People from across the Catholic community in Ottawa (including the Nuncio!) came together a few nights ago to celebrate a choral High Mass in the Anglican Use, the first time this particular feast day has been celebrated with full choral music by ordinariate Catholics in the city. (The first write-up from the evening can be found here: Anglican tradition Candlemas with the Papal Nuncio.)
The Feast of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple is the close of the opening portion of the Church’s liturgical year and the end of the Christmas season, and as such it is an incredibly rich occasion liturgically, didactically, prophetically, Biblically, and in its imagery. As our Lord himself submits to the law of Temple worship, so we Christians follow his example in praying the mass.
For this particular mass, the setting was Harold Darke’s Communion Service in E, commonly known as ‘Darke in E’. While a popular setting amongst Anglicans, many Catholics have never heard it, and many ordinariate congregations don’t yet have the musical resources to do such choral settings on a regular basis.
There were multiple motets, including Eccard’s When to the Temple Mary Went, Poston’s Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, and Byrd’s polyphonic alleluia proper, Alleluia Senex Puerum, from his great Gradualia.
Other propers, and chanted antiphons for the Candlemas rite at the beginning of mass, were done according to Healey Willan’s settings of the English chants in Gregorian plainsong, and the psalm was sung in Anglican chant as well.
The canticle Nunc Dimittis was sung from Stanford in C, which was a particularly poignant dose of patrimony for many of us.
There were also of course numerous classic Anglican hymns, including Of the Father’s Love Begotten, Sing We of the Blessed Mother, and At the Name of Jesus. The organist for the occasion was Matthew Larkin, and the splendid music was complemented by moments of profound silence and a great sense of peace and joy throughout the service.
Afterwards, many expressed how beautiful they found the liturgy and one Latin rite Catholic who normally isn’t able to attend mass with such sacred music commented “Everything I heard was beautiful… I get it. I so get it. It is uplifting and appropriate for the splendour of what is happening in a way that complements but does not distract. Bad music or beautiful music badly executed are both distracting. If this was my norm, wow…”
For us Anglican Catholics in the ordinariate, it is so important to not take our Anglican tradition for granted, but to cherish it and make full use of it in order for it to really assume, and grow into, its full potential in the Catholic Church.
The Anglican tradition, as Pope Benedict XVI so insightfully recognized, has immense potential to glorify God and evangelize souls. Its beauty reveals what Catholic worship really is and attracts people to the unity of the one universal Church.
It was a real blessing to have the Papal Nuncio with us, as well as numerous university students, CCO missionaries, and sisters from the Queenship of Mary, all of whom stayed for fellowship afterwards in the parish hall and many of whom came later to the pub too.
As we celebrate the Lord’s presentation in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem, it is only fitting that we present ourselves, our souls and bodies, as well as our worthy Anglican patrimony, before the Lord in his holy worship.
[Below are three clips from the evening: the Psalm in Anglican chant from the Canadian Psalter; the Introit in English plainsong; and the Communion motet, Poston’s Jesus Christ the Apple Tree]
Psalm 24 in Anglican chant, being sung through by some of the singers before the service. The chant is by J. Barnby and is taken from the Canadian Psalter. “…Who is the King of glory? even the Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.” :
The Introit was sung in English plainsong in a setting pointed by Healey Willan. Anglicans have sung Gregorian plainsong in English for generations, and this is most definitely a treasure we can share with the wider Latin Church. Suscepimus (Ps 48 :8,9,1): “We have waited O God for thy loving-kindness in the midst of thy temple; according to thy Name, O God, so is thy praise also unto the world’s end; Thy right hand is full of righteousness. Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised: In the city of our God, even upon his holy hill. Glory be… We have waited…” :
The Communion motet was the beautiful setting by Elizabeth Poston (1905-1987) of Jesus Christ the Apple Tree (18th century):
“It was revealed unto Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Anointed” -Communion Proper for Candlemas, DWM