Thursday, April 29, 2010

St Peter Martyr

A great saint, this, whose feast falls this day: St Peter of Verona, Dominican preacher extraordinaire against heretical depravity and martyr, stedfastly adhering to our Most Holy Faith despite being born of Manichee parents, and being at length done to death by a hireling of the enemies of Catholic truth – but he had the victory as a second St Stephen, for his murder repented, himself joined the Dominicans and had a happy death.  Blessed are they who die in the Lord!

St Peter is an Easter saint: preaching the true resurrection of Christ, Who was just as surely true God and true Man, he had the Paschal Sequence Victimæ Paschali laudes immolent Christiani ("Christians, to the Paschal Victim offer sacrifice and praise") on his lips as he walked toward Milan the day of his martyrdom: thus he merited to follow in His Lord's footsteps, and to offer his body a holocaust in honour of the Paschal Victory of Christ, the King of Martyrs.

Such was the popular acclaim that St Peter was canonized at Milan by the Pope only a year after his death; his skull, cruelly chopped by a billhook, is still exhibited as a holy relic there.  As he lay dying, his last act was to write Credo in Deum with his own cerebral blood: surely an apt death for a true Preacher.  Now, with the Lamb once slain, he lives for ever.  Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Irreverence Inseparable from Impiety

I long ago read, and have ever since remembered, that "irreverence can never be separated from impiety": so far as I recalled, Trent said so somewhere in regards to the sacred liturgy.

Well, thanks to the relevant quotation having just featured in a posting at The Anglo-Catholic blog, I have finally sourced it, and moreover have found the Latin original, in the Decretum de observandis et evitandis in celebratione missæ [Decree about things to be observed and things to be avoided in the celebration of Mass], which the Council of Trent passed on the l7th September 1562:

“The local ordinaries shall be zealously concerned and be bound to prohibit and abolish all those things which either covetousness, which is a serving of idols, or irreverence, which can scarcely be separated from ungodliness, or superstition, a false imitation of true piety, have introduced."
...ut ordinarii locorum episcopi ea omnia prohibere atque e medio tollere sedulo curent ac teneantur quae vel avaritia idolorum servitus vel irreverentia quae ab impietate vix seiuncta esse potest vel superstitio verae pietatis falsa imitatrix induxit.

There it appears: "irreverence, which can scarcely be separated from impiety" – irreverentia quæ ab impietate vix sejuncta esse potest – or, "irreverence, which from impiety is scarcely able to be separated". I have remembered this almost right, but "scarcely" is more accurate than "never".

Irreverence is scarce separable from impiety.

Chant Practice

There's nothing like a singalong... especially if it be Gregorian chant that's sung.  

Our little coterie gathered at St Francis for a practice led by yours truly, and it all went well: the simple Regina cæli as a start (for to invoke Our Lady's mediation), then the syllabic hymn Jesu dulcis memoria, followed by the Easter Sequence Victimæ Paschali laudes, and finally, launching into the Ordinary of the Mass, the Kyrie, Ite, Agnus Dei and Sanctus of the Missa de Angelis, of course.  A good time was had by all, though I had a dry throat after ninety minutes!  

On the way home, I stopt to buy milk, and also bought a treat my aunt introduced me to after her Scottish sojourn: oatcakes.  Yum.

Australian Anglo-Catholics' Petition for an Ordinariate

That sterling blog, The Anglo-Catholic, has just provided the full text of the petition of the Anglican Catholic Church of Australia (the local branch of the Traditional Anglican Communion) to Cardinal Levada, as Prefect of the CDF, for an Australian Personal Ordinariate under the terms of Anglicanorum cœtibus.

Leave is sought to establish an interim Governing Council, to have permission to submit the initial terna to the Holy Father of suggested persons to become the first Ordinary, and the Holy See is notified that the ACCA will hold a National Synod in Queensland in the last week of July, in order to unite, by appropriate binding decisions, all interested parties who will seek to enter full corporate communion with the Pope.

I was pleased to see the signatures of such worthies as David Robarts, the local auxiliary of Hepworth; if all proceeds as hoped, I shall very gladly be attending his Masses once all is settled.

It further gladdens the heart to read that the Church of the Torres Strait is making its own petition to the Holy See for corporate reunion.

We praise Thee, O God!

Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization

Apparently, His Holiness is to announce his establishment of a new dicastery of the Curia – a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.  

Its remit?  To oversee (episkopein) the fresh proclamation of the Gospel in Europe, North America and the rest of the West (surely including Australia and New Zealand) – and even in some parts of Latin America – where belief and practice of the Faith has alarmingly declined now for many decades; where, in fact, the Christian identity has been lost.

It will be, in other, blunter words, the equivalent of Propaganda Fide for non-Christian or "mission" countries: it will supervise the mission to reconvert post-Christian lands.  How ironic that Australia only ceased being under Propaganda in 1976, was it, and now a generation later we are ranked thus!

I wonder if there will be any self-questioning of the methods by which the post-Conciliar madness has lead to a dumbing-down of the Faith, indeed to stirring up dissent against it, and to worship "in the beauty of holiness" becoming "the banality of ugliness"...

The fact that the West will come under this dicastery, while the flourishing churches of the rest of the world will not, is a terrible indictment of the churches of the West – which, how surprisingly, by ineptitude and permission of dissent have compassed their own destruction.

I'm not sure I like the polyanna sound of "New Evangelization", one of those John Paul II coinages; it sounds so positive – and of course spreading the true Gospel is – but it neglects the sad fact that bishops, priests and laity have all conspicuously failed to transmit the Faith to the next generation.  If I had a dollar for every Catholic couple who've told me, "We paid to send our kids to Catholic schools, and none of them have kept the Faith..."

Then again, "Remedial Evangelization" sounds a bit wrong.

In any case, if this is to be but another Vatican source for long, fine-sounding documents that no one reads nor implements, then it will but add to the (quite tiny) bureaucracy in Rome.  If it really attempts what it declares, it will need to have significant powers, like those of Propaganda Fide of old, over bishops and dioceses, to strongly promote the true preaching the Faith, the Faith that saves.

I really hope it won't just be a front for promoting some of the Catholic Church's strange "new religious communities", such as the Neo-Cats.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Lord's Most Holy Crown of Thorns – III

Sure enough, the 1738 Paris Missal has a proper Mass for the Feast of the Reception of the Holy Crown of Thorns, but kept on the 11th of August.  As with most of the Neo-Gallican formularies of that Missal, the chants are selected entirely from Scripture (whereas the Dominican Mass thereof begins with the Introit Gaudeamus omnes).  Only the Gospel and the Collect of the two Masses are the same.

What particularly interested me were the Parisian Secret (which alludes to Ps 118:120a, Confige timore tuo carnes meas – "nail down my flesh with the fear of Thee") and Postcommunion (with its pleasing contrast of Christ's humiliation with His exaltation), which I now subjoin:

Deus, qui, ut peccatorum nostrorum spinas evelleres, Filii tui caput spinis transfigi voluisti: carnem nostram et corda nostra casto tuo timore confige; ut in mentibus nostris Spiritus tui gratia renovatis, et cupiditas extirpata deficiat, et caritas plantata proficiat; Per eumdem... in unitate ejusdem...
(God, Who, that Thou mightest pluck out the thorns of our sins, didst will the thorns to transfix the head of Thy Son: nail our flesh and heart with Thy chaste fear; that in our minds renewed by the grace of Thy Spirit, both extirpated cupidity may fail, and implanted charity make progress; Through the same... in the unity of the same...)
Deus, qui passionis Filii tui instrumenta fecisti ejus ornamenta triumphi; præsta per hæc mysteria, quæ sumpsimus, ut non erubescamus illius improperium portare, cujus ignominiæ insignia veneramur: Per eumdem...
(God, Who didst make the instruments of Thy Son's Passion the ornaments of His triumph: grant by these mysteries which we have received, that we may not blush to bear His shame, Whose insignia of ignominy we venerate.  Through the same...)

By contrast, the traditional Roman Missal, at least in older editions (such as the 1958 altar missal I have before me, whose flyleaf reveals it cost £13/6/-), provides a Mass of the Sacred Crown of Thorns to be said in some places (pro aliquibus locis) on the Friday after Ash Wednesday.  This Mass stands closer in its texts to the Dominican – it has the same Lesson and Gospel, and the same orations – but the Introit is the same as that in the Paris Missal (excepting the Psalm verse), and likewise they share the same first part of the Gradual.

The Roman and Dominican secret is as follows:

Tuorum militum, Rex omnipotens, virtutem robora: ut, quos in hujus mortalitatis stadio unigeniti Filii tui corona lætificat; consummato cursu certaminis, immortalitatis bravium apprehendant.  Per eumdem...
Strengthen, almighty King, Thy soldiers with power: that those in the stadium of this mortal life may rejoice in the Crown of Thine Onlybegotten Son; having finished the course of strife, may they lay hold of the prize of immortality.  Through the same...

This secret is an evident allusion to St Paul's words – the Apostle hoped to be crowned with glory by the Lord; but first the Lord Himself had worn the crown of suffering:

Nescitis quod ii qui in stadio currunt, omnes quidem currunt, sed unus accipit bravium? Sic currite ut comprehendatis.  Omnis autem qui in agone contendit, ab omnibus se abstinet, et illi quidem ut corruptibilem coronam accipiant: nos autem incorruptam.
Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain.  And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible one.
 — I Cor. ix, 24-25
Labora sicut bonus miles Christi Jesu.  Nemo militans Deo implicat se negotiis sæcularibus: ut ei placeat, cui se probavit.  Nam et qui certat in agone, non coronatur nisi legitime certaverit.
Bonum certamen certavi, cursum consummavi, fidem servavi.  In reliquo reposita est mihi corona justitiæ, quam reddet mihi Dominus in illa die, justus judex: non solum autem mihi, sed et iis, qui diligunt adventum ejus.
Labour as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No man, being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with secular businesses; that he may please him to whom he hath engaged himself.  For he also that striveth for the mastery, is not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming.
— II Tim. ii, 3-5; iv, 7-8

Likewise, here is the postcommunion the Roman and Dominican formularies share:

Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus: ut hæc sacramenta quæ sumpsimus, per sacrosanctæ Filii tui coronæ, cujus solemnia recensemus, virtutem, nobis proficiant ad medelam.  Per eumdem...
(Bowing low we pray Thee, almighty God: that these sacraments which we have received, by the power of the holy and sacred Crown of Thy Son, whose solemnity we celebrate, may profit us as a healing remedy.  Through the same...)

It may seem strange that we beg God to grant that the Sacrament heal us "by the power of the... Crown [of thorns]", but of course it is by the most stupendous merit of the voluntary sacrifice of His Passion – one element of which was bearing the cruel imposition of a thorny crown – that we are saved and raised up, and to receive Christ's very Flesh and Blood is precisely to be brought into contact with His Sacred Humanity, the Instrument whereby our salvation was won on Calvary, and from which power goes forth to heal.  All the Sacraments have their power from the Passion: and to receive a Sacrament is to be touched by the living power of Christ, Priest and Victim, a grace won for us on Calvary's tree.

It is interesting that the same feast is provided with such differing texts.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

1962 Dominican Ordo for April and May 2010

Very overdue is my Dominican Rite 1962 Ordo for the Divine Office for April –which is almost over! – and May 2010, which covers the most holy Easter season, but here is it at last:

1 – Thursday of the Lord's Supper ["Holy Thursday"] – I class
2 – Friday of the Lord's Passion and Death ["Good Friday"] – I
3 – Holy Saturday – I
4 – The Holy Day of Pascha ["Easter Sunday"] – I with Octave of the I class
5 – Monday in the Paschal Octave – I
6 – Tuesday in the Paschal Octave – I
7 – Wednesday in the Paschal Octave – I
8 – Thursday in the Paschal Octave – I
9 – Friday in the Paschal Octave – I
10 – Saturday in the Paschal Octave – I
11 – Sunday in albis [when the neophytes laid aside their baptismal robes], the Octave of Easter – I
12 – Monday of the week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria)
13 – Tuesday of the week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria)
14 – Wednesday of the week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria), with Memoria of SS Tiburtius, Valerian & Maximus, MM, at Lauds
15 – Thursday of the week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria)
16 – Friday of the week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria)
17 – Our Lady on Saturday – IV
18 – 2nd Sunday after Pascha – IV (feria)
19 – Monday of the 2nd week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria)
20 – St Agnes of Montepulciano, O.P., V – III
21 – St Anselm, B, C, D – III
22 – Thursday of the 2nd week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria)
23 – Friday of the 2nd week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria), with Memoria of St George, M, at Lauds
24 – The Lord's Most Holy Crown of Thorns – III
25 – 3rd Sunday after Pascha – II, with Memoria of St Mark, Evangelist, at Lauds
26 – Monday of the 3rd week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria)
27 – Tuesday of the 3rd week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria)
28 – St Paul of the Cross, C – III
29 – St Peter [of Verona], O.P., M – II
30 – St Catharine of Siena, O.P., V – II; 1st Vespers of St Joseph the Worker

As may be seen, the Dominican Calendar for April omits several Roman feasts (St Hermenegild, St Justin, SS Soter & Caius, St Fidelis of Sigmaringen, SS Cletus & Marcellinus, St Peter Canisius), but keeps several of its own (St Agnes of Montepulciano, the Crown of Thorns), and celebrates two Dominican saints as feasts of the second class.

1 – St Joseph the Worker – I
2 – 4th Sunday after Pascha – II
3 – Monday of the 4th week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria), with Memoria of SS Alexander, Eventius & Theodulus, MM, at Lauds
4 – St Monica, Widow – III
5 – St Pius V, O.P., P & C – III
6 – Thursday of the 4th week after the Paschal Octave – IV (feria)
7 – St Stanislaus, B & M – III
8 – The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces – III
9 – 5th Sunday after Pascha – II
10 – St Antonius [of Florence], O.P., B & C – II, with Memoria of SS Gordian & Epimachus, MM, at Lauds
11 – SS Philip & James, Apostles – II
12 – Vigil of the Ascension – II; 1st Vespers of the Ascension
13 – The Ascension of the Lord – I
14 – Friday after the Ascension – IV (feria)
15 – St John Baptist de la Salle, C – III
16 – Sunday after the Ascension – II
17 – Monday after the Ascension – IV (feria)
18 – St Venantius, M – III
19 – St Peter Celestine, P & C – III
20 – Thursday before the Vigil of Pentecost – IV (feria)
21 – Friday before the Vigil of Pentecost – IV (feria)
22 – Saturday of the Vigil of Pentecost – I; 1st Vespers of Pentecost
23 – The Day of Pentecost – I with Octave of I class
24 – Monday in the Octave of Pentecost – I
25 – Tuesday in the Octave of Pentecost – I
26 – Wednesday of Quarter Tense in the Octave of Pentecost – I
27 – Thursday in the Octave of Pentecost – I
28 – Friday of Quarter Tense in the Octave of Pentecost – I
29 – Saturday of Quarter Tense in the Octave of Pentecost – I; 1st Vespers of Trinity Sunday
30 – 1st Sunday after Pentecost: the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity – I
31 – The Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen – II, with Memoria of St Petronilla, V, at Lauds

Again, the Dominican calendar shews some differences from the Roman...

Chant Practice This Tuesday

In place of dear Fr Allan (who's away at present), I've been asked to lead our Gregorian chant practice at St Francis' Church, Riverside, on Tuesday night at 7.30 pm.  

All welcome!

Launceston ANZAC Day Service

His Worship the Mayor (in his furs, lace ruff and chain of office), with the President of the Returned and Services League (Launceston sub-branch), and the Chaplain to the Mayor, presided over to-day's 95th anniversary ANZAC Day service at the Cenotaph.  It's a good thing to hear short speeches of unabashed patriotism in this day and age.  A high school student, who last year had won a prize to travel with other Tasmanian youth to visit Gallipoli and the Western Front, likewise spoke with newfound knowledge and conviction about those who died that we might live in freedom.  

Behind them stood the Cenotaph, with the serried ranks of names of the fallen, beneath "For God and Country", "1914-1919", "1939-1946" and further lists of years when Australians fought in Korea, in Vietnam, and so forth.  During the minute's silence, I said a private De profundis for the glorious dead (the Chaplain being a Protestant, there was no direct prayer that they rest in peace, though he prayed well for all other ends).  After the service, I came up to its base to see the many wreaths laid as part of the commemoration, by politicians, veterans, schoolchildren and more.

There was an interesting choice of Scripture reading: the beginning of David's praise of God for his deliverance from all his enemies, which is given twice in Holy Writ, as II Kings (Samuel) xxii, 1-7 and also as Psalm 17(18):1-6 (plus the superscription).  I quote here (from the former passage) what was quite aptly described as the prayer of every soldier in the midst of battle:

And David spoke to the Lord the words of this canticle, in the day that the Lord delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul, and he said: The Lord is my rock, and my strength, and my saviour.  God is my strong one, in him will I trust: my shield, and the horn of my salvation: he lifteth me up, and is my refuge: my saviour, thou wilt deliver me from iniquity.  I will call on the Lord who is worthy to be praised: and I shall be saved from my enemies.  For the pangs of death have surrounded me: the floods of Belial have made me afraid. The cords of hell compassed me: the snares of death prevented me.  In my distress I will call upon the Lord, and I will cry to my God: and he will hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry shall come to his ears.

I was very pleased that we sang both the Royal and the National Anthems at the end.  After all, it was "God save our gracious King" that the soldiers sang right down to the last few decades, and it is their day; and since the defeat of the Republic Referendum in 1999, Australia remains what it has always been, an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown.  We have the freedom to determine our government and way of life, a freedom maintained by those who died in its defence and in defence of the free world (or, as used to be said unabashedly, "For God, King and Empire").


By this moment, first in New Zealand and then, a few hours later, from the East to the West of Australia, Dawn Services will have been held in every city, town and hamlet, commemorating the day and the hour in 1915 when the men of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps landed at ill-fated Gallipoli, bound for death and glory...

Soon – they're marshalling now – the ANZAC Day marches will begin (at least in this time zone).  I have fond memories of attending the Melbourne march back in 2006, was it, with an American friend: he was amazed at the fact that all returned servicemen march, together with current troops, bands, and so forth.  The Melbourne parade (beginning with several fellows drest as Australian cavalrymen of the Boer War) lasted for 3 hours!

It's 95 years since Gallipoli, and the days when you saw real ANZACs in the marches are now over; the last soldiers of WWI have gone to their reward; now those who fought in WWII are getting very old.  A sobering thought: as I've grown up, I've seen the last Diggers of the Great War fall: when I was a kid, taken by Dad to the March, those soldiers were only a little older than the Diggers of the Second World War are to-day.

Soon, I hope to go down town to attend the Launceston march (which begins at 10:15), and certainly to be at the Cenotaph for the 11am Service.  I feel it my civic duty.  "They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old: age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them." — "Lest we forget!"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Shitten Shepherds

For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;
And shame it is, if a prest take keep,
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,
By his clennesse, how that his sheep sholde lyve.
— The Canterbury Tales, The General Prologue, ll. 503-8

Chaucer indeed put it best: there is something wrong in the Church when there are "shitten shepherds and clean sheep".  I was very pleased, therefore, to read over at The Anglo Catholic, that Pope Benedict is, it seems, now making clear his intention to clear out the corrupt episcopate, riddled with mediocrity and malfeasance, with incompetence and bad will.  All power to him!

Allowing matters to slide, Popes since Paul VI have lamely presided over the most atrocious collapse in standards.  A bishop ought be an example of holiness and orthodoxy (the two being inseparable), and, moreover, possessed of a sure grasp of good order.  Where are the bishop-saints of old?  Too many bishops are a joke.  And guess what happens when fools are promoted above their station?  Now all the chickens have come home to roost: in many places gross maladministration, complicity even in crimes, has reached such a pitch as to be intolerable.

How comes it, by the way, that such a deviant as Rembert Weakland, emeritus Archbishop of Milwaukee, has not long since been degraded from the episcopate, ever since it became known that he paid off his male lover (catamite? or sodomite?) with diocesan funds?  He covered up for other evil priests who committed sexual abuse too.  Unblushingly, now he openly declares his perversion.  Quite rightly Pope Benedict has spoken about the need to purge out all such filth in the Church.

As the then Cardinal Ratzinger said when leading the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday 2005, just before his election, when reflecting upon the third Fall, at the 9th Station:

...Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall!...

What a herculean task is before our agèd Supreme Pontiff: to wash the Augean stables clean... as he prayed then, leading us in prayer, let us all pray now:

Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall. When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.

My Sheep Hear My Voice

My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me.  And I give them life everlasting; and they shall not perish for ever, and no man shall pluck them out of my hand.  That which my Father hath given me, is greater than all: and no one can snatch them out of the hand of my Father.  I and the Father are one.

— St John x, 27-30

This was the Gospel passage read at Mass to-night, which marked this as Good Shepherd Sunday (OF), when in our Easter joy we adore Jesus as our Shepherd, who is truly good: ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός: "good" is really inadequate, for the word means also "beautiful", "admirable", "excellent" and much more. 

Our visiting priest preached a little on the deep truth that God calls each and every one of us, and that this calling (expressed in our Baptism) is our vocation – our calling home to God, which we each are to live throughout life.  Soon-to-be-Blessed John Henry Newman was quoted, referencing his famous words:

1. God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all created to His glory—we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.
2. God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.
3. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about.
O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee. I trust Thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I—more loving to me than I myself. Deign to fulfil Thy high purposes in me whatever they be—work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see—I ask not to know—I ask simply to be used.

— Meditations on Christian Doctrine, I. Hope in God—Creator, (2) March 7, 1848

Before Mass, I'd been to confession – that sacrament which is indeed an act of worship, testifying to our true, felt need to always "come back to the Father" – and had been very much consoled when Father reminded me that God's love for me is a far, far stronger thing than my love (as a mere creature) for God.  

This in turn now reminds me of what "the sacred monster of Thomism", Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., called "the principle of predilection": one would not be greater than another did not God love that one more.  I have received so many blessings of nature and, I believe, of grace: in this I have proof of the great love that God has for me, because all I have, and am, is His gift.  God does not love because one is good, no; rather, God's love is active and creative: one whom God loves is made to be good.

How the Gospel corroborates this!  God's choice and election of His beloved cannot be overcome: they are His: "no one can pluck them out of My hand".  "Paschal triumph, Paschal joy, / Only sin can this destroy: / From the death of sin set free / Souls reborn, dear Lord, in Thee."  Great St Pius V died with these wonderful words of song on his lips:

 Quæsumus, Auctor omnium,
In hoc Paschali gaudio,
Ab omni mortis impetu
Tuum defende populum.

The Lord's Most Holy Crown of Thorns – II

Here are the proper hymns for the feast of the Crown of Thorns (kept on the 24th of April in the Dominican Rite), which I think are quite fine, although I can't spare the time to translate them, alas – first, for Matins and Vespers:

Æternæ Regi gloriæ 
Devota laudum cantica
Fideles solvant hodie 
Pro Corona Dominica.

Coronat Regem omnium
Corona contumeliæ,
Cujus nobis opprobrium 
Coronam confert gloriæ.

De spinarum aculeis 
Christi Corona plectitur, 
Qua ministris tartareis 
Mundi potestas tollitur. 

Corona Christi capitis, 
Sacro perfusa sanguine, 
Pœnis solutis debitis, 
Reos purgat a crimine. 

Laus Christo, Regi gloriæ, 
Pro Coronæ virtutibus, 
Qua nos reformans gratiæ 
Coronet in cælestibus.  Amen.

And at Lauds:

Lauda, fidelis concio,
Spinae trophæum inclytum,
Per quam perit perditio
Vitæque datur meritum.

Nos a puncturis liberat
Æterni Patris Filius,
Dum spinis pungi tolerat,
Spinarum culpæ nescius.

Dum spinarum aculeum
Christus pro nobis pertulit,
Per diadema spineum
Vitæ coronam contulit.

Plaudat turba fidelium,
quod per spinæ ludibrium
purgat Creator omnium
spineti nostri vitium.

Laus Christo, Regi gloriæ,
Pro Coronæ virtutibus,
Qua nos reformans gratiæ
Coronet in cælestibus.  Amen.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Lord's Most Holy Crown of Thorns

Feasts commemorating the Passion in Eastertide – an excellent idea!  Is not the Paschal Mystery of Christ's Cross and Resurrection the central mystery of salvation?

How pleased therefore I am to have just (by anticipation) prayed over to-morrow's Matins of the charming Dominican feast of the Sanctissima Corona Spineæ Domini, the Lord's Most Holy Crown of Thorns.

As the versicle at Matins has it,

Tuam Coronam adoramus, Domine, alleluia. – Tuum gloriosum recolimus triumphum, alleluia.

Thy Crown we adore, Lord, alleluia. – Thy glorious triumph we worship, alleluia.

(Of course, as Aquinas notes, who himself would have celebrated this feast, we pay to relics of the Passion a relative latria, worshipping not they themselves, which were foul idolatry, but Him Who shed His Blood upon them, suffering the Scourge, the Nails, the Thorns, the Cross, the Lance, all for our salvation.)

St Louis IX was gifted by Baldwin II (Latin Emperor of Constantinople) with the sacred relic of the Passion that is Our Lord's Crown of Thorns.  A kingly gift!  One refrains from enquiring too deeply into the sad events that led to the Latin Empire of Constantinople, and the redistribution of holy treasures from East to West...

Good king Louis commissioned the building of the Sainte-Chapelle, that marvel of stained glass, as a noble edifice itself one grand reliquary for the Crown of Thorns.  Later, after the outrages of the French Revolution, the relic was translated into the metropolitan church of Notre-Dame de Paris.  As two Friars Preachers had been deputed to bring the Crown to the king, St Louis gave several Spines therefrom as a gift to the Dominican Order; as the king ordered kept in his Holy Chapel the feast of the reception of the Crown of Thorns, so too the feast entered the calendar of the Dominican Order in the mid-thirteenth century.

(The above history I've cribbed from the third Lesson at Matins.)

The Dominican Office, in cleverly composed, archetypally mediæval responsories and antiphons, plays upon many themes: as at the Fall of Man it was told Adam, Thorns and thistles the land shall bring forth against you (Gen. iii, 18), "spines" or thorns may stand for Man's sin, and for his fallen state; while Christ, brought forth from a pure Virgin (sicut lilium inter spinas – Cant. ii, 2a), is as the Flower of a Lily among thorns, and by His death all are made alive: "the thorn [sting] of death is blunted by the Spines, when Life died, alleluia" – divine paradox! (Indeed, "O death, where is thy sting?")

Here is the whole masterful first Responsory, rendered as best I can:

R/. Spina carens Flos spina pungitur, per quam culpæ spina confringitur: * Spina mortis spinis retunditur, dum Vita moritur, alleluia.  V/.  Per hoc ludibrium hostis deluditur: mortis dominium per mortem tollitur.  * Spina mortis spinis retunditur, dum Vita moritur, alleluia.
R/.  Lacking the thorn [of any sin], the Flower is pricked with the thorn, by Which is broken the thorn of faults: * The thorn of death is blunted by the spines, when Life died, alleluia.  V/.  By this mockery the Enemy is duped: the dominion of death by death is taken away. * The thorn of death is blunted by the spines, when Life died, alleluia.

The Collect is as follows:

Præsta, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui in memoriam passionis Domini nostri Jesu Christi Coronam ejus spineam veneramur in terris, ab ipso gloria et honore coronari mereamur in cælis: Qui tecum vivit et regnat...
Grant, we beg, almighty God: that we, who in memory of the passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ do revere His thorny Crown on earth, by Him may deserve "to be crowned with glory and honour" (cf. Ps 8:6) in heaven: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth...

Some fight for earthly crowns, but we Christians contend for an incorruptible crown (I Cor. ix, 25): "Be ye faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Apoc. ii, 10b);  "Blessed is the man that suffereth temptation, for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised unto them that love Him" (James i, 12); "And when the Prince of pastors shall appear, he shall receive an immarcescible crown of glory," one that fadeth not away (cf. I Peter v, 4).

As the Apostle wrote, "As for the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the Just Judge, will render me on that Day: and not just to me, but to them that love His Advent."  (II Tim. iv, 8a)  We are to be crowned with blessedness – if worthy – because first Christ scorned not to wear the Crown of thorns.

In the mysterious Providence of the Almighty, Who is so omnipotent as to draw good even out of evil, it was permitted that the Eternal Son of God should be crowned with glory and honour (Ps 8:6) by being crowned with a mockery of cruel thorns, prest down into His scalp, "piercing the brain" as St Alphonsus wrote, all carried away.  Yet this was in truth the Crown of the King of Kings: "Yes, I Am a King".  "Thou hast placed upon His head a crown of precious stones" (Ps 20:4) – thorns made rarer and more precious than all gems by their empurpling with His roseate Blood.

When He was mockingly brought forth in purple and wearing this gory Crown, Pilate declared more truly than he knew, Behold the Man (St John xix, 5): comes the Day when all shall see Him, and the wicked shall wail, knowing their fate, while the just shall rejoice at the Advent of the Lord in glory.  "And I saw: and behold a white cloud, and sitting upon the cloud One like unto the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown."  (Apoc. xiv, 14)

In this Christ in His Passion was shewn forth as the true Priest, greater and more perfect than Aaron, who had worn some sort of crown or mitre in his priestly ministrations when offering the animal sacrifices that were the dumb figures and shadows of the Perfect Sacrifice of the God-Man.

As the first Lesson, quoting St Paul, tells us, "we see Jesus, on account of His suffering death, crowned with glory and honour, for that by the grace of God He tasted death in the place of all men."  (Heb. ii, 9)

As the antiphon of the Matins psalmody puts it more poetically,

Christum sub Serto spineo deridet plebs perfidiæ:
cujus cruore roseo Sertum confertur gloriæ, alleluia.

The perfidious crowd derided Christ 'neath Crown so thorny: 
by Whose roseate gore's conferred the Crown of glory, alleluia.

Et deduc me in via æterna

The first psalm at Vespers to-night was an old favourite: Psalm 138(139), Domine probasti me et cognovisti me.  But what caught mine eye was its last half-verse (24b): Et deduc me in via æterna – "and lead me in the way everlasting".

How marvellous this aspiration, this elevation of the mind and heart to God!  Let me be led, not into transient temptation, but rather up along the everlasting way, the way of changeless verity, of that which is eternal!  As I suspected he would, the great Augustine rightly divides these words of truth, indeed, points out Christ, Who uniquely fulfils these words; for Who but He is the Eternal, yea, and the Way?  He alone is the Via Æterna.

“And see,” says he, “if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 138:24).  “Search,” he says, “my paths,” that is, my counsels and thoughts “and lead me in the way everlasting”.  What else says he, but “lead me in Christ”?  For who is “the way everlasting,” save He that is the life everlasting?  For everlasting is He who said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” (St John xiv, 6) If then you find anything in my way which displeases Thine eyes, since my way is mortal, do Thou “lead me in the way everlasting,” wherein is no iniquity; for even “if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins;” (I John ii,1-2) He is “the Way everlasting” without sin; He is the Life everlasting without punishment.
(St Augustine, Exposition of Psalm 138)

A check of the various versions I had to hand elucidated a few points; as in the neo-Ciceronian version of the Psalms issued under Pius XII, the last word could be rendered instead as antiqua (where the Old Roman Psalter, the Vulgate and the New Vulgate all agree instead on æterna), since apparently the Hebrew has this sense in Jeremias vi, 16.  Mgr Knox followed this in his version: "and thyself lead me in the ways of old".  But to pray, "Lead me along the ancient way", however sure and true that is, does seem to miss the richness of meaning inherent in "lead me along the eternal way".  (One Jewish version even suggests rendering the whole phrase as "lead me in the way of the world", which seems surely a very carnal if not a well-nigh sinful interpretation!)  After all, we live in the time of the New and Eternal Testament : "ancient types have long departed..."

One Bible I consulted gave some useful parallels in other psalm-verses: "Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness" (Ps 5:9(8)a); "He hath lead me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake" (Ps 22(23):3b).  Certainly the "eternal way" would be a path of righteousness, especially since Christ, the Eternal Who is the Way, is also Righteousness Incarnate.  

I also found a parallel to via æterna in Tobit xii, 9, wherein almsgiving is said to effect finding mercy and "the eternal way", since it purges away sin and delivers from death.  Our Lord likewise commends such...

Another favourite psalm-verse that is a clear parallel is found in Psalm 142(143):10b –  Spiritus tuus bonus deducet me in terram rectam: "Thy good Spirit shall lead me into the right land".  Did not the Lord give us another Advocate, the Holy Ghost, Third Person of the Trinity, Who shall lead us into all truth?  Lead me, Lord, Lifegiver, Spirit of Truth!

Et deduc me in via æterna.

Alleluia, alleluia, * Alleluia

All this week I've had the inestimable pleasure – for it is such a true, graced consolation – of praying the whole Office, and at the right times, too, giving to the day its rightful rhythm of prayer and praise.  Several mornings I had the opportunity to pray en plein air in the early morning, overlooking the beach, in the natural chapel of God's creation (which declares His glory): Matins, Lauds, and Prime.

The Breviary I'm now adhering to is the Dominican, which has many fine features above and beyond those it shares with its Roman brother.  For instance, for Paschaltide ferias, the Invitatory anthem for the Venite at the opening of the day's Hours is simply a triple Alleluia: what more can be said?

What is the versicle at Easter Lauds in the Roman Office is instead the "sacerdotal" verse preceding the start of Lauds (a very common mediæval item, this):

In resurrectione tua, Christe, alleluia. – Cæli et terra lætentur, alleluia.

At Thy Resurrection, O Christ, alleluia. – Heaven and earth rejoice, alleluia.

The Matins hymn in the Dominican Breviary, Aurora lucis rutilat, is instead the Lauds hymn (mucked about with under Urban VIII) in the Roman; while their respective Lauds (Sermone blando Angelus) and Matins hymns (Rex sempiterne cælitum) are utterly different.  Again, how good it is to have the old authentick words of the splendid Vesper hymn, Ad cenam Agni providi, not the pseudo-classicized Ad regias Agni dapes!  Still further, reading Dominican Compline one finds a proper hymn for Eastertide, Jesu nostra redemptio (almost completely rewritten in the Roman books as Salutis humanæ Sator, and there used as the Lauds hymn of Ascensiontide).

This week (the second after the Paschal Octave) the Collect (for the 2nd Sunday after Easter) has been Deus qui in Filii tui humilitate jacentem mundum erexisti: "God, Who in Thy Son hath raised up the fallen world".  What a mighty statement of fact!  And it goes on: "to Thy faithful a perpetual joy concede: that those whom Thou hast snatched" (eripuisti, from ex + rapere) "from the dangers of perpetual death, Thou mayest make to have fruition of everlasting joys".

The repetition of "perpetual" (perpetuam, perpetuæ), contrasting the endless death from which we have been snatched with the endless joys we now supplicate, that they be everlasting (sempiternis),  and the repeated words for "joy(s)" (lætitiam, gaudiis) indeed intensify the prayer.  As God by His Son's humility unto death did indeed raise the world from its primal fall, so too may we be rescued from all perils of endless death (in hell) and given instead, entirely as a gift, the joys that are eternal (in heaven): all of which we ask through the same Christ our risen Lord.  What better prayer than this?

Deus qui in Filii tui humilitate jacentem mundum erexisti, fidelibus tuis perpetuam concede lætitiam: ut, quos perpetuæ mortis eripuisti casibus, gaudiis facias perfrui sempiternis.  Per eundem Dominum...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Away this week

I shall be away for several days, but will return on Friday...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Annuntio vobis

With gratitude to the Almighty, Who has given us such a Vicar of His Son in the person of Pope Benedict XVI, let us relive those joyful moments when, five years ago to-day, the election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Supreme Pontiff was announced... listen to the Habemus Papam remix!

I remember well how I resolved to awake in the middle of the night to check the radio news, perhaps for a week... and unexpectedly soon, the alarm woke me to the marvellous news about 3am Melbourne time.  As we'd arranged, I immediately rang friends of mine to share this great joy, then got up,  and watched CNN coverage until daybreak – and went to a nearby chapel to pray the Te Deum.

Ad multos annos, Pater sancte!

His Holiness may be reviled by the erring world (inside as well as outside the Church), but those who think with the Church know that in him we have a true Holy Father, one who squarely faces the manifold problems afflicting the Church, and who is striving to rid the Church of the filth that has polluted her in these dark times, putting his trust wholly in the Lord and His grace, Whose goodness will always triumph.

Let us pray for Benedict XVI, our Pope:
The Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies. (Ps xl, 3)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

From Iceland’s icy mountains

What a melodious placename: "Island Mountain Glacier" – Eyjafjallajökull.  Just remember that double el in Icelandic is pronounced "tl" (as in Atlantis), that jay is wye, and to purse one's lips for the last two vowels...

The fact that this particular mountain glacier has a live volcano underneath (sort of like Baked Alaska in reverse) has lead to curious consequences: the lava shooting out being instantly quenched by the ice, it fragments into exceeding small and abrasive glass fragments (being mainly silicon oxide), which have been lofted high into the atmosphere – and now float invisibly above Europe, effectually preventing jet aircraft from flying lest their engines be destroyed by them.

Fire and Ice: without the two in such proximity, the volcanic cloud would not be so uniquely dangerous.  As it is, this Viking gift (from the country that recently provided Europeans bank accounts that disappeared) may provide a modern-day saga of sorts: will the skies be closed to mass passenger transit for not just three days (as happened, for different reasons, over the USA in late 2001), but for weeks or months?

I was speculating yester-day: what if one absolutely had to get to Europe?  I think the only solution would be to fly to Beijing, then connect through to the Trans-Siberian Railway (or fly to Vladivostok and get straight on) across Asiatic and European Russia, before changing trains and getting to one's final destination in Europe that way.  For example, Vladivostok to London via rail, as a travel guidebook informs me, takes only 8½ days...

There's something in me that rather likes this idea of constraining man to stay on the ground, at least for a time.  But I do feel sorry for those whose travel plans have been disrupted, especially those unable to get home.  The airlines, too, are losing enormous amounts of money, a deleterious effect that will flow on through the worldwide economy.

What, then, if next Katla, a much larger volcano under a larger glacier (the Mýrdalsjökull), erupts, as it always has done in the past when first Eyjafjallajökull goes up?  And it must be recalled that Iceland is one of the principal volcanic provinces of the world; when Laki erupted in 1783-4, one of the greatest volcanic events of modern times, all Europe was plunged beneath a poisonous cloud for months, and a most terrible winter struck North America: the Mississippi froze over at New Orleans, and there was ice in the Gulf of Mexico...


A strange and a curious thing it is, that when the Scriptures describe the dread manifestation of God on a mountain, they often speak as if the mountain were undergoing a volcanic eruption – which is odd, because there are no volcanoes anywhere near the Holy Land.  For instance, when Elias journeyed to Mt Horeb, there was first a mighty wind that shook the mountain and broke its rocks, then an earthquake, then a fire (3 Kings xix, 11f); the author of Hebrews (xii, 18b-19a) looks back to the descent of the Lord on Mt Sinai as "a burning fire, and a whirlwind, and darkness, and storm, and the sound of a trumpet"; and Exodus itself (xix, 16,18-19a) reports the fearful scene:

And now the third day was come, and the morning appeared: and behold thunders began to be heard, and lightning to flash, and a very thick cloud to cover the mount, and the noise of the trumpet sounded exceeding loud, and the people that was in the camp, feared. ... And all mount Sinai was on a smoke: because the Lord was come down upon it in fire, and the smoke arose from it as out of a furnace: and all the mount was terrible.  And the sound of the trumpet grew by degrees louder and louder, and was drawn out to a greater length...

Similarly, an improbable mixture of fire and ice is also among the plagues with which Egypt (type of the unbelieving world) was smitten: "thunder and hail, and lightning... hail and fire mixed with it" (Exodus ix, 23b-24a) formed the seventh plague, which the Psalmist refers to as "hail and coals of fire" (Ps 17:13f), and again as "hail for rain, a burning fire in the land" (Ps 104:32).  The Book of Wisdom expatiates on this theme, even claiming that the snow and ice melted not, to shew that the fire was a supernatural manifestation (xvi, 22).  At the End, again hail and fire mingled will rain upon the earth, as the Apocalypse puts it (viii, 7).

To the contrary, in the present eruption the ice and fire are behaving more normally, the former melting to cause flooding torrents, the latter, actually molten rock, being cooled to form volcanic ash.

This mention of subglacial outburst flooding gives the excuse to mention another euphonious word:  jökulhlaup.


Who is the Patron Saint of (guarding against the deleterious effects of) volcanic eruptions?

I seem to recall that the patroness of such is St Agatha, Virgin Martyr, whose glorious merits and suffrages, implored by the people of Catania as they venerate her relics, have obtained many times of God that the lavas of nearby Mt Etna not devastate that city and the land round about.  Likewise, the relics of St Januarius are taken in procession through the streets of Naples when Vesuvius threatens...

The Dominican Breviary contains the following Benedictus antiphon for St Agatha's Day:

Paganorum multitudo fugiens ad sepulcrum Virginis tulerunt velum ejus contra ignem: ut comprobaret Dominus quod a periculis incendii, meritis Agathæ Martyris suæ, eos liberaret.
The multitude of pagans, fleeing to the sepulchre of the Virgin, carried her veil against the fire: so the Lord approved that from the perils of conflagrations, by the merits of Agatha His Martyr, He would deliver them.

St Agatha, pray for us.
St Januarius, pray for us.

From volcanic eruptions, Good Lord, deliver us.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Easter Treasures

At the Sunday Vigil Mass this evening (after going for an afternoon drive to Bridport, coming back via Scottsdale), I was moved as always by the Easter Vespers hymn (the Hour I'd just finished before the Liturgy), Ad cenam Agni providi, which I know by heart in English as "At the Lamb's high feast we sing" – I prayed over it at Communion time, just as I made two of its verses, O vera digna hostia and Quæsumus Auctor omnium, my Eastertide aspirations at the Elevation of the Host and Chalice.  These two Easter treasures, together with others, I blogged on two years back: if interested further, read my posting...

Welcome Back, Terra

I am delighted (as Abp Hart would say) to see that Terra, after a long absence, is back blogging over at Australia Incognita.  Ad multos annos, soror!

Our Lady in Eastertide

This Saturday, being an Easter feria, is kept as the commemoration of Our Lady on the Sabbath.  Taking up the Office at last after falling into much accidie and worse, having made my confession this morning as is my wont, was a beautiful consolation and grace.  Thanks be to God.

The Easter Office, combined with the Marian Office, is lovely.  For instance, there was the functional equivalent of the Byzantine staurotheotokion, commemorating the Mother of God at the foot of the Cross: for at Prime in the Dominican form, the Gospel extract read is the first verse detailing that very incident, St John xix, 25 (the matching Mass of the day, for Our Lady in Eastertide, appoints the whole of St John xix, 25-27).  And the Cross-and-Resurrection, that summation of the Paschal Mystery, likewise appear together as is most fitting, in the versicle at Saturday Matins: 

V/.  Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro, alleluja.  R/.  Qui pro nobis pependit in ligno, alleluja.
(The Lord hath arisen from the tomb, alleluia; Who for us hung upon the [Cross's] wood, alleluia.)

The psalms are read with a triple alleluia for antiphon; responsories and versicles are likewise adorned with that cry of joy and victory.  A nice detail: for all Sundays and feasts during Eastertide, even for Our Lady's Saturday Office, the Benedicamus Domino at Lauds and Vespers has a double alleluia added, just as throughout the Easter Octave; otherwise, on ferias in Paschal Time, a single alleluia is added at those cardinal Hours.

At Matins, first part of the Apocalypse was read (chapter v, 1-9a), depicting the Lamb once slain Who now liveth for ever, opening the book sealed with seven seals, at the acclaim of all the saints; then came a sweet effusion in honour of Our Lady, from whom was born Christ, the Saviour of our souls, written by the great St Epiphanius: " thee heavenly peace hath been given to the world... by thee men are made angels... by thee the Cross shineth forth throughout the whole world, upon which hung thy Son Christ our Lord; by thee death is trodden down and hell is despoiled... by thee we have come to know the Onlybegotten Son of God, Whom thou didst bear in thy womb."  Alleluia!

The 3rd Matins responsory at once took up the theme, praising she who did merit to bear the Lord, all to the glory of the Triune God:

R/.  Virgo parens Christi, paritura Deum genuisti: fulgida stella maris, nos protege, nos tuearis: * Dum paris et gaudes, cantant cæli agmina laudes.  Alleluia.  V/.  Intercede pia pro nobis, Virgo Maria. * Dum paris et gaudes, cantant cæli agmina laudes.  Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.  Alleluia.  
(R/.  Virgin parent of Christ, bringing forth the God thou begottest: shining star of the sea, protect us, defend us: * Whilst thou bearest and rejoicest, the hosts of heaven sing praises.  Alleluia.  V/.  Intercede sweetly for us, Virgin Mary. * Whilst thou bearest and rejoicest, the hosts of heaven sing praises.  Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.  Alleluia.)

Every great theme of the whole economy of redemption has been given full play.  What a joy to pray this!

Tres Psalmi ad Matutinum Dicuntur, Alleluia

Taking up the Dominican Breviary, I thought it interesting for those liturgically inclined to note how the Black Friars of old marked Eastertide: above all, by shortening Matins.  Of course, there are the usual abundant Alleluia's; but - and I say my own Alleluia to this - the most marked feature of the Dominican Office is that, from Easter Sunday to Whit Saturday, only three psalms are appointed for Matins each day.  

As a consequence, all days, even the greatest feasts, have only three lessons and three responsories also.  (Bear in mind that, unlike the Roman Rite, but like the Benedictine, the Dominicans do not let the last responsory be replaced by the Te Deum, but rather the responsory is read, then the Te Deum, as throughout this festal season.)

During the Easter Octave, the psalms for Matins were as follows: on Sunday, Pss 1, 2, 3; on Monday, Pss 4, 5, 6; on Tuesday, Pss 7, 8, 10; on Wednesday, Pss 11, 12, 13; on Thursday, Pss 14, 15, 16; on Friday, Pss 18, 19, 20; on Saturday, Pss 22, 23, 25; and on Low Sunday, the three psalms of Easter Sunday Matins were repeated.

(Whence come these particular psalms?  They seem to be roughly those used, until St Pius X's reforms of the distribution of the psalms in the Office, implemented by the Dominicans in 1922 or thereabouts, at Sunday Matins: Pss 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 – but omitting the two longest of these (marked in bold) – plus several psalms used prior to St Pius X's reforms at Prime in the Dominican Rite on Sundays from Septuagesima to Palm Sunday: Pss 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 – again omitting the two longest.  Pss 4 and 5, otherwise used at daily Compline and once a week at Lauds respectively, must be made use of as both apposite and fitting the sequence of the psalms.)

In similar manner, the three Matins psalms for the Sundays after Easter are in all cases the first three of the usual nine, that is, Pss 1, 2, 3, which are those of Easter Sunday, and bear the typic imprint of the Lord's Resurrection.

We are now in the first week after the Octave of Easter; the three psalms to be read or sung at Matins on all the weekdays are the first three of the usual nine.  Come next week, the second after the Octave, the three psalms to use will be the middle three of the usual nine; and in the third week after the Octave, the last three of the usual nine psalms will be those to recite.  Then, as is sensible, the cycle repeats: in the fourth week after the Octave, the first three psalms; in the fifth, the middle three; and in the week after the Sunday after Ascension, the last three.  (For Ascension Thursday, Pss 8, 10 and 18 are appointed.)

Pentecost Octave is even simpler: the three Matins psalms of the feast are repeated all week: Pss 47, 67 and 103.

As for any feast days occurring in Paschal Time that have proper psalms at Matins, only three are used – those of the first Nocturn of the relevant Common, as all the rubrical notes in the Proper of Saints puts it (whether for the Annunciation when transferred to after Easter, or for the feast of St Peter Martyr), although, when the Commons are consulted, in the absence of any direction in the Proper, the particular psalms to be chosen are to be selected secundum ordinem Nocturnorum: that is, on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays from the first Nocturn; on Tuesdays and Fridays, from the second; and on Wednesdays and Saturdays, from the third.  This rule would be used for feasts of Apostles during Eastertide, since there is no direction to the contrary in the Proper.

Since I've always found the nine psalms of Matins a real chore to work through, I'm delighted (as Abp Hart would say) to find the Dominicans agreed to the extent that, for 56 days of the year, they make the task so much sweetly shorter.  Alleluia!


P.S.  In private use, lest the Office feel too much of a burden for a layman (e.g. me!) who prays it pro pia devotione, seeking to join in the liturgical life of the Church to the extent possible, but yet to keep a rule of prayer that is doable rather than too onerous given one's circumstances, it could be advisable to adapt this rule of three psalms at Matins for the whole year...

Friday, April 16, 2010

When Good Men Do Nothing

Now is the time for all good men to... stand up for what is right, and oppose what is wrong, while all the crowd goes mad, baying for blood.

Whose blood?  That of "a leering old villain in a frock".

I never thought to see the day when on the radio I would hear that most respondents to a survey agreed that the Pope should be arrested!  I felt sick.

The servant is no better than his Master; the crowd will always choose Barabbas.

We are in the midst of a moral panic; while priests by percentages both relative and absolute are less likely than other categories to abuse children, they (being different than other men) are the ones always singled out.  We seem to forget that a like, or even a larger percentage, of non-Catholic ministers, despite notoriously being married (and therefore "normal"), abuse children also; and that if one wanted to stamp out child abuse, one would rigorously guard minors against de facto partners and the like, who are the commonest and likeliest practitioners of such evils.

Is the sexual abuse of children by priests and religious a horror?  Of course.  Is it the case that the Church is rotten to the core, and deserving of every punishment for colluding in such crimes?  Of course not.  These crimes, dreadful though they are, are the acts of a repellent minority, acting clean contrary to every teaching of God and His Church.  It would be ludicrous as well as offensive to claim that the Pope (or his predecessors) ordered priests to commit wicked acts, or laughed evilheartedly at their commission.

From the outside, the Church appears monolithic: but in reality, authority is quite decentralized; indeed, since 1968 and all that, most laity and many priests have been anything but obedient to the teachings of the Church, and for priests it is only their bishop to whom they are answerable in all practical matters.  Bishops are the ones who ought bear blame for negligence in applying due process to accusations against their errant priests.

It was the naivete and in some cases the outright negligence of bishops that permitted a tiny minority of priests to get away with pedophile crimes.  Yet I know of not one bishop who has come before any secular court, let alone been justly punished for complicity in such offences.  Bishops have resigned for comprehensively stuffing up the administration of their dioceses in these matters, yes; good riddance to such shitten shepherds (as Chaucer would say); but it was not the entire episcopate that failed, no more than did the vast majority of the presbyterate.

Even now, more priests and religious keep their vows than do married couples: check out the divorce statistics!  People would like to believe that spooky men in cassocks are all child abusers - when step-fathers and other relatives are far more dangerous.

Given the neglect of canon law, not to mention adhesion to the traditional moral and doctrinal teachings of the Church by so many since Vatican II, while societal morals have extraordinarily loosened, it is easy to appreciate how sinful men turned from praying to preying, and escaped for a time the punishment they deserved.  The centrifugal tendencies in the Church since the Council are to blame for this, not the centre, whose authority has crumbled, and is only slowly being restored.

Furthermore, the crimes of sinful priests that have been successively uncovered and finally punished occurred decades ago: if Supreme Pontiffs are to be tasked with why such wickedness was not stamped out, then Paul VI and, ahem, even John Paul II would be the ones whose decisions need examining by an unbiassed investigation (I strongly suspect that it would be found that the crimes and mixups occurred at a lower level).

There have been vile Popes down the ages, scandalous sinners completely unworthily of their most holy office (which they defiled): men such as Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, or the horrendous tenth and eleventh century Popes, John XII and Benedict IX.  But no one but an ignorant fool - or a malicious one - would rank the current Pope with them.

Attempts to drag up cases that are somehow associated with Benedict XVI, and to misreport them so as to make him appear culpable, are repellent and have been comprehensively rebutted.  The truth is clean contrary: Benedict is part of the solution, not the problem!

The media conspicuously has not reported the unfolding scandal about Fr Marcial Maciel, disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who turns out to have been a drug abuser, an abuser of seminarians,  the father of many children, and an expert at bribery: what a conman!  (See the NCR's exposé, parts 1 and 2.)  He died unrepentant in a horrible scene reminiscent of the death of Judas.  Yet the then Cardinal Ratzinger was unable to purge out this filth until he assumed the Petrine Throne as Benedict XVI.  He could not effect the needed tightening of Church discipline that he advocated until he gained the plenary power.  Since then, the Legionaries have been under investigation - ought not they (at least their senior leadership, who must have known something of the Founder's mendacity) be suppressed?

Yet we have that notorious arch-atheist Dawkins (whose attacks on religion betray his utter inability to comprehend this topic - however great he may be in his own field of study, his embarrassingly mediocre antireligious writings demonstrate that he is out of his field and out of his depth, betraying his lack of any philosophical training: I write as a B.Sc.(Hons) and a B.Theol.) now crying out that the Pope ought be arrested - arrested! - when he comes to visit Scotland and England later this year.

(This press release from Catholic legal organizations explains how wrongheaded, how detrimental to public order and safety, is this ridiculous proposal, bereft of any foundation in law or reason.)

A creature named Ellis has written what I can only protest, complain about and condemn as a hate-filled diatribe and incitement to violence against the Church in general, and priests and above all the Pope.  What an utter disgrace that the ABC should permit such hate speech!

It is evident that the secular elite, such as it is, is milking the scandal and, most inexcusably, using it as a pretext to attack him whose teachings they hate: Pope Benedict himself.  God preserve him!

Thus say the wicked:

"But let our strength be the law of justice: for that which is feeble, is found to be nothing worth.  Let us therefore lie in wait for the just, because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life.  He boasteth that he hath the knowledge of God, and calleth himself the [vicar of the] son of God.  He is become a censurer of our thoughts.  He is grievous unto us, even to behold: for his life is not like other men's, and his ways are very different.  
"We are esteemed by him as triflers, and he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness, and he preferreth the latter end of the just, and glorieth that he hath God for his father.  Let us see then if his words be true, and let us prove what shall happen to him, and we shall know what his end shall be.  For if he be the true [vicar of the] son of God, he will defend him, and will deliver him from the hands of his enemies.  Let us examine him by outrages and tortures, that we may know his meekness and try his patience.  Let us condemn him to a most shameful death: for there shall be respect had unto him by his words."
These things they thought, and were deceived: for their own malice blinded them. 
(Wisdom iii, 12-21)

Who are our age's real criminals, I wonder?  In centuries to come the abortion of hundreds of millions will be considered the irreparable stain upon our dark age.  Who are our very own genocidaires, openly going unpunished, nay, lauded?  With Nietzsche our Western civilization declares, "Evil, be thou my good".

I do fear that the rising tide of irrational hatred against the Church, priests and His Holiness will issue soon enough in violence.  When will the first church be vandalized or burnt down, the first innocent priest attacked?

I suspect that if Pope Benedict is assaulted or worse - which God avert! - his enemies would be delighted.

Anti-Catholic persecution is growing.  When will we wake up to the danger we are in?  We've been asleep, dumb dogs that will not bark, not living as witnesses to truth; as is notorious (and unsayable), followers of a certain other religion are not backward about protesting in a violent, literally un-christian manner, when their beliefs are attacked...

No wonder anti-Catholicism is the new anti-Semitism.

But in all this, good, being ever stronger than evil, will have the triumph.  Napoleon imprisoned the Pope and dreamt he would destroy the Church; who won?  Diocletian had a similar plan; he but sent countless martyr-saints to heaven.  St Sixtus II was dragged from the altar to his execution, but reigns with Christ in heaven, while his pagan foes went down to hell; Rome became Christian, and the old gods were abandoned.

It is no coincidence that the Devil prompted attacks upon the Church, raging in furious malice at the most holy season of Easter: but Christ defeated death at Easter, and His is the Victory.  It is for us to put our house in order, for the time of reckoning is with us.

As a friend once said, Catholics would be more faithful if the enemies of Christ "were burning priests on Bourke Street" (central Melbourne, leading up to Parliament House).

Perhaps we shall soon find out.