Saturday, February 28, 2015

Launceston Missa Cantata

For the first time in a long time, I won't be M.C. at the first Sunday of the month Hobart Missa cantata, for the excellent reason that, instead, I will be serving at our new first Sunday of the month Launceston Missa cantata, at 6 pm at St Francis' Church, Riverside.

In Hobart, since January this year, the Traditional Latin Mass is offered every Sunday – the venue and time has recently changed to 11:00 am at Sacred Heart Church, New Town. Fr Quinn continues to say that Mass on the first Sunday of each month, but otherwise Fr Suresh says it. As on the first Sundays, Fr Suresh is free, he will henceforth drive north to offer an Extraordinary Mass in Launceston.

I feel sorry that I won't be M.C. for Fr Quinn henceforth, but it will be good both for me and for those others here in the North who wish to attend the traditional form of the Roman Rite, without having to drive to Hobart.

Thanks be to God!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Chinese Calendar and the Date of Easter

The Chinese lunisolar calendar – whose New Year occurred adjacent to Ash Wednesday this week – is, as all men know, a Jesuit production. For imperial decrees of 1611 and 1629 commanded those expert mathematicians and astronomers, being missionaries of the Society of Jesus then resident in Beijing, to correct the traditional calendar of the Ming Empire; the work was completed between 1642 and 1644; and, after an invasion and change of dynasty, was promulgated in the first year of the Qing (that is, Manchu) Empire, in 1645.

There was some contretemps back in Rome at the involvement of Fr Johann Adam Schall von Bell, S.J., in the composition of such a calendar, providing as it did for the various feasts and fasts of pagan idolatry, not to mention days of good and bad fortune as prescribed by oriental superstition; but his involvement was all carefully examined and approved by a curial commission, Fr Schall's role being revealed as simply providing the calculations upon which substructure native officials arranged their customary observances, without any acquiescence of that Jesuit in their non-Christian rites; and in the same year of 1664, Pope Alexander VII officially approved the good father's appointment as a mandarin and chief mathematician of the Empire of China.

Being a lunisolar calendar, its lunar months (stretching from new moon to new moon, with the full moon occurring, more or less, on the fifteenth day of each) are carefully disposed to correspond to the solar year, with the intercalation of an extra month from time to time (roughly every three years). Though its solar year is calculated between successive (northern hemisphere) winter solstices, it is interesting to note several convenient properties of the Chinese calendar that relate instead to the vernal equinox, which must always fall within the second lunar month.

I wonder if the Jesuits, who laboured for the Son of Heaven that he be converted and turn to worship the Son of Man, that he, too, and all the peoples of his Empire, become sons of God and co-heirs of heaven, did not spot the eminent suitability of their clever improvement of the Chinese calendar for the determination of the date of Easter, in conformity with the then-recent Gregorian calendrical reform?

For I have been checking if a simple algorithm applied to the Chinese calendar will correctly yield the date of Easter: and it seems it does, if two safeguards be applied.

To begin with, recall what the first Ecumenical Council decreed: that Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first (or "Paschal") full moon after the (northern) vernal equinox. The West (whether non-Chalcedonian, Greek or Latin) has always determined this date by the use of tables. However, in principle astronomical calculations would yield an equal or superior result.

The reformed Chinese calendar of 1645 is based upon observations of the true rather than the mean sun and moon. (Since early last century, it has not been based upon the meridian of Beijing, but upon that of 120 degrees East; this is about the only change made after the Jesuits' codification and improvement of ancient tradition.)

To determine the date of Easter by use of the Chinese calendar, first one finds the date of the vernal equinox in the relevant year (this always falls in the second lunar month), converting if necessary from the Gregorian to the Chinese date (though most Chinese calendars provide the "solar terms", including the relevant equinox). Then one notes if that equinox occurs before or after the fifteenth of the lunar month (when the full moon, in almost all cases*, occurs). If before, then the first Sunday after that fifteenth* day will be Easter Sunday. If after, then the first Sunday after the fifteenth* of the third month will be Easter.

I add an asterisk (*) above to signify that I have made a perhaps unwarranted simplification (though it works well enough in over 93% of cases): for, having downloaded a table of all lunar phases and their timings from 1600 to 2200 inclusive, it appears that the fifteenth day of the Chinese month is not always the date of the full moon: sometimes it is the sixteenth, or even the seventeenth.

For the eighty years from 1974 to 2053, four times (in 1994, 2021, 2025 and 2048) the calculation of the date of Easter requires not merely assuming that the fifteenth of the lunar month is the date of the full moon, but a careful checking of its exact date. Obviously, a truly comprehensive Chinese calendar table will include the exact date of the full moon each lunar month, so providing a wholly accurate method for finding Easter Sunday.

There is a further rule necessary: in 1981, this method would suggest that Easter falls on the 26th of April, but Easter can only fall between the 22nd of March and the 25th of April – so an added rule must prescribe that, in such a case, Easter be observed a week earlier.

If only the good fathers of the Society of Jesus (in those days, not merely great scholars, but staunchly orthodox too) had managed to convert the Emperor of China! If only the Chinese Rites controversy had been correctly resolved in 1704 (when instead those observances were banned, raising the wrath of the Kangxi Emperor, and resulting in the persecution of Chinese Christians), rather than only in 1939! If only Clement XI had been as well-informed and truly irenic as Pius XII – without in any way being syncretistic!

Ah, the might-have-beens of history: if only Matteo Ricci's understanding of Chinese customs had been upheld rather than spurned, then the conversion of China could have been effected centuries earlier, rather than postponed until the Sino-Japanese conflict and the Communist conquest of mainland China; or, to speak of another theatre of conflict, why did Mary, James II, the Old Pretender and the Young Pretender fail, and Elizabeth and the Prince of Orange succeed? We must bow before the inscrutable decrees of Providence.

In any case, once the men of Han are converted in God's good time – and there are many Christians and Catholics among them, despite all persecution – then indeed one providential convenience will be that the Chinese calendar is admirably adapted to the calculation of the date of Easter.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Joy of the Psalms

Deo gratias, I have been putting into practice, in some small way – I hope – the advice tendered by this blog's title, Psallite sapienter; for as Chesterton once said, if something's worth doing, it's worth doing badly. In other words, ever since Sunday the 28th of December, I have resumed reciting the Day Hours from the Roman Breviary of 1962.

I find that the nine psalms of Matins "occasions psychological difficulties", but, since the Feast of the Holy Family (EF) I have adopted an expedient, whereby I say a shortened Matins, including but three psalms out of the nine, omitting the other six: it's not the Office as it should be, but it's better than nothing.

UPDATE: For any who may be interested, I have determined to choose three out of the nine Matins psalms according to the following cycle, so that every three weeks I read over all of them.


Selection of Psalms for Shortened Matins

1st Sunday of Advent & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
2nd Sunday of Advent & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
3rd Sunday of Advent & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
4th Sunday of Advent & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
Christmas      9 Pss as given
Sunday in Christmas Octave & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
H. Name (Sun. aft. Xmas Oct.*) & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
[* if it occur]
Epiphany 9 Pss as given
1st Sunday after Epiphany & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
2nd Sunday after Epiphany & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
3rd Sunday after Epiphany & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
4th Sunday after Epiphany & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
5th Sunday after Epiphany & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
6th Sunday after Epiphany & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
Unused Sundays after Epiphany used before the Last after Pentecost
Septuagesima & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
Sexagesima & week following  3 Pss of Noct. 2
Quinquagesima & week following  3 Pss of Noct. 3
1st Sunday in Lent & week following  3 Pss of Noct. 1
2nd Sunday in Lent & week following  3 Pss of Noct. 2
3rd Sunday in Lent & week following  3 Pss of Noct. 3
4th Sunday in Lent & week following  3 Pss of Noct. 1
1st Sunday of the Passion & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
Palm Sunday & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
Last 3 Days of Holy Week 9 Pss as given
_________________________________________________
Traditional Dominican Practice:
Easter Octave 3 Pss as given
1st Sunday & Week after the Easter Octave 3 Pss of Noct. 1
2nd Sunday & Week after the Easter Octave 3 Pss of Noct. 2
3rd Sunday & Week after the Easter Octave 3 Pss of Noct. 3
4th Sunday & Week after the Easter Octave 3 Pss of Noct. 1
5th Sunday & Week after the Easter Octave 3 Pss of Noct. 2
Sunday & following Ferias after the Ascension 3 Pss of Noct. 3
Pentecost Octave (Whitsuntide) 3 Pss as given
________________________________________________

Trinity Sunday (1st after Pent.) & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
2nd Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
3rd Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
4th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
5th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
6th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
7th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
8th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
9th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
10th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
11th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
12th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
13th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
14th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
15th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
16th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
17th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
18th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
19th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
20th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
21st Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3
22nd Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 1
23rd Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 2
Any unused weeks after Epiphany inserted here
24th Sunday after Pentecost & week following 3 Pss of Noct. 3


This method is based on that of the Dominican Breviary, which employs only three psalms at Matins for the whole of Eastertide (as indicated above) – in addition to the practice in the Roman Breviary, whereby only three psalms are said at Matins during Easter Week and Whitsuntide.

In addition, it is well-known that Matins of the Little Office of Our Lady contains only three psalms, while in the Office of the Dead one may read either one Nocturn, or all three.

As there are a maximum of 53 Sundays in the year, and Matins during the Octaves of Easter and Pentecost already have their assigned psalmody of three psalms, this scheme spreads the recitation of the psalms at Matins over a three-week cycle that, ideally, repeats 17 times a year. (In reality, of course, this neat pattern is likely to be broken…)

In any case, it has really helped me, this return to prayer, even if not to the full Hours, as I love the psalms and the cycles of the liturgy; so to God be the glory.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Saint - Just Not in Either Martyrology


St John the Hermit, Priest of Ortega (so named after the nettles there, urtica in Latin), or, as he is called in Spanish, San Juan de Ortega – amusingly rendered into English as St John of the Nettle(s), or even, of the Thistle! – is a curious example of an undoubted saint, who nonetheless appears neither in the EF nor the OF Martyrology.

His feast, as found in many Spanish Breviaries, was and still is celebrated (by a fiesta, procession and Mass in his resting place) on the 2nd of June, the day of his death in 1163. The relevant volume of the Acta Sanctorum, published in 1695, details this and other accounts of his holy life, spent in the service of pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela; the tiny hamlet of San Juan de Ortega, named after him, is one of the stops along the Camino Francés, and his relics are still venerated there.

According to the Bollandists, Neque per Romani Breviarii susceptionem abolitum est festum, sed mutatum Officium – "And neither by the taking up of the Roman Breviary [in place of the old Diocesan Breviaries of Spain] was [his] feast abolished, but the Office was changed"; that said, I cannot find a copy thereof. At least, from the A.S., I have uncovered the Collect of his feast:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui beatum Joannem, Confessorem tuum atque Presbyterum, Sanctorum tuorum collegio sociasti; concede nobis, adhuc in valle lacrymarum laborantibus, ut ejus preces et merita, ad impetrandam gratiam tuam tuta præstent auxilia. Per. 
(Almighty, everlasting God, who hast joined blessed John, thy Confessor and Priest, to the college of thy Saints, concede to us, still labouring in this vale of tears, that by his prayers and merits, his secure assistance may be provided for obtaining thy grace. Through…)

It ought be noted that in 1971 the Vatican, at the request of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, appointed him Patron Saint of Surveyors, which is not an honour conceded to mythical persons or those whose claim to sanctity is dubious. Furthermore, the particular calendar of the Archdiocese of Burgos  lists him on the 2nd of June.

How annoying an oversight, then, that even in the most recent edition of the Roman Martyrology, his name does not appear! I spent quite a bit of time searching in my copy through all the many Saints named John, to no avail.

Now for rubricians, a question: according to the letter of the law, in both the modern and 1962 Missals, a Votive Mass may be celebrated of any Saint listed in the relevant edition of the Roman Martyrology; thus, according to the letter of the law, it would seem that it is impossible to offer a Votive Mass in honour of St John of the Nettle – however, as his cultus is ancient and undoubted (it was good enough for the Servant of God Queen Isabella the Catholic, who visited in 1477), could the spirit rather than the letter be applied, and such a Votive be offered, for the intention of the many pilgrims traipsing across Spain to the tomb of St James?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Vision of the Future

The Servant of God Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926), when asked why he had dedicated his life to building a church, the Sagrada Família, he would never live to see completed, used to reply that "My Client is in no hurry". When, ten years after his death in a tragic accident, anarchists burnt his designs and workshop, also desecrating the crypt, the only finished portion, of his life's work, it must have seemed that with the Spanish Revolution came the destruction of religion and church-building for good. But as years passed, everything possible was salvaged of his plans, donations poured in still – for his church is an "expiatory temple", entirely funded from its inception by freewill offerings – and, in 2010, the nave being complete, Pope Benedict XVI solemnly consecrated the great Temple envisioned by Gaudí in honour of the Holy Family. This year, it is hoped that the Positio will be presented at Rome, as part of the ongoing process of his canonisation; and would it not be wonderful to hope that, by 2026, projected date of the completion of the Sagrada Família, its architect, "God's architect", buried in its crypt, will be first beatified and then declared a saint?


PRAYER FOR PRIVATE DEVOTION

God our Father, you instilled in your servant, the architect Antoni Gaudí, a great love for your Creation, and a burning desire to imitate the mysteries of the childhood and passion of your Son. Grant, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that I also may learn to dedicate myself to a well-done work; and glorify your servant Antoni, granting me, through his intercession, the favour I request (here make your petition). Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, grant us peace and preserve the family. (Three times.)

******

Let us fly in spirit to the completed building, and with the eyes of imagination behold the scene within on the feast day – either the 10th of June, the day of his death; or the 7th, the day of his mortal injury? –in honour of its builder, now raised to the glory of the altars; the Proper Mass, to be conceded by Pope Leo XIV, could well run as follows (I thank Fr Hunwicke for providing the Collect):

Proper Mass for the Servant of God Antoni Gaudi

Introit. (11th Feb. – Our Lady of Lourdes, excl. V.) Apoc. 21, 2

Vidi civitátem sanctam, Jerúsalem novam, descendéntem de cælo a Deo, parátam sicut sponsam ornátam viro suo.
Ibid., 3 Ecce tabernaculum Dei cum hominibus, * et habitabit cum eis.
Gloria Patri... Sicut erat...
Vidi...

(I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
(Behold the tabernacle of God with men, * and he will dwell with them.
(Glory be... As it was... I saw...)

Collect (composed by Fr John Hunwicke, 14th January 2015; cf. S. Aug., Conf., X, 27; my English trans.)

Deus pulchritudo sempiterna, concede supplicibus tuis: ut †beati† Antonii servi tui precibus suffulti; æterna gaudia consequi mereamur. Per.

(O God, beauty everlasting, grant to thy supplicants that, supported by the prayers of thy servant †blessed† Antoni, we may merit to attain eternal joys. Through...)

[†Omit “beati” / “blessed” until he is canonised.]

Epistle (1 Cor. 3, 10-17)

Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Corinthios.
Fratres: Secundum gratiam Dei, quæ data est mihi, ut sapiens architectus fundamentum posui: alius autem superædificat. Unusquisque autem videat quomodo superædificet. Fundamentum enim aliud nemo potest ponere præter id quod positum est, quod est Christus Jesus. Si quis autem superædificat super fundamentum hoc, aurum, argentum, lapides pretiosos, ligna, fœnum, stipulam, uniuscujusque opus manifestum erit: dies enim Domini declarabit, quia in igne revelabitur: et uniuscujusque opus quale sit, ignis probabit. Si cujus opus manserit quod superædificavit, mercedem accipiet. Si cujus opus arserit, detrimentum patietur: ipse autem salvus erit, sic tamen quasi per ignem.

(A lesson from the Epistle of blessed Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.

(Brethren: According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: every man’s work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.)

Gradual. (Holy Family)

Ps. 26, 4 Unam pétii a Dómino, hanc requíram, ut inhábitem in domo Dómini ómnibus diébus vitæ meæ. V. Ps. 83, 5 Beáti qui hábitant in domo tua, Dómine: in sæcula sæculórum laudábunt te.

(One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. V. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord: they shall praise thee for ever and ever.)

Alleluia (Holy Family)

Alleluia, alleluia. Prov. 8, 34 Beatus homo qui audit me, et qui vigilat ad fores meas quotidie, et observat ad postes ostii mei. Alleluia.

(Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors. Alleluia.)

_____________________________________________________________________

T. Sept., in place of the Alleluia above:

Tract. Ps. 111,1-3 (Comm. Conf. non Pont.)

Beatus vir qui timet Dominum: in mandatis ejus cupit nimis. V. Potens in terra erit semen ejus: generatio rectorum benedicetur. V. Gloria et divitiæ in domo ejus: et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.

(Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he shall delight exceedingly in his commandments. V. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the righteous shall be blessed. V. Glory and wealth shall be in his house: and his justice remaineth for ever and ever.)

_____________________________________________________________________

T.P., in place of the Gradual and Alleluia above:

Alleluia (1st verse: Holy Family; 2nd verse: set to the chant of the Alleluia Beatus vir, Comm. Conf. non Pont.)

Alleluia, alleluia. Prov. 8, 34 Beatus homo qui audit me, et qui vigilat ad fores meas quotidie, et observat ad postes ostii mei.
Alleluia. 2 Mach. 2, 30 Novæ domus architecto de universa structura curandum est. Alleluia.

(Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors.
(Alleluia. The master builder of a new house must have care of the whole building. Alleluia.)

_____________________________________________________________________

Gospel (Mark 12, 41-44)

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Marcum.

In illo tempore: Sedens Jesus contra gazophylacium, aspiciebat quomodo turba jactaret aes in gazophylacium, et multi divites jactabant multa. Cum venisset autem vidua una pauper, misit duo minuta, quod est quadrans, et convocans discipulos suos, ait illis: Amen dico vobis, quoniam vidua haec pauper plus omnibus misit, qui miserunt in gazophylacium. Omnes enim ex eo, quod abundabat illis, miserunt: haec vero de penuria sua omnia quae habuit misit totum victum suum.

(The continuation of the holy Gospel according to Mark.

(At that time: Jesus sitting over against the treasury, beheld how the people cast money into the treasury, and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. And calling his disciples together, he saith to them: Amen I say to you, this poor widow hath cast in more than all they who have cast into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want cast in all she had, even her whole living.)

Off. 1 Par. 29, 17 & 18 (Dedic. Eccl., changing “custodi hanc voluntatem” to “offerre tibi donaria”)

Domine Deus, in simplicitate cordis mei lætus obtuli universa: et populum tuum, qui repertus est, vidi cum ingenti gaudio, Deus Israël, offerre tibi donaria, Domine Deus. (T.P. Alleluja.)

(O Lord God, in the simplicity of my heart I have joyfully offered all these things; and I have seen with great joy thy people which are here present, O God of Israel, offer thee their offerings, Lord God. (T.P. Alleluia.))

Secret (Common of a Confessor not a Bishop, 1st Mass)

Laudis tibi, Domine, hostias immolamus, in tuorum commemoratione sanctorum: quibus nos et præsentibus exui malis confidimus, et futuris. Per.

(We immolate a victim of praise to thee, O Lord, in commemoration of thy saints: by which we trust to be freed both from present and future evils. Through...)

Comm. (Dñca III in XL) Ps. 83, 4-5

Passer invénit sibi domum, et turtur nidum, ubi repónat pullos suos: altária tua, Dómine virtútum, Rex meus, et Deus meus: beáti qui hábitant in domo tua, in sæculum sæculi laudábunt te.

(For the sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for herself where she may lay her young ones: Thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord: they shall praise thee for ever and ever.)

Postcommunion (Common of a Confessor not a Bishop, 1st Mass)

Refecti cibo potuque cælesti, Deus noster, te supplices exoramus: ut, in cujus hæc commemoratione percepimus, ejus muniamur et precibus. Per.


(Refeshed by heavenly food and drink, we humbly pray thee, our God, that we may also be defended by his prayers, in whose commemoration we have received them. Through…)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Aquinas on the Falsity of Mohammedanism

A certain false prophet in Hell, tortured by demons: 
a 15th C. fresco by Giovanni da Modena, 
in the Basilica of San Petronio, Bologna.

… Mohammed… seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us.  His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure.  In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men.  As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom.  Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity.  He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth.  On the contrary, Mohammed said that he was sent in the power of his arms – which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.  What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning. Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Mohammed forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms.  Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness.  On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be seen by anyone who examines his law.  It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly.


   St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 6, 4.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Assumption of St John

What of the saints who rose from the dead at Christ’s Resurrection? Did they die again? That would seem a poor reward! On the contrary, the common opinion is that they ascended with the Lord. This first evidence of Christ’s power gives all the more firmness to the tradition of the ages, proclaimed a dogma in 1950, that Our Lady, after her death, was assumed into heaven.

And what of the Beloved Disciple? It has remained a pious opinion – grounded on the absence of any primary relics, as also on his spotless purity and special closeness to the Word enfleshed and his Mother – that, at the end of his long life, St John the Evangelist first died and then was translated, bodily as well as spiritually, into endless light. Amongst the fathers, saints and doctors who thought thus are St Peter Damian, St Thomas Aquinas, Hugh of St Victor, Denys the Carthusian, St Albert the Great, and the Venerable Louis of Granada.

This opinion as to the assumption of St John is alluded to in his Office on the 27th of December in the Roman, Dominican and Monastic Breviaries – for one of the responsories of Matins runs thus:
Resp. vii.   Cf. Agg. ii, 24; Apoc. ii, 10b. 
In that day I will take thee my servant and will make thee as a signet in my sight, * For I have chosen thee, saith the Lord. V. Be thou faithful until death: and I will give thee the crown of life. * For.
Words originally addressed to Zorobabel by the Lord speaking through the prophet Aggeus are here applied to the Beloved Disciple. It is noteworthy that the verb “take” represents suscipiam in the Latin of the Responsory – but in the original Latin of the Vulgate, it is assumam. The versicle attached gives the context: this is not a mere call to discipleship, but, having remained faithful unto death, he who is called servant will be taken up and set in God’s sight.

Unsurprisingly, those friends of a life hidden with Christ in God, seeking even now for the endless repose promised to the saints, the Dormitionists, observe the feast of the Assumption of St John, on the date dedicated by the Greeks to his Repose, the 26th of September (like their close cousins in holy religion, the Dominicans, they do not that day keep the commemoration of SS Cyprian and Justina).

Their Matins lessons that day are taken from St Peter Damian, who, as mentioned above, succinctly restates the tradition, purifying by his orthodoxy any suspect taint of the apocryphal Acts of John, some manuscripts and versions of which append an account of the disappearance of his body after his passing away into glory. To quote in translation some of what that holy Doctor wrote, still now appearing in the Breviary of the Dormitionists:
“Who is not filled with wonder at the unheard-of miracle of his blessed death? Who is not astonished at the glory of his most blessed departure? As his life was a wonder, so also his death was a wonder; and, as he had not lived a life like other men, so he did not die a death like theirs. For this is what the histories tell of him: he had a square grave made in the Church; he then went into it; and, after long and earnest prayer, his soul passed from his body.


“Soon such a light from heaven fell on the place, that no one could bear to look at it. After the light was gone, the grave was found to have nothing in it but manna, of which it is said to be full to this day. Thus was it fitting that the Beloved Disciple of the Giver of life should pass from the world, and that he should be as far removed from pain in death as he was from the corruption of the flesh.


“It is asserted with probability, and is a pious belief, that, as is believed of the blessed Mother of God, so St John rose from the dead; for, as they were alike in their virginal purity, so they seem justly to be equalled in an anticipated resurrection; nor should there be any difference in their resurrection, in whom there was such a marvellous likeness of life. For, if these most blessed Virgins, namely, Mary and John, have not risen, how is it that their bodies are not in their tombs, when the bodies of blessed Peter and Paul and the other Apostles and martyrs are known to have been in their own graves.”
“Even in death they were not divided” – so opines Fr Hawes, Oblate of St Charles, quoting Sacred Scripture: for the two who alone stood together beneath the Cross, who dwelt together for long years at Ephesus, are surely united in heaven, together with their Lord, who is for ever her Son, and who constituted St John her son in his stead.


Having opened the heavy folio pages of the Missale O. D. B. M V. of 1785, I offer, now first put online, the Mass of this feast. Laziness (that profane counterpart of the peculiar charism of their Order) has caused me to neglect to transcribe the long ess still used by the printers of that age. It may seem strange that the only Order still to refer to the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin ought use the term Assumption of her adopted son; but a little reflection will reveal that the distinction is a wise and prudent one, permitting the singular grace vouchsafed to the Immaculate Mother of God to be distinguished from that great but lesser blessing accorded to the Fourth Evangelist.

This Mass is rich in Scriptural allusion: throughout, the taking up of Henoch and Elias are referred to most justly as the Old Testament types and foreshadowings of what came to pass in regard to the Fourth Evangelist of the New Testament. The Collect is especially noteworthy; I hope I have copied it out correctly (UPDATE: a kind scholar has pointed out errors both in my transcription of the Latin and in my rubbishy Englishing of it; I have corrected both below).

As for the Secret and Postcommunion, they are taken from the Vigil and Day Masses of Our Lady’s Assumption, as they were in the wider Roman Rite in medieval times. As is common in Dormitionist Masses, the Offertory still retains its verse – and in this case, the Offertory has the same text as the Responsory mentioned above, save for returning to the Vulgate use of assumam, not suscipiam. (After the Latin, I give an English version.)

In Festo Assumptionis Sancti Joannis Apostoli et Evangelistæ

26 Septembris


Introitus    Cf. Gen. v, 24; Ecclus xliv, 16 & xlix, 16

Ambulavit cum Deo, et non apparuit, quia tulit eum Deus: placuit Deo, et translatus est in paradisum, nam et ipse receptus est a terra.
Ps. lxiv, 5. Beatus quem elegisti et assumpsisti: inhabitabit in atriis tuis.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Ambulavit cum Deo, et non apparuit, quia tulit eum Deus: placuit Deo, et translatus est in paradisum, nam et ipse receptus est a terra.


Oratio

Deus, qui beatum Joannem apostolum et evangelistam tuum per electionem tuam ita in gratia confirmasti ut dilectus discipulus Filii tui et Matris Virginis filius virginalis efficeretur, et ad cælos post mortem corpore assumpsisti: tribue quæsumus; ut nos quoque in conspectu tuo sancti et immaculati in caritate inveniri mereamur. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.


Lectio libri Regum.    IV Regum ii, 1-11


In diebus illis: Factum est cum levare vellet Dominus Eliam per turbinem in cælum, ibant Elias et Eliseus de Galgalis. Dixitque Elias ad Eliseum: Sede hic, quia Dominus misit me usque in Bethel. Cui ait Eliseus: Vivit Dominus, et vivit anima tua, quia non derelinquam te. Cumque descendissent Bethel, egressi sunt filii prophetarum qui erant in Bethel, ad Eliseum, et dixerunt ei: Numquid nosti quia hodie Dominus tollet dominum tuum a te? Qui respondit: Et ego novi: silete. Dixit autem Elias ad Eliseum: Sede hic, quia Dominus misit me in Jericho. Et ille ait: Vivit Dominus, et vivit anima tua, quia non derelinquam te. Cumque venissent Jericho, accesserunt filii prophetarum qui erant in Jericho, ad Eliseum, et dixerunt ei: Numquid nosti quia Dominus hodie tollet dominum tuum a te? Et ait: Et ego novi: silete. Dixit autem ei Elias: Sede hic, quia Dominus misit me usque ad Jordanem. Qui ait: Vivit Dominus, et vivit anima tua, quia non derelinquam te. Ierunt igitur ambo pariter, et quinquaginta viri de filiis prophetarum secuti sunt eos, qui et steterunt e contra, longe: illi autem ambo stabant super Jordanem. Tulitque Elias pallium suum, et involvit illud, et percussit aquas: quæ divisæ sunt in utramque partem, et transierunt ambo per siccum. Cumque transissent, Elias dixit ad Eliseum: Postula quod vis ut faciam tibi, antequam tollar a te. Dixitque Eliseus: Obsecro ut fiat in me duplex spiritus tuus. Qui respondit: Rem difficilem postulasti: attamen si videris me quando tollar a te, erit tibi quod petisti: si autem non videris, non erit. Cumque pergerent, et incedentes sermocinarentur, ecce currus igneus, et equi ignei diviserunt utrumque: et ascendit Elias per turbinem in cælum.


Graduale    Heb. xi, 5.

Translatus est, et non inveniebatur, quia transtulit illum Deus.
V. Ante translationem enim testimonium habuit placuisse Deo.


Alleluia, alleluia. V. I Mach. ii, 58 Dum zelat zelum legis, receptus est in cælum. Alleluia.

Sequentia sancti evangelii secundum Joannem.    Joann. xxi, 20-24


In illo tempore: Conversus Petrus vidit illum discipulum, quem diligebat Jesus, sequentem, qui et recubuit in cœna super pectus ejus, et dixit: Domine, quis est qui tradet te? Hunc ergo cum vidisset Petrus, dixit Jesu: Domine, hic autem quid? Dicit ei Jesus: Sic eum volo manere donec veniam, quid ad te? tu me sequere. Exiit ergo sermo iste inter fratres quia discipulus ille non moritur. Et non dixit ei Jesus: Non moritur, sed: Sic eum volo manere donec veniam, quid ad te? Hic est discipulus ille qui testimonium perhibet de his, et scripsit hæc: et scimus quia verum est testimonium ejus.


Offertorium    Cf. Agg. ii, 24; Apoc. ii, 10b. (Cf. Resp. vii. ad Mat., 27 Dec.)

In illum diem assumam te servum meum, et ponam te sicut signaculum in conspectu meo: * Quoniam ego elegi te, dicit Dominus. V. Esto fidelis usque ad mortem, et dabo tibi coronam vitæ. * Quoniam ego elegi te, dicit Dominus.

Secreta

Munera nostra, Domine, apud clementiam tuam beati Joannis apostoli et evangelistæ commendet oratio: quam idcirco de præsenti sæculo transtulisti, ut pro peccatis nostris apud te fiducialiter intercedat. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

Præfatio de Apostolis.
Communio    Sap. iv, 10.

Placens Deo factus est dilectus, et translatus est.


Postcommunio

Mensæ cælestis participes effecti, imploramus clementiam tuam, Domine Deus noster: ut qui assumptionem beati Joannis apostoli et evangelistæ colimus, a cunctis malis imminentibus, ejus intercessione liberemur. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

******

The Assumption of St John the Apostle and Evangelist

26th September 

Introit    Cf. Gen. v, 24; Ecclus xliv, 16 & xlix, 16

He walked with God, and was seen no more, because God took him: he pleased God, and was translated into paradise, for he also was taken up from the earth.
Ps. lxiv, 5. Blessed is he whom thou hast chosen and taken to thee: he shall dwell in thy courts.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
He walked with God, and was seen no more, because God took him: he pleased God, and was translated into paradise, for he also was taken up from the earth.

Collect

O God, who by thine election didst so confirm in grace blessed John thine apostle and evangelist as to be made the beloved disciple of thy Son and the virginal son of the Virgin Mother, and didst assume him bodily into heaven after death, grant, we beseech thee, that we also may be found holy and unspotted in charity in thy sight. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who with thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.


A lesson from the book of Kings.    IV Kings ii, 1-11


In those days: it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elias into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elias and Eliseus were going from Galgal. And Elias said to Eliseus: Stay thou here, because the Lord hath sent me as far as Bethel. And Eliseus said to him: As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And when they were come down to Bethel, the sons of the prophets, that were at Bethel, came forth to Eliseus, and said to him: Dost thou know that this day the Lord will take away thy master from thee? And he answered: I also know it: hold your peace. And Elias said to Eliseus: Stay here because the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. And he said: As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And when they were come to Jericho, the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho, came to Eliseus, and said to him: Dost thou know that this day the Lord will take away thy master from thee? And he said: I also know it: hold your peace. And Elias said to him: Stay here, because the Lord hath sent me as far as the Jordan. And he said: As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee; and they two went on together, and fifty men of the sons of the prophets followed them, and stood in sight at a distance: but they two stood by the Jordan. And Elias took his mantle and folded it together, and struck the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, and they both passed over on dry ground. And when they were gone over, Elias said to Eliseus: Ask what thou wilt have me to do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Eliseus said: I beseech thee that in me may be thy double spirit. And he answered: Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless if thou see me when I am taken from thee, thou shalt have what thou hast asked: but if thou see me not, thou shalt not have it. And as they went on, walking and talking together, behold a fiery chariot, and fiery horses parted them both asunder: and Elias went up by a whirlwind into heaven.


Gradual    Heb. xi, 5.

He was translated; and he was not found, because God had translated him.
V. For before his translation he had testimony that he pleased God.

Alleluia, alleluia. V. I Macc. ii, 58 While he was full of zeal for the law, he was taken up into heaven. Alleluia.


The continuation of the holy Gospel according to John.    John xxi, 20-24


At that time: Peter turning about, saw that disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on his breast at supper, and said: Lord, who is he that shall betray thee? Him therefore when Peter had seen, he saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith to him: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? follow thou me. This saying therefore went abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. And Jesus did not say to him: He should not die; but, So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things, and hath written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.


Offertory    Cf. Agg. ii, 24; Apoc. ii, 10b. (Resp. vii. ad Mat., 27 Dec.)

In that day I will take thee up, my servant, and will make thee as a signet in my sight, * For I have chosen thee, saith the Lord. V. Be thou faithful until death: and I will give thee the crown of life. * For I have chosen thee, saith the Lord.


Secret

May our gifts, O Lord, be commended to thy clemency by the prayer of blessed John the apostle and evangelist, whom thou didst take up out of this present life, that he might faithfully intercede before thee for our sins. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who with thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.


Preface of the Apostles 
Communion   Wis. iv, 10.
He pleased God and was beloved, and he was translated.


Postcommunion

Made partakers of the heavenly banquet, we implore thy clemency, O Lord our God, that we, who honour the assumption of blessed John the apostle and evangelist, may be freed through his intercession from all threatening evils. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who with thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.