A Greek Start to the New Year
by Fr. William Rock, FSSP
The Roman Liturgy has never been afraid to borrow from other Apostolic Liturgical traditions in order to enrich her own. Such a borrowing occurs on the Octave Day of Christmas, January 1st, where the Benedictus Antiphon at Lauds is extracted from a hymn of the Greek Church which is sung on December 26th, a day the Greeks consecrate to the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Latin of this Antiphon is as follows:
Mirábile mystérium declarátur hódie: innovántur natúræ, Deus homo factus est: id quod fuit permánsit, et quod non erat assúmpsit; non commixtiónem passus, neque divisiónem.
Which can be translated as:
An admirable mystery is this day revealed: the two Natures are united in a new way, God is made Man: He remained what He was, and He assumed what He was not, suffering neither confusion nor division.1
The subject matter of this Antiphon is one of the central mysteries of the Christian Faith and a focus of the Christmas season: the Incarnation. Unfortunately, various heresies have arisen over the course of the history of Christianity regarding this truth. Succinctly do the various parts of the Antiphon declare the Catholic and Apostolic Faith on the matter. Each will be treated in turn.
“The two Natures are united in a new way” – Prior to the Incarnation, the only union of the Divine and Human Natures, the two natures referred to by this portion of Antiphon, was when God brought those who believed in Him into a State of Sanctifying Grace, making them “partakers of the Divine Nature” (2 Pet 1:4).2 But, even though a man thus sanctified participated in the Divine Life and was elevated supernaturally, he still remained a human person, he still only possessed human nature. An elevated human nature to be sure, one united to and participating in the Divine Nature, but still only a human nature. In the case of Our Lord, the unity between His Divine and Human Natures was something completely new and unique to Him. He was not a Divine Person participating in human nature, nor was He a human person participating in the Divine Nature – as is possibly the case for all human persons. Rather, in the case of the Our Lord, the Divine and Human Natures were united personally. He is One Person in Two Natures. He is both God and Man.
“God is made man” – The Arian heresy claimed that “the Word (Logos) does not exist from all eternity. He is not generated from the Father, but is a creature of the Father, created by Him from nothing before all other creatures.”3 The Arians would hold, then, that the Word which was made man was only a creature and not God. Contrary to this, the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) taught that the One Who became Incarnate was “God from God, light from light, true God from true God…consubstantial with the Father”4 and the Creed Quicumque Vult (also known as the Athanasian Creed) declares the Son, the Word, to be “uncreated,” “eternal,” and that the “Son is God,”5 just as the Father is. This portion of the Antiphon excludes the Arian position that a creature, even the greatest of creatures, was made man by declaring that “God,” and nothing other than God, “is made man.” “God” meaning here, of course, the Person of the Son and “man” meaning, as explained in the just mentioned Creed, “perfect man, consisting of a rational soul and a human body.”6
“He remained what He was” – It is tempting to think that when the Son became Man, He underwent some sort of change, with something either being added to or taken away from His Divine Nature which allowed for its union with His Human Nature. But the Council of Nicaea anathemized in its Creed the position that the Son is “changeable or mutable,”7 for the Divine Nature is incapable of change. In the same vein, the Fathers of the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) proclaimed, “We do not say that the nature of the Word was changed” in the Incarnation (The Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius).8 And so, in the Incarnation, the Son remained what He was. His Divine Nature did not undergo any change whatsoever nor did it somehow suffer loss or a lessening in the Incarnation.
“He assumed what He was not” – While the Son, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, was, is, and always will be God, in the Incarnation, He became man. He, being God and remaining God, became what He was not: Man. As the Creed Quicumque Vult explains, the Incarnation occurred “not by the conversion of the Divinity into a human body [which would be a change of the Divinity], but by the assumption of the humanity in the Godhead.”9 That the Word assumed a Human Nature is the language of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) and The Tome of St. Leo (A.D. 499).10
“Suffering neither confusion” – The heresy of Monophysitism claimed that Christ is One Person and one nature. Some Monotheists “assumed a confusion or mixture of the Two Natures into one new third nature.”11 Contrary to this position, the Council of Chalcedon defined: “that one and the same Christ, the Son, the Lord, the Only-begotten is to be recognized in two natures without confusion…The distinction between the natures was never abolished by their union but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together.”12 The One Person of the Son is preserved as well as the integrity of both the Divine and the Human Nature – for Our Lord is truly God and truly man, not some strange third thing.
“Nor division” – While the Monophysites combined the two Natures of Christ into one, those who followed the Nestorian heresy divide the Two Natures into two persons who are united morally. Nestorianism was condemned by the early Ecumenical Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. The Council of Chalcedon “declared that the two natures of Christ are joined ‘in one Person…’”13 To partially fill in the ellipse from the preceding paragraph, the same Council taught “that one and the same Christ, the Son, the Lord, the Only-begotten is to be recognized in two natures without confusion…without division or separation.”
And thus, in only a few phrases, the Roman Benedictus Antiphon for the Feast of the Circumcision summarizes the main teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the Incarnation. By the prayers of her liturgy, the Church protects and declares the true faith.
Pondering all of what has just been said in our hearts, we clearly see that the opening of the Antiphon rings true, “an admirable mystery is this day revealed!”
William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.
1. Prosper, Guéranger. The Liturgical Year – Volume II – Christmas, Book I. Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2000, p. 388. The antiphon can be variously translated. The Divinum Officium Project provides the following translation: “This day is set forth a wonderful mystery, a new thing hath been created in the earth: God is made man. That which He was, He remaineth; and that which He was not, He taketh; suffering therein neither confusion nor division.” For the purpose of this article, however, the translation from The Liturgical Year was used.
2. See Ott, Ludwig, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Baronius Press, 2018, p. 276.
3. Ibid., p. 57.
4. Denzinger, Henry, The Sources of Catholic Dogma . Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2010, §54.
5. Ibid., §§39-40.
7. Ibid., §54.
8. Ibid., §111a.
9. Ibid., §§39-40.
10. Ibid., §143.
11. Ott, p. 159.
13. Ibid., p. 157.
January 18, 2022
OLG Seminary featured in Liturgical Arts Journal
Earlier this week, Liturgical Arts Journal ran a wonderfully extensive article on Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton Nebraska, featuring dozens of photographs of the interior and exterior and lots of great information on the historical foundation of the seminary, its architecture, and its academic and spiritual programs.
Read all about it on LAJ’s site here:
January 14, 2022
Thank You and Merry Christmas!
December 23, 2021
Do You Hear What I Hear?
By Fr. William Rock, FSSP
The Liturgical Year, with all of its seasons and feasts of the temporal cycle, is a whole. While this is hard to see as the faithful progress from one season to another, from one feast to another, it is nevertheless true and can be seen when examined with this view in mind. Holy Mother Church, for her part, leaves little hints here and there to lift the minds of the faithful to such considerations. One of the ways she does is by her use of chant and this from nearly the beginning of the Liturgical Year.
During the Office of Prime, the Martyrology1 entry for the following day is sung, when the Office is fully chanted, in the Prophecy Tone. This tone is also used for all the pre-Epistle Lessons sung at Mass, such as on Ember Days, during the ceremonies of the Triduum, and other such occasions. But during Prime of the Vigil of Christmas, Christmas Eve Day, something unique happens. After the usual introduction (which indicates the day of the Moon), the reading of the Martyrology commences with the Christmas Proclamation which details the lapse of time from various historical events to the Nativity of the Lord. There is a fittingness that these historical events leading up to the coming of the Lord should be sung in a Tone called Prophecy as at those times there was only a promise of a Redeemer yet to come.
But then, when the chanter reaches the phrase “in Bethlehem of Juda, is born of the Virgin, Mary, being made Man,” he raises the pitch of the chant a fourth,2 marking, perhaps, with excitement, the end of the time of promise, of expectation, and the start of something new, while all kneel, reverencing the Mystery of the Incarnation as during the Angelus, the Credo, and the Last Gospel of St. John’s Prologue. Then, exceptionally, the last line of the Proclamation – “The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Flesh!” – is sung in tone which is similar to that used by the narrator during the Passions in Holy Week. In this way, the Liturgy links the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord and His Passion and Death as presented during the liturgies of Holy Week and brings to mind that Christ came into this world to suffer and to die for our salvation.
As an aside, but still in keeping with the broader subject matter of this article, this is not the only instance during Advent which points forward to the Passion of Christ. During Vespers on the Sundays and Ferias of Advent, the Church sings in her hymn Creator alme siderum the following:
Who, that thou mightst our ransom pay
And wash the stains of sin away,
Wouldst from a Virgin’s womb proceed
And on the cross a victim bleed.3
Thus, from the First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent, the Church is looking forward to the Passion. A similar tone is taken in the Advent Lauds Hymn, En clara vox redarguit:
Lo, the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heaven;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven.4
The Lamb, referring to Christ, is an animal of sacrifice.
As the Liturgical Year transitions from Advent to Christmas, and then from Christmastide to the Feast of the Epiphany, another instance emerges. After the chanting of the Gospel on the feast of the Epiphany, the Noveritis (named from the first word of the text) is traditionally chanted at principal churches. This proclamation makes known to the faithful that year’s dates of Easter, Septuagesima, Ash Wednesday, Ascension, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and the First Sunday of Advent (which are all moveable). As Dom Guéranger wrote in his Liturgical Year, “this custom…shows both the mysterious connection which unites the great Solemnities of the year one with another,” echoing the current general theme, “and the importance the faithful ought to attach to the celebration of the greatest one of all,”5 Easter. As the faithful are honoring the manifestations of Christ on the Epiphany, they will also celebrate Him, on the announced date of Easter, as the Conqueror of Death. But it is not just in the announcing of the Feast of Easter that this connection is made, for the chant of the Noveritis is nearly the same as the Exsultet of the Easter Vigil. As such, this chant gives a taste of Paschal joy and expectation to this publication of the date of Easter.
If these aforementioned chants can be used to point future events in the Liturgical Year, then their later use must necessarily point backwards. For would not hearing the Narrator of the Passions during Passion Week bring the faithful back in mind to the start of the Liturgical Year when it first resounded through the sacred edifice? And would not the strains of the Exsultet harken the listeners back to the proclamation which followed so quickly on the Lord’s Nativity? And just as Easter Sunday could not exist without Good Friday, so neither could the Exsultet be sung if it were not proceeded by the Passions. Nor could there be a Passion if there were no Incarnation and no public manifestations (epiphanies) of the Incarnate One.
This wholeness of Our Lord’s life, then, is not neglected by His Spouse, Holy Mother Church, for when she makes present to the faithful, through the sacred signs of the liturgy, what must necessarily be expressed in distinct observances by her children, time-bound, material creatures, she expresses that such observances are parts of a greater whole, connecting them in ways which reveal both her maternal solicitude for her children and her liturgical ingenuity.
William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.
1. A book which contains many of the Saints and liturgical events associated with each given day.
2. Johner, Dominic. A New School of Gregorian Chant. New York: Fr. Pustet & Co., 1925, p 325. The notation for the Christmas Proclamation shown in the image is taken from here also, while the notation for the Passion, slightly modified, is taken from Cantus Passionis Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Secundum Matthaeum, Marcum, Lucam et Joannem. Ex Editione Vaticana, 1953, p. 7.
3. Britt, Matthew. The Hymns of The Breviary and Missal. New York: Benziger Brothers, 1936, pp. 95-97. This hymn is from the 7th century and is from the Ambrosian school. A more literal translation of the above is: “To expiate the common guilt of mankind, Thou, a spotless Victim, didst go forth to the Cross from the sacred womb of a Virgin.”
4. Ibid., pp 99-100. This hymn is from the 5th century and is from Ambrosian school. A more literal translation of the above is: “Behold, the Lamb is sent to us, to pay our debt gratuitously: together, let us all with tears pray for pardon.”
5. Prosper, Guéranger. The Liturgical Year – Volume III – Christmas, Book II. Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2000, p. 124. The translation of the Christmas Proclamation is taken from the same work, volume I, p. 511. The notation for the Noveritis shown in the image, as well as the image from the Pontificale is taken from Schola Sainte Cécile’s and the notation for the Exsultet is taken from the Roman Missal.
December 15, 2021
St. John Neumann on the Immaculate Conception
In 1854, St. John Neumann, bishop of Philadelphia, was invited to Rome to attend the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Before he set sail, he issued an edifying Pastoral letter to his flock where he touched on this privilege of Our Lady. In joyous celebration today of the patroness of the USA, we are pleased to print an excerpt of this letter below. –ed.
“Although the Church has not yet declared the Immaculate Conception to be an article of faith, nevertheless it is evident she cherishes this most just and pious belief with a loving constancy second only to that infallible certainty with which she maintains the truth of all those doctrines the acceptance of which is necessary for salvation. With a zeal probably never surpassed in former ages, the subject has been investigated by many of the most gifted and holy men now living; and with such a munificent outlay of ancient and modern learning, of profound argument and soul-stirring eloquence have they treated it, as to leave not only the more devout clients of Mary, but every unbiassed mind convinced beyond the possibility of doubt, that if there be anything certainly true, next to the defined doctrines of faith, it is this apostolic and therefore ancient and beautiful belief.
Hence it is not surprising that, wherever enlightened piety exists, hardly a moment’s hesitation on this subject will be entertained. — Caro Jesu! Caro Mariæ ! –“The flesh of Jesus is the flesh of Mary!” they will at once exclaim with the great St. Augustine.
How can it be that the God of all purity, to whom even the least shadow of sin is an object of eternal abhorrence, should have suffered His Virgin Mother to be, even for an instant, such an object in His sight? From her He received that flesh and blood-that human nature in which, made one with the Divinity, He redeemed the world: and can we believe that the same in Mary’s person, in any possible degree, was ever sullied by the demon’s breath, dishonored by the taint of guilt? Or, again, with St. Cyril the pious Catholic will ask, “Who hath ever heard that an architect built a glorious dwelling for himself and at once gave it over to be possessed by his most cruel and hated enemy?’
If there were no other words of Holy Writ on this topic than these: “Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ’ (St. Matt. i. 16.)—they would be amply sufficient. Behold the divine fact that overthrows every difficulty, the inspired oracle that sweeps away every objection!
Never, Christian brethren, never can we admit that she was for one moment the slave of the devil;—the Virgin who was destined to be the Mother of God, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Mediatrix of Mankind, the Terror of the Powers of Darkness, the Queen of all the Heavenly Hosts.
Purer than heaven’s purest angel, brighter than its brightest seraph, Mary, after her Creator, God, –who made and gave her all–is the most perfect of beings, the masterpiece of Infinite Wisdom, Almighty Power, and Eternal Love.
To such a being we cannot reasonably suppose that a perfection was denied which had been already gratuitously bestowed on inferior creatures–on the Angelic Spirits, for example, some of whom afterward fell away from God and are lost forever. And again, the first man and the first woman were created sinless–pure as the virgin world on which the Almighty had just looked down with infinite delight and declared it to be “valde bona!”-exceeding good!
How just and natural, therefore,–may we not add, how unavoidable?–is the conclusion that this sublime privilege was not withheld from Mary, set apart as she was from all eternity for an office and for honors in the kingdom of God, to which no other created being ever will or can be exalted! The more so since profound divines do not hesitate to assert that, rather than be without the grace conferred upon her in her Immaculate Conception, and thus, though only for an instant, an object of God’s displeasure, Mary would have preferred to forfeit forever the infinite dignity of being the Mother of Jesus Christ.
Gladly would we dwell more at length on the subject, but as you may yourselves observe the occasion does not allow it. The few thoughts we have uttered are but the echo of Christian antiquity, of the faith, the filial love, the confidence in Mary, when apostles and evangelists were still on earth and revered her name.
How profound should be our gratitude in being able to say, that name we also reverence, their confidence in Mary we cherish, their filial love we share, their faith is ours! Could the Martyrs and Virgins, the heroic confessors of the faith, the renowned Fathers and Doctors of the Church, “beloved of God and men, and whose memory is in benediction” (Eccles. xlv.)–could these arise and unite their voices to those of their successors now around the Chair of Peter, what would be their testimony?
They would point to their immortal writings, and in the language of St. Augustine, so worthy a representative of the genius, wisdom, and piety of the primitive Church, they would remind us that when they speak of the law by which all the children of Adam are born children of wrath, “they speak not of Mary,” with regard to whom, on account of the honor due to our Lord, when they discourse of sin they wish to raise no question whatsoever. (Lib. de nat, et grat.) Nay, with an Amen, loud as that which St. Jerome tells us rolled through the magnificent churches of Rome like the thunder of heaven, they would respond to the following declaration of the Council of Trent (Sess. V.): ‘This Holy Synod declares that it is not its intention to include in this decree, where original sin is spoken of, the Blessed and Immaculate Mother of God.’
May the day soon dawn upon the world–whether it be in our unhappy times or not–when with one mind and heart Christendom will acknowledge and proclaim this her most honorable privilege!”
December 8, 2021
Extraordinary Thoughts Liturgical Guides
As we begin another liturgical year, help get in the spirit of the liturgy with Fr. William Rock’s Extraordinary Thoughts series, which Father has kindly made available on the FSSP website. Print them out for yourselves and your loved ones to make each of your liturgical seasons extraordinary.
November 24, 2021
On Giving Thanks
Note from the editor: Thanks to the mercy of Almighty God, and no doubt the fervent prayers of all the FSSP faithful, Fr. Christopher Mahowald has recovered from COVID and is gradually reassuming his priestly duties as pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Scranton, PA. This past Sunday he wrote a short letter to his parish that he kindly allowed us to share here. We thought it a perfect reflection not only for the holiday but also for our profound gratitude for his recovery and return to priestly work.
Dear Faithful of St. Michael the Archangel,
This upcoming Thursday we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving. A few words on giving thanks would only be appropriate.
Our Catechism teaches us that there are four ends, or purposes, to an act of sacrifice, especially as sacrifice pertains to the Catholic Mass. They are: adoration, atonement, thanksgiving, and petition. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians tells us that we should “give thanks to God always and for everything in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Eph. 5:20).
Our Lord Himself taught us the importance of giving thanks when He praised the cured leper who returned to give thanks for the miracle. Thanksgiving is a very important aspect of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for in the Mass, Christ becomes truly present on the altar, and through the prayers of the Church and the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, He borrows the voice and limbs of the ordained priest to look up to His heavenly Father and give thanks for all the gifts and graces bestowed on man.
Every good thing in our lives is a gift from Him: time, space, air, beauty, love, family, friends, grace, the sacraments, etc. The crosses, struggles, and sorrows that we meet in our life all come as a result of sin, i.e. the gift of free will used wrongly, whether by ourselves or another.
Sin is never just personal, it affects all of the members of the mystical body.
One suggestion I’d give to make your prayer more efficacious: take a few minutes every day to think of particular gifts or graces that God has blessed you with on that day. This act is already one of gratitude. But then thank God for each of them and acknowledge His hands in our life.
So often our prayer can become a list of petitions, or maybe even concerns that we may have, but I think you will make great strides in your prayer if you make gratitude a greater part of it.
Gratitude, St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, is something we always owe in justice for a gift received, and no one has been more generous with us and no one can be more worthy of our gratitude than our Heavenly Father.
May the Immaculate Heart of Mary teach us to imitate her Divine Son in true gratitude and devotion.
–Rev. Christopher Mahowald, FSSP.
Giving Tuesday on November 30, 2021
Your local FSSP priests are working harder than ever. They’re celebrating more Masses. They’ve extended their hours for confession. They’re bringing the sacraments to seriously ill Catholics in hospitals. They’re recording sermons and posting them online for Catholics who are starved for spiritual guidance. They’re processing stacks of parishioner registration forms and researching ways to expand the seating at their parishes.
But they’re not complaining. Rather, our priests consider it a privilege to bring Jesus to you. Each of our priests in the North American Province aims to spend his entire life taking care of your spiritual needs. Will you show your gratitude by reassuring our priests that you’ll help take care of their physical needs for as long as they live?
Please Support the FSSP’s “Priest Forever” Fund on Giving Tuesday
The FSSP is still a community of predominantly young priests. But as time goes by, we’ll have more and more priests who aren’t actively engaged in the activities of our apostolates.
There are three reasons for this:
Even young communities get old. The FSSP is celebrating its thirty-third anniversary this year. It won’t be long before we see a significant number of our priests near retirement age. Moreover, a few older priests have also joined our ranks. They all deserve to know that we’ll take care of their housing, medical care, and other necessities. Meanwhile, the many priests we’ve ordained over the past couple of decades will soon reach a stage of life at which medical costs can increase exponentially.
Some priests will experience serious medical problems. For reasons only God can understand, sometimes He allows His faithful workers to undergo medical hardships that require costly care. For example, in 2016, a long-time FSSP priest experienced a severe hemorrhagic stroke, the effects of which left him unable to celebrate Mass again. Due to needing constant medical attention, he spent his final years in a care home, offering his sufferings for the FSSP. It was a blessing to provide for his every need—but as the FSSP grows and the proportion of aging priests increases, such situations create new obligations that must be met with our dedicated support.
As the North American Province expands, we’ll need more priests to work outside of parish life for the benefit of the Fraternity itself. There are certain decisions within a priestly community that can only be made by priests—decisions about the health of individual apostolates as well as our entire community. Opening more apostolates and expanding our current apostolates will require more oversight and support from our North American headquarters.
In response, the FSSP has established the Priest Forever Fund. This fund aims to provide for the physical needs of FSSP priests even when they are not assigned to an apostolate. With this fund, we can thank our hardworking priests for making a total gift of their lives. This year on Giving Tuesday, the FSSP aims to raise $200,000 for the Priest Forever Fund—enough to make a substantial investment in the long-term well-being of our priests. Here’s how you can help.
Please Make Your Gift on November 30
As you probably know, Giving Tuesday is an annual online event in which nonprofits of all kinds seek to raise money on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year’s Giving Tuesday will be on November 30, 2021.
Your gifts on Giving Tuesday will support the overall good of FSSP priests—whether they’re working in apostolates, assigned to other duties, retired, or on medical leave. You’ll help us continue to establish new apostolates and staff them with hardworking priests. You’ll give those priests assurance that just as they have always been there to meet your spiritual needs, you will always be here to care for their physical needs.
Making your donation of any size takes just seconds online. As a special thanks to all who support us, we’ll enter donors into a drawing to win one of several FSSP-branded gifts.
In honor of our 33rd anniversary, all gifts at $1,533 and above will receive a brand-new 4-pack of FSSP-branded craft beer glasses, and those above $733 will receive a copy of our Vade Mecum prayer book. Also, givers of $133 or more will have a chance to win special FSSP gifts like rosaries, stained glass, magnets, calendars, and holy water bottles. The more milestones we hit, the more we will give away.
We’re always humbled by your generosity, and we thank you for your friendship and support. With your help, the FSSP will continue to form priests for life.
November 22, 2021
Bread – A Mirrored Curse
by Fr. William Rock, FSSP
In the plan of salvation, God mirrored, as it were, conditions of the Fall in the conditions of the Redemption. At the Fall, there was a man, Adam; a woman, Eve; and a tree with forbidden fruit, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (see Gen 3). At the event which merited in a particular way for us our salvation, the Crucifixion, there was a man, Christ, the new Adam (see 1 Cor 15:45); a woman, Mary, seen by the Fathers as the new Eve;1 and a tree, the Cross (e.g., Act 5:30). The link between the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Cross is also expressed in Preface of the Holy Cross – God, You Who “didst establish the salvation of mankind on the tree of the Cross; that whence death came, thence also life might arise again, and that he [the devil], who overcame by the tree, by the tree also might be overcome:” This Preface also illustrates this mirror, as it were, of the Fall and Redemption namely in that God utilized what the Devil used to doom man, a tree, to overcome the Devil. It was by a tree that death came to man, and from a tree, life returns.
And not only were the conditions of the Fall mirrored in the Redemption, but the very punishment imposed on account of the Fall was to be the means by which this redemption is accomplished. For God warned Adam that “of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat: but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death” (Gen 2:16-17). The death God spoke of here was primarily a spiritual death, the death of the soul by mortal sin. But natural, physical death would also follow as a consequence of Adam’s disobedience; for God decreed that Adam would return to the dust from which he was created (Gen 3:19). The Scriptural account relates that God said: “Behold Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil: now therefore lest perhaps he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. And the Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the earth from which he was taken. And he cast out Adam: and placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubims, and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Gen 3:22-24). When man was originally created, he was endowed with the preternatural gift of immortality, which immortality would have been supported by the Tree of Life.2 Man was now to suffer death for, as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world and by sin death: and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” (Rom 5:12). And yet, it was by a death that death was overcome, as the Easter Preface expresses it – “It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, at all times to praise Thee, O Lord, but more gloriously especially in this season when Christ our Pasch was sacrificed. For He is the Lamb Who hath taken away the sins of the world: Who by dying hath destroyed our death.” And yet there are still other punishments which man must suffer besides death.
When the Lord God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He gave them the following command: “Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat” (Gen 1:29). The word translated here as “meat” is the Hebrew אָכְלָה which can mean “food” or meat.”3 In this context, “meat” should be understood to mean “food” as fruit does not contain animal meat. This is reflected in the Greek and Latin translations of this passage which translated the Hebrew here as βρῶσιν and escam, respectively, which both also mean “food” or “meat.”
But later, when God metes out punishments to Adam and Eve for eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God tells Adam:
Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee, that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work: with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herbs of the earth. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat לחם till thou return to the earth out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return. (Gen 3:17-19).
Notice here that God says Adam will eat, not אָכְלָה, “food” or meat,” as previously, but rather לֶחֶם which means “food (for man or beast), especially bread, or grain (for making it).”4 The word used here is more specific than the general one used earlier by God. Here God says specially that what Adam will eat, as part of his punishment, is bread. This is reflected in the Greek and Latin, which both use their respective words for bread (ἄρτον and pane). The Douay-Rheims translates this word as “bread.” The growing of grain and the eating of bread, then, can be considered one of the curses or punishments laid on man because of the Fall. Bread, compared to the free fruits of Eden, is punishment not only because of the effort that must go into the planting and raising of the wheat, but also into the harvesting, into separating what can be eaten from what should not be, into the grinding the grains, and into the baking. All this before the bread can be eaten.
And yet, there would be times in the course of salvation history where bread would be seen as other than punishment. The Priest-King of ancient Jerusalem, Melchisedech, offered a sacrifice of bread and wine (Gen 14:18). During their time in the desert, God gave the Hebrew people “Bread from Heaven” – “And the Lord said to Moses: Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you” (Exo 16:4). Bread would also be used in the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law (e.g. Exo 29:2).
But all these positive occurrences of bread in the Old Testament were just types or foreshadowing of the Bread of the New Testament. This Bread of the New Testament was explained by Our Lord in the following words: “Amen, amen, I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven…For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven and giveth life to the world… I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst… and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (John 6: passim)
The promised Bread of the New Testament promised by Our Lord was given for the first time at the Last Supper when Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist – “the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke and said: Take ye and eat: This is my body, which shall be delivered for you. This do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood. This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me” (1 Cor 11:23-25). By the power of God, what was in Our Lord’s Hands, and which appeared to the senses to be still bread – for it looked like bread, smelled like bread, felt like bread, and tasted like bread – was really and truly the Lord’s Own Body. The substance of the bread had been changed, by Divine power, into the substance of the Body of Christ, a change which the Catholic Church fittingly calls transubstantiation.5 And this same change is effected at every Mass, when the Priest, acing in persona Christi, in the Person of Christ, repeats the action of the Lord over bread.
It is in this way that God has mirrored, as it were, bread in a way similar to the other aspects which surrounded the Fall. What was first set before man as a punishment has become an instrument for man’s sanctification and salvation. Every time one participates at Mass, one participates in this mirroring of the Fall. And thus is granted to man food for immortality infinitely greater than that which he had in the fruit of the Tree of Life.
Postscript, for the sake of completion: The first reference to wine in the Scriptures is made after the Flood: “And Noe a husbandman began to till the ground, and planted a vineyard. And drinking of the wine…” (Gen 9:20-21). The joining of wine with bread in the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass connects the Mass then not just with the Fall (through the use of bread), but also to the Flood (through the use of the wine). After both of these great calamities of early salvation history, new forms of sustenance were introduced which were then incorporated in the worship of the One, True, God.
Fr. William Rock, FSSP was ordained in the fall of 2019 and is currently assigned to Regina Caeli Parish in Houston, TX.
1. Ott, Ludwig, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Baronius Press, 2018, pp. 228-231.
2. S.T. I, q. 97, a. 4.
3. Strong’s Dictionary for eSword, H402.
4. Strong’s Dictionary for eSword, H3899.
5. Council of Trent, Session XIII, Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, Chapter IV.
November 8, 2021
November Plenary Indulgences for the deceased faithful
On October 27th, the Press Office of the Holy See released the following decree, renewing once more a privilege granted in 2020. It enables the faithful to earn plenary indulgences for the benefit of the Holy Souls throughout the entire month of November.
D E C R E E
THE Apostolic PENITENTIARY, having listened to the various pleas recently received from various Sacred Pastors of the Church, due to the continuing state of the pandemic, confirms and extends for the entire month of November 2021 all the spiritual benefits already granted on 22 October 2020, through the Decree Protocol No. 791/20/I with which, due to the “Covid-19” pandemic, the Plenary Indulgences for the deceased faithful were extended for the entire month of November 2020.
From the renewed generosity of the Church, the faithful will certainly draw pious intentions and spiritual vigour to guide their lives according to the Gospel law, in filial communion and devotion to the Supreme Pontiff, the visible foundation and Pastor of the Catholic Church.
This Decree is valid for the entire month of November, notwithstanding any provision to the contrary.
Given in Rome, at the Seat of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 27 October 2021.
Mauro Card. Piacenza
The referenced decree of 2020 is as follows:
This year, in the current circumstances due to the “Covid-19” pandemic, the Plenary Indulgences for the deceased faithful will be extended throughout the entire month of November, with adaptation of works and conditions to guarantee the safety of the faithful.
This Apostolic Penitentiary has received many petitions from holy Pastors who have asked that this year, due to the “Covid-19” epidemic, pious works be commuted in order to obtain the Plenary Indulgences applicable to souls in Purgatory, in accordance with the Manual of Indulgences (conc. 29, § 1). For this reason, the Apostolic Penitentiary, on the special mandate of His Holiness Pope Francis, willingly establishes and decides that this year, in order to avoid gatherings where they are forbidden:
a.- the Plenary Indulgence for those who visit a cemetery and pray for the deceased, even if only mentally, normally established only on the individual days from 1 to 8 November, may be transferred to other days of the same month, until its end. These days, freely chosen by the individual believers, may also be separate from each other;
b- the Plenary Indulgence of 2 November, established on the occasion of the Commemoration of all the deceased faithful for those who piously visit a church or oratory and recite the “Our Father” and the “Creed” there, may be transferred not only to the Sunday before or after or on the day of the Solemnity of All Saints, but also to another day of the month of November, freely chosen by the individual faithful.
The elderly, the sick and all those who for serious reasons cannot leave their homes, for example because of restrictions imposed by the competent authority in this time of the pandemic, in order to prevent numerous faithful from crowding into the holy places, will be able to obtain the Plenary Indulgence as long as they join spiritually with all the other faithful, completely detached from sin and with the intention of complying as soon as possible with the three usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), before an image of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary, recite pious prayers for the deceased, for example, Lauds and Vespers of the Office of the Dead, the Marian Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, other prayers for the deceased dearest to the faithful, or occupy themselves in considered reading of one of the Gospel passages proposed by the liturgy of the deceased, or perform a work of mercy by offering to God the sorrows and hardships of their own lives.
For an easier attainment of divine grace through pastoral charity, this Penitentiary earnestly prays that all priests with the appropriate faculties offer themselves with particular generosity to the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and administer Holy Communion to the sick.
However, as far as the spiritual conditions for fully achieving the Indulgence are concerned, it is worth recalling the indications already issued in the “Note on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the current pandemic” issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary on 19 March 2020.
Finally, since the souls in Purgatory are assisted by the prayers of the faithful and especially by the sacrifice of the Altar to God (cf. Conc. Tr. Sess. XXV, decr. De Purgatorio), all priests are strongly invited to celebrate Holy Mass three times on the day of the Commemoration of all the deceased faithful, in accordance with the Apostolic Constitution “Incruentum Altaris“, issued by Pope Benedict XV, of venerable memory, on 10 August 1915.
This Decree is valid throughout the entire month of November, notwithstanding any provision to the contrary.
Given in Rome, from the seat of the Apostolic Penitentiary, on 22 October 2020, memorial of Saint John Paul II.
Maurus Card. Piacenza
October 29, 2021