Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Shrove Tuesday & Carnival

File:Pieter Bruegel the Elder- The Fight between Carnival and Lent detail 3.jpg
The Fight between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559AD.

Today is Shrove Tuesday -- and a fine day to be shriven, indeed.

File:Lingelbach Karneval in Rom 001c.jpg
Carnival in Rome by Johannes Lingelbach, 1650AD.

While parts of the Christian world call today "Mardi Gras" or "Carnival," the English custom is to give it the more pious and penitential epitaph of Shrove Tuesday -- recalling the importance of going to Confession to prepare for the season of Lent which is upon us.  This quote from the year 1000AD gives us some insight into the orgin of the name: "In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then may hear by his deeds what he is to do [in the way of penance]." [From the article on Shrovetide in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia, link below.]

Indeed, Ash Wednesday is on the morrow!  Traditionally, the arrival of Ash Wednesday and Lent means the beginning of a period of Fast (excluding Sundays) until the Easter Vigil.  While the canonical minimum today is for Fasting on but Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, along with abstinence from blood meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent, surely it is a wholesome thing to retain the ancient custom of fasting through the entirety of Lent.  The custom of eating pancakes on this day, too, betrays the character of a fast that excluded not only the "sweets," but of even meat and eggs.  "The English custom of eating pancakes was undoubtedly suggested by the need of using up the eggs and fat which were, originally at least, prohibited articles of diet during the forty days of Lent," notes the old Catholic Encyclopedia in the article below.

Here is a link with some history into Shrovetide or Carnival:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Shrovetide

This link provides some insight into customs associated with this day:
Fisheaters: Shrovetide

Live well!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Bissextile Day & Leap Years

Saint Matthias.PNG

Today is the traditional feast of St. Matthias the Apostle -- but during a leap year this feast was shifted from its customary 24 February date to 25 February.

For more on St. Matthias, who the Acts of the Apostles describes replacing Judas Iscariot in a clear example of Apostolic Succession, you might visit these sites:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Matthias

Catholic Saints Info: St. Matthias

Have you ever wondered why we have leap years, and why, on the traditional Catholic calendar, the feasts of late February shift a day in leap years?  Read on.

File:Gregory XIII.jpg
Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) who introduced the Gregorian Calendar, by Lavinia Fontana (+1614AD)

Of course, today we use the Gregorian calendar, promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.  It replaced the earlier Julian calendar that dated to the Roman era, but proved less than accurate, and the error between date and solar events such as the equinoxes, necessitated a new calendar.  The root of the Julian Calendar error is this: it presumed that the year was 365.25 days long, meaning that a leap year every four years would account for the decimal places and keep the calendar year in sync with the actual solar year. As it happens, the year is more precisely 365.2422 days long, meaning that the seasons would slowly drift away from their calendar dates with the Julian Calendar -- for instance, by 1582, the Vernal Equinox was occurring on 11 March, rather than 21 March as is traditionally assumed. So, the new Gregorian Calendar restored the Equinox to its traditional date by dropping 10 days that October of 1582. It would try to remain accurate by modifying the reckoning of leap years: it would have a leap year every year divisible by 4, except those divisible by 100 (most years such as 1700AD are not leap years), but if divisible by 400, remaining a leap year (so 1600AD was a leap year). This is still a hair off, and some have suggested that we waive the leap year in 4000AD to fix the problem.

At this point, the leap day, when added, is 29 February.  Formerly, however, the extra day was not inserted in that last place of the month of February, but on the "sixth day before the Kalends of March."  The Roman manner of inserting a leap day was this -- simply double that sixth day before the Kalends of March.  You would have the sixth day twice in a row -- hence the term Bissextile, giving you ante diem bis sextum Kalendas Martias; the second sixth day before the Kalends of March.  Of course, the Romans reckoned their dates by counting down to the Kalends (First of the Month), Nones (5th or 7th of the Month), and Ides (13th or 15th of the Month).  The countdown was inclusive, so the third day before the Kalends of January, would be 30 December, by our sequential method.  This site has a wonderful chart showing the equivalent dates between our sequential reckoning and the Roman method: Roman Calendar: Conversion to our Calendar

The bissextile day, or leap day, then, was, considered from this perspective, that sixth day before the first of March, inclusive, or as we call it in normal years, 24 February.  When that day was "doubled" you had two legal "sixth days." Sequentially, however, that meant that the 25 day of the month was now the actual sixth day before the Kalends of March, and the 29th of February the day before the Kalends.

All of this has significance for the traditional Catholic feasts that fall on 24 February or later in this month.  Since, in leap years, the 24th was "doubled," in order for a feast day like that of St. Matthias the Apostle to remain on "the sixth day before the Kalends of March" it would migrate to 25 February that year.  The same would go for the other feasts at the end of the month -- traditionally their place was reckoned based on their number of days from the Kalends.  So, St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows typically has his traditional feast on 27 February, which is the third day before the Kalends of March, but in order to be on the third day before the Kalends of March in a leap year, it must shift to 28 February.

With the reform of the calendar in 1970, all feasts were reckoned by the sequential numbering, and the issue disappeared, much like the Roman technique of counting down to a date rather than sequentially counting up.

The great Fr. Z. has posted on this very subject, noting pertinent details that I did not go into: Fr. Z: Felix Bissextilis!

Tempus fugit!

Live well!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

The Throne of St. Peter, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City.


Today is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

Originally, there were two such observances, one on 18 January commemorating the chair of Peter at Rome, and this one on 22 February focused on his chair in Antioch.  In the twentieth century, the two were merged and celebrated on this day, as of the 1962 calendar.

On this day we celebrate "the office of supreme pastor conferred by Christ upon St. Peter and continued in unbroken succession to the present" in the Bishops of Rome, the popes. 


For more on the history of the feast, you should note: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Chair of Peter

Today is a particular feast of note for members of the Confraternity of St. Peter: Confraternity of St. Peter

The picture above, from St. Peter's basilica, shows the splendid monument of the Chair of Peter by the master artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, completed in 1666AD for Pope Alexander VII.  The chair is held aloft by four doctors of the Church: two Greeks, St. Athanasius & St. John Chrysostom, and two Latins, St. Ambrose & St. Augustine.  Cf.Vatican City State Site: Interior of the Basilica

Pope Benedict XVI, during a Wednesday audience in 2006, observed:
"Celebrating the "Chair" of Peter, therefore, as we are doing today, means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation.
Among the numerous testimonies of the Fathers, I would like to quote St Jerome's. It is an extract from one of his letters, addressed to the Bishop of Rome. It is especially interesting precisely because it makes an explicit reference to the "Chair" of Peter, presenting it as a safe harbour of truth and peace.
This is what Jerome wrote:  "I decided to consult the Chair of Peter, where that faith is found exalted by the lips of an Apostle; I now come to ask for nourishment for my soul there, where once I received the garment of Christ. I follow no leader save Christ, so I enter into communion with your beatitude, that is, with the Chair of Peter, for this I know is the rock upon which the Church is built" (cf. Le lettere I, 15, 1-2).
Dear brothers and sisters, in the apse of St Peter's Basilica, as you know, is the monument to the Chair of the Apostle, a mature work of Bernini. It is in the form of a great bronze throne supported by the statues of four Doctors of the Church:  two from the West, St Augustine and St Ambrose, and two from the East:  St John Chrysostom and St Athanasius." (Cf., Benedict XVI: Wednesday Audience, 22 February 2006)


Further, the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes of the Pope:
"880 When Christ instituted the Twelve, 'he constituted [them] in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them.'398 Just as 'by the Lord's institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another.'399
881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the 'rock' of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock.400 'The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.'401 This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.

882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, 'is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.'402 'For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.'403" [cf., Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 880-882. 398 Lumen Gentium 19, Lk 6:13; Jn 21:15-17. 399 LG 22; cf. CIC, can. 330. 400 Cf. Mt 16:18-19; Jn 21:15-17. 401 LG 22 § 2. 402 LG 23. 403 LG 22; cf. CD 2,9.]

It is worth noting, on this occasion, the nature and scope of that papal charism of infallibility.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Vatican I, states:
"891 "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith [-] he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council.418 When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed,"419 and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith."420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.421" [Cf., Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 891.  418 LG 25; cf. Vatican Council I:DS 3074. 419 DV 10 § 2.  420 LG 25 § 2. 421 Cf. LG 25.]

Not every statement or action of the pope, then, has the protection of infallibility, even if he is discussing a matter of faith and morals.  Not how specific this charism is, as the pope only, "enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful...he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals."  We need not feel compelled to defend every statement of a pope, or expect that every homily, interview, or decision will be the best it could be, or even free from error or scandal.

Let us pray, then, for the current occupant of the chair, that he might be that source of unity for the Church, that he might preach the truth of Christ with clarity, and live the faith with love.

Live well!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Washington's Birthday


George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart, +1828AD.

Today, in the State of Georgia, is the holiday of Washington's Birthday, in honor of George Washington of Virginia (22 February 1732 [N.S.]; 11 February 1731 [O.S.]* -14 December 1799AD), first President of the United States. Credited as the "father of his country," he was pivotal in the independence movement and revolution of the colonies that formed the United States, not only in his role as military commander, but as the President who set all of the precedents. His approach was one of prudence and steadiness, and his contributions are most certainly a great part of the longevity and stability of this Republic. [*-N.S.: New Style, or Gregorian date; O.S.: Old Style, or Julian date]

George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, at what is now a National Park Service site: George Washington Birthplace National Monument

His home at Mount Vernon in Fairfax County, Virginia, near Washington, DC is worth visiting if you find yourself in the area -- it is here that he is buried: Mount Vernon Official Site
Interestingly, his home was named in honor of British Admiral Vernon, under whom Washington's older brother, Lawrence, had served during the War of Jenkins' Ear and at the Battle of Cartegena.

We can leave aside, on this day to honor him, a discussion of his Freemasonry, church attendance habits, and his role in a revolution against his sovereign.

As a side note, George Washington DID say this: "A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies." That in his first address to Congress, on 8 January 1790. cf., Yale Avalon Project: First Address to Congress. Spurious versions of this statement are prevalent about now!

Undoubtedly, folks will refer to today as "Presidents' Day," which it might be in some places, but not in Georgia, for one.

In the Governor's proclamation of state holidays, we find that today, 20 February, is listed as "Washington's Birthday."  Georgia State Holidays, 2017.
Interestingly, the actual observance of the day by state offices comes on 26 December this year.

In Washington's own home state of Virginia, the day is celebrated as "George Washington Day."

Even in United States Code, this day is known as "Washington's Birthday" -- with no hint of "Presidents' Day" in the title.  Here is the US Code itself:

"The following are legal public holidays:
...
Washington’s Birthday, the third Monday in February."
cf., US Code at Cornell Law

So, no Presidents' Day in Georgia or Virginia, even looking to the code of this Federal Republic.

Live well!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Feast of St. Valentine, Priest and Martyr


St. Valentine Baptizing St. Lucilla, by Jacopo Bassano.

Today is the feast of St. Valentine, priest and martyr, who died for the faith during the persecution of Aurelius, around 270AD.

This feast had a place on the general calendar of the Latin Church until the 1970 reform; Mass is still celebrated in honor of St. Valentine on this day when said according to the 1962 missal, as at this blogger's parish.  It seems that much of the world today is busy celebrating a traditional Catholic feast day; in most Catholic Latin parishes, where the 1970 missal is used, it is the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.  In fairness, St. Valentine remains an entry in the Roman martyrology for this day, even with his removal from the general calendar -- so even in the reformed calendar it is still the feast of St. Valentine.  We do see a rather striking feature of the danger of reforming a calendar when so many cultural associations have grown up around those days!

From the 13th century Golden Legend we have this account:
"Here beginneth the Life of S. Valentine, and first the interpretation of his name.
Valentine is as much to say as containing valour that is perseverant in great holiness. Valentine is said also as a valiant knight, for he was a right noble knight of God, and the knight is said valiant that fleeth not, and smiteth and defendeth valiantly and overcometh much puissantly. And so S. Valentine withdrew him not from his martyrdom in fleeing, he smote in destroying the idols, he defended the faith, he overcame in suffering.
Of S. Valentine the Martyr.
S. Valentine, friend of our Lord and priest of great authority, was at Rome. It happed that Claudius the emperor made him to come tofore him and said to him in demanding: What thing is that which I have heard of thee, Valentine? Why wilt thou not abide in our amity, and worship the idols and renounce the vain opinion of thy creance? S. Valentine answered him: If thou hadst very knowledge of the grace of Jesu Christ thou shouldest not say this that thou sayest, but shouldest reny the idols and worship very God. Then said to S. Valentine a prince which was of the council of the emperor: What wilt thou say of our gods and of their holy life? And S. Valentine answered: I say none other thing of them but that they were men mortal and mechant and full of all ordure and evil. Then said Claudius the emperor: If Jesu Christ be God verily, wherefore sayst thou not the truth? And S. Valentine said: Certainly Jesu Christ is only very God, and if thou believe in him, verily thy soul shall be saved, thy realm shall multiply, and he shall give to thee alway victory of thine enemies. Then Claudius turned him unto all them that were there, and said to them: Lords, Romans, hear ye how wisely and reasonably this man speaketh? Anon the provost of the city said: The emperor is deceived and betrayed, how may we leave that which we have holden and been accustomed to hold sith our infancy? With these words the emperor turned and changed his courage, and S. Valentine was delivered in the keeping of the provost.
When S. Valentine was brought in an house in prison, then he prayed to God, saying: Lord Jesu Christ very God, which art very light, enlumine this house in such wise that they that dwell therein may know thee to be very God. And the provost said: I marvel me that thou sayest that thy God is very light, and nevertheless, if he may make my daughter to hear and see, which long time hath been blind, I shall do all that thou commandest me, and shall believe in thy God. S. Valentine anon put him in prayers, and by his prayers the daughter of the provost received again her sight, and anon all they of the the house were converted. After, the emperor did do smite off the head of S. Valentine, the year of our Lord two hundred and eighty. Then let us pray to S. Valentine that he get us pardon of our sins. Amen."
[cf., Fordham Medieval Sourcebook: Golden Legend]

For more on St. Valentine, you might note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Valentine

Catholic Saints Info: St. Valentine

This site offers a splendid summary of the customs associated with this day:
Fisheaters: St. Valentine's Day

The Skull of St. Valentine at Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Roma, Italia.

The relics of St. Valentine are kept in the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, Italy.  This basilica is much more famous for the La Bocca della Verita (The Mouth of Truth; prominently featured in the film Roman Holiday) that sits at its entrance.  Not finding an official page for the Church, here is its entry at the ubiquitous Wikipedia: Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Roma.

Why the association with romance?  The Old Catholic Encyclopedia notes:
"The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine's Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer's Parliament of Foules we read:
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate. "
So, may this priest and martyr of the early Church intercede for you, and for your purity!

Live well!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Septuagesima Sunday & Season



Today is traditionally Septuagesima Sunday, and a reminder that the penitential season of Lent is not long from now!  Indeed, in this Year of Our Lord, 2017, Ash Wednesday falls on 1 March, and the great Feast of Easter on 16 April.

The name "Septuagesima" is from the Latin meaning Seventy days, this being a figurative measurement of our number of days until Easter.  The next several Sundays have similar names: Sexagesima (Sixty), and Quinquagesima (Fifty), before the start of the actual forty days of Quadragesima (Lent).  These names, then, are more tied to the approach of the Quadragesima than an actual measure of days, as a week has fewer than ten days!

During these three weeks, traditionally the Alleluia and Gloria were omitted from the Mass, violet vestments were worn, and a degree of penance, though not as rigorous, were practiced.  These weeks are, indeed, a splendid time to prepare for the coming of Lent, and to ever grow in virtue and love of God -- the keys to living, and so dying, well!

Of course, it is traditional to continue to chant the Marian anthem of the Alma Redemptoris Mater until Candlemas, 2 February, at which time we will switch to the Lenten Ave Regina Caelorum.

For more details about Septuagesima, you might note the following links:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Septuagesima

Customs (Fisheaters) of Septuagesima


Here is an excellent text on the season of Septuagesima, and the customs associated with it, from Dom Gueranger and his work the Liturgical Year:

"The season upon which we are now entering is expressive of several profound mysteries. But these mysteries belong not only to the three weeks which are preparatory to Lent: they continue throughout the whole period of time which separates us from the great feast of Easter.

The number seven is the basis of all these mysteries. We have already seen how the holy Church came to introduce the season of Septuagesima into her calendar. Let us now meditate on the doctrine hidden under the symbols of her liturgy. And first, let us listen to St. Augustine, who thus gives is the clue to the whole of our season's mysteries. 'There are two times,' says the holy Doctor: 'one which is now, and is spent in the temptations and tribulations of this life; the other which shall by then, and shall be spent in eternal security and joy. In figure of these, we celebrate two periods: the time before Easter, and the time after Easter. That which is before Easter signifies the sorrow of this present life; that which is after Easter, the blessedness of our future state... Hence it is that we spend the first in fasting and prayer; and in the second we give up our fasting, and give ourselves to praise.'

The Church, the interpreter of the sacred Scriptures, often speaks to us of two places, which correspond with these two times of St. Augustine. These two places are Babylon and Jerusalem. Babylon is the image of this world of sin, in the midst whereof the Christian has to spend his years of probation; Jerusalem is the heavenly country, where he is to repose after all his trials. The people of Israel, whose whole history is but one great type of the human race, was banished from Jerusalem and kept in bondage in Babylon.

Now, this captivity, which kept the Israelites exiles from Sion, lasted seventy years; and it is to express this mystery, as Alcuin, Amalarius, Ivo of Chartres, and all the great liturgists tell us, that the Church fixed the number of seventy for the days of expiation. It is true, there are but sixty-three days between Septuagesima and Easter; but the Church, according to the style so continually used in the sacred Scriptures, uses the round number instead of the literal and precise one.

The duration of the world itself, according to the ancient Christian tradition, is divided into seven ages. The human race must pass through the seven ages before the dawning of the day of eternal life. The first age included the time from the creation of Adam to Noah; the second begins with Noah and the renovation of the earth by the deluge, and ends with this the vocation of Abraham; the third opens with this first formation of God's chosen people, and continues as far as Moses, through whom God gave the Law; the fourth consists of the period between Moses and David, in whom the house of Juda received the kingly power; the fifth is formed of the years which passed between David's reign and the captivity of Babylon, inclusively; the sixth dates from the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, and takes us on as far as the birth of our Saviour. Then, finally, comes the seventh age; it starts with the rising of this merciful Redeemer, the Sun of justice, and is to continue till the dread coming of the Judge of the living and the dead. These are the seven great divisions of time; after which, eternity.

In order to console us in the midst of the combats, which so thickly beset our path, the Church, like a beacon shining amidst the darkness of this our earthly abode, shows us another seven, which is to succeed the one we are now preparing to pass through. After the Septuagesima of mourning, we shall have the bright Easter with its seven weeks of gladness, foreshadowing the happiness and bliss of heaven. After having fasted with our Jesus, and suffered with Him, the day will come when we shall rise together with Him, and our hearts shall follow Him to the highest heavens; and then after a brief interval, we shall feel the Holy Ghost descending upon us, with His seven Gifts. The celebration of all these wondrous joys will take us seven weeks, as the great liturgists observe in their interpretation of the rites of the Church. The seven joyous weeks from Easter to Pentecost will not be too long for the future glad mysteries, which, after all, will be but figures of a still gladder future, the future of eternity.

Having heard these sweet whisperings of hope, let us now bravely face the realities brought before us by our dear mother the Church. We are sojourners upon this earth; we are exiles and captives in Babylon, that city which plots our ruin. If we love our country, if we long to return to it, we must be proof against the lying allurements of this strange land, and refuse the cup she proffers us, and with which she maddens so many of our fellow captives. She invites us to join in her feasts and her songs; but we must unstring our harps, and hang them on the willows that grow on her river's bank, till the signal be given for our return to Jerusalem. She will ask us to sing to her the melodies of our dear Sion: but how shall we, who are so far from home, have heart to 'sing the song of the Lord in a strange land'? No, there must be no sign that we are content to be in bondage, or we shall deserve to be slaves forever.

These are the sentiments wherewith the Church would inspire us during the penitential season which we are now beginning. She wishes us to reflect on the dangers that beset us; dangers which arise from ourselves and from creatures. During the rest of the year she loves to hear us chant the song of heaven, the sweet Alleluia; but now, she bids us close our lips to this word of joy, because we are in Babylon. We are pilgrims absent from our Lord, let us keep our glad hymn for the day of His return. We are sinners, and have but too often held fellowship with the world of God's enemies; let us become purified by repentance, for it is written that 'praise is unseemly in the mouth of a sinner.'

The leading feature, then, of Septuagesima, is the total suspension of the Alleluia, which is not to again be heard upon the earth until the arrival of that happy day, when having suffered death with our Jesus, and having been buried together with Him, we shall rise again with Him to a new life.

The sweet hymn of the angels, Gloria in excelsis Deo, which we have sung every Sunday since the birth of our Saviour in Bethlehem, is also taken from us; it is only on the feasts of the saints which may by kept during the week that we shall be allowed to repeat it. The night Office of the Sunday is to lose also, from now till Easter, its magnificent Ambrosian hymn, the Te Deum; and at the end of the holy Sacrifice, the deacon will no longer dismiss the faithful with his solemn Ite, Missa est, but will simply invite them to continue their prayers in silence, and bless the Lord, the God of mercy, who bears with us, notwithstanding all our sins.

After the Gradual of the Mass, instead of the thrice repeated Alleluia, which prepared our hearts to listen to the voice of God in the holy Gospel, we shall hear but a mournful and protracted chant, called, on that account, the Tract.

That the eye, too, may teach us that the season we are entering on is one of mourning, the Church will vest her ministers (both on Sundays and on the days during the week which are not feasts of Saints) in the somber purple. Until Ash Wednesday, however, she permits the deacon to wear his dalmatic, and the subdeacon his tunic; but from that day forward, they must lay aside these vestments of joy, for Lent will then have begun and our holy mother will inspire us with the deep spirit of penance, but suppressing everything of that glad pomp, which she loves at other seasons, to bring into the sanctuary of her God
.
"

[cf., Fisheaters: Septuagesima]

Live well!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Ave Regina Caelorum

File:Raffael 027.jpg
Madonna, by Raphael.

It is with that great feast of Candlemas (2 February) that the Marian Anthem chanted at the end of Compline, shifts from the Alma Redemptoris Mater, which we have said since the start of Advent and through the Christmas season, to the Ave Regina Caelorum.  It is customary to say or sing the Ave Regina Caelorum through Lent and until the Holy Triduum and the start of the Easter Season.

The Ave Regina Caelorum, like the  Alma Redemptoris Mater, was written by Hermann Contractus, who died in 1054AD.  For a bit more: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Ave Regina

The text reads:

Ave, Regina Caelorum. 
Ave Domina Angelorum!
Salve Radix, salve porta,
Ex qua mundo lux est orta.

Gaude Virgo gloriosa,
Super omnes speciosa.

Vale, o valde decora.
Et pro nobis Christum exora.

In English:
Welcome, O Queen of Heaven. 
Welcome, O Lady of Angels
Hail! thou root, hail! thou gate
From whom unto the world, a light has arisen:

Rejoice, O glorious Virgin, 
Lovely beyond all others, 
Farewell, most beautiful maiden, 
And pray for us to Christ.


A more poetic English translation:
Hail, O Queen of heaven enthroned!
Hail, by Angels mistress own'd!
Root of Jesse, gate of morn,
Whence the world's true Light was born.

Loveliest whom in Heaven they see,
Fairest thou where all are fair!
Plead with Christ our sins to spare.

[From my Baronius Press hand missal, pg. 120]

This is the original Gregorian Chant setting of the Ave Regina Caelorum:



Here is a setting of the Anthem by the master composer Palestrina (+1594AD):

This is another setting, this by the great Lassus (+1594AD):


Finally, a setting by the lesser known-German Composer, Johann Kaspar Kerll (+1693):



Live well!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Candlemas: The Purification & Presentation


An icon of the Meeting of the Lord from Belarus, 1731AD.

Today, standing some forty days after Christmas day, we have the Feast of Candlemas -- the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, and the Purification of Our Lady.

This feast is considered one of the more ancient of Our Lady, though in more recent times has emphasized the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple.  Of course, this is a commemoration of what we read in the Gospel of St. Luke, 2:22-38:
"22 And when the time had come for purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him before the Lord there. 23 It is written in God’s law, that whatever male offspring opens the womb is to be reckoned sacred to the Lord;[4]24 and so they must offer in sacrifice for him, as God’s law commanded, a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons.[5] 25 At this time there was a man named Simeon living in Jerusalem, an upright man of careful observance, who waited patiently for comfort to be brought to Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him; 26 and by the Holy Spirit it had been revealed to him that he was not to meet death, until he had seen that Christ whom the Lord had anointed. 27 He now came, led by the Spirit, into the temple; and when the child Jesus was brought in by his parents, to perform the custom which the law enjoined concerning him, 28 Simeon too was able to take him in his arms. And he said, blessing God: 29 Ruler of all, now dost thou let thy servant go in peace, according to thy word; 30 for my own eyes have seen that saving power of thine 31 which thou hast prepared in the sight of all nations. 32 This is the light which shall give revelation to the Gentiles, this is the glory of thy people Israel.33 The father and mother of the child were still wondering over all that was said of him, 34 when Simeon blessed them, and said to his mother Mary, Behold, this child is destined to bring about the fall of many and the rise of many in Israel; to be a sign which men will refuse to acknowledge; 35 and so the thoughts of many hearts shall be made manifest; as for thy own soul, it shall have a sword to pierce it. 36 There was besides a prophetess named Anna, daughter to one Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser (a woman greatly advanced in age, since she had lived with a husband for seven years after her maidenhood,37 and had now been eighty-four years a widow) who abode continually in the temple night and day, serving God with fasting and prayer. 38 She too, at that very hour, came near to give God thanks, and spoke of the child to all that patiently waited for the deliverance of Israel."

The meeting of Our Lord with the aged and just Simeon, his magnificent Nunc Dimittis which we say every night at Compline, and the prophecy to Our Lady of the sword that shall piece her heart, and the prophetess Anna are all notable and memorable.  How striking, too, that she who was without sin submits to be purified according to the Mosaic Law!  May our humility and obedience ever reflect that we see in the characters present at this great Presentation and Purification.

It is also fitting that we, in the Northern Hemisphere, observe this Feast when we do: the light that came into the world at Christmas in the stable of Bethlehem, at the time of the darkness of the Winter Solstice, is now growing brighter and more public with this presentation in the Temple of Jerusalem.  The nights remain longer than the days, but the light grows yet stronger, and brighter, and we know that the chill of February will soon give way to the warmth of Spring.

Dom Gueranger notes in his Litugical Year: "The mystery of today's ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to Ivo of Chartres, the wax, which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee, always considered as the emblem of virginity, signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by His conception or His birth, the spotless purity of His Blessed Mother. The same holy bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus who came to enlighten our darkness. St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us consider three things in the blessed Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, he says, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on top, is His divinity."

Today candles are traditionally blessed and an integral part of the liturgies of the day -- hence the name of Candlemas.

Lumen ad revelationem gentium: et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.  A light to the revelation of the Gentiles: and for the glory of Thy people Israel.  (Luke 2:32)

Today we process with that light, which we know will, in the end, overcome the darkness.

For more, here are a couple splendid sources, the first concerned more with the history, and the second with the customs of this beautiful feast:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Candlemas

Customs of Candlemas (Fisheaters)

Today, too is the last day when it is customary to sing the Marian Antiphon, Alma Redemptoris Mater.  So, I close with a setting of that antiphon by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina:





Live well!