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.

Monday, 21 October 2013

To gaze on Thee in the Sanctuary - the Forty Hours Devotion at the Oxford Oratory

This past weekend we have had the celebration of the Forty Hours Devotion at the Oxford Oratory, which is always one of the highlights of the parish year.

We began at 6 on Friday evening with the Solemn Mass of Exposition. I stayed for the beginning of the watch, and then left to go to eat some supper, and returned in good time to resume the watch and for  Compline and Benediction with the Dominicans, who joined the Oratorians for this, at Midnight.

We then moved into the longest part of the Vigil, interspersed with the saying of the Rosary and with the opportunity to go out to the parish centre for refreshments to sustain us through the night hours.  I have always managed to observe this Vigil, partly on the basis that I can make the time available when other may not be free to do so.

There was a profound silence for most of the time, and it was possible to begin to lose oneself in quiet contemplation. Whilst I cannot claim any great insights during this time I did feel relaxed in the Presence - like the story of the peasant at Ars telling St Jean-Marie Vianney how at Exposition "I looks at Him and He looks at me." There was a tranquilityfrom not trying to force prayer as I have perhaps fallen into on similar occasions in the past; my intentions, along with many of those of the congregation had been already placed beneath the Monstrance. So I could attempt to rest in contemplation and look to where He reigned in Glory in time and space as well as in Eternity.

Just before 4.30 one of the Oratory Fathers asked me to serve his private EF Mass in the Lady Chapel, which I did. This we had to do in almost total silence so as to preserve the spirit of adoration in the church. This brought forcefully to my mind the points I cited about the Silent Canon the other day in my post The Silent Canon.

At 5 we had Mattins and Lauds, sung by the Sisters of the Work and the Oratorians and at 6 Mass in the Extrordinary Form for the feast of St Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford and the University, whom we have otherwise rather lost from the calendar this year with the clash with the Forty Hours.

After a bit more time at the Oratory I wet off home to freshen up and change before returning to the city centre attend the Latin Mass Society's Pilgrimage - but  more of that in a seperate post.

Here are some expandable images of the first evening taken by a friend:

There are more pictures from the Oxford Oratory website at Forty Hours in the Year of Faith

I called in again at the church on Saturday afternoon for another brief spell of Adoration.

On Sunday the 11am Solemn Mass was that of the Sacred Heart, as specified in the rubrics for the Devotion, and in the afternoon I returned for the last half hour or so of silent contemplation. At 5 pm we had Sung Solemn Vespers with a Procession and concluded with Benediction. All of that was deeply impressive, as was the whole weekend, and all who contributed to the preparations, setting up and refreshments as well as those serving are to be congratulated on making it all come together so successfully.

Whilst on the theme of this devotion the Birmingham Oratory recently held their Forty Hours Devotion and there are pictures of it on this post from New Liturgical Movement which can be seen at The Forty Hours at the Birmingham Oratory.

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