Some Peculiarities of the Lyonese Use

Between offices, Aelredus and I have been busy in the scriptorium with our translation of the Voyages Liturgiques hoping to see it published eventually. In response to a question raised by one of our loyal readers struck by the curious sight of a Subdeacon leaning on a misericord to read the Epistle at the High Mass in the Lyonese use recently celebrated by the FSSP on the feast of St Irenæus, herein we provide a relevant except from Voyages’ description of Mass in the Cathedral of Lyon.

Images courtesy of FSSP Lyon

At the beginning of the collect, the Major Subdeacon [there were also two minor subdeacons] goes bare-headed [at certain times he, being a canon, wore a mitre] to the raised third stall of the first row in the front of the choir on the right-hand side. He leans on the misericord and rather reads than sings the Epistle in a moderate tone. The misericord is a wooden board the size of about two hands, over which the canons and cantors lean while they sing the psalms and hymns, and this position is considered equivalent to standing.

After the end of the Collect, the Celebrant goes to sit together with the Assistant Priests and Deacons, half on each side. The Celebrant reads the Epistle and what follows on a small iron stand by his side.

The two choir-boys set their candles on the ground by the foot of the râtelier [a candelabra] after the Collect and go up to the altar to fetch the silver tablets upon which is set a parchment with the Gradual and Alleluia. They present them to a Canon and three Perpetuals [a special rank of Canons] who had just taken their places at the first high chairs of the right side near the Great Rood. Leaning on their stalls they sing the Gradual and then give their places and the tablets over to four others who sing the Alleluia and its verse and return to their places in choir. They call this singing per rotulos. The precentor is at the first place of the Epistle side and the cantor at the first place of the Gospel side near the Great Rood.

Since the recent Mass of St Irenæus was not celebrated by the Canons of Lyon at Cathedral, it did not feature the practices described in the last paragraph. Instead, towards the end of the Alleluia, the choir-boys acting as acolytes go stand towards the back of the choir (near the nave) and hold their hands over their breast while the incense is prepared. Once the Deacon picks up the book and asks for the Celebrant’s blessing, the choir-boys go fetch their candles. This manner of holding the hands is not mentioned in the Voyages, but is described in later ceremonials. The readers of the prophecies during Holy Week also hold their arms crossed while they wait for other ceremonial actions to be completed.

Another aspect of the Lyonese use that has arrested people’s attention is the vestment used by the thurifer. It is called the orfrois de tunique, or “tunicle orphreys.” As the name suggests, it is a remnant of the full subdeaconal tunicle, since in the Cathedral, only subdeacons were allowed to be thrufiers. Hence, the 19th century ceremonial states that the thurifer is to wear the orfrois on the greatest feasts, and the Subdeacon during the short Vespers attached to the end of Holy Saturday, while assisting the Celebrant as he incenses the altar during the Magnificat. In the Voyages, Le Brun des Marettes reports that on Corpus Christi and the feast of St John the Baptist in the Cathedral, a Subdeacon clad in a mitre and orfrois led the procession after Benediction to carry the Blessed Sacrament to the neighbouring parish church, where it was reserved. Note that the Canons of the Cathedral of Lyon had the privilege of wearing a mitre, even in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. 

A Sequence for Trinity and a Franciscan Musical Treasury

In 1902, the French provinces of the Order of Friars Minor undertook the publication of a richly variegated collection of chants gathered from manuscripts of their Order, under the title Cantus Varii in Usu apud Nostrates ab Origine Ordinis, Aliaque Carmina in Decursu Sæculorum Pie Usu Parta, that is, Various chants in use among our community from the origin of the Order and other songs in use piously composed in the course of the centuries. The prolix title is certainly accurate, and the pieces included range from medieval sequences and hymns to later Latin songs that are not strictly speaking Gregorian chants. Unfortunately, no information is included about the sources whence each piece was taken. Click here to download a PDF of the book.

Among the chants in honour of the Holy Trinity, the volume includes a sequence attributed to Adam of St Victor, the prolific 12th-century composer of liturgical poetry. It is found in several Dominican and Franciscan manuscripts, as well as in the books of a number of French dioceses. It also made its way into the books of the archdiocese of York, and was included in the first printed missal of that use (1509).

In the Cantus Varii, it is set to the melody of the sequence Lauda Sion.

Profitentes Trinitatem,
Veneremur Unitatem,
Pari reverentia;
Professing the Trinity,
Let us venerate the Unity
With like reverence;
Tres Personas asserentes,[1]
Personali differentes
A se differentia.
Let us assert Three Persons
Differing from one another
By a distinction of persons.
Hae dicuntur relative,
Cum sint unum substantive,
Non tria principia;
Persons are said relatively
For they are one in substance,
Not three principles.
Sive dicas tres vel tria,
Simplex tamen est usia,
Non triplex essentia.
Call them three persons or three principles,
Yet the being is simple
The essence is not three-fold.
Simplex esse, simplex posse,
Simplex velle, simplex nosse,[2]
Cuncta simplicia.
Simple being, simple potency,
Simple will, simple knowledge,
All things simple.
Non unius quam duarum
Sive trium Personarum
Minor efficacia.
The power of one
Is not greater than that of two
Or three persons.
Pater, Proles, Sacrum Flamen,
Deus unus sed hi tamen
Habent quaedam propria.
Father, Son, Holy Ghost,
One God: yet they
Have some proper qualities.
Una virtus, unum numen,
Unus splendor, unum lumen,
Hoc una quod alia.
One power, one God-head,
One splendour, one light,
In one and all.
Patri Proles est aequalis,
Nec hoc tollit personalis
Amborum distinctio.
The Father equal to the Son,
But this doeth not not remove
The distinction of persons.
Patri compar Filioque,
Spiritalis ab utroque
Procedit connexio.
Equal to the Father and to the Son,
The Spirit’s connexion
Proceedeth from both.
Non humana ratione
Capi possunt hae Personae,
Nec harum discretio.
By human reason
These Persons cannot be grasped
Nor their distinction.
Non hic ordo temporalis,
Non hic situs, aut localis
Rerum circumscriptio.
Here no succession of time,
No circumscription of situation
Nor of place.
Nil in Deo praeter Deum,
Nulla causa praeter eum
Qui causat causalia.[3]
Nothing in God but God,
No cause but Himself
The cause of all causes.
Effectiva vel formalis
Causa Deus, et finalis,
Sed numquam materia.
God is effective and formal cause
As well as final,
But never material.
Digne loqui de Personis
Vim transcendit rationis,
Excedit ingenia.
Speaking worthily of the Persons
Transcendeth the power of reason,
Exceedeth our talents.
Quid sit gigni, quid processus,
Me nescire sum professus:
Sed fide non dubia.
What is begetting, what proceeding,
I confess I wot not,
But not with doubting fath.
Qui sic credit non festinet,
Et a via non declinet
Insolenter regia;[4]
Let he who believeth this be not hasty
And stray not
Insolently from the royal way.
Servet fidem, formet mores,
Non declinet ad errores
Quos damnat Ecclesia.
Let him keep the faith, form his manners,
And not stray into errors
Which the Church condemneth.
Nos in fide gloriemur,
Nos in una modulemur[5]
Fidei constantia:
Let us glory in our fath,
Let us together sing,
In constancy of faith.
Trinae sit laus Unitati,
Sit et simplex Trinitati
Coaeterna gloria! Amen.
Praise be to the Triune Unity,
And to the simple Trinity
Coëternal glory! Amen.


[1] Afferentes in Cantus Varii, a manifest typographical error.

[2] Nolle in Cantus Varii, typo’.

[3] Qui creat causalia in Cantus Varii.

[4] In solenti regia in Cantus Varii, typo’.

[5] Nos in via modulemur in Cantus varii.

God’s Spirit Hath Made the Heavens Fair: Honorius’s Sermon on Whitsun

Click here to download a PDF of the translation and Latin text.

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Honorius Augustodunensis
Sermon on Pentecost

from the Speculum Ecclesiae

By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth.[1] Through the Son, who is the Word of God, not only the heavens, but yea all things have been created from nothing, and, lest they descend once more into nothingness, they have been established by the same Word and all their power has been supplied by the spirit of his mouth. Those angels are also called Heavens who, when the others fell, were established in charity through the Word and abundantly furnished in every virtue through his Spirit. Hence it is written: God’s spirit hath made the heavens fair,[2] because he embellished these heavens with stars and the angels with virtues.

The Creation of Heaven and Earth, Monreale Cathedral

Verily, the angelic spirits are created through the Son, but given life through the Holy Spirit;[3] the substance of light began to glisten through the Son, but its splendor shone forth through the Holy Spirit;[4] the firmament is fashioned by the Son, but it turns in swift circular motion through the Holy Spirit; the sun, moon, and stars are set to preside over times through the Son, but the finishing touch is set through the Holy Spirit with the lustre of light; the rivers are poured out through the Son, their streaming course is assigned by the Holy Spirit; the earth is formed through the Son, it is strewn with fruits and flowers through the Holy Spirit; the v

The Creation of Birds and Fishes, Monreale Cathedral

arious kinds of animals are brought forth through the Son, they are imbued with the breath of life through the Holy Spirit, and through Him the birds are sustained in flight, the fish in swimming, and reptiles and serpents in their slithering; man is made in God’s image through the Son, but his soul is brought to life through the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit inspires divers talents and also bestows the divers crafts. Divers kinds of tongue[5] are given by the Holy Spirit, and through Him the manifold rivers of the Scriptures are brought out of the hidden treasuries of wisdom.[6] Through the Holy Spirit the patriarchs pointed out in figures the events that were to happen concerning Christ and the Church; through the same Spirit the Prophets spake, foretelling these same events through the Scriptures; through the same Spirit the Apostles were confirmed, and they spread the word that these events had come to pass in the world; through the same Spirit the doctors were inspired, and explained the Scriptures. Man was redeemed from death through the Son; through the Holy Spirit he was regenerated in baptism unto life.[7] Sins are remitted through the Holy Spirit, and through Him souls are raised to life from the death of transgressions. Through the Holy Spirit many abandoned the world and embraced the religious life; through Him many shone with signs and miracles. Through the Holy Spirit even today many are converted into the better life; through Him many are rapt into heaven in ecstasy.

The Creation of Adam, Monreale Cathedral

Through the Son the dead are brought back to life; through the Holy Spirit they are changed to everlasting life. The world is judged through the Sun; through the Holy Spirit both sides are given their just deserts. Through the Son God the Father shall create a new heaven and a new earth, but through the Holy Spirit He shall transform all things into a new and better state. Heaven, forsooth, shall be clothed with the sun’s splendor through Him; through Him the sun shall be clad with seven-fold light; through Him the moon shall gleam with the sun’s brightness; through Him the earth shall come into bloom as lovely as paradise. Then the Son shall lead them out from the toil of earthly life and make them to sit down, whilst He shall come by to minister to them, for upon his return from the Judgement He shall make his elect rest in divers mansions according to their divers merits[8] and show them the glory of His divinity face to face. The Holy Spirit, withal, shall make them shine forth in full joy, radiant like the sun, with perfect knowledge of the Triune Unity.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Monreale Cathedral

We celebrate this feast for seven days, since we venerate the Holy Spirit in His seven gifts, as foretold by the prophet: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness, the spirit of the fear of the Lord.[9] These are the seven women who took hold of one man,[10] since the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit laid hold of Christ’s body.[11] All who fear God scale the heavens by the gift of this Spirit. Indeed, through Him they are granted fear, which is of two kinds, for there is servile fear and filial fear. A servant, by troth, fears his lord lest he condemn him; a son fears his father lest he disinherit him. An adulterous woman fears lest her husband come; a chaste wife fears lest he depart. When the Holy Spirit, who is charity, shall have laid hold of the soul, He shall cast out servile fear;[12] but the fear of the Lord endureth for ever and ever.[13] For then he shall not fear hell as a servant, since he shall seek to commit no sin, but as a son, rather, he shall cling to God through love of virtue, and so lay hold of his inheritance. Let us obtain his grace by praying that we might dread the Lord our God, as servants, by avoiding evil, lest he inflict punishment on us for contemning His commandments, nay more, lest he punish us with everlasting torments as enemies rebelling against him. Let us beg that we might fear Him, as sons do a good father, by so acting that we might become co-heirs with his Son in the enjoyment of the Father’s face. After the fear of God, the Holy Spirit gives piety, in order that man might serve his maker with devotion, and to do for his neighbor what good acts are in his power. Then He inspires knowledge, so that man may know what he must do and what he must avoid. After knowledge He gives fortitude so that man may not be turned to vice by difficulties or pleasures. Then He supplies reason with the gift of counsel that he may choose what is expedient, and spurn what is harmful. Then He offers the gift of understanding so the soul can understand eternal things through the visible. Next He inspires wisdom, that the rational creature might disdain changing creatures, love his Creator who is the unchanging good, and hunger after the sole fount of wisdom, Christ, in the Holy Spirit.

Those who bloom in these virtues by the septiform Spirit’s aid shall obtain, through Him, seven gifts in body and seven gifts in soul when, in their fatherland, they shall come into possession of a two-fold inheritance, to wit, when they shall shine as the sun in body,[14] and be equal to the angels in soul.[15] Indeed their bodies shall shine seven times more brightly than the sun through Him whose beauty astounds the sun and moon. For Christ shall refashion our lowly bodies through the Holy Spirit, configuring them to the body of His glory,[16] a spiritual body, and He whose word runneth swiftly[17] shall endow them with such speed that their sight shall reach even unto heaven and their thoughts to the ends of the earth, so rapidly shall they be borne there by their bodies’ mobility. Yea verily, He who is the vigor of all things shall infuse our bodies with such strength that they shall easily overturn the masses of mountains with their foot. Moreover, the grace of liberty shall be given to them to such a degree by him who was free among the dead,[18] that they shall be able to penetrate any solid object. Upon glimpsing them, the angels shall be overcome with marvelous delight and all the saints shall be filled with intense pleasure. At His bidding they shall drink their fill from every river of joy, when in the joy of their lord they shall be placed over all his goods. [19] There they shall see the king of glory as he is, in his beauty,[20] upon whom they desire to look.[21] There they shall see the glory of all the angels and saints, and they shall behold all their limbs translucent inside and out. There they shall hear the saints’ organs and the angels’ symphony resound for ever after. There they shall be refreshed by the sweet smell of cinnamon and balsam[22] and shall feast and rejoice in God’s sight and be delighted in gladness,[23] and be inebriated with the plenty of God’s house, and drink of the torrent of His pleasure.[24] He who saves all things shall bestow on them such sound health that their bodies shall undergo no sufferings, like a sunbeam whose rays cannot be cut. He who is eternal life shall confirm them in such longness of life that death shall not undo them forever.

They shall have these seven bodily gifts through the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. They shall have the same number of gifts there, where they shall rejoice forever in the Lord’s goods. As a fountain of wisdom He flows into them, bestowing knowledge of all things. They are linked in ineffable friendship because they are loved by God as sons, and by the angels as brothers. Incomparable harmony binds them, because neither God nor any saint differs from their pleasure differs nothing from God or the saints. They are invested with inconceivable power, because they are made lords over the new heaven and the new earth. They are raised to untold honor, because they are revered by God himself and all the angels. They are supremely secure, because no one shall ever take these things from them. They shall have fullness of joy in these gifts without end, rejoicing that all of their friends, whom they love, also enjoy these good things forever.

These are the gifts that Christ, ascending on high, gave to men,[25] who had been captured by the devil. He led them out, captured out of the captivity of death, and as a glorious victor drove them to starry abodes. While on earth, too, he bestowed gifts on them, making them scintillate with miracles and new tongues through the charisms of the Holy Spirit. Yea, whosoever is found lacking the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit shall suffer as many punishments as the good things those ones enjoy. These gifts were whilom prefigured in the Law; these gifts were foreannounced by the prophets. Soothly, seven lamps shine from the candlestick of the Law,[26] for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit go forth to the Church from Christ. These are the seven columns that support the house of wisdom,[27] for the Church, which is the house of God, is marked by the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are the seven eyes the prophet beheld upon one stone,[28] for, verily, the rock that is Christ gave the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the souls of the faithful. These are the seven horns of the Lamb slain for us, that treads the seven heads of the red dragon underfoot.[29]

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Baptism of Christ, Monreale Cathedral

We read how the same Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord in the shape of a dove after He was baptized;[30] this is on account of the seven traits which are said to be in the dove.[31] The dove nests on rock, because the Holy Spirit lives bodily in Christ. It feeds others’ chicks when it brings back those who have strayed from God’s kingdom through penance. It chooses pure grains, because it separates the good from the evil, as grains from chaff. It has no bile, because it drains malice from those it possesses. It does no harm with its beak, because it is full of the Holy Spirit. It does not lie in ambush for its neighbor, and lives near water, because the Holy Spirit dwells in the wise. It flies in flocks, because the Holy Spirit gives His gifts to those who flock together in the Lord’s name.[32] Hence the Prophet says, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity. Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, which ran down to the skirt of his garment, as the dew of Hermon, which descendeth upon Mount Syon.”[33] Brethren dwelt pleasantly in unity when the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul.[34] Oil ran down Aaron’s head to his beard because the Holy Spirit, who is spiritual unction,[35]came upon the Apostles from God, the head of all. Aaron, whose name means strong mountain, is Christ, by whom the faithful stand strong against the vices and go from virtue to virtue[36] into heaven. The apostles were his beard, when they stuck to Christ, the Father’s face, like a beard to a face. The oil flowed from the beard onto the garment when the Holy Spirit poured himself out on believers through the apostles’ laying on of hands. The dew of Hermon, which means anathema, came down on Mount Syon, which means watchtower, when heavenly grace went from the Synagogue to the Church. Mount Hermon is beside the Jordan, where Our Lord was baptized. Hermon’s dew is, therefore, the Holy Spirit, who descended on Our Lord in baptism near that mountain; today He descends upon believers, on Mount Syon where Jerusalem lies.

The Holy Ghost descends upon the Apostles. Note the personified representations of the different regions of the world below them. From the Basilica of St Mark’s, Venice.

Holy Scripture tells us today how this happened. When fifty days had passed from Christ’s resurrection and His disciples tarried together in Jerusalem, as He had commended them when He ascended, there suddenly came a loud sound as of a mighty wind coming, which filled the whole house where they were sitting, and there appeared to them tongues of fire, and thus inflamed they began to speak the wonderful works of God in the tongues of all nations. Jews from every nation of the earth had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast, for they celebrated Pentecost every year as the day when they received the Law. When they heard the loud sound, they came together and they were amazed that every man heard them speak in his own mother tongue. To them Peter declared that the things foretold by the prophets had been fulfilled by Jesus, whom they had crucified. Thus moved to contrition, three thousand men were baptized and they too were filled with the Holy Spirit as the others had been.[37] On another day, after Peter and John had healed a lame man by the Holy Spirit,[38] five thousand were baptized,[39] all of whom received the Holy Spirit. Later, they received the Blood of Christ in great fear and trembling, for they had shed it in their fury. Very many of them went on to shed their own blood for Him. The apostles remained together in Jerusalem for twelve days after they had received the Holy Spirit, as He Himself had instructed them, and they converted many to the faith by miracles and wonders. All received the Holy Spirit when the apostles laid hands on them, and they declared God’s mighty deeds with new tongues. Forsooth, through the Holy Spirit the apostles restored sight to the blind, cleansed the leprous, expelled demons from the obsessed, loosed the tongue of the dumb, steadied the step of the lame, and raised the dead. They restored health to the infirm even by their staves, their garments, yea, some of them even by their shadow.

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St Paul preaches in Damascus, Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Later, the twelve spread out over the whole world, filled with the seven-fold gift of the Holy Spirit. The twelve did their work through the number seven when they brought the four regions of the world to faith in the Holy Trinity. For three added to four makes seven, and multiplied makes twelve. And verily, these goodly fishermen used the net of faith, and signs and miracles, to haul those fish predestined for life long ago from the ocean of this world to the shore of eternal life; they led the way, laying down their lives for their sheep as Christ had. In the beginning, after God had created all things in six days, he made the seventh holy, by resting from his work. Just so those who zealously strive to perform works with the gifts of the Holy Spirit throughout the six ages of the world shall rest through Him from every labor on the seventh day. So we too labor for six days during the week and rest on the seventh, because we press forward now in good works through the septiform Spirit, and in the future we rest from every labor in bliss, where he shall cause us to be at leisure and see Him as He is.[40]

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Noah sends out a dove, Monreale Cathedral

During the Flood, a dove brought back an olive branch, announcing peace to those shut inside,[41] because through the anointing with chrism the Holy Spirit restored to souls shut up in the flesh the peace they had lost. He is called the finger of God’s right hand,[42] because as the hand works through the fingers, so Christ, the Father’s right hand, does all his works through the graces shared out by the Holy Spirit. Hence the magicians who could not withstand Moses proclaimed that the finger of God was at work,[43] for they saw plainly that the miracles had been worked through the Holy Spirit. This finger wrote the Law on two tablets,[44] because it is divided into the two precepts of charity by the Holy Spirit.[45] Our Lord cast out demons with this finger, because the works of the Son and the Spirit are inseparable.[46] Once upon a time the human race used only one language, but seventy-two giants built a tower to challenge God, who was offended by their deed. He confused their languages so that no one could understand another’s language,[47] and dispersed them throughout the globe. But today the Holy Spirit joins them all into the unity of the faith through the gift of tongues.

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Paschal Lamb, Basilica of Sts Cosmas and Damian, Rome

Further, the Hebrew people were liberated from slavery in Egypt on the Paschal night through the Paschal lamb. They were ferried through the Red Sea, and on the fiftieth day they came to Mount Synai, which was filled with smoke and fire, and in the midst of the fire the Lord gave them the Law of fear in written tablets. Thus the Christian people were delivered from the subjugation to the devil on the Paschal night and through the Paschal Lamb. Through baptism they were borne through the Red Sea, as it were, and on the fiftieth day, that is, today, they received the Law of life in fire, which the Lord commanded them to write in their hearts, so that what they used to do by force of fear they should thereafter do willingly for the love of God. Moreover, the Law prescribed that the fiftieth year should be called the Jubilee, that is, the year of remission, when no servile work should be performed, and that lost inheritances should be returned to the proper heirs.[48] This time prefigured the Holy Spirit, who wished His people to abstain from servile work, that is, from sin, and restored to them the lost inheritance of paradise. We read that the Holy Spirit was given twice: once on earth, and once from heaven.[49] The Spirit was given on earth for love of neighbor; the Spiritual was given from heaven for love of God. For he who loveth God shall keep His word, and the Father shall love him, and the Trinity shall come to him, make His abode with him.[50] And so, dearly beloved, let us love God by keeping his commandments, that He might love us and prepare an abode for Himself in us. Let us wipe away the dung of sins from the inn of our hearts through penance and confession, let us wash away its filth with tears, let us strive to adorn it with the flowers for good works, so that the Holy Spirit might vouchsafe to come and prepare a worthy habitation for Himself in us. He also descended over the Lord in the form of a dove, showing Him to be immune from sins. He descended over the disciples in fire since, by burning away their sins, he blotted out the writing of sin. Hence he went before the children of Israel in fire, guiding their way to their fatherland, since the fire of the preceded the disciples and showed them the way to the fatherland of paradise through the Scriptures. Therefore baptisms are held now, since original sin is remitted through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, too, we observe a fast this week, that we might merit to receive the remission of our sins. He who should blaspheme against the Holy Spirit shall not have his sins remitted, neither in this world nor the next.[51] Remission of sins is given through the Holy Spirit. He who despairs of His forgiveness is the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, and commits the unpardonable sin.

Baptism of Christ, Baptistry of Neon, Ravenna

My best beloved, you know Our Lord’s nativity is a high feast; good Christians honor today’s solemn feast as well, because just as God visited mankind at Christmas when he came in the flesh, so God came in fire to purify men from their sins today, and gave them divers charismatic gifts. These feasts, held in such high regard by men and angels, are honored by our God as well. For at Christmas the Lord of majesty rose from His glorious throne, donned His battle gear, and went down into exile to fight for us. Good Friday was the day of His battle and victory, when the strong and mighty in battle conquered the devil, prince of this world, him and all his band, and won a mighty victory. On the day of His resurrection, the war finished, He laid waste the tyrant’s kingdom, and rounded up the captives the devil had taken. On Ascension Day the Lord of hosts returned in solemn procession and held a triumph; welcomed by angelic strains, He raised our flesh above the airs. But today is the day He shared out his spoils among the soldiers, granting the faithful the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There is yet a day to come when He shall lead his spouse out of this Babylon, when he shall place the Church in the heavenly Jerusalem on the Last Day. Lo! the Holy Spirit sang of these days throughout the whole Psalter. Nay more, the Law and every prophet resounded these events with one harmonious voice.

My best beloved, let us now, therefore, appear before His face in justice, so that when His glory shall appear,[52] we may be able to feast to our content at his wedding party, that we may see the good of His chosen, that we may rejoice in the joy of His nation in the fullness of all good things,[53] which eye hath not seen &c.[54]

Triumph of the Cross, Basilica of St Clement, Rome


[1] Psalm 32:6

[2] Job 26:13.

[3] The whole paragraph is a whirlwind tour through salvation history, beginning with the days of Genesis.

[4] This passage resonates with the collect for the Vigil of Pentecost, which alludes to the Holy Spirit as the “light of [Christ’s] light” and “splendor” of his “brightness”: Præsta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut claritatis tuæ super nos splendor effulgeat; et lux tuæ lucis corda eorum, qui per gratiam tuam renati sunt, Sancti Spíritus illustratione confirmet. Cf. also Ambrose’s hymn Splendor paternae gloriae.

[5] 1 Corinthians 12:10.

[6] Cf. Job 28:18.

[7] Baptism was administered during the Vigil of Pentecost, and the newly baptized are mentioned each day of the Octave in the proper Hanc igitur. References to baptism abound in the Mass texts.

[8] Cf. John 14:2.

[9] Isaias 11:2.

[10] Isaias 4:1, read at the Vigil Mass of Pentecost.

[11] Cf. Isaias 11.

[12] 1 John 4:18.

[13] Psalm 18:10.

[14] Matthew 13:43.

[15] Luke 20:36.

[16] Philippians 3:21.

[17] Psalm 14:4.

[18] Psalm 87:6.

[19] Matthew 24:47 and 25:21.

[20] Isaiah 33:17.

[21] 1 Peter 1:12.

[22] Ecclesiasticus 24:20.

[23] Psalm 67:4.

[24] Psalm 35:9.

[25] Ephesians 4:8.

[26] Cf. Exodus 25 and Gemma animae 1.11.

[27] Cf. Proverbs 9.

[28] Cf. Zacharias 4.

[29] Cf. Apocalypse 5, 6.

[30] Cf. Matthew 3

[31] Honorius mentions the septem naturae of the dove in his Expositio in Cantica Canticorum (PL 172.411B), as does Anselm of Laon (Enarrationes in Cantica canticorum, PL 162.1195C). Haymo of Halberstadt menons it in a sermon (PL 118.0115B).

[32] This notion of gathering up appears in the first antiphon at Vespers, Dum santificatus.

[33] Psalm 132:1-3

[34] Acts of the Apostles 4:32.

[35] Hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, second stanza.

[36] Psalm 83:8.

[37] Cf. Acts of the Apostles 2.

[38] Cf. Acts of the Apostles 3.

[39] Cf. Acts of the Apostles 4.

[40] 1 John 3:2.

[41] Cf. Genesis 8

[42] In the hymn Veni, sancte Spiritus. The expression “finger of God” is found only three times in the Old Testament, all mentioned here. In the Bible the term is used in a figurative sense, “denoting power, direction, or immediate agency.” Cf. Jewish Encyclopedia, “Finger.”

[43] Cf. Exodus 8

[44] Cf. Exodus 31

[45] I.e., love of God and love of neighbor.

[46] Cf. Luke 11:20.

[47] Cf. Genesis 9. Honorius elaborates on the Tower of Babel story in several places.

[48] Cf. Leviticus 25.

[49] First by our Lord on earth after the Resurrection (John 20:22), second after the Ascension when the Spirit descended from heaven (Acts 2:1–4), as Saint Gregory the Great discusses in sermon 36 (PL 110:177).

[50] John 14:23.

[51] Luke 12.

[52] Psalm 16:15.

[53] Psalm 105:5.

[54] 1 Corinthians 2

Three Introit Tropes for Whitsun

Gladdened by God’s good Ghost, let us sing forth His praises on this holy feast of Pentecost with three exuberant tropes on the day’s Introit Spiritus Domini.

Hodie Spiritus Sanctus


Hodie Spiritus Sanctus descendit super Apostolos omnemque terram replevit: eia! Dic, domne! Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, alleluia! Hodie Spiritus Sanctus Paraclitus totam replevit domum igne divino: et hoc quod continet omnia scientiam habet vocis. Gratias agamus sanctae Trinitati et unitati maiestatis semper: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Today the Holy Spirit hath descended upon the Apostles and hath filled all the earth: ho! Speak, my lord! The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world, alleluia! Today the Holy Spirit hath filled the whole house with divine fire: and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice. Let us give thanks to the holy Trinity and the unity of majesty for aye: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Discipulis flammas infundens


Discipulis flammas infundens caelitus almas: Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, alleluia! omnigenis linguis reserans magnalia Christi: et hoc quod continet omnia, scientiam habet vocis, alleluia! Ipsi perspicuas dicamus vocibus odas: alleluia, alleluia! Pouring into the disciples propitious flames from heaven, the Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world, alleluia! revealing Christ’s mighty deeds in all manner of tongues: and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice, alleluia! With our voices let us cry out limpid hymns to him: alleluia! 

Spiritus almus adest


Spiritus almus adest, cunctorum vivificator: Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, alleluia! Namque replet linguis, qui corda fidelia cunctis: et hoc quod continet omnia mirifico visu satiat: quod continet omne scientiam habet vocis. Ebria namque fides divo solamine cantat: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! The nourishing Spirit is here, who lives life to all things: the Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world, alleluia! Yea verily, he who filleth faithful hearts with every language, and that which containeth all things satisfieth: a wonder to behold: that which containeth all hath knowledge of the voice. Faith drunken—forsooth!—with divine solace singeth: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

These tropes were transcribed from the MSS. by Ferdinand Haberl, Tropi antiphonarum ad Introitum usui liturgicum accomodati, Rome, 1980. 

We also wanted to take the opportunity to introduce our readers to our new Music Library, which contains all the chant recordings made for this ’blog by our Notker Balbulus. 

The Day of God’s Triumph: A Sermon by Honorius Augustodunensis

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A portrait of Honorius in a manuscript of his Speculum Ecclesiae

In celebration of Our Lord’s glorious Ascension, we offer our readers a sermon on today’s feast by Honorius Augustodunensis, taken from his Speculum Ecclesiae, like the sermon on the Holy Cross we posted a fortnight ago.

Read the English below or download a PDF of the translation and Latin text.

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The Triumph of Christ, Johann Theodor de Bry (1561-1623) after Titian

On Our Lord’s Ascension

The sun was raised aloft, and the moon stood still in her course.[1] Christ is the eternal sun who sheds his radiance upon all the choirs of angels; he is the true light[2] who enlightens every soul, who long lay concealed behind the cloud of his flesh, wreathed in the shadows of our frailty. Emerging at last from the shadows of Hell, today he rises gloriously above the stars and, raised above all the decorated ranks of angels, he sits, Lord of majesty, at the right hand of the Father. The moon, that is the Church, stands still in her course, gleaming in his light, when in the person of the apostles she saw him ascend into heaven. For the apostles showed themselves to be the Church’s course when they taught her the course of good living, and taught her how to order her course[3] after the Sun of justice. O! what brilliant horns the new-born moon has beamed forth today, when the Sun reaching the heights of heaven has infused her with a ray of eternal light! O! how serene her face as she stood in her course, when she saw her flesh penetrate the heavens in her Head, her Redeemer, her Spouse, her God! She saw them, I say, through the eyes of the apostolic chorus, who were her course, and of the Virgin Mother of God, her type! O what joy burst forth today among the angels in heaven when the Son of God, who had gone from his palace into the Prison for the sake of his servant, yea from his fatherland into banishment, an exile for an exile, now returns in triumph to his Father’s kingdom! And so today is clept the day of God’s triumph, when the victor over death triumphant was welcomed by the senate of the celestial court with hymnic praises, glorifying the author of life!

Ascension 5
Roman Triumph, Francesco de’ Rossi (1510–1563)

The Romans had the custom of according victors a triumph in the following manner: After a general or consul subdied a nation to Roman rule by arms and returned victorious with the spoils, and senate and the entire Roman people went forth to meet him merrily, welcoming him with songs and canticles of praise. He donned the purple, received the diadem entwined with laurel and gold, and was driven to the City in a golden chariot encrusted with glowing gems pulled by four snow-white horses. Noble captives preceded the chariot, walking bound with golden chains. Behind the chariot followed the meaner captives, their hands bound behind their backs. Spoils too are carried in procession, and thus the crowned victor was led with great revelling to the high temple, and then the booty was meted out amongst the people.

Ascension 6
Triumphus Caesari, Andrea Andreani

Roman nobility used to afford the honour of a triumph to the greatest victors for some worldly glory, but God willed to prefigure the glory of Christ the greatest victor even through his enemies, since they would become his friends. Verily the triumph of the Romans’ kingdom preceded today’s triumph in figure, for Christ, the King of glory, the sole ruler, vanquished the tyrant’s kingdom, took captive the captivity he had captivated, and enthralled the rebellious world to the heavenly commonweal. today the Victor returned to his fatherland with noble prey and the senate of archangels with all the heavenly host goes forth to meet him merrily, welcoming their victorious king in joyful strains of mirth. He dons the purple, for he is crowned with glory and honour by his Father for the Passion he bore. He receives the diadem wreathed with gold and laurel when he is adorned by the multitude of angels and men around him. The splendour of gold represents the brightness of the angels, and the viridity of laurel represents the viridity of faith.

Der Triumph Christi - 1836 - Joseph von Fuehrich - Joseph von Fuehrich - German Romanticism - Deutschland und die Ostmark - germany and Austria - Peter Crawford
Triumph of Christ, Joseph von Führich, 1836

These things are made into a crown to grace Christ’s head when human weakness is elevated to the angelic state in glory, as the Prophet says: By all these thou shalt be adorned as with a crown[4]. Concerning this crown, it is written: Thou shalt bless the crown of the year of thy goodness.[5] For Christ is the year of God’s goodness, having been made a sharer in our mortality[6]. His years are the twelve apostles; his days, the just; his hours, the faithful; his nights those who yet wander in the shadows of sin and unbelief. The crown of this year is the multitude of men and angels standing ’round him in eternal glory. The chariot bedecked in gold and gems that bears the triumphant victor points to the Gospel, radiant in wisdom and miracles; by making Christ known, it causes the world to exult in triumph. The wheels on which the chariot rolls forward are the Evangelists by whom Christ’s triumph is brought out before the eyes of all. This chariot is drawn by snow-white horses, because Christ is driven in the chariot of the Gospel around the four regions of the world by doctors brilliant in the virtues. Holy Writ says that the chariot of God is attended by ten thousands[7], because all the writers of the Old and New Testament preach Christ’s triumph. Thousands of them that rejoice[8] surround the chariot when today many myriads of angels receive our Lord in triumph. Noble captives bound in golden chains go before the chariot, since those our Lord redeemed, bound by the chains of charity, seek after celestial things. The meaner people follow with bound hands, since the people bind themselves with the fear of God against evil deeds, and thus are borne up to heavenly joys. A procession of spoils accompanies the chariot, since today the multitude of saints are raised aloft with the resurrected Christ. The Victor is led into the high temple with songs, since Christ is born triumphant into the temple of the heavenly Jerusalem to strains of angelic quires. Then the booty is meted out amongst the people, since sundry charisms are bestowed on the faithful by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, whence it is said: Ascending on high, he led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men.[9] Yea verily, human nature, in which here below he suffered many evils for our sake and from us, today is transported from earth to the heavens above the loftiness of the angels to the right hand of the Father. The Victor led that captivity captive that was so long detained in the jail of hell, and dragged it into his Father’s palace. He  gave gifts to men, when he poured forth the Holy Ghost over them and vouchsafed them the knowledge of all tongues.

Ascension 7
Triumph of Christ the King with the Four Continents, ca. 1700 – 1799

Today, dearly beloved, God’s magnificence is elevated above the heavens[10], but his spouse, his body, i.e. the Church, is still oppressed by many afflictions amongst the Babylonians. Yet the prince of death is conquered and the world subdued, and like Christ, who ascends triumphantly to the heavens today, so the Church, having overcome Antichrist and trampled upon the world, shall ascend triumphant into heaven. Goliath is laid low by her Spouse and she is delivered from her enemies, and so she is raised up from this vale of tears, a circular moon rises at full wax and, settled in the bride chamber of the everlasting Sun, is made a peer of the angelic stars. Hence she herself extols Christ ascending with jubilee[11] in the Canticles, saying with exultation: Behold! He cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills,[12] whose person is expressed in the prophet Idithun, which means “Leaper.” For Christ indeed came into the world leaping upon the mountains, and skipping returned to heaven. He gave a leap from heaven when he went from his Father’s see into the Virgin’s womb. Thence he leapt into the manger, and from there onto the gibbet of the cross, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the depths of the abyss, from the abyss into the world, and from there he skipped into heaven. His going out is from the end of heaven, and his circuit even to the end thereof.[13]

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Triumph of Christ, Philips Gale, ca. 1565

Today, he has leaped over every mountain and hill, since he has raised the humanity he assumed from us above every height of angels and saints. The Gospel shows us how he ascended into heaven. He appears today before his disciples as they were at table; as master he upbraided them for their incredulity; as Lord he commanded them to preach the Gospel to the whole world; as God he granted them the power to perform miracles in his name. He thereupon ate with them to prove his body was flesh in sooth, and instructed them to remain in Jerusalem awaiting the Holy Ghost he had promised them. Then he led them to Bethany and lifting up his hands, he blessed them; as they all looked on he was raised, taken up by a cloud, and carried off into heaven. They stood gazing after him on the heavens, and lo! two angels clad in white robes stood before them and foretold that in the same way he had now departed he would return in judgement. One hundred and twenty were those who saw him ascend, among whom was Mary his mother with the apostles. Together they went back to Jerusalem rejoicing, and persevered in prayer and praising God every day till they received the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. This was prefigured in the patriarchs and prophets, when Enoch, the seventh patriarch from Adam, was carried off into paradise, and when the prophet Elias was raised up into heaven in a fiery chariot.

The triumph of faith over nature, philosophy and science, Peter Paul Reubens, circa 1626

There is a bird that manifests to us the feast of this holy day. The eagle soars higher than every other bird and fixes her gaze on the very ray of the sun. When she entices her young to fly, hovering over them and expanding her wings,[14] she takes them up in the oars of her wings and teaches them to fly. Thus did Christ, sublimer than all the saints, penetrate into the heights of the heavens, when his Father exalted him above all the angels in his right hand. He expands the wings of his cross around us, defends us from demons, raises us from harsh servitude, and adopts us as sons. Placing us over his shoulders like lost sheep he carried us back to the flock. He flew over us and enticed us to fly, when scaling the heights, she showed us, his members, how to follow him, our head, with good works. Ezekiel expressed this through the four animals,[15] which John later saw praising the Lamb day and night.[16] Verily was Christ a man in his birth, a calf in his death, a lion in his resurrection, an eagle in his ascension.

The charadrius or caladrius (BM Lyon, MS PA 78, fol. 36r)

There is a white bird called a charadrius,[17] which can be used to test whether a sick man will survive. If, when brought to the sick man, she turns her face from him, he shall die, but if she looks and firmly fixes her gaze on him, he shall live. Mouth agape, she drinks the sickness from him, flies high into the sun’s ray, and sweats off from herself the infirmity she drank, while the once-sick man rejoices in his health. The white charadrius is Christ born of a Virgin. He is brought to the sick man when he is sent from the Father to the sickly human race; he turns his face from the Jews and leaves them in death. Turning his face to us, however, he recalls us from death and bears our infirmity himself when he goes up on the cross; sweat and blood flow out from him. Then he flies into the heights of the heavens to the Father with our flesh and grants everlasting salvation to all. The very place where he ascended still cries out to us that no obstacle can stand in the way of those who wish to scale the heavens. Truly the footprint that he left upon the sand as he ascended still remains at that place, and though every day the faithful bear away earth therefrom, the print can not be effaced. What is more, when a church was built over that place, and closed up on top like a rotunda, the space of air through which he ascended could not be closed up, and so remains open to this day. Each year, a storm of howling gales comes down to this church from the heavens and knocks all the people within to the ground, showing with what terror Christ will come in judgement, forcefully shaking heaven and earth. Then forsooth shall the heavens pass away with great fury and the elements shall melt away from the heat.

Ascension 2
The Harrowing of Hell, Viktor Vasnetsov, 1905

And so, best beloved, since there be no other name under heaven given to  men, whereby one can be saved, but in Christ Jesus,[18] who allowed himself to be raised up on the cross for us like the serpent;[19] whom the Father, after he had drunk from the torrent of death[20] exalted today above every name[21]  to the summit of the heavens; and who purchased us with his own blood[22] and incorporated us into himself; let us give glory to his praise[23] and acclaim him with jubilation, that he might join us, his members, to himself where he himself revels in the glory of the Father. Which eye hath not seen, &c.[24]

Ascension (Dosso Dossi)
Ascension, Dosso Dossi


[1] Habacuc 3:2, Vetus latina: Elevatus est sol, et luna stetit in ordine suo.

[2] John 1:9.

[3] Cf. collect Da nobis, quaesumus, Domine for the fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Corpus orationum 899).

[4] Song of Songs 4:8

[5] Psalm 64:12.

[6] Cf. the prayer Deus, qui humanae substantiae.

[7] Psalm 67:18.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ephesians 4:8.

[10] Psalm 8:2.

[11] Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, Alleluia for Ascension Sunday

[12] Canticle of Canticles 2:8.

[13] Psalm 18:7.

[14] Deuteronomy 32:11.

[15] Ezekiel 1.

[16] Apocalypse 4:8

[17] See Physiologus 5 and Deuteronomy 14:18.

[18] Acts 4:12

[19] Numbers 21

[20] Psalm 109:7.

[21] Philippians 2:2.

[22] Acts of the Apostles 20:28.

[23] Psalm 65:2.

[24] 1 Corinthians 2:9. Honorius ends all the sermons in this collection with an evocation of eternal glory, culminating invariably in this verse from St Paul.