Monday, 28 November 2011

Lands of the East Awake, Soon Shall Your Sons Be Free

On a couple of occasions so far, this blog has featured information and photographs provided by "roving reporters", friends of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group who visit a particular place or attend a particular event that we think might be of interest to some of our readers.  For example, in our early October post Interactive Exchange, we included a picture of the new Porziuncola built at the National Shrine of St Francis in San Francisco, taken by a friend of our group who happened to be there on business, and who, having read our post Universal Church, felt inspired to see the place for himself.

(Followers of recent discussions about the Anglican Bishop of London will be interested to note on the subject of the Interactive Exchange post that it includes another snapshot of the Nero-esque canopy that sits over the episcopal throne at St Mary's Bourne Street whenever Dr Chartres comes to call, ostrich feathers and all.)

Today, we focus not on San Francisco, but on Hong Kong.  When I lived in Hong Kong (from 2003-2007) with my family, I visited the Anglican Cathedral ot St John there many times, that still being the regular place of worship of our roving reporter today.  However, this weekend, having followed the news of the arrival of a relic of Blessed John Paul II in Hong Kong, he decided to attend the 0930 Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, on Caine Road in Hong Kong. 

Dr Chartres might be interested to know that the new translation of the mass is not yet in use in Hong Kong.  The Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong has decided that it would be better to take a little more time to prepare the faithful for the new text in terms of catechesis, and so the people of Hong Kong will need to wait until December 2012 before being able to say "and with your spirit".

Our correspondent noted the presence of a large and varied congregation, which was communicated efficiently, and the preaching of a solid homily on watching and waiting. He was particularly pleased to hear the singing not only of O Come O Come Emmanuel, but also of the Rorate Coeli (in Latin), usually known to us in our Bourne Street days as the Advent Prose.   

Once Mass had ended, there was time for a short visit to the newly received relic of Blessed John Paul II.  The photo below comes from this visit (the other photos above were sourced from the internet).

Before leaving Hong Kong, we must include this fascinating youtube video, showing very a number of very powerful processions taking place at the Catholic Cathedral there in 1931.   I very much doubt that many readers will have seen bishops wearing solar topees before.

Back home at St James's, we had neither O Come O Come Emmanuel nor the Rorate Coeli.  We are not complaining though, what we did have was excellent.  This blog cannot claim that the choice of recessional hymn was influenced by our blogpost yesterday, with its link to a triumphant performance of Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending, one of the most stirring of Advent hymns, and a piece of Anglican (indeed Wesleyan) Patrimony.  Rather, we can rejoice in having had the same musical reaction to the arrival of the first Sunday of Advent as Fr Colven.  The organ voluntary at the end was the very well known JS Bach chorale prelude on Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 645).  The Mass sheet reported that all six of the Schubler chorale preludes were going to be played, but the Marylebone Ordinariate Group had left the building and headed off for a post-Mass drink before we could find out if that was really going to be the case.

Perhaps we shall sing the hymn on which that Chorale Prelude is based during Advent at St James's.  The words of this hymn, which is Lutheran in origin, are based on the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, contained in the Gospel of Matthew.

Wake, o wake! with tidings thrilling
the watchmen all the air are filling,
arise, Jerusalem, arise!
Midnight strikes! no more delaying,
"The hour has come!" we hear them saying.
Where are ye all, ye virgins wise?
The Bridegroom comes in sight,
raise high your torches bright!
Alleluia! The wedding song
swells long and strong:
go forth and join the festal throng.

Zion hears the watchmen shouting,
her heart leaps with joy undoubting,
she stands and waits with eager eyes;
adorned with truth and grace unending!
Her light burns clear, her star doth rise.
Now come, thou precious Crown,
Lord Jesus, God's own Son!
Hosanna! Let us prepare
to follow there,
where in thy supper we may share.

Every soul in thee rejoices;
from men and angelic voices
be glory given to thee alone!
Thy presence never more shall leave us,
we stand with angels round thy throne.
Earth cannot give below
the bliss thou dost bestow.
Alleluia! Grant us to raise
to length of days,
the triumph-chorus of thy praise.

I wouldn't want to leave a post that touched on the Schubler Chorales without including this one: very short, and touchingly simple.  It is BWV 648, Meine Seele erheb't den Herren, the German form of the Magnificat, another very appropriate text for this time of year.  Hearing it takes me straight back to listening to the piece being played by James Dalton in my student days, on the fantastic Frobenius organ at The Queen's College, Oxford.  By co-incidence, the current organist of St James's Spanish Place was an undergraduate at the same college a few years after me.

To conclude, a note of hope and optimism from Fr Colven's parish notes.  Much is said about 2011 having seen the largest number of new Catholics in England and Wales through the Rite of Election for many years, and indeed this is in no small part due to the creation of the Ordinariate.  However, Fr Colven in his notes cited as an example of the constantly evolving nature of our community that the 7pm Mass at St James's (one of six masses on a Sunday) is attended by a congregation of around 250, a large proportion of whom are young professionals, and also that St James's, in its plans to introduce a childrens' liturgy, has approximately 40 families signed up as being interested.  All this in a Central London parish, with the shifting demographics that that implies.

Let us give thanks for the growth in our parish and in the Church, both through the Ordinariate and otherwise.

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