Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Holy Week & Triduum at Blackfriars, Oxford

Part of the problem of being the community photographer and a singer and sacristan is that it means that taking photos during liturgies is almost impossible... Below are some photos taken during the past week from the Dominican priory (Blackfriars) in Oxford, UK:

The Final Station

On Holy Monday, the community hosted an ecumenical Stations of the Cross. It was a chance for us to introduce the 14 Stations to other Christian communities in central Oxford and Dominican friars and others gave brief reflections at each station.

This act of witness to our faith in Christ's saving death was expressed more publicly on Spy Wednesday as we walked through the busiest streets of Oxford, carrying a cross and giving out leaflets to shoppers and passers-by on the true meaning of Easter:

Oxford Walk of Witness

During the Triduum, the Office of Tenebrae was celebrated. A hearse of 15 unbleached candles is prepared and similarly unbleached candles are placed on the High Altar. In the Dominican custom, these are all gradually extinguished as the Office progresses.

Tenebrae Hearse at Blackfriars

The Office ends with a short litany at the foot of the Altar sung by four cantors alternating with the friars' choir and it ends, not with a strepitus, but the words "Mortem autem crucis" are sung loudly and at a high pitch, after which the cantors prostrate themselves dramatically as the friars in choir kneel in prayer.

Altar of Repose in Blackfriars

Above, the Altar of Repose on Maundy Thursday.

The Good Friday liturgy is very well-attended and many come, I suspect, for the distinctive Dominican way of performing the Veneration of the Cross. As has been posted here previously, the friars creep to the Cross by prostrating themselves three times. A relic of the True Cross is embedded in the cross which is held for veneration by the friars and the faithful, who come up, genuflecting thrice as they approach.

Creeping to the Cross

Moreover, the beautiful High Altar (seen below after the Liturgy) is used for the 'Mass of the Pre-Sanctified':

Good Friday in Blackfriars

Finally the bleakness and austerity of Good Friday gives way to the light and richness of Easter Sunday. Below are photos from Solemn Vespers on Easter Sunday:

Solemn Vespers of Easter

Incensing the High Altar

Sacred Ministers at Vespers

Easter finery

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