Friday, June 29, 2012

Devout Mass

Readers will know that I prefer the Traditional liturgy of the Church – "the old is better", as Our Lord put it – but I do try and attend daily Mass, which means an early Mass in the modern Roman Rite at the nearby Carmel on weekdays, and Sunday Mass in my own parish (where I read, sing and serve – usually not all at once!), unless – as this Sunday – I get to drive to Hobart, 200 km away, for to M.C. our State's one and only regular EF Mass.

On holidays, of course, I can usually manage to get to the EF more often, as detailed in earlier posts.  And from time to time I turn up at a Byzantine Rite Divine Liturgy, sometimes without realizing it (as happened to me in Florence some years ago); hopefully soon I will attend an Anglican Use celebration.  I regret not visiting Toledo on my recent trip so as to assist at the Mozarabic Mass...

In other words, I enjoy liturgical diversity (let a hundred flowers bloom and all that, juxta rubricas) – did I mention that I use the Dominican Breviary for my private prayer?

But to this morning's Mass: the Vicar General was the celebrant, and a very devout and measured Mass he celebrated for our edification.  Of course, the Mass is holy by its very nature: but the comportment of the celebrant ought conform to the reverence demanded by such august mysteries, rather than (as sadly happened only on Monday at Carmel) be a source of distraction, scandal, and angry thoughts engendered by ill-behaved antics.

(As Trent teaches, irreverence can scarce be separated from impiety: let priests take heed; for as the ancient Malabarese Rite sings, "The altar is fire in fire: fire surrounds it: let priests beware of this terrible and tremendous fire, lest they fall into it, and be burnt for ever.")

This morning, far from being irreverent, the Vicar General was notably pious – not in any forced or artificial manner, but in his un-self-regarding attention to careful and well-paced reading of the texts of the sacred liturgy.  And what a good translation do we have now! – of course, it is not perfect, but it is a vast improvement over the previous paraphrase (as I customarily read my own prayers in Latin, I of all people can recognize a faithful translation when I hear one).

The homily focussed on the themes of to-day: our unity in the Catholic and Apostolic faith taught by the Princes of the Apostles, and our unity around the Successor of St Peter.  And, best of all, the celebrant's meditative offering up of the Sacrifice by praying the Roman Canon on this of all days was most apposite.

Yes, the Canon is at the heart of the matter: for the Canon is, substantially, the Roman Mass.  The solemn, sober words aptly conveyed the holiness, the sacredness, the awe-inspiring blessedness of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

The nuns sang the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin, as they always do on Sundays and feasts; they also sang, not a processional hymn but a psalm with antiphon (this and the rest in English), as well as the Responsorial Psalm, Alleluia, Lord's Prayer, Communion Antiphon and a recessional hymn as usual.  Mass took fifty minutes – leaving me just time to get to work, stopping for my daily takeaway cappuccino on the way.

Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good: for the principle of progressive solemnity (sadly abused as it is by philistines) does have some merit.  Since this was an early morning Mass at a monastery of contemplative religious (we layfolk sit in the side chapel, while Mass is celebrated before the nuns' choir, itself behind the screen), while it would have been yet better if the celebrant had sung his parts of the liturgy, and yet more had been chanted, yea, and in Latin, it was certainly an edifying and moving Mass as it was.  Again, I suspect the nuns would have no great trouble about Mass ad orientem or Communion given out to kneeling communicants, but as it was the celebration was still devout, while not going beyond the accepted way the modern Mass is said in Australia.

Last week, too, weekday Mass at Carmel was a blessing, there being a visiting priest from Sydney come to give lectures to the nuns; and I am pleased to hear that my friend Fr Paul, a Dominican, is booked in to come down to celebrate the Masses of Christmas at Carmel this year.  It is a calm haven, and going to Mass ere I go to work has proven, I think, a source of stability and peace, one that I pray many may discover.


Please pray, by the way, for those local Anglicans wavering on Tiber's bank: I saw one such at Mass this morning, with his Catholic wife, and I hope he will decide to join the just-born Australian Ordinariate.  Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians, pray for him!

For a long time now I have added after the Angelus a like short prayer for all such persons, which I commend to all:

V/. Pray for them, O Holy Mother of God.
R/. That they may be one in the Church of thy Son.

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