Sunday 25th January 2015

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

A Book Review . . . A Marvel To Behold

January 8, 2014 Featured Today No Comments

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN

A Sense of the Sacred: Roman Catholic Worship in the Middle Ages, by James Monti (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2013), 684 pp.; $34.95. Available through www.igna
tius.com or call 1-800-651-1531.

A monument of meticulous historical scholarship, a Herculean work of research in ancient liturgical texts, and a comprehensive account of medieval manuscripts, missals, and manuals, this book scrupulously documents the riches of the Catholic Church’s traditions that form the rubrics of the sacraments, the holy days of the liturgical year, and the other rites of the Church celebrated in events like the election of a Pope, the canonization of saints, and the consecration of virgins.
The riches of symbolism, the beauty of language, the holiness of ceremonies, and the exalted nature of sacred events discovered in these venerable treasures of the Church’s history fill the mind with a sense of awe and sublimity. This fullness of the riches of the Church’s liturgical art is a marvel to behold, like seeing St. Peter’s Basilica.
All the details, words, and actions of these ceremonies evoke beauty, history, and meaning. In the case of matrimony, for example, from a nuptial rite from fifth-century Spain, one hears the poetry of prayer at its highest: “May the fragrance of your life be redolent as a white lily, that you may ever ascend in mind toward Heaven. . . . May the Lord of celestial glory and the King of all ages bless you.”
From the Old Testament one hears the prayer of Sarah’s father that blessed her marriage to Tobias (“‘Here she is; take her according to the law of Moses, and take her with you to your father.’ And he blessed them.”). This is an event that sets the precedent for the solemn importance of a priest’s blessing of the couple “whose presence as a witness was defined as essential to the valid and licit reception of the sacrament.”
From Hugh of St. Victor comes the comparison of the union of bride and bridegroom to the love between Christ and the Church — an image that a 1488 custom from Switzerland illustrates with the exchange of rings and the accompanying words, “With His ring my Lord Jesus Christ has espoused me, and just as a bride He has adorned” (words recited in the rite of consecrating virgins).
All these readings, gestures, and ceremonies form a rich tapestry in which every thread contributes to the sanctity and beauty of marriage. These rites illuminate the spiritual riches of sacramental experiences.
In the case of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, the same liturgical norms of beautiful art, biblical precedent, and exalted prayer shape the rite of Extreme Unction. From a tenth-century prayer for visiting the sick are these eloquent words inspired from biblical history: “Deliver him, Lord, even as you vouchsafed to deliver Adam from hell; Peter from prison; Paul from chains; Thecla from beast; Susanna from false accusation; the paralytic from his cot; Lazarus from his tomb.”
From St. Thomas Aquinas is the rationale for the use of oil to anoint: spiritual healing requires mildness, not severity: “It ought to be gentle, lest hope, of which the dying stand in most need, be shattered rather than fostered. Now oil has a softening effect.”
From the Letter of St. James mentioning several priests praying over the sick (“Let him call the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him”) proceeds the Carolingian (French and German) custom of many anointings from several priests — a testimony to “the depth of the Church’s solicitude for the sick.”
From the Rituale Romanum (1614) come the counsels that penance and Holy Communion also accompany the anointing and also the exhortation to the dying not to despair of God’s mercy: “Say also that he should not fear to die. . . . Neither should he fear death on account of his wife, his children, . . . nor for anything, but he should place all things under the ordinance of God.” Other rites include the reading of the seven penitential psalms, and the priest blessing all who have performed a corporal work of mercy by visiting the sick.
Just these few facts alone hint at the great thought, intricate art, and depth of spirituality that inform these rites of the ancient Church that make every detail significant.
The Mass, the heart of Christian faith, evokes the most contemplative thought, the most profound spirituality, and the highest art to do justice to this divine mystery. To capture “the cosmic dimensions” of the Mass, the sacrament incorporates in some of the various liturgical texts the dramatic moments in the life of Christ from the Incarnation to the Resurrection and Ascension — the Mass as a summary of salvation history.
In other texts, the Mass signifies an allegory of the cosmic battle between good and evil, Christ the King in bloody appearance leading the hosts of Heaven against the legions of Satan. The priest’s vestments correspond to the soldier’s armor. The prayers in medieval missals from England’s Sarum Rite conceive of the priest’s investiture as the use of many weapons for protection in spiritual warfare. The prayer that accompanies the amice placed over the head and shoulders signifies the protection of faith, the prayer that attends the alb seeks courage (“encompass me with the breastplate of fortitude”), the cincture arms the priest with “the custody of my mind.”
This military imagery continues in the Sarum Rite with the processional cross symbolizing a military standard or “a sign of the victory of Christ” that terrifies demons and recalls St. Paul’s teaching about glorying only in the cross of Christ. As the Mass begins with the Introit prayers, they signify the praise of the Chosen People, the praises of the patriarchs and prophets, and the Glory Be of the apostles. In the Confiteor the striking of the breast recalls the example of the publican who pleaded, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
In the Sarum Rite the Sign of Peace after the confession of sins represents, Monti explains, “an expression of peace and reconciliation brought by the confession and forgiveness of sins.”
The candles symbolize the Holy Spirit and the heavenly joy the Mass brings to the heart. The priest’s kiss of the altar, according to Pope Innocent III, testifies to the fact that “Christ joined Himself in marriage to the holy Church.”
In the incensing, the thurible corresponds to the heart of man, the fire which enkindles it, and the ardor of love and devotion with the smoke carrying man’s prayers to God. The crosswise motion of the censer lifts the prayers of the saints that flow from “The Passion of the Lord,” and the circular motions “symbolize the crown of glory” toward which the prayers of the saints lead man.

The Grandeur Of God

These glimpses into a few of the chapters provide an overview of the work as a whole. Each chapter lucidly and precisely explains how every action, prayer, symbol, and allusion teems with significance. The words and gestures that accompany these sacred rites have depths of meaning, layers of historical truth, and the riches of beautiful art that all combine to lift man’s heart, give God glory, and evoke a sense of wonder at the grandeur of God and the holiness of the Catholic Church.
It is a work that gives an even more authoritative understanding of Tradition — not just the repository of the past but the magnificence of the best, the perennial, and the eternal that God’s one true Church offers as light and beauty for nourishment of man’s mind, heart, and soul.
This is a work of scholarship that will pass the test of time and give glory to God and the Church He founded.

+    +    +

(Dr. Kalpakgian is a professor of humanities.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Cardinal: No pro-life victory without reaching the marginalized

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2015 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For the pro-life movement to truly succeed, it must fight not only abortion, but also the broader “throwaway culture” wherever life is being discarded, said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston…Continue Reading

70 Churches Destroyed in ‘Anti-Charlie Hebdo’ Protests

The Christian community in Niger says it is in shock in the wake of weekend violence that has claimed the lives of 10 people and led to the destruction of dozens of places of worship and Christian homes. The protest,…Continue Reading

ITALY: Muslims smash, urinate on statue of Mary

A man was kneeling in prayer before the statue of the revered Madonna, with the photograph of a loved one in hand, in the small chapel of St. Barnabas in Perugia (Italy), when he was attacked by five “immigrants.” The…Continue Reading

At new in-flight press conference Francis says good Catholics are not required ‘to be like rabbits’

Catholics fail to practise “responsible parenthood” when they have too many children, Pope Francis has said during an in-flight press conference on the way home from Manila. He also denounced the teaching of “gender theory” in schools, likening it to…Continue Reading

CRUX’s “spirituality columnist” is “devastated” the Pope upholds Catholic teaching

Margery Eagan appears to be angling for a job as editor of National “Catholic” Reporter. Or perhaps spokesman for the LCWR: The news that Pope Francis has strongly defended the Church’s ban on artificial birth control left me, in a word, devastated. Goodness. Even…Continue Reading

St. Paul-Mpls. archdiocese declares bankruptcy in response to abuse lawsuits

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday, saying it cannot meet its financial obligations from an unprecedented wave of clergy sex abuse lawsuits. The move freezes lawsuits against the church, protecting the archdiocese…Continue Reading

Pope Francis strongly defends church teaching against contraception

Pope Francis issued his strongest defense yet of church teaching opposing artificial contraception on Friday, using a rally in Asia’s largest Catholic nation to urge families to be “sanctuaries of respect for life.” Francis also denounced the corruption that has plagued…Continue Reading

Bella Dodd, who rejected Communism in favour of faith, is a lesson for young jihadis

Her story shows how easily the best human impulses can be twisted to evil Having blogged last week about John Beaumont’s book, The Mississippi Flows Into The Tiber, with all the extraordinary, uplifting and grace-filled stories of conversion that it…Continue Reading

Fox News’ Bret Baier, actor Gary Sinise cancel on Catholic group after gay gripes

FOX News Channel’s chief political anchor, Bret Baier, has shown himself to have a thinner skin than might be guessed from his on-air persona.  Baier has caved in to pressure from the homosexual activist group ‘Good as You’ to back…Continue Reading

Federal judge strikes down South Dakota’s gay marriage ban

SIOUX FALLS – A federal judge has declared South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but has stayed the decision pending appeal. U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier on Monday issued a summary judgment in favor of the six couples who filed…Continue Reading

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke on the Catholic “Man-crisis” and what to do about it

Recently, I had the great honor to have an audience with His Eminence Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke to discuss the state of Catholic men in the United States. Here is the full transcript: Matthew James Christoff of the New Emangelization Project:…Continue Reading

Catholic laypeople must have maturity to speak up about bad things happening at highest levels in Church

This morning (Dec. 28), I spoke during Mass in the parish church of St Theresa of the Child Jesus, in north west London, about the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in Rome last October. Interestingly, my talk was very well…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope Angelus: Jesus Wanted United Christians

(Vatican Radio) On Sunday and before the Angelus, the Pope recalled the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and its theme, “Give me a drink”, the sentence uttered by Jesus to the Samaritan woman. He told the faithful gathered that the “desire for unity” of the disciples of Jesus is part of our “thirst not only material for water, but…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Religious who pray for Christian unity an “invisible monastery”

(Vatican Radio) The vital role that men and women religious of different Christian Churches play in the ecumenical journey was at the heart of Pope Francis’s meeting on Saturday with participants in a conference on consecrated life and the search for Christian Unity. The three day meeting, which concludes on Sunday, comes in the context of both this Week of…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Thursday Mass in Santa Marta

pope713

(Vatican Radio) The most important thing is not the grace of a physical healing, but the fact that Jesus saves us and intercedes for us: this was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks following the readings of the day at Mass on Thursday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. Commenting on the Gospel of…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Blesses The Lambs On The Feast Of St. Agnes

lambs

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis marked the Feast of St. Agnes with a centuries-old rite: the blessing of the lambs, from whose wool the Pallium will be made. As per tradition, the small lambs, traditionally less than a year old, were carried to the Casa Santa Marta, where the Pope blessed them in the atrium, in baskets. Come summer these same…Continue Reading

“I Can’t Breathe”… The Plight Of The Preborn

By REY FLORES (Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted from www.all.org, the website of American Life League. All rights reserved.) + + + This past year has seen race relations decline as a result of a well-orchestrated attempt by a corrupt government that wants to divide us at all costs. And the propaganda peddlers known…Continue Reading

“Flee Immorality,” Church Unity, & Right To Life March

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his January 18 blog…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Christianity’s Gift To The World

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Siedentop, Larry. Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2014. Pp. viii + 434. Does it still make sense to still talk about the West in what some call a “post-Christian world”? Larry Siedentop, emeritus fellow of Keble College, Oxford, asks, “Can the West still be…Continue Reading

Author And Monk Thomas Merton Turns 100

By RAY CAVANAUGH The most famous Trappist monk of the 20th century was not originally a Catholic. Thomas Merton, born 100 years ago this January 31, was baptized first in the Church of England. Both of his parents were artists: His father was from New Zealand and his mother was from the U.S. Merton was…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Abortifacient Brief: Abortion Pill Reversals”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of this article with footnotes, contact him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + The scientific name of the abortion pill RU 486 is mifepristone, which is sold under the brand names Mifegyn,…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Mary’s Perpetual Virginity . . . The Faith Of The Early Christians

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 6 What did the Early Christians believe about the Catholic doctrine on the perpetual virginity of the Mother of Jesus? Those men, women, and children who sacrificed everything for the true faith — even their very own lives? They were imprisoned, tortured, murdered. Some were burned alive, racked, beheaded. Others were crucified, flayed alive,…Continue Reading

I Believe — We Believe

By DON FIER Over the past three weeks of this series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), we have been reflectively examining the characteristics of the indescribably wonderful gift of faith that Almighty God has so generously availed mankind. As so adeptly summarized in the Compendium of the CCC, we know that faith is “the supernatural virtue which…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I remember a nun telling us back in Catholic school that after God ejected Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He promised that He would eventually send them a Messiah. Where is that in the Bible? — M.R., Indiana. A. In chapter 3 of the Book of Genesis. Actually, the promise was made before God expelled our…Continue Reading

Joy And Fulfillment

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Fourth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Deut. 18:15-20 1 Cor. 7:32-35 Mark 1:21-28 In the first reading today God makes a promise and a command. He promises that He will raise up for the people a Prophet like Moses. At the same time, He requires that the people will listen to that Prophet because…Continue Reading

Cardinal Ranjith’s Address To Pope . . . We Need Your Prayers, As Well As Your Guidance

(Editor’s Note: Here is the text of a speech given the morning of January 14 by Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, in gratitude to the Holy Father. He addressed these words at the end of the Mass of Canonization of St. Joseph Vaz that Pope Francis celebrated. He was interrupted by applause several times. See page 1 of this…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Of Egypt, Abbot

By CAROLE BRESLIN While we can understand that God is infinite, it is difficult to comprehend the stretch of such infinity. Certainly our finite minds cannot begin to comprehend it. Hence, since our minds our finite, the more we have cluttering our minds with worldly affairs such as possessions, relationships, and activities, the less time and room we have in…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Stephen, Protomartyr

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the popular Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, a different gift is given for each of the twelve days of Christmas. This celebration of twelve days begins with December 26, the Feast of St. Stephen, and ends with the Epiphany, traditionally celebrated on January 6. The Catholic Church celebrates the Christmas octave, eight days of…Continue Reading