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[Academy RP]: Rorate Sunday


Isenheim

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It was bitterly cold and travel was treacherous, the sidewalk coated in a layer of ice courtesy of the compression of Saturday churchgoers combined with a night of sub-zero temperatures, but nevertheless the congregation of the Holy Wounds Parish, in the Remonstrant-Catholic Church, was out in full force. Mrs. Lise Ness, well into her eighties and a widow for twenty, was one of the first to enter the church, narrowly avoiding a wound of her own as she waddled up the stairs to the entrance. Even in the best weather, stairs were a challenge for someone with a double knee replacement. But she had been baptized, confirmed, and received first communion there. Her great grandfather, a stonemason, had laid the foundation of the venerable neo-gothic structure, built on the remnants of a far older wooden building, destroyed by fire. Therefore, every Sunday she made it to service, always with a grandniece or grandnephew in tow in order that she might instruct the youth (her late husband, rest his soul, had been impotent). Upon entering the church and passing through the Narthex (stopping first, of course, to grab the weekly bulletin and stuff it in her purse), her hand made a well-practiced move towards the copper stoup nailed beside the door, followed by an equally well-practiced sign of the cross with the wetted hand, whispering the trinitarian formula under her breath. She proceeded to the side altar (there was only one in this simple parish Church), dedicated to the Sorrowful Mother, and gave proper veneration to the Virgin before heading for her pew (she had sat in the same place, in the front row, immediately adjacent to the middle aisle, for decades), making a slight motion with her knees in substitution for the genuflection which, if completed, she would be unable to rise from, before kneeling and beginning her prayers (and watching with one eye to ensure her grandniece did the same). Soon enough, the mass began: the crucifer, golden cross held high, followed by Priest, deacon, and altar server, processed down the nave, while the choir chanted the introit, which began “Rorate caeli desuper, et nubes pluant justum.” It was Rorate Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and a heightened sense of majesty accompanied the liturgy, from the purple vestments worn by the clergy to the use of Latin in the introit. The gospel passage of the day came from the First Chapter of John, and was concerned with the ministry of John the Baptist. As was tradition in the Remonstrant Church, the sermon was long, theologically dense, and resplendent with exhortations against the wickedness of the congregation, who were unworthy even to untie the sandal of the Christ. Perhaps others might have found it out of step with what they understood as the Advent season’s message of hope (it wasn’t but this is beside the point) but not Mrs. Ness. Rapt at attention, she soaked up every word. Following Communion and the Creed came the bidding prayers, and her heart sank slightly as she prayed for the soul of another one of her childhood friends, who had passed on the previous week following a brief illness. Soon enough, after the offertory, it was time to receive communion, accompanied by a rousing vernacular hymn designed to satiate the less latinate among Holy Wounds parishioners. Mrs. Ness, who, as always, had attended a private confession the previous day, went forward to receive the precious body and blood of Christ, the real presence of which, in sacramental union, she had no doubt. Reverently, she knelt at the communion rail and received the Host, dipped in the precious blood, upon her tongue, returning to her pew with a sense of joy. The Nunc dimittis, once again in Latin, was sung by both choir and congregation, followed by the concluding rites. Mrs. Ness took a moment to pray, rose, and left the building. She tripped on her way down the stairs and landed on her head, dying immediately. 

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