The Treasures of the Holy Sepulcher Unveiled: An Interview with the Superior of St. Savior’s Monastery in Jerusalem

The following is an interview with Brother Stéphane Milovitch, OFM, superior of the Franciscan monastery of St. Savior in Jerusalem, about his role in caring for the patrimony of the Holy Sepulcher. He tells us about some the most striking pieces from the collection, and the exciting new Terra Sancta museum opening this fall in Jerusalem. Also published at Liturgical Arts Journal.

1) In addition to your responsibilities as Guardian of the Franciscan Community at St. Savior Monastery in Jerusalem, you are also the person in charge of the Cultural Heritage of the Custos of the Holy Land. What does that job entail?

I entered the Custody of the Holy Land in 1992 after studying mathematics in France. Ordained a priest in Jerusalem in the year of the Grand Jubilee of 2000, I was given the obedience of studying liturgy in Rome at the Benedictine Academy of Sant’Anselmo. The subject of my doctorate was a study of the daily procession that the Franciscans have performed for the last 700 years without interruption out of love for the Holy Sepulcher, re-enacting the Paschal Mystery of the passion, crucifixion, death, deposition, embalmment, placing in the tomb, the glorious resurrection, and apparition to Mary his Mother and to Mary Magdalene.

The Franciscans are celebrated the eighth centenary of their uninterrupted presence in the East. The only Catholic religious in the Holy Land for many centuries, we have peaceful recovered, one after another, the various sanctuaries of the Redemption that in the 12th century the Church seemed to have lost forever. These sanctuaries are places to which pilgrims from the whole world come to prayer and celebrate they are also places where the Franciscans celebrate the Latin liturgy every day in the name of the Catholic Church.

Franciscan friars pray during the Lenten procession inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, on February 17, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)
Franciscans perform a Lenten procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Source)

In the sanctuaries of the Holy Land pilgrims celebrate every day the Mass “of the place” and not the place “of the day,” for actually it is always the Annunciation at the Grotto in Nazareth, Christmas in the Grotto in Bethlehem, Good Friday on Calvary, and Easter at the Holy Sepulcher, etc.

When the Mass of the day and the Mass of the place coincide, i.e. when we celebrate a feast of the calendar on the very Gospel place that is the origin of that feast, we have a statio: a liturgy celebrated solemnly throughout the whole day (Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist) by the Custody by the Franciscans of the convent of St. Savior in Jerusalem.

In the West, everyone (sovereigns and faithful) grasped the spiritual importance of these stational liturgies. Throughout the centuries, the friars have received gifts of great artistic quality with the intention that, during these celebrations, these gifts would represent the donors who were not able participate in these liturgies in person. Over the centuries, we have found ourselves with a very rich liturgical, artistic and cultural  patrimony coming to us from the entire world, which we would now like to present to all those who appreciate the human artistic genius fostered by faith in Jesus Christ. Moreover, the quality of these objects testifies to the faith of their artisans and donors.

Until a decade ago, the rich liturgical and historical patrimony of the Custody was jealously preserved by our sacristans who would employ it intelligently in liturgical celebrations. They have also transmitted it to successive generations of Franciscans.Today, following the great exposition Treasure of the Holy Sepulcher that took place in 2013 at the Palace of Versailles, the Custody has become more aware of the exceptionality of its patrimony and decided to create—in addition to its numerous liturgical, social, educational, and welcoming activities—a department of Cultural Heritage that will continue to educate, study, and safeguard its patrimony.

2) The Franciscans are opening a new museum called Terra Sancta Museum. What is the motivation for the project? 

Jerusalem is a city where Jews, Christians, and Muslims live together. Jews and Muslims already have their own museums that manifest their presence in the Holy City. But Jerusalem is also a holy city for Christians. However, native Christians are not very numerous, barely 1% of the total population. Nevertheless, many millions of pilgrims come each year, showing thereby that Jerusalem is the city of the Resurrection of Our Savior, to which Christians from all over the world are attached. The creation of the Terra Sancta Museum will render a debt of justice to Jerusalem. The ensemble of these museums and cultural sites will show that Jerusalem is a universal city for all people, and thus also for Christians.

The Terra Sancta Museum will be composed of two sections, now in the construction phase: the archeological section and the historical section.

  1. An archeological pilgrimage through the Holy Place, the archeological section will help visitors understand, by means of extraordinary pieces—frescos, ceramics, Byzantine mosaics, coins, capitals, vases found in tombs from the bronze age, sarcophagi, jewelry, lamps, ossuaries, etc.–the succession of different historical periods. It will also include collections originating in Egypt and Mesopotamia. This section will support the legitimacy of the sanctuaries venerated for centuries by the Franciscans and so many pilgrims. This archeological section is also provided with a multimedia room that presents the Way of the Cross (biblically, historically, and spiritually) and serves as an introduction to the pilgrims before they take the Via Dolorosa. This section covers the first Christian millenium.
  1. The historical section will gather together documents and images from the archives, from rare collections of painting and sculpture, but especially all the sumptuous presents that flowed here from the royal courts of Europe throughout history. Jerusalem drew the attention of all the Christian powers, anxious to leave a sign of there presence there. Chalices, candelabras, ciboria, works in solid gold, processional crosses, and rich liturgical ornaments…the works of art exhibited in this section will certainly attract the admiration of the public. This second section covers the second Christian millenium.

 

3) What sort of objects will be on display, is there a “theme”?

On the day of Pentecost, the Church was born in Jerusalem: this was the universal Church of Jesus Christ, but also the local Church of Jerusalem. Since its beginnings and up to the present day, Jerusalem has kept its dimensions as a church both local and universal. The historical section of the museum is divided into two parts that put these two aspects of the Church on display.

Introduction: the first room presents up front the central theme—the Resurrection of Our Lord—by means of a Neapolitan bas-relief in silver from the early 18th century. It is because Christ’s resurrection happened in Jerusalem that Christians come here on pilgrimage. The next room will serve as a transition to the presentation of the second millenium. It will illustrate the birth of the Church with its different rites—the various eastern Churches will also present icons from their patrimony—until the arrival of St. Francis in the Holy Land.

First Part: the arrival of the Franciscans, the recovering of the sanctuaries and the rebirth of the local Church that disappeared after the Crusades, the return of pilgrimage, the return of the local Arab Christian community and a presentation of its patrimony.

Second Part: western pilgrims (universal Church) and their presence in Jerusalem. A Spanish room, the pharmacy where the Franciscans treated Jews, Christians, and Muslims; a Portuguese room, a French room, an educational room to present the Latin liturgy to Christians who do not know it well and to non-Christians who do not know it at all; an imperial room; a room of the Italian peninsula (Genoa, Venice, Naples, Sicily, Lombardy, Papal States…).

Conclusion: today.

Franciscan friars dressed in liturgical ornaments offered by the French king Louis XV prepare to celebrate a mass at the Church of the Saint Saviour Convent, the headquarters of the Franciscans in the Holy Land, in the Old City of Jerusalem, on February 23, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)
Franciscan friars dressed in liturgical ornaments offered by the French king Louis XV prepare to celebrate a mass at the Church of the Saint Savior Convent (Source)

4) Some people might think it is strange that the Franciscans possess such a rich treasury. Is there a contradiction between serving the poor and having beautiful liturgical objects? Shouldn’t the Franciscans sell some of these objects and give the money to the poor, who are very needy, particularly in the Holy Land?

The Franciscans have no treasury. It is the treasury of the Holy Sepulcher, the patrimony that belongs to the Holy Sepulcher. The donors have not given anything to us; they have offered gifts to the sanctuary. In our capacity as guardians of the Holy Places we have the duty to preserve the patrimony that has been deposited with us. There have been difficult times in our history, times of crisis, economic crisis. Unlike the treasuries of the medieval cathedrals, the treasury of the Holy Sepulcher has never been exchanged for money because we are convinced that it does not belong to us.

The apostolic works of the Franciscans in the Holy Land are the fruit of the generosity of Christians around the world. Already in the time of the Acts of the Apostles, the Church of Jerusalem owed its substance to the generosity of others (Acts 24:17; 2 Cor. 8:9).

The offerings collected around the world for the Holy Land—in particular the Good Friday collection—are not earmarked for the museum or for the restoration of any artifacts but exclusively for the building up of the living Stones who are the local Christians who live around the sanctuaries (salaries, schooling, scholarships, construction of houses for struggling families…) and for the preservation of the sanctuaries.

This is the reason why we humbly ask those who interested in art, liturgy, and culture to help us economically in our worthwhile enterprise.

5) About the liturgical objects in particular: What is the importance of beauty and quality in the liturgy in general, and for the Franciscans of the Holy Land in particular? Did St. Francis have anything to say about this?

St. Francis always invited his friars to be Catholics, which meant inviting his friars “to celebrate the Divine Office according to the use of the holy Roman Church” (Rule of St. Francis, III, 1). For this reason, the friars have contributed to the diffusion of the missal of the Roman Curia. In many of his writings St. Francis strongly urges his friars to give special attention to the liturgy, to liturgical books, sacred vessels and vestments that all the friars must consider “very precious” (Letter of Francis to the Ministers of the Order, 3). In humility, we have tried to obey the order of our Holy Founder.

Here is a letter of St. Francis written to the clergy:

  1. Let us attend, all clerics, to the great sin and ignorance, which certain men have concerning the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the most holy Names and His written words, which sanctify the Body.
  2. We know, since there cannot be a Body, unless first it is sanctified by the word. For we have and see nothing corporally of the Most High Himself, in this age, except the Body and Blood, Names and words, through which we have been made and redeemed from death and life (1 Jn 3:14). However, all those who minister such holy mysteries, should consider within themselves, most of all those who minister illicitly, how vile are the chalices, corporals, and altar linens, where the His very Body and Blood are sacrificed. And by many in vile places He is placed and abandoned, borne about in a wretched manner and consumed unworthily and ministered to others indiscreetly. Even His Names and written words are sometimes trodden under foot; since the bestial man does not perceive the things that are of God (1 Cor 2:14). Is not our piety stirred concerning all these things, when the pious Lord Himself offers Himself into our hands and we handle Him and consume Him each day with our mouth? Or are we ignorant that we must one day fall into His Hand? Therefore, let us correct quickly all these things and the others; and wherever the Most Holy Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ has been illicitly placed and abandoned, let Him be removed from that place and let them be placed in an honorable place. [All these things all the clerics are bound to observe above everything even to the end of the universe. And those who will not have done this, let them know that they must render an account before the Lord on the day of judgement (cf. Mt 12:36). This has been written so that it may better be observed; let them know themselves to be blessed by the Lord God, who would have it copied.]

A Letter to the Clergy

  1. Let us attend, all clerics, to the great sin and ignorance, which certain men have concerning the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the most holy Names and His written words, which sanctify the Body.
  2. We know, since there cannot be a Body, unless first it is sanctified by the word. For we have and see nothing corporally of the Most High Himself, in this age, except the Body and Blood, Names and words, through which we have been made and redeemed from death and life (1 Jn 3:14). However, all those who minister such holy mysteries, should consider within themselves, most of all those who minister illicitly, how vile are the chalices, corporals, and altar linens, where the His very Body and Blood are sacrificed. And by many in vile places He is placed and abandoned, borne about in a wretched manner and consumed unworthily and ministered to others indiscreetly. Even His Names and written words are sometimes trodden under foot; since the bestial man does not perceive the things that are of God (1 Cor 2:14). Is not our piety stirred concerning all these things, when the pious Lord Himself offers Himself into our hands and we handle Him and consume Him each day with our mouth? Or are we ignorant that we must (one day) fall into His Hand? Therefore, let us correct quickly all these things and the others; and wherever the Most Holy Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ has been illicitly placed and abandoned, let Him be removed from that place and let them be placed in an honorable place. [All these things all the clerics are bound to observe above everything even to the end of the universe. And those who will not have done this, let them know that they must render an account before the Lord on the day of judgement (cf. Mt 12:36). This has been written so that it may better be observed; let them know themselves to be blessed by the Lord God, who would have it copied.]

6) What is the most beautiful piece in the collection? [Attach a photo]

It is difficult to say which one is the most beautiful piece: de gustibus non disputandum…That said, one must admit that the Neapolitan throne given by King Charles de Bourbon and Maria Amalia of Saxony is very beautiful. It is composed of a throne that seats either a superb cross in lapis-lazuli or an extraordinary monstrance.

The throne consists of a niche surrounded by rocailles, with a marbling done in sapphires that accompany, at the summit, grape vines adorned with grapes made of rubies. The whole is surmounted by a closed royal crown terminating in a starry globe supporting a shining cross at the summit. Many other precious and semi-precious stones, such as emeralds and garnets, enrich this composition.

7) The most historically interesting piece? [Attach a photo]

During construction work at the end of the 19th century, the friars discovered in 1906 the 250 pipes of an organ from the time of the Crusades. Of course, this organ does not play any longer, because only the pipes remain, but it is the oldest known organ in the world. Along with the organ was found a carillon of 13 bells from the same period. It is thought that the organ and bells were buried in the 1=4th century by the Franciscans who wanted to protect them from destruction by the Muslims at that time. The ensemble of these instruments is obviously important for the history of music.

8) Are any of them still used regularly in liturgical celebrations?

On of the characteristics of the Terra Sancta Museum is that the works on display will not be imprisoned behind hermetic glass but will continue to be used to give glory to our Lord. We have no desire to build a museum of the past. Our intention is to continue to celebrate the liturgy using this age-old patrimony.

For example, each year, on Good Friday, during a liturgy that is unique to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, we celebrate the Funeral of Christ by visiting the different sites of the Passion, reading the relevant Gospel text at each stop.

The Custos and four deacons wear the cope and dalmatics donated by Queen Isabella II of Spain. The nails, the crown of thorns and the instruments of the Passion are placed upon four silver-gilt plates offered by the Spanish King Charles II. On the other hand, it is the Holy Roman Empire and Poland who gave the “pokal,” 16th century vases containing the ointments that are used for the Embalmment of Christ in the Stone of Unction.

 

9) There are many cathedrals in Europe that possess ancient vestments and exquisite liturgical objects, but often they do not use them. The Franciscans do. Why?

When these objects came to us, they were not locked in the glass cases of museums, or strong boxes in the cupboards of the sacristy. We consider them in no way primarily as works of art but as liturgical objects.

I see two ways of preserving an artifact. The first is to place it in a secure location, hidden and untouchable. The second is to use it. An object that is alive is not forgotten. Because we need it, we look for it, we find it, eventually we restore it, and in this way it is preserved. I think this second  way of preservation is not understood by “civilian” museums. So our museum will be something very different.

10) The Franciscans celebrate the Latin rite in the Holy Sepulcher largely in the Latin language, side by side with the Greeks, Armenians, Copts, and Syrians. Do you think there is an ecumenical importance to the Franciscans’ Cultural Patrimony and to their liturgical ethos?

Pilgrims coming to the Holy Sepulcher are often unpleasantly surprised by the situation they find there. The multiplicity of communities inside the same church appears to be a symbol of division. As one who lives there, I can say that ecumenical relations in the Holy Sepulcher are some of the best in the world.

In Jewish theology, Jerusalem is the center of the world. It is the same for Christian theology. A map of the 16th century presents the world in the form of a pearl. Jerusalem is at its heart, and the three petals represent Europe, Asia, and Africa. Christ’s Church was born in Jerusalem, but following the stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christians were afraid and fled from the Holy City and in this way the world received the Gospel. Many different cultures with no relation with one another accepted the Gospel, and so different churches and rites were born.

1581-Bunting-clover-leaf-map-small.jpg

In a sort of centrifugal motion, the Church left Jerusalem and went out into the world. Subsequently, in a centripetal motion, pilgrims and different communities the whole world over returned to Jerusalem. To go back to the idea of the world map, at the Holy Sepulcher there are two African communities (Copts and Ethiopians), two Asian (Armenians and Syrians), and two European (Byzantine and Latin). The world and the entire Church of Christ (though, it is true, without ecclesial communion) is assembled around the Tomb of the only Resurrected One. Each of these Churches prays according to its tradition and culture. The Greeks pray in Greek, the Armenians in Armenian, and the Latins in Latin…Each Church deploys the riches of its liturgical and musical patrimony. Therefore, it is perfectly natural that the Franciscans prayer the Liturgy of the Hours, the conventual Mass, and the daily process entirely in Latin. Nevertheless, the numerous pilgrims who come to celebrate in the various chapels that belong to us (there are about 20 Masses per day) celebrate in general in their language and in the multiplicity of rites known in the Catholic Church.

11) How can people contribute to the Museum project or donate to the Franciscans in the Holy Land?

We need every kind of help possible. The first way is to support us in prayer and to spread news about our project. We are also grateful to anyone who contributes economically to the realization of this great work. For more instructions, you may consult the site ATS pro Terra Sancta http://www.terrasanctamuseum.org/en/  where you will find a presentation of the project, as well as http://www.terrasanctamuseum.org/en/donate-now/  to make a donation online.  

Above all, all are invited to come to the Holy Land: a liturgical pilgrimage to the Land of Jesus allows you to gather the benefits of the whole liturgical year in just a few days.

 

Members of the scientific committee of the Terra Sancta Museum. Historical Section

Beatrix Saule, President of the scientific committee, Honorary Head Curator at the Château de Versailles.

Brother Eugenio Alliata ofm, Director of the Archaeological Museum of Studium Biblicum Franciscanum.

Michèle Bimbenet-Privat, General Curator of the Department of Decorative Arts of the Louvre Museum.

Jacques Charles-Gaffiot, Art historian.

Benoit Constensoux, Art historian, Galerie Kugel.

Andreina Contessa, Art historian, General Director of the Historical Museum of Miramare Castle in Trieste.

José Manuel Cruz Valdovinos, Professor of Art History, Complutense University of Madrid.

Thomas Gaehtgens, Art historian, Director of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

Gael De Guichen, Adviser to the Director-General of ICCROM.

Barbara Jatta, Art historian, Director of the Vatican Museums.

Brother Stéphane Milovitch ofm, Director of Cultural Heritage of the Custody of the Holy Land, Liturgist.

Przemysław Mrozowski, Honorary Director of the Royal Castle in Warsaw.

Maria Pia Pettinau Vescina, Art historian, Specialist in ancient fabrics.

Paulus Rainer, Conservator of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, previously Director of the Kunstkammer.

Danièle Veron-Denise, Honorary Chief Heritage Curator, Specialist in liturgical and profane embroidery.

Raphaëlle Ziade, Head of the Byzantine Department at the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.

A New Resource for the Study of Chant: The Graduale Synopticum

An admirable new resource for liturgical music has recently been made available by the University of Regensburg. Our readers might have already been acquainted with their impressive Antiphonale Synopticum, a database allowing users to compare versions of thousands of antiphons of the Divine Office from 12 representative manuscripts, in both adiastematic and diastematic notation. 

Now the Graduale Synopticum offers the same sort of synoptic tables for the propers of the Mass, allowing one easily to analyze the most ancient musically-notated versions of this repertoire. The result is similar to the Graduale Triplex, but much enriched with several additional manuscript sources. 

A truly spectacular achievement, invaluable for anyone interested in Gregorian chant. 

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The introit Ad te levavi of the First Sunday of Advent according to ten representative manuscripts, as seen on the Graduale Synopticum: (from top to bottom) Angelica 123; Chartres 47; Laon 239; Benevento 34; Albi B. N. Lat. 776; Yrieix B. N. Lat. 903; Klosterneuburg; Zwettl 196; Montpellier.

Corpus Christi at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

Corpus Christi
(Source: Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

From the website of the Custodia Terrae Sanctae:

“On May 31, a big feast took place at the Holy Sepulcher. According to ancient tradition, the Church of Jerusalem celebrated Corpus Christi, which is one of the most important solemnities celebrated at the Basilica of the Resurrection.

Beginning on the previous day, however, celebrations at the Holy Sepulcher had already begun. The Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land on the vigil of the feast of Corpus Christi went to the Latin Patriarchate to invite the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate to make his solemn entry into the Sepulcher. In the early afternoon, before the Holy Edicule, they celebrated the first Vespers for the feast. Then came the time for the daily solemn version of the procession at the Holy Sepulcher, with the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, at the very place where the Body of Christ was laid and where he rose.

As with all the solemn feasts, a procession was held which made its way around the shrine of Christ’s Sepulcher three times. Protected by the baldachin, Mons. Pizzaballa carried the Blessed Sacrament in his hands, followed by friars, priests and the faithful. The Tantum Ergo Sacramentum was sung three times at the end of the celebration.”

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An Englishman’s View of Rome in the 16th Century

Thanks to the generosity of one of our loyal readers, we here provide an excerpt from Roma Sancta, an account of the Eternal City written in 1581 by Gregory Martin, S. J., the chief translator of the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible. 

Chapter 20: The Service of God in the Churches Manie Wayes, and the Peoples Devotion, and First of Masses.

frmartin
Gregory Martin, S. J.

No man sayeth masse, but first allowed by a grave and worshipful priest; who fynding him meete and skilful in al comely ceremonies after the Romane fashion, commendeth him to an higher Officer; who geveth him leave for sixe monthes, and after for other sixe monethes, or more, or without limitation when he is once growen in credit, and that by subscribing his hand to printed paper for that purpose. Which testimonie, if he shewe, or if he be wel knowen otherwise, then (and not otherwise) shal he be admitted to say masse in any place in Rome or in the teritorie therof, wheresoever his devotion serveth. And this is generally and exactely observed toward al straungers, for as for the Romanes them selves that are made priests, they learne the Ceremonies even from children, by nature, custome, and Tradition, in such comely maner, with such reverence and maiestie, that herein (no doubt) Italie excelleth, and Rome especially, as most exactly observing at this very day the grave sinceritie of the old primitive Church. And thus much of the uniformitie and reverent comlinesse.

See now the provision that is there, for al that in this order can and are disposed to say Masse. for example at S. Peters, thou shalt have in the vesterie (verie fayre and large) from early morning until noone, upon a long table, so many Chalices with al their furniture, these many fayre albes with their vestimentes of whatsoever colour thou wouldest, according as masse requireth which thou meanest to say, for martyrs, red; for virgins and Confessors, white; for Diriges, blacke, whearof I wil say more in an other place. There is the cheefe Sacristane or master of the vesterie ready in his surples attending, and under him a number of pretie boys in gownes and surplises, most ready and diligent to attend upon thee. And the first question is, At what aultar thou wilt say, and what masse, and then wil they appoynt thee a vestment accordingly: and if thy aultar be voyd, thou shalt goe at thy pleasure: if not, either stay til he come in that is there before thee, or take an other. but the Privileges of some aultars ar such, namely of the Seven altars, or in other Churches of five Aultars, and the Relikes and bodies of Saintes adde such devotion and religion to other Aultars, namely S. Andrewes, where S. Gregorie the Doctors body is underneath, and S. Andrewes head above: that among so many as come daylie out of al Rome to celebrate in such places, a man some time must stay a good while, and yet the Canons them selves of purpose geve them to straungers, of charitie yelding to other mens devotion.

Now then, when thou art to be revested, there is water and towel for thy handes, a place to lay thy uppoer gowne, (for the under Cassock is downe to the foote,) a chappel to knele in before if it please thee, a body in gowne and surples ready to revest thee, and that done, he taketh the booke, and the Crewettes with wine and water alwaies new and fresh for every Masse, two tapers (for they never use under two,) and so goeth before thee, and thou in modest and solemne maner folowest, thy left hand holding the Chalice, and thy right upon the patent and burse to stay it, thy cappe on thy head, unles thou come before the B. sacrament, then Cap of and one knee to the ground. Now concerning the people, they are there continually expecting the beginning of some masse, that they may heare the whole, and as sone as the boy hath sounded the litle bel that hangeth in the way betwene the vestrie and the Churche, they goe flocking by and by round about the priest, attending upon him unto the aultar, and there kneeling with him, bowing with him, blessing with him, answering him, lifting up their hartes with his prayers and ceremonies, and wholy occupied in harkening to him, and onely attent to the holy mysteries and blessed wordes of the masse, so that they never use booke at that time: and at the Gospel, every man goeth up as neere as he can to the aultar, and afterward returneth to his place agayne as doing a special honour unto it, and desirous to heare it, and in al their behaviour there is such comelinesse, and such silence, that neither in gesture nor voyce is there any thing to offend any man, but to edifie excedingly and to please a straunger wonderfully. only this thou shalt heare verie often, devoute persons by aboundance of good and vehement spiritual motions, breake out eftsones into sighinges and groninges, to see the blessed Sacrament, to heare the passion of Christ, to behold his agonies, and the cruel martyrdomes of his servauntes; upon occasion of such meditations, the mouth sodenly sounded the inward conceite of the hart. And having thus heard masse to the very end, every one saluteth each other, which is solemly observed, and so they that wil, depart.

But in the meane time there ar commonly so many masses, as there be aultars in the body of the Church, which is ful of them according to the custome there, and they are built everie way, North, South, East and west, and in no place so commodiousely for the sight of the people standing round about, and very neere, and yet every one so inant. As I have for example sake spoken of S. Peters, so is it in other Churches in their degree. And in al places where a mans devotion would move him to say masse, there is al provision for him without al difficultie, only in some Chappels and aultars more desolate but of singular reverence and devotion, a man must have his minister or assistant with him.

And thus farre of masses in general, for as concerning the daily masses of al the Religious houses, of al Cathedral Churches, of Confraternities, of Hospitals, of foren nations, either never ceasing from houre to houre for the peoples commoditie, or insituted to special good purposes, as, for al such dead as otherwise have no frendes to care for them, for them that are executed by justice, for labourers that are to worke al day and would heere mass before early in the morning, for these and other godly and charitable respectes, These Masses I say being infinite, the Reader partly of these few wordes may conceave what might be sayd and partly I shal speake somewhat more of them in their places, hearafter. 

Our Lady of China

Today the Chinese celebrate the feast of Our Lady of China.

Our Lady of China.jpg

During the Boxer Rebellion, a great number of soldiers attacked the village of Donglu, Hebei. The village consisted of a small community of Christians founded by the Vincentian Fathers. The Virgin Mary appeared in white, and a fiery horseman (believed to be St Michael) chased away the soldiers. The pastor, Fr Wu, commissioned a painting of Mary with Christ child dressed in golden imperial robes. This painting became the image of Our Lady, Queen of China. Donglu became a place of pilgrimage in 1924. The image was blessed and promulgated by Pope Pius XI in 1928.

At the close of the 1924 Shanghai Synod of Bishops in China, the first national conference of bishops in the country, Archbishop Celso Costantini, Apostolic Delegate in China, along with all the bishops of China, consecrated the Chinese people to the Blessed Virgin Mary. An officially-sanctioned image of Our Lady of China was blessed, granted and promulgated by Pope Pius XI in 1928. In 1941, Pope Pius XII designated the feast day as an official feast of the Catholic liturgical calendar. In 1973, following the Second Vatican Council, the Chinese Bishops conference, upon approval from the Holy See, placed the feast day on the vigil of Mothers Day.

There is a fuller version of the history here.

The Mass has several proper parts.

The readings are Act 1:12-14 and Jn 19:25-27. The Psalm is 113:1-3, 4-6, 7-8. Of these, the psalm and Gospel are optional parts of the Commune Festorum BMV. 

The Communion is Ave Maria, Gratia plena, Dominus tecum, Benedicta tu in mulieribus. Alleluia.

The Collect and Postcommunion are proper (here translated by a friend from China, though an official version may exist somewhere):

Collect: Almighty and everliving God, you chose Mary to be the Mother of Your Son and to be Our Mother. We ask that, through her prayers, you may bless the billions of the Chinese people, grant peace and an abundant harvest of grain to our country and our people, and make the whole nation know you, love you, and serve you. We ask this through Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.

Postcommunion: Lord, in this feast we have received the Bread of Heaven. We ask that, through the prayers of Our Lady of China, you may bless us, make us constantly imitate the virtues of Our Lady, love you, and serve you with all our heart. We ask you to hear us, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Readers of Chinese can find the Mass here: http://catholic-dlc.org.hk/frame3.htm.

In addition to the Mass, there is a prayer of consecration to Our Lady of China:

Prayer to Our Lady of China:

Hail, Holy Mary, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mother of all nations and all people. You are the special heavenly Mother of the Chinese people. Teach us, your way of total obedience to God’s will. Help us to live our lives true to our faith. Fill our hearts with burning love for God and each other. Stir up in our youth, an unconditional giving of self to the service of God. We call on your powerful intercession for peace, reconciliation and unity among the believers and conversion of the unbelievers in China and throughout the world, for God’s mercy is our only hope. Our Lady of China, Mother of Jesus, hear our petitions and pray for us. Amen.

Consecration of the Chinese People to Our Lady of China:

O Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother, with sincere filial love, we consecrate to your most tender, most loving immaculate heart, our bodies, souls, abilities, lives, words and deeds, and all that we have. We also consecrate to you the Chinese people throughout the world. We pray that you be the Mother of priests and all missionaries. May they loyally and zealously proclaim the Kingdom of God. Be the Mother of all Christians. Help them to progress in virtue and to shine forth evermore the splendor of faith. Be the Mother of all unbelievers. Deliver them from darkness and lead them into the light of Faith. We beseech you to show mercy to the immense population of Chinese descent. They have all been redeemed by the precious blood of your Divine Son. Through your most efficacious intercession, may they all take refuge in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Source of life and holiness, and become one fold under One Shepherd in the Church.

Help of Christians, pray for us. Holy Mary, Mother of all Graces, pray for us. Our Lady of China, Queen of the Chinese People in Heaven, pray for us.

中華聖母 Our Lady of China.jpg