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