Fr Hunwicke has some thoughts on Dom Prosper Guéranger's description of the Mass as participation in the Heavenly Liturgy alongside the Angels.Some years ago, a kind benefactor passed on to me a full set of the volumes of the English version of Dom Guéranger's wonderful L'Annee Liturgique; a series which I had first met years ago as an Anglican.
I was preaching a Priests' Retreat in the Devon house of the Franciscan Servants of Jesus and Mary at Posbury St Francis. The sitting room set aside for my use had, around its walls, most of the library - including Guéranger - of Prebendary John Hooper, the charismatic priest who decades before had fostered my own vocation to the Sacred Priesthood. He was part of that admirable phenomenon (its survivors are now mostly in the Ordinariate): the Exeter Mafia, Anglican Catholic clergy who spent most of their priesthood in that diocese. He was a drinking companion of Bishop Robert Mortimer, the scholar-bishop and moral theologian (They haven't had many of those in the C of E - perhaps that is the root of some of their current tragedies). Fr John had been the Posbury community's Warden; and, indeed, he was buried under the trees in their quiet and still graveyard.
But I had come under his influence much earlier when he was Vicar of S Mary Mags, in this city, then its great Anglican Catholic centre. I first saw him on the feast of our blessed Lady's Immaculate Conception in 1959, when I was in Oxford as a hopeful schoolboy sitting the Scholarship examinations. Purely by chance, if there is, in God's providence, any such thing, I happened to wander into Mags that evening when the High Mass - according to what we now call the Extraordinary Form and in the language of the English Missal - was being celebrated. What an exquisite ... quite apart from everything else ... aesthetic experience! How marvellous that there is now something very like that liturgy available in the Ordinariate!
Opening Guéranger at random, I hit upon these words about the beginning of the Mass. "But see, Christians! the Sacrifice begins! The Priest is at the foot of the Altar; God is attentive, the Angels are in adoration, the whole Church is united with the Priest, whose priesthood and action are those of the great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Let us make the sign of the Cross with him."
Plummy, you think? I suppose so. "God is attentive": goodness gracious, that's a bit much isn't it? But isn't it a great wonder of this most Adorable Sacrifice? - as Newman put it: "It is not a mere form of words - it is a great action, the greatest action that can be on earth. It is, not the invocation merely, but if I dare use the word, the evocation of the Eternal."
Dare we? Audeamus dicere.