Monday, March 24, 2008

Holy Week at Seminary

As promised here is how we celebrated the most important week of the year - our apologies for the delay, we had a power cut at the seminary yesterday so blogging wasn't an option. Please note as you read this account that we are only in house for Holy Week every other year.

Palm Sunday

Normally we have the blessing of the palms and Proclamation of the Gospel outside, process round the building and into the chapel but weather conditions have not been good lately so we had it all inside and it turned out to be more beautiful. We had the blessing in the Upper Common Room, the Principal Celebrant (PC) was wearing our best red cope, and we processed down to the chapel from there, then the PC changed into our best red chasuble. The Passion was planned entirely by a seminarian who chose the readers and choreagraphed the drama. He was the Narrator and, obviously, the Deacon was Christ, they both read from the sanctuary and the other readers were dotted around the chapel.

Maundy Thursday

We brought our supper forward an hour to celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper at 7:30. The Mass setting was Orbis Factor (Mass XI) sung by the entire congregation. The Gloria was intoned by the PC followed by an organ ad lib and ringing of 4 sanctuary bells and the chapel bell after which the whole congregation sang the entire chant. The Mandatum was an Alan Rees three part tone sung beautifully by the Schola while the PC washed the feet of twelve Seminarians. Our Altar of Repose was incredible; a temporary altar was built in the narthex which was filled with candles. The Watch was held until Midnight when we sang Compline and Our Lord was processed to another chapel where He would spend the rest of the Triduum.

Good Friday

We had the same dilemma as the Holy Father and Fr Finigan. I was the Vestment Sacristan for Holy Week, the 'concelebrants' were to wear alb and stole and the PC and Deacon Chasuble and Dalmatic. Therefore my thought was to put the PC in one of our concelebration chasubles which are simply red with a silver/grey cross on the front and collar, however the matching dalmatics are ghastly, more a pink than a red and with a glittery silver cross on the front, so I didn't put them out. The other simple red chasubles have no matching dalmatics so I had to put our High Mass set out, a beautiful set made from a silky material with beautiful golden cross motifs on the orphrey, and the chasuble has a golden lining round the edge. The liturgy was the most moving of the three. The Acclamation before the Passion was Orlando Gibbons' 'Jesus the Christ' sung by the Shcola, and the Passion itself was William Byrd's two part chorus. The Rector sang the part of Christus, a seminarian sang the narration and an eight-strong schola sang the chorus (4 Tenors and 4 Basses) with three of the tenors taking the other parts. Tears were shed as a result of this incredible performance (if you'll forgive me for using such an inappropriate term). The General Intercessions were chanted to the Missal tone by the PC. The Reproaches were sung by the Chorus, an adaptation written by our own Director of Music in English and Greek.

Easter Vigil

Despite raging storms throughout the day and weather reporters threatening 30mph winds that evening it was perfect outside, a light breeze and a good temperature. One member of staff and a few seminarians had built a marvellous bonfire outside so that was lit just before we began the Service of Light and was blessed by the Rector (PC for this particular liturgy). We then processed through a completely dark seminary to the dark chapel at which point the sacristans lit some tea-lights dotted about. The Exsultet was sung by the Rector and two members of staff. After that came the Liturgy of the Word during which seven seminarians read the seven Old Testament readings and sang the Psalms. A Seminarian then intoned Peter Jones' Coventry Gloria, the organ ad lib, bell ringing and switching on of the electric lights and lighting of the side chapel candles then commenced and the seminarian canted the rest of the Gloria. After the New Testament reading Fr Rector intoned the Solemn Alleluia. I was a little disappointed here because last time, which was the first time I experienced the Vigil in seminary, we treated the Rector like a Bishop and had the Deacon come onto the Sanctuary crying, 'Reverend Father, I bring you news of great joy.' However, this year Father simply stood up and began the intonation. During the sprinkling of the newly blessed water the shola chanted the Vidi Aquam. The rest of the Mass was set to Paul Inwood's Coventry Mass. We celebrated the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ with an incredible buffet and pink and white champagne at 1am.

Easter Sunday

We woke up on Easter Sunday morning slightly confused as to which Solemnity it was as it was snowing, and it continued to snow for most of the day. We all went to the local convent to celebrate Lauds and Mass with the Sisters. We had Christopher Walker's Gloria in honour of St Jeanne Jugan and the rest of the Mass was set to Dufford and Schutte SJ. Naturally we recessed to 'Thine be the Glory' (Easter just isn't valid without it).

On behalf of the Seminarians Orthfully Catholic would like to thank all those involved in the planning and executing of the Holy Week liturgies and Sacred Triduum; the Priests, Deacon, servers, sacristans, flower arrangers, cleaners, polishers etc. We would like to thank two people in particular, the Director of Music and Liturgy who planned every single liturgical action in the minutest detail, and the MC who, having only just got the job after his predecessor was recently ordained Deacon, did a magnificent job of rehearsing the servers and clergy, ensuring that every rubric was met and done correctly, and generally making the liturgies a sight to behold and an experience that will never be forgotten. It only remains for us to bring everything we have learned into our parishes.

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