Sunday, October 19, 2008

23rd Sunday after Pentecost

This morning, despite the choir mistress being ill, the ladies' choir sang beautifully, and even looked after the Propers (to a psalm-tone), proving once again that it is easy to provide sung Mass -  tho' of course one would wish for the Gregorian Propers and polyphony if possible!  I must say, I would have liked in particular to have heard the magnificent Offertory, De profundis, sung to its glorious solemn chant.

Fr Rowe reminded us that the little girl raised to life by Our Blessed Lord, no less than the woman cured of her issue of blood, as recounted in to-day's Gospel (St Matthew ix,18-31), nonetheless in due process of time suffered death (again), as we shall also, most certainly; and that the gravestones in God's Acre, the cemetery, tell us "To-day our turn, to-morrow, yours". November, month of the Holy Souls, is well-nigh upon us, and preached on the ceremony of the consecration of a Catholic cemetery, a pontifical function that few will have witnessed, but whose details make for edification, instruction in our Catholic Faith, and an impulsion to visit cemeteries (as he tells us he does in November especially): there to pray for the dead and to meditate upon the Four Last Things - death, judgement, heaven, and hell.

Apparently, in the site to be set apart and hallowed for the burial of Catholics only (since those not children of the Church in life can have no part in death with those who were), five crosses, man-high, are erected, the largest in the middle and the others at the four corners; and before each are set three candles burning atop a stake.  Two vessels are also made ready, the one of holy water, the other containing blessed salt.  

The bishop then comes in procession with his ministers, and sings the Litanies of the Saints with a special triple petition inserted:  

Vouchsafe to purify and bless this cemetery.  R/.  We beseech Thee, hear us.
Vouchsafe to purify, bless and hallow this cemetery.  R/. We beseech Thee, hear us.
Vouchsafe to purify, bless, hallow and consecrate this cemetery.  
R/. We beseech Thee, hear us.

He perambulates the whole site, sprinkling it with the holy water mixed with blessed salt, whilst the Asperges and the Penitential Psalms are sung, including the well-known Pss 50 and 129, the Miserere and De profundis, and inserting a long prayer after each.  

He asperses and censes each cross (as he does the walls), and moves the three lit candles from their stake to the topmost arm and the side arms of the cross.  All this signifies that the dead who shall repose in the cemetery (a word meaning resting place) have their hope of salvation and entry into heaven solely in the merits of their Crucified Saviour, Who has provided His Cross as the only ladder from earth to high heaven above, and Who is at once the Light of the World and the Eternal Light we pray may shine upon the souls of the faithful departed.  Again, around the central cross gather the faithful departed, whose bodies shall rest under its shadow, as the sheep around their Good Shepherd or as the chicks under their mother's wings, until the Day of Judgement when all souls shall be reunited with their bodies and rise again to meet their doom, to receive evermore whatever reward or punishment their deeds deserve.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the bishop sings a consecratory preface, and a final prayer, before his departure to a convenient church to celebrate or have celebrated a Requiem Mass.

Food for thought - and for wonderment: when shall I ever see this rite?

But, as the Epistle (Philippians iii,17 - iv,3) teaches, we must beware lest we be like those who are enemies of Christ's cross, whose god is their belly, who are entranced by terrene things, whose end is destruction; may our conversation be in heaven, may we look for the coming of Our Saviour, Who shall raise up our own mortal bodies to be as His own in glory, and so stand fast in Him, that our names too may be found inscribed in the Book of Life.

St Paul tells us plainly to imitate him, as he imitates Christ, and likewise to follow those who walk similarly: and this is the plain doctrine of adhering to the examples of the saints.

No comments: