The 'Gloria in Excelsis'...

Image sung at the end? The bat-eared amongst you may have noticed that last week's Gloria in Excelsis (sung to the setting in F by Harold Darke) featured slightly odd sounding words. This week's will also sound different from the usual, English version that we are accustomed to.
It is not just the words that are different--this morning as we were rehearsing the Gloria from Howells' Collegium Regale setting of the Eucharist for this coming Sunday, one of the choristers asked why it came after the Agnus Dei in the printed editions that we have?
Both Darke and Howells' settings set the Eucharistic service as found in the Book of Common Prayer (the BCP). The first edition of of the BCP was edited by Thomas Cranmer in 1549 after King Henry VIII's break from Rome and the establishment of the Church of England. Other editions followed during this tumultuous period of English History. It was finally standardized in 1662 and remains the sole, authorized liturgical book of the…

In all his words most wonderful...

...most sure in all his ways.

On the evening October 9th 1841 an Italian Passionist priest trudged through the Oxfordshire countryside in order to reach a small collection of converted farm buildings in the village of Littlemore known as 'the college'. These buildings were the home of John Henry Newman and a small group of like-minded followers who were all devotees of the 'Oxford Movement',
Sometimes referred to as the 'Tractarian Movement', the Oxford Movement was a movement within the Church of England that began at the University of Oxford in the first half of the nineteenth-century. It sought to bring about a fuller understanding of the Church of England as being part of the 'one holy, catholic, and apostolic church'. This manifested itself in efforts to instate aspects of patristic theology and pre-reformation ritual into the Church of England. The movement was spearheaded by three clergymen who were all Fellows of Oriel College: John Keble, Edward…

A Change of Tone...

A Change of Tone...This coming weekend, we will be attempting to return to some degree of normality in our renowned musical program. A reduced number of Boy Choristers will sing for the Solemn Mass at 11am whilst a schola-ette will sing in lieu of our Parish Choir at the 9.30am Mass. This blog will also undergo some changes--alongside my brief reflections on the theme and readings for the coming Sunday, I will also seek to provide you with details and 'program notes' for the music that will be sung at the 11am Mass. 
'Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?'  Sir.  27.30 - 28.7
This question is found in Sunday's first reading that is taken from the Wisdom of Sirach (also known as the Book of Ecclesiasticus). The Wisdom of Sirach is the longest of the seven wisdom books found in the bible and was written by a sage and scribe named Yeshua, the son of a man named Sirach. Like all examples of ancient near-eastern wisdom literature, …

Pio X

Pio X This coming Friday marks the feast day of Pope St. Pius X (1835-1914). A man of great simplicity and piety, Pius X reigned as Bishop of Rome for eleven years during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Vehemently opposed to Catholic Modernism--that is, the numerous attempts to reconcile Roman Catholic teachings with the philosophies of the modern world--Pius X defined the movement as heretical in a series of encyclicals. In 1910, he instituted a requirement for all clergy and teachers of theology to swear an oath against modernist thought. The requirement was rescinded by Pope Paul VI in 1967 during the Second Vatican Council. 
In addition to his 'hard-line' approach to Catholic Modernism, Pius X had a particularly uncompromising attitude towards countries that had begun to embrace secular government (i.e. the separation of religion and state) owing to his refusal to accept the annexation of the Papal States by the Kingdom of Italy. One of Pius X's greatest …


Assumption/Dormition    This coming Saturday marks the Solemnity of the Assumption of the BVM. It is the day on which Our Lady died and was taken, body and soul, up to heaven--it is the glorious transportation that is emphasized in the traditions of the Western Church. Meanwhile, in the traditions of the Eastern Church, it is Our Lady's bodily death that is emphasized--the title of the Feast Day is the 'Dormition' or 'falling asleep'. 
Icons that depict the Dormition tend to have broad similarities with those of the Nativity. Indeed, the concept of the Assumption/Dormition is an inversion of the Nativity--death as opposed to life, to heaven as opposed to from heaven &c. In these icons, one can see Our Lady's body on brier, surrounded by the Apostles and various Patriarchs. Standing above the brier is a curious image of Jesus holding a baby in swaddling clothes. In fact, the baby is a depiction of Our Lady's soul. 
Closely mirroring the classic 'Virgin…


Transfigured Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. Falling in the middle of the summer months and in close proximity to the Solemnity of the Assumption of the BVM (15th August), it seems to be the forgotten feast day of the liturgical year. It marks the day when Jesus ascended a mountain (traditionally considered to be Mount Tabor) with Peter, James, and John. On the mountaintop, Jesus is transfigured before their eyes with his face and clothes becoming unbearably bright. Both Moses and Elijah at Jesus side and begin conversing with him. Finally, a bright cloud appears and a loud voice declares out of it that Jesus is his beloved Son. On hearing the voice, the three disciples fall to the ground in fear but Jesus reaches out to touch them and reassu. re them. As soon as they look up, Elijah, Moses, and the cloud are gone. They descend from the mountain with Jesus instructing them not to tell anyone about what they had seen until after his Resurrection. This account is found in all…

The Sower

The Sower This Sunday's Gospel reading features the Parable of the Sower in which Jesus likens the Father unto a farmer who is scattering seeds in the fields. Some fall on the road and are eaten by crows, while others fail to flourish having landed in bad soil or in the weeds. Then, there are those which land in the fertile soil, grow, and yield a plentiful harvest. Jesus explains that the seeds which are scattered represent the word of God that is placed in our hearts--it is the Grace that God  pours into our souls. The various places where they land (be it the road, weeds, bad soil, or good soil) represent the ways in which we might respond to the Grace which flows over us. Jesus instructs his followers that they should 'hear the word and understand it'. Their soul ought to be like fertile ground--indeed, the seed that falls on that ground 'grows, bears fruit, and yields a hundredfold' [cf. Mt. 13.23]. Simply put, the path to sainthood and eternal life starts with…

''The most important thing I've ever done''

''The most important thing I've ever done''
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. [Mt. 11.28]
This passage is taken from the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday. It is immediately proceeded by what is perhaps the strongest self-assertion of Divinity that is given to us by Matthew's Jesus--'no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him' [Mt. 11.26a]. In this verse Jesus describes both his absolute unity and with the Father and his access to him in a way that would not be out of place in John's Gospel. Indeed, the essence of Jesus' words here are pretty similar to 'I am the way, the truth, and the life--no one comes to the Father except through me' [Jn. 14.6]. 
The So…

Christianising Rome

Christinanising RomeThe Feast of SS Peter and Paul will fall this coming Monday. It marks day when, according to tradition, both Peter and Paul died for their faith. Peter was crucified upside-down on Vatican Hill--at the time this was the site of Emperor Nero's private sports complex where he would race chariots against carefully picked opponents in order to prove how great a charioteer he wasn't (cf. Tacitus Annales 14). The one visible remnant of Nero's private circus is the obelisk (now crowned with a cross) at the centre of St Peter's Square--it marked the centre of Emperor's chariot track. Peter's relics lie in the basilica that was built atop of Nero's circus, close to where he died. Paul was beheaded outside the walls of the city of Rome on the Laurentian Way. According to legend, his body was then transferred to a burial site owned by a Christian woman located on the road to Ostia. The location is now the of site of the Papal Basilica of St Paul ou…

Spiritual Evolution

This coming Friday marks the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When we talk about the Sacred Heart we are not, in fact, talking about Jesus' actual anatomical heart. Rather, we are using it as a poetic way of reflecting and focussing on God's boundless and extraordinary love for mankind. The devotion to the God's love is at the very centre of the spirituality of such figures St Bernard of Clairvaux and St Bonaventure. The modern devotion has its origins in pre-Revolutionary France before disseminating across Europe. Indeed, the Feast of Sacred Heart was first celebrated in 1670 in a seminary in Rennes. 
The French-ness of Friday's Feast provides us with a nice segue into the thoughts of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). A Jesuit priest, philosopher, and paleontologist, Teilhard was one of the scientists who worked on the discovery of the Peking Man--the fossils of a subspecies of Homo Erectus found outside modern-day Beijing. He spent his life attempting to reco…

Eucharistic Bird-spotting

Pelecanidae PelecanusAs some of you may know, one of my hobbies is birding. Sarah and I are members of the Massachusetts Audubon Society and we frequent nature reserves and parks armed with binoculars and a bag-full of bird identification manuals.  
As we approach the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, I thought it opportune to focus on the pelican--a bird that has come to symbolize the Passion of Christ and the Eucharist. There are eight living species in the genus Pelecanus. Clumsy in their appearance, pelicans are large water birds that struggle to fly gracefully. They have an almost disproportionately large bill and throat pouch which enables them to scoop up water containing fish. While most think of them as having an exclusively pescatarian diet, they are omnivorous and opportunistic  Indeed, the captive Great White Pelicans of St James' Park in London are known to swallow city pigeons--an act that has scarred countless tourists for life. 
Throughout the middle ages, the p…

Trinitas in Unitate

''And the catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence...which faith unless everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.''  After the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, the Athanasian Creed is the third of the Catholic church's official creeds. It is distinguishable from the the other two creeds on account of its explicit Trinitarianism and harsh condemnations for those who disagree with its content. As such, it has been attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria, the c.3rd patristic writer and defender of Trinitarianism although it is more likely to have had a western author owing to the fact it was written in Latin and not Greek. 
Trinitarian orthodoxy is rather hard to understand as it simply does not fit within the realms of comfortable logic--it is a real mystery. This is probably why so many Trinitarian heresies have gained traction over t…

The Spirit moves in mysterious ways

Laude SpiritualeFifty days after Jesus' Resurrection, the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and Mary in the Upper Room. There was much wind, fire, and speaking in tongues. According to the Book of Acts, the Apostles then proceeded to convert 3000 people. As such, it is often referred to as the birthday of the Church. 
Ever since then, the Church has been guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Throughout her two thousand year history, the Church has, on occasion, required a revitalizing, Pentecostal booster-shot. One example of such a shot is the musical genre of Laude Spirituale--vernacular sacred songs which flourished in Italy from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries. 
Laude first appear in the thirteenth century following the founding of the Mendicant Orders (e.g. the Dominicans and Franciscans). As Franciscan street preaching was often accompanied by the informal singing of sacred songs, it is perhaps no surprise that the first recorded Laude was written by none other than St F…