Saturday, December 29, 2007

You Didn't Read it In The Times

But, of course, not all of you take The Times. So you will have had to have not read it in your local paper. Or if you don't take a paper at all, not heard it on CNN.

"Abortion Supporter Knocks 69 Yr. Old Pro-Lifer Unconscious, MSM Silent"

Hat tip to Kathy's intimidating "five feet".

St Thomas of Canterbury

Today is the feast of St Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr. The good old Catholic Encyclopædia has an extensive biography here.

"He suffered on this day, who was Primate and Legate, in the Church and on behalf of the Church, about the our of the evening prayer, while the choir of monks sang psalms round about, and the clergy and the company of the people stood by, and while reigned our Lord Jesu Christ to Whom be honour for ever and ever. Amen."
-William the Monk

Then, even on that day, the miracles began.

It was an uncritical age; that is to say, it was a time when men thought it natural that a God who had made the world and sustained it by His Power should shew that Power round the lives and deaths of His greatest servants. I do not say that everyone of the five hundred marvels attributed to St Thomas' intercession was inevitably a miracle; but I do say, with my whole heart, that many of them were, and that they were in accordance with what our Lord Himself promised as to the signs that should follow them that believe.

For example: on the same night a paralytic woman, drinking a little water in which a dried drop of two of the martyr's blood had been dissolved , was restored to health. A day or two later a blind woman who invoked his name received her sight. On the Saturday a girl of sixteen, living Gloucester, was cured of a disease of eleven years' standing, upon her mother's making a vow to visit the shrine of the Saint.

And so the miracles went on. The Christian world went wild with enthusiasm, as is proper when a saint goes to God by the road of blood. Faith was kindled, and God rewarded it according to His promise. Devotions sprang up; pilgrimages began; men returned from Canterbury bearing little leaden phials filled with “St Thomas' water” -- that is, water in which a minute drop of the holy blood had been mixed; and the shrine of Canterbury began to take its place with the great centres of the world's devotion – with Rome, Jerusalem, and Compostella. Still the fame increased. Even Gilbert of London, once his friend and lately his enemy, was healed of disease by a drop or two of “Thomas' water”' as Henry himself, a little later, when his sons rebelled against him gained the upper hand, as he himself confesses, through the intercession of the Saint whom he had done to death. On the Continent altars were dedicated in his honour; and particularly worthy of notice is one little chapel in Notre Dame de Fourvieres at Lyons which the Saint himself, years, before, had been asked to consecrate. He had consecrated the rest of the church, but, upon being asked to name the saint for this chapel, had refused saying it must be kept for the honour of the next martyr that should die. That honour was his own, and the chapel was dedicated to himself. Again, in England especially, there now began, and continued for many centuries, the custom of choosing Tuesdays for the saying of votive masses of St Thomas, since it was on Tuesday that his first and second Birthdays fell – that on which he came into the world, and that on which he went to God; it was on Tuesday that he faced Henry at Northampton, and landed again in England after his six years' exile. And it was almost immediately after his death that he began to be considered the Patron of Secular Clergy, since he was one himself, and it was for their rights that he lived and died – a position which he now holds by the authority of the Supreme Pontiff.

. . . . . . . . .

Of those who were the Saint's especial friends other strange stories are told. For almost a year after the martyrdom the arm of Edward Grim, wounded in the Martyr's defence, remained unhealed. Then one night, in dream or vision, Thomas stood by him, and, taking his arm, wrapped it in a linen cloth, wet with the famous “water”.
“Go, you are healed!” said the apparition.
“And this is the arm itself,” writes Grim, “the hand of which has written these things for you to read.”
--The Holy, Blissful Martyr, St Thomas a Becket, by Msgr Robert Hugh Benson

Thursday, December 27, 2007

St John's Day

St John's wine is blessed today. The story goes that someone tried to murder St John the Apostle with some poisoned wine but it did him no harm. So wine is blessed in his honour, and according to this site, some sugar or other spices can be added to make a punch for the family.

Mr Miles, however, in his "Christmas in Ritual and Tradition" is being something of a killjoy on this one. Herewith his entire section on St John's Day:

An ecclesiastical adaptation of a pagan practice may be seen in the Johannissegen customary on St. John's Day in many parts of Catholic Germany and Austria. A quantity of wine is brought to church to be blessed by the priest after Mass, and is taken away by the people to be drunk at home. There are many popular beliefs about the magical powers of this wine, beliefs which can be traced back through at least four centuries. In Tyrol and Bavaria it is supposed to protect its drinker from being struck by lightning, in the Rhenish Palatinate it is drunk in order that the other wine a man possesses may be kept from injury, or that next year's harvest may be good. In Nassau, Carinthia, and other regions some is poured into the wine-casks to preserve the precious drink from harm, while in Bavaria some is kept for use as medicine in sickness. In Syria [sic; surely he means "Styria"?] St. John's wine is said to keep the body sound and healthy, and on this day even babes in the cradle are made to join in the family drinking.

It appears that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there was a great drinking on St. John's Day of ordinary, as well as consecrated, wine, often to excess, and scholars of that time seriously believed that Weihnacht, the German name for Christmas, should properly be spelt Weinnacht. The Johannissegen, or Johannisminne as it was sometimes called, seems, all things considered, to be a survival of an old wine sacrifice like the Martinsminne. That it does not owe its origin to the legend about the cup of poison drunk by St. John is shown by the fact that a similar custom was in old times practised in Germany and Sweden on St. Stephen's Day.

Hmmpf. Well, I don't think it's shown by that at all. Nevertheless, kind of interesting.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mr Pullman's Movie

For the past month or two the religious corner of cyberspace has had quite a bit to say about "The Golden Compass", the movie made from one of Phillip Pullman's children's books. No one much seems to like it. The religious folk don't care for it because if its anti-religious bias. The secular reviewers find it unrelievedly tedious. The only article I saw in its favour was the infamous one by the that poor demented soul from the USSRCB, or whatever the U.S. bishop's apparat is calling itself these days. Alas, one has learned not to expect too much from the hapless bench.

What I find astonishing is that everyone seems to agree that Mr Pullman is an atheist. So far as I can see that is the last thing he should be called. Take a look at this piece from a recent number of The Atlantic, for instance. It does not describe an atheist. The man described there is clearly someone who believes in God; he just hates God. It seems to me that if a one-word description is needed, then "satanist" is a much better fit than "atheist".

St Stephen's Day

Since we all seem to be at home reading weblogs instead of out "hunting the wren", it would be a shame for you to stop by here and not find something in honour of the day that's in it. Herewith a bit of verse cum legend. The source is given as "Christmas Carols -- Ancient and Modern" (circa 1861, reprinted by A. Wessels Company, New York 1901). But I found it in the Christmas 2004 number of Gilbert Magazine.

St Stephen Was A Clerk

Saint Stephen was a clerk
In king Herodes hall,
And served him of bread and cloth
As ever king befalle.

Stephen out of kitchen came
With boar's head in hande
He saw a star was fair and bright,
Over Bethlem stonde.

He cast adown the boar's head,
And went into the halle;
“I forsake thee, king Herod,
And thy werkes alle.

“I forsake thee, king Herod,
And thine werkes alle,
There is a child in Bethlem borne,
Is better than we alle.”

“What aileth thee, Stephen,
What is thee befalle?
Lacketh thee either meat or drink,
In king Herod's hall?”

“Lacketh me neither meat nor drink
In king Herod's hall,
There is a child in Bethlem borne,
Is better than we all.”

“What aileth thee, Stephen,
Art thou wode, or thou ginnest to brede?
Lacketh thee either gold or fee,
Or any rich weede?”

“Lacketh me neither gold nor fee,
Nor none rich weede,
There is a child in Bethlem born
Shall help us at our need.”

“This is all so sooth, Stephen,
All so sooth, I wis.
As this capon crow shall
That lyeth here in my dish.

That word was not so soon said,
That word in the hall,
The capon crew, Christus natus est,
Among the lordes all.

Riseth up my tormentors,
By two, and all by one,
And leadeth Stephen out of town,
And stoneth him with stone.

Token they Stephen,
And stoned him in the way,
And therefore is his even,
On Christes owen day.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day

[This year's Christmas piper has no drones but he is a piper nonethless!]

More from "Christmas In Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan" by Clement A. Miles:

Where, as in religious communities, the offices of the Church are performed in their full order, there follows on Matins that custom peculiar to Christmas, the celebration of Midnight Mass. On Christmas morning every priest is permitted to say three Masses, which should in strictness be celebrated at midnight, at dawn, and in full daylight. Each has its own Collect, Epistle, and Gospel, each its own Introit, Gradual, and other anthems. In many countries the Midnight Mass is the distinctive Christmas service, a great and unique event in the year, something which by its strangeness gives to the feast of the Nativity a place by itself. Few Catholic rites are more impressive than this Midnight Mass, especially in country places; through the darkness and cold of the winter's night, often for long distances, the faithful journey to worship the Infant Saviour in the splendour of the lighted church. It is a re-enactment of the visit of the shepherds to the cave at Bethlehem, aglow with supernatural light.

Various symbolical explanations of the three Masses were given by mediæval writers. The midnight celebration was supposed to represent mankind's condition before the Law of Moses, when thick darkness covered the earth; the second, at dawn, the time of the Law and the Prophets with its growing light; the third, in full daylight, the Christian era of light and grace. Another interpretation, adopted by St. Thomas Aquinas, is more mystical; the three Masses stand for the threefold birth of Christ, the first typifying the dark mystery of the eternal generation of the Son, the second the birth of Christ the morning-star within the hearts of men, the third the bodily birth of the Son of Mary.

At the Christmas Masses the “Gloria in excelsis” resounds again. This song of the angels was at first chanted only at Christmas; it was introduced into Rome during the fifth century at Midnight Mass in imitation of the custom of the Church of Jerusalem.

It is, indeed, from imitation of the services at Jerusalem and Bethlehem that the three Roman Masses of Christmas seem to have sprung. From a late fourth-century document known as the “Peregrinatio Silviæ,” the narrative of a pilgrimage to the holy places of the east by a great lady from southern Gaul, it appears that at the feast of the Epiphany—when the Birth of Christ was commemorated in the Palestinian Church—two successive “stations” were held, one at Bethlehem, the other at Jerusalem. At Bethlehem the station was held at night on the eve of the feast, then a procession was made to the church of the Anastasis or Resurrection—where was the Holy Sepulchre—arriving “about the hour when one man begins to recognise another, i.e., near daylight, but before the day has fully broken.” There a psalm was sung, prayers were said, and the catechumens and faithful were blessed by the bishop. Later, Mass was celebrated at the Great Church at Golgotha, and the procession returned to the Anastasis, where another Mass was said.{10}

At Bethlehem at the present time impressive services are held on the Latin Christmas Day. The Patriarch comes from Jerusalem, with a troop of cavalry and Kavasses in gorgeous array. The office lasts from 10 o'clock on Christmas Eve until long after midnight. “At the reading of the Gospel the clergy and as many of the congregation as can follow leave the church, and proceed by a flight of steps and a tortuous rock-hewn passage to the Grotto of the Nativity, an irregular subterranean chamber, long and narrow. They carry with them a waxen image of an infant—the bambino—wrap it in swaddling bands and lay it on the site which is said to be that of the manger.”

The Midnight Mass appears to have been introduced into Rome in the first half of the fifth century. It was celebrated by the Pope in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, while the second Mass was sung by him at Sant’ Anastasia—perhaps because of the resemblance of the name to the Anastasis at Jerusalem—and the third at St. Peter's. On Christmas Eve the Pope held a solemn “station” at Santa Maria Maggiore, and two Vespers were sung, the first very simple, the second, at which the Pope pontificated, with elaborate ceremonial. Before the second Vespers, in the twelfth century, a good meal had to be prepared for the papal household by the Cardinal-Bishop of Albano. After Matins and Midnight Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore, the Pope went in procession to Sant’ Anastasia for Lauds and the Mass of the Dawn. The third Mass, at St. Peter's, was an event of great solemnity, and at it took place in the year 800 that profoundly significant event, the coronation of Charlemagne by Leo III.—a turning-point in European history.

Later it became the custom for the Pope, instead of proceeding to St. Peter's, to return to Santa Maria Maggiore for the third Mass. On his arrival he was given a cane with a lighted candle affixed to it; with this he had to set fire to some tow placed on the capitals of the columns. The ecclesiastical explanation of this strange ceremony was that it symbolised the end of the world by fire, but one may conjecture that some pagan custom lay at its root. Since 1870 the Pope, as “the prisoner of the Vatican,” has of course ceased to celebrate at Santa Maria Maggiore or Sant’ Anastasia. The Missal, however, still shows a trace of the papal visit to Sant’ Anastasia in a commemoration of this saint which comes as a curious parenthesis in the Mass of the Dawn.

On Christmas Day in the Vatican the Pope blesses a hat and a sword, and these are sent as gifts to some prince. The practice is said to have arisen from the mediæval custom for the Holy Roman Emperor or some other sovereign to read one of the lessons at Christmas Matins, in the papal chapel, with his sword drawn.{15}

Celebrated in countries as distant from one another, both geographically and in character, as Ireland and Sicily, Poland and South America, the Midnight Mass naturally varies greatly in its tone and setting. Sometimes it is little more than a fashionable function, sometimes the devotion of those who attend is shown by a tramp over miles of snow through the darkness and the bitter wind.

In some charming memories of the Christmas of her childhood, Madame Th. Bentzon thus describes the walk to the Midnight Mass in a French country place about sixty years ago:—

“I can see myself as a little girl, bundled up to the tip of my nose in furs and knitted shawls, tiny wooden shoes on my feet, a lantern in my hand, setting out with my parents for the Midnight Mass of Christmas Eve.... We started off, a number of us, together in a stream of light.... Our lanterns cast great shadows on the white road, crisp with frost. As our little group advanced it saw others on their way, people from the farm and from the mill, who joined us, and once on the Place de l’Église we found ourselves with all the parishioners in a body. No one spoke—the icy north wind cut short our breath; but the voice of the chimes filled the silence.... We entered, accompanied by a gust of wind that swept into the porch at the same time we did; and the splendours of the altar, studded with lights, green with pine and laurel branches, dazzled us from the threshold.”

. . . . . . .

A Midnight Mass is now celebrated in many Anglican churches, but this is purely a modern revival. The most distinct British survival is to be found in Wales in the early service known as Plygain (dawn), sometimes a celebration of the Communion. At Tenby at four o'clock on Christmas morning it was customary for the young men of the town to escort the rector with lighted torches from his house to the church. Extinguishing their torches in the porch, they went in to the early service, and when it was ended the torches were relighted and the procession returned to the rectory. At St. Peter's Church, Carmarthen, an early service was held, to the light of coloured candles brought by the congregation. At St. Asaph, Caerwys, at 4 or 5 a.m., Plygain, consisting of carols sung round the church in procession, was held. The Plygain continued in Welsh churches until about the eighteen-fifties, and, curiously enough, when the Established Church abandoned it, it was celebrated in Nonconformist chapels.

In the Isle of Man on Christmas Eve, or Oiel Verry (Mary's Eve), “a number of persons used to assemble in each parish church and proceed to shout carols or ‘Carvals.’ There was no unison or concert about the chanting, but a single person would stand up with a lighted candle in his or her hand, and chant in a dismal monotone verse after verse of some old Manx ‘Carval,’ until the candle was burnt out. Then another person would start up and go through a similar performance. No fresh candles might be lighted after the clock had chimed midnight.”

One may conjecture that the common English practice of ringing bells until midnight on Christmas Eve has also some connection with the old-time Midnight Mass.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

It's been a warm Christmas Eve here in the lower left hand corner of the United States. The Santa Ana winds are back for a couple of days, the temperature is in the 70's and there is a fire watch on at least until tomorrow night. The day has been pleasant here, though, filled with last minute chores which took a bit longer than usual as I took advantage of the good weather to run some errands on the bicycle. For the past couple of hours we have been listening to the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols whilst decorating the tree, a task I leave until the last minute -- on principle for a change and not merely from constitutional laziness.

Yesterday was the last of the "O" antiphons in the Roman Rite. But there is one more that has survived from the Sarum Rite:

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? for neither before thee was any seen like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? the thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

If you're at a loss for Christmas music this evening or tomorrow try here. KUSC always does a good job of providing wonderful music of the season.

And to all who frequent this little corner, whether regularly, or occasionally, or even only this once, a very Merry Christmas to you.


by John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No caroling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Mass in Southern California in the Traditional Roman Rite

Christmas Day:

In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles:

10:00 A.M.
St Joseph Chapel
Santa Teresita Hospital
1210 Royal Oaks Drive
Duarte CA
Celebrant: Fr. Robert Bishop

1 P.M.
St Therese Catholic Church
510 N. El Molino St.
Alhambra, CA 91801
Celebrant: Fr. Robert Bishop
Music provided by Stephen Grimm and his choir

In the Diocese of Orange:

12 Noon
St Mary's by the Sea
321 Tenth Street
Huntington Beach CA 92648

[Should you happen to be anywhere near Alahambra this Christmas, Steven Grimm's choir is not to be missed. In the words of King Clovis to St Remy after his baptism and attendance at his first solemn Mass: "Is this the heaven you promised me?"]

23 Decembris -- O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations and their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

This is the last of the "O" in the Roman Rite and herewith the last of Bill East's commentaries:

'Emmanuel' derives from Isaiah 7:14,

'Ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium,
Et vocabitur nomen eius Emmanuel'

'Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
And his name shall be called Emmanuel.'

This is referred to the birth of Christ in St Matthew's Gospel:

'Hoc autem totum factum est,
ut adimpleretur quod dictum est a Domino per prophetam dicentam:
Ecco virgo in utero habebit, et pariet filium,
et vocabunt nomen eius Emmanuel,
quod est interpretatum Nobiscum Deus.'

'Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was said by the Lord through the prophet, saying: Behold, a virgin shall have a son in her womb, and bear him,
and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which is, being translated, God with us.' (Matthew 1:22-23).

Emmanuel, 'God with us', is perhaps the most important title in the series.

'Rex', 'King' is a title often applied to Christ in the New Testament, e.g., at Matthew 2:2, 'Ubi est qui natus est rex Iudaeorum?' 'Where is he that has been born King of the Jews?' Or the title placed on the cross: 'Hic est Iesus rex Iudaeorum' 'This is Jesus, King of the Jews' (Matthew 27:37).

'Legifer', 'lawgiver' equates Jesus with Moses who gave the law to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. Jesus is portrayed as giving a new law, e.g. in his delivery of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. Or cf. John 13:34, 'Mandatum novum do vobis: ut diligatis invicem, sicut dilexi vos' - 'A new Commandment I give you, that you should love one another, as I have loved you.'['Mandatum' here gives us 'Maundy' as in Maundy Thursday, the day of the Mandate].

'Exspectatio gentium' has already been mentioned with reference to 'O Clavis David'. It derives from Genesis 49:10:
Non aufertur sceptrum de Iuda,
Et dux de femore eius, Donec veniat qui mittendus est,
Et ipse erit expectatio gentium.

'The sceptre shall not be taken away from Judah,
nor the leader from his thigh,
until he comes who is to be sent,
and he will be the expectation of the nations.'

'Salvator', 'Saviour', is applied regularly in the OT to God, and equally regularly in the NT to Jesus. The equation is made explicit in the last words of our antiphon, 'veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster' - 'Come and save us, O Lord our God'.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas is Coming. . . .

This little appreciation, slightly dated and all the more charming for it, is taken from "Christmas In Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan" by Clement A. Miles. The date on it is 1912.

Whatever may be his attitude towards Catholicism, or, indeed, Christianity, no one sensitive to the music of words, or the suggestions of poetic imagery, can read the Roman Breviary and Missal without profound admiration for the amazing skill with which the noblest passages of Hebrew poetry are chosen and fitted to the expression of Christian devotion, and the gold of psalmists, prophets, and apostles is welded into coronals for the Lord and His saints. The office-books of the Roman Church are, in one aspect, the greatest of anthologies.

Few parts of the Roman Breviary have more beauty than the Advent offices, where the Church has brought together the majestic imagery of the Hebrew prophets, the fervent exhortation of the apostles, to prepare the minds of the faithful for the coming of the Christ, for the celebration of the Nativity.

Advent begins with a stirring call. If we turn to the opening service of the Christian Year, the First Vespers of the First Sunday in Advent, we shall find as the first words in the “Proper of the Season” the trumpet-notes of St. Paul: “Brethren, it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” This, the Little Chapter for the office, is followed by the ancient hymn, “Creator alme siderum,” chanting in awful tones the two comings of Christ, for redemption and for judgment; and then are sung the words that strike the keynote of the Advent services, and are heard again and again.
“Rorate, coeli, desuper, et nubes pluant Justum
(Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down the Righteous One).
Aperiatur terra et germinet Salvatorem
(Let the earth open, and let her bring forth the Saviour).”

Rorate, coeli, desuper—Advent is a time of longing expectancy. It is a season of waiting patiently for the Lord, whose coming in great humility is to be commemorated at Christmas, to whose coming again in His glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead the Christian looks forward with mingled hope and awe. There are four weeks in Advent, and an ancient symbolical explanation interprets these as typifying four comings of the Son of God: the first in the flesh, the second in the hearts of the faithful through the Holy Spirit, the third at the death of every man, and the fourth at the Judgment Day. The fourth week is never completed (Christmas Eve is regarded as not part of Advent), because the glory bestowed on the saints at the Last Coming will never end.

The great Eucharistic hymn, “Gloria in excelsis,” is omitted in Advent, in order, say the symbolists, that on Christmas night, when it was first sung by the angels, it may be chanted with the greater eagerness and devotion. The “Te Deum” at Matins too is left unsaid, because Christ is regarded as not yet come. But “Alleluia” is not omitted, because Advent is only half a time of penitence: there is awe at the thought of the Coming for Judgment, but joy also in the hope of the Incarnation to be celebrated at Christmas, and the glory in store for the faithful.

Looking forward is above all things the note of Advent; the Church seeks to share the mood of the Old Testament saints, and she draws more now than at any other season, perhaps, on the treasures of Hebrew prophecy for her lessons, antiphons, versicles, and responds. Looking for the glory that shall be revealed, she awaits, at this darkest time of the year, the rising of the Sun of Righteousness. Rorate, coeli, desuper—the mood comes at times to all idealists, and even those moderns who hope not for a supernatural Redeemer, but for the triumph of social justice on this earth, must be stirred by the poetry of the Advent offices.

It is at Vespers on the seven days before Christmas Eve that the Church's longing finds its noblest expression—in the antiphons known as the “Great O's,” sung before and after the “Magnificat,” one on each day. “O Sapientia,” runs the first, “O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: come and teach us the way of prudence.” “O Adonai,” “O Root of Jesse,” “O Key of David,” “O Day-spring, Brightness of Light Everlasting,” “O King of the Nations,” thus the Church calls to her Lord, “O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations, and their Salvation: come and save us, O Lord our God.”

At last Christmas Eve is here, and at Vespers we feel the nearness of the great Coming. “Lift up your heads: behold your redemption draweth nigh,” is the antiphon for the last psalm. “To-morrow shall be done away the iniquity of the earth,” is the versicle after the Office Hymn. And before and after the “Magnificat” the Church sings: “When the sun shall have risen, ye shall see the King of kings coming forth from the Father, as a bridegroom out of his chamber.”

Yet only with the night office of Matins does the glory of the festival begin. There is a special fitness at Christmas in the Church's keeping watch by night, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, and the office is full of the poetry of the season, full of exultant joy. To the “Venite, exultemus Domino” a Christmas note is added by the oft-repeated Invitatory, “Unto us the Christ is born: O come, let us adore Him.” Psalms follow—among them the three retained by the Anglican Church in her Christmas Matins—and lessons from the Old and New Testaments and the homilies of the Fathers, interspersed with Responsories bringing home to the faithful the wonders of the Holy Night. Some are almost dramatic; this, for instance:—
“Whom saw ye, O shepherds? speak; tell us who hath appeared on the earth.
We saw the new-born Child, and angels singing praise unto the Lord.
Speak, what saw ye? and tell us of the birth of Christ.
We saw the new-born Child, and angels singing praise unto the Lord.”

It is the wonder of the Incarnation, the marvel of the spotless Birth, the song of the Angels, the coming down from heaven of true peace, the daybreak of redemption and everlasting joy, the glory of the Only-begotten, now beheld by men—the supernatural side, in fact, of the festival, that the Church sets forth in her radiant words; there is little thought of the purely human side, the pathos of Bethlehem.

It was customary at certain places, in mediaeval times, to lay on the altar three veils, and remove one at each nocturn of Christmas Matins. The first was black, and symbolised the time of darkness before the Mosaic Law; the second white, typifying, it would seem, the faith of those who lived under that Law of partial revelation; the third red, showing the love of Christ's bride, the Church, in the time of grace flowing from the Incarnation.

A stately ceremony took place in England in the Middle Ages at the end of Christmas Matins—the chanting of St. Matthew's genealogy of Christ. The deacon, in his dalmatic, with acolytes carrying tapers, with thurifer and cross-bearer, all in albs and unicles, went in procession to the pulpit or the rood-loft, to sing this portion of the Gospel. If the bishop were present, he it was who chanted it, and a rich candlestick was held to light him. Then followed the chanting of the “Te Deum.” The ceremony does not appear in the ordinary Roman books, but it is still performed by the Benedictines, as one may read in the striking account of the monastic Christmas given by Huysmans in “L'Oblat.”

22 Decembris -- O Rex Gentium

O King of the Nations, and their Desire; the Cornerstone who makest bothon: Come and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay.

More from Bill East's commentary:

The key text here is Haggai 2:8, 'Et movebo omnes gentes, Et veniet Desideratus cunctis gentibus' 'And I shall shake all nations, and the Desired One will come to all nations.' Haggai is a prophet writing at the time of of what is called the Restoration, that is, the return of the Jews to the holy land after the exile in Babylon, the rebuilding of the temple and the restoration of public and religious institutions. As Haggai writes, these things do not yet amount to much, but he forsees a time when the glory of the restored temple with exceed that of Solomon's
original building. Christians see this prophecy fulfilled in Christ.

The phrase 'Rex Gentium' I have not found exactly, but cf. Psalm 2:6-8,

Ego autem constitutus sum Rex ab eo
Super Sion, montem sanctum eius,
Praedicans praeceptum eius.
Dominus dixit ad me: Filius meus es tu;
Ego hodie genui te.
Postula a me, et dabo tibi gentes haereditatem tuam,
Et possessionem tuam terminos terrae.

'Yet have I set my King:
upon my holy hill of Sion.
I will preach the law, whereof the Lord hath said unto me:
Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
Desire of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [i.e. nations]
for thine inheritance:
and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.'

The corner-stone goes back ultimately to Isaiah 28:16,

Ecce ego mittam in fundamentis Sion lapidem,
Lapidem probatum,
Angularem, pretiosum, in fundamento fundatum;

'Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone'

This is quoted at 1 Peter 2:6. St Paul at Ephesians 2:20 also refers to Christ as 'ipso summo angulari lapide Christo Iesu' - 'Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone.' In context, Paul explores the meaning of this image as referring to the Jews and Gentiles as it were coming to God from two directions, and meeting in Christ, as two walls meet and join in the corner-stone. 'Who makest both one' refers to Ephesians 2:14, 'qui fecit utraque unum'.

'Quem de limo formasti' derives from Genesis 2:7, 'Formavit igitur Dominus Deus hominem de limo terrae.' Again Jesus is identified with the God of
Creation, the God of Genesis.

A number of texts have been combined to produce a coherent theology: Christ is the Lord of all nations, both Jews and Gentiles, as a corner-stone supports both walls; he is the agent through whom both were made, and will lead both to a destiny greater than anything in their previous existence.

If anyone knows the original source for Mr East's commentary, I would appreciate knowing. I received it in an e-mail years ago. I think it was referenced there but the e-mail is long gone.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Chesterton on the Christmas Carol our Rulers Would Prefer

"Some of our more advanced ethical teachers might well write a new version of 'The Christmas Carol' -- a sort of Anti-Christmas carol. For the drama of Dickens might well appear to them not a comedy of conversion, but a tragedy of apostasy. The story would start with Scrooge as a lofty and idealistic vegetarian, partaking of a pure and hygienic diet of gruel. It would end with the same Scrooge, not degraded by superstition, and engaged in a cannibal conspiracy for the assassination of a turkey. It would exhibit that maniac as so morally depraved as to entrap even a small boy out of the streets and make him a tool in the consummation of the crime. . . .Eugenics, which often forms part of such ethics, might here suggest a thoughtful passage about the mistake made in the birth of Tiny Tim, and the desirability of correcting that mistake with all speed in some quiet and painless fashion. Anyhow, a large number of highly modern morals might be drawn from the new story."

-Originally from the 27 December 1919 number of the Illustrated London News, but I found it in the Ignatius Press edition of More Quotable Chesterton under the "Christmas" heading.

Why that passage? Because I'm on the other Schindler's List and the latest newsletter was in my mailbox this morning.

21 Decembris -- O Oriens

O Dayspring, Brightness of Light Everlasting, and Sun of Righteousness: Come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

The commentary is again from Bill East's e-mail posts of several years ago [the original source for which I have long since lost]:

My illustrious namesake derives his title from the Song of Zechariah, or Benedictus, which I quoted yesterday. Luke 1:78-79,

Per viscera misericordiae Dei nostri:
In quibus visitavit nos, Oriens ex alto,
Illuminare his qui in tenebris et in umbra mortis sedent . . .

'Through the bowels of compassion of our God,
Through which the Dayspring from on high has visted us,
To illuminate those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death . . .'

Notice that our antiphons are proceeding in a chronological direction through the Bible; not in the texts quoted, which are from here, there and everywhere, but in the events alluded to: Creation - Exodus - Jesse - David - and now the beginning of the Gospel, John the Baptist.

The symbolism of light is often applied to Christ in the NT, but for specifically eternal light we should look to Isaiah 60, which is all about light. The chapter begins,

Surge, illuminare, Ierusalem, quia venit lumen tuum,
Et gloria Domini super te orta est.

'Arise, shine, Jerusalem, for your light has come,
And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.'

Note orta, 'risen', the past participle of orior, of which Oriens is the present participle. At verse 19 of this chapter we find,

Non erit tibi amplius sol ad lucendum per diem,
Nec splendor lunae illuminabit te;
Sed erit tibi Dominus in lucem sempiternam.

'The sun shall be no more thy light by day;
neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee:
but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light.'

This is taken up in the Book of Revelation, or Apocalypse:

Et civitas non eget sole, neque luna ut luceant in ea, nam claritas Dei
illuminavit eam, et lucerna eius est Agnus.
(Rev. 21:23)

'And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it;
for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.'

We should also note the Second Letter of St Peter, 1:19,

Et habemus firmiorem propheticum sermonem: cui benefacitis attendentes
quasi lucernae lucenti in caliginoso donec dies elucescat, et lucifer
oriatur in cordibus vestris.

'We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.'

The 'Sun of Righteousness' comes from Malachi 4:2,

'Et orietur vobis timentibus nomen meum Sol iustitiae, et sanitas in pennis eius.'

(note again the use of orior)

'And there shall rise upon you who fear my name the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in his wings.'

Thursday, December 20, 2007

20 Decembris -- O Clavis David

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and no man openeth: Come and bring the prisoners out of the prison-house, them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

The fourth of the "O" antiphons is chanted today at Vespers. This post, like the others in the series, is a re-run from a few years ago. But it's a part of the Advent/Christmas office I'm particularly fond of. This text is taken from Parsch’s “The Church’s Year of Grace”, vol. I:

“The six-pointed star is the Jewish symbol for the shield or key of David. To Jews it is still a symbol of God and His most holy Name. It also was for them a sign of the promised Messiah (star of Balaam [Is this right? Shouldn’t that be ‘star of Bethlehem’? Did Balaam have a star? –jpc-]). It should, then, be perfectly obvious that Christ is the “Key of David,” i.e., the One who opens all the secrets and mysteries of the Old Testament. The scepter implies a true fullness of power over God’s kingdom.

“Reflections. (a) The figure. Substantially the passage is from Apocalypse 3:7, where Christ speaks of Himself as the ‘Key of David, who opens and no one shuts; who shuts and no on opens.’ But there also is a passage in Isaias (22:22) which corresponds almost word for word with our antiphon. The Old Testament text, however, is not messianic; it is directed to the faithful civil ruler whom God supports: ‘I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder. He will open and no one will shut; he will shut and no one will open.’ The symbol of handing over the keys denotes the conferral of supreme authority. With the keys he becomes chief executive and all his transactions are divinely approved. Evidently St. John borrowed the passage from Isaias and applied it to Christ, a precedent followed by the liturgy. The antiphon puts additional stress on Christ’s power by adding the title: ‘Sceptre of the house,’ or better, ‘over the house of Israel.’

“(b) Exegesis. . . . . .

“Lastly, the petition in our antiphon is somewhat more extended than on previous days. Christ holds the keys to the prison where Satan keeps men enchained. Through original sin mankind languishes in prison; redemption includes deliverance from this imprisonment. The antiphon describes it very realistically: Captive mankind sits in darkness and in the black shadows of death. Imagine an ancient prison (they called it a ‘lion’s den’). May Christ the Redeemer, we plead, unlock this prison, He has the key. May He convert the countless pagans whom Satan still holds captive; may He loose the bonds of sin and show sinners the rising light of Christmas. And are there no passions, no evil enticements from which He must free me?”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

19 Decembris -- O Radix Iesse

O Root of Jesse, which standeth for an ensign of the people, at whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the Gentiles shall seek: Come and deliver us, and tarry not.

from Pius Parsch’s “The Church’s Year of Grace”.

“The burden of the text is taken from various sections of the book of Isaias (see 11:1; 11:10; 52:15). Let us try to unravel the liturgical synthesis. In spirit the prophet saw how Judah and the kingdom of David would be destroyed. But there would remain a holy root. From the stump of Jesse (the name of David’s father) springs forth a twig, a twig that becomes a banner unto all nations. In its presence kings will become reverently silent, and the nations adore. It is clear that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah. David’s royal line was dethroned with the exile and thereafter remained shrouded n oblivion – Jesse’s stump. But with Christ a new branch buds out of the old root; the throne of David is again occupied. “And the angel said to Mary: The Lord God will give unto Him the throne of David His Father and He will reign in the house of Jacob forever.” Christ is of the root of Jesse, both as a descendant of David and as occupant of the royal throne. The wording of the prophetic text, however, does no pas over our Savior’s external lowliness and poverty..

“The bulk of the antiphon is devoted to a description of the kingdom. The small twig becomes the unifying principle about which the nations will gather like soldiers and citizens about their flat. With yarning the peoples will assemble around Him, will turn and acknowledge Him as Ruler. The Messiah’s glory will be so great that eve kings will stand dumbstruck in wonder and awe.”

And today we have the four line staff and Solesmes notation. I'd forgotten I did this once before a few years ago and the antiphon copies are still in the archive. I wonder how I got the text flat enough on the scanner to copy? The younger me was apparently more creative than the current version.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Adeste Fideles

A lovely version from Enya here.

18 Decembris -- O, Adonai

O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appeared in the Bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the Law in Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

The second of the "O" antiphons is sung today at Vespers.

"Adonai" means "Lord" and is the name used in the Jewish tradition for God. The divine name, spelt with the consonants JHWH, was probably pronounced "Yahweh"; however, it came to be considered too holy to pronounce at all, and the Masoretic vowel-signs for the word Adonai were attached to the consonants. This was a signal for the reader to say "Adonai" rather than "Yahweh" when reading aloud. The convention was misunderstood by some (though not all) of the reformers, who combined the consonants of JHWH and the vowels of Adonai to create the quite novel word Jehovah.

Our antiphon, then, identifies Christ very directly with the God of the Old Testament, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3) and gave him the Commandments on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20).

A disappointment: each day of the year Vatican Radio broadcasts sung Vespers from one of various convents or monasteries in Europe, usually in Rome I'm told. I was rather looking forward to the singing of the "O" antiphons. But now for two days in a row they have recited it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fr Harry Marchosky -- R.I.P.

A friend of mine sent this link the other day reporting the death of Fr Harry Marchosky. Those of us in Southern California will remember Fr Marchosky as the celebrant of the 8:00 a.m. indult Mass in the Serra Chapel at San Juan Capistrano Mission for many years. Those of us who attended on occasion remember the impassioned and learned sermons. You really needed to be paying attention. And the Serra Chapel was always SRO.

May he rest in peace.

TubaChristmas -- "This could be the big one"

The TubaChristmas California folks are going for the world's record this year. Bring your tuba or euphonium and head down to Anaheim this Friday.

Details at the TubaChristmas site.

Not in California? TubaChristmas is all over. Although, it's getting a little late in the year for many events.


Christmas is getting closer. Yesterday was Gaudete Sunday and tonight the "O" antiphons begin at Vespers. I couldn't get my Solesmes notation Liber to lie flat enough to scan so this is the modern notation from an old French Liber. It should sing the same way.

The antiphon in English:

O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Traditional Franciscans

It has been part of the rule of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate that they would celebrate the traditional Roman Rite whenever the local ordinary gave permission. But now with the advent of Summorum Pontificium they seem to have made the old rite a significant part of their apostolate. This recent page on their Air Maria site gives a taste of their enthusiasm for the traditional rite.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Alfons Cardinal Stickler -- R.I.P.

You may have seen the notice in Rorate Cæli this morning that Cardinal Stickler has died. There was another brief notice on the Vatican Information Service site.

One of the finest tributes to His Eminence was the following by Professor Carlos Antonio Palad which he sent to CTNGreg, a mailing list devoted to the traditional rites of the Church. It is reproduced here with the kind permission of Professor Palad:

It is with great sadness that I announce to you the passing of Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler SDB (1910 - 2007). At the time of his death, he was the oldest living Cardinal. He was also one of the last remaining periti of Vatican II. He is best known as the great defender of the Tridentine Rite during the 1990's, when few others dared defend it.

Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler SDB was professed as a Salesian in 1928 and was ordained a priest at the Lateran Basilica in 1937. He became an eminent canon lawyer and Latinist, serving the Second Vatican Council as peritus while also serving (from 1958 to 1966) as Rector of the Salesianum in Rome.

He was appointed Vatican Librarian in 1984, and was made a Cardinal the next year, in 1985. His claim to a place in the books, though, was just about to begin.

In 1986, Cardinal Stickler, Ratzinger, Oddi, Casaroli, Palazzini, Tomko, Gantin, Innocenti and Mayer were formed into a Commission tasked by John Paul II to examine the following questions:

1) Did Pope Paul VI authorize the bishops to forbid the celebration of the traditional Mass?

2) Does the priest have the right to celebrate the traditional Mass in public and in private without restriction, even against the will of his bishop?

The Commission voted eight to one to declare that Pope Paul VI had not forbidden the Traditional Mass. The Commission voted unanimously to declare that every priest has the right to celebrate TLM in public and private without restriction, and that even the bishop cannot forbid him from celebrating the TLM. This was in 1986 -- 21 years before Summorum Pontificum!

They issued a series of proposals which could be found in this article:

"The Vatican Norms of 1986"

Although John Paul II never released the findings of the Commission, Cardinal Stickler was to publicly reveal the verdict of the Commission of Nine Cardinals on these two questions in 1995. See the article "Traditional Mass Never Forbidden" - And, it should be noted that the proposals and declarations of this Commission are practically identical to those of Summorum Pontificum.

From 1992 to around 2000, Cardinal Stickler was by far the most outspoken defender of the Traditional Mass movement in the whole College of Cardinals. He was the great protector of traditionalists at a time when even "orthodox" Catholics considered the Tridentine Mass to be either abrogated or "passe" and hopelessly outdated for the present age. When almost no one else would defend the Traditional Mass movement, he did. In 1992, he became the first Cardinal since the 1960's to celebrate a Pontifical Solemn High Mass according to the 1962 Missal, in the North American continent. In 1995, he celebrated a great Pontifical Mass at New York City's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Examples of his defenses of the Tridentine Rite are the following:

Address to the 1992 Annual General Meeting of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales:

The Theological Attractiveness of the Tridentine Mass (May 1995)

The Role of the Celebrant in Mediator Dei

Reflections of A Vatican II Peritus

Preface to the 2004 Reprint of the Ottaviani Intervention

His short speeches are noteworthy for their blunt and prophetic insight. Although he accepted its validity and the fact that it is Catholic, he insisted that the Novus Ordo Mass is a fabrication and a distortion of the will of Vatican II. He trenchantly declared that the Tridentine Mass is theologically preferable to the Novus Ordo. These opinions, which were considered too extreme during the reign of John Paul II, are now staple theological fare in theological groups that have embraced the program of liturgical restoration under Benedict XVI.

When extreme old age finally silenced him in the early part of the present decade, other cardinals -- Ratzinger, Medina Estevez, and Castrillon Hoyos -- carried on his work of promoting and defending the rights of the 1962 Missal in the Church. He spent the last years of his life in seclusion in the Vatican; he was known to have celebrated his private Mass exclusively according to the 1962 Missal.

He reiterated in 2003 that all priests may celebrate TLM in private, even without their respective bishops' permission. In 2004, he endorsed the Ottaviani Intervention as remaining relevant to our own time.

It is sweet to think that this Cardinal lived to see the day when his teaching that the TLM was never forbidden was finally vindicated by the highest authority of the Church. With Summorum Pontificum promulgated and in effect, he could finally say his Nunc Dimittis.

Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler: Requiescat in Pace.

Oremus pro invicem. . . .

Prayers for the blogger who provides the wonderful pictures at Hallowed Ground would be very welcome at this time. As you can see here, he is in great need of them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Traditional Roman Rite in Dublin

Rorate Cæli gives a hopeful report on the new traditional chaplaincy in Dublin. You can find it here.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the 476th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to St Juan Diego near Mexico City. If you live in California, you can't be unaware of her -- she is omni-present in the devotion of the Mexican people who live here. Under this title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, she is patroness of all the Americas - not just Mexico. In the United States it ranks as a feast in the Pauline Rite. In the traditional Roman Rite, it depends upon the diocese. In the Diocese of Orange, for instance, it is of the first class as she is principal patroness of the Diocese.

A gallery of photos of devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Los Angeles.

Our Lady of Guadalupe's Basilica in Mexico City.
(Solamente in Español, but some lovely pictures.)

Another site (in English, this time) with much information on the devotion.


This Just In. . . .

I know you've been all a-twitter these past 48 hours but now the waiting is over: Herb the Libertarian came in third out of five candidates, with 1,007 votes. Why, he even beat one of the Democrats. Not even close to winning, of course, with 5.75% of the total. You can find the results here.

These past couple of weeks have been rather a laugh. Republican households have been getting discrete recorded telephone messages from prominent GOP types telling us who the "real" Republican candidate is amongst the two leading Demos. And mailers with the same message to carefully refined mailing lists. But look for this message on any of the candidates' public websites and you will not find a hint of it: no jolly photos with Mike Antonovich, no pro-life ferverinos, no staunch defense of the traditional marriage bond. Just a quiet word on carefully selected answering machines.

One wonders when our stealth Republicans plan on revealing their, uh, "true" positions to their Democrat constituents, not to mention the party bosses. Since there is to be a run-off election we shall have a little longer to wait. Holding my breath in anticipation. . . .


Monday, December 10, 2007

Fun with California Politics

Now, don't run away with that headline. "Fun" doesn't include winning any elections. No light at the end of the tunnel; nothing like that. But there is the opportunity to cause consternation in the ranks and generally screw things up for that hapless collection of country club buffoons and power-mad neocons out in front of the GOP presidential nomination race.

California GOP primaries have always been winner-take-all propositions. Until this year. Four years ago the party did a little furniture re-arranging:

Those rules turn California from a bastion of plurality-winner-take-all politics to a place that will essentially run 53 separate little primaries, with the leading GOP vote-getter in each congressional district taking three of the state's 173 Republican convention delegates. Another 11 at-large delegates will go to the statewide vote leader and three more will be unpledged.

Congressman Paul appears to be the only contender taking advantage of the rule change. Or even the only one aware of it. Thomas Elias explains further in fascinating detail here.

It certainly provides a more entertaining prospect than the State Assembly "race" my gerrymandered-within-an-inch-of-its-life district will be voting on tomorrow. The GOP is usually able to come up with a sacrificial lamb. But not this time. We can have our choice of three mainline Democrats out of the usual mold, someone from the AIP with no address, no web presence, no biography, no list of qualifications, and who doesn't do interviews. (There's not even a photo.) And there's a Libertarian. The Libertarian is, mirabile dictu, pro-life. Accompanied by a few other rather rum ideas. But, still. Since he's not going to win. . .if I happen to be free tomorrow and in the mood and able to find my sample ballot with the address of the polling place on it, I shall have someone to cast my meaningless vote for. And when you're browsing through the paper Wednesday morning and you find the Assembly election results down on the bottom of page 37 beneath the three-quarter page brassiere ads, you'll know that the -1% of the vote Herb the Libertarian garnered represents my ballot. And, presumably, Herb and his family.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Rorate cæli desuper, et nubes pluant Justum. . . .

Here it is already the Second Sunday of Advent and The Inn has yet to mention the season. The minutiæ of life have been devouring the days. We will try to remedy that now. The image above (the original of which can be found here) shows today's Roman station church, the Sessorian Basilica, the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. And here is something on Advent from the Blessed Cardinal Schuster's Liber Sacramentorum, volume I, page 319:

Unlike the old sacramentaries, in which the year began with the feast of Christmas, the Roman Missal enters [on the first Sunday of Advent] upon her liturgical cycle. The reason for this is that the Incarnation of the Word of God is the true central point – the milliarium aureum -- which divides the long course of the ages of humanity. In the designs of divine Providence the Incarnation either prepares that fullness of time which heralds the coming of the year of redemption, or, from the cradle of Bethlehem, directs its steps towards the Valley of Josaphat, where the Babe of the Manger awaits the judgement to be pronounced on all the seed of Adam, redeemed by his precious blood. The order of our present Missal is more logical, and corresponds more closely to this lofty conception of history, by which the Incarnation is made the true central event in the world's drama. The early Christians, on the other hand, when they began their sacramentaries with the festival of Christmas, were following, in so doing, the primitive liturgical tradition, which, down to the fourth century, knew nothing as yet of a period of four or six Sundays of preparation for this, the greatest of all solemnities.

It was towards the middle of the fifth century, when consequent on the christological heresies of Nestorius, the commemoration of the birth of our Saviour rose to great prominence, that a special season of preparation for Christmas began to make its appearance in the Liturgy, at Ravenna, in Gaul and in Spain. The controversy with Nestorius and Eutychius, and the great Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon – in which was solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the two natures, divine and human, united in the one Person of Christ, and in which the glories and prerogatives of the Theotokos were consequently highly exalted – these all gave to Catholic devotion a powerful impulse towards that mystery of Redemption, through the Incarnation, which found in St Leo the Great and in St Peter Chrysologus its most able and enthusiastic exponents.

As the first portion of the Leonine Sacramentary is mutilated and incomplete, it can tell us nothing concerning the early sources of the Advent liturgy in Rome; but in all probability the rite of the papal metropolis, in this as in other respects, was practically identical with that of Naples and with the suffragan see of Ravenna, where Chrysologus – even if he be not the author of the Advent collects in the famous Ravenna Roll – delivered to the people on four different occasions four splendid homilies in preparation for the feast of Christmas.

For many centuries the Roman Church has set aside four weeks for the keeping of Advent. It is true that the Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries, as well as several other ancient lectionaries, reckon five weeks, but the lectionary lists of Capua and Naples, and the custom of the Nestorians, who know only four weeks of Advent, bear witness in favour of the antiquity of the pure Roman tradition on this point also.

Unlike Lent, with its predominant thought of penance and grief for the deicide about to be consummated in Jerusalem, the spirit of the sacred Liturgy during Advent, full of the joyful announcement of approaching freedom, Evangelizo vobis gaudium magnum quod erit omni populo, is one of holy enthusiasm for the definite triumph of humanity, which, through the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ, is raised above to the throne of God on high.

The chants of the Mass, the responsories, the antiphons of the divine Office, are all for this reason bedight with Alleluias. It would seem that the whole of Nature, looking forward, as the Apostle describes it, to the final parousia, expectatio enim creaturæ revelationem filiorum Dei expectat, feels herself uplifted by the Incarnation of the Word of God, who, after so many ages of waiting, comes at length into this world to bring his greatest handiwork to its final perfection. Instaurare omnia in Christo. The sacred Liturgy, during this time, gathers from the Scriptures all those passages which are most forcible and best adapted to express the intense and joyful longing with which the holy patriarchs, the prophets and the just men of the Old Testament hastened by their prayers the coming of the Son of God. We cannot do better than associate ourselves with their pious feelings, and pray the Word made Flesh that he will deign to be born in the hearts of all men and spread his kingdom likewise throughout those many lands where his holy Name has not hitherto been made known, and whose inhabitants still sleep in darkness and the shadow of death.

My friend Gary pointed out to me today that as Christmas seasons go, this one will be cut rather short. January 6th this year occurs on a Sunday, so the Roman world, ordinary or extraordinary use, will keep it on the same day. The next Sunday is the 13th and in the traditional Roman Rite, the feast of the Holy Family. The very next Sunday is Septuagesima. So this year, those praying in the classic Roman Rite will have no Sundays after Epiphany at all.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

St Nicholas Day

The picture shows the Church of St Nicholas of Myra in Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. And that's because today is the feast of St Nicholas of Myra (or "of Bari" since his relics were removed there some thousand years ago.) No, he wasn't Irish; Myra is in modern day Turkey. But he is honoured the world over. He is the patron saint of children, scholars, boatmen, fishermen, dock workmen and sailors, coopers and brewers, travelers and pilgrims, and those who have unjustly lost a lawsuit. He is also invoked for defence against robbers. Supposedly he was once also the patron of robbers themselves; but that was highly unofficial.

Wikipedia has an extensive essay on St Nicholas and his various legends here.

In the Middle Ages the feast of St Nicholas also began the reign of the Boy Bishop in those areas that observed the custom. The good old Catholic Encyclopædia has this to say about the boy bishop:

The custom of electing a boy-bishop on the feast of St. Nicholas dates from very early times, and was in vogue in most Catholic countries, but chiefly in England, where it prevailed certainly in all the larger monastic and scholastic establishments, and also in many country parishes besides, with the full approbation of authority, ecclesiastical and civil. The boy-bishop was chosen from among the children of the monastery school, the cathedral choir, or pupils of the grammar-school. Elected on St. Nicholas's day (6 December), he was dressed in pontifical vestments and, followed by his companions in priest's robes, went in procession round the parish, blessing the people. He then took possession of the church, where he presided at all the ceremonies and offices until Holy Innocents' day (28 December). At Salisbury he is said to have had the power of disposing of any benefices that fell vacant during his reign, and if he died in office the funeral honours of a bishop were granted to him. A monument to such a boy-prelate still exists there, though its genuineness has been questioned, and at Lulworth Castle another is preserved, which came from Bindon Abbey. The custom was abolished by Henry VIII in 1512, restored by Queen Mary and again abolished by Elizabeth, though here and there it lingered on for some time longer. On the Continent it was suppressed by the Council of Basle in 1431, but was revived in some places from time to time, even as late as the eighteenth century.

The Saint Nicholas Center has more to say about the boy bishop (and girl bishops, too, alas, since it seems to be an Anglican phenomenon these days.) You can find the page here.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

1 December -- It's Rex Stout's Birthday Today

The creator of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, that's who.

Say It Once, See it Twice

Only a week or so ago Mary and I were talking about this very thing in regard to a couple of older people we know and this morning what should I read in Charles Moore's column in The Spectator:

It is well known that old people have a different attitude to the telephone than the young. This is partly because they were brought up in an era when each call was very expensive and the Bakelite instrument stood upright and solid, in a cold and public bit of the house. There was no incentive to chat. What is less easy to explain is the fact that so many old people put the phone down without saying goodbye. When younger people do this they are being deliberately rude. But I notice that many of the most courteous old people -- the late Bill Deedes was an example -- have this habit. What is the reason?

No idea. But we did notice that both of the old people we were thinking of are quite deaf. Could it be related?

Some Piping for Saturday. . . .

This is Chris Ormiston playing the Northumbrian Small Pipes at one of the recent the North Hero Gatherings. It's a longish recording -- maybe ten minutes -- with lots of different pieces and a virtuoso piper.

I'm off with the Highland Pipes shortly to play for a wedding. (The border pipe playing isn't ready for prime time yet.) Yesterday we had our first rain since last April and today is a lovely, fresh day with the air all washed clean and a bit of a chill. Great weather for the pipes. My fingers are more limber when it's a touch warmer but you can't have everything. Slow the fast things down a little and all will be well.