Dom Gréa’s “The Church and Her Divine Constitution” (1)

Dom Adrien Gréa (1828-1917) stands alongside Lacordaire and Guéranger as one of the great re-founders of Catholic religious life in post-Revolution France. His life’s mission was to restore regular canonical life, or the common life of priests living under a rule. Toward that end, he founded the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception.

Several sections of his master-work on ecclesiology (The Church and Her Divine Constitution) are dedicated to justifying the existence of communities of canons within the diocesan structure, a point that, from the vigor with which he argues it, seems to have been ill-received by his contemporaries.

We will post several short excerpts from the work in which Dom Gréa makes a forceful argument that canonical life is the ideal state of life for the clergy, as seen in the Fathers and in the history of the Middle Ages.





Dom Adrien Gréa

(excerpt from the Preface)

The book of Dom Gréa concerning the Church and her divine constitution is one of those books that transcends their time and are susceptible to being much better understood at the remove of several generations. Their handicap is that they can never avoid showing visible traces of the moment when they were written. It is thus that the reader of Dom Gréa today must pass over the sometimes too facile and incantational rhetoric masking statements not always very precise. But these weaknesses, which have been ameliorated by the notes of the present edition, should not disguise the profound merits of the synthesis proposed by this exceptional book.

One might say that it was addressed to that moment in time, after years of meditation on the doctrine of the mystical body that were consecrated by the encyclical Mystici Corporis and that the schema De Ecclesia of the Council bears to their maturity. The whole idea of the organic and quasi-personal character of the Church, which was developed through two or three generations, finds here, in a theory of the Church marked by its magnificent fullness, its most perfect fulfillment. But at the same time, perhaps the most striking peculiarity of Dom Gréa is that he in no way presents these aspects in opposition with the institutional, or more precisely, hierarchical aspects. Quite to the contrary, it is the idea of hierarchy, of holy order, that governs his synthesis. His merit is to give it such a profound and living conception that it even appears that the hierarchy, properly understood, far from oppressing the living elements of the Church, is that which gives them, along with their exterior coherence, their interior and supernatural continuity.

A second noteworthy trait of his construction is the liturgical conception that he tends to give of the Church. That She is first of all a society of worship, founded on the truth of Christ which She extends to the universe in such a way as to bring it share in the grand act of religion of the Mediator. That is what Dom Gréa helps us to recapture. Too many fallacious extensions of the concept of Church, and especially of the mystical body, have led us to a certain vagueness on this point that the ample and luminous treatments of this book should help to dissipate.


Le livre de Dom GRÉA sur L’Église et sa divine constitution est de ces livres qui échappent à leur époque et qui sont susceptibles d’être bien mieux compris à quelques générations de distance. Leur handicap est toujours qu’ils portent malgré tout des traces visibles du moment où ils furent écrits. C’est ainsi que le lecteur de Dom GRÉA, aujourd’hui, doit passer par dessus l’éloquence parfois un peu trop facilement incantatoire où s’enveloppaient des références pas toujours assez précises. Mais ces faiblesses qu’on a palliées par les notes de la présente édition, ne doivent pas dissimuler les mérites profonds de la synthèse proposée par ce livre exceptionnel.

On peut dire qu’il reparaît à son heure, après des années de méditation sur la doctrine du corps mystique, consacrée déjà par l’encyclique Mystici Corporis, et que le schéma De Ecclesia du concile porte à leur maturité. Tout ce sens du caractère organique et quasi personnel de l’Église, qui s’est développé depuis deux ou trois générations, y trouve, dans une théorie de l’Église d’une magnifique plénitude, le plus parfait exaucement. Mais en même temps, la particularité peut-être la plus frappante de Dom GRÉA est qu’il ne développe nullement ces aspects en opposition avec les aspects institutionnels, et plus précisément hiérarchiques. Bien au contraire, c’est l’idée de hiérarchie, d’ordre sacré qui domine sa synthèse. Son mérite est d’en donner une notion si pro- fonde et vivante qu’il apparaît aussitôt que la hiérarchie, bien comprise, loin de rien comprimer des éléments vivants de l’Église est ce qui leur donne, avec leur cohérence extérieure, leur continuité intime et surnaturelle. Comment la hiérarchie est ce qui permet à l’Église, Corps du Christ, d’être une permanente épi- phanie du Christ, on ne peut mieux le saisir qu’en suivant Dom GRÉA.

Un second trait marquant de sa construction est la notion en quelque sorte liturgique qu’elle tend à donner de l’Église. Qu’elle soit avant tout société de culte, fondée sur la vérité du Christ qu’elle répand dans l’univers de manière à amener celui-ci à s’associer au grand acte de religion du Médiateur, voilà encore ce que Dom GRÉA nous aidera à ressaisir. Trop de fallacieuses extensions de la notion d’Église, et surtout de corps mystique, nous ont amenés à un certain vague sur ce point que les amples et lumineux exposés de ce livre devraient contribuer à dissiper.


Wine-Tasting Party during the Gradual in the Rite of Lyon

The experimentum vini

Pontifical Mass in the Lyonese use features an interesting ceremony that takes place between the epistle and gospel: while the Gradual and Alleluia are sung, the chalice is prepared in a separate chapel by a group of clerics. In the 17th century, the gustatio of the wine during this ritual caused some scandal, as Archdale King recounts in his description of the Lyonese rite:

An interesting ceremony connected with the offertory takes place between the epistle and gospel—the ‘administration’ and testing of the wine (experimentum vini). Neither the 12th-century statues of Archbishop Guichard (1164-81) nor the 13th-century ordinary (St. John) make any reference to the rite, but it is mentioned in the 14th century ordinary (Barbet of St. Just). It was not, however, peculiar to Lyons, and a somewhat similar ceremony was performed at a side altar in the cathedral churches of Amiens, Soissons, Chalon-sur-Saône, and Tours before the Revolution. This rite was formerly conducted in the church of the Holy Cross, and today in the chapel of the Holy Cross, which was known at one time by the name of Notre Dame du Haut Don.

The participants in the ceremony include the acolytes, subdeacons, deacons, a priest in a cope, the first ‘perpetual’ [chaplain], another in a mozetta, and the sacristan (manilier). It was formerly the custom for five acolytes to take part, while the other two stayed behind in order to hold the ‘tablets’ before the canons who were singing the gradual, but, as the chant is now conducted by petits clercs, it is possible for all seven to assist at the ‘administration’.

The senior subdeacon carries the empty chalice with the paten and host, covered with a veil (pavillon); the senior deacon, the cruet of wine raised in his right hand; while the priest in mozetta brings the burse and corporal. On arrival in the chapel, the acolytes and ministers form two lines, with the senior acolyte in the middle near the entrance. The priest in a cope goes up to the altar, where he unfolds the corporal, places the vessels on it, and, extending his hands over the host, says: Dixit Jesus discipulis suis, etc. The deacon then presents the wine, which the manilier tastes, an bonum et conveniens sit.


The wine was formerly provided by the collegiate churches of the city, which seem to have been generous in their gift, and in the 17th century we find not only the manilier, but also the clerks and clergeons tasting the wine. With such an arrangement, abuses were inevitable, and writers of the time accused the authorities of organizing a miniature ‘drinking party’: Ils ont une espèce de beuvette derrière l’autel de Notre Dame de Haut Don. The scandal was brought to an end by the chapter in 1621, when it was decided that the surplus of the offering should be given to the sick.

A small handbook, describing the ceremonies of the pontifical Mass at Lyons, gives a reason for the ‘tasting’ other than the traditional fear of poison. It says that it is useful for the purpose of making certain that water has not been put into the cruet instead of wine, as the mistake ‘would singularly complicate the ceremony, when at the Communion of the pontiff he should perceive his error’!

[Footnote: Cf. the suspicious incident at the Cistercian abbey of Trois-Fontaines, recalled in one of the letters of St. Bernard. Guy, the abbot, discovered at his Communion that there was no wine in the chalice, whereupon he added the wine and ‘sanctified’ it by placing a particle of the Host in the chalice. There is no mention of water, although it seems probable that this had been added at the offertory.]



Gemma Animae (7): Ingressus episcopi quid significet

Ch. 7

What the Bishop’s Entrance Represents.


As he comes in, the bishop bestows peace upon the clergy, for Christ, when he came into the world, brought peace to the human race, which it had lost in its first parent. Then he enters the sanctuary, and, inclined towards the altar, prays and makes his confession. He begs for pardon, for Christ entered Jerusalem in order to suffer, and inclined himself towards death in order to wash us clean. In the Last Supper, he prayed to the Father for the Church, and then gave perfect pardon to Peter, penitent and admitting his guilt, or to the thief, and then to the entire people. Then he kisses  the two priests, for by Christ the cornerstone two walls are joined together in one faith. Then he bestows peace upon the other ministers to his right, for Christ preached peace for those far and those nigh, and coming from the East and the West he joined them in a bond of peace.

He kisses the altar and Gospel-book, for men are joined to angels in peace through the passion of Christ. The altar represents the Jews, whereas the Gospel represents the Gentiles. After this, receiving the thurible, he incenses the altar: a figure of the angel who in the Apocalypse stood by the altar with a golden thurible, whence the smoke of spices rose in the sight of God. For Christ, the Angel of great counsel, offered himself up for us on the altar of the Cross. From him God the Father received a sweet odour, and appeared merciful to the world. The smoke of spices is the prayers of the saints who, through the ardour of charity, or like the kindled coals of the enlightenment of the Holy Ghost, rise towards God over the altar that is Christ.

Then he kisses the altar, for Christ was immolated for our peace on the altar of the Cross. Then the Gloria in excelsis begins, and the choir sings together, for in his death Christ restored the glory of the angels to men, in which death the joyous crowd of saints resounds praises. Then, turning to the people, he says Pax vobis, for Christ, in rising up from the dead, restored peace to the Church and said Pax vobis to his own. Then he says the collect on the right side, for Christ has already crossed from death to life, and conveyed us from exile back to the fatherland. The collect [oratio], however, signifies the blessing he gave to his own as he ascended into heaven.

After doing these things, the bishop proceeds to sit; and Christ, after duly doing all things, ascended into heaven, and rests sitting at the right hand of the Father. Some sit with the bishop, and others attend to him, for some of the elect now rest with Christ, while many others still serve him here working for him.

Ingressus episcopi quid significet.

Episcopus ingrediens pacem clero porrigit; quia Christus mundum ingrediens pacem humano generi attulit, quam in primo parente amisit. Deinde sanctuarium intrat, inclinans coram altari orat, confessionem faciens. Indulgentiam implorat, quia Christus Hierusalem passurus intravit, pro nobis lavandis se in mortem inclinavit; in coena Patrem pro Ecclesia oravit, poenitenti et confitenti Petro, vel latroni, deinde omni populo perfectam donavit. Post hoc duos sacerdotes osculatur, quia per Christum lapidem angularem duo parietes in una fide copulantur. Deinde caeteris ministris a dextra pacem dabit, quia Christus pacem his qui longe, et his qui prope praedicavit, et ab Oriente et Occidente veniens in vinculo pacis sociavit. Altare et Evangelium osculatur, quia passione Christi homines angelis in pace sociantur. Per altare namque Iudaei, per Evangelium gentes denotantur. Post haec thuribulum accipiens, altare thurificat in figura angeli qui in Apocalypsi cum aureo thuribulo altari astiterat, de quo fumus aromatum in conspectu Domini ascendebat. Quia Christus magni consilii angelus in ara crucis se pro nobis obtulit, cuius corpus thuribulum Ecclesiae fuit. Ex quo Deus Pater suavitatem odoris accepit, et propitius mundo exstitit. Fumus aromatum, orationes sanctorum sunt, quae super aram Christum, per charitatis ardorem, vel illuminationis Spiritus sancti carbones incensi ad Deum ascendunt. Deinde altare osculatur; quia Christus pro nostra pace in ara crucis immolabatur. Deinde Gloria in excelsis incipit, et chorus concinit; quia Christus per mortem suam gloriam angelorum hominibus restituit, in qua sanctorum populus laetabundus laudes perstrepit. Deinde ad populum se convertens, Pax vobis dicit, quia Christus a mortuis resurgens, pacem Ecclesiae reddidit, suisque Pax vobis dixit. Deinde in dextera parte orationem dicit; quia Christus iam de morte ad vitam transiit, nosque de exsilio in patriam transtulit. Oratio autem illam benedictionem significat, qua coelos ascensurus suos benedicebat. His peractis, episcopus sedere pergit; et Christus, omnibus rite peractis, coelos ascendit, et in dextra Patris sedens quiescit. Quidam cum episcopo sedent, quidam ei assistunt. Quia quidam electi nunc cum Christo requiescunt, plurimi adhuc in labore ei hic serviunt.

Dom Karl Wallner: The Profanation of the Sacred and the Sacralisation of the Profane


The author of this essay is Dom Karl Wallner, O. Cis., Rector of the Pontifical University of Heiligenkreuz (AU) and national director of Missio for Austria. The following passages are extracts from his address at the session of the International Academy held 31st August 2016 at Aigen and translated into English by Canticum Salomonis.

(See the German original and French translation.)

The last few decades have brought a stark alteration of Catholic cult, liturgy, art, and architecture that many perceive as a break and a rupture, or even as an outright destruction of the former dignity and sacrality. In the long theological debates of the 1970s, “desacralisation” was treated as an imperative for the modernisation of the Church.

Along with desacralisation inside the Church there was another phenomenon, which I was able to experience personally in my encounters with the profane world of show business: a form of sacralisation of the profane, a ritualisation of the banal, the promotion of non-religious objects to the level of cult objects. From the backstage of the show to which I had been invited, I could observe how the show was designed down the last detail as a sort of dramaturgy, so that the viewer in front of the television participated in a kind of “Pontifical Mass of Entertainment.”

Several years ago, after celebrating a vigil service with a youth group, I had an experience that struck me profoundly and became the key to understanding.

For the past 20 years at Heiligenkreuz, we have organised prayer retreats for young people between the ages of 15 and 28. Since the majority of young people that age suffer a severe lack of enculturation in everything related to Catholicism, and must still learn how to pray and adore, these vigils represent a real challenge. That is why we could not even imagine celebrating a Mass with them: we must first render these young capable of receiving the Eucharistic mystery. First and foremost they need to have a personal relation to Jesus Christ. In that regard, the Catholic liturgy offers a range of possibilities, a whole sacred repertoire that is able to create an ambiance that permits the young people to open their hearts so that they may be touched by the presence of God.

Concretely, this is what happens at our monastery: the light is turned down in the nave of the church; we do lots of singing, especially hymns of praise; the entrance procession begins from the medieval shadow of the cloister, to the light of candles, reciting a decade of the rosary; the Holy Sacrament in the monstrance is brightly illuminated so as to constitute a central point, majestic and brilliant, drawing the gaze of about 300 youth praying and adoring on their knees. The bells ring at full force as the priest blesses the crowd. The celebrant wears a solemn veil. The acolytes arrange themselves in perfect order. In a word, we use all the resources the Catholic liturgy offers us from the point of view of dramaturgy.

And of course, we use lots of incense…

Sight, hearing, the chant, the smell of incense, the gestures and postures…etc. become concrete instruments that encourage the soul to open up. We notice that the incense does more than please the sense of smell. It also gives visibility to space: as it rises it produces a sensation of height, elevation, well-being, and solemnity.

It is in this context that I had the experience I mentioned. At the end of the Vigil, one of the youth who completely unformed came to see me. He was profoundly moved, radiant and excited. He told me: “Father Karl, your vigils are super cool, so modern! You even use the fog machines like they do in the disco!”

I think that today we are witnessing the beginnings of a return to a previous situation, and this is most evident in the youth: from a desacralisation of the Catholic world toward a certain re-sacralisation, in the sense of a renewed understanding of terms like “cult” or “celebration” among the younger generations. Among young people, there is no greater praise for an event, concert, or music group as when it can be said to have reached “cult status.” [French: In the same way, a particularly successful concert is called a “great-mass” (grand-messe).] The same holds true for the word “celebration.” Often decried before and still always avoided in ecclesiastical circles, this term has been rediscovered in a quasi-euphoric way in the profane world. It’s because we love moments of solemnity. The business world thrives on flashy “celebrations” full of glamour.

When one loves the liturgy of the Church and considers it the very substance of his life, like here at Heiligenkreuz where I have had the honor to hold the duty of MC for 21 years, one is often astonished to realize that “the sons of the world are often more wise than the sons of light.” The dignity, majesty, solemnity, the sense of ritual, all those things that were normal in the Church during past centuries, but have been gravely neglected since the 1960s in a movement of secularisation that was complete unprecedented, have now been “discovered” in the profane world, and integrated into this context as a great novelty.

I’ve already mentioned those big televised shows in which I participated, sometimes willingly and sometimes by compulsion, and that I experienced them as pseudo-liturgical productions. These “entertainment liturgies” have as their goal to create feelings of tension, emotion, well-being and amusement: i.e. an earthly happiness composed of dramatised emotions. And they spare no expense! The majesty of the place, reinforced by the movement of the camera, the presence of a “great pontiff” well known by all, the promise of substantial profit and media recognition… The presenter-star is given a form of veneration that we once reserved for the priest at the altar, for in the priest we honored the great majesty of Christ. In the sacralised profane, this veneration has devolved into a drab personality cult and the worship of “stars” [Starrummel; starisation].

The sacred is an experience of a separation, a contrast. It involves a subjective notion, a sentiment, a fundamental constant of human psychology.  Who has not felt a surge of respect and emotion during a grand and solemn moment of music, in a place where the architecture has the qualities of height and symmetry? Who has not felt awe and emotion when participating in an unaccustomed scripted ritual, a feeling of unity and cooperation in the midst of a large crowd? The feeling gives you goosebumps!

Lars Olaf Nathan Soderblom, a Swedish historian of religion, defined the sacred in 1913 as “the notion determining all religion; it is more important even than the notion of divinity.”

The experience of the sacred is more fundamental than the notion of the divine. This means that religiosity is based in the first place on letting oneself be touched by the existence of something that transcends the every-day,  through a sort of purity and majesty, something that compels respect, something unexpected. It is only based on this experience that a man seeks the origin of this sentiment in God.

Historically speaking,  the first acts of man of a religious connotation were not addressed to a personal god. They were rather the reflection of a sentiment; a feeling of being affected, touched, by a kind of majesty, by something other, by what is beyond the frontiers, by a “sacrum.” This fundamental constant of religious sentiment had to await Christianity to be purified and magnified. Indeed, amidst this fascination, suddenly a personal God is revealed, a person who, in Jesus Christ, would even have a concrete, historical existence among men, and who through the Holy Spirit would inhabit the hearts of men.

We repeat: the necessity of being affected by what one feels is “sacred,” even to the point that it makes our hair stand on end, is fundamental for man: for man is predestined for the sacred.

This is confirmed in a negative way: since the 1980s we have witnessed a dramatic decline in the Christian faith, and more generally of the ability to establish a relationship with a personal God. A study dating from 2015 (“Shell-Jugendstudie”: a study of 2500 youths in Germany between 12 and 25, from all backgrounds)—conducted not by theologians using hued glasses, but by serious sociologists—characterises young German Christians as “baptised pagans.” This study, which shows a very realistic picture of the situation, is not encouraging: only 35% of Christians interviewed said they believed in a personal God; only 39% thought that faith in God has an influence on their life choices.

Even if, according to the terms of the study, there has been found an “almost complete rupture with the Christian faith,” this does not signal the rise of atheism pure and simple. What has changed is the object of the faith, which is no longer God, but all sorts of other things: vacations, liberty, autonomy, the traditions of feasts around Christmas, the horoscope, a car, a football club, etc. People have not stopped to act in religious ways, but they no longer believe in Jesus Christ, and have no idea what a sacrament of the Church is. In place of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, such as might appear in Eucharistic Adoration or meditation on the history of salvation through the mysteries of the rosary, one now finds other exercises of religious piety taken from eastern meditative techniques, occult practices, and post-modern ideas. This practices are already widespread in the present culture and enjoy a very popular image.

Here I would like to call upon an example of profane canonisation in the person of Lady Diana. After the death of the Princess of Wales in Paris on the 31st of August, at age 36, her passing triggered a phenomenon the world over that might be called “euphoric grief.” The fact that the personality involved was very famous, very engaged in helping marginalised and socially excluded groups, led to a wave of compassion and solidarity to a degree that had never been witnessed before. The extent of mourning evoked had the effect of “raising Diana to the skies.” At that moment who would have dared to mention, even in a whisper, that the princess might have been responsible for the failure of her marriage? Diana became a myth, an idol of goodness and pure human compassion. This “canonisation” reached its acme a few days later when we learned about the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, this time a true saint of the Church. The crowds received this event as a confirmation and consolation. They recalled the suggestive photos showing the two side by side: two saints in full agreement. As if the radiance of Lady Diana’s face transfigured the wrinkled countenance of Mother Teresa. As if the Christian faith of Mother Teresa transfigured the black marks in the life of the unfortunate princess. As for Lady Diana, we might further remark that the palace where her tomb is located has become almost a place of pilgrimage, where one can find many features similar to places of Christian pilgrimage, though especially the less appealing ones.

It seems that any profane action is susceptible to being sacralised, and history abounds with examples of such abusive cults rendered to persons. Consider the dictators or those responsible for genocide. One certainly thinks of the adulation that was offered to Hitler, or the long files standing at attention before the mausoleum of Lenin, or more recently, to the grotesque behavior of the masses toward the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Thus we must be very prudent. If we do not cultivate the sacred and the dignified in our churches, if we forget the “tremendum” and “fascinosum,” then we can expect that human psychology will go looking elsewhere to fill the need to tremble before something majestic. If we degrade our liturgical ceremonies to the level of simple mundane ceremonies, if we banalise them, we should not be surprised to see people going elsewhere to satisfy their innate desire for sacred places, sacred symbols, sacred texts, and persons to venerate.

I’d like to share a personal memory. Some weeks ago, I happened to find myself by chance in possession of a ticket for the inauguration of the new stadium of Vienna-Hütteldorf, the Rapid-Stadion. During my whole life I have never attended a football game. I was alone, and I was seized by an anxiety about how I should enjoy the event. I was tempted not to go at all. But I intentionally made myself have these feelings, comparing myself to someone confronted by the idea of entering a church for the first time to see a Mass. I wanted to feel the genuine fear that people often feel before doing something they are not used to, of encountering customs and attitudes they’ve never experienced, and the fear of being noticed.

For me watching the match was also a sort of expiation. My father, now deceased, was a passionate fan of the Rapid team, and in some way I owed it to him to go there in his memory.

It was incredible. What I experienced there was a fascinating profane liturgy. The match was a friendly encounter against Chelsea, but the match itself it was nothing but a pretext. A genuine liturgy took place, with chants, ritual applause, coordinated movements of the crowd, and waving the club’s green emblem. But what left the strongest impression on me was an action that might have been inspired by the liturgical epiclesis. In the middle of the 75th minute, they began to call on the “15-minute Rapid.” Thanks to Wikipedia I knew that this tradition had existed since 1910. What was it? Everyone stood up, held their hands in front of them palms down, like the priest when he calls down the Holy Spirit on the bread and wine at the moment of consecration. At that moment a humming, a rhythmic droning  arose in the seats where the 28,000 spectators were packed. It got louder until the hands began a trembling motion. I thought right then: “Come, holy spirit of football!” After the tension was brusquely relieved, loud cheering swept through the stadium.

During the match the idea came to me, that it is a shame the Church of Austria doesn’t organise at least once a year a great public festival in a profane place. A sort of testimony to the presence of Christians outside the churches and sacristies. The Evangelical churches and the Jehovah’s Witnesses do this type of thing regularly. Closer to home, the origin of the Corpus Christi processions is the desire to manifest our veneration for the Holy Sacrament by carrying it through the city streets, across fields, and into all the places of our daily life.

Though I have no pretensions in this address of offering an exhaustive argument, I think I can affirm that there exists a correlation between “a profanation of the sacred” and “a sacralisation of the profane.” Opened to transcendence, man needs a “tremendum” and “fascinosum.” If religion no longer gives him thrills, he will begin to sacralise his profane environment, to idolise anything and everything.

Some strong words of the Cure d’Ars come to mind: “Leave a parish without a priest for twenty years, and they will start worshipping the animals.” And I’ll venture to follow up: “Deprive man of respect for sacred things, such as the liturgy is meant to express, strip down the sacred service offered to the unfathomable divinity till it is a simple worship rendered to man, and you shall see the faithful flee their priests and turn to the druids and shamans, and worship the stars and animals as their deities.”

But aren’t we something responsible for what is happening?

Profanation begins when we ourselves no longer respect holy things. Everyone knows that you take your shoes off when entering a mosque and that silence must be respected there, or even that you must wear a kippa in a synagogue. But a Catholic church is no longer respected more than some museum! It all begins when we no longer think it necessary to genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament, which is not an abstract notion as in other religions, but a very concrete sacramental reality. When we prattle on in church like so many pagans. One has the experienced visiting the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna and then the city’s history museum: there, you find the sacred profaned, here the profane sacralised.  

Someone will probably say to me, “Yes, grave errors have been committed in our Church. The spirit of the times has pushed us toward a certain desacralisation and so favored the birth of new pagan religious movements.” But once more I repeat a truism I have already cited: when the faith we have received from God is shown the door, superstition enters through the window.

I fear that the demythologised theology, the desacralised art and liturgy we have endured for some decades, are often self-defeating, as it were. If we are no longer capable, by means of sacred art and liturgy, of transmitting the reality of the advent of God into the life of man, then he will make a substitute for himself. If we no longer transmit to man that sacred gift that permits him to encounter God who in Jesus Christ has been made so close and so majestic, then man will find something else to satisfy him. And it seems that nothing profane is able to escape from his desire for sacrality: ideologies and nations, Führers and stars, T.V. shows and rituals … everything that happens seems charged with sacrality.

And now? What shall happen? Something different, in any case! There is no future in the Church for desacralised rites: they are already passé.

The young generation of seminarians surprises us by their taste for solemnity. They appreciate the idea of “celebration,” they are fascinated by the aesthetics of ritual. They want to know the liturgical norms precisely and follow them. And this is definitely not a step backward, toward pre-conciliar ritualism, as some have prophesied, thus showing that they do not know how to recognise the signs of the times.

The faithful young, born long after the end of the pre-conciliar era—doubtlessly guided by the Holy Spirit—is set to vindicate every liberty for sacrality, which has proven to be constitutive of the very essence of Christianity.

These youth are exempt from every ideology, opposite to those who lived through ’68. They set great value in sacrality because they have instinctively realised that it is thanks to it that they have the concrete ability to approach the Holy God-made-man: thanks to a majestic liturgy, to sacred music, to hymns of praise, to trustworthy rites, an architecture open to heaven and an art that speaks a language of transcendence.

—Deo gratias!—


*Marginalia Aelredi*

(in sup. sinistra, eleganti stylo)

Frater nostri ordinis, vir probatus, dicendi peritus.


Hoc “show-biz” ex “turris Babylonis” derivatum?

Canones ludis publicis monachos omnimodo prohibere; reverendus frater monendus.

Testes Jehovae = apud Paulum ἰουδαϊζόντες? Pertinaces!

Vivitur ut filii Israel inter paganos. Templa paganorum cur non destructa?

Trope of the Week: Clemens Rector

Clemens Rector, aeterne Pater, immense, eleison.
Nostras necne voces exaudi, benedicte Domine.
Aether stellifer noster, nostri benigne eleison.
Merciful ruler, eternal Father, immense one, have mercy.
And hearken to our voices, blessed Lord.
Our star-bearing heaven, in Thy compassion have mercy on us.
Plebem tuam, Sabaoth Hagie, semper rege, eleison.
Trine et une, sedulas nostras preces, Rex, suscipe.
Fidem auge his, qui credunt in te, tu succurre, eleison.
Rule Thy people alway, holy Lord of hosts, have mercy.
Treble and one, heed our diligent prayers, O King.
Increase the faith of those who believe in Thee, succour them, have mercy.
Respice nobis, o Inclyte, fer opem de excelsis et nostras, Redemptor orbis terrae, voces iugi Angelorum carmini adiunge, eleison.
Cunctipotens, sophiae tuae lumen nobis infunde.
Tripertite et une Kyrie, qui manes in aeternum cum Patre, te ore, te corde atque mente, psallimus nunc tibi, o beate Iesu bone, te precamur omnes assidue, eleison.
Behold us, O Glorious one, bring aid from on high and join our voices, O Redeemer of the world, with the ceaseless song of the angels, have mercy.
All-powerful one, pour into us the light of thy wisdom.
Tripartite and one, O Lord, who remaineth with the Father for aye, we now sing to Thee with our lips, heart, and mind, O blessed good Jesus, we all continually beseech Thee, have mercy.

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 17.48.43Clemens rector, listed as Kyrie ad lib. 1 in the Vatican Edition, was one of the oldest and most popular Kyrie melodies in the Middle Ages. It first appears in West Frankish manuscripts from the 10th century, and by the 13th century it had spread throughout Europe. Although there are sundry farced versions of most Kyrie melodies, Clemens rector is remarkable in being the only trope that was ever attached to this one, and indeed, it proved as enduringly popular as the melody. The oldest manuscripts prescribe that the Clemens rector trope be sung on the feast of St Stephen, but it soon began to be reserved for the greatest feasts of the liturgical year, being sung variously on Christmas, Childermas, Eastertide, Ascension, Pentecost, All Saints, St Peter, St Benedict, and feasts of Our Lady. In the mid-12th century, Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, ordained that the Clemens rector trope was to be sung on the five principal feasts in his monastery, adding that this was already an established tradition in other monasteries of the Cluniac congregation, such as Moissac:

Statutum est, ut illud Kyrie eleyson, cuius cantus habet prosaicos versus, quorum principium est Clemens rector aeterne, pater immense eleyson, qui in multis monasteriis ad Cluniacum pertinentibus usu antiquo cantabatur, etiam Cluniaci in quinque praecipuis festis cantetur.

Even after tropes fell into disfavour in the aftermath of the Tridentine reforms, the Clemens rector continued to be chaunted in certain places, and is found in liturgical books published as late as the 18th century.

The popularity of this trope owes much to fact that its textual shape is singularly well adapted to the Kyrie’s musical shape, as David Bjork demonstrates in The Aquitanian Kyrie Repertory of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries. He additionally draws attention to the text’s use of polyptoton—repeating words with the same root—, matching the melody’s use of recurrent motifs:

Melodic phrases correspond most consistently at their ends, and so, too, do the petitions: all but three petitions (2, 5, and 8) close with eleison. Other words appear twice in the text: Nostras…voces (petition 2) recurs exactly (petition 7), and both times it occurs in a construction that separates these two words by placing others between them. Several word stems recur in different forms, thus establishing a kind of resonance without the bald effect of exact repetition: rector (petition 1) returns both as rege (petition 4) and as rex (petition 5); nostris (petition 2) returns as noster and nostri (petition 3), and nostras (petitions 5 and 7); trine et une (petition 5) returns as tripertite et une (petition 9); preces (petition 5) returns as precamur (petition 9); and aeterne (petition 1) returns as aeternum (petition 9).

Clemens rector also gives good expression to the exegesis of the Kyrie performed by Amalarius of Metz, one of the foremost liturgists of the Carolingian era. In his Eclogae de officio missae, Amalarius rather laconically puts forth the idea that the Kyrie represents the voices of those prophets who lived near the time of the incarnation, such as Zacharias and John the Baptist, and in the Liber officialis he explains in greater detail that mercy is the main theme of the Kyrie, urging cantors singing the Kyrie to keep in mind the words of St Matthew, Qui coronat te in miseratione et misericordia. He also indicates—and later writers made this point more explicitly—that the tripartite nature of the Kyrie alludes to the Trinity.

Indeed the petitionary nature of Clemens rector makes it sound like the voice of a prophet begging Christ to begin his work of redemption: nostras … voces exaudi (petition 2), sedulas nostras preces suscipe (petition 5), tu succurre (petition 6), sophiae tuae lumen infunde (petition 8), te precamur omnes assidue (petition 9), together with the recurrent use of eleison. Like a prophet forsaking earthly cares, the trope marks an opposition between sublunar and heavenly things in petition 7: et nostras, redemptor orbis terrae, voces iugi angelorum carmini adiunge. Although this trope does not explicitly address each member of the Trinity in its three respective parts like some other tropes do, it does insist on the trinitarian nature of God in petitions 5 and 9.

Clemens rector is therefore itself a commentary on the mystical significance of the Kyrie eleison. This exegetical nature is ultimately shared by all tropes, which merely transfer the Western genius for exegesis from written commentaries to song. The Clemens rector gloss on the Kyrie, however, is a particularly felicitous one, and this also helps to account for widespread popularity.

(If you missed the inaugural post on tropes, give it a look!)


*Marginalia Aelredi*

(scribbled hastily in the vulgar tongue, in the top right corner)
Les tropes? Encore une fois? Mais on y a trop des tropes déjà!!


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Notkerus Balbulus