A much brighter morning than yesterday...

Although there are plenty of clouds still in the sky; I went out for a walk after Prime, and to say the rosary, and it had been raining and was still, a bit, so I went back into the cubiculum to retrieve my visored Salon des Refusés* cap. Of course it didn't rain a drop once I was beyond the driveway. Monday in the 4th Week of Lent (Introibo) and there was nothing showing earlier at the Saint-Eugene channel ('Ite Missa Est'; there is another 'Ite Missa Est' channel, from Dayton, O., if I recall aright-- a pain only because one has to type the name plus 'Paris' else one is in the midst of Pauline gaieties) so am not sure if they are streaming Holy Mass this morning (this evening, their time of course). Perhaps they are renewing, marshalling their resources before Passiontide begins on Sunday. There are quite a few composers who have set Psalm LIII or parts of it but no recordings specifically of the Introit show up. Time for Terce.

*Formerly, Eugene sponsored a 'Mayor's Art Show' each year. The artists (or some of them) whose works didn't win selection for that organised a Salon des Refusés down the street. Clever enough and, quite frankly... well, I was going to write, I never really could tell why the honored were honored and the rejected rejected-- but it was certainly true, so far as I can recall, that some of the rejected were truly dismal. On the other hand, some of the honored were, too, in my judgment. It has been ten years perhaps or more since these exhibitions were stopped, presumably because there wasn't enough moral and financial support for them. Eugene being Eugene in its childishly amusing way there was formerly (and may still be-- let the Académie ponder that!) a 'Jello Art Show'-- I believe anyone could enter his work in it so long as it, whatever it might be, was made out of Jello or some other gelatine product.   

We have already spoken of the circular church of the Protomartyr Stephen on the Coelian Hill, where the station of December 26 is celebrated [the collecta for today]. It is situated less than three hundred yards from the Basilica of the Four Holy Crowned Martyrs, which rises fortress-like on the hill-side. The legend of these four martyrs presented until lately a confused skein, which has only now been disentangled. In the first place, we have a group of Roman martyrs-- Clement, Simpronianus, Claudius, and Nicostratus, who were buried ad duas lauros on the ancient Via Labicana; not far, therefore, from the imperial residence-- whose tomb decorated with graffiti was discovered not long ago. To these we must add a second group of stone-cutters from Pannonia who met their death as martyrs in the river Save, and lastly a third group of four other martyrs from Albano. The relics of the titular saints are preserved in the crypt under the high altar, but the present building is not the original church of the 5th century, which was almost destroyed by the conflagration caused by the Normans, and was rebuilt by Paschal II (1099-1118) on a much smaller scale. The head of St Sebastian is also kept here in an ancient reliquary of great value. 

The Introit is from Psalm LIII: 'Save me, O God, by thy name, and in thy strength deliver me: O God, hear my prayer: give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen up against me : and the mighty have sought after my soul'. Already on the distant horizon the heights of Calvary can be discerned, and the words of the divine Victim, who asks God so earnestly for help against his enemies, serve as introduction to the drama of the Passion. In the Collect we pray that the devotion with which the faithful celebrate year by year the Lenten fast may merit for them the grace that not only their outward works, but also their spiritual ones may always be pleasing to God. 

The Lesson from the third Book of Kings (III 16-28) follows, with the story of the judgement of Solomon, of which we find a representation even in the paintings at Pompeii. As the tenderness of one of the women towards the living child revealed to Solomon which of the two was the true mother, so the Church shows herself, rather than the Synagogue, to be in truth the Mother of souls, by her loving care for their well-being. It matters little, says the Jewish Sanhedrim, that a sword should cleave humanity in two-- the heirship of Abraham must have nothing in common with the Goyim, who all are destined to perdition. But it is Christ, the true Solomon, who delivers the sentence. The Synagogue, which has shown itself to be a cruel step-mother, is rejected, whilst the tender feelings of the Church plead in favour of her Motherhood; to her, therefore, let the child-- that is, the world-- be given. 

The Gradual derives its first verse from Psalm XXX and its second verse from Psalm LXX. Christ, as the hour of his Passion draws near, calls for help: 'Be thou unto me a God, a protector and place of refuge to save me. O God, I have hoped in thee: O Lord, let me never be confounded'. In what manner did God fulfil those words? By raising up his Son and making him the Saviour of the whole human race. The paschal fast, which included the three weeks before Easter, began at Rome on this day in the 3rd century; and the last trace of this special liturgical period is to be seen in the series of lessons from St John’s Gospel, which continue from now until Easter. [This is of interest; I wonder if Dom Prosper and Blessed Ildefonso are supported by the historians in this, the three weeks' fast itself and the lectio Sancti Ioannis.] The few Masses which form an exception to this rule only serve to prove it, as either they are those of stations instituted afterwards by Gregory II, or the scriptural passages contained in them were added at a later date.

In today’s Gospel (John II 13-25) Our Lord, after driving the money-changers and traffickers from the Temple, disputes with the representatives of the Sanhedrim, to whom he foretells in veiled language his death and resurrection, as a proof of his divine nature. The Jews did not forget this confession of his Messianic mission, but later made use of it to accuse him before Caiphas, by giving to his words a material signification. The spiritual temple of which Jesus spoke was his sacred humanity, which was raised up by God to a glorified life on the third day after his crucifixion; but it also signifies the Catholic Church, which after the resurrection took the place of the ancient Synagogue, destroyed by the hands of its own sons. 

The Offertory is that of the 1st Sunday after the Epiphany. It is a true jubilus with its flowing Gregorian melody, which was well suited in olden times to this first day of the great paschal fast, when a special note of gladness was to dominate the whole liturgy. God, says the Apostle, loves a cheerful giver, and St Francis de Sales adds that a sad saint makes a poor saint. The Secret is likewise taken from the 1st Sunday after the Epiphany, and in it we pray that the divine Sacrifice which we are about to offer may awaken and confirm in us that grace which is the life of the soul. 

The Communion comes from Psalm XVIII: 'From my secret sins cleanse me, O Lord; from those sins which self-sufficiency hides from me and which negligence prevents me from finding out. Keep me also far from the disobedient, and from association with those who may lead me into evil, and who may be a stumbling-block and a cause of sin both to myself and to others'. In the Post-Communion we pray that participation in the divine Sacrament may intensify in us the work of our redemption, delivering us from the slavery of our passions, and directing our feet in the way of eternal salvation. The Blessed Sacrament, inasmuch as it communicates to us the spirit of Christ crucified, is to the soul a principle of life and a principle of death. Of death, because it gives death to sin and to the corrupt part of our nature; of life, because through it we share in the life of Christ, a life of perfect holiness, a life wholly in God, for God and of God. This is what was meant by St Paul when speaking of our Lord he said: Quod mortuus est peccato, mortuus est semel, quod autem vivit, vivit Deo. The missa, or Prayer of Benediction over the people before their dismissal [the Oratio super populum], begs the divine clemency that, having granted us the grace of raising our supplications to God in order to obtain protection from the dangers that threaten us, we may duly attain to the salvation for which we pray. 

The grace of prayer is one of the highest favours that God imparts to the human soul. Prayer is indeed the atmosphere in which holiness develops and flourishes; it enables the Holy Ghost to communicate himself to the soul and to bind it to himself with the bonds of love. The whole essence of asceticism is contained in this one word 'prayer'. We first pray in order to obtain the help of God’s grace in our struggles in the path of purification; and, when we are engaged in the path of meditation, again we have recourse to prayer. In heaven itself we shall do nothing else but pray, so we may consider prayer as the beginning of our future state of blessedness. 

Post Vesperas. One of my pleasures is discovering unknown words in P.D. James's novels, requiescat in pace. I can't remember what one or which ones I learned in the last one, but in Death of an Expert Witness the word, clunch, came on the first or second page. I probably read this novel, borrowed from the library, ten or even fifteen years ago, but the first pages aren't ringing any bells. The Dictionary knows the word.

Clunch adjective and noun are immediately connected: earlier quotations have actually been found for the noun, but its various senses appear to arise more naturally from that of the adjective. The Low German klunt, Dutch klont ‘lump, clod, heavy and awkward mass, clown’, etc., which is explained etymologically as a nasalized derivative of the root which gave cleat, clot, clout.... 

1. Lumpy, lumpish; heavy and stiff, or close, as clay or pudding; thickset, ‘chunky,’ in figure.

It is also the feast of Saint Leocrizia (9th century), of Saint Louise (17th century), and of the Blessed John (20th century).

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