Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Ordinariate Chrism Mass 2012

The Apostolic Nuncio celebrated the Ordinariate's first ever Chrism Mass yesterday, a great event that was held at St James's Spanish Place.  People certainly came in large numbers, not only the 60+ Ordinariate priests who had travelled from across the country, but also many lay members of the Ordinariate, other Catholics encouraged by Fr Colven's announcement at Mass on Palm Sunday morning of what was to happen the following day, and no doubt a number of people who happened to be passing by and came across something rather bigger than they expected to see happening in church.  The photo below shows the reception held afterwards in the St James's Social Centre, with the Nuncio and Msgr Newton in cheerful conversation.

The St James's choir was on its usual excellent form, and a number of servers from the regular St James's team kindly gave up their time to help the Ordinariate celebrate this great occasion.  Thanks are due to them and to the Rector for all that they do to help the Ordinariate, in line with the Holy Father's wishes.

Monsignor Newton pointed out in his homily that since his authority as Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is vicarious on behalf of the Roman Pontiff, it was wonderful and entirely appropriate that the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Mennini, had come to celebrate the Ordinariate's first Chrism Mass.  In this year when we mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Court of St James, there was an added feeling of this just being exactly right. 

Archbishop Mennini's presence and obvious delight at being able to participate were a clear sign, if any were necessary, that the Ordinariate is a project that the Holy Father very actively supports.  Fr Ed Tomlinson, in his blogpost last night, wrote of the Archbishop's very warm words at the end of Mass.

Something that seems to have struck a lot of people present is the total sense of Unity of the event.  In theory, this ought not to be anything new, but for former Anglo-Catholics, it most certainly is.  Chrism Masses are a unifying event for a particular church with its Ordinary, but since the early 1990s Anglo-Catholics never really had that.  They faced the choice of attending diocesan celebrations alongside people of whose orders they were not entirely sure, or there was the option of a Forward in Faith / PEV Chrism Mass.  Those latter occasions were certainly joyful, encouraging and full of enthusiasm when they began, and I remember clearly attending such an event in Reading c.1995 (the first time I had the chance to sing the hymn below, yes any excuse to include Frank Patterson.....), but even then there was a knowledge at the back of everyone's mind that the ecclesiology of a separate arrangement, out of communion with those with whom we were technically in communion, was not obviously catholic.  As priests have left to join the Ordinariate, and as this trend continues, one wonders how long these PEV events will survive, particularly after the likely changes in legislation affecting the Church of England.  While people are on friendly terms, having the local Anglican diocesan bishop present and involved in a PEV Chrism Mass may be a sign of hospitality and indeed even of communion, but if the future is less rosey than that, a diocesan bishop insisting on joining in might be rather political.

One member of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group summed it up like this :

..... I overheard a priest say exactly what I had said to myself at Mass, it was the first time I had been at a Chrism Mass where I felt myself fully in union with Bishop, priests and people, and that was the most joyful and moving experience of the day.

Fr Ed Tomlinson, in the blogpost mentioned above, put it this way :

It was a happy day. But above all it was a day that underlined a thrilling truth. In previous years I would always feel a pang of sorrow during the Chrism Mass because Anglo-Catholics felt unable to attend the main diocesan event and held a separate service. It was a visible sign of the disunity with which we had to live. But today there was no sorrow only joy. For this was the main event- there was only unity. A unity that exists between all Catholics the world over. It is good to be home.

As Monsignor Newton said in his homily, we have gone forward in faith together, into an environment where we are part of that Unity to which we are all called.  In this respect, it was pleasing to see so many familiar faces amongst the clergy and people, with whom we are once again united. 

It is also worth commenting on the enthusiastic singing from the congregation, both in the hymns and in the responses.  This is one aspect of Anglican Patrimony that is immediate and audible, and which sounds wonderful in a stunning building such as St James's.  It was also striking (as you can see in this photo) that the unkind rumours spread by some of the modern day deniers about all the Ordinariate clergy being pensioners is manifestly untrue. 

We have posted a set of photos on our Flickr site, a few of which are reproduced below.  The Ordinariate has also produced a very good set of photos on their Flickr site

All said, a very joyous occasion, and one that brought home that we are truly part of the Church, all in the same communion.

Just to conclude, Msgr Newton quite righly pointed out that there are many in the Catholic Church whom we thank regularly, justly so.  However, we also owe a sincere debt of thanks to those very brave men (and in many cases their families) who gave up not only the Church of England as a spiritual home, but also took a far greater risk in material terms by leaving behind housing, employment and future pension accrual.  We thank Fr Colven and the clergy at St James's regularly here on this blog, but we are also very pleased to take this opportunity to thank Fr Christopher Pearson publicly, Fr Pearson being the nearest that the Marylebone Ordinariate Group has to its own priest.

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