The music was extra-splendid at the Edinburgh Missa Cantata this morning. There was lots of singing in which the humble people in the pews were allowed to take part. We had the Advent Prose ("Rorate caeli"), the Hymn of the Advent Office ("Conditor alme siderum") and the Advent hymn to Our Lady ("Alma redemptoris mater").
Is "Christe, redemptor omnium" for Advent, Christmas or Epiphany? Whichever one it is, I hope we get Monteverdi's this year.
I love Advent music. When B.A. and I got home from Mass, I found a long album of Advent carols on youtube and began to wrap Christmas presents. Wrapping presents on December 2 is my all-time record for earliness. It's partly because I have to send the parcel to Canada sooner rather than later, and it's partly because I feel badly I didn't make the Christmas cake two-to-four weeks ago. I was hoping B.A. would be allowed to travel to Canada, and I didn't want to jinx it by making the cake. Thus, there will be no proper Christmas cake this year. I will bake every traditional thing else.
Although the homily had nothing to do with martyrdom, I worried a lot about Audrey's assisted suicide. I read Lord of the World: I know what happens next. What happens next is that Catholics are called cruel for standing in the way of easy, painless deaths and not allowing them in our hospitals. Then, just as I had to turn down offers of IVF almost every time I talked to doctors about my chances of having a baby, many of us are likely to be offered "medically assisted death" when we are at our weakest, most painful ebb.
And that made me think about that lady in the Catholic religious articles shop in the US--and if you don't know the story, please don't look for it, for it is the most ghastly, grotesque, and horrid American atrocity story I've read in months, if not years. To make a horrible story short, a brave Catholic wife-and-mother looked down the barrel of a gun and decided she'd rather be shot than do what the gunman told her to do. I hope and pray I would have her guts.
But it might be even harder to say no to a caring nurse with the merciful needle than to a villain with a gun, which led me to my next thought: how does one train oneself to say no to the needle?
I suppose the way forward may be to not only to fast periodically so as to actually feel hungry as pain but to confront other kinds of pain, like getting up at 5 AM, doing one too many pushups every day, or learning how to do one's own outrageously complicated taxes.
St. Ignatius of Loyola was very down on the idea of his Society overdoing it on penances, but it strikes me that penance might be a kind of training and as long as you don't do yourself a damage, it may bear fruit later.
I have almost finished reading Peter Kwasniewski's Tradition & Sanity: Conversations & Dialogues of a Postconciliar Exile, so keep an eye out for my review. It should appear this week.