Monday, 11 June 2012

Deus, qui nobis sub sacramento mirabili.....

There was a wonderful feeling of reassuring familiarity, of being in the right place, yesterday at St James's as we marked the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.  In our previous blogpost, we referred to a sentiment that our arrival in the Catholic Church was the only logical outcome for those who shared the understanding of Anglo-Catholicism that we did: yesterday reinforced that.

As usual, given the busy mass schedule at St James's, we arrived while the prayers after the 0930 Extraordinary Form mass were being said.  This always provides, very conveniently, a few quiet moments of preparation for the Solemn Latin Mass (OF) at 1030.  Once these were over, the organ launched into JS Bach's Chorale Prelude Schmücke Dich, O Liebe Seele BWV654.  This piece, a favourite of mine in my organ-playing days, is based on the tune of a eucharistic hymn very often sung in Anglican churches, and eminently suitable for Corpus Christi.

Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness,
Leave the gloomy haunts of sadness;
Come into the daylight’s splendour,
There with joy thy praises render
Unto Christ Whose grace unbounded
Hath this wondrous banquet founded.
Higher o’er all the heav’ns He reigneth,
Yet to dwell with thee He deigneth.
The procession entered, the Kyrie and the Gloria were sung, and then like a thunderbolt came Latin words that were utterly familiar to us.  Dare I say it, and with apologies for being arrogant, they might even have been more familiar to us than they were to some of our friends at St James's. 
Deus, qui nobis sub sacramento mirabili, passionis tuae memoriam reliquisti: tribue, quaesumus, ita nos corporis et sanguinis tui sacra mysteria venerari, ut redemptionis tuae fructum in nobis iugiter sentiamus.
The collect for Corpus Christi of course, but also the collect used at Benediction.  Every Sunday, the rite of benediction at Bourne St is performed in Latin - that being the result of a congregational vote in the 1970s - and so those of us who had been regular servers and members of the congregation there over the years were immediately struck by these familiar words, now in what was for us their new setting.

The beautiful chant of the sequence for Corpus Christi, Lauda Sion, rang out around the arches of St James's as we prepared to hear the Gospel.

The guest preacher was Fr Christopher Pearson, who is the Ordinariate priest who guided us on the process towards our reception into the Catholic Church.  Fr Pearson's homily reflected, amongst other things, on how differently we consider blood now as compared to how it was considered by those who lived at the time of the Gospels or before: this was in no small part due to a lack of familiarity with blood, not only in the way we live but also in the nature of our worship, the blood sacrifices made regularly in the Temple are very different to our re-presentation and witnessing of the one perfect sacrifice, made once. 

One might also have reflected on how homilies such as he delivered, on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, are now pretty rare in our former Anglican home.  What once was familiar teaching in Anglo-Catholicism is now unfamiliar.  Now in the Catholic Church, the contents were familiar, they were very much at home.

The prayers of the faithful also contained an echo of Anglo-Catholic history.  The intercessor prayed that we might all recognise Our Lord in the Sacrament, and that in so doing, we might also be better able to recognise Our Lord in the faces of the poor and needy.  This recalled the speech of Frank Weston, Anglican Bishop of Zanzibar, given at the conclusion of the 1923 Anglo-Catholic Congress in the Albert Hall. 

Weston, even if he was only "in place" as such for a pitifully short time, was the only clear leader that the Anglo-Catholic movement had really known and recognised since Blessed John Henry Newman left for Rome in 1845 (and, with no disrespect to our three monsignori in their days of leading the movement, is probably unsurpassed as leader since).  He was addressing the gathering of sixteen thousand on the importance of building on what they had achieved, using their theological, liturgical and ecclesiastical achievements in God's service.  This quotation, his last charge to the Anglo-Catholic movement (he died one year later, at the tragically early age of 53), sums up in a few lines something that was historically at the heart of Anglo-Catholicism, bringing Our Lord, and the Catholic Faith that leads to Him, to His people. 
. . I say to you, and I say it with all the earnestness that I have, if you are prepared to fight for the right of adoring Jesus in His Blessed Sacrament, then, when you come out from before your tabernacles, you must walk with Christ, mystically present in you, through the streets of this country, and find the same Christ in the peoples of your cities and villages. You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the tabernacle if you do not pity Jesus in the slum. . . . It is folly, it is madness, to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the Sacrament and Jesus on the throne of glory, when you are sweating Him in the bodies and souls of His children. . . . You have your Mass, you have your altars, you have begun to get your tabernacles. Now go out into the highways and hedges, and look for Jesus in the ragged and the naked, in the oppressed and the sweated, in those who have lost hope, and in those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus in them, and, when you have found Him, gird yourself with His towel of fellowship and wash His feet in the person of his brethren.
For any of you who have not read Frank Weston's speech, I would implore you to read it here.  It is very, very stirring stuff.

After our previous blogpost, when we recalled the different understandings of Anglo-Catholicism, specifically as regards the importance of unity, it is interesting to note that Weston made the groundbreaking move of sending the following telegram to Rome during the 1923 conference.
Sixteen thousand Anglo-Catholics in congress assembled offer respectful greetings to the Holy Father, humbly praying that the day of peace may quickly break.
He was of course savaged by the press and the protestant elements of the hierarchy for having dared to open the door to communication with Rome, but he also suffered rebukes from a number of prominent Anglo-Catholic friends, including some who were comfortably installed in the Anglican establishment.

Back to Sunday at St James's.  It was by delightful co-incidence that most of us in the Marylebone Ordinariate Group happened to kneel at the right place before the altar rail for Fr Pearson to be able to communicate us.  It could not have worked out better.

The procession around church was a joy (even if I must confess to being no fan of indoor processions of the Blessed Sacrament where the laity join in, if only to avoid traffic management issues and to encourage the faithful to pray in adoration upon their knees).  A be-coped Fr Colven bore the monstrance around the church, under a canopy, flanked by Fr Pearson and Fr Irwin (another former Anglican) as his assistants.  Fr Nicholas Kavanagh was also in procession (photos of Fr Kavanagh in his Anglican days as curate at St Mary's Bourne St can be found here).

A small number of photos are shown below, but perhaps the greatest joy of the procession was the hymns.

The first hymn is one we have mentioned before on this blog.  The immensely moving O Bread of Heaven, as sung at the Ordination Mass of our three Ordinariate monsignori came first, as the procession formed up and moved off. 

O Bread of Heaven, beneath this veil
Thou dost my very God conceal:
My Jesus, dearest treasure, hail!
I love Thee and, adoring, kneel;
Each loving soul by Thee is fed
With Thine own Self in form of Bread.

O food of life, Thou Who dost give
The pledge of immortality;
I live, no 'tis not I that live;
God gives me life, God lives in me:
He feeds my soul, He guides my ways,
And every grief with joy repays.

O Bond of love that dost unite
The servant to his living Lord;
Could I dare live and not requite
Such love - then death were meet reward:
I cannot live unless to prove
Some love for such unmeasured love.

Beloved Lord, in Heaven above
There, Jesus, Thou awaitest me,
To gaze on Thee with endless love;
Yes, thus I hope, thus shall it be:
For how can He deny me Heaven,
Who here on earth Himself hath given?
The second hymn was again full of significance for former members of the congregation of St Mary's Bourne Street congregation.  It was the Fr Faber classic Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All.  I confess, we did not sing it to a hymn tune I know, but at least we did not sing it to Stella, more often employed for Hail, Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star.  The tune I had hoped we would have was the following one, a very beautiful melody called Sweet Sacrament.

Fr Faber's hymn can be found in the St Mary's English Hymnal Supplement, few copies of which are in existence now, but being a hymnbook that, in pre-New English Hymnal days, filled in a few of the "gaps" as we might say in the catholicism of the English Hymnal.  Proving that Bourne St was once at the vanguard of catholic teaching, the words in the Supplement are Fr Faber's, whereas those in the NEH are somewhat different.

The third verse of the hymn, as a friend once observed, has the very distinct ring of an Eric Mascall sermon, of the kind he would preach at Bourne Street between Evensong and Benediction.  Eric Mascall has been mentioned at great length on this blog before, in the context of wondering what the great man might have done had he lived a little longer.

Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all,
How can I love Thee as I ought?
And how revere this wond'rous gift,
So far surpassing hope or thought.
Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore.
O make us love Thee more and more!
O make us love Thee more and more!

Had I but Mary's sinless heart,
To love Thee with, my dearest King;
O with what bursts of fervent praise,
Thy goodness, Jesus, would I sing!
Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore.
O make us love Thee more and more!
O make us love Thee more and more!

O, see, within a creature's hand,
The vast Creator deigns to be,
Reposing infant-like, as though
On Joseph's arm, on Mary's knee.
Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore.
O make us love Thee more and more!
O make us love Thee more and more!

Thy body, soul, and Godhead, all--
O mystery of love divine!
I cannot compass all I have,
For all Thou hast and art are mine.
Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore.
O make us love Thee more and more!
O make us love Thee more and more!

Sound, sound His praises higher still,
    And come ye Angels to our aid;
'Tis God, 'tis God, the very God,
Whose power both man and angels made.
Sweet Sacrament, we Thee adore.
O make us love Thee more and more!
O make us love Thee more and more!

Those who say that there is no Anglican tradition in Eucharistic worship in the Catholic Church would have had no choice to recant had they been present in Marylebone yesterday.  It was even clearer on the 15th January at the Ordinariate's First Anniversary celebrations of course, but still, we were utterly at home yesterday.

Indeed, Eric "Patrimony" Mascall quotations have been doing the rounds of the Catholic blogs on the internet this week, showing just how much Anglo-Catholic theology has been, at its best, in tune with the very best theology of Rome herself.  One particular favourite Mascall quotation on the mass is the following :
The Eucharist of the Church, is not either a commemoration or a dramatic imitation of what was done at the Last Supper; it is the same thing. ‘Do this.’ Both the Last Supper and the Eucharist bring about the anamnesis of the other.
Fresh from receiving Benediction, we left the church, greeted Fr Pearson at the door, acquired Ordinariate badges, and moved round to a nearby hostelry, where with true Anglican Patrimony we shared drinks and talked of mutual friends.

Did we feel that we had in any way missed out?  Did we feel we had lost something compared to the, it must be said, beautiful and spectacular way in which Corpus Christi is marked at Bourne St?  Well, it might not surprise you to learn that the answer is no.  Corpus Christi 2012 was for us a wonderful way of celebrating this most sacred mystery, in communion with the Successor of St Peter, in the heart of the Church that is the guardian of the sacraments, celebrating a feast that is at the core of the Church's teaching rather than celebrating in a context where to do so is seen as extreme and eccentric.
O Lord, who in a wonderful sacrament hast left us a memorial of thy passion; Grant us so to reverence the holy mysteries of thy Body and Blood, that we may ever know within ourselves the fruits of thy redemption.
Before concluding this very long blogpost with photos of yesterday in Marylebone (and with a bonus photo of ecumenical friendship in Oxford), let us counterbalance the very old, if splendid, picture of a Corpus Christi procession in Rome that can be found above with video footage from last year. 

Finally, an act of ecumenical friendship in honour of our Oxford connections: a photo of the Oxford Oratory's Corpus Christi procession as it passed Pusey House, with Pusey House regulars kneeling in the street in adoration of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  My Lord and my God.

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