Work is winding down - only two more days to go! - and afterward I was able to hear Mass at the Pro. Since I had managed to get Matins done earlier, and Lauds and Prime in the morning, I just finished off the Little Hours beforehand; Mass was of the Advent feria, which for a change was quite welcome, giving me a chance to hear and read and mark the chants, prayers and lessons of Gaudete Sunday (tho' of course we're back to purple vestments - apparently some made folk in Novus Ordo land wear blue for Advent, and white for not just Gaudete, as if that were bad enough, but the ensuing week: bizarre and sad).
Well, I was caught: after the 5.30pm Mass came the Leonine Prayers as usual, then straightaway the Angelus (it having gone six o'clock), following which we sang all seven verses of "O come, O come, Emmanuel" - during which the altar was reset for Exposition, and at the last verse out came Fr Rowe and server again, to emplace the Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance with O salutaris hostia, so as to make a fitting start to the Stations of the Holy Infant Jesus, a devotion of St Alphonsus Liguori that Fr Rowe always offers before Christmas - this year, after or before Mass on the 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 23rd (he being away in Adelaide for Br Mannes' ordination over the coming weekend). I had planned to slip away, but ending up staying for the whole thing, which concluded with Benediction at 6.45pm!
The Stations - available at this website - consist of twelve exercises in honour of the Childhood of Christ:
O God come to my aid... (i.e. Deus in adjutorium...)Glory be...12 Stations:
- Title of Station (e.g. Jesus is born an infant...)
- V/. And the Word was made flesh... (i.e. Et Verbum caro factum est...)
- O Jesus born of Virgin bright... (the doxology Jesu tibi sit gloria, / Qui natus es de Virgine...)
- Consideration (short contemplation of the mystery)
- Affections (prayer addressed to Our Lord concerning this mystery)
- Act of Contrition
- Act of Consecration to Jesus through Mary
- Hail Mary...
- Glory be...
- V/. Blessed is the womb... (i.e. Beata viscera Mariæ Virginis...)
- O Jesus ever sweetest Lord... (stanza of a hymn)Final Prayer
The various texts of these Stations are perhaps a bit saccharine, but express solid devotion to Him Who emptied Himself for us. We are reminded that it was Divine Love that urged the Eternal Word to take flesh that He might win eternal life for us sinners: would that we return some love for such love, correspond to such goodness, and act with such a holy resolve as He did! May the chains of sin that bind us be broken; may we cast away pride, and put on humility; yes, may we cut off from us all inordinate and unworthy affections that hinder us from running manfully in the way of salvation. Since Christ was born to die for us, we ought put to death all wickedness in ourselves, slaying the old man and putting on the new. Christ in Mary's arms fled the ravening soldiers of Herod who would fain kill the Child; so by her intervention may we flee the traps of eternal death.
I was particularly struck by the meditation on the Adoration of the Magi: favoured with the gift of faith, they offered choicest gifts to the Lord: finding the Child with Mary His Mother, they fell down and adored Him (St Matthew ii, 11). The gift of faith is one for which I cannot ever pay sufficient thanks - entirely unmerited, it has been vouchsafed me wholly gratuitously, despite my every sin and backsliding and lukewarm doublemindedness. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! (II Cor ix, 15) May I therefore act as becomes a man of faith, lest I let this blessing go for nothing and myself become a castaway (I Cor ix, 27).
The final prayer made me smile, referring as it did to "flowers upon the altar" - for, it being Advent, there were none! But in truth we ought wish that the virtues grace raises up in ourselves ought flourish and grow by our cooperation with the Holy Ghost, that some day we may surround the Lord in heaven with some reflection of His Divine Beauty: whatever is truly admirable in ourselves is His gift, and a finite image of His Boundless Excellence. Would that there be any such beauty at all found in ourselves!
Since I knew my housemates were all out this evening, I walked over to Northbridge and had a light supper of dim sum (enjoying chicken feet for the first time), and then came back to my car and drove home. I still have a few last boxes to pack (having cleared out my desk at work, and needing to put these and some last items into safe storage: one of my mates will to drop them off for me at the transport depot to-morrow), but that can wait for a bit. It was a joy to open the fridge and find the small keg of Heineken that a visitor had brought last night! After yesterday's heatwave, it's been a pleasant day in the upper twenties, and I'm pleased.