Friday, September 14, 2012

Ordinariate Evensong and Benediction

Last weekend, I joined in celebrating with the new Ordinariate parish in Melbourne, based henceforth at Holy Cross, South Caulfield.  As I was staying with a friend in Essendon, I had quite a drive to get there – about 20 km across town; and I didn't have an e-tag for the tollway...

Two friends of mine attended the Ordination of the Ordinariate's four Melbourne priests on Saturday, Our Lady's Birthday, and with one of them I attended the Ordinariate Mass on Sunday the 9th of September.  But David has already blogged about that, and I've left some comments there on his blog also, so I won't repeat those details here.  (Apologies for not blogging here earlier, but I didn't have my laptop with me.)

Now, however, I will mention my experience of Ordinariate Evensong and Benediction, celebrated for the first time last Sunday, at 7 pm.  Fr Christopher Seton presided in green cope (which was changed to white for Benediction), assisted by two servers in cassock and surplice (they carried candles, and one doubled as thurifer); the same organist as in the morning doubled as soloist for the singing.  The congregation was very small, less than a dozen (there had been seventy at the morning Mass – and I know that some had been going to the first Mass of one of the new priests at Mentone late that afternoon, which may explain the low numbers, as also the fact that the newly-received Ordinariate flock is spread throughout metropolitan Melbourne), but this will grow.  An organ prelude accompanied the entrance of the ministers.

As is the general Anglican practice, at least on feasts when the service is sung, the penitential preface to Evensong was omitted, as was all after the Third Collect (instead, Benediction followed).  In place of the penitential opening, Fr Seton began "In name of the Father...", then – still standing – intoned the familiar versicles "O Lord, open thou our lips...", "O God, make speed to save us...", the "Glory be" and "Praise ye the Lord".

The psalms chanted were Pss 73, Quam bonus Israel, and 77, Voce mea ad Dominum. While they were sung with Gregorian (or Sarum) psalm tones (I. 4. and II. 1.), as I have never attempted to chant in Tudor English before, it seemed more prudent to simply listen to the music.  The Magnificat (during which the altar, then the priest, servers and congregation were censed) after the First, and the Nunc dimittis after the Second Lesson, were sung in like manner.

First one, then the other server went to the lectern to read the First and Second Lessons, according to the RSV (I checked this by reading along on my iPhone), these being Isaiah 45:1-13 and St Matthew 22:1-33 (I wonder if the server had been meant to stop at verse 13, but just kept reading).  They announced and concluded the Lessons in the  appointed words of the BCP.  Following that old Anglican custom, the Office Hymn – Deus Creator omnium, "Creator of the earth and sky" (New English Hymnal, 152) – was sung after the First Lesson, before the Magnificat.

Bizarrely, a collection was taken up during this hymn!  I've never liked the Anglican love of collections at each and every service, nor the curious practice of putting the offerings into an alms-dish held by the server, and then lifting up the same before the priest, who makes the sign of the cross over it (sanctifying the money, I suppose) before it is borne off for safekeeping in the sacristy.

The exact wording of the 1662 BCP was followed for Evensong, even reading the Collect for the 14th Sunday after Trinity; so I joined with all in the Lord's Prayer beginning "Our Father, which art in heaven...".  After the Third Collect, however, the service was concluded with "The Lord be with you", "Let us bless the Lord" and "May the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God rest in peace".  Evensong took forty minutes.

Benediction came next, lasting for twenty minutes, thus filling out the hour.  The altar and surrounds were bedecked with no less than thirty-six candles!  (I have a eye that notes such minute details, as readers may have by this point deduced.)  We sang, not an anthem, but a hymn, "Virgin born, we bow before thee" (NEH 187), in veneration of the Blessed Mother and her Divine Son, while all was readied for Benediction.

Benediction began with the very familiar words and tune of O salutaris hostia (in English), so I was glad to break into full voice at last while the Sanctissimum was solemnly exposed in the monstrance.  Fr Seton, kneeling at a prie-dieu before the altar, led us all in three short prayers before the Blessed Sacrament (I recall him quoting words of St Anselm and St Augustine), then was sung Tantum ergo (in English) with the usual versicle and collect, albeit in a slightly unfamiliar translation.  (After the service, I mentioned to him the usual Australian practice of saying the prescribed Prayer for Christian Unity just before Tantum ergo.)  First being vested with the humeral veil, he then went up the altar steps and gave Benediction while the servers censed and rang the bell.

The Divine Praises were next repeated (the only verbal difference being "Comforter" in place of "Paraclete"), then the singing of Adoremus and Psalm 116(117) – in English, however, which I have hardly ever done, and in the Prayer Book version.  This business of worship in a sacral vernacular is unfamiliar to me, especially at Benediction, which even today is often sung mainly in Latin in my experience.

The Blessed Sacrament having been reposed in the tabernacle, we all sang "Let all mortal flesh keep silence" (NEH 295), Moultrie's great Englishing of the ancient anthem sung in the Liturgy of St James during the Great Entrance.  The organ played as the ministers processed out.

It was good to meet and chat a little with Fr Seton after the service, and to receive his blessing.  Ad multos annos!  And may the Ordinariate flourish under the protection of the Most High.

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