Thursday, August 29, 2013

Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist

From 2012: A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen on The Passion of St. John the Baptist.

“It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.” Death has no power over these words (cf. Gueranger. The Liturgical Year. vol. 14., p. 109). A tyrant may put to death the man who speaks these words, but he cannot put these words to death. They are truth itself. “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.” This is not a man made law. This is God’s eternal law that cannot be broken without dire consequences.

These are the dire consequences:

“Josephus relates how [Herod Antipas] was overcome by the Arabian Aretas, whose daughter he had repudiated in order to follow his wicked passions; and the Jews attributed the defeat to the murder of St. John. He was deposed by Rome from his tetrarchate, and banished to Lyons in Gaul, where the ambitious Herodias shared his disgrace. As to her dancing daughter Salome, there is a tradition gathered from ancient authors, that, having gone out one winter day to dance upon a frozen river, she fell through into the water; the ice, immediately closing round her neck, cut off her head, which bounded upon the surface, thus continuing for some moments the dance of death" (Gueranger 112).

This feast actually celebrates four events. The first event is the beheading itself. “The second event is the burning and gathering, or collecting, of St. John’s bones” (Voragine, The Golden Legend. Vol II., p. 135). This is called the second martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. His disciples had buried his body at Sebaste, a city in Palestine…and many miracles had occurred at his tomb (cf. Voragine 135). “For this reason the pagans, by order of Julian the Apostate, scattered his bones, but the miracles did not cease, and the bones were collected, burned, and pulverized, and the ashes thrown to the winds to be blown over the fields…” (135). On the day when the bones were collected to be burned, some monks from Jerusalem secretly mingled with the pagans and carried out many of the relics, saving them from destruction. They delivered these to Philip, bishop of Jerusalem, who sent them to Anastasius, the bishop of Alexandria. During the Crusades, many of them were brought into the West and distributed among many churches.

The third event commemorated on this feast is the finding of the head of St. John the Baptist which happened on this day. It is said that when John was beheaded, Herodias had John’s head taken to Jerusalem to be buried because “she feared that the prophet would return to life if his head was buried with his body. Four hundred years later some monks took the head to venerate it in a more proper place. It was stolen and hidden in a cave. The man who stole it revealed on his deathbed where it was, but the hiding place was kept secret for a long time. Many years later, a holy monk, St. Marcellus, had taken up residence in this cave. It was revealed to him where the head was hidden. The head was then enshrined in a beautiful church in Poitiers in France.

The fourth event is the translation of one of St. John’s fingers and the dedication of a church. The finger with which he pointed to the Lord, could not be burned. The finger made its way to Normandy, France where a church was built in honor of St. John the Baptist.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The 2013 Gregorian Chant Conference of the Diocese of Baker

The Diocese of Baker hosted a Gregorian Chant Conference recently (August 15-17), which, by all accounts, was a rousing success! (I think that the vast majority of the participants were from outside the diocese, but no matter: success is success, and maybe next year’s conference will be better-advertised in the Baker Diocese.)


The Catholic Sentinel ran an article about the conference, noting that:

Portland’s Schola Cantus Angelorum led the gathering, which was sponsored by the Diocese of Baker and the diocesan association of Mother Mary's Daughters.

… Masses celebrated during the conference were in the form of the Missa Cantata, with all the parts of the Mass sung in Gregorian chant…

Four lectures on chant were given by Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre [who leads the Schola Cantus Angelorum]. The lectures covered what Dr. Bissonnette-Pitre called the "intelligent design" of the ancient music and its relationship with the liturgy. The lectures covered the origin and development of Gregorian chant, including the church and papal documents. [See the full article here]

The event was well-photographed by Marc Salvatore, who has kindly allowed me to use his photos in this post. Please visit this website to see the entire collection; photos are available for purchase there, as well.

My friend Barbara Etter attended the conference, and kindly provided me with this report of her experience:

What more beautiful day and way to begin the Gregorian Chant Conference than on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a Mass, and having our Bishop Liam Cary as principle celebrant?  We were off to a very good start. Of course, nothing of this nature could begin without prayer, so Friday began with a 7:30AM breakfast followed by Morning Prayer, the Rosary, and the Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart.
Then began the real learning process, with the first lecture presented by Dr. Lynne Bissonnette on “What is Gregorian Chant: Its Origins, and How It is Processed by the Brain. If someone didn’t know before, it was made very clear what chant is: beautiful, wave-like melody produced by the human voice.  It is meant to be sung a cappella (unaccompanied by instruments).  The document of the Second Vatican Council Sacrosanctum Concilium states that Gregorian chant should have pride of place in the Liturgy of the Catholic Church.  It was interesting to note that modern music sprang from Gregorian chant---the Solfege method using DO-RE-MI-FA-SOL-LA-TI-DO. Dr. Bissonnette also presented a lecture entitled “The Form and Function of Gregorian Chant – Intrinsic to the Sung Roman Mass”.  

For the “hands-on” learning, the chant was demonstrated in the first workshop with Yumiko Rinta.  The use of square notes on a four line staff was clearly explained.  We were taught about the usage of the DO clef and the FA clef and the Solfege naming of the lines and spaces on the four line staff. There is only one note that is flatted in chant; TI becomes TE. There is only one basic square note called the punctum that receives one beat; a dotted punctum receives two beats.  There are basic nuems such as the podatus, clivis, scandicus, tristropha, etc.. which are combinations of two or three notes, and special nuems such as the liquescent, pressus, quilisma, etc.   There are no ‘rests’ in chant, but breathing is determined by bar lines: quarter bar, half bar, full bar, and double bar. 
Then came the hard part: the eight modes. However, we did not go into those very deeply.  It was time to move on to a pronunciation on vowels, diphthongs, and consonants. A very helpful hand-out packet was given to help us and as a reminder of all that we learned.   This workshop made it clear that Gregorian chant is much easier to sing than music in modern notation.

After dinner and Vespers, another workshop was taught by Fr. Daniel Maxwell; he covered the formulas for chanting the Old and New Testament readings.  Concurrent with this workshop, the priests and deacons had a session on the formulas for chanting the Gospels, which was taught by Fr. Eric Andersen.  It was surprising how easy it is to chant the readings using the given formulas.  We had the experience of actually chanting the introduction to the readings, some lines, and the conclusion to the readings, and the peoples’ responses.

The day was completed as we chanted the Office of Compline at 9:00PM.  It was a very full and informative day.

Saturday was another full day beginning with 7:00AM breakfast, Morning Prayer, the Rosary, and a Votive Mass in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Dr. Bissonnette presented a lecture on “The Sung Liturgy”; she emphasized the importance of singing the Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church to experience the beauty, mystery, and awe of the Sacrifice of the Mass.  The peoples’ parts of the Mass that are meant to be sung are: the propers (usually sung by the schola or choir), including: the Introit or the entrance antiphon with its psalm verses; the gradual (Responsorial Psalm); the Alleluia with its psalm verses, the Offertory antiphon and psalm verses; and the Communion antiphon with its psalm verses. For a properly sung Mass, the readings should be chanted by the reader (lector) or deacon; also to be sung are: the ordinary, which includes the Kyrie (Lord have mercy), Gloria, Credo, Preface dialog, Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God); the acclamation after the Consecration; the great Amen; the Pater Noster (Our Father), and he dismissal.  The priest is to sing the parts proper to his priestly duties: Preface, Eucharistic Prayer, and Post-communion prayer.  The workshop content emphasized that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass needs to be sung, not that we should just have singing at Mass.
Dr. Bissonnette also gave the final lecture of for this Conference: “The Documents of the Church Pertaining to Gregorian Chant”.  The documents of Pope (St.) Pius X, Pope Pius XI, and Pope Pius XII set a foundation for our Catholic Church use of Gregorian chant.  Documents of the Second Vatican Council, especially Sacrosanctum Concilium, very much expected the use of the chant in our Liturgy to continue, as it has pride of place. No document from Vatican II dismissed the use of Latin or chant.  The post-Vatican II years saw Pope Paul VI issuing “Jubilate Deo”, which was sent to all bishops as a guideline indicating the minimum chant that all Catholics must be able to sing.  Blessed John Paul II also encouraged the use of chant. Our Pope (emeritus) Benedict XVI in his moto proprio Summorum Pontificum issued July 7, 2007 also permitted all priests to be able to celebrate the Extraordinary Form Mass as well as chant.  This was followed up in May, 2011 by Universae Ecclesiae which is a further explanation of Summorum Pontificum.  The Document “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship” (2007) continues to declare the primacy of place for Gregorian chant. This document was issued by the Roman Catholic bishops of the Latin Church in the United States.
Fr. Eric Andersen 
The final workshop was “Chanting the Ordinary of the Mass”.  Here we put into practice what was learned in the previous workshops. We sang the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei for both Mass IX (Cum Jubilo) in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Mass XI (Orbis Factor) for Sundays of Ordinary Time.  We also sang Credo I.  It was amazing how beautiful we all sounded together in the praise of the Lord!

Following this workshop, we celebrated the Mass for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  It was a beautiful Liturgy with everything being sung.  Oh, if only we could have such music in our parishes! The Mass would truly be more appreciated, and we would really have active as well as actual participation of our congregations.

The entire conference ended Saturday night with the Office of Compline at 8:30PM.

Overall the chant conference was wonderful. The lectures were very informative and the workshops were a “hands-on experience to use what was taught---for all levels of experience – beginner, intermediate, or advanced.  The Masses were not only beautiful and reverent, but also examples of how the Mass should be sung.

Plan to attend next year’s Gregorian Chant Conference!

Friday, August 16, 2013

EF Mass in Southern Oregon

Thanks to Marc Salvatore for this great video that shows that the EF Mass is alive and well in Southern Oregon (at least every few months!). These Masses in the Archdiocese of Portland are well-attended, and hopefully their frequency will increase. And perhaps the Diocese of Baker will follow suit at some point.

For more information about the EF Mass in Southern Oregon, go to the Southern Oregon Una Voce site.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mary's Assumption into Heaven

The Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven!

Here are Readings 4, 5, and 6 from the Office of Matins for the Feast of the Assumption:

From the Sermons of St John of Damascus.
2nd on the Falling-on-sleep of Blessed Mary.
This day the holy and animated Ark of the living God, which had held within it its own Maker, is borne to rest in that Temple of the Lord, which is not made with hands. David, whence it sprang, leapeth before it, and in company with him the Angels dance, the Archangels sing aloud, the Virtues ascribe glory, the Princedoms shout for joy, the Powers make merry, the Lordships rejoice, the Thrones keep holiday, the Cherubim utter praise, and the Seraphim proclaim its glory. This day the Eden of the new Adam receiveth the living garden of delight, wherein the condemnation was annulled, wherein the Tree of Life was planted, wherein our nakedness was covered. 

This day the stainless maiden, who had been defiled by no earthly lust, but ermobled by heavenly desires, returned not to dust, but, being herself a living heaven, took her place among the heavenly mansions. From her true life had flowed for all men, and how should she taste of death? But she yielded obedience to the law established by Him to Whom she had given birth, and, as the daughter of the old Adam, underwent the old sentence, which even her Son, Who is the very Life Itself, had not refused; but, as the Mother of the living God, she was worthily taken by Him unto Himself.

In the Eastern Church,
The Dormition of Mary
Eve, who had said yea to the proposals of the serpent, was condemned to the pains of travail and the punishment of death, and found her place in the bowels of the Netherworld. But this truly blessed being who had inclined her ears to the word of God, whose womb had been filled by the action of the Holy Ghost, who, as soon as she heard the spiritual salutation of the archangel, had conceived the Son of God without any sexual pleasure or carnal knowledge by a man, who had brought forth her Offspring without any the least pang, who had hallowed herself altogether for the service of God how was death ever to feed upon her? how was the grave ever to eat her up? how was corruption to break into that body into which Life had been welcomed? For her there was a straight, smooth, and easy way to heaven. For if Christ, Who is the Life and the Truth, hath said Where I am, there shall also My servant be how much more shall not rather His mother be with Him?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Vortex: Beauty and the Beast

Our Catholic heritage is full of beauty, goodness, and truth. In encounters between Catholicism and the culture, it is the inherent "beauty" of our faith that should overcome the "beast" of the culture, as Michael Voris points out in this episode of the Vortex.

No where is that beauty is shown more clearly than in the music of the Church, and in a recent "America's Got Talent", Catholic music stole the day.

For a history, description, and translation of Pie Jesu, the piece sung on the show, go here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pope Paul VI on Latin and Chant

An article at the Corpus Christi Watershed blog features the Apostolic Letter, Sacrificium Laudis, written in 1966. The article notes that this letter “was sent by Pope Paul VI to religious groups obliged to the choral recitation of the divine office” and notes that the Pope used some strong words to express his sentiments. The example mentioned in the article is this quote:

“For while some are very faithful to the Latin language, others wish to use the vernacular within the choral office. [ … ] We have been somewhat disturbed and saddened by these requests.”

Here are a few other excerpts from the letter; click on the above link to read the whole thing at the CCWatershed blog.

Early in the letter, the Pope extolls the virtues of the orders that sing the Divine Office, but then notes that (all emphases added)

…discordant practices have been introduced into the sacred liturgy by your communities or provinces (We speak of those only that belong to the Latin Rite.) For while some are very faithful to the Latin language, others wish to use the vernacular within the choral office. Others, in various places, wish to exchange that chant which is called Gregorian for newly-minted melodies. Indeed, some even insist that Latin should be wholly suppressed.

We must acknowledge that We have been somewhat disturbed and saddened by these requests. One may well wonder what the origin is of this new way of thinking and this sudden dislike for the past; one may well wonder why these things have been fostered.

Pope Paul VI also indicates that there were plenty of previous instructions regarding preservation of Latin:

In the first Instruction (ad exsecutionem Constitutionis de sacra Liturgia recte ordinandam), published on 26 September 1964, it was decreed as follows:

In celebrating the divine office in choir, clerics are bound to preserve the Latin language (n. 85).

In the second Instruction (de lingua in celebrandis Officio divino et Missa “conventuali” aut “communitatis” apud Religiosos adhibenda), published on 23 November 1965, that law was reinforced, and at the same time due consideration was shown for the spiritual advantage of the faithful and for the special conditions which prevail in missionary territories. Therefore, for as long as no other lawful provision is made, these laws are in force and require the obedience in which religious must excel, as dear sons of holy Church.

And yet, how many religious orders that pray the Divine Office have maintained the celebration in Latin? It seems to me that they are few and far between.
Pope Paul VI noted also that retention of Latin is not just for the sake of praying in Latin! There are other benefits to its use:

… For this language is, within the Latin Church, an abundant well-spring of Christian civilization and a very rich treasure-trove of devotion. But it is also the seemliness, the beauty and the native strength of these prayers and canticles which is at stake: the choral office itself, “the lovely voice of the Church in song” (Cf. St Augustine’s Confessions, Bk 9, 6). … The traditions of the elders, your glory throughout long ages, must not be belittled. Indeed, your manner of celebrating the choral office has been one of the chief reasons why these families of yours have lasted so long, and happily increased. It is thus most surprising that under the influence of a sudden agitation, some now think that it should be given up.

Do you hear what he’s saying?! He is saying that the long life of the religious orders that celebrate the Divine Office in Latin, using Gregorian chant, is due precisely to that very practice! There is something utterly compelling about psalms and hymns chanted in Latin. The Pope continues:

In present conditions, what words or melodies could replace the forms of Catholic devotion which you have used until now? You should reflect and carefully consider whether things would not be worse, should this fine inheritance be discarded. It is to be feared that the choral office would turn into a mere bland recitation, suffering from poverty and begetting weariness, as you yourselves would perhaps be the first to experience.

This corresponds to my personal experience. I began by reciting the Liturgy of the Hours, and found it rather tedious, though I tried to keep at it. When I learned to chant the Office, I found myself much more motivated to pray it. As I said, there is something very compelling about the Latin chant.

One can also wonder whether men would come in such numbers to your churches in quest of the sacred prayer, if its ancient and native tongue, joined to a chant full of grave beauty, resounded no more within your walls. We therefore ask all those to whom it pertains, to ponder what they wish to give up, and not to let that spring run dry from which, until the present, they have themselves drunk deep.

And indeed, it seems that in many parishes, where there is no longer a tradition of chanting even just the Latin ordinary at Mass, people are no longer drawn to the parish church to pray. There may be many reasons for that, but surely it is not helpful that the “ancient and native tongue” is no longer present and there is no “chant full of grave beauty”. Instead, we have substituted words and melodies more reflective of our view of ourselves than our view of God.

The Pope acknowledges that:

 Of course, the Latin language presents some difficulties, and perhaps not inconsiderable ones, for the new recruits to your holy ranks. But such difficulties, as you know, should not be reckoned insuperable…Moreover, those prayers, with their antiquity, their excellence, their noble majesty, will continue to draw to you young men and women, called to the inheritance of our Lord.

Can there be any doubt that this is true? The current pop Christian songs will be out-dated tomorrow, and in fact much of the music I hear at Mass is reminiscent of the ‘70’s… which does not make it contemporary at all!

But even more important, listen to the Pope as he addresses the power of the Latin chant:

On the other hand, that choir from which is removed this language of wondrous spiritual power, transcending the boundaries of the nations, and from which is removed this melody proceeding from the inmost sanctuary of the soul, where faith dwells and charity burns – We speak of Gregorian chant – such a choir will be like to a snuffed candle, which gives light no more, no more attracts the eyes and minds of men.

At this point, many among the older generation have “issues” with Latin and chant, and cling to their ‘70’s “folk Masses”. I’ve heard it joked that the main people attending a youth Mass are in their 60’s or older! Younger people who don’t have the “baggage” of the rebellion against Latin and sacred music, are more drawn to the chant. Since they have no pre-conceived notions that it’s a “step backwards”, they have a clearer view of the objective beauty and goodness of it. They are able to recognize that it “proceeds from the inmost sanctuary of the soul”.

Too many of our parishes have choirs that are the “snuffed candles” to which the Pope alludes.