Monday 31 March 2008

Corona Divinae Misericordiae (Chaplet of Divine Mercy)

Some are a little dismissive of the Divine Mercy devotions, perhaps partly because they see them as untraditional and late in time or new-fangled. In fact, it is entirely fitting that Quasimodo Sunday should have been chosen by the Supreme Pontiff for the Feast of Divine Mercy since it is the day when St Thomas the Doubter was reconciled from his doubts, as the Gospel tells us, and, after placing his hands in the wounds of Christ, made the act of faith saying, "My Lord and my God!". 

 It is also the day when the introit of the traditional Roman rite repeats the words of St Peter: "laying away all malice and all guile and dissimulations and envies and all detractions, just as the new born infants desire the rational milk without guile..." 

This is a highly appropriate verse for those seeking out the mercy of God. 

Moreover, this day was the day when the neophytes, having been baptised at the Easter Vigil, and having worn their white baptismal robes (nowadays still used for infant baptism) for the full week, set aside their white robes having been filled with all the grace and blessing of baptism. 

 This, then, is surely the very day when the accumulation of God's grace and mercy is at its height and the Faithful ought, therefore, to seek access thereto all the more fully. 

 The Sacred Penitentiary, the Church's highest court (yes, really; it is higher than the Apostolic Signature or the Sacred Rota), in its Decree of 29 June 2002, set out the conditions for a Plenary Indulgence granted by the Supreme Pontiff. 

The Decree states: 

"And so the Supreme Pontiff, motivated by an ardent desire to foster in Christians this devotion to Divine Mercy as much as possible in the hope of offering great spiritual fruit to the faithful, in the Audience granted on 13 June 2002, to those Responsible for the Apostolic Penitentiary, granted the following Indulgences: - a plenary indulgence, granted under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. "Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!"); - a partial indulgence, granted to the faithful who, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation."

Confession and Communion may, according to the Penitentiary's guidance, be on any day 20 days either side of Low Sunday. 

Below are reproduced the prayers of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in Latin for the use of those who wish to gain access to the fathomless mercy of God. 

I have rendered the final prayer into Latin, Greek and Hebrew, the primary sacred languages of the Church which appeared over the Holy Cross. 

That final prayer is the same that is sung, alternating in Greek and Latin, at the exceedingly ancient, solemn Good Friday service (the Mass of the Pre-sanctified). 

This final prayer is said 3 times to signify the Holy Trinity just as the 3 sacred languages, Latin, Greek and Hebrew signify the Holy Trinity, also. 

 I commend this devotion to readers. It can, for instance, be incorporated into Benediction, after, say, the Prayer for England (or equivalent in other nations).
Corona Divinae Misericordiae (Chaplet of Divine Mercy)

IN NOMINE Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. 

PATER NOSTER, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen. 

AVE MARIA, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen. 

CREDO in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae. Et in Iesum Christum, Filium eius unicum, Dominum nostrum, qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus, descendit ad inferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis, ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis, inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos. Credo in Spiritum Sanctum, sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem, remissionem peccatorum, carnis resurrectionem et vitam aeternam. Amen. 

On each of the OUR FATHER beads: 

PATER aeterne, offero tibi Corpus et Sanguinem, animam et divinitatem dilectissimi Filii Tui, Domini nostri, Iesu Christi, in propitiatione pro peccatis nostris et totius mundi. (Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world) 

On each of the HAIL MARY beads: 

PRO DOLOROSA Eius passione, miserere nobis et totius mundi. (For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and the whole world) 

In conclusion say the following (here in Latin, Greek and Hebrew): 

SANCTUS Deus, Sanctus Fortis, Sanctus Immortalis, miserere nobis et totius mundi. 

HAGIOS Theos, Hagios ischyros, Hagios athanatos, eleison imas kai olon ton kosmon. 

ELOHIM hakadosh, Elohim hakol yakhol, rakhem aleinu, veal kol haolam. (Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and the whole world) 

Say at three o’clock in the afternoon: 

TE PRAETERITUS, Domine Iesu, fons vitae et caesa fusus est pro animabus Oceanum misericordiae et aperuit ascendit pro toto mundo. O fons vitae es, ineffabile divinae misericordiae, de nube super universum terrarum orbem, et evacuabit te fac nobis. O aqua et sanguis, quae fluxerunt de Corde Iesu miserere nobis quasi parens clementiae, ego in te habeat fiduciam. Amen. (Your expired, O Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls and an ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us. O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You. Amen.)

Saturday 29 March 2008

Quasimodo Sunday (Feast of Divine Mercy): "As newborn babes desire the rational milk without guile..."

Dominica in Albis Depositis

(Sunday when the newly baptised finally put off their white garments of Easter)

also called

Quasimodo Sunday


Low Sunday




the Feast of Divine Mercy

"Quasimodo geniti infantes, alleluia, rationabile sine dolo lac concupiscite. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."

"As newborn babes, alleluia, desire the rational milk without guile. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia"
[1 Peter 2:2; Introit for the Mass of Low Sunday]

"Deinde dicit Thomae: infer digitum tuum huc et vide manus meas, et affer manum tuam et mitte in latus meum et noli esse incredulus sed fidelis. Respondit Thomas et dixit ei: Dominus meus et Deus meus!"

"Then He said to Thomas 'Put in thy fingers hither and see my hands and bring hither thy hand and put it into my side and be not faithless but believing'. Thomas answered and said to him 'My Lord and my God!' "
[John 20:27-28; Gospel of Low Sunday]

Caravaggio. Doubting Thomas. 1602-1603

"Dearly beloved, laying away all malice and all guile and dissimulations and envies and all detractions as newborn babes desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation, if so be you have tasted that the Lord is sweet...for you are a chosen race, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people that you may declare His virtues who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."
[1 Peter 2:2-3, 9]

"Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. Then he saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God. Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed."
[John 20:19-29]

"In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart.(1588)

It's a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed forth for them. (848)

Before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the doors of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the doors of My mercy must pass through the doors of My justice... (1146)"

[Diary of Divine Mercy, Revelation of our Lord to St Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament (Helen Kowalska)]

St Faustina Kowalska, messenger of Divine Mercy

"Hagios Theos, hagios ischyros, hagios athanatos, eleison imas"

"Sanctus Deus, Sanctus Fortis, Sanctus Immortalis, miserere nobis"

"Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us"

[The ancient prayer of the Trisagion from the Improperia or "Reproaches" of the Good Friday liturgy in Greek, Latin and English, dating back to at least the 5th century. They form part of the Divine Mercy prayers requested of St Faustina by our Lord.]

Domenikos Theotocopoulos (El Greco). The Holy Trinity. 1577.


Sunday 23 March 2008

Easter Sunday: Christus surrexit, alleluia!

Easter Sunday

Christus surrexit,
sicut dixit,

Christ is risen
as he said!

[Correggio. Noli me tangere. 1525]

"When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome, bought spices so that they might come and anoint Jesus...and on a sabbath morning they came to the sepulchre after sunrise...and looking up they saw that the stone was rolled back. Alleluia!"
[Taverner, Dum transisset sabbatum from Mark 16, sung at the Easter Vigil mass of Holy Saturday night]

"The Angels said to her 'Woman, why are you weeping?'. She said to them 'Because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him'. Saying this she turned round and saw Jesus standing but she did not know that it was Jesus. Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him 'Sir, if you have carried Him away tell me where you have laid Him and I will take Him away'. And Jesus said to her 'Mary'. She turned and said to Him in Hebrew 'Rabboni!'".
[John 20]

"She went and said to the Disciples 'I have seen the Lord!' "
[John 20]

Victimae paschali laudes
immolent Christiani
Agnus redemit oves:
Christus innocens Patri
Reconciliavit peccatores.
Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando,
Dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus.
Dic nobis Maria, quid vidisti in via?
Sepulcrum Christi viventis,
Et gloriam vidi resurgentis:
Angelicos testes, sudarium et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea:
Praecedet vos in Galilaeam.
Credendum est magis soli
Mariae veraci
Quam Judaeorum
Turbae fallaci.
Scimus Christum surrexisse
a mortuis vere:
Tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere.
Amen. Alleluia.

To the Paschal victim let Christians
Offer up their songs of praise.
The Lamb has redeemed the sheep:
Christ who is without sin
Has reconciled sinners to the Father.
Death and life have fought a huge battle,
The Prince of Life was dead, but lives and reigns.
Tell us, Mary, what did you see on your way?
'The tomb of Christ, who is alive,
And I saw the glory of his rising;
Angels standing as witnesses, the shroud and linen cloth.
Christ my hope has risen:
He has gone to Galilee before you'.
Truly, we know Christ has risen from the dead:
O King and victor, have mercy on us. Amen. Alleluia.

[Wipo of Burgundy, Victimi Paschali Laudes. 1040. Sung on Easter Sunday]

Surrexit Christus hodie! Alleluia!

Christ is risen today! Alleluia!


Friday 21 March 2008

Good Friday: "see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow..."

Good Friday

Popule meus, quid feci tibi, aut in quo contristavi me?
Responde mihi!

“O my people! What have I done to thee? Wherein have I offended thee?
Answer me!

Titian. Christ Crowned with Thorns. 1540.

"For he hath taken us and he will heal us: he will strike and he will cure us. He will revive after two days: on the third day he will raise us up and we shall live in his sight. We shall know and we shall follow on, that we know the Lord...for I desired mercy and not animal sacrifice and the knowledge of God more than holocausts."
[Hosea 6, First lesson sung at the Good Friday Service of the Mass of the Pre-sanctified]

"He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the whole chastisement that made us whole and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers, he opened not his mouth."
[Isaiah 53, Epistle for Wednesday in Holy Week]

"Jesus answered: ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from hence’. Pilate therefore said to Him ‘Art Thou a King then?’ Jesus answered ‘Thou sayest that I am a King. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, that I should give testimony of the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice…

…Then therefore Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him and the soldiers plaiting a Crown of Thorns, put it upon His head and they put upon Him a purple mantle and they came to Him and said ‘Hail King of the Jews!’ and they gave Him blows."
[John, 18]

Regnavit a ligno Deus.
"God hath reigned from a tree."
[From Vexilla Regis, St Venantius Fortunatus, sung during the Good Friday Service of the Passion.]

"What more ought I to have done for thee, that I have not done? I planted thee, indeed, My most beautiful vineyard and thou hast become exceeding bitter to Me, for in My thirst thou gavest Me vinegar to drink and with a lance thou pierced the side of thy Saviour!
… For thy sake I scourged Egypt with its first-born and thou didst deliver Me up to be scourged…
… I gave thee a royal sceptre and thou didst give My head a crown of thorns…
… I exalted thee with great strength and thou didst hang Me on the gibbet of the Cross…
O my people! What have I done to thee? Wherein have I offended thee? Answer me!"
[Improperia or Reproaches of Christ to His people and to us all, from the Good Friday Service of the Passion.]

O vos omnes, qui transitis per viam, attendite et videte si est dolor sicut dolormeus.
"O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow."
[Lamentations of Jeremiah, sung at Tenebrae (Matins and Lauds) on Maundy Thursday]

Diego Velázquez. Christ Crucified. c. 1632.

"And they took Jesus and led Him forth. And bearing His cross, He went forth to that place that is called Calvary but in Hebrew Golgotha, where they crucified Him and with Him two others, one on each side and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title also and he put it upon the Cross and the writing was ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’… and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin."
[John 18]


Maundy Thursday: "A new commandment I give you..."

Maundy Thursday

Mandatum novum do vobis...

Philippe de Champaigne. The Last Supper. 1654.

ALEPH: Quomodo sedet sola civitas, plena populo, facta es quasi vidua; domina gentium, princeps provinicarum, facta est sub tributo.

ALEPH: How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!
[Lamentations of Jeremiah 1:1, the beginning of Tenebrae (Matins) for Maundy Thursday]

"And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 'This month shall be to you the beginning of months. It shall be the first in the months of the year...on the tenth day of this month let every man take a lamb by their families and houses... and it shall be a lamb WITHOUT BLEMISH, a male, of one year...and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month and the whole multitude of the children of Israel shall sacrifice it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood thereof and put it upon both the side posts and on the upper door posts of the houses wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh that night roasted at the fire and unleavened bread with wild lettuce... neither shall there remain any thing of it until morning. If there be anything left you shall burn it with fire. And thus shall you eat it: you shall gird your reins and you shall have shoes on your feet, holding staves in your hands and you shall eat in haste for it is the Phase (that is the Passage) of the Lord... And I shall see the blood and shall pass over you...and this day shall be for a memorial to you and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord in your generations with an everlasting observance'... And Moses said... 'Thou shalt keep this thing as a law for thee and thy children forever...and when your children shall say to you "What is the meaning of this service" you shall say to them "It is the victim of the passage of the Lord when He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, striking the Egyptians and saving our houses..."
[Exod 12]

"Now the feast of the unleavened bread which is called the Pasch was at hand...and when the hour was come He sat down and the twelve apostles with Him and He said to them 'With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you before I suffer, for I say to you that from this time I will not eat it till it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God'... And taking bread He gave thanks, and brake and gave them saying 'This is my body which is given up for you. Do this for a commemoration of me'. In like manner the chalice also, after He had supped, saying 'This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you'.
[Luke 22]

"On the night of that last supper,
Seated with His chosen band,
He the paschal victim eating,
First fulfils the Law's command.
Then as food to all His brethren
Gives Himself with His own hand"
[Pange lingua gloriosi, sung at the Maundy Mass.]

"Before the festival day of the Pasch, Jesus knowing that His hour was come...having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end. And when supper was ended... He riseth from supper and..having taken a towel, girded Himself. After that, He putteth water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded...Then after He had washed their feet and taken His garments, being set down again, He said to them 'Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord. And you say well; for so I am. If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet."
[John 13]

Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos, dicit Dominus.
"A new commandment I give you that you love one another as I have loved you, saith the Lord."
[John 13:34, sung at the Maundy Mass]

Ubi caritas et amor ubi Deus est. Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor. Exultemus et in ipso jucundemur. Timeamus et amemus Deum vivum. Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
"Where charity and love are there is God. The love of Christ has gathered us together. Let us rejoice in Him and be glad. Let us fear and love the living God and let us love one another with a sincere heart."
[John 2:3-4, sung at the Maundy Mass]

Vincenzo Civerchio. Christ washing the feet of the disciples. 1544.

"And going out He went, according to His custom, to the Mount of Olives and His disciples also followed Him... and kneeling down He prayed saying 'Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from me but not yet my will but Thine be done'...And He being in agony, He prayed the longer and His sweat became as drops of blood trickling down upon the ground."
[Luke 22:39-44]

Thursday 20 March 2008

Spy Wednesday: "one of my disciples shall betray me today; woe to him by whom I am betrayed"

"Then went one of the twelve who was called Judas Iscariot to the chief priests and said to them 'what will you give me to deliver Him unto you?'. And they appointed him thirty pieces of silver..."

Caravaggio. The Taking of Christ. 1602.

Unus ex discipulis meus tradet ne hodie: Vae illi per quem tradar ego. Melius illi erat si natur non fuisset...Qui intingit mecum manum in paropside, hic me traditurus est in manus peccatorum.

"One of my disciples shall today betray me. Woe to him by whom I am betrayed. Better for him that he had not been born...whoever shall dip his hand with me into the dish, by him shall I be betrayed into the hands of sin."
[Matt 16:23-25, Responsory 6 at Tenebrae on Maundy Thursday]

"Then went one of the twelve who was called Judas Iscariot to the chief priests and said to them "what will you give me to deliver Him unto you?". And they appointed him thirty pieces of silver and from thenceforth he sought opportunity to betray Him."
[Matt 26:14-16]

"Thus saith the Lord God 'tell the daughter of Sion, behold Thy Saviour cometh; behold His reward is with Him and His work before Him. Who is this that cometh from Edom with dyed garments from Bosra, this beautiful one in his robe, walking in greatness of strength?'"
[Isaias 62:63]

"There is no beauty in Him, nor comeliness; and we have seen Him and there was no sightliness that we should be desirous of Him; despised and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows and despised, whereupon we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows, and we have thought Him as it were a leper and as one struck by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, everyone hath turned aside into his own way and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was offered because it was His own will and he opened not His mouth: He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and He shall not open His mouth...He hath done no iniquity, neither was there deceit in His mouth...He hath delivered His soul unto death and was reputed with the wicked and hath borne the sins of many and hath prayed for the transgressors.
[Isaias 53:2]


Monday in Holy Week: "Mary...wiped His feet with her hair"

"Mary took a pound of ointment of right spikenard of great price and anointed the feet of Jesus..."

Henryk Siemiradzki. Christ in the House of Martha and Mary. 1886.

"With regard to the chastisement that is to befall Jerusalem, He gives this...answer: 'Amen, I say to you this generation shall not pass 'til all these things are done' [Matt.xiv.34]. History tells us how the prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled: forty years had scarcely elapsed after His Ascension, when the Roman army encamped on this very place [Mount Olivet] where He is now speaking to His disciples and laid siege to the ungrateful and wicked city".
[Rt Rev Abbot Dom Prosper Gueranger OSB, L'Annee liturgique, vol VI "Passiontide and Holy Week".]

"Lo, they shall all be destroyed as a garment, the moth shall eat them up."
[Isaias 50:9]

"Mary...wiped his feet with her hair and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray Him, said: 'Why was not this ointment sold...and given to the poor?'...Jesus therefore said: 'Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of my burial; for the poor you have always with you, but me you have not always with you...' ".
[John 12:3-9]


Tuesday 18 March 2008

Cardinal-Deacons in Dalmatics on Palm Sunday...

Yes, folks!

It really happened!

Our beloved Pope is bringing it all back...

Monday 17 March 2008



Tenebrae, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday.

Come and take part.


PALM SUNDAY: "The children of Israel carried olive branches..."

If you have never been to the pre-1955 traditional rite of Palm Sunday then you have missed something special.

It is increasingly being celebrated and its beautiful and ancient traditions are slowly being made more available to the Faithful who are fortunate enough to attend it.

This great service celebrates the entry of our Lord into the city of Jerusalem to be welcomed by His people as a king, a prophet and a saviour and as the very Messiah whom they had been awaiting for centuries but, in a few short days, were to reject.

This entry of the humble Christ into the city was foretold and prophesied by the prophet, Zechariah:

"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth". (Zechariah 9:9-10)

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, when a Cardinal, attended a 1962 celebration at the Wigratzbad seminary of the the Fraternity of St Peter. At the end of the service he asked "Why did not the Subdeacon knock on teh church door with the bottom of the processional cross?"

Back came the answer: "It was stopped in 1955, your Eminence!".

"Oh!" exclaimed Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was, "What a pity!"

Well, your Holiness, now is your chance to restore it in all its splendour!

This service is a particularly fine one, albeit lengthy (about 2 1/2 hours). The palms are blessed with many hymns, chants and prayers, and the people receive them, the choir singing Pueri Hebraeorum, portantes ramos olivarum (the children of Israel carrying olive branches), and there is a short-form mass at the altar. After this comes the Procession out of the Church, singing Gloria, laus et honor, tibi sit, Rex Christe Redemptor, and then back to the front door thereof.

At the door, 2 cantors enter and the doors are shut. They continue to sing and then the Subdeacon, outside, knocks on the door with the end of the processional cross. The doors open, to signify the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem and our entry into Heaven, and the procession moves back into the church, singing an ancient chant, Ingrediente Domino.

Then the main mass begins with many haunting and beautiful chants being sung, and then the Passion according to St Matthew in long form is sung, starting at the anointing of the feet of Jesus by St Mary Magdalene in the house of Simon the Leper.

This is a fitting way to recall the beginning of the Passion when our Lord was welcomed as a king and prophet into the holy city of Jerusalem by His people who, only days later, were to betray Him unto their Roman enemies to torture and death.

Soon many of those same Romans were to be converted whilst many of God's chosen rejected the very Messias whom they had been awaiting for so long.

In former times, the Roman Emperor would lead the Patriarch on a donkey up to the church door as part of the ceremonies and as a gesture of humility on his part. This tradition was continued by the Russian Tsars, also, until the custom was suppressed by the modernising, "enlightened" and very brutal dictator, Tsar Peter I.

Palm Sunday in Jerusalem

Hosanna to the son of David!

Thursday 13 March 2008

Crux Fidelis: "Faithful cross above all other..."

This is another great traditional hymn by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609) used extensively in the Church’s public prayer and liturgy.

It is a beautiful hymn but again, sadly, all too rarely heard in the Novus Ordo liturgy but always heard in the traditional liturgy.

There are two hymns called Pange Lingua in use, one by St. Thomas Aquinas and this one, by Venantius Fortunatus extolling the triumph of the Holy Cross.

This, too, was written for the procession of the True Cross to Queen Radegunda in 570.

Traditional rite Catholics will be familiar with its use on Good Friday during the Adoration of the Cross but it will be even more familiar to those who use the traditional rite Breviary or Office books.

Liturgically the hymn is often broken up into smaller parts, particularly as Lustra sex and Crux fidelis.

The second verse makes reference to the pious tradition that the wood of the Holy Cross was taken from the Tree of Paradise in the Garden of Eden.

How can this be, you may ask.

The answer is thus: after the death of Adam, his son, Seth obtained from the Cherubim guarding the Garden a branch of the tree from which Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Seth planted this branch at Golgotha (the place of the skull), which is so named because Adam was buried there. As time went on, the Ark of the Covenant, the pole upon which the bronze serpent was lifted, and other items were made from this tree, so it is said.

You may have seen crucifixes with a skull below the corpus. This represents Christ’s victory over death but it also reflects the pious tradition that Adam was buried on Golgotha and that the blood of Christ seeped through the cracks in the earth and tomb beneath on and onto the skull of Adam beneath. Thus the bones of Adam were materially bathed in the Blood of Christ just as Original Sin, caused by Adam’s sin, is washed away by His Blood, the Blood of the Lamb of God, sacrificed as the Paschal Lamb upon the Holy Cross.

Golgotha: the place of the Crucifixion
beneath which was reputed to lie the tomb of Adam
and over which now stands the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Pange Lingua (including Crux Fidelis)

by Venantius Fortunatus

PANGE, lingua, gloriosi
proelium certaminis,
et super Crucis trophaeo
dic triumphum nobilem,
qualiter Redemptor orbis
immolatus vicerit.

De parentis protoplasti
fraude Factor condolens,
quando pomi noxialis
morte morsu corruit,
ipse lignum tunc notavit,
damna ligni ut solveret.

Hoc opus nostrae salutis
ordo depoposcerat,
multiformis proditoris
ars ut artem falleret,
et medelam ferret inde,
hostis unde laeserat.

Quando venit ergo sacri
plenitudo temporis,
missus est ab arce Patris
natus, orbis, Conditor,
atque ventre virginali
carne factus prodiit.

Vagit infans inter arcta
conditus praesepia:
membra pannis involuta
Virgo Mater alligat:
et manus pedesque et crura
stricta cingit fascia.

LUSTRA sex qui iam peracta
tempus implens corporis,
se volente, natus ad hoc,
passioni deditus,
Agnus in crucis levatur
immolandus stipite.

En acetum, fel, arundo,
sputa, clavi, lancea:
mite corpus perforatur,
Sanguis, unda profluit
terra, pontus, astra, mundus,
quo lavantur flumine!

CRUX fidelis,
inter omnes
arbor una nobilis;
nulla talem silva profert,
flore, fronde, germine.
Dulce lignum, dulci clavo,
dulce pondus sustinens!

Flecte ramos, arbor alta,
tensa laxa viscera,
et rigor lentescat ille,
quem dedit nativitas,
ut superni membra Regis
miti tendas stipite.

Sola digna tu fuisti
ferre saeculi pretium,
atque portum praeparare
nauta mundo naufrago,
quem sacer cruor perunxit,
fusus Agni corpore.

Aequa Patri Filioque,
inclito Paraclito,
sempiterna sit beatae
Trinitati gloria,
cuius alma nos redemit
atque servat gratia. Amen.


SING, my tongue, the Saviour’s glory;
tell His triumph far and wide;
tell aloud the famous story
of His body crucified;
how upon the cross a victim,
vanquishing in death, He died.

Eating of the tree forbidden,
man had sunk in Satan's snare,
when our pitying Creator did
this second tree prepare;
destined, many ages later,
that first evil to repair.

Such the order God appointed
when for sin He would atone;
to the serpent thus opposing
schemes yet deeper than his own;
thence the remedy procuring,
whence the fatal wound had come.

So when now at length the fullness
of the sacred time drew nigh,
then the Son, the world's Creator,
left his Father's throne on high;
from a virgin's womb appearing,
clothed in our mortality.

All within a lowly manger,
lo, a tender babe He lies!
see his gentle Virgin Mother
lull to sleep his infant cries!
while the limbs of God incarnate
round with swathing bands she ties.

THUS did Christ to perfect manhood
in our mortal flesh attain:
then of His free choice He goeth
to a death of bitter pain;
and as a lamb, upon the altar
of the cross, for us is slain.

Lo, with gall His thirst He quenches!
see the thorns upon His brow!
Nails His tender flesh are rending!
See His side is opened now!
Whence, to cleanse the whole creation,
streams of blood and water flow.

FAITHFUL Cross! Above all other,
one and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peers may be;
sweetest wood and sweetest iron!
Sweetest Weight is hung on thee!

Lofty tree, bend down thy branches,
to embrace thy sacred load;
oh, relax the native tension
of that all too rigid wood;
gently, gently bear the members
of thy dying King and God.

Tree, which solely wast found worthy
this world's Victim to sustain;
harbour from the raging tempest!
Ark, that saved the world again!
Tree, with sacred blood anointed
of the Lamb for sinners slain.

Blessing, honour, everlasting,
to the immortal Deity;
to the Father, Son, and Spirit,
equal praises ever be;
glory through the earth and heaven
to Trinity in Unity. Amen.

The Cross shall triumph over sin...


Passion Week: Regnavit a ligno Deus - "The God who has ruled us from a tree"

Vexilla Regis was written by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609) and is one of the most beautiful of the Latin chants of the liturgy for Passion Week and Holy Week.

It is an ancient hymn which, sadly, is so rarely heard these days in the Novus Ordo. You will always hear it in the sung traditional rite. Historically, it had a very deep place in the hearts of the Faithful of the Latin rite. In former times, most Latin rite Catholics knew it and could sing it. Pilgrims sang it, not least in the Holy Land and Crusaders even went to battle singing it.

Fortunatus wrote it in honour of the arrival of a large relic of the True Cross which had been sent to Queen Radegunda by the Emperor Justin II and Empress Sophia.

Queen Radegunda had retired to a convent she had built near Poitiers in France and wanted relics for the church there. To help celebrate the arrival of the relic, the Queen asked Fortunatus to write a hymn for the procession of the relic to the church.

It is thus highly appropriate for Passion Week and Holy Week when the Holy Cross is firmly before our minds.

It is thus fittingly sung at Vespers from Passion Sunday to Holy Thursday and on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

The hymn is also sung (at least in the traditional rite) on Good Friday when the Blessed Sacrament is taken from the altar of repose back to the High Altar (verses 2, 4, and 7 are usually omitted when the hymn is used liturgically).

It is a wonderful medition for us as we recall the drama of the Passion of our Saviour. And what a marvellous image: Regnavit a ligno Deus - "God has ruled us from a tree".

There it is again: that image of a king suffering for his people, like a father suffering for his family or a priest accepting persecution to save his people.

This is the image of Christian leadership and an imitation of the self-sacrificing love of the Father and the Son, intimately bound up together in their plan of self-giving to save their sinful creature, mankind. A most marvellous image: the suffering servant-king. Again - who but God could have conceived of such an idea!

Rembrandt. Christ on the Cross (detail). 1631.

Regnavit a ligno Deus - "The King who rules us from a tree".

He takes our sins upon Him, for tho' He is our King, our Lord and our Creator, He nonetheless teaches us: "Greater love than this no man hath, that he lay down his life for his friends".

Vexilla Regis

Vexilla Regis prodeunt: Fulget Crucis mysterium,
Qua vita mortem pertulit, Et morte vitam protulit.

Quae vulnerata lanceae Mucrone diro, criminum
Ut nos lavaret sordibus, Manavit und(a) et sanguine.

Impleta sunt quae concinit David fideli carmine,
Dicendo nationibus: Regnavit a ligno Deus.

Arbor decora et fulgida, Ornata Regis purpura,
Electa digno stipite Tam sancta membra tangere.

Beata, cuius brachiis Pret(i)um pependit saeculi:
Statera facta corporis, Tulitque praedam tartari.

O CRUX AVE, SPES UNICA, Hoc Passionis tempore
Piis adauge gratiam, Reisque dele crimina.

Te, fons salutis Trinitas, Collaudet omnis spiritus:
Quibus Crucis victoriam, Largiris, adde praemium. Amen.

1. Abroad the Regal Banners fly,
Now shines the Cross's mystery;
Upon it Life did death endure,
And yet by death did life procure.

2. Who, wounded with a direful spear,
Did, purposely to wash us clear
From stain of sin, pour out a flood
Of precious Water mixed with Blood.

3. That which the Prophet-King of old
Hath in mysterious verse foretold,
Is now accomplished, whilst we see
God ruling nations from a Tree.

4. O lovely and reflugent Tree,
Adorned with purpled majesty;
Culled from a worthy stock, to bear
Those Limbs which sanctified were.

5. Blest Tree, whose happy branches bore
The wealth that did the world restore;
The beam that did that Body weigh
Which raised up hell's expected prey.

6. Hail, Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
Now in this mournful Passion time,
Improve religious souls in grace,
The sins of criminals efface.

7. Blest Trinity, salvation's spring,
May every soul Thy praises sing;
To those Thou grantest conquest by
The holy Cross, rewards apply. Amen.

Anthony van Dyck. The Crowning with Thorns. 1620.

See the Coronation of Christ by men with a Crown of Thorns, a Sceptre of reed and the mockery of men in place of the Royal Acclamations. For thus must Christian kings look for their inspiration so that they are ready to suffer for their people in imitation of their Master, the great King of all Kings. That is true Christian Monarchy and modern Secular Republicanism is assuredly a poor thing by comparison.

So, too, do Christian fathers and mothers look to the suffering Kingship of Christ for their model and sacrifice themselves for their children, Christian priests and religious sacrifice themselves for their spiritual children, and all imitate Christ the King who gave Himself for His subjects.


Tuesday 11 March 2008

His Most Eminent Highness Fra' Matthew Festing is the new and 79th Grand Master of the Order of Malta - Deo Gratias!

Rome, 11 March 2008.

Frà Matthew Festing, 59, an Englishman, becomes the 79th Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, elected this morning by the Council Complete of State (the Order’s electoral body). In accepting the role, the new Grand Master swore his Oath before the Cardinal Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Pio Laghi, and the electoral body. He succeeds Fra’Andrew Bertie, 78th Grand Master (1988-2008), who died on 7 February.

The new Grand Master affirms his resolve to continue the great work carried out by his predecessor. Fra’ Matthew comes with a wide range of experience in Order affairs. He has been the Grand Prior of England since the Priory’s re-establishment in 1993, restored after an abeyance of 450 years. In this capacity, he has led missions of humanitarian aid to Lebanon and Kosovo after the recent disturbances in those countries, and with a large delegation from Britain he attends the Order’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes with handicapped pilgrims.

Educated at Ampleforth and Trinity College Cambridge, where he read history, Frà Matthew, an art expert, has for most of his professional life worked at an international art auction house. As a child he lived in Malta and Singapore, where his father, Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing, Chief of the Defence Staff, had earlier postings. His mother was a member of the recusant Riddells of Swinburne Castle who suffered for their faith in penal times. He is also descended from Sir Adrian Fortescue, a knight of Malta, who was martyred in 1539.

Frà Matthew served in the Grenadier Guards and holds the rank of colonel in the Territorial Army. He was appointed OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen and has served as her Deputy Lieutenant in the county of Northumberland for a number of years.

In 1977 Frà Matthew became a member of the Order of Malta, taking solemn religious vows in 1991.

As well as his passion for the decorative arts and for history, for which his encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the Order is legendary, as is his very British sense of humour, Frà Matthew spends any free time possible in his beloved Northumberland countryside.

The Grand Master

According to the Order’s Constitution, the Grand Master, who is the sovereign and religious head of the Order, must fully dedicate himself to the development of the works of the Order and to set an example of living by Christian principles, to all the members of the Order. The Grand Master exercises supreme authority, together with the Sovereign Council. He holds the rank of cardinal in the Catholic Church.

The Grand Master resides at the Order’s seat of government in the Grand Magisterial palace, Via Condotti in Rome.

The Order of Malta

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta – founded in Jerusalem 960 years ago – is a sovereign subject of international law and a religious order of the Catholic Church. It has bilateral diplomatic relations with 100 States, the Holy See and the Italian Republic among them, 18 official representations and permanent observer status at the United Nations, the European Union and numerous international organizations.

The Order has a permanent presence in 54 countries, with 12 Grand Priories and Sub-Priories and 47 national Associations, as well as numerous hospitals, medical centres, day care centres, first aid corps, and specialist foundations, which operate in 120 countries.

Its 12,500 members and 80,000 volunteers and over 13,000 medical personnel – doctors, nurses and paramedics – are dedicated to the care of the poor, the sick and all those who suffer.

For more information about the Order of Malta:


Monday 10 March 2008

Passion Week: before Abraham was, I AM

This is Passion Week.

We begin the days when our Lord preached the most intensely and tellingly to the Jews, the Scribes, the Pharisees and the people, knowing that His hour approached.

Here He began to reveal Himself more fully than ever to His people and, in consequence, His enemies began more and more to compass His death.

Let us make the most of these last few days of Lent and read the lessons of Scripture in the Mass with careful attention. Let us savour the words of Christ as He prepares for His Passion.

He came down from Mount Olivet, St John tells us, and He began to teach in the Temple to the Jews - Pharisees and people - most not knowing that they beheld the very face of God!

The Pharisees sought to trick Him and brought the woman caught in adultery before Him and asked if He condemned her and He replied famously that he who was without sin should cast the first stone at her, writing in the sand as He spoke. He read their minds and silently convicted each of them of sin so that they went away and left the woman with Him. He did not condemn her but forgave, telling her to go and sin no more.

Thereafter, continuing His teaching in the Temple, our Lord further pricks the conscience and understanding of the Pharisees and they accuse Him of having a devil.

St John continues:

"48 The Jews therefore answered and said to him: Do not we say well that thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil? 49 Jesus answered: I have not a devil: but I honour my Father. And you have dishonoured me. 50 But I seek not my own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. 51 Amen, amen, I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever. 52 The Jews therefore said: Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets: and thou sayest: If any man keep my word, he shall not taste death for ever. 53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom dost thou make thyself? 54 Jesus answered: If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifieth me, of whom you say that he is your God. 55 And you have not known him: but I know him. And if I shall say that I know him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know him and do keep his word. 56 Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it and was glad. 57 The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old. And hast thou seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I AM. 59 They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple."

[John 8:48-59]

"I AM" says the Lord!

In Hebrew this can be rendered "Yahweh", the sacred name of God Himself, rendered by the sacred tetragrammaton in Hebrew thus: YHVH.

It is a sacred word, thought to mean "I AM WHO AM" - recalling the words spoken by God to Moses in the account of the burning bush.

No Jew could even utter this without blasphemy....unless, of course, He was God Himself!

The Jews, when they prayed, said Adonai or "your Majesty", but in the royal plural. They sometimes used Elohim which means "God" but again in the royal plural. Nowadays they tend to say HaShem meaning "the Name" or Shem HaMeforash meaning "the Ineffable Name". One sometimes hears the made-up expression Ado-Shem which has no real meaning but is a merging of Adonai and Shem. Many Jews, in writing, will write simply "G-d" to signify their reverence for the Ineffable Name.

Catholics, too, used to have a great reverence for the Holy Name of Jesus, bowing whenever it was mentioned, but, alas, we see how much that devout and holy practice has fallen in desuetude like so many other good and pious practices. The Jews shame us since they continue to reverence the Ineffable Name whereas so many of us Catholics casually pronounce the Holy Name of Jesus with little or no reverence, still less with a bow of the head, even though Scripture says that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow" (Philippians 2:10).

Therefore, when our Lord says "I AM", in this way, He is saying "I AM YOUR GOD".

Those who hear Him, believe.

Those who do not, seek instead to stone Him or kill Him for blasphemy.

For at this moment, Christ has revealed Himself for who He truly is - God Himself - and the Pharisees, refusing to believe, begin to seek His destruction.

When you next are to receive Holy Communion, try saying this when the priest holds up the Host and just before you receive: "Before Abraham was, YOU ARE!".

Just for an instant one glimpses a sense of the awe and majesty of our God who yet so meekly comes to feed Himself to His people in the humble form of bread. Marvellous idea!

Abraham and Isaac. Rembrandt. 1634.





Thursday 6 March 2008

Credit where credit is due...

Fr Jay Scott Newman's letter on facing God ad orientem at mass is well worth reading.

Since I've had to challenge him in the past quite strongly, I think it is only fair that I should praise him when it is due.

So, well done , Father, keep it up!

You can read his letter here:

I cannot help recalling that Cardinal James Knox, when he was still alive, brutally and carelessly ordered a forward altar and mass versus populum at the Chiesa Nuova in Rome despite the strong oppositon of the protectress of the Church, Princess Borghese, and the strong feelings of the Faithful, not to mention the Fathers (they are Oratorians).

This was all too typical of those times - brutal, senseless, unjust and uncharitable actions were all too common in liturgical matters. That is partly why Pope John Paul II felt it necessary to apologise for them in 1988 and after.

Too many of those with authority rode roughshod over the deeply-held religious beliefs and sensibilities of all too many of the Faithful without a word of apology or sympathy.

Those of the Faithful who had been deeply loyal and loved the Church to the uttermost, politely asked if they could worship as they always had and were brushed aside like so much chaff. Heedless of age, sex or sensibility, decent and humble people were arrogantly treated.
No wonder so many people left the Church!

The sheep looked up to be fed and what happened?

They were clouted on their snouts even by their own shepherds!

It was particularly odious to witness the ill-treatment of elderly people who often had the greatest difficulty adapting to the liturgical changes. What did this behaviour say about the attitude that Christians should have to old people?

Personally, I think it added to the general decline in proper behaviour toward the elderly in our society. It was a scandalous bad example.

Thank God we now have a Pope who finally understands and sympathises with the Faithful who have been so bruised, battered, scandalised and horrified by the senseless uncharity of so many of those in authority in relation to liturgical issues in the recent past.

Still, there are too many who, whilst abusing and insulting those whose tastes are for the traditional, nevertheless accuse them of being sour, cross and abusive.

They never seem to stop and think about the insults, calumnies, detractions and abuse that the Faithful with traditional preferences have had to put up with over the recent past.

If, as they claim, the Faithful with traditional preferences are but a small number of disaffected people, then why abuse and insult them?

There is nothing easier than for the majority to pick on a small minority.

And there is nothing easier than swimming with the tide.

Dead fish do it all the time.


Wednesday 5 March 2008

The Blessed Sacrament at Benediction...

Consider, if you will, the High Altar flooded with the light of an hundred or more candles and bedecked with flowers, in the midst whereof stands the Blessed Sacrament in a golden Monstrance.

Arrayed around the Sanctuary are priest, deacon, sub-deacon, clerks, servers and brothers. The schola in robes stand in the nave outside the Sanctuary singing the praises of God whose blessed Body is enthroned upon high.

In the pews the Faithful look up with adoration at the tiny white Host that lies within its golden throne.

It is Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at the commencment of the Quarant'ore (or Forty Hours) devotions at the Brompton Oratory.

To an outsider it seems unusual indeed.

Why are all these people focusing so much devotion and splendour on the small white circle so lavishly encased upon high?

What can this mean?

How can so small a thing be the focus of so much attention and solicitude?

Well, it is perhaps rather remarkable.

In former times, popes and emperors, bishops and kings, dukes and prelates knelt before the tiny disc of wheaten bread in the self-same way but perhaps with even greater solemnity, pageantry and awe.

Who but God could ever have conceived of such an idea, combining, as it does, the due splendour that is, and ought, to be accorded to the Almighty but at the same presenting Himself to us in so simple and humble a form, concealing His might and greatness in the form of the food of the poor, simple bread?

Without doubt it is the same God that chose to come to save His people, the world and creation in the form of a new-born babe - weak, tiny and helpless, mewling in the arms of His mother and suckling at the maternal breast. The greatness of God is even more magnified by the depths of His extraordinary humility: He keeps Heaven and Hell, and the whole Universe and all Creation, in being whilst simultaneously appearing to men as a tiny child or a morsel of bread.

Who but God could have thought of such a marvellous idea?

Madonna and Child (Madonna Litta), by Leonardo da Vinci 1452-1519


Tuesday 4 March 2008

To restore the 12 Prophecies at Easter...

The Twelve Prophecies.

Yes, twelve.

What are the Prophecies? They are the readings at the Easter Vigil.

The Easter Vigil is one of the oldest of ceremonies in the Christian Church.

During it the Catechumens are given their last instruction, in the porch of the Church, before being introduced into the Church, one by one, during the reading of the Prophecies.

The rest of the congregation listen to the Prophecies which are the story of salvation from the Creation of the World to the Birth and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

So far as we are able to tell there have always been 12 Prophecies. They begin at Genesis with God creating the world and end with the story of Nebuchadnessar, the later Epistle and Gospel telling of the Resurrection of Christ.

These ceremonies are thus of ancient and most hallowed and sacred origin. None but the most impious would dare to interfere with such ancient rites which come to us from the earliest of times in the Church.

The structure of the Vigil has been as follows:

1. The Blessing of the Fire and the Paschal Candle (with the grains of incense in the shape of a Cross) and the singing of the Exultet by a Deacon, followed by the Procession into Church and the spreading of Lumen Christi, the Light of Christ (signified by slowly re-lighting the lamps in the Church).

2. The Prophecies, sung just as the Catechumens, dressed in white robes, are, one by one, introduced into Church.

3. The Blessing of the Baptismal Water (if there is a Font) by which the Catechumens will be baptised.

4. The Litany of the Saints during which the Catechumens are baptised.

5. The Solemn Mass of the Vigil during which the Neophytes, newly baptised, will communicate.

This is then followed by Compline of the Easter Vigil (now Solemn Lauds of Easter Day since the Vigil is celebrated around midnight and not in the afternoon or morning).

Until Bugnini's cut and paste job of 1955, the Easter Candle was not lit directly from the Easter fire but rather from a three-branched olive stem housed in a candelabrum which was lit, to signify the Holy Trinity and the olive branch of peace, first from the Easter fire. From this triple branch, introduced into the Church with the chant of Lumen Christi, as now, was then lit the Easter Candle, standing in the Sanctuary atop its pillar, to symbolise the Pillar of Fire that, by night, led the Children of Israel out of bondage. Thereafter, the lamps of the Church were then slowly lit - not all at once in a rush but slowly - to symbolise the gradual spreading of the Light of Christ throughout the world.

This was but some of the most ancient, most fitting and beautiful symbolism that the irreverent Bugnini dared to interfere with.

Moreover, in the early Church and right up until around 1100AD or thereabouts, the ceremonies began late in the evening and did not conclude until daybreak. Psalms, chants and prayers were sung - as they still are among the Greeks - and ceremonies and rituals were carried out in search of Christ's sacred but resurrected Body by way of demonstration that He had risen in deed and would not return until the morrow when He would first be seen by St Mary Magdalene and mistaken for the gardener.

The Holy Women come early on the Sabbath to the tomb to anoint the Body of Jesus but find Him not therein

There is a lot of talk about how it was wrong to celebrate the Vigil during the day and not at night and that this was an abuse which crept in over the years. This is true and I see no reason for not returning the Vigil to its place at night. It is not an issue.

That argument is a distraction from the main issue which is that the 12 Prophecies were cut from 12 to 4 by the scheming and devious Bugnini when he "reformed" the Easter Triduum in 1955.

He did this in his usual underhand way by soothing the concerns of Pope Pius XII that the changes were small and reasonable. The Pope was deceived by Bugnini - and he was not the first so to be deceived!

The changes are major and all the worse for being done to so ancient a ceremony that comes to us from the earlies times, hallowed as they are by ancient usage and tradition.

The necessity for the 12 Prophecies, quite apart from their being ancient, hallowed and traditional, is that they tell the story of salvation from Creation to Christ.

Cutting them to only 4 is thus a complete nonsense since it does not tell the story of salvation but only a few unconnected bits i.e. Genesis, Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea, a short piece from Isaiah and a reversion back to Deuteronomy.

Bugnini has done little more than take a pair of scissors to the 12 Prophecies and cut 8 of them out more or less arbitrarily.

By what conceivable right did this relatively minor Vatican official dare to do such a thing to so ancient and hallowed a right? And how can his arbitrary slashing be in any way right or conducive to edify the people? It is but a piece of wonderful impudence introduced by a kind of deception.

Indeed, so impudent was it that, when the new rites were being constructed, he felt that he had to restore some of the readings so that, in the Novus Ordo, it is possible, once again, to have most, if not all, of the 12 ancient Prophecies.

In this sense, then, and ironically, the Novus Ordo Easter Vigil is superior to that of 1955 and 1962!

The Greeks were, and remain, horrifed by what they regard as yet further blasphemy by the Latins in interfering with the ancient ceremonies, since they, the Greeks, still continue with the full ancient ceremonies that have been in place since the earliest times.

Even today, the Greek Church begins the ceremonies in the late evening and continues near enough until dawn, the Faithful, having processed around the Church in search of their Crucified Lord, waiting threafter with expectation, chanting and praying, for their Resurrected Saviour.

The Tomb lay empty...

It makes us Latins look weak indeed by comparison!

Now we are weaker still, since Bugnini chopped the Prophecies by a third.

In the Basilica of St John Lateran, there were, in effect, 24 Readings since the ancient Propheices were sung twice over, once in Greek and once in Latin, another ancient ceremony.

Moreover, from the days of the early Church right up until the late 19th century - and in various places even well into the 20th century - the Deacon sang in the Exultet not only prayers for the Pope and bishops but also prayers for the Roman Emperor and the civil rulers.

Emperor Charles IV at prayer, wearing the ancient imperial crown of the Emperor Charlemagne. 1375. Detail from a votive panel of Jan Ocko of Vasim.

This ancient prayer was not formally removed from the Exultet until Bugnini removed it in 1955, although Pope Pius XII, under strong pressure from Republican American prelates in 1942 when the Vatican was under the immediate threat of the Nazi Republicans, allowed it to be left out.

Let me conclude with that ancient prayer for the Roman Emperor, prayed throughout the Catholic world for so many centuries during the Easter Vigil:


(The lamps were traditionally lit but gradually from the Paschal fire halfway through the Exultet to signify the Resurrection of Jesus Christ)

Respice etiam ad devotissimum imperatorem nostrum (Nomen) cujus tu, Deus, desiderii vota praenoscens, ineffabili pietatis et misericordiae tuae munere, tranquillum perpetuae pacis accommoda, et coelestem victoriam cum omni populo suo.

Regard also our most devout Emperor [Name] and since Thou knowest, O God, the desires of his heart, grant by the ineffable grace of Thy goodness and mercy, that he may enjoy with all his people the tranquillity of perpetual peace and heavenly victory.

Restore to us our 12 ancient Prophecies, O Lord!

A Pillar of Fire by night went before the Children of Israel...


Sunday 2 March 2008

The Wind That Shakes the Barley: a sorry tale.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley is, I think, a very good film.

Readers of Roman Christendom may find this a surprising comment.

I saw it recently for the first time.

The reason I think it good is because I think it is probably highly accurate historically - an unusual thing for many a modern film (although, be warned, there is an unnecessary amount of unpleasant bad language).

I put off seeing it because I thought it would just be Fenian propaganda, especially as the producer is, apparently, an Irish Communist.

However, the real horror of the war comes out in the film in all its brutality and terror.

It ought to be enough to persuade anyone that both sides in the war were utterly reprehensible and a disgrace to humanity.

The IRA are shown to be a mixture of Marxian Socialists and non-Marxist Nationalists which is exactly what they largely were.

The Black and Tans are shown as a pack of brutal scoundrels and portrayed exactly as I suspect they were - brutalised thugs with no sense of morality or decency, every bit as blameworthy as their IRA antagonists.

Both sides in that tragic war readily betray common morality, commit murders and kill the innocent with no regard, seemingly, for common humanity or their own souls.

Hero/anti-hero Damien O'Donovan asks "I hope the Ireland we are fighting for is worth it" as he murders Anglo-Irish landlord, Sir John Hamilton, and, even more horribly, his own childhood friend, Chris Riley, an innocent simpleton caught up in a drama beyond his control.

Damien quite rightly finds his conscience troubled, especially when the boy's mother - entirely rightly - says "Take me to my child" and then later says to Damien: "I never want to see your face again".

For what sort of Ireland were they committing these grotesque sins, crying to Heaven for vengeance? For an Ireland that ended up being ruled by the usual parcel of corrupt politicians who are now busily abandoning their Faith as fast as they can. In other words, all that horrible bloodshed and murder was not even worth it, even if it had not already been horribly sinful.

This is the grave evil of revolution: it is willing to sin and sin horribly, to murder brutally and send any number of innocents to the next world for purely worldly gains which turn out to be no lasting gains at all since they are purely worldly.

Next, of course, the Revolution devours its own. Soon an end must come to the senseless and brutal murders. Both sides agree to sit at table and cut a deal. The deal is never quite what either side wants but then that is the nature of a deal, isn't it? And the extremists will not agree to the deal and so start a war against the dealers. So it happened.

Indeed, in Ireland it was even worse: the deal was brokered by accredited representatives of Dail Eireann and the Dail approved it by a majority. But still the Republican extremists would not accept it.

The Free Staters knew that they had only to wait for an opportune moment and they could declare independence. And they were right. The Free Staters won the Civil War. Then, sure enough, independence eventually came without any help from Sinn Fein/IRA bombs.

As always happens, the bombers and assassins were of no use whatsoever. The constitutional way was the only right way but the revolutionaries wanted to be in charge and no amount of innocent bloodshed would stop them. The Sinn Fein/IRA murderers weren't going to be happy with any deal but their own, were they? Thus the cold-hearted, bloody murders of innocents like Chris Riley were continued.

Worst of all, these sinners are now regarded by many Irish Republicans as heroes. It is pathological. It is nothing less than re-crucifying Christ.

A telling moment is when the Catholic Parish Priest quite rightly pleads for peace, in a Sunday sermon, and excoriates the Free State military courts, on the one hand, and the IRA anti-Treatyites, pillaging and murdering, on the other hand. How right he is to do so!

Anti-hero Damien then stands up and makes a typically unjust outburst against the Catholic Church accusing it - and he lies horribly in so doing - of siding with the rich against the poor, a grotesque falsehood if ever there were one. How many schools, clinics, welfare agencies, and churches did Damien and his like ever build for the poor? Yet everyone knows that the Catholic Church is second to none in such provision. Nevertheless, Damien does not hesitate to frame his lie.

His own brother, Teddy, who had fought in the IRA with him and is now a Free State Officer, tries to reason with him and quite rightly tells him that if he will only wait then they will secure an independent Ireland by constitutional means in time. Damien won't wait. He's a hot-head who wants it all now, whatever the cost in human misery, blood and tragedy. His ideological hatred is remarkably well portrayed in the film.

He scorns his brother's sensible warnings and is determined to spill more innocent blood. But he is captured whilst attacking a Free State police station and taken to his brother for questioning. He is obdurate. He will tell nothing.

He is condemned to die as a terrorist and - terribly and tragically - his own brother, Teddy, commands the firing squad with tears in his eyes.

This is the true picture: the ultimate horror of revolution and rebellion. Brother kills brother, who, in turn, has killed an innocent child like Chris Riley.

Truly, it is a vision of Hell. It is blood-curdling and made all the more so by these same people claiming to be Catholics of a sort. It shows all too well how even the Devil can pretend to be a Catholic.

The whole war was a major tragedy for Ireland given the native charm and decency of most Irishmen and women.

Home Rule could have come to Ireland as far back as the 1860s or even earlier but for the bombers. Gladstone was ready to give it but the Fenian bombers assassinated policemen in Manchester and set back the cause of Home Rule for another 50 years.

Eventually, thanks to peaceful constitutionalists like John Redmond and John Dillon, the Home Rule Act was passed in 1914 but the First World War intervened. After the war the bombers took over and the blood-letting began.

Yes, this is a film that tells it like it was. And, sadly, it is not a pretty picture.


The Cathars: a bizarre medieval sect

Well, folks, bloggers get some strange comments on their blogs but this latest one really is a cracker.

I have a post from a gentleman called Bertran de la Farge who actually thinks that the Cathars, that most bizarre of medieval weirdos, were true Christians.

Bertran thinks that because the Cathars used an Occitan translation of the Vulgate that they must therefore have been good Christians.

They called themselves “Good Christians”, too. So they must have been good, mustn’t they? No? Come on, Bertran!

He says the Inquisition was founded in 1233. It wasn’t. The Medieval Inquisition – the first such – was founded in 1184 by the papal Bull Ad Abolendam.

He says that the Cathars had nothing to do with Mani and they were not di-theists.

Well, here is what a typical pro-Cathar website, says about them:

“Cathars believed in two principles, a good creator god and his evil adversary… Cathars maintained a Church hierarchy and practiced a range of ceremonies, but rejected any idea of priesthood or the use of church buildings. They divided into ordinary believers who led ordinary medieval lives and an inner 'elect' of parfaits (men) and parfaits (women)… Cathars believed in re-incarnation and refused to eat meat or other animal products…

Basic Cathar tenets led to some surprising logical implications. For example they largely regarded men and women as equals, and had no doctrinal objection to contraception, euthanasia or suicide. In some respects the Cathar and Catholic Churches were polar opposites. For example the Cathar Church taught that all non-procreative sex was better than any procreative sex. The Catholic Church taught - and still teaches - exactly the opposite….Following their principles, Cathars could deduce that sexual intercourse between man and wife was more culpable than homosexual sex.”

Not quite the same as what Bertran says.

St Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) to preach the true Faith to the Cathars

Here is what Reynaldus, a Cistercian monk, wrote of the Cathars of his time whom he knew well:

“First it is to be known that the heretics held that there are two Creators; viz. one of invisible things, whom they called the benevolent God, and another of visible things, whom they named the malevolent God.

The New Testament they attributed to the benevolent God; but the Old Testament to the malevolent God, and rejected it altogether, except certain authorities which are inserted in the New Testament from the Old; which, out of reverence to the New Testament, they esteemed worthy of reception.

They charged the author of the Old Testament with falsehood, because the Creator said, ‘In the day that ye eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ye shall die’; nor (as they say) after eating did they die; when, in fact, after eating the forbidden fruit they were subjected to the misery of death. They also call this God a homicide, as well because he burned up Sodom and Gomorrah, and destroyed the world by the waters of the deluge, as because he overwhelmed Pharaoh, and the Egyptians, in the sea.

They affirmed also, that all the fathers of the Old Testament were damned; that John the Baptist was one of the greater demons.

They said also, in their secret doctrine (in secreto suo), that that Christ who was born in the visible, and terrestrial Bethlehem, and crucified in Jerusalem, was a bad man, and that Mary Magdalene was his concubine; and that she was the woman taken in adultery, of whom we read in the gospel.

For the good Christ, they said, never ate, nor drank, nor took upon him true flesh, nor ever was in this world, except spiritually in the body of Paul....

They said that almost all the Church of Rome was a den of thieves; and that it was the harlot of which we read in the Apocalypse [NB: This is where extreme Protestants got the idea from].

They so far annulled the sacraments of the Church, as publicly to teach that the water of holy Baptism was just the same as river water, and that the Host of the Most Holy Body of Christ did not differ from common bread, instilling into the ears of the simple this blasphemy, that the Body of Christ, even though it had been as great as the Alps, would have been long ago consumed, and annihilated by those who had eaten of it.

Confirmation and Confession, they considered as altogether vain and frivolous. They preached that Holy Matrimony was meretricious, and that none could be saved in it, if they should beget children.

Denying also the Resurrection of the flesh, they invented some unheard of notions, saying, that our souls are those of angelic spirits who, being cast down from heaven by the apostasy of pride, left their glorified bodies in the air; and that these souls themselves, after successively inhabiting seven terrestrial bodies, of one sort or another, having at length fulfilled their penance, return to those deserted bodies.

It is also to be known that some among the heretics were called ‘perfect’ or ‘good men’, others just ‘believers’.

Those who were called ‘perfect’, wore a black dress, falsely pretended to chastity, abhorred the eating of flesh, eggs and cheese, and wished to appear not liars, when they were continually telling lies, chiefly respecting God. They said also that they ought not on any account to swear oaths…

Those who were called ‘believers’ were given to usury, rapine, homicide, lust, perjury and every vice; and they, in fact, sinned with more security, and less restraint, because they believed that without restitution, without confession and penance, they should be saved, if only, when on the point of death, they could say a Paternoster, and received imposition of hands from their teachers.”

Unlike Bertran, Reynaldus was a contemporary of the Cathars and knew them.

The Cathars believed in the old Eastern pagan idea of Reincarnation. They believed that humans and other mammals were hybrid creatures belonging to two realms: a good, potentially immortal, spirit, trapped inside a bad and corruptible body. This was one reason why Cathars refused to kill animals.

In some ways, the idea reflected certain Buddhist beliefs. A person who led a relatively good life might be re-incarnated with a better and easier life the next time round. One who lived a bad life would be reincarnated further down the scale, possibly as an animal. By their beliefs even animals could live good or bad lives, because it was possible for an animal to be reincarnated as a human being. A popular Cathar story tells of a man who is overcome with emotion on recognising in the grass an iron shoe he had thrown in his previous life as a horse.

Those who eventually managed to lead a good enough life would be released from the cycle of rebirth. On their death the Bad God would lose his power over the angel trapped within. Released from their imprisonment, such angels would return to heaven, the realm of light to join the other angels there. The Cathars believed that they are there in the night sky for all to see i.e. as stars.

Whilst there were differences between Manichaeism and Catharism, there were far more similarities, the greatest of which was their mutual belief in Dualism and refusal to accept that there was an omnipotent, good God. For them, the Devil was equally powerful.

Others will have noticed that Betran speaks of a “125 years” Crusade against the Occitan Cathars “exactly between 1209 and 1231”. This is 22 years not 125 years, Bertran. Your maths is somewhat awry, Bertran.

Bertran thinks that these utterly bizarre beliefs of the Cathars are Christian and follow the commandment of Christ to love one another. Yes, really!

The Cathars were at first tolerated but when missionaries and legates sent to them were murdered, steps began to be taken to require them to hand over the wrong-doers. This they resisted with more murders of Catholics and they committed persistent acts of terrorism and destruction which eventually provoked a counter-terrorist war against them.

Pope Innocent III declared a Crusade but there were not enough volunteers to fight and only a small crusading army could be raised against the massive forces of the Cathars. However, this little force, supported by the prayers of St Dominic and his new Order of Preachers (Dominicans), had a near-miraculous success at the Battle of Muret on 12 September 1213 under Count Simon de Montfort (father of the founder of the English Parliament).

Well, folks. You make up your own mind.

Were the Cathars really Christians?

Or were they a crazy sect whose bizarre ideas are making something of a come-back in our troubled and confused times?

The Holy Dominican Rosary, used by St Dominic and the Dominicans to defeat the power of the Cathars, is still one of the greatest spiritual weapons against the Enemy of human nature, Satan.