This past weekend gave me the opportunity to be pious over and beyond the norm. That freedom was something which I appreciated, and I think it is worth sharing with others to show the spiritual and liturgical riches that Oxford can afford.
The Forty Hours devotion at the Oxford Oratory provides the frame for this, It commenced with Mass on Friday evening at 6, and was then followed by Exposition and a vigil which I was able to join late evening, and in time for Sung Compline. As I aim to do at this annual celebration I was able to stay through the night and to participate in Matins at 5am and the usus antiquior Mass at 6am
After a substantial cooked breakfast at a nearby restaurant I watched some of the new students of the University going off in their college crocodiles to Matriculation - I was pleased to see that not many of the young men had opted for the variants now permitted in terms of ties by the laxity now permitted by the University. This change is one that brings down the “red mist” on the Clever Boy …. those who do opt for black bow ties, black straight ties or no jacket under their gowns do I suspect conform to certain stereotypes.
However to return to the life of piety…. at
11am the Latin Mass Society had its annual Oxford Pilgrimage Mass at Blackfriars. This is in honour of the Oxford Martyrs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For several years now this has been in the traditional Dominican Rite sung by one of the Friars Preachers. Music was provided by the Newman Consort and by the Schola Abelis.
Afterwards I was talking to some of the students who had been in the congregation and who clearly had an appreciation of the traditional liturgy.
My arthritis meant that I was not up to joining the walking pilgrimage this year to Holywell and the site of the 1589 executions of the two priests - Bl. George Nichols and Bl. Richard Yaxley - and two laymen - Bl.Thomas Belson and Bl. Humphrey Pritchard - who were the focus of this year’s Pilgrimage. This concluded with Benediction in the church at Blackfriars.
Meanwhile the Forty Hours continued with a 5pm Musical Oratory themed around the Eucharist and the customary 6.30pm Mass for Peace. Afterwards Exposition resumed until midnight and concluding with sung Compline
On Sunday instead of the Forty Hours Mass of the Sacred Heart at the Oratory I attended the monthly midday usus antiquior Mass at SS Gregory and Augustine, which is on my proverbial doorstep. This was a sung celebration, led by a very capable cantor who is an acquaintance.
After a perusal of the church’s secondhand fundraising bookstall - and the inevitable purchase, on this occasion of G.R.Evans’ book on John Wyclif - I had lunch in the city whilst beginning to read my new acquisition. Then it was back to the Forty Hours and the opportunity to pray the rosary again in front of the Blessed Sacrament Exposed.
The 5pm Solemn Vespers was sung by the community and their fine choir, and concluded with a Procession and Benediction. The Forty Hours is always one of the highlights of the year at the Oxford Oratory, and the time one puts into it does seem to be repaid in terms of a sense of renewal and tranquility.
On Monday evening there was Solemn First Vespers for the Feast of St Frideswide after the 6pm Mass for St Luke. I think that this was first time that such a First Vespers has been celebrated at the Oratory in honour of the patroness of Oxford.
This evening there will be Mass at 6pm followed by Benediction in honour of St Frideswide.
For those who want to know more about St Frideswide I would recommend my friend Tony Morris’ splendidly illustrated blog post on Morris Oxford for today as an introduction and which can be viewed at Treacle Well
Quite apart from the spiritual benefits of such a weekend of serious liturgy it was good to see these parts of the annual cycle of events back in place after the last eighteen months of disruption.