The Brethren of the Oratory met for their devotions this evening, followed by sung Mass of the Immaculate Conception. For a change, yours truly was one of the acolytes (along with Aaron; Peter was M.C. and Troy, thurifer - all adults), which meant I had a good spot in the sanctuary - though my knees were aching, and by Communion time all I could do was accept this as penance, looking at the Corpus on the altar Crucifix and thanking Our Lord for suffering so much more...
We again had a visiting priest celebrate Mass for us, although Fr Rowe preached the sermon (he had said the lunchtime Low Mass, and ran both Holy Hours). His theme was that just over 150 years ago this happy dogma of the Immaculate Conception was decreed, for the glory of Our Lady, the rebuke of the world, and the strengthening of cowardly Catholics.
The Blessed Virgin's glories all redound to her Son, on Whose account she is the Immaculate Conception - for the Trinity could not ally Itself to aught of sin; the Word could not take flesh in a sin-stained womb, nor could He Who was to deliver us from Satan's bondage take manhood from a fallen woman; the angels could not hail as their Queen one who was not as unstained as they are, nor could she assume the rank once held by Lucifer if she had ever been under his fell dominion.
The smugly ignorant misbelieving world, scoffing at holy things, things that could alone save it from utter destruction if only it knew, must needs be boldly faced with the truth that all generations had held inchoately by calling her blessed, calling her the Panagia, the All-Holy, the sinless Virgin.
The quailing Catholic, uncertain and afraid, must be given strength to stand firm in the fight against the enemies of our most holy Faith, and given the banner of her who is like to the morning rising, fair as the moon, beautiful as the sun, splendid as an army in battle array: and the cry of victory must be,
O Mary conceived without sin,
pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Far from making her more distant from or distainful of us poor sinstained men, her freedom from sin makes Our Lady yet more cognizant of its great sadness, and of the depth of our need to be won from it, that we may be made holy and perfect in love, for this is the will of God - our sanctification. She delights to hear her children's cries for help, and with her puissant humility she finds in the Lord a ready ear and an all-embracing Divine charity that rains down saving graces upon our dry and weary earth. As the Memorare reminds us, no one who has sought her patronage has ever been left unaided.
While I was in the sanctuary, Andrew, Greg, and Fadi sang the chant: we had Mass IX (cum jubilo) - whose Sanctus and Agnus Dei are very familiar to me from their use at the Launceston Carmel - and Credo I, plus the Gregorian Propers, which are good to hear. I was glad to join in the singing of the Ordinary at least! A little bit of organ sounded, the Communion was sung with the Magnificat, and at the end of the liturgy we processed out to "Mary Immaculate, star of the morning", that fine hymn, sung to "Liebster Immanuel":
Mary Immaculate, star of the morning,
Chosen before the creation began,
Chosen to bring, for thy bridal adorning,
Woe to the serpent and rescue to man.
Here, in an orbit of shadow and sadness,
Veiling thy splendour, thy course thou hast run;
Now thou art throned in all glory and gladness,
Crowned by the hand of thy Saviour and Son.
Sinners, we worship thy sinless perfection;
Fallen and weak for thy pity we plead;
Grant us the shield of thy sovereign protection,
Measure thine aid by the depth of our need.
Frail is our nature, and strict our probation,
watchful the foe that would lure us to wrong;
succour our souls in the hour of temptation,
Mary Immaculate, tender and strong.
See how the wiles of the serpent assail us,
see how we waver and flinch in the fight;
let thine immaculate merit avail us,
make of our weakness a proof of thy might.
Bend from thy throne at the voice of our crying,
Bend to this earth which thy footsteps have trod;
Stretch out thine arms to us, living and dying,
Mary Immaculate, Mother of God.
After packing up, there was just time for Vespers in thanksgiving.
Fr Rowe had his fellow priest and six of us (various of the servers and singers) to dinner, which was a prodigious affair; since it was Our Lady's feast, and in consideration of the other priest present, we had Leffe beer and a large bottle of Chimay as well.
An amazing thing to see this evening: I was shewn an Agnus Dei (that sacramental consisting of a waxen medallion) blessed by Pope Benedict XIII, in 1725! It stonkered me to think that this seemingly fragile item has survived for nearly three hundred years, and was made and prayed over in Rome before Australia ever was.
Of your charity, please pray for priests: they need our prayers, their ministry is a high and graced calling, but also very much a straiter road and one bestrewn with crosses.
℣ Sacerdotes tui induantur justitiam.
℟ Et sancti tui exsultent.