Sunday, August 29, 2010

Prayer Intention

Prayers, please: I'm not feeling very well, snuffle snuffle (and owing to my low state missed Mass for the first Sunday in ages).

Pray, too, for the many people suffering far, far more than I in this miserable and naughty world.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Politics, Politics

How annoying: after five weeks of the most boring and irritating election in living memory, with nought but spin on offer, as the whole nation evidently agreed, the end result being no result at all, only manifest confusion - now, a week's gone by and we're no further forward, and it could be weeks more...

My friends in Hobart (where I've just been, and where alas I've caught a cold) point out that gaining the Prime Ministership in this hung parliament may well be a poisoned chalice for whichever politician manages to cobble together a loose alliance sufficient to gain power, which could well turn out to be a fatally compromised and weak administration: either Labor will be beholden to a curious gaggle of green left-wingers and rightist populists, or the Coalition will have to become even more of a ramshackle assemblage, since the "three amigos", the country independents who are ex-National Party men all, hate and are hated by their former colleagues.

Consider for a moment the situation in the 150 member House of Representatives, as it now appears certain to be, given the agonizingly slow count of absentee, provisional and postal votes in the crucial seats is all but over:

  • 72 Labor;
  • 1 Green;
  • 1 left-leaning independent (Wilkie, the unexpected winner in Hobart, who came third at the polls but won on preferences);
  • 3 country independents (ex-National Party);
  • 1 Western Australian National (who unexpectly has decided not to sit as part of the Coalition);
  • 72 Coalition (44 Liberal; 21 Liberal National; 6 National; 1 Country Liberal).
That is, 72 Labor, 6 crossbenchers, and 72 Coalition M.P.'s.  But which side sits on the Government side of the Chamber, to Mr Speaker's right, and which on the left, as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, that remains to be seen - and could change partway through.   And who will be elected as the Speaker?

Voting for Godot (with apologies to Samuel Beckett)

For non-Australian readers, an explanation of "the Coalition" may be in order.  (But first, note that big-el "Liberal" here means "conservative" or more right-wing generally, as opposed to small-el liberal.  Unlike in the U.S., here "liberal" is not considered a derogatory epithet.)

A history lesson, then: after the first ten years of Federation, the non-Labor side of politics (Free Traders and Protectionists) came together into the first Liberal Party (which went through several amalgamations with ex-Labor men, and resultant changes of name, until its final transmogrification into the modern Liberal Party in 1944).  However, farmers and other rural interests set up the Country Party shortly after the First World War, and this gained the balance of power in the Federal Elections of 1922.  After that result, an all-but-permanent Coalition was agreed between the Liberals and the Country Party (which eventually changed its name to the National Party), so that the right-wing, anti-socialist side of politics could outfox those on the left.  

To this end, Australia both Federally and on the State level famously adopted the preferential system of voting, whereby voters number the candidates on their ballots in order of preference from first to last, and the votes going to the less successful conservative candidate could be redistributed to the more successful - thus preventing Labor winning seats with a minority plurality of votes against a split conservative field. Nowadays, by contrast, it is Labor that profits from the second preferences of those who vote first for the Greens.  Disturbingly for Labor, the Greens for the first time have gained more votes than Labor (in the trendy inner-city seat of Melbourne) and so Labor preferences elected a Green M.P.

To complete the picture, in Tasmania the National Party never succeeded; in Western Australia, the Nationals there - first established in 1913 - are more independent-minded and aren't part of the formal Coalition; in the Northern Territory, the conservative side of politics coalesced as the Country Liberal Party; and just two years ago the Nationals and the Liberals amalgamated in Queensland to form the Liberal Nationals.  The Nationals have faded in strength over the decades as rural Australia has diminished in relative numbers, and now hold seats in New South Wales and Victoria only (in South Australia, they are a very small faction, and in fact support Labor).  The Australian Capital Territory, filled with public servants (a term invented in Australia, and at first a euphemism for convicts), is unsurprisingly a centre of Labor and Green sentiment.

The Australian Labor Party, meanwhile, was founded in 1890, and has survived several splits, whether over conscription during the First World War, or alleged communist infiltration in the 1950's - the notorious Split, which in particular divided Catholics against Catholics (as Catholics then were generally working class and overwhelmingly supported Labor).  For two decades, the Catholic hardliners who broke away to form the Democratic Labor Party supported the Coalition in power, but the D.L.P. died away to nothing by the mid-seventies - yet, as Lazarus, it has risen again, and may just win a Senate seat in Victoria once the full vote is counted.

Most recently, the rise of the Greens on the left has begun to whittle away at Labor: as a sign of things to come, the Greens have just won their first lower house seat, and in seven electorates the Greens recorded over 20% of the vote: if their vote continues to increase, overall the left of politics will return more Green and fewer Labor members.  Will there be a phase change, as happened just a hundred years ago with Labor itself, and will Labor die out to be replaced by Greens?  If climate change really be a dire threat (time will tell) then Blind Freddy could predict that the Greens will one day win in their own right...

So, where to from here?

Labor is increasingly leaking support to the new left, the Greens.  Come mid-2011, when the newly-elected Senators take their seats, the Greens will have the balance of power in the Senate, thus giving that chamber a leftist majority.  (Twelve Senators sit for each State, six being elected every three years by proportional representation.)  Should Labor cobble together the majority it needs in the House, however, Julia Gillard will need not only the support of Adam Bandt, the Green (a one-man Trojan horse, taking Labor further to the left with his unwelcome presence), but also somehow ensure the vote of the unpredictable independent M.P. Andrew Wilkie, plus win over the three country independents, rural populists all from conservative, anti-Labor seats - particularly mad Bob Katter.  Strange bedfellows indeed...

On the other hand, can Tony Abbott enlarge the Coalition still further, and calm the hatred between the three country independents and the Nationals whose party they broke away from years ago?  And he will have the aptly-named Mr Crook, the new W.A. National M.P., to negotiate a deal with as well: these four conservative rural populists will all want their pound of flesh, or rather some good old-fashioned pork barrelling for their electorates.

The six cross-benchers have been self-importantly flexing their political muscles all week, and even some Senators have got into the act.  What a madhouse!  And how bad for the nation, since whichever side of politics gains power, the mainstream will be stymied in attempts at rational reform by the necessity of placating whichever independent members deign, for the moment, to guarantee a slim majority in the House.

Whatever the solemn promises made of this Parliament going the full term of three years, I for one will be unsurprised to find whatever deal is done breaking down, and in the midst of mutual mudslinging we'll all be back to the polls by next year.  This is particularly likely given the looming domination of the Senate by the Greens.

In the Constitution, the provision for overcoming deadlocks between the Houses comes down to the possibility of the Governor-General granting a double dissolution, and a full Senate election as well as that of new House of Representatives.  

If Abbott wins the confidence of the House and becomes our Prime Minister within the next few weeks, he will certainly be shrewd enough to pass his legislation through the present Senate with all speed, but also leave a few controversial bills for the new Senate of 2011 to reject - which will be so many double dissolution triggers.  Come July next, and Prime Minister Abbott will fight a full Senate and House of Reps. election, right versus left, Liberal-National Coalition versus Labor-cum-Green.  Such is one real possibility.  But P.M. Gillard might well try the same trick: kill or be killed, old left versus new left.

But whoever gains power, our Julia or our Tony, La Guillotine or the Mad Monk, it will be in the interest of their own parties to win at all costs an absolute majority next time, without the vexation of dealmaking.

We are at a crossroads: will Australian politics remain a basically two-party contest, Labor versus the Coalition, or will our polity fragment into a multi-party system, as has already happened in our ANZAC neighbour, New Zealand?

A week is a long time in politics, indeed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Green Slippery Slide

Bob Brown speaks of this Federal Election as a Greenslide, with the first Green member of the lower house elected, more Green Senators elected than the Australian Democrats ever garnered, and the largest ever number of votes cast for the Greens in Australian history.  Alas, it will not end here.  It would not surprise me if the left side of politics sees a shift from Labor to Green just as a hundred years ago the old Liberals in England gave way to Labor.

At the outset, I have no illusions that either Labor on the left or the Coalition parties on the right are simon-pure or very much morally better than the other.  Politics in Australia are hardly Christian, despite the leaven in the lump, to put it very hopefully, that more-or-less Christian politicans are.  However, I do wish to argue against a most dangerous delusion: the illusion that there is one party of light and of progress (beware that word!): the Greens.

As the Apostle said to the Galatians (i, 6-12):
I wonder that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel.  Which is not another, only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.  As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.  For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.  For I give you to understand, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.   For neither did I receive it of man, nor did I learn it; but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Christianity is the true religion, not made up by men but revealed by God through His Incarnate Son.  Yes, if even an angel from heaven preach to you a different Gospel, one earthbound and other than true - then let him be anathema.  For even Satan can appear as an angel of light (II Cor. xi, 14). 

The Greens, I would argue, are that lying angel.  They preach an earthly, not a heavenly paradise, and by their contempt for heaven and assent to moral turpitude reveal themselves as carnal men, apt sons of their infernal father.

Their insufferable sanctimoniousness, and unblushing assumption of the moral high ground, is particularly offensive.  Brown had the nerve to claim that he and his Greens are better Christians than Pell and the hierarchy, more in tune (perhaps true, sad to say) with the notions of average believers - more fool them, I say.  He reduces Our Divine Lord to a forerunner of social justice and the new morality.  He certainly does not bow the knee to Christ as God.

Now, I would not wish here to uncritically echo a certain former bishop of Sale, who used to say, back in the days of the Split, that of course the Church ought not and does not tell people how to vote - but that of course it would be a mortal sin to vote Labor!

Yet, I do believe that, whatever many people of good will sincerely believe who vote for the Greens, the underlying philosophy of the Greens is inimical and antithetical to the true philosophy, and to Christianity.  

Consider, for example, what made me turn - be ready for a shock, gentle reader! - from my own youthful support for the Greens (for I campaigned and scrutineered for them at the 1989 state election): the sad fact that their party platform unabashedly supports abortion on demand.  As even a lukewarm believer I had to turn aside from them as soon as I read that; my eyes were opened, and I conscience I could no longer keep fellowship with such persons.

Similarly, the Greens support what is most euphemistically called euthanasia (a death not really so good), or slightly more realistically "mercy killing" (though it is not so much a matter of mercy as of expedience), and they also loudly trumpet the need to "end the discrimination" and "bring Australia into the 21st century" by legislating for so-called gay marriage (which is neither truly happy nor truly marriage).  One may as well declare the sky to be mauve not blue.

Since I wish to warn against embracing the Greens on account of their unacceptable moral position, I forbear from mounting much criticism of their economic policies, anti-rationalist and highly damaging though they would be if implemented.  The economic devastation wrought by Hugo Chavez may indicate where their unreal policies would lead the country, to give a necessarily imperfect analogy.  

As Cardinal Pell has justly observed, many of the hard-left Greens in particular are in fact watermelons - green on the outside, red on the inside.  In one of the new Senators-elect, we have the scion of a family of dedicated Communists, unrepentantly so, now gone Green in an instance of the Soviet doctrine of the Popular Front.  No doubt her combination of new morals and new economics is designed to foster the development of a postmodern version of New Soviet Man.

But what of climate change? - which is the principal reason for the popularity of voting Green.  If climate change is indeed a dire threat, then I do not believe that the strange economic suggestions of the Greens will save the earth.  Indeed, properly harnessing the invisible hand of economics, as Adam Smith would have us do, is a better idea: I fear that Big Government would not so much save us as apply cures worse than the disease.

What the world needs now is nuclear energy and geoëngineering, I claim half in jest, if the threat of dangerous climate change be really potent.  If technology got us into this mess; technology will get us out - that seems a good argument to me.  Naïve nonsense about a no-growth economy, a curtailing of breeding and a return to hippiedom fueled by windfarms ain't gonna save nobody.  (My own plan, should nature go crazy, is to emigrate to the South Island of New Zealand - Kiwis and Aussies have free access to each other's countries, after all.)

Even if climate change strike with alarming rapidity, the Green panacea is not the answer.  You don't need to enforce new morals, intolerant of the old ones, in any case.

The Greens frighten me because they articulate a post-Christian, anti-Christian militant secularism, even substituting a pseuo-spiritual cult of humanity in place of Chrst, of the Earth Mother in place of God the Father, of the transient fashions of our age for the Holy Spirit.  Their dogma is more infallible than that of any Pope!  Gaia, it seems, is best offered the sacrifice of sterile sexuality, in polymorphous perversity, not excluding the oblation of slaughtered infants.

Here beginneth a lesson from the Apocalypse.

The philosophical basis of the Greens lies with philosophers of frightening ideas, such as Peter Singer, who takes utilitarianism to hideous lengths, advocating infanticide as well as sins too terrible to name.  Not only do they view man as but an animal, they view our own species as a plague on the enviroment, a plague best culled.

How long will it be that the Greens tolerate Government funding of Church schools, as we have had for many years in Australia?  How long before the right of Christians and the churches to speak out against the Zeitgeist (the Spirit of the Age, being exactly opposed to the true Spirit Who is Holy) be taken away?  How long before the right of Christians to bring up their children as Christians and teach them Church teachings is restricted? - Dawkins calls this the worst form of abuse, to indoctrinate the young!

Too many, too many cafeteria Christians, particularly ill-formed Catholics of the social-justice-yes, pro-life-no type (you know, the millions who haven't been to confession since 1968), the ones who see doctrine as alien and the Vatican as the home of twisted old men, are the willing dupes of the Green agenda.  I predict that none of them will suffer any secular persecution even in the most Orwellian future, since they are hardly different to worldlings anyway.

Beware the Green slippery slide down into the abyss.

Yet the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church; as a friend observed to me in Melbourne, the Church would be more fervent here if they were burning priests on Bourke Street (outside Parliament House).  We Australian Christians are so compromised with the world, serving God not so much as Mammon, trying to league together Christ and Belial without pleasing either, that we merit the terrible rebuke of Our Lord: As thou art lukewarm, I will spew thee out of My mouth (Apoc. iii, 16).  We slumber and sleep as the foolish virgins, or as the disciples when His enemies came to arrest Christ.  Sleepers, awake!

In the world you will have distress, Our Lord predicted, but fear not - for I have overcome the world (cf. St John xvi, 33).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Hung Parliament

The Coalition wins a goodly number of seats, but still short of an absolute majority; Labor, almost the same, especially if some other left-wingers are counted; independents hold the balance of power.  Worldwide, the economic situation has been very bad; our troops are busy overseas defending our national interests, or rather those of our great superpower ally, fighting an agile and cunning enemy in faraway desert climes.  First those independent M.P.'s back the Coalition - then later they switch to Labor...

This, of course, is ancient history: this is what happened in the Australian Federal Election of September 1940.  In the event, the two independents first gave Menzies the Prime Ministership as head of the U.A.P./Country Party coalition (ancestor of the postwar Liberal and National Parties' coalition), but then switched in October 1941 to back Curtin as head of the Labor Party.  Australia had suffered through the Great Depression, and then sprang to the aid of the United Kingdom, fighting for King and Empire against the Nazi terror... 

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

A Hung Parliament for Australia - ?

It appears that, as in Tasmania and the U.K. earlier this year, Australia seems headed for a hung Parliament.  While Abbott has campaigned for a Coalition victory, and Gillard to retain government in Labor hands, I think it uncontroversial to say that this election campaign has been lacklustre.  Little wonder, then, that the people have voted, and thereby revealed their confusion, for neither side has won a majority.  What a contrast with the landslide that Rudd achieved back in 2007!

In the House of Representatives, an absolute majority of seats would be 76; with quite some luck, Labor may still just fall over the line and give a chastened Gillard a mandate to govern in her own right...  More likely, however, is at most 75 seats for Labor - perhaps only 71.  If - and it is still a big if - the seat of Melbourne falls to the Greens from Labor, and the seat of Denison in Tasmania falls to Wilkie, a left-leaning Independent, then perhaps Labor could govern in minority with support of these men.

The Coalition (Liberals and Nationals) will hold more than 70 seats, perhaps as many as 74; add to that, just perhaps, the 3 conservative Independents, ex-Nationals all, holding rural seats in northern N.S.W. and northern Queensland, and Abbott could somehow cobble together a chance of governing... still, I doubt it.  One of the ex-National Independents apparently said that he would support the party with the plurality of seats.  So close, yet so far!

The swing to the Coalition has been fairly small; latest figures (as of about 9 o'clock) suggest that 44% have voted Liberal or National, 38% Labor, and 12% Green.  The two-party preferred count is split 50-50. So, Tony hasn't won, and Julia hasn't lost - but she hasn't won either.

If I were either of those two, I'd be offering every sweetheart deal I could to those independent members, in order to win their support - and therefore the Prime Ministership.  What wheeling and dealing we'll see!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dormitionist Compline

Being in receipt of further liturgical details – one of their Completorii Libellus has fallen into my hands, beautifully put together, complete with chant – regarding the Dormitionists, I have updated a post about their rites that I made long ago, which I republish here for those who would otherwise miss these engrossing minutiæ.

A very significant and daily ritual, Compline (along with evening Low Mass, styled "Meditation Mass") is beloved of Dormitionists, since it proclaims in the gracious outward forms of the Liturgy what is their hope to incarnate in their lives: that the eternal rest promised to the Saints they shall have even now some share in, training themselves now in what one day, please God, shall be theirs forever.  

Their Compline basically follows the Roman Rite, or more closely the Dominican Rite, but with some variations.  The most striking are in their opening Confiteor and so forth, after the short reading (which is given in full at the end of these notes):
Confiteor Deo, et beatæ Mariæ, et omnibus sanctis, et vobis, fratres, quia peccavi nimis, cogitatione, locutione, opere et omissione, mea culpa: precor vos orare pro me.
Misereatur tui Deus, et dimittat tibi omnia peccata tua: liberet te ab omni malo, salvet, et confirmet in omni opere bono, et perducat te ad requiem æternam.  R.  Amen.
Confiteor Deo, et beatæ Mariæ, et omnibus sanctis, et tibi, pater, quia peccavi nimis, cogitatione, locutione, opere et omissione, mea culpa: precor te orare pro me.
Misereatur tui Deus, et dimittat tibi omnia peccata tua: liberet te ab omni malo, salvet, et confirmet in omni opere bono, et perducat te ad requiem æternam.  R.  Amen.
Requiem et gaudium cum pace, emendationem vitæ, spatium veræ pænitentiæ, gratiam et consolationem Sancti Spiritus, perseverantiam in bonis operibus, tribuat nobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus.  R.  Amen.
("I confess to God, and to blessed Mary, and to all the saints, and to you, brothers / thee, father, that I have sinned exceedingly, by thought, speech, deed and omission, through my fault: I pray you / thee pray for me.
("God have mercy upon you / thee, and forgive you / thee all your / thy sins, deliver you / thee from every evil, save, and confirm you / thee in every good work, and bring you / thee to rest eternal.  R/.  Amen.
("Rest and joy with peace, amendment of life, space for true penitence, the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit, and perseverence in good works, the almighty and merciful Lord grant us.  R/. Amen.")
Instead of the expected prayer for everlasting life, these wise Canons pray for everlasting rest in the Misereatur, and have gone so far as to pray firstly for the same in place of the Indulgentiam of the Roman Rite.

For the psalms (which are every day the same - Pss 4, 30:1-6; 90; and 133 - as in the Roman Rite before the reforms of Pope St Pius X), there is instead of the normal Miserere mhi a different antiphon, also used as a versicle, In pace in idipsum dormiam et requiescam ("In peace in the selfsame I will sleep and I will rest"); in the Roman Rite, this was used as the first antiphon of Tenebræ for Holy Saturday.

On great feasts, the Dormitionists replace the usual responsory In manus tuas with the long responsory In pace, as do the Dominicans in Lent.

Most famously, their Nunc dimittis antiphon is proper to the O.Dorms:

Salva nos, Domine, custodi nos dormientes in Christo, ut requiescamus in pace.

("Save us, Lord, keep us, the sleepers-in-Christ, that we may rest in peace.")

There are intercessions, or preces, read daily – the monastic custom, recorded by St Benedict – that is, KyriePater, versicle In pace, Apostles' Creed, and the ancient versicle Dignare, Domine, nocte ista, sine peccato nos custodire ("Deign, O Lord, this night, to keep us without sin") before the salutation and the usual Collect Visita nos quæsumus.

Since Compline is thus unvarying, it is sung from memory in complete darkness, with only a single tall candle burning before the recumbent statue of Our Lady of the Dormition, the Virgen Dormida or Sleeping Virgin (to which all turn for the Marian anthem at the end).

As is fitting, they sing, not the usual Salve, but the old pre-Tridentine version of the Ave Regina – which was originally used in the Office of the Assumption, or rather the Dormition, of the Virgin.

As with the Dominicans, Compline ends with the versicle Fidelium: "May the souls of the faithful, through God's mercy, rest in peace.  Amen."

The brethren conclude Compline by processing back to their cells, reciting the De profundis (for while others look for daybreak, they look for rest in peace in the Lord), thus praying for those already departed this life in the faith and fear of Christ, that they rest in peace, and softly praying also for themselves with the Order's unique formula – Requiem æternam dona nobis, Domine.  Requiescamus in pace.  Amen.  (Eternal rest grant unto us, O Lord.  May we rest in peace.  Amen.) – then each singly blesses their chamber and bed with holy water, ere they retire.

To give a final flavour of Dormitionist spirituality (to use an overused and abused term), here is the extract from what St Anselm wrote in praise of St Stephen that is used in the Dormitionist Breviary before Compline (replacing the short reading at its beginning, again in line with the monastic custom of the Collation, or patristic reading at the end of the day, that St Benedict enjoined):

«Obdormivit in Domino».  O obdormivit! O somnus cum requie, requies cum securitate, securitas cum æternitate!  Requiescis, o felix, in gaudio, gaudes in requie.  Gloriaris, o secure, in satietate, satiaris in gloria.

O sufficiens beatitudo et beata sufficientia!  Quam felix obdormire, obdormire in Domino!  Quanta pace obdormiunt, qui obdormiunt in Domino!  Non enim gravabunt eos amplius pondera carnis, non eos affligent dolores corruptionis.

«Infelix ego homo, quis me liberabit de corpore mortis hujus?» — gratia Dei per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum, ut quandoque «in pace in idipsum dormiam et requiescam» in Domino, qui vivit et regnat Deus per omnia sæcula sæculorum, amen.

('He fell asleep in the Lord.'  [Acts vii, 59.]  Ah, he fell asleep!  Sleep with rest, rest with security, security with eternity.  Happy man, to rest in joy, and in joy to rest.  Safe home, you are glorified in fulness and you are filled with glory.  [Cf. Ps 16:15b.]
(O sufficient blessedness and blessed sufficiency!  How happy to fall asleep, to fall asleep in the Lord.  In how much peace do they fall asleep who sleep in the Lord.  For the heavy weight of the flesh does not oppress them, nor do the sorrows of corruption afflict them.
(Who will free me from the body of this death? —the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord [Rom. vii, 24], so that some day in peace and the self-same I will be at rest and sleep [Ps 4:9] in the Lord, who lives and reigns, God, for all ages.  Amen.)

— S. Anselmus Cantuariensis, Orationes, XIII. Oratio ad sanctum Stephanum, ll. 240b-244, 269-275, 298-299, 305-308.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Most Unpleasant Surprise

My friend Robert – who’s visiting from W.A. – and I decided to go along to visit the T.A.C.'s local congregation here in Launceston for their service this morning, in the hope of chatting with Bp Robarts afterward.  (Rob knows Bp Entwistle over in Perth.)

Unbeknownst to us, Robarts is away this Sunday, presiding at the patronal feast of the T.A.C. parish of St Mary’s in Sydney.  Instead, therefore, a Fr Gordon Tyson celebrated…

He apologized to start with for what would be a rough and ready service – as he revealed in his homily, he had unfortunately looked up the wrong readings by mistake.  Only a small congregation was present – we increased attendance by 25%.

The altar was set as usual against the wall, with six candles lit, a crucifix in the centre, a missal (the English Missal) on its stand and a veiled chalice already set up.  In came the celebrant in chasuble…

Most unexpectedly, instead of launching into Psalm 42 (43) and the rest, instead the minister stood at the Gospel side, facing the congregation, and first asked us to place ourselves in God’s presence, then invited us to join him in reciting the Collect for Purity, a three-fold (not nine-fold) Kyrie, and the Gloria in excelsis (all in English, except for the Kyrie of course in Greek).  This was much plainer and less Roman than the manner in which Bp Robarts celebrates.

There was no Dominus vobiscum, just “You might want to sit for this” (we all did!) and “Let us pray” followed by the Collect, which was that for the 12th Sunday after Trinity in the Book of Common Prayer.  (Why on earth do these Anglicans sit for the Collect?  It is really bizarre.)

A reader came to the lectern (on the Gospel side) and read the first two lessons, employing the RSV: Jeremiah 38:4-6,8-10 and Hebrews 12:1-4; and saying after each “Here endeth the (first / second) Lesson”.  (These, and the Gospel pericope to follow, were the same readings as those appointed in the modern Roman Lectionary for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.)

The celebrant rather meaninglessly moved the Missal to the Gospel side, but then went to the lectern and himself read the Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 39 (40) – and directly after that the Gospel of the day: St Luke 12:49-53; there was no Alleluia at all.  For the first time, the words “The Lord be with you” were used, but the responses to the title of the Gospel, and at its end, were confused – apparently Fr Tyson is used to a different liturgy than this B.C.P.-type service.  I can only suppose he is a retired Anglican clergyman gone over to the T.A.C. who perhaps celebrates using one of the modern Australian Anglican liturgies...

The sermon was about the teaching of Hebrews chapter 11 as to what living faith is – not mere adhesion to a list of doctrines, but active trust in God issuing in action, even at great personal risk.  The preacher adduced the examples of Barak and Gideon, who had to trust in God that what they were asked to do would succeed, against all human expectation.  He alluded to our need to trust and act likewise; perhaps he was referring to the need to make a “leap in the dark” over the unfinished business of Anglicanorum cœtibus?

We all recited the Creed after that, and then Bruce got up to read the Biddings – that quaint Anglican custom whereby a list of people to pray for are listed without responses!  We prayed for the T.A.C. Diocese of Queenstown in some farflung part of Africa, and for the T.A.C. parish in Sydney now keeping its patronal feast, for the sick and for the dead – at this point only we replied, as we prayed “Eternal rest grant unto them” as a versicle and response.

Next, at the direction of the celebrant, the collection was taken up.  Meanwhile, without saying anything, the celebrant at last went and stood before the midst of the altar, and mixed the chalice (one of the men in the congregation got up, went to the credence and himself poured the wine and water into the proffered chalice!), readied the paten, and washed his fingers (the gentleman server pro tempore ministering the water and towel).  

After this, that favourite piece of Anglican idolatry that frankly horrifies me: the handing to the celebrant the alms-dish, and its solemn elevation, followed by it being placed on the altar table behind the missal!  As Percy Dearmer acidly observed long years ago:

In some churches, however, the alms are ceremonially presented at the altar; and the ceremonies are often of a rather idolatrous nature, the dish being solemnly elevated…
One… even sees the clergy make wave offerings of the alms… as if they were in a conspiracy to rob the Mass of its meaning.
The rubric covers the usual and convenient method of collecting the alms, viz. that the churchwardens, or their substitutes, pass bags or small plates among the people, and then bring the alms thus collected to the chancel step, where a ‘fit person’, i.e. the [subdeacon or] clerk, is ready to ‘receive’ them ‘in a decent bason to be provided by the Parish for that purpose’.  The fit person shall then ‘reverently bring it to the Priest’.  The priest is then to present the bason and place it upon the holy Table: this he is to do, not ostentatiously, but ‘humbly’, slightly raising it: there is no authority for the solemn elevation of the alms-bason…
(Dearmer, The Parson’s Handbook, pages 280 and 374-375)

Without any apparent offertory prayers, the minister then began the Prayer for the Church, which was the version from the 1928 Proposed B.C.P., including prayer for the dead.  His prayer therein for acceptance of the alms and oblations was the only offertory prayer.

Next, the Invitation – the words “meekly kneeling upon your knees” rather shamefacedly omitted, as (apart from at the Gospel and Creed) we all simply sat throughout, right down to the end of the whole service, without any kneeling at all.  Perhaps this was because of the age of the parishioners, or the absence of hassocks…

The General Confession and Absolution followed – the celebrant turned to the people for the latter, and made over them the sign of the Cross.  The Comfortable Words were omitted, and all said together the Prayer of Humble Access, as a sort of Secret I suppose.

The usual preface dialogue and Preface followed, but the minister seemed thoroughly discombobulated by the absence from the Missal of a Sunday Preface, and read the Christmas Preface instead!

The Canon was that of the Interim Rite: Prayer of Consecration plus Prayer of Oblation, including the 1549 Memorial or Anamnesis.  The Cranmerian pseudo-epiclesis, “that we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine… may be partakers of [Christ’s] most blessed Body and Blood” was the one certainly and definitely unacceptable and uncatholic part of the liturgy, absolutely demanding removal forthwith: Rome would never accept it, since it teaches false doctrine (Zwinglianism, receptionism or the like).  The celebrant didn’t even elevate the bread and wine high enough to see – such his churchmanship.

The Lord’s Prayer and Agnus Dei followed; there was no “The peace of the Lord be with you…” at all.  The “Behold the Lamb of God” came immediately after this, but most oddly the celebrant remained facing the altar, and instead held up and to either side the chalice and paten, thus displaying them to the people in wondrous wise!  God indeed moveth in mysterious ways.  It really seemed as if he were making up the rubricks as he went along.

The Anglicans then went forward and stood for communion: the formula was “The Body / Blood of Christ keep you in everlasting life”, I think.

After the fellow who assisted the celebrant helped him purify the vessels by pouring water into them, and the chalice was re-dressed, the Prayer of Thanksgiving came next, prefaced with “The Lord be with you” and “Let us pray”.  After that, again “The Lord be with you” plus “Let us depart in peace”, before “The peace of God” and the minister thereby giving his blessing to his flock.  That was it.  A most plain and unadorned B.C.P. Holy Communion service, just slightly catholicized with a longer than usual Eucharistic Prayer.

No hymns were sung; the service took but 45 minutes.

Rob and I said a brief hello afterward to Bruce (whom I know) and to the celebrant (a new acquaintance), as we helped pack things up.

After leaving, we both agreed that it was quite a shock to have gone along expecting some Anglo-Catholic sacred ceremonial, and finding a quite conservative but very plain B.C.P., frankly Protestant service instead.  

It confirms many fears about the big changes the T.A.C. will have to adopt if it is to come into full communion.

First Vespers of the Assumption

The Dominican Breviary features magnificent treasures at 1st Vespers - and the rest of their Assumption Office includes the very valuable ancient Collect Veneranda, which teaches - against the immortalists - that Our Lady truly died and yet could not be held in the bonds of death, as she had brought forth the Incarnate Son:

* Only one, extremely long and elaborate antiphon for the five psalms (which are the Laudate Psalms used for all first Vespers: Pss 112, 116, 145, 146, 147):

Tota pulchra es, amica mea, et macula non est in te: favus distillans labia tua, mel et lac sub lingua tua: odor unguentorum tuorum super omnia aromata: jam enim hiems transiit, imber abiit, et recessit: flores apparuerunt, vineæ florentes odorem dederunt, et vox turturis audita est in terra nostra. Surge, propera, amica mea: veni de Libano, veni, coronaberis.
(Cant. 4:7,11,10;2:11,12,13,12,10;4:8)

* Little chapter: either (1956) In omnibus requiem (Ecclus 24:11b-12), from the Common, but actually highly appropriate, what with Our Lady being granted rest in the Lord's tabernacle; or (1962) Benedixit te (Judith 13:22b,23b), since the Dominicans adopted the new proper readings from Pius XII's new Office for the Assumption - which frankly are a distinct loss.

* Long responsory, its opening based on St Luke 1:45:

R/. Beata es, Virgo Maria, Dei Genetrix, quæ credidisti Domino: perfecta sunt in te quæ dicta sunt tibi: ecce exaltata es super choros Angelorum. * Intercede pro nobis ad Dominum Jesum Christum.  V/. Benedicta et venerabilis es, Virgo Maria, quæ sine tactu pudoris inventa es Mater Salvatoris. * Intercede... Gloria Patri... * Intercede...

* Hymn - the traditional Ave, maris stella;

* Versicle Exaltata es;

* Magnificat antiphon most lengthy and ornate, which seems to betray a Byzantine original:

Ascendit Christus super cælos, et præparavit suæ castissimæ Matri immortalitatis locum: et hæc est illa præclara festivitas, omnium Sanctorum festivitatibus incomparabilis, in qua gloriosa et felix, mirantibus cælestis curiæ ordinibus, ad æthereum pervenit thalamum: quo pia sui memorum immemor nequaquam exsistat.
(Christ ascended above the heavens, and prepared a place of immortality for his most chaste Mother: and this is that goodly festival, incomparable to the feasts of all the Saints, on which the Glorious and Happy, all the orders of the heavenly court a-wondering, came to the ethereal nuptial chamber: so that no one should be unmindful of the pious memory of it.)

* Collect (for the Vigil; the Dominicans read the Sunday Collect on the Vigil itself):

Deus, qui virginalem aulam beatæ Mariæ, in qua habitares, eligere dignatus es: da, quæsumus, ut, sua nos defensione munitos, jucundos facias suæ interesse consortes: Qui vivis...
(O God, Who didst deign to choose the virginal chamber of blessed Mary wherein Thou wouldest dwell: grant, we beg, that, we strengthened by her defence, Thou make us to be sharers of her joy: Who livest...)

All this was a most welcome blessing, which I read privately just before attending the Vigil Mass.  For some idiot reason I'd thought that in the modern Rite Mass would be of the Sunday, so I was very glad to find that the Assumption still takes precedence: we had a very devout Lady Mass therefore.

Mass, as celebrated with devotion by Fr Allan, is Mass indeed: Robert (who's visiting me this week-end) and I were very glad to have attended and made our communion.  It was Catholic in the best sense.

The rest of the day, having been the Vigil of the Assumption, I'd read the Little Office (Dominican Rite), and after Communion and Mass I ended with Compline of the Blessed Virgin, as was fitting.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dominican Ave Regina cælorum

It seems almost forgotten by the Dominicans themselves that, down to the sixteenth century, the Salve Regina was not sung daily at Compline – instead, it alternated with another Marian anthem, a variant of the Ave regina cælorum with text and music proper to the Order.

When in past years I lived in Melbourne, I could freely go to the reference section of the excellent Dominican Studium library there, and consult a facsimile copy of the Poissy Antiphonal or Antiphoner, originally written for a convent of Dominican nuns in 13th century France.

Once, I even went to the rare books room of the Melbourne State Library, having gained access as part of my theological studies (embarrassingly, the only unit I ever failed was that concerned with sacred music!), and with gloved hands turned the pages of the actual volume, surely one of the greatest mediæval treasures held in Australia.

The Poissy Antiphonal's beautifully clear and legible chants and blackletter text bear witness to the astonishing stability of the Dominican repetoire: the music for antiphon after antiphon is note for note the same as that still sung in St Dominic's Church only a short walk away down the other end of the Priory.

It always thrilled me to hear the Dominican Ave Regina cælorum chanted there – the friars having taken advantage of the modern relaxation of their rubrics to compile and use ad libitum a booklet of a good selection of Marian anthems (plus ones to Holy Father Dominic), including this ancient chant, once so popular but then utterly trumped by the Salve.

Herewith, the music of this anthem from the Poissy Antiphonal (apologies for the poor resolution – the stave and square notes are legible enough, but to make out the text, compare with my transcription immediately below:

Ave regina celorum ave domina angelorum salve radix sancta ex qua mundo lux e[s]t orta gaude gloriosa super omnes speciosa vale valde decora et pro nobis semper christum exora.

Sing it through, the music is marvellous and moving!  The repeated runs of ascending then descending neums, as on celorum, est or(ta), speciosa, pro nobis, exora give a wonderful quality to this anthem.  (Compare it with the Premonstratensian chant for the solemn Ave Regina – the Norbertines use the Roman words, but it seems the melody is closer to the Dominican.)

I suspect the Dominican recension of this anthem is older as regards its text than the Roman (Dominican-only words are underlined, Roman only are struck through):

Ave, Regina cælorum,
Ave, Domina Angelorum:
Salve, radix sancta, salve porta,
Ex qua mundo lux est orta:
Gaude, Virgo gloriosa,
Super omnes speciosa,
Vale, O valde decora,
Et pro nobis semper Christum exora.

It may be seen that the Roman version has added several elements to smooth out the text and make it more metrical.  It is most unlikely that the Dominicans omitted the holy epithet Virgo – far more probably the Roman version had this word added to it.

(In like manner, the Carthusians alone retain the original text of the Salve - which began Salve Regina misericordiæ, and ended O dulcis Maria: the words Mater and Virgo were added later, research has proved.  The Poissy Antiphonal gives the Salve directly before the Ave Regina, and sure enough the words Mater and Virgo are also not yet found there.)

Interestingly, this version of the Ave Regina (but for ending Christum semper exora, having transposed two words) appears as the Nunc dimittis anthem for Compline of the Office of Our Lady on Saturday in the 1719 Breviary of Cologne.

Apparently the Ave Regina first appears in the 12th century as an antiphon for None on the feast of Our Lady's Assumption into heaven: hence word in the second last line, Vale – Goodbye!  

It is as it were the faithful people's last salutation of the Holy Virgin Mother ere she depart, caught up on high to abide with Christ for ever as a most faithful intercessor with Him her Only Son for all her spiritual children vouchsafed her by Him from the Cross.

A right devout and holy hymn to sing ever to the loving Mother of the Redeemer.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui Domine

This verse of Psalm 4 – just sung by us at Compline – came powerfully to mind when Father proceeeded to give us Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament:

Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui, Domine: dedisti lætitiam in corde meo.

"The light of Thy countenance is signed upon us, Lord: Thou hast given joy to my heart."

Truly God has listened, has heeded the voice of my prayer, has not turned His face away from me, but blesses me by His priest, signing us with the Sacrament of His love, giving joy to my heart: "for God is potent in redonating a greater consolation", as the Imitatio Christi avers.

St Augustine comments upon this very verse in his Confessions, writing against the Manichees from following whose falsities he had been delivered, angry at them or rather pitying them for being madly hostile to the medicine of the sacraments (cf. IX, iv, 8):

'The light of your countenance, Lord, is signed upon us' (Ps 4:7).  For we are not 'the light that enlightens every man' (John 1:9).  We derive our light from you, so that we 'who were once darkness are light in you' (Eph 5:8).  If only they [the Manichees] could see the eternal to be inward!  I had tasted this...  
...there you began to be my delight, and 'you gave gladness in my heart' (Ps 4:7).  And I cried out loud when I acknowledged inwardly what I read in external words.
Confessions, IX, iv, 10

Our small schola, with Father and some parishioners, had gathered on a rainy night to sing God's praises in the immemorial Latin plainchant, and then gone on to worship Emmanuel, God present with us in His Sacrament.  We few, we happy few...

We had supper after, and a good long discussion touching on many of the ills and worries of contemporary society.  It is indeed sad, as it was for Augustine, to think of the wider world's peoples heedless of or even actively spurning the celestial remedies at hand to the fears and dangers of our transient life, the free offer of salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Orphanages and Aged Care Facilities

What happened to all the orphanages that used to exist?  I think of an old lady in Hobart who was brought up in St Joseph's Orphanage: it used to be opposite St Joseph's Church, but was long ago demolished, and a motel built on the site.  Where have all the orphans gone?  I think we know the answer.

How much cheaper for the Government not to waste any money on unwanted children – but for the cost of  the Medicare rebate for abortion.

What will happen to all the aged care facilities, the nursing homes, retirement homes and old folks' home, the secure wards for dementia sufferers, for those too frail, incontinent or addled to care for themselves?  The aged care system is in crisis, and with the imminent old age of a vast horde of Baby Boomers, wherever will the money come from to accommodate and look after them all?

How much cheaper for the Government not to waste any money on unwanted senior citizens – but for the cost of the Medicare rebate for euthanasia.

Any suggestions as to how many years away such legislation may lie?  (As there is compulsory voting in Australia, the elderly will first have to be coaxed into supporting the legalization of suicide for the ill and infirm, for reasons of "dignity"; then they will have to be persuaded to take the bitter pill themselves...)

I suppose, given the fact that the Baby Boomers seem to have grown up with and propagated many moral evils ever since they came of age in the sixties, it may be that in this case as in all others, "every sin is its own punishment".

Joshua's Corollary to Neuhaus' Law

Whatever is not preached is not believed.

The Dormitionistines

Passing through the sleep of death, the saints enter into eternal rest.  Each night’s sleep and slumber, therefore, ought conduct us closer to meeting the Lord, and entering into His rest.  Sleep is both an image of death, and a foretaste of everlasting repose.  For this reason, it is an eminently Christian and religious pastime to sleep.

This devotion is eminently Trinitarian: as Moses taught us, “The eternal God your refuge, and underneath the everlasting Arms” (Deut. xxxiv) – Which Arms are the Son, Who grants rest to His flock by establishing a new covenant of peace, “that they may rest in the woods” (Ezech. xxxiv, 25), that is, by faith in the power of His Cross; and the Holy Spirit, the Promised Consoler, “a spirit of deep sleep” (Is. xxix, 10).

The Canonesses Regular of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Dormitionistines, form the second order counterpart to the Dormitionist Canons.  Like them, they are enclosed, contemplative religious, devoted in childlike confidence to the Lord Who will grant His beloved eternal rest, through His Mother, as exemplified by her most holy Dormition.

The Canonesses in their piety love to dwell upon the little maidchild of whom Christ said, “The damsel is not dead but sleeping” (St Matt. ix, 24 and parallels).  The Lord blessed her in her sleep: she was therefore a lively image of the Christian, and of the virgin espoused to Christ, not dead in sin, but sleeping the sleep of the just.  He but woke her again for a time, till in due course she would at last sleep in Him forever.  In their convents, the Dormitionistines strive to live after her model, and observe a sweet and most pious, restful life.

“Tell no man of this” – such Christ commanded the parents of that little child, and hence the Dormitionistines keep themselves very quiet and humble; never before have the secrets of their retired lives been discussed in such detail…

It is their beloved Christ the Lord Who is the Bridegroom, at Whose delayed approach all the virgins “slumbered and slept” (St Matt. xxv, 5).  The Dormitionistines devoutly hope in their lowliness to be numbered among such women entirely consecrated to Him, as it were praying daily, “I slept, but my heart was awake” (Cant. v, 2).  This sums up the entire charism of their holy life.

The eyes of their hearts are directed Godward, in thanksgiving to the Father.  They rejoice to find written in the account of Creation that woman was made from man “when the Lord cast Adam into a deep sleep” (Gen. ii, 21), since the obvious conclusion may be drawn that, at her beginning, Eve, ere she sinned, was created in a state of sleep.  Sleeping Adam must have been the cause of sleeping Eve, for like is formed from like.  How significant is this!

As Christ is the New Adam, His Mother Mary the New Eve, the Dormitionistines hope to imitate her that they may return to Him; as these holy sisters wish to recover the paradisal state lost by sin, they therefore aspire to be as the First Eve, and sleep — as Holy Mary in her Dormition departed this mortal life by falling asleep in the Lord, by reason of her great love, so they wish to be enamoured of Christ the New Adam after the model of the New Eve, and fall asleep in love, perhaps at last to sleep in the Lord Whom they love, for ever.

They pray that a deep sleep from the Lord may fall upon them (cf. I Kings xxvi, 12), and for this they invoke the Holy Ghost.  “There is a great reward for those who fall asleep in godliness” (II Mach. xii, 45), and this must be begged as a grace from the Sanctifier of all.  Mindful that “healthy sleep depends on moderate eating” (Ecclus xxxi, 20) and on observing a prudent temperance in all matters, the canonesses invoke the Spirit of wisdom to guide them in their observance of all tenets of their Rule.

In this, they are assisted materially by their chaplains, Dormitionist Canons deputed to preach and celebrate Mass for them.  As we all know, and as even the great Apostle Paul’s example teaches, long sermons help the faithful to fall asleep, even to die (Acts xx, 9): without prompting, these good sisters repeatedly testify to a like effect gained from the homilies of most priests.

Mass in their chapels of course follows the Dormitionist Rite, very conducive to a spirit of restful piety, with the added help of not only the full prostration of the Canonesses throughout Low Mass required by the rubrics, but moreover the drawing of the great veil across the chapel screen, that nothing whatsoever of the softly murmured service be visible in any case.

The sisters find even their few daily tasks pleasingly soporific, as all necessary tasks have this innate quality by reason of Divine Providence, as everyone knows.  How much more their specifically religious duties, carefully adapted to the particular charism of their state!

Ignorant worldlings may scoff at the Dormitionistines, behaving like the Devil by quoting the Scriptures: “do not love sleep else you will become poor” (Prov. xx, 13) — but these wise women simply smile and agree that therefore poor religious should definitely love sleep, as the Lord has disposed that these two states should go together.

It is the hope of these quiet religious that their feminine example may be of profit to many women, too much distracted by the things of the world, Marthas, forgetful of the one thing necessary.  If more souls rested in the Lord, turning from rushing transience to still transcendence, how much happier would the world be.  "Sleep on, and take your rest."

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Dormitionist Rite of Mass

Mass: foretaste of the eternal rest and peace that we will have in heaven, per omnia sæcula sæculorum and world without end!  Is this not the joy we ought have, even here and now, at Mass?

How many of the laity now long for the sacred ceremonies and hushed murmur of Low Mass, without the jangling distractions bedevilling the beleaguered at too many liturgical “celebrations” these days, which cruelly torment souls desiring only rest?  Too many, forsooth.

Mass is an image of death, the Death of the Lord: for through His death we enter into eternal rest.  It is therefore pleasing that many of the faithful attempt to die to themselves, or appear as if dead, when at Mass.  An old-fashioned "meditation Mass" can have this quality, as can many an Ordinary Mass I find.

That most noble and retiring of Orders, the unique, cloistered, contemplative men of the Canons Regular of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Dormitionists for short, have in their ancient liturgical forms taken this lesson to heart.  Let us in spirit fly to their choirs, and in imagination observe what we long for so in reality….

First and foremost, rejecting those who make a foolish fetish of ridiculously early Mass, even any morning Masses at all, these religious stedfastly stick to evening Mass – before or even after their Compline.  (I well recall the pleasure of serving a certain friar’s meditative private Mass, which he preferred to offer after 10 pm.)

The O.Dorm.’s place much emphasis on their seemingly contrary hour of celebration, at once after and yet ahead of all other Masses: for, still beginning the liturgical day with first Vespers, in fact all their Masses are vigil Masses said, by anticipation, on the eve or in the early night of the succeeding day.  (This example doubtless inspires a certain holy priest in Perth of whom a like practice is remarked.)  “Evening came, and morning came” – thus the order of the days of Creation (cf. Gen. i).  Again, “The last shall be first, and the first, last”.

One Lamb is to be offered in the morning, one Lamb at evening, these devout Canons aver, alluding to Exodus xxix, 39-41 and Numbers xxviii, 4-8.  Was not the Passover held ad vesperum (Lev. xxiii, 5)?  Was not Israel, that is, the faithful, delivered, and Egypt, that is, Satan, punished at night?  Again, the Last Supper was held in the evening, “and it was night”.  When Our Lord died, the sun was darkened – betokening the Divine preference for night-time Mass.  Just so, the Lord broke bread with the disciples at Emmaus in the darkening dusk (cf. St Luke xxiv).  Thus, while the One Lamb is offered throughout the Church in the morning, the Dormitionists keep up the holier parallel by offering up the One Lamb in the evening.

It is not customary among these Canons Regular, as holy religious, not worldly, secular priests, to celebrate daily, let alone more than once a day (strange thought!).  Given the Order’s special charism, the brethren with due reticence approach the awful altar (just as Bl Pope Innocent XI only celebrated Mass himself on Sundays and feasts, and otherwise was content, in his humility, with hearing the Mass of his chaplain; Bossuet did much the same; and as a well-known Jesuit at the Gregorian used to celebrate only every second day, lest his devotion slacken by overfamiliarity).  Perhaps only a few Masses, sometimes just one, are offered in each House of the Order each day.

Dormitionist Low Mass, apart from the rites recorded here, bears a strong resemblance to the Dominican – unsurprisingly, for its peculiar rites arose in a similar milieu; just as some of its prayers, such as the Apologia, to be discussed infra, are otherwise found in the Use of Lyons only, and a certain Carthusian simplicity, a deliberate simplification of ritual (itself traceable to the Church of Grenoble), pervades the Order.  All these traces point to this Use’s origins lying within mediæval France.

Mass in the Order begins with the most awful solemnity: the brethren prostrate and the Canon celebrant, having first mixed the chalice at the altar (just as the Dominicans do in their own traditional Mass), immediately re-descends its steps and throws himself down in humiliation – for, instead of the more modern Confiteor and allied prayers, the Dormitionists preserve here its ancient forebear, the sacerdotal Apologia of Carolingian times.  This long, intensely penitential self-accusation, added to the full prostration of priest and ministers otherwise seen only on Good Friday in the West, testifies to the antique spirit of this Use:
Deus, qui non mortem, sed pœnitentiam desideras peccatorum, me miserum fragilemque peccatorem a tua non repellas pietate, neque aspicias ad peccata et scelera mea, et immundas turpesque cogitationes, quibus flebiliter a tua disjungor voluntate; sed ad misericordias tuas, et fidem devotionemque eorum, qui per me peccatorem tuam expetunt misericordiam.  Et quia me indignum medium inter te et populum tuum fieri voluisti, fac me talem, ut digne possim exorare misericordiam tuam pro me et pro eodem populo tuo.  Et adjunge voces nostras vocibus sanctorum et angelorum tuorum, ut sicut illi te laudant ineffabiliter in æterna beatitudine, ita nos quoque eorum interventu mereamur te laudare inculpabiliter in hac peregrinatione.  Amen.
(“O God, Who desirest not the death, but the repentance of sinners, repel Thou not me a miserable and fragile sinner from Thy piety, neither behold Thou my sins and crimes, and my unclean and shameful thoughts, by which tearfully I am sundered from Thy will; but look to Thy mercies, and the faith and devotion of them, who through me a sinner await Thy mercy.  And because Thou hast willed to set unworthy me in the midst between Thee and Thy people, make me such, that I may worthily be able to beseech Thy mercy for me and for the same Thy people.  And adjoin to our voices the voices of Thy saints and angels, that as they praise Thee ineffably in eternal beatitude, so we also at their intervention may deserve to praise Thee without fault in this [our life’s] pilgrimage.  Amen.”)
Students of the school of utilitarian liturgy would remark that this practice survives doubtless due to the unusual proximity of Mass to Compline in the Dormitionist Order.  They would contend that, as there is a Confiteor &c. at Compline, these Canons Regular rationally refuse to double up these prayers at the proximate Mass.  (Just so, the early Dominicans were directed to omit the Confiteor at Prime if they were to celebrate Mass immediately thereafter.)

True; but the O.Dorm.’s themselves prefer, in Carolingian style, to point to an Old Testament exemplar: for Josue lay prone on the earth before the Ark of the Lord usque ad vesperam, and with him all the elders of Israel (Jos. vii, 6).  Does not the Book of Leviticus constantly repeat immundus erit usque ad vesperum, “he shall be unclean until the evening”?  How right, then, to wait to purify oneself by confession till as late as humanly possible!

Similarly, this Scripture justifies the Dormitionist rule whereby those present remain prostrate during the whole sacred mutter of the Mass (although, in the case of the server, he must needs rise from time to time to serve the priest, or at least to speak clearly – unlike the rest still lying face down on the floor).  In this, these holy religious keep up the ancient practice of the Popes in seventh-century Rome: accedit ad altare et prostrato omni corpore in terra facit orationem.  As the Lord Himself taught us, “Sleep on, and take your rest” – advice we ought heed at many a Mass.

The sanctus candle normally lit from Canon to Communion in other rites, is in this Use kept burning continually, lit by the server, straight after the other candles, at the first approach to the altar.  This is done lest the celebrant fall asleep in the awesome yawning silence.

From Office (that is, the Introit) through to Offertory, Mass proceeds very much as in the Rite of the Friars Preachers, whose brethren, vocation and Order the Dormitionists in so many strange ways resemble; but then the Rite of the Canons Regular again diverges in its forms.  Several of these peculiarities are linked to the extraordinary hour of the celebration.

Thus the priest begins the Offertory, not with the Dominican Quid retribuam, but by lifting up his eyes and arms to heaven, and praying Dirigatur, Domine, oratio mea, sicut incensum in conspectu tuo: elevatio manuum mearum sicut sacrificium vespertinum — “May my prayer, Lord, be directed as incense in Thy sight: the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Ps 140:2).  Is not this silent Low Mass in the evening gloom, or even later at night, truly the foreshadowed “evening sacrifice”?

Directly after this imploration of God, with hands at first brought back together, the Holy Ghost is invoked, the head lifted up and then bowed down, the arms extended, lifted, lowered and rejoined in a circular gesture before the holy Sign is made over the oblations: “prayer goeth up, pity cometh down”, says St Augustine somewhere.  The form of the Veni sanctificator proper to the Order, otherwise found in rare old Missals, is particularly fulsome and impressive:
Veni, sanctificator omnium, Sancte Spiritus, et sanct+ifica hoc præsens sacrificium ab indignis manibus præparatum et descende in hanc hostiam invisibiliter, sicut in patrum hostias visibiliter descendisti.
(“Come, Hallower of all, Holy Spirit, and sanct+ify this present sacrifice prepared by unworthy hands, and descend invisibly into this sacrifice, as Thou didst descend visibly upon the sacrifices of the Fathers.”)
This said, the priest-celebrant bows low for the In spiritu humilitatis, changing the usual hodie in the prayer to hac nocte, to speak with verisimilitude of the hour of Sacrifice.  There is, unexpectedly, no Lavabo following, only a simple Orate fratres, just those two words with no response, as in the oldest Ordines Romani.  (How could the prostrate brethren respond anyway? — it may be supposed they are praying inwardly, "Eternal rest grant unto us, O Lord".)

It may be mentioned en passant that the Dormitionists, ever suspicious of newfangled innovations, do not employ the pall, that strange stiffened fabric square, but retain the more appropriate and traditional usage, whereby the corporal is so large as to make it easy to lift up and fold the far side of it over the chalice, both to ward off insects (as Dom Claude de Vert would have opined) and to represent in lively fashion Our Lord's Holy Winding Sheet or Shroud, imaging His Burial.  It may be imagined how this evocative usage inspires holy and wholesome thoughts in these ever-retiring Canons as they long for death and rest in Christ more and more, in truth not merely in semblance.

But to return to the next event at the altar, next the Secret, that prayer of silent setting apart (as Bossuet considered it, deriving its name from the verb secernere) is read.  In the Order, the Secret, living up to its still more ancient title of Oratio super oblata, is said with hands stretched out and held together over the elements.  This evocative gesture represents in lively manner the sacrifice the brethren are making by remaining prone all through Mass: in utter quiet, indeed as if dead, they are uniting themselves thus to the One Oblation.

The most notable curiosity of the Dormitionist Mass appears next: for the Preface is silent!

This is for the greater convenience of the recumbent brethren, of course; and mystically fulfils the words of the Apocalypse, that there was silence in heaven for half an hour (or however long it takes to say the Preface silently).  The priest recites the Preface secretly until he raises his voice for the ecphonesis: sine fine / supplici confessione / una voce dicentes: Sanctus…

In all this, the influence of a Greek original may be discerned, for such is done in the Byzantine Rite.  This may have come West via the ancient practice in certain churches of France, most famously at the royal abbey of St Denis, of celebrating the Mass entirely in Greek on some feasts, such as that of the putative Areopagite; from this liturgical connexion to the East came a leakage of rubric into the Use of the Canons Regular of the Dormition.

Another ritual curiosity may be remarked upon: as was the custom in German Uses of old time, the priest washes his hands after the Benedictus, directly before entering upon the awful mystery of the Canon, using the prayer (identical with that of the Rite of Cologne) Dele, Domine, omnes iniquitates meas, ut tua mysteria digne possim tractare – that is, "Blot out, Lord, all my iniquities, that I may be able worthily to handle Thy Mysteries."  If only all priests would so recollect themselves before handling the Word Who is life (cf. I John i, 1).

At the Elevation (only visible to the celebrant), the Canons pray Pie Jesu Domine, dona nobis requiem — “Gentle Jesu Lord, grant us rest”.  For by this dread hour, Mass is half-over, and bed beckons.  How much better to say Mass late than early!  For in the morning, the faithful look to breakfast, and so "their god is their belly, their end is destruction" (Philippians iii, 19); whereas, in the quiet evening, the Dormitionists have even now a foretaste of that rest which shall be eternal, as they long for repose.

Shortly after this, at the Supra quæ, the celebrant extends his conjoined hands over the Consecrated Elements.  (Recall that Dormitionist priests otherwise do much as the Friars Preachers, and so bow at the Hanc igitur rather than do as the Romans do.)  This, a rubric also found in mediæval German missals, is said to recall the atttendant brethren at Mass, now truly prostrate before their Eucharistic Lord, already in this life entering into His rest, already as it were in Abraham’s bosom.

The Dormitionists conceiving themselves to be, even in this life, sleepers in Christ, the priest remembers the brethren at the Memento etiam, alongside the already dead.  What a pity secular priests, as they look out ad populum, cannot freely do the same, so fittingly it may seem, for their congregations…

In like fashion, the Agnus Dei is proper to the Order: 

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona nobis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona nobis requiem.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi: dona nobis requiem sempiternam.

See the insistent repetition of the hope-filled prayer, “grant us rest, grant us rest everlasting”!  How the O.Dorm.’s do faithfully pray on behalf of all the faithful throughout the world who long for rest, whether at Mass or elsewhere, or at the least a comfy bed and a little longer to abide therein.  They bring to learnèd perfection the inchoate desires of the simple, desires planted in the heart from on high that we may be drawn all unawares to heaven.

At Communion, too, this peculiar emphasis is made: there is no pre-communion oration except for the long commixture prayer Hæc sacrosancta that includes petitions for a fruitful communion; straightway follow the communion formulæ, for the priest, and for the rest — in all three, the usual words ad vitam æternam or custodia(n)t me / te in vitam æternam (as in the Dominican forms) read instead ad requiem æternam and proficia(n)t me /te in requiem æternam.  “The Body (and Blood) of Our Lord Jesus Christ profit me / thee unto eternal rest.”  

For is not life eternal to be a state of endless rest and repose in the Lord?  And is not the Eucharist the foretaste of such?  And to those who aspire ever to sleep in Christ, who repose in the Lord even in this life, Communion ought help settle us down to an even deeper state of restful contemplation.

The Ecce Agnus Dei and Domine non sum dignus are not used in the Mass of the O.Dorm.'s, as the brethren are of course still prostrate, and could hardly roll on one side to strike their breasts, as would be ridiculous and unseemly, more like the behaviour of scratching seals or walruses than holy religious men!  (For utterly the same reason the Pax is not given.)

After Communion, as in mediæval Uses particularly in Scandinavia (though even among isolated Dominicans), the Nunc dimittis is prayed in thanksgiving, but silently, since at Compline it will by all be sung.  Given the one devotional focus of the Order, on preparing as good and faithful servants for everlasting rest having seen the Lord, this is most fitting.  (Confirming how common a sentiment this is, many Protestants even, Lutherans and Calvinists alike, use this canticle in their pretended services.  Of old time the vicar of Holy Trinity, East Kew, recited this prayer antiphonally with his servers as he returned to the vestry after the Second Service.)

Mass concludes rapidly, for there is no blessing nor Last Gospel.  Directly before the last, quiet prayer, the Placeat (itself ending, not Per Christum Dominum nostrum, but in requiem æternam, before the Amen), if Mass is said directly before Compline it ends with Benedicamus Domino; if after Compline, and thus directly before bed, with – of course – Requiescamus in pace.