Tuesday, 31 July 2012

O Lux et Decus Hispaniae

A joyful week of celebration at St James’s, Spanish Place.  Wednesday was the Feast of Title, and the Right Reverend Dom Cuthbert Brogan, Abbot of Farnborough, celebrated and preached at Solemn Mass. 

The Spanish Ambassador was also present, marking the historic connexion between the people of Spain and St James.  Like so many of the older parishes in the Westminster diocese (parish records date back to 1732), St James's Spanish Place can trace its origins to penal times and to the benefactions of a nearby Catholic embassy, and a fascinating explanation of the parish's history can be found on the parish website.

Having previously been based in Ely Place, the Spanish Embassy was once in Hertford House (now the Wallace Collection) and in 1791 a chapel was built in Spanish Place (close to the site of the present church, and of sufficient renown to have been mentioned by Thackeray in Vanity Fair as the church attended by the Marchioness of Steyne) to serve the needs of Catholics serving there.

Although the Embassy moved elsewhere long ago and the London Vicariate assumed control of the chapel in 1827, and although the chapel was replaced by the present building in the 19th century, there are many reminders of Spanish heritage in the church, including Alfonso XIII's personal standard, which hangs above the door from the sacristy into church, and the twin crowns situated above two prime positions in choir set aside for visits from the King and Queen of Spain.  It is, however, mere coincidence that the colours of the Spanish flag are reflected in the colours of the Marylebone Cricket Club.

At that mass last week, the Marylebone Ordinariate Group was also joined for the first time by its newest member, Rupert Brennan Brown.  Known to most of the group from his time at St Mary’s Bourne Street (and the third member of the group to be married there), Rupert was received into the Church some years ago but has now joined the Ordinariate, taking advantage of the provision that enables former Anglicans who were received into the Church prior to Anglicanorum Coetibus to become members of the Ordinariate.

A great occasion, happy for the parish of course and for those of us privileged to be hosted by it, but also happy very specifically for us in the Marylebone Ordinariate Group, because now we found ourselves reunited with one from whom we had been separated.  A certain extract from Blessed John Henry Newman's Apologia pro Vita Sua came to mind.
And I earnestly pray for this whole company, with a hope against hope, that all of us, who once were so united, and so happy in our union, may even now be brought at length, by the Power of the Divine Will, into One Fold and under One Shepherd.
We were also delighted to note that among the clergy in the sanctuary, Fr Christopher Pearson was one of the concelebrants. 

For us, the highlight among a venerable feast of music was Victoria's O Lux et Decus Hispaniae.
O lux et decus Hispaniae Sanctissime Jacobe, qui inter Apostolos primatum tenens, primus eorum martyrio laureatus.  Alleluia.

O light and grace of Spain, most holy James, he who held primacy among the Apostles, was the first of them to take the laurels of martyrdom. Alleluia.
This powerful piece, previously unknown to us, sat beautifully alongside other much more familiar music.  The setting of the ordinary of the mass was Mozart's Coronation Mass, and as well as a Jubilate Deo from Giovanni Gabrieli, we were delighted to hear the Finale from Vierne's Organ Symphony No. 1, which had also been played after the Ordinariate's Anniversary Solemn Evensong and Benediction at St James's earlier this year.  Those of you interested in hearing what music in St James's sounds like, as well as merely seeing plenty of photos of this stunning building, can find a video on our post entitled A Perfect Setting.

A few photos of the great day follow below.  Those of you interested in the Spanish connection will note that the picture of the Abbot preaching (so reminiscent of the excellent photos of Monsignor Newton preaching in that same place some months ago) shows the aforementioned personal standard of King Alfonso XIII of Spain in the background. 

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