Category Archives: Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments

Herbs Blessing, Byzantine style

In an age old tradition of the Church, the faithful experience a blessing of herbs and  flowers on the Solemnity of the Assumption. Here is a blessing taken from the Byzantine ritual and so we ought to say the “Dormition”, this is the proper term in the East for what the Latins call the Assumption of Mary.

O almighty, eternal God, by your word alone You created out of nothing the heavens, earth, sea, and all things visible and invisible. You commanded that the earth give forth plants and trees for the needs of man and animal, each according to its need. In your infinite goodness You ordained that these plants serve not only as food for the animals but also as medicine for the sick body. We beseech you, bless these different plants and fruits and bestow upon them your blessing, and endow them with your power, so that they may serve man and animal like as a defense against all sickness and all that is impure: for You are our God and we give glory to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Amen.

These flowers (or: plants) are blessed and sanctified by the sprinkling of this holy water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Herbs Blessing on the Assumption Solemnity, August 15

It is customary in the Western Church, since at least the 10th century, for the priest to bless herbs on the Solemnity of the Assumption. The Eastern Church likely had a similar formulary much earlier.

As a point of liturgical fact, the Church asks God to bless herbs and flowers –and thus us– to remind all of us of the gifts God has given us for our sustenance, healing and beauty. In many places the faithful had all their flowers blessed, especially those closely associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Herbs blessing, therefore, is another example of giving thanks, a key theological and liturgical point in our life of faith. While customary it is not likely to be used in many parishes. The collects for the herbs blessing rich and savory.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2001) says of herbs blessing:

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (15 August) is deeply imbedded in popular piety. In many places the feast is synonymous with the person of Our Lady, and is simply referred to as “Our Lady’s Day” or as the “Immacolada” in Spain and Latin America.

In the Germanic countries, the custom of blessing herbs is associated with 15 August. This custom, received into the Rituale Romanum (200), represents a clear example of the genuine evangelization of pre-Christian rites and beliefs: one must turn to God, through whose word “the earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seeds in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds” (Gen 1, 12) in order to obtain what was formerly obtained by magic rites; to stem the damages deriving from poisonous herbs, and benefit from the efficacy of curative herbs.

This ancient use came to be associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, in part because of the biblical images applied to her such as vine, lavender, cypress and lily, partly from seeing her in terms of a sweet smelling flower because of her virtue, and most of all because of Isaiah 11, 1, and his reference to the “shoot springing
from the side of Jesse”, which would bear the blessed fruit of Jesus.

The Order of Blessing of Herbs is found here.

Transfiguration of the Lord

Christ Jesus, the brightness of the Father and the image of His substance, upholding all things by the word of His power, effecting man’s purgation from sin, has deigned to appear this day in glory on a high mountain.

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The Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. It is one of two times in the liturgical year that the gospel tells the narrative of the Lord’s being transfigured. The other time we hear the narrative of the Transfiguration is in Lent. The Franciscans built a church to mark the sight of the Transfiguration and the oldest monastery in Sinai, Saint Catherine’s (an Orthodox monastery), has an ancient mosaic dedicated to this feast. As point of ecclesial comparison, the Orthodox Church observes today also as a significant feast of the Lord. Hence, the commonality of liturgical observances gives witness to a Christian reality.

Today’s feast is a twofold reminder of the Lord’s victory over death and the promise of the resurrection. You will recall that the one of the witnesses to this vision is Peter, and this vision of the Lord’s glory happens after Peter’s confession of who Jesus is and his belief in Jesus’ messiahship. A very bold claim to make, indeed. One might say that the vision portrayed in the gospel today is a reward for faith, hope and love in the Lord’s proclamation of the Kingdom. It also foreshadows the Lord’s passion and death on Calvary. This event is preparatory for that great event on what we now call Good Friday and Easter Sunday. All the synoptics record the Transfiguration.

Rafael’s beautiful painting is an enduring testament of the apostolic vision on Mount Tabor. The upper part of the painting is that of Jesus with Peter, James and John. The lower section relates the Lord’s curing of a possessed child. It is said that Rafael was commissioned to paint the Transfiguration to celebrate the Christian triumph over the Muslims and to state in no uncertain terms what Christians believe: Jesus as the divine physician overcomes death of the body and in doing so gives us glory in the resurrection. The addition of the child’s cure demonstrates for us this fact: that the Lord restores to life a sick child, thus conquering sickness and death.
In this way the Lord’s Transfiguration fulfills what was told by the prophet Elijah and Moses who spoke of future glory.
What Rafael does for us is to invite us into the Lord’s promise of immortality. He shows us that the Lord is preparing us to enter into the destiny that God the Father offered to us: communion with Himself.
O God, Who in the glorious Transfiguration of Thine only-begotten Son did confirm the mysteries of the faith by the testimonies of the fathers, and Who by Thy voice from the shining cloud did in a wondrous manner foreshadow the perfect adoption of sons, make us in Thy loving-kindness, we beseech Thee, co-heirs with Him Who is the King of glory and in that very glory call us one day to share.

St Stanislaus Church (New Haven, CT) to host the St Gregory Society

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Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, Archbishop of Hartford, in a letter to the Saint Gregory Society of New Haven, Connecticut, gave his permission for the Traditional Latin Mass community to relocate from Sacred Heart Church in New Haven to Saint Stanislaus Church at 9 Eld Street in New Haven.

“He wants to be certain the church is appropriate for your needs,” wrote the archbishop.

He gave permission for the first Traditional Latin Mass at Saint Stanislaus in New Haven to be on The Feast of the Holy Cross, September 13, 2009. The Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal will be celebrated at 2 pm at Saint Stanislaus just as it had been celebrated at 2 PM at Sacred Heart.

In his cordial letter of introduction, Archbishop Mansell encouraged cordial relations with the pastor, Father Roman Kmiec, C.M., pastor of Saint Stanislaus. Father Kmiec has indeed warmly welcomed the Saint Gregory Society.

Archbishop Mansell said he was “glad to help” the Saint Gregory Society in finding a new home for the Community.

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Saint Stanislaus Church is staffed by the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians) of the New England Province. The Vincentians, an congregation of priests and brothers founded by Saint Vincent de Paul in the 1600s, spread the gospel message of Jesus in championing the needs of the poor.

The De Paul Provincial House is located at 234 Keeney Street in Manchester, CT.

I am happy to receive this news. I spent nine years of my formative years at Saint Stan’s with the Vincentians and the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Saint Stan’s is New Haven’s best looking church maintaining the original artwork and liturgical furnishings.

The Saint Gregory Society of New Haven is a non-profit lay association founded in 1985 to promote the local celebration of the Traditional Latin Liturgy according to the Tridentine Missal in response to the Papal indult of October 3, 1984, Quattuor abhinc annos, which granted the use of the liturgical books in force in 1962.

Since January 1986, the Traditional Latin Mass regularly has been celebrated at the Sacred Heart Church in downtown New Haven. The Saint Gregory Society exists primarily to advocate the preservation of the immemorial rite of the Mass, to work for its celebration on a regular and unrestricted basis, and to disseminate information about and cultivate interest in the classical Roman liturgy and its central importance for Catholic faith and culture.

The Society supports a professional Schola Cantorum that provides the proper Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony for all sung liturgical functions.

For further information: saintgregorysociety@gmail.com.

(this article is edited & adapted)

Will there be a common date for Easter? Ever?

Do you ever think of the (dis)unity of Christians? Are you concerned enough to pray for the unity of the Churches? Today after Mass I prayed a prayer that asked God the Father to give us the grace of unity among Christians while He also fixes the errors that exist among the same. A tall order I know but I am known for bold requests! For some time I’ve been praying that one day–in my lifetime– that among some Christian churches we can observe a common date of Easter if not also a common altar. Needless to say, I am saddened by the fact that most Christians don’t
have an issue with the various Christian churches and ecclesial communities celebrating
Easter on different days. I lament this apathetic approach to our observing THE most solemn day of our Lord and Savior’s triumph over sin and death.


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Admittedly, the problem of
a common date for Easter is nearly as old as Christianity itself. History
shows us that when the Apostles formed the various Christian communities under the power of the Spirit and by their work of evangelization differing opinions surfaced on how and when to commemorate Jesus Christ’s death
and resurrection. Most often differing opinions were based on how the four
gospels recorded the events of our salvation. We know the first attempt at
deciding a common date for Easter began with the Council of Nicaea (325). The
Council taught that the date of Easter would be the first Sunday after the full
moon following the vernal equinox. However, there was no method for calculating
the full moon or the vernal equinox.

Today, we have the practice of the Orthodox churches who use the March 21st of the Julian calendar as the date of the equinox, while the churches of
the Western tradition  base
their calculations on the Gregorian calendar.  Hence, a window of difference is five weeks exists. Hmmm!!!???

According to a report on a recent
seminar in the Ukraine attended by Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant
theologians of Europe, all participants endorsed a compromise proposed at a 1997 World Council of
Churches (WCC) consultation in Aleppo, Syria. Notice that no North American theologians’ opinions were considered. The proposal made was to keep the
Nicaea rule but calculate the equinox and full moon using the accurate
astronomical data available today, rather than those used many years ago.
Brilliant, if you ask me!  Now I
wonder of the  churchmen who head
these churches also agree.

Recently, the French Orthodox theologian Professor
Antoine Arjakovsky, director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies, pointed
out: “Whilst the astronomic reckoning of the Nicean rule comes closer to
the Gregorian calendar than to the ancient Julian one, the Roman Catholic and
Protestant churches did take a step towards the Orthodox churches in Aleppo,
accepting that the date of Easter should be established on the base of a cosmic
calendar rather than by a fixed date as had been proposed prior to the
inter-Orthodox meeting in Chambésy in 1977.”

In 2010 and 2011 there is a
convergence of calendars which will produce a common Easter date that may, one hopes, serve as
an opportunity for all Christians to join together for a celebration that is
not based on mere coincidence. By Easter 2012 (April 8), can we hope that a
date based on exact astronomical reckoning and celebrated by all Christians?

It
seems that it’s not only theology or the calendar’s calculations that’s the
problem but the ecclesial relations among the communities of faith. Sad if you
ask me.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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