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.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Pentecost Vigil at Blackfriars

Last Saturday evening I attended the Pentecost Vigil celebrated at the Dominican Priory of the Holy Spirit here in Oxford - Blackfriars in less formal parlance. This is of course their patronal festival, and the Vigil was a new initiative. Provided for under the 2008 provisions, it was a move towards a return to a feature of liturgical practice that disappeared from the Missal in 1955.
For what was done before and in 1955 there is this piece from the New Liturgical Movement.

Pentecost Vigil 2010

Saturday evening's liturgy was novus ordo, and used the vernacular for much of the celebration, but also used distinctively Dominican chant forms. It followed what is, I understand, a Dominican format of incorporating the celebration of Mass into Vespers. Personally I found that unusual, and perhaps not ideal. However the fact that the Vigil was being observed was, I think, more important than the specific format.

First Vespers was celebrated with its psalms, followed by the Kyries, four Prophetic readings suitable to Pentecost (rather than repeating the Easter ones) with collects, Epistle, Gospel, homily, the Canon - EP I - and then a reversion to Vespers with the Magnificat and concluding prayers and dismissal.

This was, then, a new liturgy rather than a restoration - for example, lights were carried at the Gospel unlike the traditional practice. As Blackfriars is not a parish church there is no font, so there was no blessing of that. Considerable effort had been put into the music and the Priory church was suitably decorated for the Feast - including tapers burning before the Consecration Crosses - and there were some fine red vestments in use.

The service book had a pertinent quotation from the Pope about the need to take time to listen to the record of the Holy Spirit's action in Salvation history if we are to avoid relegating Pentecost to a mere observance.

Although my own preference would be either for the pre-1955 rite or a reworking closer to it, I was impressed by the liturgy. There was a sense of occasion and new beginning, not just the end of the Easter season, a sense that this was a special time of preparation for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Talking to members of the Community afterwards it was clear that they hope to establish this as part of their annual liturgical observance, and they are to be encouraged in that. It was a format that many parishes could copy, with genuine spiritual benefits for those attending. In a parish church the blessing of the waters of baptism would be practicable as well as of sacramental and symbolic value. I found it a valuable preparation for Pentecost Sunday, and I am sure others did as well.

My own inclination would, as I have suggested, be to go for something closer to the older forms, but this was a 'Reform of the Reform' and very welcome in what it achieved.

And, yes, of course, I want to see the restoration of the Pentecost Octave...

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