|Simultaneous Masses in Westminster Cathedral|
Crypt; photo by Joseph Shaw
(source: LMS Chairman blog)
This photo, taken by Joseph Shaw, shows in the foreground the elevation of the Host during Fr Martin Edward's Mass (on an altar in the Crypt Chapel of St Peter), whilst another the priest, offering his Mass in the background, is elevating the Chalice. Yet another priest was offering his private Mass at the same time in the Shrine of St Edmund - where both Cardinals Nicholas Wiseman and Henry Manning are buried. (Yet another Mass, in the Ordinary Form, was also being offered at the same time - on the High Altar, directly above the Crypt.)
It was really wonderful to hear the simultaneous ringing of sacred bells and murmur of profound prayers offered by the priests, all acting in persona Christi. I was reminded in an immediate way of these now realised prophetic words of Scripture: -
"From the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts." (Malachi 1:11 - this verse is used in the Didache, c AD 70, specifically in relation to the Eucharistic sacrifice)Yesterday's simultaneous Masses also reminded me of a passage from a novel by the eccentric convert priest and son of an Archbishop of Canterbury, Mgr Robert Hugh Benson. In The King’s Achievement (1904), a young monk at Lewes Priory, called Christopher Torridon, meditates on the purpose of the monastic life, which is, he says: “the uttering of praises to Him who had made and was sustaining and would receive again all things to Himself.” Using this character, Benson goes on to write this beautiful description of what it is like to be present when Mass is being offered simultaneously on different altars: -
A stream of sacrifice poured up to the Throne through the mellow summer morning, or the cold winter darkness and gloom, from altar after altar in the great church. Christopher remembered pleasantly a morning soon after the beginning of his novitiate when he had been in the church as a set of priests came in and began Mass simultaneously. The mystical fancy suggested itself as the hum of voices began that he was in a garden, warm and bright with grace, and that bees about him were making honey — that fragrant sweetness of which it had been said long ago that God should eat — and as the tinkle of the Elevation sounded out here and there, it seemed to him as a signal that the mysterious confection was done, and that every altar sprang into perfume from those silver vessels set with jewel and crystal.Linking the Sacred Mysteries of our Faith with Mgr Benson, I am also reminded, especially seeing that the clock is ticking away, that many people will be on their way to the Brompton Oratory this morning (St Philip's Day) to attend Pontifical High Mass celebrated by Cardinal Raymond Burke. Mgr Benson, it seems, wasn't such a great fan of the Oratory (in some regards, at least). Replying to a letter from an Anglican friend in 1908, who had asked him to recommend the most prayerful Catholic churches in London, Benson wrote: -
For myself, I can't pray in the Oratory at all. But above all, let me recommend the Cathedral at Westminster. That is the best miniature of the Catholic Church as a whole that I know. But please remember that you don't know what the Church is in the least until you have seen her really at her prayers in a Religious House. There you see her in her inmost heart, intimately, and at home. In the Oratory she is like a lady out walking in her furs and jewels.I suspect that that beautiful lady which is the Brompton Oratory will definitely be decked out in all her finery today - and rightly so, for Scripture itself tells us, we should "rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready" (Rev 19:7).