Followup: Misa de aguinaldo and the canonical hours

The misa de aguinaldo is a purely devotional custom that is not linked in any way to the Office of the day. Its vestments are white, while that of the Masses of Advent are purple. Gloria is sung throughout, which is suppressed throughout Advent. Credo is sung throughout, which is only sung on Sundays throughout Advent. The misa de aguinaldo does not commemorate the Advent Mass; the Advent Mass does not commemorate the misa de aguinaldo. One appreciates here the principle of parallel actions in the liturgy that Dr Kwasniewski so eloquently observes in the usus antiquior, something that agents in the modern liturgical establishment are loathe to value and esteem.

This being the case, we shall address the discussions that our previous article generated, primarily on the anticipation of the misa de aguinaldo. People have a tendency to look at the misa de aguinaldo in the evening of the previous day as an anticipation, precisely because it has been marketed as such. In that previous article, we avoided applying the term ‘anticipated’ on the evening misa de aguinaldo, because that would imply that horologically, it is in an actually and morally exceptional temporal locus.

Anticipated Masses are admittedly a paradigm that developed after the Council, intended to accommodate the shifting occupational availability of Catholics. Anticipated Offices, however, are not prior to the Council. In the usus antiquior, if there was a need to move the Mass earlier, the Church predicated permission on the movement of the Offices to an earlier time. Take for example the norms established by the statutes of the then Conciliar Seminary of Nueva Cáceres. In order for the Mass of the Easter Vigil to be said at 6 o’clock in the morning (so the people can break fast early), the seminarians had to finish reciting all the minor hours, from terce to none, including prime, at dawn.

An anticipated Sunday Mass, therefore, is properly ‘anticipated’ because, historically and traditionally, Sunday Masses are said after the hour of terce, which is 9 o’clock in the morning. Terce, unlike matins and lauds, is, by practice, not anticipated the day before. So, saying the propers of Sunday in the evening of Saturday, when the hours preceding terce have not yet been recited, even practically and morally, is indeed an anticipation.

An evening misa de aguinaldo, on the other hand, at least from the perspective of the usus antiquior, is morally still within the bounds of the canonical hours where it has been historically and traditionally celebrated. And what are these bounds? As we have said before, the misa de aguinaldo is sung in the darkness between lauds and prime, before the dawn of the nine days of Christmas. If the misa de aguinaldo starts at, say, 12 noon of 15 December (being before the allowed hour of anticipation for matins and lauds) that would indeed be an anticipation.

Another factor that contributes to this perception is the fact that, in the usus recentior, the misa de aguinaldo has unique readings assigned for each day, whose beginnings were first expressed in 1975, based on the Boletín Eclesiástico. This somehow invites the thought that if the propers are said outside the astronomical boundaries of the days they are assigned, then anticipation is a real thing. Again, it is not only the set of propers that makes the misa de aguinaldo what it is. It is marked, first and foremost, for its joyous solemnity (Gloria and Credo) in honour of Mary (Votive Mass of the Virgin) at an early time of the day (the darkness preceding dawn).

The usus antiquior does not have this problem, because the readings said throughout the nine days are the same. The only change that happens is during 18 December, when the celebrant reads the Alleluia verse from the feast of the Expectation, and changes the elogium of the preface to in Exspectatióne. One here asks: Why admit the feast of the Expectation, when the misa de aguinaldo does not admit even the Advent feria? And the answer is: Because, unlike the Advent feria, the feast of the Expectation is a proper feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and is intimately linked to her perpetual virginity, being, in fact, the reason why we have the misa de aguinaldo in the first place.

These having been said, we shall abstain from comparing the set of propers of the two forms of the Roman Rite. Still, there is difficulty in our liturgical establishment accepting the independence of the misa de aguinaldo from the general calendar, and vice versa. This failure to reconcile the two results in Frankenstein liturgies where elements from the misa de aguinaldo are transplanted into the Sunday Mass. It is not uncommon to attend evening Sunday Masses where the vestments are white and Gloria is sung, but the readings are for the Sunday of Advent. It is, indeed, akin to forcing a 1-cm2 square fit into a 1-cm2 circle, an exercise in frustration.

Before we end, allow us this admonition: If people perceive these words authoritative, we say: Thank you, but authority does not reside in us. Having traced its history and pedigree all the way back to the Tenth Council of Toledo, we are merely appreciating the nuances behind the present-day arrangements of the misa de aguinaldo. Whether the evening misas de aguinaldo are legitimate, is a question our bishops can answer and moderate, as they have so done in their capacity and proper jurisdiction.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Misa de aguinaldo and the canonical hours

This weekend, the Philippine Church will once again begin the misas de aguinaldo. This term, unfortunately, is rather antiquated, and is only used nowadays in ordines. Its successors are misa de gallo, which denotes the series of nine Masses celebrated at dawn from 16 to 24 December, and simbáng gabí, which denotes those celebrated in the evening from 15 to 23 December.

As we have said elsewhere, misa de aguinaldo has two elements: misa and aguinaldo. The first element, misa, is fairly easy. It refers to the devotional Masses once celebrated in Spain in honour of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The second element, on the other hand, aguinaldo, is rather tricky. It encodes two meanings: first, aguinaldo means carol, which refers to the popular hymns sung by the faithful within the context of the misas de aguinaldo; second, aguinaldo means gift, which refers to the acts of charity performed after such Masses.

Ditties and strains, the carol-part of aguinaldo, which the people sung during the Masses eventually grew more and more vulgar and caricaturesque (just listen to Rin, rin) to such a point that the master of ceremonies of Seville, D. Diego Díaz de Escobar, reported these abuses to the Sacred Congregation of Rites, which in turn responded, recommending their full extermination. Under this pretext, D. Felipe Pardo, then-archbishop of Manila, visited a short-lived suppression upon the misas de aguinaldo in the archdiocese. Acts of charity, on the other hand, the gift-part of aguinaldo, which pious men and women exercised after Masses of this wise, took varied forms. Saint Simón de Roxas fed seventy-two poor people in honour of the seventy-two years that the Blessed Virgin Mary ever Virgin lived on earth before her most glorious Assumption. The cathedral chapter of Toledo distributed gifts of money, poultry and fish (dinero, gallinas, and besugo) to the different people—the subchoirmasters, the beadles, chandlers, the sweepers, the embroiders, the upholsterers of the sanctuary, etc.—who rendered service to the chapter and to the cathedral.

We have said before that the misas de aguinaldo operate on a parallel calendar that is not concerned about what happens in the universal liturgical calendar for nine days before Christmas. The universal calendar, reciprocally, is not concerned about it. How the Masses came to be celebrated at dawn, we may never fully discover, but from the acts of the cathedral chapter of Toledo, we discover that in the 16th century, the aguinaldos were distributed on Christmas Day after the Dawn Mass of Christmas, which is sung after prime, which is the name of the canonical hour of the Divine Office that is normally prayed at 6 o’clock in the morning. However, in order for the second Mass of Christmas to be said at dawn, prime is said earlier than the usual time. This giving of aguinaldos after the Dawn Mass of Christmas is a most fitting culmination of the nine-day misas de aguinaldo that preceded it.

So, while the misa de aguinaldo is not concerned with what happens in the general calendar, it is, however, concerned with what happens in the horological cycle of the day. This immemorial custom teaches us to sanctify the hours when the world is awash in the darkness that precedes the nine days before Christmas. These hours, we know, can be referenced against the canonical hours: the misa de aguinaldo is celebrated between the hour of lauds and the hour of prime. Normally, this should be between 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock in the morning. In the past, however, the celebrations were sometimes pre-posed to as early as 2 o’clock after midnight. While we can deduce only part of the rationale, we understand that this is acceptable, primarily because, in practice, matins and lauds are anticipated as early as 2 o’clock in the afternoon of the previous day.

If we consider this anticipation of matins and lauds, we discover that the dark hours between lauds and prime practically expands from three (3 to 6 AM) to twelve (6 PM to 6 AM). Now, simbáng gabí comes to mind!

Throughout history, the misas de aguinaldo were celebrated in the darkness before dawn, at the time between lauds and terce (or prime, if we fine-tune) in order for Christ’s faithful to look forward towards the morning of the nine days before Christmas. We look forward to the sunrise of the nine days before Christmas, because these are sunrises that foreshadow the great and magnificent birth of the Sun of Justice on Christmas Day.

The Sistine indult that granted indulgences to the misa de aguinaldo only states that the Masses are celebrated nine days before Christmas. The fact that it simply mentions the number of days (and not the dates themselves) enables these possible adjustments, so long as they are morally within the duration of darkness between the hour of lauds and the hour of prime.

It is these two reasons that allow us to appreciate as well the wisdom behind the misas de aguinaldo celebrated in the evening from 15 to 23 December. While they may not fully fit in the schema of the usus recentior which follows a different reckoning for its Divine Office, they perfectly fit in the reckoning of the usus antiquior, where the duration between lauds and prime is practically extended by the anticipation of the nocturnal hours at 2 o’clock in the afternoon of the previous day.

So, Filipino brethren in the True Faith, as we celebrate the nine-day misas de aguinaldo, let us remember that we attend Mass every dawn from 16 to 24 December, or in the evening from 15 to 23 December, we sanctify the dark hours that precede the sunrise of the nine days before Christmas, to honour the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To this act of hyperdulia, we unite as well the noble intentions for the exaltation of Holy Mother Church, for the propagation of the Catholic faith, and for the constancy of those newly converted to the faith in the aforesaid faith, as well as for the constancy of the Filipinos in the faith, and for the preservation of religion in the archipelago.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Sacred Congregation of Rites, Decree 2659 (16 January 1677).
Ángel Fernández Collado, La catedral de Toledo en el siglo XVI (Toledo: 1999) cap. 5.
Sixtus Pp. V, Brief Licet is (5 August 1586).
Felipe Pardo, O. P., Decree on the suppression of the misa de aguinaldo (12 October 1680).


Someone came up with a snarky take on the history of pews amongst Christians. Pews came very late in the Philippines. As late as 1925, the church of Guimba in Iloilo, for instance, still had no pews. And participants of the First National Eucharistic Congress gathered inside the Cathedral of Manila relieved their knees and backs by sitting on wicker chairs, the ubiquitous sillas de anea of old. The Cathedral of Jaro in 1929, likewise, still had no pews, possessing instead rows of wicker chairs. And, lest we forget, until recently, Saint Peter’s basilica herself still had no pews, while up to this point, other basilicas in Rome only have chairs.

Pews were fixtures necessitated by heresy. To subvert and demonise the True Faith, preachers had to indoctrinate the faithful constantly and frequently. Emphasis on these sermons, the engine of heretical indoctrination, gave rise to long and organised benches that we now call pews. Catholics adopted the pew quite late, so late no dedicated Latin word exists for it until now! (Well, Spaniards sometimes use escaño, so we probably can back-translate to scamnum.) Adopting it seems to never cross the Orthodox mind. If the thought crosses, it is immediately perished. These differing attitudes have inspired witty creatures to assign these three largest Christian confessions to a posture that is dominant in their respective liturgies, something which engenders a classification parallel to the three realms of the Church. So now the Orthodox form the Ecclesia adstans, the Church standing; Catholics, the Ecclesia flectens, the Church kneeling; Protestants, the Ecclesia sedens, the Church sitting.

We live in an era when liturgical postures are purposely and deliberately linked to ideologies that do not necessarily respect the organic development of these postures. Our Catholic experience allows us to conclude that the prevailing attitude tends towards the gradual eradication of kneeling. To us Catholics, the most important part of the pew is neither the seat nor the back support. It is the kneeler. This is because we had to subject furniture that we adopt from others to the sensus fidelium. And our sensus fidelium is neither to lounge or slouch inside the consecrated edifice. Once people realised that we have developed dependence on pews for kneeling, discouraging this posture became easier. Remove the kneelers from the pews, and people will be weaned from kneeling.

The absence of pews in the early Church has been cited time and again by those in favour of standing as an incontrovertible evidence that kneeling was not an ancient posture. No pews mean no kneelers. No kneelers mean no kneeling. This is an old canard that has been debunked elsewhere. That people should banish kneeling with this logic, but leave sitting untouched, is always a funny factoid. Let us always remember that throughout the course of the liturgical year, there are only two postural imperatives that the congregation hears from the altar. In certain times, such as during the Easter Vigil, we hear the deacon chant Flectamus genua, which translates to Let us bend our knees. Afterwards, we hear the deacon bid the people Levate, which translates to Rise. There is no historical liturgical command that we know of enjoining anyone to sit for prayer. Thus, while pews have entered currency, while some of us somehow harbour the faint hope of returning to pewless churches, let us stand, sit, and kneel as our ancestors have done throughout the ages, not as how professional and wannabe worship pundits would like us to believe. Custom (not a newfangled practice desperately clawing its way to becoming a custom) is the best interpreter of the law.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Mother and modesty

In today’s fourth lesson at Matins, we read from Saint Leo the Great that the Deipara was chosen a Virgin from the royal house of David, and “lest, unaware of heavenly counsel, she should be scared of these unwonted events, the future Mother of God learned from an angelic announcement what was to be wrought in her by the Holy Ghost, and did not suffer loss of modesty”. It is amazing how great a value is placed on modesty in this text, and how trivial we treat it nowadays.

Bouguereau - Chant des anges
Chant des anges (fragment) | William-Adolphe Bouguereau | 1881

While we understand that modesty, first and foremost, is an interior disposition, a spiritual intention, we also acknowledge that the most visible indicator of modesty is clothing. Satan acknowledges this as well, and so has set his efforts at perverting the use of clothing, first by elevating it above its intrinsic usefulness and setting it upon the throne of luxury, creating modern-day idols called fashion and couture. Then followed the painful whittling down of clothes. Quite literally! As the years shouldered on, hunkered on the back of ever-developing tastes, clothes covered a smaller and smaller surface area of the average human skin. The operative principle is quantum exiguius, quantum tenuius, tantum melius. The skimpier, the flimsier, the better.

Just when we thought clerical vesture is immune from this depravity, often disguised as art to soften the impact, mollify the scandalised, and desensitise the indifferent, a high-profile event earlier this year just successfully staged one such vestural sacrilege, abetted by certain church dignities. Wannabes then took the cue, and parroted the perversion, this time, upping the ante, by debasing Catholic Christological iconography. (We refuse to link to these crazy antics, so they receive no satisfaction from our grievance.)

Puccinelli - La moda
La moda | Antonio Puccinelli | 1870

Let us remember these sacrileges on this feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, and prepare ourselves to renew, together with Catholic womankind, our promise every 8 December, when we consecrate once again ourselves and the entire Philippine Islands to the Immaculate Mother of God, “to remove far from the defiling hand of materialism, which hath degraded the use of clothing into an incentive of sin”.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Praying the Rosary in October

On the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, Pope Francis, through a communiqué from the Holy See Press Office, invited all Catholics to pray the Rosary daily throughout the month of October, as well as the earliest antiphon of the Blessed Virgin, Sub tuum præsidium, and the prayer to Saint Michael, Sancte Michaël Archangele.


Praying the Rosary daily throughout the month of October is a traditional devotion certainly not foreign to the lives of Catholics. In the Philippines, in fact, old ordines direct the faithful to recite the Rosary from 1 October until 2 November, inclusive, not only in private, but most especially in common. This said, we would like to add that the prayer to Saint Joseph, Ad te, beate Ioseph, is likewise to be added, according to the Leonine encyclical Quamquam pluries issued on 15 August 1889.

As is the custom in many places, the Litany of Loreto is added at the end of the Rosary. In the Philippines, and in many Hispanophone places, after the invocation Mater intemerata, the invocation Mater immaculata is added—notwithstanding the latter invocation Regina sine labe originali concepta—by virtue of the Clementine brief Eximia pietas issued on 14 March 1767, a tradition which the First Plenary Council of the Philippine upheld.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Blood of Christ, save us!

El Greco - El expolio
El expolioΔομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος | 1577–1579

On this feast of the Most Precious Blood of the Lord, which could not have occurred at a more opportune time when persecution is imminent, when the elected ditionis dux entertains no qualms not only in maligning our shepherds, but also in blaspheming God, let us remember the words of one Filipino bishop whose cause for sainthood has been opened. On 25 January 1953, at the opening of the second session of the First Plenary Council of the Philippines, D. Alfredo M.ª Obviar, then administrator of the Diocese of Lucena, delivered a solemn speech on importance of that Council of the Philippine Church, linking it to the Universal Church and Her journey throughout history.

Thus the Church accomplisheth 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 knoweth 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.

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 perdonaron 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.

Persecution brings out the best in the Church. Her illustrious sons rise to defend Her. We fly ever more to the Sacraments. “Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts,” said Saint Peter, “being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.” Parallels in history become quite alarming, especially at a time when everything that the Church steadfastly holds is conveniently explained away as hypocrisy. In the meantime, when freedom has not yet been deprived from us, let us not forget the call made by Saint John XXIII when he approved the Litany of the Precious Blood on 24 February 1960, when he issued the bull Inde a primis: recite or sing the Litany everyday for the whole month of July!

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Lessons for the choir from Saint John

For us charged with the choral office, the feast of Saint John the Baptist bears paramount importance. It is on this feast when, at vespers, we once again sing the hymn that became the basis of the names of the notes of the mediaeval hexachord. Paul the Deacon, to whom authorship of the hymn is ascribed, saw in the 8th century the parallel in his and Zachary’s situation when, scheduled to sing the Exsultet in the Easter Vigil, he instead came down with a sore throat that very day. Needless to say, the anecdote confirms that, indeed, Paul’s throat was healed.

Stanzione - El nacimiento del Bautista anunciado a Zacarías
Annuncio a San Zaccaria della nascita di San Giovanni Battista | Massimo Stanzione | c. 1635

Six months after John’s birth, our Lord was born. Shortly after the birth of the Messiah, Herod the Great ordered the massacre of all male infants, two years and under, in Bethlehem. Only two survived. Christ, Whom Joseph and Mary spirited quickly to Egypt, and John, whom Elisabeth and Zacharias hid in the wilderness. And this nourishes our motley experience in promoting sacred music, our steadfast commitment to preserving Gregorian chant in the life of the Church.

Stanzione - San Juan Bautista se despide de sus padres
San Giovanni Battista dice addio ai suoi genitori | Massimo Stanzione | c. 1635

Our isolation in this seemingly inhospitable part of the Lord’s vineyard, which other workers attempt to compromise by diverting irrigation (Goodbye, 2000-ish-year-old chant! Let’s support music that people want to hear!), adulterating fertiliser (Away with Latin! Nobody understands it these days!), or substituting crops (Hello, alius cantus aptus!) is not for naught. Sweeter is triumph at the height of adversity.

Stanzione - Predicación del Bautista en el desierto
La predicazione di San Giovanni Battista nel deserto | Massimo Stanzione | c. 14635

Sacred music is becoming a stranger in its own home. It is as if we are continuously encouraged towards holiness from one side, and expected to act on this resolve while hearing in the liturgy music bordering on the wanton. Popes, bishops, concerned liturgists have spoken in favour of sacred music. To some Catholics, however, who harbour other notions, obeying such pronouncements, even those enshrined in the blueprints of reforms they so cherish to the point of canonisation, is a pill far bitterer than a quashed ambition. Germane thoughts of solidarity ripple across the vineyard. But when the stewards, his foremen, and their concerned labourers turn to other problems, the determination fizzes out, and we are left again in the wilderness of obedience. The head is willing but the members are weak.

Stanzione - Degollación de San Juan Bautista
La decollazione di San Giovanni Battista | Massimo Stanzione | c. 1635

But what immensely fortifies us most in the duty to which have been called and to which we have responded is the reality of persecution. Every day we labour is a day lived in martyrdom. Not necessarily with blood. Let us not shirk away from this reality, and call upon the guidance of the Precursor of the Lord, whose birth loosened the tongue of his father.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Superpelliceum nostrum aligerum (2)

With so much fabric hanging from our shoulders, enough to make at least six purificators, people must be curious about what we do with the cumbersome appendages. Most of the time, we just let them dangle as they are, as we usually wear the Mozarabic surplice during penitential seasons. That dangling allows the sleeves to drag, and the dragging evokes penance and sorrow. Sometimes, we wrap the sleeves around our arms, and sometimes, we fold them.

As addendum to the first part, below is what we do with the surplus of fabric flapping about like a carefree kite from our shoulders:

During penitential times, that is, in Masses and in Offices in Adventide and Lententide, as well as in Masses and in Offices of the Dead, Cantors are not allowed to wrap their arms with the wings or sleeves of their surplices. In this case, they must let the wings or sleeves to dangle to the floor, that a sign of sorrow or grief might be given. Outside penitential times, Cantors are allowed to wrap their arms with the wings or sleeves of their surplices. During penitential seasons as well, in the presence of the higher or senior dignity of the Choir, junior Cantors are allowed to fold their wings or sleeves as a sign of humility. Outside penitential times, when Cantors wrap their arms with the wings of their surplices, they may opt not to fold them.

Tempore poenitentiae, id est in Missis Officiisque temporibus Adventus et Quadragesimae, sed et in Missis et Officiis Defunctorum, non licet cantoribus brachia sua alis vel manicis longis suorum superpelliceorum involvere. Hoc in casu, sinere alas vel manicas longas pendere ad solum debent, ut signum luctus vel moestitiae daretur. Extra tempus poenitentiae, licet cantoribus involvere sua brachia alis vel manicis longis superpelliceorum suorum. Tempore poenitentiae quoque, principiore dignitate Cappellae praesente vel seniore, iunioribus plicare alas vel manicas longas licet in signum humilitatis. Extra tempus poenitentiae, cum involvent cantores brachia sua superpelliceorum suorum alis, possint non plicare easdem.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Superpelliceum nostrum aligerum (1)

Our choristers sometimes receive quizzical looks, ultimately resolved by bolder souls with a direct question, when we sing in the Liturgy vested in a surplice that looks like a blouse with scandalously long side trains sewn at the sleeves. As doubtless we will once again be seen in this indumentary peculiarity, let this be an answer to the collective question of an inquisitive public: what we are wearing is called the Mozarabic surplice. The long trains at the sides are called wings, for which reason it is also called the winged surplice. These can be either pleated or left plain as is; if pleated, the surplice is then called the pleated surplice or the folded surplice.


This terminology is set forth in chapter III of title IV of this Choir’s draft Enchiridion Consuetudinum Praecipuarum et Morum, which is just a fancy way of calling a handbook of our customs.

Amongst the choristers of the Choir, the winged surplice, known elsewhere as the pleated surplice, and generally as the Mozarabic surplice, enjoys pride of place amongst other surplices and similar vestments used by the Latin Church.

Superpelliceum aligerum, denominatum alibi superpelliceum plicatum, plerumque superpelliceum mozarabicum, apud choristas Cappellae primo loco inter alia superpellicea similiaque indumenta Ecclesia Latina usitata gaudet.

Now, let us go to the more important questions: Why on earth do we wear something that is Mozarabic? Aren’t we of the Roman Rite? The simple answer is, of course, precedence: Its use in the Philippines has been established not only circumstantially (we were a colony of an empire with Mozarabic connections; we had to have used that surplice in the past) but substantially (Filipino churchmen indeed wore that surplice). Chronologically, below was how we established precedence:

1. Guam used the Mozarabic surplice. Since Guam once belonged to the then Diocese of Cebu, then that surplice must have been used in the Diocese of Cebu.

Procession in Guam
A procession in Guam with servers in Mozarabic surplices with shortened sleeves. Notice the characteristic triangular opening of the neckline, which happens when the sleeves are parted.

2. Priests attending the First Provincial Council of Manila wore the Mozarabic surplice. Since this Council encompassed the entire Philippine archipelago (it was only called provincial and not plenary due to the fact that at that time Manila was the only ecclesiastical province), then that surplice must have been used throughout the archipelago.

Padres del Primer Concilio Provincial de Manila
At the foreground are seated the prelates Msgr. Thomas Augustine Hendrick of Cebu, Msgr. Jeremiah James Harty of Manila, Dom Ambrose Agius, O. S. B. (Apostolic Delegate), Msgr. Dennis Joseph Dougherty of Nueva Segovia, and Don Jorge Barlín Imperial of Nueva Cáceres. Behind Barlín is Don Juan Gorordo y Perfecto who would later become the first Filipino bishop of Cebu. At the left stand the canons of the metropolitan cathedral of Manila, among which are Don Eulogio Sánchez and Don Silvino López Tuñón. The rest are the theologians and the synodal fathers in full-lace Mozarabic surplices. Notice again the triangular opening of the neckline and the clearer seam separating the sleeves and the bodice.

3. Philippine art attests to the use of the Mozarabic surplice. If the Mozarabic surplice appeared in a work of art featuring a moment in Philippine history, albeit portrayed in a biased manner, then the depiction of the Mozarabic surplice had to have a basis in real life.

Resurrección Hidalgo - El asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante y su hijo
In this fragment from El asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante y su hijo by Félix Resurreccion Hidalgo y Padilla in 1884, the crucifer at the extreme right is wearing full-lace Mozarabic surplice.

4. Aglipayans continued to use the Mozarabic surplice. While their nativist leadership criticised, lampooned, maligned, condemned, and scorned the Roman Catholic Church for the foreignness of Her hierarchy, and the alleged unscriptural-ness of Her doctrines, it looks like they nevertheless had no qualms copying Her customs, even those more intimately linked to Spain (the collarpieces and the Mozarabic surplice) than to Christendom in general.

The dignity holding what looks like a staff is wearing a full-lace Mozarabic surplice. Aglipay in chasuble and mitre is seated in the middle flanked by ministers, one in tunicle, another in dalmatic, both with collarpieces.

For now, let us content ourselves with this exposition.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Shifting notions and the feast of Saint Pedro Calungsod

San Pedro Calungsod

Saint Pedro Calungsod died on 2 April 1672. If we check the liturgical calendar for the year 1672, we will find out that 2 April 1672 is the Saturday before Passion Sunday. Passion Sunday, in the reckoning of the Hispanic world, is domingo de Lázaro, a term we Hispanics appropriated from the Mozarabic Rite, which calls the Fifth Sunday of Lent exactly that way, Dominica de Lazaro (something which also persists in the Ambrosian Rite). This birthday almost always falls either within Lent or during the Easter Octave. As such, it is accordingly transferred. If we following the rule of thumb in the Extraordinary Form, we will be transferring the feast to the first unimpeded day after Low Sunday. In the Ordinary Form, however, the memorial of Saint Pedro Calungsod observed today, having been made transferable to the Saturday before Palm Sunday, for praiseworthy reasons slightly marred by a notional shift.

This translation of the memorial of Saint Pedro Calungsod obtains its force, or at least it is enshrined, in a 2013 circular of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission of Manila. In this circular, the memorial, when 2 April is impeded, is transferred to the Saturday before Palm Sunday. The intention, in its pure form, is very honourable. To celebrate our second saint on the liturgical day he died is indeed laudable. The aftereffects, however, of the liturgical reforms in the past forty years, which unsurprisingly allotted considerable effort towards restructuring terminology, a semantic reform, if the term pleases, have unfortunately conflated Palm Sunday with Passion Sunday in present liturgical thought.

Which is why this is a thorny question. In 1672, Dominica Passionis had no other namesake. In 1960, the original Dominica Passionis became Dominica I Passionis, and received a sibling in the person of the original Dominica in Palmis, now the Dominica II Passionis seu in Palmis. Eventually, when they pruned out Prelent, Dominica I Passionis evaporated, and the new Dominica II Passionis conflated itself with Dominica in Palmis to the point of synonymity. And so in 1970, Palm Sunday became Dominica in Palmis de Passione Domini.

When the decision to transfer the memorial of Saint Pedro Calungsod was being deliberated, it seems that this notional shift was not taken into account. And so, in 2013, Filipinos were advised to transfer the memorial to the Saturday before Palm Sunday. Or perhaps this was ignored, being obviously outdated and latently dangerous in the established worldview, because we have to get on with the times. Either way, knowing that this is the tip of a bigger question, let us ask Saint Pedro Calungsod to intercede for us, that we may endure with forbearance the vicissitudes of the world to which we are consigned, and grant us the same youthful fortitude that enabled him to submit to martyrdom.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.