Sunday, December 28, 2008

On Martyrologies

What is a Martyrology?

A martyrology (a synaxarion or menologion for the Eastern churches) is a catalogue or list of martyrs - later extended for saints in general, arranged in the calendar order of their anniversaries or feasts.

Since the time when the commemorations of martyrs, to which were added those of bishops, began to be celebrated, each local church had its special martyrology, on which the names of local Christians who were killed for their faith were listed. These local lists were further enriched by names borrowed from neighbouring localities. Consolidation occurred, by the combination of several local martyrologies, with or without borrowings from literary sources.

In the early years of Christianity, it became customary to offer the Eucharist on the tombs of the martyrs on the anniversary of their deaths; i.e. their birthday into Heaven. At this meeting, the local bishop, or one from a neighbouring community, would usually deliver an oration in praise of the martyr. The Acts of the trial and passion of the martyr would also be recounted or, if the community possessed them, read and, later on gathered in a special book, of the miracles accomplished by the martyr since his death.

The veneration of certain saints gradually spread beyond the bounds of their churches of origin, most often because of the miracles worked through their relics. These attracted pilgrims and the veneration of other churches who sought the martyrs' protection, particularly if they had been able to obtain some fragments of their holy relics. This led to consolidation and combination of several local martyrologies, with or without borrowings from literary sources, to produce general martyrologies, covering a wider range. The scope of martyrologies were further extended when the struggle against heresies produced many holy bishops and priests, and whose feasts, as confessors of the faith, were added to those of the martyrs.

These martyrologies either took the form of a simple list of names, or may also include small biographical details about a particular saint (these types of martyrologies were called historical martyrologies).

The Latin rite of the Catholic Church uses what is called the Roman Martyrology (Martyrologium Romanum in Latin). The main source for this was the Martyrology of Usuard, completed by the Dialogues of Pope Gregory the Great and the works of some of the Fathers, and for the Greek saints by the catalogue known as the Menologion of Sirlet. Its origins can be traced back to the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, which was originally based on calendars of Roman, African and Syrian provenance, but to which were gradually added names of many saints from other areas, resulting in a number of duplications, fusions of different saints into one, and other mistakes.

The Roman Martyrology was first published in 1583 by Pope Gregory XIII, who in the year before had decreed the revision of the Julian calendar that is called, after him, the Gregorian calendar. A second edition was published in the same year. The third edition, in 1584, was made obligatory wherever the Roman Rite was in use. Very soon, in 1586 and again in 1589, revised editions were published with corrections by Caesar Baronius along with indications of the sources on which he drew, and in 1630 Pope Urban VIII issued a new edition. Pope Benedict XIV was also interested in the Roman Martyrology: his bull of 1748 addressed to John V, King of Portugal, long prefaced printings of the Roman Martyrology.

1748 saw the appearance of a revised edition by Pope Benedict XIV, who personally worked on the corrections: he suppressed some names, such as those of Clement of Alexandria and Sulpicius Severus, but kept others that had been objected to, such as that of Pope Siricius. Subsequent changes until the edition of 2001 were minor, involving some corrections, but mainly the addition of the names of newly canonized saints. The current (2005) edition, which corrected a number of typographical errors that appeared in the 2001 edition and added 117 people canonized or beatified between 2001 and 2004, contains about 7,000 saints and blesseds currently recognized and venerated by the Church.

A sample entry from the Roman Martyrology would look like this (taken from the 1956 Roman Martyrology):

The 1st day of January. The Kalends of January.

The Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the octave of his Nativity.

At Rome, under Emperor Alexander, St. Martina, virgin, who endured various kinds of torments, and being beheaded, received the palm of martyrdom. Her feast is kept on the 30th of this month.

At Caesarea in Cappadocia, the death of St. Basil the Great, bishop, confessor, and doctor of the Church, renowned for his learning and wisdom and gifted with every virtue, who during the reign of Emperor Valens wonderfully displayed his talents as he defended the Church with great constancy against the Arians and Macedonians. His feast, however, is appropriately kept on the 14th of June, the day on which he was consecrated bishop.

In Tuscany, on Mount Senario, St. Bonfilius, confessor, one of the seven founders of the Order of the Servites of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, having honoured her devoutly, was suddenly called to heaven by her. His feast, with that of his companions, is kept on February 12th.

At Rome, St. Almachius, martyr, who, by the command of Alipius, governor of the city, was killed by the gladiators for saying, "Today is the Octave of our Lord's birth; put an end to the worship of idols, and abstain from unclean sacrifices."

In the same city, on the Appian Way, the crowning with martyrdom of thirty holy soldiers under Emperor Diocletian.

At Spoleto, in the time of Emperor Antoninus, St. Concordius, priest and martyr, who was beaten with clubs, then stretched on the rack, and after a long confinement in prison, where he was visited by an angel, lost his life by the sword.

The same day, St. Magnus, martyr.

In Africa, St. Fulgentius, bishop of Rusp, who suffered much from the Arians, during the persecution of the Vandals, for holding the Catholic faith and teaching an excellent doctrine. After being banished to Sardinia, he was permitted to return to his diocese, where he ended his life by a holy death, leaving a reputation for sanctity and eloquence.

At Chieti in Abruzzo, the birthday of St. Justin, bishop of that city, illustrious for holiness of life and for his miracles.In the diocese of Lyons, in the monastery of St. Claude, St. Eugendus, abbot, whose life was eminent for virtues and miracles.

At Souvigny in France, St. Odilo, abbot of Cluny, who was the first to prescribe that the commemoration of all the faithful departed should be made in his monasteries the day after the feast of All Saints. This practice was afterwards received and approved by the universal Church.

At Rome, the birthday of St. Vincent Maria Strambi, Bishop of Macerata and Tolentino, of the Order of Passionists, renowned for his pastoral zeal, whom Pope Pius XII numbered among the saints.

At Alexandria, the departure from this world of St. Euphrosyna, virgin, who was renowned in her monastery for the virtue of abstinence, and for the gift of miracles.

And elsewhere in divers places, many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.
R. Thanks be to God.
A sample entry from a calendar-type synaxarion (which is a mere listing of saints arranged in the order of their anniversaries), meanwhile, would look like the following:

1. The Circumcision of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea.
Peter the Neomartyr.
In the 10th century, scribes began to including biographical notices to these simple calendar listings. As the lessons in the Byzantine Divine Office are always lives of saints, the synaxarion became the collection of short lives of saints and accounts of events whose memory is kept. Another name for these synaxaria containing brief lives of the saints is the Prologue, a term which did not remain in popular use in the Byzantine church, but which remained popular among the Slavic nations. Essentially, the Slavonic Prolog (traditionally published in 4 volumes containing brief lives of the saints for 3 months per volume) and the modern Greek synaxarion are the same, or at least analogous, collections.

A sample entry would very much look like this:


This month has thirty-one days with ten hours of day fourteen hours of night.

The Circumcision according to the flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and commemoration of our Father among the Saints Basil the Great, archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia.

Since the law of Moses lays down that if a woman gives birth to a male child it shall be circumcised in the flesh of its foreskin on the eighth day, for this reason our Savior on the present day, which is the eighth from his Nativity, accepted the Circumcision prescribed by the law, and received, in accordance with the Angel’s command, the name which is above every name, "Jesus", that is to say, Savior. As we celebrate our Lord’s name day today, from it we begin the New Year from his incarnation.

Saint Basil the Great belonged, through his father also named Basil, to the province of Pontus, and through his Emmelia, to the province of Pontus, and through his mother Emmelia, to Cappadocia. He was born in Caesarea in Cappadocia around 329-330. He studied in Caesarea, then in Constantinople under the famous rhetor Libanius, and finally in Athens, where he became a close friend of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus. Shortly after his return to Caesarea which occurred about 356, he retired in solitude to the outskirts of Neocaesarea, where his mother and his sister Macrina already led the monastic life. It is at that time he composed his ascetical writings. He was ordained a priest by Eusebius, Archbishop of Caesarea, and at the death of the latter was elected in 370 to succeed him and rule the Church of Christ. He governed it for eight years, during which time he proved himself a witness of the truth in the face of heresy and full of courage before the threats of the Arian Emperor Valens. He died on January 1, in the year 379. The wisdom and the learning which fill his works, his Philokalia (extracts from the works of Origen), his Treatise on the Holy Spirit, his theological work against the Arian Eunomius, his ascetical writings, his monastic rules, his commentaries on Sacred Scripture, the panegyrics which he made of many saints, his correspondence, and finally the splendor and the force of his words, have won for him rightly the epitaphs of "Revealer of Heaven," and of the "Great."

December 28 - The Holy Innocents


(Matthew 2:13-18)
At that time the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to look for the child to destroy Him." Then he got up, took the child and His mother by night and went to Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called my Son."

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became enraged. He sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and throughout the surrounding region from two years old and under, according to the time which he had learned from the magi.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

"A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and great wailing,
Rachel weeping for her children,
And she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.

(Matthew 19:13-15; 18:1-6, 10-11)
At that time little children were brought to our Lord Jesus Christ that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not stop them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." And he placed his hands on them and went from there.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child and had him stand among them and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore anyone who humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven; and whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me.

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of my Father who is in heaven; for the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 27 - Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist

Gospel readings from various Liturgical Rites:


(John 21:19-24)
At that time, Jesus said to Peter, "Follow me." Peter turned around and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following (who had leaned on His breast at the supper and said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?"). When Peter saw this one he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me." So the saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say to him that he would not die; rather, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"

This is the disciple who is testifying about these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

(John 20:1-8)

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have put Him!"

Then Peter and the other disciple went out and were coming to the tomb. The two were running together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he stooped down and saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face-cloth that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, also went in; and he saw and believed.
3.) MOZARABIC LECTIONARY, for 29 December

(John 21:15-24)
At that time, our Lord Jesus Christ said to Peter, "Simon of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He said to him again a second time, "Simon of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him a third time, "Simon of John, do you love me?" Peter was sad that He said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and said to Him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Amen, Amen, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked wherever you wished, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will gird you and bring you where you do not wish" (He said this, signifying by what death he would glorify God). And when He had said this, He said to him, "Follow me."

Peter turned around and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following (who had leaned on His breast at the supper and said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?"). When Peter saw this one he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me." So the saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say to him that he would not die; rather, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"

This is the disciple who is testifying about these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
4.) BYZANTINE LECTIONARY, for September 26 (October 9), Repose of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, and May 8 (May 21), Feast of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian

(John 19:25-27; 21:24-25)

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. So when Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing there, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" He then said to His disciple, "Behold your mother!" And from that very hour the disciple took her to his own.

This is the disciple who is testifying about these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. And there are many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.
4.) COPTIC LECTIONARY, for Tobi 4, Departure of St. John the Evangelist and Theologian, and Bashans 16, Commemoration of St. John the Evangelist

(John 21:15-25)


(John 21:20-25)

6.) ARMENIAN LECTIONARY, for December 29 (feast of James and John)

(John 21:20-25)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Eucharistic Significance of the Manger

We often read it, but very often we neglect its significance.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the lodgings.

-Luke 2:7
Many people usually think that the Christ child was placed inside a manger because it resembled a cradle. While this may be true to an extent, newborn babies don't really need a crib yet as they could not move much. Even in our time, we only transfer babies from bassinets into infant beds when they are three or four months of age (as they could tip themselves out). Mary could have chosen to place the child beside her, but instead she chose a feeding-trough for her Child.

One thing we need to see is that the Infant was placed in a feeding trough for animals (see, for example, the illustration at left depicting a stone manger from Israel, which would have been similar to the one in which Jesus was laid on).

Early iconographers seem to be aware of a sort of connection between the Nativity and the Eucharist (John 6:51-58), as in many of these representations the animals push their muzzles into the manger as if to eat from it (or nibbling at the Child's hand). The manger itself was depicted as something similar to a bread-basket or even as a raised structure somewhat similar to an Altar. In fact, in some of the above depictions architectural elements block the view of and segregate the beasts, shepherds and angels from the inner sanctum like a rood screen, who are looking on the Infant in quiet reverence like worshippers in a medieval Church.

In these images Christ is presented not as the cute baby of our Christmas cards but as the spotless Lamb of God destined for a sacrifice on the cross that will be revisited in the Eucharist. El Greco makes the emphasis on sacrifice rather explicit in his depiction of the Adoration of the Shepherds where the inclusion of a trussed lamb identifies the child as the sacrificial Lamb "who will take away the sins of the world."

In Eastern iconography, there came a type of image depicting the infant Christ either lying on the altar or within a paten covered by the asterisk, with his midsection covered by a liturgical cloth (see left portion of the icon at right). This was known as the melismos ("breaking"), with the name coming from the action of breaking the consecrated bread, known as Amnos in Greek or Amnets in Slavonic, both meaning "Lamb", with a scalpel called a "spear" (in reference to the spear that pierced the side of Jesus; John 19:33-37) that the priest performs just before distributing Holy Communion.

"Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God; broken yet not divided, ever eaten yet is never consumed, but sanctifies those who partake of Him."
The diskos itself (which answers to the paten of the Western Church), on which the Lamb is laid, is taken to be representative either of the manger or Mary, who bore Christ in her womb, and at the same time, the tomb on which Jesus was laid. The asteriskos meanwhile represents the star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:9 is even quoted as the asteriskos is placed over the Lamb before the start of the Divine Liturgy), while the veil called aër (vózdukh), which covers both the diskos and the chalice, represents both the swaddling-clothes and the shroud which covered the Lord during burial.

The connection between the manger and the cross is also evident in another element of Eastern icons of the Nativity: in it the infant Jesus is bound, mummy-like, by strips of cloth (which is similar to the depiction of the Lord's grave clothes in burial) and rests in a raised structure, which in addition to its (vague) resemblance to an altar, also looks like a stone coffin.

The final connection between the Eucharist and Christmas we can make is the name of Bethlehem itself. Beit Lehem (בית לחם) is Hebrew for "House of Bread" (the Arabic name بيت لحم Bayt Laḥm is also interesting, as it literally means "House of Lamb" or "House of Meat"!); how fitting it is that the One who said He was the bread of life (John 6:35) was born in the House of Bread!

December 25 - The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

(Hebrews 1:1-12)

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke formerly to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us in a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and by whom He created the ages, who being the brightness of His glory and the representation of His substance, and sustaining all things by the word of His power, when He had made purification of sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has inherited a name superior to theirs.

For to which of the angels did He say at any time, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"? And again, "I will be to Him a Father and He will be to me a Son." And again when He brings the Firstborn into the world, He says: "And let all the angels of God worship him.

And of the angels He says, "He who makes His messengers winds, and His ministers a flame of fire," but of the Son, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness over your companions."

And, "Lord, in the beginning you founded the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you continue; and they will all grow old like a garment; and like a cloak you will fold them up and they will be changed, but you are the same, and your years will not fail.

(John 1:1-14)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a testimony, to bear witness of the Light, so that all through Him might believe. He was not the Light, but he came to bear witness about the Light. The true Light which gives light to every man was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in His Name: who were born, not of bloods nor of the will of the flesh nor a man's decision but of God.

And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, (and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

"...Because there was no room for them in the katalyma"

I'm sure that most of us are at least familiar with the story of the very first Christmas ever:

And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.

And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

-Luke 2:1-7 (Douay-Rheims Challoner)
Because of that little statement that Luke makes in verse 7, as the ages pass by, many inspirational stories, poems, and sermons have been made on the innkeeper who either gave Mary and Joseph room or shooed them away. However, did Luke really refer to an inn in Luke 2:7?

First, we need to realize what word it was that Luke used in his story which is rendered as "inn" in our Bibles. Luke had used the word κατάλυμά (katalyma). In extra-biblical literature, katalyma has a wider connotation than "inn;" it can also mean "house," "guest room" or "lodging-place". It is a noun form of the verb καταλυο (kataluo), a compound verb (kata "among" + luo "break up" or "(un-)loose") which translates literally as "to disintegrate" or "to unyoke," i.e. "to loosen down." As a place of rest and lodging, a katalyma was a place to drop your baggage, to untie the straps and packs of the beasts of burden and simply sit down and relax.

When Luke speaks of a commercial inn, as he does in Luke 10:34 (in the parable of the Good Samaritan), he uses a different word, πανδοχεῖον (pandocheion), which literally means "accepting all comers", a type of public lodging-place or hostelry which was more common in Palestine, Syria, and southern Anatolia in Jesus' time than in the western Roman world (in a former time, pandocheia were more geographically distributed; many of these had diminished in Jesus' time).

The only other place where Luke uses katalyma is in 22:11, where it refers to the upper room where Jesus and company held the Last Supper, which is clearly not an "inn" but a large guest room attached to a private house. Mark (14:14) also uses katalyma to describe the upper room itself.

During the time of Jesus, the only inns that existed were essentially truck stops for caravans. It was a place for travelers and pack animals to eat, a shelter in which to sleep overnight, a market for supplies for the road and is considered to be a hangout for prostitutes (female innkeepers were referred to as pundaqit in Aramaic, which was synonymous with the Hebrew zonah "harlot"; cf. Joshua 2:1) and others of an unsavory reputation; the word pandocheion itself had some negative connotations due to this.

Another thing that we need to consider is that at the time of Jesus, Bethlehem was a small town that was not near a major highway, so there is no reason to think that there would have been a commercial inn there, since inns were mostly built where there is more traffic, i.e. major roads, especially Roman ones; indeed, there is no archeological evidence for the existence of any inns in Bethlehem. With the population of the town in the 1st century being estimated as being around a thousand (only about a few times bigger than Nazareth, which is estimated to have had 200-400 residents at this time) and the lack of any highway nearby, the existence of a commercial inn in Bethlehem seems rather unlikely.

It then becomes more likely that Luke meant katalyma to be understood as "guest room" or "house" rather than "commercial inn." Middle Eastern hospitality required people to give shelter and sustenance to travelers (relatives or no), to make themselves as comfortable as possible at the host's expense. Since Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem in the region of Judea since that was his ancestral home, we could assume that Joseph, at least, may have had a number of distant relations living in the town who could serve as potential hosts. Kinship ties throughout the village would have been the rule, not the exception.

Archeological and literary evidence shows that houses in Bethlehem and its vicinity often had stables within the house where the family would keep their animals while the guest room was in the front of the house. The animals as well as the family stayed under one large enclosed space that was divided so that the animals would usually be on a lower level, while the family would sleep on a raised upper level.
Joseph and Mary would have come too late to get the guest room (Luke uses the definite article in the original Greek), which would have been totally crowded with other travelers who had come because of the census, so the hosts (Joseph's distant relatives?) did the best they could to help both husband and wife by putting the newborn Jesus at the stables inside the house, since no space for the baby could be had in the now-crowded guest room.

For the Middle Eastern peasant, it is a bad thing to be alone. He does his thinking in a crowd, as his culture is a group-centered one (as opposed to the individualistic thinking of the 21st century West). Thus, in the case of a birth, the men will sit apart with the neighbors, but the room will be full of women assisting the midwife; the assumption therefore that Mary and Joseph were alone, as they are so often depicted in Nativity scenes, is probably historically inaccurate. We are told that Mary swaddled the newborn infant by herself, and indeed some take this as evidence that the Holy family were alone; however, there are accounts on how Palestinian women are not incapacitated by childbirth and could even give birth in a field and go back to the village, baby in tow, with no unusual effort required.

In this scenario, it would then perhaps be natural that Mary would have swaddled the babe, since she could physically do so with little to no assistance; so when Luke tells us that Mary "wrapped the babe in swaddling clothes" that does not necessarily mean that they were alone.

In an alternative scenario, the katalyma could also refer to an area where large crowds are gathered, as might have been the case with the census. In this arrangement, people and animals were crowded next to each other in a large, open area where temporary shelters could be erected. The area would then be a totally busy place bustling with activity, noise and cooking fires. If Bethlehem had such a very crowded "camping area" of sorts for the census, then a less busy and a less crowded accommodation like a stable would certainly have been preferable for the birth of Jesus.

St. Justin Martyr, in the 2nd century (Dialogue with Trypho 79), cites a tradition where Mary and Joseph took shelter in a cave near the village - which to an extent is still mainly present in the Eastern Church, which continues to depict the "stable" in iconography as a cave. This is also plausible from a historical point of view, as caves were oftentimes used as stables and various peasants were in fact known to use caves as houses in the time of Jesus.
Interestingly, ancient translations of the Bible never directly translate katalyma into inn. For example, the Syriac Peshitta says that Mary put the baby in the manger "because there was no room where they could lodge" while the Latin Vulgate and Codex Bezae (which preserves a Vetus Latina translation of the Bible) translates the word as diversorio, which like katalyma has a broader meaning than "inn" and could also be translated as "lodging house," "stopping place," or even "accomodations" in general. In Latin, more specific terms for an inn is taberna or stabulum; the latter term, also meaning "dwelling," "tavern" (or even "brothel"!) is the one which Jerome uses for pandocheion in Luke 10;34. Interestingly, Arabic translations of the Bible themselves have never rendered katalyma as inn.

John Wycliff's version of the Bible into English even renders diversorio as "chaumbir"; it was only from Tyndale's 1520 translation that the tradition of rendering katalyma/diversorio as "inn" in English Bibles started.

Another popular misconception is that Mary went into labor immediately or shortly after arriving to Bethlehem. Luke merely states that Jesus was born "when they were there" (not upon arrival); exactly when is not specified, yet this implies that the couple was already in Bethlehem for some period of time prior to Mary going into labor. Thus the popular image of Joseph and Mary arriving at Bethlehem at the very same day/night that she gave birth to Jesus probably has no historical basis. When fitted with the above, the picture becomes thus:
Joseph and the now-pregnant Mary arrive into Bethlehem. They either stay in the house of a certain resident of the village (relying on traditional Middle Eastern hospitality) or camp out in a large open area which functioned as a large "camping area" as the influx of "visitors" to Bethlehem continue. Eventually, as the number of guests staying in the house or the campsite increase, Joseph and Mary find it increasingly difficult to have some space for their child, necessitating that the newborn baby be placed inside the stables instead.
This may not fit our traditional understanding and depictions of the Christmas story and may prove to be 'uncomfortable' for a number of people, but hey, Jesus Himself who "set up His dwelling among us" did not meet His contemporaries' expectations and was even a stumbling-block!

Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm still alive

For anyone who's worrying about me, I'm still alive and well, as far as I know. I have merely been very busy lately due to school and other things, and perhaps will still be within the next three months, which explains the lack of any recent posts. I can't promise to post more often, but I will post something one of these days.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

From the Missa Luba

The Missa Luba is the (Latin) Mass as interpreted by the Congolese musical tradition. Arranged by Franciscan friar Fr. Guido Haazen (from Belgium), the original recording was performed in 1958 by "Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin," a choir of 45 Congolese boys and 15 teachers from Kamina at the Congo.

The Mass, more specifically the following sample (the Credo), in my opinion, is (very much like plainchant) very powerful and much more edifying than most contemporary liturgical music that we commonly hear in our churches today.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

November 1-The Feast of all Saints

EPISTLE: Revelation 7:2-12.
GRADUAL: Ps. 33:10, 11.
GOSPEL: Matt. 5:1-12.

(1st READING: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Ps. 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6.
2nd READING: 1 John 3:1-3.
GOSPEL: Matt. 5:1-12a.)

(Revelation 7:2-12)

In those days, behold, I, John, saw another Angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried with a great voice to the four Angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, "Do not hurt the Earth nor the sea nor the trees until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."

And I heard the number of those who were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel:

Of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed;
Of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand sealed
Of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed.

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could count, from every nation, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the Throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes and with palm branches in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the Throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the Throne and the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell before the Throne on their faces and worshiped God, saying: "Amen; Blessing and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and strength be to our God to the ages of ages, Amen!"


The feast of all Saints arose out of the old Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their deaths (itself the origin of the idea of celebrating the feast days of saints). When martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, local churches instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored.

Initially the calendars of saints and martyrs varied from local church to local church, and many times a specific church honored local saints. However, gradually feast days became more universal among the Church as a whole. The first reference to a general feast celebrating all saints occurs in St. Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373 AD). St. John Chrysostom (d. 407 AD) assigned a day to the feast, the first Sunday after Pentecost, where in the eastern Churches the feast is still celebrated under the name of Αγίων Πάντων (Agiōn Pantōn, "All Saints").

The western Church may have also originally celebrated the feast on this date; however, in May 13, 609 or 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, and the feast of the Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, coincided with the culmination of three days of Lemuria, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.

The feast, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731–741) of an oratory in St. Peter's Basilica for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world," with the feast being moved to November 1.

This usually fell within a few weeks of the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which had a theme similar to that of Lemuria, but which was also a harvest festival. The Irish, whose holiday Samhain had been, did not originally celebrate the feast on this November 1 date, as extant historical documents attest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring; the Félire Óengusso (The martyrology [a catalogue or list of martyrs or saints] of Aengus the Culdee) and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches in Ireland celebrated the feast on the 20th of April.

A November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1 in the days of Charlemagne. It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued "at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops," which confirmed its celebration on November 1. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471—1484).

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Mass in Köln (the Use of Köln, Germany), part 5

A statue of St. Christopher from the Cathedral of Köln, created ca. 1470 by Tilman van der Burch.

Oremus. Praeceptis salutaribus moniti, et divina institutione formati, audemus dicere:

Pater noster, qui es in coelis: sanctificetur nomen tuum: adveniat regnum tuum: fiat voluntas tua, sicut in coelo, et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.

R. Sed libera nos a malo. Amen.

Hic elevet patenam sub silentio dicens.

Libera nos, quaesumus, Domine, ab omnibus malis præteritis, praesentibus, et futuris: et intercedente beata et gloriosa semper Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis tuis Petro et Paulo, atque Andrea, et omnibus Sanctis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris: Hic osculetur patenam faciendum cruxem ut ope miseri+cordiae tuae adjuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi, signet secum patenam in fronte et ab omni perturbatione securi. Hic dividat hostiam per medium. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, dividat alteram partem qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus. Levet calicem dicens Per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Hic faciat crucem cum tertia parte hostiae super calicem

Pax + Domini sit + semper vobis+cum.

R. Et cum spiritu tuo.

Hic elevet patenam sup silentio dicens.

Fiat haec commixtio et consecratio Corporis et Sanguinis Domini nostri Jesu Christi ómnibus nobis suméntibus salus mentis et córporis in vitam aetérnam. Amen.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona nobis pacem.

Domine Jesu Christe, qui dixisti Apostolis tuis: Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis: ne respicias peccata mea, sed fidem Ecclesiae tuae: hic osculatur Altare eamque secundum voluntatem tuam, pacificare deinde Librum et coadunare digneris: qui vivis et regnas Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Deinde osculando corporale et det pacis dicens.
Pax tibi et Ecclésiæ Dei abúndet in córdibus nostris.
Deinde osculato pacis osculo dicat super Ministrum Pax tecum.

Deinde Habéte vínculum pacis et caritátis: ut apti sitis sacrosánctis mystériis Christi. Amen.

Antequam comunicet, inclinat dicens. Domine Jesu Christe, Fili Dei vivi, qui ex voluntate Patris, cooperante Spiritu Sancto, per mortem tuam mundum vivificasti: libera me per hoc sacrosanctum Corpus et Sanguinem tuum ab omnibus iniquitatibus meis, et universis malis: et fac me tuis semper inhaerere mandatis, et a te numquam separari permittas. Qui cum eodem Deo Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas Deus in saecula saeculorum.

Perceptio Corporis tui, Domine Jesu Christe, quod ego indignus sumere praesumo, non mihi proveniat in judicium et condemnationem: sed pro tua pietate prosit mihi ad tutamentum mentis et corporis, et ad medelam percipiendam: qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.


Let us pray. Taught by the precepts of salvation, and following the Divine commandment, we dare to say:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name: Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation.

R: But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Here he shall elevate the paten while saying silently:

Deliver us, we beg You, O Lord, from every evil, past, present, and to come; and by the intercession of the blessed and glorious ever-Virgin, Mother of God, Mary, and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, of Andrew, and all Saints. Grant of Your goodness, peace in our days: Here he shall kiss the paten, making a cross that aided by the riches of Your mer+cy, we may be always free from sin Here he shall sign the paten at the front and safe from all disturbance. Here he shall break up the Host in the middle. Through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, He shall break one portion who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen.

Here he shall make a cross over the chalice with the three pieces of the Host

The peace + of the Lord + be with you + always.

R. And with your spirit.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; grant us peace.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who said to Your apostles, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; look not upon my sins, but upon the faith of Your Church; and deign to her that peace and unity which is agreeable to Your will; who lives and reigns; God, forever and ever. Amen.

He shall kiss the corporal and give the Peace, saying:
Peace be to you and the Church of God; may it abound in our hearts.
He shall then kiss the Kiss of Peace and say over the Ministers Peace to you.
Then Receive the bond of peace and love, that you may be meet for the most holy mysteries of Christ. Amen.

Before communicating, he shall bow and say: O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who, according to the will of Your Father, through the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, had by Your death given life to the world, deliver me by this, Your most holy Body and Blood, from all my iniquities and from every evil; and make me always cleave to Your commandments, and never let me to be separated from You; who with the same God the Father and Holy Ghost lives and reigns; God, forever and ever.

Then: Let not the partaking of Your Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, though unworthy, presume to receive, turn to my judgment and condemnation; but through Your loving kindness may it be to me a safeguard and remedy for soul and body; Who, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns; God, forever and ever. Amen.

It's the Eve of All Saints...

...And it's also the time of year when some persons of questionable types would claim that Hallow'een (short for the Eve of All Hallows) is a pagan, even Satanic, festival, with perhaps a jab or two against the Catholic Church. While there is no denial that many customs in Hallowe'en (or Christmas or Easter) came from non-Christian cultures, is Hallowe'en, by essence, pagan? The answer may be not at all. (Link to Turris Fortis)

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Mass in Köln (the Use of Köln, Germany), part 4

The Gero Crucifix (Gerokreuz in German), commissioned by Archbishop Gero of Cologne and created somewhere around 965-970, is the oldest large sculpture of the crucified Christ north of the Alps, and has always been displayed in Cologne Cathedral in Germany.

Ad ablutionem digitorum hic nihil est dicendum. Sed statim digitis lotis et extensis signat se signo sanctae Crucis. Deinde osculatur altare super corporale, postea crucem sub crucifixio. Deinde aspiciendo devote coelum ac manus conjugendo inclinat se, dicens:

Te igitur, clementissime Pater, per Jesum Christum Filium tuum, Dominum nostrum, supplices rogamus ac petimus, hic erigat se dicendo uti accepta habeas, et benedicas haec + dona, haec + munera, haec + sancta sacrificia illibata; in primis quae tibi offerimus pro Ecclesia tua sancta catholica; quam pacificare, custodire, adunare, et regere digneris toto orbe terrarum: una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N.,et Antistite nostro N., et Rege nostro N., et omnibus orthodoxis, atque catholicae et apostolicae fidei cultoribus.

Deinde: Memento, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum N. Hic recitet nomina vivorum eorum maxime pro quibus orare tenetur et omnium circumadstantium, quorum tibi fides cognita est, et nota devotio, pro quibus tibi offerimus, vel qui tibi offerunt hoc sacrificium laudis, pro se suisque omnibus, pro redemptione animarum suarum, pro spe salutis, et incolumitis suae: tibique reddunt vota sua aeterno Deo, vivo et vero.

Deinde. Communicantes, et memoriam venerantes, in primis gloriosae semper Virginis Mariae, Genitricis Dei et Domini nostri Jesu Christi: sed et beatorum Apostolorum ac Martyrum tuorum, Petri et Pauli, Andreae, Jacobi, Joannis, Thomae, Jacobi, Philippi, Bartholomaei, Matthaei, Simonis, et Thaddaei: Lini, Cleti, Clementis, Xysti, Cornelii, Cypriani, Laurentii, Chrysogoni, Joannis et Pauli, Cosmae et Damiani, et omnium Sanctorum tuorum; quorum meritis precibusque concedas, ut in omnibus protectionis tuae muniamur auxilio. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.

Hic inclinet se Sacerdos dicendo. Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostrae, sed et cunctae familiae tuae quaesumus, Domine, ut placatus accipias: diesque nostros in tua pace disponas, atque ab aeterna damnatione nos eripi, et in electorum tuorum jubeas grege numerari. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

Hic erigat se Sacerdos dicendo. Quam oblationem tu, Deus, in omnibus, quaesumus, bene+dictam, adscrip+tam, ra+tam, rationabilem, acceptabilemque facere digneris,. ut nobis Cor+pus, et San+guis fiat dilectissimi Filii tui Domini nostri Jesu Christi.

Hic purget digitos et accipiat hostiam dicendo. Qui pridie quam pateretur, accepit panem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas, et elevatis oculis in coelum ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem, tibi gratias agens, bene+dixit, fregit, diditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite, et manducate ex hoc omnes:


Elevet corpus Domini: quo reposito accipiat calicem dicendo. Simili modo postquam coenatum est, accipiens et hunc praeclarum Calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas: item tibi gratias agens, bene+dixit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accepite, et bibite ex eo omnes:


Hic elevet calicem dicendo: Haec quotiescumque feceritis, in mei memoriam facietis.

Extendat brachia in modum Crucis: Unde et memores, Domine, nos servi tui, sed et plebs tua sancta, ejusdem Christi Filii tui Domini nostri tam beatae Passionis, nec non et ab inferis Resurrectionis, sed et in coelos gloriosae Ascensionis: offerimus praeclarae majestati tuae de tuis donis ac datis, hostiam + puram, hostiam + sanctam, hostiam + immaculatam, Panem + sanctum vitae aeternae, et calicem salutis perpetuae.

Ponat manibus junctas super utrumque: Supra quae propitio ac sereno vultu respicere digneris, et accepta habere, sicuti accepta habere dignatus es munera pueri tui justi Abel, et sacrificium patriarchae nostri Abrahae, et quod tibi obtulit summus sacerdos tuus Melchisedech, sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam.

Cancellatis manibus se inclinet. Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus, jube haec perferri per manus sancti Angeli tui in sublime altare tuum, in conspectu dininae majertatis tuae: ut quoquot ex hac altaris participatione, sacrocanctum Filii tui Cor+pus, et San+guinem sumpserimus, hic signet seipsum signo crucis dicendo: omni benedi+ctione coelesti et gratia repleamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Deinde. Memento etiam, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum qui nos praecesserunt cum signo fidei, et dormiunt in somno pacis N. Hic recitet nomina defunctorum.

Ipsis, Domine, et omnibus in Christo quiescentibus, locum refrigerii, lucis et pacis, ut indulgeas, deprecamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Tundat pectus et exaltet vocem. Nobis quoque peccatoribus famulis tuis, de multitudine miserationum tuarum sperantibus, partem aliquam, et societatem donare digneris, cum tuis sanctis Apostolis et Martyribus, cum Joanne, Stephano, Matthia, Barnaba, Ignatio, Alexandro, Marcellino, Petro, Felicitate, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucia, Agnete, Caecilia, Anastasis, et omnibus Sanctis tuis: intra quorum nos consortium, non aestimator meritim sed veniae, quaesumus, largitor admitte. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

Per quem haec omnia Domine, semper bona creas, Hic signet utrumque. sancti+ficas, vivi+ficas, bene+dicis, et praestas nobis.

Hic faciat quattuor cruces super calicem cum hostia: et quintam crucem in labra calicis dicendo. Per ip+sum, et cum ip+so, et in ip+so, est tibi Deo Patri + omnipotenti, in unitate Spiritus + Sancti, omnis honor et gloria. Hic tangat calicem cum hostia: et mutet vocem. Per omnia saecula saeculorum.


At the washing of hands here, he shall say nothing. But at once he shall wash his fingers clean and sign himself with the Sign of the Cross. Then he shall kiss the Altar over the Corporal, afterwards the cross under the crucifix1. Then he shall gaze devotedly toward Heaven; and joining his hands, he shall bow and say:

Therefore, most gracious Father, we humbly beg of You and entreat You through Jesus Christ Your Son, our Lord, here he shall rise and say to deem acceptable and bless these + gifts, these + offerings, these + holy and unspotted oblations which, in the first place, we offer You for Your Holy Catholic Church, that You would deign to give her peace and protection, to unite and guard her throughout the world, together with Your servant our Pope N., and our Bishop N., and our king N.; and all true believers who cherish the Catholic and Apostolic Faith.

Then: Remember, O Lord, Your servants and handmaids, N. Here he shall recite the names of the living on behalf of which he prays and all here present, whose faith and devotion are known to You, for whom we offer, or who offer up to You this Sacrifice of praise for themselves and all those dear to them, for the redemption of their souls and the hope of their safety and salvation: who now pay their vows to You, the everlasting God, living and true.

Then: In communion with, and also reverencing the memory, first, of the glorious Mary, ever Virgin, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ: and also of Your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Thaddeus, Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and of all Your Saints. Grant for the sake of their merits and prayers that in all things we may be guarded and helped by Your protection. Through Christ our Lord.

Here the priest shall bow and say: We therefore beseech You, O Lord, to graciously to accept this oblation of our service and that of Your whole household. Dispose our days in Your peace, preserve us from final damnation and rank us in the number of Your Elect; through Christ our Lord.

Here the priest shall rise and say: We ask You, O God, to be pleased to make this same offering wholly blessed +, to consecrate + it and approve + it, making it reasonable and acceptable, that it may become for us the Body + and Blood + of Your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here he shall purify his fingers, take the Host and say: Who, the day before He suffered, took bread into His holy and venerable hands, and having raised His eyes to heaven, to You, O God, His almighty Father, giving thanks to You, He blessed +, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: All of you take and eat of this:


He shall evelate the body of the Lord; putting It down, he shall take the chalice and say: In the same manner after supper, taking also into His holy and venerable hands this goodly chalice, again giving thanks to You, He blessed it +, and gave it to His disciples, saying: Take and drink this, all of you:


Here he shall elevate the chalice and say: As often as you shall do these things, do this in memory of Me.

He shall extend his arms in the form of a cross: Wherefore, O Lord, we Your servants and Your holy people are mindful both of the blessed passion of Christ Your Son, our Lord, and also His Resurrection from hell, and His glorious Ascension into heaven and offer unto Your most sovereign Majesty out of Your own gifts and presents, a pure + Victim, a Holy + Victim, a Spotless + Victim; the holy Bread + of life eternal, and the Chalice of everlasting Salvation.

He shall then place his joined hands over the Altar: And this deign to regard with gracious and kindly attention and hold acceptable, as You deigned to accept the offerings of Abel, Your just servant, and the sacrifice of Abraham, our patriarch, and that which Your chief priest Melchizedek offered to You, a holy sacrifice and a spotless victim.

He shall cross his hands and bow. Most humbly we implore You, almighty God, bid these offerings to be brought by the hands of Your holy angel to your altar above; before the face of Your Divine Majesty; that those of us who, by sharing in the Sacrifice of this altar, shall receive the Most Sacred + Body and + Blood of Your Son, Here he shall sign himself with the Sign of the Cross, saying may be filled with every heavenly bles+sing and grace. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then: Remember also, O Lord, Your servants and handmaids, who have gone before us with the sign of faith, and rest in the sleep of peace, N. Here he shall recite the names of the dead
To these, O Lord, and all who rest in Christ, we beg You to grant of Your goodness, a place of comfort, light and peace. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

He shall beat his breast and raise his voice: To us sinners, also, Your servants, hoping in the multitude of Your mercies, deign to grant some part and fellowship with Your holy apostles and martyrs: with John, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicitas, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia, and with all Your saints; into whose company we ask You to admit us, not considering our merit, but of Your own free pardon. Through Christ our Lord.

Through Whom, O Lord, You create, + sanctify, + fill with life, + bless, and bestow upon us all good things.

Here he shall make four crosses over the chalice with the Host; and the fifth he shall make in the rim of the chalice, saying: Through + Him, and with + Him, and in + Him, is to You, God the Father + almighty, in the unity of the Holy + Spirit, all honor and glory. Here he shall touch the chalice with the Host, and changes his voice: Forever and ever.

1. The cross under the crucifix: It has become customary to include an image of the crucifixion in altar missals at the left facing page of the Roman Canon; this, in turn, had developed from the practice of decorating the "T" of the Te igitur, either as an enlarged and splendidly-decorated initial or as an image of the crucified Jesus (with the "T" serving as the Cross). This was a visual aid to recognize the action that was being intended, the making present of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We should note that in many places during the medieval period, the officiating priest was instructed to kiss an image of the cross in the missal or sacramentary he was using at the start of the Canon. Perhaps in order to avoid damage to the painted surface, crosses (usually gilded; see here, here, here, and here for examples) were painted below the actual images themselves; that way, the priest could fulfill the rubric of 'kissing the cross' while protecting the miniatures from any damage.

Monday, September 29, 2008

September 29-The Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael


And there was war in Heaven: Michael and his angels made war on the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and they did not prevail, neither was a place found for him anymore in Heaven; and the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the Earth, and his angels were cast down with him.

And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, "Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ; for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they did not love their life even to death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them."


You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”

Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: 'I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High.' He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: 'A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.'

So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

From the mouths of Babes...

This (entitled Give Up Yer Aul Sins by Brown Bag Films) was based on recordings made in the 1960's of young children telling Bible stories in a classroom to their schoolteacher.

The Death of Jesus as related by children

Here are two more examples: the story of St. Patrick and the birth of St. John the Baptist and the story of Lazarus.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

On Crucifixion: An Essay: part 3


As mentioned, giving the victim a proper burial following death on the cross during the Roman period was rare and in most cases simply not permitted in order to continue the humiliation - it was common for Romans to deny burial to criminals, as in the cases of Brutus and his supporters (Suetonius, Augustus 13.1-2) and Sejanus and company (Tacitus, Annals 6.29). The corpse was in many cases either simply thrown away on the garbage dump of the city, 'buried' in a common grave, or left on the cross as food for wild beasts and birds of prey.
Petronius, in the Satyricon (111), writes an amusing - to the Romans at least - story about a soldier who was tasked to guard the body of some crucified criminals from theft. The soldier manages to lose one of the corpses, however, when he diverts his attention from the crosses in order to pursue an amorous interlude with a widow mourning for the loss of her husband (who was buried near the execution site):

...Thus it came about that the relatives of one of the malefactors, observing this relaxation of vigilance, removed his body from the cross during the night and gave it proper burial. But what of the unfortunate soldier, whose self-indulgence had thus been taken advantage of, when next morning he saw one of the crosses under his charge without its body! Dreading instant punishment, he acquaints his mistress with what had occurred, assuring her he would not await the judge's sentence, but with his own sword exact the penalty of his negligence. He must die therefore; would she give him sepulture, and join the friend to the husband in that fatal spot?

But the lady was no less tender-hearted than virtuous. 'The Gods forbid,' she cried, 'I should at one and the same time look on the corpses of two men, both most dear to me. I had rather hang a dead man on the cross than kill a living.' So said, so done; she orders her husband's body to be taken from its coffin and fixed upon the vacant cross. The soldier availed himself of the ready-witted lady's expedient, and next day all men marveled how in the world a dead man had found his own way to the cross.
Beyond the baudiness and light-heartedness of the anecdote lies the seriousness with which Romans could take the matter of guarding victims: the soldier guards the crosses for three nights, and fears for his life when the theft is discovered.

The prevention of burial also serves to show a graphic display of the power of the Roman Empire: by not allowing the victims even a decent burial, it is declared that the loss of these victims is not a loss to society, but far from it, they actually served to strengthen and empower Rome, ridding the Empire of its enemies and maintaining the status quo and preserving law and order.

Because of these details, some, like John Dominic Crossan, suggest controversially that it was improbable that Jesus was given a proper burial, as the Gospels relate; instead, he might have been thrown in the waste dump in Jerusalem. Indeed, there were times in which Roman officials in Judea behaved like their counterparts in other areas of the Empire. When Publius Quinctilius Varus, then Legate of Syria, moved into Judea in 4 BC to quell a messianic revolt after the death of Rome's client king Herod the Great, he reportedly crucified 2000 Jewish rebels in and around Jerusalem (Josephus, Antiquities 17.295). Later, the procurator of Judea, Gessius Florus is said to have ordered indiscriminate crucifixions, including those who were actually Roman citizens (Josephus, Jewish War 2.306-7). And, finally, in 70 AD, the general Titus ordered hundreds of Jewish captives to be crucified around the walls of Jerusalem in the hopes that this would drive the Jews to surrender (Jewish War 5.450). Josephus does not state explicitly that the bodies were left hanging, but that would be entirely consistent with the general purpose of these crucifixions.

Even so, one needs to consider the situation of the Province of Judea within the time of Jesus: at that time the situation was (in one sense) peaceful enough that events in and around Jerusalem were not always under control of the Prefect of Judea. While there is a small contingent of soldiers stationed in Antonia Fortress, the day-to-day government of the city is largely left to Jewish hands, specifically the high priest and the council, who were accountable to the Prefect (in this period, Pontius Pilate). The Prefect in turn was accountable to the Legate of Syria, and it was the interest of all to keep the status quo undisrupted. It would then be a mistake to assume that episodes like those of Varus, Florus, and Titus are typical of the situation surrounding Jesus' burial.

However, taking victims of crucifixion down from their crosses and burying them was not unheard of. Philo (Flacc. 10.83-84) tells us that:

"I actually know of instances of people who had been crucified and who, on the moment that such a holiday was at hand, were taken down from the cross and given back to their relatives in order to give them a burial and the customary rites of the last honors. For it was (thought to be) proper that even the dead should enjoy something good on the emperor's birthday and at the same time that the sanctity of the festival should be preserved. Flaccus, however, did not order to take down people who had died on the cross but to crucify living ones, people for whom the occasion offered amnesty, to be sure only a short-lived not a permanent one, but at least a short postponement of punishment if not entire forgiveness."
Josephus (Jewish War 4.5.2) relates that Jews took down the bodies of those who were crucified during the Great Revolt, as is the command in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 ("When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God's curse"). In Jewish thought, giving a proper interment for someone -- even the dead of their enemies -- was considered to be ritual piety (2 Sam. 21:12-14):

"...But the rage of the Idumeans was not satiated by these slaughters; but they now betook themselves to the city, and plundered every house, and slew every one they met; and for the other multitude, they esteemed it needless to go on with killing them, but they sought for the high priests, and the generality went with the greatest zeal against them; and as soon as they caught them they slew them, and then standing upon their dead bodies, in way of jest, upbraided Ananus with his kindness to the people, and Jesus (ben Ananias) with his speech made to them from the wall.

Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun. I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city, and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her wall, and the ruin of her affairs, whereon they saw their high priest, and the procurer of their preservation, slain in the midst of their city..."

In a few cases, concessions can be made if relatives or friends of the victim asked for the corpse to give it a decent burial. The discovery of the bones of a victim who died of crucifixion discovered in 1968 (see below) within an ossuary inside a tomb may suggest that giving proper burial to crucifixion victims (as in the case of Jesus), while being rather rare, was not unknown.


Despite being mentioned in many literary sources for the Roman period, few exact details as to how the condemned were affixed to the cross have come down to us. But we do have one unique archeological witness to this gruesome practice.

In 1968, building contractors working in Giv'at haMivtar (Ras el-Masaref), just north of Jerusalem near Mount Scopus and immediately west of the road to Nablus accidentally uncovered a Jewish tomb dated to the 1st century AD. The date of the tombs, revealed by the pottery in situ, ranged from the late 2nd century B.C. until 70 A.D.

These family tombs with branching chambers, which had been hewn out of soft limestone, belong to the Jewish cemetery of Jesus' time that extends from Mount Scopus in the east to the tombs in the neighborhood of Sanhedriya (named after the Jewish Sanhedrin; it is not certain, however, whether the tombs, which are occupied by seventy people of high status, were the burial places of Sanhedrin officials), in the north west.

A team of archeologists, led by Vassilios Tzaferis, found within the caves the bones of thirty-five individuals, with nine of them apparently having a violent death. Three children, ranging in ages from eight months to eight years, died from starvation. A child of almost four expired after much suffering from an arrow wound that penetrated the left of his skull (the occipital bone). A young man of about seventeen years burned to death cruelly bound upon a rack, as inferred by the grey and white alternate lines on his left fibula. A slightly older female also died from conflagration. An old women of nearly sixty probably collapsed from the crushing blow of a weapon like a mace; her atlas, axis vertebrae and occipital bone were shattered. A woman in her early thirties died in childbirth, she still retained a fetus in her pelvis.

The late Professor Nicu Haas, an anthropologist at the Anatomy School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Hadassah Medical School, examined one of the bones, which were placed inside a stone ossuary (right) placed inside one of the tombs which bears the Hebrew inscription ‘'Yehohanan the son of Hagaqol'. The bones were those of a man in his twenties, crucified probably between 7 A.D., the time of the census revolt, and 66 A.D., the beginning of the war against Rome. The evidence for this was based on the right heel bone, pierced by an iron nail 11.5 centimetres in length. The nail penetrated the lateral surface of the bone emerging on the middle of the surface in which the tip of the nail had become bent. The bending of the tip upon itself suggests that after the nail penetrated the tree or the upright it may have struck a knot in the wood thereby making it difficult to remove from the heel when Yehohanan was taken down from the cross.

The point of the nail had olive wood fragments on it indicating that Yehohanan was crucified on a cross made of olive wood or on an olive tree, which would suggest that the condemned was crucified at eye level since olive trees were not very tall. Additionally, a piece of acacia wood was located between the bones and the head of the nail, presumably to keep the condemned from freeing his foot by sliding it over the nail. Yehohanan's legs were found broken, perhaps as a means of hastening his death (Crucifragium; cf. John 19:31-32).

Haas asserted that Yehohanan experienced three traumatic episodes: the cleft palate on the right side and the associated asymmetries of his face likely resulted from the deterioration of his mother's diet during the first few weeks of pregnancy; the disproportion of his cerebral cranium (pladiocephaly) were caused by difficulties during birth. All the marks of violence on the skeleton resulted directly or indirectly from crucifixion.

He also postulated that the legs had been pressed together, bent, and twisted to that the calves were parallel to the patibulum, with the feet being secured to the cross by one iron nail driven simultaneously through both heels (tuber calcanei), and also deduced from a scratch on the inner surface of the right radius bone of the forearm, close to the wrist, that a nail had been driven into the forearm at that position. However, a subsequent reexamination by Joseph "Joe" Zias, former Curator of Archaeology and Anthropology for the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Eliezer Sekeles in 1985 found that many of the conclusions upon which his attempted reconstruction were made were flawed. The nail which Haas reported to be 17-18 centimeters in length was but 11.5 centimeters, making it anatomically impossible to affix two feet with one nail.

Furthermore, despite the original belief that evidence for nailing was found on the radius, a subsequent reexamination of the evidence showed that there was no evidence for traumatic injury to the forearms; various opinions have since then been proposed as to whether the feet were both nailed together to the front of the cross or one on the left side, one on the right side, and whether Yehohanan's hands was actually nailed to the cross or merely tied (Zias' reconstruction of Yehohanan's posture, at right).

While the archeological and physiological record are mostly silent on crucifixion, there are possibilities which may account for this: one is that most victims may have been tied to the cross, which would explain the lack of any direct traumatic evidence on the human skeleton when tied to the cross. The other is that the nails were usually either reused or taken as medical amulets, as stated in part 1.


1.) Wikipedia's articles on Crucifixion, Flagellation, Cross or stake as gibbet on which Jesus died, and Crucifixion of Jesus
2.) Crucifixion in Antiquity by Joe Zias
3.) Forensic and Clinical Knowledge of the Practice of Crucifixion by Frederick Zugibe
4.) On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ, by William D. Edwards, M.D., Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv, and Floyd E. Hosmer, MS, AMI
5.) The Catholic Encyclopedia's articles on Archeology of the Cross and Crucifix and Holy Nails
6.) International Standard Bible Encyclopedia's article on Cross
7.) Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible's entry on Crucifixion
8.) Josephus' References to Crucifixion, from The Jewish Roman world of Jesus
9.) National Geographic's documentary Quest for Truth: The Crucifixion: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6 viewable here
10.) New Testament History's entry on Crucifixion
11.) Crucifixion, from Richard Stracke's site on Christian Iconography