Saturday, March 27, 2004

St. Alphonsus Liguori's Stations

Last night, I was able to make the Stations of the Cross (my first in a long while) over at St. John Cantius Church. It was beautifully old school, with a thick, healthy serving of self-flagellating sin spiel. We used St. Alphonsus Liguori's Way of the Cross, a standard Stabat Mater hymn, in a three-acolyte procession (crucifix flanked by two candle bearers).

Repeated in the responsorial: "Never let me offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will."

In each station, as I chanted those lines with the congregation, the tension between the Church and the Modern World could not be more strained within me. There is something eerily "cult-like" about people chanting like this, but it's everywhere in the secular world too when you think about it. The only difference is that at Cantius, I sense the mystery of Christ boldly displayed in its full objectivity.

In the Tenth Station: "Consider how Jesus was violently stripped of His clothes by His executioners. The inner garments adhered to his lacerated flesh and the soldiers tore them off so roughly that the skin came with them. Have pity for your Savior so cruelly treated and tell Him."

But the responsorial further develops this gruesome thought (which could have come right out of Mel's film): "by the torment You suffered in being stripped of Your garments, / help me to strip myself of all attachment for the things of earth."

We ended with a moving Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I hadn't done that in ages. As the priest, shrouded in a humeral veil, exposed the monstranced Host and blessed us, a ladies choir sang in Latin the "O Salutaris Hostia":
O Saving Victim opening wide
The gate of heaven to all below.
Our foes press on from every side;
Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow.

Amen. To Thy great name be endless praise
Immortal Godhead, One in Three;
Oh, grant us endless length of days,
In our true native land with Thee.
We then sang in Latin the Tantum Ergo:
Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! oe'r 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.
With the reposition of the Bl. Sacrament, we closed with the Divine Praises and the hymn "Adoremus in aeternum." Why the post-VC2 generation finds this type of prayer so complicated or difficult is really just beyond me. I found it to be the summit of simplicity. More importantly, it communicates the divine simplicity as sublime truth without any subjective, self-conscious shellacking. I think I'll keep attending, even if I am the only non-white.