Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Manipulum Fletus et Doloris

Last night, after a long hiatus, I exercised my subdiaconal ministry again for the Mass following the administering of the Sacrament of Confirmation at which my oldest son received the Holy Ghost. Since Bishop Sullivan became Ordinary of Camden, he has personally administered the sacrament for us, a blessing considering that his predecessor delegated that task to parish priests each year. After Confirmation, His Excellency sits in choir at a temporary throne we build for such occasions, and then follows a Mass, usually that of the day's Office. Yesterday, this was the case again with the Mass of the Feria, which showcases that the Solemn Mass is normative, no matter how high or low the day's observance happens to be, and it provided a rare case of being able to hear the Paschal Preface sung in the Ferial tone while yet still hearing the Gloria in excelsis resound owing to the joyous nature of these seasonal feriae.

This was the first Solemn Mass onsite at Mater Ecclesiae since a wedding last summer, and the first sponsored by the same parish since the annual Assumption Mass last August in Philadelphia.  Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Candlemas, and Holy Week all passed without a deacon and subdeacon, a poverty which makes one appreciate all the more the restoration of the normative Mass of the Roman Rite.

It dawned on me last night, as I fastened my maniple to my left arm at the beginning of the Mass, that though I had said this prayer countless times before, the words Merear, Domine, portare manipulum fletus et doloris really struck me for the first time. That small, sinistral garment the Novus Ordo likes to forget really does enscapulate the entire ministry of service to which I am called, and likewise, those words ring ever more true. The life of liturgical service can be a lonely one, yet it is also a deeply happy one. As crosses and tribulations may abound in my own life or in the lives of others, the subdeacon, as a liaison between the faithful and clergy, offers those sufferings, bringing them to and offering them at the altar of sacrifice. And then, truly I can conclude that same prayer with that subjunctive purpose clause ut cum exsultationis recipiam mercedem laboris.
Assumption Mass Recessional: 2018
The subdeacon is his maniple. The garment is his identity.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

In primis diebus Maji

While Holy Week is the week which suffered the most damage of all, the first week of May showcases the most damaged week in the Sanctorale following the 1960 calendrical changes. This first week of May counts no fewer than four feasts which have suffered the axe of a rationalist agenda, and only one of these feasts even still exists (albeit on a later, foreign date) by the time the so-called traditional Missal of 1962 came into force.

In years past, I've recounted my First of May anecdote several times; it still gives me amusement thinking about that episode 22 years ago. So, we already know that the modern (and ugly) construct of the new feast of "St. Joseph the Worker) displaced the ancient feast of the Apostles Ss. Philip &; James, the latter being pushed to the then next free day of May 11 since 1956. In the process, the relatively young (1870) but beautiful Paschaltide feast and octave of the Patronage of St. Joseph was eliminated. This latter feast was affixed to the Wednesday following the Second Sunday after Easter since 1913, having been fixed to the Third Sunday after Easter originally. The Novus Ordo would move Pip n' Jim back again in 1970 but still two days later than their real day, and in the process rendering the stale-dated Joseph the Worker to optional memorial status (which is what should have been all along while leaving in place the real Paschaltide feast of St. Joseph). The new date they would occupy was newly free thanks to the other destructions done in 1960 which I recount below.

While the 1955 mix up of Joseph, Pip, and Jim was pernicious enough, another round of violence befell the Roman Kalendar in a precursorily excel-sheet efficient rationalism agenda. No fewer than three feasts, all of high rank and all celebrated continuously in the Roman Church for over 1,000 years, were with the stroke of a pen eliminated. As a token bone, all three could be observed thenceforth as a ("Fourth Class") Votive Mass found in the appendix of the Missal under Masses for Special Places and Congregations. All three feasts were eliminated under the two false principles of striking "redundancy" in the Kalendar and removing references to miracles/legends from the Liturgy, a capital offense to modernists.

The first of these feasts is the Finding of the Holy Cross (May 3), a feast of Double Second Class rank (ergo, it would displace Sunday when it so fell) which recounts the event of St. Helena leading her expedition to Jerusalem in which she discovered the True Cross of Our Lord. The 1962ist and his Novus Ordo cousin take this event and wrongly conflate it into the September 14 feast. The September feast, interestingly kept, would not have been possible if not for finding the Cross in the first place for the Exaltation recounts another event, three centuries later, in which the Byzantine Roman Emperor Heraclius triumphantly rescued the (already found) Cross from the Persians. The beauty of recapitulating the Office of Passiontide in the feast of the Invention of the Cross but now laden with Paschal joy and Alleluias is completely lost in the 1962 books, save for an optional Votive Mass. True Liturgy deepens our Faith by such recapitulations.

The second loss is the "legendary" feast of St. John before the Latin Gate (May 6), a feast of Double Major rank. This is the feast which celebrates the Beloved Apostle's "martyrdom" by being boiled in oil but  suffering no harm and even being made more youthful, for he was a martyr in will, but not in deed. Hence, the Office this day is taken largely from the Common of Martyrs during Paschaltide (an Office which largely doubles as the Paschal Office of Apostles). In 1962, this also was relegated to be an optional Votive Mass, making May 6 nothing but a Feria.

The third to suffer the rationalist axe is the feast of the Apparition of St. Michael the Archangel (May 8), also a Double Major feast reduced to a Feria. The feast recounts the Archangel's apparition in A.D. 492 to a young man who was told to build a church dedicated to the Archangels over a cave at Monte Gargano in the Kingdom of Naples. While May 8 recounts the apparition, September 29 celebrates the dedication of said church in honor of the three archangels. The modern rationalists don't like "legendary" tales and they can't stomach having two days (i.e. May 8 and September 29) whose Offices and Masses are nearly identical. This feast disappeared to optional Votive status not even 10 years after Pope Pius XII (a liturgical innovator himself and also a man of modern science) had attached a special patronage to this feast making St. Michael the patron of radiologists!

We who live and restore the real Roman Rite rejoice in the week ahead. This year, following immediately upon the Paschal Octave, we get to celebrate another festal week - St. Mark on Monday (transferred from his day on April 25), St. Catherine of Siena on Tuesday, Ss. Philip & James on Wednesday, St. Athanasius on Thursday, the Finding of the Holy Cross on Friday, and St. Monica on Saturday. That's nearly an entire week of Proper Vespers each evening! Happy feasting!



Saturday, March 09, 2019

Vesperae ante Comestionem

This morning the Pars Verna of the Roman Breviary took effect, and with it, the full liturgical beginning of Lent ensued. This also means that today begins the six weeks every year in which Vespers are effectively sung in the late morning (so as to have the full meal at midday on each fast day) on Monday-Saturday, no matter the Office being sung; the day of Sunday itself being the only exception wherein Vespers is sung at its normal hour.  Here is a repost of what I wrote four years ago concerning this venerable and deliciously "irrational" practice:

I pray that this post finds all having a fruitful Lent thus far. Yes, it is that time of year again, and even though we remain in the frozen thralls of winter here in the Northeast US, the Liturgy has already has moved on; yea, the Pars Verna of the Breviary just came into effect.

And what does that vernaltide mean but much fasting and morning Vespers! Last year, I wrote a post about the Veritas Horarum of the Holy Week rites and made some reference to morning Vespers during Lent. Herein, I wish to offer a glimpse of how I have come to appreciate this old and customary Roman Tradition.

In earnest, I cracked open my Pars Verna for the first time this year this past Saturday morning and prayed the first pre-noon Vespers of the season. But why, you may ask, am I praying Vespers (Lat. Vesperae,-arum - evening) at 11:30 in the morning? That John must be Richelieuing his way to cram in the Hours to get onto "better" things, right? Wrong. As I mentioned in my post last year, the liturgical day has a venerable and ancient order (disrupted and replaced with a secular understanding following Bugnini 1.0 in 1955); the Office and the Mass are one, integrated whole to sanctify the Day from Vespers to Vespers. On penitential weekdays, which includes Saturdays in the West, the Mass is offered after None rather than the festal and Dominical Tercetide. This Tradition is rooted in the fasting that we now undertake; no food or drink could be taken til after Mass and Vespers on a weekday of Lent. Because of human weakness, the Church allowed the timing of None-Mass-Vespers, but not the Order, to be anticipated earlier in the day so as to accord a break from the fast around midday. Hence, morning Vespers on the weekday of Lent.

The post-Tridentine era saw a gradual relaxation of the fasting precepts. We went from what was essentially a vegan diet (and only once a day) to the allowance of meats and dairy on certain days and the addition of two small collations to sustain health during the rest of the day. The present Latin precepts for fasting are a joke and not even worth mentioning here, so for this purpose we'll stop with the genesis of the fasting laws as of 1962. In Canon Law, the fast assumes the main meal at midday with the allowance of the two smaller non-meals, one in the morning and one in the evening. Canon Law written by Italians no doubt.

One is then tempted to say that since some small amount of food has already been taken before noon, the need to anticipate Vespers is no longer needed. Such became legislated in 1960. But we must also consider that over the centuries what was once a concession to human frailty came to take on an auctoritas of liturgical custom and to represent, more so in my opinion, a symbolic inversion of time. The liturgical day, time itself, is in a state of chaos owing to our sins which we now mourn during this Quadragesimal season. Right order is restored by the Resurrection; hence, Vespers are sung at their normal time on Sundays during Lent and then again every day following Pascha.

On a personal level, and being that my Old World family culture still permeates, it just makes more sense, especially from a physical perspective, to have the big meal of the day in the early afternoon. It makes no sense how the Americanist-Protestant workaholic system defers one's main eating time well into the evening. How is it healthy to have all that food sitting in one's stomach so close to retiring for sleep? That is, unless we stay up all night during the darkest hours of temptation in revelries and such which would not be very Lenten in spirit...unless we're keeping vigils. I know I can't go until sunset before taking any food; I would collapse from low blood sugar and be quite irritable, so I find the midday break-fast to be more attuned to natural and even spiritual health. Ergo, I conform the Office accordingly to sound physical health and long-standing liturgical custom so that I am eating commestio after Vespers.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Depositio Alleluia

It is Septuagesima Eve, and here follows an old post on what we used to do this evening. Later, Vespers will still be sung with the accompanying farewell to Alleluia (I can still write the word as I type), but the older kids have lost interest in these things now, so a few of the youngers and I will see to the burial in simpler fashion down to the basement.

Back in the day of only three children and all under the age of six, we did this:

In our household, we gave a noticeable farewell to the “A” word, the song of joy which now must not be uttered by word or pen (or blog). The depositio, improved upon last year’s first release of this wonderful Medievel tradition, began with chanted First Vespers of Septuagesima Sunday just before sunset this past Saturday. Vespers was chanted in the dining room with two lit candles, last year’s old palms collected from all household locations, and a box yet to contain the “A” words, upon the same table which had previously held our Nativity display (removed in the morning that same day). Vespers having been sung completely through until and exclusive of the Benedicamus Domino at the end, a pause ensued in which the two older children rolled up their hand-drawn “A” scrolls and placed them in the box. Following this, all processed to my office to the full volume resonance of the series of “A” words at the end of Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium. Having reached the office, I recited, in Latin and then in English, the traditional song/poem bidding farewell to the “A” word. Then, all donning their coats, we processed outside: the two older children led the way holding the old palms, I carrying the youngest child and the “A” coffin box followed, and my wife photographed the event from behind as we made way to the burial plot, dug adjacent to the my (now dead) garden in the farthest reaches of the backyard. Having lowered the box into the ground, with accompanying snow fall, I chanted the final Benedicamus Domino to which a double “A” word was affixed (per the rubrics of Vespers for that evening) to which my wife gave the Deo gratias response in like manner. Then, saying in the grave voice the Fidelium animae to conclude Vespers, I shoveled the dirt upon the box and buried that song of joy. Giving a somber incantation of the Laus tibi verse to replace the “A” word now for weeks to come, we recessed in silence (mostly) back to house. In the future, holy water and incense will be added to truly replicate the old depositio tradition.

Today, we now definitively stand in the full somberness of Septuagesima. Now we are at the gates of the most holy and solemn period of the Liturgical Year.


Tres abhinc Annos

Receiving the Instrument of Office - Feb 18, 2016
Three years ago, this unworthy servant was installed into the Ministry of Acolyte, seu Subdeacon, under the provision Ministeria Quaedam (MQ).  This is a repost of my reflection a year on the same anniversary, but before going there, I must add that to whatever extent Ministeria Quaedam is being used to the advantage of propagating the Traditional Liturgy, we still live and deal in an age of what one of my confreres calls "sacerdotalism", an "ism" which conflates clerical function with the priesthood alone. More often than not, solemn Masses hither and thither are being ministered by priests (diocesan and FSSP working together) taking one or both of the inferior roles; in fact, a brother acolyte in the vicinity is no longer being asked to serve his proper subdiaconal role since the advent of the FSSP in the Philadelphia suburbs. This is not the direction we should be going. By all means, invite priests to serve the inferior roles to increase and multiply the Missa Solemnis, but when actual subdeacons (aka Instituted Acolytes) are available and have been commissioned for exactly this purpose, then invite them to be part of this propagation.

Repost from last year:

Though MQ is far from a perfect solution to a long, unheeded issue - namely, to restore the minor orders as real functions in the parishes as they were for centuries before the modern seminary system came about - it is at least an attempt, better than nothing and 400 years later, to implement the calls of the 23rd. Session of the Council of Trent. The minor orders, the Subdiaconate, and the Diaconate should never have been relegated, de facto, to merely stepping stone graduations in the seminary towards the priesthood. For all the faults of the post-Vatican II era, the idea of restoring these (well, the ones they kept) to parochial life (in addition to the seminaries) is both noble and in full continuity with the actual Tradition of the Roman Rite (and the East as well); the way this has been implemented (or lack thereof), however, leaves a lot to be desired to put it lightly. Would that more Traditional Mass venues take the queue from Mater Ecclesiae and the Ordinariate and show everyone how to correctly and nobly implement these provisions we now have available!

Solemn Mass is now normal for our First Holy Communions
I've written enough about how the modern Acolyte is really, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as the old Subdeacon. This post is not to rehash that point. Rather, I join in union with my subdiaconal brethren in the Anglican Ordinariate, and celebrate the fact that we are all part of a very real, yet small, effort to restore our beloved Roman Rite to its lived ideal practice. We are part of the movement to recover and continue the full Tradition of our venerable Liturgy which suffered sickening minimalisation due to the Protestant Revolt, its overly academic Catholic counter-reformation reaction (which inflated catechesis and personal spirituality out of proportion to the communal liturgical life of centuries of our forebears), and the rise of the dominant Low Mass culture necessitated by the accidents of history in persecuted Ireland and their import to the rest of the English-speaking Catholic world. The presence of acolytes and other officially commissioned liturgical ministers in the parishes helps restore the normative practice of the Faith - namely the Solemn Mass and the sung Divine Office - to regular Catholic life, one small step and one parish at a time. We won't live to see the eradication of 500 years of liturgical minimalism and hyper-devotionalism, but we may live to see the day when the Solemn Mass is at least common and familiar, when a noticeable number of people re-prioritise liturgical prayer again over personal prayer (not in competition, but in restored hierarchy of importance), of Vespers and other Divine Office services being more common. These may be dreams, but they are also realities, realities of old for most of Catholic history that must become realities again anew.
Restoring venerable rites
The full prostration at the Litany of the Saints
on Easter and Pentecost Eves

Those of us who work in vineyard of liturgical restoration are hopefully ignoring and marginalising the verbal diarrhea out there in the world of ecclesial politics. Worrying about that nonsense is to treat symptoms without ever curing the disease. That disease is to minimalise the public worship and honour we, as man collectively, owe in justice and love to Almighty God. That disease is precisely what Protestantism has wrought on Catholic (and political) life for 500 years. We know that there is one, and only one, way to restore the Faith and right order in the Church, and this is to restore the Liturgy -  to truly restore the Liturgy to its full life and importance among the faithful. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

I am deeply grateful, humbled, honoured, and challenged to have been called to this liturgical ministry. May it be to the glory of the Blessed Trinity, to my sanctification, to the ennobling of the totality of one, unified vocation of manhood (i.e. that liturgical service and matrimony are not mutually exclusive but are part of the same and one calling to be a man), to the blessing of all my confreres in the same ministry, and to the propagation of the noble cause of restoring our venerable Roman Liturgy.

Two Acolytes together as Chaplains to the Bishop - Philadelphia, Sep 14, 2017

Monday, January 21, 2019

Consecratio Virginum - Pars Secunda

Before Advent, I announced I would start a new series of posts on the traditional ceremony for the Consecration of Virgins as given in the Pontificale Romanum. Today being the feast of the quintessential Roman Virgin and Martyr, St. Agnes, it is fitting to resume this series by beginning to take a look at the ceremonial. Here I must reiterate that this ceremony is not only for women who are taking vows in religious houses, but more especially, it is for women who remain in the world (with gainful secular employment and all) but live in a consecrated state of virginity, a forgotten, but not lost, tradition which hearkens back to the likes of Synteche and Priscilla in Acts and St. Martha in the Gospels.

Like restoring the Roman Rite to its true bearings which is neither the binary of 1962 nor 1970, the notion of a consecrated woman remaining in the world also cuts another binary so prevalent in Tradistan - i.e. the Vocational Duopoly (Marriage or Priesthood/Religous Life) forcing the hand of every young Trad to choose between only those two "valid" paths of Catholic adulthood, beginning with vocational probing at Ignatian Retreats offered to highschool Freshmen and Sophomores in places like my Alma Mater (Gaudeamus igitur juvenes dum sumus...).

As an aside, and not to get too ahead already, several of the proper liturgical texts found today in the Office of St. Agnes were incorporated into the ceremony I am about to discuss. The most notable case is the antiphon sung at the part where the newly consecrated virgin is to receive her ring; this antiphon, sung in lovely seventh mode (the same melody as given in today's Office), is the third antiphon of Lauds/Vespers and goes: Anulo suo subarrhavit me Dominus meus Jesus Christus, et tamquam sponsam decoravit me corona. (My Lord Jesus Christ hast espoused me with His ring, and He hast adorned me as His spouse with a crown).

To segue back to the beginning, it is notable that this ceremony is replete with nuptial imagery. In fact, it is more notable that the entire ceremony could be said to be a nuptial rite, but Holy Church gives us such an elaborate nuptial rite not for a bride and bridegroom who contract the Sacrament of Matrimony, but for a virgin who is to be espoused to Christ, despite there being no sacrament confected. The rites of Matrimony are short and stark by comparison.

The Rite for the Consecration of Virgins parallels the rites of Ordination for priests and deacons; it takes place within the Mass rather than before the Mass as is the case with Matrimony. Being a festal occasion, the rubrics stipulate the rite occur on specific days such as Epiphany, Low Sunday, the nativities of Apostles, or Sundays in general; there does not appear to be a "closed season" in contrast to Matrimony (forbidden during Advent and Lent). The virgin to be consecrated must have attained 25 years of age.

All that is necessary for the rite (e.g. rings, garments, veils, etc.) are prepared at the Epistle corner of the altar, the same place for the solemn blessings of candles, ashes, and palms. The procession includes the virgin(s) attended by senior matrons and other "bridesmaids" who come before the bishop and then take their places in a covered area near the sanctuary which will be suitable for their vesting in their virginal garments.

Pontifical Mass begins in the usual way. Like ordinations, Mass is of the day's Office with the addition of a second collect, secret, and postcommunion, sung under one conclusion, proper for the rite of consecrated virgins. Other commemorations would then follow determined by the rubrics of the day. The Mass proceeds as usual through to the Alleluia and its verse (or to the end of the Sequence before Amen or Alleluia are sung if there be a Sequence), but the concluding Alleluia is delayed.

The bishop proceeds to sit, mitred, at a faldstool placed in the middle of the altar, facing toward the people, just as at ordination Masses. The virgins are now clothed in their garments (either particular to the Order they belong or the particular garment a secular virgin chooses - e.g. bridal gown) but without their heads veiled. Each virgin is accompanied by two women, who can be called bridal matrons or maids, and they enter the church with veils covering their faces, whilst the archpriest (i.e. the Assistant Priest) in cope chants the antiphon taken straight from the familiar Gospel passage sung at the Masses of Virgins: Prudentes virgines, aptate lampades vestras: ecce sponsus venit, exite obviam ei. 

The virgins, now also holding candles (can this get any more like an ordination?), enter two by two, make reverence to the altar and bishop and then go outside the sanctuary, facing the altar. They then kneel in their places, whilst the archpriest standing among them addresses the bishop in the tone of a lesson. Here follows a presentation of the virgins, to which the bishop asks "Do you know that they are worthy?" The archpriest answering in the affirmative, the bishop chants Venite to the virgins and they sing in response, Et nunc sequimur. They rise and come to the entrance of the sanctuary and kneel again. Then the Venite and Et nunc are repeated a second and third time, each in a higher tone, and each accompanied by the virgins drawing closer until they are kneeling before the bishop in the sanctuary.

The third invocation has the fuller texts:

Bishop: Venite, filiae, audite me; timorem Domini docebo vos. (Come, daughters, hear me; I shall teach you the fear of the Lord)
Virgin(s): Et nunc sequimur in toto corde: timemus te, et quaerimus faciem tuam videre: Domine, ne confundas nos: sed fac nobis juxta mansuetudinem tuam et secundum multitudinem misericordiae tuae. (And now we follow in all [our] heart: we fear Thee, and we seek to see Thy face: Lord, do not confound us: but make us be near Thy meekness and according to the multitude of Thy mercy.)

The virgins then prostrate, and each one says individually: Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum, ut non dominetur mei omnis injustitia. (Receive me, O Lord, according to Thy word, that every injustice wouldst not have dominion over me.)

To be continued...


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Octava Epiphaniae

Happy Octave Day of Epiphany! The Incarnation of God made man has been made manifest! In a strange twist, today is the one day (I can honestly recall) in which the Novus Ordo calendar actually gets something right. See, before the 1955 revolution, January 13 was always and everywhere the Octave Day of Epiphany, including when it fell on a Sunday. But, today those in 1962ville, in addition to the late Pacellian sedevacantists, are celebrating a recent devotional feast (i.e. the Holy Family) displacing the ancient Octave Day. Indeed, those communities this year (and every year January 13 falls on Sunday) not only do not observe the octave and its Octave Day, but the proper Gospel of Our Lord's Baptism in the Jordan and the beautiful proper Collect (more below) appointed for this day alone are completely omitted! And this is traditional??? Yet, the Novus Ordo, like a broken clock right twice a day, restored the Roman calendar to its traditional bearings before 1956 when it came to according the Baptism of Our Lord its proper due.

In 1920, Pope Benedict XV extended and fixed the feast of the Holy Family to be the celebrated on the Sunday within the Octave of Epiphany, thereby reducing that proper Sunday to be a perpetual commemoration. Sed autem, whenever the Octave of Epiphany occurred on Sunday, the Holy Family (and the commemoration of the Dominica infra) would rightly be anticipated to Saturday, yesterday, in order to give the Octave Day and its Proper Gospel and Collect its rightful place. That was, until the Epiphany Octave was "abolished" in the 1955 Revolution and the rubric was changed to omit the newly titled "Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord" whenever it fell on Sunday in order to keep the newer devotional feast always on the Sunday. There is nothing wrong with a devotional feast in itself, but never at the expense of displacing (or outright omitting) ancient observances and essential themes of Our Lord's revelation and life. Ironic that the Novus Ordo today is in union with the real Roman Rite, while the 1958 and 1962 communities observe a modern attack to the calendar.

Here follows a repost of my Epiphany Octave post from two years ago:


The Epiphany Octave is one continuous celebration in which we recall singularly and simultaneously the three manifestations of the Incarnate Word: the adoration of the Magi, the Baptism in the Jordan, and the first miracle at Cana. It is only in post-1955 modern and rationalistic categorizing that these manifestations came to be seen as separate feasts (within or outside the newly invented term "Epiphany Season"); to this end, for example, the Octave Day on January 13 was renamed the "Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord" after the so-called abolition (immemorial customs and rites cannot be abolished) of the octave in 1955; the nomenclature and popular sentiment of Our Lord's Baptism as its own feast, separate and following Epiphany, would then continue and become cemented with the Novus Ordo calendar. But, in the true Roman Rite, there is no "Epiphany Season", there is only the Epiphany Octave which is followed by a post-Epiphany, green, Per Annum season. As we have been discussing, the correct and historical meaning of Epiphany is the trifold manifestation as one feast celebrated over eight days in which God made man is manifested, and after which, we are ready to follow Him in His public ministry and up to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and rise again.

This Octave is one of great privilege, only slightly less powerful in its domination of the calendar compared to the Octaves of Pascha and Pentecost. The latter two octaves exclude the celebration of any other feast whatsoever; the Epiphany Octave, though the days within are all of Semidouble Rank and Rite, admits only the celebration of any particular (local) calendar's observance of a Double of the First Class; in both cases, all other feasts are either transferred to an open day after the octave or commemorated within the octave, depending on the rank. It is certain that the Church considers the mysteries and celebrations of these three feasts with the utmost importance by forcing us all to dwell only on these respective feasts for eight uninterrupted days. Corpus Christi rounds out the fourth such privileged octave (of equal privilege to the Epiphany Octave); all other octaves carry no such weight, and that includes, most notably, the recently celebrated Octave of Christmas in which numerous notable (and related) saints' feasts were observed over the days within that Octave. It must be said again - Epiphany is the central and most important feast of the Christmas Cycle, and it is more important than Christmas Day itself because it is the fullness thereof; the respective privileges of the two octaves bear out this fact.

There are several texts on which we could dwell during this octave; for now, I would like to focus on three: the first, the blessing (of chalk), the second, the first Responsory sung at Mattins on the days within the Octave, and finally, the Collect of the Octave Day.

The Blessing of Chalk on Epiphany
It is traditional to bless chalk on Epiphany for we take this blessed chalk home to inscribe the protection and intecession of the three Magi over our door ways. The inscription is made thus: the first two numbers of the year (20), a cross, the initial of Casper (C), another cross, the initial of Melchior (M), another cross, the initial of Balthasar (B), another cross, and finally the last two numbers of the year (16). Outside of centenary years, the only part of this inscription to change every year is the last two numbers.

The chalk itself is blessed outside of (or before or after) Mass with these words:
Bless, + O Lord God, this creature chalk to render it helpful to men. Grant that they who use it in faith and with it inscribe upon the entrance of their homes the names of thy saints, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, may through their merits and intercession enjoy health of body and protection of soul. Through Christ our Lord.
Fr. Pasley updates the Epiphany Inscription
at Mater Ecclesiae before the Mass on Epiphany
In my own home, I wait until the second day of the Octave (Jan 7) to update the inscription and to sprinkle the Epiphany Water (blessed on Epiphany Eve) around the house. In this small way, something special is reserved for another day to keep the Octave going amidst the secular rush to get "back to normal".

The Divine Office during the Octave

To a very large extent, the Divine Office repeats itself daily during the Epiphany Octave. However, being a privileged octave, there are added proper antiphons at Lauds and Vespers for the Benedictus and Magnficat, respectively, which change each day. Pascha and Pentecost also have the same additions. Being that the West, the Roman Rite, dwells primarily on the Magi representing Jesus' revelation to the Gentiles during the Epiphany, these antiphons largely continue this theme taking their texts from the Gospel passage focusing on the Magi guided by the star.

The three gifts of the Magi also feature prominently throughout the Octave, and this most excellently with the first Responsory at Mattins sung on the dies infra (i.e. days two through seven within the Octave, excluding the Sunday). If it was never entirely clear what the three gifts of the Magi symbolize, the Liturgy itself, long before We Three Kings was ever composed, explicitly and repeatedly tells us. The Responsory reads in the Latin:
Tria sunt munera pretiosa, quae obtulerunt Magi Domino in die ista, et habent in se divina mysteria: * In auro, ut ostendatur Regis potentia: in thure, Sacerdotem magnum considera: et in myrrha, Dominicam sepulturam. V. Salutis nostrae Auctorem Magi venerati sunt in cunabulis, et de thesauris suis mysticas ei munerum species obtulerunt. * In auro, etc...up to the V.
Which translated means:
There are three precious gifts, which the Magi offered to the Lord upon this day, and they have within them the divine mysteries: * In gold, that the power of a King is shown: in incense, consider the great Priest: and in myrrh, the Lord's burial. V. The Magi adored the Author of our salvation in the stable, and from their treasures, they offered to Him these mystical kinds of gifts.
King, God, and Sacrifice indeed!

The lessons at Mattins are proper to each day of the Octave, but the other eight Responsories at Mattins repeat the same eight from the feast of the Epiphany itself. Lauds and the Hours repeat Epiphany verbatim except for the proper daily antiphons noted above. This repetition of the Epiphany, both in the Office and Mass, continues all the way through January 12 inclusive, except on the Sunday within the Octave. Said Sunday, a Semidouble Sunday, is either the feast of the Holy Family (since Benedict XV's placement thereof on this Sunday) or observed as a Sunday (before 1920) with its own proper lessons at Mattins, proper Mass texts, and proper capitula at Vespers, Lauds, the Hours, and Vespers again, yet this Sunday too will largely repeat Epiphany. After 1920, this Sunday is perpetually commemorated within the Office and Mass of the Holy Family, but its Mass is said in full on the next free day (usually the Monday).

The Octave Day of Epiphany (January 13)
For six of the seven days of the Octave already passed, the Roman Liturgy has dwelt mostly on the Magi, repeating the Mass of the Epiphany with that Gospel passage, and singing of the star, gold, frankincense, and myrrh in various texts of the Office. This day, the Octave Day, the focus shifts to the manifestation of Our Lord's Baptism, which is why the modern, post-1955 nomenclature could justify renaming January 13 the "Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord". I would note, however, that even the new title says "Commemoration" and not "Feast of" and this because the feast of Our Lord's Baptism is actually the feast of Epiphany as much as is the adoration of the Magi and the changing of water into wine. The Novus Ordo title would lose this subtle, yet necessary, understanding of what Epiphany really is: not three separate feasts on three separate days, but one feast with three manifestations celebrated over eight days, though one or the other is emphasized on different days therein.

The Octave Day is a day of Double Major rank and begins with First Vespers, sung at sundown on January 12. Vespers this evening repeats exactly the First Vespers of Epiphany sung the evening of January 5, except now a proper Collect appointed for this Octave Day is sung in place of the Epiphany Collect we have been repeating over the last seven days. This new Collect beautifully expresses the core meaning of Epiphany, that being the public revelation of the Incarnation, God having become man; it thus reads:
O God, Whose only-begotten Son hast appeared in the substance of our flesh: grant, we beseech Thee; that through Him, Whom we acknowledge as outwardly similar to us, we may merit to be inwardly reformed.
Mattins repeats the Epiphany, but with the Invitatory and Hymn and Ps. 86 as the seventh psalm as during the days within the Octave; the first Responsory this day is the Hodie in Jordane (today in the Jordan) also sung on Epiphany day itself, rather than the Tria sunt munera noted above. The lessons of the first nocturne are taken from the particular weekday from I Corinthians, as we have now crossed back into the cycle of weekday readings being based on a particular Sunday and week; in this case, the First Week after Epiphany. The second nocturne is an Epiphany Sermon from S. Gregory Nazianzen on Our Lord's Baptism (quoted in full below). The third nocturne, the Gospel excerpt of Our Lord's Baptism from John 1 with a homily on the same from S. Augustine.

Sermon of S. Gregory Nazianzen (my emphases):
I am not able to restrain the outbursts of my happiness. I feel changed and elated. I forget my own meanness while I undertake and try to discharge the office of the great John. It is true that I am not the Forerunner, but at least I come from the desert. Christ is enlightened, or rather, He enlighteneth us with His own light. Christ is baptized; let us go down with Him into the water, that we may come up with Him.
John is baptizing. Jesus cometh. He cometh that He may make holy him who baptizeth Him; He cometh to bury the old Adam in the waters; He cometh to hallow the blessed flood of Jordan. He Who is Flesh and Spirit cometh to open for all that should ever be baptized that power of generation whereby new peoples are constantly begotten of water and the Holy Ghost. The Baptist will not receive Him. Jesus striveth with him. I, saith John, have need to be baptized of thee. Thus speaketh the candle to the Sun, the voice to the Word.
Jesus came up out of the water, having, in a manner, washed the whole world, and brought it up with Him. And He saw the heavens opened not divided, even those heavens which Adam had once shut upon himself and us his descendants, when the cherub's fiery sword barred the gates of Paradise. And the Holy Spirit bare witness, witness unto Him Who is of One Substance with Himself. And witness was given from Heaven, unto Him that came down from heaven.
Lauds and the Hours again repeat Epiphany exactly save for the proper Collect of this Octave Day. There are no commemorations. Mass is sung after Terce, and with the exception of the orations (Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion) and the Gospel of Our Lord's Baptism appointed for this day, this Mass is identical to Epiphany day itself. Second Vespers are sung, repeating Epiphany again and notably repeating a second time the beautiful Tribus Miraculis antiphon sung on the evening of Epiphany day - We celebrate this day adorned with three miracles, etc. At Vespers this evening, we also commemorate the following day's two saints' First Vespers - S. Hilary of Poitiers and Pope S. Felix. Compline rounds out the night of January 13 and thus concludes the Octave of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Epiphany Octave concluded, the Christmas season, proper, comes to an end. Yes, Candlemas on February 2 marks the end of the more general, paraliturgical time called "Christmastide", but the Octave of Epiphany is the final day of the official, festal liturgical Christmas season which began at sundown on December 24. The morrow brings the return of the Per Annum season, as was before Advent, in which Sundays are green and Semidouble, and saints' feasts again populate the calendar in abundance, if only for a few weeks until the calendar becomes sparse again for Lent next month. Yet, we still carry forward the Christmas joy, now subdued and descending from the height of Epiphany; if anything because we are still in the 40 days, quiet days, of Our Lady's Purification, and hence, the Marian texts in the Liturgy remain those of Christmas until Candlemas.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Epiphania Domini

A happy blessed Epiphany to all! Today is the crown, the height, the apex of the entire Christmas season. Today, Advent's Veni, Domine is most fulfilled; the Mystery of the Incarnation is fully revealed. Here follows a re-post of what I wrote for Epiphany two years ago. Pope St. Leo the Great exhorts us again this day at Matins with Gaudeamus! Let us, therefore, celebrate this feast with greater emphasis and rejoicing than we did on Christmas Day. The feast of Theophany is third in importance of the whole year after Easter and Pentecost.


Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem: quia venit lumen tuum, et gloria Domini super te orta est. - Is. 60: 1. These words, sung at the Chapter of First Vespers, and again at Lauds, Terce, the opening words of the Epistle, and Second Vespers (we'll have these words memorized in no time), bolt us to rejoice at the heavenly light, at the light of the Incarnation, now fully manifested. Arise, shine, O Jerusalem: for thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen over thee. The words of Ps. 71 are fulfilled this day - the kings of Tharsis and the islands offer gifts: the kings of Arabia and Saba bring gifts. And all the kings of the earth shall adore Him; all nations shall serve Him - indeed, the feast of Christ the King is already implied too! Epiphany is the feast we have longed for after the darkest days of Advent-December. At Epiphany, nearly three weeks after the Winter Solstice, the length of daylight has already noticeably increased; the heavens themselves symbolize the rising light of the Incarnation. It's time to rise and shine as modern parlance would have it!

Yesterday, we kept a festive vigil, and last night, we began the great festival of God's Manifestation with First Vespers and the Solemn Blessing of Epiphany Water. The feast continues, and with some liturgical oddities in the Divine Office which reveal both the importance and the antiquity of this festival. Additionally, we have today a special blessing of chalk which then carries with it a blessing into our homes (to be discussed in the next post). And lastly, Epiphany being the last feast of the Temporale (i.e. cycle of Sundays and Ferial Days) to be affixed to a permanent date in the civil calendar (January 6), the Church beckons us to note well the important dates ahead for the rest of the liturgical year in the moveable cycle of feasts centered upon the date of Pascha and the work of Redemption.

Before going into the details, it behooves us well again to state that the Epiphany is not one day, but eight; it is a feast which celebrates three manifestations of God made man and marks the transition from the Incarnation to the Redemption. The three manifestations - the adoration of the Magi, the Baptism in the Jordan, and the first miracle at Cana - are not three separate feasts (though the respective Gospel passages are heard on different days), but are individually and collectively, simultaneously celebrated throughout all eight days of this Epiphany Octave. It is a modern construct, borne of the proverbial restaurant napkin of Bugnini in 1955, to think of the Baptism of Our Lord, for example, as a separate feast unto itself, though it is emphasized on the Octave Day (Jan 13); this is incorrect; we celebrate all of these today and for the next week, together and singularly.

The Importance of Epiphany
The Epiphany is, after Pascha and Pentecost, the third greatest feast of the year. This day fulfills the Christmas celebration and purpose. Dom Gueranger says in the Liturgical Year:
The Epiphany is indeed great Feast, and the joy caused us by the Birth of our Jesus must be renewed on it, for, as though it were a second Christmas Day, it shows us our Incarnate God in a new light. It leaves us all the sweetness of the dear Babe of Bethlehem, who hath appeared to us already in love; but to this it adds its own grand manifestation of the divinity of our Jesus. At Christmas, it was a few Shepherds that were invited by the Angels to go and recognise THE WORD MADE FLESH; but now, at the Epiphany, the voice of God himself calls the whole world to adore this Jesus, and hear him.
Read his entire passage here.

The Divine Office for Epiphany Day

At Mattins, we see an unique occurrence. This one day alone (not even for the octave ahead), Mattins lacks an Invitatory as well as a hymn; Ps. 94 migrates to be the seventh psalm within the nocturnes; the service begins immediately with the first antiphon and psalm of the first nocturne. At Tenebrae during the Sacred Triduum, the Invitatory and hymn are also omitted, but this owes to the overall skeletonized, penitential Office of those days. So why today do we omit something so joyful as the Invitatory (the invitation to prayer at the beginning of the day's cursus of Hours)? In a study on the Roman Breviary posted on Sancta Missa, it says thus (my emphasis):
In Epiphany the invitatory is not said in the beginning of Matins, in order, say the liturgists, not to repeat the inquiry made by Herod from the scribes about the birthplace of Christ, an inquiry and invitation inspired by hatred and anger. The invitatory is omitted, they tell us, that we, like the Magi, may come to Christ, without other than a silent invitation. Teachers of olden time used to urge those who were slow to believe to imitate the Magi. But, the invitatory is not quite omitted. It is read in the third nocturn, which typifies the law of grace, in which the Apostles and their successors invite all to praise and worship God. The psalms of the feast are taken from the psalms of each day of the week, but chiefly from Friday's psalms, perhaps because the Magi's visit was on that day.
In another tip to antiquity, Ps. 94, normally sung at the Invitatory and being the great Venite, adoremus, is sung antiphonally at the beginning of the third nocturne; in other words, rather than the usual antiphon-whole psalm-repeat antiphon manner of singing of the psalms, the seventh psalm of Mattins this day is sung thus: antiphon-two verses of psalm-repeat antiphon-next two verses-repeat antiphon and so forth until the end of the psalm. In this, we are walking gradually with the Magi to come and adore. Both the Invitatory and Ps. 94 will be restored to their normal place at Mattins for the rest of the Octave.

Lauds are then sung with the five antiphons appointed for this day. The fourth antiphon, like on Pentecost, is a "filler" antiphon which is a generic praise and which is not part of the four given in the Monastic Office. The first two antiphons speak of the theme of overall manifestation, while the third and fifth are more specific to the visit of the Magi, the dominant theme of this feast in the West.

1. Begotten before the day-star, and before the ages, the Lord, our Saviour, today hast appeared to the world.

2. Thy light hast come, O Jerusalem, and the glory of the Lord hast risen over thee, and the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, alleluia.

3. Having opened their treasures, the Magi offered to the Lord gold, frankincense, and myrrh, alleluia.

4. O seas and rivers, bless the Lord: sing a hymn to the Lord, O fountains, alleluia.

5. This star radiates in flame, and showeth the King of kings: the Magi saw it, and they offered gifts to the King.

The rest of the day's Office is of the normal festal arrangement with the Lauds' antiphons above being distributed to the Little Hours respectively. Second Vespers are sung in the evening and again use the same antiphons from Lauds with the five psalms appointed for Sunday. Interestingly, Ps. 113, the In exitu Israel de Aegypto, which references the Exodus and parting of the waters, normally only sung on Sundays and often substituted with shorter psalms on feast days, is kept this day and through the Octave, notably connecting the parting of the Red Sea with the waters of Baptism in reference to the Baptism of Our Lord, a theme we will again see par excellence in the Holy Saturday Liturgy. The same psalm is kept at Vespers throughout the Paschal and Pentecost Octaves, the other great days of Baptism.

The hymn at Vespers begins with the words, "Cruel Herod, why does thou fear to come to the God-King?" The next three verses then sing of each of the three manifestation, while the doxology (the Trinitarian praise which ends all hymns), the same sung at the end of every hymn at each Office this Octave says:
Glory be to Thee, O Lord (Jesus in the post-Urban text),Who hast appeared to the Gentiles,With the Father and the loving Spirit,Unto endless ends. Amen.
The crown of Vespers this evening is the Magnificat antiphon succinctly and beautifully sings of the trifold manifestation; the very feast of the Epiphany is defined herein. Listen to the chant here.

We keep this day holy, adorned with three miracles; today, the star led the Magi to the manger: today, water was made into wine at the wedding feast: today, in the Jordan, Christ willed to be baptized by John in order to save us, alleluia.
This is what we celebrate singularly and simultaneously on all eight days of this great feast!

The Mass on Epiphany

The usual ceremony of Solemn Mass, celebrated after Terce, is observed today. The Gloria is sung, as is the Credo. The Preface is Proper to the Epiphany speaking again of the light and manifestation. Being one of the principal feasts of Our Lord, there is also a proper Communicantes prayer today and through the Octave in the Roman Canon. The Last Gospel is the Incarnational Prologue of S. John as usual.

The one special feature of today's Mass is the solemn announcement of the moveable feasts for the rest of the year being sung, in the same melody as the Exsultet on Holy Saturday, by the deacon after the Gospel. We live by the Liturgy, and Pascha is our central feast; from this point forward, Pascha, itself moveable based on the lunar cycle, will determine the date of every other major day (feasts and penitential days) which shape the liturgical year; Epiphany thus concludes the Christmas cycle, based on fixed calendar dates and hence not moveable, of the Temporale. The text in English for this year reads:
Know ye, beloved brethren, that in recalling the mercy of God as we have rejoiced at the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christi, so also we announce to you the joy of the Resurrection of this same Saviour. The twenty-fourth day of January will be Septuagesima Sunday. The tenth day of February will be Ash Wednesday and the beginning of most sacred Lenten fast. The twenty-seventh day of March will be the holy Pasch of Our Lord Jesus Christ which we will celebrate with great joy. The fifth day of May will be the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The fifteenth of the same month will be the feast of Pentecost. The twenty-sixth of the same month will be the feast of the Most Holy Body of Christ (Corpus Christi). The twenty-seventh day of November will be the First Sunday of Advent of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is honor and glory, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

A happy Epiphany to all. The next post will feature the Epiphany blessings of chalk and homes, and look into a few items about the Octave.  The Christmas season is now at its height!