Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Masses at Carmel

Well, all that's done and sorted: serving the Dawn Mass, that is!  I even had to play with the dreaded thurible; Mum charitably said afterward, I noticed you've got better at it (in the past I was hopeless as thurifer, and normally avoid the task whenever possible).

After the predictability of serving the Latin Mass, serving at the Novus Ordo is confusing - so many prudential judgements to be made, so little direction as to what to do...  and the sanctuary at the Carmel, in its chapel of the Immaculate Heart, is rather oddly shaped, since the altar faces the nuns' choir (separated off by the grille), while the people sit to the left of the nuns' choir (or if you prefer, the nuns are to their right) in a separate transept, the whole chapel making a V-shape.  As a result of this, the sanctuary isn't rectangular, but extends out toward the layfolk a triangular wing; and the credence is far over on the Gospel side, so to speak, while the sedilia is against the wall on the Epistle side; and the stand for the thurible (when used) is thoughtfully put next to the tabernacle on the wall behind the altar.  I have over time worked out or tried to work out ways of operating in this space, but I wish for some definite instruction.

In any case, for the record, regarding the music, the dear sisters sing hymns as always at the start and end of Mass, and also sing together a Gelineau setting of the Responsorial Psalm.  Since Fr has been using the Confiteor, they have had the chance to sing the Kyrie in chant (a simple one), and now of course the Gloria from Mass XV, and the Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Mass IX.  They have their own simple and rather mournful tone for the Alleluia and verse - ditto for the Amen at the end of the Canon (Fr's used the Roman Canon for these two Christmas Masses, including all the saints).  The Memorial Acclamation (unexpectedly bearable) has been "Lord, by your cross and resurrection..." in the chant-like setting from the Missal.  The last item the nuns sang, after they made their communion, was a meditative repetition of Gloria in excelsis Deo (à la Taize).  While not singing the orations or the Preface this morning as he did last night, Fr did lead us in singing the Lord's Prayer and following items as per usual.

Fr of course preached two good sermons; at Midnight, mentioning amongst other things the tenderness of God in becoming a little child, and the significance of night: negatively, it stands for man's sundering from God; positively, for rest, refreshment and repose after the model of God's resting - Our Saviour comes in the night to scatter the darkness of sin and lead us into everlasting rest.  This morn, he spoke on many rich themes, that are fast fading in my tired brain!  But two stand out... First, he quoted to us the second of the Christmas Prefaces, and explained how Our Lord came in human flesh to show us the great love of God for us, to restore the unity of Creation with the Divine, and to teach us true humility, which is primarily founded on the stupefying condescension of the Deity toward us in love, and only secondarily on a realization of our finitude and sinfulness.  Second, he quoted the Byzantine sticheron that follows -

O Christ, what shall we offer You for your coming on earth as a Man for our sake? Every creature that has its being from You gives thanks to You: the angels offer hymns of praise, the heavens give a star; wise man present their gifts and the shepherds, their wonder; the earth provides a cave and the desert a manger. As for us, we offer You a Mother, a Virgin Mother. O God who are from all eternity, have mercy on us!
- and pointed out how Our Lady in her love, care, charity, selfless giving and contemplation stood as exemplar of the ideal response to the human race, and posed the question, What in return will we give God this Christmas?  "Love so amazing, so divine, / Demands my soul, my life, my all" (quoting Isaac Watts rather than our priest, but the sentiment is the same).


Quasi Seminarian said...

Sounds rather nice. The preaching where I was, was rather good, though I was treated to the second Eucharistic Prayer. I was going to discuss the Christmas Communicantes but i think Fr would have looked at me and asked "why didn't you serve." There is only so much a quasi can deal with.

I pray that this time may be joyful.

Joshua said...

Thanks, Quasi! Why didn't you serve?