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For if that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Making sense of the Canon

Forget about the speculative attempts to uncover the "primitive" Roman Canon for a moment, and try to understand the apparent conceptual confusion of the prayer as it has been prayed for more than a millennium. One jumps from the "holy, unspotted" sacrifices in its opening words - before the words of consecration have been uttered - to the bestowal of the "good things" of creation at its close - after the words of consecration have been uttered - and wonders how it all fits together. One hears the word 'chiastic' mentioned with regards to its structure: i.e. its rationale is not linear, but rather the end parallels the beginning.

If one takes the text of the prayer, and lays it out in its twelve paragraphs, each allotted an equal width across a page turned 'landscape'-wise, counting the Qui pridie section and Simili modo as one single paragraph: just jotting down the headings will do for our purpose.... one notices that Qui pridie (the sixth paragraph) and Unde et memores (the seventh) form the two central sections. Then fold the two halves of the page together, and see what you get. The - let's call it 'thematic' - correspondence between the sections that now touch each other are fairly obvious.

Starting from the middle: (6) and (7) bring together Christ's acts with his words at the Last Supper. The Incarnate and Ascended Lord is the Holy Bread and the Cup of Salvation.

(5) and (8) are both prayers for acceptance of our offerings: one echoing the language of St Paul in the 12th chapter of the letter to the Romans, the other the great types of the Old Testament.

(4) and (9) are perhaps the least successful parallel of the series: the Hanc igitur is hardly a descending epiclesis in the same way in which the Supplices is (arguably) an ascending epiclesis... however it is worth noting that both of these paragraphs do mention the acceptance of the oblation, and also the request for deliverance from hell in (4) meets its opposition in the ascent to heaven in (9).

(3) and (10) are an obvious parallel: the Saints in light are juxtaposed with the faithful who have gone to their rest; and in (2) and (11) the Martyrs triumphant and the Church militant are placed side by side. The parallel is stronger if one takes the second part of the Te igitur (the prayer for the church) and adds that part of (1) onto (2).

That leaves the first part of (1) to be set alongside (12), which brings us back my original perplexity: what is the immaculate sacrifice doing at the beginning of the Canon? And why the gifts of creation at the end? Well, at least one can see now that there is a parallel between these two sections at the extremities, both of which ask for the acceptance of the gifts or sacrifices through Christ our Lord. And this parallelism may go some way to explaining the apparent dis-ordering of the prayers.

Whatever the original "primitive" ordering of the prayers, and whatever missing ritual (benediction of offerings made by the people on particular festivals perhaps?) that explains the prayer over the gifts of creation at its conclusion, a rationale for the current form seems to emerge by viewing the prayer as structurally chiastic. In fact, one wonders if it gained its form for this precise reason: did the prayer grow from second and even first Century tradition, until it was slightly adjusted, a few extra prayers or words added, to give it its present literary form in order to achieve this balance of juxtaposition of elements? This need not have been a consciously artistic process for the most part: a chiastic structure is for most people a very satisfying literary device, especially when its architecture includes various elements of simple parallelism and repetition, amplification, opposition and allusion - all of which the chiastic structure of the Roman Canon seems to encompass.

If we accept this as a reasonable theory for the coherence of the Roman Canon, as a non-linear literary structure, what does this do for the theology of the prayer? That is a question that I am totally incompetent to tackle - which is another way of saying that I would like to speculate about it in another post. And also - are there are any other patterns or symmetries within its structure?

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Paul Drews and the Canon

The Lutheran scholar Paul Drews' theory of the original ordering and prayers of the Roman Canon are given below, and can be compared with the post-Gregorian order.

I don't know to what extent Drews' theory is accepted, or the main objections to it. If anyone knows of recent scholarship or theories and where to find them, I'd be grateful for some pointers.

While the ordering presented below does make sense, I rather doubt that one would want to set aside the current Roman canon for a speculative scheme... but this said, why didn't the modern revisers think of utilising such a (quite plausibly) very ancient, brief Eucharistic prayer of Roman provenance for the new order of Mass rather than making up a couple?

The "modern" (just a mere 1500 years old) Roman Canon can't be read as a series in the way that this ordering of the prayers from the Canon can. There seems to be more of a linear dynamic in Drews' suggested order, that follows the underlying dynamic of the Eucharist as a whole; whereas the Roman Canon has no such order or structure. It follows a very different logic, which I would like to try to express in a later post.


The "original" Canon Missae as suggested by Drew:

VOUCHSAFE, O God, we beseech thee, in all things to make this oblation blessed, approved, and accepted, a perfect and worthy offering; that it may become for us the Body and Blood of thy dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
WHO the day before he suffered, took bread into his holy and venerable hands, and with eyes lifted up to heaven, unto thee, God, his almighty Father, giving thanks to thee, he blessed, broke and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Likewise, after supper, taking also this goodly chalice into his holy and venerable hands, again giving thanks to thee, he blessed, and gave it to his disciples, saying:
WHEREFORE, O Lord, we thy servants, and thy holy people also, remembering the blessed Passion of the same Christ thy Son our Lord, as also his Resurrection from the dead, and his glorious Ascension into heaven; do offer unto thine excellent majesty of thine own gifts and bounty, the pure victim, the holy victim, the immaculate victim, the holy Bread of eternal life, and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.
Vouchsafe to look upon them with a merciful and pleasant countenance; and to accept them, even as thou didst vouchsafe to accept the gifts of thy servant Abel the righteous, and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham; and the holy sacrifice, the immaculate victim, which thy high priest Melchisedech offered unto thee.
WE humbly beseech thee, Almighty God, command these offerings to be brought by the hands of thy holy Angel to thine altar on high, in sight of thy divine majesty; that all we who at this partaking of the altar shall receive the most sacred Body and Blood of thy Son, may be fulfilled with all heavenly benediction and grace.  
THEREFORE, most merciful Father, we humbly pray thee, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, and we ask, that thou accept and bless these  gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices.
WE offer them unto thee, first, for thy holy Catholic Church: that thou vouchsafe to keep her in peace, to guard, unite, and govern her throughout the whole world; together with thy servant N., our Pope, N., our Bishop, and all the faithful guardians of the catholic and apostolic faith.
REMEMBER also, O Lord, thy servants and handmaids, (N. and N.), who have gone before us sealed with the seal of faith, and who sleep the sleep of peace.  To them, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, we beseech thee to grant the abode of refreshing, of light, and of peace.   
THROUGH Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom, O Lord, thou dost ever create all these good things; dost sanctify, quicken, bless, and bestow them upon us.
BY whom and with whom and in whom, to thee, O Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Old Certainties

"All questions are re-opened" is a phrase from C.S. Lewis's introduction to his anthology of George Macdonald. He is describing the effect of great myths which trouble old certainties and "shock us more fully awake than we are for most of our lives".  Re-opening all questions can be unsettling to say the least, but doesn't the search for truth demand some such attitude?

I take it as fairly basic that anything worth the name of Christianity - call it creedal Christianity if you will - begins by stating that our Lord Jesus Christ is both the fountain and finisher of Creation, History and Redemption, and ought to be at the centre of the Church. There is, the student of ecclesiastical history would admit, some divergence of opinion on how Christ is to be found today, and on what the Church is. Occasionally these differences of opinion have become rather angry.

One accepts that the Church is City built on the foundation of the Apostles; one reaches the conclusion that Apostolic Order is part of the very marrow of the Body of Christ. But there are still a series of unresolved disputes among Christians who believe this much. What role should the Apostle Peter have; what authority has he been given; what power do the bishops have when gathered in council; how does one judge the meaning of Holy Scripture; etc., etc.?

One finds oneself in a particular church at a particular time, as a result of one's heritage, one's earnest study, choices made, and influences within and without: and one thinks that one has a rough but (for oneself at least) satisfactory set of answers for these questions. And then, a decade later, with further study and thought, experience of life and people, colliding with a chance word or phrase, and a long-forgotten hand reaching out from the past to one's shoulder... and "all questions are re-opened". Or thus it has happened to me within the last year.

Perhaps I am only facing up now to profound inconsistencies in my beliefs that I have rationalised but can no longer do so: the submerged doubts must now be brought up to the surface and examined if they are not to become monsters in my subconscious, turning me this way and that without their being uncovered and their power and nature known.

I underwent a psychological assessment lately, to judge my suitability for the diaconate in the Ordinariate. I am in a period of "discernment" at present, and am still not quite sure how things will go - either with my own discernment, or that of my Ordinary. But that is common enough, as one is never encouraged to be too confident, and rightly so. One's calling must be tested. However, the thinking through that I did as a result of the psychological assessment, and the questions that it raised about my own attitude to authority, made me realise that the simmering disquiet that I have been harbouring for the last year or so must be faced in as open and fearless a manner as I can muster.

I have decided to write about it all here, briefly, not so much as to be polemical as to state simply where I am. I want to place my cogitations in an ostensibly public forum, in part to avoid a distinctively clerical atmosphere which sometimes has a sweet sickly smell of disease: a combination of cloistered doubt or disbelief coupled with public avoidance of intellectual engagement in particular areas of theology, patronising smiles and anodyne "faith-talk". If I am ever to be a deacon, entrusted with the communication of Apostolic faith to my brethren in Christ, I want to believe what I say and say that of which I am fully persuaded, always. But I also wished to write about it here to discipline myself to thinking things through, and perhaps gaining some light from readers.

This may not of course be exciting for anyone else. What I say may very well be passé for many, but there is a certain exhilaration for me in pulling out all the drawers and clearing the cupboards, deciding what to keep, what to throw away, and more fundamentally whether the house is the best place to stay after all the sorting, or whether it doesn't answer.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

St Peter & St Paul, Old Saxon Church Albury

Sadly I have had to stop saying the Sarum Office at Old Albury for the time being, and have updated the webpage to communicate this. I am back to saying the Office at home. There are some good reasons for this. I am unlikely to go back to seek permission from the local incumbent and the Churches Conservation Trust to start again unless there were a quorum, a group of at least two or three. I am not too disheartened as I didn't expect a group of people to surface just like that; perhaps something will still be possible at some point.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Ancient rites

I have had some correspondence with someone else who has produced a similar lectionary that takes in the whole of Holy Scripture, but from a slightly different (Lutheran) starting point.

He has made me aware of research on the so-called Ordines Romani, a list of very early, first millenium liturgical instructions for the saying of the Office and the Mass. Those numbered XIII to XV give a fascinating picture of the breviary as it was said in the major basilicas of Rome, staffed by local monastic foundations, back in the early days before St Peter's became a "collegiate" church. St Peter's once had four monasteries to resource its liturgical life.

Somewhat remarkably, there is good evidence that at this early date (we are taking here about the 7th to 8th Centuries) the entirety of Holy Scripture was supposed to be said or sung on an annual basis at Matins - at least notionally - as an ad hoc lectio continua. This very possibly goes back a few centuries more, although there is some evidence that the shift from reading long sections of the Old Testament in an ad hoc fashion at Mass, to doing so at Matins (which previously were most likely constructed of psalmody almost exclusively), may have happened at some point in the 6th or 7th Century.

It seems that the early Roman Breviary's year was divided up into four sections, roughly corresponding to the seasons and bounded by the Ember Days. Genesis to Judges formed the spring lessons (Quinquagesima to Passion Sunday) along with the Easter lessons of Acts, Revelation and the General Epistles. Summer saw the reading of the books of the Kings; and Autumn the Wisdom books. The Prophets from Isaiah to Malachi were begun in December, and continued until the following Lent after the Christmas season. The Gospels and the "Apostle", i.e. the Pauline Epistles, were read at the stational Masses. Thus the early Roman Breviary: which varied somewhat in praxis, from monastic house to monastic house, from one basilica to another, even within Rome.

And then came the cross-fertilisation, or some would call it bastardisation, of the Roman rite with the Gallican, with the introduction of the Roman rite to the court of Pepin and the Franks in 754. This to-ing and fro-ing over the Alps produced many of the classic features of the lessons of the Roman breviary: the seasonal grouping of the lessons was weakened, as the months from August to November took on their recognisable pre-1970 form, and the Pauline epistles made their way into the post-Epiphany period. And the Office as sung at the basilica of St Peter became the liturgical standard, after it became a collegiate church and took over the running of its affiliated monasteries - thus introducing an element of standardisation into the Office at the same time as it was beng Gallicanised.

What I find most interesting, however, besides the above mentioned historical development, something of which I knew next to nothing, is the common feature at this period, which is an assumption that the whole of Scripture was of liturgical value and should form the life and prayer of the church... it is a period which gave us Bede's commentaries on the Tabernacle, and ends with the 12th Century Victorine commentaries on the more "obscure" parts of Genesis. These commentaries were not produced by library scholars poring over books that no-one else ever read, they were (I believe) familiar liturgical texts, heard year upon year, and heard within a Christological and - dare I say it - neoplatonic frame of reference.

I give the internet archive address of one of the books I was directed to:

The History of the Roman Breviary by Pierre Batiffol

The other bits and pieces that I was sent are from more recent books and studies, so I am wary of copyright rules. But this particular summary of the lesson schemata from the Ordines is on-line:

It has encouraged me to know that the norm of reading the entirety of Holy Scripture in the liturgical year is not some kind of supposedly "silly" Protestant, ergo anti-catholic fad (one hears such profoundly un-Patristic sneers about the sacred word from time to time), but is sadly another of its ancient traditions that the Apostolic see has let fall by the wayside.

Friday, 3 November 2017

The lectionary - almost complete

I have almost completed the lectionary I have been working on, notionally to read the entirety of Holy Scripture in one year. The Temporal is finished; the Sanctoral is not. In the table of lessons, there are (as in the Breviary) three lessons for Matins and one for after Prime; and (an innovation) two for Vespers as at a Book of Common Prayer Evensong. It has undergone a very slow and gradual evolution to get to its current form, and is likely to be further modified as I use it.

It can be seen by following the link entitled A Table of Lessons at this page.

It is based around the spine of the traditional Breviary lectionary of the Sarum use which is as follows:

Advent to Epiphany - Isaiah
After Epiphany - St Paul
Septuagesima to Passion Sunday - Genesis and the first few chapters of Exodus
Passion Week and Holy Week - Jeremiah
Triduum - Lamentations
Eastertide - Revelation, then the General Epistles
Ascension to Whitsun - Acts
After Trinity - History of the Kings
August - Ecclesiasticus
September - Job, Tobit and Judith
October - Maccabees
November - Ezekiel

This experimental lectionary expands the material so that slightly longer passages are read at Matins each day, and makes the following additions to the above material:

Advent - Daniel and Revelation
Christmas - Chronicles (the part about Solomon's coronation and consecration of the Temple)Epiphany - Exodus (the high priestly section)
After Epiphany - the rest of Chronicles
Septuagesima and Lent - the Sermon on the Mount, Deuteronomy, the rest of Jeremiah.
Passiontide - Hebrews
Eastertide - the rest of Acts, Joshua & Judges
Ascension and Whitsun - the rest of Exodus (Sinai and the building of the Tabernacle)
Trinity - the first chapters of the Gospel of John
After Trinity - Gospel of Mark, Proverbs
August - Esther, Wisdom, and the Song of Solomon
September to November - Leviticus & Numbers, Ecclesiastes, the Gospels of Luke & Matthew
November - the Minor Prophets from Hosea to Malachi

There are reasons for the ordering of the additional material - I have tried to make the choice of lessons in any part of the liturgical year mystagogical in character, primarily. A rationale for some of the more obscure of these choices:

Advent - Daniel looks forward to the Incarnation; Revelation to the appearing of our Lord Jesus
Christmas - Solomon, the son of David, is the type of new-born King at Bethlehem
Epiphany - the High Priest and his vestments, washings, oil and incense are a type of Christ's theophany at the visit of the Wise Men, and in his Baptism
Septuagesima to Lent - Deutoronomy is a recapitulation of the Law after a falling away, a warning to return to our baptismal promises
Eastertide - Joshua and Judges (the new life of Israel after resurrection , the crossing of the Jordan) parallel the account of the new life of the church in Acts
Ascension to Whitsun - The Ascent of Moses to Sinai, and the giving of the Law and the pattern of the Tabernacle, are types of the Ascension and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost
August to November - I have fitted in the wisdom books and the rest of Pentateuch as best as I can; but the Song of Solomon (which is the type of the mystical union) is read during the octave of the Assumption.

One might ask if this is too much Scripture - if it upsets the balance of the Breviary. My own sense, from use of this lectionary, is that the longer passages for the Matins lessons don't upset the balance: Matins is a long office anyway, and reading around thirty verses of Holy Scripture over three lessons (instead of, say, ten verses) doesn't overburden the office or lengthen it by more than a couple of minutes. The Prime lesson is something to be read over breakfast perhaps. When it comes to Vespers, I can understand why those used to a form of the traditional breviary might not like two lessons added in, but for those used to Evensong it isn't unsettling. Again, one might think that it would lengthen Vespers considerably, but I doubt if it adds on more than five minutes on average.

Overall, the amount of Scripture read in the morning and evening is less than in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, on average, partly because one doesn't read the New Testament through twice, and (because the lessons follow the liturgical rather than the calendar year) there is some redundancy on any given year with weeks omitted after Epiphany or Trinity.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Sarum rite: Vespers of Easter Day

Following on from my previous post: I am intrigued by the rubrics for the Vespers of the Easter Octave in the Sarum Breviary. Most people aware of distinctives of the Sarum rite around Easter know about Easter Matins, and the ritual of the "resurrection" of the third consecrated host of Maundy Thursday from its Easter Sepulchre - still an architectural curiosity in many medieval English parish churches. I have never read anyone waxing lyrical about Easter Vespers in the Sarum rite, however - although it is certainly elaborate, and (I imagine) extremely powerful and beautiful in actu. This discussion is admittedly slightly out of season...

I will not attempt to explain in any depth the vestments, the choreography, and "line-up" for the procession here, something way beyond my very limited knowledge of this kind of liturgical detail. What I can attempt, though, is to give a sense of the text and a rough outline of the procession.

For comparison, bear in mind that the sober and simple Roman rite, probably preserving a very ancient form of the Vesperal liturgy, has no hymn or little chapter of Scripture for Easter Vespers, with instead a very simple line of Scripture in the place of both: This is the day which the Lord hath made : we will rejoice and be glad in it. Easter Vespers according to the Roman rite therefore runs, (1) Opening Versicles, (2) Psalms of Sunday sung with the Antiphons, (3) the Versicle, (4) Magnificat with its Antiphon, and (5) the Collect. It is primitive, unfussy and structurally spartan. The Sarum rite has an instinct for a higher ceremonial, and not merely for the sake of aesthetics, I think. The elaborations one finds in the Sarum rite often bring into relief the sacramental bearing of the text of the Office - and in the case of Easter Vespers, this means drawing out from the Psalms of Sunday their typology vis-a-vis the Christological meaning of the Easter rite and its sacraments, viz. Baptism and the Eucharist.

First, for a brief resume of the ritual itself, and then a note on its significance.

The Sarum rite Easter Vespers is as follows:
  • It begins with a threefold Kyrie (not the Opening Versicle).
  • The first three Psalms of Sunday (110-112) are then sung with a fourfold Alleluia for their common Antiphon - the first Alleluia is intoned, and the choir replies with a threefold Alleluia.
  • The Gradual is then sung, This is the day which the Lord hath made : we will rejoice and be glad in it.
  • A series of Versicles are sung as follows - V. O give thanks unto the Lord for he is gracious: because his mercy endureth for ever. R. Alleluia. V. Let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. R. Alleluia. V. The Lord is risen. R. As he said unto you. Alleluia.
  • Then the Magnificat is sung with the Antiphon, And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away : for it was very great. Alleluia.
  • The Collect comes after the Antiphon is repeated: Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who celebrate the solemnities of the Lord's Resurrection, by the invocation of thy Spirit may rise from spiritual death : through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
  • Then the usual salutation V. Let us bless the Lord etc. completes this part of Vespers.
So far there is not much elaboration of the rite: but at this point the procession begins from the quire to the font and back. (Here I can't vouch for the complete accuracy of the details I am about to give.) It is led by an acolyte carrying the processional cross, two taperers, two thurifers, then two Deacons carrying the oil of the Catechumens and oil of Chrism, then a boy carrying the Office book, then (in order) the equivalent of the master of ceremonies, the Rulers of the choir, the bishop if he is present, the two other Rulers of the choir, and finally the choir.
  • Following a fourfold Alleluia, Psalm 113 is intoned, Praise the Lord, ye servants, and then the procession sets off as one half of the choir replies with the next line of the Psalm O praise the Name of the Lord. Alleluia. The choir then continues to the font, the other half of the choir singing - Blessed be the Name of the Lord : from this time forth for evermore. Alleluia. And the rest of the Psalm is sung alternately and completed at the font, with a repetition of the Alleluia after each line, and the fourfold Alleluia repeated at its end.
  • At the font: Three choirboys join the procession, just behind the Deacons. When the psalm is finished, they sing in unison: Alleluia. Then is sung: Praise the Lord, ye servants : praise the Name of the Lord (in Latin the word "servants" is pueri, which can also translate as "boys"). The boys reply Alleluia.
  • The font is then censed.
  • The Priest says V. The Lord is risen from the tomb. R. Who hung for us upon the tree. Alleluia, and then the Collect, Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who celebrate the solemnity of the Lord's Resurrection, may worthily rejoice in our deliverance. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
  • After another Alleluia, the Psalms 114 and 115 are sung (as a single Psalm, as it is in the Vulgate), and the Psalm is sung alternately by the two halves of the choir as the procession sets off again. There is a station at the line All the whole heavens are the Lord's, until the end of the Psalm.
  • Here the Priest censes the crucifix, and the Psalm is finished with a repetition of Alleluia.
  • Then the Versicle is said, V. Tell it out among the heathen. R. That the Lord reigneth from the tree. Alleluia, and another Collect is said, God, who for our sake didst will that thy Son should undergo the suffering of the Cross to drive away from us the power of the enemy : grant to us thy servants that we may ever live in the joys of his Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As the procession enters the quire again, Alma Redemptoris Mater is sung with an Alleluia, followed by the Versicle V. Holy Mother of God, ever-Virgin Mary. R. Pray for us unto the Lord our God. Alleluia, and then the Collect, We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts : that as we have known the Incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an Angel, so by his Cross and Passion we may be brought to the glory of his Resurrection; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

So ends Easter Vespers.

Now for a note on what I think the significance of all this ritual is.

The psalm sung on the way to the font, Psalm 113, is an invocation to the praise of the God who raises the poor from the dunghill to sit with the princes of his people - language which resonates with the Resurrection - and it also rejoices in the fruitfulness of the once-barren woman, the Church, now a joyful mother bearing children for her newly-risen Bridegroom. The Collect said as the font is censed is a joyful "variation on a theme" of the main Collect of the Vespers Office which invoked the Holy Ghost over the people. The font is the place of the death and resurrection of the Christian people: the place where (as St Paul puts it) they are baptised into Christ's death. But there is another layer of Old Testament typology ready to hand. In the Easter Vigil, Baptism is the crossing of the Red Sea by the people of Israel in their escape from the slavery of Egypt, Egypt being the type of the slavery of sin. The word ereptio, "deliverance", in the Collect really means being wrenched away with some force, suggesting a somewhat uncomfortable escape by the skin of one's teeth from a strong captor. Appropriately, the next psalm (Psalm 114 and 115 sung as a single psalm) is the "Peregrine" psalm, the psalm of pilgrimage of the people after the crossing of the Red Sea out of Egypt, and mentions the water coming from the rock from which Israel drank in the desert, and which followed them in their journey - one is instantly reminded of St Paul's "and that Rock was Christ".

To sing this psalm of pilgrimage in procession, as if the clergy and choir really were the people of Israel, processing back towards the land of promise (they are now returning towards the Altar, the place from which they receive the manna, the Bread of Angels, for their arduous journey to the heavenly kingdom) somehow gives the words an added sense of embodiment in a way that does not feel factitious.... is not, I believe, factitious. The people of the procession, by faith, touch with their hands the Things of eternity, which although hidden by the veil of the visible creature, are yet the Real enacted in mysterio, so that the types of the Old Testament and the stuff of earth are translated (in a little stone building in a small corner of a small cold island) into the Divine Tongue that spoke and the world was.

Honour is done to the crucifix on the return towards the quire at the lines from Psalm 115, All the whole heavens are the Lord's... The dead praise not thee, O Lord, neither all that go down into silence... But we will praise the Lord, from this time forth... This Psalm, and the subsequent Versicle and Collect, seems to imply a glory and power and kingship issuing from the Cross of the Risen Christ, as it precedes the Church in its pilgrimage.

The Marian Antiphon is sung on the return towards the sanctuary, which is the place of Christ's sacramental presence. Continuing the idea of the Peregrine Psalm, of the pilgrimage of Israel through the Arabian desert, one is put in mind of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, which contained the Holy of Holies, the terrible place of God's eternal glory. The Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies was God's meeting place with Israel at the annual sacrifice of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement: and the meeting place of God and Man is the womb of Mary, where God and Man became One Person and began the reconciliation of all things in heaven and earth.

One can imagine this procession, or a simplified version of it at the very least, being done with great dignity in even a small parish church. In fact, that is what fascinates me the most about the idea of such ritual being performed: how powerful it would be in a place where the scale and grandeur of the rite itself was reduced and muted to allow the significance of it to speak louder, and where everyone's face was a distinct and familiar one.