Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Penance

Have eaten a good steak (when having a meal with relatives one can hardly refuse what's put in front of one), so will have to do some other penance today – which I certainly need.

Tho' according to the 1962 Calendar today is a feria of Advent (preces again, yay!), at ordinary form Mass it was St John of the Cross (already celebrated on the 24th of November in the old rite – it gets very confusing, depending on what Mass one attends and which Office one says, one can end up with two celebrations of a saint, or none!).  No doubt the Carmelite nuns nearby, God bless them, will have been celebrating since 1st Vespers last night (I assume for them he's a solemnity).  To combine all this, I thought I might make the commemoration of St John of the Cross from the Carmelite tradition (the Collect is the same as the traditional Roman).  

I am too lax to have benefitted much from reading it, but do have a copy of his writings, writings that made him fit to be proclaimed a Doctor of the Church – the volume pictured shews a crucifix he himself sketched, that image of Divine Love Crucified which is truer and more instructive than any books, and the heart of the Gospel in itself.

To set the scene, a few months back, having gone for a walk with a priest friend of mine, we heard the nearby bells of the Nedlands Carmel calling.  It was 4.30pm on a Saturday, so we decided to join the good sisters for None; but upon arriving we realized it was Vespers (they were in the midst of the second psalm, but the New Testament Canticle sung next clinched it, being a feature of modern evening prayer).  

But Vespers was only the beginning!  After they finished, then there followed, as best as I can remember:

1. An antiphon, versicle, and collect in honour of St Joseph;
2. Ditto in honour of St Elias (Elijah);
3.   Ditto in honour of St Teresa of Jesus (a.k.a. of Avila);
4.  Ditto in honour of St John of the Cross (see my comments above and the text below);
5.  The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary (a.k.a. of Loreto);
6.  The Salve Regina, with versicle and collect – all sung in Latin;
7.  The chant of the Asperges, presumably to accompany the sprinkling of holy water by Mother Prioress, again in Latin;
8.  A long prayer, Our Father, and Hail Mary, for the Pope;
9.  (After a pause) the antiphon, versicle and collect of the Holy Ghost.

We agreed that the nuns certainly liked to pray.

Here then is the commemoration of St John of the Cross, Priest, Confessor, Doctor of the Church, Co-Founder, under the direction of St Teresa, of the O.C.D.'s:

Aña.  Filii, confortamini, et viriliter agite in lege: quia in ipsa gloriosi eritis.  (I Mach. ii, 64)

V/.  Ora pro nobis, sancte pater Joannes.
R/.  Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.


Deus, qui sanctum Joannem, Confessorem tuum atque Doctorem, patrem nostrum, perfectæ sui abnegationis et Crucis amatorem eximium effecisti: concede; ut, ejus imitationi jugiter inhærentes, gloriam assequamur æternam.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  R/.  Amen. 

(Sons, be strengthened, and act manfully according to the law: for by it ye shall be glorious.

(Pray for us, holy father John – that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

(Let us pray.  O God, who made saint John, thy Confessor and Doctor, our father, an exceeding lover of perfect self-denial and the Cross, grant, that, ever sticking to his imitation, we may obtain eternal glory.  Thro' Christ our Lord.  Amen.)

It can be seen that the petition in this collect to follow in the path of self-denial and love of the Cross marked out by this saint are most appropriate today and always, for the royal road of the holy Cross (cf. Imitatio Christi) is that way by which alone, through the merits of Christ, we may enter at last into glory.  

We can rely upon the help God desires to bestow, by recalling our membership in the communion of saints, our fellowship with all who are in the grace of God, who may mutually intercede for one another in the One Mediator.  It is by humbly asking others more united to the Lord to pray for us, confessing our inadequacy of ourselves to help ourselves, "that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ".  

Only by being strong, playing the man, keeping the law, shall we be saved (thus far, the message of the antiphon, drawn from the warlike books of the Machabees of the Old Testament): and yet, greater wonder of the New Law! praise God, if we fall, we can get up, we can be healed by penance, reconciliation, conversion, receive the medicine of Christ the Physician administered by His ministers, since we can do all things in Him who strengthens us, and may rely upon His grace to restore us and fit us for the fight.

St Juan de la Cruz, beg Christ for us that he may save us, by applying to our sinful souls the infinite merits and graces of His Cross, that we may shoulder His easy yoke, and climb after Him unto the summit of holiness.

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