Thursday, July 2, 2020

Visitation, Dominican Rite

Today the Dominican Breviary and Missal supply excellent proper prayers, different to the Roman orations, for the feast of the Visitation of Our Lady. (I take the translations, with alterations, from The Saint Dominic Missal, published in 1959.)

The Collect:

Omnipotens et misericors Deus, majestatem tuam suppliciter exoramus, ut sicut Unigenitum tuum per visitationem et salutationem Genitricis ejus puero clauso in utero revelasti; ita meritis ejusdem Genitricis, et precibus, ipsum nos facias revelata facie perpetuo contemplari. Qui tecum vivit et regnat...

(Almighty and merciful God, we humbly beseech thy majesty, that as thou didst make known thine Only-begotten Son through the visit and greeting of his mother to* the child as yet unborn; so likewise thou wouldst grant to us, by the merits and prayers of the same mother, to see him with unveiled face unto all eternity: who liveth and reigneth with thee...)

[* TSDM has "to", reading puero clauso as dative, which I initially misread as signifying "by", thinking of puero clauso as ablative: but of course the former is correct, as it refers to the reaction to the greeting of Our Lady on the part of the unborn Baptist as yet in his mother's womb.]

The Secret:

Omnipotens sempiteme Deus, qui de omnibus in te confidentibus curam semper habes, præsta quæsumus, ut per oblationem, quam tibi offerimus, visitationem spiritualem beatæ Mariæ Virginis in nostris necessitatibus semper sentiamus. Per Dominum...

(Almighty and eternal God, who carest for all such as trust in thee, grant, we beseech thee, that through this offering we make to thee, we may always feel the spiritual visitation of the blessed Virgin Mary in all our needs: through our Lord...)

The Postcommunion:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui commemorationem visitationis beatissimæ Mariæ Matris Dei fieri voluisti; præsta quæsumus, ut per hoc sacrificium, quod sumpsimus, ab ejus visitationis gratia nullatenus excidamus. Per eumdem Dominum...

(Almighty and eternal God, who didst will us to make a commemoration of the visitation of the most blessed Mary, Mother of God; grant, we beseech thee, that through this sacrifice, which we have received, we may never fall from the grace of her visitation: through the same our Lord...)

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Vindication!

I predicted that Cardinal Pell would be exonerated, as he today has been by unanimous judgement of the High Court of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Those guilty of perpetrating this gross miscarriage of justice – biassed parties in the media, and persons of questionable motives in the police force, prosecutors and judiciary of Victoria – ought be shamed and themselves investigated for their part in falsely vilifying, accusing and imprisoning this man.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Banal Insipid Prayers

I was initially delighted that at long last the lawful authorities in Holy Mother Church had noticed a glaring omission in the modern  Roman Missal – the absence of any Votive Mass in Time of Mortality (that is, by Pestilence and Plague) – and had issued a new Mass in Time of Pandemic, for the professed purpose of "implor[ing] God to bring an end to this pandemic" (A peste perambulante, Decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship, 30th March 2020).

This Mass proper may be used on all days not solemnities or of equivalent rank, so it may replace even Feasts of Our Lord, his Mother, his Apostles, and the Saints, as well as Sundays of Ordinary Time (no great loss, that), and both Sundays of Christmastide and Days within the Octave of Christmas! 

There are only 47 days of the year when it may not be used! These are the Sundays of Advent, Lent and Eastertide (including Pentecost Sunday of course); Ash Wednesday, all the days of Holy Week, the Easter Triduum, the Easter Octave, the Ascension of Our Lord, and Trinity Sunday; and also the Solemnities of Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart, and Christ the King – all these being "movable feasts", amounting to 36 days – and moreover 11 solemnities that occur on fixed dates: those of Christmas, Mary the Mother of God, the Epiphany, St Joseph, the Annunciation, the Nativity of St John Baptist, Saints Peter & Paul, the Assumption, All Saints, All Souls, and the Immaculate Conception.

However, and most unfortunately, the prayers of this new formulary are disappointingly banal, insipid and uninspiring. I trust the good Lord will bear with such limp and timid effusions, for he knows mankind all too well; but we must acknowledge that this is a jejune and feeble production of the CDW, unworthy of the sacred liturgy. Compare this to the EF Votive Mass in Time of Mortality, drawn up by Clement VI in 1348 at the onrush of the Black Death! The comparison is extremely telling.

To begin with, in the Novus Ordo the readings are usually taken from those of the ferial day, but if desired, a selection (itself extracted from those For Any Necessity) is proposed for use with these appointed prayers – yet none of these readings actually mentions plague, disease, pestilence or illness! 

To be fair, the suggested Epistle is the magnificent ending of Romans chapter 8 (verses 31b-39), but while a most uplifting passage, it is not explicitly ad rem. The alternative Lesson (Lamentations 3:17-26) is also pleasant enough, but not directly concerned with epidemics or universal contagion. The same can be said of the two alternative responsorial psalms – abbreviated from Psalms 79(80) and 122(123) – and the Gospel Acclamation (2 Cor. 1: 3b-4a): they are by their very nature as inspired Scripture written for our edification, but they do not directly address the matter at hand. The Gospel pericope, even more peculiarly, is not one of the many in which Our Lord heals the sick, but rather concerns him stilling the wind and the waves (Mark 4:35-41), when the disciples cry out in fear.

What of the EF Mass from the days of the Black Death? Its Lesson speaks of the Davidic Plague and its averting by God's mercy, when he relented at the prayer of the repentant King, and restrained the destroying angel he had sent, in his wrath at David's sin, to inflict the punishment of pestilence. The Gradual recalls that the Lord sent his word, and he healed and saved men from death. The Gospel relates how Christ in his days on earth healed the sick and drove out demons. The Offertory refers to Aaron's propitiatory offering of incense (cf. Numbers 16:46-48), which appeased the anger of God and stilled the plague he had sent to punish rebellious Israel. But such themes are evidently strong meat, despite being truths taught explicitly in the Bible, and would be too, too much for effete, delicate moderns who can bear only the milk of a milk-and-water religion.

To return to this new OF proper Mass, the appointed Entrance and Communion Antiphons are well-known, indeed beloved texts offering consolation (Is 53:4; Mt 11:28), but have no direct reference to a pandemic. By contrast, the Introit and Communion of the EF Mass pro vitanda mortalitate (to use its older title) are much more relevant: the former refers directly to the Davidic Plague (as does the Lesson), while the latter refers to Our Lord's healing of the sick.

Now, to the prayers of the just-published Mass in Time of Pandemic, which include the special Lenten feature of a Prayer over the People after the Prayer after Communion:

Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, in omni perículo singuláre præsídium, qui fílios tuos in tribulatióne fide supplicántes exáudis, nobis propitiáre benígnus, et præsta, quǽsumus, defúnctis réquiem ætérnam, solámen plorántibus, salútem infírmis, moriéntibus pacem, operántibus pro fratrum sanitáte robur, spíritum sapiéntiæ illis qui nos in potestáte moderántur, et ánimum ad omnes benévole accedéndi ut cuncti nomen sanctum tuum glorificáre valeámus. Per Dóminum. 
Súscipe, Dómine, múnera quæ, in hodiérnis perículis, tibi offérimus, et fac, quǽsumus, ut, omnipoténtia tua, in fontem sanitátis pacísque convertántur. Per Christum. 
Deus, a quo recépimus vitæ ætérnæ medicínam, concéde, quǽsumus, ut, per hoc sacramentum de cæléstis remédii plenitúdine gloriémur. Per Christum. 
Protéctor in te sperántium, Deus, bénedic pópulum tuum, salva, tuére, dispóne, ut, a peccátis liber, ab hoste secúrus, in tuo semper amóre persevéret. Per Christum.

What can be said of the immensely long, almost wearisome Collect? If divided up, as I am about to demonstrate using its official English version, it would be better as a series of petitions in the Universal Prayer:

Almighty and eternal God, our refuge in every danger, to whom we turn in our distress; in faith we pray[:]
(1) look with compassion on the afflicted,
grant
(2) eternal rest to the dead,
(3) comfort to mourners,
(4) healing to the sick,
(5) peace to the dying,
(6) strength to healthcare workers,
(7) wisdom to our leaders and
(8) [to us] the courage to reach out to all in love,
so that together we may give glory to your holy name. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

Note carefully: petitions 1 and 2 ask for what cannot be seen (God's compassionate eye cast upon the afflicted, and eternal rest granted to the dead); petitions 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 ask for good emotional and intellectual states of mind; and petition 4 alone actually asks for a visible benefit (healing for the sick) that, frankly, will come to most anyway (since only a small percentage die of this disease). Certainly God is our refuge in danger and distress; certainly we ought pray for all these benefits; but where is the prayer that this pandemic cease? Isn't that the professed purpose of this whole Mass? So why does it nowhere ask for it?

Do the author(s) and those who have promulgated this formulary perhaps not believe that God can bring this pandemic to an end, whensoever and howsoever he has decided in his all-wise providence?

The new Orationes super oblata, post communionem and super populum are reasonable, but could be used generally as they contain hardly anything more than vague references – the first refers to "the perils of these days" ("this time of peril" in the official translation), and prays that the offered bread and wine become a source of healing, but nothing more than that, which many such offertory prayers express in similar terms; the second is even more general, even as regards its allusions to Holy Communion as medicine and a heavenly remedy (which expressions are again commonly used in such prayers); the third of these is much the best, as it asks God, the Protector of those who hope in him, to bless, save, protect and dispose them to persevere, but I don't think that we generally regard this present pandemic as an "enemy", and the prayer – of course – has to end with an embarrassingly glib reference to "love".

Those prayers of the almost-seven-centuries-old Missa in tempore mortalitatis, on the other hand, are most explicit in their insistence that pestilence is the just punishment due on account of our sins, and so we must repent and cry to God for mercy:

Deus, qui non mortem, sed pænitentiam desideras peccatorum: populum tuum ad te revertentem propitius respice; ut, dum tibi devotus exsistit, iracundiæ tuæ flagella ab eo clementer amoveas. Per. 
Subveniat nobis, quæsumus, Domine, sacrificii præsentis oblatio: quæ nos et ab erroribus universis potenter absolvat, et a totius eripiat perditionis incursu. Per. 
Exaudi nos, Deus salutaris noster: et populum tuum ab iracundiæ tuæ terroribus liberum, et misericordiæ tuæ fac largitate securum. Per.

In the Collect, the first oration above, God is confessed as desiring not the death, but the repentance of sinners, such that he is implored graciously to regard his people turning back to him, that he may mercifully remove from us the scourges of his wrath.

Likewise, in the Secret of this traditional formulary, we beg the Lord that the offering of this present sacrifice may both powerfully absolve us from all errors, and deliver us from every incursion of perdition; and in the Postcommunion, God our health and salvation is asked to hear us, that his people be freed from the terrors of his wrath, and made secure in the gracious gift of his mercy.

How much more concise and to the point these prayers are.

Luckily, given that worldwide Masses are more and more said only in private, and less and less in public – how annoying to proud modern liturgists! – it is more and more the case that priests, unfettered by any de facto constraints on their free choice, are able to offer Mass according to the Vetus Ordo, and thus may sensibly choose the older of these two opposed propers, for "the old is better" (Luke 5:39).

Monday, March 16, 2020

Parce Domine parce populo tuo


The following antiphon ought be ever on the lips of the faithful at this dread time, when we cry again and again for mercy, begging the Lord to avert the capital sentence his wrath has appointed on account of our sins:

Aña. Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo: ne in æternum irascaris nobis. (Cf. Joel 2, 17; Ps. 84, 6) 
(Spare, O Lord, spare thy people: lest thou be angry with us for ever.)

This antiphon may be sung with a selection of verses from the Lenten office hymns (the 5th and 6th of the hymn at Matins, the 2nd of the hymn at Lauds, and the 1st and 2nd of the hymn at Vespers), as follows:




Outside of Lent, verse 4 should be omitted; in its place, or even always, another verse (the 3rd from the Lenten Vespers hymn) could be profitably added:


And the following responsories are also highly appropriate:


R. Media vita in morte sumus: quem quærimus adjutorem, nisi te, Domine? qui pro peccatis nostris juste irasceris: * Sancte Deus, Sancte fortis, Sancte misericors Salvator, amaræ morti ne tradas nos.
V. 1. Ps. 21, 5 In te speraverunt patres nostri; speraverunt, et liberasti eos. * Sancte Deus, Sancte fortis, Sancte misericors Salvator, amaræ morti ne tradas nos.
V. 2. Cf. Ps. 21, 5-6 Ad te clamaverunt patres nostri; clamaverunt, et non sunt confusi. * Sancte Deus, Sancte fortis, Sancte misericors Salvator, amaræ morti ne tradas nos.
V. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. * Sancte Deus, Sancte fortis, Sancte misericors Salvator, amaræ morti ne tradas nos. 
(R. In the midst of life we are in death: whom should we seek as a helper, unless thou, O Lord? who for our sins art justly angered: * Holy God, Holy strong, Holy merciful Saviour, give us not over unto bitter death.
V. 1. In thee our fathers hoped; they hoped, and thou didst deliver them. * Holy God, Holy strong, Holy merciful Saviour, give us not over unto bitter death.
V. 2. To thee our fathers cried; they cried, and were not confounded. * Holy God, Holy strong, Holy merciful Saviour, give us not over unto bitter death.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. * Holy God, Holy strong, Holy merciful Saviour, give us not over unto bitter death.) 
******

(Cf. Judith 9, 18; 2 Reg. 24, 16; 1 Par. 21, 15; Ez. 12, 19; Gen. 8, 21; Ex. 9, 16; Dan. 9, 16)
R.
Recordáre, Dómine, testaménti tui, et dic Angelo percutiénti: Cesset jam manus tua, * Ut non desolétur terra, et ne perdas omnem ánimam vivam.
V. Quiéscat, Dómine, ira tua a pópulo tuo, et a civitáte sancta tua. * Ut non desolétur terra, et ne perdas omnem ánimam vivam.
V. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. * Ut non desolétur terra, et ne perdas omnem ánimam vivam. 
(R. Remember, O Lord, thy covenant, and say to the destroying Angel: Cease now thy hand, * That the earth be not left desolate, and lest thou slay every living soul.
V. Quiet, O Lord, thine anger against thy people, and against thy holy city. * That the earth be not left desolate, and lest thou slay every living soul.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. * That the earth be not left desolate, and lest thou slay every living soul.)

Psalms in Times of Pestilence

An Anthem for these times of grievous sickness and great mortality, 
from Psalm 39, verses 5-8, 13 and 15 (Prayer Book Version – see below).

Continuing to delve into those liturgical and devotional treasures of the Anglican Patrimony which, received now into full communion, constitute a treasure to be shared with the wider Catholic Church, the following psalms, in the classic Coverdale translation as used in the Book of Common Prayer, seem highly suitable for use morning and evening, as suggested in the Form appointed by Royal Proclamation for use at the time of the Great Plague of London in 1665 – apart from omitting the most usual of them, Psalm 50(51) and Psalm 129(130), the Miserere and De profundis respectively, which every Catholic ought know and use continually in any case; and wisely moving Psalm 6 from morning to evening, that the total number of psalm verses be approximately the same at each:

At Morning Prayer. 
Psalm 32. Beati, quorum [Ps. 31 in the Vulgate]
BLESSED is he whose unrighteousness is forgiven : and whose sin is covered.
2. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth no sin : and in whose spirit there is no guile.
3. For while I held my tongue : my bones consumed away through my daily complaining.
4. For thy hand is heavy upon me day and night : and my moisture is like the drought in summer.
5. I will acknowledge my sin unto thee : and mine unrighteousness have I not hid.
6. I said, I will confess my sins unto the Lord : and so thou forgavest the wickedness of my sin.
7. For this shall every one that is godly make his prayer unto thee, in a time when thou mayest be found : but in the great water-floods they shall not come nigh him.
8. Thou art a place to hide me in, thou shalt preserve me from trouble : thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.
9. I will inform thee, and teach thee in the way wherein thou shalt go : and I will guide thee with mine eye.
10. Be ye not like to horse and mule, which have no understanding : whose mouths must be held with bit and bridle, lest they fall upon thee.
11. Great plagues remain for the ungodly : but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord, mercy embraceth him on every side.
12. Be glad, O ye righteous, and rejoice in the Lord : and be joyful, all ye that are true of heart. 
Psalm 38. Domine, ne in furore [Ps. 37 in the Vulgate]
PUT me not to rebuke, O Lord, in thine anger : neither chasten me in thy heavy displeasure.
2. For thine arrows stick fast in me : and thy hand presseth me sore.
3. There is no health in my flesh, because of thy displeasure : neither is there any rest in my bones, by reason of my sin.
4. For my wickednesses are gone over my head : and are like a sore burden, too heavy for me to bear.
5. My wounds stink, and are corrupt : through my foolishness.
6. I am brought into so great trouble and misery : that I go mourning all the day long.
7. For my loins are filled with a sore disease : and there is no whole part in my body.
8. I am feeble, and sore smitten : I have roared for the very disquietness of my heart.
9. Lord, thou knowest all my desire : and my groaning is not hid from thee.
10. My heart panteth, my strength hath failed me : and the sight of mine eyes is gone from me.
11. My lovers and my neighbours did stand looking upon my trouble : and my kinsmen stood afar off.
12. They also that sought after my life laid snares for me : and they that went about to do me evil talked of wickedness, and imagined deceit all the day long.
13. As for me, I was like a deaf man, and heard not : and as one that is dumb, who doth not open his mouth.
14. I became even as a man that heareth not : and in whose mouth are no reproofs.
15. For in thee, O Lord, have I put my trust : thou shalt answer for me, O Lord my God.
16. I have required that they, even mine enemies, should not triumph over me : for when my foot slipped, they rejoiced greatly against me.
17. And I, truly, am set in the plague : and my heaviness is ever in my sight.
18. For I will confess my wickedness : and be sorry for my sin.
19. But mine enemies live, and are mighty : and they that hate me wrongfully are many in number.
20. They also that reward evil for good are against me : because I follow the thing that good is.
21. Forsake me not, O Lord my God : be not thou far from me.
22. Haste thee to help me : O Lord God of my salvation. 
Psalm 39. Dixi, Custodiam [Ps. 38 in the Vulgate]
I SAID, I will take heed to my ways : that I offend not in my tongue.
2. I will keep my mouth as it were with a bridle : while the ungodly is in my sight.
3. I held my tongue, and spake nothing : I kept silence, yea, even from good words; but it was pain and grief to me.
4. My heart was hot within me, and while I was thus musing the fire kindled : and at the last I spake with my tongue;
5. Lord, let me know mine end, and the number of my days : that I may be certified how long I have to live.
6. Behold, thou hast made my days as it were a span long : and mine age is even as nothing in respect of thee; and verily every man living is altogether vanity.
7. For man walketh in a vain shadow, and disquieteth himself in vain : he heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them.
8. And now, Lord, what is my hope : truly my hope is even in thee.
9. Deliver me from all mine offences : and make me not a rebuke unto the foolish.
10. I became dumb, and opened not my mouth : for it was thy doing.
11. Take thy plague away from me : I am even consumed by the means of thy heavy hand.
12. When thou with rebukes dost chasten man for sin, thou makest his beauty to consume away, like as it were a moth fretting a garment : every man therefore is but vanity.
13. Hear my prayer, O Lord, and with thine ears consider my calling : hold not thy peace at my tears.
14. For I am a stranger with thee : and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.
15. O spare me a little, that I may recover my strength : before I go hence, and be no more seen. 
****** 
At Evening Prayer. 
Psalm 6. Domine, ne in furore
O LORD, rebuke me not in thine indignation : neither chasten me in thy displeasure.
2. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak : O Lord, heal me, for my bones are vexed.
3. My soul also is sore troubled : but, Lord, how long wilt thou punish me?
4. Turn thee, O Lord, and deliver my soul : O save me for thy mercy's sake.
5. For in death no man remembereth thee : and who will give thee thanks in the pit?
6. I am weary of my groaning; every night wash I my bed : and water my couch with my tears.
7. My beauty is gone for very trouble : and worn away because of all mine enemies.
8. Away from me, all ye that work vanity : for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.
9. The Lord hath heard my petition : the Lord will receive my prayer.
10. All mine enemies shall be confounded, and sore vexed : they shall be turned back, and put to shame suddenly. 
Psalm 90. Domine, refugium [Ps. 89 in the Vulgate]
LORD, thou hast been our refuge : from one generation to another.
2. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made : thou art God from everlasting, and world without end.
3. Thou turnest man to destruction : again thou sayest, Come again, ye children of men.
4. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday : seeing that is past as a watch in the night.
5. As soon as thou scatterest them they are even as a sleep : and fade away suddenly like the grass.
6. In the morning it is green, and groweth up : but in the evening it is cut down, dried up, and withered.
7. For we consume away in thy displeasure : and are afraid at thy wrathful indignation.
8. Thou hast set our misdeeds before thee : and our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
9. For when thou art angry all our days are gone : we bring our years to an end, as it were a tale that is told.
10. The days of our age are threescore years and ten; and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years : yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow; so soon passeth it away, and we are gone.
11. But who regardeth the power of thy wrath : for even thereafter as a man feareth, so is thy displeasure.
12. So teach us to number our days : that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
13. Turn thee again, O Lord, at the last : and be gracious unto thy servants.
14. O satisfy us with thy mercy, and that soon : so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.
15. Comfort us again now after the time that thou hast plagued us : and for the years wherein we have suffered adversity.
16. Shew thy servants thy work : and their children thy glory.
17. And the glorious majesty of the Lord our God be upon us : prosper thou the work of our hands upon us, O prosper thou our handywork. 
Psalm 91. Qui habitat [Ps. 90 in the Vulgate]
WHOSO dwelleth under the defence of the most High : shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2. I will say unto the Lord, Thou art my hope, and my strong hold : my God, in him will I trust.
3. For he shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunter : and from the noisome pestilence.
4. He shall defend thee under his wings, and thou shalt be safe under his feathers : his faithfulness and truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5. Thou shalt not be afraid for any terror by night : nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6. For the pestilence that walketh in darkness : nor for the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day.
7. A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand : but it shall not come nigh thee.
8. Yea, with thine eyes shalt thou behold : and see the reward of the ungodly.
9. For thou, Lord, art my hope : thou hast set thine house of defence very high.
10. There shall no evil happen unto thee : neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11. For he shall give his angels charge over thee : to keep thee in all thy ways.
12. They shall bear thee in their hands : that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone.
13. Thou shalt go upon the lion and adder : the young lion and the dragon shalt thou tread under thy feet.
14. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him : I will set him up, because he hath known my Name.
15. He shall call upon me, and I will hear him : yea, I am with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and bring him to honour.
16. With long life will I satisfy him : and shew him my salvation.

To read with these, I suggest the following passages of Scripture – concerning the Davidic plague and the seven last plagues, respectively – according to the Anglican practice of reading two long lessons, one from each of the Old and New Testaments, after psalmody: in the morning, 1 Chronicles (Paralipomenon in the Vulgate) chapter 21 and Revelation (Apocalypse) chapter 15; and at eventide, 2 Samuel (2 Kings in the Vulgate) chapter 24 and Revelation (Apocalypse) chapter 16.

Selected Anglican prayers appointed for use in time of pestilence (as given in the previous post) would be fittingly read after these psalms and readings.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Anglican Prayers in Time of Pestilence

The liturgical and spiritual patrimony possessed by those former Anglicans who have entered into full communion with the Catholic Church is, as Pope Benedict XVI stated (would that he were still gloriously reigning!), a gift to be shared with the whole Church. 

For this reason, during the current coronavirus pandemic, it is appropriate to suggest the use of some of the more suitable Anglican prayers long ago drawn up for use “In the time of any common Plague or Sickness”.

The Scottish Book of Common Prayer of 1929 supplies a short collect, as follows:

O ALMIGHTY and merciful God, with whom are the issues of life and death: Grant us, we beseech thee, help and deliverance in this time of grievous sickness and mortality, and sanctify to us this affliction, that in our sore distress we may turn our hearts unto thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The English Book of Common Prayer of 1552 contained another suitable prayer, revised and enlarged for the standard 1662 version as follows:

O ALMIGHTY God, who in thy wrath didst send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also, in the time of king David, didst slay with the plague of pestilence threescore and ten thousand, and yet, remembering thy mercy, didst save the rest: Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that, like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It will be evident why the main addition made at the time of the Restoration was to insert the phrase “didst send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also”, lest the prayer seem somewhat too anti-royalist.

The Irish Book of Common Prayer of 1926 supplies the following intercession:

O ALMIGHTY God, the Lord of life and death, of health and sickness: Have pity upon us miserable sinners, now visited with great sickness [and mortality]. Withdraw from us this grievous affliction. Sanctify to us, we beseech thee, this thy fatherly correction. Enlarge our charity to relieve those who need our help. Bless the remedies applied to assist them. Give us prudence to see, and vigour to use, those means which thy providence affords, for preventing and alleviating such calamities. And, above all, teach us to know how frail and uncertain our condition is, and so to number our days, that we may seriously apply our hearts to that holy and heavenly wisdom, whilst we live here, which may in the end bring us to life everlasting; through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thine only Son our Lord. Amen. 

Finally, from the special prayers appointed to be said at the time of the Great Plague of London in 1665 comes this magnificently lengthy and Scripture-laden effusion:

O Most gratious God, Father of Mercies, and of our Lord Jesus Christ; look down upon us, we beseech thee, in much pity, and compassion, and behold our great misery, and trouble. For there is wrath gone out against us, and the Plague is begun. That dreadful Arrow of thine sticks fast in our flesh, and the Venime thereof fires our bloud, and drinks up our spirits; And shouldst thou suffer it to bring us all to the dust of Death, yet must we still acknowledge, that Righteous art thou, O Lord, and just are thy judgements. For our Transgressions multiplied against thee, as the sand on the Sea-shore, might justly bring over us a Deluge of thy Wrath. The cry of our sins, that hath pierc’t the very Heavens, might well return with showers of Vengeance upon our Heads. While our Earth is defiled under the Inhabitants thereof, what wonder; if thou commandest an evil Angel to pour out his Vial into our Air, to fill it with Infection, and the noisome Pestilence, and so to turn the vary breath of our Life into the savour of Death unto us all! But yet we beseech thee, O our God, forget not thou to be gracious: neither shut thou up thy loving kindnesse in Displeasure. For his sake, who himselfe took our Infirmities, and bare our Sicknesses, have mercy upon us; and say to the destroying Angel, It is enough. O let that bloud of sprinkling, which speaks better things then that of Abel, be upon the Lintel, and the two side posts in all our Dwellings, that the Destroyer may passe by. Let the sweet Odour of thy blessed Son’s all-sufficient Sacrifice, and Intercession (infinitely more prevalent then the typicall Incense of Aaron) interpose between the living and the dead, and be our full, and perfect Atonement, ever acceptable with thee, that the Plague may be stayed. O let us live and we will praise thy Name; and these thy judgments shall teach us to look every Man into the plague of his own heart: that being cleansed from all our sins, we may serve thee with pure hearts all our dayes, perfecting holinesse in thy fear, till we come at last, where there is no more Sicknesse, nor Death, through thy tender Mercies in him alone, who is our Life, and our Health, and our Salvation, Jesus Christ, our ever blessed Saviour, and Redeemer. Amen[.]

UPDATE: And here is another prayer from the same order of service, perhaps less well-put but still pertinent:

Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, whose Judgments are most severe, and terrible against obstinate offenders; but thy Mercies infinite to all, that with hearty Repentance, and true Faith turn unto thee: We, the sinful people of this land, whom for our iniquities, and manifold transgressions thou hast in many places most justly visited with the noisom Plague, and Pestilence, come now before the Throne of thy grace in the Name of thy dear Son, in whom thou art well pleased; and in confidence of that Atonement which he hath made for us, most humbly beseech thee to pardon, & forgive us all our sins in thought, word, or deed committed against thy Divine Majesty; to work in us dayly more and more a true, hearty, and unfeigned Sorrow, and Repentance for the same; to plant in our hearts a sincere and setled Resolution, by the assistance of thy Grace, to lead the rest of our lives in careful Obedience to thy holy Will in all things; and so to remove from us this Plague, and grievous Sickness, that we be not utterly consumed by means of thy heavy hand. To this end, grant us, good Lord of thy grace & mercy, all things conducing hereunto; Seasonable Weather, and good Air, and wholsom Food, & powerful Medicines, and whatever else thou seest to be good, and profitable for us; together with a due Care, and Conscience in using of the same; that we neither presume, nor tempt thy Majesty by neglecting the Means, which thou hast appointed, nor yet despair of thy Blessing in the diligent use of them, nor in any event repine, or murmure at thy Providence, what portion soever it allots us: But that submitting our selves to thy good pleasure in all things, we may commit the keeping of our Souls to thee in well-doing, as unto a faithfull Creatour; with compassionate pity, and charity (as we are able) succouring the sick, and preserving the whole, and praying fervently for All: and finally, that depending entirely upon thy Goodness, we may wait the hour of thy gracious Deliverance in Faith and Hope, and constant Patience, with perfect Resignation to thy wise, and just Appointment in all things; To the which we betake our selves, and the whole Nation, and what ever concerns us. Be mercifull unto us, O God be mercifull unto us, for our souls trust only in thee, and under the shadow of thy Wings shall be our refuge, till this Calamity be overpast [cf. Ps. 57. 1.]; which we beseech thee speedily to remove, if it be thy will, O Lord God of Mercies, and Father of Compassions, and to restore the voice of Joy, and Health once more into our Dwellings, for the alone Merits sake of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, our only Mediatour, and Advocate. Amen.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Hymns in Time of Pestilence

Time for an overseas holiday?

Daniel Defoe (c. 1660-1731), in his 1722 work A Journal of the Plague Year, portrays his narrator, stranded in London during its last great plague of 1665, as doing much as any conscientious believer ought in time of prudent self-isolation and enforced quarantine:

Terrified by those frightful objects, I... retire[d] home... and resolve[d] to go out no more; and... I [kept] those resolutions for... days, which time I spent in the most serious thankfulness for my preservation and the preservation of my family, and the constant confession of my sins, giving myself up to God every day, and applying to Him with fasting, humiliation, and meditation. 

As we enter upon the coronavirus pandemic – may it be mild, not severe; may but few suffer, not many; may we repent and beg mercy; God’s will be done – here are some old hymns by Protestant writers that demonstrate a full-blooded Scriptural acceptance of plague and pestilence as instruments chosen by the Almighty to inflict salutary punishment upon us sinful mortals, who ought read these signs of the times aright, and therefore repent and implore the Lord’s clemency, that we may not endure his wrath.

The first two were written by James Montgomery (1771-1854) and issued as “Hymns to be sung on the Day of Humiliation, Wednesday, August 22nd, 1832”, as observed in Sheffield, England, to pray for the cessation of a cholera outbreak: 

Hymn 1. (C.M.) [I omit the original first verse]
1. Let priests and people, high and low,
Rich, poor, and great, and small,
Invoke, in fellowship of woe,
The Maker of them all.  
2. For God hath summoned from his place
Death in a direr form,
To waken, warn, and scourge our race,
Than earthquake, fire, or storm.  
3. Let churches weep within their pale,
And families apart;
Let each in secrecy bewail
The plague of his own heart.  
4. So, while the land bemoans its sin,
The pestilence may cease,
And mercy, tempering wrath, bring in
God’s saving health and peace. 
Hymn 2. (L.M.) 
1. It is the Lord!—Behold his hand
Outstretched with an afflictive rod;
And hark! a voice goes through the land,
“Be still, and know that I am God.”  
2. Shall we, like guilty Adam, hide
In darkest shades our darker fears?
For who his coming may abide,
Or who shall stand when he appears?  
3. No,—let us throng around his seat;
No,—let us meet him face to face;
Prostrate our spirits at his feet,
Confess our sins, and sue for grace.  
4. Who knows but God will hear our cries,
Turn swift destruction from our path,
Restrain his judgments, or chastise
In tender mercy, not in wrath?  
5. He will, he will, for Jesus pleads;
Let heaven and earth his love record;
For us, for us he intercedes,
Our help is nigh:—it is the Lord.

The next hymn is a selection from the metrical paraphrase made by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) of the first part of Psalm 91 (Psalm 90 in the Vulgate), significantly subtitled “Safety in public diseases and dangers” from his masterful version of The Psalms of David (1719), utilising stanzas 6, 5, 7, 9 and 10 – the reordering gives a better sense:

Hymn. (L.M.) 
1. If vapours with malignant breath
Rise thick, and scatter midnight death,
Israel is safe; the poisoned air
Grows pure, if Israel’s God be there. 
2. If burning beams of noon conspire
To dart a pestilential fire,
God is their life; his wings are spread
To shield them with a healthful shade. 
3. What though a thousand at thy side,
At thy right hand ten thousand died,
Thy God his chosen people saves
Amongst the dead, amidst the graves. 
4. But if the fire, or plague, or sword,
Receive commission from the Lord
To strike his saints among the rest,
Their very pains and deaths are blest. 
5. The sword, the pestilence or fire,
Shall but fulfil their best desire;
From sins and sorrows set them free,
And bring thy children, Lord, to thee.

And my last choice of hymns for these troublous times is taken from Hymns Ancient and Modern, being written by William Bullock (1798-1874):

Hymn. (C.M.) 
1. In grief and fear to thee, O Lord,
We now for succour fly;
Thine awful judgements are abroad,
O shield us lest we die. 
2. The fell disease on every side
Walks forth with tainted breath;
And pestilence, with rapid stride,
Bestrews the land with death. 
3. O look with pity on the scene
Of sadness and of dread;
And let thine Angel stand between
The living and the dead. 
4. With contrite hearts to thee, our King,
We turn who oft have stray’d;
Accept the sacrifice we bring,
And let the plague be stay’d. Amen.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Prayers to Plague Saints

Over the past several weeks or more I had thought to post these prayers to Saint Sebastian, Saint Roch and Saint Rosalia against contagious disease, but my procrastination has led me to leave off disseminating such petitions to these famous plague saints almost too late:

1. Ad Sanctum Sebastianum Martyrem.
Aña. O beate Sebastiane, Martyr Dei, intercede pro nobis ad Dominum Jesum Christum, ut a peste seu a morbo epidemiæ tuis meritis et precibus liberemur. 
V. Ora pro nobis, beate Sebastiane.
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi. 
Oremus. 
Oratio.Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine, « omnia tela nequissimi ignea exstinguere » (Eph. 6, 16b), qui inclyto Martyri, Ecclesiæ defensori, et pestilitatis propulsori Sebastiano tribuisti sagittarum suarum tormenta superare. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. R. Amen. 
2. Ad Sanctum Rochum Confessorem. 
Aña. Ave, Roche sanctissime,
Nobili natus sanguine,
Crucis signatus schemate
Sinistro tuo latere.
Roche, peregre profectus,
Pestiferæ mortis ictus
Curavisti mirifice,
Tangendo salutiferæ.
Vale, Roche angelice,
Vocis citatus flamine,
Obtinuisti deifice
A cunctis pestem pellere. 
V. Ora pro nobis, beate Roche.
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi. 
Oremus.
Oratio.Deus, qui beato Rocho per Angelum tuum tabulam eidem afferentem promisisti; ut qui ipsum invocaverit, a nullo pestis cruciatu læderetur: præsta, quæsumus, ut qui ejus memoriam agimus, ipsius meritis et precibus a mortifera peste corporis et animæ liberemur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. R. Amen. 
3. Ad Sanctam Rosaliam Virginem. 
Hymnus (abbrev.) Ave, rosa sine spina,
Contra pestem medicina,
Rosalia, dux inclyta,
Recens a mundo cognita.
Post tot sæcla revelata,
In Patronam orbi data
Contra pestem nobis fave,
Dum tibi sonamus Ave.
Laus, honor sit Majestati,
Uni, trinæ Deitati,
Rosaliam exaltanti,
Pestem per eam sedanti. 
V. Ascendat odor rosæ hujus in conspectu Domini.
R. Et placetur ira Altissimi. 
Oremus. 
Oratio.Deus, qui corpus famulæ tuæ Rosaliæ Virginis post tot sæcula inter montes inventum, contra sævientem pestilentiam sacrum amuletum fidelibus tuis esse voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis, ut, qui ejus commemoratione lætamur, ejus quoque intervenientibus meritis, a præsentibus periculis, et a malo pestilentiæ liberemur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. R. Amen.
 ******
1. To St Sebastian. 
Antiphon. O blessed Sebastian, Martyr of God, intercede for us with the Lord Jesus Christ, that from plague or from epidemic disease we may be delivered by thy merits and prayers. 
V. Pray for us, blessed Sebastian.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. 
Let us pray.

Collect.Grant unto us, we beg, Lord, “to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one” (Eph. 6:16b), who didst grant unto Sebastian, the famous Martyr, the defender of the Church, and the repeller of plague, to overcome the torments of his arrows. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen. 
2.  To St Roch. 
Antiphon. Hail, most holy Roch,
Born of noble blood,
Marked with the form of the Cross
On thy left side.
O Roch, rendered a pilgrim,
Struck by pestilential death,
Thou didst miraculously cure
With healing touch.
Hail, angelic Roch,
Summoned by the blast of the voice,
Thou didst obtain, O god-like one,
To drive plague from all.  
V. Pray for us, blessed Roch.
R. That we may be made worthy of the  promises of Christ. 
Let us pray. 
Collect.O God, who didst promise blessed Roch, by thine Angel delivering a tablet to the same, that those who call upon him should suffer no torment of plague: grant, we beg, that those who make remembrance of him may be freed, by his merits and prayers, from deadly plague of mind and body. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen. 
3. To St Rosalia.
Hymn. Hail, rose without a thorn,
Medicine against pestilence,
Rosalia, famous leader,
Recently made known to the world.
Revealed after so many centuries,
Given to the world as a Patroness,
Support us against the pestilence,
While to thee we cry out Hail.
Praise, and honour be
To the One Majesty, the Trinal Deity,
Exalting Rosalia,
Stopping the plague through her. 
V. The fragrance of this rose ascended in the sight of the Lord.
R. And appeased the wrath of the Most High. 
Let us pray. 
Collect.O God, who didst will the body of thy servant Rosalia the Virgin, found after many centuries amongst the mountains, to be a sacred amulet for thy faithful against the raging pestilence: grant unto thy supplicants, that we, who rejoice in her commemoration, and by her intervening merits, may be delivered from present perils, and from the evil of pestilence. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

Coronavirus Comes to Town

Tasmania's first case of COVID-19 has just been announced here in Launceston. Of your charity, pray for his recovery, and for the safety of those treating him, and of all whom he has encountered en route to this city – hopefully this novel infection has not yet spread to others, or if it has, it can be prevented from spreading further. However, given the impending pandemic, it may be that this is the harbinger of a local outbreak, which God avert.

Sanctus Deus, Sanctus Fortis, Sanctus Immortalis, miserere nobis: et sicut pepercisti clementer contritæ Urbi Ninivæ, sic et parce Stephanopoli*.
Sancta Trinitas, unus Deus, pro avertenda peste, qua nos punis, vota Tasmaniæ urbisque Stephanopolitani† benigne exaudi.
Ut a pestilentiæ flagello nos liberare digneris, — Te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut civitatem istam defendere, protegere, custodire, conservare et benedicere digneris, — Te rogamus, audi nos.
Domina nostra, Salus infirmorum, — Ora pro nobis.
Sancte Sebastiane, — Ora pro nobis.
Sancte Roche, — Ora pro nobis.
Sancta Rosalia, — Ora pro nobis.  
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy upon us; and as thou didst clemently spare the contrite city of Nineveh, so also spare Launceston.
Holy Trinity, one God, for averting the plague, with which thou dost punish us, benignly hear the prayer of Tasmania and of the city of Launceston.
That thou vouchsafe to free us from the scourge of pestilence, — We beseech thee, hear us.
That thou vouchsafe to defend, protect, guard, preserve and bless this city, — We beseech thee, hear us.
Our Lady, Health of the sick, — Pray for us.
Saint Sebastian, — Pray for us.
Saint Roch, — Pray for us.
Saint Rosalia, — Pray for us.  
Gentle reader, please replace the italicised words with the names of whatever localities and regions you may wish to pray for.

* Having consulted the far-famed Fr Hunwicke, it seems fitting to render the placename Launceston, its name being derived from the Cornish Lannstevan, land of (St) Stephen, as Stephanopolis, especially by analogy with the New Zealand city of Christchurch being latinised as Christopolis.
† In Latin, one does not say, the city of Launceston, but the Launcestonian city, using the adjectival form.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Deadcarts and Plague Pits?


One should always act as if all depends on one’s own efforts, and pray as if all depends on God: this is based on the truth that God, the Primary Cause of all, deigns to work through a multitude of secondary causes, and all such causes are true causes of their ultimate effects: I exist because of God, but also because of my parents, my grandparents, and so on.

We should also always have hope and trust, both supernatural and natural: so we do not give in to paranoia, nor overcritically distrust what is told us, but prudently and rationally weigh up what we learn. For this reason, I hope and trust that the current coronavirus outbreak, though serious, will not lead to “deadcarts and plague pits”; still, while praising all medical staff who are striving to contain and control this new disease, we should also pray to God that he save us from pestilence.

The following antiphon and versicle are taken from the Cantuale Romano-Seraphicum, no. 122, p. 136f. (I have corrected what is given at Gregobase by reference to this book, which basically meant two notes had to be moved up one step each.) Its Critical Epilogue notes that this is a Prose traditionally sung by Franciscans against the pest or plague, and its music derives from two older sources, a prose and a trope. According to other sources, supposedly this anthem was taught by St Bartholomew to a nun at a convent of the Poor Clares at Coimbra in 1317... whatever of this pious account, it ought be noted that the poetic references in the antiphon to Our Lady as Star of the Sea, and thus to her as a glorious Star able to deliver us from the malign influences of the stars, do not commit us to a belief in astrology!

The Collect following (addressed to Our Lord, and having a rather unusual Gallican ending) is taken from old prayer books I have collated. UPDATE: I have given the slightly abbreviated text of the collect as used in the 1823 Breviarium Romanum used by the Capuchins.


Aña. Stella cæli exstirpávit, * quæ lactávit Dóminum: 
Mortis pestem quam plantávit primus parens hóminum.
Ipsa stella nunc dignétur sídera compéscere, 
Quorum bella plebem cædunt diræ mortis úlcere.
O piíssima stella maris, a peste succúrre nobis.
Audi nos, Dómina, nam Fílius tuus nihil negans te honórat.
Salva nos, Jesu, pro quibus Virgo Mater te orat.

V. In omni tribulatióne et angústia nostra.
R. Succúrre nobis, piíssima Virgo María.

Orémus.

Oratio.
Deus misericórdiæ, Deus pietátis, Deus indulgéntiæ, qui misértus es super afflictiónem pópuli tui, et dixísti Angelo percutiénti pópulum tuum: Cóntine manum tuam: ob amórem illíus Stellæ gloriósæ, cujus úbera pretiósa contra venénum nostrórum delictórum quam dúlciter suxísti: præsta auxílium grátiæ tuæ; ut ab omni peste, et improvísa morte secúre liberémur, et a totíus perditiónis incúrsu misericórditer salvémur, per te, Jesu Christe, Rex glóriæ. Qui vivis et regnas in sǽcula sæculórum. R. Amen.

******

Antiphon. 
The star of heaven, who nourished the Lord, rooted up the plague of death which the first father of mankind planted: may that same star now deign to counter the constellations whose strife strike down the people with the ulcer of a terrible death. O most pious star of the sea, save us from the plague. Hear us: for thy Son honoureth thee, denying thee nothing. Save us, Jesus, for whom the Virgin Mary prayeth to thee.

V. In our every tribulation and anguish.
R. Succour us, most loving Virgin Mary.

Let us pray.

Collect.
God of mercy, God of pity, God of pardon, who hadst pity on the affliction of thy people, and didst say to the Angel that slew thy people, Hold thy hand: for the sake of the love of that glorious Star, whose precious breast thou didst so sweetly suck, against the poison of our faults; supply the help of thy grace, that we may securely be delivered from every disease and unprovided death, and may mercifully be saved from the inroads of all perdition, through thee, Jesus Christ, the King of glory, who livest and reignest world without end. R. Amen.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Matins and Midnight Mass

Suddenly the organ burst into a triumphal march; the Abbot entered the nave, preceded by two masters of ceremonies; between them walked the crosier-bearer, wearing an alb and on his shoulders the vimpa, a scarf of white satin lined with cherry-coloured silk, in the ends of which he clasped the stem of the crosier. The Abbot, whose long black train was borne by a novice, gave his blessing right and left as he passed to the kneeling throng of worshippers who crossed themselves.
He knelt at the prie-dieu, and his whole court of attendants, cope-men, and religious vested in albs, likewise knelt, so that all one saw was a golden note of interrogation overlooking a field of dead moons, the crosier dominating the big white tonsures.
At a signal from Father d’Auberoche all arose and the Abbot went to his throne, on each side of which his assistant deacons took their place; whereupon the prie-dieu was removed.
The choir was full, two upper rows of stalls being occupied by the professed and the novices in their black cowls, while in the lower ones were the lay-brothers in brown cowls. Below them again, on benches, were the choir boys in bright red cassocks; and in the empty space between, limited though this was, the servers deployed with absolute precision, crosier-bearer and candle-bearer and mitre-bearer all performing their duties without the slightest hitch.
The Abbot began the Office.
As Father Felletin had foreseen, Durtal was at once fascinated by the Invitatorium. It was the usual Psalm, Venite, exultemus, summoning Christians to adore their Lord, with its refrain, sometimes short “Christ is born to us”; sometimes long, “Christ is born to us; O, come, let us worship.”
This splendid psalm, with its tender half mournful melody, tells of Creation, and of God’s rights; the wondrous works of God are set forth and His lament at the ingratitude of His people.
The. voice of the cantors recounted measuredly His marvels: “The sea is His and He made it, and His hands prepared the dry land. O, come let us worship and fall down and kneel before the Lord, our Maker, for He is the Lord our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” Then the choir took up the refrain, “Christ is born to us, O come, let us worship.”
Then, after the glorious hymn of St. Ambrose, Christe Redemptor, the Office proper began. It was divided into three “vigils” or nocturns, composed of psalms, lessons and responses. These nocturns had a meaning. Durandus, the thirteenth-century Bishop of Mende, explained them clearly in his Rationale. The first nocturn deals allegorically with the period before the Law given to Moses; and, in the Middle Ages, whilst it was sung, the altar was hidden by a black veil to symbolize the gloom of the Mosaic Law and the sentence pronounced on man in Eden. The second nocturn shows the time that elapsed since the written Law, and then the altar was hidden with a white veil because the prophecies of the Old Testament already shed a sort of furtive light on fallen mankind. The third nocturn sets forth the love of the Church and the mercies of the Comforter, and the altar was draped with purple, an emblem of the Holy Ghost and of the Blood of our Saviour.
The service proceeded with alternate psalmody and chanting. The whole was splendid, but the finest was found in the Lessons and their Responses. A monk, led by a master of ceremonies, came down from his stall and took his place at the lectern in the middle of the choir; there he chanted or recited, for it was not exactly the one nor yet the other. The tone was even, the melody slow and somewhat plaintive, sounding like a lullaby of the soul, and breaking off abruptly on a mournful note, like a tear that falls.
“Ah! Dom Felletin was right,” thought Durtal. “It is a grand service for a grand night. While the old world is sinning or sleeping, the Messiah is born and the shepherds, dazzled, come to adore Him; and at the same moment those men of mystery, those dream-figures foretold long before St. Matthew by Isaiah and the Psalmist, set out from one knows not where and race on dromedaries through the night, led by a star, to adore in their turn a Child, and then to disappear along a road other than that by which they came.

“To what a mass of controversy has this star given rise! But to all the blundering hypotheses of our astronomers I prefer the view the Middle Ages borrowed from the Apocryphal Book of Seth and which we find in St. Epiphanius and in the Imperfect Commentary on St. Matthew. They thought that the Star of Bethlehem that appeared to the Magi showed the Child seated beneath a Cross in a glowing sphere and most of the early masters depict the star thus, for instance, Roger Van der Weyden, in one of the panels of his marvellous Nativity in the museum of Berlin.”


Durtal’s reflections were cut short by monks moving to and fro in the choir. The Abbot was being vested. A master of ceremonies, standing in front of the altar, removed one by one the vestments placed on it, the alb, the girdle, the stole and the cope, and handed them to novices who one after another presented them to the deacons at the throne, first bending the knee to the Abbot.
When his long black cappa had been removed and he was robed in his white alb, Dom Anthime Bernard looked taller still, as from the steps of his throne he overlooked the entire church and, after he had put on the girdle, as he moved his arm to adjust the pectoral cross, the ring on his finger sparkled in the light of the tapers. At a sign from Père d’Auberoche the mitre-bearer, covered with a shawl similar to that of the crosier-bearer, approached the throne, and, having donned the stole and cope, the abbot intoned the Te Deum.
Here Durtal was obliged to moderate his enthusiasm, for he remembered other Te Deums heard in the great Paris churches; he said to himself that, for instance at St. Sulpice, the hymn sounds far grander, sung to the blare of a great organ by a full choir reinforced by the whole body of the seminarists. The “Royal” Magnificat, also, had a majesty and a fullness lacking to the jejune and feeble settings used by Solesmes. But, indeed, to give such splendid pieces their full significance, it would need hundreds of voices, and in what monastery could one hope to find so large a choir?
His disenchantment, however, did not last long, for the Abbot, surrounded by cope-men, thurifer and candlebearer, began to chant the genealogy of Christ from a Gospel-book held by a monk in his two hands and resting against his forehead; the strange, sad monotonous cadences seemed to evoke a procession of the Patriarchs who each at the mention of his name flashed past, and then sank back into the gloom.
When the reading was at an end and whilst the Abbot was changing his cope for a chasuble the choir sang the short hymn, Greek in origin, the Te decet laus and the Office closed with the prayer of the day and the Benedicamus Domino.
The four principal cantors who had gone to robe themselves in the sacristy now returned and Dom Ramondoux, the Precentor, had stuck in a ring near his seat surmounted by a statuette of St. Bénigna the copper rod which was his sign of office.
He and the others were now seated on low-backed benches, just inside the communion rails at the entrance to the choir and opposite the altar. Thus their coped backs were turned to the public, backs splendid in shimmering velvet, interwoven with silver and with cherry-silk, on which the Gothic monograms of Christ and our Lady were embroidered in gold.
Leaving their benches and standing in the middle of the choir, they chanted the Introit, whilst the Abbot, attended by his court, began Mass,
When they had reached the Kyrie Eleison, the congregation joined in, the girls and boys of the village being led by the parish-priest. The same happened at the Creed.
Durtal, for a moment, seemed to get a clear glimpse into the past, and to see and hear villagers singing the melodies of St. Gregory in the Middle Ages. Obviously such chanting was not as perfect as that at Solesmes, but it was something different. It lacked art, but it had vim; it was an outburst, an effusion of the soul of the people, the fervour of a mob that for a moment is touched. It was as if, for a few minutes, an early Church had come to life, in which the people, throbbing in unison with its priests, were truly taking a part in the ceremonies and praying with them and using the same tongue and the same musical dialect, and this, for this to happen in our own times seemed so utterly unlooked-for that Durtal thought that he must once more be dreaming.
Thus the Mass went on while the organ flooded the church with sound. The Abbot stood before the altar, or took his seat on the throne; he was shod and gloved in white; he was now bare-headed, then wearing the gold mitre and then the precious mitre all edged with gems; his hands were now clasped, now held the crosier, then restored it to the kneeling novice who kissed his ring. The smoke of incense hid the altar-lights and the two lamps on either side of the relics each looked like a topaz glowing in the blue mist. Through this perfumed haze which was rising to the roof could be seen a motionless figure in gold at the foot of the altar steps; of the sub-deacon holding up before his eyes the paten veiled, waiting for the end of the Paternoster; he was the symbol of the Old Testament, of the Synagogue which had not eyes to see the accomplishment of the mysteries. And the Mass went on, all the serving boys kneeling in a row with lighted torches in their hands during the Elevation which the sound of bells proclaimed to the night outside; finally, after the Agnus Dei, the Abbot gave the Pax to the deacon, who went down the steps and gave it in turn to the sub-deacon, who, preceded by the master of ceremonies, went to the stalls and there embraced the senior monk who transmitted it to the others, each leaning over each other’s shoulders and then bowing to each other with hands joined.
And now Durtal watched no longer; the moment of Communion was at hand and in the apse the little bell was ringing loudly; there was a stir among the novices and the lay-brothers who began to range themselves in double file; the deacon chanted the Confiteor in a tone hardly expressive of contrition, and, while two monks held an outstretched long white cloth, all knelt down to communicate. Then the Abbot came down the altar steps with all his following and gave the Blessed Sacrament to the faithful, while behind him stood the serving boys, each holding a torch.
A noise of rough boots and clogs filled the church, making the Abbot’s voice almost inaudible; one could catch the words “Corpus Domini,” but the rest was lost in the clatter of feet; coming back to his place, Durtal forgot the Liturgy and the Mass, caring only to implore God to forgive him his sins and deliver him from evil. He came back to the world when he heard the Abbot chanting the Pontifical blessing.
Sit nomen Domini benedictum.
And all the monks responded:
Ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum.
Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini.
Qui fecit cælum et terram.
And the Abbot, staff in hand, gave the blessing:
Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus, Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus.
And at each invocation of the three Persons he made the sign of the cross over the people, to his left, towards the centre, and to his right.

— from Chapter VII of The Oblate (1903) by J.-K. Huysmans