Sunday, May 2, 2010

In Hobart for the 4th Sunday after Easter

Six of us formed the choir for our monthly Missa cantata at St Canice in Sandy Bay, Hobart; I noted the usual five servers assisting Fr Quinn in the sanctuary, and about forty-five in the congregation.  Mass took an hour and ten minutes.  The only drawback was that confessions before Mass ran way over time: Mass started twenty minutes late, at 11:50 am.  I think Father realized that this was a problem (there was muttering about this), because at the end of the service he made a point of saying that next month, confessions will be available, God willing, for the half-hour before Mass, beginning at 11 am (so Mass can begin on time).

We sang the Proper chants of course – Cantate is a good Introit, and we were all greatly relieved at getting through the very difficult Offertory Jubilate Deo; for the Ordinary, Mass I (Lux et origo, for Paschaltide), except for the Sanctus, was used, plus Credo I; to fill in time remaining, there was Adoro te devote at the Offertory and a setting of the Anima Christi at Communion; and the simple Regina cæli was our recessional.  The Sanctus used was the so-called "Czech Sanctus" consisting of plainchant from Mass XI but with certain portions of the text (Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth, and Hosanna in excelsis) in parts.

So much for the (necessary) mechanics!  But the texts of the Mass bear close attention this day as always. The Collect and Secret and Postcommunion contain much deep doctrine: the Collect in particular is almost a conspectus of moral theology.  In summary:
  • God makes the faithful to have one heart and mind and will: may he therefore grant us to love what He commands (as Augustine said to God, Da quod jubes, et fac quod vis, "Give what Thou commandest, and do what Thou wilt", and to man, Ama, et fac quod vis, "Love, and do what thou wilt", for love is the great commandment) and therefore to desire His promises, setting our hearts not on transient, terrene things, but fixing them "where true joys are to be found".  (Collect)
  • By the rightly-revered commerce or exchange of this Sacrifice – Christ the One Sacrifice gives us Himself to be the Victim re-presented upon our altar – we are made sharers of the Divine Nature, and are indeed divinized and deified!  Knowing this therefore, we beg God grant us to live up to our most high calling by worthy deeds.  (Secret)
  • May What we have received faithfully – God's Body and Blood – cleanse us from vices and deliver us from dangers.  (Postcommunion)
The Collect Deus qui fidelium mentes cannot but be quoted in full, for its loveliness and to remember it:

Deus, qui fidelium mentes unius efficis voluntatis, da populis tuis id amare quod præcipis, id desiderare quod promittis: ut inter mundanas varietates ibi nostra fixa sint corda, ubi vera sunt gaudia.  Per...
(O God, Who dost makest the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant to Thy people to love that which Thou commandest, to desire that which Thou dost promise; that among the changing things of the world, there our hearts may be fixed where true joys are.  Through...)

Cranmer well-rendered this prayer, but replaced its first phrase; wierdly enough, in the present Anglican Use Book of Divine Worship, following the revision made in the U.S. 1979 B.C.P., this Collect is found not on the 4th Sunday after Easter, but on the 5th Sunday of Lent (presumably it was felt to be less Paschal, despite its evident looking toward heaven):

O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men, Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may be surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found.  Through...

Likewise, the Epistle is noteworthy for the very practical reminder that we ought be tardus ad iram, "slow to anger": "for man's anger worketh not the justice of God", but is also very rich in religious truths: every best and perfect gift comes from above, from the changeless Father, Who genuit nos verbo veritatis, "hath begotten us by the word of truth" – "wherefore... receive the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls".  

The text of the second Alleluia verse is a dear one to me, made familiar by its repetition as little chapter at Eastertide Lauds, Terce and Vespers: "Christ, rising from the dead, dieth now no more: death shall no more have dominion over Him."

But the Gospel – upon which Father briefly preached, as is his wont – is most significant, for therein Our Blessed Lord speaks of the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Advocate, God the Holy Spirit, Whom He sends us, to enlighten our minds and inspire our wills, giving us the power to know and do what is right and true.  The Holy Ghost is the New Law of grace, written on our hearts.  Just as He transforms the bread and wine upon the altar into Christ's very Flesh and Blood, so he lifts us up to a supernatural plane of operation beyond our natural capacities.  He even intercedes for us "with sighs too deep for words", perfecting our imperfect prayers, making our clumsy utterances God-pleasing.  God, God the Holy Spirit, sent to us by Christ Who merited this Gift, thus so amazingly perfects us by gracing us, making our good works truly and so richly meritorious.

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