The Ascension of Our Lord

"Forty days have now passed, dearest brothers, since the blessed and glorious Resurrection day of our Lord Jesus Christ... The divinely ordained number of forty sacred days, devoted to our practical formation, has been completed."

--Pope St. Leo, Sermon 1 on the Lord's Ascension

"The ascension of Christ is also our exaltation...in Christ we have pierced through to the very heights of heaven. Greater benefits have we obtained through the indescribable grace of Christ than we had lost through the malice of Satan."
--Loc. cit.

Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Redemptorem nostrum ad caelos ascendisse credimus; ipsi quoque mente in caelestibus habitemus. Per eundem DNIC...
--Collect for the Ascension

Today is the Ascension of Our Lord. Forty days after Easter Sunday, it is Ascension Thursday. Easter is coming to an end, and this day Christ rose bodily into heaven by his own power. The middle quote expresses the beauty of this day, and its importance to us. Our own nature was seated at the right hand of the God the Father on this day. Having faith in this, we have a basis for hope: the hope that we too, sharing in Christ's life, will join him in heaven around Our Father.

We are already looking forward to the next big liturgical day, Pentecost, which gets its own Octave. Today starts Ascensiontide, a transition between Easter and Pentecost, though I don't intend to say that that is all it is. Our preparation for Pentecost can be seen in today's antiphon for the Magnificat: "O King of glory, Lord of hosts, this day You ascended triumphantly above all heavens! Leave us not orphans, but send upon us the Promise of the Father, the Spirit of truth, alleluia."

The bookmarking quotes express the importance of celebrating the Ascension today, and not the Sunday after today. Jesus did not ascend on the first Sunday after the 40th day after Easter. Jesus ascended on the 40th day after Easter. Everyone acknowledges this. And yet, many bishops have seen fit to move the Ascension to the Sunday after today.

The reason for doing so is presented as the desire to be pastoral. It may be too difficult for the faithful to attend a Mass during the week. But, we have evening Masses. My parish has an evening Mass each Thursday. If people can come to ferial Masses, they can come to a Solemnity during the week. They can come in the morning, before work. They can come during their lunch break. They can come in the evening, after work.

There is no justification for doing away with some 1900 years of Catholics celebrating the Ascension 40 days after Easter. In most American dioceses, and the dioceses of England and Wales, (and I'm sure elsewhere as well) a homilist could not deliver the words of Pope St Leo, "Forty days have now passed...", without telling an outright lie. We all know the Ascension was forty days after Easter. In the fervor of the 60s, there was an emphasis on making Catholicism more "biblical". Somehow, in this instance, we've managed to eradicate the biblical-basis for our celebration of Ascension. For nearly 20 centuries the Catholic Church has celebrated the Ascension 40 days after Easter, in accordance with Sacred Scripture. Within the past 40 years, we've managed to sever the connection between Sacred Scripture and the date of our celebration of the Ascension.

The beautiful Collect for the Ascension in the EF further demonstrates the absurdity of moving the observance of the Ascension: "qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Redemptorem nostrum ad caelos ascendisse credimus". "We believe this day your Only-Begotten our Redeemer ascended into heaven." Transferring the Ascension is not in line with the beliefs expressed in this prayer. Transferring the Ascension indicates that the Ascension isn't really that important. We know the date it ought to be, on the basis of Sacred Scripture. But we're going to move it in spite of that. Lex orandi, lex credendi. If we pray in such a way that the Ascension is so unimportant that it is moved to a Sunday for the sake of sheer convenience, then we will come to believe that is it so unimportant.

Please pray that the bishops of all dioceses in which the Ascension is transferred may reconsider this stance. If you are in a diocese of England or Wales, please sign this petition asking that Ascension and other transferred HDOs be moved back to their proper dates.

Incidentally, I was struck by how little yesterday's collect was tied to the Ascension. It was the Vigil of the Ascension, but the collect was really quite generic. It acknowledged our dependence upon God, and asked that he direct our thoughts and our actions. It could have served for any vigil. Indeed, I am curious to see if this collect, or its basic formula, is used for all vigils. The EF really is a treasure trove!


17 Again

I went to see 17 Again today, and was pleasantly surprised.

First, it was a matinee. I paid barely more for two tickets than you normally do for one. I had forgotten what a good deal it is. I especially appreciated it because the last time I went to the movies, I had to pay more than I had expected at the old Longmont theatre that doesn't have stadium seating, and doesn't turn off all the lights completely. So annoying. But on to the main point.

17 Again was really a good movie. I expected it to be a throw-away comedy, but it was actually rather Christian in its world-view. It didn't admit the possibility of aborting a teenage pregnancy; it had an impassioned plea for abstinence-based sex-ed from a father's pov, and it encouraged young women to value themselves highly. Rather a lot from a movie the previews just said was about some guy re-living his high school life.

I would recommend seeing it; it's rather uplifting.


The Office

Yesterday I managed to say the entire Office in the EF. It was very fulfilling. I had never said Prime before, and I think it's a shame that it was suppressed. It's character is a very good start to the day, very humble: the responsory is full of miserere nobises, and there are many supplications for mercy and protection from sin, and a prayer for the faithful departed.

Here are the collects for the hour:
Lord, God all-powerful, You have brought us to the beginning of this day. By Your power, keep us on the road to salvation: do not let us fall into any sin today, but grant that all our words, all our thoughts and our actions may tend toward the fulfillment of Your law of holiness. Per Dominum.

May holy Mary and all the Saints plead for us with the Lord, that we may obtain grace and salvation from Him who lives and reigns forever.

Lord, our God, King of heaven and of earth, for this day please direct and sanctify, set right and govern our hearts and our bodies, our sentiments, our words and our actions in conformity with Your law and Your commandments. Thus we shall be able to attain salvation and deliverance, in time and in eternity, by Your help, O Savior of the world, who live and reign forever.
These sorts of prayers aren't found in the Office of the OF. In addition, Prime has the reading of the Martyrology. This is a very good way of knowing those saints who are not in the calendar, and being able to connect with them and follow their example.

On Monday I said Matins, to practice saying a three nocturn form of the Office; it was the feast (2nd class) of Ss Philip and James. It went well enough, but it sure did take a long time. The other offices aren't so noticeable, but Matins really is long. It takes me about half an hour to say Matins of one nocturn, but a full hour for three nocturns. I can see how that would truly be a difficulty for a busy parish priest.

I also prefer Compline in the EF. You get either the Pater or the Confiteor, and the Marian antiphons are much richer, with their collects which the OF has lost. I do miss getting to say the Shema after First Vespers of Sunday, but it is more than made up for by getting every night the reading from 1 Peter about the devil going around as a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

Overall, I find the EF of the Office richer and more agreeable than the OF.

Rosary Crusade

Last month Bp Fellay of the SSPX launched another rosary crusade, for the intention of Russia being consecrated to the Immaculate Heart, as OL of Fatima (whose feast it is today, incidentally), requested, as well as a spread of the devotion to her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. I visited the SSPX parish in Denver (well, Watkins) on Sunday, and they had sheets there for the parishioners to tally their rosaries for the crusade. I've said a few already. I've added in my intentions the success of the doctrinal talks between the SSPX and the CDF. It would be good to also start observing the First Saturday devotion, for this intention. The tally sheet is here, if you want to participate.


On sola scriptura

Another funny thing about Protestants is the inconsistencies around sola scriptura itself. It isn't even scriptural; Paul wrote in a couple places about the observance of tradition handed on from apostles: apostolic tradition.4 5 And churches don't really follow sola scriptura. They set up their own traditions, based on their understanding of scripture. Or, they profess sola scriptura and try to imitate the earliest Christians. And yet, they can't even get that right. For example, there is a 'full-gospel' church in Boulder which does its best to be like the Acts church, while maintaining sola scriptura and that faith alone saves. Here's how it works out: No infant baptism, because baptism is just a profession of faith. Instead, everyone gathers around the newborn and prays for him, commending him to God. As close to infant baptism as you can get, without taking the logical plunge. The eucharist is celebrated, maybe once every eight weeks, and everyone takes it as a chance to remember the passion. The bread and grape juice are symbols, and we use them because that's what Jesus used. Oh wait, Jesus used wine. Oh wait, the earliest Christians celebrated the eucharist every Sunday,6 not one Sunday in eight.

"Acts prayer cloths" are used; the church prayers over bits of cloth, and people can take them home and put them under their pillow for healing or whatever it is they want. This is based on Acts 19:11-12 "And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them." Now sacraments are just symbols; they're superstitions--but we're gonna pray over bits of fabric and put 'em under our pillows.

That's where sola scriptura gets you.

^4 2 Thess 2:15 "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter."
^5 2 Tim 2:2 "and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
^6Didache 14, in Staniforth, Maxwell, ed. Early Christian Writings. (Penguin Books: London, 1987), 197.

The Eucharist is Effective, or Why Protestantism doesn't make sense

This post is inspired by my reading of Dom Gregory Dix's The Shape of the Liturgy. Dix was a 20th c. Anglican Benedictine.

In his discussion on the development of the Mass in the high middle ages, he discusses how the people's participation in the Mass had become one of "seeing". Since the Mass was in Latin and with a silent Canon, and ad orientem, their participation in the Mass was primarily adoration of the Host when it was elevated. During the rest of the Mass, they were occupied with private devotions, eg reciting the rosary or meditating on the Passion. Dix writes, "it needed only a continuation of the shift of emphasis for the eucharistic action itself to come to be regarded as a mere occasion for or accompaniment to the individual's subjective devotion and thoughts."1 He believes that Protestant worship, having arisen from this milieux, is based on this practice of the eucharist. Justification by faith alone having stripped the sacraments of their efficacy, it treats the eucharist as nothing more than an occasion for personal piety and reflection on the Passion. This was all that was left of the Mass after removing its role as an effective re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. Rather than treating the sacraments as acts that really effect, or do, something, Protestantism views sacraments as occasions for reflection.

Dix recognizes that
"The logical development would have been to remove the external action altogether, and so leave the individual's mental appreciations of and reactions to the passion and atonement in complete possession of the field. But official protestantism (apart from the Quakers) felt unable to do this, at all events for a long time. The tradition that the eucharist was the culminating point of christian worship was too strong to be overthrown at once. The New Testament represented our Lord as having instituted this action for His followers, and great attention had to be paid to that fact."2

If you're going to be Protestant, then it seems that being a Quaker is at least logically coherent. However, the vast majority of Protestant churches continue to celebrate the eucharist. It really doesn't make sense. Why do they do it? Jesus told them to.3 Now, that isn't a bad reason. But it doesn't really make sense, either. If they're going to make sense, Protestants should do away with eucharistic celebration entirely. Instead, sing and listen to a sermon. If worship only exists to be an occasion for the worshipper to reflect on Jesus' life and resolve to be more like him, there's no need for the eucharist.

The Protestant view of God is someone who shouts down commands from on high, without any real rhyme or reason. "Do this in memory of me!" "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!" The believer's reaction to this view could be one of two: a mindless "Yes, sir", without any thought of why it is done; or it could be "Yes, sir, but will you tell me why?" I contend that the Protestant reaction is the first, and the Catholic reaction the second.

Protestant churches retain at least two of the sacraments, baptism and eucharist, because the bible is pretty darn clear on their institution. But, they don't really stop to think why God wants these sacraments done. It really doesn't make sense to do them, in a Protestant mindframe which denies that the sacraments are effectual: "I'm saved by faith alone. I accepted Jesus into my heart and I got saved and I got the Holy Ghost! I don't need meaningless ceremonies to prove I'm saved. And now, I'm gonna go get baptized cuz the Lord Jesus told me so! Baptism doesn't really do anything, faith in Jesus Christ is what already done saved me, but I'm gonna have this ceremony done anyway." Seriously, that is what should be running through the head of every Protestant anytime a sacrament is performed.

The Protestant mindframe denigrates Christ, because it makes him into a person who commanded practices that just don't make sense. If we are saved by faith alone, then there is no reason to celebrate baptism. If we are saved by faith alone, then there is no reason to celebrate the eucharist. And yet, for the sola scriptura lovers out there, the bible clearly tells Christians to baptize. So Christ told us to do something, even though there is no reason to. Protestants worship a god who commands nonsense.

On the other hand, the Catholic reaction is reasoned. It too recognizes that Christ clearly commanded (as recorded in scripture) that the sacraments be carried out. The Catholic view is that the sacraments are effective: they really do something. Baptism really does get rid of original sin. The Eucharist really is Christ present among us, and reception of communion really does draw us into him, and really does forgive venial sin. The Catholic response respects Christ enough to see him as a person who commands sacraments to be celebrated because they do something, rather than commanding they be celebrated despite their impotence.

The Catholic Church teaches that men's salvation is by faith which is mediated through the sacraments. The sacraments effect changes in the recipient, deepening their faith, hope and love. The eucharist, celebrated every day but one, is effective. This is why the Catholic Church is True.

Protestantism teaches that men are saved by faith alone, and that the sacraments don't do anything. They believe that the eucharist is not efficacious, and yet they regularly celebrate the eucharist anyway. This is why Protestantism doesn't make sense.

^1Dix, Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. (The Seabury Press: New York: 1982), 600.
^2Dix, Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. (The Seabury Press: New York: 1982), 600.
^3Lk 22:19 "Do this in remembrance of me."


Matins in the BR

Yesterday I said Matins from the BR, and with only a minor snag. Thanks for any instruction I can give on the BR should go to Daniel at officiumdivinum.org. His website has posted for every day Lauds through Compline, and he was gracious enough to review my Matins yesterday and correct it. Everything I messed up was in the Nocturns. Nocturns are the BR's equivalent of the LH's readings in the Office of Readings. Matins can have either one or three nocturns, and each nocturn has three lessons (ie, readings). It seems that only first and second class feasts have three nocturns; Sundays, third class feasts, and ferias have one nocturn.

So on to my problem. I figured out that yesterday (St Pius V, 3rd class feast) had one nocturn. I had read the rubrics earlier, but once I got into actually saying Matins, I was going off the Ordinary. I skipped over the section "In an Office of nine lessons" to follow "In an Office of three lessons".

There are blessings associated with each lesson. The Ordinary puts them all together, and relies on you reading the red closely to realize that it goes blessing, lesson, blessing, lesson blessing, lesson; rather than blessing, blessing, blessing, lesson, lesson, lesson. I didn't read the red closely enough.

Also after each lesson is said "Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis, / Deo gratias." I missed this because while it is listed in the nine lessons, it isn't in the three lessons. It is also the subject of rubric 216, which I had apparently glossed over.

So, I've learned that the nocturn goes as follows:

1. Iube, Domine, benedicere.
2. Blessing 1
3. Lesson 1
4. Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis / Deo gratias
5. Lesson 1 V/R

6. Iube, Domine, benedicere.
7. Blessing 2
8. Lesson 2
9. Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis / Deo gratias
10. Lesson 2 V/R

11. Iube, Domine, benedicere.
12. Blessing 3
13. Lesson 3
14. Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis / Deo gratias
15. Lesson 3 V/R.

Thanks to Daniel for explaining this.


Act of Contrition

I forgot to post when it happened, but my confessor had me use a different act of contrition last time, and I thought I would share it. It is from Ps 142, towards the beginning. In the breviary I had on me, it goes as follows:
And enter not into judgment with your servant, for before you no living man is just. For the enemy pursues me; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has left me dwelling in the dark, like those long dead. And my spirit is faint within me, my heart within me is appalled.


One of my favourite parishes in the diocese--the only one I regularly attend, aside from my own--is forming a new schola. The pastor at this parish is wonderfully orthodox and traditional. The Mass I attend at his parish is celebrated ad orientem, with a Latin ordinary. The young lady spearheading the schola approached me after Mass about a month ago inviting me to it, and I had my "audition" today. I'm quite sure I didn't do well. I sang quietly and was quite nervous. But she did include me in the discussion of when to have our practices, so despite my poor performance, I seem to have a shred of hope.

I'm very excited about it. I've been reading the NLM long enough to know that a return to singing chant is a necessary, and very important, part of our identity as Catholics. We practised singing the most common Mass setting, the one where the final eleison is elongated. I think it's XVIII, I'm not sure. And our leader made sure to show us a bit of chant before letting us go, assuring us that we would be quizzed on what the notes are called--neumes--next week. I'm so glad. It seems that chant is our goal. She mentioned that she wants to work up to the Mass of the Angels eventually. I hope I have to get the Parish Book of Chant at some point.

So, I have a new saint to add to my post-Communion litany:

St Cecilia, pray for us.



I managed to say Lauds according to the EF today, and it seems my only fault was omitting a Deo gratias. I'm surprised at how easily it's coming. The bilingual BR is really helping. I got to celebrate St Monica. The collect was really beautiful:
You are the consolation of the afflicted, Lord, and the salvation of those who trust in You. In Your mercy You received favorably the motherly tears of St. Monica as she wept for the conversion of her son, Augustine. At the intercession of both of them, give us the grace to weep for our sins and to obtain Your forgiveness. Per Dominum....
The current translation of her OF collect is:
God of mercy, comfort of those in sorrow, the tears of Saint Monica moved you to convert her son Saint Augustine to the faith of Christ. By their prayers, help us to turn from our sins and to find your loving forgiveness. Per Dominum...
The OF collect is actually better than I remembered it as I read the EF, but it still pales in comparison. "The tears of St Monica" is not as moving as "she wept for the conversion of her son". "Give us the grace to weep for our sins" could never be accused of Pelagianism, as could "help us to turn from our sins". Obtaining God's forgiveness is deliberate, an act of his will. Finding it makes it sound as though his forgiveness is something we chance upon. The OF just isn't strong enough. The example is a weakly version of the EF collect.

I may end up attached to the FSSP before long. I really like saying the Office in the EF. I am obviously using an English translation. The edition is from 1964, and by The Liturgical Press, in Collegeville. I assume it's licit to say parts of the Office in the vernacular; there were plenty of instructions to this effect through the 60s, before the LH was realized. I say the ordinary in Latin, but the movable parts in English.

And I won't say all three little hours, nor Prime. It is my understanding that diocesan priests using the BR to fulfil their obligation would not have to. If I'm wrong (on this count or the vernacular) please correct me.


The Office, a Play, and the Preface

Three disjointed topics, but they came in rapid succession, so they're rolled into one post.

The Office

Seeking refuge from the Bugninization of the liturgy, I've resolved to find shelter the EF when necessary. Necessity strikes on 21st of this month. In the universal Church, that day is Ascension Thursday. Apparently, US Catholics can't be bothered to attend HDOs that fall on days other than Sunday, so we are forced to celebrate Ascension Thursday-Sunday (as I like to call it) on what is everywhere else the Seventh Sunday of Easter; here, Ascension Thursday is Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter.

So in my, and all American, diocese(s), I cannot licitly maintain the proper chronology of the Ascension in the OF. Deo gratias, Pope Benedict XVI has clarified that we all have the right to use the EF however, without needing our Ordinary's permission. Further, the PCED has affirmed that while bishops may transfer the day of obligation for HDOs, "the legitimate use of the liturgical books in use in 1962 includes the right to the use of the calendar intrinsic to those liturgical books." I've resolved to use the EF for cases such as Ascension Thursday, the Octave of Pentecost, and Corpus Christi. For the Ascension and 7th Sunday of Easter I will this year have to attend OF Masses. (I'll be in SC and GA and the EF is hard to come by there, I'm finding.) But I can control my recitation of the Divine Office.

I'm teaching myself to say the Office in the older form. Fortunately, I've found a bilingual BR, which I can wade my way through. Trying to read and follow rubrics entirely in Latin is scary. It's a lot to take in even in English. But, I did manage to say None yesterday correctly. One of the more simple hours, yes, prob'ly the simplest next to Compline, but it's a start. I was proud of myself. I'll try my hand at Lauds and Vespers tomorrow, and see how it goes. I think the biggest challenge will be figuring out Matins. Coming from the Office of Readings, nocturns are rather weird. I have nearly three weeks though, and if it comes down to it, I'll find an FSSP priest and get him to teach me. By hook or by crook, this year I'm celebrating the Ascension when I ought!

A Play

Last night, I attended St John Vianney seminary's production of Viva Cristo Rey, by Cathal Gallagher and Fred Martinez. It is about the life of Bl Miguel Pro, a Mexican martyr of the 1920s. The show was very well done, as well as moving. One of the government officials underwent a conversion, and Fr Pro was a very inspiring priest. The show induced more laughter than was expected. My favourite comedic line, you ask? Here it is:
(Pro's father) Son, how did you know this already?

(Fr Miguel Pro) Father, I'm a Jesuit; Jesuits know everything.
Hi-larious, I tell you. I'm so glad the seminary puts on a show each spring.

I almost forgot...the play also struck me through a scene between Ana Maria (Miguel's sister) and Martha (the girl with whom Miguel's brother flirts). Ana Maria obviously doesn't want them to get together, and she wants her brother to follow Miguel into the priesthood. She tells Martha to stay away, that her brother doesn't need to be distracted by some girl. Of course, I was sitting next to Kelly this whole time. It made me feel a little guilty, but I think I am doing well enough with discernment. If nothing else I'm remaining open to the priesthood, not shutting myself to it. This whole thing may be rash judgement though. However, as I said, I'm remaining open to the priesthood. I still want to apply to the seminary this fall. Fr Crisman is supposed to say Mass next week, so I suppose we'll talk about it again. My fear is that the seminary will say they want me to wait another year, instead of yes or no. If they say wait, I'm going to want to forget about it and date Kelly. I feel that submitting the application is due diligence. With respect to discernment, I am fortunate to be surrounded by priests, seminarians and friends who are aware of what's going on in my life, as well as the fact that Kelly by no means wants to steal me from a religious vocation. I've not stopped praying, asking for my vocation. I think my vocation is safe, given all the factors.

The Preface

I don't know if it struck anyone else, but I wasn't expecting it when the Preface today said that Christ is the priest, victim, and altar for his sacrifice. Priest and victim I'm familiar enough with. But altar? It always seemed pretty clear that the cross was the altar for his sacrifice. I asked Fr Dwyer about it after Mass, and he explained it as being the idea that Christ was the support, or basis, for his own offering. Or something to that general effect; I'm sure my explanation has lost something of the way he explained it to me. But I had never thought of that before, and I figured I'd pass it on to you. Fr. went on to mention that the altar in the Church represents/symbolizes Christ; this is why the celebrant kisses and genuflects to the altar. I was familiar with that idea, so it helped a bit in understanding talking about Christ as the altar of his sacrifice. I'm still sceptical of genuflecting to the altar though. Another priest told me we should genuflect before getting in the pew even when the Sacrament isn't reserved, because we're genuflecting to the altar as well. But I'm genuflecting for Christ, so I haven't started genuflecting in chapels that don't have the Sacrament in them. I guess I could start using the left knee for the altar, but something's going to have to push me into that.