Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thomas Aquinas and the Liturgy, David Berger

The Liturgical Spirituality of the Sons of St. Benedict of Nursia

The human being that the post conciliar reformed liturgy (as it de facto generally takes shape) seems to produce is hardly one who contemplates and receives. Rather, the actively doing person, someone who thinks he is the active shaper of liturgy, seems to be promoted. To quote Cardinal Ratzinger's oft-expressed criticism, however, such a person underestimates grace-given contemplation in favor of an "active doing . . . the shallow product of the moment." In the life of St. Thomas, we encounter the light of an altogether different understanding of human nature. Almost all biographies present Thomas as  homo magnae contemplationis et orationis  ("a man wholly assigned to contemplation and prayer") .

Indeed, classical liturgy calls for and shapes such a person, devoted to contemplation, capable of receiving, humble, not pelagian, who can above all look wholly away from himself and open himself to one who is greater and other. Such a person recognizes that the liturgy, as Romano Guardini reminded us, has something in common with the stars: "with their eternally fixed and even course, their unchangeable order, their profound silence, and the infinite space in which they are poised. " St. Thomas seems to have been endowed with this contemplative spirit from very early on. He grew up amongst the Benedictines of Monte Cassino, where he was educated in the spirit of St. Benedict of Nursia, in whose order the liturgy holds pride of place both in its importance and in the time spent on it.  The laus perennis of the sons of St. Benedict, the festive celebration of the liturgy, which he was permitted to attend daily as an oblate of the Benedictine abbey, were for him a first schooling through which he was introduced into theology's original mysteries, the principia (ST, I, q. I, a. 5, ad 2).

The influence of this schooling still reverberates at the close of Thomas's life. This can be seen in his prologue Postilla super Psalmos,  where he explains the singular significance of the psalms by the fact that they contain the entire contents of theology ("generalem habet totius theologiae"). These are not spread over many different books, as in the rest of the Holy Scriptures, but are concentrated in this one book; not as a narration, report, letter, or instruction, but in the most dignified form, liturgical praise, thanksgiving, and prayer. According to Thomas, wherever theology reverts to the psalms, it shows its character of wisdom in a very special way.

The love of singing the psalms in the context of the divine office, founded in Monte Cassino, seems to have stayed alive within Thomas all his life. The best known of Aquinas's early biographers, William of Tocco, who   had the privilege of knowing Thomas personally, reports that Thomas would rise at night before the actual time (or the canonical hour of Matins (cap. 34). A few chapters before (cap. 29) we read: "One also saw him often when he was singing the psalm verse during Compline in Lent: 'Do not reject us in old age, when my strength is failing,' enraptured and consumed by piety, tears streaming down his face that seemed to be bursting forth from the eyes of the pious soul."

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Ad Laudes matutinas: novus

Præclára qua tu glória,
Levi beáte, cíngeris,
laus est Dei cleméntiæ,
spes nostra ad indulgéntiam.

Telóneo quando ássidens
nummis inhæres ánxius,
Matthæe, Christus ádvocans
opes tibi quas præparat!

Iam cordis ardens ímpetu
curris, Magístrum súscipis,
sermóne factus ínclito
princeps in urbe cælica.

Tu verba vitæ cólligens
Davídque facta Fílii,
per scripta linquis áurea
cæléste mundo pábulum.

Christum per orbem núntians
conféssus atque sánguine,
dilectiónis vívidæ
suprémo honóras pígnore.

O martyr atque apóstole,
evangelísta nóbilis,
tecum fac omne in sæculum
Christo canámus glóriam. Amen.

The resplendent glory with which you are girded, O blessed Levi, is praise of God’s mercy, our hope for pardon. When you were seated near the toll-booth, clinging anxiously to your money, O Matthew, Christ called you to the riches which he had prepared for you.  Then compelled by the ardor of your heart you run to receive the Master, who with his noble word makes you a prince in the heavenly city.  Recording the words of life and the deeds of the Son of David, through the precious scriptures you leave behind the world for heavenly food. Proclaiming Christ throughout the world, witnessing to him by shedding your blood, you honor him with the highest pledge of living love. O Martyr and Apostle, renown Evangelist, grant that we with you in every age may sing the glory of Christ. Amen. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

September 17th: Memorial of St Hildegard, Virgin

Deus, qui beátam Hildegárdem Vírginem tuam donis cæléstibus decorásti: tríbue, quæsumus; ut, ejus vestígiis et documéntis insisténtes, a præséntis sæculi calígine ad lucem tuam delectábilem transíre mereámur. Per Dóminum.

O God, who adorned blessed Hildegard, your virgin, with heavenly gifts; we beseech you, grant that following in her footsteps and teaching, we may be worthy to pass from the darkness of this present world into your marvelous light.


Benedictus Antiphon

O digníssima Christi sponsa! * quam lux prophetíæ illustrávit, zelus apostólicus inflammávit, láurea vírginum coronávit, divíni amóris incéndium consummávit.

O most worthy spouse of Christ, whom the light of prophecy illumined. Apostolic zeal enkindled, the laurels of virgins crowned, the burning of divine love consumed.

II Vespers

Magnificat Antiphon

Súbveni nobis, Hildegárdis virgo sanctíssima, ætérni regis sponsa, in cujus aula splendéscis sicut stella fulgentíssima.

Come to our help, Hildegard, most holy virgin, bride of the eternal King, in whose courts you shine like a most bright star.

Empire of Souls: Robert Bellarmine and the Christian Commonwealth, Stefania Tutino

Catholics should not, Bellarmine declares, deny those examples; rather they should openly recognize that ‘the vices of the popes were not few’. Indeed for Bellarmine it is the examples of such immorality on the part of some popes that demonstrates how the institution, having survived the less than optimal behavior of some of its occupants is truly not just the ‘lapis,’ the rock on which the Church is built, but indeed the lapis angularis, the cornerstone which not only secures unity witin the institution but also contributes to keeping together the entire Christian commonwealth, as it did at the beginning of the Church, when it conjoined ‘Jews and Gentiles, as if it were two walls united in one and creating one Christian Church’.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Common of Many Martyrs is used twice this week: Monday for SS. Cornelius & Cyprian; Friday for SS. Andrew Kim Taegon and Paul Chong Hasang and their Companions.

The Office of Readings: 6th Century

W&H: This hymn point(s) to the contrast between the heroism of martyrs of the past and the deficiencies of the confessors of the present, who acknowledge their sins and plead for pardon for them.

Rex glorióse mártyrum, (1)
coróna confiténtium,
qui respuéntes térrea
perdúcis ad cæléstia,

Aurem benígnam prótinus
appóne nostris vócibus;
tropæa sacra pángimus, (2)
ignósce quod delíquimus.

Tu vincis in martýribus
parcéndo confessóribus; (3)
tu vince nostra crímina
donándo indulgéntiam.

(1)  martyrum . . . confitentium: In this stanza martyrs of the past are grouped with confessors of the present (both are witnesses to the faith), as the tense of perducis in line 4 indicates.
(2)  tropaea sacra: The "sacred trophies" are the butchered bodies of the martyrs. Just as Christ's body was a trophy commemorating his victory over Satan and death so the bodies of those who died to witness to him are a further mark of that victory.
(3)  parcendo confitentibus: This line is better taken with what follows than with what precedes. Those who sing this hymn emulate the martyrs by confessing Christ, but without manifesting a similar heroism.

O glorious King of martyrs, Crown of those who praise you, those who repudiate earthly things you lead to the things of heaven. Quickly in your generosity lend your ear to our voices; we sing of holy triumphs, forgive us the sins we have done. You are victorious in the martyrs by sparing those who confess you; triumph over our offenses by granting pardon.

Lauds: 10th Century: attributed to St. Ambrose

W&H: Citation by Maximus of Turin (Serm. 66) indicates that this hymn goes back to the time of Ambrose. Bede, De arte metrica 11, cautiously attributes it to "the Ambrosians." Thus the possible attribution to Ambrose himself must rest on correspondences with his prose works. Doubts have been raised against his authorship on the grounds of allegedly non-Ambrosian metrical features, but as Fontaine demonstrates, these are not decisive. However, the impersonal treatment, without mention of specific martyrs, is not characteristic of other hymns of Ambrose, and lends itself to easier imitation, so that the ascription must remain doubtful. The current version eliminates some of the more gruesome lines: e.g.  armata . . . ungulis manus: 'The hand of the maddened torturer, armed with claws:  “The ungula, a metal claw, tore the flesh”.

Ætérna Christi múnera (1)
et mártyrum victórias,
laudes feréntes débitas,
lætis canámus méntibus.

Ecclesiárum príncipes, (2)
belli triumpháles duces,
cæléstis aulæ mílites
et vera mundi lúmina.

Terróre victo sæculi
pœnísque spretis córporis,
mortis sacræ compéndio (3)
lucem beátam póssident.

Tortóris insáni manu
sanguis sacrátus fúnditur,
sed pérmanent immóbiles
vitæ perénnis grátia. (4)

Devóta sanctórum fides,
invícta spes credéntium,
perfécta Christi caritas (5)
mundi triúmphat príncipem. (6)

In his patérna glória,
in his volúntas Spíritus,
exsúltat in his Fílius,
cælum replétur gáudio.

Te nunc, Redémptor, quæsumus,
ut mártyrum consórtio
iungas precántes sérvulos
in sempitérna sæcula. Amen.

(1)  Aeterna . , . munera: The gifts are the martyrs themselves. The phrase here means "gifts bestowed by Christ" in the spirit of Ephesians 4:8, 11
(2) Ecclesiarum Principes: Not necessarily bishops, but martyrs who led by example.  communities.
(3)       compendio: In the sense of "shortcut: martyrdom is the "shortcut" to salvation.
(4) gratia: "for the sake of" rather than (literally) "by the grace of".
(5) perfecta Christi caritas: "The perfect love of Christ for them";
(6) mundi . . . principem: Satan as lord of the world is a persistent theme in John's Gospel. See 12:31, 14:30, 16:11.
(7) paterna gloria . . . voluntas Spiritus: At Hbr 1:3, Christ is the splendor gloriae of the Father; here the martyrs are allotted this distinction. At 1 Cor 12:11 the Spirit bestows his gifts on individuals "prout vult" (as he will).

 The eternal gifts of Christ and victories of the martyrs, bringing the praise we owe, let us sing with joyful minds.  Princes of the churches, triumphant commanders in the war, soldiers of the court of heaven and true lights of the world.  Conquering over the fear of the world, spurning the punishments of the body, profiting from a holy death, they possess the blessed light. By the hand of the mad executioner holy blood was spilled, but they remained unmoved through the grace of eternal life. The devoted faith of the saints, the invincible hope of those who believe, the charity of Christ perfected triumphs over the prince of this world. In them the Father’s glory, in them the will of the Spirit, in them the Son endlessly rejoices, and heaven is filled with joy. To you now, O Redeemer, we beseech you that the company of martyrs might be joined to your servants as we pray through eternal ages. Amen.

Vespers: Rabanus Maurus

Magentius Rabanus Maurus is the commanding figure among the ecclesiastics of his age, a great Churchman and the first German theologian….In a world of change, it appeared to him that the written word alone had a chance of survival, and that knowledge had an abiding value not subect to vanity….His pupil Rudolf at any rate was admirer of Raban’s verses for he describes him as ‘sui temporis poetarum nulli secundus’” F.J.E. Rabus;  Milfull says the hymn is conceived along  the lines of Aeterne Christi Munera: praise, victory of martyrs, bravery in punishment, hope.

Sanctórum méritis ínclita gáudia
pangámus, sócii, géstaque fórtia;
nam gliscit ánimus prómere cántibus
  victórum genus óptimum.

Hi sunt quos rétinens mundus inhórruit,
ipsum nam stérili flore peráridum
sprevére pénitus teque secúti sunt,
  rex, Christe, bone cælitum.

Hi pro te fúrias sævaque sústinent;
non murmur résonat, non querimónia,
sed corde tácito mens bene cónscia
  consérvat patiéntiam.

Quæ vox, quæ póterit lingua retéxere
quæ tu martýribus múnera præparas?
Rubri nam flúido sánguine láureis
  ditántur bene fúlgidis.

Te, trina Déitas únaque, póscimus,
ut culpas ábluas, nóxia súbtrahas,
des pacem fámulis, nos quoque glóriam
 per cuncta tibi sæcula. Amen.

May we sing of the great happiness of the merits of the saints, O friends, and of their brave deeds; for the soul is raised up when we proclaim in song this model of the greatest victory. These are those whom the world rejected and abhorred, for they wholly despised the dry soil of the world with its sterile flower, and followed you, O Christ the good King of the citizens of heaven. These are those who for your sake  endured anger and savage punishments but they did not grumble  or sound a complaint,  but with a quiet heart and a good conscience persevered in patience. What voice, what tongue can tell, Christ, the gifts you have prepared for the martyrs.  for the flow of red blood is well enriched with glimmering laurels. We pray you, O Godhead three and one, that you wash away our faults, lead us away from all that is dangerous, grant peace to your servants,  and also that we give glory to you through all ages. Amen.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Nihil sub sole novum: Papa Paolo IV* Un hipocrito papa arcitiranno inimico de cristo e della fede usurpator della romana sede espresso luteran, homo nefanno, A hypocritical and arch tyrannical pope, Enemy of Christ and of the faith, Usurper of the Roman See, Open Lutheran, wicked man. Mock elegy. *died 1559

Thursday, September 12, 2019

St. Peter Damian: Sermon for the Feast of the Holy Cross

Wherever the symbol of the Cross is set up, Christ's victory and the devil's subjection are signified. You know that our old enemy won his victory over the first man by means of a tree, and because of that held him and all his issue . . . under the yoke of his tyranny. But the Son came, as a strong man to the race, that He might strive with the powers of the air, and to that first tree opposed another, spewing out through the bitterness of the Cross the poisonous delight of the apple of old. When the first man, tempted by Satan, stretched out his hand to the tree, it was as if he wrote the bond of his unconditional servitude on wooden tablets. But the second Adam, stretching out His hands on the Cross, obliterated the bond of that deadly agreement. By a tree then we were enslaved; by a tree also we have been restored to our pristine freedom. By a tree we were cast out from Paradise; by a tree we are called once more to our native land. And we who because of a tree were regarded as enemies have by the mystery of the Cross been restored to friendship with God and concord with the angels, as the Apostle bears witness, when he speaks of Christ to the Ephesians: For he is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition: having abolished in his flesh the enmity, making void even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace, and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby [Eph. 2, 14—17]. . .

This emblem of heavenly triumph, by which the world was loosed from the bonds of her ancient captivity, was adored by the Fathers from the world's beginning, and foretold by the Prophets and prefigured on every page of the Holy Scriptures. That which we adore in grace, they venerated in faith. And we now see fulfilled, by the grace of the Mediator, what was prefigured to them in enigmas; what they predicted in spirit we can behold and embrace with our bodily eyes. O wonderful loving-kindness of our Creator! O praiseworthy humility of our Redeemer! He deigned to suffer the pains of a most cruel death, that He might win for us a crown. He chose of His own will, the dreadful torments of the Cross in order to raise us from the yoke of slavery to the kingdom. He did not scorn to be cursed, so that He might free us from the law's curse. He suffered a shameful death to deliver us from the disgrace of everlasting death. So the Apostle says: Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written: Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree; that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith [Gal. 3, 13-14]. .

We must mark and most diligently consider, brethren, that our Redeemer first passed over by the Cross and so raised His humanity to the glory of the right hand of the Father. In doing so He gave us an example: where the head goes, the members must follow. We are signed with the Cross on our foreheads; it will avail even more to our salvation if we hold it in our hearts. When the angel of death saw both doorposts smeared with blood, he passed by instead of bursting in. Let no one rely on the mark of the cross on his forehead if he does not show forth the truth of the Cross in his works. St. Paul showed forth the Cross in his behavior most notably, and said: I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. [Gal. 6, 17]

Therefore, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of body or spirit; let us arm ourselves to break the assault of our enemies, the vices, let us counteract the passions of carnal pleasure, and minister lovingly to the needs of our neighbors and suffer injuries in a spirit of charity. Let our souls be free from all the burdens of earthly greed, so that, hurled on wings of holy desire they may forsake the depths and returning to their Maker rest sweetly in His love. Let us despise all that we see and hasten with unceasing labor to that which we believe. This in deed is the cross which we must imprint on all our actions, all our behavior. This is the Cross which we are commanded to bear after the Lord daily. He who carries it truly shares in the passion of his Redeemer. This emblem will separate the sheep from the goats in the last judgement. And the judge, who knows not the wicked, will recognize this mark in His own. Those whom He sees marked with the seal of His own death He will, as a gracious rewarder, invite to partake in the prize of everlasting life: Come, He will say, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom [Mt. 25, 34] of Him with whom He Himself lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.