Sunday, 12 September 2010

Little? Solemn? Liturgical?

The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, rehearsing for Choral Evensong earlier this year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

This morning [Sunday 12 September 2010], I am the celebrant at the Choral Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

This is the 15th Sunday after Trinity, and the collect, readings and post-communion prayer are:

Collect:

God,
who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit
upon your Church in the burning fire of your love:
Grant that your people may be fervent
in the fellowship of the gospel;
that, always abiding in you,
they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings:

Exodus 32: 7-14; Psalm 51: 1-10; I Timothy 1: 12-17; Luke 15: 1-10.

Post Communion Prayer:

Eternal God,
we have received these tokens of your promise.
May we who have been nourished with holy things
live as faithful heirs of your promised kingdom.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

The preacher this morning is Canon Ted Ardis, who is canon-in-residence this week.

It is good to have the choir back in the cathedral since last Sunday. The setting for the Cathedral Eucharist this morning is Haydn’s Missa brevis Sancti Johannis de Deo in B-flat major. This Mass was written in 1775 for the Barmherzige Brüder in Eisenstadt, Austria, whose patron saint was Saint John of the Cross. It is sometimes known as the Kleine Orgelmesse (the Little Organ Mass) because of the extensive organ solo in the Benedictus.

This Haydn Mass was originally scored for choir, strings and organ, but there some versions too with trumpets, timpani and clarinets. Being a Missa Brevis, several clauses of the text are set simultaneously in different voices.

This Mass was also used in Salzburg. But there the textual compression was deemed “unacceptable,” and so Joseph Haydn’s brother, Michael, expanded the Gloria.

The Communion Motet is Giachino Rossini’s O salutaris hostia:

O salutaris Hostia,
Quae caeli pandis ostium:
Bella premunt hostilia,
Da robur, fer auxilium.

Lord who for us was sacrificed
Thou opened heaven’s portals wide
Guard us now from all our foes
Thy strength and saving health provide.


This hymn was written by Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Rossini’s setting is from his Petite Messe Solennelle, written in 1863, five years before his death. The composer called it “the last of my pêchés de vieillesse (sins of old age).” Napoleon III said this Mass by Rossini was neither little, nor solemn, nor liturgical.

Our hymns this morning are:

Processional: God is here! As we his people (330), Fred Pratt Green;
Offertory: Jesus calls us here to meet him (335), John Bell and Graham Maude;
Communion: Sweet the moments, rich in blessing (240), Walter Shirley;
Post-Communion: We love the place, O God (343), William Bullock and HW Baker.

I hope to be back in the cathedral this afternoon at 3.30 for Choral Evensong, when the choir sings Philip Radcliffe’s preces and responses. The canticles are being sung to Francis Jackson’s ‘Evening Service in G,’ and the anthem is Hubert Parry’s “Never weather-beaten sail.”

Parry is best known for Jerusalem – and last night was the Last Night at the Proms – and for Repton, his setting for Dear Lord and Father of mankind. Parry’s father, Thomas Gambier Parry, was the artist who painted the nave ceiling of Ely Cathedral, and the composer was a brother-in-law of Sidney Herbert, who, with his wife built Saint John’s Church in Sandymount.

This anthem comes from Parry’s The Songs of Farewell, which stand high amongst his masterpieces. The songs were completed during the World War I, which was an agonising time for Parry as he saw countless young men, including many of his students, setting out for the trenches of Flanders and the Somme. Parry was distressed that Germany, as “a nation of artistic heroes, who had taught him everything and to whose mast he had nailed his true colours, could be capable of such carnage.”

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

(Updated, 12.9.2010)