Stabat Mater Menevia

Stabat Mater Menevia
We praise you O Lord and we bless you, for by thy Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Immaculate Conception and Lourdes

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.
Eja ergo, Advocata nostra,
Illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte
Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
Nobis, post hoc exilium, ostende,
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.

The following post is courtesy of A Reluctant Sinner blog:

Cardinal Wiseman’s brilliant reflection on the day Blessed Pope Pius IX dogmatically defined the Immaculate Conception

Cardinal Wiseman (source: Wikimedia)
Below is a part of an eye-witness account of the events that surrounded the official promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854. It was written by the first Archbishop of Westminster, Nicholas, Cardinal Wiseman (1802-65).

The Cardinal’s style of writing was always highly engaging, and this document is no exception. His vivid recollection of this wonderful event – one of the most significant in the Church’s history – makes present, for me at least, a joy no-longer to be imprisoned in the past.

I reproduce significant parts of this account, called 'The Eighth of December', as my way of marking today's great solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the ever-glorious Virgin Mary. Hope you enjoy...

The Eighth of December
by Nicholas Patrick Stephen, Cardinal Wiseman

It was scarcely fully day when the unexampled assembly of prelates, about to take part in the solemnities of the day, met in the chapel of the Vatican Palace, known as the Sixtine [sic – Sistine] Chapel, and it was soon crowned by the arrival of the sovereign Pontiff, surrounded by his court. The Litany of the Saints having been intoned, as on penitential occasions, the procession set forth, and presented one of the noblest ecclesiastical spectacles ever witnessed, even in St Peter’s.

We will not attempt to describe the magnificence of the celebration of the holy Sacrifice which followed. All the special grandeur which accompanies it, when offered up by the sovereign Pontiff in the greatest of churches, was this year immensely enhanced by the additional attendance of so many illustrious prelates.

No regal, or imperial, ceremony could be more august than the procession of these two hundred prelates – as each singly approached to do homage to the Head of the Church, before the Mass commenced.

The office of Terce was first chanted: the Epistle and the Gospel were, according to the custom, sung in Greek as well as Latin; it was a quarter past eleven when the last note of the evangelist sounded over the shrine of St Peter, and a silence took place such as is difficult to imagine in a crowd of thirty or forty thousand persons, who filled the church.

The declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception fresco in the Lady Chapel, Westminster Cathedral
Every breath was held, every nerve was strained, and attention of eye and ear was keenly directed toward the Pontifical throne. The venerable Dean of the Sacred College, Cardinal Macchi, in his eighty-sixth year, but still in enjoyment of full mental vigour, approached its steps, accompanied by a Greek, and an Armenian bishop, as supporters and witnesses of his petition, together with twelve senior archbishops of the Western Church, who were assistants at the throne, and the officers of the household, who are official witnesses of such important transactions.

Kneeling there, the eminent postulant, in the name of his brethren and the whole Catholic episcopate, supplicated the Holy Father to pronounce his dogmatical definition of the Immaculate Conception of the ever-glorious Virgin Mary.

The Pontiff assented; but called on all to join him in invoking the light and grace of the Holy Spirit at such a solemn moment. He knelt, and in his clear, sonorous, and musical voice, intoned the hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus.

The choir sang the first verse, and, according to practice, was going to continue, when the entire congregation, not only of assembled bishops and clergy, but of crowded people, spontaneously and simultaneously, and with admirable harmony, took up the song, and with a voice, loud as the sound of many waters, but one as the expression of a single heart, filled the whole Basilica with such a strain as perhaps never before struck against its golden vaults.

It was grand, beyond conception; and came nearer the realisation of what St John  heard of heavenly music, whose armies sing with one accord, than anything which we, or others before ever listened to: and it was repeated at each alternate verse, with a perfect regularity as if the whole multitude had been trained to answer the choir.

But still more sublime than this glorious strain was the silence that ensued. Standing at his throne, the Holy Father commenced his reading of the solemn decree, by which, as superior Pastor and visible Head of the universal Church, as successor of the apostles SS Peter and Paul, and as Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, he authoritatively and dogmatically pronounced that the immunity from original sin, or in other words, the Immaculate Conception of the ever Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is a revealed doctrine of the Catholic Church.

He had not, however, proceeded far before his tears and sobs interrupted his speech; and it was only by an effort, which evidently cost him great exertion, that he could make his words struggle through the tide of his emotions, and rise audible above the flood of his overpowering feelings. He succeeded, indeed, so that we had the happiness of hearing every word and syllable of his most memorable decree; but the flood of tender devotion drew after itself corresponding sentiments from the souls of others, so that scarcely a dry eye was to be seen among those who witnessed this touching scene. The cannon’s voice gave the signal of the happy accomplishments of so many fervent desires to the whole city; and the prolonged peals of gladness from the olden towers of Basilicas and the belfries of modern churches represented the acclaim of the earlier and later periods of unchangeable catholicity.

The Cardinal Dean returned before the throne to return thanks, and, accompanied by the proper official personages, to request that the official deed should be drawn up of the proceeding, and the Bull issued, containing the decree just pronounced. The Mass then continued, and at the Te Deum which closed it the people joined in, with the same overwhelming melody as they had introduced into the invocation of the Holy Ghost.

It is not necessary that we should enter into details concerning the less religious celebration of the day [...]

Inmaculada ConcepciĆ³n by Francisco de Zurbaran

But one feature of the glorious day could not fail to strike the mind of all who enjoyed it. For several days previously, and down to the very evening before, a gloomy atmosphere, and the vigil itself torrents of rain, such are rare even in Italy, poured down unceasingly; and the day following the function the same unfavourable weather returned – only during the day the sky itself was serene and beautiful, the sun shone forth in splendour, the crowds of citizens and strangers could move freely and cheerfully through the streets to the Vatican Basilica in the morning, and again in the evening, to fill its interior, and assist at the sublime office and function there performed, and in the evening to crowd round its exterior, and gaze with admiration at the huge structure traced in lines of light against the deep azure sky, and then breaking into a mass of fire, as though a new and brilliant constellation had sprung from earth to heaven.