Guest post by a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
In January 2013, the historic church of Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Gregory, Warwick Street, was generously given to the care of the Personal Ordinariate by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols. The church, which once served as the chapel of the Portuguese and then Bavarian embassies in London, was damaged in the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780, as well as being the venue for the marriage of Evelyn and Laura Waugh in 1937, and the site of a Marian shrine given special privileges by Pope Pius IX.
Blessed John Henry Newman, the patron of the Personal Ordinariate in the UK, visited the church, and mentions this in his Apologia pro vita sua. More significantly, writing to A. J. Hammer in 1845, Newman spoke about the authenticity and continuity of the Catholic Church compared to Anglicanism, saying “To my mind the overbearingly convincing proof is this - that were S. Athanasius or S. Ambrose in London now, they would go to worship, not at S. Paul’s Cathedral, but to Warwick Street...”. This point was alluded to by the Ordinary, the Right Reverend Monsignor Keith Newton, in his Chrism Mass homily in the church on Fig Monday.
Warwick Street remains a parish of the Archdiocese of Westminster, serving the faithful of the Archdiocese as well as being a church ‘dedicated to the life of the Personal Ordinariate’. This is important to remember, and was the principal reason for the use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in these first days, rather than the distinctive ‘Anglican Use’. That said, a number of elements of the Anglican liturgical patrimony were employed, and it is hoped that this summary might show how and where these were used.
On Palm Sunday, as at each of the major liturgies of Holy Week, the Ordinary presided. The procession from Golden Square, where Cardinal Manning once lived, round to the west door of the church, was met by Orlando Gibbons’ Hosanna to the Son of David, performed by musicians hired specially for the week through the generosity of the Friends of the Ordinariate.
The Ordinary, assisted by a deacon and concelebrating priests, began the rite and then led the procession during the singing of the hymn All glory, laud, and honour, translated by the Anglican cleric John Mason Neale in 1854. During the entrance to the church and the incensation of the altar, the Introit was sung, using music of the Anglican Use Gradual. The Ordinary of the Mass was sung to the Missa Aeterna Christi Munera by Palestrina, a piece of undoubtable Catholic musical patrimony, but nonetheless well-known in the repertory of English Cathedrals, Anglican and Catholic.
The readings for the Mass (and indeed all ceremonies in the week) came from the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Second Edition, as the lectionary authorised for use in the Personal Ordinariates. As yet, no sung passion according to Saint Matthew is available and so this was read by the deacon and two priests. Following this, Fr Mark Elliot Smith gave the homily. Fr Elliot Smith was, at the end of the Mass, nominated as the administrator of the parish by Mgr Newton.
The Creed was sung in Latin to Credo I, and the offertory chant was sung from the Anglican Use Gradual, followed by the hymn My song is love unknown. Throughout the week, certain elements of the Mass were sung in Latin. These included the Creed (where needed) and the Lord’s Prayer and embolism. It is hoped that these signify, in a liturgical way, the universal nature of the Catholic Church, and the place of the Personal Ordinariates within it. Equally, throughout the week, the Roman Canon was the only Eucharistic Prayer used in the building.
During Holy Communion the hymn, Glory be to Jesus was sung, and the Mass was concluded with the singing of the Angelus, to a tune known well to many converts from Anglicanism.
On Monday of Holy Week, traditionally known as Fig Monday, almost 80 priests of the Personal Ordinariate attended the Chrism Mass at Warwick Street. Held on Monday because of distance (some came from the highlands of Scotland, others from south Cornwall), this was celebrated by the Apostolic Nuncio to the Court of Saint James, the Most Reverend Antonio Mennini. The liturgy was enriched by the Mass in G of Franz Schubert and Thomas Tallis’s setting of If ye love me. The well-known Watts & Co. of London generously loaned a white/gold High Mass set for this occasion. The vestments were in the so-called Borromean style, which at first might seem incongruous considering the occasion, until one recalls that S. Charles Borromeo defended the faith in his conversations with the Anglican high church luminary, Lancelot Andrewes. This is perhaps a small and somewhat niche point, but one that perhaps points to the mutual enrichment that restored full ecclesial communion allows.
During the Mass, Mgr Newton preached and received the renewal of priestly promises. Hymns during the Mass included Newman’s Praise to the Holiest to the tune Billing, complete with a fanfare and descant by the Director of Music of the Catholic Cathedral in Brentwood, as used at the beatification of Cardinal Newman in Cofton Park, Birmingham, during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
Each evening of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, a simple said Mass was celebrated at the Lady Chapel altar in the church. This was preceded by an hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the opportunity for confessions with priests of the Personal Ordinariate. Each evening Mass was celebrated ad orientem, using the fine vestments in the parish sacristy and the Roman Canon. A brief address was given at each Mass and, on Tuesday evening, a former Anglican clergyman was received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. As an aside, it worth noting that at all celebrations from Palm Sunday onwards, Holy Communion was distributed to kneeling communicants using the beautiful communion rails - given to the parish by the Duke of Norfolk and designed by the architect of the sanctuary (and Westminster Cathedral), Bentley - and communion plates. Holy Communion was offered in both kinds when possible, using the Anglican method of the minister retaining the chalice (rather than the communicant taking it) as a way of ensuring reverence and dignity in the practice.
The evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday was celebrated at 7.30pm and was concelebrated by priests of the Personal Ordinariate and a Geze Rite priest resident in the parish. The Mass for Four Voices of William Byrd was sung, together with the offertory motet Ubi Caritas by Maurice Durufle. The propers were sung from the Anglican Use Gradual (as noted before), and the hymn O thou, who at thy Eucharist didst pray was sung during Holy Communion. This hymn, written by the 19th century lyricist W. H. Turton, has a particular poignancy for those who have entered the Church through the provision of Personal Ordinariates, containing as it does these words:
For all thy Church, O Lord, we intercede;
make thou our sad divisions soon to cease;
draw us the nearer each to each, we plead,
by drawing all to thee, O Prince of Peace;
thus may we all one Bread, one Body be,
through this blest Sacrament of unity.
We pray thee too for wanderers from thy fold;
O bring them back, good Shepherd of the sheep,
back to the faith which saints believed of old,
back to the Church which still that faith doth keep;
soon may we all one Bread, one Body be,
through this blest Sacrament of unity.
Mgr Newton celebrated the Mandatum rite during the Mass, and during the transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose, the Pange Lingua was sung to the English Hymnal setting Of the glorious body telling. The solemn watch was kept, mainly by young people from amongst the serving team assembled from the week, until midnight.
On Good Friday the solemn Celebration of the Lord’s Passion took place at 3.00pm. Due to illness, two priests acted as assistant clergy for the liturgy - between them assisting with the singing of the passion and the veneration of the cross, in place of a deacon. They were assisted in choir by a third priest.
The Respond was sung to plainchant from the Anglican Use Gradual, and the Gradual itself was sung to the exquisite setting of Christus factus est by Anton Bruckner. The Passion according to Saint John was sung, including the ancient lament tone for the final paragraphs. The Solemn Intercessions were sung, including the flectamus genua, by the celebrant and an assistant priest. During the Veneration of the Holy Cross by the faithful, the hymn Crux Fidelis was sung to a traditional English translation, making use of the chant of the Roman Liturgy. During Holy Communion the hymn O sacred head, sore wounded was sung to music by J. S. Bach. Stations of the Cross and the veneration of a relic of the True Cross were celebrated at 6.00pm.
On Holy Saturday evening the Sacred Triduum culminated in a moving and beautiful celebration of the Easter Vigil. To attend this rite, with the full set of readings, celebrated pontifically, is a genuinely profound encounter with the Lord. The liturgy began outside the church with the blessing of the new fire, the marking of the Paschal Candle, and the blessing of incense, before entering the church in complete darkness, lit only by the light of the Easter fire atop a beautiful, hand-decorated Paschal Candle.
After the solemn proclamation of the Praeconium, the readings were punctuated by the appropriate psalmody, sung to simple plainchant tones common to the Anglican and Catholic musical traditions. At the Gloria in Excelsis, an organ fanfare led the choir into the setting by Haydn (Missa S. Nicolai), which was followed by the Collect and Epistle of the Mass. After the singing of the Gospel, the homily was given.
This was followed by the blessing of the baptismal font, accompanied first by the Litany of the Saints, and followed by the singing of the Vidi Aquam to a setting from the English Missal tradition, found in the publications of the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society - a 19th century Anglican foundation that adopted much Sarum chant for use in the vernacular Anglican liturgy. The blessing of the water was sung to the chant in the Roman Missal.
After the proper chant, the offertory was accompanied by the singing of the hymn At the Lamb’s high feast. The Eucharistic Prayer followed - the Roman Canon - with the Communion Rite and the distribution of Holy Communion following the now established patterns outlined above. During Holy Communion the choir sang the motet Dum Transisset Sabbatum by the pre-Reformation English composer, John Taverner (1490-1545), who wrote extensively for the indigenous local liturgy, the Sarum and other Uses of the Roman Rite.
After the distribution of Holy Communion, the Prayer after Communion was sung, the Solemn Blessing was given, and the hymn Jesus Christ is risen today was sung as the altar party lined-up before singing, to the same tune, these words - known well to high church Anglicans as a metrical Regina Coeli:
Joy to thee, O Queen of Heaven, alleluia!
he whom thou wast meet to bear, alleluia!
as he promised, hath aris’n, alleluia! pour for us to God thy prayer, alleluia!
After the singing of the Versicle, Response, and Collect, the celebrant was led out during the voluntary. After Mass, members of the Personal Ordinariate, the parish, and a number of guests, enjoyed a celebratory glass of Prosecco in the small hall under the church.
On Easter Sunday, after the glories of the Triduum, a pontifical solemn Mass was sung by the Ordinary. The music included the Mass in D of Mozart, and the setting of the Te Deum Laudamus in B flat by Charles Villiers Stanford - an Irish Anglican whose name is synonymous with the excellent and bountiful Anglican musical repertory of the nineteenth century.
After the solemn proclamation of the Gospel, the Ordinary preached the sermon and, during the renewal of baptismal promises, the Vidi Aquam was again sung. The Mass then continued in the usual way, with the Te Deum being sung during the ablution and purification of the sacred vessels.
Again, at the end of Mass, it was Our Lady to which the faithful turned. This time, however, a short procession formed to visit the shrine - erected by the decree of Pope Pius IX - where the image was honoured with incense and the Regina Coeli sung. After this, again, drinks were served in the undercroft, which many visitors attended.
To begin this new chapter in the life of the Personal Ordinariate during this most holy season was not only a challenge, but a real privilege. During the week the altar was served by three current seminarians of the Personal Ordinariate, candidates for the diaconate, at least one potential vocation-discerner, as well as members of the diocesan parish who have maintained an excellent standard of celebration for a number of years. Musicians came to assist - both professionally, and professionals who wanted to be involved - and members of the parish and the Personal Ordinariate began to work together to produce a wonderful celebration of these central events of the Christian life. May these strong foundations see the Personal Ordinariate grow abundantly as we take seriously the call the evangelisation and mission, as a full and flourishing part of the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom.
To view more photographs, click here. Otherwise, please join us for the Solemn Mass on Sundays at 10.30am!
Photos Copyright Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham