THE HIDDEN AND THE REVEALED:
Less familar aspects of
Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Day
in the late medieval Use of Sarum
This schedule is subject to modification.
Monday, February 21
Darkness, books, and memory
Nowadays, more than ever before, we take for granted good light and readable texts in church. Memory is not required: what we say, what we sing, and what we do are written down. This is an opportunity to reflect on a time when the longest services and most complex chants were sung in the night; a time when in a community of thirty, forty or more monks, nuns or clergy, might have only three books – one for the officiant, one for the readers, and one for the cantors; a time when there was a minimum of illumination; a time when the greater part of the sung liturgy was committed to memory as a matter of course. These may be issues for revaluation today.
The Lenten Litanies
There was a time when the recitation of the Litany was normative in Anglican churches: on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, after Morning Prayer. This second part of today’s session considers the use of the Litany in Lent at Salisbury Cathedral. For most of the time, the gathered community of clergy prayed the daily Office and Mass in the choir and presbytery. Lent was a time when they went in procession to sing the Litany at a different altar within the cathedral church on Wednesday and Friday – a slow pilgrimage to each of the places in the cathedral where the sacrifice of the Mass was offered each day. What might be rediscovered from this today?
Tuesday, February 22
Casting out and welcoming back: Lenten penitence
In a quite unexpected way, we have experienced exclusion from church for extended periods during the pandemic. That did not prevent prayer; but notwithstanding Zoom and YouTube, it did prevent corporate prayer – gathering together in a sacred space. In the Middle Ages, there was a practice of excluding certain people from church on Ash Wednesday, and then re-admitting them before the Mass on Maundy Thursday. Deprivation from the sacrament, from the sacred space, offered a period for penitence. This session examines the expulsion of penitents on Ash Wednesday and their reconciliation on Maundy Thursday, and its possibilities for observing Lent today.
Wednesday, February 23
Christ buried, Christ raised: the Easter Sepulchre
It was around the tomb of Christ that the emperor, Constantine, built the great Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in the fourth century. There are surviving examples of versions of that sepulchre in medieval churches throughout the West. It was the place of burial and resurrection. At Salisbury on Good Friday, all venerated the cross and the priest consumed the pre-consecrated host; then the cross and a second host (the body of Christ) were laid to rest in a sepulchre, where a candle burned continuously. Then before Matins in the small hours of Easter Day, the cross and the host were raised: ‘he is risen’. The host was laid solemnly on the altar; and the cross was placed at the altar nearest the main entrance of the cathedral, so that all could witness that Christ was risen as they arrived. The ritual was adopted in many churches. Are there opportunities for responding to this ancient ritual in our own liturgies today?