Evensong & Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

Our worship at the 2019 Anglican Tradition Conference culminated with Choral Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, which can now be viewed online on Facebook and YouTube in full, and what an Anglican Catholic celebration it was!

sm-DSC_6208This particular service really shows in a most potent and beautiful way how the Anglican tradition and the wider Western Catholic tradition are in perfect harmony.

Our famous Anglican service of Evensong is of course a favourite of many, a popular manifestation of liturgical worship that draws worshippers and tourists to Anglican cathedrals across the English-speaking world. Now it can draw them to Catholic cathedrals as well, thanks to Pope Benedict’s ordinariates!

sm-DSC_4717Combining the Latin services of Vespers and Compline from the Daily Office, Evensong is formed principally of psalms, preces & responses, canticles, an anthem, and a hymn. On this occasion, we sang a number of Anglican choral classics. The Mag & Nunc canticles were from the Gloucester Service by Herbert Howells. The anthem was Bring Us O Lord, a setting by William Harris of a prayer by John Donne. The versicles and responses were by Bernard Rose, former Choirmaster at Magdalen College, Oxford. The music of each composer is widely sung in Anglican cathedral and collegiate churches.

In more Anglo-Catholic churches, the liturgical form of adoration found in Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament has long been appended as the conclusion of Evensong either regularly or on special occasions. For this service, we sang Healey Willan’s solid hymn Lord Enthroned with Heavenly Splendour (St Osmund), along with a climactic descant by Matthew Larkin, our organist at all three conference liturgies. The choir, directed by Peter Mahon, also sang Willan’s beautiful motet Ave Verum, which more than gives William Byrd’s version a run for its money! It was nice to do music by Dr Willan at each service for a conference held in Toronto, his adopted hometown.

While the particular form of Benediction has taken shape over the past 800 years, in the Anglican community its adoption was an expression of Anglicanism’s recovery of its own Latin Christian identity. Including most centrally a time of adoration and a blessing of the congregation by the priest with the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance, the ancient hymns O Salutaris and Tantum Ergo, both by St Thomas Aquinas, were sung in a patrimonial chant setting, as was the Laudate Dominum (psalm 117) with the Adoremus in Aeternum antiphon. These plainsong chants are derived of course from the Latin originals and deserve to be much better known. They can be incredibly stirring, as can be heard in the video, and effectively raise one’s heart and mind to the solemn act of worship being conducted.

To celebrate this very Anglican and very Catholic service at the end of our conference marking ten years of Anglicanorum Coetibus was both fitting and deeply moving. It was a beautiful way to end our time of thanksgiving and was duly followed by a patrimonial drinks reception!

Watch the video here:

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