Sunday, January 20, 2008

No Green Was Seen

Another liturgical year has begun, with one of the earliest Septuagesimas for nearly a century. Yes, odd as it may seem, according to Pius Parsch the Church's year of grace can be interpreted as beginning at Septuagesima, when the Breviary begins from the beginning, with the first part of the first chapter of Genesis (i, 1-26): In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram...

According to his interpretation, all of "salvation history"prior to Christ is recapitulated during Septuagestimatide and Lent, and then comes our Passover, Christ Himself, and His grace shed abroad during Paschaltide; the time after Pentecost corresponds with the current age of the world, and Advent represents the coming of Christ, consummated at Christmas and Epiphany with the triumphant manifestation of Christ as God-and-Man, Head and members united, reigning for ever without end.

Whatever of this (and it has much to recommend it), because of the extreme earliness of Easter this year there have been no ordinary Sundays after Epiphany, and green has not been seen, at least at St John's Pro-Cathedral: Fr Rowe loathes ferias, and will always celebrate a Mass in white or red instead, in honour of some saint.

This fine morning, since significant numbers of people are still away on holidays during lazy January, I ended up being the choir (with the admirable assistance of a fellow parishioner, shanghaied at short notice) - else there would have been no Missa cantata, perish the thought. The Proper I psalm-toned using Rossini's book, alone!, and this went alright [the Introit was maybe a little shaky, but given the text Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis, that's somehow appropriate]; the Gregorian Asperges, Missa de Angelis [whose parts I may have intoned a bit too low, since I'm most comfortable in the bass register; and something went wrong with the intonation of the Sanctus, mea culpa], and Credo III all rang out from many voices, as did the Ave maris stella at the Offertory; I sang the Jesu dulcis memoria during communion. Before and after Mass we sang "Holy God we praise Thy Name" and "To the Name that brings salvation", it being still January, the month of the Holy Name.

I was struck by the Epistle, St Paul to the Corinthians (I Cor. ix, 27 - x, 5): the mention of many running the race, but only one winning the crown (ix, 24), the necessity of going into training (cf. ix, 25-27) - literally, ascesis - and the bestowal on the faithful of the saving sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist as foreshadowed by the events of Exodus (x, 1-4), yet the awful words "with most of them God was not well pleased" (x, 5), which ties in only too well with the last verse of today's Gospel of the labourers in the vineyard (S. Matthew xx, 1-16) that the last shall be first, the first last, and again, many are called, few chosen (S. Matt. xx, 16; see Newman's sermon thereon), all reminded me of Newman's other terrible statement, that there are many now growing in holiness and grace who shall NOT be saved at the last.

At least, thank God, I made a quick confession before Mass, but I fear my heart is still very divided and wayward.

Postscript: reading the introduction to Butler's Lives of the Saints this evening, giving an account of the Rev. Alban Butler himself, I note how far I am from the standard of Christian perfection our forefathers held; God grant I have the time to improve myself by his grace, that I may live according to the precepts of the Gospel and so be found a true, not a pretended Christian.

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