A Farced Epistle for the Holy Innocents

Many thanks to Henri de Villiers at the Schola Sainte Cecile for permission to translate and publish his article of 28 December 2016. It is also being published at New Liturgical Movement today.

Here is a beautiful proper tone for the traditional epistle of the feast of the Holy Innocents, Apocalypse 14, 1-5. (Click here to see a downloadable pdf version in two pages.)

Epitre-des-saints-Innocents-Titre

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Here are Henri de Villiers’ notes on the chant:

This special chant for the Epistle of the feast of the Holy Innocents (28 December) was once chanted with interwoven French verses that paraphrased the Latin text. In the Middle Ages this was called a farced epistle. These epistles were chanted by two or three subdeacons on certains feasts of the year, especially during the period around the feast of Christmas, from St. Nicholas to Epiphany. We find farced epistles very frequently in liturgical manuscripts from the 12th to the 13th centuries, after which the practice seems to decline and disappear. Some however were composed as late as the 14th century, and were still sung with their texts in Old French in certain provinces of France into the middle of the 18th century, especially the epistle of St. Stephen, which is probably the most ancient. For linguists who study the history of the French language, these farces are very valuable because they represent some of the most ancient written witnesses of French, as expressed in numerous regional forms.

Here is the beginning of the Epistle of the Holy Innocents transcribed by Fr. Lebeuf in his famous Treatise on ecclesiastical chant, with tropes in Old Picard. (See the full trope with musical notation here):

 

Now listen, old and young, draw near to this writ. If ye listen to what this lesson sayeth and what it singeth, I ask you all that each one pray, that the Lord God may come dwell in us, and take his rest in our hearts, and not forget our end.

A Lesson from the book of the Apocalypse of blessed John the Apostle. Hearken ye to the sense and reason of Saint John’s vision. They call it “Apocalypse,” the raising of the house, and of the lofty house that God promiseth us in his name, by the Gospel and by the sermon. We must not doubt that he sayeth in his lesson.

In those days, I saw the Lamb standing upon Mount Sion, and with Him a hundred and forty-four thousand having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. In those days whereof I sing to ye, Saint John saw a very large mount. Sion is its name, and on its slope there is a standing Lamb. Accompanying Him are a hundred and forty thousand children, and four thousand more withal, and in the midst of their forehead above their faces they bear the name of the living God. Mount Sion is the Holy Church, which the Lord God made and placed upon a firm and well-founded stone, and He taught Her with Scripture, which doth crush and break the haughty, and doth blow and kindle charity. But the sinner hath chosen another way, by evil counsel and by lust. He rendereth a smoky wind for flame, and doth separate himself from God’s love exceedingly. This Lamb is atop the mount, very beautiful, very good, with true wool. With Him is a very large company, but none in this multitude matches Him. It is Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Who through the heavens, on a broad plain, taketh up again and again the Innocents, they who praise God with healthy voice.

And I heard a voice from heaven like a voice of many waters, and like a voice of loud thunder; and the voice that I heard was as of harpers playing on their harps. From afar I heard the waters turn, just like the sea, and then I heard loud thundering and the clash of thunder. Then I heard the sound of harps, harpers with song. Now, we must explain this well: Our deeds, our words, and our thoughts, that we can bring together, we must give over to the Lord God. The waters are the great multitude, the bad, the good, and the incredulous, which God made to be born on earth, as many as there are flowing waters. All must in their lives praise the Lord God almighty. And the thundering I heard from God is what he shall threaten us with, thrashing us with want, and chastising us with hunger and war, as a father his child. The harps produce a melody, while man says a psalmody, and he afflicts himself with fasting when he hath no hypocrisy. Without pride and without envy, he singeth to God in symphony, and rendereth to Him a sweet harmony.

And they were singing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except those hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been purchased from the earth. Those whom I mentioned, the children, will sing a song the like whereof no man hath ever heard. The news was of a new sound: it is called the Gospel, and none can hold the tone, besides the companions.

These are they who were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Those who love virginity, and resolved in their hearts to keep their bodies in purity, can serve the Majesty that is of such great power. Those who have besmirched themselves and amused themselves in filth, and have shriven themselves well, and purified and cleansed themselves, shall be able to follow in tranquillity the Lamb of such great holiness.

These were purchased from among men, first-fruits unto God and unto the Lamb, and in their mouth there was found no lie. These Innocents are the first whom God suffered to be martyred, and be struck and broken down, and be defleshed on the rocks. The tyrant and the butcher, for the sake of Jesus Christ our prince, sought to kill and slay them, for Herod who wished to reign alone, with no other heir. When the tyrant beheaded them, their vermilion blood did flow, and while milk appeared, which they had first suckled from their mother, from the mouth that held her. And when the children beheld the bright sword that shone, they laughed on account of their age, for without fail when they looked they bethought that they were playing in that spot.

They are without blemish before the throne of God. For they are without any blemish, and without care of this world. To God’s holy nature they have well offered their likeness and figure as a pure offering. They shall never suffer a harsh word, if, as Holy Scripture sayeth, throughout all the days that the world should last, God shall grant them sweet pasture, and God, as good nourishment! Now, let us pray to God very simply that He might grant us amendment, and He shall sweetly hearken to us. He desireth to take us at His will hither to our end, and stand for us soit on the judgement day. Thereafter he shall give us a dwelling in Paradise, as His gift. Now, say ye all: Amen! Amen!

 

The French paraphrase is set in the same 7th mode as the cantillation for the Latin text, but the chant is not set to the same melody. In other farced epistles, all the strophes reproduce the same melody, distinct from that of the Latin which develops more freely from one verse to the other. It is probable that the French verses were composed to be inserted into the pre-existing Latin cantillation.

Are these cantillations, at least with regard to the Latin text, very ancient? Probably. They are found with similar melodies from one diocese to another. The two examples Fr. Lebeuf gives of the farced epistle of the feast of St. Stephen (26th December), taken from the books of Amiens (1250) and from a church in the province of Lyon or Sens (1400) contain very similar melodies—both French and Latin—but with different words for the French paraphrases (except the first strophe).

Hence the farced Epistles are precious because they let us hear an echo of the great variety of liturgical cantillations that must have been in use to chant the various Epistles and Gospels of the year. Thus they are a memory of an ancient stage of the liturgy, much richer than what has come down to us. (The Roman liturgical books since the 17th century contain only two tones for the Epistle, one being recto-tono.[1])

The chant for the Epistle of the Holy Innocents cited by Lebeuf is taken from the ancient liturgical books of Amiens. The French trope contains a full 130 verses all in masculine rhymes to facilitate their adaptation to plain-chant. Our schola preserves the chant of the Latin verses, without the French paraphrases, and we have completed the first verses provided by Fr. Lebeuf based on a 19th-century work by Dr. Rigollot. The 7th mode, which naturally has a wide range, was perhaps chosen based on the meaning of the text. The melody rises in the second verse to express the text:

Et audivi vocem de coelo, tamquam vocem aquarum multarum, et tamquam vocem tonitrui magni.

And I heard a voice from heaven, as the noise of many waters, and as the voice of great thunder. (Apocalypse 21:14)

Note that the 4th verse especially (and to an extent the 5th verse) imitates the psalmody of the 7th mode, and this psalmody might have inspired the entire cantillation for the Epistle on Childermas.

Although the Parisian books do not preserve any farced epistles, this might be because few liturgical manuscripts from Paris from before the middle of the 18th century have survived. Must we conclude that the diocese of Paris rejected the singing of farced epistles?

No! In an interesting ordinance promulgated in 1198 by bishop Odo of Sully to regulate the celebration of the feast of the Circumcision on the 1st of January in Paris, we find the following passage, which demonstrates that this city, like the other dioceses of France, also farced epistles: 

Missa similiter cum ceteris Horis ordinate celebrabitur a aliquo prœdictorum, hoc addito quod Epistola cum farsia dicetur a duobus in cappis sericeis.

The Mass shall be celebrated like the rest of the Hours by one of the aforesaid, with the addition of a farced Epistle which shall be said by two ministers in silken copes.


NOTES:

[1] A 16th-century Missal from Cluny, for instance, provides different melodies for each rank of liturgical day.

Farced Introits: A Prologue for Christmas Day Mass

Hodie cantandus est nobis puer, quem gignebat ineffabiliter ante tempora pater, et eundem sub tempore generavit inclita mater.

Interrogatio:
Quis est iste puer, quem tam magnis præconiis dignum vociferatis? Dicite nobis, ut collaudatores esse possimus.

Responsio:
Hic enim est, quem presagus et electus symnista Dei, ad terras uenturum preuidens, longe ante prenotavit sicque predixit:

Aña:
Puer natus est nobis…

To-day we must sing of that child, Whom His Father ineffably begot afore time, and Whom His glorious Mother bore in time.

Question:
Who is this child, whom you proclaim worthy of such great acclamations? Tell us, that we too might praise Him.

Response:
For He is Whom the soothsayer and chosen companion of God, foreseeing that He should come to earth, foreshewed and foretold:

Antiphon:
A child is born unto us…

hodie
The Hodie cantandus est verses, diastematic notation from Nevers (PA 1235), East-Frankish neumes (Minden Be 11). Click to enlarge. (Source)

Farced introits represent the largest repertory of tropes after Kyrie tropes 1, and one of the most fascinating. Like sequences, they had their origin in that hotbed of liturgical creativity that was the Abbey of St Gall in modern-day Switzerland.

The earliest account of their composition in found in the continuation of the Casus sancti Galli, a chronicle of the abbey written by Ekkehard IV. Towards the end of the ninth century, a precocious young monk (plane iuvenis acutissimus) named Tuotilo wrote introductory verses for the introit of the Mass of Christmas Day—Puer natus est—which begin Hodie cantandus est. These verses proved popular, like the sequences that Tuotilo’s confrère and close friend Notker had invented some years earlier, and Tuotilo went on to write several other tropes throughout his life. Although he was nowhere near as prolific a composer as Notker, Tuotilo’s pieces were much admired; one of those who delighted therein was Emperor Charles the Fat:

The melodies Tuotilo composed are distinctive and easily recognisable, for his music is sweeter, whether on the psaltery or the rotta, at which he excelled, as is manifest in Hodie cantandus and Omnium virtutum gemmis. Indeed, he presented these tropes to Charles to be sung at the offering the king himself would make [i.e. during the offertory of the Mass, when the king would present his offerings]. When Tuotilo had composed the offertory Viri Galilæi 2, the king even bade him to add verses, [which were,] as they say, Quoniam Dominus Jesus Christus cum esset, Omnipotens genitor, fons et origo, with the following: Gaudete et cantate, and others indeed; but we mention these, so that, if you be a musician, you might know how different his music is from that of others.3

The Hodie cantandus est trope itself is an example of the melodic peculiarity that characterises Tuotilo’s compositions: the trope is in the first mode, whereas the subsequent introit is in the seventh mode; a striking modulation in the third phrase of the trope allows it to conclude in G to match the first note of the introit. 

Howsoever idiosyncratic the melody of this trope may be, its text a classic example of exegesis one expects of a trope. Its dialogical structure, reminiscent of Psalm 23, is almost catechetical—Statement, Question, Response. The statement is a dogmatic proclamation of the mystery about to be celebrated in the Mass, and it elicits the question that allows the announcement of Christ’s birth to be tied into the words of the Prophet Isaias (presagus et symnista Dei) that form the introit antiphon. And at the same time the initial proclamation is a scholium on the words Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis: this son is born in time of the blessed Virgin, but is given to us by the Father, who begot him before all ages. 

The Hodie cantandus est trope enjoyed great popularity throughout the Middle Ages, and is found in liturgical books as late as the 15th century, well after the general decline in the popularity of tropes.

Tuotilo’s example, moreover, proved influential in the composition of introit tropes in the succeeding centuries. In particular, there arose an entire genre of chant verses to be sung before the introit which served almost as introductions to the feast commemorated in the Mass of the day, often labelled Tropi ad processionem in northern French manuscripts and Versus ad officium in English ones. Since they were part of the procession before Mass, or even sometimes of a pre-Mass ritual, some scholars have rather pedantically decided to argue they are not true tropes. Howbeit, in some instances they do seem to have acquired a life beyond that of a mere trope, taking advantage of the dramatic possibilities inherent in the dialogical structure of the Hodie cantandus est verses. Such is the case of the Quem quæritis dialogue on Easter, whereon we hope to dedicate a future post. 

cambrai trope
In this version of the Hodie cantandus est trope, from an 11th-century gradual from the Abbey of St-Vaast d’Arras (Cambrai, F-CA 75 [76]), the original verses have become part of a larger pre-introit ritual with the heading “ad processionem”. This sort of chanted dialogue would eventually develop into so-called “liturgical dramas”.

Notes

1. By way of example, in volumes I and III of the Corpus Troporum, which contain tropes for Christmastide and Eastertide respectively, one finds 1,044 introit trope verses, against 250 trope verses for offertories and 113 for communions.

2. This offertory responsory is different from the one preserved in the Tridentine missal, and can be found on pp. 4-5 here (without the added verses).

3. Que autem Tuotilo dictauerat, singularis et agnoscibilis melodie sunt, quia per psalterium seu per rotham, qua potentior ipse erat, neumata inuenta dulciora sunt, ut apparet in Hodie cantandus et Omnium uirtutum gemmis, quos quidem tropos Karolo ad offerendam quam ipse rex fecerat, obtulit canendos. Qui rex etiam Viri Galilei offerendam cum dictasset, Tuotiloni versus addere iniungit, ut aiunt: Quoniam Dominus Ihesus Christus cum esset, Omnipotens genitor, fons et origo; cum sequentibus: Gaudete et cantate, et alios quidem; sed istos proposuimus, ut quam dispar eius melodia sit ceteris, si musicus es, noris. (Ekkehard IV, Casus sancti Galli).

The Life and Work of Mgr. Li Jingfeng, Bishop of Fengxiang (Part 1 of 2)

Saturday, November 17, marked the first anniversary of the death of Mgr. Li Jingfeng, Bishop of Fengxiang, a heroic confessor of the Church in China, who throughout the tribulations of his long episcopate gave a glorious witness to the Catholic faith. In tribute to his memory, we offer a brief biography and, thanks to the diligence of a Chinese reader, publish an exemplary selection of his writings for the first time in English. Requiescat in pace.

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Biography

Msgr Li was born into a Catholic family in Gaoling County (Shaanxi) in 1922. He became a priest in 1947 and performed various duties in the diocese until he was arrested in 1959 and sentenced to forced labor, from which he was released only in 1980.

After his release, he dedicated himself to rebuilding the Catholic communities of his province of Shaanxi. In 1980, when he was secretly consecrated the bishop of Fengxiang, he became the head of a Catholic community that obstinately refused to join the “official” structures of the Church, despite the efforts of the local authorities to impose the Patriotic Association on Chinese Catholics. For this reason, the cathedral, churches, seminary, and the various organizations of his diocese remained “clandestine” for a long time, though physically visible to everyone. In 2004, at the advice of Mgr. Li Du’an, “official” bishop of Xi’an, Mgr. Li decided that, for the sake of the unity of the Church in Shaanxi, it was necessary to “surface,” i.e. to obtain from the government recognition of his episcopal rank. He obtained it, but nevertheless, always refused any membership in the Patriotic Association and any affiliation to the “official” episcopal conference. In May 2011, aged but still in good physical and intellectual health, he organized the election of his successor, thus assuring the continuity of apostolic succession in his diocese.[1] 

Letter to the General Synod

On 16 October 2012, the 13th Ordinal General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops began its first session in Rome to address themes relating to the “New Evangelization.” Beijing refused to grant the bishops of continental China permission to attend the synod. Instead, Bishop Li addressed a letter to the assembled fathers, boldly urging them to take inspiration from Chinese Catholics, whose fervor he contrasts with the “lukewarmness” and “infidelity” of Christians in the West. Here is a translation of the letter, with the Latin original in a footnote:

Most Reverend and Esteemed Fathers of the Synod, I am grateful that you are able to attend the synod and visit the tomb of St. Peter, but I am grieved that you are not able to hear any voice from the Church in China. In my desire that our voice should be heard among you and especially by our Pope Benedict XVI, I send You today this short letter.

—–

I want to tell you that our Church in China, and especially the Christian laity, still keep the piety, faithfulness, sincerity, and devotion of the ancient Christians, even while suffering under fifty years of persecution. I also want to tell you that I am always offering prayers to the All Powerful God, that our piety, fidelity, sincerity, and our devotion can heal the lukewarmness, infidelity, and worldliness of Christians outside China, which have arisen out of an unrestrained liberty and openness. In the Year of Faith, in our discussions in the Synod you may address the reasons why our faith has remained strong in China. The reason is, as a maxim of the great Chinese philosopher Laozi says: “Prosperity is born in calamity, and calamity lies concealed in satisfaction.” In the foreign churches, the lukewarmness, infidelity, and worldliness of Christians has affected many of the clergy. But in the Chinese Church the Christian laity are more devout than the clergy. Can the piety, fidelity, sincerity, and devotion of the lay Christians of China have an effect on clergy outside China? I have found the lament of Pope Benedict XVI very moving: “As we know, in vast areas of the earth faith risks being extinguished, like a flame that is no longer fed. We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of the religious sense that constitutes the greatest challenge to the church today. The renewal of faith must therefore take priority in the commitment of the entire Church in our time” (See the review “Christ to the world” vol. 59, p.167). Nevertheless, I believe that the Pope may find consolation in the faith of us, the Christians of China. I say nothing of the political situation, which is a transitory thing.[2]

Latin Studies

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During his ministry, Bishop Li Jingfeng promoted the study of Latin. He prepared and published a Chinese-Latin textbook Grammatica Figurificata Linguae Latinae (Second Edition May 1, 2010), which has been used to instruct seminarians and priests of his diocese. The Chinese preface to this work follows Veterum Sapientia, defending the study of Latin as a vital element in clerical formation. It notes especially the importance for the clergy of being able to read, translate, and explain classic Christian texts to lay Catholics in China:

—–

It is common knowledge that Latin is the official language of the Church. Consider for example this statement of Pope John XXIII: ‘The Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord…The language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular. The Church’s language must be not only universal but also immutable…If the truths of the Catholic Church were entrusted to an unspecified number of them, the meaning of these truths, varied as they are, would not be manifested to everyone with sufficient clarity and precision’ (Veterum Sapientia). And Pope John Paul II says: ‘Countless works of the Church are written in Latin. Without a sound knowledge of Latin, it is impossible to read them directly and unearth their treasure. One has to access them through another’s translation. But the correctness of the translation is not certain.’

The Latin language itself has many features that deserve attention. ‘There can be no doubt as to the formative and educational value either of the language of the Romans or of great literature generally. It is a most effective training for the pliant minds of youth. It exercises, matures, and perfects the principal faculties of mind and spirit. It sharpens the wits and gives keenness of judgment. It helps the young mind to grasp things accurately and develop a true sense of values. It is also a means for teaching highly intelligent thought and speech’ (Veterum Sapientia). There is good reason for this. The declensions, conjugations, and grammatical structure of the Latin language are highly logical, demanding a clear mind, memory, and precise judgment, all of which are helpful to the exercise and testing of intelligence.

There is still another feature of Latin, as the Pope says: ‘Its concise, varied and harmonious style, full of majesty and dignity makes for singular clarity and impressiveness of expression.’ Thus the value and importance for Catholics to learn Latin is clear.

Because of the features of Latin mentioned above, a large number of Latin aphorisms, abbreviations, and terms are still living in different languages and have become permanent features of them. Some of them even became global.

These facts suggest the importance of learning Latin for the clergy of China. In addition, many precious Church documents have been translated into Chinese by people outside of the Church, such as Fides quaerens intellectum by St. Anselm, Civitas Dei and the Confessiones of St. Augustine, etc. These works have all been translated into Chinese by non-Catholics, which is a great irony for our Catholic clergy! This reality should be a warning: not to learn Latin is to lag behind and remain passive. Is our Chinese Church willing to languish forever at the margins of the universal Church?

Moreover, in 2007 Pope Benedict XVI issued the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum to grant the wish of many of the faithful who ‘continued to be attached with such love and affection to the earlier liturgical forms.’ Its intention is that all priests be able to celebrate Tridentine Mass in the forma extraordinaria. This is a great challenge to every priest. Are we capable of doing it? As priests of the Church, if we are not able to celebrate the sacrifice and to venerate God in the official language of the Church, what does that say about our identity as priests! The Holy See further suggests that ‘Gregorian chant be preserved and be sung in monasteries, other religious houses and seminaries, as a special form of chanted prayer and as something of high cultural and pedagogic value’ (Voluntati Obsequens, April 1974).

Latin is not only the special language of the Church. It has also been used as an international language of science and culture by scholars up until the present day. For hundreds of years, many great works of science were published in Latin. Countless famous people such as Bacon, Newton, Descartes, Spencer, Copernicus, etc. have written in Latin. Even the doctoral dissertation of Karl Marx was written in Latin; in 1955, the Convention of Mayors of the World’s Capital Cities, held in Florence, Italy, issued its peace pact in Latin.

Bishop Lucas Li Jingfeng and Cardinal Zen.jpg

(Part 2 will discuss Bishop Li Jingfeng’s support of the traditional Latin liturgy.)


[1] This paragraph taken from the website of the Agence d’Information des Missions Étrangèrs de Paris.

[2] Patres Reverendissimi ac Excellentissimi Synodi XIII, Vobis gratulor quod potestis Synodo interesse, et Sepulturam Sti Petri visitare, valde tamen doleo quod vocem nullam ex ecclesia sinensium audire potestis. Volens vocem aliquam nostram vobiscum ac praesertim cum Papa nostro Benedicto XVI participare, has hodie mitto parvas litteras Vobis. Volo dicere quod nostra ecclesia in Sinis, praesertim christiani laici, semper pietatem, fidelitatem, sinceritatem devotionemque christianorum antiquorum conservant hucusque, persecutiones 50 annorum patiens. Vobis adhuc volo dicere quod semper preces apud Deum Omnipotentem effundo, ut nostra pietas, nostra fidelitas, nostra sinceritas nostraque devotio christianorum potest sanare tepiditatem, infidelitatem, saecularitatem exterorum exortas ex effrenata libertate et apertura. In Fidei Anno, in tractatibus vestris in Synodo potestis tractare quare fides nostra in Sinis possit conservari indeficiens hucusque. Hoc est ut effatum Magni Philosophi Sinensis Laozi fert: “Sicut in calamitate gignitur prosperitas, ita in voluptate latet calamitas”. In ecclesia exterorum, christianorum laicorum tepiditas, infidelitas, saecularitas affecit clericos multos. In ecclesia autem sinensium christiani laici magis devotiores sunt quam clerici. Possuntne pietas, fidelitas, sinceritas, devotioque christianorum laicorum sinensium movere clericos exterorum? Lamentationes Papae Benedicit XVI multum me moverunt: “As we know, in vast areas of the earth faith risks being extinguished, like a flame that is no longer fed. We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of the religious sense that constitutes the greatest challenge to the church today. The renewal of faith must therefore take priority in the commitment of the entire Church in our time” (See the review “Christ to the world” vol. 59, p.167). Credo tamen nostra fides christianorum sinensium posse consolari Papam. Ne dicam de re politica, quae semper transitoria est.

(A version of the original text, which I have amended, can be found here. The Vatican’s reply can be found here.)

 

The Holy Mass in the First World War: A Photo Collection

This article by Henri de Villiers was first published in 2014 on the blog of the Schola Sainte Cécile, to commemorate the centenary of the start of the Great War. It is translated and republished here and at New Liturgical Movement in honor of Armistice Day, and the centenary of the first armistice, which occurred this past Sunday.

On 3 August 1914, Germany declared war on France, and Europe entered into a terrible four years of slaughter that would decimate believers on every side, wiping out the youth of thousands of towns and villages, and bringing about the loss of a great part of Europe’s Christian elite. In memory of this sorrowful centenary, we present a collection of photographs that testify to the faith of these men in the midst of the horrors of the front.

We shall remember them.

Requiem æternam dona eis Domine, & lux perpetua luceat eis.

WW1.1

“For the Lord will judge his people, and will be entreated in favour of his servants.” (Psalm 134,14)
Photo: Mass at the front in France during the First World War.

WW1.2

“The sorrows of hell encompassed me: and the snares of death prevented me.”
(Psalm 17,6)
Photo: Mass at the front for the French troops – New York Times, 14 February 1915

WW1.3

“I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer.”
(Psalm 17,2-3)
Photo: 1915: A mass at the 43rd battery of the 29th artillery regiment between Oostduinkerke and Nieuport.

WW1.4

“My eyes have failed for thy word, saying: When wilt thou comfort me?”
(Psalm 118,82)
Photo: Holy Mass for the French troops on the front of Champagne in 1915 – Collection of Odette Carrez

WW1.5

“The Lord will give strength to his people: the Lord will bless his people with peace.”
(Psalm 28,10)
Photo: 1915- the sub-lieutenant Pape (sic!) says holy mass for the 262nd infantry regiment. Photograph by Henri Terrier (1887† 1918). Musee de l’Armee, Paris.

WW1.6

“With thee is my praise in a great church: I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear him.”
(Psalm 21,26)
Photo: German troops assist at mass in the Belgian cathedral of Antwerp – New York Times, 21 March 1915.

WW1.7

“Salvation is of the Lord: and thy blessing is upon thy people.”
(Psalm 3,9)
Photo: Austrian soldiers receive benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in 1915 in Russian Galicia. New York Times, 23 May 1915.

WW1.8

“Praising I will call upon the Lord: and I shall be saved from my enemies.”
(Psalm 17,4)
Photo: a Russian priest celebrates the divine liturgy for Russian troops in 1915. The soldiers have formed a choir and are chanting the liturgy next to the altar. The War Illustrated Album DeLuxe, Vol. 1; Amalgamated Press, London, 1915.

WW1.9

“I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me.”
(Psalm 120,1)
Photo: a priest says mass for Italian troops on the Italo-Austrian front in the mountains of Tyrol – New York Times, 27 February 1916.

WW1.10

“And they shall call them, The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord. But thou shalt be called: A city sought after, and not forsaken.”
(Isaiah 62,12)
Photo: April 1916-Soldiers of the Russian expeditionary corps taking an oath and venerating the icon and cross at the monastery of Saint-Pantaleimon, Mount Athos, Greece. Photograph: Dubray.

WW1.11

“God is with us.”
(Isaiah 8,10)
Photo: April 1916-In the Mirabeau camp near Marseille, men of the first regiment of the first Russian brigade pose around their flag, decorated with the face of Christ and emblazoned with the motto taken from Isaiah and chanted at Byzantine Great Compline, in particular on Christmas Day: С нами Бог – God is with us.

WW1.12

“Behold, God is my saviour, I will deal confidently, and will not fear: O because the Lord is my strength, and my praise, and he is become my salvation.”
(Isaiah 12,2)
Photo: April 1916-gathered on the parade grounds of Camp Mirabeau near Marseille, the men of the first Russian brigade receive the blessing from Fr. Okouneff, chaplain of the regiment, before their departure for the front.

WW1.13

“And the Lord is become a refuge for the poor: a helper in due time in tribulation.”
(Psalm 9,10)
Photo: April 1916 – gathered on the parade grounds in Camp Mirabeau near Marseille, the troops of the second regiment of the first Russian infantry brigade celebrate Easter, with the divine liturgy celebrated by Fr. Okouneff, chaplain of the regiment. The soldiers have formed a choir and are chanting the liturgy next to the altar.

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“The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me: and there is the way by which I will shew him the salvation of God.”
(Psalm 49,23)
Photo: 1916 – Renault car-chapel dedicated to St. Elizabeth, donated by a businessman from Antwerp to serve the Belgian troops.

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“In that day man shall bow down himself to his Maker, and his eyes shall look to the Holy One of Israel.” 
(Isaiah 17,7)
Photo: French soldiers assist at mass before going into battle – Source: Vive la France – William Heinemann, Londres, 1916.

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“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.”
(Psalm 6,3)
Photo: Mass in an Austrian military hospital in 1916

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“Thou shalt no more have the sun for thy light by day, neither shall the brightness of the moon enlighten thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee for an everlasting light, and thy God for thy glory.”
(Isaiah 60,19)
Photo: a priest, probably the famous Father Paul Doncoeur, S.J., celebrates mass at an altar – nicknamed the altar of Fr. Doncoeur  – carved into the 1st Zouave Quarry, in the quarries of Confrécourt in the Soissonais. Paul Doncoeur was a Jesuit who become a military chaplain in 1914. He participated in the battles of the Marne, Aisne, Champagne, and Verdun. He was seriously wounded at the Somme. Then he rejoined these regiments for the battles of Reims and Flandres. His bravery and dedication to assuring a Christian burial to soldiers who died on the battlefield earned him an immense renown: seven citations, the War Cross, the Legion of Honor. This altar was sculpted by the 35th and 298th infantry regiments in 1914. There is a patriotic inscription written below: “God save France.” On the right, a ladder gave direct access to the front lines.

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“In my affliction I called upon the Lord, and I cried to my God: And he heard my voice from his holy temple: and my cry before him came into his ears.” 
(Psalm 17,7)
Photo: Mass celebrated for Austrian prisoners of war – Illustrated War News, Vol. 1, Illustrated London News and Sketch, London, 1916.

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“But I, O Lord, have cried to thee: and in the morning my prayer shall prevent thee.”
(Psalm 87,14)
Photo: a chaplain preaching in a French church transformed into a hospital

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“This hath comforted me in my humiliation: because thy word hath enlivened me.” 
(Psalm 118,50)
Photo: Mass for the troops in the region of Soissons

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“By this I know, that thou hast had a good will for me: because my enemy shall not rejoice over me.”
(Psalm 40,12)
Photo: Mass at the front

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“Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord: many say, Who sheweth us good things?”
(Psalm 4,6)
Photo: French soldiers hear mass in a chapel in the trenches-New York Times, 25 February 1917

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“Come and behold ye the works of the Lord: what wonders he hath done upon earth, Making wars to cease even to the end of the earth. He shall destroy the bow, and break the weapons: and the shield he shall burn in the fire.”
(Psalm 45,9)
Photo: March 1917 – M. l’Abbé Louis Lenoir (1882-1917), military chaplain to the 4th colonial infantry regiment, celebrating holy mass for the troops at Gravena (Greek Macedonia), shortly before his death in May 1917.

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“Turn away from evil and do good: seek after peace and pursue it.” 
(Psalm 33,15).
Photo: Mass on the Italian front in 1917

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“Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the just wait for me, until thou reward me.”
(Psalm 141,8)
Photo: Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war assist at holy mass in a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy in 1917. British Library.

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“Be thou mindful of thy word to thy servant, in which thou hast given me hope.”
(Psalm 118,49).
Photo: Abbé Even, chaplain of the 51st division. Photograph taken 10 September 1917 by Paul Castelnau (1880 † 1944). Médiathèque de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris.

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“All the flocks of Cedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nabaioth shall minister to thee: they shall be offered upon my acceptable altar, and I will glorify the house of my majesty.”
(Isaiah 60,7)
Photo: field altar for Mass in the open air, installed in the back of a car in 1917. Photograph: Georges Pila.

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“All ye inhabitants of the world, who dwell on the earth, when the sign shall be lifted up on the mountains, you shall see, and you shall hear the sound of the trumpet.”
(Isaiah 18,3).
Photo: 22 June 1918 – blessing of Polish flags in the woods of Beaulieu, Aube. Photograph: Auguste Goulden.

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“You shall have a song as in the night of the sanctified solemnity, and joy of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe, to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the Mighty One of Israel.”
(Isaiah 30,29)
Photo: Mass celebrated in Amiens Cathedral, where the walls have been reinforced with sandbags to protect them from bombardments – 1918.

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“In the year that King Ozias died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated: and his train filled the temple.”
(Isaiah 6,1)
Photo: interior of Amiens cathedral, with sandbags to reinforce the building against shelling – 1918.

Novæ Mutationes: St Pius X’s New Office of All Souls

In previous posts, we have examined the origins of the Office of the Dead and All Souls, and the reforms All Souls underwent in the Neo-Gallican liturgies. These latter reforms influenced the new Office of All Souls that emerged from the liturgical reforms carried out under the reign of the Lord Pope St Pius X.

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Saint Gregory delivers the Soul of a Monk, Giovanni Battista Crespi, S. Vittore, Parese

Fr Pasquale Brugnani, one of the members of Pius X’s Commission to revise the liturgy, attests that it was the Lord Pope’s wish that All Souls become a full liturgical day1, as in the Neo-Gallican offices, and this was formally announced by the Apostolic Constitution Divino afflatu of 1 November 1911.

In the original Rubricæ project discussed by the Commission on 18 September 1911, Vespers of the Dead would continue to follow Second Vespers of All Saints. On 2 November, the Office of the second day within the Octave of All Saints would be omitted, and Mattins and Lauds of the Dead would be said in the morning.

In later discussions it was agreed that the lessons of Mattins of the Dead would be altered to make them more similar to the usual model for Mattins of feasts. Only the first Nocturn would retain the readings from Job; the same pericopes were picked as in the Neo-Gallican Parisian breviary. The second Nocturn would feature extracts from St Augustine’s De cura pro mortuis gerenda, like in the Dominican and Carmelite uses. The lessons of the third Nocturn, finally, were extracts from chapter 15 of St Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians, identical to the selections of the Neo-Gallican Cluniac and Parisian breviaries. To bring Lauds into line with the new psalter, psalms 66, 148, and 149 were duly excised therefrom.

The Little Hours were originally to be supplied by saying the ferial psalms of the dead (from the reformed psalter) without antiphon, then the Lord’s Prayer, preces, and collect. As Brugnani explained, the intention was to imitate the Little Hours of the Holy Triduum to “underline the link between the death and resurrection of Christ and the fate of the deceased”. Comparisons between the Mass and Office of the Dead and those of the Triduum go back, in any case, at least as far as Amalarius2.

The commissioners soon realized, however, that if the ferial psalms were sung at the Little Hours, some psalms from Mattins might end up being repeated. Brugnani suggested following the Neo-Gallican rites and using the Sunday psalms, but another commissioner, Mgr Pierre La Fontaine, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, proposed that the Friday psalms be used. He noted that none of them were present in the other Hours of the Dead and, moreover, he explained that they expressed sentiments particularly appropriate for All Souls:

  • Psalm 21, “David’s anguished soul”,
  • Psalm 79, “a sad note”,
  • Psalm 81, “God’s justice”,
  • Psalm 83, “the soul’s impassioned cry to heaven”,
  • Psalm 86, “a good tie with the previous”,
  • Psalm 88, “a reminder of mercy”3

La Fontaine recalls that his counter-proposal kindled Brugnani’s wrath: “Yesterday evening when I returned to San Giovanni I mentioned the question of the Office of the Dead to Pasquale [Brugnani], who suddenly, furor sicut serpentis, protested that he had always been under the impression that the psalms ought to be of Sunday, and called everyone else dishonest beasts”4.

The Commission’s ominously-named document Novæ mutationes of 25 September 1913, however, adopted neither La Fontaine’s nor Brugnani’s plan. Instead, it assigned psalms 27 and 37 split in half to Prime; 31, 55, and 69 to Tierce; 84, 85, and 87 to Sext; and 101 split into three to None. Yet the dispute over the psalms must have continued to rage, for the motu proprio Abhinc duos annos of 28 October 1913 ultimately assigned psalms 87, 27, and 31 to Prime; 37 split in two and 55 to Tierce; 69, 84, and 85 to Sext; and 101 split into three to None. Unfortunately, Honoré Vinck writes in his history of these reforms that he was not able to find any further documentation about the surely tempestuous discussions behind the ever-changing selection of psalms.

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The bizarre decision was also made to have Compline of All Souls on 1 November instead of Compline of All Saints. This had no precedent in the Neo-Gallican or mediæval rites. The idea was first suggested to the Commission by Fr Brugnani, who adduced three reasons:

  1. That since All Souls had become a full liturgical day, it ought to have its own Compline;
  2. That it would be inappropriate to sing the alleluia after Vespers of the Dead, as would happen in Compline of All Saints;
  3. It was a divine law that a liturgical day should have a full Office. A vespera ad vesperam celebrabitis solemnitates vestras, Brugnani wrote (cf. Leviticus 23:32).

His foremost argument, however, was that the poor souls would benefit from further prayers. “Above all else, O holy souls” he prayed, “inspire the Holy Father with what will be to your greatest benefit, and to the greater glory of God, the Church, and the Holy Father. Fiat, fiat5. His fervor ended up persuading the rest of the commissioners. Mgr Pietro Piacenza, who was initially opposed to the idea, claimed he was won over by the thought that, with this Compline, 120,000 priests would say an additional prayer for the souls in purgatory. He also agreed that singing the alleluia would be inappropriate after Vespers of All Souls, writing that, “In the Church’s solemnities, sad and doleful prayers are never mingled together with festal songs of exultation”6. The “sadness” of All Souls was also given as an explanation as to why this day, although of double rank, would end at None, unlike any other double feast but like fasting days.

The commissioners then forwarded the proposal to the Lord Pope, who wrote tersely on the margin, Vi sia la compieta. In imitation of Compline during the Triduum, this office would begin immediately with the Confiteor, followed by three psalms said without antiphon, originally from the feria, but then in the end 122, 141, and 142, and then the Nunc dimittis. As with the other hours, Compline would conclude with the Lord’s prayer, preces, and collect.

Thus the novel Office of All Souls was created, with little precedent in the Roman liturgical tradition. Piancenza reflected complacently on his commission’s handiwork, saying, “It is certain that parish priests and preachers will find in the Office of 2 November, thus well modified and enriched, new argument to confirm the people in the belief in purgatory”7. The conviction that the liturgy should be modified at will for didactic and pædagogical purposes would continue to heavily influence liturgical reform for the rest of the century, and was enshrined by the Lord Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei.

The new Office did not find immediate welcome in the Benedictine use, which only definitely adopted it in 1963. Even then, it was decided to say the ferial psalms in the Little Hours and Compline, rather than those picked by the commission. The other religious orders eventually adopted the Piodecimal Office as well.

When First Vespers of all but first class feasts were unaccountably abolished by the Lord John XXIII, the venerable custom of having Second Vespers of All Saints followed by Vespers of the Dead on 1 November, which even the Neo-Gallican liturgies had generally preserved, was discarded, and it was decreed All Souls would begin with Mattins and end with Compline on 2 November. It was, however, permitted to continue saying Vespers of the Dead on 1 November as a pious devotion in those places where its removal might unduly vex the faithful8.

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Notes

1. Annuente Sanctissimo Domino Nostro Pio Papa X […] in posteros annos sit Officium eorundem Defunctorum pro quotidiano etiam Divini Officii penso recitare (cited in Honoré Vinck, Pie X et les réformes liturgiques de 1911-1914, p. 256).

2. Cf. Liber officialis III, 44.

3. Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 260

4. Ieri sera nel ritonare a S. Giovanni accenai l’affare dell’Officio dei morti a Pasquale, cui subito furor sicut serpentis protestando che gli fu sempre d’avviso che i Salmi delle ore dev’essere della Domenica, e dando della bestia e del disonesto a tutti gli altri (Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 260).

5. E più di ogni altra cosa, Anime sante, ispirate al Santo Padre quello che sia al maggior vostro vantaggio e alla gloria maggiore di Dio e della Chiesa e del S. Padre. Fiat, fiat (Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 259).

6. Nelle sollenità della Chiesa, non si confondono mai insieme preci flebili e meste con canti festosi di esultanza (ibid.)

7. E certo che i parroci ed i predicatori, troveranno nell’Officio del 2 Novembre, cosè ben modificato e arricchito, nuovi argomenti per confermare il popolo nella credenza del purgatorio. (Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 260)

8. Celebratio tamen Vesperarum defunctorum post II Vesperas diei 1 novembris, quae pro pietate fidelium peragi consuevit, continuari potest, una cum aliis piis exercitiis forsitan consuetudine traditis, tamquam peculiare pietatis obsequium (Variationes in Breviario et Missali Romano, 1960).