Saturday, October 25, 2008

Eucharistic Holy Hour

Fr Rowe being away on the Christus Rex pilgrimage (along with one of my housemates, Michael, who sounded pretty exhausted when I talked to him on his mobile - they've walked 35 km today!), another priest, who's recently learnt to say the Latin Mass, filled in for him this evening.  He certainly says Mass most carefully and with attention, but took an hour to say Low Mass, without homily: heaven knows how long Mass on Sunday will be...

In any case, this devout Mass gave me plenty of time to focus on each and every prayer; and I had enough time between the Offertory and the ecphonesis of the Secret to read Vespers as well.  

I was glad when I realized, looking at the Ordo, that to-day is the feast of St Raphael Archangel; it reminds me of my happy study of angelology under the tutelage of Fr Robbie, some years back (see my essay), which included his running commentary on the book of Tobit.  I also recall reading this glorious Office for the first time last year (whose antiphons, lessons &c. are mainly drawn from Tobit, of course).

The texts of the Mass are in large part (Introit, Offertory, Secret, Communion) drawn from that of Michaelmas; proper to this feast are the Collect, all the rest of the Mass of the Catechumens (Lesson, Gradual, Alleluia, Gospel), and also the Postcommunion.  

Australia Incognita has already pointed out how the Church identifies the unnamed angel of the Probatic pool with St Raphael, by reading the Gospel pericope of the former (St John v, 1-4) after the Lesson from Tobit (xii, 7-15) revealing the name of the latter.  The Gradual unusually but very finely pairs a verse from Tobit (viii, 3) with one from the Psalms (146:5), to insist on the point that it was by the might of the Lord, Whose instrument he is, that Raphael bound the devil besetting Sara, Tobias' wife.  In its praise of the Lord, the Gradual's verse ties in neatly with both the ensuing Alleluia verse (Ps 137:1-2, In conspectu Angelorum psallam tibi...) and the verses of Tobit xii (6 and 16ff) immediately before and after the pericope read in place of the Epistle, which are St Raphael's exhortations to shew gratitude for deliverance from perils by offering praise and thanksgiving to God, telling forth His wondrous works.

Moreover, the Lesson is full of wholesome instruction, such as on the power of almsgiving, "which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting".  It also reminds us of the sobering truths that sinners "are enemies to their own soul" and that if the Lord love us, He will test us by permitting trials and temptings to befall us, to see if we are gold or mere dross.

(Incidentally, the Summa Triviæ cites Tobit xii, 7 in its argument that the coronation rite is the "eighth sacrament", kept good and hidden: Sacramentum regis abscondere bonum est, It is good to hide the sacrament of a king!  But I digress...)

The Collect and Postcommunion alike implore God to grant us St Raphael as our guide and guard, who stands before Him to offer up our prayers for the Divine blessing (Tob. xii, 12; cf. Apoc. viii, 3-4):

Deus, qui beatum Raphaelem Archangelum Tobiæ famulo tuo comitem dedisti in via: concede nobis famulis tuis; ut ejusdem semper protegamur custodia, et muniamur auxilio.  Per...

(God, Who didst give unto Thy servant Tobias blessed Raphael Archangel as companion on the way, grant unto us Thy servants, that we may ever be protected by the care and strengthened by the assistance of the same.  Thro'...)

Dirigere dignare, Domine Deus, in adjutorium nostrum sanctum Raphaelem Archangelum: et, quem tuae majestati semper assistere credimus, tibi nostras exiguas preces benedicendas assignet.  Per...

(Deign to direct, Lord God, to our aid holy Raphael Archangel: and may he consign unto Thee our humble prayers deserving blessing, whom we believe to ever assist Thy Majesty.  Thro'...)

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