26 March 2011

Next Sunday

The ancient Collect for Lent III, with bold for the padding which Cranmer added to the Latin original:

We beseech thee, almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants: and stretch forth the right hand of thy majesty to be our defence against all our enemies.

Like last Sunday's collect, this comes from the Missal which Pope Hadrian sent to Charlemagne at the emperor's request; whose wish it was to reform the worship of the Empire by replacing the boisterous Merovingian Latinity (Dix's phrase) of the 'Gallican' Rites with the elegant 'urban' Latin of the Papal rite. This was a decisive point in the journey of the Roman Rite from being the local rite of the City to being the common rite of nearly all the West.

It had better be admitted that many of these collects, marked by the disorders of the Roman Empire's last period, have, like the chants of the old rite, an embarassing relevance to our own day. Many of them deploy and link three themes: we are being mightily oppressed by our enemies; we deserve these afflictions; and we perform such duties as prayer and fasting that God may grant us the protection which we do not deserve. A millennium and a half later, our culture, too, has 'enemies' within and without: within, societal collapse and a community which seems often to be in terminal disorder; without, the threat of 'Islamic Extremism'. Do we accept that we (collectively) have deserved these things; do we trust to God alone and offer our prayers and abstinence as humble supplications for deliverance? Yet the old postcommunion prayer asks with almost naive succinctness that we may delivered from reatus (guilt) and pericula (perils) - as if these two go hand in hand, like a horse and carriage.

And it is worth looking at the readings which the preconciliar Missal shares with Cranmer's Prayer Book. Ephesians 5:1ff repeats the blunt message that fornication, covetousness, idolatry are the reasons why the Wrath of God has come upon the children of disobedience. Luke 11:14ff finds the Lord observing that a society which has once possessed the Faith (had its demons cast out) and then lost it is, at risk of having seven times as many demons returning to occupy it; the only solution is follow our Lady in humblest obedience to the word of God.

This is not the sort of way Christians tend to think nowadays; simply to suggest it is to run the risk of being attacked for claiming that God whacked the Twin Towers because the people inside were sinners. But this old Mass Proper sticks its neck out and asks us to confront the possibility that our society is under attack because of the internal dynamic of it own corruption.

5 comments:

Joshua said...

Those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. St Luke 13. 4, 5.

St said...

Magnificent and inspiring post.

Transalpine Redemptorists said...

Thank you Father!
Fr. Michael Mary

Patrick said...

Thank you Fr. Hunwicke for a fine
post

Woody said...

What a great day to see this tremendous meditation (and one so badly needed here in the US as well as the UK and elsewhere), and also to see Fr. Michael Mary's note.