21 March 2021

Mile after mile ...

Statio ad Sanctum Petrum

Thus, today, the Authentic Roman Missal, as it does all through Lent, reminds us of the old custom whereby the Pope, each day, met his clergy and people for Mass. Perhaps we 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 our Lenten devotion. 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 and bishop 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 larger colonnades 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?


William Tighe said...

"... covering the Campus Marius in every direction ..."

Campus Martius?

Colin Spinks said...

Illuminating as ever, Father. What a shame spitting is not permitted in these antiseptic times! I wonder if I might digress slightly, but still within the subject of liturgical action and gesture? A while ago, you posted an interesting series of blogs on the "Kiss of Peace", and I agree that whilst the Ambrosian position and interpretation (make peace with your brother before offering your gift) is perfectly biblical and edifying, the concept of a legal 'seal' upon the prayers is most convincing. In recent times, many traditionally minded Catholics and Anglicans have despaired at the circus of chatter which accompanies what is intended to be a formal liturgical act. The current pandemic, with its ban on handshaking, has given rise, at my own (very 'middle and leg') C of E church in London to a quite brilliant piece of liturgical innovation, which I share in the spirit of "Mutual Enrichment" - sharing the Peace in SIGN LANGUAGE! No more time consuming milling around, hugging, asking after Auntie Doris' piles, and perhaps from fear of causing offence to a minority group, treated with seriousness and respect. I heartily recommend its permanent adoption in all churches.