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Source: (consider it) Thread: High Altar
venbede
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This post made me think.
quote:
Originally posted by Gwalchmai:
In our church the eucharist is celebrated at the nave altar but the distribution is at the rail of the high altar in the chancel.

I know “the high altar” is the term popularly used in the C of E for the old altar at the East end when a central altar has been created and used for the main services. But it’s an in accurate term, isn’t it? The high altar is the altar used for the principal services. The other one in the choir altar or East end altar.

It is quite frequent for everyone to bow to the East end when passing to the West of the central altar. If they are going to bow, surely they should be bowing westwards?

It seems an Anglican thing.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Offeiriad

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It does indeed seem an 'Anglican Thing' - presumably a reflection of the seeming impermanence of some nave altars, or maybe of the clergy who introduced them? 'Next time we'll make sure we get a PROPER Vicar, one who'll get rid of that card table!' [Devil]

[ 29. January 2016, 10:32: Message edited by: Offeiriad ]

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Augustine the Aleut
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It might be because the older altar is often on a platform reached by steps, higher in altitude terms, and thus the meaning of high has shifted. As well, some folk feel that it is the "real" altar and the other temporary. To what degree this is Anglican may relate to what is locally taught as being Anglican, such are our times.

A half century ago, my catechism class was told by the late and venerable Archdeacon Bradely that we bowed to the east, the (rough) direction of Jerusalem and to the rising sun, both reminding us of the Resurrection. In terms of the what is west and east, my Muslim friends tell me that most of their fellow believers focus generally on the direction to Mecca and do not keep compasses at the ready for precise angling-- one Calgarian Muslim told me that the local term of Thataway was sufficient.

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Oblatus
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Our "old" altar is the high altar because it's higher but also because it's used for the solemn high Mass. A rolling freestanding altar is used for weekday low Masses and the Sunday sung Mass (which is also a high Mass, but let's not quibble).

Typically on entry into the sanctuary, the celebrant and server first genuflect to the high altar (really to the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle thereon), then turn around and bow to the freestanding one before going to the sedilia to begin Mass. People in the nave genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament, which honor is meant to travel over the freestanding altar to the tabernacle.

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Fr Weber
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Right; the genuflection should always be to the Presence, not to the altar. If there's no reservation, then (depending on whose dictates you follow) either you genuflect to the crucifix or bow to the altar.

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--Sr Theresa Koernke, IHM

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Offeiriad:
It does indeed seem an 'Anglican Thing' - presumably a reflection of the seeming impermanence of some nave altars, or maybe of the clergy who introduced them? ....

I seem to recall that however embedded an altar may have appeared to be, until quite recently (query the 1960s?) it was canon law that an altar must be both made of wood and moveable. That does have the advantage that when the fashion changed so that altars had to be repositioned so that the celebrant could stand behind them, this should not have been structurally difficult.

I have to admit that funny little altars like the curious shaped nave one in our local cathedral make me feel uncomfortable. Part of me can't help thinking that one dramatic flourish (sorry 'manual gesture') and the consecrated elements will go flying.


I agree, incidentally, that if the term 'high altar' has a formal meaning at all, it ought to be the altar that is normally used for the main Communion Service on a Sunday, irrespective of position or either physical or ecclesiastical altitude. The only arguable exception would be if a church had the odd practice of celebrating the main liturgy on Easter Sunday on a different and more imposing altar from that used for the rest of the year. I would be reluctant to be persuaded that could be a good practice, particularly since every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection.

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Gwalchmai
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I am something of a traditionalist when it comes to terminology. By "high altar" I mean the altar in the chancel. Our high altar is indeed movable but is rarely moved. Our nave altar, on the other hand, is frequently moved (eg to make room for a funeral) and is too small, hence I often refer to it as "the picnic table".


A church I attended in childhood had an altar which was a slab of stone mounted on two stone pillars , is it was definitely not movable, whatever canon law might have said at the time.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by Offeiriad:
It does indeed seem an 'Anglican Thing' - presumably a reflection of the seeming impermanence of some nave altars, or maybe of the clergy who introduced them? ....

I agree, incidentally, that if the term 'high altar' has a formal meaning at all, it ought to be the altar that is normally used for the main Communion Service on a Sunday, irrespective of position or either physical or ecclesiastical altitude. The only arguable exception would be if a church had the odd practice of celebrating the main liturgy on Easter Sunday on a different and more imposing altar from that used for the rest of the year. I would be reluctant to be persuaded that could be a good practice, particularly since every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection.
It can be a very good practice if the attendance at the regular Eucharists though the year can be comfortably fitted into a chapel, but look straggly in the nave, and the Easter attendance is much larger.

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Bibaculus
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I suppose the reason to still call the 'old' high altar the high altar is because that is what it has always been. Can it be un-high altared by the introduction of a new nave altar, which, as many have pointed out, often lacks the look of permanence, as well as the dignity, of original high altars?

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venbede
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But if it is never used it is no longer a working altar.

And it is quite inappropriate for the main altar to look apologetic or impermanent. Great block of marble, for preference.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Enoch
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Venbede, my taste in this may be unusual for this thread, but my actual preference is for a table which actually looks like a table, especially if it is a large Jacobean one with nicely spiralled legs. And if so, they should not be hidden by a frontal. Frontals, whether of cloth or carved imitation gothic, are for altars that are nondescript enough that people want to hide them away.

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Bibaculus
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Well my taste if for east facing and keeping the 'proper' high altar. Sarah Coakley has some interesting observations on this in The New Asceticism

But I guess the ral reason the old high altar is often still called the high altar is simple conservatism. That's what it has always been called.

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venbede
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Snap. I've just started Sarah Coakley. Looks a v good thing.

I've no objection to Easstward facing celebration and I went to a church that did it for ten years from c2000.

But if you have Westward facing, then do it unapologeticly, a large table/altar in a prominent position and ignore any other altars not in use.

A splendid Jacobean Holy Table in the centre of a large raised dais with plenty of space around would be fine.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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venbede
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Of course if you have an impressive free standing altar with lots of space around it, the president/celebrant can stand either side of it (or even at the North End if Enoch would like it).

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Galilit
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quote:
Originally posted by venbede:
Great block of marble, for preference.

Or a great block of wood...anything else looks like a tea-trolley and a sceond-hand one at that.

(Despite that Morning and Afternoon Tea are indeed Sacraments in some cultures!)

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TomM
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quote:
Originally posted by Galilit:
quote:
Originally posted by venbede:
Great block of marble, for preference.

Or a great block of wood...anything else looks like a tea-trolley and a sceond-hand one at that.

(Despite that Morning and Afternoon Tea are indeed Sacraments in some cultures!)

It don't matter what it's made of. If it's an altar, it needs to look like one. Will you fit a bull on it to sacrifice? Or at least a lamb? If not, make it more substantial!!
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Bibaculus
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quote:
Originally posted by TomM:

It don't matter what it's made of. If it's an altar, it needs to look like one. Will you fit a bull on it to sacrifice? Or at least a lamb? If not, make it more substantial!! [/QUOTE]

I am reminded of the Private Eye cartoon in the 80s, when the women priests debate was raging. A stone altar with a woman tied to it, a Aztec type of priest standing over her with a knife. caption: Well she said that she wanted to have a more meaningful role in the liturgy.

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venbede
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That is the sort of crack which at the time gave the opponents of women’s ordination a terrible reputation, an own goal. Although now it gives me a wry smile.

There is a compromise between a central and East end altar which is well meaning, but a very bad idea. When there is a High Altar up some steps with a reredos behind it, to move it two or three feet forward, so the Vicar can squeeze in behind it. This ends up with the celebrant/president being the principal visual focus. This is what Canon Sarah Coakley particularly criticises – Westward facing celebration draws too much attention to the priest.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by TomM:
It don't matter what it's made of. If it's an altar, it needs to look like one. Will you fit a bull on it to sacrifice? Or at least a lamb? If not, make it more substantial!!

Are you sure that's good theology? Even those that emphasise sacrificial language are adamant that the Mass is a bloodless sacrifice. And I can't off-hand think of any tradition I've encountered that follows the prescription that an altar should be designed even to look as though one could sacrifice a bull on it, yet alone actually be capable of being used that way. And if that were one's theology, wouldn't it have to be constructed of undressed stone?


Venbede, I know eastward facing celebration is for some a party badge or shibboleth, but for those who did not grow up in that tradition, and I suspect for those whose memories only go back to modern times, the way some clergy used to preside could all too easily be described as 'turn your back on the congregation, huddle down and mumble'. My apologies if this offends, but irrespective of one's eucharistic theology, that was neither edifying nor inspiring.

It could also be just as 'all about me' as a theatrical west-facing position can be - only in a different way.

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venbede
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I'm not hung up with either direction as long as the priest disports themselves appropriately and the altar looks appropriate.

Until recently I was all for Westward facing celebration, but I'm less of a liturgical Anglo Papalist than I was.

Someone who had come back to belief told me she preferred Eastward facing as "we are all facing the same way". Sarah Coakley would agree.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
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Angloid
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It's like the pointless argument about vesture or no vesture. It's all a matter of context. A church designed around a central altar (e.g. Liverpool Met Cathedral) calls for one position; a tiny crypt chapel with an altar against the wall calls for another. All things being equal I prefer an altar which all can gather around... 'facing the same way' means all facing the altar-table which might mean some face west and others east. But better for the priest to have their back to us than stand in solitary splendour behind the table being the focus of attention.
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Bibaculus
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There is a well established tradition, which early Christians Origen and Evagrius and Basil believed to be Apostolic, of Christians facing towards the rising sun to pray - not just liturgically but for private prayer too. Gabriel Bunge's Earthern Vessels deals with all the Patristic authorities for this.

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georgiaboy
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I agree with that statement about the early fathers. There is a lengthy passage in a book (which I now can't locate) by then Cardinal Ratzinger (later PP BenXVI) which addresses this in depth and cites the 'westward' facing celebrant in St. Peter's as facing the rising sun as that building is 'reverse orientated.'

On another note, it may have been Dom Gregory Dix who said (regarding liturgical furniture and posture), the architecture will always win.

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venbede
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quote:
Originally posted by Angloid:
But better for the priest to have their back to us than stand in solitary splendour behind the table being the focus of attention.

Westward facing works better if there is more than just a solitary priest behind the altar: choir, servers, concelbrating priests, even a part of the congregation.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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TomM
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by TomM:
It don't matter what it's made of. If it's an altar, it needs to look like one. Will you fit a bull on it to sacrifice? Or at least a lamb? If not, make it more substantial!!

Are you sure that's good theology? Even those that emphasise sacrificial language are adamant that the Mass is a bloodless sacrifice. And I can't off-hand think of any tradition I've encountered that follows the prescription that an altar should be designed even to look as though one could sacrifice a bull on it, yet alone actually be capable of being used that way. And if that were one's theology, wouldn't it have to be constructed of undressed stone?


Venbede, I know eastward facing celebration is for some a party badge or shibboleth, but for those who did not grow up in that tradition, and I suspect for those whose memories only go back to modern times, the way some clergy used to preside could all too easily be described as 'turn your back on the congregation, huddle down and mumble'. My apologies if this offends, but irrespective of one's eucharistic theology, that was neither edifying nor inspiring.

It could also be just as 'all about me' as a theatrical west-facing position can be - only in a different way.

I'm not entirely serious. But for the visual language to convey that this is an altar for sacrifice, I'd suggest it should look like that is what is not happening there. (And I guess probably lamb rather than bull gives the imagery a better touch)
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venbede
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quote:
Originally posted by Bibaculus:
There is a well established tradition, which early Christians Origen and Evagrius and Basil believed to be Apostolic, of Christians facing towards the rising sun to pray - not just liturgically but for private prayer too. Gabriel Bunge's Earthern Vessels deals with all the Patristic authorities for this.

English RCs weren't bothered about this when they built Westminster Cathedral facing South and Brompton Oratory facing North.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Bibaculus
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Venbede - No. Sometimes people talk of a 'liturgical east', which makes sense when I am in some moods, and none at all when I am in others.

The fact is that it was seen as very important in the early Church, not just for liturgical prayer but for private prayer too, to orientate yourself, in the literal meaning of that word. And it was held to be a custom which came from the apostles.

I like Sarah Coakley's explanation of changing direction at the altar to signify representing, by turns (oh, I didn't intend the pun!) the people to God, and God to the people.

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Oblatus
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quote:
Originally posted by Bibaculus:
Venbede - No. Sometimes people talk of a 'liturgical east', which makes sense when I am in some moods, and none at all when I am in others.

I hope "liturgical east" is never used with the idea that we're somehow pretending to face east while praying, in a church not oriented.

The term is used simply for consistency in giving liturgical directions (such as in Fortescue's manual or a parish customary), so the altar end is the east end in such directions.

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Bibaculus
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Oblatus - I think that is exactly how it is used in some RC 'Reform of the Reform' circles, though quite how they are getting on without Pope Benedict I do not know.

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venbede
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I didn't mean to set up a Dead Horse debate on East against West celebration.

My concern was that granted there is Westward facing celebration, how is it most appropriately done?

Ideally any altar at the East end should then be ripped out and RCs frequently do just that.

The MOTR thing of reverencing an Eastward altar while using a Westward one could uncharitably be described as just the superstitious creation of cultic objects with no theological justification of which some protestants accuse any symbolic worship.

CofE Anglicans aware of current Roman norms (eg Walsingham) will not fall into the same trap.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Angloid
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quote:
Originally posted by venbede:

The MOTR thing of reverencing an Eastward altar while using a Westward one could uncharitably be described as just the superstitious creation of cultic objects with no theological justification of which some protestants accuse any symbolic worship.

Well said venbede. I seem to remember this as the practice at Southwark Cathedral, which is surprising as their liturgy is generally good. But maybe I am wrong, and/or they have changed their practice.
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venbede
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I was at Southwark Cathedral on Tuesday and they took no notice of the East End altar at all.

I was gob smacked. A (dodgily) sung mass setting, all three readings, creed, sermon and Candlemas ceremonies all within 55 minutes. Why can't others manage it?

[ 05. February 2016, 05:24: Message edited by: venbede ]

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Ceremoniar
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quote:
Originally posted by venbede:
I was at Southwark Cathedral on Tuesday and they took no notice of the East End altar at all.

I was gob smacked. A (dodgily) sung mass setting, all three readings, creed, sermon and Candlemas ceremonies all within 55 minutes. Why can't others manage it?

Because they don't care to rush through the Sacred Liturgy?
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venbede
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Well no, actually.

It was only afterwards I looked at my watch and checked. Up to then I'd been so grateful to have everything bar a sung Kyrie. It certainly didn't seem rushed.

Mind you, communion didn't take that long with a small congregation and it was administered to us in a queue rather than kneeling at rails.

And the bliss compared to most parishes, no irrelevant hymns. Introit and offertory hymns. For the Candlemas procession, the congregation stayed in place holding lighted candles and swivelled around to face the font while the sanctuary party processed there for the dismissal (which is standard Southwark practice).

No hymn longer than three verses, including "Of the Father's love begotten" for that Candlemas procession.

[ 05. February 2016, 12:51: Message edited by: venbede ]

--------------------
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Posts: 3201 | From: An historic market town nestling in the folds of Surrey's rolling North Downs, | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged
Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
I know eastward facing celebration is for some a party badge or shibboleth, but for those who did not grow up in that tradition, and I suspect for those whose memories only go back to modern times, the way some clergy used to preside could all too easily be described as 'turn your back on the congregation, huddle down and mumble'.

Not part of my tradition at all, of course.

But might I remind folks that we now have clip-on radio mikes?

[ 05. February 2016, 13:47: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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Ecclesiastical Flip-flop
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quote:
Originally posted by Ceremoniar:
quote:
Originally posted by venbede:
I was at Southwark Cathedral on Tuesday and they took no notice of the East End altar at all.

I was gob smacked. A (dodgily) sung mass setting, all three readings, creed, sermon and Candlemas ceremonies all within 55 minutes. Why can't others manage it?

Because they don't care to rush through the Sacred Liturgy?
You don't say what time of day the Tuesday Eucharist (for Candlemass) at Southwark Cathedral took place. If it was at lunch-time, then keeping the service down to 55 minutes is fair enough, in order to fit in with office-workers attending during their lunch-break.

Keeping the service down to 55 minutes, is not necessarily achieved by rushing it, but more of a consideration of content in choice off hymns, Mass-setting, readings etc.

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Joyeuses Pâques! Frohe Ostern! Buona Pasqua! ¡Felices Pascuas! Happy Easter!

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venbede
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12.45 am. It was a lunchtime service, but with all the usual his.

--------------------
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Ecclesiastical Flip-flop
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quote:
Originally posted by venbede:
12.45 am. It was a lunchtime service, but with all the usual his.

There you go and that fits in with my point!

--------------------
Joyeuses Pâques! Frohe Ostern! Buona Pasqua! ¡Felices Pascuas! Happy Easter!

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Fr Weber
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The Candlemas procession at the end? Every liturgy I've ever seen front-loads it. Is this a CW revision?

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"The Eucharist is not a play, and you're not Jesus."

--Sr Theresa Koernke, IHM

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venbede
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It is indeed. We had it at the start on Sunday.

--------------------
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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venbede
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The dear old C of E Liturgical Commission created an Epiphany season running from Epiphany to Candlemas.

Their (well meaning, but over elaborate) idea is that this season ends at Candlemaas with a procession at the end of mass that looks forward to Easter. From then on we are looking towards Lent.

--------------------
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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leo
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In so doing, they ruined Candlemas by concentrating solely on one theme - the sword piercing... turning from the nativity to thde passion.

There is an option to process at the beginning but it is hidden in the rubrics.

After 6 years of trying to persuade my incumbent, I have given up and am resigned to no longer celebrating it 'properly'.

[ 06. February 2016, 09:00: Message edited by: leo ]

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venbede
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I'd rather have it at the end than not at all.

"Ruined" is a bit strong, but my gut instinct is to agree with leo.

[ 06. February 2016, 10:20: Message edited by: venbede ]

--------------------
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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leo
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So how can we change it?

My previous incumbent was on the liturgical committee and I persuaded him to change the Easter Vigil in a more 'catholic' way.

My current incumbent is good on liturgy that impresses, pastorally, which I assume is what matters, but has little clue about the 'big picture'.

--------------------
My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

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Angloid
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At least you have liturgy! Most people in our place don't know what it is.

I have to say I like the CW order for Candlemass. But maybe I need to rethink: it's easy to oversimplify and iron out the subtleties and paradox. I've been reconverted to doing the Easter Vigil the 'right' way round. (Although there is an advantage of having the Fire later if you're in one of those parishes that insists on starting the service ridiculously early... at least there is more chance of doing in in at least twilight if not darkness).

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seasick

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quote:
Originally posted by venbede:
The dear old C of E Liturgical Commission created an Epiphany season running from Epiphany to Candlemas.

Their (well meaning, but over elaborate) idea is that this season ends at Candlemaas with a procession at the end of mass that looks forward to Easter. From then on we are looking towards Lent.

It depresses me how many of my Methodist colleagues tell me that this is 'traditional'! No, it's not - the Church of England invented it a few years ago!
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venbede
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And the C of E messed round with the RCL lectionary at the same time.

I believe from here that American Methodists ad Lutherans have invented an Epiphany season culminating in a feast of the Transfiguration on the Sunday before Lent.

At least the C of E had some ancient precedent in the idea that Candlemass marked the end of Christmas, even if they've over elaborated it.

--------------------
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Liturgylover
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It seems that Southwark was something of an exception among neighborhing churches that celebrated the great festival on the day. Westminster Abbey, St Paul's, AS Margaret Street, Holy Redeemer Clerkenwell, all had the ceremony and procession at the beginning.

It's sad that Candlemas is no longer celebrated in the Catholic Church with a festal mass unless it happens to fall on Sunday.

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Angloid:
I've been reconverted to doing the Easter Vigil the 'right' way round.

Alleluia!

--------------------
My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

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venbede
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This is getting off topic, but for what it's worth...

A church with a strong MOTR tradition 50 years ago which was getting more catholic, was used to an Easter Vigil on Saturday night, with the bonfire at the start and a candlelit vigil of readings before switching on the electric lights at the Gloria.

An (excellent) new Vicar decided to do it a bit different, by which time CW had published its fire-in-the-middle version. There was the old church one side of the road and the large Victorian church opposite.

The Vigil began at 5am in the old church in the dark with readings by electric torch.

Then we moved outside to light the bonfire outside the new church and then moved in there and lit up candles on every window ledge during the Exsultet.

The only problem was, that by the time we moved to light the new fire, it had already dawned, so there was no longer a practical reason for light.

All the candles were indistinguishable in the early light of the new day.

[ 07. February 2016, 15:55: Message edited by: venbede ]

--------------------
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Posts: 3201 | From: An historic market town nestling in the folds of Surrey's rolling North Downs, | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged



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