Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Apostles' Creed

(1)I believe in God,the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;
(2)And in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
(3)Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
(4)Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
(5)He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
(6)He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty;
(7)From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
(8)I believe in the Holy Spirit,
(9)The holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints,
(10)The forgiveness of sins,
(11)The resurrection of the body
(12)And life everlasting.

Varying versions of the Apostles' Creed are found quoted in many early Christian authors: Tertullian, Irenaeus, Ambrose and Augustine are just a few. The traditional belief about its authorship was that each of the apostles had contributed one of the twelve articles into which it is divided. However modern scholarship traces its descent from the Old Roman Symbol, both a statement of belief and a way for early Christians to identify each other, with influences from the Nicene Creed. It may have been intended as a refutation of the Gnostic heresy.

This Creed is still an important symbol of Christian identity -for example,in an interrogative version, it is a part of the rite of Baptism, it is a part of the daily Office and the first prayer of the Rosary.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


The latest in our series of culinary expressions of the liturgical year: Agnes and I have been celebrating the lightening of Lenten discipline with sherry and Simnel cake. The eleven balls of marzipan on the top represent the eleven true disciples and traditionally this was the cake that young girls in service would take home to their mothers on Mothering Sunday. I'm afraid that I must confess to a complete lack of filial piety in this respect; Mothering Sunday was rather overshadowed in my mind by the prospect of cake!
I used to regard Refreshment Sunday as rather a cheat- an opportunity for the same sort of sophistry which leads one to be increasingly creative with dried fruit as Lent progresses. However, the sermon I heard this morning has helped me to realise that there is far more to it than that. First, it allows us the opportunity to refocus our efforts at a point in Lent when many of us are beginning to flag a little in the pursuance of our good resolutions. We have a chance now to refresh ourselves for the rest of the journey towards Easter. Second, it reminds us that Lent is not simply a time of doom and gloom, ash and penitence. All our acts of fasting and prayer are designed to prepare us for the great festival day and season of Easter. Today offers a foretaste of the joy to come: laetare indeed!

Prayer of St Michael

St. Michael the Archangel defend us in this day of battle! Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls! Amen

I'm not going to weigh in on the controversy over Pope Leo XIII's vision here -a quick google search will reveal more than you would ever want to know! He added the prayer in 1886 to the Leonine prayers which he had ordered, two years previously, to be said after Low Mass against the loss of the Pope's temporal sovereignty over the Papal states caused by the formation of the nation of Italy. In 1929, when the situation was finally resolved by the signing of the Lateran Treaty, which created the Vatican City, the intention was changed for the benefit of the people of Russia.

Though these prayers were suppressed in 1964, the prayer of St Michael remained popular. In 1994, Pope John Paul II referred to the prayer in his Regina Coeli address on 24th April:

"May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle that the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of: 'Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might'. The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St Michael the Archangel. Pope Leo XIII certainly had this picture in mind when, at the end of the last century, he brought in, throughout the Church, a special prayer to St Michael: 'Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil...' Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world."

This prayer is a vital one to learn for times of worry or danger, or whenever we feel that we are in the presence of evil.

(Also see this post: Who is like onto God -we've blogged about this before.)

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

A Musical Interlude

After a short interlude (because sometimes real life gets in the way of the virtual one...): a musical post.

Just as Advent brings with it a succession of performances of the Messiah, so Lent and Passiontide mean only one thing in the world of vocal music: Bach Passions. Galore. I myself am singing in a forthcoming performance of the St. John Passion and have been given the aria 'Ich folge dir gleichfalls' to render (with any luck as one ought to render beautiful 18th century music and not as one renders fat...)

The aria is a deceptively simple (almost twee) but conveys a fundamental and exciting message. It is imagined as being sung by the 'other disciple' with Simon Peter in Gethsemane:

Ich folge dir gleichfalls mit freudigen Schritten
I follow you likewise with joyful steps
Und lasse dich nicht,
and do not leave you
Mein Leben, mein Licht.
my life, my light
Befördre den Lauf
Bring me on my way
Und höre nicht auf,
and do not cease
Selbst an mir zu ziehen, zu schieben, zu bitten.
to pull, push and urge me on.

I find that in Lent I need a lot of 'urging on' - it's all very well on Shrove Tuesday thinking, 'right, this is it, no more of this, that or the other' - but the long haul is quite another thing. Still, I find that the refrain of this aria is a good sustaining force.


Sunday, 15 March 2009

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, be my sanctification;
Body of Christ, be my salvation;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;

Water of Christ's side, wash out my stains;

Passion of Christ, my comfort be;

O good Jesu, listen to me;

In Thy wounds I fain would hide;

Ne'er to be parted from Thy side;

Guard me, should the foe assail me;

Call me when my life shall fail me;
Bid me come to Thee above,

With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end. Amen.

I've given John Henry Newman's translation because, although rhyming isn't very fashionable any more, it does make things easier to learn. It was once though that this prayer was composed by St Ignatius Loyola because he mentioned it in his Spiritual Exercises but in fact, by the time he wrote, it was a widespread and popular devotion. A mansucript in the British Museum has a version as early as 1370, it is contained in the prayer book of Cardinal Peter de Luxemboug (d.1387) and is inscribed on one of the gates of the Alcazar in Seville dating from the mid 14th century.

Traditionally, this prayer may be used after Holy Communion, which is something I often do. A tip though -if you can't remember it all, or want to read rather than recall something and there's a hymn book handy - Soul of my Saviour is another translation:

Soul of my Savior sanctify my breast,
Body of Christ, be thou my saving guest,
Blood of my Savior, bathe me in thy tide,
wash me with waters gushing from thy side.

Strength and protection may thy passion be,
O blessèd Jesus, hear and answer me;
deep in thy wounds, Lord, hide and shelter me,
so shall I never, never part from thee.

Guard and defend me from the foe malign,
in death's dread moments make me only thine;
call me and bid me come to thee on high
where I may praise thee with thy saints for ay.

Friday, 13 March 2009

To Keep a True Lent

Is this a Fast, to keep
The larder lean?
And clean
From fat of veals and sheep?

Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
To fill
The platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg'd to go,
Or show
A down-cast look and sour?

No: 'tis a Fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat
And meat
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife
And old debate,
And hate;
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent;
To starve thy sin,
Not bin;
And that's to keep thy Lent.

Robert Herrick

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The Angelus

V: The angel of the Lord brought tidings to Mary
R: And she conceived by the Holy Spirit

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

V: Behold the handmaid of the Lord
R: Be it onto me according to thy word

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

V: And the word was made flesh
R: And dwelt among us

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

V: Pray for us O Holy Mother of God
R: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that, we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Cross and Passion, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Angelus is a devotion in honour of the incarnation which at first consisted of three Hail Marys to be said three times a day in the morning, at midday and in the evening. Later, the three introductory versicles and the concluding versicle and prayer, which is that belonging to the Alma Redemptoris Mater, were added. It is generally thought that it developed out of the 14th century European custom of saying three Haily Marys in the evening, although there are various theories about each time of day which the Catholic Encyclopedia explores here. There's also the useful tip that, for those like me with dreadful memories who tend to forget bits, if you can't remember the Angelus, five Hail Marys are permitted instead.

To remind people to say it, a bell is tolled three times for each Hail Mary and nine times for the prayer at the end. If anyone would like to say it with bell accompaniment, this video provides it , as well as images of the annunciation, as an aid to prayer:

An avid reader of the blog tells me that he once managed to program his computer to ring the Angelus at midday and six in the evening. However, the Women's Guild would like to suggest that one can take things a bit too far...

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Salve Regina

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiae,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
ad te clamamus
exsules filii Hevae,
ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.

Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos
misericordes oculos ad nos converte;
et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.


Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

The Salve Regina is the Marian antiphon sung after Compline from Trinity Sunday to the Saturday before Advent and, in the vernacular, the final prayer of the Rosary. Recently, I've started saying it last thing before going to bed, which is possibly unseasonal, but feels appropriate, and, of course, actually using it helps with learning it.

Its origins are rather confused being attributed to many including St Bernard of Clairvaux, St Anselm of Lucca, Petrus of Monsoro, Bishop of Compostella, Adhémar, Bishop of Podium, and Hermann Contractus. The Catholic Encyclopedia weighs up the various claims to authorship here. However it is agreed that its current form appeared at the Abbey of Cluny during the twelfth century.

Until I set my mind to learning both properly, I was always more successful at the Latin than the English because of the lovely plainsong, as given below with subtitles for singing along and nice pictures of mountains and waterfalls.

Or if that's not your style, there's always this version: