Sunday, 21 December 2014

Are the misas de aguinaldo abolished?

An allegation that the misas de aguinaldo have been abrogated, by reason of the expiration of the original indult and the non-renewal of said indult, has been communicated to us.

Perpetual indulgence
First, let us examine the bull Licet is promulgated by Pope Sixtus V on 5 August 1586 at the request of the Augustinian Fray Diego de Soria (not to be confused with another Fray Diego de Soria who comes forward to us from our local history, this time a Dominican friar, who became first archbishop of Nueva Cáceres).

Principal cloister of the ex-Convent of Saint Augustine in Acolman,
where the first misas de aguinaldo in Mexico were celebrated.

The partial indulgence of twenty years and twenty quarantines to be gained by the natives when they assist in the misas de aguinaldo was granted in perpetuity. The exact wording of the bull is below:
[…] indulgentiam viginti annorum et totidem quadragenarum et insuper praedictis etiam utriusque sexus christifidelibus, qui in aliqua ex predictis ecclesiis celebrationibus missarum de aguinaldo nuncupatarum quae in honorem virginitatis eiusdem Beatae Mariae Virginis per novem dies continuos ante festum Nativitatis Domini nostri Iesu Christi in aurora in praedictis ecclesiis annis singulis celebrari solent devote interfuerint et, ut praefertur, oraverint similem omnium et singulorum peccatore praesentium in perpetuum concedimus et elargimur.
If the intent of Pope Sixtus V was to grant the indulgence in attending the misas de aguinaldo in perpetuity, then it was also his intent to grant the indult to celebrate the misas de aguinaldo in perpetuity. Indeed, in the latter part of the bull, Pope Sixtus V declares that only when another perpetual indulgence or a temporary indulgence with a fixed duration for the same act should supersede the perpetual indulgence that he granted, would his perpetual indulgence lose vigour and force. We quote from the bull:
Volumus autem quod si fidelibus praedictis pro praemissis peragendis aut alias aliqua alia indulgentia perpetuo vel ad tempus nondum elapsum durantura concessa fuerit praesentes litterae nullius sint roboris vel momenti.
What was the geographical extent of the bull, we should first ask. The rubric of the perpetual indulgence says: Pro ecclesiis Ordinis Fratrum Eremitarum Sancti Augustini in Indiis Occidentalibus. The ablative Indiis Occidentalibus refers to the West Indies according to Spanish cartography, and the West Indies include the Philippine Islands. One only needs to read the chronicles of Hernando Riquel of the expedition of Miguel López de Legazpi, where the phrase Islas del Poniente, literally, Islands of the West, is used to refer to what then comprised the Philippine archipelago. The laws of the Indies, likewise, place the Philippines, together with Japan, in the West Indies, as well as the bull Onerosa pastoralis officii cura promulgated by Clement VIII on 12 Decembr 1600. Read here for a treatment of which side of the Indies the Philippines was included.

Conciliar obstacle
The first instance that the celebration of the misas de aguinaldo was hampered—as a consequence, not as an act per se of proscription—was pursuant to the decrees of the Third Provincial Council of Mexico, approved by the Mexican hierarchy in 1585, confirmed by Rome in 1589, and finally sanctioned by the Spanish Crown in 1591. The Council forbade Masses celebrated after sunset and before sunrise. Quoting the Council:
Let nobody celebrate Mass before dawn, and neither after noon (unless due to a privilege conceded to it for the purpose), and certainly, let the Masses, which in Spanish are called misas de aguinaldo, be not celebrated before the day will have begun to dawn.
The Council did not abolish the misas de aguinaldo; it simply required that it be celebrated after full sunrise. For some reason, Fray Diego de Soria saw little profit in the timeslot change, became creative and eventually introduced the posadas to continue weaning the natives, who had been attracted to the misas de aguinaldo in the five years that it was celebrated at dawn, from their erstwhile paganism.

In the Philippines, the reaction was quite different—if it can be counted as a reaction at all—and the enforcement of the decree anecdotally very sparing, probably due to the distance between the Philippines and Mexico. During this time, Manila was already a see, four years shy of being a metropolitan see herself. Our first encounter with the misas de aguinaldo in the Philippines is in the year 1632, in the first-person account of the visions of a certain Lucía de la Cruz, whom the historian Padre Francisco Colín calls a sierva de Dios, literally, servant of God. The account goes:
Hearing Mass on one of the nine days of the aguinaldo of the very same year thirty two (1632), before me appeared Christ carrying His Cross, I threw myself upon His feet, and I adored Him with all reverence, and in this manner I was for a great time until He disappeared. I remained bewildered, descending upon my thought that these misas de aguinaldo are generally of joy, and of spiritual rejoicing for all, and what mystery could it possess, that in such time the Lord should shew Himself unto me in the figure of the Passion, and carrying His Cross.
Let us ignore the obvious (no time of celebration given), and make note that the misas de aguinaldo were still celebrated in the Philippines even if the proper time of celebration was already forbidden in Mexico.

Retablo of the Nuestra Señora de Silang
to whom devotees pledged the misas de aguinaldo in 1640

The next account we have of the misas de aguinaldo was in 1643, during the miracles of an image of the Blessed Virgin found in 1640 in the mountain of Silang. The image, thereafter called the Nuestra Señora de Silang, was in the habit of abandoning her shrine, so the priest ordered that the image be brought to the church. From the time of the great procession that brought the Blessed Virgin to her shrine, many graces and favours had been reported to have been granted to her devotees. We read the account of Padre Pedro Murillo Velarde that in thanksgiving to these graces:
The grateful people responded, obliging themselves with a vow to celebrate with special veneration the nine days, which precede the Nativity of our Redeemer. And so is known the devotion of the natives, for they very much frequent the Sacraments, assist at the Masses, which are here called misas de aguinaldo.
Still no time of celebration. The first mention we have of the time of celebration comes from the vita of Padre Francisco de Roa who twice became rector of the Jesuit house of Manila, and thrice provincial of the same. He perished in 1660 in the vessel Victoria which was lost in sea en route to provide aid to Zamboanga and Ternate. His devotion to the Blessed Virgin was noteworthy, of which we read:
He was most devoted to the Most Blessed Virgin, he fasted on all Saturdays, and vigils of her feasts, and even as a rector and a provincial, he sang many times the Masses of this Lady, and when he was minister of Saint Michael, he desired not to delegate to anybody the Masses, which are sung on all Saturdays to the Virgin, and much less the nine Masses, which precede the Nativity of Christ, and here called misas de aguinaldo, and are sung very early in the morning.
The original phrase used for very early in the morning was muy de mañana. Anyone familiar with the Spanish reckoning of time would understand that hours in darkness are considered noche in Spanish, and the hours that correspond to dawn are called aurora or madrugada. This is circumstantial but it seems to suggest that in order to continue celebrating the misas de aguinaldo in accordance with the prohibitive decree from Mexico, the missionaries moved the time of celebration a few hours later. After that, we can no longer confirm when the time of celebration moved back to its proper hour, if such is the case, in the first place.

Episcopal suppression
The next proscription of the misas de aguinaldo comes from Fray Felipe Pardo, archbishop of Manila. As we have said before, the master of ceremonies of the cathedral of Seville, Don Diego Díaz de Escobar, complained to the Sacred Congregation of Rites of nine abuses committed in many churches in Spain at that time, and asked for a suitable remedy for each of them. Of the misas de aguinaldo, the seventh of the abuses reported, we read Don Diego’s words:
Through nine days before the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, at dawn, Masses (which are commonly called misas de aguilando [actual wording]) of the feasts of the Virgin Mother of God are celebrated not only on ferial days, but also on feasts of the double class and on Sundays, with Gloria and Credo and one collect, under the pretext of devotion of the people, to which days there should be much suitable remedies for better celebration. For many laypersons assemble in the choir in order to sing, and they sing certain ditties provoking laughter, at a time and in a place where they are by no means fitting. To this habit a suitable remedy ought to be used, and thoroughly by this medium the scandal mayeth be taken away.
The first part of the dubium is a description of the custom of the misas de aguinaldo: being unimpeded on higher-ranked days, with Gloria and Credo and one collect, all allowed on account of the devotion of the people. In the latter part, we see the abuses arising from the custom, under the pretext of popular devotion. Don Diego mentions specifically the practice he finds fault with: that of allowing laypeople to assemble with the choir only to sing laughter-provoking ditties or carols. And his request was to apply a remedy to this practice in order to remove the scandal it generates. He wanted to end the abuse in the custom, not eliminate the custom entirely. In fact, his advocacy was a better celebration of the misas de aguinaldo during the nine days before Christmas!

The response on 16 January 1677 of the Sacred Congregation of Rites covered all nine dubia submitted by Don Diego:
Let all the usages or, as We better say it, the abuses related, as they are repugnant to the rubrics and to the opinions of those to whom these were related, ought to be destroyed altogether. They are not indeed praiseworthy, nay more scandalous, most especially to those who love the observance of good ceremonies.
We should distinguish between the abuse and the custom in which the abuse is committed. If indeed the Sacred Congregation wished to abolish the custom (as one would be led to understand at first, considering the word used in the rescript was consuetudines) instead of the usages that engendered the abuses (word used in the rescript was abusus), then if the misa de aguinaldo was to be abolished together with its abuses, then the entire tradition of Christian burial (the subject of the first six dubia wherein six different abuses were customarily committed) should also have been abolished together with all six abuses enumerated!

Calle Escolta in Binondo with the church of the district;
the church of Saint Gabriel was originally located in Binondo

When the rescript reached the Philippines in 1680, Fray Felipe Pardo was incumbent upon the see of Manila. His policy was clear with respect to the misas de aguinaldo: to remove the abuse, remove the bedrock of that abuse. He therefore suppressed the misas de aguinaldo. We reproduce below a translation of the complete mandate from the archbishop of Manila.
We, the Master, Lord Friar Felipe Pardo, Archibishop-elect of this Metropolitan Church of Manila, of the Council of His Majesty, and Governor of this Archbishopric, etc.
Inasmuch as We have received news, that the celebration of the Masses which are sung in the nine days before the Nativity of Christ our Lord (which they commonly call misas de aguinaldo) hath become forbidden, so that in no manner it mayeth be sung, forbidding also all manner of music and instruments and secular strains (original word us canzoneta), because said prohibition should be observed and kept in this Archbishopric.
Therefore, through this present Letter, We ordain that in no manner said misas de aguinaldo may be celebrated as Sung Masses or as Low Masses, nor musical merriments be made in churches, nor any instrument be played, nor secular strains (original word us canzoneta) be sung, nor other jingles, even if they be directed to the divine. Penalty is upon whosoever shall proceed to punishment, to those who should act to the contrary, for being disobedient to the mandates of our Holy Mother Church, and those of Ours.
And We ordain that this Act be fixed upon the doors of the churches of this city, and be dispatched to the beneficed clergy so that it mayeth be known to them.
Given in Saint Gabriel, Extramuros of Manila, on 12 October 1680.
Fray Felipe Pardo
Archbishop-elect of Manila
By order of the Archbishop my Lord,
Andrés Escoto
Even the archbishop highlights music as the problematic dimension of the custom! He repeatedly alludes to it in the original Spanish as regocijos de música, instrumentos, canzonetas, and cantares. However, he still proceeds to proscribe the entire tradition instead of remedying the abuses. And he made sure that the people would not have an outlet to celebrate the misas de aguinaldo as Low Masses (contrary to tradition, but at least with minimal singing), when he registers in Spanish that “en ninguna manera se canten ni recen dichas misas de aguinaldo.” Misa cantada is Sung Mass in Spanish; whereas misa rezada is Low Mass.

Fortunately, a rescript from the same Sacred Congregation of Rites on 24 January 1682, where the dicastery forbade the omission of the Gloria and the Credo from the second to the ninth day of the misa de aguinaldo proves that it was not the intent of the rescript of 16 January 1677 to eliminate the misa de aguinaldo. The dubia were labelled as nullius, signifying that they did not come from someone outside the dicastery, and the rescript instead had the effect of a clarification to all those concerned with the subject.
Is it licit or can licence be conceded, that in the first Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is said early in the morning and with great solemnity on the days before the Nativity, at which Mass all people assisteth with great devotion, the Gloria and the Credo be said, notwithstanding the three collects, considering that these Masses with solemnity are thought to be for a grave cause, when the ancient and immemorial devotion of the servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary mayeth apply these Masses for recently sown fields and for the health of all people; and the rest of the Masses, which are said after the first Mass with solemnity, be said without Gloria and Credo.
The response was a curt:
In the negative.
If we assume that this decree reached Manila after three years, the same duration the first one did, then the misa de aguinaldo should have been “reinstituted” in 1685. However, the Dominican Fray Vicente de Salazar, writing about the promotion of his confrère Fray Felipe to the see of Manila, indeed praising the ban the archbishop placed upon the misas de aguinaldo, writes:
While His Most Illustrious Lordship lived, [the misas de aguinaldo] were not celebrated, even if afterwards they came to be instituted again with some moderation (I do not know if it is universal) of the abuses, which were before customary.
Fray Felipe Pardo died on 31 December 1689. If we take the word of Fray Vicente de Salazar, the misas de aguinaldo would have resumed their celebration in 1690, five years after the decree that many—among which is the Dominican Fray Benito Corominas—say “restored” the misas de aguinaldo, when in fact they were not “suppressed” per se. The misas de aguinaldo were only “suppressed” in the Philippines, so the need to “restore” them existed only in the Philippines.

Modern appreciation of the custom
The Dominican Fray Juan Ylla, professor in the Faculty of Canon Law in the Universidad de Santo Tomás, provides a definitive analysis concerning whether the misas de aguinaldo are allowed in the Philippines. First, from the writings of the Jesuit Padre Pedro Murillo Velarde and the Dominican Fray Benito Corominas, Fray Juan Ylla establishes that the tradition of the misas de aguinaldo is not only more than one hundred years old in the Philippines, it was also existent thus far for more than one hundred years. Padre Murillo published in 1791 and Fray Corominas in 1873. Both published after the Pardo suppression, so we can eschew the nine-year hiatus of the misas de aguinaldo. Taking into account that Fray Ylla wrote in 1940, the first fact proves the first point (1940 – 1791 = 149 years), and the second helps in proving the second (between 1791 and 1873, we have 82 years of uninterrupted tradition; a tradition that continues to exist in 1940, bringing its lifespan to 149 years in 1940).

Fray Ylla argues with canon 63 § 2 of the 1917 CIC (canon 76 § 2, 1983 CIC) that since “centennial or immemorial possession [of a custom] induceth presumption of conceded privilege,” the Philippines, therefore, has apostolic privilege to celebrate the misas de aguinaldo. And, invoking canon 1827 (canon 1585, 1983 CIC), Fray Ylla notes that since “a person, who hath on his behalf the presumption of law, is liberated from the burden of proof,” then the Philippines, while having no clear proof (at that time) that it had no privilege of celebrating the misas de aguinaldo (the privilege was granted through the Augustinians in the bull Licet is, promulgated not to Mexico but to the West Indies), whereas it had the presumption of law, can continue celebrating said misas de aguinaldo as such.

H. E. Eduard von der Ropp
Bishop of Vilnius

Whether mere age of the custom or the devotion of the people should be enough to continue said custom, Fray Ylla points out affirmatively in the rescript of 16 February 1906 to the dubia submitted by the bishop of Vilnius, Eduard Michael Johann Maria Baron von der Ropp. In the response, the dicastery sanctioned the singing of the Gloria and the Credo in the Missa Rorate celebrated nine days before Christmas in Vilnius “by reason of custom and the attendance of the people.”

The dubium reads:
For the diocese of Vilnius, a decree is had, with which the votive Sung Mass known as the Missa Rorate is permitted in Adventide. This Mass, which is celebrated with great solemnity and with great attendance of the people, is sung, by force of the most ancient custom, with Gloria and Credo.—It is asked, whether this custom mayeth be kept, when in the aforementioned decree nothing of this manner of singing such Masses is said?
And the rescript says:
According to decrees, the Missa Rorate can be sung in such case, with Gloria and Credo, only in the period of novena before the feast of the Nativity of the Lord, by reason of custom and the attendance of the people; in the preceding days of Advent, however, it must be sung without Gloria (except on Saturdays and within the octave of the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and without Credo.
The Sacred Congregation of Rites thereupon clarifies that such permission arises because the Missa Rorate in the novena before Christmas is celebrated in the likeness of votive Masses for a grave and public cause of the Church (missa votiva pro re gravi et publica Ecclesiae causa), according to very ancient decrees, which also testify to the limitation of the Gloria and Credo within all days of the novena. Following Fray Ylla, if the Sacred Congregation of Rites confirmed the custom of Vilnius, on the account of its age and piety, even if such custom is not included in the original decree, then the same can be applied to the custom of the Philippines.

Groundless doubts
If the misas de aguinaldo were indeed abrogated or abolished, then that fact would put the entire Philippine Church in the position of error, or at least, in the position of abuse. Generations of honest and devout Filipinos, generations of illustrious bishops and venerable prelates, would be guilty of this abuse. The Philippine Church of today would be accused of perpetuating said error. But we know, and we have shown, that that is not the case!

To assert that the misas de aguinaldo are already abrogated, abolished, forbidden, or prohibited in the Philippines amounts to a lapse of appreciation for our ecclesiastic history. First, the indult given by Pope Sixtus V was perpetual, which has no expiry date, and which does not require renewal, unless specifically abrogated by law. Second, notwithstanding the Third Provincial Council of Mexico, which simply modified the hour of celebration, the custom survived in the Philippines until it was suppressed in 1680. Third, the custom was “restored” in 1691 upon the death of its suppressor, not because of the suppressor’s death per se but because of a rescript of the Sacred Congregation of Rites prior to same suppressor’s death (a rescript that was probably ignored for reasons we cannot divine). As the first rescript aimed only at eradicating the abuses, there was no derogation of the original indult issued by Pope Sixtus V. Finally, decree 356 of the First Plenary Council of the Philippine Islands, the acts and decrees of which were recognised by the Holy See on 25 February 1956 and promulgated on 15 August 1956, affirms:
The custom of celebrating the Masses known as misas de aguinaldo, for the constancy of the Filipinos in the Faith, and for the preservation of Religion in these places, is a legitimate custom in these Islands, active since most ancient times.
Are the misas de aguinaldo abolished or abrogated in the Philippines?


Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

All photos © Maurice Joseph M. Almadrones

Source: Allerite, Jesson. The history of the misa de aguinaldo: from Spain to the Philippine Islands. 2013. TS. Author’s private collection.

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