Saturday 1st January 2011: New Year’s Day; Octave Day of Christmas; the Circumcision; Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
How many mysteries this day! The eighth day of the Nativity, the day of Christ’s Circumcision, when He was named Jesus; the commemoration of Our Lady as Mother of God; and, anciently in Rome when Christianity was still struggling against the pagans, a day of prayer “in detestation of idols”.
The Dominican Breviary appoints a special collect for to-day as the Octave Day of Christmas – unlike the Roman, which has always used a Marian collect, Deus qui salutis æternæ, celebrating the Divine Motherhood of Our Lady.
The Dominican Collect:
Deus, qui nobis nati Salvatoris diem celebrare concedis octavum: fac nos, quæsumus, ejus perpetua Divinitate muniri, cujus sumus carnali commercio reparati: Qui tecum vivit…
(O God, Who dost concede unto us to celebrate the octave day of the birth of the Saviour: make us, we beseech, perpetually to be defended by His Divinity, by Whose assumption of flesh* we are restored: Who with Thee liveth…)
*I just cannot render carnali commercio as “carnal/fleshly commerce/exchange”, since in English that sounds appalling: so I pretend it reads carnis assumptio! The thought is that there occurs a marvellous transaction, a sacrum commercium, God the Son taking on our human nature that we might be partakers of His Divine nature.
The Book of Common Prayer includes, for to-day as “The Circumcision of Christ”, this collect following, a piece of Anglican patrimony that may fitly be welcomed into full communion with the Catholic Church:
ALMIGHTY God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true Circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Paris Missal of 1738 contained another collect for this day that nicely sums up both the import of the Circumcision and of the Holy Name:
Deus, qui pro nobis homo factus, hodierna die circumcidi, et Salvatoris nomen accipere voluisti; concede propitius, ut carnis renuntiantes operibus, salutis aeternae praemium per invocationem sancti tui nominis consequamur. Qui vivis…
(O God, Who for us being made man, wast circumcised this day, and didst will to accept the name of Saviour: graciously grant, that renouncing the works of the flesh, we may obtain the reward of eternal life by the invocation of Thy holy name. Who livest…)
Again, the Dominican Office appoints a different hymn, an authentic product of St Ambrose, for Christmastide Vespers: Veni Redemptor gentium. The opening stanza is magnificent, and oft on my mind and lips these days:
Veni, Redemptor gentium,
Ostende partum Virginis,
Miretur omne sæculum,
Talis decet partus Deum.
Come, Redeemer of the nations,
Reveal the birth-giving of the Virgin:
Let every age stand in amaze:
Such a birth befits a God.
Having arrived very early in Melbourne, I acquired my hire car and set off for the CBD: being unworldly, I didn’t realize that on New Year’s Day nearly everything would be closed! I parked by Parliament House, and ended up breakfasting at the Windsor Hotel for lack of anywhere else open. After that, I walked over to the Cathedral for a visit.
Coming in to St Aloysius, I made my first stop the kneeler before the new shrine of Bl John Henry Newman there, praying in especial for all incoming Anglicans.
The 11 am Mass to-day at St Aloysius, North Caulfield, was a Solemn High Mass (Fr Tattersall, celebrant, Fr Terence Mary, deacon, Mr Steinbeck, ersatz subdeacon); we sang Mass IV and Credo III; the choir sang the Gregorian propers gloriously, including melismatic verses of the Offertory, and for a communion motet, Puer natus in Bethlehem by Prætorius. The organ was ably played by Justin as usual – including some quiet variations on “O come let us adore Him” after the Elevation during the Canon. After Mass, the Veni Creator with versicle and collect was sung for to obtain the plenary indulgence available, and then we concluded with a hearty “O come all ye faithful”: all these solemnities took just over an hour to complete. A moving sight: after High Mass, Fr Terence returned to the altar to offer a private Low Mass.
In his sermon, Fr Tattersall remarked on the words of the angel to St Joseph: Name the Child Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins (see the Gospel of the Vigil Mass of Christmas). Jesus indeed means “God saves”: and in literal truth this is the case. He, our Mediator, presages His bloody self-sacrifice to save us by first shedding His Blood at His Circumcision, at the very moment on the eighth day when He receives His Name, ordained from all eternity and now conferred in time. We were reminded that the true circumcision is of the heart, and that we must “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” by ever “putting to death the old man”, under the inspiration of the grace won for us by Our Lord, which alone gives us the power to be made regenerate, new men in Christ. How well the B.C.P. and Neo-Gallican collects address this moral imperative!
Lunch at the Balaclava Hotel followed; then I went and checked in at my accommodation, and betook myself to bed at 4 pm! I was utterly tired out, having had a restless night (a neighbour’s party kept me awake until after midnight), and risen at a quarter to five in order to catch my early flight.