Friday, February 2, 2018

Candlemas: End - and Beginning - of the Liturgical Year

Just as, sixty-three days before Easter, Septuagesima Sunday, in its lessons at Matins, begins the liturgical year with the account of the Creation in the first chapter of Genesis, and the Magnificat antiphon at first Vespers warning Adam of death should he eat the forbidden fruit, so too Candlemas concludes the liturgical year, forty days after Christmas, with its solemn celebration of the entry of the Incarnate Word into his Father's Temple, showing forth under a shadow the eternal nuptials of the Lamb and his Bride, all redeemed humanity, world without end.

The fact that Candlemas is a fixed feast, recurring every year on the 2nd of February, signifies the eternal and everlasting truth of the life of the world to come; the truth that the date of Septuagesima varies from year to year, falling on a Sunday between the 18th of January and the 22nd of February, signifies the ontologically contingent facts of the Creation and Fall, which led – O happy fault! – to the redemption of the world by our Emmanuel, and his victory over sin and death, celebrated especially during the Paschal Triduum.

Septuagesima may fall before Candlemas, or after it, or may even displace it to the Monday – but the blessing of and procession with candles falls always on the 2nd of February. The liturgical cycle may end before its next beginning, or after it begins again, signifying that the perfect consummation of all things has not yet come. Even if, in the most complete manner possible in this life, Septuagesima falls on the day after Candlemas (when Easter falls on the 6th of April, as last in 1980 and next in 2042) yet still the second Vespers of the latter overlap with the first of the latter (first Vespers of Septuagesima being commemorated after the Collect of Candlemas, and followed by the farewell to the Alleluia made at the Benedicamus Domino).

(When Septuagesima Sunday thus falls on the 3rd of February, presumably the blessing of throats at the intercession of St Blaise takes place after Septuagesima Sunday Mass.)

The processional antiphon Adorna thalamum tuum well sums up the eschatological quality of today's feast:
Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion, et suscipe Regem Christum: amplectere Mariam, quæ est cælestis porta: ipsa enim portat Regem gloriæ novi luminis: subsistit Virgo, adducens manibus Filium ante luciferum genitum: quem accipiens Simeon in ulnas suas, prædicavit populis, Dominum eum esse vitæ et mortis, et Salvatorem mundi. 
(Sion, adorn your bridal chamber and welcome Christ the King; take Mary in your arms, who is the gate of heaven, for she herself is carrying the King of glory and new light. A Virgin she remains, though bringing in her hands the Son before the morning star begotten, whom Simeon, taking in his arms, announced to the people as the Lord of life and death and Saviour of the world.)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Septuagesima Thoughts on the Two Ways

Septuagesima brings us face to face with death. The Introit is Circumdedérunt me gémitus mortis (The sorrows of death surrounded me); the ancient chant Media vita (In the midst of life we are in death) is oft sung during the pre-Lenten season; at Matins, the readings begin at Genesis chapter one, and soon enough bring us face to face with the Fall of Man, when, having eaten of the forbidden fruit, death came to mankind, and estrangement from God, which makes death evil.

At the end of Lauds, until the 1950s, after Fidelium animæ the Lord's prayer was said silently, then the versicle Dominus det nobis was sung, followed by the Marian anthem of the season. The 1693 Lyons Breviary adds two words, post mortem, to the second half of this versicle, thus:
V. Dóminus det nobis suam pacem.
R. Et post mortem vitam ætérnam. Amen.
(V. May the Lord grant us his peace.
(R. And, after death, life eternal. Amen.)
This seemed to me a devout addition suitable to use in prayer, since it balances the length of each phrase... but often I have mixed up the words, and said by mistake, Et post vitam mortem ætérnam (And, after life, death eternal)! That is not a prayer to make, lest it be answered!

But more seriously, these are in fact the options we face in this vale of tears:
1. Post mortem, vitam ætérnam (After death, life eternal);
2. Post vitam, mortem ætérnam (After life, death eternal).
Here we have the age-old presentation of the Two Ways, the Way of Life and the Way of Death: either (1) following the narrow path, “denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” (Titus ii, 12f), or (2), taking the broad road, “many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things.” (Phil. iii, 18f).

As Our Lord taught so clearly, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it. For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (St Matthew xvi, 24-26). We can either deny ourselves and bear our appointed cross and follow Christ to Calvary, praying for final perseverance, trusting in his grace to save us and bring us to glory, or live vainly, heedless of and hating God, and hateful to him and others and ourselves, and after death perish everlastingly.

Ultimately we must be among the martyrs, the true witnesses to the Crucified at the cost of their own lives, whether literally or in intention – or among the reprobate, who madly purchase worthless transient pleasures at the infinite cost of everlasting damnation. Be sheep or goats, choose!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Second Sunday after Epiphany Mass and Picnic

Today the Latin Mass community, North and South, gathered at Colebrook to attend the monks’ Mass for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, reflecting on the mystery of the Wedding feast at Cana and Our Lady’s intercession thereat, and afterwards to have a pleasant picnic at their property at Rhyndaston. Mass was glorious and moving, the elevation barely visible through clouds of incense – “and the glory of God filled the sanctuary” – and put me in mind of what Dom Anscar Vonier wrote about “The Doctrinal Power of the Liturgy of the Catholic Church” in his Sketches and Studies in Theology:

One of the great advantages of the liturgical presentment of Catholic dogma is found in this, that it sets forth revealed truth in a non-combative and non-controversial way. It is truly the divine bread prepared for the use of the children. We forget the unbeliever, the heretic, the schismatic, when we are gathered together for the Feasts of the Lord; instead, we are made to remember the Angelic Choirs and the Saints of heaven. If evil and Satan are at all alluded to in the liturgy, such remembrances are songs of triumph, because in the Liturgy the powers of darkness are mentioned only in connexion with Christ's victory over all sin. It is indeed a supreme satisfaction to the Catholic soul to be thus left to enjoy the Faith for its own sake; it creates in the Church a spirit of confidence far more potent than any controversy, however well conducted, can do.

(I quoted quite a lot more of this back in 2008.) 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

First Sunday after Epiphany

I heard a rarely-sung Mass in Colebrook today: In excelso throno, that of the First Sunday after Epiphany, since the Benedictines never adopted the Roman Feast of the Holy Family, which would otherwise occur this day in churches celebrating the Extraordinary Form. Yesterday evening, meanwhile, singing at my parish Vigil Mass, I managed to observe the Solemnity of the Epiphany on the right day, the 6th of January, even though it is transferred to the Sunday...

Some years ago, I managed to attend Christmas (OF) here, then Epiphany (OF) in Oxford, then Epiphany (EF) in Edinburgh, then Christmas again (Ukrainian Rite, Julian Calendar) in Florence! This year, tomorrow, Monday, will be celebrated the Baptism of the Lord in my parish (OF), since Epiphany pushes it out of the way this year by taking its spot on the Sunday after, well, Epiphany.

In the EF, in most places the Lord's Baptism will be kept this Saturday, the 13th of January, being the Octave Day of the Epiphany - but the monks of Notre Dame Priory will instead celebrate their first-class patronal feast of Our Lady of Cana, which falls on the Saturday after Epiphany (it did scandalise me a little that Our Lady's local solemnity trumps Our Lord's universal feast, but He does love His Mother). Liturgy can be confusing sometimes. 

The monks also sang the Ordinary using one of the Masses in the Kyriale that I hadn't heard before, Mass XIII, Stelliferi conditor orbis, which I was quite taken with. Here are some clips demonstrating its beauty:

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Happy Christmas!

This morning, I drove down to Colebrook to attend the 10 am EF Mass of the Vigil of Christmas, which replaces the Mass of the Fourth Sunday of Advent this year, as the 24th of December falls on a Sunday. This Mass was without Gloria, and celebrated in violet vestments, as being still in Advent.

Late this afternoon, I attended and sang with the choir at my parish's 6 pm OF Christmas Eve Vigil Mass, which was the first Mass of Christmastide, celebrated with Gloria in white vestments.

I particularly noted that the collect and so forth were the same in both Masses...

So, I have passed to Christmas early this year!

Happy Christmas to all: Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Spiritual Communion - only possible for those in God's grace

A common mistake in this ignorant and deluded age is to fondly imagine that someone who is out of the state of grace (e.g. living off the proceeds of crime, such as fraud, burglary, embezzlement and the like; living in sin with a girl- or boyfriend or adulterous partner, committing fornication or worse; living as a Neo-Nazi, hating and attacking one's fellow men on spurious and evil pretexts; etc.), if not still daring to receive Holy Communion (which reception would only increase one's damnation, whatever vile liars may claim), could yet piously pray "Lord, I cannot now receive thee sacramentally, yet come at least spiritually into my heart, filling me with thy saving grace" – while remaining unrepentant. Obviously, one would need to repent of one's sins, making an act of perfect contrition (including the resolution to confess sacramentally as soon as possible, and resolving to amend one's life), else such a pretended spiritual communion would in no way help, but rather be an added blasphemy. Of course, persons may vacillate in the spiritual life as in all else; for just as a person may begin to pray in a state of damnation, yet end the prayer in a state of salvation (so says St Alphonsus, evidently alluding to acts of contrition inter alia), so a person having prayed for deliverance may soon enough slip back into evil habits, since vices enslave each unhappy sinner. It is in this sense that the counsel to make a spiritual communion when unable to receive sacramentally must be taken, according to those words "sinking we strive, yet call to thee for aid", hoping that by struggling to hold one's head above water, rescue may come from above, as it were.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Back from Christus Rex XXVII - My Ninth

As always, my spiritual batteries are all recharged, having returned from the wonderful experience of walking and participating in the twenty-seventh annual Christus Rex Pilgrimage, adding my own minor oddities to what Fr Caldow called "the who's who of the Traddy Zoo". Many thanks especially to pilgrim friends of mine, David and Lyle, who between them were great supports, and to Fr Rowe, my erstwhile parish priest, whose private Masses I essayed to serve as always.

I had resolved to receive Holy Communion at each of the five High Masses in worship of the Five Sacred Wounds of Our Lord, which I was able to do, and to focus my devotion said the Chaplet of the Holy Wounds also. There is a pleasing symmetry about the gloriously sung and brilliantly executed Masses: the Requiem for deceased pilgrims at 7 pm at the Cathedral in Ballarat on Thursday evening beforehand; the Votive of the Holy Cross at 6 am (a rather early hour!) at the same on Friday morning; the Votive of Our Lady Help of Christians at 11 am in the pine glade at Campbelltown on Saturday; the Pontifical Mass at the faldstool coram episcopo of Christ the King at 3 pm on Sunday in Bendigo Cathedral; and the Votive of the Trinity at 9 am on Monday morning afterward.

I added a very pleasant coda to the pilgrimage, by driving back to Melbourne airport in a hire car, with stops at Malmsbury (whose Botanic Gardens and Viaduct are well worth looking at) and, my favourite, Hanging Rock – which I successfully climbed during a providential break in rain showers, though I didn't find poor Miranda.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Correctio Filialis

In the spirit of St Catherine of Siena, who venerated the office of Pope while fearlessly speaking the truth to power when addressing the all too human holder of that office, urging him ever to do his duty:

Remember, scratch a liberal, find a fascist! Fear not, but with courage support this vital endeavour:

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Parisian Sequence for Our Lady's Nativity

From the 1738 Paris Missal comes this Sequence for Our Lady's Nativity:
1. Gaudii primordium,
Et salutis nuntium
Diem nostræ canimus.
2. Quæ dat hora Virginem,
Spondet Deum hominem:
En venit quem quærimus. 
3. Quam in matrem eligit,
Hujus ortum dirigit,
Deus omnis gratiæ.
4. Domum quam inhabitet,
Mox e qua nos visitet
Ornat Sol justitiæ. 
5. Quot micat luminibus,
Suis Deus usibus,
Quod vas fingit gloriæ!
6. Quot latent miracula!
Fiet hæc nubecula
In vim magnam pluviæ. 
7. Benedicta Filia,
Tota plena gratia,
Tota sine macula.
8. Cæli quod jam habitas,
Pande nobis semitas,
Prece, Virgo, sedula. 
9. Iram promeruimus,
Christe; pacem petimus:
Hanc da matris precibus.
10. Ut in nobis maneas,
Corda nostra præbeas
Pura culpis omnibus.
Amen. (Alleluja.)
And, thanks to Google Translate taking a French translation from the Schola Sainte Cecile's website, here is an English version:
We celebrate the day that begins our joy, the day that announces our salvation.
The moment that gives birth to the Virgin Mary promises us a God-man: the one we are expecting will appear.
The God of all grace, who chose Mary for her mother, presides over her birth: he overwhelms her with his blessings.
The Sun of Justice decorates with his gifts the house he wishes to inhabit, and from which he comes to make himself visible to men.
With what glory must shine this precious vessel, which God takes care to form for himself!
What prodigies are here confined! It is a little cloud which rises, but which will yield for us a fertile and abundant rain.
Holy and blessed daughter, filled with the graces of the Lord, pure and spotless virgin:
Pray for us unceasingly, O holy Virgin, and open to us by this means the entrance of heaven, where you dwell.
We have deserved thine anger, O Jesus; we sigh after our reconciliation: grant it at the prayers of thy Mother.
So that we may be a dwelling worthy of thee, O Lord, deign to purify our hearts from all sin. Amen. Alleluia. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Eucharistic Adoration

My second-favourite time of the week is the hour I spend kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on Friday evening (my favourite time of the week, of course, is that spent at Holy Mass). Typically I have time to address God in prayer; to recite hymns, antiphons and prayers in honour of the Blessed Sacrament; to say some of the daily office in some form; to pray over the texts of the Mass (as a Missa sicca); to recite the Rosary; and (should the priest be present) to step aside to make my confession. My only regret is not having more than one hour a week for this: if only it were every day!

Eucharistic Adoration is held every Friday at St Francis, Riverside, Tasmania, from 7 am to 7 pm (save for the usual Friday morning Mass at 9 am), normally concluding with Benediction at 7 pm, but on First Fridays culminating in a Holy Hour from 7 till 8 pm. If even one reader should attend Adoration here or elsewhere, I will be delighted, and beg that they pray for me, a sinner.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Contra Paganos Again

Again we must pray against the pagans, that is, against terrorists who may as well worship a demon (since it is to Hell's depths they have been damned, barring a prodigy of grace efficacious to convert such atrocious sinners in their dying moments as they were shot). I spent the whole time driving to Hobart and back today listening on the ABC radio to nothing but coverage of the terrorist attack in London, so this is in the forefront of my mind.

Yet, as our priest reminded us today in an aside during his sermon, if we consider our own sins, we know that, but for God's forbearance and mercy, we ourselves would already have fallen into Hell – as Dathan and Abiron, who in their mad pride had outrageously sinned against the Lord by daring to offer unholy fire, went down alive into Hell (Numbers xvi, 33).

All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory, but are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans iii, 23f); else nothing but sin, Satan, death and Hell await us. Repent, pray, and pray for the conversion of all sinners!

I attach a link to last year's post, and append herewith extracts from the writings of St Maximus of Turin, who preached to his people, afflicted by the impending advance of barbarian invaders, in words which may help at this time of crisis and fear:
From the Sermons of St Maximus of Turin.
(Sermons 83, 1; 85, 1-2; 86, 1; 85, 3; 86, 3)
I remember having frequently said that we should not fear any warlike disturbances nor be frightened at any great multitude of foes since, as the Lord [sic; lege St John] says (1 John 4:4), “The one who is in us is greater than the one who is in this world”; that is to say, Christ is more powerful to protect his servants than the devil is to provoke our enemies. For although this same devil collects mobs for himself and arms them with cruel rage, nonetheless they are easily destroyed because the Saviour surrounds his people with superior auxiliaries, as the prophet says (Psalm 33:8): “The angel of the Lord comes round about those who fear him, and he will save them.” If the angel of the Lord snatches those who fear him from dangers, then one who fears the Saviour cannot fear the barbarians, nor can one who observes the precepts of Christ be afraid of the onslaught of the foe. These are our weapons, with which the Saviour has outfitted us: prayer, mercy, and fasting. For fasting is a surer protection than a rampart, mercy saves more easily than pillage, and prayer wounds from a greater distance than an arrow, for an arrow only strikes the person of the adversary at close range, while a prayer even wounds an enemy who is far away.  
Perhaps you are anxious, brethren, at the fact that we hear continually of the tumult of wars and the onslaught of battles, and perhaps your love is still more anxious inasmuch as these are taking place in our times. But this is the reason: the closer we are to the destruction of the world, the closer we are to the kingdom of the Saviour. For the Lord himself says: “In the last days nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. But when you see wars and earthquakes and famines, know that the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Cf. Luke 21:9-11,31.) This nearness of wars, then, demonstrates to us rather that Christ is near. Therefore I must not be afraid of the approaching adversary, since by these signs do I understand instead that the Saviour is approaching, for although the one induces a temporal fear, yet the other will bring an eternal salvation. The same Lord, however, is powerful both to drive from us fear of the foes and to bestow on us his own presence. By these warlike disturbances, then, the destruction of the world is somehow signified, for this unrest precedes the future judgement of God. 
Your love remembers that we preached that by good actions and constant prayers we may open to ourselves the gates of righteousness (cf. Psalm 117:19) and that by frequent almsgiving we may fortify ourselves as with a rampart of mercy. For to resist by almsgiving and to struggle by fasting are indeed an impregnable wall against the adversary. For although the enemy’s weapons may be powerful, nonetheless these weapons of the Saviour are stronger. If anyone is armed with them, even though he appear defenceless in the eyes of human beings, he is nonetheless adequately armed because the most high Divinity is guarding him. In tribuation then, it is good to pray, to fast, to sing psalms, and to be merciful, for by these weapons Christians are accustomed to conquer their adversaries; by these arms they are accustomed to guard the bulwarks of the city. For the holy prophet says (Psalm 126:1): “Unless the Lord guard the city, those who guard it keep watch in vain.” At the same time this teaches us that victory is not to be hoped for from arms alone but is to be prayed for in the name of the Saviour. Therefore, brethren, let us arm ourselves throughout this week with fasts, prayers, and vigils so that, when the mercy of God comes upon us, we may hold back the savagery of the barbarians.

Thirty Years in the Church of Rome

Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Today being Pentecost Sunday, I will drive down to Hobart and M.C. the Missa cantata at Sacred Heart. Today being Pentecost Sunday, I mark the thirtieth anniversary of my Baptism, Confirmation and first Communion on this same beloved feast in 1987, albeit that Pentecost fell on the 7th of June that year (I keep the anniversary on the feast itself, but will also celebrate on Whit Wednesday of this week, being the exact date). In all but a few words, I repeat what I wrote last year: while I have very little to show for thirty years as a Catholic Christian, that is because of my sins and backsliding; but grace is greater than all, so I must give all glory to God for having blessed me so abundantly with the grace of the Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus our Lord. Te Deum laudamus!