M. C. at Mass! – I haven't done this since arranging a Requiem for Brett, God rest his soul; I well recall Fr Tattersall tapping the missal in annoyance when I hesitated, unsure whether yet to move it or not... In any case, despite making many errors (it all seemed so simple when I skimmed through Fortescue-O'Connell-Reid, pp. 162-8), Fr Gerald (who only gets to say a Latin Mass once a month) seemed pleased to have someone at hand to help gently direct proceedings, as did the servers, and things did run a bit more smoothly, which is all one could ask for, given that is in fact what the M. C. ought ensure.
Once safely back in the sacristy, I did tease Fr by saying what a good omen it was that he sang the blessing, as only bishops do! We could do with a good replacement very soon. (Rubricarius will remind me for sure: did not the actual Missal published under Pope St Pius V command this very practice of priests singing the blessing? in that case, we had a Tridentine Mass in every respect.)
Looking over F.-O'C.-R. (is that the right abbreviation?) reminded me once again that I am a lector (I always think of the scene in The Madness of King George where one of that unfortunate monarch's indolent sons*, absurdly bewigged, powdered and attired, idly picks at one of the decorations he's wearing, and remarks, "I say, I'm a bishop!"): apparently, I could therefore sing the Epistle, omitting of course particular details reserved to subdeacons such as receiving a blessing from the priest; but I could hardly be both M. C. and take part as lector, since I would need to be in two places at once...
[* It was Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, for ever famous in the nursery-rhyme as "the grand old Duke of York", who was appointed Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück in 1764, aged less than a year old – by a strange arrangement, between 1648 and 1803, Catholic and Protestant prince-bishops alternately held the see and principality, down to its eventual suppression; Frederick was the last prince-bishop. To answer the unspoken question, during each Protestant period, the Archbishop of Cologne had the cure of the Catholic souls; while the (Anglican) Frederick was technically head of the Lutherans there. Weird.]
Being M. C., one is so caught up in supervising things that one can't pray the Mass as one would like. At least when in the choir I was singing the Mass-texts, and otherwise attending to the Tremendous Sacrifice, kneeling. Inwardly I did bemoan my lack of fear and trembling when I had perforce to stand by the Missal throughout the Canon, especially after the Consecration, when the Divine Victim lies upon the altar, and it would be preferable to lie prostrate in awe. Later on I recalled, however, that "Emotion is not devotion" and obedience to one's duty (in this case, to turning the pages for the priest) is worthier far than pious passions which may well be pious piffle.
A side benefit of my trip from the north of the State to the south and back was the opportunity to pray the Office; only Vespers and Compline to go! (I maintain my private practice of only reading three psalms at Matins, since doing so is preferable to not reading it at all, and I find reading all nine psychologically daunting and exhausting.)
Furthermore, in the car, apart from listening to News Radio, I could play some CD's: Palestrina on one, and Biber's Missa Alleluja with Schmeltzer's Vesperæ sollemnes on the other: marvellous. The trip down began most appropriately with Palestrina's setting of that terrifying, yet oh-so-true Responsory from Matins of the Dead:
Peccantem me quotidie et non me pænitentem, timor mortis conturbat me, quia in inferno nulla est redemptio: miserere mei, Deus, et salva me.
(Sinning daily and not repenting, the fear of death troubles me, for in hell there is no redemption: have mercy on me, O God, and save me.)
How many souls at various times have struggled with precisely such a dilemma! There but for the grace of God... Only Divine grace, besought in prayer, can inspire the free will of man to turn from sinning and not repenting, that he may escape endless hell.
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