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.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Observing the Vigil of Pentecost

Earlier this evening I attended the Vigil for Pentecost celebrated at Blackfriars here in Oxford. In recent years this has become a regular part of my celebration of Pentecost, and I have posted about it before in Pentecost Vigil at Blackfriars and Vigil of Pentecost pictures  and in 2010, Vigil of Pentecost at Oxford Blackfriars from 2011, Pentecost Vigil at Blackfriars Oxford and with some thoughts about the way we really ought to celebrate the Solemnity in Celebrating Pentecost from 2012, and Pentecost Vigil at Oxford Blackfriars and The Pentecost Vigil at Blackfriars in pictures from last year.

File:Master of the Dominican Effigies (Italian, active 2nd quarter of the 14th century) - Pentecost - Google Art Project.jpg

Italian Master of the Dominican Effigies circa 1340
Single leaf, now in the J.Paul Getty Museum

Image: Wikimedia

This is also the patronal feast of Blackfriars, which is the Priory of the Holy Spirit, and so is a particularly special event for the Dominican community in Oxford. As a consequence there were a group of Dominican lay people from London in the congegation as well as members of the local Aquinas study group which meets at Blackfriars, this resulted in an almost full priory church, the best congregation I have so far witnessed for this celebration.

The church looked very handsome, with the tapers burning before the consecration crosses on this the patronal feast, the music well performed and the priory's very fine set of embroidered red vestments in use.

The Pentecost Vigil includes First Vespers of Pentecost, Vigil of Readings and First Mass of Pentecost - celebrtaed here in the format sometimes refrerred to as "Masspers". I am not sure that I particularly like the merging of the Office and the Mass, but overall I always like this occasion. It is similar in many ways to the Easter Vigil, but is simpler, shorter and without the blessing of the font - Blackfriars is not a parochial church - nor, obviously, the Pascal Candle. The Old Testament readings stress the promise of the gift of the Spirit in the future, with the four accounts from Genesis of the story of Babel, from Exodus of the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, from Ezekiel of the valley of dry bones and from Joel of the Day of the Lord. Tonight we are still awaiting the gift which will come symbolically tomorrow.

On its website the Priory describes the liturgy as a joyful and prayerful way to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that it is. I think, as I have written in previous years, this Vigil is a valuable thing to do. It emphasises more fully the importance of Pentecost, which is not just seen as the end of Eastertide - and, of course, I think the Octave should be restored to the Novus Ordo - but rather as a real time of renewal and new life in the Holy Spirit for the Church and for individuals.

Again, as I have written before, I think this modern form of the Vigil could be celebrated in many parishes to pastoral benefit and the recovery of liturgical bearings for the faithful.

Tomorrow I shall celebrate Pentecost at the Oxford Oratory with Mass in the morning and then Solemn Vespers and Benediction in the evening - always splendid ways in which to observe this feast.

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