I will probably post more in the near future about the Rites we experienced in Gower, for the Consecration of the new Abbey church and Abbess. Everything was done according to the traditional Roman Rite, using the pre-1961 Pontificale Romanum. The nuns and the very walls radiated joy.
The two days and some 12 hours of liturgy.
What a contrast to The Present Crisis! What an antidote.
A few things occur as I mull over this experience and its ongoing, resonating effect in my mind and heart.
- First, I was here just last year to view the great 2017 Total Eclipse. The path of totality passed directly over the new Abbey. The next big total in these USA will also pass over Missouri, but from another direction.
- The weather before the two days of Rites was, I am informed, quite simply dreadful for weeks. The two days were spectacular, sunny with puffy clouds, a breeze and low temps and slight humidity.
- The monastery is not in Gower, but at some distance. Apparently, once upon a time, there was a small post office near where the abbey is, called “Starfield”.
- The completion of the aforementioned Rites occurred on day 27, the halfway mark, during the 54 day novena of prayers the Feast of the Assumption to the Feast of the Dedication of St. Michael on 30 September, a period of yore called “St. Michael’s Lent” for fasting and penance. Prayers now shift from petition to confident thanksgiving.
- The work of the nuns is in large part to pray for priests and for bishops.
I’ve written for years – and with deadly earnest – about the core concept within the terse: Save The Liturgy, Save The World. I really mean that. I my STLSTW Manifesto I wrote, inter alia…
Do we believe the consecration really does something? Or, do we believe what is said and how, what the gestures are and the attitude in which they made are entirely indifferent? For example, will a choice not to kneel before Christ the King and Judge truly present in each sacred Host, produce a wider effect?
If you throw a stone, even a pebble, into a pool it produces ripples which expand to its edge. The way we celebrate Mass must create spiritual ripples in the Church and the world.
The two days of Rites began with going around and around the Abbey church, outside with Holy Water, blessing different elevations of the walls, around and around inside blessing the levels of water and the whole of the floor with Gregorian Water. The grip of the Enemy, the Prince of this World was pried off and the whole place was ripped from evil influence and handed over to the King. Just the clergy and religious were involved in this. Then there was a procession with the relics, from outside into the church and the whole of the laity was allowed in for the first time. We saw the Church Triumphant enter under the veiled guise of First Class Relics, and the Church Militant enter after them into the newly secured space.
Here’s an image. In the movie We Were Soliders about the Battle of Ia Drang, it was necessary to clear a new Landing Zone for helicopters in a field of small trees and bushes. They wrapped detonating cord around all the growing obstacles and took them down – BAM! The LZ was cleared.
The next phase came as the altar had to be consecrated. Elsewhere I used another image, nuptial imagery. During the Rites there are times when we, in the person of the bishop, would knock the doors with his staff. Each time the church was circled, the door was knocked. The soul of the baptized Christian is intended to be the bride of Christ, the soul’s Spouse. The women religious at this Abbey are consecrated for their Spouse. What we had done is prepare the thalamus, the bridal chamber for the arrival of the Spouse. The lamps were lighted on the walls in the consecratory candles and with the Bishop we entered into the chamber. Then the center of the bridal chamber had to be readied: the altar. There were anointings with Oil of Catechumens and of Chrism. In ancient Judaism, at the time of Christ, intended spouses were anointed with nard and myrrh (think Mary Magdalen and the jar, think Song of Songs, think burial of the Lord in the tomb no one had ever “slept” in before). There were washings: the unused Gregorian Water was poured out 360° around the base of the altar. The mensa’s sepulcher was sealed and the whole anointed. Fires were lighted on the surface and incense burned. Then the altar was clothed for the first time. After all the preparatory rites of the difference nuptial zones, church as a whole, sanctuary as a separate part for clergy (yes, there really is such a thing is a good clericalism, properly understood), and then the core of the whole place where everything is consummated: the altar for Holy Mass, the ultimate sacramental foreshadowing of the heavenly nuptial banquet of the Lamb.
Save The Liturgy, Save The World.
In years past, these Rites were more commonly performed, and then they were virtually lost. The whole world weakened and darkened, especially the clergy of Holy Church. The Church herself, in her members, was enervated and sickened.
How to put this?
Think of body, weakened by fatigue and abuse, which is invaded by a diseasing critter. The body tries to combat it with various elements of the blood and with raising a fever. Then an antibiotic is introduced and BAM, help has arrived.
Think of a scifi scenario. A looming cosmic dread is heading for Earth. The only way we can save the planet is if a small and gallant band of warriors can fight their way through the alien enemy invaders and restart an ancient machine that will drive away the coming evil.
Think of a dystopian scenario. A coronal mass ejection hits the planet dead on and the resulting EMP takes down our tech. Dire things result. Global humanity is sundered, each group from the other, except for tiny networks who reach out through ham radios that survived. Then, suddenly, a massive signal is heard on different bands: We’re here. You are not alone. Persevere!
All of these things are working in my mind at the moment as I reflect on the events of the last two days.
The Rites themselves were POWER. The Body of the Church received a massive dose of antibiotics. A massive machine of grace was ignited into action. A mighty signal now ripples outward into the Church and the world from the Starfield near tiny Gower, over which God seems to have intended to draw the sign of the Cross with the clock of the heavens.
As the rites went on and on and on and on – seemingly always something more to follow – I thought: “Right now, this may be the still turning point of the world. Volvitur mundus. There is no better place that one could be. There is no better thing that any cleric could be doing. There is no way for a priest or bishop to be more useful to the Church than to be right here, doing this right now.”
From yesterday onward, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, at Our Lady of Ephesus Abbey have taken up their new form of service in the Church. In the prayers of for the profession of the nuns, the verb militare occurred in different forms. In that context militare is to serve.
Their prayers are now rippling out. They have transformative power. It is as if with every psalm verse, every act of obedience, they are injecting hope into the rest of us who militate out here in the world.
Finally, it is of enormous importance that the Rites of the last two days were captured on video and sent out to a wider world.
I have a feeling that this is the beginning of something we have only hoped for.