Because Father Mason was needed the next day at his parish in Sioux Falls our schedule changed a little, and Mass for Sunday was held as a Vigil Mass late Saturday afternoon instead just before supper. This also opened some time between supper and our final exercise of the day/Holy Hour. After eating I walked out to the patio with my breviary which I opened to tonight’s Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours:
“Lord, from the rising of the sun to its setting your name is worthy of all praise. Let our prayer come like incense before you. May the lifting up of our hands be as an evening sacrifice acceptable to you, Lord our God.”
[I realize that I may need to state what exactly a breviary is as I’ve used that term more than once during this series. A breviary is a prayer book that contains the Divine Office. The Divine Office (also known as The Liturgy of the Hours) is the official, formal prayer composed by the Church to pray throughout the day. It is a practice that goes back thousands of years finding its root in the prayers said by the Jews at the Temple.]
When is the last time sunset was an “event” for you? For two days in a row it surely was for me. And somehow it was even moreso tonight than yesterday. When the sun set on this night I wanted to stand and applaud. Instead I sat in the large wooden rocker swing from which I had watched the setting sun with quiet anticipation for thirty minutes. I may have remained sitting on the outside, but on the inside I was soaring. It was one of the most prolonged and satisfying moments I have ever had.
After the bright orange globe settled beneath the hills on the western horizon I waited for another five minutes before the suddenly crisp, cool air sent me inside. Our Holy Hour would begin soon.
Our exercise tonight was on the betrayal and the passion of Christ. And while Deacon Andrew did give us some food for thought on the subject of suffering, he went in the direction of…wait for it…the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And so it was that things came full circle. I would have fallen off my pew except that I can honestly say I was almost expecting it. He spoke of the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart. I’d heard of them before but as I said I had not really paid it a lot of attention.
The grace and lesson we were to seek is to remain in union with Christ, watching, feeling His suffering, spiritually as well as physically.
During our Holy Hour of Adoration we sang three of my favorite songs; favorites because they are songs that I can actually sing, and sing well.
- O Salutoris / O Saving Victim
- Tantum Ergo / Come Adore
- Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
We are made to praise God. In psalm after psalm David writes of it and sings of it. It is said that St. Augustine of Hippo said “He who sings, prays twice.” Though there is some dispute over whether he said it or not it remains a beautiful sentiment. It is also a tool used by exasperated choir directors at church in order to get the congregations to sing.
According to Fr. Z, St. Augustine did say this however:
For he who sings praise, does not only praise, but also praises joyously; he who sings praise, is not only singing, but also loving Him whom he is singing about/to/for. There is a praise-filled public proclamation (praedicatio) in the praise of someone who is confessing/acknowledging (God), in the song of the lover (there is) there is deep love.
This is a very interesting passage. Augustine is saying that when the praise is of God, then something happens to the song of the praiser/love that makes it more than just any kind of song. The object of the song/love in a way becomes the subject. Something happens so that the song itself becomes Love in its manifestation of love of the one who truly is Love itself.
I love to sing. As a child I can remember it being one of my favorite things about the Protestant services we attended. I loved to look to the front of the church, locate the numbers indicating the hymns to be sung, and then page through the giant tomes with the large numbers in the upper left and right corners of the pages to find the next song. And I loved to sing.
Then my voice changed and the bottom fell out. And as happens to any muscle that isn’t used much it grows flabby. And the range shrinks. Considerably. Suddenly you find that you can sing one scale if you’re lucky, forget about octaves or even half-octaves.
So when I do find a song I can sing confidently, and do so above more than a soft whisper, I am able to get a sense of and participate in the praise St. Augustine alludes to.
There are a lot of things in this world that will make you feel good. But I can’t think of too many that make me feel better than singing praises joyously. By getting away from the world for a little while in a prayerful atmosphere of silence I was able to hone in on that innate desire we otherwise bury deep within ourselves: the desire to praise. It is a lesson I want to take with me when I leave these grounds and try to keep that song in my heart playing when back at home. I have never felt such peace. Not a flowery “lah-dee-dah” kind of peace where I am oblivious to the reality of sin and suffering in the world. That’s ignorance; top 40 fluff. But a peace that strengthens and reinforces my resolve and my ability to calmly deal with the suffering.
I can’t explain it. Wish I could. I can’t. Perhaps in time…
Below are the lyrics both in Latin and English, to Tantum Ergo. It was composed by St. Thomas Aquinas. It’s one of my favorites, whether in Latin or English.
Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Laus et iubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio.
Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Over ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.
To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
As I turned to leave the chapel, our Holy Hour complete, I noticed a large framed image on the back wall literally right in front of me. Somehow I had walked right by the painting for two days and not noticed it. There are many renderings of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and I have more than one in my home. This image, however, has long been my favorite. When I returned to Nebraska I ordered a small framed print for my office at home.