The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, otherwise known as the PCED, is now suppressed, with the publication today, 19 January 2019, of the motu proprio Da oltre trent’anni given 17 January 2019. Our translation is given below.
APOSTOLIC LETTER GIVEN MOTU PROPRIO CONCERNING THE PONTIFICAL COMMISSION ECCLESIA DEI
In the last thirty years, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, established with the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta, on 2 July 1998, has performed with sincere solicitude and praiseworthy attention the duty of working with the Bishops and the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, in facilitating the full ecclesial communion of the priests, seminarians, communities, or every religious man or woman, affiliated with the Fraternity founded by Mons. Marcel Lefebvre, who wished to remain united with the Successor of Saint Peter in the Catholic Church, preserving their own spiritual and liturgical traditions .
In such way, it was able to exercise its own authority and competency on behalf of the Holy See concerning said societies and associations, until otherwise provided .
Subsequently, by virtue of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, on 7 July 2007, the Pontifical Commission extended the authority of the Holy See unto those Institutes and Religious Communities, which adhered to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and assumed the former traditions of religious life, supervising the observance and the application of the established dispositions .
Two years later, Our Venerable Predecessor, Benedict XVI, with the motu proprio Ecclesiæ unitatem, on 2 July 2009, reorganised the structure of the Pontifical Commission, in order to make it more adapted to the new situation arising from the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated without papal mandate. And, furthermore, considering that, after such act of grace, the questions dealt with by the same Pontifical Commission were primarily doctrinal in nature, He more organically associated it with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while retaining its initial goals, but modifying its structure .
Now, since the Feria IV (regular Wednesday meeting) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 15 November 2017 drafted a request that the dialogue between the Holy See and the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X be conducted directly with the aforementioned Congregation, the questions dealt with are of a doctrinal character, to this request We have given Our approval in the audience with the Prefect on the following 24 (November), and such proposal gained acceptance from the Plenary Session of the same Congregation celebrated from 23 to 26 January 2018, We have reached, after ample reflection, the following Decision:
Considering the conditions, which have moved the Holy Pontiff John Paul II towards the establishment of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, as already changed today;
noting that the Institutes and the Religious Communities that habitually celebrate in the Extraordinary Form, have now found a proper stability in number and life;
realising that the goals and the questions dealt with by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei are of a predominantly doctrinal order;
desiring that such goals be rendered always more evident unto the conscience of the ecclesial community,
with this present Apostolic Letter, given ‘motu proprio’,
1. That the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, established on 2 July 1998, with the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta, is suppressed.
2. The duties of the Commission in question are entirely assigned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, within which shall be established a special Section charged with continuing the work of supervision, of promotion, and of protection thus far conducted by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.
3. The budget of the Pontifical Commission shall devolve back to the usual account of the aforementioned Congregation.
We Establish, moreover, that the present motu proprio be observed all things to the contrary notwithstanding, even those worthy of special mention, be promulgated by means of its publication in the daily L’Osservatore Romano to be issued on 19 January 2019, entering immediately in full force, and be eventually included in the Official Commentary of the Holy See, the Acta Apostolicæ Sedis.
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 17 January 2019, the sixth of Our Pontificate.
 Cf. John Paul Pp. II, Apostolic Letter given motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta (2 July 1988) 6a: AAS 80 (1988) 1495–1498.  Rescript from the Audience of the Holy Father (18 October 1988) 6: AAS 82 (1990) 533–534.  Cf. Benedict Pp. XVI, Apostolic Letter given motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (7 July 2007) 12: AAS 99 (2007) 777–781.  Cf. Benedict Pp. XVI, Apostolic Letter given motu proprio Ecclesiæ unitatem (2 July 2009) 5: AAS 101 (2009) 710–711.
Closer and closer, the days edge towards Epiphany. Epiphany water is something to look forward to, but we also like to look forward to the announcement of the date of Easter and the other movable feasts in the universal calendar. So if our deacons and priests have not started rehearsing the Noveritis yet, please ask them. There are no difficult and unfamiliar portions in it, but the sudden drops can be tricky and disarming.
We are in the middle of the first week of 2019. For that, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone! Epiphany will be on the first Sunday! If divine favour is upon us, we might get some Epiphany water blessed on the first Saturday.
This means that it is time for our priests to brush up on the Epiphany announcement, a parallelising misnomer (we had Christmas proclamation last Christmas) for the rather cumbersome announcement of movable feasts. Unlike the Christmas proclamation, this one does not have any stymieing elogium (say, for the phase of the moon), apart from the synodal elogium, which we have omitted, since our local ordinary had not issued an indiction for a diocesan synod anytime this 2019. And, unlike the Christmas proclamation, the tone for this announcement (click on the thumbnail to open the file) is familiar, being the same tone used for the Easter proclamation (yes, the Exsultet). Here is how it was sung in 2014.
Oh, and a final note, 6 March is Ash Wednesday. It is one of the two days when Filipinos cannot substitute anything for the obligatory fast and abstinence.
Since we’re just a few hours from Christmas, we are now sharing two translations we made back in 2012 of perhaps the most famous Filipino Christmas carol. The text we translated into Latin and English is the original Cebuano, Kasadyà ni’ng taknaa, penned by Mariano Vestil. In 2014, Josefino Cenizal claimed to have composed the melody for this carol, but Levi Celerio himself confirms that Vicente Rubí wrote the melody. (Levi Celerio is the one who adapted the Cebuano daygon into the Tagalog Ang Paskó ay sumapit.) The two translations, set to Sor Rosalina Abejo’s arrangement, joined other Christmas carols in the 2012 Advent and Christmas hymnal we compiled.
The Latin text begins with Quam lætum hoc momentum (open the sheet music here), and the English text with How mirthful is this moment (open the sheet music here). While this carol, in both its Cebuano and Tagalog incarnations, is now sung unhampered during Masses in the usus recentior, we continue to encourage fellow choristers to sing the new translations, not even the Latin, outside the context of the Mass. There should be no problem singing these in carol services, and in reinterpretations of Christmas tableaus which traditionally are known as pastores in many places in the archipelago.
Listen to Father John Zuhlsdorf’s recording of last year’s proclamation here. Note that only the elogium of the moon changes each year. Last year, it was the seventh month. This years, it’s the eighteenth moon. Bonus is the thumbnail on Father Z’s post, which came from a booklet we had typeset for the kalendas back in 2011.
Why, again, is the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin usually called Our Lady of the O? The reason behind this is what the first 14 seconds of the video below reimagine:
This is the so-called eighth Great Antiphon. In the Roman Rite, we have seven O antiphons sung at vespers in the last seven days before Christmas. When chronologically read, the first letters of the invocations spell SARCORE, which, when reversed, yields, ERO CRAS, Latin for the English Tomorrow, I shall be. The eighth O antiphon, however, is about the Blessed Virgin, and it is sung on the feast of the Expectation.
At the second vespers of this feast, on 18 December, in the Cathedral of Toledo, the interjection O at the beginning of the antiphon at the Magnificat used to be intoned by all clergy in attendance, with neither order nor arrangement, being prolonged in order to express the yearning of the world for the coming of the Messiah. (More details and readings here.) The reimagining above is neither sufficiently prolonged nor candidly disorganised, but it captures the spirit.
Earlier this year, this Choir sent a dubium to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, requesting clarification on the practice of saying the Confiteor before the distribution of Holy Communion during Mass, here onwards referred to as the practice, citing two previous diverging rescripts, one issued on 4 July 2007, and another on 20 November 2010.
We now share the response, dated 18 September 2018 (click on the thumbnail to the right to open the file), that we received. The PCED clarifies that, while the practice is foreseen only in specific circumstances in 1962, where it currently exists, it can be continued. The wording of this clarification is the same as the one later used in number 2 of another response dated 14 November 2018.
Let us now examine the salient points of this clarification, and their repercussions. First, what are the instances the practice is foreseen? At the top of the list is the instance occurring in the fourth part of the solemn afternoon Liturgical Action on Good Friday, where the rubrics specifically say that the deacon makes the confession, i. e., says the Confiteor. The other instance happens during the ordination of deacons and subdeacons, each one of which, after the communion of the ordaining bishop, says the Confiteor, reciting it when in absque cantu cases, and chanting it when the ceremony is in cantu. When priests are also ordained, they do not say the Confiteor because they concelebrate with the bishop . By far, these are the two instances wherein the Confiteor before Communion within the Mass is explicitly retained.
Second point: the PCED states the status quo; that is, except in certain cases, the liturgical books of 1962 do not foresee the recitation or chanting of the Confiteor prior to the distribution of Holy Communion within Mass. The effect of this descriptive part of the clarification is the same as the one in a previous clarification we received concerning the so-called Pontifical ‘Sung’ Mass. The difference between the two clarifications is the fact that this one carries a facultative clause: The PCED allows the continuation of the practice in places where the custom exists.
Which brings us to the third point: the interplay between custom vis-à-vis practice, and place. Custom, if we look at canon law, is a practice hallowed by continuous usage of at least thirty years. The Traditional communities in the Philippines, numerous and pocketed may they be, have existed, on the whole, for more than that number of years. And while we cannot yet find any conclusive evidence that the in-Mass pre-Communion Confiteor has been practiced continuously for thirty years, we are yet to discover any record of an entire Traditional community, apart from selected individuals who champion its discontinuation, that cold-turkey abandoned said practice for a substantial amount of time, say, at least one year. Presumption favours the former, and ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat.
Absent proof of substantial disruption, the next contention arises from the word place, which is indeterminate enough to be construed as a barangay, a city, or an island. Opponents of the practice will probably exploit this to hinder its spread. Imagine a new community celebrating its first Mass in the Vetus Ordo. Somebody then volunteers to assist the members, but insists on leaving out the in-Mass pre-Communion Confiteor because, technically, the practice does not yet exist in said community. If nothing exists yet, what is there to continue, right?
Our approach to this question hinges on our collective experience. Traditional communities in the Philippines are formed by extraterritorial (no, not extraterrestrial) parishioners, to which defined geographic boundaries do not strictly apply. This urges us to understand place not in terms of a defined civil or canonical unit, but rather as the country in whole. That said, any new community, formed by individuals, who previously frequented Masses that use the practice, can claim inheritance by reason of a common and shared patrimony.
This brings us to final point. What happens then to the previous clarifications urging discontinuation of the practice? First, as this touches on a matter of discipline, Roman attitude to it is expected to develop. A prime example of a similar attitudinal development from the past is the opinion of the Roman Academy of Liturgy arguing favourably for the use of cerulean on the feasts of Our Lady of Lourdes and of the Miraculous Medal , an opinion later definitively overturned by a rescript from the Sacred Congregation of Rites .
Second, law has both its letter and its spirit. In this clarification, the PCED describes, and not enforces, the prescriptions of the law, a law that exists, not per se, but as a consequence of a rubrical omission. The PCED, instead of annexing a prescriptive clause to eliminate the practice (in order to uphold the proverbial letter of the law), closes its statement with a facultative one. It is not forcing any community to accept the practice; rather, it allows communities that employ said practice to keep it.
 Feria VI in Passione et Morte Domini, 31: Missale Romanum (Rome 1962) p. 181.  De ordinatione presbyterorum, 172, par. 1: Pontificale Romanum, vol. I (Rome 1961) p. 55. Loc. cit., 175: ibid., p. 56.  Roman Academy of Liturgy, Solution to liturgical dubia, at 10, Dubium concerning the extension of some privilege, Note on the response: EL 10 (1896) 498–499.  Sacred Congregation of Rites, Dubium concerning to what extent the apostolic indult for the Spanish Realm to use sacred vestments of the cerulean colour, etc. (15 February 1902): ASS 34 (1901–02) 553–555.
We are eleven days away from Christmas Eve. Today is the feast of Saint Lucy. And yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Heavenly Patroness of the Philippines before God, whose depiction is that of a mulier incincta in Latin, a mujer encinta in Spanish, a lady with child. The sanctoral cycle is clearly preparing us for Christmas! Traditionally, before the misa de gallo, the Mass sung at midnight, the first Mass of Christmas, a cantor sings the proclamation of the birth of Christ, what many of us call kalendas, which was sang as prologue to the martyrology the previous day. 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.
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 eighteenth 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 7 December this year, until 25 December.
There 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.
Why does the liturgical year start on Advent, and yet the readings on the first Sunday of Advent are about the end of the world? Well, blame the choirs and the scribes who painstakingly copied the choral tomes.
The liturgical year originally began on Christmas Day. The Incarnation signified the onset of our salvation, and Holy Mother Church cemented the significance of this temporal fulcrum by starting the cycle of Her worship with the Liturgy of the Incarnation of the Lord, and ending it with the Liturgy reminding man of the end of days, of the second coming of Christ, the Second Advent of the Lord.
Enter cantors and their scribes. The scribes started compiling Church music, and, in so doing, placed the chants of Advent before the chants of Christmas. The altar books and the choir books diverged for some time, until, eventually, the altar books yielded to the arrangement of the choir books. Henceforth, Advent became the start of the liturgical year of the Church.
Two days ago, on 7 November 2018, the Holy Father received Cardinal Angelo Becciu, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in audience, during which the Pope authorised the Congregation to promulgate the Decree, inter plurima alia, recognising the heroic virtues of the Servant of God D. Alfredo Mª. Obviar y Aranda, first bishop of Lucena, and founder of the Missionary Catechists of Saint Thérèse of the Infant Jesus, otherwise known as MCST.
D. Alfredo was born on 29 August 1889 in Lipa, Batangas, and was ordained priest on 15 March 1919. Appointed auxiliary bishop of Lipa on 11 Mar 1944, his title being that of Linoë, he was consecrated on 29 June that same year. After the War, he was appointed administrator of Lucena on 4 November 1950, becoming its first bishop on 21 June 1969. While still administrator of Lucena, he attended the First Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1953, and was Council Father at the first session of the Second Vatican Council in 1962. He retired his see on 25 September 1976, and died on 1 October 1978.
During the second solemn session of the First Plenary Council of the Philippines, D. Alfredo delivered the discourse to the clergy and the people, hinging his sermon on Mt. 18, 16, which he used to describe the heroic accomplishments of the Church throughout history, her struggles against foes from without and within, all the time threading the thought emphasising the significance of the Plenary Council for the Universal Church and for the Filipino nation. Below is the full address pronounced by D. Alfredo in Spanish, with our translation into English:
Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam.
Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against Her.
(Matth. XVIII, 16)
Most Eminent Sir:
The Plenary Council of the Catholic Episcopate, first in the Philippines, has happily come to its conclusion. The Most Eminent Cardinal, Legate a latere of the August Pontiff reigning, is arrayed once again with pontifical vestments to offer unto God thrice-Holy the unbloody Sacrifice as testimony to the acknowledgment of the blessings authorised to this Council, in which it is not known which should be admired most: whether its very solemnity dignified by the members of the Hierarchy; or the gravity of the Sacred Liturgy, which ordained its process; or the authority of the Representative of the Vicar of Jesus Christ, who, with his prudence, goodness and dignity, presided it.
Be what it be, the vow of the Episcopate of the Philippines to celebrate this plenary council is now fulfilled; it is fulfilled with the consent of His Holiness Pius XII, who, in his mission to guide the destinies of the Universal Church, hopes of this authorised Council to gain greater force and energy for the moral and religious life of his children in these far-flung Isles..
But what does this Council mean in the history of the Catholic Church? It is one of the manifestations of Her vitality on earth, whose enriching virtue originates from those sovereign words of Her Divine Founder: “Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against Her.”
Life is essential for all living organism. Jesus Christ, in establishing His Church to perpetuate His redemptive mission until the consummation of the ages, had to ensure Her existence so that She would not be made vassal to the powers of hell. And, thus, She, faithful to the instruction of Her Founder to go out and teach all peoples His Gospel, began to sow it everywhere, and shall continue doing so until the consummation of the ages.
Thus the Church accomplishes the divine message. It is true that She, in spreading throughout the world to bring the light of the Faith to those who are seated in the shadow of death, had along her steps encountered relentless enemies, who swore Her extermination. There the same in Judea, in Rome, in Asia, in Greece, in Macedonia, as in other parts even unto our present times, Her enemies spare no means to sate their vengeance. There the persecutions are which the Roman emperors promoted against Her. But the Church obtained greater beauty and worth when she bathed in Her own blood.
For Her, the imprisonments, the flagellations, the white-hot sheets, the fire, the cold water, the sword, the racks, the iron hooks, the wheels studded with steel spikes, the teeth and the jaws of the wild beasts, which the hatred of man did know to invent in its mad frenzy, served only, as did other new incentives, to rouse in Her the most intense desire to die for the Faith and for Christ.
She knows how to witness with equanimity and serenity in Her visage the slaughter of Her martyrs, who marched unto the arena of the circus to fight against their executioners and against other wild beasts. By the steadfastness of Her children in the Faith, beneath the sickle of persecution, children, adults, the rich and the poor, men and women, popes and bishops, priests and deacons have fallen, with a smile upon their lips, praising Christ and forgiving their executioners.
This was how the Church fought; this is how She is fighting today; and this is how She will fight until the consummation of the ages: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against Her.” But if She faced and continues to face Her enemies from without with serenity upon the brow and with valour in the heart, let nobody be astonished when She embraces with a firm hand the shield of fortitude and puts on the helmet of faith to battle those no less terrible adversaries who rose from Her bosom. I am speaking about heresies.
The Gnostics, the Manichaeans, the Montanists, the Novatians, the Antitrinitarians discovered in Her other faithful sons, who were the Justins, the Clements of Alexandria, the Tertullians, the Origens, the Irenaeuses, the Arnobiuses, the Lactantiuses and the Cyprians, who confronted the adversarial boldness. When Arius, Nestorius and Eutyches stood up to vomit their errors, the Church called upon Her sons Athanasius, Augustine, Basil, Chrysostom, Hilary, and other soldier-defenders of Catholic Truth.
Open the history of the Church and You all Will see Her always victorious and unscathed in all Her fights. Her victories and triumph extravagantly proclaim the accomplishment of the promise of Her Divine Founder: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against Her.”
A society of fishermen that becomes formidable and opens path to all battlegrounds, all equally fierce, challenges the entire world to which may be earmarked the support of human understanding, the protection of the powerful of the earth, the power of gold, etc. in its victories. A society that launches itself unto faraway countries to dispel the darkness of paganism and make shine the redeeming banner of Jesus Christ, with no gear other than the breviary in the hand, the crucifix on the chest, and the rosary in the pocket, has always been and always will be the astonishment of its enemies.
Even more so: a society that preaches the abandonment of the earthly, and combats the vices of the powerful; a society that preaches chastity to all without distinction, and humility to the proud, must not be a society flattered by the princes of the earth, but rather a society that solely depends upon the aid of Her Founder Who repeats: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against Her.”
Never has it been recorded in the annals of human history a fact similar to that of the Church, Who, through the vexation by different and many enemies who orchestrated Her destruction, continues in the advance of Her conquest, leaving them behind Her wake in their own ruin. The great Ecumenical Councils of Nicaea, of Constantinople, of Ephesus, of Chalcedon, of the Lateran, of Lyon, of Vienne, of Constance, of Trent and of the Vatican are irrefutable witnesses to the fight waged by the Church against heresies, as are other eloquent testimonies of Her fecundity in the world.
To study, therefore, the worth and grandeur of all the institutions of the world, be they empires, realms, be they nations and populaces, it is quite necessary to consult the records committed in annals and in histories. But amongst these, there is one admirable history that the dust of untoward events has never quite managed to bury. It is the history of the Catholic Church, because it is the true history of humanity. She shows Herself ever gallant and brave whenever Her enemies insult her with the rag of their weaknesses and infirmities, as She presents Herself graceful whenever the same enemies pretend to delustre the beauty and grandeur of her triumphs. Jesus Christ ever fulfills His promise: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against Her.”
Before ending, I cast once again my attention to the First Plenary Council of the Philippines. What is this Council with respect to you, O beloved Fatherland? It is the efflorescence of your Catholicism, with which and through which you have always deserved the glorious coronet of being the Catholic nation in the Far East; this coronet has increased in pearls in the present time with the elevation of many of your sons to the supreme apex of the Episcopate.
With them, you will emulate Catholic nations of both worlds; with them, you make your adversaries admire you; with them, your culture and civilisation reach greater height; with them, your faith is appraised and consolidated. Therefore, beloved Philippines, keep the gold of your faith, which is worth more than the wealth of your mountains and the lush of your fields. Therefore, nobility and gratitude require of you greater loyalty to the Roman Pontiff, greater obedience and submission to His voice and to the voice of your Shepherds; and if this submission and obedience should require you to dye your faith with the scarlet of your blood, spill it forth in order to beautify it, and for the love of Christ. So be it.
Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam.
Tú eres Pedro, y sobre esta piedra edificaré mi Iglesia, y las puertas del infierno no prevalecerán contra ella.
(Matth. XVIII, 16)
El Concilio Plenario del Episcopado católico, primero en Filipinas, ha llegado felizmente a su término. El Emmo. Purpurado, Legado a látere del Augusto Pontífice reinante, se ha revestido de nuevo de los ornamentos pontificales para ofrecer al Dios tres veces Santo el incruento sacrificio en testimonio de reconocimiento de las bendiciones otorgadas a esta Asamblea, en la cual no se sabe qué admirar más, si su misma solemnidad dignificada con los miembros de la Jerarquía, o la seriedad de la sagrada liturgia, que ordenaba su programa, o la autoridad del Representante del Vicario de Jesucristo, que con su prudencia, bondad y dignidad la presidía.
Sea lo que fuese, el voto del Episcopado de Filipinas de celebrar esta reunión plenaria se ha cumplido; se ha cumplido con el beneplácito de su Santidad Pío XII, quien, en su misión de dirigir los destinos de la Iglesia Universal, espera de esta autorizada Asamblea recoger más fuerza y energía para la vida moral y religiosa de sus hijos en estas dilatadas Islas.
Pero ¿qué significa este Concilio en la historia de la Iglesia Católica? Es una de las manifestaciones de su vitalidad en la tierra, cuya virtud fecundante arranca de aquellas palabras soberanas de su divino Fundador: « Tú eres Pedro, y sobre esta piedra edificaré mi Iglesia, y las puertas del infierno no prevalecerán contra ella. »
La vida es esencial a todo organismo viviente. Jesucristo, al establecer su Iglesia para perpetuar su misión redentora hasta la consumación de los siglos, ha debido asegurar su existencia a fin de que no fuese avasallada por las potestades del infierno. Y así ella, fiel a la consigna de su Fundador de recorrer y enseñar a todas las gentes su Evangelio, comenzó a sembrarlo por doquier, y continuará haciéndolo hasta la consumación de los siglos.
Así cumple la Iglesia el mensaje divino. Es verdad que ella, al extenderse por todo el orbe para llevar la luz de la fe a los que estaban sentados en la sombra de la muerte, había encontrado a su paso enemigos implacables, que juraron su exterminio. Allí mismo en Judea, en Roma, en Asia, en Grecia, en Macedonia, como en otras partes hasta en los actuales tiempos, sus enemigos no perdonaros medios para saciar su venganza. Allí están las persecuciones que los emperadores romanos promovieron contra ella. Sin embargo, la Iglesia cobraba más hermosura y valor cuando se bañaba en su misma sangre.
Para ella, las prisiones, la flagelación, las láminas candentes, el fuego, el agua helada, la espada, los potros, las uñas de hierro, las ruedas erizadas de aceradas púas, los dientes y las garras de las bestias feroces, que el odio humano supo inventar en su loco frenesí, sirvieron únicamente como otros nuevos incentivos para despertar en ella el más vivo deseo de morir por la fe y por Cristo.
Ella sabe presenciar con ecuanimidad y serenidad en el semblante la hecatombe de sus mártires, que marchaban a la arena del circo para lidiar contra sus verdugos o contra las fieras. Por la firmeza de sus hijos en la fe, cayeron bajo la hoz de la persecución niños, adultos, ricos y pobres, hombres y mujeres, papas y obispos, sacerdotes y diáconos, con la sonrisa en los labios, alabando a Cristo y perdonando a sus verdugos.
Así luchaba la Iglesia; así lucha hoy; y así luchará hasta la consumación de los siglos: « Las puertas del infierno no prevalecerán contra ella. » Pero si ella afrontaba y afronta a sus enemigos exteriores con la serenidad en la frente y con la valentía del corazón, nadie se extrañe cuando con mano firme embraza el escudo de la fortaleza y cala el yelmo de la fe para debelar a los no menos terribles adversarios que se levantaban en su mismo seno. Hablo de las herejías.
Los gnósticos, los maniqueos, los montanistas, los novacianos, los antitrinitarios hallaron en ella otros hijos fieles, que fueron los Justinos, los Clementes de Alejandría, los Tertulianos, los Orígenes, los Ireneos, los Arnobios, los Lactancios y los Ciprianos, que hicieron frente a la audacia enemiga. Cuando Arrio, Nestorio y Eutiques se levantaron para vomitar sus errores, la Iglesia llamó a sus hijos, Atanasio, Agustín, Basilio, Crisóstomo, Hilario y otros soldados defensores de la verdad católica.
Abrid la historia de la Iglesia y la veréis siempre vencedora y lozana en todas sus luchas. Sus victorias y triunfos por todo lo alto proclaman el cumplimiento de la promesa de su divino Fundador: « Las puertas del infierno no prevalecerán contra ella. »
Una sociedad de pescadores que se hace temible y abre paso en todos los campos de batalla, a cual más encarnizada, reta a todo el mundo a que señale el apoyo de la ciencia humana, el amparo de los poderosos de la tierra, la fuerza del oro, etc. en sus victorias. Una sociedad que se lanza a los remotos países para disipar las tinieblas del paganismo y hacer brillar el lábaro redentor de Jesucristo, sin más bagaje que el breviario en la mano, el crucifijo en el pecho y el rosario en el bolso, ha sido siempre y será el asombro de sus enemigos.
Más aún: una sociedad que predica el desprendimiento de lo terreno y combate los vicios de los poderosos; una sociedad que predica la castidad a todos sin distinción, y la humildad a los soberbios, no debe ser una sociedad halagada por los príncipes de la tierra, sino debe ser una sociedad que sólo cuenta con el auxilio de su Fundador que le repite: « Las puertas del infierno no prevalecerán contra ella. »
Nunca en los fastos de la historia humana se ha registrado un hecho semejante al de la Iglesia, que a través de las vejaciones de los diferentes y múltiples enemigos que maquinaron su destrucción, sigue en su avance de conquista dejándolos en pos de sí en sus mismas ruinas. Los grandes Concilios ecuménicos de Nicea, de Constantinopla, de Éfeso, de Calcedonia, de Letrán, de Lyon, de Viena, de Constanza, de Trento y del Vaticano son testigos fehacientes de la lucha sostenida por la Iglesia contra las herejías, como también son otros testimonios elocuentes de su fecundidad en el mundo.
Para estudiar pues el valor y la grandeza de todas las instituciones en el mundo, ya sean imperios, reinos, ya sean naciones y pueblos, hácese preciso consultar los hechos consignados en los anales y en las historias. Mas entre éstos hay una historia admirable que el polvo de los acontecimientos adversos jamás ha podido sepultar. Es la historia de la Iglesia Católica, porque es la verdadera historia de la humanidad. Ella se muestra siempre gallarda y valiente, cuando sus enemigos le insultan con el trapo de sus debilidades y flaquezas, como también se ostenta airosa, cuando los mismos enemigos pretenden deslustrar la hermosura y grandeza de sus triunfos. Siempre cumple Jesucristo su promesa: « Las puertas del infierno no prevalecerán contra ella ».
Antes de terminar, vuelvo de nuevo mi atención al primer Concilio Plenario de Filipinas. ¿Qué es esto concilio con respecto a ti, amada Patria? Es la eflorescencia de tu catolicismo, con el cual y por el cual has merecido siempre el timbre glorioso de ser la nación católica en este extremo Oriente; este timbre ha subido de punto en los actuales tiempos con la elevación de muchos de tus hijos al rango supremo del Episcopado.
Con ellos vas emulando las naciones católicas de ambos mundos; con ellos te haces admirar de tus adversarios; con ellos tu cultura y civilización suben a mayor altura; con ellos tu fe se avalora y se consolida. Por eso, amada Filipinas, conserva el oro de tu fe, que vale más que las riquezas de tus montañas y la feracidad de tus campos. Por eso, nobleza y gratitud exigen de ti más lealtad al Romano Pontífice, más obediencia y sumisión a su voz y a la de tus pastores; y si esta sumisión y obediencia requieren de ti que tiñas tu fe con la grana de tu sangre, derrámala para más embellecerla y por amor a Cristo. Así sea.
The latter part of this address contains many beautiful allusions. The penultimate paragraph speaks of the timbre and the punto, which in Spanish heraldry refer respectively to the crown or coronet set atop an escutcheon, and the number of rays or pearls on that coronet. Here, D. Alfredo likens the increase in the number of Filipino bishops to the number of rays on the crown of the Philippines. The last paragraph, on the other hand, catholicises the third stanza of Rizal’s Mi último adiós. Where Rizal calls on the Filipino patriot to colour the dawn red with his blood as he dies, D. Alfredo calls on the Filipino Catholic to dye his faith red to render greater beauty to it for the love of Christ. And in doing so, those who recognise the connection will understand from this the affirmation that the only incorruptible crown we need to seek after and strive to gain is the crown of heaven.