Benedictus Deus

Benedictum Nomen Sanctum eius

The Akathist Hymn

Filed under: Lent,Liturgy,Saints — Posted by: benedictus August 14, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

The wonderful feast of the Assumption reminded me of this other beautiful devotion to our Lady in the Easter churches.  We live about forty minutes from an Greek Orthodox church, and one of our family friends is a member there.  Our friend invited us there a while ago for their Akathist Hymn.  Every Friday evening for the first five Fridays in Lent, the Easterns pray this “hymn”.  I have never been to any Eastern liturgical service before, so I was curious to go.  I was a little hesitant since it seemed like a lot of travel time for a hymn.  I knew that nothing the Greeks do is short, but even if it was a half hour or more, that’s still a lot of driving.  Well, I didn’t need to worry about that.  What they call a hymn, is really a whole service with many prayers and rituals.  It lasted almost two hours!

The Akathist hymn goes back to at least 626, and probably further than that.  It is basically a series of praises and supplications to our Blessed Mother embedded in the middle of Compline.  Byzantine Compline is not much longer than Roman, the vast majority of the service is the hymn.  At the church they had a large, very nice icon of our lady set out in front, with flowers all around it.  At the beginning of the service some young girls in white dresses brought more flowers up to the icon.  There were many Alleluias throughout the service which was a bit jarring for me.  It was already Easter for us, but for the Eastern churches it was still Lent.  Evidently they don’t have the same tradition of suppressing the Alleluia during Lent.

The service itself was very beautiful.  There was plenty of incense, and the whole thing (except a short prayer at the end) was chanted Byzantine style.  The priest alternated between Greek and English.  After the service the faithful can go up and venerate the icon (some people did during the service, and that seemed to be ok too).

My friend very kindly gave me a copy of this book, so I could follow along with the service.  It is quite a nice little volume, and in the introduction the translator notes that one of the first English translations was done in 1934 by Fr. Vincent McNabb (who wrote the Church and the Land among other things).  He quotes Fr. McNabb saying:

“No apology is needed for introducing the ‘Akathistos’ to the Christian West.  Indeed the West might well be apologetic about its neglect, or ignorance of such a liturgical and literary masterpiece!”

The translator also notes that Pope Benedict XIV granted a 50 day indulgence in 1746 for both Eastern and Latin Catholics who recite the hymn.  I think there is still an indulgence today, but it might only apply as an alternative to the rosary for Eastern Catholics.

Even though the public services of this Hymn are a Lenten practice, It seems to me that it would be a great prayer and meditation any time of the year.  Especially Assumptiontide.  So here are some brief excepts to give you a sense of the lovely prayers:

The Archangel was sent from Heaven to say “Hail!” to the Theotokos.  And with his bodiless Voice, beholding You O Lord embodied, he was wonder-rapt and stood crying out to her:

Hail! To You, through whom joy shall shine forth.  Hail! To You, through whom the curse will vanish.

Hail! The recalling of the fallen Adam. Hail! The redemption of Eve’s tears.

Hail! O Height beyond human logic.  Hail! O Depth invisible, even to the eyes of Angels.

Hail! For you are the King’s Throne.  Hail! That you bear Him, Who bears the Universe.

Hail! O star revealing the Sun.  Hail! O Womb of Divine Incarnation.

Hail! To You, through whom creation is renewed.

Hail! To You, through whom the Creator is born a Babe!

Hail! O Bride Ever-Virign.

Most Holy Mother of God, intercede for us.

In faith with voices of song O All-Praised we, sing unto You; Hail O fertile Mountain seasoned by the Spirit. Hail! O Lamp and Vessel containing the Manna, which sweetens the senses of the faithful.

Most Holy Mother of God, intercede for us.

Hail! O all-pure Lady, expiation of the world. Hail! O Ladder, elevating all from earth by Grace. Hail! O Bridge, which truly leads all who praise You from death unto life.

Most Holy Mother of God, intercede for us.

In order that we may greet You with “Hail” O Maiden, deliver all the faithful and partakers of everlasting joy from all temptations, barbaric sieges and every other affliction that befalls us mortal, because of the multitude of our transgressions.

As The Hen Doth Gather Her Chicks

Filed under: Bible — Posted by: benedictus August 9, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not?  (Matthew 23:37)

Sometimes it’s nice to also have a visual.

Our mama hen with her new chicks

Our mama hen with her new chicks

Look closely to spot the chicks!

Look closely to spot the chicks!

Some of the chicks, just because they're cute.

Some of the chicks, just because they're cute.

St. John’s Day Festivities.

Filed under: Festivites,Liturgical Calendar,Saints — Posted by: benedictus July 3, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

I thought I would share a few pictures from our celebration of the Nativity of John the Baptist.  The party was last Saturday the 29th (Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul) which would have also been during the Octave of John’s Nativity prior to 1955.   I’ll start by  noting that it had rained here (heavily) every day for the past six or seven.  But Saturday was one of the nicest days we have had all month.  It has also rained every day since then too.  Every year the weather turns out great.  Personally, I believe its beyond coincidence at this point.  I think Our Lord is encouraging others to have celebrations in honor of great feast days, instead of crap like “new season of American Idol” parties.  I do not mean to imply it has anything to do with me.  It’s a simple matter of Our Lord honoring his saints.  My wife figured we had about 35 adults and 70 some children.  So, here are a few pictures:


How about a sponge fight for hot summer day?


8-9 year old heat of the annual sack race. (sadly there are no pictures of the adult race)

Lighting the bonfire after Vespers.

Lighting the bonfire after Vespers.

Happy Nativity of John The Baptist

Filed under: Liturgical Calendar,Saints — Posted by: benedictus June 22, 2013 @ 10:01 pm

In two days it will be the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, which means tomorrow (the 23rd) is the vigil.  If you use the search on the side, you will find several old posts about this great feast day, and the customs that surround it.  This post is just a reminder, since I usual don’t mention feast days until after they have passed.  But the main festivities, aside from Mass, are great big bon fires!  Also, strawberries are traditional treats for this feast.

For our family, this is the feast so nice we celebrate twice.  One is our own family celebration.  Since this is the original Summer Christmas, we get the kids each one small present (e.g. an action figure, or book), or one larger present for everyone (usually an outdoor game).  We have strawberry shortcake for desert, and this year we are even going to make some Christmas cookies. We make a few paper chains and hang them up for decorations.  I put some medieval Christmas music on.

The second celebration is a backyard cookout, with plenty of friends and family.  This is when we have our largest bon fire of the year.  Aside from food and drink, we try to have plenty of out door games and activities, like horseshoes, sack races, sprinklers, and such.  It’s always a fun time.

As always, I encourage everyone to rekindle Catholic fervor this great feast day, one of the most popular of the year in former (and saner) times.

St. Bede the Venerable

Filed under: Saints — Posted by: benedictus May 27, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

St. Bede

Today is the feast of St. Bede.  St. Bede was and English monk and priest at the monastery of Jarrow in Northumberland in the late 8th to early ninth century.  He is best known for his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, but he wrote many other work as well including poetry, hymns, biblical commentaries, and a general chronology of the world.  Eventhough he is known now mostly for his historical works, the most important work to him was the study of the Sacred Scriptures, which he interpreted according the methods of Church Fathers.  He was, perhaps the most learned man of his time, but he never let that go to his head.  Bede lived a life of prayer, study, and teaching.  As he says of himself:

“From that time [the age of 7] I have spent the whole of my life within that monastery, devoting all my pains to the study of the Scriptures, and amid the observance of monastic discipline and the daily charge of singing in the Church, it has been ever my delight to learn or teach or write.”

St. Bede’s life was fairly peaceful compared to many saints, but he sets an example for us on how to order our lives.  To keep from idleness and sloth he often passed from prayer to reading or teaching, then right back to prayer again, and so kept up the fervour of his soul.  One of Bede’s disciples wrote that he “never knew any monk who so constantly gave thanks to God.”

bede2He was given the grace to die on the Vigil of the Ascension, and his last days were perhaps his greatest lesson for his students.  Bede’s final illness lasted fifty days, and he was in much pain.  But continued to sing psalms and teach, not wanting his students to be hindered by his illness.  His condition worsened as the Ascension approached.  He spent his days finishing a translation of the Gospel of St. John, and his nights in prayers of thanksgiving.

On the Vigil of the Asencsion at the hour of None he called the priests of the monastary to himself.  He gave them each little presents and asked them to remember him at the altar.  The wept, but Bede was joyful, saying, “It is time for me, if it so please my Creator, to return to him who made me out of nothing, when as yet I was not.  My sweet Judge has well ordered my life, and now the time of dissolution is at hand.  I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.”

The boy who was transcribing his translation of John asked Bede if he could finish the last sentence.  He did, and then asked the boy to prop up his head so he could see the blessed oratory where he had prayed so often.  He spoke the words “Glory be to Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.”  Then Bede fell asleep in the Lord.

Bede wrote many works to “reform the lives of the faithful, and to defend and propogate the faith” as it says in the breviary.  Unfortunately not all of his works have survived to today.  But some can be found on wikisource.  And also at the Fordham University online medieval sourcebook.

St. Bede ended his Ecclesiastical History Of the English Speaking Peoples with this prayer:

And I pray thee, loving Jesus, that as Thou hast graciously given me to drink in with delight the words of Thy knowledge, so Thou wouldst mercifully grant me to attain one day to Thee, the fountain of all wisdom and to appear forever before Thy face.

Here are some nice pictures of the remains of Jarrow Monastery where Bede lived (almost nothing of the original is left).

If you are in England you might want to visit this reconstructed historical site, Bede’s world.

All info in this post comes from:
The Catholic Encyclopedia
The Liturgical Year
The Roman Breviary’s summary of his life in the Matins of his feast day (may 27).
Wikipedia (just the note about AD dating).

Happy Ascensiontide

Filed under: Easter,Liturgical Calendar — Posted by: benedictus May 9, 2013 @ 9:31 pm

Happy Ascensiontide to all!  The Ascension is the triumphant end of our Lord’s earthly life.  I encourage all to try to make this a special time for yourself and your family.  Even if the only Masses available to you are “Ascension Sunday” Masses, you should start your observance of this great feast today.  As I have mentioned before, the Ascension used to have a privileged octave.  Tomorrow is also the ideal time to start a novena to the Holy Ghost in preparation for Pentecost. (Here is another one with a little more gusto). The nine days between now and Pentecost, when the apostles waited and prayer, were the original novena.

Here are a few things we do (or try to) to make this a special festival.  Normally I try to take off work for the Ascension, but seeing as how we just got back from a vacation last week, I couldn’t really take more time off work this year.  If you don’t normally pray the Divine Office, try to get Vespers or Lauds in during Ascensiontide.  Check out the readings from Matins.  (Divinum Officium is good resource for Office).  As with any major feast day, a special meal is in order.  Since I was not off  work we couldn’t really do much extra today, but we’ll make up for it on Sunday (which should be Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension).  Some kind of bird would seem to make an appropriate meal.  We are also generally more lenient about desert for the kids.  For the adults, I sometimes get a “high end” beer or wine on major feasts.  And that’s about it.

One again, Happy Ascensiontide to all!

The Pope and the Future

Filed under: Church Issues — Posted by: benedictus April 23, 2013 @ 9:15 pm

Well, there is nothing like having a new pope to get someone back into blogging.  Clearly I am late to the party, but in the immediate aftermath of the conclave, pretty much every possible thing has been said anyway.  So, I don’t have anything special to say about His Holiness, or the election.  But I will say something about a certain mindset I have seen on various trad and conservative sites.  This mindset pins all the hopes for the Church’s restoration on the Pope.  Often they lament that Benedict XVI did not do as much as they hoped, wishing he had legislated more of his reform (sometimes going so far as to accuse him of a lack of strength to do so).  Alternatively, they worry about what is in store with our new Holy Father.

With all due respect to Pope Benedict, I think anyone who placed their hope for the future of the Church squarely on his shoulders, misplaced it.  Not due to any defect on his part, but simply because there is only so much one man can do, even the pope.  In my opinion the top-down “reform of the reform” that many wanted to see from Pope Benedict would have been doomed to failure anyway.  Why?  Because most of the laity and even priests really don’t care what the pope says or does.  It would be ignored like Redemptionis Sacramentum was ignored.  (And for that matter, the way Summorum Pontificum was ignored by many).  They are following their conscience so, its all good.  Even if they would have complied out of obedience, their heart would not be in it, and they would look for the first chance to dump his reforms.  Pope Benedict tried to win hearts and minds to his cause so the changes would stick.  Truly, that approach does not satisfy our modern need for instant gratification, but I think it was the wisest course.  Those who did adopt his liturgical reforms did so because they saw the value in it, and took it to heart.  They are not going to change now because of Pope Francis’ style.

If you think of our Church like a pyramid, the Pope is the pinnacle.  The base of the pyramid is the laity who posses a lively and generous faith.  I think today we tend to invert the pyramid, making the pope into some kind of ecclesiastical Atlas who bears up the Church on his shoulders.  Our hope for the future has to be in rebuilding that solid base, not on a pope.  Over the last two centuries that base has been severely eroded.  That is why even with holy popes like Pius IX-XII, the rot continued under the surface.  Even back in Dom Gueranger’s day, (mid 19th century) he lamented how hardly anyone really lived their faith.  According to him, hardly anyone fasted during Lent even when it was the law of the Church, no one bothered with sacramentals, and so on.  That’s why he wrote the Liturgical Year, to help rekindle the lively faith of our forebears.

I think today that is finally starting to happen, mostly in the traditional movement, but also among sincere NO folks.  Anecdotal, it seems to me that more people observe Ember days today than did before the council (in the US).  Name days are also making a come back.  And there is much more.  That’s where our hope should be.  In families that are living the Catholic faith in its fullness, and doing it joyfully.  That is where tomorrow’s vocations will come from.  And when we get there, no special papal legislation will be needed.

Gregorius Magnus

Filed under: Saints — Posted by: benedictus April 12, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

St. Gregory the Great was born in Rome around 540, and died March 12th 604.  He is one of the most influential saints in the history of the Church.

As a boy, Gregory received an excellent education, excelling in grammar, logic, and rhetoric.  By the time he was thirty years old, he was prefect of Rome, the highest civil dignity in the city.  It was around this time that he decided to abandon all worldly concerns and enter the monastery of St. Andrew, which probably followed the Benedictine rule.  He lived there for three years before Pope Pelagius II sent him to Constantinople as his ambassador to Emperor Tiberius.

The Byzantine court was very worldly, but Gregory followed his monastic rule as much as could.  While there, he defeated the heresy of Eutychius, patriarch of Constantinople, which denied the resurrection of the body.  Even Eutychius himself recanted of his error before he died.

After six years in Constantinople Gregory was recalled to Rome, and became the Abbot of St. Andrew’s.  He spent much of time studying and lecturing upon the Sacred Scriptures.  It was during this time that he met some youths from England, and was so impressed that he wanted lead a mission to Britain to convert the whole island to the faith.  He obtained Pope Pelagius’ permission, but before he got far he saw a sign from God that the mission should be abandoned.  Shortly thereafter, messengers reached him from the Pope recalling him to Rome.

Before long, flooding and a plague struck Rome.  Pope Pelagius died and Gregory was chosen as the new Pope.  He resisted at first, knowing that he would never return to the monastery if he became pope, but he eventually relented and accepted his fate.  As pope, he continued to live with monastic simplicity.  He took care of the poor, using the estates of the Church to feed the many poor and hungry refugees that streamed into Rome from various wars around Italy.  Every day he received pilgrims at his table and served them himself. On one of these occasions, he even saw a an apparition of the Lord himself.

There is a story of a pious hermit who gave up all his possessions for the sake of Our Lord, except one pet cat whom he always petted fondly.  He asked the Lord once to reveal to him whom he might share his eternal reward with.  The Lord told him that he might hope to share it with Gregory.  The hermit groaned at this, wondering what his voluntary poverty was availing him, if would have the same eternal reward as Gregory who lived in such opulence.  But one day he heard the voice of the Lord say to him, “How dare you compare your state to Gregory’s?  It is not wealth that makes a man rich, but his love of those things.  You show your love of that cat, your treasure, every day.  But Gregory despises all the wealth around him, and gives it away with an open hand.”  After that the hermit thanked the Lord for correcting him, and prayed that he might be worthy to share eternity with Gregory.

He took the greatest care that the liturgy of the Church was celebrated properly.  It was Gregory who organized and classified the rites and prayers of the church into the (more or less) present system (1962).  He also gathered the chants of the Church and assigned them to their current place in the Liturgy (which is why the chants are now known as Gregorian Chant) and even founded a school for chanters.  He codified certain other aspects of the Roman Missal, including the 3x3x3 kyriae.  He increased the number of processions and litanies.

Gregory never forgot the British youths he saw in the Roman market.  He sent St. Augustine of Canterbury, with forty other monks to carry out the conversion of Britain that he himself wished to do.  He also sent missionaries to Gaul, Africa, and to schismatics in Northern Italy.  He lost no opportunity to defend the faith from error with the utmost vigilance.

He left us with many letters, sermons, and other writings, including a biography of St. Benedict and instructions for bishops on how to care for souls.  Throughout all his writing his insight into the Scriptures and knowledge of Early Church Fathers shine forth clearly.  He did all in his power to promote monasticism, encouraging wealthy people to support and establish monasteries as he had done with the property he inherited from his parents.

In St. Gregory the Great we have one of the finest examples of what it means to love God and love our neighbor.

For more wonderful images of St. Gregory checkout Wikimedia Commons.

And here is a coloring page of St. Gregory.

And here is an interesting article about the history of the Roman Rite liturgical books

All information in is this post comes from the following sources:

1 Catholic Encyclopedia article on Gregory the Great

2 Lesson from Matins on Gregory’s feast day

3 The Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger vol 5

4 Golden Legend – Life of St. Gregory

Purgatorian Manual Update

Filed under: Prayer — Posted by: benedictus November 29, 2012 @ 10:56 pm

The Purgatorian Manual (link in the side bar) is now available in ebook form.  I have a kindle version (kf8, so it should work on the Fire) and an epub version.  I tested it on my wife’s Kindle Keyboard and it looked fine, but I don’t have a physical device to check the epub version.  If anyone with a Nook or other epub-enabled device could check it out I would be grateful.  I assume it looks fine on the Kindle Fire, but again if someone could check it for me, that would be great.

Please put these to good use, and pray for the Holy Souls.

The Famine

Filed under: Bible — Posted by: benedictus August 28, 2012 @ 9:23 pm

No, it’s not about the drought.

Behold the days come, saith the Lord, and I will send forth a famine into the land: not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the word of the Lord. – Amos 8:11