We are celebrating Corpus Christi on Thursday and it will be the first time we’ve celebrated it with a Choral Eucharist in a long time.

I noticed about a year ago that we were doing better at keeping the more introspective and gloomy feasts than the glorious. We were doing well at repenting of our sins at Ash Wednesday and mourning our dead on All Souls than we were at simply enjoying ourselves. Thus, it seemed a good idea to revive the keeping of Corpus Christi – a celebration that is pure gold and good will.

The essence of the festival is that it is a celebration of the giving of the Eucharist to the church. We should, of course naturally celebrate that on Maundy Thursday, but we get too caught up in the Holy Week dramas for that, and so a special day is set aside – the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to celebrate and enjoy the giving of the gift of the Eucharist.

The keeping of the Feast has tended to be marked particularly by processions. There are some good pics on Flickr of outdoor processions of the Blessed Sacrament. We’ll not manage anything like that, but there will be rose petals strewn as the sacrament is processed in glory around the church.

We then get some gazing time. Allowing our eyes to rest on the blessed sacrament and reflecting on God’s presence in the world and the love that flows between God and the world.

Then at the end of the service, instead of a spoken blessing, the people are blessed with the sacrament (Benediction). There has been something of a revival of Benediction in the diocese in recent years, and St Mary’s is coming later to it than others who have been leading the way. I tend to like Benediction because the music is good and its a way of praying that is not simply about what your brain is thinking. Much more visual and auditory than cerebral. Indeed, it works best when you don’t analyze it too much.

It should feel as though the very gates of heaven are open and all the world is a-tremble with the presence of God.

We’ll see what we can do….

E and B

Its a funny thing, Choral Evensong. A few years ago, I would have said it was purely of antiquarian interest. However, I was wrong.

Last night was a good example. Glorious music. Quite a diverse aged congregation. A diverse aged choir too. Gorecki’s Totus tuus utterly beguiling us all in its simplicity and sparse beauty. It was such a pleasure to be in the midst of it all and seeing and feeling the ancient patterns of prayer come to life in the known holiness of the building once again.

Last week I made it to Choral Evensong in London in one of the churches that I used to go to when I worked down there. It too was stunning. It helps having one of the most striking Norman interiors in the world and it always helps having a choir who know just exactly what to do with the psalms. The psalm singing is one of the regular joys of St Mary’s, but the one I went to down south was special too. Just five singers in the choir, singing Anglican chant impeccably.

However the strongest thing that I’ll take away from that particular service was Benediction. It was simply stunning. The organist knew exactly how to bring the whole thing to a climax (and I do mean climax) when the Blessed Sacrament was revealed in the monstrance and the congregation was blessed. Organ at one end of the building, bell ringing servers at the other. It felt as thought he whole building was vibrating with faith and joy. (At first I thought that they had installed a zimbelstern, but it was just the servers doing their thing).

“O Saving Victim, opening wide. The gate of heaven to us below…” is one of the things that gets Sung at Evensong. Though I’ve enjoyed many a Benediction in the past, that service in London on that one particular night made those words seem more true, more astonishingly, palpably true than any service I’ve experienced before, either in that church of any other. It will stay with me for a long time.

I’ve no plans on introducing Benediction to Sunday evening worship in St Mary’s. I like what we do and I think it works well. However, it did make me think about other possible opportunities.