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. 

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