Traditional Ordo 2018

_DSC0001Elsewhere, we have uploaded the traditional Ordo for the Philippines for 2018. Apart from what has already been said here, we will only add that this ordo, like its 2017 counterpart, has been enriched with old customs and received practices peculiar to the Philippines, abstracted from older ordines and referenced against published manualia. For example, one will find before the entry for 1 April the rubrics for the celebration of the salubong, according to the rite prescribed in the Manual de Manila. We hope that this would help guide our brethren in the celebration of the Mass and the Office in the vetus ordo.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Filipinos and the Christmas Midnight Mass introit

Last June, we shared the Corpus Christi sequence we found in the Introitale Baclaianum. Now, we are displaying side by side the introit of the Christmas Midnight Mass, Dominus dixit, as it appears in the Graduale Romanum and as per our transcription from the Introitale Baclaianum.

Dominus dixit

Ultimately, the altered chant in the Introitale Baclaianum was abandoned when approved liturgical books reached these Philippine shores.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Christmas proclamation 2017

Gallegos - Niños del coro
Niños del coroJosé Gallegos y Arnosa | c. 1885–1890

Today is Christmas Eve. Traditionally, before the misa de gallo, the Mass sung at midnight, the first Mass of Christmas, at prime, the proclamation of Christ, what many of us call kalendas, is sung as prologue to the martyrology. Amongst us Filipinos, members of some choirs that sang in the Mass before the liturgical changes of the 1960s would probably still remember singing or hearing the kalendas, which used to be sung as a choral rite of passage from tiple to cantor.

We know, of course, that, in a deplorable, but not unexpected, happenstance, the chronological exactitude of the old text of the prologue of the Christmas martyrology was thrown off the cliff and replaced with a generic formula that situates the birth of our Redeemer at a time, rather off-puttingly, “when ages beyond number had run their course”. It is no longer a mystery to us, but we still wonder why the usus recentior strives to countenance this inelegance and ambiguity.

Gérôme - Le Siècle d'Auguste et la naissance de Jésus-Christ
Le siècle d’Auguste et la naissance de Jésus-ChristJean-Léon Gérôme | 1855

For the usus antiquior, it is more common to use the older text. The elogium of the date is the same: the eighth calends of January. This means that 25 December is eight days away from 1 January, which is the calends of the month. The elogium of the moon changes per year, according to the epact of the year and its corresponding martyrology letter. This year, it is the seventh moon. Practically, especially if referencing the dates against the martyrology tables becomes too daunting a task to accomplish, we can simplify the reckoning by counting the number of days from the preceding new moon, which occurred on 18 December this year, until 25 December.

Kalendas 2017There is a modus ordinarius found in the Martyrologium Romanum, but here we have the modus sollemnior (click on the thumbnail to open the file), which is probably monastic in provenance. If it has fallen upon our happy lot to chant the kalendas this year, then we can exercise the option to sing it in the more solemn tone in honour of the holy birth of our Redeemer.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Expired indult: ‘killing’ the misa de aguinaldo

_DSC0106When it comes to Holy Week, there is a chronological milestone separating two ritual variations locked in perpetual disagreement. That milestone is 1955. When it comes to the misa de aguinaldo, a similar milestone exists. That milestone is 1956. The effects of these milestones are still felt today, albeit the former is more pronounced in communities attached to the usus antiquior, while the latter, rather curiously, produced an incident that would later be a minor concern to the modern Filipino liturgical clique. Let us understand why such happened to a tradition that “we Filipinos have owned as a distinguishing mark of our faith”.


The misa de aguinaldo came to the archipelago with the Spaniards. Its natural proclivity to exuberance and solemnity many times arrested the attention of ecclesiasts to such a point that the Franciscans labouring in the Philippine vineyard, friars who belonged to the strict Alcantarine family, arguably the most beloved of all the religious corporations during the colonial era (a fact that encouraged Rizal to rank P. Dámaso Verdolagas, one of the antagonists of the Noli, among the sons of Saint Francis, if only to taint the reputation of the Minorites), banned its celebration in their mission churches as early as 1655. In 1680, in the wake of the rescript of the Sacred Congregation of Rites deploring the musical abuses in the misa de aguinaldo, the archbishop of Manila forbad its celebration. Only for his priests to resume after his death (or probably during the years he was banished from his see).

So the misa de aguinaldo survived, more or less, in parishes and cathedrals able to support the demands of the celebrations: nine days with misas cantadas, very early in the morning when the sun has not yet risen, in the light of beeswax candles, accompanied by a músico or a banda. We qualify this survival with barely. When the Spaniards left, the custom was practically dead in many places. American priests tried to resuscitate it, but made little success. All those anecdotes about all of our Catholic ancestors waking up early to hear Mass at ungodly hours nine days before Christmas—for three centuries!—should now retire to the realm of myth.

Continue reading “Expired indult: ‘killing’ the misa de aguinaldo”

Rizal and a villancico

It is time for villancicos! A great number of Filipino villancicos (of course, in Spanish) eventually disappeared via the oft-trodden road of desuetude. What replaced them are feel-good Christmas carols, such as one that gleefully glorifies the coordinated twinkling of Christmas lights, or another that excitedly enumerates the meals prepared for the nochebuena, or another that forlornly reduces Christmas to an accident in an ongoing breakup process, or still another that poignantly ponders on missed family reunions juxtaposed against the glittering tinsel and clinking jingle of the season.


Perhaps, we can say that the collapse of the Spanish language in the Philippines was one of the catalysts that progressively favoured the deconstruction of Christmas into its purely aesthetic, amply gastronomic, potentially therapeutic, and overstatedly emotional elements. In other words, materialism articulated in poetic motifs and tuneful themes. The worrying thing about this trend is not the accident that modern Filipino Christmas carols do not mock the core and reason of Christmas, Who is Christ our Lord, but the fact that they do not mention Him at all. Whether a staunch refusal or a candid failure, this setting aside of Christ contributes to the decoupling of our values from our faith.

But enough about this tragedy in our culture. Let us get to the villancicos. Examples of Filipino villancicos are this and this, both from the Visayas. Sung with their Spanish counterparts during pastores presentations, together with the adaptation of various Latin hymns, and the misa pastorela for the misa de aguinaldo, villancicos defined the Christmas soundscape of colonial Philippines.


Continue reading “Rizal and a villancico”

Awe and longing of creation

La O
Nuestra Señora de la O

Today is the third day of the misa de aguinaldo. That means we are six days away from Christmas. Before the 1960 rubrical changes raised the dignity and rank of the Advent ferias from 17 to 23 December, many countries in the Spanish realm kept the feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin on 18 December, a holdover of the feast of the Annunciation transferred from 25 March by the Tenth Council of Toledo. Images of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin usually depict Mary gravid.

The feast eventually assumed the title of Nuestra Señora de la O, literally, Our Lady of the O. What inspired Spaniards to use O traces a rather interesting history, which is ultimately, and surprisingly, choral in provenance. In summary, for seven days beginning on the eve of the feast, that is, from 17 to 23 December, at Vespers in the cathedral of Toledo, at the inchoation of the Great Antiphons, the dignity charged with the intonation prolonged the interjection O, and the rest of the choir joined with its lengthening, signifying with “these profound suspirations of longing” the “desire and yearning of the world for the Redeemer” [1]. For more details, read this.

Catedral de Toledo
Dives Toletana

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An attempt to suppress the misa de aguinaldo

Adoración de los pastores
Adoración de los pastores | Anónimo (Taller de Bassano) | desp. 1575

On 16 January 1677, the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued a rescript in response to the complaints filed by the ceremoneer of Seville, Don Diego Díaz de Escobar. One of the issues Díaz de Escobar reported was the custom of celebrating the misas de aguinaldo with Gloria and Credo and with only one collect, wherein layfolk joined the choir in singing carols that provoked laughter. The Congregation called this, and all other practices quoted, an abuse “repugnant to the rubrics and to the opinions of those to whom these were related,” and “ought to be destroyed altogether.”


Felipe Pardo
Sr. D. Fr. Felipe Fernández de Pardo, O. P. | Anónimo | s.f.

So, when the rescript arrived in the Philippines, the archbishop-elect of Manila, Fray Felipe Fernández de Pardo, wasted no time in stopping the abuse. Fray Felipe had been prior of the Dominican convent in Manila once, and provincial of the entire Order in the Philippines twice. Three years into the vacancy of the see of Manila following the death of the Dominican Fray Juan López, the King of Spain named Fray Felipe archbishop. On 4 August 1677, he received the royal decree naming him archbishop of Manila. The cathedral chapter, seeing that the friar was doubtful about his own capacity to discharge the office owing to his advanced age, required that he accept the promotion. This he did on 11 November, after having ascertained that the traditional terna was not proposed—the King nominated only him.


Pope Innocent XI confirmed the appointment of Fray Felipe as archbishop of Manila on 8 January 1680. While the bull of confirmation was still in transit to the Islands, Fray Felipe finally decided to issue the decree banning not only the practice of singing carols during the misa de aguinaldo, but the misa de aguinaldo itself. To prevent any pretence at celebrating the misa de aguinaldo, he forbad not only Sung Masses, but also Low Masses. Carols, even those whose subject is the divine, he prohibited. Below is the text of the decree with our translation.

Decree of prohibition ESDecree of prohibition EN

The prohibition is threefold: music, instrument, and carol. The third is what interests us. We will not discuss here the merit of lumping with the ban even those musical pieces that are about the divine. The original Spanish uses the word chanzoneta, which, according to the DRAE, descended from the French chansonnette, and signifies a “four-line verse or composition in light and festive verse, formerly generally created in order to be sung in Christmastide or in other religious festivities”.

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‘Tinkering with’ the misa de aguinaldo

La Virgen de la Expectación
La Virgen de la Expectación | Mateo Gilarte | 1651

The misa de aguinaldo devotion runs its own liturgical calendar. It is not concerned about what happens in the universal liturgical calendar from 16 to 24 December; and the universal calendar is not concerned about it. For nine days before Christmas, the Philippines, as well as all other Hispanic countries that keep the tradition alive, iterates each dawn the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with Gloria and Credo. The liturgical timeline that the misa de aguinaldo inevitably creates parallel to the universal calendar represents an organic liturgical development which ultimately traces its roots to the transfer of the Annunciation from 25 March to 18 December in the Visigothic Rite: a history that melds together endurance throughout the Muslim occupation in Iberia; migration into the New World under the pennants of the conquistadors and in the footsteps of the missionaries; and survival from various plots hatched not only to geld away its gladsome expectation, but to eliminate it once and for all from the face of the earth.

At the consecration in the sixth of the misas de aguinaldo, 21 December 2014.
At the aspersion before Mass for the IV Sunday of Advent, 21 December 2014.

If not for the fact that the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued a rescript forbidding the omission of feast days and Sundays sandwiched in the midst of the nine-day misa de aguinaldo duration (on such occurrences, the feast day and the Sunday should be celebrated with greater solemnity), we would say that the mutual exclusion is absolute because the misa de aguinaldo does not even admit commemorations of the Advent ferias and Sundays. It would only allow one feast to alter it: that of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin, which has its own Alleluia verse and Preface denomination, on 18 December.


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Cerulean for the Immaculate

La Inmaculada Concepción
La Inmaculada Concepción | Francisco de Zurbarán | 1628–1630

The Philippine Islands this coming Friday, 8 December, shall again exercise her privilege of using cerulean vestments for all Masses in honour of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in all churches, chapels, and oratories. Saint Pius X granted this indult on 11 February 1910 at the request of the Fathers of the First Provincial Council of Manila.

After Mass, we are to renew the consecration of the Philippines to the Immaculate Mother of God.

Ordo - December 8

Cerulean is indeed a very beautiful and unique colour. The privilege to use it has been extended and, theoretically, can still be extended to only a few countries and places, mostly within the Spanish ambit, or formerly under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Crown [1]. Some monasteries outside the Spanish world in general petitioned and succeeded in securing permission to use cerulean, yet the indult was predicated on the communities’ ability to prove that it had links with Spain [2].


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