As Holy Week begins: am going to have to say the Sunday Night Office this evening since I do want to follow Holy Mass from Saint-Eugène, for Palm Sunday, I mean, live and not via the recorded version. Have to get downtown for Mass here at 1730, which represents a commitment of time of two hours? three? The thought crossed my mind that I ought to have signed up for one of the actual Sunday Masses but I chased it away: a terrible way to begin the day. The Mass of today is Miserére mihi, Dómine, quóniam tribulor (Introibo); it is the feast of the great Doctor Saint John of Damascus (Introibo), which will be commemorated. Time-- am late-- for Prime.
In the early Middle Ages, this Saturday preceding Holy Week in which the great ceremonies began, was aliturgical: sabbatum vacat. This was in order that the people might be able to take some rest, whilst the Pope, too, in the Vatican Consistorium, or the Lateran Triclinium, having distributed the paschal alms to the poor, consigned the consecrated Host to the titular priests. This latter rite signified their close connection with the Apostolic See; and during the following week they could begin their Mass at whatever time they preferred, without having to wait every day for the acolyte to bring the particle consecrated by the Pope for them to place in their chalice. It was sufficient that, after the ritual breaking of the Host, they should place in the chalice a particle of that Host sent to them on this Saturday by the Pope. To this ceremony, with its profound significance, was joined the distribution of abundant alms-- in imitation of the Saviour who, on the occasion of the Pasch, was wont to entrust Judas with the duty of giving alms to the poor. In course of time both these ceremonies became obsolete, and in their place a new station was instituted at the Church of St John before the Latin Gate, which was first connected by Ado in his Martyrology with the martyrdom suffered at Rome by the Apostle under Diocletian. The tradition which relates that St John was miraculously preserved from death when plunged into a caldron of boiling oil is very ancient, as it is vouched for by Tertullian; but that this scene took place before the Latin Gate precisely on the spot where the Church of St John now stands, is a conjecture of Ado sine idoneis tabulis. However this may be, the important fact is the coming of the Apostle John to Rome some ten years after the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul. As the Lateran basilica was originally called the Basilica of the Saviour, and St John was merely the name of a small chapel in the baptistery, built by Pope Hilary (461-8), the stational Church of St John before the Latin Gate is the most ancient and venerable monument which records for the faithful the apostolate at Rome of the disciple whom Jesus loved so well.
The Mass has no Proper except the Collects and the Lessons, for in the early Middle Ages so great was the respect for the Antiphonary of St Gregory, that no one would have dared to insert in it any new musical compositions. Hence the chants for today’s Mass are all borrowed from that of yesterday.
In the Collect we beseech God that the people who are dedicated to him may increase in the affections of pious devotion and may develop by good works that seed of holiness which was sown in their hearts at holy Baptism. The school in which they must learn this lesson of perfection is the Church herself with her Sacraments and her Liturgy; so that the Christian life may become one long chain of graces connected one with another, each grace serving to prepare and dispose us to receive another.
The Lesson from Jeremias (18,18-23) forms a sequel to that of yesterday, and predicts the terrible chastisements which will follow on the deicide. It is Jesus who, typified by the prophet of the Lamentations, calls them down on the Jews through his Father, but in so doing he does not act in contradiction to his own words, when from the cross he implores pardon for his executioners. During our present life every chastisement sent by God is for our correction, as he himself has spoken in the Apocalypse: Ego quos amo, arguo et castigo. As temporal happiness becomes to many an excuse for neglecting their spiritual welfare, so sorrow and adversity lead back to God many souls disillusioned by the emptiness of the promises held out by the world. Further, in the case of the Jews, the theocracy of the Old Testament had a distinctly prophetic character which was to prepare the way for the New Testament, as the fulfilment of all the symbols and promises of the Old. Jesus Christ, having come into the world, and having established the new Covenant, it became necessary that the old Covenant should be abrogated. The good of humanity required this; for, as long as the ancient Temple stood as a palladium of Jewish nationalism, the Apostles always found themselves opposed by Jewish prejudice, actively supported by a strong Christian party with pro-Jewish tendencies. These latter wished to combine the Law with the Gospel, circumcision with baptism, the religious rites of the temple with the sacrifice of Calvary, and it was against their crafty machinations that St Paul was obliged, more than once, to warn the faithful. The whole question is fully discussed in his Epistles to the Galatians and the Romans.
The Gospel (John 12,10-36) describes in anticipation of tomorrow the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem. Our Lord desires that his Messianic mission should be openly and clearly manifested before the Sanhedrim, so, for this purpose, he allows his triumphal entry to take place in the identical circumstances described by the prophets. The hosannas of the multitude and of the children were caused by the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, which had just been witnessed at Bethania, so the Jews could no longer profess themselves to be in perplexity and doubt, because Jesus did not openly declare his divine nature. The light now shines forth in all its fulness. In complete harmony with our Lord’s repeated declarations appear his marvellous works, and the fulfilment in him of all the Messianic prophecies. Amongst these there is one, soon to be realized, which concerns the Gentiles, who are to share the privileges and blessings of Abraham; for the two Gentiles who come to Philip, desiring to see Jesus, are the first-fruits of the Greek and Roman world which the divine Saviour is about to draw unto himself. There remains, it is true, the scandal of the cross, which confounds the Jews and arouses the contempt of the Gentiles; but, in the counsel of God, it is the necessary condition of redemption, not only for Jesus, but also for ourselves. It is not enough that he should bear the cross for us; if we wish to be saved, we must take our burden on our own shoulders, and bear it for love of him. As the grain of wheat, unless it first fall into the ground and die, cannot bring forth fruit, so the soul, unless it die with Jesus, cannot share in his divine life.
In the Secret we beseech the divine mercy to preserve the faithful, who are to be partakers in so great a mystery, from all sin and danger-- sin which harms the soul, and danger which threatens the body. The graces which God gives us are not indeed without due order and connection; they all form part of one plan of predestination, and it is for this reason that God does not dispense his favours at haphazard, nor only when we feel moved to ask him for them. From the very first moment of our being, he has been carrying out a marvellous plan, which his love alone has inspired. All will be fulfilled in its own time with a splendour and a magnificence worthy of Him and of our high destiny as His sons. He treats us, as he himself tells us in the holy Scriptures, with great regard; but in the plan of our predestination, there is nothing superfluous, nothing disordered, nothing wasted. A marvellous harmony, a perfect rhythm binds together all the graces which God has granted to us.
In the Post-Communion we pray that, as God has already filled us with the abundance of the divine gift-- that is to say, not with any particular grace, but with the very fulness of grace, with Jesus himself who is the author of all grace, now become donum nostrum--he would also grant us to participate therein for ever in heaven. The Blessed Sacrament is indeed the token of future glory, and the union which takes place in Holy Communion between the soul and God will be perfected in the Beatific Vision.
In the Oratio super populum before the dismissal of the people we ask God that his strong right hand may defend his suppliant people, purify them from sin, and duly instruct them in spiritual things, so that, by present consolation, they may arrive at future rewards. The Church asks in this prayer for four things-- first of all for the special help of God that will enable the soul to make the acts of contrition and love which must precede its reconciliation and forgiveness; then comes the purification from sin by the infusion of sanctifying grace. All this forms part of that which ascetics call the purificative way. Next follows the illuminative way, which consists in the training of the soul by the light of the Holy Ghost, especially in prayer and meditation. Lastly comes the unitive way, when the soul, though still a pilgrim in this land of exile, anticipates and experiences to some extent a foretaste of complete union with God. Christ espouses her for ever to himself in such a manner that the nuptials contracted in this life preserve by their grace the fidelity of the soul to her Crucified Spouse, who from the cross calls her to the wedding feast of eternity in his Father’s house. It is a striking confession which the Pharisees make in today’s Gospel: 'Vidétis, quia nihil profícimus? Ecce, mundus totus post eum ábiit'. This truth, proved through the centuries, should strengthen us especially in moments of discouragement, when we see the evil forces of this world obtain a momentary triumph over the Church of God. He has spoken, and his word shall never be made void; Christ conquers, reigns, and triumphs, though in a few days' time he will be lifted up on the cross, whence he will draw all men unto himself.
Am attempting to move music from the one laptop to the other, which other is going to Portland on Wednesday (I don't recall which is prima and which secunda; I believe prima machina is the one that I'm planning on taking with me.) Intended to move one album-- the recording of Victoria's Officium Hebdomada Sancta-- but I wonder if I'm copying the entire library, tsk. Time for tea and Sext. Was indeed copying the entire lot; have given up for the time being trying to figure out the correct procedure for accomplishing what I want to accomplish and am substituting the expedient of ripping the CDs that I'm interested in having along in Portland.
Post Vesperas. Am finishing my rice-and-tuna and preparing to drink my last glass of water before leaving at 1630 (or whenever the driver gets here) for Holy Mass. Will, presuming the Lyft fellow isn't too late, stop in beforehand at Kiva (they will be closed when Mass ends) for a Palm Sunday treat or two: olives, and then perhaps something from their kitchen.
I learned earlier that the hymn Au sang qu’un Dieu va répandre-- the text is François Fénelon's-- was famously set to a melody of Pergolesi, from one of his operas. The hymn sung at Saint-Eugène is by Amédée Gastoué. Looking about, I see that there is an English hymn called God of Mercy and Compassion, sung to "a traditional French melody by 18th century Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi". Must admit that I never knew that Pergolesi died at the age of 26. Now am going to anticipate Matins and Lauds.
Ante Completorium. Father N. celebrated ad orientem at the newly-restored high altar; he sang some of his parts well; the bells and incense were wonderful. The rest, so far as Holy Mass goes, I shall leave unsaid. The Lyft driver evidently decided to stop work just before picking me up-- their system tried to placate me with a second car and driver for 26 minutes later but I called a cab instead and got to Mass with ten minutes to spare. Both cab drivers-- to and from-- were pleasant, efficient fellows; goods heavens, though, Oregon Taxi has an automated booking system in place since the last time I used their services. The driver doesn't know his destination until he picks up the fare. Hmm; I imagine that innovation didn't go over very well. Time for Compline. Mass from Paris is at 0200 and I have Lauds and Lauds de Beata still to say. I'm aiming to rise at 0120....
It is also the feast of Saint Rupert (8th century), of Saint Haimo (9th century), and of the Blessed Panacea (14th century).
V. Et álibi aliórum plurimórum sanctórum Mártyrum et Confessórum, atque sanctárum Vírginum. R. Deo grátias.