Saturday, May 30, 2009

Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo

My Aotearoa peregrination continued to-day, with a wonderful morning at the Hermitage, Mt Cook - looking out from my table at breakfast straight toward Mt Cook, shining white in the brilliant sun and clear sky, only 12 km away and still 3km higher above sea level than my vantage point (at 720m). Unfortunately the glacier tours have just finished for the season, and I didn't think I should linger longer than late morning, though I could have taken a few hours' walk to see the nearest of them...

Instead, I motored off down Lake Pukaki, to strike another strange New Zealand fog patch (I could only see a couple of roadside guideposts ahead of the car) that lasted from before the lake outlet to the crossing of the Pukaki-Tekapo canal, whereupon the cloudless sky and bright sunshine returned as abruptly as it had departed. At Lake Tekapo itself, I stopped at the Anglican-owned Church of the Good Shepherd, where Anglican and Presbyterian services are held, as well as the Catholic Mass; the church thus having the seal of approval, as it were, I did what heedless tourists rarely do and prayed there (Prime, Terce and Sext). I must say the scenery around is utterly magnificent - long ranges of snowcovered mountains up both sides of the lake and south of it also.

Driving on, I took the inland scenic route (what a superfluous term in N.Z., where everywhere has a million-dollar view), after coming through Burke's Pass and Fairlie (where travellers to Mt Cook in the olden days alighted from their train and took the two-day horsedrawn coach trip to the original Hermitage - tourism started there 125 years ago, and in fact my visit to Mt Cook coincided with their anniversary celebrations). The weather to-day, to repeat myself, was magnificent; on the road through to Geraldine I had a late lunch at a very picturesque spot, with again great snowy mountain ranges forming the backdrop to rolling hills and rich farmland. Then, on and on across the fertile Canterbury plains, not turning off to the ski fields at Mt Hutt but continuing on to Christchurch, twisting down and up again through the Rakaia gorge, praying I'd arrive in time...

And I did, arriving (thanks to a quick prayer to Our Lady for guidance) back at Bl Sacrament Cathedral just after the start of the dialogue Mass, enabling me to join in with the Confiteor as soon as I arranged the hassock on the floor and knelt down. I would estimate the congregation as numbering about 55. This being a Sunday Mass, Fr Rizzo celebrated (assisted by two servers) at the high altar, which looked beautiful, being properly dressed with crucifix, candles, altar cards, missal and the rest: it seemed so right. The Counter-reformation style of the basilica almost made me imagine I was in Rome of the late 16th C. - especially when, after the Gospel, Fr Rizzo went up a concealed staircase to the pulpit on the Epistle side, looking for all the world a contemporary of St Philip Neri as he preached there in his biretta!

His sermon (which I paraphrase, with my own explications) concerned Divine Revelation, beginning in Paradise with God the Father initially revealing His merciful love to our first parents, created as they were in His image and likeness, in the state of original justice that wonderfully figured forth a facet of His justice. But the sin that Satan lured them into so damaged them and all the human race that God perforce cast them forth, revealing thereby His justice, the justice they no longer represented in their fallen state. Down the long ages He revealed to man what He desired: sacrifice. This was his command, this was his covenant with Abraham, and with Moses. Man's sacrifices being, however, unable in principle to achieve that atonement which they represented, in due time God the Son took on our mortal nature, revealed Himself to men and walked among them, being seen on earth, testifying to His divinity and authority by miracles - and He established the New and Eternal Covenant, which perfectly teaches mercy and justice in His Sacrifice that takes our sins away; and having won our redemption, He is pleased to apply it to us by perpetuating its presence and fruits in the Mass, which is one sacrifice with Calvary. But Divine Revelation was not yet complete, not till the death of the last Apostle: for it was expedient that Christ should die, rise again and then return to heaven, since He promised to send the Holy Ghost the Paraclete, Third Person of the Trinity, to establish the Church, lead the Apostles into all truth, enable them to complete the process of Revealation by their writing (of the Scriptures) and their preaching (which oral teaching became Tradition), and Who would so strengthen our intellects that we could grasp the truths thus presented to us of God's plan of our salvation, and so inflame our hearts that we would wish willingly to live out our faith in hope and charity. Truth does not change - a changing truth is no true at all, but a falsehood, a lie. The expression of the truths of our Faith may, of course, vary from generation to generation, but it is the responsibility of the unchanging Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit whose Soul He Is, to guard against any heretical mispresentations of doctrine and morals, since, being indefectible and infallible, she can never fall into grievous error. Fr ended his sermon by noting that the pretended "gift of tongues" that beguile some are quite other than that recorded in the Acts of the Apostles at Pentecost - for then the gift of tongues was for understanding, giving the Apostles and their hearers the wonderful benefit of transmitting and receiving the Good News of salvation in Christ; whereas in many contemporary settings what is called the gift of tongues seems rather to be an emotional high than an intellectual enlightenment; for Catholics, faith and reason go together, the mind illumined by the Holy Ghost being able to grasp our Holy Faith, and communication of such supernatural truths is the hoped-for goal, whereas artless (or artful?) glossolalia seems to provide no such benefit. As he justly remarked, it is poor to speak of being "slain in the Spirit" - for if we have supernatural life, the life of grace, we live in the Spirit!
Mass, having begun at 5.30pm, ended at 6.30 pm with the Regina caeli.

1 comment:

Joshua said...

A footnote:

The delightful spot where I ate my lunch was "The Farm Barn Café", 4 Mt Michael Road, Fairlie, Canterbury - just at the corner of Mt Michael Road and the Geraldine-Fairlie Highway (SH 79), about 8km northeast of Fairlie and 38 km west of Geraldine.

The food was simple, ample and excellent; the coffe, very good, very good indeed; the view, superb, looking out at a panorama of mountains.

I look back at this with fond memories, and hope to go back there sometime!