Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
The leadership team at the Kolbe Center has always tried to abide by the principle of St. Augustine: “In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.” Some of what we defend, like the supernatural creation of all things by God at the beginning of time, is certainly necessary for all Catholics to believe and defend, but some of the ideas set forth in this newsletter definitely fall into the category of “doubtful things,” in the sense that the Church has not taken a definite position on the matter and/or it is impossible to be certain about it, leaving it an open question about which Catholics are free to hold different opinions.
Into the category of “doubtful things” I would have to place my thesis that Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin did not die on “the first day of the week,” on Easter Sunday, as he had prayed to do, but at the beginning of “Monday,” the second day of the week, according to the Mosaic account of creation in Genesis One. To give you an alternative interpretation of the facts surrounding Fr. Teilhard de Chardin’s death, I would like to share my recent correspondence with a priest-theologian and long-time friend who rejected my thesis. He wrote:
I'm afraid this claim about Teilhard dying on "liturgical" Easter Monday rather than on Easter Sunday doesn't sound at all convincing. In both the old and new Divine Office the hour at which he died is designated as the time for Second Vespers of Easter Sunday. (I checked in the Ordo of the Fraternity of St. Peter, which uses the old Roman Breviary, and that's what it clearly says.) A friend of mine who's an expert on traditional liturgy tells me that Vespers on a Sunday evening would be celebrated as the First (Vigil) Vespers of Monday only if the Monday feast has a higher rank than the Sunday - for instance, if the Assumption, 8/15, falls on a Monday. But of course, no feast in the entire year has a higher rank than Easter Sunday. So in 'God's time', liturgical time, Teilhard did indeed die on Easter Sunday. You may need to publish a correction of this mistake.
Dear Fr. X,
Thank you very much for this correction which I will indeed publish in the next Kolbe newsletter. If you give me your permission to publish your correction, however, I will also publish with it my reasons for holding that this correction does not invalidate my thesis--for two principal reasons.
In the first place, while all of the days of Easter week are traditionally considered one day, it is not true that traditional Catholic liturgical practice does not recognize that Monday begins with Vespers on Easter Sunday. In Byzantine Daily Worship, the official prayer book of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, published with the approval of the Melkite Greek Patriarch, and with a letter of approval from the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Vespers of Easter Sunday is specifically called "Monday of New Week" (cf. Byzantine Daily Worship (Allendale, NJ: Alleluia Press, 1995), p. 868.) Thus, in the Byzantine liturgical tradition, Monday of Easter Week most definitely begins at dusk on Sunday.
Similarly, in the Maronite liturgical tradition, Vespers on Easter Sunday is specifically called "Monday Ramsho." "Ramsho" is the Aramaic and East Syriac Rite term for the evening Christian liturgy followed as a part of the seven canonical hours or Divine Office, roughly equivalent to Vespers in Western Christianity. This is the liturgical rite that preserves the canon in the original Aramaic used by Our Lord at the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
Moreover, according to the original liturgical time of the Hexameron as it was directly instituted by God in the beginning, there is absolutely no doubt that Fr. Teilhard de Chardin died on Monday. This is because Moses makes it crystal clear that Sunday began in the evening and ended with the end of daylight at which time Monday began. Since Fr. Teilhard de Chardin dedicated his life to replacing God's revelation of how He created the world in six days with his "new Christianity" based on evolution over billions of years, and since God established the liturgical week by the very way that He created the world, I will leave it to the Kolbe readers to decide whether your correction invalidates my thesis.
In any case, I thank you for your correction, and I hope that we can agree on the necessity of uniting in prayer that Fr. Teilhard de Chardin received the grace of true repentance before he entered eternity.
P.S. The USCCB website posts this information:
The Liturgy of the Hours includes several specified times of prayer. The most important times, called the "hinge hours," are Morning Prayer (which takes place upon rising) and Evening Prayer (which takes place as dusk begins to fall)
According to this explanation, Fr. Teilhard de Chardin definitely died "as dusk began to fall" which was the beginning of Monday, even if it was "Monday of New Week," the Monday of that week when every day is (in one sense but not in all) considered Easter Day.
My priest-theologian friend replied to my email as follows:
Comments on Easter Sunday/Monday:
Thank you, Hugh, for your response to my comment about the liturgical day on which Fr. Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, died. However, I remain unpersuaded that it is an error to say he died on Easter Sunday (as he prayed he would, and as all his biographers acknowledge he did).
First, you appeal to the Melkite and Maronite traditions that treat the evening of Easter Sunday as the beginning of Easter Monday. However, since Fr. Teilhard was a priest of the Latin Rite, that Eastern tradition does not apply to him; and there is no doubt that in the Latin Rite liturgical calendar he died at the hour of Second Vespers of Easter Sunday.
Secondly, you appeal to the Hexameron, in which Moses says the second day of creation (Monday) began at dusk 24 hours after the first day had begun - also at dusk. However, while our Judeo-Christian traditions regarding the general format of a liturgical week can certainly be traced back to the Hexameron as their remote origin, I don't think you are correct in saying that the first chapter of Genesis gives us "the original liturgical time . . . directly instituted by God in the beginning" (emphasis added). If God had intended that the Christian liturgical hours, destined to be instituted millennia after the creation, ought to correspond exactly to the day-and-night divisions of creation week, then he would have had to reveal that clearly somewhere in Scripture and/or Tradition. But no such biblical or patristic texts can be found; and so at least in the Latin Rite - by far the greater part of the Catholic Church - the Successors of Peter and the Apostles have always felt free to treat the hour of Vespers as liturgically part of the following day only when that following day is a major feast - and indeed, one of greater importance than the previous day. Indeed, since there is nothing in the Hexameron suggesting that Easter week should be treated differently in this respect from other times of the year, a consistent application of your theory would seem to require that the evening of every day - not just during the Octaves of Easter or other major feasts - should be treated liturgically as the beginning of the following day. In other words, Vespers every evening throughout the whole year would have to be for the same celebration (whether ferial day or saint's day) as for the following day. And I doubt that any Catholic rite of either East or West has ever implemented a rule of that sort in its liturgy. Most certainly the Latin Rite has never done so.
So, my position remains that it is entirely correct to say that Fr. Teilhard died on Easter Sunday. Perhaps the most charitable interpretation of this granting of his prayer request is not that God thereby endorsed his quasi-pantheistic and hyper-evolutionist theories, but rather, that in virtue of this priest's sincere striving after truth, he was granted the grace shortly before death of seeing how gravely mistaken these theories had been and of humbly accepting the truth about Creation. (By the way, his first or baptismal name was "Pierre", not "Teilhard". His full family name was "Teilhard de Chardin", and according to French usage he should be referred to as "Fr. Teilhard", never as "Fr. de Chardin", whenever a shorter form is used for convenience.)
Since you are the proprietor of the Kolbe Center website and its reports, Hugh, you are entitled to the 'last word', if you choose to make a further response. This will be my last contribution to this discussion.
With best wishes and blessings,
With gratitude to my priest-theologian friend for allowing me the last word, I wrote back to him as follows:
Dear Fr. X,
Thank you very much for your reply and for allowing me to respond.
If, as you say, in the traditional Roman Rite the Vespers of important feasts that occur on a Monday would be prayed on Sunday evening, this would seem to be a continuation of the universal practice of the early Church, perpetuated in the regular liturgical practice of the Byzantine and Maronite rites to this day. According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia:
The custom of reciting prayers at certain hours of the day or night goes back to the Jews, from whom Christians have borrowed it. In the Psalms we find expressions like: "I will meditate on thee in the morning"; "I rose at midnight to give praise to thee"; "Evening and morning, and at noon I will speak and declare: and he shall hear my voice";
The Eucharistic Synaxis beginning at eventide did not terminate till dawn. The vigils, independently of the Eucharistic service, were divided naturally into three parts; the beginning of the vigils, or the evening Office; the vigils properly so called; and the end of the vigils or the matutinal Office. For when the vigils were as yet the only Office and were celebrated but rarely, they were continued during the greater part of the night. Thus the Office which we have called the Office of evening or Vespers, that of midnight, and that of the morning, called Matins first and then Lauds, were originally but one Office. If this hypothesis be rejected, it must be admitted that at first there was only one public office, Vigils. The service of eventide, Vespers, and that of the morning, Matins or Lauds, were gradually separated from it.
Here we can see that the universal practice of the early Church was to begin the preparatory prayers for the Holy Eucharist of a given day with the Vespers, or Evening Prayer, on the previous evening. There is also a long-standing liturgical tradition in the Roman Rite of using the prayers of Vespers to sum up the work of Creation that was accomplished on the day just ended. This can be clearly seen in the Vespers hymns of the Psalter, attributed to Pope St. Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century. According to an introduction to a translation of those hymns:
The theme, or subject matter, of the Vespers hymns for the week is the work of the six days of creation as recorded in the first chapter of Genesis. . .The series develops in an orderly manner the work of creation, devoting four stanzas to the work of each day. There is strong probability that these hymns are the work of one and the same author, and that that author is no other than the illustrious Pope and Doctor of the Church, St Gregory the Great (540-604).
Each of these hymns sums up the work of creation accomplished on the previous day, in keeping with the sentiments expressed in the popular evening hymn, “The Day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended, the darkness falls at Thy behest.” Thus, the constant Tradition of the Church would certainly seem to teach that Sunday comes to an end (and Monday begins) on Sunday evening, and that Fr. Teilhard de Chardin did indeed die on Monday, according to the original ordering of time instituted by God Himself in the Hexameron.
“A Day Is Made Up of Twenty-Four Hours”
To argue otherwise would be to hold that a Sunday with a second vespers would consist of more than 24 hours—and there is no precedent for that opinion in any Father or Doctor of the Church. The consensus summed up by St. Thomas in the Summa is that Moses uses the phrase “one day” at the end of his account of Day One of the Hexameron because he is defining that a day is made up of 24 hours, 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light. He writes:
The words “one day” are used when day is first instituted, to denote that one day is made up of twenty-four hours. Hence, by mentioning “one,” the measure of a natural day is fixed. (ST, Ia q. 74 a).
I don’t think that anyone would seriously argue that Easter Sunday was made up of more than 24 hours; and, that being the case, Fr. Teilhard de Chardin definitely died on the beginning of Monday when the following Vesper Hymn would normally be chanted, summing up the work of the first day of creation week, and begging God for protection from errors of a remarkably Teilhardian character:
Blest Creator of the light
Who mak'st the day with radiance bright.
And o'er the forming world didst call
The light from chaos first of all;
Whose wisdom joined in meet array
The morn and eve, and named them Day:
Night comes with all its darkling fears;
Regard Thy people's prayers and tears.
Lest, sunk in sin, and whelmed with strife,
they lose the gift of endless life.
While thinking but the thoughts of time,
They weave new chains of woe and crime.
But grant them grace that they may strain
The Heavenly gate and prize to gain:
Each harmful lure aside to cast
And purge away each error past.
The words in bold might almost serve as an epitaph for Teilhard de Chardin since he abandoned God’s Revelation of how He supernaturally created the world in six days in favor of his own “thoughts of time” which resembled the “past errors” of Epicurus, Lucretius, and a host of pagan evolutionists. Indeed, the Teilhardian fantasy of evolution over long ages of time has been used to “weave new chains of woe and crime,” most especially through the propagation of the evolutionary pseudoscience of embryonic recapitulation which denigrated the sacred humanity of the unborn child from the moment of conception and paved the way for the legalization of abortion in the years immediately following Fr. Teilhard de Chardin’s departure from this world.
In conclusion, it would seem that when God wrote with “the finger of God” the Ten Commandments on Tablets of Stone for Moses and established the liturgical rhythm of the People of God with the Sacred Sabbath on the seventh day of the week, God explicitly declared that He Himself had established this liturgical rhythm at the beginning of time. After commanding the people to work for six days and rest on the seventh, He wrote: “For in six days, God created the heavens, the earth and the seas and all they contain and rested on the seventh day.” The Hebrew word translated “for,” transliterated as “ki,” means “because,” as in Genesis 2:3 where Moses writes that Eve was “called woman because (“ki”) she was taken from the man.” In other words, God Himself wrote on the stone tablets that Moses and the Chosen People were to follow a liturgical rhythm that revolved around observing the Sabbath from sundown to sundown because God Himself had established that liturgical rhythm by the way in which He created the world in six days and “rested” on the seventh day.
This was certainly the mind of the early Church Fathers, for we find St. Justin Martyr, in the second century, acknowledging that God made Sunday “the first day” of Creation Week in anticipation of the “new creation” in Christ on Easter Sunday:
The day of the sun is the day on which we all gather in a common meeting, because it is the first day, the day on which God, changing darkness and matter, created the world; and it is the day on which Jesus Christ our savior rose from the dead.
St. Gregory of the Theologian writes in a similar vein:
Just as the creation begins with Sunday (and this is evident from the fact that the seventh day after it is Saturday, because it is the day of repose from works) so also the second creation begins again with the same day [i.e. the day of the Resurrection].
Thus, the early Church Fathers echoed the ancient Liturgy of Antioch in which the faithful prayed:
When we ponder, O Christ, the marvels accomplished on this day, the Sunday of your holy Resurrection, we say: “Blessed is Sunday, for on it began creation” (emphasis added) (Fanquith, The Syriac Office of Antioch, Vol. VI, first part of Summer, 193 B. (CCC, 1167).
Thus, while the Pope and the Bishops can certainly modify liturgical practice within certain limits, nothing that they do to modify the sacred liturgy can ever change the original, primordial liturgical order established by God at the beginning of time, which He Himself identified in the Ten Commandments as the basis for the liturgical practice of His Chosen People—a practice that always entails beginning each day at dusk. According to that original, divinely-established order, Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin died on “Monday Ramsho,” of “New Week,” and not on Sunday, “the first day of the week.”
My friends in Christ, I will rest my case there; and I leave it to you to decide whether I have been able to defend my thesis against the learned and charitable critique of a priest-theologian who has also been our long-time friend.
“In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity”!
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. I will be driving to the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, on the weekend of June 4-5, and I will be passing through or close by Nashville and Memphis. If anyone in that area—or anywhere roughly along my route—would like to arrange a Kolbe presentation on Saturday evening, June 4, or on Wednesday evening, June 8, on my way back to Virginia, I would be happy to oblige. I will also be in New England on the weekend of June 11-12 and would be happy to give a Kolbe talk at any venue in upstate New York or New England over that weekend. If you would like to discuss a possible venue, please email me as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org.