Praying Against the Heathen

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Madonna della Vittoria.jpg

This morning I offered the Votive Mass Against the Heathen, also known as the Mass for the Defense of the Church. The lovely image depicts la Madonna delle Vittorie, Our Lady of Victories.

Introit

The Introit is the same one sung on Sexagesima Sunday. The text of the antiphon is Psalm 43:23-26, a prayer that is, at once, anguished and full of confidence. It must be offered in the light of what Saint Paul affirms in Romans 8:18: "I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us." And, again, in the same chapter the Apostle says, "Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? Or distress? Or famine? Or nakedness? Or danger? Or persecution? Or the sword? (As it is written: For your sake, we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) But in all these things we overcome, because of him that has loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

Arise, why sleepest Thou, O Lord?
Arise and cast us not off to the end.
Why turnest Thou Thy face away,
and forgettest our trouble?
Our belly hath cleaved to the earth:
arise, O Lord, help us and deliver us.
Ps. We have heard, O God, with our ears:
our fathers have declared to us.
V. Glory be to the Father.

Collect

Almighty, everlasting God
in whose hand are the power and the government of every nation,
look to the help of the Christian people,
that the heathen nations, who trust in their own fierceness,
may be crushed by the power of Thy right arm.

The beauty of this prayer is that, in the end, it leaves us in an attitude of abandonment to the will of God and in humble submission to the inscrutable designs of His providence. We ask God to crush, by the power of His right arm, the heathen nations, who trust in their own fierceness. How Almighty God will go about answering this prayer should not concern us. It is enough to have prayed boldly and with faith. His manner of "crushing the enemy" will not, in all likelihood, be ours. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Epistle

The lesson is taken from the Book of Esther. It gives us the prayer of Mardochai, the same model of supplication set before us on Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent: Esther 13: 8-11, 15-17.

O Lord, Lord, almighty king, for all things are in your power, and there is none that can resist your will, if you determine to save Israel. You have made heaven and earth and all things that are under the cope of heaven. You are Lord of all, and there is none that can resist your majesty. And now, O Lord, O king, O God of Abraham, have mercy on your people, because our enemies resolve to destroy us, and extinguish your inheritance. Despise not your portion, which you have redeemed for yourself out of Egypt. Hear my supplication, and be merciful to your lot and inheritance, and turn our mourning into joy, that we may live and praise your name, O Lord, and shut not the mouths of them that sing to you.

Gradual and Alleluia

Let the Gentiles know that the Lord is your name: you alone are the most High over all the earth. V. O my God, make them like a wheel; and as stubble before the wind. (Psalm 82: 19, 14).

In begging God to manifest His Name to the nations, and to reveal His sovereign lordship over all the earth, one is, in effect, saying, "Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Alleluia, alleluia.
V. Stir up Thy might, O Lord, and come:
that Thou mayest save us.
Alleluia.

This Alleluia is taken from the Mass of the Third Sunday of Advent where it is graced with a splendid 4th Mode melody and a lengthy melism over the key word, veni, come. The single word, veni, can become the articulated expression of the "unspeakable groanings" (Romans 8:26) with which the Holy Ghost prays in the heart of the Church and in the heart of every Christian.

Gospel

Luke 11:5-13
And he said to them: Which of you shall have a friend and shall go to him at midnight and shall say to him: Friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine has come off his journey to me and I have not what to set before him. And he from within should answer and say: Trouble me not; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot rise and give you. Yet if he shall continue knocking, I say to you, although he will not rise and give him because he is his friend; yet, because of his importunity, he will rise and give him as many as he needs. And I say to you: Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asks receives: and he that seeks finds: and to him that knocks it shall be opened: And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? Or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?

Our Lord invites us to perseverance in prayer. If at first it seems that our request is denied, He would have us ask, seek, and knock, boldly and with determination. No petition, made with a filial and humble heart, is ever refused. The Father is not indifferent to the requests presented by His children. His paternal Heart is moved by every expression of filial confidence. It is not enough, however, merely to make our requests. We have, also, to pray the Holy Ghost to enlighten us, so that we may able to recognize the Father's response to our prayer, and discern the hour of His intervention. Often we are so focused on the response we have determined, in advance and with our limited vision, that we should receive, that we fail to discern the divine response, the perfect one, the manifestation of the Father's wisdom and love.

Offertory Antiphon

Thou wilt save the humble people, O Lord,
and wilt bring down the eyes of the proud:
for who is God, but Thee, O Lord? (Psalm 17:28, 32)

The Offertory Antiphon finds its perfect complement in the canticle that rose from the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the occasion of her visit to Elizabeth: "He has showed might in his arm: he has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their seat and has exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he has sent empty away. He has received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy (Luke 1:52-54). The last line of the antiphon is an expression of adoration and wonder: "For is God, but Thee, O Lord?"

Secret

Look, O Lord, upon the sacrifice we offer:
that Thou wouldst deliver Thy champions from all wickedness of the heathen,
and keep them safe under Thy protection.

In our weakness, we are the champions of the Lord. Is this not the teaching of the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10?

And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for you: for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ. For when I am weak, then am I powerful.

Communion Antiphon

My soul in Thy salvation,
and in Thy word have I hoped:
when wilt Thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?
Help me, O Lord, my God (Ps 118: 81, 84, 86).

Nothing is more pleasing to Our Lord than the humble confession of our hope in Him, and in Him alone. How fitting it is to approach the adorable and life-giving mysteries of His Body and Blood, saying, "Help me, O Lord, my God."

Postcommunion

Look upon us, O Lord, our protector,
and defend Thy champions from peril of the heathen,
so that by the removal of all disturbance,
they may serve Thee with free minds.

We pray that, even as we engage in spiritual combat, the promise sung by Zachary, the father of Saint John the Baptist,might be fulfilled in our own generation: "That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear" (Luke 1:74).


1 Comments

Dom Kirby, thank you so much for this...certainly the heathen seems to be over-bearing us, but surely God will not let his encroachments stand!

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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