Thursday, February 2, 2012

Candlemas at Carmel

What a happy day!  According to Jungmann's take on the liturgical year, Candlemas may be said to be the end thereof, and Septuagesima its beginning – for the latter at Matins opens with the Creation of the world as told in the first chapter of Genesis, while the former is mystically our presentation and entrance, as members of Christ's Body, in the eternal Temple of God in heaven.

What a happy day!  At Carmel, for the blessing of the candles, we all meet in the large parlour, the screen drawn back, the nuns already waiting, standing with lighted candles and copies of the music for the procession, while we laity, privileged thus to behold our cloistered sisters who are otherwise already hid with Christ in God, ourselves stand abashed at this holy meeting.

What a happy day!  The celebrant – to-day, Fr Allan, my own parish priest – and server come in, with a large candle and holy water, to officiate at the Missal already on a stand; the nuns sing, the priest prays, preaches, and blesses our candles; the nuns sing, and our double procession begins: they depart through their cloisters to enter their choir behind the chapel screen, while we advance through the outer monastery, past the sacristy, to enter the public part of the chapel, each party singing together the one hymn.

What a happy day!  The solemnities of the Mass begin, with further chanting and singing in both Latin and English... we hear the Gospel of this feast; soon enough, in the Consecration and Communion, we first behold then welcome the looked-for Christ Himself, hidden beneath the sacramental signs that proclaim Him truly the Bread of heaven, the Medicine of immortality.  The last hymn done, a final prayer, and alas we return to this passing world after our foretaste of heaven.

What a happy day!  "And now you've got to do it all over again, Father," say I as he and I go to our cars, I to drive to work, he to return to his own parish church to celebrate Candlemas Mass there also; now, as I reflect, it is of course true that, each day until the Lord come at length in glory from heaven, in fulfilment of His command we do this, offering the Sacrifice and receiving the Sacrament, our foretaste of what shall be ours, all unworthily we pray, for evermore.

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