Conception and Death

This year March 25th was particularly interesting – the feast of the Annunciation coincided with Good Friday. For those of us on the Gregorian calendar this (literal) coincidence will not happen again until 2157! For more on the importance of this coincidence, I advise reading this interesting post.

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O Crux ave, spes unica, hoc Passionis tempore!

Holy Pascha is a mere two weeks away – we’ve now entered Passiontide. The Liturgy continues its lenten “stripping”: just as we lost the joyous Gloria and Alleluia at the beginning of Septuagesima, now the Psalm prayed at the foot of the altar is gone as well. Suddenly, all images are veiled, even the cross (as a liturgical curiosity, the Bragan rite prescribes that all images and sanctuary be veiled throughout the whole of Lent – with certain exceptions – as was the original custom)! It is as if the Liturgy wishes to tell us “the Passion is coming; forget now the glories of the Church, look not on the wonders of her saints. No, this is Lent. You, the exules filii Evae, have been cast out of Eden. The Bridegroom must undergo His Passion before the gates of Eden can be openned to you again. Look at this temple where you worship, where all is hidden – it is as Eden – you cannot see its wonders, its majesty. All is focusing your attention on the Passion. Once the Bridegroom consumates His love, then you will see Eden again in all its splendour, then your temples will once again we filled with light and beauty and joyous song.” It is only the second year that I am attending Holy Mass with veiled images during Passiontide, and it does make quite an impact on me. No ammount of having previously read about it can actually give you the experience except for experiencing the thing itself (just as no ammount of reading about a solemn Mass or a vetus ordo Baptism could impress on me as much as actually participating in them). Words cannot describe enough how much I love the Prefaces (especially when they are sung), those condensed doxological “introductions” at the beginning of the Canon. Passiontide gives us this wonderful gem [Preface of the Holy Cross]:

It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation, that we should in all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty and everlasting God. Who didst set the salvation of mankind upon the tree of the Cross, so that whence came death, thence also life might rise again, and that he who overcame by the tree might also be overcome on the tree; through Christ our Lord. Through whom the angels praise Thy majesty, the dominations adore, the powers are in awe, the virtues of highest heaven and the blessed seraphim unite in blissful exultation. With them we praise Thee; grant that our voices too may blend, saying in adoring praise:

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If there was one verse that stuck with me from today’s Gospel, it was this – “And you do not know Him, but I know Him“. While there is much to be said about not (fully) knowing  God while still in this life, struggling within the Church, this verse brought to my mind memories of where I was spiritually a little over 9 years ago. While the Lord was leading me back to His Mystical Body, little did I know that I was on that path (even less did I know that I had my own passion to undergo before the “final” reconciliation with the Church). I thought I knew God – or better – I thought I knew god (or even that he did not exist). What confusion within, what a mix of ideas, what turmoil; like a boat buffeted by waves in a storm, I was without direction seeking here and there a safe harbour, denying that a harbour existed, doubting that it might exist… I did not know that the Church was a sacrament of Christ, that it was His sacramental presence in this world, nor that He and the Father were one. No, I hated the Church. Perhaps hate is too strong a word – I despised it. And yet, after I returned I discovered that I had never really despised the Church at all; rather I despised my idea of the Church, the caricature of it which I believed to be an accurate representation. How could I ever hate that which I had ever hoped for, which promised even more than I could ever hope for?

And yet this is quite common. I am constantly encountering people who tell me they hate the Church, hate what it represents, and so on and so forth, and yet when it comes down to it, what they hate is a spectre. What they hate simply does not exist. How one comes about such caricatures all depends on one’s personal experience I suppose, but to learn what the Church really is, to want to know Her and love Her as mother, one has to be willing to walk down the via cruxis; one has to respond to the grace for it. Sin keeps us from seeing it  as it really is – sin veils our eyes.

This penultimate verse of the Vexilla Regis is my prayer for everyone I know this Passiontide, especially those who have recanted their faith:

Hail Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
Now, in the mournful Passion time;
grant to the just increase of grace,
and every sinner’s crimes efface.

Peri Pascha

Before taking up for a second time our suggested Lenten reading I thought it might profit us by reading Melito of Sardis’ Peri Pascha (On the Pascha). I had heard about it many years ago, never having gotten around to reading it until now.

Reading this work has reminded me of why I fell in love with the Fathers of the Church when I discovered them all those years ago. The Fathers introduced me to Typology, which helped me to understand the relationship between Old and New Covenants. In the OT one finds types – “models”/prefigurements – of antetypes – realities/full embodiments – in the NT. The Deluge is understood as prefiguring Baptism; the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai, the descent of the Holy Spirit in the Cenacle; Isaac, Jesus; the Tree in Eden, the Cross;…  Is this approach a proper one to the Scriptures? Is it reading into the text what isn’t actually there? This was how the early Church read the Scriptures. St. Paul interprets them this way. Even Our Lord uses it Himself when He speaks of the sign of Jonah – the three days in the belly of the fish prefiguring the three days He would spend in the “belly of the earth”, the tomb.

The Scriptures suddenly came alive to me, and I relished in finding these types and antetypes. I questioned why had I only been taught the historical-critical approach to the Scriptures? When used properly it is a very helpful tool, but the way I was taught it was dry and only led to putting them into question.
The Fathers showed me that Christianity was so much more than just an ethical philosophy among so many others; that there was a transcendent dimension to it, and that their typological approach was complimented by the Liturgy, with its elaborate rites and symbols.

Opting to read the Peri Pascha outloud was one of the best things we could have done. The words read aloud came alive in a way that they could not if read silently. Coincidentally, the day after we finished the final reading father prior had this to say on his blog, while on the topic of a quote from St. Ambrose:

I have always said that the best school of homiletics is reading the Fathers, and reading them aloud. A mere visual reading dulls the effect of their rhetorical artistry with its brilliant alliterations, repetitions, and plays on words. One must hear the Fathers. This is the whole point of reading the Fathers at Matins every day.

 

On the Pascha presents us with the Christian interpretation of the Exodus story. It tells us of types and antetypes, of how the new supersedes the old:

Without the model, no work of art arises. Is not that which is to come into existence seen through the model which typifies it? For this reason a pattern of that which is to be is made either out of wax, or out of clay, or out of wood, in order that by the smallness of the model, destined to be destroyed, might be seen that thing which is to arise from it–higher than it in size, and mightier than it in power, and more beautiful than it in appearance, and more elaborate than it in ornamentation.

It goes all the way back to Adam, and how through him man became captive to death. Then, the Lord’s passion is foretold throughout the OT:

Accordingly, if you desire to see the mystery of the Lord, pay close attention to Abel who likewise was put to death, to Isaac who likewise was bound hand and foot, to Joseph who likewise was sold, to Moses who likewise was exposed, to David who likewise was hunted down, to the prophets who likewise suffered because they were the Lord’s anointed.

Christ is seen as the fulfillment of the paschal lamb:

This is the lamb that was slain. This is the lamb that was silent. This is the one who was born of Mary, that beautiful ewe-lamb. This is the one who was taken from the flock, and was dragged to sacrifice, and was killed in the evening, and was buried at night; the one who was not broken while on the tree, who did not see dissolution while in the earth, who rose up from the dead, and who raised up mankind from the grave below.

As we reached the end, there are a series of reproaches (of which I cite just a few) which brought to my mind both the Improperia and Simeron Kremata liturgical chants:

Why, O Israel did you do this strange injustice? You dishonored the one who had honored you. You held in contempt the one who held you in esteem. You denied the one who publicly acknowledged you. You renounced the one who proclaimed you his own. You killed the one who made you to live. Why did you do this, O Israel?

[…]

For you brought to him scourges for his body, and the thorns for his head. And you bound those beautiful hands of his, which had formed you from the earth. And that beautiful mouth of his, which had nourished you with life, you filled with gall.

[…]

The one who hung the earth in space, is himself hanged; the one who fixed the heavens in place, is himself impaled; the one who firmly fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the tree. The Lord is insulted, God has been murdered, the King of Israel has been destroyed by the right hand of Israel.

The text ends with a proclamation of Jesus’ victory, followed by what seems to be a form of the Creed (which I do not cite):

But he arose from the dead and mounted up to the heights of heaven. When the Lord had clothed himself with humanity, and had suffered for the sake of the sufferer, and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned, and had been judged for the sake of the condemned, and buried for the sake of the one who was buried, he rose up from the dead, and cried aloud with this voice: Who is he who contends with me? Let him stand in opposition to me. I set the condemned man free; I gave the dead man life; I raised up the one who had been entombed.

Who is my opponent? I, he says, am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven, I, he says, am the Christ.

Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness, I am the passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your light, I am your saviour, I am your resurrection, I am your king, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I will raise you up by my right hand.

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Christ, trampling down Death by death, leading the captives free.

Do you wish to regain a sense of mystery and wonder about the Christian faith this Lent? Do you want to deepen your understanding of what will take place during the Paschal Triduum? Do you want to learn how to see the Old in light of the New? Read this work with your family. Read it aloud; let the repetitions of the text impress upon your soul. (Re-)discover the Fathers.

 

 

 

 

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es

After three Sundays of preparation Lent is finally here (or is it upon us? One is never quite certain with the usus antiquior; but then I kind of like the uncertainty). This is the second year that I have actually been able to participate in the older rite on Ash Wednesday and, while I am normally a Solemn Mass man, the silence of the Low Mass celebrated was not without its effects. We were spectators in this seemingly arcane rite which was being performed on our behalf; and yet we were participants in it as well, offering ourselves up with the Lamb who was immolated from eternity, praying that what was happening on that most holy altar would take place within us as well. The hushed voices of the priest and server all the way up in the apse, which floated down as gently as snow to us all the way back practically in the narthex, brought to my mind a series of thoughts that have lately just been floating around in my head on the subject of Lent.
This post will be very fragmented, with no apparent link between any of the parts, and I write it mostly just to order the thoughts in my head, so I ask whoever reads this (and perseveres until the end) to please bear with me.

What is all this “nonsense” of getting one’s forehead “sullied” with ash at the beginning of Lent? Biblically, ashes are generally a sign of mourning, of repentence (cf. 2 Sam 13:19; Jer 6:26; Job 2:8;42:6; Ez 27:30). There are several prayers used in the blessing of the ashes according to the usus antiquior; let us see what the Liturgy has to say:

  • […] that they may be a wholesome remedy for all who humbly implore Your holy Name […];
  • […] that all who are sprinkled with these ashes for the forgiveness of their sins, may receive health for their bodies and salvation for their souls [reminiscent of the sprinkling of the red heffer’s ashes?];
  • […] are to be placed upon our heads as a sign of humility and a pledge of Your forgiveness […];
  • […] by the ashes sprinkled upon the heads of Your servants mercifully pour forth upon them the grace of Your blessing, fill them with the spirit of repentance and truly grant what they ask for in the right way […]

While Latins are generally accused of having a legalistic outlook (and these prayers do use a bit of legal jargon), one finds in them constant mentions of a merciful God, who only desires that His children return to Him. The prayers found in the Bragan missal remind us as well of the First Adam’s transgression (All powerful eternal God, who declared to the first man transgressing your commandment, nor confessing his sin, that he was dust and to dust he shall return), and reinforce the idea of a loving Creator (All powerful God who hath mercy on all, and who hates nothing of those things which thou hast made). Adam’s lack of repentence merits the warning that he will return to the dust from which he was made; now, we put on dust [ashes] in sign of repentance so that we will not return to it.

So these ashes are sacramentals. They’re not merely an outward sign of our (supposed) interior state; they are conduits of grace to help us repent, and a “reminder” to God of His mercy.

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Memento, homo, quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris.

We processed silently up the aisle to receive the ashes, and as we knelt it would not have been strange to me at all to hear the line from the Dies Irae:

Oro supplex et acclinis; cor contritum quasi cinis.
Low I kneel, with heart’s submission; see, like ashes, my contrition.

For a long time the readings on this day baffled me. “Rend your hearts, not your garments […]; […] when you do fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not be seen fasting by men […]”. “Isn’t it hypocritical to be walking around all day with ash on my forehead when the readings are against this kind of ostentatious behaviour?” I would ask others and they would have the same question; I never received a decent answer from any of the clergy or people in a position to teach. It took a long time to learn that these readings on this day were not paradoxal, nor that we were doing something apparently hypocritical. I had to learn how to read the Scriptures properly. I had to learn what these passages meant in their proper context as well as in the context of the Bible, as well as certain jewish rhetorical styles. The contradiction I perceived between the readings and our actions was only superficial; I had taken things at face value and not really bothered to go beyond the surface. These condemnations were not of what the Law prescribed, but rather of the spirit with which they were done. The exterior signs are necessary, but one should not use them as a source of pride; all must be for God. So much time to learn something so simple…

Later that evening at home we thought it apropriate to pray the Canon of Repentence to Our Lord Jesus Christ (a Byzantine prayer). It was the first time we ever prayed it, and the words struck deep, especially

O woe is me, a sinner! Wretched am I above all men. There is no repentance in me. Give me, O Lord, tears, that I may weep bitterly over my deeds.

We ended the day with a kind of Chapter of Faults/Rite of Forgiveness, in which we both asked for each other’s forgiveness and prayers.

And so began our Lenten journey. The silence of the Mass, as I said, made quite the impression on me, so much so that I’ve wondered if Silence is not to be the staple characteristic of this Lent.

 

 

 

Advent

The liturgical year has come full circle and we find ourselves immersed in Advent once again. I thought I would comment a bit on my experience of Advent; it is not my place here to give a profound explanation of what this liturgical season is (there are plenty of sites that have done it far better than I ever could); the aim is simply to share my personal experience.

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I still recall the joy of my first Advent after returning to the Church. For the first time I would be celebrating Christmas properly – for the correct reasons – and I set about preparing clumsily for it. I guess you might describe it as the joy of a child awaiting Christmas day, anticipating all the presents they will receive. The short days, growing smaller all the while, seemed to impress upon me the idea of anticipation all the more, as if nature itself was “building up” to that climatic point. Going to midnight Mass for the first time (while not the most reverent of celebrations), the fire blazing outside in the cold night air, kissing the foot of the Infant at the end of Mass – all these things left quite an impression on me.

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Illumination

This past Sunday saw the Baptism of our second child. Ever since participating at a baptismal rite according to the vetus ordo, the newer has always given me the impression of “lacking” something. Not that one has a sacramental effect and the other doesn’t, but rather the newer rite (or at least how it is celebrated in the majority of places I’ve been to) seems to be “superficial”; on the other hand, the vetus ordo´s catechumenal rite leading up to the baptism proper seem to introduce one ever more deeply into the Mystery. It’s not my intent here to give a description of the whole rite and its meaning, but rather to highlight some points which stuck out the most to me.

The rites began outside the church, reminding us that the child being presented, even though his parents may already be members of the Mystical Body, is not yet a member of the Church, and thus is still outside. The priest (in this case, Father Prior, D. Kirby OSB, of Silverstream Priory) was dressed in violet, reminding us that the current action was penitential in nature. After asking for the name, the child was asked what they desired from the Church, the answer to which is Faith: we are reminded that Faith is a gift from the Lord, which is mediated through the Church, and that it is that Faith in Christ Jesus which will bring us to life everlasting; we are told as well that this Faith is not some mere intellectual assent, but involves concrete actions, a conversion of life. Next followed a series of exorcisms by way of exsuflations, then laying on of hands, and signs of the Cross. The exorcisms serve to free one from whatever power the Evil One may have over us, so as to make room for the Holy Spirit:

Depart from him, unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.

Does the presence of exorcisms mean that one is necessarily possessed? No; rather, since we inherit Original Sin we are subject to its effects – Sin was brought about by the Evil One’s deception, so being subject to sin and its effects we are, in a sense, subject to him.

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Exsuflation
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Placing on of hand

As one source says about the sign of the Cross:

By the cross Christ takes possession of the mind and heart of the child, fitting him to become a temple of the Blessed Trinity, and imposing on him the obligation of belief and observance of the commandments. The sign of the cross used here and throughout the rite is indicative of the essential fact that the sacrament has its efficacy from the paschal sacrifice of Jesus.

We find among the first prayers the following:

Lord, if it please you, hear our prayer, and by your inexhaustible power protect your chosen one, N., now marked with the sign of our Savior’s holy cross. Let him treasure this first sharing of your sovereign glory, and by keeping your commandments deserve to attain the glory of heaven to which those born anew are destined; through Christ our Lord.

In this prayer we are reminded of the passage from Ezekiel, where those who have the mark on their forehead will be spared by the exterminating angel. The Fathers of the Church saw in this mark – the tau – a type of the Cross. This prayer also reminds us that while not yet baptized, the catechumen is already on the path to partaking in the Divine Life.

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Sign of the cross

Salt was then exorcised. This exorcism reminds us that when Adam fell Creation fell with him and is subject to corruption. The salt is blessed so as to be made “holy” – set apart – for the service of the Lord. While the ritual and prayers refer to the salt being used for healing and as a sign of wisdom, cannot one see in it already a foretaste of the covenant that the catechumen will soon become part of, as salt was also a symbol of the covenant of God and Israel?

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Placing of salt on the tongue

The majority of the prayers before entering the church speak of the Father’s steadfast love, of His mercy. For though still unbaptized, the Lord desires not the death of the wicked, but that they repent and live. The priest placed his stole on the child’s head and we processed into the church.

We were now in the narthex, that area of the church which is not completely within, but not without either. Stopping at the baptistery gates we followed an old Portuguese custom of reading the pericope from the Gospel of St. Matthew which speaks of Christ and the children. Afterwards, the Symbol of the Apostles and the Our Father was recited by all. Following this recitation there was a final exorcism, and then the Epheta, where the senses of the child were “opened” (or rather, cured) to the spiritual realities. This rite is reminiscent of our Lord’s healing of the deaf-mute man. At this point the choir sang the antiphon Lutum fecit ex sputo, also reminding us of how our Lord had used spittle to refashion eyes for the blind man. Then followed the threefold renunciation of Satan. Fr. Alexander Schmemann has a wonderful explanation/meditation on this in his book “Of Water and the Spirit“, a book I highly recommend on Baptism (if only there were a similar one for the traditional Roman rite). The child was then anointed with the Oil of the Catechumens.

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Epheta
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Anointing with the Oil of Catechumens

Father prior then donned white vestments, the baptistery doors were thrown open, and we processed to the baptismal font. So much can be said about the font, the Church’s womb, but the ancient liturgy says it best during the Paschal Vigil, when the baptismal font is blessed to the preface tone:

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
V. Lift up thy hearts.
R. We have them lifted up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is meet and just.
It is meet and just, right and availing unto salvation, to give Thee thanks always and in all places, O holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, Who, by Thine ineffable power dost wonderfully produce the effect of Thy Sacraments: and though we are unworthy to perform such great mysteries: yet, as Thou dost not abandon the gifts of Thy grace, so Thou inclinest the ears of Thy goodness, even to our prayers. O God, Whose Spirit in the very beginning of the world moved over the waters, that even then the nature of water might receive the virtue of sanctification. O God, Who by water didst wash away the crimes of the guilty world, and by the pouring out of the deluge didst give a figure of regeneration, that one and the same element might in a mystery be the end of vice and the beginning of virtue. Look, O Lord, on the face of Thy Church, and multiply in her Thy regenerations, who by the streams of Thine abundant grace fillest Thy city with joy, and openest the font of Baptism all over the world for the renewal of the Gentiles: that by the command of Thy Majesty she may receive the grace of Thine only Son from the Holy Ghost.

May He by a secret mixture of His divine virtue render this water fruitful for the regeneration of men, to the end that a heavenly offspring, conceived by sanctification, may emerge from the immaculate womb of this divine font, reborn a new creature: and may all, however distinguished either by sex in body, or by age in time, be brought forth to the same infancy by grace, their mother. Therefore may all unclean spirits, by Thy command, O Lord, depart far from hence: may the whole malice of diabolical deceit be entirely banished: may no power of the enemy prevail here: let him not fly about to lay his snares; may he not creep in by stealth: may he not corrupt with his poison.
May this holy and innocent creature be free from all the assaults of the enemy, and purified by the destruction of all his wickedness. May it be a living fountain, a regenerating water, a purifying stream: that all those that are to be washed in this saving bath may obtain, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, the grace of a perfect cleansing.

Therefore, I bless thee, O creature of water, by the living ☩ God, by the true ☩ God, by the holy ☩God: by that God Who, in the beginning, separated thee by His Word from the dry land, Whose Spirit moved over thee.

Who made thee flow from the fountain of paradise and commanded thee to water the whole earth with thy four rivers. Who, changing thy bitterness in the desert into sweetness made thee fit to drink, and produced thee out of a rock to quench the thirsty people. I bless ☩ thee also by our Lord Jesus Christ, His only Son: Who in Cana of Galilee changed thee into wine by a wonderful miracle of His power. Who walked upon thee with dry foot, and was baptized in thee by John in the Jordan. Who made thee flow out of His side together with His Blood, and commanded His disciples that such as believed should be baptised in thee, saying: Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Do thou, almighty God, mercifully assist us who observe this commandment: do Thou graciously inspire us.
Do Thou with Thy mouth bless these clear waters: that besides their natural virtue of cleansing the body, they may also prove efficacious for the purifying of the soul.
May the virtue of the Holy Ghost descend into all the water of this font.
And make the whole substance of this water fruitful for regeneration.
Here may the stains of all sins be washed out; here may human nature, created in Thine image, and reformed to the honor of its Author, be cleansed from all the filth of the old man: that all who receive the Sacrament of regeneration, may be born again new children of true innocence.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son: Who shall come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire.
R. Amen.
May this font be sanctified and made fruitful with the oil of salvation for all them who shall be born anew of its waters unto life everlasting.
R. Amen.
May this pouring in the chrism of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the comforter, be made in the name of the Holy Trinity.
R. Amen.
Let this mingling of the chrism of sanctification, with the oil of unction, and of the water of Baptism, be likewise made in the name of the Father ☩ and of the Son ☩ and of the Holy ☩ Ghost.
R. Amen.

The child then professed his faith and was enquired if he wished to be baptized. Be Baptism administered by immersion, affusion, or aspersion, the result is always the same – the one being baptized dies in the waters with Christ to be raised up with Him in His glorious resurrection. Once our son came out of those waters, he was no longer the creature that had gone in: now he was a temple of the Holy Spirit in our midst, a tabernacle of flesh and blood. Suddenly his family was no longer that merely of flesh and blood, but all the sons of father Abraham. Though I am his father, and he is my son, through Baptism we have mystically become brothers in Christ.

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Ego te Baptizo in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

He was then anointed with the holy oil of Chrism, a process which in the Roman tradition in not completed on the same day (as in other traditions), but later on in life. This Chrism, while not yet complete, is already a sealing in the Holy Spirit. The Israelites crossed the Red Sea escaping the bondage of Egypt and then received the Law on Mount Sinai: these things prefigured Baptism and Chrismation (one of the reasons for why Pentecost was traditionally a day of Confirmation in the Roman tradition). The white garment was then handed to the child, not only symbolizing the purity of his soul now that he was a neophyte, but also reminding us of the glory with which Adam was clothed before the Fall as well as the priestly character of our vocation as Christians. The baptismal candle was lit from the paschal candle, which is Christ. We then sang the Litany of the Saints in its glorious and ancient entirety, invoking our brothers and sisters in Heaven to protect this new son of God, and afterwards was the dismissal.

 

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Lighting the baptismal candle

 

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Singing the Litany of the Saints

 

All throughout, at certain moments, the choir sang antiphons taken from the Lenten season as well as the Paschal liturgy. While they are not necessarily part of the rite, I believe they were conducive to a deeper understanding of what was happening that day. The traditional baptismal rite is also “ecumenical”, sharing many similarities with other apostolic rites. For those who are familiar with St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Mystagogical Catechesis, here we find all he has to say  about “Illumination” condensed in one day; they aren’t just words written over a millennium and a half ago, but they are the reality unfolding right before our very eyes.

Straight after the Baptism, we had Holy Mass, which began with the rite of Asperges. It seemed to me to flow seamlessly from the great Mystery we had just participated in, what with the sprinkling of holy water from the baptismal font and the words “Thou wilt sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop and I shall be cleansed Thou wilt wash me, and I shall be washed whiter than snow. Pity me, O God, according to Thy great mercy”. Father prior gave a wonderful homily on Baptism and Holy Mass, and how the Liturgy speaks to us in our circumstances. Holy Mass ended with the Te Deum being sung as Father prior and the servers made their way back to the sacristy.

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Asperges me
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Sursum corda!