Sessio VII of the Brethren of the Oratory went off well; we began with simple Exposition and then sang the Litanies of the Saints; during the time of quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the ciborium, our confessarius, Fr Rowe, heard a number of confessions (including my own) after the model of good St Philip, after leading us in the 6pm Angelus; and we concluded with simple Benediction, the Salve, and Newman's hymn to St Philip.
I thought on a number of themes during the time of prayer, mainly suggested by the words of the prayers and hymns we were using; in particular, I was led to contemplate two points. First, that pregnant verse of Wednesday Terce, Jacta super Dominum curam tuam, et ipse te enutriet; non dabit in æternum fluctuationem justo (Ps 54:23) - though I feel so let down by my selfish will, so apt to do disservice to my soul, I must ever run to God, ever repent, "cast my care upon the Lord", for He is the One who shall nourish me, and He will not give me to waver for ever.
This is my trust in Him, who in baptism justified me, who in confession again and again reclaims and cleanses me: He has all my life long been kind to me, He has always lifted me up, I trust that in the future He shall remain always faithful, and that He will bring my tangled affairs to a happy conclusion. It is in truth a great blessing not to be ever in this world, ever at risk, ever fluctuating between sinfulness and holiness; at length we shall be withdrawn from this dark vale, to flounder no more. Since we shall fixed forever in the state in which we quit it, our care must be so to live now that we be found ready when the Master returns.
I now recall that this is what my friend Herr Schütz has considered from a different angle, commenting upon Luther's dictum simul peccator et justus; as was observed long ago at the time of its issuance, this statement has both an orthodox and an heretical interpretation, and the Catholic view to be taken of it is best expressed by adding to it the words semper pænitens: so long as we are in this world, though justified by God first of all by holy baptism, and by all the consequent graces we receive (as in holy confession), we all of us fall into sins, and so must be ever penitent: as Augustine wrote against Pelagius, with St John all the just cry, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John i, 8); and so we must pray every day, "Forgive us our trespasses".
The second point that struck me - an illumination - was this, that our entire devotion to God the Holy Ghost is hidden in plain sight, for we are called and please God are Christians, and what is a christian, nay, what is Christ, but "an anointed": anointed not with earthy oil, but with the Holy Ghost. We are His temples; pray God we not grieve Him and drive Him away by sin, but may He ever dwell within us. (As an aside, some pious works speak of Him "nesting" in our souls, but is that an acceptable expression? It seems somehow belittling and overly sentimental.)
Low Mass of St Andrew Avellino, on this, the very quadricentennial of his death on the 10th of November 1608, with commemoration of SS Tryphon, Respicius and Nympha, followed our Holy Hour. (While there was no sermon, we did end with a hymn in honour of Christ the King: "Christ our Lord the Prince of ages".)
SS Tryphon and Respicius are holy martyrs of the Decian persecution; though tried by every exquisite torment that a perverted magistracy could devise, they kept faith with Christ and now reign with Him in exceeding great glory, manifested in the wide extension of their cult, marked out by so many miracles. With them in glory we also celebrate St Nympha, virgin (and martyr) of Palermo, who came to be associated with them because her body was translated to their church in Rome; however, that church having fallen into ruin by 1604, the relics of all three were later brought elsewhere, as to the great hospital of the Holy Ghost in Saxia.
As for St Andrew Avellino, that ornament of the strict Theatine clerks regular, from being an ecclesiastical lawyer, upon feeling the awful horror of telling a slight untruth in his avocation, he turned to seeking God alone, and took two most strict and fearsome vows, ones never to be made but by special divine inspiration, with prudent counsel and in a state of advanced holiness, viz. to ever annihilate his own will, and to seek with utmost strength to ever do that which is most perfect. This twofold holocaust of himself he accomplished, as his Collect reminds us - for we must all of us seek perfection; God calls us to be saints, and assuredly only by becoming such shall we enter heaven, achieving our true apotheosis in that apex of glory:
Deus, qui in corde beati Andreæ Confessoris tui, per arduum quotidie in virtutibus proficiendi votum, admirabiles ad te ascensiones disposuisti: concede nobis ipsius meritis et intercessione ita ejusdem gratiæ participes fieri, ut, perfectiora semper exsequentes, ad gloriæ tuæ fastigium feliciter perducamur. Per...(God, Who in the heart of blessed Andrew Thy Confessor, by his arduous vow of daily increasing in virtues, didst direct [his] wondrous advancements upwards to Thee: grant unto us by his very merits and intercession so to be made sharers of the same grace, that, ever following after things more perfect, to the summit of Thy glory we may happily be brought. Through...)
After Mass (and Vespers read privately in thanksgiving), a number of the brethren joined Fr for dinner, as a fitting end to our celebrations.
Sessio VIII of the Fratres Oratorii will be held at 5.30 pm on Monday the 8th of December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, with most likely sung Mass afterward. (Given the day's solemnity, we will have Solemn Exposition, and will sing the Litanies of our Lady, as well as the Advent Marian anthem Alma Redemptoris Mater.) This will mark the first anniversary of the Brethren of the Oratory, who first gathered for devotions on the 20th of November last year.