Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Sanctus Magnus...

Sunday Mass at St Magnus the Martyr was out of my experience. It was the first vernacular Liturgy I had attended in literally months, although most of the Ordinary was in Latin. The Propers were chanted to an English plainsong melody, which sounded rather nice. The Hymn was ''bouncy,'' and not really to my taste (or some others seemingly). Before the Prayer, the Celebrant said: The Lord be with you, to which the congregation replied: And with thy spirit - an accurate rendering of et cum spiritu tuo, of course. The Prayers were read from the English Missal, and at the Sedilia, which is at variance with the Roman praxis at a Sung Mass (and High Mass) of the Celebrant standing at the Epistle corner of the Altar, but the English was of an archaic and more courteous mode (much nicer than the mistranslations of ICEL). There were three Scripture readings, a revived ancient practice though using the modern Roman lectionary cycle. The lessons were read by a layman at a pulpit outside the Sanctuary, and the Gospel by the Celebrant in the same place. The Symbol of Faith was sung in English, to a melody I am not familiar with (though I thought it rather catchy). Curiously the Chalice, burse etc were brought to the Altar at the Offertory by the Master of Ceremonies (Roman praxis for a Sung Mass is for the Chalice to be arrayed on the spread corporal in the centre of the Altar with the burse on the Gospel side between the Altar cards - only at High Mass is it brought from the Credence table by the Subdeacon).

A hymn was sung at the Offertory. The Orate Fratres and Suscipiat were both said allowed and in English. Curiously the Preface was read and not sung (there may have been a non-liturgical reason for this), although the Sanctus was sung. I don't know whether the Celebrant read used the Roman Canon or not. There were two Torchbearers to greet the Elevation. The Domine non sum dignus was said only once, and by all the congregation with the Celebrant. I was delighted to see Communion administered under both kinds, which seemed to work rather well. The Celebrant adminstered the sacrament under the form of bread, as the MC held a communion plate beneath the chin of communicants, who knelt, and a senior server administered the Chalice, and wiped it with a purificator. If only this salutary custom could be integrated into Roman High Mass. Communion under both kinds is something I have felt strongly about for years.

After Mass I had a chance to properly look around the church, which I hadn't visited for many years. I was glad to see a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham - all too many Catholics are fond of foreign saints and shrines, such as the Curé of Ars and Lourdes when there is nothing wrong with English piety. Walsingham is older than Lourdes, and old English saints are just as holy and heroic as continental ones. At any rate saints from the first millenium seem more ''real'' to me. I was also glad to notice that the sacrament is not reserved at the High Altar but at a side altar with a nice altar piece - which is more traditional. I was made very welcome at St Magnus the Martyr and will certainly go there again.

Before I went home someone asked me my opinion of vernacular Liturgy. I don't think it's the worst thing in the world. The absolute worst thing you can do liturgically (other than use the liturgical books of 1962) is face the wrong way, which they certainly don't do at St Magnus. I think that half the problems of the modern Catholic Church would be alleviated if they followed the example of the Anglo-Catholics at St Magnus - have the Old Rite...in English, if you so desire. I prefer Latin liturgy myself, but English is not as big a threat to Tradition as some things are - such as turning your back on the East, or using modern inferior propers for the Assumption.


  1. '...where the walls
    Of Magnus Martyr hold
    Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.'

    Thanks for sharing this experience.

  2. Patrick,

    Thanks for your post. Just to clear up a few points about the Liturgy for the benefit of readers.

    1. The altar book in use, and the source of the collects, was the Anglican Missal. This is really our "Sunday book" and when we use the English Missal properly, the attendent ceremonial is observed entirely also.
    2.The Creed is sung to a melody by Marbecke, who wrote a few easily sung English Masses which you can find at the back of the English Hymnal.
    3. As MC, I would have put the chalice on the Altar at the start of Mass, but as thurifer, there wasn't a lot I could do!
    4. We used the Interim Rite, which is a favourite of Anglo-Catholics of a certain type. In the past, it fulfilled the priest's obligation to use the Book of Common Prayer in public worship, whilst also allowing him to secretly pray the Roman Canon (minus the qui pridie, of course) which he says under the Sanctus and Benedictus. So where in an old rite Roman Mass there would be silence, the Anglican priest sometimes fills it with the "prayerbook canon" words of consecration which is the "interim" 1549 version (the best one, and allowed by certain bishops since 1662).
    5. The English Missal is seen my many as a superlative translation of the Latin into a familiar and reverent english idiom. You ought to look online and skim some of the blessings etc, the language of which can be quite fruity.

    Thanks again for your visit and write-up, you are ever welcome in the Pews of S. Magnus (not an English saint, but the liturgy of his feast days is an adventure in itself)

  3. Patricius,

    I enjoyed reading this post; thank you. I found the Latin enjoyable, mostly because I was pleasantly surprised that I could understand it.

    Your post brings back reminiscences of my days as an Anglican. Liturgy was very much as you describe then. Would that it were the same in the run-of-the-mill Catholic Church. I also agree with your points about 'home grown' devotions.

    Anyway, thank you for a good read this morning, and do churn some more out. You have four weeks until I go to the Land of No Internet.

    God bless.

  4. Joseph, nor a Martyr seemingly, but a not universally known saint, which is well, and I often get sick of seeing churches dedicated to ''Our Lady'' of whatever. I must say again I was delighted by your statue of Our Lady of Walsingham - if I go to Walsingham again, I'll go to the Anglican shrine I think. Thanks for your clarification about the minor points that I missed - it was after all my first experience of Sunday morning Anglican liturgy.

    Mark, I'm glad you enjoyed this post (did you see the joke I left in the Latin part? It was as I sat down to pray...)

  5. This post reminds me of a visit to an Anglo-Catholic Church in Washington, DC (can't remember the name) many years ago...
    beautiful music and ritual; I believe it was very close to the Old Roman Rite with English, Latin propers sung; a beautiful polyphonic Mass.
    I, also, have a great devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham...being of British descent (a whole mix of the lot!)...Our Lady of Nazareth; our patroness.
    The English saints are awesome, I agree!

  6. No, sadly I didn't, dear Patricius. You shall have to teach me!

    I never formally learned Latin, so in some places I am but working out the gist, as opposed to the true meaning. Being a polyglot has both advantages and disadvantages.

  7. At one time I was in possession of an all English Missal, probably between the wars origin. Real Anglo-Catholic, of course, with the only give-away being reference to the pope as "pastor inter pares". [Never loan that which you cherish!]

    Also I recollect the wartime and immediate post-war with BBC daily Evensong and being able to follow ot with my St. Andrew's Missal.