Monday, April 26, 2010

The Lord's Most Holy Crown of Thorns – III

Sure enough, the 1738 Paris Missal has a proper Mass for the Feast of the Reception of the Holy Crown of Thorns, but kept on the 11th of August.  As with most of the Neo-Gallican formularies of that Missal, the chants are selected entirely from Scripture (whereas the Dominican Mass thereof begins with the Introit Gaudeamus omnes).  Only the Gospel and the Collect of the two Masses are the same.

What particularly interested me were the Parisian Secret (which alludes to Ps 118:120a, Confige timore tuo carnes meas – "nail down my flesh with the fear of Thee") and Postcommunion (with its pleasing contrast of Christ's humiliation with His exaltation), which I now subjoin:

Deus, qui, ut peccatorum nostrorum spinas evelleres, Filii tui caput spinis transfigi voluisti: carnem nostram et corda nostra casto tuo timore confige; ut in mentibus nostris Spiritus tui gratia renovatis, et cupiditas extirpata deficiat, et caritas plantata proficiat; Per eumdem... in unitate ejusdem...
(God, Who, that Thou mightest pluck out the thorns of our sins, didst will the thorns to transfix the head of Thy Son: nail our flesh and heart with Thy chaste fear; that in our minds renewed by the grace of Thy Spirit, both extirpated cupidity may fail, and implanted charity make progress; Through the same... in the unity of the same...)
Deus, qui passionis Filii tui instrumenta fecisti ejus ornamenta triumphi; præsta per hæc mysteria, quæ sumpsimus, ut non erubescamus illius improperium portare, cujus ignominiæ insignia veneramur: Per eumdem...
(God, Who didst make the instruments of Thy Son's Passion the ornaments of His triumph: grant by these mysteries which we have received, that we may not blush to bear His shame, Whose insignia of ignominy we venerate.  Through the same...)

By contrast, the traditional Roman Missal, at least in older editions (such as the 1958 altar missal I have before me, whose flyleaf reveals it cost £13/6/-), provides a Mass of the Sacred Crown of Thorns to be said in some places (pro aliquibus locis) on the Friday after Ash Wednesday.  This Mass stands closer in its texts to the Dominican – it has the same Lesson and Gospel, and the same orations – but the Introit is the same as that in the Paris Missal (excepting the Psalm verse), and likewise they share the same first part of the Gradual.

The Roman and Dominican secret is as follows:

Tuorum militum, Rex omnipotens, virtutem robora: ut, quos in hujus mortalitatis stadio unigeniti Filii tui corona lætificat; consummato cursu certaminis, immortalitatis bravium apprehendant.  Per eumdem...
Strengthen, almighty King, Thy soldiers with power: that those in the stadium of this mortal life may rejoice in the Crown of Thine Onlybegotten Son; having finished the course of strife, may they lay hold of the prize of immortality.  Through the same...

This secret is an evident allusion to St Paul's words – the Apostle hoped to be crowned with glory by the Lord; but first the Lord had Himself had worn the crown of suffering:

Nescitis quod ii qui in stadio currunt, omnes quidem currunt, sed unus accipit bravium? Sic currite ut comprehendatis.  Omnis autem qui in agone contendit, ab omnibus se abstinet, et illi quidem ut corruptibilem coronam accipiant: nos autem incorruptam.
Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain.  And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible one.
 — I Cor. ix, 24-25
Labora sicut bonus miles Christi Jesu.  Nemo militans Deo implicat se negotiis sæcularibus: ut ei placeat, cui se probavit.  Nam et qui certat in agone, non coronatur nisi legitime certaverit.
Bonum certamen certavi, cursum consummavi, fidem servavi.  In reliquo reposita est mihi corona justitiæ, quam reddet mihi Dominus in illa die, justus judex: non solum autem mihi, sed et iis, qui diligunt adventum ejus.
Labour as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No man, being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with secular businesses; that he may please him to whom he hath engaged himself.  For he also that striveth for the mastery, is not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming.
— II Tim. ii, 3-5; iv, 7-8

Likewise, here is the secret the Roman and Dominican formularies share:

Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus: ut hæc sacramenta quæ sumpsimus, per sacrosanctæ Filii tui coronæ, cujus solemnia recensemus, virtutem, nobis proficiant ad medelam.  Per eumdem...
(Bowing low we pray Thee, almighty God: that these sacraments which we have received, by the power of the holy and sacred Crown of Thy Son, whose solemnity we celebrate, may profit us as a healing remedy.  Through the same...)

It may seem strange that we beg God to grant that the Sacrament heal us "by the power of the... Crown [of thorns]", but of course it is by the most stupendous merit of the voluntary sacrifice of His Passion – one element of which was bearing the cruel imposition of a thorny crown – that we are saved and raised up, and to receive Christ's very Flesh and Blood is precisely to be brought into contact with His Sacred Humanity, the Instrument whereby our salvation was won on Calvary, and from which power goes forth to heal.  All the Sacraments have their power from the Passion: and to receive a Sacrament is to be touched by the living power of Christ, Priest and Victim, a grace won for us on Calvary's tree.

It is interesting that the same feast is provided with such differing texts.

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