The Mass in literature, part 4

This isn’t the Mass per se, but …

“Stephen Maturin was in fact sitting on a bench in the abbey church of St. Simon’s, listening to the monks singing vespers. He too was dinnerless, but in this case it was voluntary and prudential, a penance for lusting after Laura Fielding and (he hoped) a means of reducing his concupiscence: to begin with his pagan stomach had cried out against this treatment, and indeed it had gone on grumbling until the end of the first antiphon. Yet for some time now Stephen had been in what might almost have been called a state of grace, stomach, break-back bench, carnal desires all forgotten, he being wafted along on the rise and fall of the ancient, intimately familiar plainchant. …

“Their abbot was a very aged man; he had known the last three Grand Masters, he had seen the coming of the French and then of the English, and now his frail but true old voice drifted through the half-ruined aisles pure, impersonal, quite detached from worldly things; and his monks followed him, their song rising and falling like the swell of a gentle sea.

“There were few people in the church and those few could hardly be seen except when they moved past the candles in the side-chapels, most of them being women, whose black, tent-like faldettas merged with the shadows; but when at the end of the service Stephen turned by the holy-water stoup near the door to pay his respects to the altar, he noticed a man sitting near one of the pillars, dabbing his eyes with his handkerchief….”

Patrick O’Brian, Treason’s Harbor (1983).

(See also Part 1 (last three quoted paragraphs), Part 2, Part 3.)

6 thoughts on “The Mass in literature, part 4

  1. “He had no vestments, but the Masses in this village were nearer to the old parish days than any he had known in the last eight years — there was no fear of interruption, no hurried taking of the sacraments as the police approached…. Then a marimba began to play, tinkly and repetitive, a firework exploded, and Christ danced into the arena — danced and postured with a bleeding painted face, up and down, up and down, grimacing like a prostitute, smiling and suggestive. He woke with the sense of complete despair that a man might feel finding the only money he possessed was counterfeit.
    …and we saw his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’ Mass was over.”

    A little bit from The Power and the Glory that I always liked.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just found out that several of the books in the series have “Mariae Sacrum” (Dedicated to Mary) or “Mariae Duodecies Sacrum” (Dedicated Twelve Times Over to Mary) on the dedication pages. “The Letter of Marque”, “The Surgeon’s Mate”, “The Ionian Mission”, “Treason’s Harbour” and “The Nutmeg of Consolation” have one or other of these dedications.


  3. Pingback: The Mass in Literature, Part 5 | Petty Armchair Popery

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