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    Our thanks to everyone who sent in these photos of their Epiphany liturgies; we will definitely be doing a second photopost for the feast, so there is time to send in yours if you haven’t already done so. ( Once again, we manage to cover most of the feast’s many liturgical bases, especially the blessing of water, which is becoming more popular with each passing year, the blessing of chalk, and the proclamation of the movable feasts. Evangelize through Beauty!

    Pontifical Shrine of Our Lady of Mt Carmel - New York City
    blessing of Water
     blessing of chalk
     veneration of a relic of the Holy Crib
     St Agnes - New York City
    St Mary’s Parish - Kalamazoo, Michigan
     Tradition will always be for the young!
     blessing of water
    St Mary’s Oratory -Wausau, Wisconsin (ICKSP)
    blessing of water on the vigil
    Proclamation of the movable feasts
    Holy Family - Columbus, Ohio
    Immaculate Heart of Mary Oratory - San Jose, California (ICKSP)
    Courtesy of the Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco
    Church of the Rosary - São João Del Rei, Minas Gerais, Brazil
    Mass in the Ordinary Form, followed by a procession with the image of the Child Jesus, Te Deum,  and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

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    The introit of the Third Sunday after Epiphany begins with the same words as another antiphon from the Matins of that feast, “Adore God, all ye His Angels.” The reference to Epiphany is even more explicit in the Gradual, taken from the one-hundred-and-first psalm, “The nations will fear thy name, o Lord, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory.”

    On the previous Sunday, the Church reads of the first miracle occurring in the Gospel of St John; on this Sunday are read the first two miracles in the Gospel of St Matthew (8, 1-13), namely, the healing of a leper, and of the servant of the centurion of Capharnaum. The Roman centurion, when asking for the cure of his gravely ill and beloved servant, declares himself the inferior of a provincial carpenter, unworthy to receive Him into his home. This Gospel is therefore not simply the story of a miracle, but also of the nations’ confession of the divinity of Christ; even the might of the Roman Empire humbles itself before Him, as the Magi did at His birth. The story of the centurion is one of the very few that is used more than once in the temporal cycle of readings, being also the Gospel of the Thursday after Ash Wednesday. In the liturgical rite which originated in Rome, and is now celebrated in every corner of the world, his confession of faith in Christ has been part of the rite of Holy Communion for many centuries.

    Christ and the Centurion, by Paolo Veronese, ca. 1571
    The remaining Sundays of the season after Epiphany have their own prayers and Scriptural readings, but their Gregorian antiphons are repeated from this third Sunday. On the fourth Sunday, the last which can occur before the Christmas season ends on the Purification, the Gospel recounts yet another manifestation of Christ, the calming of the waters of the Sea of Galilee. (Matt. 8, 23-27) Up to this point in St Matthew’s Gospel, the miracles he recounts have all been healings; this is the first miracle of dominion over inanimate creation. This Gospel was perhaps also chosen as a vague reminiscence of the Office of the Epiphany, in which the antiphon of the Benedicite reads, “Seas and rivers, bless the Lord, sing to the Lord a hymn, o fountains, alleluja.” The last two Sundays after Epiphany always fall after the Christmas season ends on February 2nd, and the Gospels chosen for them are no longer manifestations of Christ, but parables.

    At most of the Masses associated with the Epiphany, (the vigil, the feast, the two Sundays after the feast), the text of the Communion antiphon is taken from the Gospel. On the third Sunday, however, it is taken from a Gospel text that is not read at all in the Missal of St Pius V. In the Tridentine missal, the ferial days of most seasons have no proper Scriptural readings, but simply repeat those of the previous Sunday, a custom well-established in Rome long before Trent. Many medieval missals, on the other hand, including those of Sarum, Liège and most of the churches of the German Empire, preserve an older custom of the Roman Rite, whereby proper readings were assigned to the Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year. The story from St Luke’s Gospel of Christ in the synagogue at Capharnaum, (4, 14-22), is assigned by the very oldest surviving Roman lectionary, the seventh-century Wurzburg manuscript, to an unspecified day after the Sunday of the wedding at Cana. After Christ reads a passage from the book of Isaiah, He declares the words of the prophet to be fulfilled in by His coming to Israel; it is the Lord Himself who manifests to the world the true meaning of the words of sacred Scripture. This Gospel’s former presence in the corpus of Mass-lessons is the origin of the Communion antiphon which is sung until Septuagesima Sunday arrives; “All wondered at these things which proceeded from the mouth of God.”

    The ancient lectionaries and medieval missals add a number of other Gospel episodes to the season, such as the arrival of Christ in Galilee (Matt. 4, 12-17), and several of the early healings performed by Him. The miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and the feeding of the five-thousand is also occasionally counted as part of the Epiphany story. The Ambrosian liturgy’s Epiphany hymn Illuminans altissime devotes three strophes to this event, more than it gives to the coming of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ or the Wedding at Cana; then, curiously no further reference to it is made until the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, when it is read from the Gospel of St Luke (9, 10-17). The same hymn is sung in the Mozarabic Rite, whose preface of the feast also dwells at length upon the event, but the Gospel itself is never read in the Epiphany season. The Wurzburg lectionary assigns the story to be read twice in the seventh week after Epiphany, first from St Mark and then from St Matthew, but these readings are not in the eighth-century Murbach lectionary, or the medieval missals.

    The Crucifixion, by Ottaviano Nelli (1421-24), from the chapel of the Palazzo Trinci in Foligno, Italy; Blessed James of Voragine, who was archbishop of Genoa, Italy from 1292 until his death in 1298 or 99, is the bishop on the left. (Photograph by Georges Jansoone from Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0)
    Blessed James of Voragine, the author of the much maligned (and unjustly so) Golden Legend, says that the feast commemorates four miracles, and, citing the authority of the Venerable Bede and of the aforementioned hymn, notes that the feast was also called Phagiphania, from the Greek word for eating. He also notes, with some of the critical spirit he is habitually attacked for lacking, “but concerning this fourth miracle, it is doubted whether it happened on this day, both because this is not read in the original text of Bede, and because it is said in the sixth chapter of John, where this miracle is dealt with, ‘Easter was nigh.’ ” (Legenda aurea cap. 14)

    Sicard of Cremona agrees in rejecting this tradition as “not authentic”, and it is very likely that the prominent position of the story on Laetare Sunday is the reason why it was early on removed from the Epiphany season. As the church of Milan sings in an antiphon of Epiphany Matins, “Thou alone hast wrought many wonders, o Lord God,” and some must be saved for the rest of the Church’s year.

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    We recently reported on a very nice restoration project at the Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the diocese of Knoxville, in which three new altars were installed, along with a new reredos for the main sanctuary, and a good deal of carpeting removed from the church’s original hard pine flooring. A final stage of the project has now been completed, with installation of a new tabernacle in the main sanctuary, and the return of the altar rail around it. Fr J. David Carter, the pastor and rector of the basilica, wrote to his parishioners that the altar rail is being used as a way of encouraging people to kneel for the reception of Holy Communion, in the hopes that it will serve to foster belief in and greater reverence for the True Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament - feliciter!

    The new altar rail in use.

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    Our last photopost for the Twelve Days of Christmas completes the round of Epiphany blessings with two of gold, frankincense and myrrh, one in the Philippines, and one at the FSSP’s new apostolate in my native city, Providence, Rhode Island. As always, we are grateful to everybody who took the time to send these photos in; the next photopost will be for the very end of the Christmas season on Candlemass. Evangelize through beauty!
    St Peter’s Church - Volo, Illinois (Canons Regalar of St John Cantius)
    Blessing of water
     blessing of the church door
     veneration of the statue of Baby Jesus after the Spanish-language Mass
    Mater Ecclesiae - Berlin, New Jersey
    blessing of chalk
    Our Lady of the Sacred Heart - Cebu City, Philippine Islands
    blessing of gold, frankincense and myrrh
    St Mary’s - Providence, Rhode Island (FSSP)
    blessing of gold, frankincense and myrrh
     blessing of water
    proclamation of the movable feasts
    St Margaret Mary - Oakland, California (ICKSP)
    Immaculate Heart of Mary - Belmont, California (ICKSP)

    Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church - Roswell, Georgia
    The Divine Liturgy of St Basil on the morning of Theophany, with the Great Blessing of the Water, followed by a procession around the outside of the Church. The procession is done for the parish’s patronal feast day; at each corner of the church building, a brief Gospel passage was read to symbolize the duty of the parishoners to go out and preach the Gospel.

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  • 01/12/19--23:03: The Psalms of the Epiphany
  • In the traditional Roman Divine Office, the only Hours which change their Psalms according to the specific feast day are Matins and Vespers. [1] On the majority of feasts, the first four Psalms of Vespers (109-112) are taken from Sunday, but Psalm 113, the fifth and longest of Sunday, is substituted by another; on the feasts of martyrs, by Psalm 115, on those of bishops by 131, etc. There are, however, four occasions on which Psalm 113 is not replaced, three of which are very ancient indeed, and the fourth relatively recent in origin.

    The three ancient feasts are Easter, Pentecost and Epiphany, on which it is said on the day itself and through the octave. (Some medieval Uses, however, vary this.) This custom reflects the traditional baptismal character of these celebrations, which goes back to the very earliest days of the Church.

    The Psalm numbered 113 in the Septuagint and Vulgate is really two Psalms joined together, those numbered 114 and 115 in the Hebrew. [2] It is the first of these which speaks of the passage of the Jews out of Egypt, and then of the Crossing of the Jordan into the Holy Land.

    The Crossing of the Red Sea, depicted on a Christian sarcophagus at the end of the 4th century from Arles, France. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Marsyas, CC BY-SA 3.0; click to enlarge.)
    “When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people: Judea became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion. The sea saw and fled (i.e. the Red Sea): the Jordan was turned back. … What ailed thee, O sea, that thou didst flee: and thou, O Jordan, that thou wast turned back? … At the presence of the Lord the earth was moved, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into pools of water, and the stony hill into fountains of waters.”

    The Church has always understood the story of the Exodus as a prefiguration of salvation in Christ, and specifically, the Crossing of the Red Sea as a prefiguration of the Sacrament of Baptism. The reading of the relevant passage from Exodus is attested in the very oldest surviving homily on the subject of Easter, the Paschal homily of St Melito of Sardis, from the mid-2nd century; it begins with the words “The Scripture about the Hebrew Exodus has been read”, and this custom continues into every historical Christian liturgy. Following the lead of St Paul, who says that the rock which provided water to the children of Israel in the desert was Christ (1 Cor. 10, 4), St Melito attributes all of the events of the Exodus directly to Him.

    “This was the one who guided you into Egypt, and guarded you, and himself kept you well supplied there. This was the one who lighted your route with a column of fire, and provided shade for you by means of a cloud, the one who divided the Red Sea, and led you across it, and scattered your enemy abroad. This is the one who provided you with manna from heaven, the one who gave you water to drink from a rock, the one who established your laws in Horeb, the one who gave you an inheritance in the land, the one who sent out his prophets to you, the one who raised up your kings. This is the one who came to you, the one who healed your suffering ones and who resurrected your dead.”

    Psalm 113, therefore, which speaks of the Red Sea fleeing to make passage for the children of Israel as they go out of Egypt, and the rock that becomes a pool of water, is perfectly suitable to the two most ancient feasts on which the Church celebrates the Sacrament of Baptism, Easter and Pentecost. Likewise, on Epiphany, the Church commemorates the Baptism of Christ in the waters of the Jordan, to which the Psalm also refers. On the fourth feast, that of the Holy Trinity, which was instituted much later, it reminds us that our Faith in the Trinity was first manifested on the occasion of Christ’s Baptism, when the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove, and the Father spoke from heaven; and likewise, of the baptismal formula which Christ gave to the Church, as recounted in Matthew 28, 16-20, the Gospel of Easter Friday.

    The Baptism of Christ, by Giusto de’ Menabuoi; fresco in the baptistery of Padua, ca. 1378.
    The nine psalms of Epiphany Matins are 28, 45 and 46 in the first nocturn, 65, 71 and 85 in the second, and 94, 95 and 96 in the third. The antiphons with which they are sung, and which determine their meaning for the feast, are attested quite uniformly in the ancient antiphonaries. The choice of these psalms and antiphons reflects some very ancient interpretative traditions found in the writings of the Church Fathers.

    Psalm 28 is sung with an antiphon taken from its first two verses: “Bring to the Lord, o ye children of God: adore ye the Lord in his holy court.” The full text of these verses is “Bring to the Lord, o ye children of God: bring to the Lord the offspring of rams. Bring to the Lord glory and honour: bring to the Lord glory to his name: adore ye the Lord in his holy court.” The antiphon removes the three objects from the verb “bring”; the act of bringing is in itself to sufficient indicate the gifts which the Magi brought to Christ at the Epiphany.

    Although St Matthew does not specify how many Magi there were, the representation of three of them is one of the most ancient and consistent traditions of Christian art. It is commonly assumed that artists settled on three to correspond to their three gifts, which, in turn, have been read from very ancient times as symbols of Christ’s divinity, mortality and regality. This is undoubtedly true, but there is another, equally important reason for showing three. The Greeks, following the Babylonians, divided the world into three parts, Asia, Africa and Europe; this division predates Christianity, but was received by Christians and Jews as part of their sacred history. Each continent was believed to be populated by the descendants of one of the sons of Noah, Asians from Shem, Africans from Ham, and Europeans from Japheth. The three Magi are therefore the symbolic representatives of these three parts of world, coming to worship the Creator and Savior.

    A third-century fresco in the Roman Catacomb of Priscilla, showing the three Magi each painted in a different color, to indicate that each one represents one of the three parts of the world.
    Particularly in Rome, where people from every part of the Empire lived, an image of three Magi represents the revelation of Christ as the Redeemer of all men, and the coming of all peoples to salvation. The antiphon of Psalm 28 on Epiphany reflects the fact that the gentiles are also numbered among the “sons of God.” The antiphons of Psalms 65 and 85 are chosen on a similar theme. “Let all the earth adore thee, and sing to thee: let it sing a psalm to thy name, o Lord.” (Psalm 65, 4) “All the nations thou hast made shall come, and adore before thee, O Lord.” (Psalm 85, 9) Pope St Leo I quotes the second of these in his third sermon on the Epiphany. [3]

    The Church Fathers also associate Psalm 28 with Christ’s Baptism. St Basil teaches that the words of verse 3, “the voice of the Lord is upon the waters” refer to St John the Baptist. (Homily 2 on Ps. 28) St Ambrose understands them to refer to the appearance of the Three Persons of the Trinity (De mysteriis 5.26), and likewise St Peter Chrysologus writes in a sermon on the Epiphany, “Today, as the prophet saith, the voice of the Lord is upon the waters. Which voice? ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Sermon 160)

    A work known as the Breviarium in Psalmos, (traditionally but incorrectly attributed to St Jerome), explains the words of the antiphon of Psalm 45, “the stream of the river maketh joyful the city of God,” as a reference to the both the waters of baptism and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “After the worship of demons is overthrown, the washing of baptism and the pouring fourth of the Holy Spirit maketh joyful the soul, the city of God, or else the Church which is the city of God that is set upon a mountain, and is not hidden.”

    The Adoration of the Magi, from the Benedictional of St Aethelwold, ca. 975. By this point the tradition has emerged of showing the Magi with royal crowns, inspired by the words of Psalm 71 cited below, and a verse of the Epistle of the Mass of Epiphany, “And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising.” (Isaiah 60, 3)
    A commentary on the Psalms of the later 4th century, formerly attributed to Rufinus of Aquileia (345-411), reads the antiphon of Psalm 71, “The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts” (verse 10), in reference to the Magi. “The Magi, led by a star, fulfilled this bodily, and the kings and princes of all the earth still do not cease to imitate them even daily. … by these gifts which are said to be brought to Lord, those faithful men are indicated, whom the authority of kings brings into the society of the Church.” It then refers the following verse, “And all the kings shall adore him”, to the end of the worship of the Roman emperors, for the sake of which Christians were so often persecuted before the reign of Constantine. “All the kings shall adore him, who were formerly wont to be adored, … and all nations that were formerly wont to serve earthly kings, will serve Him, that is our heavenly King.” (Commentarius in LXXV Psalmos; PL 21, 0939B). The mention of kings from three places in the East (Tharsis, Arabia, and Saba) also fits in with the traditional artistic representation of three mentioned above.

    Psalm 94 was clearly chosen for the close similarity between its words “venite, adoremus, et procidamus ante Deum – come, let us worship, and fall down before God,” (verse 6 of the Old Latin version) and those of the Gospel, “venimus adorare eum. … et procidentes adoraverunt eum – we have come to worship him … and falling down they worshipped him. ” (Matt. 2, verses 2 and 11.) The antiphon with which it is sung on the Epiphany is therefore “Come, let us worship Him, for He is the Lord, our God.” This Psalm is normally said at the beginning of Matins every day with a refrain called an invitatory, which is repeated in whole or part between its verses. On the Epiphany, however, the invitatory and Psalm 94 are omitted from the beginning of Matins, and the psalm is said in the third nocturn, with the antiphon repeated between the verses in the manner of an invitatory.

    In his Rationale Divinorum Officiorum (6.16.9), William Durandus also notes this prosaic explanation for omitting the invitatory on Epiphany, the mere avoidance of repetition. Before it, however, he explains that the invitatory is omitted “to show that the Church in its first fruits came from the gentiles to the Lord, not invited, or called by a herald, but with only the star to lead it, … so that shame might be inculcated on those who are late to believe, even though they have many preachers. For the Magi came to worship Christ, even though they were not called.” He then gives a second explanation, a more traditional one which dates back to his ninth-century predecessor, Amalarius of Metz: “Secondly, so that we who are daily invited and urged to worship and beseech God, may be seen to detest the deceitful invitation of Herod when he said to the Magi, ‘Go and inquire diligently concerning the Child.’ ”

    A page of 1490 Breviary according to the Use of Passau, Germany. In the right column, the rubics just above the middle of the page begins “At Matins, we do not say the Invitatory, so that we may differ from Herod’s deceitful invitation.”
    [1] The regular psalms of Sunday Lauds (92, 99, 62-66, the Benedicite, and 148-149-150) were traditionally said on all feast days in the Roman Rite. In the reform of St Pius X, psalms 66, 149 and 150 were removed, but the group thus reduced continued to be used on all major feasts, including Pentecost. The psalms of the day hours were likewise traditionally invariable for all feasts (53 and the eleven parts of 118), and those of Compline always invariable; this was also changed in the reform of St Pius X, but not in a way that applied to major feasts like Epiphany.

    [2] There are four places where the Psalms are joined or divided one way in the Hebrew and another in the Greek. There are also psalms which both traditions have as a single text, but are generally believed to be two joined together, (e.g. 26), and others which both traditions have as two (41 and 42), which are generally believed to have originally been one, later divided. It is quite possible that these variations come from ancient liturgical usages of which all knowledge has long since been lost. Likewise, the meaning of many words and phrases in the titles of the Psalms had already been lost when the Septuagint translation was made in the 3rd century B.C.

    [3] It is tempting to think of this as proof that the antiphon itself goes back to the time of St Leo, but it is of course just as possible that its unknown composer was inspired to choose this text by reading Pope Leo’s sermon.

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  • 01/13/19--16:43: The Baptism of the Lord 2019
  • This day, when the Lord was baptized in the Jordan, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit descended like a dove, and remained upon Him, and the voice of the Father sounded forth like thunder: * This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. V. The Holy Ghost descended upon Him in a bodily shape like a dove , and a voice came from heaven. This is My beloved Son... (The first responsory of Matins of the Baptism of the Lord.)

    The Baptism of Christ, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, ca. 1655.
    R. Hodie in Jordáne baptizáto Dómino aperti sunt caeli, et sicut columba super eum Spíritus mansit, et vox Patris intónuit: * Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complácui. V. Descendit Spíritus Sanctus corporáli specie sicut columba in ipsum, et vox de caelo facta est. Hic est Fílius meus...

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    NLM readers may wish to know about a new magazine, Calx Mariaepublished four times a year by Voice of the Family in the U.K. The editor, Maria Madise, invited me to do an interview on the theme of “Beauty—God’s Messenger,” for the third issue, which recently appeared in print. I hope I am allowed to say, in spite of being a contributor myself, that I find the content and the production values extremely high. It is truly one of the nicest publications I’ve seen in a long time, and a sight for sore eyes in these days of internet-dominated news and features. For subscriptions and copies of individual issues, visit this link.

    With the editor’s permission, the full interview is reproduced below.

    Maria Madise: Throughout history, the Church has sought out beautiful music, art, architecture and the finest craftsmanship. Why do these things play a crucial role in Catholic spirituality and formation? 

    Peter Kwasniewski: The reason is simple: we were made by God as creatures of flesh and blood. We learn through our senses. When God revealed the Law to Moses, He made use of a lofty mountain, lightning, thunder, dark clouds, blood, and stone tablets. When He commanded the building of the tabernacle, He showed the pattern of it in fine detail, demanding the most expensive materials. When God spoke to Elijah, He first made a lot of noise, and then revealed Himself in a “soft, small voice.” When Our Lord wished to give Himself most intimately to His disciples, He used bread and wine, in the midst of a highly structured religious ritual. We can think of thousands of examples from divine revelation of “theophanies,” that is, the manifestation of God in various signs and figures. The Jewish liturgy in temple and synagogue continued this pattern, and obviously Christian liturgy did as well, moved above all by the miracle of the Son of God Himself taking on flesh and blood. The Catholic Faith, with the power of the Incarnation behind it, developed the richest and most beautiful culture the world has ever known—but all in the service of pointing beyond itself, to God.

    What is the purpose of beauty? Is it practical or functional?

    Beauty is God’s first, last, and most effective messenger. We learn that the world is good and orderly because of the beauty of nature, which we only later come to understand intellectually. And just as we come to know God through His divine artistry, we see the inner beauty of the human person most of all in the great works of human art. A painter like Rembrandt helps us to see the immense, almost heartbreaking beauty of an old man or old woman’s face, which we might otherwise rush past or even find ugly. Christ Himself is “the fairest of the sons of men,” as Scripture says, but He allowed Himself to become “a man of sorrows,” marred beyond belief, to tell us something unforgettable about the invisible Beauty of love, of sacrifice for love. The Church therefore cannot and must not flee from her role of introducing mankind to this immortal Lover, both in the beauties that appeal to our senses, and in the deeper mystery that no sense can reach.

    What is the role of beauty in the formation of children and young people? 

    The first thing a baby notices in the world is his mother’s face, which establishes a first and permanent vision of beauty—not necessarily as the world sees it, but because love discloses the truth.

    As a child grows in the family, his parents have the serious obligation to train him or her in a love of the beautiful by reading good stories, memorizing poetry, putting up good artwork, making art together, and attending liturgy that is outwardly very beautiful, if at all possible. All these things are part of a subtle and pervasive education of taste, sensibility, instinct, and intuition. When we are brought up with beauty, we have a sense of propriety, respect, nobility, dignity. These things are proto-religious or para-religious attitudes that heavily influence the course of one’s life. Without them, we are much more vulnerable to the winds of false doctrine and shoddy excuses.

    A typical European street corner
    How would you explain to someone what exactly culture is and what is Catholic culture? 

    It is not easy to define culture. In a recent lecture I tried my hand at it: culture is “the shared ways in which a society or people is accustomed to expressing, celebrating, and inculcating its vision of reality.” Maybe that’s too broad. Culture is always concerned with the concrete expression of ideas and values. How we eat our food, what we drink and when and why, how we dress and speak, what our buildings and vehicles look like, all this is culture, and does, in fact, express a worldview (or perhaps an eclectic mingling of worldviews).

    In Europe above all, Catholics developed an extremely rich culture in which even the littlest objects of daily use were decorated beautifully and often with explicit reference to the doctrines of the Faith. In this way, there was a continuum from the cup at home to the chalice on the altar, from the dinner bell to the cathedral bell, from the tablecloth to the houseling cloth. The images of Our Lady and the saints presided over everything—our familiar companions in this world, but as a reminder that “we have here no abiding city: we seek one that is to come.”

    A Catholic culture, then, is what a society inspired by the Faith will produce and cherish: an environment that turns the mind to God gently and frequently, making full use of the high beauties of fine art and the rugged genius of folk art, the impressive pageantry of ceremonial and the stabilizing force of rituals. The result is a joyful impregnation of the whole of life with the immense reality of God, too great to be limited to any domain or any one expression.

    Should there be an overlap in liturgical and popular culture? If yes, in what form? If no, why not? 

    I think, in fact, it has been a tragedy that high culture and popular culture have parted ways almost completely, and that the liturgy is no longer the driving force of culture, as it had been for well over a thousand years. Today’s “inculturation” is often cheap, random, and secular, because it is not guided by strong and clear thinking rooted in divine revelation and Church tradition.

    For example, people try to take contemporary pop music and bring it into the liturgy. This is a giant mistake, because this music is saturated with emotionalism, strongly associated with the liberal anti-culture and its sexual promiscuity. It does exactly the opposite of what church music is supposed to do: raise the mind up to God, purify the heart of disordered affection, discipline the body. Instead of assisting in our assimilation of the Word of God, it rather promotes the secularization of religion.

    But it is possible to do inculturation well. The missionaries of Europe who came to the New World often incorporated external features of the evangelized cultures into music, devotions, and visual arts. For instance, Spanish missionaries in Mexico taught the natives how to compose in the style of Renaissance polyphony, but allowed or even encouraged the addition of native flutes and percussion. The result still sounds ecclesiastical, yet with a Central American flavor to it. (If you are interested in listening to some of it, just look up the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble, or SAVAE.)

    Prodigal son as metaphor (detail from Rembrandt)
    What is our duty as the heirs of Catholic tradition? Do we need to reform, preserve, or recreate? 

    This is an important question. Here is what Our Lord Himself teaches us in the parable of the prodigal son. What we do to, or with, our family inheritance shows what we think of our father and of our entire family. Now, no one can deny that things like Latin, Gregorian chant, and offering Mass ad orientem are central, constitutive, and characteristic treasures of our Catholic patrimony. The liturgical reform suppressed them or marginalized them, acting just like the prodigal son who squandered his family wealth on loose living and ended up impoverished and miserable. The only way out of this bad situation is what the parable shows: conversion, repentance, return, and reestablishment in the house of the father.

    The right attitude towards our inheritance is to protect it, preserve it, defend it, and make use of it to the greatest extent possible. To do this, we must know it, and the better we come to know it, the more we will love it. This love, in turn, will inspire new works of beauty in continuity with what has come before. That is the experience of every serious Catholic artist—architect, painter, iconographer, sculptor, composer, poet. Knowing our tradition, we imitate it, emulate it, develop it, and carry it forward into the 21st century. There is no need to seek originality. The only fully original person is God the Father, since He has no origin from anyone else; even the Son is not original, but originated; and the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. God Himself teaches us that the perfection of all persons after the Father consists in their derivation from another. The creature who tried to be wholly original was Lucifer, of whom Our Lord says that he is “the father of lies” because he “speaks from himself.” That’s where sheer originality will get you: into hell. And that, of course, is what we see in so many modern artists.

    Incidentally, Martin Mosebach has made the observation that the notion of reform makes sense only if one takes the word itself seriously: it is a return to form, a re-forming of that which has lost good form. Reform doesn’t mean loosening up, wandering off, or blowing things up. It means more discipline, more attachment to good models, more self-control, more humility in the service of greatness. That’s the kind of reform that the Church always needs, not the “reform” we have gotten in the past half-century, which should more truthfully be called deformation.

    How would you describe your own discovery of Catholic tradition and what effect did it have on your formation and work? 

    For me, the discovery of Gregorian chant was a huge revelation. I can’t say why I was so fascinated by it at the tender age of 17, but then again, the chant really is mesmerizing and haunting in a way that no other music is. By listening to recordings of the Wiener Hofburgkapelle, I taught myself to read the neumes in an old Graduale Romanum that had been discarded by the Benedictine boys’ school I was attending at the time. I think my study of composition—being introduced to J. S. Bach’s chorales and trying to imitate them in my exercises—also played a role: there is something about this kind of discipline that helps the mind to perceive beauty not as something vague, fluffy, and sentimental, but as the result of labor, craft, rule.

    Other important influences at the end of high school included the reading of Plato’s dialogues and Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. At the time, I felt that Plato, though a pagan, was really “one of us”—a sort of “closet Catholic”—and that to be educated meant to read Plato, and authors like him. All this made me want to go to a college where I could be steeped in the riches of Catholicism that I had begun to taste. That’s why I went to Thomas Aquinas College in California, where I could study the “Great Books.”

    Attending TAC introduced me to a world of immense depth and beauty. This included the traditional Latin Mass, where all that is purest, loftiest, and loveliest in the Catholic Faith comes to roost. I think of that psalm verse: “Even the sparrow finds herself a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young: Thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God” (Ps 83:4 [84:3]). The Mass truly was and must once again become the inspiring force of Catholic culture. Certainly for me and my family, it has been the place where we can make a spiritual home, and where we may bring up our young in the peace and fragrance of Christ.

    A prayer corner
    So much of modern culture is ugly, even grotesque, many people have a real hunger for what is beautiful and good. Can you suggest how we may satisfy this hunger? 

    I strongly believe, as I hinted earlier, that we need to surround ourselves with beauty. I don’t mean in a cluttered or kitschy way, but by suitable decorations, by investing if we can in works of art, by listening to really good music (and by this, I do not mean any particular period, but certainly not pop, rock, rap, techno, or any of that barbaric stuff, which is the musical equivalent of junk food or drugs), and by seeking to understand the greatest art that European and Catholic civilization has bequeathed to us. I would recommend several practical steps.

    First, find the most beautiful celebration of the liturgy you can, and go to it. If it’s in a beautiful church, even better! The liturgy is where most of the fine arts blossomed and where they are meant to be experienced: as offerings to God, caught up in (and ideally assisting in) the ascending movement of prayer. The liturgy is not just the “source and summit” of the Christian life, it is also—or it has been and should once again be—the source and summit of Christian culture as well.

    Second, think about the rooms you are living and working in, and how you might elevate them with prints, watercolors, engravings, etc. It takes time to find works of ‘original’ art, but in the mean time, or supplementally, a good quality giclee reproduction of a Fra Angelico or a Giotto, a Rembrandt or a Vermeer can make a big difference in the ambience, encouraging a more contemplative spirit. (I recommend The Catholic Art Company, which has a fine selection. They don’t sell junk, and they don’t support immoral causes.)

    Third, pick a place in your home and make it the “prayer corner,” with icons or holy images, a candle, holy water, rosaries, flowers. This should be a place around which it is natural to gather for morning or evening prayers. (You can read more about this in David Clayton and Leila Lawler’s The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home. Other beautiful customs can develop from this center point; see Mary Reed Newland’s We and Our Children: How to Make a Catholic Home.)

    Fourth, acquire some good recordings of sacred and “classical” music, and take time to listen to them, to develop your ear and your soul. (At LifeSite News, I’ve written some pertinent articles: “What makes Gregorian chant uniquely itself—with recommended recordings” and “These new recordings of sacred music will transport you to the courts of the King.”)

    Fifth, make time for ongoing education. I cannot recommend highly enough the lectures by art historian William Kloss available from The Great Courses: such eye-opening and fascinating explorations of the genius of the greatest artists, who have a special gift for seeing—and thus, for helping us to see—the luminous depths of reality. Obviously, if one can visit a good or great museum, one should do this on a fairly regular basis.

    Sixth, at least once a year, go on pilgrimage. The pilgrim, too, gets to enjoy the sights and sounds of the journey and the destination, but he has a higher purpose than the mere tourist. Aesthetic experience becomes more meaningful when united to the love of God, the practice of religion, and the expression of devotion to a saint and to Our Lord Himself. This is what I loved, by the way, about attending the All Souls Pontifical Requiem Mass at St. John Cantius in Chicago this past November 2nd: the choir and orchestra performed Mozart’s Requiem in its authentic liturgical context. Somehow, hearing it in the right place and at the right time made the music even better.

    Seventh, if we have the means, or if we are in a position to influence people of means, we should try to patronize new works of art that are truly beautiful, and if intended for the Church, truly sacred also. I admire clergy and laity who, when a special occasion is coming in the future, commission a piece of music or a painting for the occasion. Obviously, as a composer myself, I recognize that if Catholics stop asking for and expecting good art for the Church, good artists will starve and disappear. The same can be said of supporting music programs and the right kind of church restorations (often undoing the damage wrought by postconciliar iconoclasts).

    In your new book Tradition and Sanityyou make a number of compelling arguments in favour of returning to the traditional liturgy—not for liturgical or aesthetic reasons alone, but also because the way we live the Sacrifice of the Mass lies at the heart of every aspect of our lives. Could you explain this a little?

    In keeping with what I was saying earlier about how a grateful son should approach his father’s house and his family patrimony, I would say that worshiping God with the Roman Catholic liturgy in the form in which it organically developed for a period of over 1,500 years is crucial to having (or, for many, to recovering) a stable identity, a profound spirituality, a sound doctrinal foundation, and a compass for the moral life—this, in addition to the obvious literary and artistic merits that the old liturgy has in itself and has inspired for so many centuries.

    Given that Catholicism is inherently a religion of tradition, it should strike us as quite troubling that Catholics of today pray in a manner terribly different from, and even at odds with, how our ancestors prayed, including the vast majority of saints. Either they were wrong and we are the enlightened ones—or, rather more likely, we have gone off the rails in our quest for modernization and need to get back on if we would reach our destination safely. Liturgy is not something that each age needs to redesign and recreate in its own image. On the contrary, the vicissitudes of history are to a large extent transcended in a still point, an immovable center, a pole star from which we can always take our bearings. You could apply to the Mass the Carthusian motto: Stat crux dum volvitur orbis,“the Cross is steady while the world is turning.” This, to my mind, is the reason why the old liturgy is winning so many “converts” today. The world is turning at a mad pace, careening out of control, and unfortunately, because of the conciliar prejudice for aggiornamento, the world has pulled the postconciliar liturgy in its wake, like a moon orbiting a planet. The classic Roman liturgy abides in its grandeur, and seems, perhaps not too surprisingly, more “relevant” to us today than something devised by a committee in the 1960s.

    My book goes into all this, but also into the crisis in the papacy and in evangelization, which I believe are linked with this tragic decision to “re-orient” Catholicism along new lines. This has led not to renewal but to accelerating deformation and irrelevance. Thanks be to God, we see a countermovement gaining strength across the world, and characterized by its opposition, point for point, to the official program. That will be the drama of the next decades: how this massive “civil war” inside the Church plays out under the hand of Divine Providence.

    The Table of Contents of this third issue:

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    Here is a painting of the Transfiguration. It is a 16th-century Russian icon from the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery in Yaroslavl, which is to the northeast of Moscow.

    Readers will be familiar with the scene. Christ is on the mountain flanked by the two prophets, and the three disciples are stunned by the sight of the transfigured Christ. This is a glimpse of his heavenly glory, hitherto unseen by the disciples. The nimbus that surrounds Christ in this picture is called a “mandorla”, the Italian word for “almond”, from its elliptical shape. The season of the Epiphany (also known as Theophany) is the time in which the first manifestations of God’s glory are commemorated, and especially the Baptism in the Jordan; in the East, the feast is wholly focused on the latter, and the Adoration of the Magi is commemorated at Christmas. As such, they all point to this moment as the fulfillment of all epiphanies.

    The mandorla surrounding Christ usually shows concentric bands of shading which get darker toward the center, rather than lighter. It is painted in this way so as to communicate to us, pictorially, the fact that we must pass through stages of increasing mystery in order to encounter the person of Jesus Christ. This encounter, which takes place in the Mass with the Eucharist at its heart, is one that transforms me supernaturally, so that I can begin to grasp the glory of Christ more directly.

    This encounter is made possible by my baptism, confirmation, and communion so that I have ‘put on Christ’ as St Paul says in Galatians. God’s actions are not in any way restricted by the Sacraments, of course, but as a general rule, until I become Catholic I am going to be dazzled into blindness by the transfigured Christ, and the mandorla will look like a jet-black envelope with a heart of darkness.

    Nevertheless, prior to being fully part of the body of Christ, I was able to perceive, those outer rings of the mandorla. In this context they represent the Light of Christ reflected in the cosmos, and Christian culture and art. This tells me there is more to know and love and I yearn for it. This is the power of beauty, and of art in particular, and is why the rejuvenation of Catholic culture and Catholic art, in particular, are so necessary. We need them to speak powerfully to people today of Christ and draw people into the Church.

    Beauty is a perceptible sign of something which we cannot see, Almighty God. It calls us to itself, and then beyond to Him who inspired it, and who is Beauty itself. Creation is beautiful because it bears the mark of the Creator; and the culture or any aspect of it, whether mundane, sacred or high art can speak of it too. Even everyday Christian activity is beautiful - graceful - if it is inspired by God and will draw people to God.

    The Christian life well lived is one in which every discernible aspect our lives contributes to the brightness of the outer rings of the mandorla through inspired contributions to the culture. This is because we are part of the mystical body of Christ, the Church, which is the transfigured Christ of the painting above. Each of us is a pixel of supernatural light in the heart of darkness! The artist is called to contribute to the culture by his painting, but each of us contributes in our own way.

    The most powerful formation that will enable us to be contributors to a beautiful Catholic culture that bears this cosmic beauty is the central activity of the Church, the worship of God. Christian culture permeates the life of the Church and of the world - the sacred and the profane - and so is an important part of the sign of Christ and of the world to come. It is a principle that potentially permeates all human activity.

    Below is the Transfiguration mosaic from St Catherine’s Monastery, Mt Sinai.

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    January 15th is the feast day of St Maurus, a disciple of St Benedict who is famous for his role in one of his master’s more impressive miracles. This is recounted by St Gregory the Great in chapter 7 of the Second Book of his Dialogues, which is devoted to the life of St Benedict.

    “On a certain day, as the venerable Benedict was in his cell, the young Placidus, one of the Saint’s monks, went out to draw water from the lake; and putting his pail into the water carelessly, fell in after it. The water swiftly carried him away, and drew him nearly a bowshot from the land. Now the man of God, though he was in his cell, knew this at once, and called in haste for Maurus, saying: ‘Brother Maurus, run, for the boy who went to the lake to fetch water, has fallen in, and the water has already carried him a long way off!’

    St Maurus Saves St Placid from Drowning, by Spinello Aretino, 1388, from the sacristy of San Miniato al Monte in Florence. The church is still to this day the home of a community of Olivetan monks; in accordance with a common medieval custom, St Benedict and his contemporaries are depicted in white Olivetan habit.
    A marvelous thing, and unheard of since the time of the Apostle Peter! Having asked for and received a blessing, and departing in all haste at his father’s command, Maurus ran over the water to the place whither the young lad had been carried by the water, thinking that he was going over the land; and took him by the hair of his head, and swiftly returned with him. As soon as he touched the land, coming to himself, he looked back, and realized that he had run on the water. That which could not have presumed to do, being now done, he both marveled and was afraid of what he had done.

    Returning therefore to the father, he told him what had happened. And the the venerable Benedict did not attribute this to his own merits, but to the obedience of Maurus. Maurus, on the contrary, said that it was done only in accord with his command, and that he had nothing to do with that miracle, not knowing at that time what he did. But in this amicable contention of mutual humility, the youth who had been saved came as judge; for he said, ‘When I was being drawn out of the water, I saw the Abbot’s garment over my head, and perceived that it was he that drew me out of the water.’ ”

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

    The retreat will begin on the early afternoon of Friday, February 15 and finish on the afternoon of Sunday February 17, with lunch (President’s day weekend). In order to cover the expenses (Fr. Hernan’s travel from France, food, donation to the parish, etc) we suggest a donation of $60. Also, please bring a sleeping bag. In addition to the meditations, the traditional Mass will be sung each day, as well as parts of the Divine Office; there will also be plenty of opportunities for spiritual direction and Confession. To confirm your attendance please read the following Google doc and fill the registration form. If you have any questions please contact Feel free to forward this invitation to any else you reckon would be interested.