Thursday, September 29, 2011

St Michael, Come to Our Aid

I must recall to pray St Michael more often, that that blessed Archangel intervene for the people of God, as once the prophet Daniel saw him do, and may thrust down to Hell Satan and all evil spirits.

Here are some collects from his Vespers according to the Ambrosian Rite; I haven't quite finished translating the last one:

Oratio I
Da nobis, omnipotens Deus, beati Michaelis Archangeli honore ad summa proficere: ut cujus in terris gloriam prædicamus, ejus quoque precibus adjuvemur in cœlis. Per…

Give to us, almighty God, to profit to the utmost by honouring blessed Michael the Archangel: that as we tell of his glory on earth, we may be helped by his prayers in heaven. Through…

Oratio II = Roman

Oratio III
Adesto plebi tuæ, misericors Deus: et ut gratiæ tuæ potiora beneficia percipiat, beati Michaelis Archangeli fac supplicem deprecationibus sublevari. Per…

Be present to thy people, merciful God: and that they may perceive greater benefits by thy grace, make them, prostrate in prayer, to be lifted up by the prayers of blessed Michael the Archangel. Through…

Oratio IV (cf. Roman Postcommunion)*
Beati Archangeli tui Michaelis interventione suffulti, supplices te, Domine, deprecamur: ut, quos honore prosequimur, contingamus et mente. Per…

Supported by the intervention of thy blessed Archangel Michael, bowing low, Lord, we pray thee: that, those we accompany with honour, we may lay hold of with our mind. Through...

* There seems something strange here: the Roman recension reads intercessione not interventione, a merely verbal difference, but also reads not quos honore but quod ore – and the meaning seems quite cryptic in both cases.  Help!

And furthermore: glancing at Dominican Vespers of St Michael, what did I see but that the Magnificat antiphon was all but identical to the Ambrosian Collect IV above (excluding the Per Dominum &c. of course), excluding only the words Beati and tui and supplices, and adding an alleluja.  Hmm, all very interesting...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Nice Surprise

Having sat through a rather annoying Mass the other day (it being obvious that the celebrant begrudged having to say Mass on Monday, that priestly Sabbath more sacred than any other, and for that matter couldn't be bothered even to try saying the new words for his parts at Mass - when the laity present had all long since accepted and memorized theirs - and didn't even bother to use any Penitential Rite at all, this being dispensable in his estimation it appears, given the evident objective to get the liturgy over and done with), it was joy indeed to arrive at Mass, albeit rather late (being afflicted with hayfever), and to find at the altar, not some lacklustre cleric itching to be gone, but a godly religious, preaching a moving sermon about priestly and religious holiness, all to the glory of the Sacred Heart and its conquest of souls.  I couldn't remember his name until he reminded me of it, since I have a bad memory for names oddly enough, but I did recognize him, and did recall the name of his companion in the pews: it was Fr Benedict and Br Louis, those stalwart Conventual Franciscans, with whom I studied theology about a decade or so ago.  Very kindly they said hello to me after having made their thanksgiving after Mass, and I'm glad to wish them well for the remainder of their time here in Tasmania.  How good to see a priest happy to be a priest, and one who cares for the flock.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Getting Ready for Christus Rex

Soon enough I'll be off on the 21st annual Peregrinatio Christi Regis (Christus Rex Pilgrimage) from Ballarat to Bendigo, from the cathedral of one to that of the other – in exactly five weeks, to be precise, since I will fly over to Melbourne on Thursday the 27th prox., in order to get to Ballarat very early the next morning (staying the night as a guest at a priest friend's residence en route).

I'd best start walking further each day!  (Last year, I just about killed myself by ludicrously insisting on walking the whole of Friday, despite being quite unprepared, to the extent that I honestly felt like crawling into a ditch to die that evening...)

To-day, I've registered, bought the plane tickets, and booked accommodation in Bendigo for the Sunday night, setting me back about $630 all told... plus whatever I've lost through taking two days off work without pay.  I suppose that's quite reasonable for a long weekend away, from Thursday night to Monday afternoon.  (The pilgrimage officially ends with Mass of Christ the King on Sunday afternoon, but unofficially there follows dinner that night, then another High Mass the next morning before brunch and a bus trip back to Melbourne airport.)

I must say, I don't like camping at all, though I don't mind walking (if prepared), so having to sleep in a tent two nights running is a most unwelcome prospect (no offence intended to those who kindly let me share their spacious structure: it just isn't my idea of fun).  However, a pilgrimage should involve penance, so that seems fair, though hard.

As is to be expected, I mused to-day about whether the 113 km Ballarat to Bendigo is the shortest distance between Catholic cathedrals in Australia: of course, it's not, since Sydney (including Wollongong to the south) has seven Catholic cathedrals within that range (including the Melkite, Maronite and Chaldean ones), but it would not be as pleasant marching to and fro through the suburbs as it is to peregrinate through country Victoria.

In any case, I hope one day to do that ancient pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella through northern Spain – as did some friends of mine in Hobart, who were 67 and 73 when they did it!

It is a very pleasant thing really, to go on pilgrimage.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Frigescente mundo

Yester-day, there was anticipated Mass of the Stigmata of St Francis in my Franciscan parish, since there is no Saturday morning Mass at St Francis (most unfortunately), and it seems to be ranked as a feast by the Friars Minor, given that the Gloria in excelsis was used.  To-day, I suppose, I'll read some Office in honour of this feast... my Dominican Diurnal treats it as a double feast, whereas by 1962, as in my Breviary, it was reduced to a Memory.

I do like the Collect of his Stigmata:

Dómine Jesu Christe, qui, frigescénte mundo, ad inflammándum corda nostra tui amoris igne, in carne beatíssimi Francisci passiónis tuæ sacra Stigmata renovásti: concéde propítius; ut ejus meritis et précibus crucem jugiter feramus, et dignos fructu pœniténtiæ faciámus: Qui vivis et regnas.
O Lord Jesu Christ, who when the world was waxing cold, to the inflaming of our hearts with the fire of thy love didst renew in the flesh of thy blessed Saint Francis the sacred marks of thy passion: mercifully grant that by his merits and intercession ; we may be enabled ever to bear thy Cross, and to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.  Who livest and reignest...

"When the world was waxing cold..." – what of our own age!


Unfortunately, pressures of work won't allow me to go to weekday Mass at St Francis for a while, given that it is held at 9 am: a pity, since I do like going to Mass there.  If one must attend the Novus Ordo, as I must but for once a month (pray Tasmania get a new bishop who is au fait with Papal policy and supportive thereof), then really I am spoiled for choice, since Mass at Carmel (albeit at 7.30 am) is also celebrated very reverently (the only drawback being that sometimes one of the priests supplying Mass there can say odd things in his sermons).

In both places, we have the unusual modern spectacle of singing in Latin at weekday Mass: at Carmel, if it is a feast day, the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei are all chanted, and some other parts are sung in English; at St Francis, Riverside, as I have only recently learnt, there is often a hymn sung before and after weekday Mass, and the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei are all chanted to the simple chant of Mass XVIII, while the Alleluia is also sung.

This seems to me a good example of how use of a small amount of music, well within the compass of a small weekday congregation, greatly contributes toward the sacralization of the liturgy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dominican Lauds of the Holy Cross

After Mass at St Francis, Riverside, this morning (where, thanks be, the strange weekday arrangement of chairs around the altar has at last been abolished, at length, since our priest has gently and patiently been working to improve matters liturgical without fuss, suppressing the contrary practice that had grown up there, and in peace I could kneel in the pews like a Catholic), I took the chance to read Lauds from my Dominican Diurnal – and what beautiful words.

Mass, especially given the use of the Roman Canon in the new corrected translation, had been marvellous, of course, and most marvellous in the offering of the Sacrifice and the reception of Our Lord in His Sacrament – but now I would like to present the sacred texts of Lauds, Dominican-style, which differ significantly from the Roman, in that only four antiphons (three for the psalms, one for the Benedictus) and the collect are the same in both, and the hymn in particular is noteworthy:

Ante Laudes V/.  Dicite in nationibus.
R/.  Quia Dominus regnavit a ligno.


Aña 1.  O magnum pietatis opus! Mors mortua tunc est, in ligno quando mortua Vita fuit.
Psalmus Dominus regnavit etc.
Aña 2.  Ecce Crucem Domini: fugite, partes adversæ: vicit Leo de tribu Juda, Radix David, alleluja.
Aña 3.  Nos autem gloriari oportet in Cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi.
Aña 4.  O Crux admirabilis, evacuatio vulneris, restitutio sanitatis!
Aña 5.  Crux benedicta nitet, Dominus qua carne pependit atque cruore suo vulnera nostra lavit.

Capitulum (Gal. 6)

Mihi autem absit gloriari, nisi in Cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi: per quem mihi mundus crucifixus est, et ego mundo.


Originale crimen necans in Cruce,
Nos a privatis, Christe, munda maculis:
Humanitatem miseratus fragilem,
Per Crucem sanctam lapsis dona veniam.

Protege, salva, benedic, sanctifica
Populum cunctum Crucis per signaculum:
Morbos averte corporis et animæ:
Hoc contra signum nullum stet periculum.

Sit Deo Patri laus in Cruce Filii,
Sit coæqualis laus Sancto Spiritui:
Civibus summis gaudium sit Angelis,
Honor sit mundo Crucis Exaltatio.  Amen.

V/.  Tuam Crucem adoramus, Domine.
R/.  Tuam gloriosam recolimus passionem.

Ad Bened. aña.  Super omnia ligna cedrorum tu sola excelsior, in qua Vita mundi pependit, in qua Christus triumphavit, et mors mortem superavit, alleluja.


Deus, qui nos hodierna die Exaltationis sanctæ Crucis annua solemnitate lætificas: præsta, quæsumus, ut, cujus mysterium in terra cognovimus, ejus redemptionis in cælo præmia consequamur.  Per eundem...

Pervert Priest?


"The Vicar-General of the Adelaide Archdiocese, Monsignor Ian Dempsey, was also quoted in The Advertiser. He noted the concern expressed at the falling number of seminarians and commented that the Church's "restrictive understanding and interpretation of sex within the whole category of love and intimacy" followed a history of male supremacy and patriarchy." (AD2000 Vol 12 No 4 (May 1999), p. 4)


Monsignor Ian Dempsey, now parish priest of Brighton, is named by Senator Xenophon as the alleged rapist of Archbishop Hepworth of the T.A.C., when the latter was a young Catholic priest.  Senator Xenophon told the Senate : ''The people of the Brighton parish have the right to know that for four years allegations have been outstanding that the priest, Ian Dempsey, raped John Hepworth and that church leadership has failed to make appropriate inquiries into this matter and that church leadership had failed to stand this priest down as a matter of course while inquiries take place. Sexual abuse flourishes because people keep secrets. For the people of South Australia this was a secret that in good conscience I did not feel I could, or should, keep.''


UPDATE: These allegations have now been investigated, and it has been determined that there is no substance to them.


[I delete two sentences, that speculated about a possible link between the quoted remarks above and the allegations made, and also predicted the Monsignor wouldn't be a parish priest much longer – for clearly these thoughts were incorrect.]

Recall that Cardinal Pell "stood aside" as Archbishop of Sydney while allegations against him – allegations found to be false – were made; so, if that was done in his high-profile case, why not in this?

[I still wonder about this last point, but perhaps the allegations were even to begin with considered to have so little substance as not to warrant such a treatment.]

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dormition Eve Procession

“And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with lamps.” (Sophonias 1:12a) – therefore, on Dormition Eve, the 14th of August, after the Mass of the Dormition, that renowned, great and most soporific torchlit nocturnal procession of the Sleeping Virgin is held in each Dorter (or Dormitory) of the Order of the Dormition, each truly being an ecclesiola, the whole Church (the true Jerusalem) in miniature.

Preceded by thurifer, crucifer and cerifers, fares forth the reclining statue of the Virgen dormida (as the Spanish say) on her sacred bier all bestrewn with fairest flowers (as is the church, as are all the cloisters, even the very cemetery), the whole carried by laybrothers as is their special duty and privilege, the contemplative canons themselves accompanying their Lady, the Virgin of Virgins, in their hands candles.

Almost* alone among all religious Orders, the Dormitionist still remains faithful to the command of Pope St Sergius (687-701), he who introduced the Agnus Dei at the Mass, by continuing to hold a great procession on this, the Eve of the "Day of the Great Lady" as the Hungarians term it – a magnificent procession held in the evening and night at Rome, from his age down to the second part of the sixteenth century, when alas it fell into disuse.

[*The Carmelite Rite, itself all but extinct, maintained this procession – so I suppose the Carmelite Monks in Wyoming still do.]

All process as if sleepwalking (some as if the walking dead), for it is accounted an especial grace among Dormitionists to be so suitably abstracted.  The Queen of Heaven herself is borne along upon her bed, as it is written, “In my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loveth.” (Cant. 3:1a) 

The canons sing from memory, quite unconsciously, producing a most unearthly sound.  The laybrothers, resisting the unworthy urge to groan under the weight of the hefty bier, unite or rather resign themselves to the solemn plainchant, if not to the Cross that is religious life, or at length take refuge in the somniferous Rosary. Does not such a peregrination all too aptly represent the Christian journey through this dark world?

The procession wends its weary way all through the House.  With the Most Holy Mother of God, well may we cry “In all these I sought rest” (Ecclus xxiv, 11) – just as do the Dormitionist Fathers and Brothers.  Again, the Spouse in the Canticle of Canticles sings “I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, and found him not.  I will… go about the city… I will seek him whom my soul loveth.” (Cant. iii, 1-2).  Is this not an image of the questing soul seeking God?

Out from the choir, down the nave, crying Magnificat, repeating its anthem after every verse; out and round the cloisters of the Dorter, passing each and every cell, chanting forth Memento Domine David, interspersed with that most apposite anthem "Before the couch of this Virgin sing often unto us sweet chants with solemnity"; out into the cemetery (where a station is made, at the foot of the great Cross therein) – out from the church, out to the grave, just as from the baptismal font we proceed ineluctably to the tomb.

But this is not the end!  Returning whence they came, representing the Christian ascent from the dust of earth to heavenly glory, the canons noise forth Venite and its festal invitatory "Mary hath entered * Into My rest", returning to the doors of the church – symbolizing heaven – for the second station, then returning at last up the nave and into the choir singing Nunc dimittis and the anthem "I am black but beautiful... the King hath loved me, and hath brought me into His chamber", holding the final station while the statue of the Virgo dormiens is returned to her place of honour and repose in the sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, just as Our Lady abides evermore with the Trinity in ceaseless rest and peace.

Immediately she has returned, Compline begins.  “We magnify thee, O undefiled Mother of Christ our God, and we praise thine all-glorious Dormition.”

Now first transcribed from that rarest of rare liturgical books, the Processionale O. Dorm., are the chants of the Dormition Procession, which follow below.

At the egress from choir, processing down the nave:

Aña. Magnificamus te, intemerata Mater Chriſti Dei noſtri, et laudamus glorioſiſſimam Dormitionem tuam.
Canticum beatæ Mariæ Virginis.  Lucæ 1.
1 Magnificat * anima mea Dominum;
Aña. Magnificamus te…
2 Et exſultavit ſpiritus meus * in Deo, ſalutari meo,
Aña. Magnificamus te…
3 Quia reſpexit humilitatem ancillæ ſuæ: * ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes,
Aña. Magnificamus te…
4 Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens eſt, * et ſanctum nomen ejus,
Aña. Magnificamus te…
5 Et miſericordia ejus a progenie in progenies * timentibus eum.
Aña. Magnificamus te…
6 Fecit potentiam in brachio ſuo, * diſperſit ſuperbos mente cordis ſui.
Aña. Magnificamus te…
7 Depoſuit potentes de ſede, * et exaltavit humiles.
Aña. Magnificamus te…
8 Eſurientes implevit bonis, * et divites dimiſit inanes.
Aña. Magnificamus te…
9 Suſcepit Iſraël, puerum ſuum, * recordatus miſericordiæ ſuæ,
Aña. Magnificamus te…
10 Sicut locutus eſt ad patres noſtros, * Abraham et ſemini ejus in ſæcula.
Aña. Magnificamus te…
11 Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto. 
Aña. Magnificamus te…
12 Sicut erat in principio et nunc et ſemper, * et in ſæcula ſæculorum.  Amen.
Aña. Magnificamus te…

Processing around the Dorter:

Aña. Ante thorum hujus Virginis, frequentate nobis dulcia cantica dramatis.
Pſalmus 131.
1 Memento, Domine, David, * et omnis manſuetudinis ejus:
Aña. Ante thorum…
2 Sicut juravit Domino, * votum vovit Deo Jacob:
Aña. Ante thorum…
3 Si introiero in tabernaculum domus meæ, * ſi aſcendero in lectum ſtrati mei:
Aña. Ante thorum…
4 Si dedero ſomnum oculis meis, * et palpebris meis dormitationem:
Aña. Ante thorum…
5 Et requiem temporibus meis: donec inveniam locum Domino, * tabernaculum Deo Jacob.
Aña. Ante thorum…
6 Ecce audivimus eam in Ephrata: * invenimus eam in campis ſilvæ.
Aña. Ante thorum…
7 Introibimus in tabernaculum ejus: * adorabimus in loco ubi ſteterunt pedes ejus.
Aña. Ante thorum…
8 Surge, Domine, in requiem tuam, * tu et arca ſanctificationis tuæ.
Aña. Ante thorum…
9 Sacerdotes tui induantur juſtitiam: * et ſancti tui exſultent.
Aña. Ante thorum…
10 Propter David, ſervum tuum, * non avertas faciem Chriſti tui.
Aña. Ante thorum…
11 Juravit Dominus David veritatem, et non frustrabitur eam: * De fructu ventris tui ponam ſuper ſedem tuam.
Aña. Ante thorum…
12 Si cuſtodierint filii tui teſtamentum meum, * et teſtimonia mea hæc quæ docebo eos:
Aña. Ante thorum…
13 Et filii eorum uſque in ſæculum, * ſedebunt ſuper ſedem tuam.
Aña. Ante thorum…
14 Quoniam elegit Dominus Sion: * elegit eam in habitationem ſibi.
Aña. Ante thorum…
15 Hæc requies mea in ſæculum ſæculi: * hic habitabo, quoniam elegi eam.
Aña. Ante thorum…
16 Viduam ejus benedicens benedicam: * pauperes ejus ſaturabo panibus.
Aña. Ante thorum…
17 Sacerdotes ejus induam ſalutari: * et ſancti ejus exſultatione exſultabunt.
Aña. Ante thorum…
18 Illuc producam cornu David, * paravi lucernam Chriſto meo.
Aña. Ante thorum…
19 Inimicos ejus induam confuſione: * ſuper ipſum autem efflorebit ſanctificatio mea.
Aña. Ante thorum…
20 Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto. 
Aña. Ante thorum…
21 Sicut erat in principio et nunc et ſemper, * et in ſæcula ſæculorum.  Amen.
Aña. Ante thorum…

At the first Station, before the Cross in the Cemetery:
Eccli. 24, 11b. 12. 15a
R/. viii. In omnibus requiem quæſivi. Tunc præcepit, et dixit mihi Creator omnium: * Et qui creavit me, requievit in tabernaculo meo. V/. Et ſic in Sion firmata ſum, et in civitate ſanctificata ſimiliter requievi. * Et qui creavit me, requievit in tabernaculo meo.

V/. O beatiſſima dormitio.
R/. Glorioſiſſimæ Deiparæ.

Or. Concede nobis, quæſumus, omnipotens Deus, ad beatæ Mariæ ſemper virginis requiem æternam pertingere: de cujus nos veneranda Dormitione tribuis annua ſolemnitate gaudere. Per Chriſtum Dominum noſtrum. R/. Amen.

Returning from the Cemetery to the Church:

Aña. Maria introivit * In requiem meam.
Pſalmus 94.
1 Venite, exſultemus Domino, jubilemus Deo, ſalutari noſtro: præoccupemus faciem ejus in confeſſione, et in pſalmis jubilemus ei.
Aña. Maria introivit * In requiem meam.
2 Quoniam Deus magnus Dominus, et Rex magnus ſuper omnes deos: quoniam non repellet Domino plebem ſuam: quia in manu ejus ſunt omnes fines terræ, et altitudinem montium ipſe conſpicit.
* In requiem meam.
3 Quoniam ipſius eſt mare, et ipſe fecit illud, et aridam fundaverunt manus ejus: venite, adoremus, et procidamus ante Deum: ploremus coram Domino, qui fecit nos, quia ipſe eſt Dominus Deus noſter; nos autem populus ejus et oves paſcuæ ejus.
Aña. Maria introivit * In requiem meam.
4 Hodie, ſi vocem ejus audieritis, nolite obdurare corda veſtra, ſicut in exacerbatione ſecundum diem tentationis in deſerto: ubi tentaverunt me patres veſtri, probaverunt et viderunt opera mea.
* In requiem meam.
5 Quadraginta annis proximus fui generationi huic, et dixi: Semper hi errant corde; ipsi vero non cognoverunt vias meas: quibus juravi in ira mea: Si introibunt in requiem meam.
Aña. Maria introivit * In requiem meam.
6 Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.  Sicut erat in principio et nunc et ſemper, et in ſæcula ſæculorum.  Amen.
* In requiem meam.
Aña. Maria introivit * In requiem meam.

The second Station, at the entrance of the Church:
3 Regum 8, 6; Apoc. 11, 19a
R/. Intulerunt ſacerdotes arcam fœderis Domini in locum ſuum, in oraculum templi, * In Sanctum ſanctorum ſubter alas cherubim. V/. Et apertum eſt templum Dei in cælo: et viſa est arca teſtamenti ejus in templo ejus. * In Sanctum ſanctorum ſubter alas cherubim.

V/. Hodie obdormivit.
R/. Quæ in ſuis ulnis Chriſtum conſopivit.

Or. Supplicationem ſervorum tuorum, Deus, miſerator exaudi: ut, qui in Dormitione Dei Genetricis et Virginis congregamur, ejus interceſſionibus a te de inſtantibus periculis eruamur. Per eumdem Chriſtum Dominum noſtrum. R/. Amen.

Returning up the nave:

Aña. Nigra ſum, ſed formoſa, filiæ Jeruſalem; ideo dilexit me Rex, et introduxit me in cubiculum ſuum.
Canticum Simeonis.  Lucæ 2.
1 Nunc dimittis ſervum tuum, Domine, * ſecundum verbum tuum in pace,
Aña. Nigra ſum…
2 Quia viderunt oculi mei * ſalutare tuum,
Aña. Nigra ſum…
3 Quod paraſti * ante faciem omnium populorum,
Aña. Nigra ſum…
4 Lumen ad revelationem gentium * et gloriam plebis tuæ Israël.
Aña. Nigra ſum…
5 Gloria Patri et Filio * et Spiritui Sancto. 
Aña. Nigra ſum…
6 Sicut erat in principio et nunc et ſemper, * et in ſæcula ſæculorum.  Amen.
Aña. Nigra ſum…

The third Station, at the chancel step:
Ps 131, 8 & 9b. 14
R/. Surge, Domine, in requiem tuam, tu et arca ſanctificationis tuæ; * Et ſancti tui exſultent. V/. Hæc requies mea in ſæculum ſæculi: hic habitabo quoniam elegi eam. * Et ſancti tui exſultent.

V/. Obdormivit.
R/. In Domino.

Or. Concede, miſericors Deus, fragilitati noſtræ ſubſidium: ut qui ſanctæ Dei Genetricis requiem celebramus, interceſſionis ejus auxilio a noſtris iniquitatibus reſurgamus. Per eumdem Chriſtum Dominum noſtrum. R/. Amen.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Blessings on our Rest

Eager students of liturgical minutiæ will have noted the absence, in an earlier post, of blessings for each Lesson at Matins according to the Dormitionist Rite.  This lacuna, overlooked before, I now supply; with the suggestion that these short prayers may be of great use to every man betaking himself to bed – they certainly gained me a deep and lengthy sleep last night!

Benedictio I. Qui requievit ſeptimo die, det nobis requiem ſine fine.
Benedictio II.  Ut dormiamus in ſomno pacis, benedicat nos Filius Patris.
Benedictio III.  Sanctificator omnium nobis det Dominus ſpiritum ſoporis.

It is often overlooked that the blessings in the Office rhyme (a typically mediæval feature): here is the first done into doggerel, as the Marquess of Bute rejoiced to do when he translated the Roman Breviary over a hundred years ago:

He who rested the seventh day, give unto us rest for aye.

(Of course, in this case "aye" rhymes with "day", as it bears its meaning of "evermore"; when it means "yea and amen", it is homophonous with "I" and "eye".  Isn't English spelling great?)

I leave it to the ingenuity of the reader to do likewise with the second and third blessings.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Cry of Job

The plaints of Job: how appropriate for sinful man.  To-day, being Friday in the first week of September, the Lessons at Matins in the Dominican Breviary are as follows:

Militia est vita hominis… usque ad tenebras.  (Job 7:1-4)

The life of man upon earth is a warfare, and his days are like the days of a hireling.  As a servant longeth for the shade, as the hireling looketh for the end of his work; so I also have had empty months, and have numbered to myself wearisome nights.  If I lie down to sleep, I shall say: When shall arise? and again I shall look for the evening, and shall be filled with sorrows even till darkness.

Induta est caro mea… et non subsistam. (Job 7:5-8) 

My flesh is clothed with rottenness and the filth of dust, my skin is withered and drawn together.  My days have passed more swiftly than the web is cut by the weaver, and are consumed without any hope.  Remember that my life is but wind, and my eyes shall not return to see good things.  Nor shall the sight of man behold me: thy eyes are upon me, and I shall be no more.

Sicut consumitur nubes… amaritudine animæ meæ. (Job 7:9-11)

As a cloud is consumed, and passeth away: so he that shall go down to hell shall not come up.  Nor shall he return my more into his house, neither shall his place know him any more.  Wherefore I will not spare my mouth, I will speak in the affliction of my spirit: I will talk with the bitterness of my soul.

When I took up the Office to pray, I was struck by these readings, which are so similar to those passages also from Job appointed for the Office of the Dead.  They are the cries, I repeat, of sinful man, sinful man awaiting his Redeemer: "I know that my Redeemer liveth..."

Only a few days ago, I heard from my sister a very sad tale: the 16 year old daughter of a friend's sister had done away with herself.  That poor lost soul had been most unhappy recently, lured into drink and drugs and treated cruelly.  Her mother found her body – she had hanged herself.

"...when a divine instruction and the hope of life eternal are wanting, man's dignity is most grievously lacerated, as current events often attest; riddles of life and death, of guilt and of grief go unsolved with the frequent result that men succumb to despair."  (Gaudium et spes, 21.)

Of your charity, dear reader, pray for God's mercy in this terrible circumstance.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Death and Birth: to God be the Glory

Having laid to rest a stedfast handmaid of the Lord, Sr Paul Joseph of Mary the Mother of God, at the end of July, to-day the same Carmel rejoiced in the solemn profession of Sr Elijah Mary of Mount Carmel, on the highly appropriate feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.  I was privileged to attend the Mass along with many other friends of our Carmel here in Launceston, and above all her parents and family.

I transcribe from the booklet the words of her profession of solemn vows:

I, Sister Elijah Mary of Mount Carmel, desiring to live faithfully with the Blessed Virgin Mary a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ, with my sisters as witnesses, into your hands, Mother Elizabeth Mary Katrina of the Trinity, vow to Almighty God for ever, chastity, poverty and obedience according to the Rule and Constitutions of the Discalced Nuns of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.  With my whole heart I give myself to this religious institute restored by Saint Teresa to seek perfect charity in the service of our Mother the Church, by the grace of the Holy Spirit and the help of the Mother of God, through constant prayer and evangelical self-denial, and to give eternal glory to the Most Holy Trinity.

Truly, she and her fellow nuns have chosen the better part.  I pray for Sr Paul Joseph, that she rest now in peace, having the reward of a good and faithful servant – but also make bold to ask her prayers, that as she trod the steep slopes of Mount Carmel, forsaking all save the Cross, Sr Elijah Mary may persevere in following the narrow path that leads to life.

Tallarook Mass

On Sunday, being en route to Benalla in north-east Victoria to visit my great-aunt and great-uncle, both having recently celebrated their 90th birthday, it was very pleasant and convenient to stop off at the tiny stone church of St Joseph at Tallarook, a hamlet (population 258) about 100 km north of Melbourne, for a meditative Low Mass celebrated by Fr Terence.  

A rough count gave the congregation at about 35; Father informs me that he often gets more, up to 55, who come from all over the countryside around.  (Many of these used to drive all the way into Melbourne to hear Mass prior to this "chapel of ease" of St Aloysius being established!)

It was fitting it was a Low Mass, since down in Hobart, where I would otherwise have been for the first Sunday of the month, Fr Quinn was to say a Low Mass (incidentally relieving me of my duties as M.C.) since the choir was not able to sing this September.

I liked much the contrast between the sacred silence of Low Mass with its hallowed ritual, the two servers alone answering, and the chatty, informal style of Father's preaching, very much as I would imagine a mediæval Franciscan would employ.  I retain what he told us his father told him: "Always be kind."  God enable me to do so, overcoming my hard heart!  I pray for efficacious grace.

Dominican Little Office: Memorials at Lauds and Vespers

A correspondent asked quite some time ago about the commemorations, or memorials, traditionally made in the Dominican Rite Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (which I have posted previously in full, according to the text in force in 1962, and therefore the one declared still usable by the terms of Summorum pontificum).  These were suppressed sometime between 1956 (the date of my Dominican Diurnal, which has them) and 1962 (the date of my Dominican Breviary, which doesn't).  They were four in number:
  1. Of Holy Father Dominic;
  2. Of the Saints of the Order of Preachers;
  3. Of All Saints;
  4. For Peace.
For the benefit of interested parties, here they are in their Latin originals – note the rhyming antiphons, very mediæval indeed, and the fact that the antiphons and versicles for the first two memorials vary between Lauds and Vespers:


Ad Mem. S. P. Dominici in Laudibus Aña.  Benedictus Redemptor omnium, qui saluti providens hominum mundo dedit sanctum Dominicum.
In Laudibus V/.  Lex Dei ejus in corde ipsius.
R/.  Et non supplantabuntur gressus ejus.
Ad Mem. S. P. Dominici in Vesperis Aña.  Magne Pater sancte Dominice, mortis hora nos tecum suscipe, et hic semper nos pie respice.
In Vesperis V/.  Os justi meditabitur sapientiam.
R/.  Et lingua ejus loquetur judicium.
Or.  Deus, qui Ecclesiam tuam beati Dominici Confessoris tui, Patris nostri, illuminare dignatus es meritis et doctrinis: concede ut ejus intercessione temporalibus non destituatur auxiliis, et spiritualibus semper proficiat incrementis.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  R/.  Amen.

Ad Mem. Sanctorum Ordinis Prædicatorum in Laudibus Aña.  O quam felix gloria semper est Sanctorum, quam præclara merita sunt Prædicatorum, quorum verbo et opere mundus decoratur, eorumque munere mens consolidatur!
In Laudibus V/.  Exsultabunt Sancti in gloria.
R/.  Lætabuntur in cubilibus suis.
Ad Mem. Sanctorum Ordinis Prædicatorum in Vesperis Aña.  Christi pia gratia Sanctos sublimavit, quos Patris Dominici Ordo propagavit.  Nos eorum meritis petimus juvari, atque suis precibus Deo commendari.
In Vesperis V/.  Sapientiam Sanctorum narrent populi.
R/.  Et laudem eorum nuntiet ecclesia.
Or.  Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut ad meliorem vitam Sanctorum Ordinis nostri exempla nos provocent: quatenus, quorum memoriam agimus, etiam actus imitemur.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  R/.  Amen.

Ad Mem. omnium Sanctorum Aña. Sancti Dei omnes intercedere dignemini pro nostra omniumque salute.
V/.  Orate pro nobis, omnes Sancti Dei.
R/.  Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.
Or.  Tribue, quæsumus, Domine, omnes Sanctos tuos jugiter pro nobis orare, et eos clementer exaudire digneris.  Per Christum Dominum nostrum.  R/.  Amen.

Ad Mem. de Pace Aña. Da pacem, Domine, in diebus nostris, quia non est alius qui pugnet pro nobis, nisi tu Deus noster.
V/.  Fiat pax in virtute tua.
R/.  Et abundantia in turribus tuis.
Or.  Deus, a quo sancta desideria, recta consilia, et justa sunt opera, da servis tuis illam, quam mundus dare non potest, pacem: ut et corda nostra mandatis tuis dedita, et, hostium sublata formidine, tempora sint tua protectione tranquilla.  Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.  R/.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Vonier on Eternal Rest

Eternal rest seems to be the notion most universally associated with the future life.  ‘Rest’ is the word found engraven on the tombstones of our cemeteries more frequently than any other expression of faith and hope.  The most shadowy forms of Christianity still believe in rest for the departed, and make of this idea the great contrast between terrestrial and heavenly conditions.  The preference for the word ‘rest’ in connexion with the world to come is, of course, a sad reflection on the present world.  For most men, no doubt, the climax of happiness presents itself to their imagination in the form of a complete deliverance from the conditions of life known to them here below.  There is no human being so unimaginative as not to be impressed by that reversal of conditions implied in the release from earthly struggles.  The silence that broods in the death-chamber is powerfully suggestive of rest for the one who but a few moments before may have been writhing in agony, and the least religious will say that at last rest has come to the poor struggler.  People who would never dare to say of their departed friends that they have gone to heaven, still say quite naturally and without any embarrassment that their dear ones have gone to their rest.

The question may be asked here, to what extent is this visualising of the hereafter as a state of deep rest in harmony with Christian thought?  It is the purpose of this chapter to show that rest is the one quality predicated most constantly and emphatically of the life of the world to come in Christian literature and tradition.  It would be a great comfort to anyone who loves nothing better than the dissemination of Catholic ideas to find this notion of eternal rest shared by most men: ‘So that by all means, whether by occasion or by truth, Christ be preached: in this also I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.’  (Phil. i. 18.)

If Mrs. Mop were to come to me and tell me with all the solemnity belonging to her kind that her man, the arch-ruffian of the neighbourhood, has gone to his rest, have I not found in her a kindred spirit?  I, for one, should be very reluctant to make light of this vestige of reverence and awe with which the least religious minds look upon a dead man as at one ‘who sleepeth’, however grotesque the application of that Gospel phrase may appear in the circumstances.  To speak of the dead as of people who have found their eternal rest is pure Christianity, though it is not the whole of Christianity.  Outside Christianity you are given the restless migration of souls, the unhappy shades that wander unceasingly through dark and barren regions; you get rest with a vengeance in the Buddhist Nirvana, a rest that means a total extinction, rest to be compared with the rest of the fly over which passes the wheel of a chariot.  I am sure that Mrs. Mop means something positive when she speaks of her dead husband’s rest, though her power of discrimination between a positive and a negative idea may be extremely undeveloped.  It is no small act of faith in the unseen world to take it for granted that the man who all his life has been a rebel against society has found his place at last in the great Beyond, where nothing will provoke his ire, where the dark fires of resentment that had smouldered in his breast are finally extinguished.   No doubt it would be in some such way that our poor woman from the slums would explain her notion of rest in death, if she had the right words at her command.  It would, of course, make an enormous difference if she added just one phrase, if she said over the dead man, as her Irish neighbour would be sure to say: ‘Eternal rest give unto him, O Lord’; this supplementary notion of rest being the gift of God, and consequently an object of man’s prayer, is more than a theological nicety; it is all the difference between old Christianity and modern paganism.  This new religion claims all the fruits of Christianity but refuses to have any share in the sowing!  It wants Christian happiness without the Christian tears; it asks for the risen life without the Cross; it expects eternal rest without having laboured to deserve it.  No one nowadays wishes to revive the old paganism, with all its idols and vices, its cruelty and its slavery.  We are even losing interest in its literature, which was its only saving grace.  What people cling to is a post-Christian paganism; they are all for rest in the world to come, but no mention must be made of the tears, of the mourning, of the crying, of the sorrow, that make the ‘former things.’  (Apoc. xxi. 4.)

Now to say simply these words: ‘Eternal rest give unto him, O Lord,’ stamps Mrs. Murphy as a Christian, while her neighbour is no more than a neo-pagan when she says of her dead husband: ‘He is at rest’.  She is not an infidel, she is not a pagan of the old sort, much less is she a Hindu or a Buddhist, but she is a neo-pagan; she is of those ‘last days’ and ‘dangerous times’ prophesied by St. Paul when men shall be lovers of themselves, ‘having an appearance indeed of godliness but denying the power thereof.’  (2 Tim. iii. 5.)

The rest which is the portion of God’s saints in the world to come does not inevitably follow upon the cessation of life’s physical energies.  To be dead is not necessarily the same thing as to be at rest.  The Liturgies of the Church, from the very dawn of Christianity, pray for the dead; and the burden of the prayer is that God may grant rest and peace to the departed.  This points to one thing, and to one thing only, that there is rest and unrest, peace and discord, in the spirit-world.  Otherwise how could it be reasonable to pray for the departed, that eternal rest may be granted unto them?  is not that lovely old Catholic custom – prayer for the dead, wishing them rest and peace – an immense revelation of the unseen, showing us the spirit-world as a restless sea?  Human spirits go forth from the body on their wanderings, and when we thought that all was stillness and quietness we are told that a multitude of spirits, numerous as the sand on the seashore, are tossed hither and thither in an effort to find some centre of stability, to reach a harbour of repose.  Far from looking upon death as the goal where all yearnings cease, the Catholic Church seems to feel instinctively that the spirit of man is drawn into a seething whirlpool the moment it leaves the body, unless it be borne at once upon the placid ocean of beatific vision.  Why should the Church be so anxious about the eternal rest of the departed, unless there be in her innermost consciousness a haunting vision of struggling, yearning, thirsting souls, striving towards the upper reaches of the river of life; as fish that seek the upper waters of a stream leap and dart behind the rocks, only to find that their efforts are seldom more than a momentary illusion of success?

It is true to say that the death of every Christian ought to be perfect rest; ought to be synonymous with profoundest peace.  The saint, the ascetic, the martyr, in the language of the Church, finds rest in death.  To such a one to die is to sit down under the shade of the trees of Eden.  The consecrated word ‘rest’ is not only a prayer on the lips of the Church; it is very often a declaration of victory.  When a tomb in the Roman Catacombs has the words In Pace inscribed upon it, they often signify the glories of martyrdom; the occupant is a hero to whom death has come as full and complete rest.

It would be an ideal Christianity if everyone who has faith in Christ were to long for the last hour of his life ‘as a servant longeth for the shade, as the hireling looketh for the end of his work.’ (Job vii. 2.) Death ought to be a going home after a strenuous year of hard schooling.  Did not our own good Cardinal Wiseman say quite simply that he greeted death as a schoolboy welcomes his holidays?  What our neo-pagans say so indiscriminately of every worldling who has ended his restless life, the Church says of her apostles, her martyrs; the Church would like to say it of all Christians who are carried to their graves, because it is in the power of most men who believe in Christ to be so perfected in faith and charity that to lay themselves down on their deathbed ought to be the same thing as entering upon their eternal rest.  No doubt with many a fervent Catholic death is literally his peaceful rest; perhaps this privileged condition is more frequent than we imagine.  It is certain that this immediate transition from the struggles of the arena to the repose of the blessed is an idea extremely familiar to the early Christian Fathers.  In the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great, for instance, the soul of many a Roman maiden, faithful to her heavenly spouse, is seen receiving His embrace the moment her bodily eyes are closed in the sleep of death.

But all this supposes that the Christian’s work has been done, and that it has been done well.  For duty neglected, for scamped or careless work, there is the fire of restlessness, not the cool breeze of the restful evening.  The heat of midday toil goes on for the shirkers.  ‘For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid: which is Jesus Christ.  Now, if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: every man’s work shall be manifest.  For the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire.  And the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is.  If any man’s work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.’ (1 Cor. iii. 11-15.) Fire, not rest, is the portion of all those who have done bad work, though they will be saved when there will be no more fuel for the burning.  This is why we never cease to pray for the departed Christian, that rest may be granted to him.  Our imagination is well inspired when it pictures the purgation of disembodied souls under all sorts of trying conditions: the carrying of heavy burdens, the undertaking of big tasks.  It is simply another way of stating the postponement of the hour of rest.  It matters little under what kind of symbolism that penalty of toil be presented to our imagination; man’s soul has work to do, work that is overdue, work which was not done in the body.  Till the neglected task be performed, the spirit of man, if it be one of the holy souls, will willingly exert itself in labours, that it may the sooner reach the goal from which it had strayed or fallen short through indolence.  No truer, no better prayer could be formulated for the benefit of such a spirit than a prayer for rest.

Having given that natural yearning for rest its Christian setting, we may now drop all reservations and enjoy to the full the meaning of the true requies æterna.  The repose that is promised to us in the life of the world to come has about it so much of the character of God’s own being, that we may justified in saying that through it we share God’s own prerogative.  Our inspired Scriptures speak of the life of God as having a twofold phase: first of work and then rest.  The second phase is a state of triumph and joy, the consummation of blessedness.  ‘So the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the furniture of them.  And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made: and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.’  (Gen. ii. 1, 2.)

This rest of God is more than an anthropomorphic presentment of the mystery of creation: it belongs to God as the Causa finalis of all things, as creation is the work of God as Causa efficiens of all things.  In plain English, let us say that God is first the Maker of all things, and secondly the Goal of all things.  As Maker, He is described as being at work; as Final End, He is represented as being at rest.  It is only God who can be at the same time the Beginning and the End, so that all things come out from Him and all things go back to Him.

This is the meaning of that Sabbath of God, the day of eternal rest.  ‘There remaineth therefore a day of rest for the people of God.  For he that is entered into his rest, the same also has rested from his works, as God did from His.’ (Heb. iv. 9, 10.) No words could be more expressive in order to convey what rest means in Christian phraseology.  We are meant to share God’s eternal holiday.  Not only do we receive gifts from Him: we also enter into His personal life; we conform to that life in its twofold aspect of work and rest.  It was hardly to be expected that so wonderful a disclosure of God’s moods as is contained in the second chapter of Genesis would be left unexploited by the versatile genius of St. Paul.  In the Epistle to the Hebrews he trounces the lazy, weak-kneed Christian in whom there is already ‘an evil heart of unbelief to depart from the living God.’  He pictures God as turning upon such a one, as a father would upon the petulant child that sulks on the road.  ‘As I have sworn in my wrath: if he shall enter into my rest.’  But I refrain from further comment on that glowing passage of St. Paul’s Epistle.  Let me exhort my reader to take up the New Testament, carefully to read and analyse chapters three and four, and fit into one mental picture God’s sabbath after the six days of creation, the wandering of the Jews for forty years in the desert, the rest of Jesus in death, and the repose of all His followers when their souls reach the promised land of heaven.

After reading St. Paul we shall feel rather disgusted with the modern abuse of the beautiful word ‘rest’ in relation to the hereafter.  Rest, in the Christian sense, is of all things the divinest, and we shall never again say the prayer ‘Eternal rest give unto them’ without being conscious of the immensity of our request.  The Apostle’s conclusion is: ‘Let us hasten therefore to enter into that rest.’  We are not allowed to drop into it automatically, as a tired man sinks into his armchair; we must run towards it with breathless haste.

Looking at this idea of eternal rest from the creature’s point of view, one outstanding impression is conveyed to our mind: this rest means a complete reversal of all the conditions of existence known to us.  None of us really knows what it means to have perfect repose with fullest consciousness of life.  Our restful periods are suspensions of activity, interruptions in the flow of consciousness, sleep.  God’s rest is infinite awareness, an all-embracing contemplation of the work He has accomplished.  Such also will be the rest of His elect.  It means such continuity and fullness of life that the very intensity of activity leaves no gap, no break; as when one watches a revolving fly-wheel without being able to see any movement, so that one is tempted to think it is at perfect rest.  Far from us be all those interpretations of the rest of our dear departed which savour more of narcotics than of faith in eternal life, which come from weariness of life rather than from a desire to see good days.  Eternal rest is unchanging contemplation of the beauty of God, not spiritual anæsthesia.  It is the exhilarating joy of work with everlasting freshness of mind.  Fatigue is absent, because the creature’s noblest faculty is busy with its most satisfying object; the mind is fixed on the uncreated Truth.

— Dom Anscar Vonier, O.S.B., Abbot of Buckfast.  The Life of the World to Come (1926): Chapter IX. Eternal Rest.