7 March 2009

Mile after mile ...

Blogs far better than mine, professional blogs, colouful blogs, have suggested how you might allow the Roman tradition of stational liturgy - in which the people met in one church and accompanied the Pope to another one for Mass - to feed your Lenten devotion. Anglicans should remember that by far the best treatment of the subject is that by the great Anglican specialist GG Willis, in his 1968 classic Further Essays on Early Roman Liturgy. He is particularly good on how the selection of 'stational' churches affected the texts of the Lenten Stational Masses. I can only add a couple of mundane, indeed, bathetic, details.

The first comes from a RC liturgist Edward Myers, who in 1948 published a now long-forgotten book Lent and the Liturgy. I will quote. "The streets of classical and early medieval Rome were not pleasant for walking: they were narrow and overcrowded ... How then did it come about that the idea of processions was entertained? There is feature of Roman Archaeology which, strangely overlooked by most students, may supply the answer. It is quite likely that the majority of the Stational processions took place under the shelter of the vast system of Porticoes which, covering the Campus Marius in every direction, had spread throughout the city. The Porticoes consisted of covered colonnades in which it was possible for the citizens to take exercise, under favourable conditions, protected from wind, rain, cold, and heat. The fashion set by the Emperor Augustus continued to be followed to the very end of the Empire. The portico of Constantine led the way to the great porticoes of Gracian, Valerian and Theodosius. Lastly came those which led from the Aelian Bridge to St. Peter's, from the Porta Ostiensis to St. Paul's, and from the Porta Tiburtina to St. Lawrence. The twelve largercolonnades of the Campus Martius alone were 5,0000 yards in length ..."

My second contribution comes from first millennium accounts of formal papal processions. And formal, of course, is exactly what they were. But in the midst of the formality there is detail which to us may sound deeply unfamiliar. The Pontiff was accompanied by a subdeacon carrying a covered dish ... for the Holy Father, when he needed to, to spit into.

I think the Hermeneutic of Continuity demands that the subdiaconate and the Rite of Pontifical Expectoration should both be restored. Don't you just long to trudge along those endless porticoes, the air rich with flecks of papal spittle?


Fr Ray Blake said...

I have never much desired the title of Papal Chaplain (Monsignor) after discovering that even into modern times one of them carried the Apostolic commode.
However, this is all very Incarnational, its absence in traditional Anglican rites suggests just a touch of Arianism, or even Manichaeism at its root.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall a story of Nicolai Gedda, in which before the high notes in Bellini's aria "Vieni, vieni fra questa braccia" from I puritani (notes which, unlike most, Gedda actually sang - gotta here it to believe it) he made his way to the back of the set to open up the pipes.

ex_fide said...

Apart from the distinct role enacted by subdeacons at papal liturgies, the restoration of that order would also make our streets cleaner.

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