Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas Mass

On Christmas morning, I went to Westminster Cathedral for the 10.30 am Mass celebrated by Archbishop Nichols. When Mass is celebrated "saying the black, doing the red", with an ordinary obedience to the rubrics, the experience of the lay faithful is quite different. The Liturgical texts can speak to you, of themselves, and with a quite unexpected force.  Familiar texts can gain a life they otherwise would not have.

The readings were proclaimed from the pulpit, part way down the nave, and not from the sanctuary. I had two thoughts on this. The first was that the pulpit was a much more worthy place from which to read the Scriptures than the "music-stand" style stand at the front edge of the sanctuary that is most often used. The second was that it created the opportunity to listen to the Scripture without seeing the person reading. The focus is then much more on the Word being proclaimed than on the person reading. [The essence of this can be achieved when readings are proclaimed from the sanctuary by keeping one's focus on the altar or the crucifix - the "internal east", in the language of Pope Benedict.] It also creates the opportunity for a procession with the book of the Gospels from the high altar, across the sanctuary and into the nave among the people, and on to the pulpit, before the reading of the Gospel. Which enhances the dignity with which we regard the Scriptures, and at the same time places that enhancement within the context of the Liturgy.

Texts like the Gradual text and the Allelulia, sung by the choir, gained a wonderful richness on either side of the reading from Hebrews, a real sense of the coming of Christ being announced to the whole world:
All the ends the earth have seen the salvation of our God; sing joyfully to God all the earth.

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets;  but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,  having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs.

For to what angel did God ever say, "Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee"? Or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son"? And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."

A hallowed day has dawned upon us. Come, you nations, worship the Lord, for today a great light has shone down upon the earth.
The anticipation as we turned to face the pulpit for the reading of the Gospel was almost palpable, and powerfully moving (to me, anyway):
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ....

1 comment:

Patricius said...

I agree absolutely!