Sunday, November 23, 2008


The Last Sunday after Pentecost - Pre-Advent Sunday, "Stir up Sunday" - is upon us; to-night also marks Vespers of St Cecilia, dear to me because I sang them with my old schola over a decade ago; and I have spent a very pleasant evening with a friend, who tells me that during the past week he has been privately received into the Church.  Deo gratias.

A quirky resonance: the second antiphon for Lauds and Vespers of St Cecilia (Lauds I've prayed, Vespers will instead be the first of Sunday), with its striking ascending incipit, refers to her sainted husband, Valerian, who "in the bedroom found Cecilia praying with an Angel", upon which event he converted!

(Valerian, along with Tiburtius and Maximus, is commemorated on the 14th of April, the feast of St Justin Martyr.)

Since my friend comes from an Anglican background, he does hope, as we may, that such actions as the ongoing discussions between the TAC and Rome will issue perhaps in permission for former Anglicans to utilize appropriate elements of their liturgical heritage within the Catholic fold, much as has already been done in the United States under the Pastoral Provision, providing an Anglican Use with its own Book of Divine Worship.  Lest any critique this, it must be said at once that the Novus Ordo could be greatly improved in its ethos by a larger injection of the best features of the High Church tradition, such as better singing, better preaching, and more attention to liturgical best practice...

During our spiritual conversation, he let me know that he feels at peace, after what has been a long process; I was reminded of some words from that golden book, The Imitation of Christ, which I mentioned to him and now post here for the benefit of us all:

I am accustomed to visit my elect in two ways: by temptation and by consolation.  (III, iii, 5)

Therefore, when God gives you spiritual consolation, receive it with thanksgiving; but reflect that it is a gift of God, not your merit.  ...become more humble in this gift; also more cautious and fearful in all your actions; because this hour will pass away and temptation will follow.  When consolation will be taken away from you, do not despair immediately; but with humility and patience wait for another heavenly visit, because God is potent in redonating you a greater consolation.  (II, ix, 4)

À Kempis goes on to observe that this state of affairs is known to all the Saints and Prophets, and gives an exegesis of Psalm 29 with this in mind (II, ix, 4-5).

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