Wednesday, 15 August 2012

An Assumption Visit to St Eugene

The Marylebone Ordinariate Group is marking today's Solemnity in different places.  Most of us will be at St James's tonight, for the 7pm Solemn Mass, but I had the privilege to attend a Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the Parish of St Eugene and Ste Cécile in Paris this morning.

The good news is that the order of service is available online, so I am spared the need, or perhaps just the urge, to type out an excessively lengthy description.  I will, nonetheless, mention a few of what were for me the highlights of this morning's liturgy, and share some photos.

Before doing so, I will respond in advance to a question that is often posed in comments on posts we write that refer to the Extraordinary Form.  For example, in our post The Extraordinary Form in Hong Kong, and in Fr Hunwicke's First Mass, we received comments asking "What has this got to do with Anglican Patrimony?", or "What has this got to do with the Ordinariate?"

We replied then, and we say again, that to ask questions of that nature is to demonstrate a lack of understanding of what people who join the Ordinariate are doing.  They are not seeking a club in which they can re-enact scenes from the Chapel Royal or stand in a tableau representing the life of an Oxbridge College chapel, nor in which they can pretend that they operate in a replica of the Church of England (or often, of the Church of England as it probably never was and most certainly no longer is).  They are choosing to become Catholics, in communion with the Successor of St Peter, in obedience to the Gospel's call to Unity.  Anglicanorum Coetibus and the Ordinariates are a means to become and to be Catholics, bringing Anglican Patrimony with us, and knowing that the Holy Father and the Church recognise that we bring solid faith and tradition with us. 

Ordinariate members are not seeking, in any way, to deny that they are part of the wider Church, indeed the opposite is true.  We are Catholics who happen to be members of the Ordinariate: we are not Ordinariate members clinging on to an Anglican past and only reluctantly admitting to being Catholic.

People who look at Ordinariate members who on occasion attend Extraordinary Form Masses and from that conclude that there is no purpose to the Ordinariate have totally missed the point, and moreover display an unhealthy obsession with liturgy.  Members of the Ordinariate rejoice that their Anglican Patrimony is recognised and valued, but they know that Anglican Patrimony is about more than liturgy.  This argument is elaborated further here, and then in a follow up post here.

This morning was a joy, and I delight in being part of the One Church that accommodates me and my fellow Ordinariate members alongside Eastern and Western Rite Catholics, and indeed amongst them, today most particularly the people with whom I attended the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite at St Eugene.  We are all part of the One Fold, under One Shepherd.

As Ordinariate members, we are pleased to bring many things with us into the One Fold; but no-one should lose sight of the fact that, notwithstanding our identity and the gifts we bring, we are most definitely part of that One Fold, and we do not seek to isolate ourselves in a bubble of ersatz anglicana.  What is more, the fact that now as Catholics we are able to attend Mass all over the world with ease is a huge gift, in no way do we wish to hide from the rest of the wider Church in which we find ourselves.  We've had to do that before : never again.

Apologies for that introduction, but it is important to re-emphasise the point.  Back to this morning and St Eugene.  It is a very well known parish, but despite having spent most of the last five years in Paris, I had never visited.  As an aside, it was good to spot that St Eugene has the same tradition that St Mary's Bourne St has, being that those carrying the canopy at Corpus Christi wear white tie (for the avoidance of doubt, the first picture, outdoors, is St Eugene, the second, inside, is Bourne Street). 

Before Mass began, the congregation followed the procession of Our Lady to the Lady Altar (pictured below), all the while singing the Litany to the Virgin. 

We heard the choir sing the 3rd century hymn Sub Tuum Presidium, and meditated briefly on the Vow of Louis XIII, the whole text of which had been produced in the mass booklet (not just the famous paragraph I include below), before moving away again to the accompaniment of Psalm 19, Exaudiat te Dominus.  The last verse of Psalm 19, Domine Salvum Fac has featured several times on this blog of course, in a related if very different context. 
We have declared and declare that, in taking the very holy and glorious Virgin as the special protector of our Kingdom, we dedicated to her ourselves, our state, our Crown and our subjects, pleading her to inspire in us very holy behaviour and to defend this kingdom against the efforts of all its enemies, with great care, whether it may suffer under the scourge of war, or enjoy the sweetness of peace that we are asking God to deliver us with all our hearts, there are no paths of grace that do not lead to paths of glory.
Mass then began in the usual and familiar EF way (the setting was a rather nice three-part mass by Casciolini, which included very helpful quieter and slower sections for those places where one should nod or bow - adoramus, suscipe, Iesu.....).  The readings were chanted, something I will admit to missing since becoming a Catholic.  The Sequence Induant Iustitiam, was taken from the Paris Propers, and was sung in alternatim with the organ, in the best and most authentic French style.  The photos below are not very good, I'm afraid: the combination of a shaky hand, a desire not to create a distraction by taking pictures, and the bright lights of the sanctuary (which appear to give the Statue of the Virgin a most holy glow) thwarted me in attempts to do better.

One was often told to be wary of the quality of some of the preaching that is to be heard in the Catholic Church.  I must say that we in the Marylebone Group have absolutely no cause to share that view, and today was another occasion when the homily was of very good quality.  There was some explanation of what happened on 1 November 1950 with Munificentissimus Deus, demonstrating how the cheap jibes that Pope Pius XII somehow made something new up, or (the other extreme) that he simply told the world something it already knew, are both inaccurate.  Most interesting for a foreigner though was the explanation of how it came to be that in the middle of deserted August Paris (see pictures below), churches still fill up to celebrate the Mass in some considerable solemnity.  The effect of Louis XIII's vow lives on in the parishes of France on the Assumption.

The now very familiar text of the creed in Latin was followed by the offertory with its plainsong verse and a rather jolly hymn to a melody by Lully. The inaudible liturgy of the Extraordinary Form moved on before us, the great drama of Sacrifice of Calvary made present in front of our very eyes.

Then something rather striking happened, something I don't recall hearing before.  I have been to several Extraordinary Form Masses in the past, but I don't ever recall the Celebrant intoning the entire text of the Lord's Prayer alone, but aloud.  Whether that is a failure of my memory or not, it was extremely affecting.  What was very familiar though was the closing of the altar rails at this point, reminding me both of St Mary's Bourne St and of St James's Spanish Place - this might have been, I think, the first time I have seen altar rails in use in France, and so been able to receive the Sacrament on the tongue while kneeling.  Perhaps it is like that at Le Barroux: another failure of memory perhaps.

After the communion verse had been sung, we had the Magnificat chanted in the rather appealing French style, using the well known 17th century harmonisation from Notre Dame.  The version embedded below includes some decent singing, but does show the new altar at Notre Dame, which, in my very humble opinion, is arguably not an improvement on the Louis XIII High Altar that suffered so much damage in the French Revolution.

More music followed during communion, Domine Salvam Fac Galliam.  I include two versions of this below, the first from St Eugene itself in 2008, the other a louder version with full rasping organ, and with some rather inspiring accompanying images. 

As the Last Gospel was said, the congregation sang the Salve Regina to the same chant that we had known for many years in our Anglican days.  We sang it in Latin at Bourne St, so I had no difficulty singing along, although I shall have to work on my French pronounciation of Latin (particularly the letter "r" and the sound "us") in order to blend in better next time.

The notices were given (Father, of course, removed his maniple for this), during which we were told of the parish clergy's imminent trip to Russia, partially paid for by the generosity of parishioners, and of the efficacity of the Leonine Prayers, still said every day at St Eugene. 

Perhaps the highlight of the music for me was the hymn sung as the procession moved out of church.  Sadly it doesn't seem to be available on youtube, but the text and music are in the order of service, to which a link is provided at the top of this blogpost.

What a wonderful way to have spent some of this morning.  I think it's safe to say that I know where I'll be going next time I head to church in Paris.  The Schola Ste Cécile has its own blog and its own Facebook page, do consider following those.

As I left this lovely church, I couldn't help noticing that most rare of sights on France, a priest in soutane and fascia.  What a joy the parish of St Eugene is.  Since it was the height of mid-summer, despite Louis XIII's vow, I did not see St Eugene in its grandest mode (see picture and video below), but I was nonetheless thrilled to have fulfilled my obligation there today, in this busy parish that executes the liturgy with such great respect (as its multiple appearances on New Liturgical Movement, for example here, demonstrate).

1 comment:

  1. There is a rather pleasant whiff of French monarchism and patriotism about all this. Perhaps the Ordinariate could foster an English equivalent?

    Is the hymn 'Omni die dic Mariæ' the one we know from the EH as "Daily, daily, sing to Mary"?