Thursday, December 3, 2009

Extraordinary (Form) Weekend in France: Part IV - Benediction and First Vespers of Advent Sunday I

I regret having had to break off this report at the end of the Holy Hour. As we know, it is almost seamless with the beginning of Benediction where the latter follows the former. Until Father lit the candelabra I hadn't had any real hint that we were to have Benediction and had certainly not thought about its hymns. So when he began the 'O Salutaris Hostia', itwas a blessing that I had the presence of mind to join in. His pitch was perfect for my alto range. I'd sung Benediction from choir chapels and lofts many times in my life but had never before done it 'a capella' and in unison with the priest alone. I felt it deeply as an honour and a privilege.

We sang gently and steadily to Our Lord, as if breathing the wordsand notes of love, obeisance and adoration into His Eucharistic 'ear'. It was very moving but I didn't break down and didn't ring the bells at the Benediction itself, wanting to pour my whole self into my reception of it. And even the little bell would have cut shockingly and unnecessarily into the holy silence. Tears did come as Our Lord was reposed in the tabernacle, but inside I still sang because He wouldremain there untill the conclusion of Mass the next day. After the 'Adoremus in Aeternam' Father intoned the 'Salve Regina' and we sang that to the old beloved tune.

The morning had witnessed the first Mass of Ages in the village, probably for at least 40 years. Now the afternoon rejoiced again in another 'first'.. not only Benediction, but the chapel had known the sound of live human voices raised in the sacred chant to Our Lord and His blessed Mother.

Later, as I left the chapel, crossed the gallery and went down the two flights of stairs to the kitchen, I reflected that Our Lord had already made that little journey once so that Colin could receive Him in Holy Communion. He would make the journey again tomorrow. The parts of the house where He had passed would and could never be the same again.


Father and I followed this seated side by side at the computer screen. We were both eager to see the Pope bearing his new ferrula and agreed that we liked it better than his old chunkier and heavier looking one. Earlier we had wondered whether the old one was becoming too heavy and tiring for him at long ceremonies.

Usually I wince and groan at the standard of some of the singing in St. Peter's and wonder how the Holy Father puts up with it! Today it didn't seem to matter although to my ear there were some very 'sharp' notes from the boys at times. But even that could not spoil the peace and serenity of this ancient hour of the Church's prayer. They could have sung like a cat's chorus and I wouldn't have flinched.

One has become used to, 'spoiled' even by the beauty, depth and freshness of the Holy Father's preaching. He offers so many spiritual gifts and insights everytime. This evening I was yet again to drink in his every word. After the day I'd just spent the whole homily struck a particular resonance. Linguist that he is, he always looks deeply into the history of words and their nuances of meaning. It could be said that he mines them and digs out precious 'nuggets' to lay before us. But it isn't just the presentation of knowledge, some of which we may find familiar. No, it is the lessons he teaches us from that knowledge. Advent, he told us, can be interpreted as 'presence' and 'arrival' as well as 'coming' which is our usual translation. And then:

"Christians adopted the word 'advent' to express their relationship with Jesus Christ: Jesus is King, who has entered into this poor province called earth to visit everyone; he brings to participate in his advent those who believe in him, all those who believe in his presence in the liturgical assembly. With the word adventus an attempt was made essentially to say: God is here, he has not withdrawn from the world, he has not left us alone. Although we cannot see or touch him........he is here and comes to visit us in multiple ways.

"The meaning of the expression 'advent' includes therefore also that of 'visitatio', which means simply and properly 'visit'; in this case it is a visit of God: He enters my life and wants to address me.........................

"Advent, this intense liturgical time that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to grasp a presence. It is an invitation to understand that every event of the day is a gesture that God directs to us, sign of the care he has for each one of us. " (And here is one of the loveliest things in this homily.) "How many times God makes us perceive something of his love! To have, so to speak, an 'interior diary' of this love would be a beautiful and salutary task for our life! Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord who is present................................."

The full homily can be found at Zenit under the title 'On God's Presence and Coming' (link at bottom of sidebar) All the way through I was thinking of the precious 'visitatio' that I was currently experiencing and of the very Presence of the Lord upstairs in the tabernacle. My 'interior diary' of the day was almost full. We had not yet had supper and still to come after it was work in the sacristy in preparation for tomorrow and then Night prayers, Rosary and Adoration before bed. I suppose what I have been doing in these recent posts is sharing with you to some extent, the contents of that 'interior diary'.

DV, I will continue to do so in the next post tomorrow.


SANDY said...

Jane,When you said you were expecting a V.I.P.I thought it might be the Mayor,or the bishop,or even a Priestly blogger.I did not expect the King of Kings Himself.How wonderful for you and your husband,and for us who can read about it.

Clare said...

Thank you so much for sharing this deeply moving account. So vivid was it that I felt as if I were present with you throughout.

I wait eagerly to see the photos! Your house sounds like a sanctuary, and even more so after its special Visitor.

Jane said...

My dear Sandy:

Yes, it was the King of Kings, and His priest. I simply did not dare announce the planned event beforehand, in case anything went wrong. As it was, Father told me on Friday evening that he had not been well and at the last moment had thought he may not be able to come. Only the Lord and he know the effort he made to keep to the arrangement. However, I suspect it was considerable and this increases my gratitude a hundredfold and more.
Love and in union of prayer always,

Jane said...


You WERE spiritually present with me throughout!
Love and prayers always,