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, 3 February 2014

Celebrating Candlemas

With Candlemas falling at the weekend I, and indeed all the faithful,  had more opportunity than usual to join in celebrations of this lovely feast.

The collects and other prayers as well as the antiphons and other propers are particularly rich and apposite in symbolism - a re-statement of the themes of Christmas and Epiphany at the end of the season of forty days, and full of things to reflect upon.

On Saturday evening I went to the vigil Mass of the Oxford Ordinariate group at Holy Rood. We began with the blessing of candle sin the vestibule - narthex if you will -  of the church and then entered the darkened building in procession as the Newman Consort sang. The Mass was in the Ordinariate Use, which the community here are using at all these Masses until Easter preparatory to an assessment of which forms of the Rite to use on a regular basis.

Talking afterwards some of use reflected whether the ceremonies of Candlemas originate in a dawn
liturgy following a vigil - this would make sense of the bearing of lights, although this was done as a mark of honour at all times in the ancient world. Something I ought to look up in the expert literature.

On Sunday I was at the Oxford Oratory for the 11 am Solemn Mass. This is a special day for the Oratory in that in addition to being Candlemas it is also the anniversary of the foundation in 1848 by Bl. John Henry Newman of the English Oratory. As the Provost, Fr Daniel, and I were agreeing after the Mass it looks as if  Newman chose this feast as it was also the feast day of Oriel, his former college, and he had chosen the Oratorian model as being close in structure to the life of an SCR in an Oxford college.

Following the blessing of the candles we went in procession round the inside of the  church, which was a bit difficult as there was briefly a traffic-jam of the altar party and the faithful at the back of church for a period - the church is not big enough for us all - which is a good sign really.

In the evening we had Solemn Vespers sung by the choir, and more processing - although this time by the officiants and servers only - to have the incensing of the Lady Altar. This was followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

Afterwards I was talking to two friends who had been to the FSSP Mass at St William of York in Reading in the morning. There they had enjoyed a celebration of Candlemas according to the 1962 Missal with all the ceremonies, including a procession round the outside of the church. As Fr Armand de Malleray had pointed to in his sermon - when the candles had guttered or blown out it was like our difficulties in attempting to live the Christian life, but that the important thing was to continue to do so through the adverse times. A good image of the pilgrim Church. 

All in all this was a very good celebration of Candlemas, rounded off by dinner with a fellow Orielensis and saying the College grace together. 

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