Friday, September 18, 2015

Five Years Ago Today: Day 3 of Papal Visit (Mass and Eucharistic Vigil)

The state-sponsored aspect of Pope Benedict's visit ended mid-morning on Saturday, September 18, 2010 after meetings with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. In only the second public Mass of the visit, the Holy Father celebrated Mass at Westminster Cathedral (Votive Mass for the Most Precious Blood at the Cathedral dedicated to the Most Precious Blood). The Chant Cafe blog commented on the solemnity of the celebration and the particular selection of William Byrd's Mass for Five Voices:

At long last, and the wait was very long, the world has seen an example of a magnificent Papal Mass, celebrated by the Pope Benedict XVI in the Westminster Cathedral, with glorious decorum, perfect music, and holy dignity all around. We have so long been used to other things that it seem to take a while to fully settle into the reality that this was truly a Papal Mass fully worthy to be written up in the history books as a model and ideal -- even in the ordinary form of the Mass and even before the Mass translation is upgraded this time next year.

The musical Mass setting of choice for the occasion was the Mass for Five Voices by William Byrd (1539–1623). It is the most dramatic, most difficult, and most emotionally compelling of the three Masses that Byrd wrote for the Catholic Mass. In his time as Queen Elizabeth’s own composer, Byrd was writing English music for the Anglican Church by day and, by night, secretly composing music for the Catholic Church in hiding, for Masses celebrated in castles and manors untouched by the politics of the time.

There was so much poignant and thrilling about hearing this particular setting, performed perfectly of course, in the open daylight, in a restored Catholic Church in England, with the Pope presiding, at a Mass attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself. Byrd’s Catholicism is in hiding no more! Instead, it is available to the entire world in the context of a liturgical splendor unlike any we’ve yet seen. . . .

The extraordinary nature of this event was evident from the grand entrance, featuring a “Tu es Petrus” setting by Scottish composer James MacMillan, another man who has made his mark on history. The setting was regal and unapologetically so. It was a great example of modern liturgical music for procession. . . .

The German heritage of this Pope was honored with th
e Christus Factus Est by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) at Offertory. I had never actually heard this piece before. This moment was a great one, surely for the Pope, who must know this music well, but also for Bruckner himself, who experienced in his own life a great deal of suffering for his own Catholicism. His greatness was never really acknowledge by his contemporaries and his unfashionable Catholicism tagged him as "pious and overly devotional" in the Germany of his times.

You can watch the Mass here.

In his homily at Mass and in his remarks during the Eucharistic Adoration Vigil later that night, Pope Benedict alluded to the Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales. In the homily:

Faithful to Christ’s command to “do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19), the Church in every time and place celebrates the Eucharist until the Lord returns in glory, rejoicing in his sacramental presence and drawing upon the power of his saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The reality of the Eucharistic sacrifice has always been at the heart of Catholic faith; called into question in the sixteenth century, it was solemnly reaffirmed at the Council of Trent against the backdrop of our justification in Christ. Here in England, as we know, there were many who staunchly defended the Mass, often at great cost, giving rise to that devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist which has been a hallmark of Catholicism in these lands.

At the Eucharistic Adoration Vigil, held in Hyde Park, Benedict was preparing for the beatification of John Henry Newman the next. He commented on the proximity of Tyburn and the martyrs who suffered there:

Not far from here, at Tyburn, great numbers of our brothers and sisters died for the faith; the witness of their fidelity to the end was ever more powerful than the inspired words that so many of them spoke before surrendering everything to the Lord. In our own time, the price to be paid for fidelity to the Gospel is no longer being hanged, drawn and quartered but it often involves being dismissed out of hand, ridiculed or parodied. And yet, the Church cannot withdraw from the task of proclaiming Christ and his Gospel as saving truth, the source of our ultimate happiness as individuals and as the foundation of a just and humane society.

1 comment:

  1. What a coincidence - I was just listening to this today, on a podcast from WWFM, New Jersey. They have a wonderful program that they air on Friday evenings at 10 pm. “A Distant Mirror / with Allan Kelly.” It’s all medieval through baroque.