Sunday, 3 June 2012

From Rebuff to Jubilee

Blog writers like to know how their readers find them.  "Domine, salvam fac reginam nostram" is a term that seems to be searched for a lot on google, and searches for that phrase have led to many a reader stumbling our blog. 

That term comes from a well known prayer said for the monarch, the French and thence Canadian origins of which we explained in a post we published on the anniversary of the Queen's accession earlier this year.  The post also provides an anecdote as to the the significance that St James's has in the history of the British Royalty and the Catholic Church.  Here then is that prayer, which, in accordance with the instructions of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, we said after the blessing at mass today, but before the final dismissal.

Domine, salvam fac reginam nostram Elizabeth
Et exaudi nos in die, qua invocaverimus te.
Lord, save Elizabeth, our Queen
And heed us when we call on Thee

Almighty God, we pray for your servant Elizabeth our Queen, now by your mercy reigning over us. Adorn her yet more with every virtue and remove all evil from her path: that with her consort and all the royal family she may come at last in grace to you, who are the way, the truth and the life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Just as with the article on Domine, Salvam Fac, today's blogpost depends heavily on Fr Colven's parish notes for this week.  The second paragraph reminds us of just how much Britain has changed over this past century, and we can rejoice that in contrast to the rebuff that was given to Cardinal Hinsley, our present Queen referred to Cardinal Hume as "my Cardinal".  Progress indeed.  Let us pray that the growth and development of the Catholic Church will continue throughout this land, through the Ordinariate, through the welcome given to Catholics arriving from other lands, and through the people of this Sceptred Isle finding their way to the faith of the Church. 
The Rector writes ...

No one could have had a more exalted understanding of the nature of monarchy than the 17th century French king, Louis XIV. The court at Versailles was the byword for opulence and as Nancy Mitford writes in her biography “The Sun King” Louis saw himself as having a special relationship with God – in the chapel at Versailles all the chairs faced not the altar but the royal box at the back where only the king was allowed to face God! English monarchs of the period toyed with the same ideas but the Divine right concept was literally cut down to size by Oliver Cromwell and then the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 with the emergence of a constitutional monarchy (governing in tandem with parliamentary checks and balances) which is basically the situation with which we continue to live today (though as late as the 1950’s it is recorded that a "Salve" was still being sung at the seminary at Allen Hall, then at Ware, for the success of the Jacobite cause!).

In 1935, Cardinal Hinsley summed up the attitude of Catholics: “my faith tells me that genuine loyalty is due to my true king, and an enlightened patriotism adds to this a sense of duty” - but those words were written in response to a rebuff from the then government (in the form of the Home Office) who had refused to accept a loyal address from the Catholics of the United Kingdom to George V and Queen Mary on the Silver Jubilee of their coronation. There has certainly been an inherited ambiguity in the relationship between Catholics and the British monarchy – and it would be naïve not to recognise that the long centuries of persecution and the denial of full civil rights have left their mark – but as this weekend we return thanks to Almighty God for the sixty years reign of Queen Elizabeth we are conscious of the changes which have taken place during her reign.

Britain today is very different from the year of the Accession in 1952 – less cohesive, ethnically profoundly mixed, significantly richer in its complexity – and Empire has transformed itself into a Commonwealth of diverse peoples. Perhaps the greatest gift the Queen has brought to this era of rapid change is to allow the institution to embrace new situations while remaining a force for stability, and nowhere has this been more marked than in the evolving acceptance of differing faith communities in the national life. Catholics no longer experience the marginalisation of earlier generations (though indifference might well prove to be more damaging in the long run than hostility): much of this has to do with the evident warmth with which the Queen received both Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict on their pastoral visits to our country and, of course, Queen Elizabeth did talk affectionately of Basil Hume as “my Cardinal”, a phrase which must have had some of her forbears spinning in their graves. It is hard to overestimate the watershed marked by the recent state visit to the Irish Republic: for British Catholics, most of whom until recently having Irish antecedents, this was the healing gesture which laid to rest so much inherited tension and bad memory.

It is with full hearts and minds that Catholics will this weekend offer the prayer “ Domine salvum fac” at all Masses, as suggested by the Bishops of England and Wales.
At the end of mass, we sang a plainchant Te Deum to give thanks for the 60 years of the Queen's reign, and mass at St James's at 10am tomorrow will be offered for the Queen's intentions. 

Not, I hasten to add, that during mass we focused too much on the secular events of the day, as significant and historic as they were.  The mass was most definitely that of Trinity Sunday, upon which theme Fr Colven gave a very clear and succinct homily.  This was doubly impressive because, at least on the subject of the Trinity, a clear and succinct homily, with all due respect, seems often to be at the outer edge of many a clergyman's abilities. 

The music was particularly fine this morning.  The organ voluntary that was squeezed in between the end of the 0930 Extraordinary Form Mass and the 1030 Solemn Latin Mass was a personal favourite, the JS Bach Prelude in E flat BWV552.  Time did not allow for the fugue to be played as well, which is rather a shame as the triple fugue on the theme of a well-known hymn tune "St Anne" is a very fine piece.  Perhaps though, the associations that would have been conjured up in the mind of anyone familiar with the words most often set in this country to that hymn tune ("O God, our help in ages past") would arguably not have been appropriate for a day of such national celebration. 

The setting of the ordinary of the mass was the Haydn Missa Sancti Nicolai.  This is a personal favourite (it was the setting used at my wedding in St Mary's Bourne St), and a very fine piece.  We have included the very beautiful Kyrie on this blog before (in a post on Archbishop Amigo of Southwark and Bishop St Nicholas of Myra), and so this time here is the Sanctus.  It has one of the hallmarks of a classic Viennese mass, the threefold chordal repetition of the word "sanctus" occuring very quickly at the beginning: supposedly, so the story goes, to spare hoi oligoi likely to have been the first intended hearers of this setting the burden of having to wonder if they might yet raise their heads after having bowed.  So much easier than with those complicated polyphonic settings, you see.  The story may be no more than that, a story, but like many other similar stories, is vaguely credible. 

To conclude this trinity (plus one for Our Lady) of musical examples, here is something we did not have this morning, but which is a Trinity piece of which I am extremely fond.  It is a wonderful motet that will bring you closer to having a keen interest in Sebastian de Vivanco, a near contemporary of Victoria, who like his more famous fellow composer, was born in Avila and went on to become not only a prominent church musician and composer, but also a priest.  He finished his days as Professor of Music at Salamanca University and as the maestro di cappella at Salamanca Cathedral.  Vivanco, and his contempories St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross (both of whom also had strong connections with Salamanca), represent some of the most well known contributors to the Spanish Counter-Reformation.

Before signing off, there is exciting news about next week at St James's. Not only are we to mark the transferred Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (or to use the name we would have used in our Anglican days, "Corpus Christi") with a procession, but we are also to have a visiting preacher, a priest of the Ordinariate indeed.    For those of you who wish to mark Corpus Christi on the "proper day", there is an 11am mass in the extraordinary form on Thursday.

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