Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Ascension Day

Today is Ascension Day and I am observing it as such. That is to say that I have said the Office for the day and will attend the Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the Oxford Oratory at lunchtime. Like many people I very much regret the decision to transfer observance of the Solemnity in the Ordinary form to the Sunday after Ascension Day, though I must admit I quite enjoy getting a second chance to celebrate one of my favourite feasts. However one always did that in effect with that Sunday as being in Ascensiontide.

Quite apart from its disregard of the specified forty days after the Resurrection, the discontinuity with the historic tradition of the Church, and its concession to modern laziness in getting to church at some point today - as if those were not overwhelming arguments - I would also stress the point that other Christians observe the Ascension today. So here in Oxford Merton choir have, I assume, climbed to the top of their chapel tower to sing 'Hail the day that sees Him rise' at breakfast time - always a delight to hear wafting over the rooftops when I lived in Oriel - and the ancient parishes of the city will be beating the bounds today. So at Oriel the choir of St Mary the Virgin would solemnly march across the middle of Front Quad to follow the ancient boundary between their parish and that of St John the Baptist (a parish that disappeared as a separate entity in the nineteenth century, but is represented by Merton Chapel). The most intriguing bit of boundary beating takes place, I am told, though I have never witnessed it, in the middle of Marks and Spencer. There amidst the shoppers the little procession comes in to beat and take note of the parish boundary marker.

There is, however, one incidental benefit of the transfer of the Solemnity - not that that excuses it. It does mean that we do not lose the feast of Our Lady of Fatima in the Ordinary Form. So I can go back to church to attend a second Mass early this evening to mark that feast as well today.

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