Sunday, May 1, 2011

Exsultantis Ecclesiæ

O LORD,  receive, we beseech Thee, the gifts which Thy Church offers in her Festal Joy; and forasmuch as Thou hast so greatly occasioned her rejoicing, grant that it may be eternally fruitful to Thy praise.
— thus far the Secret of the Mass for Low Sunday, as given on a very nice little Anglican holy card in my possession (punctuation added).  Patrimony!  (Within the initial O is a tiny illustration of the priest elevating the Host at the altar, rays of glory streaming forth.)  This version slightly augments the last phrase of the prayer, but in a perfectly reasonable manner.

The Latin original itself is very beautiful indeed:
Suscipe munera, Domine, quæsumus, exsultantis Ecclesiæ: et cui causam tanti gaudii præstitisti, perpetuæ fructum concede lætitiæ.  Per...
(Receive the gifts, Lord, we beg, of the exultant Church: and to whom Thou hast given cause for such joy, grant the fruit of everlasting rejoicing.  Through...)
How good it was to hear in the Holy Gospel that the disciples, seeing the Lord, rejoiced!  Ever may we so do.  We ought indeed rejoice, exult, dance, skip, and sing, for this is the Easter of Easter, the Eighth Day of the Eighth Day, the Octave of Pascha, the Sunday of the Sunday of Sundays.  The Lord is risen, alleluia, we cry, and for eight days have celebrated His victorious triumph: to-day, Low Sunday, or St Thomas Sunday, or Divine Mercy Sunday, we rejoice in the Resurrection most gladly and mightily, as is most fitting and good.

Years and years ago, a friend dispelled whatever doubts I may have had about the rebranding of this Sunday, by passing on a pamphlet detailing how the Fathers, St Augustine and other worthies, thus glorified this, the Octave Day of the Lord's Resurrection, and how, therefore, to insist upon the well of Divine mercy being even more abundantly overflowing to-day was eminently Primitive and Catholic.

But I would like to share somewhat of my own especial joy at serving Sung Mass in Hobart this day, despite being a bit overwrought by having to drive down and back as fast as possible (a round trip of 414 km, says the odometer), given commitments at home, despite the gloomy, cloudy, rainy weather, making the road slippery; and the highway is in quite poor condition, too.

Suffice to say that I drove off at 8:30 am, stopt for coffee very briefly at Campbell Town (1/3 of the way to Hobart down the Midlands Highway, my usual pausing place), drove on, vexed by traffic, and arriving at St Canice at 11:15 am, quite angry in point of fact with everyone and everything!

But come Mass, beginning at 11:30 am, I took up my duty as M.C., answered the Judica me, then Father's Confiteor, recited my own and on behalf of all, supervised the servers (and gently guided our esteemed priest) through the Mass, standing at Father's left through the Canon (except for kneeling at the Consecration, raising the chasuble at the Elevations), looking upon Our Lord, Priest and Victim, in His Sacrament, receiving Him in Holy Communion, then holding the communion plate as Father houselled the people at the altar rails, returning to the altar step and kneeling down till the tabernacle was closed, supervising the last ceremonies, holding the altar card up for the reading of the Last Gospel, and finally processing back to the sacristy with the minister and servers for a blessing.

Mass ended at 12:45 pm, and all had gone very smoothly (despite my one blunder of forgetting to have Fr Quinn bless the incense at the middle of the altar before going to read the Gospel), though I did wish I could have been singing with the choir.  There was just time afterwards to finish off with prayer, say a few hellos and thankyous, and down a piece of some sort of cake on offer, before by 1 pm or so I had to be back on the road.

Petrol bought, back up North I headed, again stopping very briefly for coffee and a sandwich at Campbell Town, before I made it home at 3:45 pm.  I feel quite strung out by all the rush (for it's no joke to do the round trip to Hobart and back in just over two and a half hours each way, not counting my stops), but revitalized by the Mass.

Quasimodo – today's Introit, from which the Mass of this Sunday takes its name – begins a very notable Proper: the Epistle (I John v, 4-10) speaks so movingly of our faith, as being the victory which overcomes the world.  Blessed be the three witnesses on earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; blessed be the Three in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, Who are One.  Baptism into the Trinity: by this we receive the supernatural infused gift of Catholic Faith, that intellectual virtue superadded to the faculties of our souls, whereby we believe and trust in God, fearing and loving Him, hoping in His promises, for His is the victory, and so by our faith we have part therein.

I was reminded, while standing on the altar step at his side, listening to Father read the Epistle, of the noble Collect that was inserted into the modern Mass for this day, which (thanks to Fr Z) I can give as follows:
Deus misericordiae sempiternae, qui in ipso paschalis festi recursu fidem sacratae tibi plebis accendis, auge gratiam quam dedisti, ut digna omnes intellegentia comprehendant, quo lavacro abluti, quo spiritu regenerati, quo sanguine sunt redempti. Per...
O God of mercy eternal, who on this recurrence of the paschal feast dost kindle the faith of a people sanctified to Thyself, increase the grace which Thou hast given, so that with worthy understanding all may comprehend by what laver they were washed, by what Spirit they were regenerated, by what Blood they were redeemed. Through...
It says it all so beautifully, so rightly, and with just the right allusion to the endless mercy of our Good God.

May we hold fast to the Paschal triumph's profits in our life and way of living (cf. the Collect); may we have perpetual rejoicing at so great a joy given to the Church (cf. Secret); may the holy, sacred mysteries we receive safeguard us and be to us a sovereign remedy now and always (cf. Postcommunion); may we cry out by faith with St Thomas, My Lord and my God!  For the Gospel shews us how profitable to us all was his wavering; his act of faith confirms and strengthens our own, and gives us moreover the perfect prayer at the Elevation of the Host. Attendance at the Holy Sacrifice ought ever gain for us great increase of faith: as Father concluded his homily by suggesting, we ought pray, Lord, increase our faith –  Domine, adauge nobis fidem.  

The rest of the proper chants all reinforce our joy in Christ Truly Risen: "Alleluia, alleluia. On the day of My Resurrection, says the Lord, I will go before you into Galilee, alleluia"; "After eight days, the doors being shut, Jesus stood in the midst of His disciples and said: Peace be to you, alleluia"; "An angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and said to the women: He whom you seek is risen, as He said, alleluia"; "Put in thy hand, and know the place of the nails, alleluia; and be not faithless, but believing, alleluia, alleluia."  Alleluia sine fine!
At the offertory, the choir sang out O Filii et Filiæ, happy song of God's rejoicing children, glad in the Holy Ghost at Christ's rising to everlasting life.  While I wasn't able to give them full attention, being caught up in the liturgy at the altar, I do recall their last words sung: Deo dicamus gratias, alleluia – "Thanks be to God we cry, alleluia".

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