Tuesday 5 August 2014

O God of earth and altar bow down and hear our cry

Thanks to everyone who came to High Mass last night for the centenary of the First World War - servers, assisting and visiting priests, music department, congregation and helpers in the kitchen afterwards!  

It seems we were all too busy praying for anyone to have taken any photographs so the remains in the sacristy are all that's left this morning.  It was wonderful to see so many people come along (we were turning altar servers away!), especially parishioners who don't usually attend the traditional Mass. Obviously, the centenary has engaged many people.  One or two even brought along photographs of their relatives who had fought in the First World War - very appropriate as it was for them that we were offering the Requiem Mass. The unadorned chant of the Requiem Mass provided a suitable atmosphere of reflection (although we did sing Chesterton's "O God of earth and altar" at the conclusion of the Mass.  Not that all that solemnity stopped us from enjoying one another's company afterwards (not a single sandwich, pork pie or quail's egg was left for me to enjoy as supper in the house later!)

I've often found that a Requiem Mass of some sort - All Souls or Remembrance Day - is an excellent way to introduce people to the Traditional Form of the Mass, or even to Latin or ad oreintem in the new form. Somehow, the more sober / serious or solemn atmosphere that  these forms of Mass engender seem to be more easily accepted and appreciated on such occasions.  I suppose that should tell us something - that while Mass is a celebration its not a frivolous one.  The rubrics, the Church's wider teaching on the celebration of the liturgy and all our noble tradition of chant and vesture point us to ensuring every celebration is fitting for what is, at its heart: the offering of Our Lord's sacrifice to His Heavenly Father for the redemption of our fallen humanity.  

As often as the Sacrifice of the cross by which Christ our Pasch is sacrificed (I Cor 5:7), is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out." (Lumen Gentium, 3)

O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men,
from sale and profanation
of honour, and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation,
deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation, 
a single sword to thee.

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