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Nos Tuo Vultu Saties

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The Ascension of the Lord

Forty-one years ago, in the springtime of my monastic journey, my Father Master -- he must have been all of 34 at the time -- told me that of all the festivals of the Church Year none was more intrinsically contemplative than the Ascension of the Lord. He spoke to me of the virtue of hope, calling it the most monastic of virtues, and meditated with me on the Vespers hymn of the Ascension, the incomparable Fourth Mode, Jesu, Nostra Redemptio. The melody is perfectly suited to the text. It has been, in some way, the musical accompaniment to my monastic journey with its sorrows and joys, with its valleys of darkness and glimmers of light. It expresses better than any other hymn the prayer of yearning by which, already here and now, a monk can hope to be united to his love and his desire. I translated the metred Latin text into prose.

Jesu, nostra redemptio,
Amor et desiderium,
Deus Creator omnium,
Homo in fine temporum.

O Jesus, our redemption,
our love, and our desire,
God, Creator of all things,
become Man in the fullness of time.

Quae te vicit clementia,
Ut ferres nostra crimina,
Crudelem mortem patiens,,
Ut nos a morte tolleres!

What tender love, what pity
compelled Thee to bear our crimes,
to suffer a cruel death
that we, from death, might be saved?

Inferni claustra penetrans,
Tuos captivos redimens,
Victor triumpho nobili
Ad dextram Patris residens:

Into death’s dark cloister didst Thou descend,
and from it captives free didst bring;
Thy triumph won, Thou didst take Thy place,
Thou, the Victor, at the Father’s right.

Ipse te cogat pietas,
Ut mala nostra superes,
Parcendo, et voti compotes
Nos tuo vultu saties.

'Twas a tender love, a costly compassion
that pressed Thee our sorrows to bear;
granting pardon, Thou didst raise us up
to fill us full with the splendour of Thy face.

Tu esto nostrum gaudium,
Qui es futurus praemium:
Sit nostra in te gloria
Per cuncta semper saecula.

Thou art already the joy of all our days,
Thou Who in eternity will be our prize;
let all our glory be in Thee,
forever, and always, and in the age to come.

In Cenaculi Solitudine

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Our Lady of the Cenacle

Many years ago and long before I had any idea that I would one day play a role in establishing a monastery under the patronage of Our Lady of the Cenacle, I was searching out the treasures of my missal, and discovered, among the Masses for Certain Places, the Mass of Our Lady of the Cenacle for the Saturday within the Octave of the Ascension. The Proper texts of the Mass stirred my heart. This Mass was composed and approved in 1886 at the request of Mother Marie-Aimée Lautier, Superior General of the Congregation of the Cenacle. The humble foundress of the Society of Our Lady of the Cenacle, Saint Thérèse Couderc, died in 1885.

(It is a pity that, with Ascension Thursday being observed in so many places on the following Sunday, both the Pentecost Novena and the feast of Our Lady of the Cenacle are adversely affected.)

This particular Mass was not retained in the Collection of Masses in Honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Religious of the Cenacle, for whom these texts were composed, no longer use them.

The orations are, like so many composed in the 19th century, addressed to Our Lord Jesus Christ, rather than to the Father. They contain some wonderfully evocative phrases in the original Latin.

Collect

Deus, qui beatam Mariam semper Virginem matrem tuam
in Cenaculi solitudine cum discipulis orantem
Sancti Spiritus donis cumulasti:
fac nos, quaesumus, cordis recessum diligere;
ut sic rectius orantes
Spiritus Sancti gratiis repleri mereamur.

O God, who, in the solitude of the Cenacle, didst fill with the gifts of the Holy Ghost
Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Thy mother, united in prayer with Thy disciples;
grant that we may so withdraw into the secret places of the heart
that by praying aright,
we may be made worthy to be filled with these graces in abundance.
Who with God the Father livest and reignest
in the unity of the same Holy Ghost,
one God, world without end.

Secret or Prayer Over the Oblations

Haec sacra, Domine, tibi in honorem beatae Mariae Virginis Matris tuae litantes.
humiliter petimus,
ut sicut ipsa verba tua sancta in corde suo sollicite servavit,
nobis quoque ejus intercessione concedas,
ita in lege tua assidue meditari,
ut fidelius opere implere eam valeamus.

Offering Thee, O Lord,
these sacred gifts in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary Thy mother,
we humbly ask that,
by the example and intercession of her
who carefully kept Thy holy words in her heart,
we too may meditate Thy law assiduously,
so as to put it into practice more faithfully.

Postcommunion

Deus, qui fideles tuos in Cenaculi recessu cum Maria Matre tua sacratissima
perseverantes et unanimes in oratione effecisti:
praesta, quaesumus;
ut his quoque donis ornati et a saeculi strepitu segregati,
tibi soli in caritate perfecta vivamus.

O God, who to thy faithful withdrawn in the Cenacle,
didst grant perseverance in prayer in oneness of heart
with Mary, Thy most holy Mother,
grant, we beseech Thee, that we also,
graced with the same gift
and separated from the noise of the world,
may live for Thee alone in perfect charity.

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The image shows the mosaic in the apse of Sant'Appollinare in Classe in Ravenna with its glorious Crux Gemmata (bejeweled Cross), having at its centre, the adorable Face of Christ.

The Passion and Cross in Paschaltide

The oldest liturgical traditions in the Church contemplate, celebrate, and adore the life-giving Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Paschaltide. Some benighted souls object to recalling the mysteries of the Passion and Cross after Pascha. Such an opinion betrays little knowledge of the Church's living and abiding tradition in this regard.

The Lamb That Was Slain

In the brightness of the Resurrection, the contemplation of the Passion and Cross becomes suffused with glory; the celebration of the Passion and Cross -- above all in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass -- becomes a foretaste of the triumph of the Prince of Life; the adoration of the Lamb that was slain becomes a real participation, here and now, in the liturgy of heaven described by Saint John in the book of the Apocalypse:

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the ancients; and the number of them was thousands of thousands, Saying with a loud voice: The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and benediction. And every creature, which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them: I heard all saying: To him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, benediction, and honour, and glory, and power, for ever and ever. (Apocalypse 5:11-13).

By His Holy and Glorious Wounds

At the very beginning of the Great Paschal Vigil, as grains of incense are being inserted into the Paschal Candle, this prayer evokes the Five Wounds of Christ: By His holy and glorious wounds, may Christ the Lord guard and protect us. This liturgical formula is a fitting invocation at all times, but in Paschaltide it holds a particular resonance. The contemplation of the Wounds of Christ began with His apparitions to the Apostles after the Resurrection. The origin and impetus thus given to devotion to the Five Wounds is essentially biblical and liturgical. I have written elsewhere of the devotion to the Five Wounds as revealed to Sister Marie-Marthe Chambon, a humble religious of the Visitation Order.

Family Prayer

It would be fitting, during Paschaltide, to close family prayers with the above-mentioned liturgical formula. Children might be invited to learn the prayer by heart and recite it after kissing the five wounds of Our Lord depicted on the crucifix or in an icon of the Risen Saviour.

Commemoration of the Cross

In our Benedictine Antiphonal (1934 edition, Solesmes) there is a commemoration of the Holy Cross at Lauds and Vespers during Paschaltide. This liturgical practice keeps the mystery of the Cross present to the eyes, the ears, and the heart. The liturgy of Paschaltide does not obliterate the Church's focus on the Passion and Cross; it transforms it.

At Lauds:
Antiphon: The Crucified is risen from the dead, and hath redeemed us, alleluia.

At Vespers:
Antiphon: He who suffered the Holy Cross and shattered hell, rose on the third day, robed in power, alleluia.

At both Hours:
V. Tell ye among the nations, alleluia.
R. That the Lord hath reigned from the tree, alleluia.

Let us pray.
O GOD, who for our sake
didst will Thy Son to undergo the torments of the Cross,
that Thou mightest drive far from us the power of the enemy;
grant unto us Thy servants
that we may attain to the grace of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ our Lord.
Amen.

The Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross

Although the Feast of the Finding (or Invention) of the Holy Cross on 3 May was removed from more recent liturgical books, it remains in the 1934 edition of the Benedictine Antiphonale that is still widely used, and continues to be celebrated in not a few Benedictine monasteries. While the Office is substantially the same as on 14 September (The Exaltation of the Holy Cross), on 3 May it is shot through and through with alleluias. It presents a vision of the Passion and Cross of the Lord in the light of the Resurrection. Theologically, mystically, and catechetically the Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross on 3 May is a liturgical piece of genius.

The feast commemorates Saint Helena's finding of the Cross in Jerusalem, and the signs and wonders that accompanied it and verified its authenticity. Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, carried part of the Cross back to Rome, where it was enshrined in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, on the site of the Sessorian palace.

The entire Mass and Office of the Finding of the Holy Cross deserve to be meditated and held in the heart. The liturgical texts of the feast demonstrate and support that, far from being inappropriate during Paschaltide, the contemplation and celebration of the mysteries of the Lord's Passion and Cross emerge, in the light of these fifty days of jubilation, as an inexhaustible wellspring of healing and of hope.

With joy we keep the feast
of the Finding of the Cross,
whose light shineth over all the world, alleluia.
(Antiphon at Matins)

In Personal Devotion

Blessed Abbot Columba Marmion, whose knowledge and love of Sacred Scripture and of the Church's liturgy transformed the piety of generations of priests and layfolk in the last century, made the Way of the Cross every day of his life, including all through Paschaltide. While some would object that the Way of the Cross has no place in a "Resurrection Spirituality", Blessed Marmion and countless other saints demonstrate that there is, in fact, no better time during which to return to the loving consideration of the Passion of the Lord than Paschaltide, for it is only in the light of the Paschal Candle that one can begin to read rightly the Verbum Crucis, the Word of the Cross.

There are other Passion-centred practices of devotion that harmonize fully with the liturgy of Paschaltide. Among them are the Chaplet of Divine Mercy made known by Saint Faustina Maria Kowalska, the Chaplet of the Five Wounds prayed by Sister Marie-Marthe Chambon, and devotions to the Precious Blood, the Holy Face, and the Sacred Heart.

A personal piety that is directed and nourished by the Sacred Liturgy will never become unbalanced or bizarre. The liturgy of Mother Church is broader and deeper than some proponents of a shortsighted and shallow "liturgical renewal" would want us to believe.

Christ, the Crucified King,
O come, let us adore, alleluia.
(Invitatory at Matins of the Finding of the Holy Cross, 3 May)

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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