Sunday, May 3, 2009

Apocalypse Now

How appropriate, at this time of pandemic fears (one should fear swine, say the Egyptians - but not the Copts!), that Matins should present to us the beginning of the Revelation of St John the Divine, of what things must surely happen soon...

I had plenty of time this morning, given the late hour of the sung Mass, to say Matins, then go for a good half-hour walk along to Taroona High (alma mater of Crown Princess Mary of Denmark; her father taught me calculus), itself built upon an age-old Aboriginal midden.  Having come along to St Canice a half-hour early, my hosts having to help set up beforehand, I then thought it best to redeem the time in prayer (Lauds through to Sext) - and given another ten minutes' delay, while Fr perforce heard some confessions, I said None too.

Really!  If one arrives only a scant minute before Mass, should one inconvenience the priest and the waiting congregation by asking for confession then and there, rather than, say, reflecting on one's wretchedness during the Sacrifice, abstaining from the Sacrament, and humbly confessing at a more appropriate time after the Liturgy?  As it is, the accustomed late beginning and, let's be honest, wearisome length of the Hobart Missa cantata has put people off coming - only 50, rather than the longer-term average of 70, were in attendance.  While there exists the attractive power of solemn, prayerful, sublime traditional worship, there are also opposing repulsive factors!

(I am being a bit crotchety, I know, but to have to drive so far to get to the only available Latin Mass, and then to put up with admittedly minor but real irritations, doesn't improve my temperament despite what virtuous patient forbearance I ought practice.)

The choir sang better than ever, and to the delight of the congregation we sang the well-known Missa de Angelis with Credo III.  Again, a Latin hymn or motet to fill up the quarter-hour Offertory silence, and a vernacular hymn at the end would have been a good idea - but, as I joked with my friends over lunch afterward, perhaps a recessional hymn would have proved too much full stop!  To be fair, Mass took only an hour and eight minutes, a vast improvement over the extreme length of the service even a few months back.  I fully understand that Fr only celebrates the Latin Mass once a month, and is not so much of a singer, so that he simply monotones the collects, Dominus vobiscum's and so forth - but surely he could chant the Pater noster?  After all, he has been doing this every month ever since Fr Jarrett departed the State to become Bishop of Lismore, and that's now eight years ago.

The feeling I get at this monthly Mass is that of "sheep without a shepherd" - the servers, the choir, the priest, all and sundry, all seem to be doing their best, but there is a lack of overall direction and certainty that makes the liturgy appear like a brave essay at achieving some restoration of and through divine worship of the mos et patrius disciplina, without a full capacity to attain it.  The contrast between Tasmania's strivings, and the far more settled Mainland Latin Mass circles seems great.

After Mass, having said Vespers (!) in thanksgiving, lunched and visited with friends, and driven the two and a half hours' journey back to Launceston, I've now settled back; even Compline is done.

Reflecting back over the experience of Mass, I recall the fervorino our priest gave us - that we ought, through the prayers of our heavenly Mother Mary, beg for the graces of Eastertide: a joy that none can take from us, a peace that the world cannot give; that thus our desire for heaven ever grow.  As St Paul tells us in the Epistle, being strangers and pilgrims in this transient world, we should abstain from carnal desires, as these war against the soul (cf. I St Peter ii, 11f); as our Holy Mother the Church bids us pray in the Secret, may the Lord grant that, by the holy mysteries offered and received, mitigating our terrene desires, we may learn to love things celestial (His nobis, Domine, mysteriis conferatur, quo terrena desideria mitigantes, discamus amare cælestia); and as she bids us pray in the Postcommunion, may the sacraments which we have received both as ghostly nourishments restore our souls, and also be helps to our bodies (Sacramenta quæ sumpsimus, quæsumus, Domine, et spiritualibus nos instaurent alimentis, et corporalibus tueantur auxiliis): all of this in and through Christ Jesus Our Lord (cf. customary end-formulæ of the Epistle and of all orations).

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