13 May 2021

The Ascension and the blessing of the beans

Through whom, O Lord, thou dost ever create, sanctify, quicken, bless and bestow all these good things upon us. This paragraph near the end of the Canon can confuse people. They can take it as refering to the consecrated Elements upon the altar. But the language is not altogether appropriate if the Sacrament is meant. The Blessed Sacrament is not Blessed Bread, like the Antidoron of the Orientals or the Blest Bread of Medieval England. It is the transsubstantiated Body of Christ our God.  God Almighty, on earth.

This paragraph originally concluded the blessing of substances seasonally brought to the Altar: such as ... beans on Ascension Day! Not that beans have any liturgical association with the dogma of the Ascension that I can think of: it just happened that the bean harvest in Rome coincided with the Ascension (no, don't ask me how the bean-harvest fluctuated according to the varying date of Easter). And the first grapes were available to be blessed on the feast of S Xystus! On both these occasions, this form was used:
Bless, O Lord, also these new fruits of the Bean [or whatever] which thou O Lord by the dew of heaven and the showers of rain and the serenity and quietness of the seasons hast deigned to bring to ripeness, and hast given to our uses to receive them with thanksgiving in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom, O Lord, thou dost ever ... etc..

The Latinity is workmanlike, I almost wrote banausic, even gauche and gawky, with little in the way of Renaissance elegance or theological sparkle. Old Roman, in fact, in its sobriety and earthiness and utter, utter matter-of-factness.

The Maundy Thursday practice of blessing oils at this point in the Canon survives, of course, even in the modern rites. (And the erudite Dom Benedict Andersen told me of a French Benedictine Missal of 1781, Congregation of SS Vane and Hydulph, in which grapes are still blessed on the Feast of the Transfiguration.) So this old custom has still, by the the very tips of its fingers, by the skin of its teeth, kept a purchase upon Catholic Usage.

I sometimes feel sad at the opportunities the post-Conciliar reformers missed. In their keenness to spend long hours devising rubbishy innovations ... such as dodgy new unRoman Eucharistic Prayers and lectionary systems yanked ex nihilo ... they rarely bothered to go for the organic development which the Council had actually mandated. They could have allowed local hierarchies to incorporate appropriate blessings at this point in the Canon, and thus also have promoted a genuine inculturation which yet was totally within the parameters and spirit of the traditional Roman Rite. No, don't panic: I'm not advocating this now (except possibly in the Amazon Basin?). The moment has passed ... the moment for gentle, unflashy conservative enrichment and reappropriation was stifled by the culture of brutalism and rupture. So be it. They did it, they ruined everything, the muggers, the Bauhaus Liturgists, the suicide bombers with their vests; the 'reformers' with their wrecking-balls and their bulldozers. Still ...

 ... I do wonder if it would be nice, on just one feast in August, to bless fragrant flowers at this point in the Canon of the Mass? The feast, perhaps, of Someone whose empty tomb when opened was found to be filled with fragrant flowers? 

Until Pius XII Pacelli set his pruning hook to the propers of August 15, we used to share all those delightful 'apocryphal' legends with the Orientals; as far as I am aware, they are now almost totally forgotten in the West, except by people who go and look at the marvellous synoptic Assumptio by Rubens in the Hermitage.


Oliver Nicholson said...

One might have thought that beans should be associated with the afflatus of the Holy Ghost at Whitsun.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. All of those liturgical changes were necessary to propagansie the pew dwellers into accepting the doctrinal changes the revolutionaries desired.

The Shadow Church (It is essentially devoid of substance) has slowly begun to disappear as the dawning of what a failure it has been starts to awaken the faithful to the disaster it has been.

Because the Holy Holocaust/Holy Sacrifice of the mass is the way most Catholics are taught what they ought to believe, the new Rite/Meal had to have a liturgy nearly entirely purged of the truths about Satan, Hell, Punishment, Penance, Sin, Sanctification etc etc.

Imagine the poor newly ordained minister/preacher (that is what many modern seminaries are producing) having to hear Luke 19:27 read at a daily N.O. Rite and then wondering what that passage means so he could explain it to the few folks in the pews?

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

I was going to reply, as I shall below, but then realised that first I must rejoice in the glorious term Bauhaus Liturgists. If this is your own, then felicitations, if borrowed, then fine apostolic work!

To my point. My late mother told me that in rural France in the 1930’s, to a rite contained in her hand-missal (now sadly lost by a cousin, I fear), the custom survived of lambs being brought into the church for the Easter Vigil on Saturday morning, all shampooed with ribbons, which were blessed at the altar (very probably at this point, but maybe before the gospel, as if their were receiving a sacrament, if only I still had this book - does any reader have one?). After the Mass they were slaughtered ready for the Paschal feast that evening, or on Easter Sunday. How much closer to Apostolic times than buying one’s lamb in a supermarket. Yet not a century ago!

Paul said...

Father Hunwicke,

Your blog is, at least, a minor blessing to myself and many of my extended family...


Fr John Hunwicke said...

Mr Saliensis

Thank you! I modestly confess that the phrase is my own ... or rather, I immodestly confess that I like as much as you do. It is not copyrighted!

Mr Nicholson

Indeed and indeedio. Three decades ago when I was teaching I Corinthians as a Set Book and was catching up on the Secondary Literature, I remember coming across an article which argued that S Paul, at I Corinthians 5: 2, 'pephusiomenoi', is accusing his critics of flatulence.

Pythagoras ... and Ovid ... might have a contribution to make here.

Paul said...

Salve magister, Fr Hunwicke,

PS this was our greeting to our Latin teacher, Br Bernard Dynes RIP (a great Australian classics scholar, who taught in a certain private Catholic school, I was privileged to attend, in Sydney, Australia from the 1950s to the early 1980s...).

Btw - Br Dynes once knocked back an award for his scholarship; so the prize went to the Oxford Rhodes scholar, the future prime minister of Australia, Mr R “Bob” Hawke for his contributions re economics and trades unions etc (AND his efforts re the release of Jews from the former Soviet Union .....allowing many Russian Jews to successfully migrate from the old USSR to Israel...)

Grant Milburn said...

By happy coincidence, I was served green beans, pork and rice today for lunch.

Stan Metheny said...

Blessing of the grapes on S Xystus brings back a vivid childhood memory. 6 August (Transfiguration Day, S Xystus, my birthday) was the first day we were allowed to pick grapes in our vineyard, although we did not have the blessing on that day.

Banshee said...

I am a big believer now in getting flowers and harvest food blessed on the Feast of the Assumption. Two years ago I did this, and I didn't manage to finish some of the tomatoes before they went off, so I buried them (because they were blessed) under my dead rosebush.

And the rosebush came back to life. And put out flowers later that year. And again last year. And again this year, starting this morning.

And so I complimented the rosebush on putting out a single bloom on Ascension Day and the anniversary of Fatima (yes, okay, sometimes I talk to plants).

And then when I came back from the grocery store, it had another bloom. When it hadn't even had another _rosebud_ yet, when I left. I mean, maaaaybe it was there and I just didn't notice, but I don't think it was there.

So yes, Assumption blessings _are serious business_!!!

I'm kinda sad that I didn't know about bean blessings, though. Maybe next year.

Banshee said...

Re: blessing of lambs -- It is customary in the Philippines to have a community pig roast in the afternoon on St. John the Baptist Day. And because people in the Philippines love to do things big, they started bringing (slaughtered but presentable) pigs to the church door to be blessed, right after Mass on the feastday morning.

So things got out of hand, and they have these awesome pig parades of kitchen-ready pigs, in costume, on parade floats (okay, pickup truck flatbeds, usually), accompanied by the proud pig owners also in costume, going from the blessing right after Mass to the communal picnic grounds and pig roasting pits. (The costumes are removed from the pigs when they get to the pig roast site.)

Sadly, nobody has ever invited me to a Filipino pigpicking in honor of St. John the Baptist, but I live in hopes.

Pulex said...

"Not that beans have any liturgical association with the dogma of the Ascension that I can think of"

Sed contra! Beans have everything to do with ascension. Depending on the sort, this plant has an indomitable tendency to ascend heavenwards. And then there is the story of Jack and the beanstalk ...

Atticus said...

"God is gone up with a merry noise". https://open.spotify.com/track/1exVFKKvj7B8POJaOwl36d?si=a692c92b822d4996