AROUND EUROPE BY RADIO Universality of the Church
Living alone in a small town in the north of Scotland, where opportunities of liturgical services are few and far between, this year, thanks to a ten-guinea radio set I was able to assist at no less than four High Masses at Christmas, not to mention bits of other ones.
Vienna I started my radio worship by going east to Poland; the Warsaw station relaying three Midnight Masses from village churches; the first of which started at 10.45 p.m. A quarter of an hour later I went over to Vienna, tuning in just as the organ of St. Stephen's Cathedral was pealing forth a voluntary while Cardinal Innitzer and the sacred ministers were vesting for Mass.
The building must have been most carefully wired, for the reception was perfect; the mixing of the different voices, both at the altar and in the choir, being admir
ably done. One could follow almost every word of the cardinal-celebrant, and yet distinguish every note of the music.
And what musicl T fear it would have shocked some of our liturgical purists, for apart from the Introit there was not a note of plainchant; the proper being sung to polyphonic settings, and the common to Mozart's Coronation Mass, accompanied by a full orchestra, with professional singers in the choir. Habel was conducting, and the rate at which he took the Gloria and Credo conjured up a mental picture of a host of baroque cherubs having a glorious romp. Indeed this marvellous music by Mozart can only be described as a perfect paraphrase of the words of the gospel of the Midnight Mass: "Multitudo militiae coelestis, laudantium Deum."
Somehow when listening to the Cardinal's voice in the Preface and Pater Noster one felt that he himself was fully conscious of the spiritual joy of this great function in Vienna's Gothic cathedral. The very words of consecration came over the air with startling clearness, so that it seemed that they were being spoken in my own room and not a thousand miles away in Austria.
'Brussels Plainchant Having listened to the last notes of the Agnus Del I noticed that it was just midnight, so decided to go over to Brussels which was relaying Pontifical High Mass from the Benedictine abbey of St. Andrelez-Bruges. I felt that plainchant would be the ideal sequence to the exciting thrill of Mozart, rendered as I had never heard it before.
Matins was nearly over and Abbot Neve, whose familiar voice was plainly recognisable, was chanting the genealogy of Our Lord, which ,concludes the office in the monastic rite. Then the introit, Dixit Dominus, started, but after a few minutes something went wrong, and the music faded away, followed by an interchange of anxious remarks in French, and the announcement that a breakdown had occurred, Athlone Not knowing how long this would last I turned the knob from Brussels No. I to Athlone, tuning in just as the Cistercian monks at St. Joseph's Abbey, Roscrea, were ending the Gloria. I followed the rest of this Mass until the Communion, being inerested to note the differences between the Roman and Cistercian chant.
The singing was admirable, and the contrast of the austere plainchant restful and soothing after the exuberance of Mozart.
As is the custom in the Cistercian rite the 0 salutaris hostia was sung after the Consecration. To fill up the time while Holy Communion was being given a sermon was preached. Meanwhile I had gone back to Brussels and discovered that the Benedictines at St. Andre had now got as far as the Offertory. I listened to this Mass until the Communion. Here again it was interesting to compare the slight differences between the Vatican edition and the Cistercian plainchant.
To conclude this more than two hours of radio worship I got in for the latter portions of two other pontifical high masses at Strasbourg and Rennes and knelt down for the blessing of both archbishops before I switched off the " juice " and retired to bed.
Paris in the Morning
At 9.15 I timed in once more, this time to Poste-Parisien, which was relaying High Mass from the chapel of the Benedictine nuns of St. Louis-du-Temple in Paris. I listened to a rendering of the chant of almost unearthly delicacy until 9.40 when I went over to Hilversum for a perfectly sung High Mass in the Dominican rite, which includes a Christmas sequence before the Gospel. Once again it was interesting to compare the Vatican chant in my Graduale with another version.
Like many other listeners, no doubt, I revelled in the Sacred Concert from the Vatican Station at 6 p.m., with Mgr. Perosi conducting some of his own compositions and Gigli as the chief soloist.
Poland On the morning of St. Stephen's day I assisted at Pontifical High Mass at the Church of the Holy Cross, Warsaw, and then went over to Vienna, where once again I got a pontifical High Mass with orchestral accompaniment, preceded by sung Terce; the former being rendered with the same perfection as on Christmas Eve.
Then finally the B.B.C. took me to Bethlehem in the afternoon, enabling me by means of sound to recall the very places I had seen with my own eyes many years before. Once more I heard the bells of the Basilica of the Holy Nativity; beheld the bare rocky landscape and far away saw the distant lights of Jerusalem. I went down into the grotto and knelt on the spot where Our Lord was born, kissing the pavement on which one reads the words Hic De 'lirgine Maria. Jesus Christus Natus Est.
A full and satisfying programme; more than enough to make one grateful for what radio can do to enable one to share in the worship of Catholic countries on a great feast like Christmas, when one happens to dwell in a land where Catholicism is still no more than a small and obscure sect.