Saturday, February 2, 2008


My mate Justin is back (from holidays in Melbourne) and tells me: (a) how good it was to attend St Aloysius, Caulfield, where Frs Tattersall and McDaniel, FSSP, celebrate the TLM, and friends of mine, David and Jennifer, lead the excellent choir; and (b) how nice it was to sit in the pew there, hear Mass, and relax - since here, Justin is one of the principal singers and organists!

Since he's back, we didn't have to restrict ourselves to psalm-toning the propers anymore. Instead, today, starting just after 9am (a procession of quick confessions, including mine, caused the delay), we had the solemn blessing and distribution of candles, with that marvellous antiphon "Lumen ad revelationem", then a procession to Our Lady's Grotto and back, singing the Adorna &c. - how tired we were from singing and walking! - and then on with the Missa Cantata, with full Gregorian Propers, and the lovely Missa cum Jubilo (whose Sanctus and Agnus Dei are familiar to me from singing it with the nuns at the Carmel back home), plus Credo I, the solemn Alma Redemptoris at the offertory, the Vesper antiphons at communion, and hymns "Hail to the Lord Who comes" (while Fr vested for Mass) and "Mary Immaculate, star of the morning" (as the recessional).

Several texts of the Liturgy caught my attention - for example, the "Adorna" and the Magnificat antiphon "Hodie", both obviously from the Greek. Indeed, "Adorna thalamum tuum" is a translation of a troparion attributed to Cosmas the Hagiopolite: "Adorn thy bridal chamber, Sion, and receive Christ the King; embrace Mary, who is the gate of heaven, for she herself carrieth the King of glory of the new light; she remaineth a Virgin, bearing in her hands the Son begotten before the daystar, Whom Simeon receiving in his arms proclaimed Him to the peoples to be the Lord of life and death and Saviour of the world".

But especially I delighted in the inspired words of the Psalmist: "Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio templi tui: secundum nomen tuum, Deus, ita et laus tua in fines terrae: justitia plena est dextera tua" (We have received Thy mercy, O God, in the midst of Thy temple: according to Thy Name, O God, so also is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth: full of justice is Thy right hand - Ps 47:10-11). These words are set so expressively for both Introit and Gradual, the Liturgy itself marvelling at the reception of Our Lord, Divine Mercy incarnate, the Right Hand of God, and likewise the perfection and fulness of justice, in the midst of the temple - the meeting of the God and Son with the God and Father, with God the Spirit moving the devout to come and worship: the Presentation is a Theophany, a revelation of the Trinity, and so a blessing unto all peoples. The collect well says, "Almighty eternal God, we humbly pray Thy Majesty: that, just as Thine Onlybegotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, so may Thou make us to be presented unto Thee with purified minds. Through the same Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. - Amen."

To return to the details: Justin and I were each paratus (i.e. in cassock and surplice) in the sanctuary, tho' he had to dash down the back to the organ for the hymns. I think it may be better to sing at the front, rather than down the back - I for one could hear the congregation joining in the chant very much more. It was moving to kneel at the Gospel side, holding my lighted candle during the Canon, and seeing Fr's face a picture of unselfconscious devotion as he lent forward to quietly speak the Words of the Lord to consecrate the Host and Chalice, then to look up at the elevated Species, worshipping, holding the candle high.

The only accidental drawback? Unfortunately, it was quite warm in church, and I for one was dripping with sweat. [The day's maximum temperature was 37°C.]

Fr Rowe reminded us (in his sermon) that the candle shews us how we ought live - for its flame points upwards, and it consumes itself as it burns brightly before men: so should we ever have thoughts directed toward God and heaven, so should we sacrifice ourselves in doing our duty and bearing witness to the Gospel in the world.

Candlemas is one of my favourite feasts, for its ritual and for its riches theological. Many threes crop up: God in Trinity, manifested as He Whose Temple it is, He Who is brought there to be presented to His God and Father, and He Who inspires the aged Simeon and Anna the prophetess; St Joseph, Our Lady, and the Infant Jesus - the Holy Family; and the candles, each of which is a triple unity of wick, wax, and flame.

Blessing, Procession and Mass ended at 10.45am. As I had to get back to collect my car with its new tyres before noon, I didn't stay on.

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