Monday, November 3, 2008

Two Masses for All Souls

While I would have preferred to have won the trifecta, as it were, and heard all three Requiem Masses to-day, getting to two was pretty good really.

As is my settled custom, I said Lauds before work, and had the chance to pray the Little Hours at odd moments through the day, so that once I arrived at the Pro. I had but Matins, Vespers and Compline left - I have adopted, as the only workable solution, saying Matins out of order - and so I used the half-hour or so before the 5.30pm Mass to knock over Matins (tho' I had to wait till the Offertory to read Lesson ix &c.).  It was good to hear Mass, and plead the Holy Sacrifice.  My prayer at the Elevation was Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem (Sweet Jesus Lord, grant them rest).

After this Mass (which used the texts of the third Mass, BTW, since those of the first were reserved by rubric for the sung Mass, and at the morning Mass those of the second were used), there was time for a pause and to assemble with Rosemary, Catherine and Jeff as we awaited Justin to lead us in the Gregorian chant.  He having arrived, we had a quick quarter-hour practice, and then...

The sung Mass of Requiem for All the Faithful Departed began at 6.30pm.  The complete Proper and Ordinary were sung to their proper Gregorian music, as was the Libera me at the Absolution over the catafalque afterward.  

There is something so very great about the wonderful alternation in the chant between evocations of eternal rest, and of the fearful prospect of Judgement and Hellfire: the Introit, Gradual, Agnus Dei and Communion being among those emphasising the former (and by their simple melody the Kyrie and Sanctus stylistically belong with these), the Tract portrays both, while the Offertory, the Libera me and above all its brother the dread, pounding, magnificent Sequence depict the latter!  What triple hammer-strokes ring out in the Dies iræ!

The use of the simple or ferial tone for the Dominus vobiscum, Collect, Sursum corda, Preface and Pater noster also added to the sombre atmosphere surrounding this solemn Commemoration of the Dead, as did the black vestments.  At the end of Mass, we sang Newman's hymn for the Holy Souls; and I prayed Placebo, or Vespers of the Dead.

Fr Rowe preached very well on the Christian duty to visit the consecrated ground of cemeteries especially at this time of year, both as a moral tonic to fortify us in the true perception of temporal affairs as but passing things compared with our eternal destiny, and to act as a spur to heartfelt prayer for the souls of the faithful departed; for whom, during this octave, we may gain a plenary indulgence by devoutly visiting such burial places, and reciting fit prayers under the usual conditions.  A Christian grave (as his home and his very person, by the frequent use of the sign thereof) ought be adorned with the Cross or crucifix, signifying that we place our only hope in life and in death in the merits of Christ crucified.  While it is religious and decent to erect a fitting funerary monument, all vain pomp ought be eschewed, and the monies therefor better spent on charitable alms for the poor and Mass stipends for the dead.  A better and more lasting monument, better than all workmanship in the world, is to leave behind the testimony of a good life spent in good works for the betterment of oneself, one's family, and all mankind, which witness is the earthly shadow of, please God, the eternal merits stored up in life and due to be eternally rewarded by the Lord in heaven.  Again, it is most laudable to decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers, which themselves bespeak at once the frail brevity of life and its passing beauty (for life is as a mist that appears and then vanishes - cf. James iv, 15), the sadness of this transient state (lachrymæ rerum!), and the need to be in one's life "the good odour of Christ" (II Cor. ii,15).


It being also Rosemary's birthday, half a dozen of us joined her for dinner at a nearby restaurant afterward: ad multos annos.

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