Tag Archives: Prosper Gueranger

Dedication of the Laterna Basilica

Lateran BasilicaSome may wonder why the Catholic Church honors the dedication of a church in Rome today and not follow the regular course of the liturgical year.  The Lateran Basilica is not your ordinary church building. It is the seat of the bishop of Rome’s pastoral authority, it the incarnation of the ministry of St Peter whom the Lord gave the keys to the Kingdom. So, the feast is not merely about a holy temple dedicated to the Lord’s service and our sanctification but also the teaching, sanctify and pastoral authority of the papal office first given to Peter which extends in time until today. It is the place of which each and every Catholic Church and Catholic receives its identity and mission: it is the place when the sacraments and the Good News rings out to the entire world because they are true.

Hence, the Church re-proposes what she professes as the abiding and objective presence of God revealed in history in the new and indestructible Temple, which is the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and the ministry through the ages in the Church.

Saint Augustine teaches:

“What was done here, as these walls were rising, is reproduced when we bring together those who believe in Christ. For, by believing they are hewn out, as it were, from mountains and forests, like stones and timber; but by catechizing, baptism and instruction they are, as it were, shaped, squared and planed by the hands of the workers and artisans. Nevertheless, they do not make a house for the Lord until they are fitted together through love” (Sermon 36.)

This basilica and not Saint Peter’s is properly the Pope’s Church.

The Basilica was dedicated on this date in 324 by Pope Sylvester and holds the title of “The Church of the Most Holy Savior” but also it bears the names of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.

While not reflecting on the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome Saint Augustine does form a few a ideas to meditate on: “‘Jerusalem that is being built as a city.’ When David was uttering these words, that city had been finished, it was not being built. It is some city he speaks of, therefore, which is now being built, unto which living stones run in faith, of whom Peter says, ‘You also, as living stones, are built up into a spiritual house, that is, the holy temple of God’. What does it mean, you are built up as living stones? You live, if you believe, but if you believe, you are made a temple of God; for the Apostle Paul says, ‘For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple’.”

But as a little history may be important, Dom Prosper Guéranger offers a perspective on today’s feast:

The residence of the Popes which was named the Lateran Palace was built by Lateranus Palutius, whom Nero put to death to seize his goods. It was given in the year 313 by Constantine the Great to Saint Miltiades, Pope, and was inhabited by his successors until 1308, when they moved to Avignon. The Lateran Basilica built by Constantine near the palace of the same name, is the first Basilica of the West. Twelve councils, four of which were ecumenical, have assembled there, the first in 649, the last in 1512.

If for several centuries the Popes have no longer dwelt in the Palace, the primacy of the Basilica is not thereby altered; it remains the head of all churches. Saint Peter Damian wrote that just as the Saviour is the Head of the elect, the church which bears His name is the head of all the churches. Those of Saints Peter and Paul, to its left and its right, are the two arms by which this sovereign and universal Church embraces the entire earth, saving all who desire salvation, warming them, protecting them in its maternal womb.

The Divine Office narrates the dedication of the Church by the Pope of Peace, Saint Sylvester:

It was the Blessed Pope Sylvester who established the rites observed by the Roman Church for the consecration of churches and altars. From the time of the Apostles there had been certain places dedicated to God, which some called oratories, and others, churches. There, on the first day of the week, the assembly was held, and there the Christian people were accustomed to pray, to hear the Word of God, and to receive the Eucharist. But never had these places been consecrated so solemnly; nor had a fixed altar been placed there which, anointed with sacred chrism, was the symbol of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who for us is altar, victim and Pontiff. But when the Emperor Constantine through the sacrament of Baptism had obtained health of body and salvation of soul, a law was issued by him which for the first time permitted that everywhere in the world Christians might build churches. Not satisfied to establish this edict, the prince wanted to give an example and inaugurate the holy labors. Thus in his own Lateran palace, he dedicated a church to the Saviour, and founded the attached baptistry under the name of Saint John the Baptist, in the place where he himself, baptized by Saint Sylvester, had been cured of leprosy. It is this church which the Pontiff consecrated in the fifth of the ides of November; and we celebrate the commemoration on that day, when for the first time in Rome a church was thus publicly consecrated, and where a painting of the Saviour was visible on the wall before the eyes of the Roman people.

When the Lateran Church was partially ruined by fires, enemy invasions, and earthquakes, it was always rebuilt with great zeal by the Sovereign Pontiffs. In 1726, after one such restoration, Pope Benedict XIII consecrated it anew and assigned the commemoration of that event to the present day. The church was afterwards enlarged and beautified by Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII.

(L’Année liturgique (Mame et Fils: Tours, 1919), The Time after Pentecost, VI, Vol. 15. Translation O.D.M.)

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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With the Church we pray…

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we, who glory in the Heart of your beloved Son and recall the wonders of his love for us, may be made worthy to receive an overflowing measure of grace from that fount of heavenly gifts.

At the period of Jesus’ coming upon this earth, man had forgotten how to love, for he had forgotten what true beauty was. His heart of flesh seemed to him as a sort of excuse for his false love of false goods: his heart was but an outlet, whereby his soul could stray from heavenly things to the husks of earth, there to waste his power and his substance. To this material world, which the soul of man was to render subservient to its Maker’s glory–to this world, which, by a sad perversion, kept man’s soul a slave to his senses and passions–the Holy Ghost sent a marvelous power, which, like a resistless lever, would replace the world in its right position: it was the sacred Heart of Jesus; a Heart of flesh, like that of other human beings, from whose created throbbings there would ascend to the eternal Father an expression of love, which would be a homage infinitely pleasing to the infinite Majesty, because of the union of the Word with that human Heart. It is a harp of sweetest melody, that is ever vibrating under the touch of the Spirit of love; it gathers up into its own music the music of all creation, whose imperfections it corrects, whose deficiencies it supplies, tuning all discordant voices into unity, and so offering to the glorious Trinity a hymn of perfect praise. The Trinity finds its delight in this Heart. It is the one only organum, as St. Gertrude calls it, the one only instrument which finds acceptance with the Most High. Through it must pass all the inflamed praises of the burning Seraphim, just as must the humble homage paid to its God by inanimate creation. By it alone are to come upon this world the favors of heaven. It is the mystic ladder between man and God, the channel of all graces, the way whereby man ascends to God, and God descends to man.

Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB

The Liturgical Year

Saint Mark

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We know Jesus Christ through the mediation of others and if fortunate, to a personal relationship. On the former, we honor today the author of the first of the gospels. Saint Mark’s testimony to who Jesus is, and what he means to God’s promise to be with us.

The meditation today brings us to guidance we share in for our salvation.

“… the words of our Risen Jesus forbid us to fear such a calamity. He did not say to his Apostles: “Lo! I am with you even to the end of your lives;” but Lo! I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. So that those to whom he addressed himself were to live to the end of the world! What means this, but that the Apostles were to have successors, in whom their rights were to be perpetuated, successors whom Jesus would ever assist by his presence and uphold by his power? The work founded by a God, out of his love for man, and at the price of his own precious Blood, must surely be imperishable! Jesus, by his presence amidst his Apostles, preserved their teaching from all error; by his presence he will also, and forever, guide the teaching of their successors.”

The Liturgical Year

Dom Proper Guéranger, OSB

Lent: When fallen humanity humbles himself before divine justice


Lent needs some explanation. The liturgical season is so vast and complex one needs to enter into this period of preparation for Easter with eyes wide open. It is a time for our conversion. The famous 19th century Benedictine monk Dom Prosper Guéranger (founder and Abbot of the Abbey of Solesmes 1837-1875) wrote brilliantly of the our Christian life of prayer in a multi-volume collection that is unfinished, The Liturgical Year. While Guéranger’s images are typical of the 19th century, they remain crucial, I contend

Here is his piece on Lent:

Yesterday, the world was busy in its pleasures, and the very children of God were taking a joyous farewell to mirth: but this morning, all is changed. The solemn announcement, spoken of by the prophet, has been proclaimed in Sion: the solemn fast of Lent, the season of expiation, the approach of the great anniversaries of our Redemption. Let us, then, rouse ourselves, and prepare for the spiritual combat.

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What is Septuagesima Sunday?

If you don’t pray the 1962 Missal at today’s Mass you would have missed the liturgical observance of Septuagesima Sunday. Those who prayed the Missal of Pope Paul VI heard the gospel of “an for an eye.” But what is Septuagesima Sunday and what would it mean to us today as Lent approaches? How does it relate to the overall liturgical life of the Church? There are several parts of the sacred Liturgy that face a startling change. There is a certain beauty and richness in the older liturgical tradition that seems to have been lost in the post Vatican II revisions…but that’s a theme for another time.

The famous Benedictine monk and writer of the 19th century, Dom Prosper Gueranger, gives perspective on the Season of Septuagesima:

The season upon which we are now entering is expressive of several profound mysteries. But these mysteries belong not only to the three weeks which are preparatory to Lent: they continue throughout the whole period of time which
separates us from the great feast of Easter.
The number seven is the basis of all these mysteries. We have already seen how the holy Church came to introduce
the season of Septuagesima into her calendar. Let us now meditate on the doctrine hidden under the symbols of her liturgy. And first, let us listen to St. Augustine, who thus gives is the clue to the whole of our season’s mysteries.
‘There are two times,’ says the holy Doctor: ‘one which is now, and is spent in the temptations and tribulations of this life; the other which shall by then, and shall be spent in eternal security and joy. In figure of these, we celebrate two periods: the time before Easter, and the time after Easter. That which is before Easter signifies the sorrow of this present life; that which is after Easter, the blessedness of our future state… Hence it is that we spend the first in fasting and prayer; and in the second we give up our fasting, and give ourselves to praise.’
The Church, the interpreter of the sacred Scriptures, often speaks to us of two places, which correspond with these two times of St. Augustine. These two places are Babylon and Jerusalem. Babylon is the image of this world of sin, in the midst whereof the Christian has to spend his years of probation; Jerusalem is the heavenly country, where he is to repose after all his trials. The people of Israel, whose whole history is but one great type of the human race, was banished from Jerusalem and kept in bondage in Babylon.
Now, this captivity, which kept the Israelites exiles from Sion, lasted seventy years; and it is to express this mystery, as Alcuin, Amalarius, Ivo of Chartres, and all the great liturgists tell us, that the Church fixed the number of seventy for the days of expiation. It is true, there are but sixty-three days between Septuagesima and Easter; but the Church, according to the style so continually used in the sacred Scriptures, uses the round number instead of the literal and precise one.
The duration of the world itself, according to the ancient Christian tradition, is divided into seven ages. The human race must pass through the seven ages before the dawning of the day of eternal life. The first age included the time from the creation of Adam to Noah; the second begins with Noah and the renovation of the earth by the deluge, and ends with this the vocation of Abraham; the third opens with this first formation of God’s chosen people, and continues as far as Moses, through whom God gave the Law; the fourth consists of the period between Moses and David, in whom the house of Judah received the kingly power; the fifth is formed of the years which passed between David’s reign and the captivity of Babylon, inclusively; the sixth dates from the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, and takes us on as far as the birth of our Saviour. Then, finally, comes the seventh age; it starts with the rising of this merciful Redeemer, the Sun of justice, and is to continue till the dread coming of the Judge of the living and the dead. These are the seven great divisions of time; after which, eternity.
In order to console us in the midst of the combats, which so thickly beset our path, the Church, like a beacon shining amidst the darkness of this our earthly abode, shows us another seven, which is to succeed the one we are now preparing to pass through. After the Septuagesima of mourning, we shall have the bright Easter with its seven weeks of gladness, foreshadowing the happiness and bliss of heaven. After having fasted with our Jesus, and suffered with Him, the day will come when we shall rise together with Him, and our hearts shall follow Him to the highest heavens; and then after a brief interval, we shall feel the Holy Ghost descending upon us, with His seven Gifts. The celebration of all these wondrous joys will take us seven weeks, as the great liturgists observe in their interpretation of the rites of the Church. The seven joyous weeks from Easter to Pentecost will not be too long for the future glad mysteries, which, after all, will be but figures of a still gladder future, the future of eternity.
Having heard these sweet whisperings of hope, let us now bravely face the realities brought before us by our dear mother the Church. We are sojourners upon this earth; we are exiles and captives in Babylon, that city which plots our ruin. If we love our country, if we long to return to it, we must be proof against the lying allurements of this strange land, and refuse the cup she proffers us, and with which she maddens so many of our fellow captives. She invites us to join in her feasts and her songs; but we must unstring our harps, and hang them on the willows that grow on her river’s bank, till the signal be given for our return to Jerusalem. She will ask us to sing to her the melodies of our dear Sion: but how shall we, who are so far from home, have heart to ‘sing the song of the Lord in a strange land’? No, there must be no sign that we are content to be in bondage, or we shall deserve to be slaves forever.
These are the sentiments wherewith the Church would inspire us during the penitential season which we are now beginning. She wishes us to reflect on the dangers that beset us; dangers which arise from ourselves and from creatures. During the rest of the year she loves to hear us chant the song of heaven, the sweet Alleluia; but now, she bids us close our lips to this word of joy, because we are in Babylon. We are pilgrims absent from our Lord, let us keep our glad hymn for the day of His return. We are sinners, and have but too often held fellowship with the world of God’s enemies; let us become purified by repentance, for it is written that ‘praise is unseemly in the mouth of a sinner.’
The leading feature, then, of Septuagesima, is the total suspension of the Alleluia, which is not to again be heard upon the earth until the arrival of that happy day, when having suffered death with our Jes
us, and having been buried together with Him, we shall rise again with Him to a new life.
The sweet hymn of the angels, Gloria in excelsis Deo, which we have sung every Sunday since the birth of our Saviour in Bethlehem, is also taken from us; it is only on the feasts of the saints which may by kept during the week that we shall be allowed to repeat it. The night Office of the Sunday is to lose also, from now till Easter, its magnificent Ambrosian hymn, the Te Deum; and at the end of the holy Sacrifice, the deacon will no longer dismiss the faithful with his solemn Ite, Missa est, but will simply invite them to continue their prayers in silence, and bless the Lord, the God of mercy, who bears with us, notwithstanding all our sins.
After the Gradual of the Mass, instead of the thrice repeated Alleluia, which prepared our hearts to listen to the voice of God in the holy Gospel, we shall hear but a mournful and protracted chant, called, on that account, the Tract.
That the eye, too, may teach us that the season we are entering on is one of mourning, the Church will vest her ministers (both on Sundays and on the days during the week which are not feasts of Saints) in the somber purple. Until Ash Wednesday, however, she permits the deacon to wear his dalmatic, and the subdeacon his tunic; but from that day forward, they must lay aside these vestments of joy, for Lent will then have begun and our holy mother will inspire us with the deep spirit of penance, but suppressing everything of that glad pomp, which she loves at other seasons, to bring into the sanctuary of her God.

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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