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LIBERA NOS DOMINE

We should not be surprized that the Church’s Lenten call to penance and self-denial seems so out of step with the aspirations of the secular world. How could it be otherwise? The kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of Christ are not co-extensive. They have vastly different territories, different values, different laws.

In Lent we follow Christ into the desert, into a retreat of deeper prayer and more generous penance. But that solitude is also the place where evil lurks and temptation whispers. In that wilderness we shall experience emptiness and loneliness. We shall feel the cold dry winds of apathy which desiccate our piety and chill our fervour.

We shall hear the enticing blandishments of sweet reason, urging us to embrace polite moderation, not to take life so seriously, not to be so intense. We shall hear the Devil whispering to us: Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t be so extreme. Take it easy. Give yourself a break. After all, it’s meant to be all about joy…

We are free to choose our Lenten penances as we think best.  If you are not sure what to do, one might suggest the following.

The situation in the Vineyard is now so serious that it might perhaps be sufficient penance simply to accept, in the spirit of Gethsemane, the persecutions which the Master is currently permitting us to endure.

It certainly is a penance to try and accept without anger the fact that the Lord could permit the present mess to have come about. However, to admit with sober honesty the plain fact of the chaos must surely strengthen our resolve to pray all the more fervently for its healing.  Libera nos, Domine.

 

 

 

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Expulsion from Eden

SEPTUAGESIMA

Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima are the three Sundays and weeks which the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite wisely gives us in preparation for Lent.

The afterglow of Epiphany is replaced by the austerity of Septuagesima and the three weeks which follow. The liturgical colour is violet. The Gloria is not sung or said. Alleluia is omitted. This is to help us get in training for Quadragesima itself, the forty days of intensive prayer and penance in preparation for Eastertide.

These three pre-Lenten preparatory weeks are not included in the Ordinary Form of the Roman rite.

However, in the magnificent Divine Worship missal authorized for use by the Ordinariates, the gesimas are included, together with other valuable elements from the traditional Roman rite. Among many admirable inclusions is the octave of Pentecost (‘Whitsun Week’).

The coherence and register of the liturgical language in the Ordinariate missal are of an enviably high quality. The liturgical texts in that missal read and sound like English, and they also read and sound like prayer.

One recent example; the collect for the Epiphany from the Ordinariate missal:

“O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy Only Begotten Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may be led onward through this earthly life, until we see the vision of thy heavenly glory; through the same….”

‘Thee and Thou’ usage provides some of the dignity and elevation which, mutatis mutandis, are characteristics of the Latin liturgical tradition, characteristics less apparent in current vernacular versions – the Ordinariate missal being an inspiring exception. (The next edition would be improved still further by omitting the Cranmerian interpolations)

In addition to the existing provisions of Summorum Pontificum, what a great blessing it would be to make the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite also available in the vernacular, retaining of course the same 1962 rubrics as when celebrating it in Latin.

Such a provision would help towards a much needed sanatio in radice of the current disjunction between the present versions of the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman rite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ADORAVERUNT EUM

The Magi exemplify the merciful work of the Holy Spirit. Among countless other mercies, He can and does lead pagans, atheists, agnostics, and others, to find Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

It is intrinsic to our faith in Jesus of Nazareth that we want Him to be known, loved, and followed, by the whole of mankind.

Conversion is God’s work, but He graciously allows us to play some part in preparing the ground for the action of the Holy Spirit.

Here is how we can help to prepare the ground:

  • Get down on our knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament and implore the Saviour to shower His graces on all those who are not yet within the one fold of the Redeemer.
  • Keep close company with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. Pray her rosary, try to imitate her virtues, and beg her intercession for all God’s children who have not yet found Christ.
  • Show God’s love to those in need. Give alms. Feed the hungry. Care for the sick. Spend time with the lonely. Succour the homeless. Comfort the dying. Console the bereaved.
  • Make sacrifices. The more generous we are, the greater will be the harvest.

The Magi returned to their own country ‘by another way’, wiser than they were before. Something new had happened to them and it changed them. In the most unusual of circumstances, they had received the gift of faith.

The King they found must have turned their expectations upside down. Doubtless they did not understand everything, but they were given the grace and the wisdom to worship Him.

In the Gospel for the Epiphany it is an ancient and laudable custom for all to genuflect at the words adoraverunt eumthey worshipped Him.

The repetitive liturgical gestures of the traditional Roman rite are latreutic and catechetical. They can speak more clearly than many words.

Our forms of worship and the way we pray have a direct impact on the content and consistency of our faith. As we pray, so we believe.

One day God’s harvest will be fully gathered in. On that day every knee shall bow at the most Holy Name of Jesus, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. He, and no other.

 

 

 

 

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Shepherds at crib

THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

In the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus, in a dull provincial backwater of the Roman Empire, the world’s true King tabernacled silently for nine months in the virginal womb of a then unknown Jewish maiden, Mary of Nazareth.

The Blessed Virgin Mary’s divine Infant is Jesus Christ, the long awaited Saviour of mankind, Messiah.

Christ the Messiah generously invites every man, woman, and child on earth to follow Him. Where? Along the Christian path of new life, life in the Holy Spirit.

The Catholic Church is the home of the Holy Spirit. The Christian religion, as taught and practised by the Catholic Church, gives us everything we need to attain holiness in this life, and eternal beatitude in the life hereafter.

All Christ’s disciples share in His mission, in many diverse and complementary ways.

Our mission is to bring all mankind to believe and live the Christian Gospel, in the Church Christ founded.

The Christian Gospel.  The Church He founded.   All mankind.

 

 

 

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WAKE UP, LOOK UP

Hora est de somno surgere. Advent is the austere and sobering start of the new liturgical year. We recall humanity’s primordial expulsion from paradise. We ponder the Four Last Things; death, judgement, hell, and heaven. The cry of Wachet auf rouses sleepy pilgrims from their dreams. It urges us to wake up, and to look up, towards the transcendent horizon from whence Christ the Lord of history will return.

Excita potentiam tuam. As Advent begins our conscience is stirred up by St John the Baptist. The Saviour’s stern precursor bids us repent. There is no denying the threatening tone of his fiery denunciations. Brood of vipers! Flee from the wrath to come!

Gaudete. As Advent advances, those grim warnings are mitigated, and the liturgy resonates with a more consoling message. On the third Sunday of Advent the austere seasonal violet lightens slightly into rose-pink, and we are bidden to rejoice, as we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s nativity.

Consolamini, popule meus. The maternal warmth of our blessed Lady supersedes the cold and angular icon of the Baptist. We leave the Judean desert and turn towards Bethlehem where the Mother of Messiah will  give birth. The Lord’s Second Coming and the Last Judgement can now be viewed from within a more consoling perspective. Before Christ comes as Judge, He first comes as Saviour.

Foederis Arca. The New Testament is rightly understood only in the light of the Old Testament. In the second book of Samuel, David sent the Ark of the Covenant to the house of Obed-Edom of Gath. “The Ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom of Gath for three months” (2 Sam.6:11). When St Luke tells us of our Lady’s Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, we read: “Mary stayed with her some three months”. St Luke recorded that precise detail because under inspiration he realized its full revelatory significance: Mary of Nazareth is the new Ark of the Covenant in which the presence of God truly lies hidden.

Adeamus cum fiducia ad thronum gratiae. Let us remain close to our blessed Lady during her sacred confinement. It is her face that the Saviour will first behold and love when He emerges into a cold and wintry world. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is the throne from which the Infant God inaugurates His endless reign. Let us draw near with confidence unto the throne of grace. 

 

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FROM PURGATORY TO PARADISE

We should fervently hope that at our particular judgement God’s mercy will allow us into purgatory.

Pray hard to get into purgatory. Will it hurt?  Yes, it will.

What are the pains of purgatory? Having been judged, and having by God’s mercy escaped damnation, the soul ‘wakes up’ in purgatory to find itself bereft of all its previous bodily senses, and therefore lacking anything resembling what we usually mean by consciousness. No sounds, no sights, no sense-experience.

No longer part of the material world, the soul now apprehends the overwhelming gigantic reality of the spiritual and moral universe – the real universe.

The soul is now aware of the constantly shifting flux of the economy of grace. It now understands more accurately than ever before the full horror of sin. It is bathed in a new appreciation of God’s ineluctable justice. It now realizes that the things which concerned it so obsessively on earth were by and large mere rubbish in comparison with the divine splendour that it briefly glimpsed at its particular judgement.

We, the Church Militant, have a part to play in helping the Holy Souls to enter heaven. It is a great consolation that God allows us to contribute something to the detoxing and purification of a soul in purgatory. Masses offered for the departed, together with other prayers and sacrifices, will hasten the purging of our beloved dead in what Fr.Faber called the ‘holy hospitals’ of purgatory.

One day, for each soul the queuing will be over. For each individual soul in its turn, and separately, the door out of purgatory will open. They will step through that door, and the first ravishing glimpse of light perpetual will greet their eyes.

They will start to hear, perhaps faintly at first, then stronger and louder, the celestial oratorio of God’s eternal praises being sung. If here below your imagination needs help in thinking about the music of heaven, try the Sanctus from Bach’s B minor Mass. Just a start.

At their entry into heaven holy souls become saints. It is then that they surely remember us, the walking wounded, who are still struggling along in the Church Militant. In their new life of unalloyed charity, the new saints will generously return the suffrages which we made on their behalf.

The saints are God’s aristocracy. In paradise, all are ennobled. In all the saints we have friends at court, the court of the King of kings.

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