Theology Blog: Reflections on a Recent Eucharist
The Revd Canon John Seymour – July 2013
Liturgical experts call it ‘ordinary time’. But there was nothing ordinary about the Cathedral Eucharist on this particular Sunday. Indeed, as we entered at about 10.15am, the choir was having a final practice of the Gloria from Widor’s Mass for Two Choirs. To be greeted by such glorious music so confidently sung by a very large choir, with bursts, tutti, from the organ, was as dramatic as it was uplifting – even before the service began.
It was end of term for the Cathedral choir. Dr Chris Johns and his team should be well satisfied and encouraged by the progress the choir has made during this past academic year. Not unrelated to this is the fact that the size of the congregation appears to have increased recently, partly, I suspect, due to the presence of new choir parents and grandparents. Once or twice recently we have been asked to share Orders of Service, as supplies ran out.
Next came the opening hymn: An Easter hymn on Trinity Six! Every Sunday is a sort of Easter Day. ‘That we, with our hearts in heaven, here on earth may fruitful be’ could be a good motto for any church or cathedral. In case we hadn’t noticed the Easter emphasis, the Dean then welcomed us by reminding us that we were there to celebrate both the love of God and the resurrection of Jesus. After that glorious Widor Gloria, the Collect had a memorable petition: ‘May we discern you in all that we see, and serve you in all that we do.’
Dean David began his sermon with a direct challenge: ‘How do you picture God?’ We might have guessed what he was driving at as the OT lesson and the gradual hymn (words based on Dame Julian of Norwich) gave us a clue: ‘Mothering God… Mothering Christ… Mothering Spirit’. As a sub-plot there was a memorable sound-bite: ‘When you have’ (another Isaiah quote) ‘shared your food with the hungry, opened your home to the homeless poor’, then, added David, you can polish the candlesticks. The recent request for us to bring with us each Sunday something from our weekly shop for the newly set-up Food Bank is most welcome. But why has it been difficult to find the box to receive the items? Last week we found it under a table.
The anthem – Philip Stopford’s setting of Come down, O love divine, added a further course to this spiritual feast. So beautiful. I love the four single-syllable words: ‘for none can guess…’ (another good motto). The bass entry is worth waiting for, providing a base for the trebles’ soaring descant.
F Pratt Green’s excellent words which followed are often sung at Harvest Festivals. They combine the harvest theme with both the world-wide task of caring, and the Harvest of the Spirit. The set tune is good enough, but next time can we have it to Ar hyd y nos, which I think fits the words admirably? A final burst of Widor from Simon Headley (what an asset he is to the Cathedral) brought the service to a triumphant close.
Thank you, Cathedral staff – both ordained and lay – for another glimpse of the heavenly banquet.
© Canon John Seymour
PS: We did sing Ar hyd y nos at an Evensong recently. Much appreciated!