Friday, June 26, 2009

St Josemaria

Today is the feast day of St Josemaria. We had a great solemn Mass in Brisbane for his feastday last night.

A recommendation to those of you who have long working hours like myself, should remember that "this is your sanctification". Im sure that that this is something that St Josemaria would have said in reply to a disciple saying "my boss is so demanding and I need to put in absurd hours".

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Corpus Christi - from Toledo, Spain

When I was in Toledo, the primatial see within Spain, a couple of years ago I visited the Cathedral, which is one of the larger in Europe. Here is the sanctuary, with its large rood screen. Note also the two pulpits, characteristic of Spanish churches: one for the Epistle and one of the Gospel. I assume that the Epistle and Gospel were read facing outwards. I would not say towards the congregation because where the congregation would have stood and knelt would have been outside the choir. The rest of the choir is actually behind those people you see sitting in the foreground. It is a closed off area protected by a similar iron screen. This is where the archbishops throne and the stalls for the Cathedral canons are located. The Archbishops throne directly faces the Sanctuary in line with the High Altar.

Here is the High Altar with its reredos, over 10 metres high. Similar to other Cathedrals in Spain, the Altar has been moved away from the reredos, and an archbishops throne placed in the middle facing where someone thought that the people should be. This results in the ridiculous situation where there are two thrones in the Choir facing each other. Hopefully this can be corrected someday.

The Monstrance that we saw in the Cathedral Sacristry, was over 3 metres high and is either lifted by a team of 8 to 10 men or wheeled around on a trolley.
Anyway I was please to discover a couple of You-tubes of last week's procession, which brings the feel of the bulilding all to life. With the applause (which has a different meaning to the English speaking world), the rose petals from the roof, the bells, and the general exuburance - how different to our boring minimalist approach in Australia where Corpus Christi is basically ignored, at least in my part of the country.

Here the monstrance is borne into the Cathedral. It looks as if they came through the South transept door, whihc is actually the main entrance off the street.
And the monstrance being carried into the sanctuary.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Ordines Romani

Often we hear arguments about what was the authentic form of the Mass taken from hsistory and tradition. Is it the Extraordinary Form (the Roman Rite according to the books used at the Second Vatican Council) as celebrated in some areas, or the Ordinary Form developed following the Council (sometimes called the Novus Ordo?).

Like everything its about going back to the sources. Most "liturgists" hang onto St Justin Martyr's account of Mass being celebrated in the second century AD. However, we know that the Mass in both the Eastern and Western parts of the Roman Empire went through a considerable state of flux subsequent to this. Justins account is very brief so it does not give very much of a flavour of what went on.

This is why a series of documents called the Ordines Romani become important because they not only outline what was said in liturgies but also what people did in the liturgy. The Ordines Romani were a series of documents with the first ordo (Ordo I) believed to have been written before the end of the seventh century AD, and final set written by the 15th century. We will focus on Ordo I with some reference to a 9th century AD ordo - Ordo III. The purpose of these ordo's seem to be as a guide to what was done in at a Solemn Pontifical Mass in Rome for people who wanted to learn liturgy but could not travel there.

What I intend to do in the next few weeks (God willing) is briefly go through the various elements of the Ordo Romanus, because I do not think that a comparison with both of the modern forms (1962 and 1970 missals) have been done. What it shows clearly, is that the Ordo of the original Roman Rite contains elements of both and truly is the father of both. Conversely neither can lay claim to be doing "what the early Christians did", which often is an obsession of liturgists these days.

The other thing with the Ordo is that it shows up the reason for some obscure practices in our modern liturgies, so this little study should inform the tradition. Some pics from visits of actual churches and basilicas where these ceremonies were enacted give a bit of the flavour.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Who were the Deaconesses?

With the discussion last week as to deaconesses and the question of legitimacy, I though that I would take the opportunity to explore deaconesses in the early church.

My source is the Catholic Encyclopedia, although I have taken out some of the bias that the 1907 writers put into the discussion.

It was an ordained ministry.

From the 4th century Apostolic Constitutions (a document whihc is Roman but seeme to have some eastern elements in it:

Concerning a deaconess, I, Bartholomew enjoin O Bishop, thou shalt lay thy hands upon her with all the Presbytery and the Deacons and the Deaconesses and thou shalt say: Eternal God, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the creator of man and woman, that didst fill with the Spirit Mary and Deborah, and Anna and Huldah, that didst not disdain that thine only begotten Son should be born of a woman; Thou that in the tabernacle of witness and in the temple didst appoint women guardians of thy holy gates: Do thou now look on this thy handmaid, who is appointed unto the office of a Deaconess and grant unto her the Holy Spirit, and cleanse her from all pollution of the flesh and of the spirit, that she may worthily accomplish the work committed unto her, to thy glory and the praise of thy Christ.

The Catholic Encyclopedia discusses the fact that bishops in the early church did argue themselves as to whether this was an ordained ministry or not, and refers to some obscure councils the opinion that it was not an ordained ministry. The EC's arguments are not all that strong.

What did they do?

The primary purpose of the Deaconesses was in the era of segregation of worship, with a separate mens and womens section in the church. Therefore their roles were:
  • the instruction and baptism of catechumens
  • guarding the doors and maintaining order amongst those of their own sex in the church,
  • acting as intermediaries between the clergy and the women of the congregation.

They may have also functioned as Ministers of Holy Communion to the womens section of the church but I have not found any evidence for this.

However, the Apostolic Constitutions make it clear that "the deaconess gives no blessing, she fulfills no function of priest or deacon", So in Rome at least, their role was very different from the Deacon. For instance they did not minister at the Altar assisting the priest like a Deacon nor did they read the Gospel, sing the Ite Missa Est, or preach a homily.

However, we do hear that in the churches of Syria and Asia, of them presiding over assemblies of women, reading the Epistle and Gospel, distributing the Blessed Eucharist to nuns, lighting the candles, burning incense in the thuribles, adorning the sanctuary, and anointing the sick. This seemed to be regarded as an abuse which ecclesiastical legislation soon repressed.

If they did not function as a deacon did they have any role in the Liturgy?

Its difficult to determine where they had a place in the liturgy. A document called "Testament of Our Lord" (c. 400), widows had a place in the sanctuary during the celebration of the liturgy, they stood at the anaphora behind the presbyters, they communicated after the deacons, and before the readers and subdeacons, and they had a charge of, or superintendence over the deaconesses.

It is recorded that in the time of Justinian (d. 565) at the Basilica of St. Sophia in Constantinople the staff consisted of sixty priests, one hundred deacons, forty deaconesses, and ninety subdeacons. However, I cannot see any reference to them in any of the Roman legislation from the same period. One exception is the the ninth Ordo Romanus mentions, feminae diaconissae et presbyterissae quae eodem die benedicantur. Diaconissae are also mentioned in the procession of Leo III in the ninth century

When did they die out?

The ministry seemed to have died out when just about everyone was Christian and adult baptism had practically died out. Balsamon, Patriarch of Antioch about A.D. 1070 states that deaconesses in any proper sense had ceased to exist in the Church though the title was borne by certain nuns while Matthew Blastares (c 14th cent) said that by the the tenth century that the civil legislation (presumably that of the eastern Roman Empire) concerning deaconesses, which ranked them rather among the clergy than the laity had then been abandoned or forgotten.

The only surviving relic of the ordination of deaconesses in the West (and this may have disappeared after Vatican II) was the conferring of a stole and maniple to Carthusian nuns in the ceremony of their profession.

Could they be revived?

The short answer is probably not as the need for the role has disappeared (men and women worship together and there is no modesty issues around baptism) and laity (whether men or women) can provide leadership in these areas. It needs to be kept in mind that the role was never an Altar ministry.

All this been said, it gives an interesting overview to the fact that the Church saw it as an ordained ministry, and that ordination to specific non priestly roles could be opened to everyone.