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Solemn Mass at Seminary

The blogging priest at WDTPRS has a post with pictures from a Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form at Philadelphia’s seminary.It seems,The seminarians have been asking the rector for a TLM, so he agreed! Anyone recognize the celebrant? Anywa…

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On the Recovery of Liturgical Symbolism and Avoiding the Pitfalls of Legalism and Dilettantism

One of the great virtues of many of the younger clergy is that they do seriously want to recover much of the symbolism of the sacred liturgy that has been lost.  After a long winter of iconoclasm, we are seeing once again vestments, vesture, music and art which had fallen into disuse.  Of course, it is one thing to hand on a tradition; quite another to have that tradition interrupted and then try to recover it again.  It is in the latter case that we find ourselves with some difficulty.  Often we learn how to do things by some version of oral tradition: someone we respect tells us that things should be done in a certain manner, and we try to imitate it as such.  But there is a lot of truth in the aphorism: trust but verify.  It was this deference to unverified oral tradition that allegedly led Alfred Hope Patton to insist on the use of absurdly tall birettas at Walsingham, when he was unaware that what he thought was an accurate depiction in art of them was actually a parody. 

The great Roman liturgist Leon Gromier lamented that in his time prelates were discarding things willy-nilly because they did not know why they were instituted in the first place.  In our own time, we should be careful to restore things until we know how they were used in the first place.  I became sensitive to this reality as a young seminarian when I listened to the curmudgeony old canons of the major basilicas in Rome.  They knew all of the minutiae of pre-Vatican II ceremonial and had rejected it as they adopted the reforms.  So when they saw younger clergy doing things in the name of tradition that were not actually done at all, they arguably rightly dismissed them as ignorant and more concerned with externals than the true spirit of the liturgy.

On the one hand, it is true that, where there are no rubrics, but merely ceremonial indications, concern for liturgical decorum can disintegrate into pedantic willfulness.  How many faithful people have been disedified by the nasty ritualistic Syllabus of Errors imparted by haughty young men with more nerve than sense on terrified altar servers and pewsitters!  One can see why Pope Francis very sensibly calls out pharisaical behavior that masks the real point of the liturgy.

On the other hand, though, if we are to recover liturgical symbolism in all its fullness, we should be careful to investigate as much as we can before we attempt to do so.  Otherwise, we can risk devolving into a liturgical dilettantism which invents idiosyncracies as “local custom.”  While local variations across the Catholic orb have always and will continue to exist, I think it important that serious people insist that observing forms which can be appealed to some authority is closer to the communal spirit of the liturgy than just assuming that my own personal oral tradition is how things ought to be done.  It is also important to achieve a welcoming and hospitable environment in churches and sacristies as clergy have more possibilities for travel.  The last thing a visiting cleric wants to do is to go to a church for Mass and get involved in acrimonious debate over minutiae.  But respect for the authorities, and knowledge of them, could be helpful in this regard.

Let me give a few examples: I see constantly in pictures and in person the phenomenon of clerics who love the biretta, (dignum et justum est) but who wear it indoors in procession while in choir.  I have seen this in Anglican churches, churches of the Anglican Ordinariate Use, the Extraordinary Form and Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  Fortescue and Baldeschi call for the biretta to be carried, not worn, in processions indoors by clergy in choir and worn, not carried, by the ministri parati.  Ritual Notesand Anglican Services, the comparable Anglican authorities, carry the same instruction.  Pearcy Deamer’s Parson’s Handbook laments that anyone would employ “foreign headgear” during the divine service at all.  When I have discreetly tried to point this out when being asked about the proper thing to do, I have been assured that I was wrong, that the in house style of name the person or the parish or the seminary or whatever is the only right thing to do.  While none of the books have any authority as such, they do have the weight of tradition.  Should they not be prized over local custom that is in the mind of the beholder? 

Once I was very excited to hear that a group of young levites prevailed for the veil to be restored to the tabernacle of their church.  And then I saw that they had lovingly made a black tabernacle veil.  Would Jesus be offended by being swathed in mourning by men who were anxious to please Him?  Surely not.  But again, should we not also bow to the weight of the accepted authorities in this matter?

Not everyone is familiar with the ins and outs of Nainfa’s Costume of Prelates.  Whether some like it or not, lace is certainly prized by many. But I wonder about the use of the rochet by clergy who have no right to it.  You see priests administering sacraments in a rochet, when before they would have donned a surplice over the rochet to do so, if they had the right to use it at all.  There is a disturbing tendency to say, “Well, the Church is so ugly, let me use anything that is pretty to solemnize the divine services.”  Certainly a noble sentiment, but is obedience to the respected authorities for whom these things were living tradition not better, and more spiritually fruitful, than the sacrifice of praise even in beauty?

Deference to these things marks out the difference between the amateur and the professional.  It also hopefully keeps a sense of order, perspective and charity.  I was once asked my opinion about a particular liturgy which was very lovingly executed by some very well-meaning people.  When I pointed out that I did not understand why certain things were done the way they were (namely, differently than any of the Roman or Anglican authorities who were invoked by those executing the liturgy), I was accused of being mean-spirited and disrespectful, and a promising friendship was compromised on liturgical niceties.  We have carried a very modern spirit of individualism, so easily offended, into the worship space in such a way as to not want to be corrected by anyone.  Is this not even more inimical to the spirit of true common worship than bad taste?

Music is not exempt from these pitfalls either.  The liturgically sound priest and musician combination is rare to find.  So often what happens is a pastiche of “I want it done this way” that has to constantly reinvent itself with every new celebrant or organist.  How often rows have ensued about how the Gradual is to be performed, or the placement of the choir, or the vesture of the cantor!

The struggle to recover as much as we can of our Catholic liturgical tradition is certainly worth the growing pains.  We must avoid the extremes of legalism and dilettantism.  We must always carry forward our work in communion with others, with charity reigning before all else.  But we should also develop a proper deference for, and assiduous study, not only of the texts of liturgical prayers, rubrics and music, but also the ceremonial books which suggest how they might all come together in a beautiful way.  Humility is the most attractive virtue in the celebration of the sacrifice of redemption, and gives a deeper luster to the beauty with which we execute it.         


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Why Divine Worship: The Missal is so Important

Divine Worship: The Missal celebrated in Calgary

All over the English speaking world, priests are receiving copies of Divine Worship: The Missal, produced in a handsome volume by CTS in England.  The most recent edition of the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, Antiphon, is dedicated entirely to the new Missal, and offers very useful commentary for those who want to know why the text is what it is.  It is very much worth a read.

But why is this event so important?

1. Divine Worship: The Missal is the first original missal to come out of the Catholic Church in the Latin Rite since the introduction of the Missale Romanum of Paul VI.  It has been 45 years since a liturgical project of this magnitude has been seen in the West, even though there have been significant revisions in some of the Eastern rite books during that time.

2. The Catholic Church has much experience with the integration of liturgical rites and the spirituality of Eastern communities that have been reintegrated into the obedience of the Apostolic See.  The liturgy of the Personal Ordinariates is the first time the Church has seen the integration of liturgical rites and the spirituality of an ecclesial community that rose as a result of the Protestant Reformation.  It is a significant milestone for ecumenism, and the process by which the juridical structure and the liturgy of groups of Anglicans seeking union with the Holy See can be a template for other reconciliations within the Body of Christ.

3. As a result of continual use within the tradition of the Anglican missals and wider Anglican liturgical tradition in Anglican use, Divine Worship: The Missal, the ordinariate use of the Roman Mass, recovers certain elements of pre-Tridentine liturgy, as well as of the liturgy outside of the use of the Roman Curia.  It demonstrates the possibility of recovery of liturgical notions from before the centralization of Pius V’s Quo primum, restoring within the Western Church a greater plurality of uses than has been had since 1570. 

4. The liturgical reform after Vatican II took place in the days of heady optimism and ferment of the 1960s.  This liturgical project takes place with some distance from that reform.  Those who have been involved in the process know all too well the positive and negative effects of the mid-century liturgical reform, and it seems that they have been taken into consideration here.

5. The new Missal is a powerful exercise in the hermeneutic of continuity.   Although the primary purpose is to preserve the Anglican patrimony, it does integrate elements of the modern Roman Rite.  It is incorrect to say that this new liturgy is a throwback to something previous.  But it also recovers elements from the pre-reformed Western ritual tradition in a harmonious way.  It integrates things that will be familiar to Catholics who worship according to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, but also insofar as those things are complemented by pre-Tridentine aspects as well as those which made their way into Anglican sources like the English Missal tradition.  The new book finds itself drawing from the previous tradition in ways which are not contradictory to the general outline and principles of the modern Roman Rite. 

6. Divine Worship: The Missal is clearly the fruit of Pope Benedict XVI’s liturgical, ecclesiological and ecumenical vision to preserve the Anglican patrimony.  In this respect, prescinding from the obvious integration of classically Anglican texts into the Ordinary of the Mass, it could provide a template for a Reform of the Roman Rite in continuity with the tradition which goes beyond aesthetics and ceremonial details all the way to officially approved liturgical texts.

I think for these six reasons alone, the publication and implementation of Divine Worship: The Missal should be interesting to all liturgically minded folk, and should be positively celebrated by those of us who have made the Benedictine liturgical vision the cornerstone of our pastoral practice and ecclesial spirituality.

At the same time though, I do have some considerations about what else needs to be done, and what the potential pitfalls might be with this new Missal.

1. There will be a massive need for liturgical formation of the faithful and clergy, not only of the Personal Ordinariates, but within the Roman Rite as well, of the reasoning behind the choices made which resulted in the book as it is.  The careful process of discernment that resulted in the book has been admirable.  That process has to now be accessible to those who will worship according to it.  It is devoutly to be wished that a critical edition of the Missal outlining the sources for each prayer, rubric and document be made available to scholars and congregants alike.  There will be a great need for a beautifully produced hand missal that can provide a profound, accessible and succinct catechesis to accompany the introduction of the Rite.

2. There is not a highly developed ceremonial accompanying the book, reflecting perhaps a similar lack in the modern Roman Rite.  Will a version of The Parson’s Handbook, Ritual Notes, or Anglican Services follow the publication of the Missal?  Even if it is in no way prescriptive, access to such a document would help to unify the sometimes bewilderingly diverse practices across Ordinariate communities and create a more unified sense of style that will in turn help form a cohesive identity.  The ceremonial presupposes rubrics in a traditional direction, whilst also admitting, for pastoral reasons within a given community, the possibility of celebration in a manner more closely conformed to the present iteration of General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

3. It is clear that Divine Worship: The Missal is the liturgy proper to the Ordinariates.  One must ask the question whether the continued use of the modern Roman Rite in the communities of the Personal Ordinariates makes sense, since there is no need for a separate community to celebrate the Roman Mass with non-textual elements of the Anglican patrimony, which can be done anyway.  On the other hand, if priests of the Roman Rite can celebrate the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite for those who request it, will this new Missal be restricted to the communities of the Ordinariate, and if so, why?  Could it not profitably find a home even in other places in the Catholic Church, thus giving the Anglican patrimony a home in the heart of the Church and not exclusively in small communities circumscribed by the Anglican tradition?

4. Could greater access to the Anglican Ordinariate use even outside the communities established for that reason not be a boon for mutual enrichment?  Should the modern Roman Rite be forced into a position where another form of the Rite cannot influence it at all? 

I say this because I see ample opportunity for growth outside of the confines of the Personal Ordinariate, although it is clear that the new liturgy is proper to it.  To make a parallel, the communities answerable to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei have the right to exclusive use of the 1962 Missal.  But, as we know, the Extraordinary Form is alive and well outside those communities, who have not suffered because of its availability elsewhere, and the two forms of the Roman Mass can coexist peacefully even in the same parish.  I even have been told that there are parishes which have the three formsof the Roman Rite.  Why should there not be more, where there is a desire on the part of the faithful or for the spiritual good of the priest celebrant to have it?

The Church has made a careful and beautiful discernment of what parts of the Anglican patrimony can be united without being absorbed into the Catholic Church and in her Roman liturgical tradition.  Can we safely assume that the Spirit who worked to bring this marvel about could also work wonders unthought of if this patrimony is unleashed in the heart of the Church?   

To learn more check out these links:

The FAQ Sheet from the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter
A video of Archbishop DiNoia and commentary     

An interview with Mgr Jeffrey Steenson about the new Missal
Website of the Principal Church of the Ordinariate in the United States 
Pictures from around the UK Ordinariate 
Fr James Bradley’s excellent resume of Anglican Patrimony and the Missal
Check out the photos of the new liturgy at St John’s Calgary
The good people at the Ordinariate community in Greenville, SC, my neck of the woods

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Pope St. Leo the Great, pray for us!

Christe pastorum

Christ, great high prince and leader of the shepherds,
Wishing to laud this holy pastor’s feast day
With sacred music, we acclaim his honor
singing due praises.

As once you gave the care of sheep to Peter,
So that the world might be a holy sheepfold,
So this good shepherd, raised to highest honor,
Pastures your people.

He was a guide and pattern for the sheepfold,
Light for the blind, and solace for the weary,
Good to each person, providential father–
All things to all men

Christ, who in heaven render to the holy
Crowns for their merits, help us then to follow,
That with this teacher, we may be obedient
And rise to heaven.

May equal honor celebrate the Father,
And You, O Savior, loving King forever,
And may the glory of the Holy Spirit,
Sound the world over.

From a homily on the Transfiguration by Pope St. Leo the Great

This marvel of the transfiguration contains another lesson for the apostles, to strengthen them and lead them into the fullness of knowledge. Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, appeared with the Lord in conversation with him. This was in order to fulfil exactly, through the presence of these five men, the text which says: Before two or three witnesses every word is ratified. What word could be more firmly established, more securely based, than the word which is proclaimed by the trumpets of both old and new testaments, sounding in harmony, and by the utterances of ancient prophecy and the teaching of the Gospel, in full agreement with each other?

The writings of the two testaments support each other. The radiance of the transfiguration reveals clearly and unmistakably the one who had been promised by signs foretelling him under the veils of mystery. As Saint John says: The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. In him the promise made through the shadows of prophecy stands revealed, along with the full meaning of the precepts of the law. He is the one who teaches the truth of the prophecy through his presence, and makes obedience to the commandments possible through grace.

In the preaching of the holy Gospel all should receive a strengthening of their faith. No one should be ashamed of the cross of Christ, through which the world has been redeemed.

No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised.

When it comes to obeying the commandments or enduring adversity, the words uttered by the Father should always echo in our ears: This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him. 

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Don’t shoot the piano player, promote her!

Lately I’ve been dealing with some odd neurological issues. I’ve been experiencing strong enhancements of three of my senses, the first of which was my olfactory system, my sense of smell. I still can’t tell if what I perceive is a highly amplified sense, or an illusion. Then came my auditory sense: it seems my hearing capacity has multiplied by fifty percent. This is interesting as the schola now sounds like the Morman Tabernacle Choir, I can hear the homilies at volume 11, and confounding because the slightest imperfection in pitch accuracy annoyingly distracts me. (The third sense is taste, Cabernet Sauvignon of any quality ain’t workin’ no mo’. Loss of red hasn’t mitigated the other two sensory overloads!)

The intensity of my hearing caused me to change a rehearsal strategy last week. As a director, the last prior rehearsals were frustrating because I couldn’t have the usual holistic approach towards rehearsal goals while distracted with such vagaries as pitch and diction problems. So I tried a new strategy- I asked my organist/accompanist to run last week’s rehearsal. I was thus enabled the relief of just being a tenor, though I did help manage a few concerns as we went along. As we trekked through an hour and a half’s rehearsal it dawned on me for the thousandth time how important accompanists are to our success. If you’re an organist-cum-director, just imagine yourself as Jekyll and Hyde.

As a veteran of both church and school (elementary through collegiate) choral education, utilizing an accompanist as a rehearsal tool was a regular and di rigeur/SOP strategy, ala “You take the women while I’ll work the men.” When needing a sick day, if your accompanist was strong, you had no worries. If not, you worried a lot. But I’m sure we who are not gifted with accompaniment skills fully realize how much of our successful endeavors rely upon the charisms and talents of “the pianist.”

I won’t belabor this obvious reality in this short piece. But I strongly offer that a choirmaster (who’s not the organist) consider the schema of letting the other professional in the room regularly lead rehearsals. There are so many benefits to consider- being able to audit the various sections independent of having to martial the whole choir, the possibility that the accompanist will uncover weaknesses in the choir that weren’t evident to the director, the immediate modeling you can provide to sections that you sit and sing in during rehearsal, the relief from whatever your Modus Operandi routines have numbingly become habitual, and likely a hundred other plus factors each of us could cite.

I’ve been blessed in my career as a choral director. In over forty years I’ve only had one “less than” greatly talented accompanist, and at least that burden was relieved by the pianist’s unique personality. And currently I have an organist (with me 24 years) and two pianists, one with me for 43 years, ha ha! ,who are exemplary talents. So I’d be more of a fool if I didn’t take advantage of their vast treasuries of experience and artistic accomplishments. Here’s a great shout to our “piano players.”

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Printed as Preached

In all my travels I have been blessed to find in every place faithful priests who are wonderfully capable, each in his own unique way, of showing forth the beauty of our splendid Catholic faith.

Most recently I’ve crossed paths in a number of ways with Fr. Cávana Wallace, a priest of the Diocese of San Diego, the pastor of a large parish with reverent liturgies and, as usually follows from reverent liturgies, a flock full of young happy families.

Fr. Wallace’s exemplary homilies are posted on his blog Printed As Preached, which I recommend. Here are a couple of samples:

If the Almighty God who created the immense universe out of nothing and filled it with so much, in all its splendor and all its terrifying and most beautiful complexity – If God, to whom the whole cosmos is but a speck of dust, became smaller still and allowed himself to be vulnerable, not afraid even to be mothered by a young girl, God asks us too, do not be afraid of becoming little. And as if to assure us even more, Christ places his arms around the little child. Allow Christ to protect you. If God who is unimaginably bigger than the whole universe can humble himself to become a man, can we not humble ourselves to be like a little child – his little child?


And so, at this wedding banquet of the Lamb, where heaven and earth are joined, we are reminded that the Mother of the Lord is also an invited guest, as she was at the wedding feast of Cana. She is our wedding planner, working behind the scenes making sure all is ready. She points us in the direction of her Son and tells us, “Do whatever He asks of you”. That we may enjoy the banquet, numbered among all the saints of heaven and earth, we listen to Him and with him, we raise our glass to holiness, sanctity and to a new life worthy of the saints. “To the Bridegroom and His Bride forever!”

Much, much more here.

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"The people that longs to see your face": a sermon for All Saints’ Day

[A few years ago, Dom Mark Kirby of Silverstream Priory preached a retreat to the nuns of the Monastère Saint-Benoît in Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne, France; here is his sermon on the occasion of All Saints’ Day. The translation is mine, and the original text in French appears on Dom Mark’s blog, Vultus Christi. — RC]

“Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.”
Yes, Lord Jesus, they all came to seek your face.
They all took to heart this word which your Holy Spirit made King David the prophet sing: “My heart has said: I seek the Lord; it is your face, O Lord, that I shall seek. Turn not your face from me.” (Ps 27: 8-9)
They all became living mirrors of your Holy Face, as your Apostle says: “And we all who, with faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are transformed into his very image, ever more glorious, as befits the work of the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3: 18).
Lord Jesus, the beauty of the glory of your saints ravishes us because it is the reflection on their faces of the beauty of the glory of your Face!
Today you reveal to us, today you tell us again the secret of all sanctity: to seek your face.
To anyone who seeks your face, Lord Jesus, you reveal it, and he to whom you reveal your face can only adore it.
This adoration of your Holy Face is transforming; it is again the prophet-king who gives us the words to sing each night: “Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord.” (Ps 4, 7).
Among all these faces illumined by the beauty of your Face, there is one countenance radiant with a splendor that makes the sun pale.
It is the face of your Mother, the all-beautiful, the all-pure.
You are all beautiful, O Mary, for in your face we see the radiant reflection of Him who is “the brightness of the Father’s glory and the image of his being” (Heb 1:3).
You, the queen of all the saints, you are the great sign that appeared in the heavens: the Woman clothed with the sun, having the moon beneath her feet, and bearing a crown with twelve stars.
I must say to you, dear sisters, that since we sang the antiphon of the Magnificat at first Vespers, I have understood that the faith of Abraham remained, in a sense, unfulfilled, inasmuch as it had not yet found its fullness in Mary.
The sons and daughters of Abraham, more countless than the stars of heaven, are all without any exception, sons and daughters of Mary, of her who believed “that the word of the Lord to her would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45).
It is Mary who leads all the saints in the song that once poured out of her immaculate Heart: “The Almighty has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49).
This is the song of all the saints.
Each one receives it from the lips of Mary, to take it up in his own turn, each with his own voice, each with his own accent, each with the melody which the Holy Spirit inspires in him.
That is the great sound that fills Heaven: it is the song of Mary, taken up by the choir of the saints.
And who are these saints, all children of Mary?
They are the ones blessed by the gospel which you just heard.
This word of Jesus Crucified fits with each of the beatitudes: “Behold your Mother” (Jn 19:27), the testament of love entrusted to his beloved disciple.
So I should say: You poor of heart, behold your Mother, the Virgin of the poor as she appeared at Banneux, the Queen of the anawim, of those who depend on God for everything.
You meek, behold your Mother, Mary, the good shepherdess, whose care surpasses that of David, whose gentleness brings peace to our conflicts and calms all our tempests.
You who weep, behold your Mother, whom the Church, rich in the experience of two millennia, called Consolatrix Afflictorum, the Consoler of the Afflicted.
You who hunger and thirst for justice, behold your Mother, the Mother of the Eucharist, who gave of her own body and blood so that, from her virginal womb, made fruitful by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Body and the Blood of Christ would be offered to the whole world to satisfy you.
You merciful, behold your Mother, whom the Church, in that sublime song that rises from monasteries through the entire world each evening, calls Mater misericordiae.
Mary is not frightened at all at the sight of your sufferings.
She takes them all into her Heart to wash them in the oil and wine of the Holy Spirit.
You pure of heart, behold your Mother, Immaculate, all-beautiful, who works marvels in the hearts of sinners, marvels of purity and openness.
You peacemakers, behold your Mother, Regina pacis, who has never forgotten the angels’ song that traversed the stars on the night when she brought into the world the Prince of Peace: “Glory to God in the highest heavens, and peace on earth to the people he loves.” (Lk 2:14)
You persecuted for righteousness, behold your Mother, the Regina Martyrum, whose soul was transpierced by a blade of sorrow.
She remained standing by the cross of her Son.
She experienced all its bitterness and, with her crucified Son, drank the chalice which the Father had presented to her.
You who are insulted and slandered, behold your Mother who, radiant with love and truth, will enlighten all your ways.
It is she who sustains the martyrs.
Nothing of what you suffer is foreign to her.
You who rejoice and are glad, behold your Mother, the Causa nostrae laetitiae.
Your joy is hers, and into the hearts of all the saints she pours her own joy, unto ages of ages.
Holy Mary, Mother and Queen of all the saints, we desire, like the apostle John, to bring you into our homes from this day forward, so that you may teach us the beatitudes of which you are the perfect icon. Make us taste the happiness of all the saints.
And now, accompany us to the altar of the Holy Sacrifice.
One day, we firmly hope, you will be there to receive us at the banquet which is already prepared for us in Heaven, the wedding banquet of the Lamb.

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