If you have ever been to a traditional Latin Mass, you no doubt noticed that the altar servers make a big ceremony out of carrying the big book to the left side of the altar before the priest reads the Gospel. Is there some kind of symbolism going on with left and right? Are we supposed to think of those who stand at our Lord’s left and right at the judgment?
It turns out that the ceremony has nothing to do with left and right.  According to the rubrics, the priest reads the Gospel toward the north. In fact, what we usually see at a Low Mass or High Mass is a compressed version of the full ceremony of a Solemn Mass, where the subdeacon chants the Epistle on the right side and the deacon, after a procession with candles, chants the Gospel on the left side of the Church, facing directly toward the north. We’re all aware that churches are traditionally oriented toward the east, and east is important because the rising sun symbolizes Christ coming. But in liturgical terms, north is also important because, by a long tradition, the north represents the dark realm where the light of the gospel has not yet shone. We read the Gospel toward the north to represent the Church’s mission to the unevangelized.
In fact, after the Council of Trent permission was given for churches to be oriented not just toward the east but in other directions, if needed for some reason—any direction, in fact, except to the north. No church shall point in the direction of evil.
A while back I posted my conversation with Matt Whitman of the “10-Minute Bible Hour”. Matt has put up the second part of that conversation, arguably more intense than the first:
The strength of the video is its limitation: it’s a real conversation between people who actually care what the other guy thinks. Matt raised questions faster than I could possibly handle them, so I was constantly choosing which angle would actually be interesting and helpful to Matt and leaving everything else behind. On the one hand, that meant some really good questions left in the dust. On the other hand, it made for all the energy and direction of a good give-and-take.
One of my former students, a graduate of Wyoming Catholic College, ended up teaching a K-12 school to support his family. Looking to supplement his income, he acquired an old property originally established in 1826 with seven houses on it.
When COVID-19 swept the country and everyone had to work from home, he invited many of his friends to join him in a group quarantine on his property. They had a number of married couples with kids, as well as a house for singles, and all together they holed up in their village behind a strong wall of isolation. Quite a few were WCC grads, and one current student joined them when WCC sent everyone home.
Over the years, I have written a fair bit about Holy Week. Bereft of public liturgies this year, one of the most helpful things we can do is contemplate what happens in those liturgies with longing, like the people Israel contemplating the Temple in their exile. Without the rushing around to get ready and managing kids in Mass and worrying about preparations for guests, this may even be a privileged time to absorb and think over what we have seen at all the liturgies of years past. So I’ve gathered links to my blog posts for each of the Holy Week liturgies:
On the Feast of the Annunciation, Kyle Washut, Kent Lasnoski, and I had a round-table talk about the most famous treatment of the Annuncation, namely Bernard of Clairvaux’s Missus Est. Although we mostly stayed with the themes Bernard raises, we went on some fruitful tangents as well. All in all, I thought it was a great way to celebrate the day!
Here’s the video:
You can download an audio-only file by clicking here, or you can listen via this embedded player:
As Wyoming Catholic College has shifted temporarily to online classes, a lot of us are recording conversations to share with the students. Happily, that makes it easier to share with you! Recently Kyle Washut and I discussed John Henry Newman’s Letter to Pusey, of the best treatments anywhere if Catholic doctrine and devotion concerning Mary. Wyoming Catholic College posted the video as well as an audio-only version, and I’ve snagged the links.
Here is the video:
You can download the audio-only from this link, or listen to it here:
Okay, Bible people, help me out. Explain Melchizedek to me please. Why did Abraham pay him tithes? What’s the connection to Jesus?
Great question! The strange thing is, I have never seen anyone really lay out the answer. Of course, the Letter to the Hebrews meditates on Melchizedek, and commentators repeat what Hebrews says, but to my knowledge no one has connected all the dots.
Really to answer the question, I need to connect exactly five dots. Let’s go!
Well, it isn’t my voice on the CD. Some years ago I wrote a poem, “Surgamus et aedificemus,” based on Nehemiah 2:18. Then my good friend Peter Kwasnewski set it to music, and eventually it was recorded by the Scottish choir Cantiones Sacrae for their CD that dropped this past December:
You can hear their performance of Surgamus and see the musical score here, at Peter Kwasniewski’s Youtube channel. For now, here’s the text from the CD booklet:
You can purchase the CD from England here, or if you want to save a few bucks just go to Peter’s website and donate $15, letting him know that you would like the CD. He’ll send you one.
The latest newsletter from the monks of Norcia, Italy, includes a list of everything the monks read aloud during their meals this past year. It is an interesting list in itself, but for this reader there is a pleasant surprise in the left-hand column:
Some time back, an evangelical pastor asked me if I would sit down with him to talk about the things that unite and divide Catholics and Protestants. He filmed the whole thing, and the first segment is now up on his Youtube channel, the 10-Minute Bible Hour.
The conversation came out fine. I didn’t prepare for at all: there was no script, and I was in the car on my way to the filming location five minutes away before I started trying to remember the usual topics and whether I have a response to them. So, I could have expressed some points more clearly, and often my interlocutor raised so many questions at once that I had to ignore this or that disagreement to address just one of them. And I don’t exactly have a Hollywood face. But all in all I think the video shows a Catholic mind at work, for people who may not have seen it before.