Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Better Late Than Never - A Joint Contribution

How to hold a Septuagesima Eve or Farewell Alleluia Party

Septuagesima Eve is the lychgate of Lent – that way station marking entry into the churchyard, ere on Ash Wednesday we pass through the very portal of the church into Quadragesima Abbey, as it were, where for forty days and nights we will redouble our penances and in monkish wise undertake ascetic exercises, cloistering our souls from the busy world till the happy day of Resurrection.

Now a lychgate, as all men know, is a gate overshadowed by a roof, symbolic of Him Who is the Gate of the sheepfold, Himself overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, whereto a body brought for burial is carried, and the first part of the funeral conducted, before it is brought into the church. Hence, when as at first Vespers of Septuagesima the Alleluia is laid aside, in a manner its death is to be represented – just as the corpse, in shroud y-wrapt, ought be plonked down in the lychgate.

Moreover, a wake ought be held, for to mourn dead Alleluia (dear maiden), and, to prevent enormities, Alleluia ought be buried straightway. For this reason, on Septuagestima Eve, Alleluia is buried after Vespers; and, both before and after these affecting services, cocktails in the liturgical colours ought be served nearby.

Before the obsequies, as suitably accoutred guests arrive for this devotional pastime, the gracious host ought present each one with a green cocktail to fittingly conclude Epiphany-tide. It is not permitted to colour the drink with green food colouring – note in particular that green-tinted Guinness is an abomination, and one reserved in any case for St Patrick’s Day. Instead, cunning combinations of sundry decoctions, liqueurs and elixirs are to be employed. This verdant beverage, and all subsequent top-ups, should be consumed before the commencement of First Vespers of Septuagesima.

One should wait until all guests arrive before starting Vespers; it is most disruptive to have people scrabbling for chairs and music, and attempting to join in psalms half-way through. Note that, if the land be laid under interdict, the doors must be closed, and the Office recited on a low note; which will somewhat dampen the spirit of the occasion.

For Vespers, a mediæval chapel (Gothic or Romanesque) is required (every home should have one), or at least a large space, fittingly tricked out, with two rows of chairs facing each other. Do not use narrow hallways: otherwise there can be the risk of accidental concussion at every Gloria Patri. While purists may gasp in horror, it is suggested that the two choirs be mixed (with men and women on each side), lest the volume be too unequal.

It is preferable, whether there be a permanent or temporary chapel, to celebrate Vespers before a dressed and decorated altar (eastward facing) upon which the requisite number of lit candles burn. The Alleluia should be hung on the altar front for all to observe clearly. If no medieval tapestry is available, a large piece of cardboard, made to resemble parchment, with the Alleluia y-writ thereon in clearly visible lettering (employing a flowing font with serifs) will suffice, and may be attached to the altar with concealed tape if no hooks are provided.

Benedicamus Domino with doubled Alleluia having been sung, and Vespers concluded with the Fidelium animæ (or, if a bishop be present, after he has imparted his blessing – if several prelates be present, the highest-ranking blesses unless suspended a divinis), immediately two or four of the youngest present (juniores priores) approach the altar, make due reverence, detach the Alleluia in comely fashion, and gently lay it flat, text facing up, on the waiting bier, which has been prepared earlier.

Carrying their cargo with deserved decorum, these bearers then lead a funereal procession out from the chapel, through the house, and around the garden to the grave prepared (which must have been suitably decorated with purple flowers, and supplied with a handy pile of stones nearby). Meanwhile all sing the hymn Alleluia dulce carmen, preferably in polyphony, repeating its verses as necessary until Alleluia be buried into the grave. 

Having assembled at the graveside, the officiant first rolls up the Alleluia if necessary, then with sober deportment deposits it into a coffin or other apt receptacle. After sealing this, he lowers it into the grave. All present then process past this resting place of dead Alleluia, each one laying a stone on top as they pass, thus building a cairn while still singing. All depart the grave in solemn silence after a most liturgical pause.

Following the obsequies, as expeditiously as possible, the host and his attendants (as it were the celebrant and his ministers) should make and distribute purple cocktails to the guests. On no account are any left-over green cocktails to be consumed, under pain of serious sin and excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See. Nonetheless, exceptions to this rule are allowed for those who are allergic to the purple cocktail; or those who are only permitted one alcoholic beverage and who arrived too late to finish their drink before Vespers; or those holding a Papal indult or immemorial privilege: no others.

During the mixing these purple cocktails, it is fitting for guests to retire and shed their green garments in favour of purple ones, if possible. Men of limited imagination may choose simply to change their neck tie. Since the liturgical portion of the evening has been completed (as Compline will be recited in private), guests may innocently disport themselves henceforth as befits any polite social gathering, taking care to remember that utterance of the ‘A’ word is strictly forbidden.

It is appropriate to serve dinner now. Please note that serving only purple food would be considered excessive, not to mention nauseating. A reasonable use of vegetables in such shades would be appropriate, however.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Almost Finished

While in Rome on pilgrimage, four of us, during our visit to Santa Maria Maggiore, decided to go to confession. A little later, we compared penances, feeling a rather hard done by… a young lady had been told to say her Rosary every day for a week for a certain intention; one of our priests had been told to offer up his Breviary every day for a week for a similar cause; and Mike and I, upon learning that each of us had been told to offer up the Rosary for such and such an intention (I got "sincerity"), daily – for a month – felt uniquely put-upon.

I recall that, according to that devout book, The Secret of the Rosary, St Dominic assigned just such a lengthy penance to a pious Roman matron, who was in the habit of doing the rounds of the Seven Churches every day. Like her, I own to feeling more than a little discomfited!

Doubtless the … son of St Dominic in question (for the confessors at St Mary Major are Blackfriars) had been a-reading some such "manual of penance". I am now nearly finished fulfilling this penance – at least I have thereby got back to saying the Rosary. Perhaps that was the desired result.

Moral of the story: when on pilgrimage with no less than three priests, don't think to shop elsewhere. Or at the least, avoid the confessionals of Friars Preachers like the plague.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Latin Mass This Sunday: at St Canice, at 10:30am

I've just had it confirmed: our first "extra" Traditional Latin Mass for the Hobart Latin Mass Community will be sung this Sunday, the 16th of February, at the usual location – St Canice Church, Sandy Bay – but an hour earlier than usual, at 10:30 am.

We are grateful to Fr Marshall for flying in from Melbourne to offer Mass for us; he will be visiting for several days, and once details of when and where he will say Mass each day are available, I will assist in publicising them.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican

As I had to attend a meeting in Hobart at lunchtime, I decided to drive down earlier, and attend the 10 am Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Catholic Chapel of the Transfiguration, where friends of mine customarily worship on Sundays. 

I haven't attended a Ukrainian Liturgy in Hobart since the construction and consecration of the chapel in August 2010; it was good to join the small but devoted congregation to sing the praises of the Trinity, and receive the Sacred Mysteries.

It proved a little hard to find the chapel – it is located within the Ukrainian Club, tucked anonymously among the commercial buildings and fast food restaurants of Moonah; luckily, as I knocked at the locked front door (not knowing of the open door leading in from the back car park), their priest, Fr Tony Warwarek, heard me and let me in.

As I drove down, I recalled that it was "Octogesima", the Sunday before Septuagesima – and, as Eastern and Western Easter coincide this year, that applied to the Byzantine Rite also: and in that Rite, as I realised when the Liturgy began, that means it is the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican.

This Sunday, which is of the 8th Tone, first signals the approach of Great Lent: the Gospel pericope's call to true compunction and humble self-awareness rather than delusive pride and contempt toward others accords with this; and of course this week in the Eastern Church calendar is wholly fast-free, the last before Easter Week.

In the Byzantine Rite, next Sunday (equivalent to Septuagesima) is that of the Prodigal Son; the Sunday after that is Meatfare Sunday, equivalent to Western Carnevale, being the last day for eating flesh meat till Easter, with the week after that being Cheesefare Week, culminating in Cheesefare Sunday, last chance for dairy products and eggs till after the fast; for Great Lent begins on Monday 3rd March (Monday after Quinquagesima), rather than on the Western Ash Wednesday, 5th March 2014.

Having, especially in Melbourne, attended the Divine Liturgy off and on, I feel familiar with this form of the Eucharistic Sacrifice; I just have to remember not to sing "Gospodi" as with the Russians, but "Hospodi" with the Ukrainians. Most of the service was in English, except for the continual "Hospodi pomilui", other suchlike responses, and certain important chants, such as the Trisagion (which I managed to sing: "Svyaty Bozhe, Svyaty Kripky, Svyaty Bezsmertny, pomilui nas"), the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer.

Having received Our Saviour's Body and Blood, I recalled the advice of a prayerbook: "And after the divine Communion of the life-giving and mystic Gifts, at once give praise and great thanksgiving, and fervently and heartily sing to God: Glory to Thee, O God; Glory to Thee, O God; Glory to Thee, O God."

The noble and immemorial worship of the Byzantine Rite lifts up the heart and mind and soul to God. Would that I could attend it more often!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

2000 Years’ Indulgence

Dix claimed in his magnum opus (I have the 1946 second impression of the second edition: see page 622) to know of no mediæval prayers for Mass in Missals that did other than commemorate the Passion, by referring also to the Lord’s resurrection and ascension.

But what of a common prayer in layfolk’s Primers – I first found it in a facsimile edition of the Great Hours of Anne of Brittany, which I bought for €60 at the monastery of St Scholastica at Subiaco in Italy a few weeks ago – a prayer adorned with a probably apocryphal, but to late mediæval pray-ers most attractive, promise of 2000 years’ indulgence (granted apparently by Pope Boniface VIII at the request of his sworm enemy King Philip IV of France! hence my suspicion)?

The prayer in question, Domine Jesu Christe, qui hanc sacratissimam carnem, which is to be said between the Elevation and the third Agnus Dei, is profoundly anamnetic: as Jungmann explained it, “remembering [Christ’s Passion, Resurrection, Ascension], we offer” – and this prayer, to be recited, in God’s own Latin of course, by lay attendees at Mass, precisely does this.

(For those wishing to behold it as Anne of Brittany did, here and here are links to those beautiful pages.)

The prayer exists in slightly variant forms – a little googling reveals ten different recensions – so in the interest of devotion, I having no skill in text criticism, nor access to a critical edition such as Wilmart’s Auteurs spirituels et textes dévots du moyen âge latin, I have decided to conflate the texts into what I prefer:
Domine Jesu Christe, qui hanc sacratissimam Carnem tuam et hunc pretiosissimum Sanguinem tuum de gloriosissimæ Virginis Mariæ utero assumpsisti, et eumdem pretiosissimum Sanguinem tuum de sacratissimo latere tuo in ara Crucis pro salute nostra effudisti, et in hac gloriosa Carne a mortuis resurrexisti, et ad cælos ascendisti cum eodem sacratissimo Corpore tuo, et iterum venturus es judicare vivos et mortuos in eadem Carne: libera nos per hoc sacratissimum Corpus et Sanguinem tuum, quod modo in altari per manus sacerdotis tractatur, ab omnibus peccatis et immunditiis mentis et corporis, et ab universis malis et periculis, præteritis, præsentibus, et futuris. Qui vivis et regnas Deus in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

(Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst assume this Thy most sacred Flesh and this Thy most precious Blood from the womb of the most glorious Virgin Mary, and didst shed the same Thy most precious Blood from Thy most sacred side on the altar of the Cross for our salvation, and in this glorious Flesh didst arise from the dead, and didst ascend into heaven with the same Thy most sacred Body, and shalt come again to judge the living and the dead in the same Flesh: deliver us by this Thy most sacred Body and Blood, which in a manner on the altar is handled by the hands of the priest, from all sins and uncleannesses of mind and body, and from all evils and perils, past, present, and to come. Who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.)
It is a very full-blooded profession of faith in the truth that the Flesh and Blood of Christ are offered up on the altar and handled by the priest, the very same He took from His Mother, the same Blood which He shed on the Cross, the same Body in which He ascended to heaven, the same Flesh in which He shall come again to judge the quick and dead.

I do think, however, that the petition of the prayer for deliverance from all sins and uncleannesses, from all evils and perils, is a little anticlimatic, given the robust restatement of belief in the saving works of Christ that precedes it. (The petition is of course derived from the opening phrases of the Libera nos, the embolism or prayer that follows the Pater noster.)

That said, do think about using it – I have, since I found it.

(What a pity that all promises of more than a thousand years' pardon, if any were ever validly granted, were abrogated over a century ago; and – sigh – as the former method of measurement of the amount of temporal punishment remitted, by reference to so many days, Lents, or years of canonical penance, was abolished by Paul VI, all that remains to enrich this devout prayer is the general grant in the modern Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, by which the Church from the treasury of merit of Christ and the Saints doubles whatever remission of temporal punishment due to sin is gained by the praying of the prayer.)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Return at Last

I'm home again at last! More to come soon.