Fr Simon Henry comments on Evensong in Oxford

11 07 2011

Fr Simon Henry commented on the celebration of Solemn Evensong & Benediction in Oxford last month – we have only just seen this and so post it here now:

Well, Evensong and Benediction went off very splendidly. The music, under Mr Alistair Reid was excellent, showcasing English composers. I’ve not met Mgr Burnham before but he was very welcoming and personable, however, the evening didn’t leave me any clearer as to what the Anglican patrimony of the Ordinariate actually is. The form of Evensong is indeed a conflation of Vespers and Compline and some of the prayers came from the American Book of Divine Worship (although personally I would have preferred to hear something adapted from the Book of Common Prayer but this, I suspect, is not something those who make up the Ordinariate would have used very much). Evensong in particular is, of course, Anglican, as were the translations of the psalms but the public singing of the Psalms is not uniquely Anglican (the singing being so very good might be, I suppose). Benediction, while it may have been abandoned by the majority of Catholic parishes, is still a Catholic practice. Perhaps what is part of the patrimony an attention to preaching. It was only as Mgr Burnham was preaching that it stuck me that Anglican sermon giving is different from most Catholic fare and certainly one area where we might benefit from taking some notes.

I think the Ordinariate is a very good thing and those coming into it are having to make quite brave acts of faith in what they leave behind but most of these Anglicans have been attempting to be catholic in their expression and belief for years and are more likely to have been using the English Roman Missal or the “tridentine” missal translated into English rather than the Book of Common Prayer or (heaven fore fend) the Alternative Service Book.

It seems to me that much of the “Anglican” patrimony they bring with them is in fact something that the Holy Father laments we have lost here in the West – a love of the liturgy, a care in celebrating it, a belief that it really is important and a desire that sacred worship be just that – have a sense of the sacred about it. Could it be that the “Anglican” patrimony is in fact much more Roman and much more Catholic than many Catholic parishes now experience?

Mgr Burnham made it quite clear they are still very much finding their way and may God bless them as they do so.


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