Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Off to Blighty

My plan for Wednesday is (having finished packing the night before) to go to early Mass at Carmel – I always treat Communion before air travel as viaticum! – and then head off to the airport for my mid-morning flight to Melbourne.  Depending on when I can check my baggage in for my international trip, I may go into the CBD, but otherwise I'll while away the hours at the airport, until my plane departs late in the evening.

Of your charity, pray for me; I certainly will be, as flying always puts me in mind of my last end.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Have Breviaries, Will Travel

To-morrow I leave for my European holiday; I'm finalizing packing, and have decided to take with me not just my brick of a Breviary (the F.S.S.P. reprint, 50×120×180mm, weighing nearly a kilogram), but – that I may have a pocket prayerbook, not necessitating a backpack – the 1956 Dominican Diurnal I bought while in Rome last time: it only weighs 150g, and measures a much more convenient 25×88×130mm, including slipcase.

The other day, for the feast of St Stephen, I prayed Matins from my full 1962 Dominican Breviary, mainly because he is my confirmation patron, and I knew that the Office of the Friars Preachers includes proper Matins antiphons for his feast (as for St John's and the Holy Innocents'); the Lessons, by the way, are slightly shorter than the Roman, so the Hour would have been about the same length overall.

(This is not my Diurnal!)

Why not just bring the Breviarium S.O.P., midway in size and weight between the two?  Well, I will be catching up in Italy with a priest I know who sometimes likes to say parts of the Office in common...  So I can have a little book of Horæ Diurnæ S.O.P. on my person, and have the full Roman Breviary either back at my lodgings, or bring it along if I know it will be needed.

Only one tedious task has been involved: I've just had to pencil in all the changes to the Dominican Office between 1956 and 1962!  One must follow the rubricks.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Transeamus usque Bethlehem

Transeamus usque Bethlehem, et videamus hoc verbum, quod factum est, quod Dominus ostendit nobis.  Et venerunt festinantes : et invenerunt Mariam, et Joseph, et infantem positum in præsepio.
Let us pass over unto Bethlehem, and let us see this Word, which was made, which the Lord hath shewn unto us.  And they went hastening: and they found Mary, and Joseph, and the Child placed in the manger.
— St Luke ii, 15b-16

This post is a plea for solemn Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction during Christmastide, by which we may intensify as at this time (as is most appropriate) our desire for and spiritual communion with Christ, Who became Man for us, that He might give His Flesh for us, to be our Bread, so we could become partakers of the Divine Nature:

But as from the Highest Place Thou didst for us humble Thyself, submit now to my humility, and as Thou didst consent to lie in the cave and in the manger of dumb beasts, so now consent also to enter in to the manger of my dumb soul and into my defiled body.
— Byzantine Rite, Prayers of Preparation before Holy Communion, 3rd Prayer "by St John Chrysostom"

It ought ever be remembered that one of the English-speaking world's favourite carols, "O come, all ye faithful" was originally written by an eighteenth-century Englishman, a Catholic recusant, written in Latin (only done into English in the nineteenth century), and intended for singing, not at Mass (as was unheard of then) but at Benediction at the chapel of the one of the London embassies of Catholic countries.

This hymn, then, was sung in Latin ere ever it was sung in the vernacular.  Proving this, I have a copy of A Companion to the Altar, or Compact Pocket Missal, for all the Sundays, Festivals of Obligation & Devotion &c. &c. in the Year (2nd edition, London: 1796), which gives this hymn as follows in four stanzas  - I copy out the English only, from the left-hand column (the Latin is given on the right):

The Prose, ADESTE FIDELES, sung from Christmas to the Octave of the Epiphany.
Ye faithful souls rejoice and sing,
To Bethlehem your trophies bring:
Before the new-born Angels' King,
Come let us him adore.
Come, &c.

True God of God, true light of light,
Borne in womb of Virgin bright:
Begot, not made, true God of might,
Come let us him adore.
Come, &c.

Angelic Choirs with joy now sing,
Th' heav'nly Courts with echoes ring,
Glory on high to God our King,
Come let us him adore.
Come, &c.

Jesus, whose Life this day begun,
The Father's co-eternal Son,
Glory to him be ever sung:
Come let us him adore.
Come, &c.

Adeste fideles is therefore addressed to Catholic worshippers, and the triple refrain, Venite adoremus Dominum, is an exhortation to adore Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance on the altar.

Is not Bethlehem "the House of Bread"?  Let us go over to Bethlehem, that is, to the church - the House of Bread - and to the holy altar thereof, whose tabernacle is the holy of holies wherein God rests under the sacramental signs, to behold the Word made flesh for us, concealed in form of bread, nay, not so much veiled as revealed therein by the outward sign: for bread is the staff of life, and the True Bread come down from heaven, better than the ancient manna, feeds us unto life eternal.

After all, what is a cratch or manger but the feeding trough for lowly animals?  Christ laid therein shews forth His extreme kenotic self-giving sacrifice, making Himself food for us debased and fallen creatures.

The Lord has shewn this unto us, that His Onlybegotten Son, Christ, is incarnate for us, having taken our nature upon Him: and He is not far from us, but even in His sacred humanity He is present on our altars, as He has willed.  We can go to Bethlehem!

In our Bethlehem, we will find the Child, God's Eternal Son, reposing in great humility, not displaying His Divine Majesty but rather manifesting His great goodness and desire to nourish us.  And going to Bethlehem, to our church, we shall not find Christ alone - no pretended religion bereft of the communion of saints - but we shall find Him, and His Holy Mother Mary, our Mother also, and St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church.

Consider now the stanzas of Adeste fideles: we who believe are called urgently to come to Bethlehem, to behold Him Who is born the King of Angels; for He is God from God, Light from Light, true God, begotten not created - as the Nicene Creed sings - and yet (taking flesh) carried in the Virgin's womb.

The shepherds, being called, left their flocks abiding "in tempest, storm and wind" (as another carol exaggerates), and humbly ran to the cradle; so we too should hasten our footsteps, praising.  Likewise come the Magi, wise men, led by the star to Him; they fall down and worship, offering gold, incense and myrrh; so therefore we should offer our hearts to the Christ-Child, God our Jesus, the Eternal Word born a tiny Babe and speechless.

For He is the Splendour Eternal of the Everlasting Father: veiled in the flesh we shall behold Him, God an Infant, wrapt in swaddling bands!  (We may add, in unparalleled humility sacramentally present under the form of bread.)  For us He is born poor and needy, cradled in a manger - in a feeding-trough - and so we ought wish to embrace Him in all piety, loving Him Who so greatly first loved us: what ought we not do for Him as some poor recompense?

The choirs of the angels now sing in jubilation, now sings all heaven, Glory to God in the highest!  (Such is the ceaseless worship of the Godhead by all angels and saints; such is their worship of Christ Incarnate, of Christ's Real Presence.)  Therefore to Thee, O Jesu, born for us this day, be all glory, Thou the Eternal Father's Word made flesh.

What an act of faith to sing this in presence of the Blessed Sacrament!

"O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord."

A Basic Difference in Attitude

In my experience, all but the most way-out and scarcely Catholic priests wouldn't dream of interpolating extra prayers into the Mass, or materially changing its structure by omitting items holus-bolus; the most they do is change a word here or there, which is annoying but hardly earth-shattering... and of course this only applies to the Ordinary Form - anyone offering the Traditional Mass wouldn't dare make changes (apart perhaps from following older rubricks, such as singing Benedicamus Domino not Ite missa est in Advent).  The only 'mainstream' addition I can think of is the happy one – an innovation due to the piety of an English bishop shortly after the Council – of having the people say a Hail Mary at the end of the bidding prayers, before the collect that concludes them.

Compare and contrast this with what prevails among our separated brethren of the Anglican sort: some very estranged indeed, some not to be separated for much longer...

Among Anglo-Catholics, it appears a sort of liturgical anarchy reigns.  Whatever of the official liturgical books, at the least these are tricked out with all manner of pomp and ceremony, and supplemented with all manner of extra prayers: some from modern and some from olden Roman books, some from mediæval Uses, and some from who knows where.  It is common, and in fact a clichéd joke, for folk to say "we're strictly Prayer Book Anglicans" when the sights and words of their liturgies would suggest otherwise!

(Don't get me wrong: as one bishop put it, Anglicans believe in salvation by good taste alone!  The High tend to be very careful about worshipping the Lord in the beauty of holiness, and in this are a blessed relief for Catholics too often experiencing philistine and minimalist worship.  Take the use of good music, of the eastward position at the altar, of incense - apart from Traditional Latin Mass circles and rare Reform of the Reform liturgies, and to a lesser extent some cathedrals, Catholics these days tend to be deprived of all three.  One could say they've the form and we've the substance...)

But back to my topic, via a concrete example: I have never heard of a Catholic priest using the old Offertory prayers at the modern form of Mass; at most, I've seen priests mix the chalice first, rather than after offering the host, or even offering both host and chalice together, which are strictly incorrect but actually quite well-precedented little changes; but I have seen with my own eyes an Anglican service, where both the Tridentine and the Novus Ordo Offertory prayers were used, sandwiched in between the BCP Prayer for the Church Militant and the Preface leading into an "Interim Rite" Prayer of Consecration and Oblation.

Do-it-yourself liturgy on such a scale (and I don't say it's unorthodox, rather the contrary, given that it is done to catholicize the rite) is to Catholic eyes rather surprising to say the least.  More seriously, it has to be said that it appears rather like a continual reinvention of the wheel.

As is well-known, Forward in Faith Anglicans in the C. of E. (who may or may not cross the Tiber in who knows what numbers come February the 22nd) tend to use the modern Roman Rite of Mass: it must be for them that Anglicanorum cœtibus mentions that the use of the Roman Rite is not excluded in the forthcoming Ordinariates.

Then there is the Anglican Use of the Catholic Church, Mark I - the Book of Divine Worship – which even those involved in drawing it up have described openly as not what they would have wanted, presumably because it follows the 1979 U.S. B.C.P. rather than the more classically Anglican 1928 U.S. B.C.P., and also because it has large inserts from the Novus Ordo (above all, the modern Roman three-year lectionary, and the modern "Preparation of the Gifts"), rather than following the Ritualist tradition of taking as much as possible from the older Roman liturgy done into hieratic English.

The Anglican Use Mark II, which is supposedly under final development, would I assume be a mixture of the best of the classic B.C.P.'s (the last of which was the Canadian book of 1962) and enrichments from the Roman Rite, largely if not wholly from its pre-Conciliar form, and even taking elements from the Sarum Rite.

But whatever options are given, Rome will intend that liturgical anarchy cease, and that the rites so thoughtfully provided be used as appointed.

Options already semi-officially available via the B.D.W. are the use of the so-called "Minor Propers", which are in fact the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia or Tract, Offertory and Communion – the classical Roman Rite's liturgical chants, done into English.  They are provided for by the innocuous rubricks at the start of the Rite of the Holy Eucharist, between its readings, at its offertory and at communion: "Here may be sung a Psalm, Hymn or Anthem".  This is elastic enough to permit of the use of a modern Responsorial Psalm or of a Sarum Sequence...

Personally, I would prefer that an Anglican Use be "Anglican", not just a strange hybrid of all the nicest bits of B.C.P. and Roman Missal (old and new) thrown together.  Here would be my very tentative suggestion, taking as its base the most Catholic of the family of B.C.P. rites – the Scottish – and supplementing it where necessary, but nearly always from Anglican sources:

  • Psalm, Hymn or Anthem / Introit Psalm with Glory Be
  • ["The Lord be with you..., Let us pray" & Threefold Kyrie (Nonjurors' 1718)]
  • [Lord's Prayer]
  • Collect for Purity
  • Decalogue / Summary of the Law, with Responses; &/or Kyrie eleison
  • [Collect for Grace and Strength to keep the Commandments (Scottish & U.S.)]
  • "The Lord be with you..." & "Let us pray"
  • Collect of the Day
  • [Lesson (for those who use three lessons at Mass, following more modern Lectionaries)]
  • Epistle with Title and Conclusion
  • Psalm, Hymn or Anthem
  • Gospel with Title and Responses
  • Creed
  • Notices & Sermon & Exhortation (if used)
  • Bidding Prayer (used here because the Prayer for the Church is used after the Consecration, as the form of intercession during the Eucharistic Prayer; the 1928 U.S. Bidding Prayer is admirable)
  • "Let us present our offerings to the Lord..." (Scottish)
  • Offertory Sentence / Psalm, Hymn or Anthem
  • [Mixing the chalice with wine and water; washing hands – nihil dicens]
  • "Blessed be thou..." (the Scottish Offertory prayer – see below, †)
  • [Would the Orate fratres and Secret be necessary importations from the Roman Rite?]
  • Sursum corda &c.
  • Preface
  • SanctusBenedictus
  • Prayer of Consecration (with a pre-consecratory Epiclesis, praying that the elements "become the Body and Blood", as in the 1764 Scottish formula)
  • Prayer of Memorial and Oblation (incl. "which we now offer unto thee" - Scottish & American, but removing the post-consecratory epiclesis)
  • Prayer for the Church (incl. "to accept our oblations and to receive these our prayers which we offer", so expressing the Sacrifice as impetratory; inserting the name of the Pope; and commemorating the Saints by name)
  • "As our Saviour Christ... we are bold to say:"
  • Lord's Prayer with Doxology
  • The Peace of the Lord be with you...
  • Invitation, General Confession, Declaration of Absolution (non-Sacramental, so changing "you" to "us", etc.), Comfortable Words [this could be put before the Offertory as in most other Anglican forms, and as the B.D.W. already does]
  • Prayer of Humble Access
  • Agnus Dei
  • [Ecce Agnus Dei &c.? - Roman but apparently much used; perhaps the 1549 "Christ our Paschal Lamb..." could be used also; the B.D.W. deleted the 1979 U.S. B.C.P. "Take them in remembrance..." formula presumably as altogether too Zwinglian]
  • Psalm, Hymn or Anthem
  • "The Body / Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ..."
  • ["Having now received..." / versicles (optional Scottish forms)]
  • Prayer of Thanksgiving
  • Gloria in excelsis (in most modern Anglican forms moved back to its original place, but quite decent here as a thanksgiving; the B.D.W. has it at the start, but I don't think this would be absolutely necessary)
  • [Collect before the Blessing (vide infra, *)]
  • "The Peace..."
  • [Dismissal?]

This liturgy would almost wholly use elements common to the Anglican Prayer Book tradition, while being made perfectly orthodox, by reason of careful bolstering of its epiclesis and its expression of the offering of the Sacrifice for all ends.

My personal view is that, if one wants the Traditional Latin Mass, have a Traditional Latin Mass; if one wants the Novus Ordo, do it but do it properly; and if one wants an Anglican Use Mass, have one that is proud of itself, not a mish-mash of a few Anglican bits floating in a Roman sea.

(I would of course have no objections to, say, the Sarum Rite being revived, whether in Latin or done into decent English, but such a multiplicity of rites for a relatively small group of incomers, however welcome, may seem excessive.)


* Note that the South African 1954 B.C.P. (and its forerunners earlier in the century) proposed a very full-blooded reference to the Eucharistic Sacrifice, being transparently based on the Placeat sancta Trinitas, to use before the Blessing; apparently it excited quite some controversy among the Protestants:

LOOK with favour, most Holy Trinity, on this our act of worship and service; and may this sacrifice set forth before thine eyes be acceptable to thy Divine Majesty, and avail for us and all for whom we have offered it; who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

What a nice prayer to use at the end of an Anglican Use Mass!

(As it is, I often use this as a private prayer at the end of the Masses I attend.)


† The Scottish offertory prayer, based on King David's prayer at the people's giving gifts for the building of the Temple (I Chronicles xxix, 10b-12a,14b), deserves to be better known; it is certainly more splendid than that tired pair of anæmic berakhoth used in the Novus Ordo ("Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation..."):

BLESSED be thou, O Lord God, for ever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine: thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all: both riches and honour come of thee, and of thine own do we give unto thee. Amen.

This prayer is intended to be recited when the host and mixed chalice are readied: the priest "shall then offer up, and place the bread and wine prepared for the Sacrament upon the Lord's Table" – custom was to hold the paten and chalice a little above the altar, and at the final phrase to lift them up a little, as a gesture of oblation.


While writing of ideal liturgies, the Nonjurors' 1718 Communion Office included the following prayer at the end of the offertory directly before the Sursum corda, being abridged from St Basil's Liturgy; while too exotically oriental and too long to really fit in a Western rite, it is noteworthy for what it says about their understanding of what the priestly ministry is:

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast created us, and placed us in this ministry by the power of thy Holy Spirit; may it please thee, O Lord, as we are ministers of the New Testament, and dispensers of thy holy mysteries, to receive us who are approaching thy Holy Altar, according to the multitude of thy mercies, that we may be worthy to offer unto thee this reasonable and unbloody Sacrifice for our Sins and the Sins of the People. Receive it, O God, as a sweet smelling savour, and send down the grace of thy Holy Spirit upon us. And as thou didst accept this worship and service from thy Holy Apostles: so of thy goodness, O Lord, vouchsafe to receive these Offerings from the hands of us sinners, that being made worthy to minister at thy Holy Altar without blame, we may have the reward of good and faithful servants at that great and terrible day of account and just retribution; through our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son, who, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Could not this serve as a suitable prayer of preparation before Mass for a priest?

Happy 173rd

While to the rest of the inhabited earth to-day is if anything the feast of the Holy Innocents (Childermas), to-day, the 28th of December, is Proclamation Day to the good people of South Australia (to which day the holiday is transferred this year; normally they get the actual holiday on Boxing Day), the anniversary of the establishment of their State as a British colony back in 1836, shortly after the arrival of the first free settlers; the Letters Patent of King William IV granting the power, the proclamation was read, which reading has been repeated at the official ceremony marking this event ever since:

By His Excellency John Hindmarsh, Knight of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order, Governor and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Province of South Australia:
In announcing to the colonists of His Majesty’s Province of South Australia, the establishment of the Government, I hereby call upon them to conduct themselves on all occasions with order and quietness, duly to respect the laws, and by a course of industry and sobriety, by the practice of sound morality and a strict observance of the Ordinances of Religion, to prove themselves worthy to be the Founders of a great free colony.
It is also, at this time especially, my duty to apprize the Colonists of my resolution, to take every lawful means for extending the same protection to the Native Population as to the rest of His Majesty’s subjects and of my firm determination to punish with exemplary severity all acts of violence or injustice which may in any manner be practiced or attempted against the Natives who are to be considered as much under the safeguard of the Law as the Colonists themselves, and equally entitled to the privileges of British subjects. I trust therefore, with confidence to the exercise of moderation and forbearance by all Classes in their intercourse with the Native Inhabitants, and that they will omit no opportunity of assisting me to fulfil His Majesty’s most gracious and benevolent intentions toward them by promoting their advancement in civilization and ultimately, under the blessing of Divine Providence, their conversion to the Christian Faith.
By His Excellency’s Command,
Robert Gouger
Colonial Secretary
God Save the King!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Holy Family

"And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men."  (St Luke ii, 42)

This morning — which in the Ordinary Form of the Mass is the feast of the Holy Family (in the Breviary, it is the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas), and which had the Gospel of the Finding of Our Lord in the Temple — Fr Peter, our Dominican visiting priest at Carmel, preached on the necessity of family to Christ, that in His humanity He grow up and develop: for as all men, the Son of Man could not grow up isolated and alone, but was formed as to His human nature as a member of society, needing parents, relations, friends and acquaintances;  for "no man is an island" - man is a social animal.

Our Lady was not merely Mother of Christ, but a Mother to Christ; and it was needful for St Joseph to be a true foster-father to Our Lord, not merely a breadwinner for the Holy Family, but a true father figure, teaching his putative Son how to live as a man by his example.  This is because Christ was true Man as well as true God, and therefore according to His human nature truly and not in similitude learned and grew up through experiential knowledge, as all men do.  Hence "He was subject to them" (St Luke ii, 51).

The Holy Family had gone up to Jerusalem for the feast, as usual — just as we go to Sunday Mass as usual.  But then, consternation!  They looked for Him "everywhere": note the poignant choice of word.  Yet they found Him about His Father's affairs, in His Father's house, and were not able then to quite grasp the situation (St Luke ii, 49-50).  Our Lord's answers more than satisfied the doctors of the Law as He sat with them the Temple; but His answer did not at once explain matters, not to Our Lady, not till she took it to her heart (St Luke ii, 51), turning it over and pondering on it.

Faith is like this — it is not an entire explanation to us, not this side of the Beatific Vision; it is what we lay hold of, "the assurance of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen" (Heb. xi, 1), but what we struggle to understand; difficulties, "doubts" in the improper sense, are a part of our life of faith, in the darkness of our earthbound understanding of matters above: the lack of clarity is because the light is in a sense too strong, rather than not strong enough.  But we must not be discouraged, and rather hold on to our faith.  "It is as a lamp shining in a dark place..." (cf. St James i, 19 - writing of the Scriptures).

(This seems to me somewhat of the gist of the homily.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009


According to the Melbourne Herald Sun (not to be confused with Sydney's Sun-Herald), to-day is National Leftovers Day; while I don't like newfangled secular commemorations, this one is certainly appropriate.  For lunch we had the last of the vegetables from Christmas dinner, plus helpings of turkey stuffings (we have two, one for each end); the newspaper suggested the horrifying idea of turkey pizza; may I suggest for British readers a variant of a native dish - turkey tikka marsala?

To-day of course is called Boxing Day (so-called because once gifts were given to employees; nowadays, it's the start of yet more buying at the post-Christmas sales); in Australia, it's marked by two great sporting contests: the Boxing Day cricket test match; and the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, which we've all just been watching on television.  It put me in mind of visits to Sydney, and the hospitality of Bp Fisher, who, as one of the good Cardinal's auxiliaries, has the cure of the parish of Watson's Bay - complete with a presbytery-cum-episcopal palace with a million dollar view: walking up the hill behind to watch the New Year's fireworks was unforgettable.

I recall also the nice old ladies who made up most of the weekday congregation at the parish church: they'd had no parish priest for eighteen months, and thought there was little prospect of getting another one, fearing their parish would be suppressed; so they'd prayed and prayed, and got - a bishop.  I've often said I wished I'd asked them what novena prayer they'd used...

Feast of Deacons

St Stephen, as well as the First of Martyrs, was the First Deacon; hence his feast is the Feast of Deacons.

O quam gloriosus est beatus Stepanus Martyr et Levita, qui ante Apostolos regna cælestia possidere meruit et ad Patris dexteram Filium videre!
(O how glorious is blessed Stephen the Martyr and Deacon, who ahead of the Apostles deserved to possesss the kingdom of heaven and to see the Son at the Father's right!)
Tu principatum tenes in choro Martyrum similis Angelo: qui pro te lapidantibus Deum deprecatus es, beate Stephane, intercede pro nobis ad Dominum.
(Thou holdest the first place in the choir of Martyrs like an Angel: thou who didst beseech God for those who stoned thee, blessed Stephen, intercede for us with the Lord.)
— Magnificat anthems from the Dominican Rite

May I take this opportunity belatedly to congratulate my friend Rev Br Paul Rowse, O.P., who was ordained deacon earlier this month?  He knows that my finances prevented me from attending his ordination (and that of his colleague, now Fr Vincent), just as I missed his solemn profession, despite being specially invited, mea culpa: I take this opportunity to declare I will make every effort to make his priestly ordination sometime next year...

I assume that these two newly ordained friars will have been very busy over Christmas, and may well to-day be enjoying a dies non (Dominican jargon for a day when the Prior dispenses the community from the choral office, on account of their tiredness; this usually happens thrice a year, after Christmas, after Easter and after St Dominic's Day).  "Sleep on, and take your rest!"  ;-)

In the meanwhile, I pray that he, like Stephen, may be full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, full of grace and fortitude, endowed with the grace of preaching for the salvation of souls and the glory of God, holding fast to the mystery of faith.

He will be amused, no doubt, to recall that Scripture and the Liturgy compare deacons to angels, as servants of the Lord, ministering at the Holy Table, and His messengers, preaching the Word...

Since as a strange sort of volunteer I also hold a running brief for promoting the patrimony of those Anglicans coming into union with the Church, here is the BCP final Collect from "The Ordering of Deacons", changed to the singular:

ALMIGHTY God, giver of all good things, who of thy great goodness hast vouchsafed to accept and take this thy servant unto the Office of Deacon in thy Church; Make him, we beseech thee, O Lord, to be modest, humble, and constant in his Ministration, to have a ready will to observe all spiritual Discipline; that he, having always the testimony of a good conscience, and continuing ever stable and strong in thy Son Christ, may so well behave himself in this inferior Office, that he may be found worthy to be called unto the higher Ministries in thy Church; through the same thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and honour, world without end. Amen.

On the Feast of Stephen

To-day is the feast of my confirmation patron, and, despite mortal flesh wanting to rest after the exertions (religious and culinary) of Christmas, I rose from bed for early Mass at Carmel for to honour St Stephen, since I always feel bad if through sloth I miss the Liturgy for his feast.

Fr Peter was Thomistic in his approach: Is it not incongruous to think on blood and gore the day after Christmas, when surely the whole Octave should be about the Christ-Child?  No, said he, on the contrary this feast of the First Martyr is all about Christ and His Life: for in death the martyr does not reject life, but offers it, as Christ did His whole life long, to the glory of God.  He pointed out to the nuns that they "with all their spare time" (titters from within the screen) ought take time to read at one sitting the whole history of St Stephen in Acts chapters six and seven, reflecting on how perfectly it mirrors Our Saviour's trial and passion: the betrayal, the false charges, the false witnesses, the true testimony of the accused, and the murderous anger of the judges at the mention of the truth about the Son of Man standing at the Right of God.  Both pray for their enemies as they die; only the manner of death is different, but this is not material.

So, too, with and for us: we all should live such lives in Christ as true Christians that with St Paul - converted by Stephen's prayers from a murderous enemy to the great Apostle - we may rightly say, I live, now not I, but Christ Who lives in me.  In such a case, our death (be it one of martyrdom, or one due to cancer, old age, or car accident, or any cause whatsoever) will be not a giving up of life but the entire holocaust of ourselves into the hands of God, an offering of our life to the Father, offered up in intercession for the benefit of others.

Dawn Mass

Yesterday morning, I returned to Carmel for the Dawn Mass of Christmas; I always aim to hear at least two, but rarely have the chance to assist at all three of the proper Masses of Christ's Nativity – as it is, the Midnight and the Dawn Masses go well together, since the Gospel passages read are from St Luke's ongoing account.

Of set purpose, said Fr Peter, is St Luke's habit of juxtaposing characters and their reactions.  The shepherds having told the people of the Child, they were amazed - full stop.  But, St Luke goes on, Mary pondered these things and treasured them in her heart.  Our faith must not be mere knowledge; it must partake of the Semitic sense of truly knowing through long heartfelt consideration - it is to be an intimate knowledge not of something but of Someone.

Taking another tack (and disconcertingly speaking it seemed directly to me), he went on about to-day's generation enmeshed in the Internet, partaking of instant information 24/7 thanks to modern information technology, blogging and googling away...   But God's information technology was and is to speak one Word everlastingly; His Revelation is necessarily a donation, a giving; it is the Communication vouchsafed our world: a Child is born for us, a Son given for us.

Like Our Lady, we must take the time to turn over in our minds these mysteries, take them to heart, treasure them – and, in the midst of the Christmas rush, take time for the one thing necessary: sit at the Lord's feet as Mary did, and not be Marthas only.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Meditation – The High Mystery of the Nativity

WE reade in Holy Writ of three supernaturall Productions, the one of Adam, the other of Eve, the last of Christ; which as most Miraculous we are now to treat of. Here in his Nativitie, as before in his Conception, let us turne Inquisition into Thanksgiving; and with one Spirit and voyce ring aloud, “The Stone which the Builders refused is the Head of the corner. This was the Lords doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us rejoyce, and be glad in it. This is our wedding-day, wherein by the Sonne, we are joyned to the Father. This is the day of the new Union, wherein He Who is God, remaineth the same that He was, yet for our sakes is borne, and made what He was not; wherein He that was every where without a Body, is made present to us by a Body, that what God hath by Nature, men might receive by Grace. This is a great, a joyfull, a fortunate, a desired day, the end of the Law, the end of the Prophets, the beginning of the Gospell, nay the Gospell it selfe. This is a day of State, usher’d by the Angels, follow’d by the Apostles. Let our Mindes remove the distance of time and place, and dwell a while with our All-Holy Lord and Blessed Lady, lest we loose the pleasure of this day, the least accident whereof is Mysterious.
…let us now enter ourselves, and view this pretty one in his narrow lodging; lay ourselves prostrate before Him; worship Him; and recreate ourselues with the lovely Object. And that our delight may be the greater, let us first behold Him, and His sweetest Mother a part, and then both together. But let us here shut out the Pharisees, and barre them the sight of this Heavenly Infant, who urge the Law, and reject Him the Author of it. Let us exclude the Arrians, who deny his Coequalitie with the Father; and the Sabellians, who confound the Trinitie, of which He is distinctly One and hold that there is in It One Essence, and One Person: and the Samosatenians, who derogate from His Nature, and avouch the Word (Which truly He is) to be no other then a vanishing Sound. Nor let us onely keepe out these, but the whole swarme also of Atheists, and Hereticks. Let the Philosophers too stay without, who not so impious, yet more ignorant, cannot dive to the bottome of this Mystery. But to all those who are honour’d in the Assumption and Profession of His glorious Name, a free Accesse is granted. Enter then you little Flock, you few whom His Father hath bestowed on Him; and see Him, Who when He gave the Law appeared in Fire, now He offers Grace involv’d in Hay. Yet in this dejected posture, in this course manner while He lay, He wanted not a whole Army of Angelicall Spirits that declar’d His Birth to Men; and they who had before chanted His Praises as He sate in Glory, now sing His Goodnesse lying in the Cratch. Though He have a hoomely roofe over His Head, the East observes His Approach. Though the poverty of His Humanitie obscures His Deity, the Starres in Heaven make it known. Behold Him who came Humble to the humble, for the humble, and yet His Humility is above all sublimity. Reverently, and intentively, look on Him Who descended from Heaven to Earth; Who came to you, into you, Who is borne in the night, borne in the midst of Winter, and borne (after the wretched humane condition) naked, and none offer Him assistance. Swadling clothes are wanting; some ragges are found out; a Cradle is missing; a Manger is at hand.

Here He cryes to you, and holds up His pretty Hands to Heaven, which He cals to witnesse that He can humble Himselfe no lower. Can you view this humble, this mercifull spectacle, and not weepe yourselues into marble? O speedily put on sackcloth! besprinckle yourselues with Ashes; kneele downe in the dust and dung under the Manger, where your Lord lyes; knock your selues on the bosomes; fetch sighs and grones from the bottom of your hearts; repay Him the teares He lent you; and by your sad gesture and deportment demonstrate how much you are bound to Him who suffered for you even in His Birth.”

Anthony Stafford, The Femall Glory: or, the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1635), “Her Delivery”, pages 102-103 & 110-113.

Merry Christmas One and All

...the white stars fairly blaze / At midnight in the cold and frosty sky...

(Banjo Paterson, The Man from Snowy River)

These lines came into my head as I beheld the heavens, when I came home from Midnight Mass: Orion to the north, the Southern Cross and Pointers to the south, and the great band of the Milky Way overhead.  "The heavens are telling the glory of God..."

Mass at Carmel was a beautiful celebration of Christ's Birth, the modern rite at its best.  Fr Peter Lucas, O.P., a wise Dominican well-known to me, and an excellent preacher, gave us a firm message, taking as his text the Epistle (Titus ii, 11-15a), and the Apostle's words therein concerning Jesus Christ, that He "gave Himself for us".  Christ is the Gift, in memory of Whom all gifts are to be given and received - so what if things be commercial, so long as He be honoured therein.  Now, with any present, we accept it, unwrap it (not leaving it on the shelf), marvel at it, and - if it be clothing - put it on.  How much the more so with Christ: here and now, we must accept Him and all He is, the Incarnate Son of God; we must not leave off at this, leaving Him alone, but go on to take Him to ourselves; we must in sober truth marvel at Him, Who He is and why He is come - this is prayer - ; and we must "put on Christ", living henceforth a Christian life.

Light, light the darkness cannot overcome, this holy night lit up with light, the Eternal Light come down, Light from Light, true God from true God; beholding our God made visible, we are caught up in love of the God we cannot see - so sings Holy Church in the Christmas Preface.  We sang Adeste fideles - "O come, all ye faithful" - that hymn of adoration of Christ, written for Benediction; we sang "O little town of Bethlehem", singing of the coming of the everlasting Light, while mortals sleep and angels sing:

Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis.

A wonderful Christmas, to you all, dear readers, whoever you be: God bless you, in Christ.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From the Christmas Martyrology

To-day, at Prime for the 24th of December in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Nine, was read the Martyrology for to-morrow, the 25th of December (I imitate the seventeenth Century style):

...since the Creation of the World, when (in the Beginning) GOD created the Heaven and the Earth; and from the Flood, the Two Thousand Nine Hundred and Fiftieth Year; from the Birth of Abraham, the Two Thousand and Fifteenth; from Moses, and the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt, the One Thousand, Five Hundred and Tenth; from the anointment of David as King, the One Thousand, Three Hundred and Second; in the Sixty-Fifth Week, according to the Prophecy of Daniel; in the One Hundred and Ninety-Fourth Olympiad; in the Seven Hundred and Fifty-Second Year from the Building of the City of Rome; in the Forty-Second Year of the Emperor Octavian Augustus, all the World composed at Peace, in the Sixth Age of the World, JESUS CHRIST, Eternal GOD and eternal SON of the FATHER, desiring to consecrate the World by His most devout Advent, and nine months having pass'd since His Conception, 
(All kneel)

in Bethlehem of Judæa was born of the Virgin Mary, being made Man.

The Nativity of Our Lord JESUS CHRIST according to the Flesh.

This holy day is marked by four commemorations of Christ's beloved servants, His saints: St Anastasia, Virgin and Martyr, who together with two hundred men and seventy women suffered many and varied torments under the Emperor Diocletian; St Peter Nolasco, Confessor, Founder of the Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the Redemption of Christians held captive by the Moors and Saracens; St Eugenia, Virgin and Martyr, who was put to death by the sword at Rome in the reign of the Emperor Gallienus; and most notable of all, a great company of the shining army of martyrs praising God:

At Nicomedia, the Passion of many thousands of Martyrs, who, when they were come together for Mass upon the Nativity of CHRIST, Diocletian the Emperor ordered the doors of the Church closed, and a Fire prepared all about, and a tripod with Incense set before the doors, and with a great voice to cry a Proclamation that whosoever would wish to flee the Conflagration, should come out the doors and offer Incense to Jove; and when all with one voice replied that they most willingly would die for CHRIST, as Incense were they consumed with Fire, and thus on that very Day they deserv'd to be born in Heaven, upon which CHRIST once deigned to be born for the salvation of the World.

A Christmas Meditation - The Shepherds

What a brave assembly of Visitants of all conditions, resorted this day to this place, which then might rightly be called the Randevous of the Saints? Would you see those who are above men, but below Him who is borne? Behold the Angels singing His Birth. Do you desire to behold the Married? Here you have Zachary and Elizabeth. The Unmarried? Here you have Symeon. Widdows? Here you have Anna. Priests? Here againe you have Zachary. Wise men? Here you have them from the East. Ideots? You have here the Shepheards. But here is to be noted, that these keepers of beasts heare the voyce of the Angels before any of the other, first receive the Gospell, and first divulge it. And in this they were more happie than Augustus himselfe, who (though he had made a firme Peace by Sea and Land, and had now the third time shut up the Temple of Ianus) yet was he ignorant of the Blessed Peace concluded on betwixt God and Man.
O how much sometimes Ignorance avails in Divine Matters! Kings, Potentates, the Rulers of the Earth, and the Wise of this world are asleepe while Christ is borne. These most simple of Mortals, and innocent as the creatures they tend, watch all night; and therefore are first made partakers of these joyfull news. As their owne wooll, not yet dipt in any dye, readily drinks in any colour they please to bestow on it: so their minds voyd of all humane Wisedome, greedily suckt in the Divine; Faith is the Compendium of Salvation; and humane knowledge of times, the obstacle of Faith. Aristotle having confined to Heaven, the Maker, and Moover of it, would never have beleeved His Birth here below. Plato would have derided this Miraculous relation, who the more he attributed to God, the lesse would he have expected His so humble comming into the world. Neither would the Stoicks who held God to be a Fire; nor Hipocrates, who thought Him to be a Warm’th, ever have look’t for Him clad in Flesh and Bloud. Wherefore they are here elected Witnesses of this strange Truth, whose Science was of ability strongly to beleeve, not wittily to dispute. O what proficients in Faith did these rusticall Swaines prove in a moment! What a profound secret is imparted to them? Let us examine the verity of this by that infallible Touch-stone, the text.

[S. Luke ii. 8.] And there were in the same Country, Shepheards abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night, because of their flocke, and loe the Angell of the Lord came upon them, and the Glory of the Lord shone about them, and they were sore afraid. Then the Angell said unto them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold I bring you tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: That is, that unto you is borne this day a Saviour, Which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a Signe unto you; you shall finde the Childe swadled and layd in a Cratch. And straight way there was with the Angell a multitude of heavenly Souldiers, praysing God, and saying; Glory be to God in the high Heaven, and Peace on Earth, and towards men good will. And it came to passe that when the Angels were gone away from thence into Heaven, that the Shepheards said one to another; ‘Let us goe then unto Bethlem, and see this thing that is come to passe, which the Lord hath shewed unto us; so they came with haste, and found both Mary and Ioseph with the Babe layd in the Cratch. And when they had seene it, they publisht abroad the thing that was told them of that Childe.”

Here three things especially are remarkable:
First, their forwardnesse in believing:
Secondly, the speed they made to see what they had believed, and
Thirdly, to publish what they had seene.

That they quickly believed, appeares by the haste they made to see. They no sooner saw Him, but they found Him to be the King of Israell indeed, yet withall to be a Shepheard. They instantly discerne this to be the Shepheard, Who was to lay downe His Life for His Flocke. The Prince of all Shepheards Whose sheepe-fold is the world; the Shepheard that was to seperate the Goates from the Sheepe. They discover’d this to be the immaculate Lambe that was to take away the sinnes of the world. They disclos’d this Lamb to be the greatest Lyon of the Tribe of Iudah. Whom now they looke on in the Cratch, Saint Iohn shall hereafter behold on His Throne. These men, in whom there was no guile, as they could not deceive others, so they could not in this be deceived. They needed not suspect any fallacy, and therefore might safely relate this Divine Wonder to all they met.

— Anthony Stafford, The Femall Glory: or, the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1635), “Her Delivery”, pages 103-7.

The Royal Hours

Of old time the Eastern Emperor assisted at the Hours of Prime, Terce, Sext and None on certain great days, and among them, on the Vigil of Christmas; hence they were styled Royal Hours, which name they retain in the Byzantine Rite.

On this day, then, special extra-long services are held - or rather, just one super-long service, by concatenation - during which, not only are three proper psalms read at each of Prime, Terce, Sext and None, but at each are read a Prokeimenon (answering to a Gradual), then a Lesson, Epistle and Gospel. These amplifications of the normal Hours are celebrated with solemnity.

Those wishing to consult the texts, follow this link to the Royal Hours of Christmas.

There is also a Catechesis of St Theodore the Studite for the Nativity of Christ that is read at Byzantine Rite Prime this day: a beautiful patristic passage.

My European Itinerary

As I've mentioned in previous postings, I'm off to the Old Country, and thence to Italy, for a few weeks after Christmas.

For the benefit of my friends and well-wishers, here are my finalized travel plans:

Wednesday 30th December

Fly to Melbourne at 9:55 am, arriving at 11:00 am; depart Melbourne at 10:25 pm for Dubai...

Thursday 31st December

Arrive Dubai at 5:40 am local time, departing at 7:45 am; and arrive London (Heathrow) at 11:35 am GMT.

(It'll be interesting to see the UK, but I must admit my images of London are largely informed by watching The Bill; at least my accommodation is just down the road from Liz and Phil...)

Friday 1st January

At some point during New Year's Day, my mate Michael (whom I'm meeting in London) and I will travel up to Oxford, weather permitting!

Sunday 3rd January

Back to London...

Monday 4th January

I fly from London (Gatwick) at 8:20 am, arriving Edinburgh at 9:45 am.

Thursday 7th January

Depart Edinburgh 6:10 am, arriving Paris (Charles de Gaulle) 9:10 am, then flying on from there at 10:05 am, arriving Florence at 12:10 pm.

(It will be good to get back there: Firenze - città bellisima!)

Saturday 9th January

I will take the train down to Rome in the morning...

Thursday 14th January

Depart Rome at 8:25 pm, bound for Dubai.

Friday 15th January

Arrive Dubai 5:05 am, depart 9:40 am; arrive Singapore 8:50 pm, depart 10:25 pm.

Saturday 16th January

Return to Australia: arrive Melbourne 8:45 am.

(My friends at the Dominican Priory in Camberwell have kindly agreed to let me stay the night there.)

Sunday 17th January

Depart Melbourne 3:20 pm; return home to Launceston 4:40 pm.

Maps generated by the
Great Circle Mapper -
copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Many thanks to Great Circle Mapper, with which I've plotted my course (excl. Oxford and back, about 200 km)... it turns out I'll be travelling around 37,000 km in total, about 90% of the circumference of the earth - I love trivial facts.

A Fine End to Advent

To-day is the Vigil of Christmas in the old rite: a strange Vigil, already shot through with the anticipated joy of Christmas, since - though at Matins the ferial psalms are read, as normally for vigils - all the Day Hours use the psalms of Sundays and feasts.

I again was just a little late in arriving for Mass in the new rite this morning, slipping into the pew as the first reading's title was read... this at least gave me reason to quietly read the traditional Collect pro pia devotione, which is used through the Hours of the Office until Vespers:

Deus, qui nos redemptionis nostræ annua expectatione lætificas: præsta; ut Unigenitum tuum, quem Redemptorem læti suscipimus, venientem quoque judicem securi videamus, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum: Qui tecum vivit...

(God, Who dost gladden us by the yearly expectation of our redemptin: grant, that Thy Onlybegotten, Whom we joyfully receive as Redeemer, we also may securely behold as the coming Judge, Our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who with Thee liveth...)

What an excellent prayer! It sums up both our Advent recapitulation of the desire of the ages for the coming of Christ as Redeemer, Whom again as our Redeemer here and now we celebrate in this feast, and moreover our looking forward to His return as our Judge, praying that on that Day we will receive him without shame.

Our awareness of the mystery and solemnity of weekday Mass at St Francis -our daily encounter with our Redeemer, yes, and our coming Judge - has been heightened, I would add, by the simple expedient of the singing of the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei in the simplest of chant: it really helps.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Emmanuel

When in past years I lived in Melbourne, and had the chance to pray daily before the tabernacle at St Dominic's, East Camberwell, I used to use Newman's formula for a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament, from his Meditations and Devotions, consisting of an Act of Faith in the Real Presence, and then one of the O Antiphons:

+ In the Name...

I place myself in the presence of Him, in whose Incarnate Presence I am before I place myself there.
I adore Thee, O my Saviour, present here as God and man, in soul and body, in true flesh and blood.
I acknowledge and confess that I kneel before that Sacred Humanity, which was conceived in Mary's womb, and lay in Mary's bosom; which grew up to man's estate, and by the Sea of Galilee called the Twelve, wrought miracles, and spoke words of wisdom and peace; which in due season hung on the cross, lay in the tomb, rose from the dead, and now reigns in heaven.
I praise, and bless, and give myself wholly to Him, who is the true Bread of my soul, and my everlasting joy.

Sunday: O Sapientia...
Monday: O Adonai...
Tuesday: O Radix Jesse...
Wednesday: O Clavis David...
Thursday: O Oriens...
Friday: O Rex Gentium...
Saturday: O Emmanuel...

These Advent anthems are ideal for worship of Christ in the Eucharist, since they capture the yearning for Him that we ought have before the Blessed Sacrament - since there we wish once more to receive Him in Holy Communion, to be in union with Him, and thereby make our spiritual communion with Him - just as the old farmer explained his method of prayer to the Curé of Ars: "I look at the Good God, and the Good God looks at me." That is true Eucharistic Adoration.

Each week I was glad as Saturday came round, since Saturday was the day to pray O Emmanuel, the greatest of these Advent anthems, since it names Our Lord as the Lord our God, come to save us.

(Please follow the link to the chant, the text and the sources of O Emmanuel.)