Friday, 21 March 2008

Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

This is where I went to Mass on Thursday evening - Buckfast Abbey. It is in theory about 20-30 minutes drive from Torquay, but took me somewhere approaching 80 minutes because of rush hour traffic. A visiting choir were singing Byrd's Mass for four voices, which seemed a bit incongruous at a Benedictine Abbey. The Abbey church functions as a parish church as well, and normally serves (I think) churches in two nearby villages. Given the dispersed nature of the population of the area, there was a very reasonable turn out for the Mass.

The Liturgy was celebrated in English with decorum and dignity - the "black" was said and the "red" was done, with the one exception of the washing of the feet, where more women were washed than men. The sanctuary in the abbey church is a long way from the congregation, being at the far end of the choir stalls. Nevertheless, it was possible to participate relatively easily.

The main church itself has some very beautiful altars, each with a reredos. The reredos of the high altar (covered on Thursday) shows Christ in his glory in heaven, with the Apostles receiving the tongues of fire of Pentecost. Two chapel altars dedicated to the Holy Cross and to Our Lady of Buckfast are very beautiful. The other altars are located down one side of the church, and are not free standing. A modern Blessed Sacrament chapel has been added on to the church, behind the high altar. Apart from its modern, "concrete" style, this chapel probably contains the only altar in the abbey church that does not have a reredos. It is very much a forward altar, with the tabernacle on a pedestal behind it. The high altar in the main sanctuary of the church is freestanding, but sufficiently close to its reredos for the altar to still form a unity with its reredos.

Could not free standing altars still be designed with a reredos? The abbey church at Buckfast provides a good example of how this enriches the beauty and theology of the altars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

BUCKFAST! I've stayed there for a while the summer before last (my sister is an oblate of theirs). Thanks for describing them so prettily :)