A kind friend has passed on to me L'Annee Liturgique; a series which I first met years ago when I was preaching a Priests' Retreat in the Devon house of the Franciscan Servants of Jesus and Mary at Posbury St Francis. The sitting room set aside for my use had, around its walls, most of the library - including Gueranger - of Prebendary John Hooper, the charismatic priest who decades before had fostered my own vocation to the Sacred Priesthood. He was part of that wonderful phenomenon (not quite extinct), the Exeter Mafia, Catholic clergy who spent most of their priesthood in that diocese; he was a drinking partner of Bishop Robert Mortimer, the scholar-bishop and moral theologian (we don't have many of those in the C of E - perhaps that is the root of some of our current tragedies). Fr John had been the Posbury community's Warden; and, indeed, he was buried under the trees in their graveyard. But I had come under his influence much earlier when he was Vicar of S Mary Mags, in this city, then its great Catholic centre (now, sadly, equipped with a woman curate). I first saw him on the feast of our Lady's Immaculate Conception in 1959, when I was in Oxford as a hopeful schoolboy sitting the Scholarship examinations. Purely by chance, I happened to go into Mags that evening when the High Mass - according to the Old Rite and in the language of the English Missal - was just finishing. Mags - and Fr Hooper - made me what I am. It's all in the Patrimony, you know.
Opening my newly acquired Gueranger at random, I hit upon these words about the beginning of the (EF) Mass. "But see, Christians! the Sacrifice begins! The Priest is at the foot of the Altar; God is attentive, the Angels are in adoration, the whole Church is united with the Priest, whose priesthood and action are those of the great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Let us make the sign of the Cross with him."
Plummy, you think? I suppose so. "God is attentive": that's a bit much isn't it? But isn't that the whole wonder of this most adorable sacrifice? - as Newman also put it: "It is not a mere form of words - it is a great action, the greatest action that can be on earth. It is, not the invocation merely, but if I dare use the word, the evocation of the Eternal."
Dare we? Audeamus dicere.