reducciones. (For a sense of perspective, Zipoli himself had less distance to travel to get from Rome to Seville.)

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