And so I expect that the beautiful Spring warmth with its gentle breezes continues today. It is the first saint's feast after Holy Week and Easter today, the feast of the martyr Saint Hermenegildus, the Mass is Protexisti me, Deus (Introibo) and it will be streamed from Saint-Eugene at the usual hour. His own father had him murdered because he wouldn't accept the Arian heresy, more specifically, according to the Martyrology, because he wouldn't accept Holy Communion from an Arian prelate. A true witness specially in our days when... in our heresy- and plague-ridden days. It is a glorious morning.
I read a passage this morning by Blessed Ildefonso which he placed in the Liber sacramentorum prior to his essays for Holy Week and Easter, 'Concerning certain Paschal Rites of the Middle Ages', and today seems as good a day as any to include it here.
Saint Benedict by his own example, and in a special chapter of his Rule, pointed out to his monks the immense importance of Easter in the liturgical cycle, enjoining that a monk should regard it as the goal of his personal sanctification which, through the purity and sincerity of his life, should exemplify the continual resurrection of the soul in Christ’s eternal Pasch. Faithful to the teaching of the great Patriarch, his spiritual family has always celebrated the paschal festival with great splendour of rites and prayers, in order to express also outwardly the interior dispositions of the Benedictine spirit before the mystery of the resurrection of Christ.The poet Marcus, in his verses on the life of St Benedict, describes how, during Lent, the Saint, like the early Eastern Fathers, remained shut up in his stronghold of Monte Cassino, at the foot of which the people, recently brought by him to the knowledge of the faith, waited impatiently until he should show himself to them once more during the solemn night vigil of Holy Saturday. Hic quoque clausum populi, te teste, requirunt/ Exspectas noctis dum pia festa sacrae. By studying the various Ordines Cassinenses, we can reconstruct the whole history of the paschal liturgy at Monte Cassino. In the 9th century the paschal vigilia began at None on Holy Saturday, and consisted of the ancient 12 lessons with alternate gradual responsories, amongst which were the traditional Benedictiones which follow the Lesson from the Book of Daniel. Contrary to the use of other churches in Spain, Gaul, etc., the blessing of the candle and of the water-- stripped of every allusion to baptism as being unnecessary in a monastery, the abode of a gens aetema in qua nemo nascitur-- followed immediately after the lessons; then came the procession accompanied by the singing of a triple litany, going from the Basilica of St Martin first to that of St Peter, and then to the neighbouring one of St Benedict, where the Mass of the vigil was celebrated. Towards the end of the same century-- that is, in the time of Abbot Bertarius-- the bells were rung when the celebrant intoned the Gloria in Excelsis, and after the Epistle the abbot distributed candles to those present. Vespers having been sung, the choir moved in procession to the refectory, chanting the antiphon Vespere autem sabbati, and it was only when the priest had recited the collect that the officiating clergy laid aside their vestments. It is well known, indeed, that among the faithful of early days, the Triclinium and the refectory were regarded as having an important liturgical character, and the community meal, owing to the benedictions and prayers which accompanied it, brought to mind the first years of Christianity, when the eucharistic agape was the most complete and efficacious expression of the Church’s unity of life.The blessing of the monastery of Monte Cassino took place on Easter Sunday, and that of the adjoining buildings on the Monday following, the whole community being present at the ceremony. To the singing of litanies, the precious crosses and the relics of the saints were carried in procession, so that the whole monastery might be sanctified by their passing. On the Tuesday the liturgy was solemnized in a still more dramatic form. For among our forefathers it was not regarded as something to be hidden in sanctuaries and sacristies, but as the expression of the life and polity of the Christian people in all its fulness; and, as such, was brought out into the light of day, into the free air of the streets and squares, to be greeted by the joyful cries of the populace who came to meet the clergy with smoking censers. Thus, also on Monte Cassino, the monks of the head monastery came down on that day from the heights to share the holy joys of Easter with their brethren of the monastery of the Saviour, which lay at the foot of the sacred Mount. The two communities met in the village of San Pietro, where the modern town of Cassino stands. The priests and other clergy of the two houses wore their finest vestments for the occasion, all the silver objects, the reliquaries, and the precious vessels were borne in procession, whilst the monks of both communities exchanged in a brotherly spirit the scriptural greeting: benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. The two choirs then exchanged a fraternal embrace, and the monks of the Salvatoris, acting as hosts, led those of Monte Cassino to the chanting of the litanies into their Basilica of St Peter, where they together recited the Office of Terce.The Mass had nothing unusual about it except the singing of the Greek responsories after the Epistle; which, however, being mentioned only towards the end of the ninth century-- in the time, that is, of Bertarius-- show a somewhat later origin than that of the primitive Cassinese liturgy, and appear to belong to a Hellenistic period, when the influence of the Greeks who had settled in the neighbourhood made itself felt more than once on the ritual of Monte Cassino. After Mass, the procession again set forth and crossed the public square, on its way to the monastery of the Saviour. The two communities first entered the basilica of that name, singing the litanies, and, after a brief stay, the monks resumed their liturgical vestments and passed under the arcades of the basilica. The abbot followed, carrying against his breast the volume of the Gospels which had been beautifully illuminated by order of Bertarius, and proceeded to the sanctuary, where a second Mass was celebrated. The ceremonies did not, however, end with the divine Sacrifice, for the monks, singing the Te Deum, then went in procession to the refectory, and sat down to table together. The meal being over, the two communities once more exchanged the kiss of peace, after which the monks of Monte Cassino returned joyfully to their monastic acropolis, where beside the ancient tomb of St Benedict they led a life of mingled prayer and work. During the Octave of Easter the night offices at Monte Cassino included, besides the traditional 12 psalms, also 8 lessons, together with the final reading of the Gospel: it was therefore fitting that during these days of holy rejoicing the meals should be somewhat less austere than at ordinary times. Thus on Easter Day, and on the following Tuesday, the regulations at Monte Cassino allowed four courses, consisting of vegetables, herbs, and fish with two cups of wine to the monks, who were somewhat weakened by the rigours of the Lenten fast. Flesh meat was always strictly forbidden, but not poultry; therefore, during Easter week it sometimes made its appearance on the table, at an opportune moment, to cheer and strengthen those whose health had been tried by the long abstinence. In the 11th century, when the observances of Cluny had been adopted by the greater number of the Benedictine monasteries, the Easter liturgy attained its highest point of magnificence and splendour. During the solemn vigils, the whole church was lighted up, and, according to an ancient custom in the Roman basilicas, the altar and the choir were incensed after the third lesson of each nocturn. On Easter Sunday, at the dinner which followed the Mass, instead of each monk receiving, as on ordinary days, a certain portion of food appointed for him, he was allowed to help himself as he pleased from the large dish (generalis) which was set before him. The first course consisted of fish, then followed three other courses of vegetables and herbs, whilst the lay-brothers, the deacons, and the priests filled the cups of the monks three times, in honour, as they said, of the Blessed Trinity, so strong still was the conception of the liturgical character of the common meal among the clergy and religious communities.In France, the procession to the Sepulchre on the morning of Easter Sunday was held in great reputation. At the 3rd responsory of the vigils, the choir went with great ceremony, carrying candles, incense, and perfumes, to the Sepulchre, whither two deacons, or two boys dressed in white, with angels’ wings, had preceded them, and were now sitting beside the altar awaiting them. As the procession drew near, the two angels, addressing those who took the part of the Marys, sang the words: Quem quaeritis in sepulchro? Jesum Nazarenum. Surrexit; non est hic. Then, raising the veil spread over the altar, which represented the Saviour’s winding-sheet, they showed the holy women that the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb. Then followed a pleasing dialogue between Mary Magdalen, Mary the mother of James, Mary of Salome, and the choir. Mary Magdalen sang the first strophe of the sequence: Victimae Paschali laudes immolent Christiani. The mother of James followed with: Agnus redemit oves, Christus innocens Patri reconciliavit peccatores; Mary of Salome sang the third verse: Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando; dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus. Then two of the clergy from behind the pulpit addressing the Magdalen sang: Dic nobis, Maria, quid vidisti in via? and she replied: Sepulchrum Christi viventis, et gloriam vidi resurgentis, angelicos testes, sudarium et vestes. Surrexit Christus spes mea, praecedens suos in Galileam. At this joyful news the whole choir exclaimed: Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere. Tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere; and singing the Te Deum with one voice, they all returned together to finish the celebration of the interrupted morning vigil. In other places, as at Soissons, for instance, the same rite was used when taking the Blessed Sacrament from the Sepulchre, and as the episode of the winding-sheet had become extremely popular, it ended by being one of the most important features of this dramatic representation of the resurrection. It was by no means unusual to paint or embroider on the sheet a picture of the sacred body of our Lord, as it was enwrapped by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus with linen bands before being laid in the tomb. These sudaria were greatly esteemed by the people, so much so that many ancient rituals enjoined that on Easter Sunday the winding-sheet should remain exposed to the veneration of the faithful from the early morning vigil until sunrise. The Roman rite of the stations and of the evening processions during Easter week, as described in the various Ordines of the Middle Ages, gradually spread beyond the city boundaries, especially throughout Italy and France.The Gelasian anniversary of the Easter Day of the preceding year-- Pascha annotinum-- was another occasion on which our forefathers showed their devotion to the mystery of the resurrection of Christ, the type not only of the resurrection of the Church by means of baptism, but also of the final resurrection of all flesh on the day of the great parousia. This custom soon died out in Rome, being rarely mentioned in documents after the eighth century, but it continued to be observed for some time longer in France, where it was celebrated with exactly the same rites as those of Easter Day itself. The resurrection of the human race, of which the feast of Christ’s resurrection from the dead is a pledge to us each year as Easter comes round, was also brought before the eyes of the faithful in a striking manner by the white-robed band of neophytes, who each year added their number to the flock of Christ. In a certain sense they themselves formed the Church’s Easter; therefore it is not surprising that the whole paschal liturgy, as seen in the Roman rite, is inspired by the idea that baptism gives to the soul a share in the resurrection of its Redeemer. This, indeed, is the true meaning of the beautiful responsory of the vigil: Isti sunt agni novelli qui annuntiaverunt Alleluia, modo venerunt ad fontes, repleti sunt claritate, alleluia. Even later, when, owing to the change in the outward condition of the Church, Tertullian’s emphatic words: Christians non nascuntur, sed fiunt, no longer expressed a truth; and when, consequently, from the 7th century onwards baptism was administered only to infants, the Roman liturgy not only kept intact the ancient baptismal ceremonial in use during the Byzantine period, but even enriched it. The professio fidei of the scrutinies, recited both in Greek and Latin, was retained, the use of Greek having been permitted originally on account of the many Byzantine officials in Rome. The Papal Court found it expedient to show a certain amount of consideration towards these latter, as is seen also by the bilingual lessons of the paschal vigil, and by the Greek processional responsories in the evening office which Rome left in their original place until after the 11th century.The most characteristic, however, of the Easter ceremonies at Rome was the evening office. The second Vespers which we now have, which may be said to end the ceremonies, were then quite unknown in the Eternal City. In the ancient Roman rite, as even now among the Eastern Christians, Vespers are always a liturgical preparation for the festival day which follows, the ritual celebration of which ends with the Mass. In any case the vesper hour in early times was regarded as belonging chronologically to the following day, and not to the one which was drawing to a close. Easter Day alone formed an exception to this rule; but this was a concession to the newly baptized, derived from Jerusalem. The Easter Vespers at the Lateran began with a kind of processional Introit, as is still the custom among the Greeks, the clergy passing from the pergula-- on which was erected the crucifix-- to the sacred vima. The schola took up its position between the marble plutei set up before the altar; the deacons placed themselves in the sanctuary to the side of the pergula, whilst it was the privilege of the bishops and Roman priests only to seat themselves around the Papal throne. Meanwhile the Kyrie eleison was sung processionally, after which the proper Vesper Office began. At a sign from the archdeacon, the leader of the singers intoned the Alleluia antiphon, alternating it with each verse of Psalm 109; the second singer of the schola followed with another Alleluia from Psalm 110; then there entered a choir of boys, directed by a subdeacon, who sang the paschal psalm Dominus regnavit in responsorial form, leaving the closing Psalm 111, the verses of which were also alternated with Alleluias, to the most experienced singers of the schola. Next followed the short responsory: Pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus, with the verse Epulemur in azymis. There was no hymn, as it was not until much later that hymnody was allowed at the Divine Office in Rome. The Magnificat was then sung and was followed by a collect, bringing to a close the first part of Vespers. As at Jerusalem, where, after the office of the Lucenarium, it was customary to go in procession from the Anastasis to the Oratory of the Holy Cross, so, too, at the Lateran. From the Basilica of the Saviour, which was the Anastasis of Rome, the neophytes were conducted in procession on this day to visit once more the baptistery and the adjoining Oratory of the Holy Cross, the Confirmatorium, in order to close that memorable day with a special prayer of thanksgiving, offered in the very places where, on the preceding night, they had been born again in baptism to a Christian life. Singing the verse In die resurrectionis meae, the procession passed behind the apse of the Lateran, through the porch and the atrium which led to the baptistery. There the leader of the schola intoned the Alleluia with Psalm 112, a psalm very suitable to the occasion. Next came a Greek choir which sang the paschal psalm: O Kυριοσ εβασιλευσεν; then after the Magnificat and the collect, the procession moved to the chapel of St John ad vestem, singing the responsory: Lapidem quem reprobaverunt, and the psalms In exitu, Venite exsultemus, and the Magnificat. The oratory was very small and actually adjoined the baptistery, so the greater part of those taking part in the ceremony remained in the baptistery during this third Vesper Office owing to lack of space. This procession to the Oratory of St John ad vestem, in which, contrary to custom, there was no Greek choir, represents a later addition to the ancient statio ad fontes in the Roman Liturgy, made perhaps when the chapel acquired greater importance in consequence of its claiming to possess the robe of St John the Baptist. As a matter of fact, there is no mention at all of this garment in the Ordo Romanus of the MSS. of St Armandus, although it appears in later documents. The visit to the baptistery being concluded, the whole company, singing the baptismal antiphon Vidi aquam, proceeded to the Oratory of St Andrew in crucem, where on the preceding night the neophytes had received the Confirmatio chrismalis. Here also Vespers consisted of Psalms 114 and 94 only, with the Magnificat and the final collect.After the recital of such a number of psalms and collects, the higher clergy of Rome, invited by the notary or the vicedominus, adjourned to the papal Triclinium to taste three different kinds of wine, noted in the documents; Greek, de Pactis, and de Procoma, so called probably from the country of their origin. Afterwards in the time of Cencius Camerarius, the minor clergy also were admitted to this papal compotatio; and the archdeacon together with the schola sang a Greek song in praise of Easter, concluding with a toast in honour of the Pope. The assembly dispersed towards sunset, and the cardinals, together with their attendant clergy, went back to celebrate Vespers in their respective titles, where, following the example of generosity set by the Pope, they again invited the clergy to taste the wine from their own cellars.Such Christian liberty and holy rejoicing were natural to an age in which faith was the motive force of all the social life of the people; and in which the liturgy led the way and was the true expression both of the joys and the sorrows of the entire Christian family. After the 8th century, this Easter ceremonial developed still further. When each urban title had its own baptistery, the titular priests at the end of the Lateran Vigilia took leave of the Pope, as he was going to bless the font in the baptistery, saying: Jube, domne, benedicere, to which the Pontiff replied: Ite, baptizate omnes gentes in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti; after which the cardinals went to administer baptism in their own titular churches. On Easter morning, when Matins were ended, the Pope, having put on the sacred vestments in the Lateran chapel of St Lawrence-- the only one which still remains of the ancient patriarchal buildings-- opened the doors which hid the celebrated representation of the Saviour, and, kissing the feet, sang three times: Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro, qui pro nobis pependit in ligno. All those who were present joined in the singing, and the Pope exchanged the traditional paschal embrace with the clergy, beginning with the archdeacon down to the acolytes and the other officials of the patriarchal household, who then did the same among themselves. This custom of a general embrace on Easter Day is still in vogue among the Eastern peoples, and it certainly existed at Rome in the time of St Gregory the Great, for it is expressly mentioned by John the Deacon in his life of that holy Pope. The weariness caused by the preceding vigil quite prevented the stational procession from getting as far as St Peter’s on Easter Sunday, so the Basilica of St Mary Major,
being nearer to the Lateran, very soon took its place, as it did also in later years on Christmas Day. The Papal Court repaired thither in great splendour, escorting the Pontiff, who wore the regnum, and rode a gorgeously caparisoned steed. In the Via Merulana they were met by a notary, who announced to the Pope the number of neophytes baptized at St Mary Major on the preceding night, and whilst the Pope gave thanks to God, the bearer of the good news was presented with a gold bezant by the sacellarius. After the Mass the procession returned to the Lateran, where the higher dignitaries of the papal Court were invited to dine with the Pontiff, in the usual Leonine Triclinium. Eleven cardinals sat at the side of the Pope, whilst the primicerius took his place on a seat opposite to them. The roasted lamb was duly blessed, and the Pope, taking a morsel of it, placed it in the mouth of the basilicarius, saying to him: quod facis, fac citius; sicut ille accepit ad damnationem, tu accipe ad remissionem. When the meal was half over, a deacon read for a while, and then one or two paschal sequences were sung-- this being the traditional place given up to hymnody in the ancient Roman Liturgy [!]. After having received a last cup of wine from the hands of the Pontiff himself, the guests departed pleased and contented, each receiving his presbyterium in ready money, as well as an additional bezant of gold in his pocket. The paschal festival continued throughout the week, and stations were held at the most famous Roman sanctuaries, as though it were desired to present the neophytes to each of the patron Saints of the City. On the Monday morning they went to St Peter’s, on the following days they visited in succession St Paul’s, St Lawrence, the Apostoleion, etc.; while in the afternoon Vespers were always celebrated in the Lateran according to the rite of the preceding Sunday. On the Saturday morning, as though to close the festivities, the station was celebrated once more in the Lateran Basilica, where the archdeacon distributed the Agnus Dei of blessed wax to the people. The station of Low Sunday at the tomb of St Pancras, the fourteen-year-old martyr of the Via Aurelia, although it referred to the neophytes (Quasi modo geniti infantes, etc.) is really a later extension of the Octave of Easter, which originally closed with the Vespers of the Saturday, in the same manner as that of Pentecost does now. It is remarkable that on the Friday and Saturday of Easter Week, the procession, instead of going, after Vespers at the Lateran, to the Oratory of the Cross, went to the Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem and to that of St Mary Major; thus in this pious pilgrimage we have one of the earliest traces of the special dedication of Saturday in honour of the Blessed Virgin. How great a happiness was that which filled the life of a Christian in those more vigorous days! A happiness of which our age, although surrounded by all the comforts of modem life, has lost the secret. For its springs are dried up, and attacks are being made on Christian society, both public and private, in order to break as far as possible every natural bond of fellowship, and thus leave the individual to face alone the dread power of an undenominational and therefore atheistic state. Having then closed all outlets to the instinctive aspirations of the man and the Christian, modern civilization has only the pleasures of the cinematograph and the music-hall to offer us, and these are very far from being able to bring joy and solace to society, but rather bear sad witness to the truth of that which St Peter Chrysologus with forceful eloquence repeated to the hot-headed people of Ravenna: Qui vult jocari cum diabolo, non potest gaudere cum Christo, he who wants to jest with the devil cannot rejoice with Christ.
And I will allow Cardinal Schuster to repeat himself.
Having then closed all outlets to the instinctive aspirations of the man and the Christian, modern civilization has only the pleasures of the cinematograph and the music-hall to offer us, and these are very far from being able to bring joy and solace to society, but rather bear sad witness to the truth of that which St Peter Chrysologus with forceful eloquence repeated to the hot-headed people of Ravenna: Qui vult jocari cum diabolo, non potest gaudere cum Christo, he who wants to jest with the devil cannot rejoice with Christ.
It is also the feast of Saint Martin (7th century), of Saint Sabás (20th century), and of the Blessed Ida (13th century).
V. Et álibi aliórum plurimórum sanctórum Mártyrum et Confessórum, atque sanctárum Vírginum. R. Deo grátias.