Wednesday, December 23, 2020

O Antiphon For December 23: O Emmanuel, O God with Us

The Prophet Isaiah, by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel

On December 23, the last of the Great O antiphons of Advent is sung at Vespers (Evening Prayer). By the next evening on December 24, the time of waiting will be over, because the Feast of Christmas begins at Vespers on Christmas Eve.  

This antiphon begins by addressing our Savior with the Messianic name, Emmanuel, God with us. The antiphon then echoes His title as king (from O Rex Gentium), adds the title of lawgiver, repeats that He is the longed for One and Savior of the nations. It ends with a petition, "come and save us.”

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster. 
O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, longing of the nations and Savior thereof: Come and save us, O Lord our God.
Here are the corresponding modified hymn verses from "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel":
Veni, veni, Emmanuel,
Captivum solvet Israel
Qui gemit in exsilio
Privatus Dei Fillio

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appears.

Scriptural Origins

Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman′u-el."

Matthew 1:20b-23: "'[T]hat which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emman′u-el' (which means, God with us).

Dom Gueranger's Commentary about O Emmanuel:

O Emmanuel ! King of peace! Thou enterest today the city of Thy predilection, the city in which Thou hast placed Thy temple—Jerusalem. A few years hence the same city will give Thee Thy cross and Thy sepulchre: nay, the day will come on which Thou wilt set up Thy judgement-seat within sight of her walls. But to-day Thou enterest the city of David and Solomon unnoticed and unknown. It lies on Thy road to Bethlehem. Thy blessed Mother and Joseph her spouse would not lose the opportunity of visiting the temple, there to offer to the Lord. their prayers and adoration. They enter; and then, for the first time, is accomplished the prophecy of Aggeus, that great shall be the glory of this last house more than of the first ; for this second temple has now standing within it an ark of the Covenant more precious than was that which Moses built; and within this ark, which is Mary, is contained the God whose presence makes her the holiest of sanctuaries. The Lawgiver Himself is in this blessed ark, and not merely, as in that of old, the tablet of stone on which the Law was graven. The visit paid, our living ark descends the steps of the temple, and sets out once more for Bethlehem, where other prophecies are to be fulfilled. We adore Thee, O Emmanuel ! in this Thy journey, and we reverence the fidelity wherewith Thou fulfillest all that the prophets have written of Thee; for Thou wouldst give to Thy people the certainty of Thy being the Messias, by showing them that all the marks, whereby He was to be known, are to be found in Thee. And now, the hour is near; all is ready for Thy birth; come then, and save us; come, that Thou mayst not only be called our Emmanuel, but our Jesus, that is, He that saves us.
See "History and Mystery: The O Antiphons in a Favorite Hymn" for my post on the relationship between the O antiphons,"Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

O Antiphon for December 22: O Rex Gentium, O King of the Nations


Christ the Judge (1447), by Fra Angelico. At the Duomo of Orvieto, Italy

The O antiphon for Dec. 22nd begins by addressing our Savior with the Messianic name, O Rex Gentium. The antiphon then describes what this title symbolizes, and it ends with a petition, "come and . . ..”
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem quem de limo formasti..

O King of the gentiles and their desired One, the cornerstone that makes both one: come, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.

The word Gentium comes from gens, which means tribe, clan; nation, people; Gentiles. The Jews would have understood the word as referring to the Gentiles.

Calling on Christ as Rex Gentium et desideratus earum (King and desired one of all the nations) means that even those who have never heard of true God or His promised Messiah, and even those who do not know they need salvation, long for Him.

The corresponding modified hymn verses from "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel":

Veni, veni, Rex gentium, Veni Redemptor omnium: Ut salvas tuos famulos Peccati sibi conscios.

Come, O come, King of the nations, come, Redeemer of all: that Thou mayst save Thy family from the guilt of their sins.

Scriptural Origins:

King of the Nations 
Jeremiah 10:7:
7 Who would not fear thee, O King of the nations? For this is thy due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like thee.
Desired of all nations 
Haggai 2:4-8:
"My Spirit abides among you; fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations — and the desired of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with splendour, says the Lord of hosts."

Psalm 118:22: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner."

Isaiah 28:16a: "Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation."

Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, and Luke 20:17: "Jesus said to them, 'Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?"

Acts 4:8-12:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, 10 be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

I Peter 2:7-8:
To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe,
“The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,”
and “A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall”; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Cornerstone Who Joins the Gentiles with Israel
Ephesians 2:14-16, 19-22: 
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.  19 So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Dom Gueranger's Commentary about Rex Gentium

O King of nations! Thou art approaching still nigher to Bethlehem, where Thou art to be born. The journey is almost over, and Thy august Mother, consoled and strengthened by the dear weight she bears, holds an unceasing converse with Thee on the way. She adores Thy divine Majesty; she gives thanks to Thy mercy; she rejoices that she has been chosen for the sublime ministry of being Mother to God. She longs for that happy moment when her eyes shall look upon Thee, and yet she fears it. For, how will she be able to render Thee those services which are due to Thy infinite greatness, she that thinks herself the last of creatures ? How will she dare to raise Thee up in her arms, and press Thee to her heart, and feed Thee at her breasts? When she reflects that the hour is now near at hand, in which, being born of her, Thou wilt require all her care and tenderness, her heart sinks within her; for, what human heart could bear the intense vehemence of these two affections—the love of such a Mother for her Babe, and the love of such a creature for her God? But Thou supportest her, O Thou the Desired of nations! for Thou, too, longest for that happy birth, which is to give to the earth its Saviour, and to men that corner-stone, which will unite them all into one family. Dearest King! be Thou blessed for all these wonders of Thy power and goodness ! Come speedily, we beseech Thee, come and save us, for we are dear to Thee, as creatures that have been formed by Thy divine hands. Yea, come, for Thy creation has grown degenerate; it is lost; death has taken possession of it: take Thou it again into Thy almighty hands, and give it a new creation; save it; for Thou hast not ceased to take pleasure in and love Thine own work.

From Julian of Norwich

O Rex Gentium
O King of our desire whom we despise,
King of the nations never on the throne,
Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone,
Rejected joiner, making many one,
You have no form or beauty for our eyes,
A King who comes to give away his crown,
A King within our rags of flesh and bone.
We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise,
For we ourselves are found in you alone.
Come to us now and find in us your throne,
O King within the child within the clay,
O hidden King who shapes us in the play
Of all creation. Shape us for the day
Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.

See "History and Mystery: The O Antiphons in a Favorite Hymn" for my post on the relationship between the O antiphons,"Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

Monday, December 21, 2020

O Antiphon for December 21: O Oriens, O Dayspring from On High

It is especially fitting that we pray this antiphon today, on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. This title of Christ, Oriens, means daybreak, dawn, sunrise, the East, the beginning, and the rising up—and so it also refers to the Resurrection. 

The O antiphon for Dec. 21th begins by addressing our Savior as O Oriens, O Dayspring or Dawn rising from the East. The antiphon then describes what the Oriens symbolizes, and it ends with a petition, "come and ....”

O Oriens, splendor lucis æternæ, et sol justitiæ veni et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis. 

O Orient! splendour of eternal light, and Sun of justice! come and enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

The corresponding modified hymn verses from "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel:"

Veni, veni o oriens! 
Solare nos adveniens, 
Noctis depelle nebulas, 
Dirasque noctis tenebras. 
R: Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

All the meanings of Oriens express the idea of light breaking through the darkness of night, of sin and death, of sickness and despair, with its brightness bringing healing and warmth. 

The church prays this petition daily in the Benedictus, the Canticle of Zechariah: "The dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace."(Luke 1:78-79).

This title of the Messiah is based on many additional Scripture texts.

Isaiah 9:1: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone".

Malachi 4:2: "For you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays."

John 3:16-21: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God."

2 Peter 1:19: "Keep your attention closely fixed on it, as you would on a lamp shining in a dark place, until the first streaks of dawn appe

Dom Gueranger’s commentary about this O antiphon:

0 Jesus, divine Sun! Thou art coming to snatch us from eternal night blessed for ever be Thy infinite goodness! But Thou puttest our faith to the test, before showing Thyself in all Thy brightness. Thou hidest Thy rays, until the time decreed by Thy heavenly Father comes, in which all Thy beauty will break upon the world. Thou art traversing Judea ; Thou art near Jerusalem; the journey of Mary and Joseph is nigh its term. Crowds of men pass or meet Thee on the road, each one hurrying to his native town, there to be enrolled, as the edict commands. Not one of all these suspects that Thou, O divine Orient ! art so near him. They see Thy Mother Mary, and they see nothing in her above the rest of women; or if they are impressed by the majesty and incomparable modesty of this august Queen, it is but a vague feeling of surprise at there being such dignity in one so poor as she is; and they soon forget her again. If the Mother is thus an object of indifference to them, it is not to be expected that they will give even so much as a thought to her Child, that is not yet born. And yet this Child is Thyself, O ,Sun of justice! Oh! increase our faith, but increase, too, our love. If these men loved Thee, 0 Redeemer of mankind, Thou wouldst give them the grace to feel Thy presence. Their eyes, indeed, would not yet see Thee, but their hearts, at least, would burn within them, they would long for Thy coming, and would hasten it by their prayers and, sighs. Dearest Jesus! who thus traversest the world Thou hast created, and who forcest not the homage of Thy creatures, we wish to keep near Thee during the rest of this Thy journey: we kiss the footsteps of her that carries Thee in her womb; we will not leave Thee, until we arrive together with Thee at Bethlehem, that house of bread, where, at last, our eyes will see Thee, O splendour of eternal light, our Lord and our God!'

Venerable Bede wrote a wonderful evocation of this light, Christ O Oriens, our true Morning Star:

Christ is the morning star who when the night of this world is past brings to his saints the promise of the light of life and opens everlasting day."

Following is a prose translation of a section of some Advent lyrics written in the 8th century by Cynewulf, an Old-English vernacular poet.

Lo! Thou Splendor of the dayspring, fairest of angels sent to men upon earth, Thou Radiance of the Sun of righteousness, bright beyond the stars, Thou of Thy very self dost illumine all the tides of time! Even as Thou, God begotten of God, Son of the true Father, didst ever dwell without beginning in the glory of heaven, so Thine own handiwork in its present need imploreth Thee with confidence that Thou send us the bright sun, and come in Thy very person to enlighten those who have long been covered with murky cloud, and sitting here in darkness and eternal night, shrouded in sins, have been forced to endure the shadow of death. Now in the fulness of hope we believe in the salvation brought to men through the Word of God, who was in the beginning co-eternal with God the Father almighty, and afterward became flesh without blemish, being born of the virgin as a help for the afflicted. God appeared among us without sin; the mighty Son of God and the Son of Man dwelt together in harmony among mankind. Wherefore it is right that we should ever give thanks by our deeds unto the Lord of victory, for that He was willing to send Himself unto us.

And in our own times, Fr. Z. wrote this reflection in his post on O Oriens. 

We are all desperately in need of a Savior, a Redeemer who is capable of ransoming from the darkness of our sins and from the blinding and numbing wound of ignorance from which we all suffer. In their terrible Fall, our First Parents inflicted grave wounds in the souls of every person who would live after them, except of course - by an act of singular grace - the Mother of God. Our wills are damaged. Our intellect is clouded. In Christ we have the Truth, the sure foundation of what is lasting. All else, apart from Him fails and fades into dark obscurity. He brings clarity and light back to our souls when we are baptized or when we return to Him through the sacrament of penance. 

"At Holy Mass of the ancient Church, Christians would face "East", at least symbolically, so that they could greet the Coming of the Savior, both in the consecration of the bread and wine and in the expectation of the glorious return of the King of Glory. They turned to the rising sun who is Justice Itself, whose light will lay bare the truth of our every word, thought and deed in the Final Day. 

"This is the Solstice day, for the Northern Hemisphere the day which provides us with the least daylight of the year. From this point onward in the globe's majestic arc about the sun, we of the north, benefit from increasing warmth and illumination. It is as if God in His Wisdom, provided within the framework of the cosmos object lessons by which we might come to grasp something of His good plan for our salvation."
Last Judgment, by Giotto (1306), Scrovegni Chapel
See "History and Mystery: The O Antiphons in a Favorite Hymn" for my post on the relationship between the O antiphons,"Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

Sunday, December 20, 2020

O Antiphon for December 20: O Clavis David, O Key of David

The O antiphon for December 20th begins by addressing our Savior as O Clavis David, O Key of David. It goes on to describe the symbolism of the Key of David, and it ends with the petition, "come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.”

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; who openest and no man shutteth; shuttest and no man openeth: come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
The corresponding modified hymn verses from "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel":
Veni clavis Davidica! Regna reclude coelica, Fac iter Tutum superum, Et claude vias Inferum. R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come And open wide our heav'nly home; Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery.
This title of the Messiah is based on many Scriptural texts.

Isaiah 9:6-7: "His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, Upon David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains By judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!"

Isaiah 22:22: "I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder. When he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open."

Christ is from the line of David and is the heir of David as King of Israel, the heavenly kingdom, in a way that nobody expected. The ruler wore the keys, the symbol of his power and authority, on his shoulder. Christ wore no symbols of His authority.

Revelation 3:7: "To the presiding spirit of the church in Philadelphia write this: 'The holy One, the true, who wields David's key, who opens and no one can close, who closes and  no one can open.'"

Christ, the holy one and true, is the heir of David. All power and authority was given to him after the resurrection. He gave the power to "bind and to loose" our sins to the Apostles.

Matthew 16:18-19: "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Jesus is the One who unlocks the fetters of sin that  keep us tightly chained and who frees us from our captivity.  

Psalm 107: 10, 14:  "they dwelt in darkness and gloom, bondsmen in want and in chains,...and he led them forth from darkness and gloom and broke their bonds asunder." 

Dom Gueranger’s commentary about this O antiphon for December 20:
O Jesus, Son of David! heir to his throne and his power! Thou art now passing over, in Thy way to Bethlehem, the land that once was the kingdom of Thy ancestor, but now is tributary to the Gentiles. Scarce an inch of this ground which has not witnessed the miracles of the justice and mercy of Jehovah, Thy Father, to the people of the old Covenant, which is so soon to end. Before long, when Thou hast come from beneath the virginal cloud which now hides Thee, Thou wilt pass along this same road doing good, 1 healing all manner of sickness and every infirmity, and yet having not where to lay Thy head.  Now, at least, Thy Mother’s womb affords Thee the sweetest rest, and Thou receivest from her the profoundest adoration and the tenderest love. But, dear Jesus, it is Thine own blessed will that Thou leave this loved abode. Thou hast, O eternal Light, to shine in the midst of this world’s darkness, this prison where the captive, whom Thou hast come to deliver, sits in the shadow of death. Open his prison-gates by Thy all-powerful key. And who is this captive, but the human race, the slave of error and vice? Who is this captive, but the heart of man, which is thrall to the very passions it blushes to obey? Oh! come and set at liberty the world Thou hast enriched by Thy grace, and the creatures whom Thou hast made to be Thine own brethren.'

Christ bestowing the power of the keys upon St. Peter. Byzantine-style Venetian glass mosaic 

behind the altar at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Chains, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

See "History and Mystery: The O Antiphons in a Favorite Hymn" for more on the relationship between the O antiphons,"Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

Saturday, December 19, 2020

O antiphon for Dec. 19th: O Radix Jesse, O Root of Jesse

The O antiphon for Dec. 19th begins by addressing our Savior, who is about to be born as a man, as O Radix Jesse, O Root of Jesse. The antiphon then describes what the name symbolizes, and it ends with a petition, “come to deliver us, delay thou not.”

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, which standest as a sign to the peoples, at whom kings shall shut their mouths, whom the gentiles shall beseech, come to deliver us, delay thou not!

The corresponding modified hymn verses from "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel":

Veni, O Jesse Virgula: Ex hostis tuos ungula, de specutuos tartari Educ, et antro barathri. R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

Come, O Rod of Jesse: from the clutches of the enemy, from the snares of hell, and from the depths of the netherworld lead forth thine own. R: Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel, to thee shall come Emmanuel!”
Jesse was the father of David and a descendant of Judah, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. God chose Jesse (and his youngest son, the shepherd David) as recorded in this Scripture: "And the Lord said unto Samuel ... Fill thine horn with oil and go; I will send thee to Jesse, the Bethlehemite, for I have provided me a king among his sons"—1 Samuel 16:1. Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, is also called the city of David.

Isaiah, the prophet, wrote this about 300 years later, "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots; And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord" Isaiah 11:1-2.

This prophecy refers to the coming Messiah as the "rod out of the stem of Jesse" and as a "branch" that will grow out of Jesse's roots. By the use of the Hebrew word, netzer, for branch, the prophecy even went so far as to specify the place where Messiah would live, in a play on words. The town Natzeret [Nazareth] is the word netzer plus the feminine ending. "And He came and dwelt in a city called Natzeret (Nazareth), that it might be fulfilled what was spoken by the prophets" Matthew 2:23.

The hymn refers to Jesus as the rod of Jesse unlike the O antiphon, which refers to Jesus as the "root of Jesse." Radix Jesse is the term used for the Messiah in another prophecy from Isaiah, "In that day there shall be a root of Jesse who shall stand for an ensign [a sign] to the peoples" Isaiah 11:10.

Also unlike the hymn, the O antiphon refers to the part of the prophecy that foretold that the Messiah would be a standard bearer who will attract the Gentiles and that the Messiah would deliver His people, "And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."—Isaiah 11:12. 

Dom Gueranger’s commentary about this O antiphon for December 19:

"At length, O Son of Jesse! thou art approaching the city of thy ancestors. The Ark of the Lord has risen, and journeys, with the God that is in her, to the place of her rest. 'How beautiful are thy steps, O thou daughter of the Prince,' [Cant. vii. 1.] now that thou art bringing to the cities of Juda their salvation! The Angels escort thee, thy faithful Joseph lavishes his love upon thee, heaven delights in thee, and our earth thrills with joy to bear thus upon itself its Creator and its Queen. Go forward, O Mother of God and Mother of Men! Speed thee, thou propitiatory that holdest within thee the divine Manna which gives us life! Our hearts are with thee, and count thy steps. Like thy royal ancestor David, 'we will enter not into the dwelling of our house, nor go up into the bed whereon we lie, nor give sleep to our eyes, nor rest to our temples, until we have found a place in our hearts for the Lord whom thou bearest, a tabernacle for this God of Jacob.” [Ps. cxxxi. 3-5.] Come, then, O Root of Jesse! thus hid in this Ark of purity; thou wilt soon appear before thy people as the standard round which all that would conquer must rally. Then, their enemies, the Kings of the world, will be silenced, and the nations will offer thee their prayers. Hasten thy coming, dear Jesus! come and conquer all our enemies, and deliver us.'

(Painter related to) Geertgen tot Sint Jans, c. 1500, oil on panel

In this lively and unusual painting of the theme, while Jesse is sleeping a tree grows from his body. On it are the twelve Kings of Judah, the ancestors of Christ: David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah and Manasseh. Mary and the Christ child are on the top.

See "History and Mystery: The O Antiphons in a Favorite Hymn" for my post on the relationship between the O antiphons,"Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." 

Republished and modified from December 19, 2015.

Friday, December 18, 2020

O Antiphon for December 18: O Adonai, O Sovereign Lord

The O antiphon for Dec. 18 begins by addressing our Savior, who is about to be born as a man, as O Adonai (O Sovereign Lord), describes Our Lord's appearances to Moses, and it ends with the petition, redeem us with outstretched arm:

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Sovereign Lord, and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared unto Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the Law on Sinai, come to redeem us with arm outstretched!
The corresponding modified hymn verses from "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel":
Veni, veni, Adonai, Qui populo in Sion, Legem dedisti vertice. In majestate gloriae. R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

Come, O come, O Adonai, Who to thy people on Sinai’s summit didst give the law in glorious majesty. R. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmauel has come to thee, O Israel.
Dom Gueranger’s commentary about this O antiphon for December 18:
O Sovereign Lord! O Adonaï! come and redeem us, not by thy power, but by thy humility. Heretofore, thou didst show thyself to Moses thy servant in the midst of a mysterious flame; thou didst give thy law to thy people amidst thunder and lightning; now, on the contrary, thou comest not to terrify, but to save us. Thy chaste Mother having heard the Emperor's edict, which obliges her and Joseph her Spouse to repair to Bethlehem, she prepares everything needed for thy divine Birth. She prepares for thee, O Sun of Justice! the humble swathing-bands, wherewith to cover thy nakedness, and protect thee, the Creator of the world, from the cold of that mid-night hour of thy Nativity! Thus it is that thou willest to deliver us from the slavery of our pride, and show man that thy divine arm is never stronger than when he thinks it powerless and still. Everything is prepared, then, dear Jesus! thy swathing-bands are ready for thy infant limbs! Come to Bethlehem, and redeem us from the hands of our enemies.
God Appears to Moses in Burning Bush, by Eugene Pluchart, ca. 1848. (St. Isaac’s Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia)

See "History and Mystery: The O Antiphons in a Favorite Hymn" for my post on the relationship between the O antiphons,"Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

Thursday, December 17, 2020

O Antiphon for December 17: O Sapientia, O Wisdom

The O antiphon for Dec. 17 begins by addressing our Savior who is about to be born as a Man as O Sapientia, O Wisdom. It then describes what God’s wisdom accomplishes, and it ends with a petition, “come to teach us the way of prudence.”

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, that proceedest from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end mightily, and disposing all things sweetly! come and teach us the way of prudence.
The corresponding modified hymn verses from "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel":
Veni, O Sapientia, quae hic disponis omnia, veni, viam prudentiae ut doceas et gloriae. R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

O Come Thou Wisdom from on high, that orderest all things mightily. to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in your ways to go. R: Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel, to thee shall come Emmanuel!”
Dom Gueranger’s commentary about this first O antiphon for December 17:

O uncreated Wisdom, who art so soon to make Thyself visible to Thy creatures, truly Thou disposest all things. It is by Thy permission that the emperor Augustus issues a decree ordering the enrolment of the whole world. Each citizen of the vast empire is to have his name enrolled in the city of his birth. This prince has no other object in this order, which sets the world in motion, but his own ambition. Men go to and fro by millions, and an unbroken procession traverses the immense Roman world; men think they are doing the bidding of man, and it is God whom they are obeying. This world-wide agitation has really but one object; it is, to bring to Bethlehem a man and woman who live at Nazareth in Galilee, in order that this woman, who is unknown to the world but dear to heaven, and who is at the close of the ninth month since she conceived her Child, may give birth to this Child in Bethlehem; for the Prophet has said of Him: ‘His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity. And thou, O Bethlehem! art not the least among the thousand cities of Juda, for out of thee He shall come.’ O divine Wisdom! how strong art Thou in thus reaching Thine ends by means which are infallible, though hidden; and yet, how sweet, offering no constraint to man’s free-will; and withal, how fatherly, in providing for our necessities! Thou choosest Bethlehem for Thy birth-place, because Bethlehem signifies the house of bread. In this, Thou teachest us that Thou art our Bread, the nourishment and support of our life. With God as our food, we cannot die. O Wisdom of the Father, living Bread that hast descended from heaven, come speedily into us, that thus we may approach to Thee and be enlightened by Thy light, and by that prudence which leads to salvation.”
Sophia the Wisdom of God, Novgorod 15th Century from Trinity Iconographers 

In this icon, Sophia, Wisdom of God, is portrayed as a crowned Angel surrounded by an aura of Divine Glory sitting on a throne supported by seven pillars. Under the feet of Sophia a stone symbolizes all Creation being subdued to the Word of God. The right hand is depicted in an act of blessing, while the left one holds a scepter.

Alongside of Sophia stand the Mother of God and St. John the Baptist. Mary holds the text ‘My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices…’, while St. John’s text says ‘This is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world' 
Behind them are St. John the Evangelist (‘No one has seen God except His only begotten Son…’) and St. John Chrysostom. The Lord Sabaoth sits on a throne of Cherubim and is surrounded by a choir of Seraphim. The text in His left hand has the ancient call: ‘Listen to me, my people…’.  Around the glory of the Lord Sabaoth there are the symbolic representations of the four Evangelists (the angel, the lion, the bull and the eagle), the angelic hosts, the sun and the moon.

See "History and Mystery: The O Antiphons in a Favorite Hymn" for the relationship between the O antiphons,"Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Santa Is Not Good for Raising Young Catholics

"Tell Santa what you want for Christmas!" Hasn't anyone besides me ever noticed that this admonition is not good training for young Christians? On the other hand, it is great training for young consumers.  

Encouraging our children to dream of material things they want is great training for covetousness. It puts a burden on parents who may not be able to reasonably afford the expense of buying what's on the child's list, or who perhaps might want to change the focus of Christmas celebrations towards Christ. It encourages children to indulge their natural human greediness instead of curbing it. It sets unreal expectations too. A child who does not get exactly what he or she wants is going to feel deprived.

Retailers love a Santa Claus-inspired Christmas, which is why they start the "season" as early as possible, to enable the maximum number of "shopping days til Christmas" every year. They also count on the fact that while we are shopping for luxuries for our children, we are also picking up luxuries for ourselves. 

It's all about self indulgence. When we are buying our little darlings everything they ever wanted, aren't we also buying luxuries for ourselves?

To my mind, we celebrate Christmas wrongly as a months long orgy of buying, sentimentality, glitter, and gluttony. These things are far removed from the poverty of the stable where the son of God came into this world. The feast of Christmas is about our God who had everything making Himself a poor human for our sake.

"For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting."—John 3:16

One way you can tell that all that excitement has nothing to do with Christmas is that all the hyperactivity stops on Christmas Eve. You'd be hard put to find a Christmas hymn playing on the actual day of Christmas. There's no money to be made any more. So the din ceases and the thrills fade away. 

The tree that has been up since Thanksgiving is often discarded on the 26th of December, only on the second day of what should be the actual celebration. 

The actual person who inspired the Santa Claus legend is St. Nicholas, and his Feast Day is December 6. "Who is St. Nicholas?" has a good write-up about how St. Nicholas became associated with being a protector of children. 
In most of Europe, gifts are given on St. Nicholas Day, December 6, instead of on Christmas. This helps keep the focus on awe and gratitude for God's precious gift to us at Christmas. 

We owe more of our present day idea of Santa Claus to Coca Cola than to St. Nicholas. Santa Claus' suit is the Coca Cola brand color. He's a marketing device. Many a Coca Cola ad shows Santa with his head thrown back swigging a bottle of Coke, and it says, "Open happiness." No, Virginia, happiness is not to be found in swigging Coca Cola. It is to be found only in knowing, loving, and serving Christ.
Santa Open Happiness Coca Cola Billboard
Santa and Coca Cola together, even in Assisi, Italy (Christmas Eve 1999).

What's even worse, the elaborate fictions about Santa Claus that society spins out during every child's early years also teach children that their parents and teachers, indeed the whole society, are capable of lying to them. And I truly believe those lies children hear from us about Santa make it easier as they grow up for children to dismiss the Virgin Birth of Christ, the angels, the shepherds, and the Three Kings, indeed the whole Catholic faith, as a collection of similar well-meaning sentimental fictions.
The Discovery, cover painting for the Saturday Evening Post, December 29, 1956 by Norman Rockwell.
What do you think? Do you agree with me that telling kids to ask Santa for what they want teaches them to be acquisitive?  How did you feel when you found out Santa isn't real? Have you ever thought that when kids lose faith in Santa they often lose trust and eventually lose faith in the truths of the Catholic faith?

Monday, November 09, 2020

If the Church is the Answer, What is the Question?

When I was fifteen years old in 1960, I read Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, and Albert Camus' L'Etranger. Then when I started at Brandeis University in 1963 a few weeks before I turned 18, I continued my exploration of the ideas of Jean Paul Sartre and other existential philosophers in my college courses and personal reading. The existentialists promoted the idea that belief in God and in Christ is a crutch that weaklings use to prop themselves up because they are not brave enough to face the existential dilemma: that life has no meaning. This idea continues to have wide currency 60 years after I discovered it. It is one of the cookie-cutter list of beliefs that almost every college student graduates with, that and the belief that you must have sex before marriage to find out if you are compatible, and many more. But I digress . . .. (This digression on sexual morality will be returned to later.)

Back to the existentialists’ ideas. For the unreligious person, human life on this earth makes no sense except the meaning that one can tentatively cobble together for one's self in face of the indifference of the cosmos. Existentialists admit it is tough living with the conviction that one's existence and that of one's species is just an accident of evolution. But, they say, one must resolutely turn away from the childish notion that humankind was created for a purpose and push on with one's chin up to do what one can bravely do to apply meaning to a meaningless life.

Tellingly, Jean Paul Sartre was a compulsive womanizer, and I believe he convinced his life long partner Simone de Beauvoir to accept that marriage was also an outmoded notion, as was fidelity. Obviously for him, without religion, there was no external or internal reason to value these old-fashioned notions, when they would only restrict his freedom to please himself with the philosopher groupies at the Sorbonne.

Sartre and de Beauvoir

Since I wanted to be considered as a peer of the great intellectuals of my time, I followed these ideas and turned away from my Catholic faith. The lure of being an intellectual and becoming privy to a new knowledge that the common people don't have was the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that was proffered to me as an arrogant young student, and I bit it.

Remember this was 1963. Since then, I tried many of the alternative philosophies that the times had to offer. After I dropped out of Brandeis, I continued to search for truth by seeking out intellectuals and artists, thinking the avant garde had the answers. I was under the illusion that without the moral principles taught by Revelation, learning alone would make people good.

This reminds me of a story I heard during that time about the famous avant garde lesbian couple Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The way I heard the story, when Gertrude was dying. Alice B. Toklas asked her, "Gertrude, Gertrude, what is the answer?" Gertrude answered her, "What is the question?" and then died.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

The Christian Church: A Theological and Historical Sketch by a professor at the diocesan Institute for Leadership in Ministry put forward Paul Tillich's construct that the Church must answer the questions of each age as the method for doing theology. There is a lot that can be said against that concept, but, as is hinted at in the above story, even the avant garde intellectuals don't seem to have either the right answer or even the right question.

If people relying on their own understanding do have questions, they may be the wrong ones. I think about Howland the owl in Pogo comic strip, who said, "I didn't know there was any other question besides 'Who?'"

Here is one of the common objections to Paul Tillich's method of correlation mentioned in the above-mentioned book:

[T]he method distorts the significance of the Christian message by reducing the Christian answer to whatever human experience requires or finds expedient. This weakens divine Transcendence and the divine cutting edge in human life, transforming God into a projection of human needs and desires."

Keeping that fallacious notion that “Christ’s will is as simple to divine as one’s own desires,” in mind, we now return again to my search for the meaning of life. While some around me took drugs because it was the in thing to do, for about a year I sought enlightenment through psychedelics, because people like Aldous Huxley, Carlos Casteneda, and Timothy Leary (who I saw one night at a public lecture in a Harvard classroom, after he had been fired from Harvard, when he was still wearing a suit) told us we could reach previously-unheard of heights of knowledge and lead others to these new heights. I subscribed to the Psychedelic Review. Pursuing better living through chemistry only meant for me that I went on some risky adventures that I'm lucky I survived. I certainly didn't find the answers to the meaning of life that way, although a boyfriend of mine told me that during an acid trip he had met God, and God was Bob Dylan. Obviously, the path to true enlightenment lay elsewhere.

By the time I was 30, I was divorced with two children two and four years old and attending Moorhead State College in Minnesota on the opposite bank of the Red River from Fargo North Dakota, and using government help for child care while I worked on finishing my college degree. One of the things that got me interested in Christianity again was the simple observation that living according to Christian values made economic sense, if you think of your energies and emotions as resources to be spent in building your life.

Intercourse without commitment is a risky business. You open yourself up to a person to whom you are attracted, and by the rules of the game as it was played then and is played now, you must at the same time work hard to avoid giving any impression of being possessive.

What used to be called the marital act was now defined to be without any intrinsic meaning. The real bonding that often takes place even between two people who do not love each other, do not want to love each other, is totally ignored. After taking that risk, and allowing that intimacy without commitment, if you are rejected or even if you break off the "relationship" yourself, you have to take the pain that follows without whimpering. I've heard it admitted that it takes about 6 months or more to recover from a "failed relationship." After you recover (with scars) from the grief (for which society offers no support) you pick yourself up and start again, burned but determined, usually thinking that there is something wrong with you, instead of the obvious fallacy of the basic premise, that asking for commitment is ignoble. This notion hearkens back to one of the basic premises of de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, which has infiltrated society, that marriage is a form of prostitution in which women barter their bodies for a lifelong commitment from men.

In contrast with those who practice the serial promiscuity that was the norm at that time, and who live through cycles of ecstasy followed by death and grieving, people who follow the moral teachings of Christianity, who marry and keep their vows, skip that painful cycle of loving and losing and are able to do other things with their time and emotions, such as build a home and a family and make a contribution to society as a whole. The passion that brings them together and bonds them at the start of their relationship is understood to be a part of the lifelong process of loving, not the goal in itself.

"Aha!" I thought. For these and many other reasons, I realized that the rules that some people rebel against are actually protections laid down by God to keep His beloved children from harm's way. Should I hate the mayor whose employees put up the stop signs for cramping my freedom of expression, when observing the rules of stopping at those signs make traffic flow easier and prevent accidents? Should I hate my loving God whose Church teaches me that sex belongs in marriage and has as an intrinsic purpose the creation of new life? Or should I defy this loving God because modern intellectuals think that the Church is a big meanie trying to steal people's joy? Modern intellectuals in my 75 years on this Earth have believed and taught a lot of hooey. Why should I trust them? Their "truths" are always changing.

I practiced Transcendental Meditation. Explorations into paranormal phenomenen had one salubrious effect. I had to realize that if I admitted that spiritual forces of any kind exist, there was no grounds for denying the reality of the spirit of God.

A long series of similar explorations: a dabble in Zen Buddhism here, six months of Sunday meetings with Unitarians with an empty altar there, a couple of more months at Presbyterian churches, a stint with the Episcopalians at the University of Minnesota. Finally, a Bible study with a daughter of a former mayor of Minneapolis who was active in Campus Crusade for Christ led me to make a commitment to Christ. I received the gift of faith. Or maybe I retrieved it from where I'd thrown it aside when I bit that apple. There was no turning back after that.

After a couple of years soaking up the Bible at an Evangelical Free Church and a charismatic church called "Jesus People Church, " I found my way back to the Catholic Church. I became a relapsed Catholic. And boy was I ever shocked. What had happened to the Church I was returning to? Vatican II and the 60s had happened, that's what.

Fast forward to 2003 when I wrote the first version of this essay. I was enrolled in the bishop of San Jose's Institute for Leadership in Ministry, and I was not expecting this, but the professors were telling me that after Vatican II and the new theological revival, we Catholics now are free to and indeed must make up our own faith. One priest told us, "The Resurrection is the only thing we need to believe by faith." Another teacher suggested that we have to sort out and cling to the beliefs that make sense to us in the context of our current society.

No longer are we enlightened post-Vatican II Catholics in the 21st century expected to live by the morality and doctrines of the past. Now we know better than the great Church fathers like St. Augustine that the teachings of the past two thousand years about the truth of the most of the New Testament have been discovered to be false.

These so-called discoveries were uncovered by a series of brilliant Protestant Bible critics. As soon as the Church allowed its theologians and scholars to embrace the new critical methods, Catholic theologians found out things that the Church has never known before about what Jesus really meant and did.

To people who think this way, the old certainties are dead. We are expected to believe like Alice in Wonderland, several contradictory things at the same time. We are encouraged to agree with the debunkers that, even though our Church's founding documents are culture-bound fictions, but we are also expected to think they are inspired and can guide us in our Christian lives--as long as we don't take any one of their statements or stories as literal fact.

And now we don't have to be passive recipients of doctrines from the magisterium of the Church "hurled at us like rocks," to quote one of the professors dismissal of the notion of a Church that teaches the truth. Solely with a personal relationship with Jesus as our guide, and our self-referential consciences, we are supposed to bravely cobble together a new morality and set of doctrines that “answer the questions of our age.”

Sounds like the spirit of Jean Paul Sartre or maybe Timothy Leary in the clothing of a priest from San Francisco or a professor from Santa Clara University. Been there. Done that. Not going down that primrose path again. The lure of becoming privy to a new knowledge that the common people don't have and disabusing them of their old primitive childlike faith is another fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil being proffered to us all, and we still have a choice not to bite it.

I almost forgot to answer the question posed in the title about what is the question?

What is Truth? is the question. The authentic teachings of the Catholic Church are the answer. Not some cobbled together self-assembled assortment of dogmas we happen to chose to believe in.

Following is my original introductory paragraph to this essay, which I wrote for a class at Bishop now-Emeritus Patrick McGrath's Institute for Leadership in Ministry in the Diocese of San José: "The Catholic Church is the answer to all existential questions. I'll try to illustrate my reasoning behind this statement by telling the story of how I came to believe that the Church had the answers, while addressing some of the points made in the class Basic Topics in Ecclesiology and in The Christian Church: A Theological and Historical Sketch, by Professor Frederick J. Parrella." Roseanne T. Sullivan 03/19/03

Frederick Parrella (without the French beret he wore in ILM classes)

P.S.: When Frederick Parrella taught the "Basic Topics in Ecclesiology," he was moonlighting at the ILM. His day job is a Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University, so he is not some outlier. He is allowed to form (or reform) the Catholic faith of many SCU students. In 2019, he was interviewed about his  course, "The Theology of Marriage." A few snippets from the interview interspersed with my comments follow.


"The longtime Professor of Religious Studies is renowned for teaching 'The Theology of Marriage' since 1983; it fulfills one of three Religious Studies classes every SCU student is required to take before graduation."

He didn't seem to bring in any Catholic readings about the theology of marriage into the course. He gives a book by Jewish Martin Buber and a lot of folksy "wisdom" to these students. If they come to his class seeking Catholic doctrine, it seems they are out of luck. 

"Have any of your students met each other in your class and gone on to get married?

"Oh yes, a couple of times, and I’ve been invited to their weddings. Years ago, a former student asked me to marry her, and perform the ceremony. I said, 'I can’t do that.' She said, “Check your email—you’ve just been ordained a Universal Life minister.' I’m marrying a former student next month."

So a theology teacher at a Catholic university was willing to officiate at the marriage of one of his students, while acting as a Universal Life minister with a mail-order ordination, without pointing out that for Catholics, marriage outside the Church is invalid, and seemingly without entertaining the thought that it is inappropriate for him to "marry" anyone.

The Miracle and the Hope: Cardinal Kung's Requiem and Burial

Five Wounds Portuguese National Church before a Requiem Mass
Many think it was providential that Ignatius Cardinal Kung of Shanghai got his wish to have a traditional Requiem Mass in spite of how it was nearly impossible to get permission for the pre-Vatican II form of the Mass at the time of Kung's death in 2000. This story describe why the permission was requested, and how the permission was obtained—after a few setbacks. This story also tells about the hope that motivated Cardinal Kung's nephew to bury his uncle in Santa Clara, California, far from his uncle's place of death on the East Coast of the U.S. and even farther from the Shanghai Cathedral where exiled Cardinal Kung had longed to be buried under the altar as its bishop.

This is a follow-up to another article about the Cardinal Kung: "Bishop Kung Was Tricky That Way, and Other Stories of the Saintly, Stubborn, Persecuted Ignatius Ping-Mei Kung of Shanghai."

To briefly summarize the main points of his life: Father Ignatius Kung, a fifth generation Chinese Catholic, was ordained Bishop of Shanghai just before the Communists took over China, and he was imprisoned in 1950 for thirty years because he would not renounce the pope and join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association that the Communists created as a local version of the Church under their control. Five years after his arrest, Kung was convicted of treason and sentenced to life. While he was in prison, he was forbidden to correspond with anyone, even family members, forbidden to say Mass, and not permitted to read the Bible.

During his imprisonment, the world did not forget his heroic sacrifice. Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote in his Mission magazine in 1957: “The West has its Mindszenty, but the East has its Kung.” (Jozsef Mindszenty, as you may already know, was the leader of the Catholic Church in Hungary, who was given a life sentence by the Communists in 1949 because of his resistance to the their policies.)

In 1979, while still in prison, Kung was named a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in pectore. In pectore means secretly, in the heart of the Pope. Elevations in pectore are sometimes done when a pope wants to honor a cleric while not putting him or other Catholics in danger in a situation where the Church is being persecuted.

Cardinal Kung's Death in CT

When Ignatius Cardinal Kung died in March of 2000 at the age of 98, he was in exile far away from his Shanghai homeland, living in his nephew's home in Stamford, CT.  As Fr. George W. Rutler wrote in a Crisis magazine article, when Kung first went to Hong Kong from Shanghai for medical care after his release, he had been unsettled by how much had changed in the Church while he had been in prison. Just for one small example, Kung "was amazed that Catholics no longer observed the Friday abstinence that he had kept for 30 meatless years."

In order to realize how difficult it was going to be for Cardinal Kung's friends and relatives to be able to arrange for a traditional Requiem Mass after he died, you have to realize that after the revised Mass of 1969, now called the Ordinary Form, was introduced, the new form of the Mass became almost the only Mass there was for the Roman rite of the Catholic Church all over the world. The older form of the Mass, now called the Extraordinary Form, was almost completely banned in practice along with Latin, and along with Gregorian chant, between 1969 and 1982, and the Extraordinary Form Mass was still greatly restricted in the year of Kung's death.

Cardinal Kung's Requiem Mass in CA

Cardinal Kung's Requiem Mass was remarkable because it was unusual in many ways.

The year 2000 was thirty-one years after the virtual ban of Latin and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, along with Gregorian Chant, after the Second Vatican council. When Cardinal Kung died, sixteen years after the 1984 indult that allowed bishops to give permission in some cases for the Extraordinary Form to be celebrated, and twelve years after the 1988 motu proprio in which Pope Saint John Paul II urged a "wide and generous" application of the 1984 indult, permission was still hard to come by.

Ignatius Kung died seven years before Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum further relaxed restrictions against the traditional Latin Mass and opened the way for more frequent celebrations.

Five Wounds Portuguese National Church
Arrangements were made for the Requiem Mass to be celebrated at the Five Wounds Portuguese National Church in San Jose. Five Wounds is a distinctive church modeled on a Portuguese basilica, which preserved its traditional arrangement after the Second Vatican Council. To this day, the building still has a high altar at the top of many steps with an altar rail at the bottom, rows of pews face the altar, and scores of statues of saints abound. The only architectural modification to suit the new Mass that is apparent in Five Wounds Church is the insertion of a freestanding altar in front of the high altar, to allow what is now the usual celebration of the Mass with the priest facing ad populum, towards the congregation.

For a while, things seemed to be going smoothly. Cardinal Kung would not only get his wish for Requiem Mass, but Cardinal Shan of Taiwan agreed to celebrate a Pontifical Requiem Mass in his honor.
Then Bishop Patrick McGrath of San Jose gave permission for Kung’s Requiem Mass, but with one restriction, that the Mass would be celebrated facing the congregation in the ad populum direction.

In the celebration of Extraordinary Form Masses, the priest faces the altar, which is understood to be the "liturgical East," so that posture is called ad orientem. The symbolism behind ad orientem celebrations of the Mass can be glimpsed in the definition of the Latin word orientem, which means: daybreak, dawn, sunrise, east. The sun rises in the East, Christ is called the Sun of Justice, the dawn from on high, and His Second Coming is expected from the east.

Some people have been taught to believe a priest facing ad orientem is offensive because the priest is "turning his back to the people." But the result of the priest praying the Mass ad orientem is to take the focus away from the priest and to focus our attention on God. In that way, the priest together with the people face together in the direction from which we look for the Second Coming of the Lord. Even though the ad populum orientation became common after Vatican II, the council did not mandate it.

When the bishop of San Jose at first made his stipulation, consternation ensued. It must have been hard to imagine how the ad populum orientation could have been carried off in an Extraordinary Form Pontifical Mass. Then at some point, to the relief of all those who were trying to organize the Mass, the bishop changed his mind, and he agreed to allow Cardinal Kung’s Requiem Mass to be celebrated ad orientem.

Some say that the bishop removed his restriction because Cardinal Shan of Taiwan was going to be the celebrant, and it would be impolitic to contradict the wishes of a living Cardinal, even if he was willing to contradict the wishes of a dead one.

Cardinal Kung’s nephew, Joseph Kung, has written at the Cardinal Kung Foundation website that the bishop’s change of heart was due to intercessory prayers of the his dead uncle, and also that the bishop's allowing them to celebrate the traditional Requiem facing the liturgical East was Kung’s first miracle.

On March 20, 2000, an astounding one thousand people attended Cardinal Kung’s Pontifical High Requiem Mass. The St. Ann Choir sang the Gregorian chant for the Mass along with Renaissance polyphony under the direction of Stanford Musicology Professor William P. Mahrt.

The St. Ann Choir is also remarkable for its endurance, because it had providentially been able to keep on singing Gregorian chant and polyphony at Masses in nearby Palo Alto for more than thirty years by then before, during, and after the Second Vatican Council, long after that type of Sacred Music was virtually banned. (For more about the St. Ann Choir's remarkable achievement, see Miracle in Palo Alto: How the St. Ann Choir Kept Chant and Polyphony Alive for 50 Years.)
Requiem Mass at Five Wounds in 2009

The choir sang the hymn “Tu Es Petrus” (You are Peter), which uses the words Christ used when He made Peter head of the Church. For those who know the stories of Kung's life, as described in the article mentioned earlier, “Tu Es Petrus” was a poignant reminder of Kung’s long martyrdom. In addition, “Tu Es Petrus” was a celebration of the canny way Kung was able to convey his courageous refusal to deny the pope to Cardinal Sin in the face of Communists trying to keep them apart during a show visit.

Kevin Rossiter, who had only recently joined the St. Ann Choir at the time of Kung’s funeral, sent me these recollections.“There were a lot of photographers and people apparently from the (non-communist) Chinese press. The homily alternated between Chinese and English and was very good, telling the usual stories about him (the show-trial, about the singing “Tu Es Petrus” ) but also explaining his political strategy from very early on (e.g., in preparing lay catechists for the time when he knew the church would have to go underground). The cardinal used the occasion to announce the beginning of the case for his canonization. The cards for the funeral with his picture were very beautiful—I have one somewhere, but it has been misplaced during moves, so it's still probably in a box or pressed into a book. Those are the things I remember most. The atmosphere was very joyful.”

Choir Director Professor Mahrt shared some of his recollections of Kung’s Requiem Mass also. “At some point the casket was opened for the congregation to pay their respects, and all filed by the casket. At the time I thought, ‘I will probably never again witness the funeral of a saint or see him resting in a coffin.’”

Burial in Santa Clara Mission Cemetery

After the Requiem Mass, Cardinal Kung’s body was interred in an above-ground vault in the Saint Clare Chapel at Santa Clara Mission Cemetery.

Before I knew anything about Cardinal Kung, somebody pointed out his marker to me at the doorway to the chapel, and I wondered how it came about that a Shanghai cardinal came to be interred there. Now I understand.

Six years previously, the body of Archbishop Dominic Tang of Canton, another Chinese member of the Church's hierarchy and friend of Cardinal Kung, had been placed in a nearby vault. In a chapter about Archbishop Tang in his book Cloud of Witnesses, Fr. George Rutler recounted that when Dominic Tang was a young priest in Shanghai, Tang “cycled with his friend Rev. Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei from parish to parish to hear confessions.” Tang had been appointed as apostolic administrator of Canton in 1950, the year after the Communists took over. Like then-Bishop Kung, who accepted his ordination as bishop of Shanghai that same year, Tang realized and accepted the persecution he would be forced to undergo as the result of his ordination. Three years after Bishop Kung was arrested, Tang was also arrested,and he spent twenty-two years in prison without trial.

After they both were released and forced into exile, they maintained their friendship. Archbishop Tang had died while visiting Cardinal Kung in Stamford in honor of the cardinal's 65th anniversary as a priest and his 45th anniversary as a bishop. Archbishop Tang died in the presence of his friend Cardinal Kung, on June 27, 1995. After Tang's death, Cardinal Kung’s nephew Joseph Kung had brought Archbishop Tang's body to Santa Clara for interment. It was fitting that after Kung's funeral, the two friends were reunited.

Father Rutler wrote, “His Eminence was buried next to his friend, and both bodies face the horizon in the expectation that the two old men who, in youth had bicycled together will in a great dawn be buried in their cathedrals in Canton and Shanghai."

Joseph Kung wrote these additional details about the burial in Highlights of the Funeral at the Cardinal Kung Foundation website :
"That the bodies of these two Chinese bishops, ever faithful to the Successor of Peter and devoted to their flocks in Canton and Shanghai despite all adversity, are interred above ground expresses the hope that one day their mortal remains will be transported to China and interred, each at the foot of the altar of his respective cathedral. The same hope was expressed when Cardinal Mindszenty was interred above ground in Austria; and the hope was rewarded when his remains were transported back to Hungary.”
Please pray for this intention, and for the canonization of Ignatius Cardinal Kung Pin-Mei.
For more about Cardinal Kung, check out the trove of information at the Cardinal Kung Foundation website.