Thursday, February 4, 2016

Candlemas


February 2 was, like so many other feasts that have fallen by the wayside in modern times, one of the great Christian festivals of the medieval world. It commemorates the fortieth day after Christmas, when the Blessed Mother presented the infant Christ at the Temple of Jerusalem and submitted herself for ritual purification according to the law of Moses. At Christendom's height, a lengthy service prior to Mass developed which involved the blessing and distribution of candles, and a procession of lights around the church or even the village. We may or may not have inherited this love of walking about with candles from our pagan forefathers, but its Christian significance lies in the words of Simeon, the elderly Jew to whom the Holy Ghost promised he would not die until he had seen the Messiah with his own eyes. Simeon was present at the Temple during the presentation of Jesus, and said:
"mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people;To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of Thy people Israel."
Last Tuesday, I was privileged to partake in these traditions in a small but special way. Solemn high Mass in the old rite was celebrated at the Cathedral-Basilica in Philadelphia. I joined some servers of varying ages from the various Latin Mass communities across the city, as well as three diocesan seminarians, to walk in the procession around the church and sit "in choir" for the Mass. As the candles were being distributed to the congregation, the choir sang the words Simeon spoke all those centuries ago, the Nunc dimittis.

Lumen ad revelationem gentium. "A light to enlighten the Gentiles."

Small as my role was, this Mass was a life-changing experience for me. Perhaps not a Damascene conversion or fodder for a column in a vocations magazine, but I couldn't help but feel a stronger pull toward an ongoing discernment I've had for years toward the so-called "permanent" diaconate. It's very rare for lay servers these days to be able to attend Mass in the sanctuary, but without all the distractions of multiple duties. When you sit "in choir", though, you enjoy being not only very close to the altar, but some freedom to simply watch and pray the Mass, or read from a hand missal when seated. I even fulfilled the "choir" part of being "in choir" by singing the Credo from my Liber Usualis (the rest of the Mass Ordinary was polyphonic). It was amusing to watch the young boys in front of me awkwardly exchanging the kiss of peace, to the second MC's dismay. I hope they continue to foster a love for the altar and consider a vocation to the priesthood.

And to think: all this taking place in the very same sanctuary where the Pope himself celebrated Mass  for the clergy of Philadelphia just a few months ago!




Some of our Knights and Dames of Malta joined in this procession as well.

The vestments selected for this Mass were splendid Gothics with fleur-de-lis.



14 comments:

  1. It was truly a beautiful event. It displays the Roman rite at its fullest and most glorious.

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  2. It looks absolutely heavenly.

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  3. Smells... Bells... Glorious Liturgy

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  4. Thank you for this post. Sorry I could not be there.

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  5. This was a lovely post about Candlemas...until I reached the point where you mentioned the 'so-called "permanent" diaconate'. I thought you were more traditional that that. Permanent deacons are for the Novus Ordo. Continue to be an example for the vocation to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony--we need more Catholic marriages and families to set an example. Look at St Therese's parents.

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    1. A number of the Church's greatest saints and other figures were so-called "permanent" deacons, such as Saint Stephen the Protomartyr, Saint Lawrence, and Saint Francis of Assisi. Reginald Cardinal Pole was also a "permanent" deacon during his time at the Council of Trent, and was still a deacon when he was given the archbishopric of Canterbury. A number of Trent fathers proposed making the "permanent" diaconate normative again, but it was never actualized for a variety of political reasons. There are many good reasons for traditional communities to make use of deacons today. Indeed, the Institute of Christ the King has at least one "permanent" deacon through its Clerical Oblates. (I like to put "permanent" in scare quotes because we never speak of "permanent" priests, even though the vast majority do not go on to become bishops.)

      If you have patience, you'll be able to read a more detailed examination of this topic later, when I have the time to write it out. Pax.

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    2. I think the issue the other poster was referring to was more the 'married' part of permanent diaconate, not the "permanent" part. Nothing wrong with being a deacon but those men were celibate clerics, as are the subdeacons and deacons used by the Institute of Christ the King. The Vatican II introduction of married deacons is an untraditional novelty, which most traditional Catholics consider a deliberate forerunner for the abolition of priestly celibacy, as is rumored Pope Francis will introduce.

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    3. Anonymous 2: sure, but it pays to be specific. The Anglican Use parish where I was married at, Our Lady of the Atonement, has two married priests and a celibate permanent deacon!

      With regard to married vs. unmarried major clerics, I'm currently investigating a diaconal path through the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, where married priests already predominate, or possibly switching to an Eastern Rite (as difficult as that may or may not be, canonically).

      Touching on the Roman Rite at large, though, there is a pretty good book called "Married Men as Ordained Deacons" by Father Wilhelm Schamoni, published in 1953 or so. It was written from notes that Schamoni took while imprisoned at Dachau concentration camp during World War II. He and fellow priests spent much of their days discussing the ways in which the German Church had failed its people, and how that led to the rise of the Nazi Party. One of those problems was the failure of the priesthood to engage with the laity. This book was the first major text on the permanent diaconate in the 20th century and started the movement to restore it following Vatican II. Unlike how most deacons operate today, though, Schamoni envisioned that all deacons would be employed full-time by the Church. His book also interestingly speaks at length about old-fashioned ideas like spiritual warfare and deacons going to battle with the devil in the modern world.

      At any rate, if I were to become a deacon and a fellow traditional Catholic turned down my offer of ministry or walked out of Mass upon seeing me vested in a dalmatic, that's their prerogative (provided they fulfill their Sunday obligation elsewhere on the same day).... but I don't think any of us will enjoy the luxury of doing so 20 or 30 years from now.

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  6. In the Ordinariate, the existence of married clergy is because they were previously married as Anglicans, and were then allowed to be ordained as Catholics as an exception. This is done on a case by case basis and requires the permission of the Pope for each individual man. In the future it's likely that the number of married Ordinariate clergy will decline, as they start ordaining new men who were not Anglicans to begin with and thus cannot become priests if they are married. I, and many others strongly disagree with this exception being allowed, both in the Ordinariate as well as the Eastern churches. I quite frankly find the idea of married clergy disgusting, un-Scriptural and un-Catholic, but that's me.

    That being said, I don't want you to feel like I am discouraging your vocation in any way. I think you are doing a fine job with this blog and that just living out your vocation to marriage is a very valuable and necessary witness to the Faith today.

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  7. That you find married clergy disgusting, anon 8:35, is itself disgusting.

    Sex can no longer confer a ritually impure status upon anyone, and it is at least implicitly blasphemous to claim it is morally polluting, between a lawfully married husband and wife, and in accordance with the natural law. I know St Bridget of Sweden and St Peter Damian seemed to think otherwise - if so, they were wrong.

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  8. Here's a link to the brochure concerning the permanent deaconate in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. As a young husband and father, Mr. Griffin, you would have quite a few years to wait before you could even apply for admission to the program.

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    1. http://archphila.org/diaconate/Brochure.pdf

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    2. I've contemplated the diaconate since I was 20, so I'm used to waiting.

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