At the end of every high mass on Sunday, we stand and face the Walsingham shrine, to say the angelus, the devotions to Our Lady. At Easter we sing instead the Easter version, called the Regina Caeli, its name in Latin. It goes
Joy to you, O Queen of Heaven. Alleluia!
He whom you were meet to bear. Alleluia!
As He promised has arisen. Alleluia!
Pour for us to God your prayer. Alleluia!
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
For the Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.
Let us pray:
O GOD, who has given joy to the whole world through the resurrection of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, grant that through the prayers of his Virgin Mother Mary we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Never say the stories of the Church are not relevant. The legend from the 13th C, of this devotion, attributes it to St Gregory the Great from the 6th C – he was the pope who sent St Augustine, our first Archbishop of Canterbury, on his mission to England. In 590 a plague was decimating the population of Rome. In those days the Church, instead of locking the churches and hiding, used to have public penitential processions asking for God’s mercy. Gregory ordered that a newly arrived icon of Mary, said to been painted by St Luke, be carried in the procession. As it was being carried across the river Tiber, angels were heard singing the first three lines of this anthem, calling on Mary to rejoice because her son had risen. Gregory then completed the last line on the spot, and at that moment the Archangel Gabriel appeared above the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian nearby and sheathed his sword, a sign that the plague was ended. A chapel was then built on the monument, which was renamed Castel Sant’ Angelo, and that monument still exists.
Well, the famous icon still exists as well, it is called the Salus Populi Romani and the present pope, Francis, had it on display as he gave his blessing to the city and world recently, over the sadly empty space in front of St Peter’s. History has a way of echoing through time.
So, it’s very appropriate indeed that we sing this hymn at this time. We use it at the moment every day at noon at the shrine by the door of the church as we pray for those in need, and ask the protection of Our Lord and the prayers of Our Lady at this difficult time. I am glad we have this public space to do this: our little witness to the world of the continuing place of prayer.
This Sunday is also called Low Sunday. It’s often a bit of a holiday for the church choir and servers, who just want a break after all the hard work over Easter. Sundays are often named after the special pieces of music for the day, usually the first music sung as the clergy entered, the introit, but this name comes from the sequence, the music sung before the gospel. The sequence for this day is in Latin Laudes Salvatatori, “Praise to Our Saviour”, and the Laudes was corrupted in English into Low, giving us the name of the Sunday.
Sad news on the parish front: Steve Scovell died on Thursday 16 April. He had been unwell for a while, and battling with cancer. Steve and Val lived in the present hall, when it was still a house, in Fr Willoughby’s time and have had a lifelong connection with our parish. We pray for the repose of his soul, and his widow Val and family. Pray particularly for Tom, in England, who has been infected.
Some people have asked me if we are going to try streaming any services. It’s not a technology I’m good at, but I will if there is enough interest, perhaps for a compline one night. Let me know.
This Thursday will also be the feast of our patron saint, St George. We usually have a lovely lunch together on the Sunday following this: but not this year. In earlier times people used to wear red roses for this day to our church, a custom that was a little difficult to fulfil as roses are usually a little hard to come by in April. However, the gardens are simply lovely at the moment and the roses are plentiful! I have included at the top of this issue one of the earliest photos we have of our beautiful statue of St George from around 1920. The face is particularly beautiful.
One of the hymns I love singing for St George’s Day, “For All the Saints,” was written by the Bishop of Wakefield, William Walsham How in 1864. How turned down many great Anglo Catholic parishes, such as All Saints Margaret Street, the great London Church, to remain working in poor parishes. The hymn was popularised particularly in the famous English Hymnal, in 1906 with a new setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It has been described as one of the finest hymn tunes of the 20th century. Here is a YouTube recording from King’s College, Cambridge for those who want to hear it. Enjoy.
For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost: