Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Ember Saturday Mass at St Anthony's

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Last Saturday there was a splendid Solemn Mass, with the full Ember Saturday Mass, with a spiritual talk, at Westminster Cathedral in London. Partly by chance, we mirrored this occasion in Oxford, at St Anthony of Padua.

The Ember Days are a truly great liturgical event, taking place four times a year. They consist of Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, traditionally days of pennance, to sanctify each season of the year. The Saturday Mass includes five Prophecies (readings from the Old Testament), an Epistle and a Gospel. Since it was Sung, the schola last Saturday sang the Graduals between each one, and the lovely Canticle of the Three Young Men sung as a continuation of the last Prophecy, which gives the story of the attempt to martyr them, and their miraculous preservation in the heart of the fiery furnace.

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The pattern of a series of lessons followed by the Offertory and the rest of Mass is reminiscent of the Easter Vigil, and the Ember Saturday Mass was originally a vigil. The lessons took place during the night, and at dawn Mass was said. This is why the Gospel for the Sunday following is the same as the Gospel for the Ember Saturday: originally the Ember Saturday Mass started on Saturday and ended on Sunday, and there was no separate Sunday Mass.

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While in the ancient Easter Vigil, more of the vigil was taken up by baptisms, formerly the vigil of the Ember Saturday was used for ordinations, with different orders being conferred after each reading.
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The richness of the Ember Saturday Mass is really a case in point of the glories of the traditional calendar. The richness of the scripture and chant of this service is wonderful, and this is given to us four times a year, not on a feast day, but as part of the seasonal unfolding of the year.

The celebrant was Fr Simon Leworthy FSSP, the deacon Fr Nicholas Edmonds-Smith Cong Orat, and the subdeacon Br Oliver Craddock Cong Orat (both of the Oxford Oratory). The day was arranged by Fr Aldo Tapparo, the parish priest, who sat in choir. After lunch in the presbytery, Fr Edmonds-Smith gave a very interesting and edifying talk about the Ember Saturday liturgy, and we concluded with Benediction.
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More photos here.


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