A Dawn hidden by clouds has given way to a cheerful morning...

With only an horizon only of grey and purple. My morning is a bit disordered because I have to go out to the pharmacy in about an hour. Holy Mass isn't streamed from Paris this morning; today's Mass is Sitientes venite ad aquas (Introibo), and formerly it was a day on which many ordinations took place. The Introit is sung in the first video by the Carthusian nuns of Santa Maria de Benifassà in Spain and, frankly, I've forgotten who is singing in the second because I had to fuss about the proper way to spell Benifassà.

Avoidance of fits of apoplexy is occasionally the best I can do when I attend to the res catholica these days. The Pope at Rome has, so far as I can tell, a peculiar set of priorities, the Bishops in this country connive to gloss over their incompetence and lukewarmness, and there are countries, effectively at the very edge of schism, where the Bishops are even worse than in the United States. Am painting with a broad brush of course (and there are faithful prelates in every country). Someone in the 'Traditional Latin Mass Discussion Forum' at Facebook felt it necessary to ask if the perpetual virginity of Our Lady-- ante partum, in partu, post partum-- is a dogma of the Faith. That ignorance is down to the Bishops, and to the party of 'reform', 'modernism', 'the spirit of Vatican II' et cetera: I recall certain Jesuits in the 70s who casually affirmed that Our Lady's perpetual virginity was 'an open question', 'not a defined dogma', and suchlike nonsense; worse than nonsense of course. Of course the Facebook fellow may be himself partly responsible for his own ignorance. It is the in partu that is a stumbling block for contemporary theologists-- they can just bring themselves to nod at ante and post (particularly if that can mean simply 'lived celibately'-- which of course it does not) but in makes their worldly minds overheat. 

Ever since the time of Gelasius I (492-6) this day has been devoted in Rome to the conferring of Holy Orders. As, however, this necessitated the great fast together with the Pannuchis at the tomb of St Peter, and as Holy Orders were not usually conferred until dawn on the Sunday, it is probable that originally this Saturday was 'aliturgical', as was always the case in Rome when the vigil for the Sunday followed. The station at St Lawrence marked in the ancient Sacramentaries was, therefore, held only in those years in which the Pope did not ordain any titular priests or deacons, for, in any case, the consecration of the ministers of the Church could take place only at the tomb of the Apostles at the Vatican. The synaxis at the Ager Veranus, when it could be held, seems to have been connected with the preparation of the catechumens for baptism. When the scrutinies had taken place at St Paul’s, these new recruits of the Church were conducted to the tomb of St Lawrence, the glorious crossbearer of the Apostolic See. After their initiation they will return thither on Easter Wednesday, but it was fitting that they should at once be placed under his patronage. During the later Middle Ages, when the disciplinary measures regulating the catechumenate had become obsolete, and the procession to the Ager Veranus in the showery weather of March was found to be inconvenient, the Church of St Nicholas in Carcere [the statio] was substituted for that of St Lawrence. This church was one of the most popular in Rome, especially after the Pierleoni had erected their fortress in its vicinity. Among the sixty or so churches and chapels formerly dedicated to St Nicholas the Wonder-worker of Myra, this one, situated in the Forum Olitorium, was the most celebrated, because it was also a diaconal title. It stands on the ruins of a temple of Piety, erected 165 BC by the duumvir Acilius Glabrio, and is called in carcere, because from the time of Pliny down to the 8th century at least, a public prison existed there-- sometimes erroneously confused with the Tullianum on the Capitoline Hill. Under the high altar repose relics of Faustinus and Viatrix, the martyrs of the Via Portuensis. The church was reconsecrated by Honorius 11 on May 12, 1128. The basilica in which the collecta meets today was originally dedicated to St Paul, but later it took the name of Saint Angelus with the addition of in piscina or in piscibus, on account of the fish-market, which was held until quite recently in that neighbourhood. The church was certainly in existence before the eighth century, for we know that Theodore, the uncle of Adrian I (772-95), rebuilt it from its foundations. Many holy relics are preserved there, including the bodies of the martyred sons of St Symphorosa of Tibur. 

The Mass of today is inspired by the holy feelings which must have filled the hearts of the catechumens as the day of their baptism drew nigh. The Gospel speaks again of the inner light of the New Covenant, a subject which seems to have been treated habitually when the station took place at the tomb of the saint, the flames of whose funeral pyre dispelled the darkness of idolatry in Rome. The Introit is taken from Isaias (55,1): 'O you that thirst'-- that is, you in whom the pleasures of life and earthly possessions have increased, instead of extinguishing, within your breast your thirst for true happiness-- 'come to the waters' of divine grace which alone can satisfy your longings. Let not your wretchedness hinder you, come and draw water freely and joyfully; quench your thirst at the pure fountain of grace, which an infinitely merciful and loving God has given you without regard for human imperfections. Psalm 77 follows, which is a hymn of thanksgiving for the many benefits bestowed by God upon the patriarchs of old. 

In the Collect we ask that God would grant us the spiritual fruit for which our devotion craves, for our fast will then indeed be profitable when all our Christian life shall reflect the divine perfections. In the first Lesson Isaias (49,8-15) predicts, with the vision of a seer, the Messianic mission which will restore to the souls of men their spiritual freedom, which will illuminate them with the rays of a faith derived from the source of all truths and will give them to drink of the fresh waters of the sacraments. Idolatry, legal rites and ceremonies were all as bonds fettering the body and encumbering the spirit; in their place has been substituted the adoration of the heart. It is indeed true that the world by its wrongdoing had forfeited the mercy of God, but a mother-- and here Isaias likens God to the tenderest of mothers-- does not forget nor turn away from her child, notwithstanding its many transgressions. 

The Gradual is taken from Psalm 9 [yes, I've gotten tired of messing about with the Roman numerals]. It is the poor man who speaks, the victim of the oppressor in his pride, nor has he any to succour him. He compares himself to an orphan, having no father here below except God his heavenly Father, whose aid he invokes. Who is this poor man, this orphan, but Jesus Christ himself, who, feeling the hour of his Passion draw near, and foreseeing the sufferings that he must endure at the hands of the Synagogue, calls upon his Father to help him in the day of victory, at the dawn of the resurrection? In the Roman Lectionaries of the 9th century, there followed here a second lesson from Isaias: Omnes sitientes venite ad aquas, which, like the Introit, exhorted the catechumens to hasten to the baptismal font. The reading of the Gospel of St John, begun on the day of the great scrutinies at St Paul’s, is now continued. Today the Evangelist speaks of the inward illumination of the soul, by means of faith, and narrates how, when the Pharisees refused to accept the testimony of Christ, he appealed to the authority of the Father who had sent him. This discussion took place in the treasury, called γαζοφυλακιον in Greek, perhaps to convey to us that charity and compassion towards the poor are the roads that lead to Jesus. Blessed indeed is he who finds Jesus, for he finds a treasure above all treasures. Thus a saint has said: 'My Jesus, he who desires aught beside thee knows not what he desires'. 

The Offertory comes from Psalm 17: 'The Lord is become my firmament and my refuge and my deliverer: and in him will I put my trust'. He has become my firmament because his grace strengthens me against the assault of my spiritual enemies; my refuge, because I find rest in him from the persecution of my adversaries, who, when I invoke the name of Jesus, flee away in terror; my deliverer, because the Lord only permits me to be tempted by the devil in order to reward me with the joy and triumph of victory. In the Secret we pray God to accept our offering, and to turn away his anger-- this is the propitiatory effect of the Sacrifice-- and because our evil will is the chief obstacle to the grace of God, we implore him to change by the efficacy of his power these rebellious and distorted dispositions of our soul into responsive and obedient instruments of the Holy Ghost. 

The Communion is taken from Psalm 22, which is the joyful hymn of one whom the divine shepherd feeds amid fresh pastures and flowing streams: 'The Lord ruleth me and I shall want nothing: he hath set me in a place of pasture'-- that is, the Catholic Church, the holy sacraments, the interior grace which ever nourishes the faith of a believing soul-- 'and he leadeth me to the water of refreshment', to the place where the thirst for worldly joys ceases and only the desire for heavenly things remains. In the Post-Communion we ask that the holy Sacrament may purify us-- this is the satisfying effect of the Sacrifice-- and may by its efficacy adorn our souls with such virtues as will render them pleasing to God. Holy Communion is assuredly the true school for saints. It at once causes God to look favourably upon us; it purifies our souls; it obtains for us the gift of those virtues which we need; and it finally draws us to him by the gentle ties of a uniting and transforming love; so that feeding in truth upon him, we also live by him. This is the crowning effect in the soul of Holy Communion. In the Oratio super populum the priest prays thus: 'O God, who choosest rather to pity than to be angry with those who hope in thee; grant us worthily to lament the evils we have done, that we may deserve to find the grace of thy consolation'. In this life, the tears of the penitent not only extinguish the flames of hell, but quench also the fire of the righteous anger of God. If, as Christ has said, the house of God on earth is not to be turned into a house of traffickers-- still less can we expect to purchase our entrance into heaven. The grace of God is not bought but is freely given to all. In order, therefore, to become saints, it is sufficient to respond generously to the call from God given to us in holy baptism, seeking with joy the fountains of grace which flow from the blessed Eucharist: bibite cum laetitia. In today’s Mass the divine Saviour renews his invitation to his holy table.

Post Nonam. So far anyway the addition of Our Lady's Office to the Roman hasn't proved too onerous to continue with. I have had to begin using a pillow to kneel on-- the Night Office and Prime both take about half an hour and my knees can't take that. I remember having to wear knee-protectors-- they are designed for people who work on their knees, floorers, carpenters et cetera-- for a while en chartreuse because while here is carpet there was granite: if I can't manage 30 minutes of this there is no way I could have done without those knee contraptions. A week or two of them? I don't recall. Eventually one's knees become accustomed to the pressure although now, at my advanced age, perhaps they won't.  I was a bit self-congratulatory because I correctly preserved the Carthusian Salve Regina for all those years (Salve Regina misericordiae, not mater misericordiae; vitae dulcedo, not vita, dulcedoJesum, benedictum fructum... benignum, not simply benedictum fructum).

It is also the feast of Saint Nicetas (8th century), of Saint Martin (6th century), and of the Blessed Jeanne (18th century).

V. Et álibi aliórum plurimórum sanctórum Mártyrum et Confessórum, atque sanctárum Vírginum. R. Deo grátias.