Friday 19 May 2017

Gothic Revival Vestments

We are pleased to present these similar sets of red vestments prepared by the Saint Bede Studio for two priests from the Diocese of Arlington (Virginia) in the United States.

These sets of vestments are in the Studio's Saint Austin Gothic Revival style. They are made from an English ecclesiastical brocade in a deeper shade of red. Lined in a gold shade of taffeta, the vestments are ornamented with braids in red and gold, of the Studio's own design.

Please click on the images for an enlarged view.

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Sunday 14 May 2017

Papal Mass in Saint Peter's 1965

Adjacent is a rather rare photograph, taken in Saint Peter's during a Session of the Second Vatican Council.

Standing at the centre of the altar is Pope Paul VI and with him, concelebrating bishops. At the Opening of the Third and Fourth Sessions of the Council, which took place on 14th September, 1964 and 14th September, 1965 respectively, Pope Paul concelebrated Mass in the basilica with a select number of the Council Fathers.

This Mass, of course, is being celebrated according to those modifications of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite known colloquially as The Interim Missal. The Rite of concelebration, however, is quite similar to that which is found in the new Missal of 1969.

Nevertheless, the concelebrated Masses celebrated in Saint Peter's before the introduction of the new Missal differed very significantly from those after that date, as is illustrated by this photograph. Although the Basilica on this occasion was filled with bishops, archbishops and cardinals from all around the world, only a small number concelebrated with the Pope.

These concelebrants were standing at the altar during the Canon and Communion Rite. To facilitate this, a temporary enlargement of the altar of the Confession was made, together with platforms on which the concelebrants would stand.

It was of little importance that the concelebrants obscured the congregation's view of the principal celebrant, the Pope. The most important considerations, therefore, were that the concelebrants stood at the altar in close proximity to each other (and the principal celebrant) AND that they could clearly look upon the elements to be consecrated.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

Thursday 4 May 2017

Beuron School of Liturgical Art

Adjacent is a beautiful liturgical drawing from 1910  in the Beuronese style  Messe mit Wandlungskerze auf dem Altar. It was found at the Wikimedia Commons. Go here to read a little about the Beuron School of liturgical art.

This stylised depiction of a priest celebrating Low Mass is rich with the aesthetic ideals of the Liturgical Movement. The celebrant wears a flowing albe, ornamented with continuous decoration around its hem. Over this he is vested in a conical chasuble, decorated very simply. Not least of interest is the manner in which the altar cloth is decorated, with geometric embroideries and tassles of silk. 

One curiosity is the almost sleeveless surplice being worn by the altar server. Note the restrained gesture with which he lifts the celebrant's chasuble for the Elevation.

Would that this dignified aesthetic were more fully adopted for the celebration of Mass according to both usages of the Roman Rite.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

The Altar Frontal : 1

Reproduced from our other Blog Where Heaven and Earth Meet

The Altar of the Confession in Saint Peter's Basilica.
Pope Benedict is seen here offering Mass on Pentecost 2008.
This marvellously embroidered frontal in crimson red and gold 
frequently clothes this altar for Papal Masses.
Excepting perhaps for the altar canopy or civory, the most worthy, liturgical, notable and appropriate adornment of any altar is its altar frontal (antependium). More than any other adornment does the use of the antependium highlight the primacy of the altar. And yet, the antependium is the adornment most frequently lacking from our altars. The Rev'd J.B. O’Connell speaks of the symbolism of the antependium:

As the early linen clothing of the altar recalled our Lord’s burial shroud, so the precious fabric of the later frontal is to recall his royalty....The clothed altar with its beauty and changing colours is a symbol of the Mystical Body - the whole Christ, Christ united with all his saints - it translates this doctrine into the language of colour and form. In addition to its symbolical value, the frontal - with its sequence of colours and its changing form and decoration - lends variety and new beauty to the altar, and helps to mark the degrees of festivity in the Church’s liturgy. Because of its function as an adornment of the altar - although not its primary purpose, which is its symbolism - some liturgical writers maintain that its use is not obligatory, by custom, if the altar is itself made of precious material and highly decorative. But if the frontal is not used, not only is its symbolism disregarded, but the altar is without change of permanent adornment, degrees of festivity cannot be adequately expressed, nor can the liturgical changes of season or feast be fully indicated. 
J.B. O’Connell, Church Building and Furnishing: the Church’s Way, pp.188-89.

The use of the antependium has been a continual practice in the basilicas of Rome.
To this day, the Altar of the Confession in S’ Peter’s Basilica
is clothed with an antependium during the Papal Masses.
Shewn in this image is one of the elaborately-worked antependia used in Saint Peter's.

It may also be observed that many altars of no particular artistic merit, and especially altars which are simply supported on two or four pillars and lack a solid panel underneath the altar table, can be particularly enhanced by the use of an antependium. 

Until 1960, the Rubrics of the Roman Missal and the directives of the Ceremonial of Bishops required that altars, but specifically high altars be clothed with an antependium: it was not a matter of choice or dependent upon the beauty or otherwise of any given altar. Unhappily, however, the directives were largely ignored. Recognising this failure, the revised rubrics of the 1960 Missal omitted the sentence which required the use of an antependium, although maintaining that rubric which required the antependium to be changed according to the season or festival. Even after the requirement for an antependium had been relaxed by the revised rubrics of 1960, the American scholar of canon and liturgical law Father Frederick McManus (who was to become prominent amongst the liturgical reformers), advocated the use of antependia: 

The altar in Saint Peter's without an antependium.
The altar is of surprising plainness, indicating that it was
intended that the central altar of Christendom
would always be clothed for Mass.
The use of the frontal as the vestment of the altar remains proper and entirely is still very desirable as a worthy vestment for the altar...and as an effective indication of the liturgical celebration.
F.R. McManus, Handbook For the New Rubrics, Baltimore, 1961, pp. 202-03.

Sufficient has been quoted to demonstrate that even if the antependium is not required, its use is eminently suitable and desirable liturgically, important symbolically, and could not be recommended strongly enough. Very few altars are incapable of having antependia attached to them, even if some ingenuity in keeping them in place is required.

A wider view of the Altar of the Confession, decorated for Christmas.
The altar is manifestly enhanced by the magnificent antependium. 

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Affording Quality Vestments amidst Fiscal Constraint

Good-quality vestments, especially if they are handmade and use silk fabrics, are quite costly.  Indeed, they always have been.  Some years ago, on a website, was found a strategy for being able to afford a vestment which seems too expensive.  It may be useful for readers.  It goes something like this...

Father had his heart set on a particular set of vestments, but didn't have the money to purchase them. The Parish had many commitments and could not justify making such a purchase. But the Parish did buy them and then they were put on display in the Church, with this sign:

"These new vestments were recently purchased. When we have raised enough money to cover their cost, they will be used at the Altar. Until then, they are only for display."

It didn't take too long for the money to be raised for the vestments to be used for Mass and more besides; in fact, enough for another set to be purchased! The Parish loves the vestments and loves to see Father wearing them for Mass.

There is another facet of this story which many priests will be familiar with : the Faithful appreciate being asked to contribute to the beautification of their Parish church and its Sacred Liturgy. After all, it is the Faithful who look at the vestments worn by the priest. Is it not natural to wish to look at things of beauty?