Every once in a while you have one of those almost perfect days. Sure, there are days of exceeding joy that come along when some great event changes our days – a wedding, the birth of a child, or the like. But when I think of perfect I think not in terms of some singularly excellent particular event. I think of a day when so much comes together in a way that shows something of the love and Presence of God in our everyday lives.
So what made this an almost perfect day? It began with morning prayer – beginning the day saying “Lord open Thou our lips.” Today, we celebrated the Feast of S. Michael and All Angels giving thanks for the ministry and presence of the angelic. At morning prayer we heard,
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
We then moved into saying the first canticle, The Song of Zechariah, hearing the charge and saying together as we do most mornings,
thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people for the remission of their sins
We said the Te Deum together for the second canticle, offering praise and thanks along with the company of angels,
To thee all Angels cry aloud,
the Heavens and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory.
The glorious company of the apostles praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise thee.
The noble army of martyrs praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world
doth acknowledge thee,
the Father, of an infinite majesty,
thine adorable, true, and only Son,
also the Holy Ghost the Comforter.
Can there be a finer way to begin any of our days than to hear of the miracle of creation, remember our charge to go before the Lord, and offering praise in the Church’s song of triumphant joy? Worship built to a loftier scale during the 11:00 Solemn Mass with Procession and Sung Te Deum but that 7:30 said morning prayer, as it so often does, remains with me through the day. Doing those grand services only seems to make sense in the context of a fuller life of prayer and thanksgiving – they need to be situated within the more humble work of offering praise day in and day out in order to have true meaning and depth.
Solemn Mass was simply a joy. From a procession done with banners aloft and thuribles swinging in full circles while singing hymns that stirred the heart, to an epistle that began “and there was war in Heaven,” to a sermon of complexity and depth that gave new insight into the nature of the angelic, to a Monteverdi anthem that brought tears in its beauty, to a sung Te Deum with double thuribles swung with zeal, there was much to lift the soul to a higher place – and to draw us nearer to the ineffable mystery we celebrate when speaking of angels.
After Mass, I had lunch with my wife and a dear friend. It was a delicious meal made all the better by a martini (a real martini made with Hendrick’s gin and not the mongrel version made with vodka)!
Then came a nap – a fixture of most Sundays – which my dog enjoyed with me.
Then Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Evensong began with a Bairstow anthem and continued to build in its beauty as the altar was censed during the Magnificat as the choir sang, “My soul doth magnify the Lord and my Spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Then we moved into Benediction (which I have written about before) which offered a chance to simply be in the Presence of the Lord.
We sang together, “Let us forever adore the most Holy Sacrament” and said among my favorite acts of praise and adoration, the Divine Praises.
Blessed be God
Blessed be the holy and undivided Trinity
Blessed be God the Father, maker of heaven and earth
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man
Blessed be Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection
Blessed be Jesus Christ on his throne of glory
Blessed be Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of his body and blood
Blessed be God the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.
Blessed be God in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
Blessed be God in Joseph, guardian of the Incarnate Word
Blessed be God in all the angels and saints
Blessed be God.
It is a constant reminder that God is present in manifold ways all about us in perfect days and less than perfect ones – Blessed be God who gives us all our days.
Of course this does not include mention of the squirrel that got loose on the High Altar during morning prayer which the Rector had to chase from the church. Nor does it include the thurible which burst into a giant ball of flames during the Te Deum. I just can’t decide whether these brought the day closer to perfect or not.