Friday 22 January 2016

Tradition or Papal Decree : the Mandatum Revisited

A 19th century engraving depicting the Pope, surrounded
by the Papal Court washing the feet of thirteen
poor men of Rome.
This rite took place in the Sistine Chapel on the
morning of Maundy Thursday.
The greatly regrettable news today from Rome concerning the Mandatum is reported fully here.

The practice of Pope Francis to celebrate the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper not only outside of the Sacred places of the Vatican and not only in places which are not churches, but in prisons or hospices etc, continues to catch the attention of the world. The Pope's decision to wash the feet of women (as well as men) and non-Christians during the Mandatum has variously attracted perplexity and rapture.

Today the Pope's determination has been taken one step further.

An analysis of the merits of this Pope's actions is not the purpose of this post. Rather, we wish to give an outline of the history of the Mandatum in order to present reasons why the significance of the Rite is open to different interpretations and philosophies.

The Catholic Encyclop√¶dia (1907-1914) has an article on the history of the Mandatum, written by Herbert Thurston SJ, of which the following is an extract.  Father Thurston had written previously about the Mandatum in his monograph Lent and Holy Week (1904):

This tradition, we may believe, has never been interrupted, though the evidence in the early centuries is scattered and fitful. For example the Council of Elvira (A.D. 300) in Canon 48 directs that the feet of those about to be baptized are not to be washed by priests but presumably by clerics or at least lay persons. This practice of washing the feet at baptism was long maintained in Gaul, Milan, and Ireland, but it was not apparently known in Rome or in the East. In Africa the nexus between this ceremony and baptism became so close that there seemed danger of its being mistaken for an integral part of the rite of baptism itself (Augustine, Ep. LV, Ad Jan., n. 33). Hence the washing of the feet was in many places assigned to another day than that on which the baptism took place. In the religious orders the ceremony found favour as a practice of charity and humility. The Rule of St. Benedict directs that it should be performed every Saturday for all the community by him who exercised the office of cook for the week; while it was also enjoined that the abbot and the brethren were to wash the feet of those who were received as guests. The act was a religious one and was to be accompanied by prayers and psalmody, "for in our guests Christ Himself is honoured and received". The liturgical washing of feet (if we can trust the negative evidence of our early records) seems only to have established itself in East and West at a comparatively late date. In 694 the Seventeenth Synod of Toledo commanded all bishops and priests in a position of superiority under pain of excommunication to wash the feet of those subject to them. The matter is also discussed by Amalarius and other liturgists of the ninth century. Whether the custom of holding this Maundy (from Mandatum novum do vobis, the first words of the initial Antiphon) on Maundy Thursday, developed out of the baptismal practice originally attached to that day does not seem quite clear, but it soon became a universal custom in cathedral and collegiate churches. In the latter half of the twelfth century the pope washed the feet of twelve sub-deacons after his Mass and of thirteen poor men after his dinner. The Caeremoniale Episcoporum (1600) directs that the bishop is to wash the feet either of thirteen poor men or of thirteen of his canons. The bishop and his assistants are vested and the Gospel Ante diem festum paschae is ceremonially sung with incense and lights at the beginning of the function. Most of the sovereigns of Europe used also formerly to perform the Maundy. The custom is still retained at the Austrian and Spanish courts.
A number of points may be made here.  Although the origin of the Mandatum is a Divine Precept, which the Church has since earliest times considered binding, its expression and its symbolism are by no means clear in liturgical history. On the one hand, it is associated with the Catechumenate, on the other hand with the poor; yet again, a demonstration of the attitude of service which a bishop or religious superior ought to have towards his community.

The question of the Mandatum being linked to Ordination to the ministerial priesthood is somewhat less clear, although it is often spoken about.

What is quite clear, amongst various uncertainties, is that throughout its history, the Mandatum had no relationship with ordinary parish life: it was a rite which pertained to the Diocesan Cathedral or  Church of a Religious Community. Only since 1955, with the revisions of the Holy Week Liturgy approved by Pope Pius XII, has the Mandatum been included in the ceremonies of the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Maundy Thursday and consequently, celebrated ordinarily in parishes. Perhaps this revision was not as laudable as was thought at the time.

In the last two decades, we have witnessed the spectacle of all sorts of curious and frightful additions to the Mandatum, advocated by tinpot liturgists (we will refrain from describing any of these dismal accretions).  And so, the symbolism of this ancient rite has become obscured again.  An unfortunate by-product of this trajectory is that the real focus of the Evening Mass of Maundy Thursday - the Institution of the Blessed Eucharist and Ministerial Priesthood - becomes obscured.

Happily, we note that in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite, the Mandatum is optional. Its being observed at a time other than during the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Maundy Thursday is something which - we suggest - might be given some consideration. Were that to happen, perhaps it would be of lesser significance if the feet of women were also washed. 

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Commissions with the Studio

Re-posted from 16th August, 3rd September, 12th October and 22nd November 2015

Owing to an unprecedented amount of Commissions for new vestments received by the Saint Bede Studio in the last several months, we wish to advise that our schedule of work for 2016 is now closed. We regret any disappointment this may cause to those who have not yet made enquiries with us.

The Studio has commenced accepting commissions for the second quarter of 2017.

Saturday 16 January 2016

Chasuble Styles of the Roman Rite (Revisited) : 4


Figure 1. Simply-decorated chasuble
made by the Saint Bede Studio in
the style of Saint Philip Neri.
Frequently, the Studio receives enquiries asking about the distinctions between the different styles of chasubles.  Comments are also often seen on websites which indicate that this subject matter is still not well-known. Although this has been written about before on the blog, we wish to present a series of posts describing the styles of chasuble down the centuries until our own time. These posts ought to be regarded as brief overviews rather than scholarly treatments of the subject matter.

Previous posts:
Part One  Part Two  Part Three

This post concerns the style of chasuble found in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and in particular that form which has been associated through art with Saint Philip Neri. From the earliest years of the Church until about the sixteenth century, the conical or bell-shaped chasuble had been the norm for the ministers at the altar. In the thirteenth century, as described in part two of this series, the shape of that chasuble was slightly modified for the greater convenience of the wearer.

From the fifteenth century, however, in various parts of Europe, but particularly northern Europe, vestment makers took it upon themselves to modify the chasuble still further to free-up the celebrant's arms. Thus - even at this early date but only in some places - that exaggerated shape referred to unkindly as the "fiddleback" began to appear. It is noteworthy that the truncation of the chasuble in this way was never sanctioned by Ecclesiastical authority. Whilst abbreviated chasubles were appearing North of the Alps, Rome retained the Tradition of the ample chasuble, as did Spain.

As has been written about in Part Three of this series, Saint Charles Borromeo prescribed dimensions he believed to be the minimum in order for a chasuble to conform to Tradition. He prescribed that the chasuble was to be very long, reaching at the back almost to the heels of the wearer and wide enough so that it reached to at least half way between the elbow and the wrist.

Contemporaneous with Saint Charles and for a century thereafter, a less ample form of chasuble was common, which is evidenced by paintings, sculptures and engravings of the 16th and 17th centuries. This form of chasuble is best known Saint Philip Neri, one of which is included in this post. We also include other works of art from this period depicting the same form of chasuble.

Figure 2. Well-known seventeenth century painting 
of Saint Philip Neri.
This form of chasuble only reached to the elbows, or sometimes not quite that far, but on the other hand was quite long, especially at the back. These chasubles also, it would seem from the evidence, often incorporated shoulder seams. The ancient form, as has been discussed in previous posts, did not use shoulder seams to sew together the front and back of the chasuble. Instead the chasuble, being a form of semicircle, was sewn together in the middle at the front, making a bell shape. During the middle ages, the practical limitations of such a design became evident and we find makers of vestments introducing the shoulder seam to constrict less the movements of the celebrant. The shoulder seam became more common in the 16th and 17th centuries, although our evidence for this is not complete. Not all vestments of this period were constructed in this way of sewing together the front and the back at the shoulder line.

Figure 3. Carving on the door of a Roman 
basilica shewing Saint Vitalis vested 
in a chasuble of the 17th century form.
Image: Orbis Catholicus Secundus.
The decoration most commonly found on vestments from the Southern Europe during this period was in the established Roman style: a single column at the back and at the front a TAU. Sometimes we find that a single column is substituted for the tau on such vestments. In Northern Europe, we find a similar shape of vestment ornamented with the familiar " Y " shape orphreys.

Presently, there is a revived interest in the Saint Philip Neri form of chasuble. The Saint Bede Studio regularly receives enquiries about such chasubles which seem to appeal because they are very Roman in character, based in Tradition, but yet not in the exaggerated form of the eighteenth century. Another reason, of course, is that they are very convenient to wear. Priests comment that they find this form of chasuble most suitable for the celebration of the Mass according to the Ordinary and Extraordinary usages.

Figure 4. 1628 painting by Francisco Herrera the Elder of 
Saint Bonaventure receiving Holy Communion 
from an Angel: the priest vested in a chasuble of 
the Saint Philip Neri form.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.


Wednesday 6 January 2016

Vestments in the Sixteenth Century Style

Adjacent is pictured a new set of red vestments in the Saint Philip Neri style, recently completed by the Studio.

A Baroque damask in shades of red and gold was used for these vestments. The ornamentation - in the Roman style - was formed from panels of red silk, augmented with a narrow galloon in straw-gold and dark red, outlining it. The chasuble is lined in red taffeta intended to support the colour of the orphrey.

The vestments described in this post were commissioned - together with a number of other vestments - for a Monastic Community in Brazil.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.


Friday 1 January 2016

On the Solemnity of the Theotokos

To all readers of this Blog, friends and customers of the Saint Bede Studio, my best wishes for good health and spiritual renewal on this Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God and throughout 2016. To all priestly readers of this post, may you succour a bountiful number of penitents in this Year of Mercy.