John Whitehead: Report on Oxford Evensong

22 10 2011

John Whitehead writes at his blog Once I Was A Clever Boy:

Yesterday evening I attended the second of the Solemn Evensongs held at Blackfriars by the Oxford Ordinariate group. As last time this was well attended, the congregation including Ordinariate members, other relatively recent converts like myself, cradle Catholics and some who are still within the Church of England.

The service was to celebrate the feast of St Fridewide, and the form of service now has the Vatican recognitio, rather than using the version from the US Book of Common Order – thus the suffrage for The Queen was in its proper place.

The music was provided by The Newman Consort, the officiant was Mgr. Andrew Burnham and the preacher Dom Aidan Bellenger OSB, Abbot of Downside.

The collect was translated from the Sarum Missal as published in Antwerp in 1527, just before all the trouble began, and a worthy reminder of patrimony:

Almighty and eternal God, source of truth and lover of virginity, grant us, we beseech thee, that the merits of St Frideswide, thy virgin so pleasing to thee, may be as a commendation of us to thess whose life by its chastity gave to thee such satisfaction. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and regneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Afterwards there was Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and with those two superb twelfth century hymns indicative of thec Benedictine, indeed Cluniac, spirituality of the age – Peter Abelard’s O what their joy and their glory must be and Bernard of Cluny’s Jerusalem the golden – and both translated by the incomparable, and Anglican, J.M.Neale.

This was an opportunity for the Anglican patrimony in the use of traditional language and choral music to be made available to the wider Catholic Church.

I have to say that I genuinely prefer the structure of Vespers to Evensong, which of course merges Vespers and Compline, and miss the antiphons to the psalms and canticles, but the combined effect of words, music and ceremonial was very conducive to prayerful reflection.

I am in such matters inclined to the view that patrimony is more about the way things are done rather than the specific forms of Anglican liturgy – that has, after all, been debatable territory since very early in the Oxford Movement – but that is in no way to fault what was offered last night.

Afterwards there was a reception in the Aula at Blackfriars and an opportunity to catch up with friends old and new, and the prospect of another such Evensong next term.


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