Sunday, June 11, 2017

O altitudo divitiarum...

O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him? For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen.-Romans 12:32-26 

In a Derridian fashion, I find it hard to talk about the Trinity for more than about thirty seconds or so without falling into a heresy of one kind of another. Pseudo-Dionysius expresses this problem well, as he writes about the journey into the darkness. Christ is the Light that enlightens every man who comes into the world, but the more we seek to be enlightened, the more is mystery not only unknowable without grace but limited to the comprehension in our human nature. Theology for Pseudo-Dionysius is especially negative. We must state what is not the case and then we by God's grace can state what is in fact what God has revealed. 

The Epistle for this Sunday, which is a celebration of the mystery of the godhead, the Holy Trinity, is taken from the epistle of the apostle Paul to the Romans. It succinctly addresses the mystery of God. It can be summarized n simple terms: We know that we are not God in our own nature, we know that we do not understand God's nature, and we understand that we do not know what exactly God's nature is like. Nevertheless, God has revealed what is necessary for salvation regarding his inner nature, that of charity in a communion of persons, and that we are called to participate in it, first via the sacramental life, and then in the heavenly life which is to come. 

Hare window, Holy Trinity, Long Melford
 We know far more about God than we did in the Old Testament, seeing that God has graciously revealed his Son, and now the Son has made it possible for the Spirit to be revealed in the life of the church, which is celebrated at Pentecost. We know from today's Gospel, the Ascension of the Lord according to St. Matthew, that the apostles are to teach the nations and baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In some versions of 1 John, chapter 5 includes a reference to the persons of the Trinity, included in the traditional epistle of the 1st Sunday after Easter: "And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one. This is quite limited. There are perhaps two references to the Trinity as we usually refer to it in the entire Bible.

 For the Catholic, this is no loss, since we know that Sacred Tradition is a source of divine revelation, as binding as the Scriptures, but still, one ought to reflect. God has given us what is necessary for salvation. The Athanasian Creed is prayed at Prime today, and it is prayed on all of the green Sundays which are to come, in the rubrics before 1960, that is. This exposes the relationship between Scripture and Tradition and the revelation necessary for our salvation in a meaningful way, for the Creed is not that of an ecumenical council yet is included alongside the psalms of David in the liturgy of the church. The creed is not even the work of its namesake; it probably dates to the century following the life of the great St. Athanasius of Alexandria. In fact, the text cuts straight to the heart of the matter of divine revelation, for "whosoever willeth to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith." 

It explains the first teaching of the faith, which has come from what is heard, as St. Paul teaches, continuing "Now the Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance." Thus God has revealed something of the "how" in how God is God. The Nicene-Constantipolitan Creed, familiar to most Christians from the liturgy, teaches how Christ is equal to the Father and how the Spirit is also equal. It teaches something of the work of salvation, but it does not clearly articulate that there is no aspect in which each person does not act. 

 It is true that the Father is especially known as creator, as the unbegotten one, and there is some sense in which he directs the creation of the world. Michelangelo's Creation of Man depicts the Father, not the entire Trinity. It is true that the title "redeemer" particularly applies to the Incarnate Christ. It is true that the Holy Spirit in a particular way comes to dwell in our souls at our baptism and whenever we receive the sacraments and are free from mortal sin. St. Gregory Nanzianzen is not unique in holding that the Father is especially revealed in the Old Testament, the Son in the New Testament, and the Holy Spirit in the church (in the "Fifth Theological Oration"). 

Setting aside the Incarnation, which is only of the Son, though all three persons would be in his soul full of grace, and the eucharist, which is also only of the Son, the three persons mutually indwell together, a doctrine known in Greek as perichoresis

There are two answers to the question which follows: How do they indwell? Something of this is taught in the Creed of the first two ecumenical councils, and the Athanasian Creed expands upon it. As the graphic above shows, the only thing which distinguishes the persons are the relationships, which are explained in the Nicene Creed and elaborated upon in the Athanasian Creed. The further elaboration is necessary to explain what the church believes and what is necessary for salvation and thus to avoid error in expressing those truths.

The second answer also comes from Sacred Scripture. They dwell in love, as a communion of persons. Something of this is seen in how we love, a truth most fully understood by grace and certainly hinted at by nature, though is not all truth found by grace through Jesus Christ? In the Angelus address of Trinity Sunday in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI taught, "
Today, the liturgy celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity almost to underline that in the light of the Pascal Mystery is fully revealed the center of the universe and of history: God himself, eternal and infinite Love. The word that summarizes all revelation is this: "God is love" (I Jn 4: 8, 16); and love is always a mystery, a reality that surpasses reason without contradicting it, and more than that, exalts its possibilities."

The conclusion of the Roman collects, "through our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son, who lives
The economy of grace. Ca. 1300. By Postdlf
and reigns with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end" drives this point home. All is done through the Son to the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit for their mutual glory for all eternity so that "
they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us," as the Lord prayed to the Father in the high priestly prayer before his Passion. 

It is all about love. The opaque reference to love in nature is in fact a reference to the explanation of the communion of love among man and God expressed so fervently by Pope St. John Paul II in the "Theology of the Body."  Love imitates the Holy Trinity, and family love does so in a concrete way.

One can drive the point of unity home further. The Spirit does speak through the prophets, and clearly in union with the Son, who beautifully quotes the prophet Isaiah as he reads the Scriptures in the synagogue. The Father seems to principally drive the action in the Old Testament, yet if one puts on interpretative lenses, the Son is present. In my view, there is something to the view that the Son is especially present at the burning bush and is the Angel of the Lord who slays the Egyptian first-born sons. At the very least, we must hold that each person is present and is present with the other two in eternity. 

Finally, one must recall how this applies to our own lives. St. Paul writes about the nature of charity to the Corinthians. He is especially writing about the inner life of love in the Trinity, to which we are called, by which we can participate via baptism as we cry out, "Abba, Father!" Thus, we return to the words "before all things" of the Athanasian Creed. For God has demanded works of charity, but no good comes without grace. This is true whether one is baptized or not. Further, a person who does evil but does an act of goodness towards his neighbor cannot merit from it, because he lacks the Trinitarian life in his soul. Even more so, one who lacks love gains nothing from what is otherwise commanded by the Lord towards one's neighbor. And the one who does good without faith might merit, but not nearly as much as the one who loves because of his confession in the Triune God. 

Analogies ultimately fail. The useful catechetical tool of the shamrock fails once the students are old enough to understand that it has unity but not true distinction. There is nothing in nature that adequately explains the Trinity. It is what is is, but we can never understand it. 

What does not fail is love. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

O crux splendidior cunctis astris

Today, the Invention of the Holy Cross would be today, according to the pre-1955 liturgical rubrics, as the Solemnity of St. Joseph coincided.

The cross, according to Venantius Fortunatus in the antiphon on the Magnificat from I Vespers, is "more radiant than the stars." (My translation comes from this booklet.) It is an event of human history, for the four Gospels all record the historical crucifixion of Jesus in a particular time, in a particular place. That time was around the year 33 as we now record it. It was 786 years from the founding of the city of Rome, in the time of the Emperor Tiberius, in the reign of Herod the Tetrarch of Galilee and of Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea.

But it is also a matter of faith. The crucifixion does not stand on its own. It is what brings about the Resurrection, and in this way, dying was the means to "destroy death and rising to restore our life," as the priest sings in the Paschal Preface. Christ the true Passover was sacrificed and brought us out of the slavery from sin. Without faith, it is simply a death, although a complicated one: Pilate does not yet believe in Christ, but he recognizes the innocence of the Victim.

This is particularly shown when the priest blesses the font at the Vigil of Easter. The Red Sea is a type of baptism, for it is some sign of God's mercy and salvation which anticipates and foreshadows  the true "thing" to be revealed in the New Covenant. The prophecy of the Exodus having been sung, it is appropriate then that the lit Paschal Candle leads the procession of the ministers to the font, for the candle represents the column of fire which led the Israelites to the Red Sea. They were in slavery to Egypt, we were in slavery to sin, and we are set free by baptism just as the Israelites were freed by crossing the Red Sea miraculously.
In short, it is obvious that the church does not leave behind the cross during Paschaltide. No! This is impossible, and here I have only given one example from the traditional liturgy. Grace only comes from the Passion, per the teaching of the Council of Trent, and although it certainly does not prove the doctrine, nevertheless it is deeply consoling that St. Helena found the True Cross in Jerusalem by virtue of its healing powers.

This takes us to the heart of the question, the liturgy of today, for the discovery of the cross by this holy woman is what is remembered today. Hence its name: "invention" really means "discovery." If we can only glory in the cross of Jesus Christ, as the Apostle said to the Galatians, then I think we ought to glory in that which is our way of participating in the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ the Lord, in the liturgical traditions as handed down from the fathers!

So why then when Bugnini eliminated the May feast is it still kept on the island of Santa Cruz, in the Pacific waters of California? Bishop Robert Barron, who of course is the auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, posted on Facebook about his trip for the festal Mass, which he says has been celebrated for fifty years. The math does not add up: the feast was suppressed in 1962. That means, as a priest acquaintance of mine said, "people are trads at heart." What Roman bureaucrats or Protestant reformers do will not entirely wipe out their traditional religion, to borrow from Eamon Duffy, although it will tamper with it; I have a soft spot for the Eagles, but not Joe Walsh singing a Protestant, even heretical hymn, at Mass, yet because of the last fifty years, people have no idea that there is an inherent tension in this liturgical celebration.

I also wonder why Knut Nystedt set faithfully the antiphon on the Magnificat which I quoted in the title and in the post itself. His setting is beautiful, yet he,Ola Gjeilo, and Arvo Pärt hail from Norway and Estonia, countries lost to Catholicism for the most part after the Reformation. Their music thus is of the high quality that is generally lost on Catholics.
They are contemporary composers, yet their idiom features strong references to Gregorian chant. Their music might not necessarily be usable in a liturgical context, but sometimes contemporary settings can be, e.g. Robert Hugill has set the entire Introit cycle pro tempore and composed a Requiem Mass. He is English, so his country's background is also Protestant.

These show that the sensus fidelium means something more than a mere opinion of the majority of the faithful. These show that we are inclined inherently towards tradition. I am not quite sure what it says about the nature of the liturgy or of God's plan of salvation, besides what I have said above about the cross, so let me say in conclusion that there is more to liturgy than what we have been offered since 1948!

 V  Adoramus te Christe et benedicimus tibi, alleluia.
  Quia per sanctam crucem tuam, alleluia. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tristes erant apostoli

This is a few days late, but this week's liturgical switcheroos have not finished yet... 

The apostles were sad, indeed, at Christ's Passion, and while I know that the saints are perfectly happy when they receive the beatific vision, nevertheless there must be a tinge of sadness at moments when the church on earth has done something terribly bizarre. That bizarre moment in question is how the first week of May has been handled since the 1950s in the Roman liturgy.

St James and St Jude, Blutenburg Castle
from Wikimedia, Mummelgrummel
Prior to 1955, 1 May in the West was the feast of the Holy Apostles, Philip and James, and the 3rd was Crouchmas, the Invention of the Holy Cross, commemorating the discovery of the Holy Cross by St. Helena at the site of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. After 1955, however, the feast of the Apostles was translated to 13 May, with the new feast of St. Joseph the Worker on 1 May, which led to the cancellation of the beautiful though relatively recent feast of "the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Patron of the Universal Church." This year, that falls in the first week of May, on 3 May, as that date is the Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter. Remember that in the traditional scheme, the octave is the octave, while the first week is the first week following the First Sunday after Easter (Low Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, etc.).

The Invention of the Holy Cross was removed entirely; presumably, the change follows the Byzantine practice of having only one feast in September, though that feast commemorates the recovery of the Cross from the Sassanian army in the seventh century.

Here I essentially summarize the position of Fr. Hunwicke, which he posits in part by way of reference to what one can read in the Stowe Missal.  The calendar, which I take to mean its arrangement and the feasts themselves, is not directly of divine origin but nevertheless it must be respected as something handed down from the fathers, to be changed only after great discernment, for the maximum benefit of the faithful, and in a way where it is still recognizably the same, at a minimum, and better still where the previous practice is somehow grafted onto the new. If one can write something in here or there in pencil or gum in a few pages of a new feast, then it's acceptable. The missal is still usable for many generations, and it can be truly said to have been handed down continuously. (Gregory DiPippo of New Liturgical Movement will remind me that "blogging is a visual medium," for I had missals which could demonstrate this point, and I never took pictures.)

When a feast is placed on a ferial day throughout most of the year, the ferial liturgy is simply lost, at least for that day. Due to the accidents of the reforms of the Breviarium Romanum by St. Pius X, however, it is relatively easy to insert a minor feast on a ferial day. For most feasts since 1911, the psalter is still of the day, though the hymns at the major hours of the Breviarium Romanum which are proper to the day of the week are replaced on that day by the hymn from the common, that is, the set of texts for each particular kind of saint. The Mass is not lost in a typical year, since it is just the repeated Sunday Mass, except in Lent; thus in Lent the ferial liturgy ought to take priority. At the little hours, the hymn never changes, and the chapter, responsory, and verse are proper to the time of the year, so those parts will always be prayed on Sundays and ferial days of the season.

The calendar can only include something which has been revealed explicitly or has shown to be an example of Newman's development of doctrine, in the most legitimate reform. It is true that St. Philip and St. James the Lesser do not have identical feasts in the East and in the West, but what is important is that they are both there. Historically, the feasts of apostles were of double rite, meaning that the antiphons at Matins, Lauds, and Vespers were sung before and after the psalm; on lesser feasts and at the Little Hours and Compline, they are intoned only before the cantor intones the psalm, and then they are sung completely after the Gloria Patri. When the number of these feasts became so great as to divide the doubles according to their importance, the apostles were in the second class, meaning that they are only behind feasts of Our Lord, Our Lady, and the most important feasts of a given place or religious congregation.
The high altar of Ss. Philip and Jakobus in Natz, South Tyrol. The apostles are
19th century (!), but the Madonna is original; she is in the same style as the statue moved to St. Mary's, Wausau WI
(Piergiuliano Chesi)

The Gloria and Credo are sung at the Mass, and there is a proper preface of the Apostles in the Roman liturgy. That there is a preface ought to tell us something, since the prefaces of the Roman Rite are traditionally limited. Almost all saints have the "Common Preface," which is also used for ferial days of the year!

A feast of an apostle can even outrank Sundays, since Sundays are usually of semidouble rank, and if it does not, it is translated to Monday in the traditional practice, that is. In the scheme of 1962, the feast is omitted when it falls on Sunday, as even "green Sundays" are considered to be feasts of the Lord which must outrank any feast except those of the Lord and of excepted feasts of the Virgin. St. Matthew and St. Thomas in 2014 were both eliminated by falling on a Sunday, and Ss. Simon and Jude will be eliminated next year due to the coincidence of the feast of Christ the King.

There are no longer First Vespers of an apostle, unless he be a patron saint of the highest rank, as those were eliminated except for the highest feasts.

This is a shame when it comes to St. Philip and James. The chapter, hymn, and verse of Vespers and Lauds come from the Common of Apostles in Paschal Time, and the psalms are also common, but the antiphons for Vespers, Lauds, and the Hours and the collect are proper to the feast. The Matins lessons are proper. The Mass is proper; in fact, the Masses of the Apostles are the most diverse for any liturgical category of saints.

Their feast was swept aside to the first free day of May, the 11th. I shall continue with reflections on the Joseph feasts and of that of Crouchmas, which is tomorrow due to the coincidence of St. Joseph, the patron of the church.

This is a beautiful rendition of the hymn of the day, using the text of the traditional Roman hymns, which were revised in the 17th century...


Friday, January 2, 2015

"Et Verbum caro factum est": Considerations on the Treatment of the Eucharist

Fr. Paul Nicholson, the wonderful missionary preacher from the Diocese of London, Ontario, recently posted a video homily in which he addresses the reception of Holy Communion in the hand. Father tackles it very well, I think. He makes clear that like it or not, the legislative authority of the church, specifically the Roman Pontiff, has allowed the practice, and so not even a parish priest can do much to actually eradicate the practice. If someone wishes to receive in the hand, then so be it. Of course this does not address the Extraordinary Form, where it is not allowed (Perhaps this is undiplomatic, but at my parish, the server simply places the paten under the chin, and the communicant figures out the need to stick out his or her tongue.

The increase of Eucharistic devotion as a whole in the life of the church is an important part of the permission to receive Communion in the hand. It cannot in any way diminish, according to the original indult issued by Blessed Pope Paul VI. Father Nicholson argues that it has not really increased either, and while he doesn't exactly say it decreased, I think at best one can say it grew stagnant.

In the mid-1960s, as I think most of the readers here know, changes were made to the liturgy and to the environment of worship in the church, and the reformers, at least in part claimed these were a return to the sources. Worship facing the people became the usual practice, based on an interpretation of the evidence from Roman churches such as St. Peter's Basilica. Since Eucharistic adoration was seen as a distraction from worship of Christ in the Mass, tabernacles were moved so as not to be a distraction from the altar of sacrifice and the Eucharist consecrated at that particular celebration. (Adoration developed during the Middle Ages.) Also, genuflections when crossing the altar in the presence of the tabernacle were eventually replaced by bows except at the beginning and end of Mass.

Now to the principle topic of discussion. Dutch and Belgian bishops re-introduced Communion in the hand to the church, a practice which had been extinct since the 800s in both the East and West.  It would seem to me that reformers knew this, but they claimed it was a return to a more ancient practice of receiving the Eucharistic Lord. The best book on this subject is still Dominus Est-It is the Lord!: Reflections of a Bishop of Central Asia on Holy Communion by Bishop Athanasius Schenider. He obviously loves the Lord, and this love flowed into this book. It is the kind of book where his love for the Lord will flow into your heart and mind as well. He covers both the history of the reception of Communion as well as the spiritual and even doctrinal, to the extent that our practice influences our belief, reasons to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, and in the Latin church, while kneeling.

One can separate these changes from one another, but I argue they are all connected. First, if the reform is meant to be a restoration of the liturgy from the time of the fathers, then it must be done wholesale. I believe in intense honesty, especially when dealing with things that are as important as the Mass. If the liturgical reforms are truly to go to the sources, there must be no Agnus Dei, no Sequences, no genuflections, no name of St. Joseph in the Roman Canon, no additional Eucharistic Prayers. The re-introduction of Communion in the hand contrasts to the developed text and ceremony.

 Secondly, the reliance on historical evidence in order to argue for certain liturgical practices is subject to change with the publication of the next major scholarly work. The liturgy must be received, not modified in order to keep it up to date with what we think it was like at the time of Gregory the Great. Of course that assumes we even have that in mind. The traditional Roman liturgy is what was received. I can think of a few changes that ought to be made here and there, to propers for the last 4 Sundays after Pentecost and to the lectionary perhaps. But the ritual, one that lasted almost without change for well over a thousand years, need not be picked apart. For instance, the form of the Pax was basically settled by the late 700s. The priest fractioned the host, sang Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum as he made three signs of the Cross over the chalice, with the reply being Et cum spiritu tuo [The peace of the Lord be with you always/And with thy spirit]. He then prayed the Haec commixtio as the host was conmingled with the chalice. Now, this is where it gets a bit complicated. The Agnus Dei was a late addition, so it was at different times not prayed, prayed after the Kiss, or prayed before Domine Iesu Christi, qui dixisti Apostolis tuis [O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst say to thine Apostles, "My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you,"] and finishing, he kissed the altar with the deacon. The priest then gave the Kiss of Peace to the deacon, who gave it to the subdeacon and so forth. There was no reason to change this practice, even if it could be justified by the order of the council to simplify the rites, on account of its ancient form.

On those notes of scholarship, even though I ironically tend to reject that particular hermeneutic of liturgical development, as well as the practice as received from the fathers, the best way to celebrate the Mass is facing the East. The arguments are too many to enter into here, but let's address the obvious elephant in the room. We tend to focus on Father "Call me Billy Bob" of St. Wipiddy Do-Da in Blackberry Square (in the same Diocese of Black Duck as Fr. Z's St. Ipsidipsy in Tall Tree Circle) and not as the priest who received his priesthood from Christ the true priest, as the one celebrating the Mass, as the one leading the congregation towards the Lord who will come at the end of time, and the one interceding for us before the Father.

The reformers' arguments are also argued without regard to the dangers to belief in the Eucharist resulting from over-correction of beliefs and practices dating to before the council, as beliefs that seem to be contradicted by new practices tend to be discarded in favor of the practices. The Eucharist is the same Eucharist, whether it is in the tabernacle or not, whether It was consecrated at that Mass or not. I think it is important to make a reasonable effort to consecrate hosts to be widely distributed at Mass in order to connect that Mass and that act of consecration to the personal reception of Communion at that same Mass , but that shouldn't preclude distribution of reserved hosts for practical reasons. Further, the reserved Eucharist brought from the papal Mass was mingled with the Eucharist of the Mass celebrated in the stational churches in Rome, so distributing the Eucharist previously consecrated is a sign of communion between all the other Masses celebrated throughout the world. On the other hand, one will not actually believe the Eucharist is the same if It is not treated as such when the priest does not genuflect when passing the tabernacle. By the way, this practice of stational Masses might be the origin of the subdeacon's wearing of the humeral veil and holding the paten. That is another example of treating holy things as we ought to treat them. We veil them: the paten (with the humeral veil or the corporal), the bishop's miter and crozier, the chalice, the tabernacle. But I digress.

Granted, a few historical accidents had to occur for this problem to arise. First, the theology of Adoration had to develop in the high Middle Ages. Second, this had to be reinforced in light of the Protestant denigration of the sacrament, and in order to connect Adoration to the Mass, the tabernacle was placed behind the altar on the central axis of the church. However, this has never been the case in the cathedral churches, at least in Europe. At the very least the Eucharist is removed-in the older form- from the tabernacle and placed in another suitable and accessible place of reservation when a bishop celebrates. Finally, the Low Mass had to become the paradigm for the Roman liturgy in place of the Pontifical High Mass. If one examines a ceremonial, one finds that the norm for the priest celebrant is to bow to the altar when leaving, returning, and crossing, except if the Blessed Sacrament be reserved there, in which case he genuflects. Then, and only then, could the reserved Eucharist then be seen a distraction from that Mass.

But I never have understood this nor the distraction posed by the second altar. Adoration of our God stems from and points toward divine worship, at the heart of which is the Eucharist. In Eucharistic adoration we specifically recognize that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Godhead, is in the flesh, his divinity veiled not only in that flesh but also under the form of bread and wine. And it should always drive us towards reception of Communion, which ought to take place during the celebration of Mass. Therefore, we always ought to recognize the Lord's presence, and in the Roman Rite, we genuflect to indicate that He is present. St. Paul said that every knee should bend at the Holy Name of Jesus. St. Gregory the Great, in a model case of Roman noble simplicity and the spirit of the liturgy, explained that this can be accomplished by a bow of the head or even one of the heart. It is impractical to kneel at every mention of Our Lord's name at Mass, so firstly it is used at regular points or at least ones that one can prepare for such as the readings. Moreover, genuflections are kept to this same pattern, and only the ones at the exiting of the sanctuary (to retrieve torches and such) are unpredictable. They should be kept to the minimum necessary to conduct the ceremonies.

The second altar meanwhile is a contrived problem. If the tabernacle is at the church's main altar, then one genuflects. If it is not, then one bows before Mass anyways (and the priest does during Mass). But the current discipline of the church, requiring the tabernacle be on the central axis or at least in a prominent place in the sanctuary, is in tension with the general practice of worship versus populum and the rubrics of the revised Missale Romanum. To put it bluntly, bowing to an altar in front of the tabernacle raises one's butt to Our Lord in the tabernacle. Also, to make to notice of the tabernacle signals that the Eucharist reserved there is not as important, and eventually people stop believing in the presence of Christ in the Sacrament, to say nothing of their understanding of the doctrine of transubstantiation. There are also far fewer kisses to the altar, only those at the beginning and end of Mass, which does two things. It makes worship versus populum more convenient, and it takes away from the altar and its own relationship to Christ. The altar in the usus antiquior is kissed every time the priest turns around, and it is to be kissed as if to say good-bye to the Lord, if only for a moment. This balances the recognition of Christ in the tabernacle by genuflection.

As regards Holy Communion as received in the hand, Fr. Nicholson delicately navigated its treatment. One can receive it without profaning it. But we make it easy to steal and profane, and I think that should be a cause of concern. I am not sure there is any argument against it from those who argue in favor of keeping this discipline of the church as it stands. There are people who are on a better and holier path than me who receive in the hand, and there's no way to answer why that is the case. This returns firstly to the integrity of the reforms. The bishops of the Low Countries did not return to the ancient practice. They heavily simplified and modified it. The rubrics still mandated the paten and houseling cloth to be used at all times in order to keep the Sacred Species from crumbling everywhere, yet this fell out of practice. (The GIRM still mandates it for Communion via intinction, and one would do well to use it all the time.) There was no ablution of the fingers, as Fr. Nicholson wisely suggests, nor was there an ablution of the mouth with water and wine. This was in late medieval ordos as a practice for the faithful, and since the use of wine to purify is still required in the Extraordinary Form, the practice on the priest's part is still a part of the Roman liturgy.

One may attribute the problem to a lack of catechesis on the nature of the Eucharist or at least how to receive it. If the former, then it seems a lackadaisical reception seems understandable, since no one actually believes they are receiving Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. If the primarily the latter, then belief in the sacrament will erode more likely than not, since one will naturally think, "That can't possibly be the way to treat the most precious gift ever given to humankind." It would be hard for belief to be maintained and a better practice adopted, unless one has reference to the older practice still used in the Extraordinary Form, that of receiving on the tongue kneeling.

Let's consider that one is taught that the Eucharist is indeed Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the form of bread and wine. He or she is taught to receive Him properly according to the norms of receiving in the hand. A reverence is made, and the hands are cupped, with one over the other like a throne. Only two fingers are used to pick up the Host, and the person consumes the Host in place, before moving towards the chalice to receive the Precious Blood. This situation is hard to argue against, since it's not exactly irreverent, but it does not inspire a lively faith in the Eucharist. Also, any spiritual benefits ought to be outweighed by the combination of the received tradition, which is the reception of Communion on the tongue, and for Latin Catholics while kneeling, along with the possibility of profanation and loss of belief.

By the way, a station with ablution bowls as Father Nicholson suggests and patens as I also suggest would only be possible at a parish such as my own. We had twenty-three altar boys one Sunday. Please do not scream "Fortescue hated extraneous servers!" at me. There's nothing I can do about it, nor will I stop such a practice. Better that than having too few!  I do like his idea though. If it is not the established practice, wherein one would loathe to be the sole person receiving in the hand or standing, it is good to prod people towards receiving on the tongue kneeling. I'm happy for them to give up because they don't like washing their hands so that over time they might come to love that practice of kneeling and for them to grow in the love of God. It is even better to do it the first time with a radical fire burning in one's soul, but the Christian life is one of small steps along the way of the Cross.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Let everything that hath breath, praise the Lord."

This post is not meant as a reminder, considering most anticipated Masses for the holy day on 1 January have now been celebrated, but rather more as an incomplete reflection (One realizes that much time and research is needed to fill the gaps, and my transitions to one idea to the next as of late have been, well, to use a technical term, wonky... Oh well. It's a blog, not an academic paper.)

The Te Deum may be sung in thanksgiving on the last day of each calendar year, so on 31 December, in a church or oratory for the faithful to receive a plenary indulgence. At my parish, we sang an lovely English setting that was easy and familiar (I am sure I had heard the melody used elsewhere, though I couldn't place it), with the text coming from the Book of Common Prayer, as opposed to the Latin plainchant. I do love when one can sing the plainchant melodies while singing an accurate yet elegant rendering of the Latin text, but the Prayer Book's translation is beautiful in its own right, as is much of the Anglican liturgy. 
We praise thee, O God : we acknowledge thee to be the Lord/All the earth doth worship thee: the Father everlasting./To thee all Angels cry aloud : 
the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
A favorite recording of the chant (the only version my friends put on Facebook!) is the chant sung in alternatim with the organ at Notre-Dame-de-Paris, with the organ being played by Pierre Cochereau. See below for the music. This practice could be found, and still is, across Europe, but it was especially popular in France, one of the leading Catholic centers of organ music. The cantor would intone the chant, and the choir would follow, then the organ, followed again by the choir.

Today that seems like an intolerable practice, and indeed, it does not seem to have been universally accepted. The French carried on, almost indifferent to protests, though they did place Psalm 150:6 on organs as an acknowledgement of the criticism and as their defense: Let everything that hath breath, praise the Lord.

However, the Te Deum was sung much more frequently in the Divine Office following Lauds, just as the Gloria was prayed on all third-class feasts, save those in violet. Thus it was more easily memorized, not just its melody but its texts. It, the Gospel canticles, and other frequently sung chants (there are verses for chants such as the Tantum ergo, the hymn for Vespers of Corpus Christi and of course at Benediction) were recited while the organ was played, so it was not as if the verses were left unprayed...

A commenter on the Youtube video gave this beautiful reflection on the practice of singing chant alternatim with the organ:
The Te Deum is supposed to unite the two choirs of Heaven and Earth in praising God. So the choir here is only singing half the verses while they leave the choirs of angels and saints in Heaven to sing the alternate verses (while the organ roars out its accompaniment to them).
This also responds to the critics of the practice, since the organ is accompanying the angels who are singing this. Further, it points towards a fundamental part of Christian worship, that of creation's response to God our creator, which is to acknowledge him as creator and give him what he is owed, n what St. Thomas Aquinas explains is the virtue of religion, a sub-virtue of justice.

God made this clear in the Ten Commandments, since he explicitly declared  himself to be the Lord God and that we must keep the Sabbath day. Through his creation in the image and likeness of God (at the moment, I cannot recall the Fathers' arguments and whether it is image or likeness that reason is a part of... I think the former) man is capable of recognizing God as creator. St. Thomas's five ways, no matter what one might think of them otherwise, come to mind as a strong proof of this view in theology. Additionally, goods can be good in their own right and used for legitimate pleasures without man needing fear his salvation. Of course, ultimately goodness comes from participation in the divine goodness. The good creation cannot stand apart from the creator that saw that it was good, and so goods are ordered, from the lesser goods to the highest goods, namely God, to whom all the lower goods point. But our nature is weakened, so we turn to other desires and things in place of God, leading us away from the fulfillment of ourselves in God, leading us away from goodness and towards nothingness.

Yet we turn our hearts and minds towards the Lord, lifting them up to him in worship, which is fundamentally an act of thanksgiving. It is simplistic to remember Athanasius' On the Incarnation simply for his theology of theosis, where God became man so that men could become gods, since the work and even that statement are more complex, but it is true. We must keep this in mind during Christmastide and Epiphanytide especially, when we liturgically commemorate the Nativity of Our Lord.

In further parts I hope to reflect upon the nature of liturgical hymns of thanksgiving and their connection to each other, namely the Gloria and the Te Deum, and how we ought to perceive thanksgiving. I have some reading and thinking to do tomorrow, it looks like. Blessed new year.