Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"Behind the Mass": the 10th anniversary pontifical Mass from a lowly book-bearer's eyes

One of many splendid photos taken by Allison Girone for this Mass. There's a complete album here.

A personal account of the inspiration, preparation, and execution of the historic Pontifical Extraordinary Form Mass at the Throne on September 14, 2017 for the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum. All views are, of course, my own only. The complete Mass is now watchable on YouTube here.


You can learn a thing or two about someone just by asking them where they were when some major event in recent history took place. "Where were you when you heard that JFK was shot?" Or, "what were you doing when the twin towers fell?"

Admittedly, the release of Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum in 2007, declaring that the traditional, pre-Vatican II Roman liturgy was never lawfully abolished, went unnoticed in the eyes of the average Catholic and was barely a blip even on most priests' radars. But for a young and impressionable Catholic with a budding interest in the liturgy like myself, Summorum Pontificum was a watershed moment. Before then, during high school when I was still inquiring into becoming a Catholic, I had attended a few low Masses in the old rite... but these, while approved by the Archdiocese of San Antonio, still had a clandestine, somewhat forbidden flavor to them. The designated chapel was a claustrophobic little thing behind an old nursing home. The locale conveniently fit the conventional canard that the old Latin Mass was tolerated only as a bone to throw to old folks who couldn't accept the changes to the Mass after Vatican II. While I still appreciated the sobriety and unflinching call to worship of the low Mass, I'll admit that I didn't fully understand the appeal of the traditional rite's beauty until over a year later, when I caught a broadcast on EWTN of the celebratory solemn Mass by the FSSP on September 14, 2007: the date upon which the provisions of Summorum Pontificum would go into effect.

Father Josef Bisig, first Superior General of the FSSP, celebrated a solemn Mass on September 14, 2007 for the effective date of Summorum Pontificum at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, pictured above.
There I was, on a Friday morning at Ave Maria University where several TV screens in the cafeteria were playing the broadcast at the same time. I still remember some of the people sitting at the table I was at. And there the three ministers at the altar were on the big screens: priest, deacon, and subdeacon, all moving like they were performing the same sacred ritual for the thousandth time in a row--not hidden away in a tiny chapel that could barely hold 20, but at the high altar of Mother Angelica's shrine in Hanceville, Alabama for the world to see. I didn't understand everything I saw that day, so I hit the library and consumed several old tomes on the traditional Mass to whet my appetite. I did the same the next week, and the week after, and the week following. 

The passing years were far from any sort of continual ascent to holiness, as I struggled with basic matters of faith and virtue like (as many other young adults do). But my love of attending and serving Mass helped me persevere through the worst times, and by 2016, I had started my own schola to teach ordinary guys how to sing Gregorian chant, and written numerous articles to help people delve into deeper appreciation for all the treaures of our liturgical patrimony. Looking back on what got me started on this apostolate, I had to credit Pope Benedict XVI and Summorum Pontificum above all.

My first time meeting Bishop Joseph Perry, who preached at a priest's first Mass here in 2016
In July of that year, I happened to run into Bishop Joseph Perry, who was visiting Philadelphia to attend a co-worker's ordination to the priesthood and preach at his first Mass the following day. I knew that he enjoyed coming to Philadelphia to minister to the urban parishes here, and also that he liked to travel around the country to celebrate the Extraordinary Form for communities at various parishes. So I thought, why not Philadelphia, too? Why not a pontifical Mass on the feast of the Holy Cross next year to give thanks for the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum? The matter was brought before the rector of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter & Paul (which already generously provides its space for several solemn Extraordinary Form Masses on holy days throughout the year), and eventually, the Archdiocese sent a formal invitation to Bishop Perry to lead the celebration for us at the Cathedral. This would be the first traditional Latin Mass celebrated by a bishop at the Cathedral Basilica (and, perhaps, the whole Archdiocese of Philadelphia) in 50 years.

By the summer of 2017, the 10th anniversary of Summorum's first announcement on July 7 had just passed, with a flurry of celebratory articles on the web (I link to Dom Alcuin Reid's piece, "We can safely say the doomsayers are wrong", as one example of many). This was the perfect time to engage the faithful's interest, so I conducted an extensive mailout to clergy and lay leaders throughout the region to let them know about this pontifical Mass and ask them to promote it in their parishes. The excitement only grew when I spread word that a bus from Holy Innocents, Manhattan had been chartered to bring people in. A second bus was organized to start at the FSSP's parish in Scranton, with a stop at their sister apostolate in Allentown and again at the local Carmel for Vespers before arriving at the Cathedral. Flyers were also posted at churches in Washington, DC like Mary Mother of God, and word had spread even to Christendom College in Virginia. Clearly, I wasn't the only one who thought the 10th anniversary of Summorum was worth celebrating!

I was quite happy to see that Mary, Mother of God in Washington, DC had put a notice of this Mass in one of their July bulletins (above).
It's also worth emphasizing here that the excitement was by no means restricted to die-hard Latin Mass attendees. Flyers were posted in quite a few suburban parishes with no connection to the old rite whatsoever. Announcements were aired on secular newsradio the weekend before. The word was enthusiastically spread around several of the African-American parishes where Bishop Perry frequently visits. The Tolton Ambassadors of Philadelphia, commissioned by Bishop Perry to promote the canonization cause of Father Augustus Tolton during a visit by His Excellency to the city just a few weeks before our pontifical Mass, joined us and brought many of their friends along to experience the traditional Latin Mass for the first time. We were happy to have them set up a table in the narthex to distribute materials about Father Tolton's cause. The Ambassadors told me afterward that it was a very successful night for them.

A month or so before the Mass, we received word that EWTN would broadcast the liturgy as part of their Cathedrals Across America program. For me, it was as though everything had come full circle from that day, ten years ago, when I watched that solemn Mass of September 14, 2007 being aired from the Shrine in Alabama. This wouldn't have been the first time EWTN had broadcast a pontifical Latin Mass before (Bishop Perry actually celebrated one at the Shrine in 2009), but this would certainly be the biggest one they've aired since the Paulus Institute's pontifical Mass with Bishop Slattery at the National Basilica in DC for the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's accession to the papacy (2010). 

Mass is not a performance--but there was a sense that so many eyes would be on Philadelphia that night that we had a special incentive to put the Cathedral Basilica's space to its fullest use and let the faithful see and hear the best of what the classical Roman rite had to offer. As plans developed, the Archbishop of Philadelphia granted Bishop Perry the privilege of pontificating from the throne. Meanwhile, on the musical front, we secured a full choir and orchestra under the direction of Peter Richard Conte: the legendary organist of the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ (which I mentioned in a previous post on the church of Saint James the Less) and choirmaster of S. Clement's Church, a famous Anglo-Catholic shrine in the Episcopal Church. Mr. Conte previously had the honor to direct the music for Father Michael Magiera, FSSP's first Mass, which took place at the Cathedral Basilica in 2005. This was, I believe, the first Extraordinary Form Mass at the Cathedral since Vatican II, so in a way, this pontifical Mass was a follow-up to the success of that first Mass years ago.

A photo from the first Mass of Father Michael Magiera, FSSP in 2005. This was, I believe, the Cathedral Basilica's first TLM since the Vatican II reforms.
Rehearsing the ceremonies of pontifical Mass was a time-consuming process which involved multiple sessions, copious notes, and multiple priests taking time out of their busy schedules to learn their parts. Further, as this Mass would be celebrated from the Throne, there were additional offices that needed to be filled by clerics. The total assistants and servers for this liturgy came out to:
  • An assistant-priest (or archpriest) in cope
  • Two deacons-of-honor at the Throne
  • Deacon of the Mass
  • Subdeacon of the Mass
  • Two masters of ceremonies (one for the altar, one for the throne)
  • Four chaplain-bearers in copes (book, candle, mitre, and crozier)
  • A crucifer in tunicle
  • A thurifer
  • Two acolytes at the credence table
  • And six vestment-bearers, who would also serve as torchbearers during the Canon

In retrospect, we could have benefited from three or even four MC's: one to direct the clergy-in-choir, and one to remain in the sacristy. The greatest hurdle was the simple fact that most of us involved had never actually served a pontifical Mass before. Had this been organized by the FSSP or the Institute of Christ the King, all the key assistants would have had served their fair share of pontifical EF Masses. In our case, there are no full apostolates by any of the Ecclesia Dei societies in the city. An honorable near-exception is Mater Ecclesiae Chapel just across the border in New Jersey: the only diocesan church in the US which is devoted exclusively to the traditional Latin Mass and sacraments... and one of this Mass's biggest supporters. But even they had only done one pontifical TLM before, just this past November at their chapel with Bishop Athanasius Schneider. Nearly every other priest involved was a pastor of a "regular" diocesan parish.

From the first rehearsal, with a view of the massive amount of sanctuary space to walk around in. The first step to the altar is at bottom-left.
My assigned position was as the book-bearer: one of the four chaplain-bearers at a pontifical Mass from the Throne. While I more usually assist the Cathedral Masses as subdeacon, we wanted to offer as many minister roles as possible to the various priests who had started or sustained the various TLM communities in the area over the years. So, you'd think my new job would have been a breeze to learn by comparison. That's true on the surface, but there was still much to learn about where to stand at which point in the Mass, which book to bring at a given time, and when to switch the book off with the archpriest. Our first rehearsal was the Saturday prior with almost everyone but the bishop. The second rehearsal began on the day of the Mass with the bishop, six hours beforehand. Since I'm told most bishops don't "do" rehearsals, we were grateful for Bishop Perry's patience in going over all the rites with us. After that, the bishop retired to the cathedral rectory to prepare while I helped (a bit) with collecting all the requisite supplies, carefully bringing an antique processional cross downstairs, and retrieving Bishop Perry's personal mitre set. People began to fill the Cathedral even two hours before starting time to get decent parking.

From the bishop's rehearsal (Bishop Perry is obscured from view by Father Pasley). The red altar frontal is in place, and the Blessed Sacrament has been relocated from the tabernacle. Note that the altar is actually freestanding.
The sacristy table lined end-to-end with vestments for the pontifical Mass. When Mass is at the Throne, the bishop is attended by two deacons-of-honor in dalmatics, and four chaplain-bearers in copes.
A separate table was needed for the vestments of the deacon and subdeacon of the Mass (distinct from the two deacons-of-honor).

About twenty minutes before Mass, the bishop and his familiares (his chaplain-bearers and members of his personal retinue--that is to say, the members of his "family") gathered in the small rectory chapel next door to the Cathedral to begin the formal preparation before Mass. We weren't yet vested, but rather in choir dress: cassock and surplice for the chaplains, cassock/rochet/mozzetta for the honorary canons, and the purple cassock and mantelletta for the bishop. I knelt before the bishop with the book opened to the seven penitential psalms. Whenever I brought the book to the bishop, my fellow instituted acolyte from Mater Ecclesiae, John Rotondi, accompanied me to the right with the hand-candle (also called the bugia). The fact that the rite calls for a special candle to be held near the bishop whenever he has to read something is one of many small aspects of pontifical Mass that seems to suggest it was designed to make the celebrating of Mass as easy as possible for a frail, venerable old man.... or, for the more cynical medievalist, a man who only pontificates once or twice a year and then spends the rest of his time out hunting or jockeying for favors at the royal court. This is all emphasized by the fact that an attendant is usually there to turn the page for the bishop, move the bookmarks around, and even to point with his hand exactly where on the page to begin reading!

The private rectory chapel where we prayed the preparations before Mass. Not in the broadcast, of course.
In Bishop Perry's case, I was immediately struck by how comfortably and gracefully the first words of the opening antiphon, Ne reminiscaris, flowed forth. Even many priests who celebrate the Extraordinary Form are uncomfortable with Latin and so stumble their way across the liturgy to the dismay of the congregation. The psalms went by in no time at all, and we made the responses of the closing versicles back to the bishop at the end. We finished this stage of the preparation early and so waited in our places, though there were no seats for the chaplain-bearers so we sat in a semi-circle on the floor along the altar steps (like little children, in the bishop's words, hence his familiares). 

As the time for Mass approached, we exited out the front door of the cathedral rectory and made the short walk along Race Street to the front door of the Cathedral in a mini-procession. As soon as we stepped outdoors, we were greeted to the beat of gangster rap thumping out of an SUV parked across the street, prompting someone to ask, "so, is this the processional hymn?" Welcome to Philly!

Waiting in the narthex for the signal to enter. Two honor guards stand at front: one representing the Knights of Columbus, the other (obscured from view) representing the Knights of Peter Claver. The archpriest is Father Pasley of Mater Ecclesiae, in the mozzetta of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (for whom the Holy Cross is a principal feast). The two deacons-of-honor are pastors of diocesan parishes who also celebrate the EF when they can: Monsignor Sangermano and Father Kulczynski. The four chaplain-bearers take the rear. On the far side, there's a table with literature on the canonization cause of Father Augustus Tolton.
Tourists and other passersby outside had no idea what was going on but snapped photos of us in our funny clothes as we circled around the corner. When we got to the steps leading up the west portal, we ran into some protesters waving some nasty signs. It would seem my efforts in getting the word out about this Mass were rather too successful, in this case. They were protesting sexual abuse of children by the clergy. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an absolute zero-tolerance approach to sex-offenders in the Church, but this was not the time or place to engage them, so we moved on. I felt bad for Bishop Perry because of the protesters pointed at him and said, "look, just another one of your victims", not knowing or caring that the bishop isn't even from here. Thankfully, I learned after the fact that one of my fellow-parishioners who came to attend this Mass decided to dialogue with them after Mass was over.

All while this was going on, the altar servers, clergy and seminarians in-choir, knights and dames of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and Order of Malta, and the deacon and subdeacon of the Mass were processing into the sanctuary and taking their places. The rector of the Cathedral gave a brief introduction for the benefit of the full congregation, most of whom had never attended a pontifical TLM before, and probably a few hundred whom had never even attended any kind of TLM at all. There was a bit of awkward lingering in the narthex because we were waiting for EWTN to give us the signal to begin. ("The real power in the Church", someone joked.) Finally, we stepped just inside the nave so the faithful could see the solemn reception of the bishop at the door. The rector formally welcomed the bishop by offering him the holy water sprinkler, which he used to bless everyone in reach. We then made the long walk down the center aisle past a thousand or so worshippers who had come from war and wide to join us.

The choir sang the antiphon Sacerdos et Pontifex to a plainchant, then the canticle Benedictus to a 4-part Anglican chant, then finally the responsory Ecce Sacerdos Magnus to a setting by Sir Edward Elgar. A lot of faithful in the pews seem to have been so struck by the majesty of the rite that they genuflected out of instinct as the bishop passed by. 

We first made a stop at the side altar of the Assumption, left of the chancel, where the Blessed Sacrament had been relocated from the high altar earlier in the day. Even most traditional Catholics are unaware that the Blessed Sacrament was never traditionally reserved at the high altars of cathedrals (the tabernacle behind the high altar at the Cathedral Basilica here is actually a recent addition). If the Blessed Sacrament is kept at the high altar, it's moved away before a bishop pontificates. After a moment's prayer, we made a second stop before the high altar, and then finally the archbishop's throne to begin the vesting and final prayers of preparation before Mass. The deacon and subdeacon of the Mass stepped in to help the bishop put on each vestment, which were laid atop the high altar and brought by the vestment-bearers in pairs. Meanwhile, the archpriest, deacons-of-honor, and chaplain-bearers retreated into the sacristy to put on their copes and dalmatics. The bearers of mitre and crozier additionally wore the "vimpae" under their copes. Unfortunately, I hadn't tested out the cope I had been assigned, so I found out too late that it was oversized and constantly threatening to slip off my shoulders entirely throughout the whole liturgy.

I returned to the throne and brought the book for the bishop recite the various vesting prayers for each item: over his purple cassock went the amice, alb, cincture, pectoral cross, tunicle, dalmatic, chasuble, gloves, and mitre. There were a couple of nervous gaffes during the vesting (which are now just funny in retrospect) here, like the fact that the bishop was given the wrong gloves and had to switch them out; but simple mistakes like this happen even during the royal coronations at Westminster Abbey, so no one should be scandalized that they took place here, too. It was well worth doing the vesting as part of the public ceremony, because a couple of people told me afterwards that they had no idea how many layers a bishop had to wear.

There was no sense in doing the hour of Vespers during the bishop's vesting, so instead, the choir and congregation sang the Office hymn for the Holy Cross, Pange lingua gloriosi
With crozier in hand, we all made our way from the throne to the foot of the altar to recite Psalm 42 and the Confiteor. In a pontifical Mass, the last vestment, the maniple, is not kept inside the Gospel-book like a bookmark and not given until these prayers are done and the bishop ascends the altar to incense it.

Another variation for pontifical Mass, unlike TLM's celebrated by a mere priest, is that the bishop doesn't read anything from the altar during the Mass of the Catechumens. Instead, he reads everything from his seat (either the faldstool or, in this case, the throne). The book-bearer holds the missal for the bishop when he has to merely recite any of the proper texts, like the Introit and Kyrie. But whenever the bishop has to actually sing something, like the Collect, the archpriest has the honor of holding the book during these moments instead. Sometimes, it's a mix of both: for instance, the bishop must sing the opening intonation of the Gloria, but recite the rest of it quietly. So, the archpriest takes the book to hold it just for the Gloria in excelsis Deo, then hands it off to the book-bearer immediately after.

The Mass Ordinary was sung to Mozart's "Sparrow" Mass, with a full orchestra. My faithful readers know I'm not normally a fan of orchestral Masses, but hearing it in-person, and giving the architecture and historic significance of the event, it seemed eminently fitting. It is unfortunately a "you had to be there" moment, as no recording does the music justice.
As at a priest's solemn Mass, the subdeacon chanted the Epistle and the deacon chanted the Gospel. We usually keep the Gospel reading within the chancel at solemn Masses here, but this time, the procession went out past the chancel gate into the nave on the Gospel side.

The Epistle
When the deacon knelt before the bishop to receive his blessing before proclaiming the Gospel, the entire procession knelt behind him, as though everyone standing in the bishop's immediate line of sight had been caught in the blessing's "blast radius".
After the Gospel, the familiares formed another procession to accompany the bishop around to the pulpit. We sat in the Sacred Heart Chapel, right of the chancel, to listen to the bishop's homily on the Holy Cross. Bishop Perry is a highly gifted preacher, and so I highly recommend that everyone listen to it. It begins around 55:44 in the linked video.


A few friends remarked to me later that they had hoped the bishop would talk about Summorum Pontificum in the homily. His Excellency chose to focus entirely on the Holy Cross that night, but not long after, Bishop Perry would go on to celebrate another pontifical Mass for the inaugural Culmen et Fons liturgy conference in Massachusetts. There, he preached a homily entirely about Summorum Pontificum, which may be read at this link.

The lengthy settings of the Mass Ordinary are, a friend said to me, an opportunity to reflect on the words. Note that the bishop sometimes wears the less ornate, less heavy "golden mitre".
We returned to the throne for the Creed from Mozart's Sparrow Mass, and the end of my official duties. The bishop would be at the altar from this point on, so I spent the remainder of the Mass standing or kneeling at the foot of the altar, off to the left side. Once the bishop arrived at the altar for the offertory rite, the Mass continued on more like an ordinary priest's solemn Mass, though with many more ministers around. The biggest differences go back to my point about pontifical Mass seemingly designed for a frail old man: the bugia-bearer was still needed to attend to the hand-candle beside the book, which in this instance wasn't the same pontifical canon I had carried into the church. This edition of the canon was a truly jumbo-sized, antique folio edition with lettering as big as the giant E at the top of an optometrist's vision test. This canon was so large that it slid off of its stand a few times, to Father Pasley's vexation as he kept readjusting it until it finally stayed in place.

A close-up view of the jumbo pontifical canon, which the bishop would read from at the altar in place of a missal.

The elevation
The Sanctus, Roman Canon, and Agnus Dei all seemed to pass by in a blur for me. For the people's Communion, the clergy, then the servers all ascended the altar four at a time to receive from the bishop. Once he finished communicating them, the bishop went down to the altar rail to join the other four priests there in administering Communion to the many lay faithful gathered that night. It took a while, though I think not as long as it would if everyone received Communion a single-file line while standing as the vast majority of churches here do today.

The kiss of peace. The pontifical rite adds some complications by having the ministers receive the pax not at the usual time, but immediately before each of their Communions if they intend to receive.
Holy Communion of the faithful. The bishop came to the rail to assist with the distribution after all the clergy and servers had communicated.
Mass concluded with us responding back and forth with the bishop for the concluding versicles and his triple-sign of the cross over the congregation. Now, with both the bishop's attendants and all of the clergy, knights, and servers together, we formed a massive recession to the narthex and back around to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The bishop gave a final blessing to all of the clergy and servers, who all responded with a hearty Amen. After a few group photos and enthusiastic greetings from the seminarians, we retired to the sacristy to unvest without further ceremony. It was a very long day, but worth every minute to reclaim these great traditions for the praise and worship of God.

The recession, with quite a few seminarians in line!
The recession went to the narthex and looped around back along the side to the side chapel.
The Tolton Ambassadors greeting Bishop Perry right after Mass
This was, as far as I know, the only "individual" photo anyone got with Bishop Perry that night. He's holding an antique crozier which, I'm told, belonged to Archbishop Edmond Prendergast (Archbishop of Philadelphia during the First World War).
My wife and I ended up unwinding with a few of the Knights of Malta at a rooftop lounge across the street, overlooking the Cathedral. We didn't get back home until after midnight. It was back to work as usual for me the next morning, but it took me well over a week to come down from the spiritual "high" of that experience and recount it for my readers here. 

View of the Cathedral from the rooftop lounge
Among the many responses I've received over the past week and a half, some friends and key members of the diocesan Extraordinary Form Mass in my hometown of San Antonio, where I helped establish a schola, resolved to begin increasing exposure for themselves by livestreaming all of their sung Masses from that point onward on Facebook. This is really the best response I could hope for from the pontifical Mass: that those who attended or watched it on television would be inspired to promote the gifts of Summorum Pontificum in their communities at home. Onward and upward, to restore all things in Christ! 


Thursday, September 14, 2017

EWTN tonight

The ongoing Pontificalia series is spurred largely by the grand pontifical Mass with Bishop Perry which will take place at the Cathedral Basilica tonight to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum. The Modern Medievalist, yours truly, is honored to serve as the bishop's book-bearer this evening. I hope all who see this will tune in or check the website so we can join together in thanksgiving for such a wonderful gift.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pontificalia III: the pontifical vestments

Thomas Becket, following his consecration as archbishop of Canterbury, gives the final blessing (Becket, 1964). Under his chasuble, you can see the pontifical dalmatic.

Previously in this series....

Pontificalia I: what is pontifical Mass?

Pontificalia II: the Mitre and crozier

Today, we look at the special vestments that a bishop wears for Mass. What's the thing that a bishop wears under the chasuble? Why don't bishops wear gloves anymore? What are "buskins"? Does a bishop put his vestments on differently than a priest?

What's the thing that a bishop wears under the chasuble?

Cardinal Burke with pontifical dalmatic and tunicle under a Gothic chasuble
Sometimes, you might notice another vestment peeking out from underneath the bishop's chasuble. We all know that the chasuble is the outer vestment that all priests wear for Mass--not so well known is the fact that, at a pontifical Mass, bishops traditionally wore not just the chasuble, but even the deacon's dalmatic and the subdeacon's tunicle underneath. By wearing all the vestments, cumbersome as they may be, the bishop teaches the faithful that he alone possesses the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, with the authority to confer the various degrees of ordained ministry upon others. The Extraordinary Form still requires the bishop to wear the under-dalmatic and tunicle for pontifical Mass. If he's conferring holy orders, he must wear them even if it's in the middle of a low Mass. The modern Ceremonial of Bishops no longer mentions the tunicle, but still recommends the pontifical dalmatic on major feasts. I've never seen a photo of Pope Benedict XVI celebrating a major Mass without one.

The prayer when vesting with the tunicle: "May the Lord cloth me in the tunicle of delight, and the garment of rejoicing."

For the dalmatic: "Cloth me, Lord, with the garment of salvation, and the raiment of joy; and ever place upon me the dalmatic of justice."

Both the above prayers may, of course, also be used by deacons and subdeacons when vesting.

By the way, the first time I ever noticed that the under-dalmatic was a "thing" was by watching the film Becket, which I've featured in the top photo and elsewhere in this series. Notice that the dalmatic in that scene is richly detailed enough to be worn on its own! I actually did a search for this very garment online, and it appears to have been sold by auction, together with the chasuble, in 2011 (as a "tunic, cape, and collar" set) for $5,500.



The clip above should start at the blessing scene. You'll even see the tunicle under the dalmatic. 

Why don't bishops wear gloves anymore?

Pontifical gloves of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg: 1588
From about the 10th century on, bishops, starting in France, wore gloves in the color of the day at pontifical Mass. The practice soon spread to Rome, then to bishops everywhere, and then to even the mitred abbots. Later, the openings were enlarged to appear like the cuffs of a gauntlet (similar, in my imagination, to the epimanikia--the bracers worn by the Eastern rite clergy).

In the old Mass, the bishop wore the gloves until the Offertory. The ring was worn over them, and so whenever he took the gloves off (such as to wash his hands), it was the job of the assistant-priest to hold on to the ring. The perceived fussiness of taking the gloves off and putting them back on is undoubtedly part of the reason why they're not mentioned in the post-conciliar Ceremonial of Bishops. For 99% of the world's bishops, it would seem that once the gloves disappeared from the rubrics, they also disappeared from the sacristies. Force of custom held no argument, save perhaps your London Oratory types. That said, there was an awkward period spanning over a decade (1970-1984) when the mainstream Latin Church was using the new Mass but the old Caeremoniale Episcoporum, with all its "Carolingian court ritual", was still in force. I wonder if any of you experts out there could comment on just how much of the pontificalia was actually retained at the average cathedral during these years.

The vesting prayer for the gloves is a long one: "Place upon my hands, Lord, the cleanliness of the new man, that came down from heaven; that, just as Jacob Thy beloved, covering his hands with the skins of goats, and offering to his father most pleasing food and drink, obtained his father’s blessing, so also may the saving victim offered by our hands, merit the blessing of Thy grace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who in the likeness of sinful flesh offered Himself for us."

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger wearing a pontifical dalmatic and even gloves at what I assume is an Ordinary Form Mass.
(Edited to add: after I posted this article, I was informed by several readers that this photo was actually at an FSSP ordination in 1990, and thus an EF Mass. Well, never mind, then!)
Abbess Benedicta von Spiegel with crozier and gloves. I mentioned the mitred abbesses in a previous entry.

What are "buskins"?

Buskins for every occasion except black. The old rite omitted them for Requiems.
I often get these mixed up with another thing: the pontifical sandals. The buskins are liturgical stockings in the color of the day which, indeed, have their own prayer to accompany them. Mercifully for both the bishop and his MC's, the usual practice at a pontifical Mass (and only Mass--like the maniple, these aren't worn at Vespers, for instance) in the old rite is for the bishop to vest with them on his own even before arriving at the church.These days, they're just worn over his regular socks.

The buskins, in turn, go under pontifical sandals. Yes, the bishop even had to wear liturgical shoes in the old days. In the first millennium, even ordinary priests and deacons wore special shoes at Mass, but by the 10th century, this became restricted to bishops and other prelates with pontifical privileges. The original form of the sandals appears to have been just what you might imagine from ancient Roman times... but by the time the Baroque era got its hands on them, they had morphed into something more like court slippers, complete with a heel and even a bow on some. 

Pontifical sandals
It probably goes without saying that the buskins and sandals are basically never seen anywhere except in the Extraordinary Form, where they remain a requirement for pontifical Mass (excepting Requiems).

The prayer for the buskins: "Shod my feet, Lord, unto the preparation of the gospel of peace, and protect me under the cover of thy wings."

The Archbishop of Cebu (Philippines) vesting with the buskins. One of my friends, a former FSSP seminarian, fondly recalled his service in pontifical Masses by comparing the vesting of the bishop to "assembling Voltron".

Does a bishop put his vestments on differently than a priest?

Yes, he does! Or at least, he has the option. While a bishop has the right to process to the altar already vested like an ordinary priest, the ancient tradition runs the bishop through a gauntlet of ceremonies from the moment he darkens the front door.

First, the bishop arrives in his choir dress (the purple cassock, rochet, mozzetta or mantelletta, and perhaps the cappa magna) and is greeted by the canons or senior clergy at the door. The rector or pastor of the church, wearing a cope, offers the bishop a crucifix to kiss and holy water to sprinkle everyone in the area. The bishop then walks at the head of the procession down the church as the choir sings the responsory Ecce Sacerdos Magnus. He's taken to the altar where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved to pray for a moment. A lot of traditional Catholics are perplexed and even a little scandalized when I say that cathedrals weren't supposed to reserve the Blessed Sacrament over the high altar; and that if a bishop was celebrating Mass at a parish, the pastor was supposed to move the Sacrament to a side chapel.

Solemn reception of Bishop Lopes at the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter's cathedral in Houston
After praying, the bishop may go to the sacristy to vest in private, or he may go to his faldstool in the sanctuary and vest ceremonially in view of the faithful. The vestments are laid atop the high altar and brought to him one by one, while his ministers assist him in putting on each item. Finally, if the bishop is celebrating from the throne, the full rite supposes that he vests in a special side chapel prepared for him, called the secretarium. Here, surrounded by his clergy, the bishop vests while leading the minor hour of Terce. Then he returns in procession to the sanctuary. This format can be seen to some extent in the recording of the grand pontifical Mass with Bishop Slattery at the National Shrine in DC in 2010.


The video above should skip right to when the bishop enters the secretarium.

The prayer for removing the cappa before vesting is potent with meaning: "Take off of me, Lord, the old man with his manners and deeds: and put on me the new man, who according to God is created in justice, and the holiness of truth."

Surprisingly, with the exception of Terce, pretty much everything mentioned above is still explicitly mentioned as options for the bishop in the Ordinary Form. The modern Ceremonial of Bishops also still directs the Blessed Sacrament to be moved away from the high altar if normally reserved there, though this is routinely ignored.


I hope my readers have enjoyed this series so far. By the time I post the next one, I'll probably be able to incorporate some photos from a very special Mass that I'll be assisting (and had a hand in organizing): a gargantuan celebration of the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum on September 14, 2017 at the Cathedral Basilica in Philadelphia. By permission of the archbishop of Philadelphia, our visiting bishop, +Joseph Perry, will celebrate from the throne.

If you're local, I hope to see you there! Otherwise, please tune in to EWTN, where it'll be broadcast live, or check their Facebook page around 7pm eastern time for the livestream (no account needed).


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Pontificalia II: the mitre and crozier

A mitre made by Augustus Welby Pugin for Cardinal Wiseman, 1848. The blog of Westminster Cathedral described it as, "by far the most splendid thing of its kind that had been made by English craftsmen since the Reformation".

"We, O Lord, place on the head of this Thy bishop and champion, the helmet of protection and salvation, so that his face being adorned and his head armed with the horns of both testaments, he may seem terrible to the opponents of truth, and through the indulgence of Thy grace may be their sturdy adversary, Thou Who didst mark with the brightest rays of Thy splendor and truth the countenance of Moses Thy servant, ornamented from his fellowship with Thy word : and didst order the tiara to be placed on the head of Aaron thy high priest. Through Christ Our Lord.
R. Amen."
(The bestowal of the mitre, according to the old Roman Pontifical's Rite of Consecration of a Bishop)




I'd like to believe that if more people had been familiar with this beautiful prayer as dramatized to great effect in the movie Becket, they would never have consented to its vandalism by the revisions of Bugnini. The reform of the rites of ordination and consecration of bishops, and especially of priests, been written about to death, so there's no need for me to rehash the arguments here. I'll just instead point out that the bestowal of the mitre, once a prominent part of the ceremonies culminating in the enthronement of the bishop in the old rite of consecration, was one of many casualties of the year 1968. The investiture of the bishop with the ring and mitre was moved from its former place after the end of Mass to before the Offertory. Strangely, it called for the mitre to be placed on the new bishop's head saying nothing at all! 

This awkward moment of silence is, thankfully, faintly remembered as it was reversed by the 1989 tweaks to the Pontifical under Pope John Paul II. The new wording, though it pales in compare to the old, at least ascribes symbolic significance to the mitre beyond some ostentatious headgear which the "experts" deigned to retain solely to appease the simple layfolk. The current formula has the consecrator say:
"Receive the mitre, and may the splendor of holiness shine forth in you, so that when the chief shepherd appears you may deserve to receive from him an unfading crown of glory."
What does the mitre signify? When did bishops start wearing them? Why are there different kinds and shapes of mitres? Why are some Anglicans objecting to the mitre today?


Raymond Cardinal Burke wearing a precious mitre

What does the mitre signify?

The mitre is, of course, the "tall pointy hat" worn by bishops and certain other prelates in the liturgy. Every bishop has a right to wear it by virtue of his order. Today, two kinds of priests are also allowed their use: abbots of religious houses, and the monsignori of the "Anglican" Personal Ordinariates (who, though merely in the presbyterate, previously served as bishops of Anglican bodies and now enjoy Ordinary status in the Catholic Church). Both these types of priests can only wear the mitre within their jurisdiction. So, while a bishop might wear his mitre anywhere he celebrates Mass, a Benedictine abbot would only wear it within his own monastery. Before Vatican II, certain other classes of monsignori were also allowed to wear the mitre, and there were complex distinctions between mitred and non-mitred abbots. Of course, any cardinal could wear one even if he isn't a bishop, but this is extremely rare today.

It's commonly held today that the mitre symbolizes the flaming tongues of the Holy Ghost, as they were seen above the heads of the Apostles at Pentecost. It's certainly fitting since the bishops are the successors of the Apostles, from whose hands flow the gift of Holy Orders. For the historian's sake, though, we must admit that this wasn't always what the mitre signified. 


When did bishops start wearing them?

Mitres as we know them today originated in Rome. Their first recorded use was by the Pope and cardinals in the 10th century, though of course they might be older. They were first a soft cap over a diadem with two lappets (strips of fabric hanging down the back), worn only for processions. Later, the Popes started to wear them even during the liturgy. Bishops of the 10th century were quick to imitate the Roman practice, so by the 1100's, they were in standard use throughout the western Church. 

As I said before, it's important to note that the mitre didn't always signify episcopal or even mere priestly authority because the privilege to wear one was granted, on rare occasion, to kings and abbesses. A king was, after all, anointed to a certain type of priesthood and, like it or not, had a say in the nomination of bishops and various other ecclesiastical affairs. An abbess could command vast tracts of land and resources, and even the obedience of the lesser clergy in her domain. The distinction between clergy and laity was well understood, but their roles in the governance of the Church were blurred by today's standards.

Some illustrations by Pugin



Why are there different kinds and shapes of mitres?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen lived
 during the age of ultra-tall mitres.
The height of the mitre roughly corresponds with the style of the age it was made. What began as squat, short points in the Gothic age grew taller by the centuries until they reached their apex in the years immediately before Vatican II. There was a sharp reaction against the 2-foot tall mitres of Pius XII's day, so the heights came down by half everywhere outside of Rome.

Unlike the height and shape, which are governed more by fashion, the color and material are actually governed by rubric and occasion. The Caeremoniale Episcoporum of the Tridentine age had settled on three kinds:

-Simple mitre (simplex): plain white linen or silk. The simple mitre was worn on penitential days, or at any gathering in the presence of the Pope.

-Golden mitre (auriphrygiata): gold fabric with some decorative trim. This was the mitre most commonly in use; specifically, on all days when the Gloria in excelsis was to be said at Mass or Te Deum at the Office.

-Precious mitre (pretiosa): like the golden mitre, but further embellished with precious stones or plates of gold and silver. These are the ones that tend to survive from the Middle Ages to the present as works of art. 

On days when the precious mitre was used, the Caeremoniale actually had the bishop switch between the precious and golden mitres during the same Mass. The precious mitre was worn for the procession, then replaced with the golden mitre for the Mass of the Catechumens. The bishop then resumed the precious mitre for the end of Mass and recession. Perhaps the rationale was that by the time the bishop was in the sanctuary, the faithful in the cathedral couldn't see the embellishments of the precious mitre from such a distance anyway, so the bishop would use a less valuable mitre in the middle of Mass to reduce wear-and-tear. The modern Ceremonial of Bishops only allows one mitre to be used by the bishop per Mass in the Ordinary Form, though.

Important: the dominant color of the mitre is always either gold or white. It was never the tradition to wear a mitre that matched the liturgical color of the day. Red, green, or purple mitres are all of very recent invention and still against the rubrics of the Ordinary Form liturgy!

The Anglican archbishops of Canterbury and York. Note York's incorrect (by Roman standards) green mitre.

Why are some Anglicans objecting to the mitre today?

There've been a few op-eds, of late, from members of the Anglican Communion calling on their bishops to put away their mitres. See Ian Paul's article, "Why bishops should throw away their mitres", or the Anglican Bishop of Croydon saying things like, “The mitre, as a symbol of power and authority, emphasises exactly the wrong things about ministry.” 

It might be a low blow to throw my Anglo-Catholic friends still in the Episcopal Church under the bus here, but the nay-sayers aren't entirely wrong. While Paul's article has some historical whoppers, it's true that the Church of England abandoned the mitre, and most other vestments, as trappings of popery. While it may be true that the first Episcopal bishop in the US, Samuel Seabury, wore a mitre, they weren't mainstream headgear for Anglican bishops until the 20th century, generations after the pioneers of the Oxford Movement. If their successors today are uncomfortable with wearing a piece of regalia that suggests being a "prince of the Church", they're right to do so. The mitre is a manifestation of Christendom: even if they don't sit in the king's council anymore, the bishops are still major landlords and, effectively, the overlords of the lower clergy. Pontificalia is the only thing visually separating the bishops from looking like the CEO's of a clerical corporation. If their idea of adapting to modernity is by taking on the dress of mainstream culture, then they deserve the ridicule and ruination that's sure to follow.


And now, a brief word on the second most distinct piece of pontificalia....

A superb example of medieval craftsmanship in this crozier's head.

What is the crozier? What does it signify?

The crozier as a symbol of the Good Shepherd, or of Moses, is too obvious to elaborate upon. But beyond that, the crozier is a symbol of jurisdiction. While a bishop can wear his mitre anywhere, he can only carry the crozier within his own diocese. Auxiliary and visiting bishops still need permission from the Ordinary to use it, although most Ordinaries give it freely, especially on major occasions. One exception is if an auxiliary or visiting bishop is giving confirmations or clerical ordinations. In this case, he's officially representing the Ordinary in the latter's absence and bears the crozier by right. Further, if multiple bishops are attending the same Mass, usually only the (principal) celebrant carries the crozier. The Church has long determined it to be gauche for many bishops to all process with the croziers at once.

An abbess's crozier at Saint Walburga's Abbey, Colorado.
As with the mitre, which is now a standard part of the rite for the blessing of abbots, the crozier is now given to all abbots as well; like before, the abbot who is merely a priest may only use mitre and crozier within his own abbey. The crozier was also formerly given to abbesses on rare occasions. This is no longer done as a matter of rite, but some abbesses may still carry the crozier on account of long-standing tradition. 

In the eastern churches, croziers take the shape not of the shepherd's crook, but either of a tau-shaped cross or something akin to the bronze serpent of the Exodus, with twin serpents surrounding a cross.


What about the Pope's staff? Is that a crozier, or something else?

You'll notice that the Pope is never seen with a crozier in the shape of a shepherd's crook. With a handful of exceptions, the popes haven't used croziers in nearly a thousand years. Because croziers imply a limited jurisdiction, popes since at least the time of Innocent III have been using a ferula instead: a staff surmounted with a cross. Medieval and Renaissance illustrations of the papal staff will usually show a cross with three bars--three being the number of completion and ranking above the mere two of an archbishop's cross. The ugly ferula with the low-hanging arms so often seen in our current day was, predictably, a product of the 1960's for Pope Paul VI. I had hoped that we would see the end of it after Pope Benedict XVI put it away in favor of an older staff used by Pius IX, but the ugly ferula has come back into vogue with the current pontiff.

A medieval pope's ferula with three bars.


Next time, we'll look at the uniquely pontifical vestments: the under-dalmatic and tunicle, gloves, stockings, and slippers.

Pontificalia III: the pontifical vestments

Friday, August 18, 2017

Recent thoughts


I'm still working on the next post in my latest series, but some friends have asked about my thoughts on current events like the violence in Charlottesville. Here's my current train which I pose to you not as a full-fledged article, but a musing in the company of friends. Let's hope I'm far more pessimistic than the situation actually warrants....



If there's an upside to the recent tensions, it would be that my leftist friends can now fully understand the medievals' abhorrence of heresy. In those days, heresy was never considered a set of private beliefs which could be held and practiced without disturbing the peace. Unlike simply being born into a minority religion like Judaism, or even just being a witch (contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of medieval inquisitors didn't think folk magicians were worth their time) converting to a Christian offshoot like Albigensianism or Lollardy was considered, with good reason, an attack on the seven sacraments and, therefore, the entire fabric upon which medieval Christendom was built. If we suppose, for the sake of argument, that the sacraments are indeed necessary for salvation, then anyone who seeks to abolish or destroy the path to eternal life must be infinitely worse than any mere foreign invader or unjust lord. The latter might take away your goods or even your earthly life--but heretics would take your immortal soul. Albigensians, Lollards, Hussites, et al were reckoned as the hate groups of their day. If they could not be converted by preaching and learned discourse, then they had to be purged by fire; cut away from the body of Christ and the civil fabric like a surgeon would cut away a cancerous limb before it overtook the whole system.

If America is a religion, then neo-Nazism is certainly a heresy. It's why antifa postings, whether or not they believe in souls, consistently adopt the language of a struggle for the soul of America. Perhaps, when the soul of America is at stake, the normal rules of civil discourse established by our "Enlightenment" forebears no longer apply. Did some of these philosophers, in denying original sin as a fable, make men more like angels than they really were? Are freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, and voting actually protections against tyranny, or do they merely ensure a tyranny of the majority?

No, I don't really believe that.... but I can see why some would, and why, as it was for Rome, authoritarianism is the next logical step in the course of our civilization. There had to be a civil war back then because Octavian didn't have the advantage of Netflix. This time, there will be no battle of Actium--or if there is, it'll just play out between a few key players on our television screens. Who will you root for: an Alaric the Goth, who will righteously avenge the blood of his tribe by sacking the eternal city and all her idols? Or a new Augustus, who will keep the appearances of the old republic alive but rule as a strongman and remold the state in his image by degrees? There is, regretfully, no Charlemagne in this scenario.

By the way, neo-Nazism is certainly not the only "heresy" that will be extinguished in the aftermath of the new regime. That's simply the lowest-hanging fruit of many more, subtler and more socially acceptable evils which future generations will judge us for.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Pontificalia I: what is pontifical Mass?


John Ruskin, the eminent art critic of the Victorian age and contemporary Gothicist to Augustus Welby Pugin, allegedly wrote once that, 

the apex of western civilization was pontifical high Mass in a Gothic cathedral. 

Having spent the past weeks with my eyes affixed on upcoming events (I'll be assisting a major pontifical Mass at my hometown parish for the Assumption in the Ordinariate Use, followed by an historic pontifical EF celebration of the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum at the Cathedral Basilica in Philadelphia on the feast of the Holy Cross) I can see where Ruskin was coming from! The rites of Mass involving a bishop in his cathedral are so painstakingly detailed, with layer upon layer grown over like bark on a thousand-year old tree, that one can be forgiven for imagining that pontifical Mass was the axis around which the entire epoch of the Middle Ages and all it stood for revolved.... because, frankly, that's not far from the truth.

Today I start a new mini-series of posts which I'll call Pontificalia. I'll dedicate a post every few days or so on one or two miscellaneous items of pontificalia: starting with the obvious ones like the mitre and crozier and then working our way down to obscure details like the bugia (the hand-candle) and the praegustatio (the "pre-tasting" ceremony for spoiled bread and wine or, perhaps, poison).

But first, what is this all really about? What are "pontificals"? What exactly does it mean for a Mass to be "pontifical"? What did pontifical Mass look like in the Middle Ages? Why weren't bishops allowed to say Mass like an ordinary priest? And, is there even such a thing as pontifical Mass in the Ordinary Form?


What are "pontificals"?

Pontificals are things related to a pontifex. If you're lucky enough to even find someone who's familiar with that word, they tend to think that refers specifically to the Pope. Of course, the Pope is a pontifex (pontifex maximus, often translated as "Supreme Pontiff"), but the word more literally translates from Latin to "bridge-builder" and can refer to any bishop, or even some priests who have been granted pontifical privileges (more on that later). 

The two most iconic pontificals throughout the ages in the western Church are the mitre and crozier. These, thank God, are held onto dearly by even the most snake-belly-low church bishops in the present-day Church. Most bishops are also still comfortable with retaining the episcopal "bling": the ring and pectoral cross. Less known are the pontifical dalmatic and tunicle, gloves, and slippers; as well as smaller instruments like the bugia, the bishop's hand-candle. More broadly, pontificals can also refer to furnishings like the cathedra (throne) and faldstool or ceremonial privileges like being attended by two deacons at the throne, or an assistant-priest in cope. We'll go into detail about some of these later on.


What exactly does it mean for a Mass to be "pontifical"?

Most people would call any Mass said by a bishop to be a "pontifical Mass", but I don't think this is quite accurate. Traditionally, a pontifical Mass is really one that's celebrated by a bishop with all of the symbols or "trappings" of his office.... or a priest who has the privilege of using pontificals, like a mitred abbot or monsignor. In this understanding, phrases like "pontifical solemn Mass" or "pontifical high Mass", while descriptive for the average layman, are redundant because all pontifical Masses are solemn. Conversely, there's not really any such thing as "pontifical low Mass". Fortescue actually calls the latter "low Mass said by a bishop" since it's mostly the same as how a priest says Mass, with a few distinctions tacked on.

The Roman Rite prior to Vatican II had developed two kinds of pontifical Mass: "Mass at the Faldstool" and "Mass at the Throne". Any bishop could celebrate from the faldstool (a special folding-chair placed in the sanctuary), but only the Ordinary of the diocese could preside from a throne when within his own territory--unless he gave that permission to a visiting bishop. Cardinals alone had the right to celebrate from the throne anywhere outside of Rome without asking for permission. 

Pontifical Mass at the Throne was the supreme model from which all other forms of Mass were derived, but it was the hardest to organize because it assumed the Ordinary of the diocese was at his cathedral with all his canons and attendants: 2 deacons-of-honor at the throne, plus 4 chaplain-bearers in copes, train-bearer, and of course, his valet in addition to the assistant-priest, deacon and subdeacon of the Mass that were expected as a minimum for Mass at the Faldstool. The stringest requirements for Mass at the Throne meant that the diocesan bishop rarely pontificated at parish churches, and didn't even pontificate in his own cathedral all that often. If the bishop was making his annual rounds at the local parish for confirmations, he would have more likely just attended the pastor's Mass in choir dress or given confirmation as a standalone ceremony. A typical Sunday Mass at the cathedral, meanwhile, was celebrated by the dean or rector even if the bishop was around.


What did pontifical Mass look like in the Middle Ages?


We have abundant evidence for what pontifical Mass was supposed to look like in the "Tridentine" centuries because the ceremonial books after the Council of Trent (the Pontificale Romanum and Caeremoniale Episcoporum) were standardized and upheld even beyond Vatican II... but what about the "pre-Tridentine" Mass? 

Nearly all descriptions of the liturgy in the earliest centuries of the Church referred to pontifical Mass because that was the norm in practice as well as on paper. At first, the bishop was the usual celebrant of a single Mass for all the Christians in each city. As numbers grew, bishops then ordained priests to serve the needs of satellite communities outside of his own reach. The bishop's Mass, however, remained normative for written accounts of the liturgy. They must have been large affairs even at the time of the Council of Nicaea because canon 18 is spent ruling on the seating of deacons and priests in the church. The deacons had gotten so uppity that, according to the text, they were receiving Communion even before the bishops in some places. 

The oldest surviving books for pontifical ceremonies that I know of are the Ordines Romani (plural of Ordo Romanus, of which there are 15 in all), a series of texts going back to the age of Charlemagne and beyond, dealing with ceremonies for the church of the city of Rome. The model is naturally the papal Mass at the Throne, with the next level down being the Mass of an ordinary bishop at the Faldstool (where, in Rome, he would never dare preside at the Throne), then Masses for ordinary priests. So we can see that the basic distinctions for different kinds of Mass are hardly the elaborations of a decadent Baroque age, but go back to the early Middle Ages, when everyone from lord to peasant was struggling to survive.

The 10th-13th centuries gave rise to several major books, culminating in the Pontifical by Guillaume Durand, Bishop of Mende (d. 1296), aka Durandus. Durand's Pontifical drew from earlier works like the Germano-Roman Pontifical and the Pontifical of Innocent III's court, but was divided neatly into 3 sections, uncluttered by anything that didn't pertain directly to bishops or was exclusive to the Pope. It was a successful formula that became the basis for the first typical Pontificale Romanum in 1485, which was adapted by Burckhard (a famous papal MC) for the Roman Curia... and then, at last, the Pontifical of the Council of Trent (1595), which went further than Quo Primum by suppressing all other local pontificals throughout the Latin Rite, with no grandfather clauses for ancient rites. That means even if you could make a case for celebrating a Sarum Mass in England according to the exceptions of Quo Primum, you couldn't do the same for a Sarum ordination rite. 

The traditional Pontificale Romanum was last edited in 1961, during the pontificate of John XXIII. Still, since even at this time, the Pontificale was substantially the same as Burckhard's, which was likewise the same as Durand's, we can safely say that a pontifical Mass in the year 1960 was carried out more-or-less the same way as a pontifical Mass in the year 1260--allowing for differences in styles of vestments and church architecture, of course. This staggering continuity is as impressive for all of my dear readers as it was horrifyingly in need of a total makeover in the eyes of Bugnini and company.


Why weren't bishops allowed to say Mass like an ordinary priest?

Quite simply, because he isn't one. A bishop, upon his elevation to the episcopacy, was held to have surrendered his former identity and, in some sense, his ability to have a private life. (To this day, eastern bishops show this by ceasing entirely to use their family surnames.) This problem came up last week when the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei confirmed that a bishop isn't allowed to celebrate a "pontifical missa cantata" because the option just wasn't there in 1962. At that time, a bishop could celebrate Mass pontifically according to his station, or say a low Mass as though he were in his private chapel. That was it! The old restrictions proved to be the only things capable of preserving the medieval pontifical Mass into the 20th century. Once they were gone, the casual approach to liturgy in general did the rest.



Is there even such a thing as pontifical Mass in the Ordinary Form?

Ordinary Form Mass with Cardinal Sarah at the London Oratory, complete with assistant-priest in cope
I know it doesn't feel like there is! I can count on one hand the number of OF Masses I've been to which were ever billed as "pontifical". The phrase "pontifical Mass" appears just once, I believe, in the entire new Missal (para. 143, in reference to the pontifical blessing at the end of Mass). Ever since the new Ceremonial of Bishops came out in 1984, the preferred expression became the "Stational Mass of the Bishop". The phrase "Stational Mass" was pulled from the Church of late antiquity in reference to the church of Rome, when the Pope celebrated Mass at one of the great basilicas or shrines of the martyrs.

A Stational Mass, in the Ordinary Form, surprisingly still calls for two deacons at the throne in addition to the deacon of the Mass (though, as with most things, not an absolute requirement). You'll notice I didn't say anything about Mass at the Faldstool; all Stational Masses are now "Throne Masses" because even ordinary priests usually celebrate the fore-Mass from thrones (or "presidential chairs"). I assume the only time a distinction is made is that, perhaps, an auxiliary bishop might use a different chair other than the Ordinary's cathedra when celebrating at the cathedral.

There is, of course, no subdeacon, but there can be two deacons of the Mass to divide roles amongst each other. Oddly, a deacon who serves as MC is permitted to wear the dalmatic. Priests are forbidden from serving in the role of deacon or wearing the dalmatic, though, even in the absence of any deacons. They are instead to either concelebrate, attend in-choir, or serve as MC only. The rule against priests "dressing down" as deacons (in imitation of the eastern churches' prohibitions) seems to have only applied only to pontifical Mass at first, but is now a given for all Masses in the Ordinary Form these days.

The new Ceremonial of Bishops still explicitly mentions the pontifical dalmatic and even the cappa magna (for the solemn entrance) as options, but most of the other pontificalia are no longer mentioned. While a rare few communities like the London Oratory have preserved the use of the pontifical gloves and so on as a matter of custom, their omission in the new books has been interpreted by the Church at large to mean that they're practically abolished. Still, the new Ceremonial only gives one strict prohibition regarding pontificalia here, namely that a bishop is only allowed to wear one kind of mitre per Mass. (The old rite usually has him switch between two types at various points in the liturgy: precious and golden.)


Next time, we'll look more closely at the bishop's most distinctive apparel: the mitre, how it developed into its current shape, and why a bishop used different types even at the same Mass.

Pontificalia II: the mitre and crozier

Pontificalia III: the pontifical vestments