Saturday, December 28, 2013


Until the last preconciliar reforms, Mass of the Holy Innocents – Childermas – was said (except if it fell on a Sunday, or was kept as a double of the first class) without Gloria in excelsis, without Alleluia and without Ite missa est: for all these joyful cries were seen as inappropriate to so sad a day. For the same reason, not the red of martyrs but the violet or purple of penance and sadness was worn, with the same exceptions.

Unsurprisingly, this day Fr Paul preached on the evils of abortion and the pro-life cause; Mass was offered up for the protection of human life from conception to natural death. As ever, the culture of life is face to face with the culture of death, as the West embraces societal suicide.

How many little children suffer at the hands of Herods today! And in Belgium we have the gruesome spectacle of euthanasia for children – you'd think the Belgians would have remembered the Nazi regime and all its evil deeds, and not emulated them in pervertedly imagining that there can be "life unworthy of life". How long, O Lord! Such crimes can only cry to heaven for vengeance.

At the end of Mass at Carmel we sang the piteously plaintive Coventry carol: 
Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay. 
O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay. 
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his owne sight,
All young children to slay. 
That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sequence for the Feast of St John Evangelist

A blessed feast to all priests – for this day, being dedicate to St John Evangelist, adopted son of Mary the Virgin, and of all the Apostles the virgin priest, is a feast called in better days "the feast of priests".

Unfortunately, I managed to sleep in, and missed attending Mass… so I'll have to unite myself spiritually to the Sacrifice, and pay my respects to the clergy from afar.

In a very nice book I found secondhand (Jeffrey F. Hamburger, St. John the Divine: The Deified Evangelist in Medieval Art and Theology), I discovered a Dominican Sequence for the feast of St John the Evangelist; it appears in the Gradual of St Katharinensthal (dated about 1312).

This Sequence seems to have been given quite some attention – googling turned up several learned articles and even a book referring to it. Herewith, the Sequence, in charming mediæval style:

Verbum dei, deo natum, / quod nec factum nec creatum, / venit de celestibus
Hoc vidit, hoc attrectavit, / hoc de celo reseravit, / Johannes hominibus
Inter illos primitivos / veros veri fonti rivos / Johannes exilivit;
Toti mundo propinare / nectar illud salutare / quod de throno prodiit.
Celum transit veri rotam / solis ibi vidit totam / mentis figens aciem
Speculator spiritalis / quasi seraphim sub alis / dei videns faciem
Audiit in gyro sedis / quid psallant cum cytharedis / quater seni proceres
De sigillo trinitatis / nostre nummo civitatis / inpressit caracteres.
Celi cui sacrarium / suum Christus lylium / 
filio tonitrui / sub amoris mutui / pace commendavit.
Iste custos virginis / archanum originis /
divine mysterium / scribens evangelium / mundo demonstravit
Haurit virus hic letale / ubi corpus virginale / virtus servat fidei
Pena stupet quod in pena / sit Johannes sine pena / bullientis olei.
Hinc naturis imperat / ut et saxa transferat / indecus gemmarum
Quo iubente riguit / aurum fulvum induit / virgula silvarum.
Hic infernum reserat / morti iubet referat /quos venenum stravit.
Obstruit quod ebyon / cherintus et marcion / perfide latravit.
Volat avis sine meta /quod nec vates nec propheta / evolavit altius
Tam implenda quam impleta, / numquam vidit tot secreta / purus homo purius
Sponsus rubra veste tectus, / visus sed non intellectus / referre mysterium
Aquilam ezechielis / sponse misit que de celis / redit ad palacium.
Dic dilecte de dilecto, / qualis sit ex dilecto, / sponsus sponse nuntia.
Dic quis cibus angelorum / que sint festa supernorum / ut sponse presentia.
Veri panem intellectus, / cenam Christi supra pectus / sumptam nobis resera;
Ut cantemus de patrono, / coram agno coram throno, / laudes super ethera. 

The Word of God, born of God, that was neither made nor created, came from the heavens
This he saw, this he touched, this he, John, unlocked from heaven for mankind.
Among those first true rivulets of the true source, John sprung forth;
To supply the whole world that saving nectar which flowed from the throne.
He transcended heaven, there he saw the wheel of the sun entirely transfixing his piercing mind
A spiritual speculator, like the seraphim seeing the face of God beneath their wings
He hears in their dwelling place what the four times six elders were singing with the harpists
From the seal of the Trinity on the coin of our condition he imprinted the characters.
To whom the shrine of heaven, his lily, Christ, the sun of thunder entrusted in peace.
He, the protector of the Virgin, showed the world the arcane mystery of the divine origins, writing his Gospel 
He drank the deadly poison by which his virginal body maintained the power of faith
Punishment is perplexed, that in punishment John is without pain in the bubbling oil
He commanded the laws of nature, that stones be transformed into beautiful gems.
By which command he stiffened and covered with tawny gold the litle branches of the forest.
He entered hell and commanded death that he give back those he had punished with poison.
He denied what Ebion, Cerinthus and Marcion barked perfidiously.
He flies like a bird without limit, in that neither seer nor prophet ever flew higher
As much what would be fulfilled as what has been, never were so many secrets seen so purely by a pure man
The bridegroom, adorned with a red garment, seen, but not comprehended, has to represent the mystery
He sent the bride the eagle of Ezechiel, which from the heavens returns to its palace.
Speak, O loved one, of the beloved, what his nature is and how he proceeds from the beloved, this the bridegroom announces to the bride.
Tell us about the food of angels, about the feasts of those above, in the presence of the bride.
The bread of true understanding, the feast of Christ, on his breast consumed: reveal yourself to us:
So that we may sing of our patron, before the Lamb, before the throne, praises above the air. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Gap

The Protomartyr in his own person and passion illustrates the gap between proclamation of the saving kerygma and the response of faith in its hearers. Those of the Sanhedrin of old stopped their ears and rushed upon St Stephen, stoning him to death rather than allowing their stony hearts to be converted by the word of salvation so irrefutably preached to them by him; but by an illumination (vouchsafed, we may understand, at the First Martyr's prayers), nay, by the voice of the Word Himself, Saul was later converted on the road to Damascus, closing the gap in his life, faith at last being enkindled where murderous hate had reigned.

All down through history, the response of men has ever been the same: lest they hear, and repent, and be converted, and saved, so perverse is fallen nature, instead outrages have been inflicted by sinners upon God's saints. But every Diocletian has been defeated; and as the Apostate unwillingly confessed, "Thou hast conquered, O Galilean". Fr Paul remarked on all this at Mass this morning – I blend what I remember of his words with ideas of mine own engendered thereby.

He further observed that, when Christ shall come as Judge, to him every knee must bend – either in worship, or in servitude (for even the devils fear and tremble, yet for them there is no salvation). God's Kingdom will come, whether we will or nill; let the Holy Spirit descend and purify us, that we may be worthy of that Kingdom, and not cast out into the infernal darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

God grant that Holy Church never cease to proclaim His Gospel, and may her members pray for the fruitful reception of that Good News by all, that (by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) more and more may know and believe, love and obey Jesus Christ, that willingly with the saints they may adore the Lord – lest they instead hate and resist, chafing against the bit and in danger of condemnation.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas

"You have begun your Christmas in the best way possible," said Fr Allan at the end of the Vigil Mass, "by welcoming Christ into your hearts at Mass in Holy Communion." Amen to that.

It was a charming Mass, complete with the dear children presenting a nativity play (the actual Gospel was read as normal, separately; and such a play seems innocent enough, an adjunct to the sermon I suppose): the choir turned out to consist of Mary and I, with Janet as organist, so we did our best with Christmas favourites. One amusing problem occurred at the Offertory: Janet transposed "Hark the herald angels sing" not down one note, but up! So the top notes proved quite painful for this bass-baritone...

After the final hymn, we sang "Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas", the last from a cycle of Australian Christmas carols by John Wheeler. Some of the parishioners, being Polish, were heading off straightaway after the Mass (which ended just after 7 pm) since they have their Christmas meal and present-giving party on this, the Eve.

Our family Christmas Eve tradition is to eat fish (cooked in cream, with almonds and breadcrumbs and lots of salt and pepper); so we kept the ancient fast. To partake, we met at my sister's home after Mass.

All this is but the start to Christmas 2013: I have to be at Church of Apostles at 10:45 pm, since I am singing in the choir there as well. Carols begin at 11:15 pm, and Midnight Mass follows. Then I will get up Christmas morning and go to Carmel for their 8:30 Mass, since my old friend Fr Paul, O.P., is visiting. 

Later in the day to-morrow, my aunt and uncle will join us, and it will be present time, followed by a gargantuan Christmas dinner… with luck, I can nap in the afternoon, before waking up for the Queen's Christmas message in the evening.

I do like another Australian Christmas carol: "The north wind is tossing the leaves":

Here in Tasmania it isn't normally scorching hot at yuletide, but on the Mainland it can be – in Perth it usually is, if I remember aright – so this carol strikes the right note for an antipodean Christmas.

Every blessing to all readers at this holy season: may the Christ Child enter into your heart and abide there evermore, joining earth to heaven, restoring all things in Himself.


P.S. Please don't forget the poor and suffering this Christmas, those near at hand and those far away: think of the people of Syria, of South Sudan, of the Philippines...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

O Sapientia

My favourite Baroque composer, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, set all the O Antiphons to music – beautiful texts containing "the very marrow of Advent" to quote Dom Guéranger – together with the O salutaris hostia (one imagines this was sung at Benediction after Vespers on each of the last days of Advent).

Here is part of a recording thereof; the first of these Greater Antiphons, O Sapientia, begins at 2:37.

Vampiric Christians?

I am most amused to note that recent visits to this humble blog have been increased by references from a site to me hitherto unknown, yclept (I hope it's legit, I haven't actually looked at it); doubtless my tangential reference to a penny dreadful in my last post somehow drew the attention thereof.

This has reminded me, moreover, of comments a friend made about the views of a mutual acquaintance from my days in Western Australia: he commented on the struggles some have in living in obedience to the commandments, who through their frailty and temptations fall oft into sin – these, said he, are as it were vampiric Christians! – who need frequent lavings in Christ's Blood, as it were, through the administration to them of the Sacrament of Penance, in addition to frequent suppings of that real Blood when receiving the Most Blessed Eucharist.

I am not at all sure I like the sound of this. Such a strange way of describing affairs may well be offensive to pious ears. As to what it appears meant to signify, speaking only of myself, I find frequent confession and frequent Communion to be the two pillars of the Christian life; I hope that is not too vampiric.

Some indeed lapse and relapse into sin, and must struggle to keep their head above water, as it were, by "spitting the poison out" (as the Imitation of Christ advises) and hieing themselves to the confessional, ere they may partake of the saving Banquet. For while the Eucharist burns away venial sin, and fortifies the soul against sinning, only priestly absolution sacramentally remits mortal sin (though of course an act of perfect contrition, with the resolve to confess in due time, achieves the same, yet it has not the same certainty as sacerdotal absolution, so to speak).

However, backsliders, those chained to sinful habits, and those "bound in sin's own blindness", too unwary of the dangers posed by proximate occasions of sin – for "death cometh up through the windows" and "he who loves the danger will perish in it" are surely not to be considered "vampires",  irreversibly damned through no fault of their own by the attack of another, who thereafter can only maintain the semblance of life by the further commission of murder! That sort of nonsense is clearly opposed to the true doctrines of Christianity. We all of us have free will, and if we sin we can always repent and seek forgiveness, "seventy times seven", for even "the just man falls seven times a day", yet with every temptation the Lord always provides the grace necessary to escape it.

I suspect that the person who described matters in this way was being tempted to despair. It also sounds like he was deluded by the supposed glamour of evil: how falsely "comforting" to fondly regard oneself as a tragic antihero, rather than as a sinner just like anyone else. Please pray for him, and for all in like difficulties, that, even if they feel a heavy burden on their conscience, and feel trapped by their circumstances, they may find the remedy for every distress in humble confession and grateful reception of the Blessed Sacrament, knowing that "In His will is our peace".

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ave, Cruor Christi

Would it be in bad taste to pray, Ave, cruor Christi – in parallel to Ave, caro Christi?

Rather than Corpus (Body), Caro (Flesh) is the Johannine equivalent; so as to keep up the theme of synonyms, would Sanguis (Blood) be appropriately replaced on occasion with Cruor (blood from a wound, hence gore)? It was after all not an incruentum sacrificium, no bloodless sacrifice, but on the Cross a very bloody sacrifice, cruentum sacrificium: Christ Himself, His spotless flesh all torn and wounded, beaten, whipped, pierced through with nails and thorns and lance, weeping tears of blood, blood trickling down from every wound… 

That said, cruor and cruentus are related to crudus (bloody, raw, harsh, cruel…), and I wonder whether, since "Hail, Christ's Gore" really seems too nasty an expression in English, the Latin Ave, cruor Christi would be revolting rather than affecting.

All this comes from my long use of variants of the common mediæval Mass prayers Ave in æternum, sanctissima caro Christi, mihi ante omnia et super omnia summa dulcedo (Hail forevermore, O most holy flesh of Christ, to me before all and above all things the supreme delight) and its parallel Ave in æternum, cælestis potus, mihi ante omnia et super omnia summa dulcedo (Hail forevermore, heavenly drink, to me before all and above all things the supreme delight). These appear in the Sarum Rite, for instance.

It seemed to me from my first reading of these that "heavenly drink" was too vague an expression (redolent of the second of the berakoth at modern Mass), and a truer parallel would be to name that which is in the Chalice as sanctissime Sanguis Christi, "most holy Blood of Christ" (it would I think lessen the parallel to use pretios[issim]e Sanguis, "[most] precious Blood", though that is the standard epithet). However, further reflection led me to seek a synonym for Blood, just as caro is a synonym for Body.

The '62 Missal and Breviary use cruor in but a few places: in Passiontide at Lauds; on Good Friday; at the Easter Vigil; formerly, during Eastertide, at Vespers; on the feast of the Most Precious Blood, at Lauds; and in the Sequence Stabat Mater for Our Lady of Sorrows. 

Among the Improperia (Reproaches) sung on Good Friday, the fourth part thereof is the Passiontide hymn beginning with Crux fidelis (which supplies a variable refrain) and continuing Pange lingua gloriosi (not the Corpus Christi hymn with the same first line). This hymn (which is also used at Matins and Lauds in Passiontide, split into two parts, only the second of which is relevant) contains two references to cruor: in the seventh stanza, we read spina, clavi, lancea Mite corpus perforarunt, unda manat et cruor (the thorn, the nails, the lance hath pierced the tender Body, whence floweth water and cruor) and in the ninth, Quam sacer cruor perunxit, fusus Agni corpora (Which the sacred cruor hath anointed, poured from the Body of the Lamb).

After the general Communion on Good Friday was restored in the nineteen fifties (yes, it had been a custom in many places both in East and West - interestingly, the Byzantines once had a Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday, but no longer; and in Westphalia for example there was a general Communion at the Roman Missa Præsanctificatorum on Good Friday during the Baroque period), three collects were added at the end of the ceremony (and another at the start – it seems to me unfortunately, since these four wholesome prayers do detract from the sober solemnity by trying to express what was better left unsaid), and the last of these contains the phrase Christus, Filius tuus, per suum cruorem, instituit paschale mysterium (Christ, Thy Son, by His cruor, instituted the paschal mystery).

The famous Exsultet of the Paschal Vigil contains the words Qui pro nobis æterno Patri Adae debi- turn solvit: et veteris piaculi cautionem pio cruore detersit – that is, "Who for us to the eternal Father paid the debt of Adam: and cancelled the ancient guilt by [His] pious cruor."

Furthermore, the Eastertide Vesper hymn Ad cenam Agni providi originally contained the words (sadly altered by classicising revisers in the early 17th C.) cruorem roseum / gustando, Dei vivimus – "and tasting of the roseate gore, we live to God."

At Lauds on the 1st of July, being the Feast of the Most Precious Blood (hmm… to an outsider, this  phrase might sound odd, reminiscent of that Gothic potboiler Varney the Vampire, or, The Feast of Blood), the hymn contains the lines Quot scissa pellis undique / Stillat cruoris guttulas! (In English verse, "From His torn Flesh how red a shower / Did round His sacred Person fall!"

 The Stabat Mater meanwhile contains the verse Fac me plagis vulnerari, / Fac me Cruce inebriari, / Et cruore Filii. (Make me to be wounded with [His] Wounds, Make me to be inebriated with the Cross, And with [Thy] Son's cruor.) This appears in English verse as "Wounded with His every Wound, Steep my soul till it hath swooned In His very Blood away."

An update – having leafed through the relevant pages of Jungmann's Missarum Solemnia, vol. II, I find that the Missal of Troyes (c. 1050) gives the following prayers at reception of the Sacrament: Ecce Jesu benignissime (a rarely used text from the Acts of the Martyrdom of St Agnes), then Ave in ævum sanctissima caro, mea in perpetuum summa dulcedo (ævum being an alternative to æternum, and similarly for the second phrase compared to the text I cited above), Perceptio Corporis (a shortened form of the pre-communion prayer still in the Roman Missal), Ave in æternum cælestis potus, mihi ante omnia et super omnia dulcis (rather than summa dulcedo as above) and finally Cruor ex latere D.N.J.C. mihi indigno maneat ad salutem et proficiat ad remedium animæ meæ in vitam æternum. Amen. This last prayer may be rendered as "Cruor (i.e. Blood from wounds, or, Gore) from the side of Our Lord Jesus Christ for unworthy me abide unto salvation and profit unto a remedy of my soul in life eternal. Amen." So cruor has been used in such a sense in the Liturgy.

It seems to me that Ave, cruor Christi might be acceptable as devout Latin: any comments gratefully received.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Same Collect, Different Collect

Having read the Collect of Advent Sunday quite a number of times in the Breviary this week, I was intrigued to hear it read in English at morning Mass at Carmel today, Friday the 6th (since sadly St Nicholas was not commemorated, his being but an optional celebration in the modern West):
Stir up your power, we pray, O Lord, and come, that with you to protect us, we may find rescue from the pressing dangers of our sins, and with you to set us free, we may be found worthy of salvation. Who live and reign…
This struck me as a very able rendering of the Latin:
Excita, quæsumus, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni: ut ab imminentibus peccatorum periculis, te mereamur protegente eripi, te liberante salvari: Qui vivis et regnas…
However, the traditional Collect of St Nicholas – not reproduced in the Novus Ordo – was evidently a little too strongly worded for sensitive moderns, despite the great need the sinners of this age have of it:
Deus, qui beatum Nicolaum Pontificem innumeris decorasti miraculis: tribue, quæsumus; ut, ejus meritis et precibus, a gehennæ incendiis liberemur. Per…
That is, 
O God, Who didst adorn the blessed pontiff Nicholas with miracles uncountable, grant, we beg, that, by his merits and prayers, we may be delivered from the fires of hell. Through…
It saddens me to find that what our wicked and sinful age stands most in need of – above all, to be spared Hell, and at the intercession of the saints to be saved through Christ at the last – to have been by overly contented "experts" judged too controversial, when, given the slaughters and every vile crime of the past century, one would think there to be abundant motivation to utter such a plea daily.

As usual, Vetus melius est, "The old is better" – and we have the authority of Pope Francis for calling the traditional Roman Rite the Vetus Ordo, and hence my referring this text of the Gospels to the same.

May I extend to the Russian Catholic parish of Holy Trinity – St Nicholas in Melbourne, every good wish for their patronal feast: though, of course, as they keep to the Julian calendar, they will not serve the Divine Liturgy in his honour until the 19th of December according to the Gregorian.

I note that their services contains a similar prayer to St Nicholas (the 2nd troparion after the heirmos of the 2nd Canon of the 4th Ode at Matins):
Standing before the throne of God, cease thou never to make earnest supplication in behalf of all of us, thy faithful servants, O wise and wondrous Nicholas, that we may be delivered from everlasting fire, from the enemy, from the wicked tongue, and from affliction.
May St Nicholas intercede for us with Christ God, that He save our souls.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sixth Anniversary

I began this blog six years ago, on the commemoration of St Sabbas; I then entrusted whatever good may come of this to his intercession, which I feel has not been profitless - thank you, dear saint! Dear readers, forgive any faults I may have committed, and do pray for me.

I have been busy this week with various matters, but foresee many new blessings in 2014. Now, I'd best get to sleep so as to arise in time for early Mass at Carmel.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Day of Summer, First Day of the New Year of Grace

A glorious first day of summer in Hobart: after our sung Latin Mass at St Canice for the first Sunday of Advent, we gathered outside for lunch and a meeting, in order to plan for the future of our Latin Mass Community, in response to His Grace's instructions to do so. A committee was formed, and, God willing, arrangements will be made to organise more Latin Masses in the future.

There was a good attendance at our Missa cantata, the servers and I did our best, and the choir sang well: I was especially taken with their rendering of Veni, veni, Emmanuel at the Offertory and the Advent Prose Rorate cæli desuper at Communion.

Of your charity, please pray that, as our limited resources may allow, we may give greater glory to God by our liturgical worship and by our evangelical witness to Christ and His Church, that more and more may come to love and serve the Lord.