Tuesday, July 17, 2018

St Alexius

Today is the feast of St Alexius of Rome, son of a Senator, yet who, moved by a special inspiration of God, forsook his wife on their wedding night and, abandoning all, even his name, travelled as a poor beggar pilgrim to all the most illustrious churches of Christendom for seventeen years, until by a miracle his identity was divulged at Edessa, whereupon to flee fame and regain anonymity, he took ship for Rome where his own parents, family servants and wife did not recognise him after so long and such a penitential life, but granted to him, out of charity to a poor homeless beggar, to live under the stairs of his own house, where he dwelt another seventeen years until he died, whereupon all was revealed and he was acclaimed a saint.

It seems only yesterday I attended solemn Mass in his honour at WYD in Sydney...

Formerly, by grant of Pope Clement XII at the petition of the Roman Senate, there was a proper Mass of his feast used at Rome, as follows; it is an example of eighteenth-century liturgical piety, since the whole Mass tells the tale of his life (in the 1962 Roman Missal, only the Epistle and Gospel are the same):

Proper Mass of St Alexius, for the City and all the District of Rome

Introitus. Gen. 12, 1.
Egredere de terra tua, et de domo patris tui, et veni in terram, quam monstrabo tibi.
Ps. 44, 11-12. Obliviscere populum tuum, et domum patris tui: et concupiscet rex decorem tuum.
V. Gloria Patri.

Deus, qui beatum Alexium Confessorem tuum in mundi contemptu mirabilem effecisti: præsta, quæsumus; ut intercessionis ejus auxilio, fideles tui terrena despiciant, et ad cælestia semper aspirent. Per Dñm.

Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Timotheum. 1 Tim. 6, 6-12.

Carissime: Est quæstus magnus pietas cum sufficentia. Nihil enim intulimus in hunc mundum: haud dubium quod nec auferre quid possumus. Habentes autem alimenta, et quibus tegamur, his contenti simus. Nam qui volunt divites fieri, incidunt in tentationem et in laqueum diaboli, et desideria multa inutilia, et nociva, quæ mergunt homines in interitum et perditionem. Radix enim omnium malorum est cupiditas: quam quidam appetentes, erraverunt a fide, et inseruerunt se doloribus malis. Tu autem, o homo Dei, hæc fuge: sectare vero justitiam, pietatem, fidem, caritatem, patientiam, mansuetudinem. Certa bonum certamen fidei, apprehende vitam æternam.

Graduale. Jer. 12, 7. Reliqui domum meam, dimisi hæreditatem meam.
V. Ps. 72, 28. Quia bonum mihi est adhaerere Deo, ponere in Domino Deo spem meam.

Alleluja, alleluja.
V. Ps. 5, 8 et 131, 14. introibo in domum tuam: hæc requies mea in sæculum sæculi; hic habitabo, quoniam elegi eam.

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum. Matt. 19, 27-29.

In illo tempore: Dixit Petrus ad Jesum: Ecce nos reliquimus omnia, et secuti sumus te: quid ergo erit nobis? Jesus autem dixit illis: Amen dico vobis, quod vos, qui secuti estis me, in regeneratione, cum sederit Filius hominis in sede majestatis suæ, sedebitis et vos super sedes duodecim, judicantes duodecim tribus Israël. Et omnis qui reliquerit domum, vel fratres, aut sorores, aut patrem, aut matrem, aut uxorem, aut filios, aut agros, propter nomen meum, centuplum accipiet, et vitam aeternam possidebit.

Offertorium. Gen. 32, 9.
Revertere in terram tuam, et in locum nativitatis tuæ, et benefaciam tibi.

Propitius esto, Domine, supplicationibus nostris, et intercessione beati Alexii Confessoris tui, omnium nostrum ad te corda converte: ut a mundanis cupiditatibus expediti, te solum pura mente sectemur. Per Dñm.

Communio. Job. 19, 15 et Ps. 26, 10.
Inquilini domus meæ, et ancillæ meæ sicut alienum habuerunt me, et quasi peregrinus fui in oculis eorum: Dominus autem assumpsit me.

Sumpsimus, Domine, sacri dona mysterii, humiliter deprecantes: ut beatum Alexium Confessorem tuum, quem admirabilem in mundi contemptu prædicamus in terris, intercessorem habere mereamur in cælis. Per Dñm.


Introit. Gen. 12, 1.
Go forth out of thy country, and out of thy father’s house, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
Ps. 44, 11-12. Forget thy people and thy father’s house: and the king shall greatly desire thy beauty.
V. Glory be.

O God, who didst make blessed Alexius thy Confessor wonderful in contempt of the world: grant, we beg, that by the help of his intercession, thy faithful may despise earthly things, and ever aspire to things heavenly. Through our Lord…

A Lesson from an Epistle of blessed Paul the Apostle to Timothy. 1 Tim. 6, 6-12.

Dearly beloved: Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world: and certainly we can carry nothing out. But having food, and wherewith to be covered, with these we are content. For they that will become rich, fall into temptation, and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires, which drown men into destruction and perdition. For the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and have entangled themselves in many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, fly these things: and pursue justice, godliness, faith, charity, patience, mildness. Fight the good fight of faith: lay hold on eternal life.

Graduale. Jer. 12, 7. I have forsaken my house, I have left my inheritance.
V. Ps. 72, 28. For it is good for me to adhere to God, to put my hope in the Lord God.

Alleluia, alleluia.
V. Ps. 5, 8 et 131, 14. I will come into thy house; this is my rest for ever and ever: here will I dwell, for I have chosen it.

The continuation of the holy Gospel according to Matthew. Matt. 19, 27-29.

At that time: Peter said to Jesus: Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have? And Jesus said to them: Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.

Offertory. Gen. 32, 9.
Return to thy land and to the place of thy birth, and I will do well for thee.

Be propitious, O Lord, to our supplications, and by the intercession of blessed Alexius thy Confessor, convert all our hearts to thee: that set free from worldly desires, we may seek thee alone with a pure mind. Through our Lord…

Communion. Job. 19, 15 et Ps. 26, 10.
They that dwelt in my house, and my maidservants have counted me a stranger, and I have been like an alien in their eyes: but the Lord hath taken me up.

We have received, O Lord, the gifts of [thy] sacred mysteries, humbly praying, that blessed Alexius thy Confessor, whom we proclaim on earth [to be] admirable in contempt of the world, we may deserve to have as an intercessor in heaven. Through our Lord…

Friday, May 4, 2018

Hymns for St Monica

In honour of St Monica, whose feast occurs today, here follows an opening invocation, and then a longer account of her life, being the hymns for each Hour of a Little Office in her honour, all from a little booklet published in Munich at the end of the seventeenth century (Officium Novum cum Litaniis S. Monicæ Matris S. Augustini Hipponensis Episcopi, et Ecclesiæ Doctoris Eximii. Monachii. Typis Joannis Lucæ Straubii, 1695). As for both the metre is and the rhyme scheme AABCCB, they would serve better in liturgical use as a rhyming antiphon and a sequence respectively. It will be seen that the successive first letters of each line of the Invocation and Commendation spell out Sancta Monica; moreover, the successive first letters of the last word in each line of the Commendation spell out adjuva filios. May she indeed help her spiritual sons!


Salve, decus feminarum,
Atque norma viduarum,
Nostra, salve, gloria,
Cujus lacrymis debemus
Tanta (quibus indigemus)
Augustini merita.

Magna Parens nos clientes,
Omnes tuis impendentes
Nostras vires laudibus,
Intellectum, voluntatem,
Cor, et omnem facultatem
Addimus applausibus. Amen.


Ad Matutinum. Hymnus.

Ab æterno plurimorum
Quondam Mater filiorum
Præelecta Monica
Ex parentibus honestis,
Perdevotis ac modestis
Nascitur in Africa.

Ab his pie educata,
Cunctarumque exornata
Est virtutum genere:
Æmulas hinc accendebat,
Omnibusque prælucebat
Pietatis munere.

Ad Primam. Hymnus.

Sic virtutibus exculta,
Atque annis jam adulta
Jungitur Patritio
Sponsa viro perdilecta,
Pia, prudens, circumspecta,
Carens omni vitio.

Is cum esset præceps ira,
Perque verba petens dira
Innocentem conjugem,
Cuncta silens perferebat;
Sic per suam corrigebat
Virum mansuetudinem.

Ad Tertiam. Hymnus.

Augustinum cælo datum,
Et ad alta destinatum
Læta parit filium,
Quem ob lumen secuturum,
Jam in spiritu futurum
Dixerat Aurelium.

Hunc ad omnem pietatis,
Optatæque probitatis
Componebat semitam,
Dans cum lacte Jesu nomen,
Velut veram cordis gnomen
Ac salutis tesseram.

Ad Sextam. Hymnus.

Sed incassum sunt hæc nato
Ad perversa inclinato
Sana Matris monita:
Abit, et Manichæorum
Novem spatio annorum
Tenet falsa dogmata.

Sentibus his irretitum,
Vinculisque compeditum
Mater luget filium;
Piæ lacrymæ parentis
Rogant Dei miserentis
Desuper auxilium.

Ad Nonam. Hymnus.

Audi, Mater, consolantem
Et afflictæ prophetantem
Præsulem Ambrosium,
Posse neutiquam tantarum
Precum, atque lacrymarum
Deperire filium.

Eja ergo! Phœbus splendet
(Salus filii impendet)
Fletuum post nubila:
En jam Deum adorantem
Augustinum, tecum stantem
In eadem regula.

Ad Vesperas. Hymnus.

Post Baptismum Roman pergit
Augustinus, inde vergit
Tiberis ad Ostia:
Hic cum ventos expectaret,
Ut in Africam mearet
Cum Parente Monica.

Ad fenestram incumbentes,
Et de cælo colloquentes
Soli valde dulciter,
Spretis mundi his figmentis
De supernis jam fluentis
Delibarunt suaviter.

Ad Completorium. Hymnus.

Tota viribus jam fracta,
Atque voti compos facta
De salute filii,
Ait: dum me sepelitis,
Mei memores tunc sitis
Ad Altare Domini.

Ergo cælis implantanda,
Angelisque socianda
Ad æterna avolat,
Super uno peccatore
Pænitentiam agente
Ut post fletum gaudeat.


Sublevamen anxiatis,
Ac solamen desolatis,
Nobis præsta indig[n]is;
Corda Deo fac unita,
Tribuatur per te vita
Animabus aridis.

Mentem firma fluctuantem,
Orci nobis inhiantem
Noctem pelle lumine;
In æternum jubilare,
Contra hostes nos ovare,
Ac salvari, satage. Amen.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Candlemas: End - and Beginning - of the Liturgical Year

Just as, sixty-three days before Easter, Septuagesima Sunday, in its lessons at Matins, begins the liturgical year with the account of the Creation in the first chapter of Genesis, and the Magnificat antiphon at first Vespers warning Adam of death should he eat the forbidden fruit, so too Candlemas concludes the liturgical year, forty days after Christmas, with its solemn celebration of the entry of the Incarnate Word into his Father's Temple, showing forth under a shadow the eternal nuptials of the Lamb and his Bride, all redeemed humanity, world without end.

The fact that Candlemas is a fixed feast, recurring every year on the 2nd of February, signifies the eternal and everlasting truth of the life of the world to come; the truth that the date of Septuagesima varies from year to year, falling on a Sunday between the 18th of January and the 22nd of February, signifies the ontologically contingent facts of the Creation and Fall, which led – O happy fault! – to the redemption of the world by our Emmanuel, and his victory over sin and death, celebrated especially during the Paschal Triduum.

Septuagesima may fall before Candlemas, or after it, or may even displace it to the Monday – but the blessing of and procession with candles falls always on the 2nd of February. The liturgical cycle may end before its next beginning, or after it begins again, signifying that the perfect consummation of all things has not yet come. Even if, in the most complete manner possible in this life, Septuagesima falls on the day after Candlemas (when Easter falls on the 6th of April, as last in 1980 and next in 2042) yet still the second Vespers of the latter overlap with the first of the latter (first Vespers of Septuagesima being commemorated after the Collect of Candlemas, and followed by the farewell to the Alleluia made at the Benedicamus Domino).

(When Septuagesima Sunday thus falls on the 3rd of February, presumably the blessing of throats at the intercession of St Blaise takes place after Septuagesima Sunday Mass.)

The processional antiphon Adorna thalamum tuum well sums up the eschatological quality of today's feast:
Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion, et suscipe Regem Christum: amplectere Mariam, quæ est cælestis porta: ipsa enim portat Regem gloriæ novi luminis: subsistit Virgo, adducens manibus Filium ante luciferum genitum: quem accipiens Simeon in ulnas suas, prædicavit populis, Dominum eum esse vitæ et mortis, et Salvatorem mundi. 
(Sion, adorn your bridal chamber and welcome Christ the King; take Mary in your arms, who is the gate of heaven, for she herself is carrying the King of glory and new light. A Virgin she remains, though bringing in her hands the Son before the morning star begotten, whom Simeon, taking in his arms, announced to the people as the Lord of life and death and Saviour of the world.)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Septuagesima Thoughts on the Two Ways

Septuagesima brings us face to face with death. The Introit is Circumdedérunt me gémitus mortis (The sorrows of death surrounded me); the ancient chant Media vita (In the midst of life we are in death) is oft sung during the pre-Lenten season; at Matins, the readings begin at Genesis chapter one, and soon enough bring us face to face with the Fall of Man, when, having eaten of the forbidden fruit, death came to mankind, and estrangement from God, which makes death evil.

At the end of Lauds, until the 1950s, after Fidelium animæ the Lord's prayer was said silently, then the versicle Dominus det nobis was sung, followed by the Marian anthem of the season. The 1693 Lyons Breviary adds two words, post mortem, to the second half of this versicle, thus:
V. Dóminus det nobis suam pacem.
R. Et post mortem vitam ætérnam. Amen.
(V. May the Lord grant us his peace.
(R. And, after death, life eternal. Amen.)
This seemed to me a devout addition suitable to use in prayer, since it balances the length of each phrase... but often I have mixed up the words, and said by mistake, Et post vitam mortem ætérnam (And, after life, death eternal)! That is not a prayer to make, lest it be answered!

But more seriously, these are in fact the options we face in this vale of tears:
1. Post mortem, vitam ætérnam (After death, life eternal);
2. Post vitam, mortem ætérnam (After life, death eternal).
Here we have the age-old presentation of the Two Ways, the Way of Life and the Way of Death: either (1) following the narrow path, “denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” (Titus ii, 12f), or (2), taking the broad road, “many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things.” (Phil. iii, 18f).

As Our Lord taught so clearly, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it. For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (St Matthew xvi, 24-26). We can either deny ourselves and bear our appointed cross and follow Christ to Calvary, praying for final perseverance, trusting in his grace to save us and bring us to glory, or live vainly, heedless of and hating God, and hateful to him and others and ourselves, and after death perish everlastingly.

Ultimately we must be among the martyrs, the true witnesses to the Crucified at the cost of their own lives, whether literally or in intention – or among the reprobate, who madly purchase worthless transient pleasures at the infinite cost of everlasting damnation. Be sheep or goats, choose!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Second Sunday after Epiphany Mass and Picnic

Today the Latin Mass community, North and South, gathered at Colebrook to attend the monks’ Mass for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, reflecting on the mystery of the Wedding feast at Cana and Our Lady’s intercession thereat, and afterwards to have a pleasant picnic at their property at Rhyndaston. Mass was glorious and moving, the elevation barely visible through clouds of incense – “and the glory of God filled the sanctuary” – and put me in mind of what Dom Anscar Vonier wrote about “The Doctrinal Power of the Liturgy of the Catholic Church” in his Sketches and Studies in Theology:

One of the great advantages of the liturgical presentment of Catholic dogma is found in this, that it sets forth revealed truth in a non-combative and non-controversial way. It is truly the divine bread prepared for the use of the children. We forget the unbeliever, the heretic, the schismatic, when we are gathered together for the Feasts of the Lord; instead, we are made to remember the Angelic Choirs and the Saints of heaven. If evil and Satan are at all alluded to in the liturgy, such remembrances are songs of triumph, because in the Liturgy the powers of darkness are mentioned only in connexion with Christ's victory over all sin. It is indeed a supreme satisfaction to the Catholic soul to be thus left to enjoy the Faith for its own sake; it creates in the Church a spirit of confidence far more potent than any controversy, however well conducted, can do.

(I quoted quite a lot more of this back in 2008.) 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

First Sunday after Epiphany

I heard a rarely-sung Mass in Colebrook today: In excelso throno, that of the First Sunday after Epiphany, since the Benedictines never adopted the Roman Feast of the Holy Family, which would otherwise occur this day in churches celebrating the Extraordinary Form. Yesterday evening, meanwhile, singing at my parish Vigil Mass, I managed to observe the Solemnity of the Epiphany on the right day, the 6th of January, even though it is transferred to the Sunday...

Some years ago, I managed to attend Christmas (OF) here, then Epiphany (OF) in Oxford, then Epiphany (EF) in Edinburgh, then Christmas again (Ukrainian Rite, Julian Calendar) in Florence! This year, tomorrow, Monday, will be celebrated the Baptism of the Lord in my parish (OF), since Epiphany pushes it out of the way this year by taking its spot on the Sunday after, well, Epiphany.

In the EF, in most places the Lord's Baptism will be kept this Saturday, the 13th of January, being the Octave Day of the Epiphany - but the monks of Notre Dame Priory will instead celebrate their first-class patronal feast of Our Lady of Cana, which falls on the Saturday after Epiphany (it did scandalise me a little that Our Lady's local solemnity trumps Our Lord's universal feast, but He does love His Mother). Liturgy can be confusing sometimes. 

The monks also sang the Ordinary using one of the Masses in the Kyriale that I hadn't heard before, Mass XIII, Stelliferi conditor orbis, which I was quite taken with. Here are some clips demonstrating its beauty: