Thursday, 9 April 2009

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is traditionally the day on which the Mass of the Chrism is celebrated by the Bishop with his priests and deacons united around him; it is a day of commitment and joy in the service of the Lord, whose dying and rising we are preparing to unite ourselves with in the solemn liturgies of the Triduum.

However, since the time the anglican provinces in these islands departed from Catholic holy order, it has also been a day of profound sadness in the face of our disunity. Since 1997, Catholics and other traditionalists in the Church in Wales have gathered around Bishop David Thomas, the Provincial Assistant Bishop, in the Chrism Masses he has celebrated in North and South Wales. With the dishonouring of the promises made to us in 1996, this arrangement has now come to an end.

This morning, instead of being able to attend the Chrism Mass of the Bishop of Monmouth in Newport Cathedral, has been spent in prayer for the sadly divided community of which we still (if increasingly tenuously) form a part, and for the visible unity of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church and for our own reunion with the greater whole.
Our Chrism Mass took place in Bath this year, the great joy of the occasion being tempered only by the sadness of being forced to make the journey.

This is Father Hunwicke’s take on the Mass of the Chrism. I quote it in full as it sums up my own feelings about the true significance of Saturday morning in Bathwick.

“In antiquity, the Bishop of Rome used to send a fragment of the Host, each Sunday, to each of the presbyters of the Roman title churches as a sign of his Communio with them ... and of his own Eucharistic presidency. It was commingled with the chalice at the Fraction; the origin, in fact, of the Commixture which has bravely survived Bugnini and still exists even in the Ordinary Form.
A little while ago, Bishop Andrew reminded us that it is not good enough just to have any old validly consecrated Chrism around; the Chrism in fact functions now as a expression and diagnostic of Communio. The C of E never has had proper incardination; the Tudor Establishment preserved the old medieval bureaucratic legalities (Gregory Dix liked to point out that the Church of England is riddled with more unreformed medievalisms than any other body in Christendom). But whose oils one uses in the radically liminal rites of Initiation shows which Bishop one is a presbyter of.
Sometimes our Traditionalist English bishops refer to their clergy as "Clergy who look to me". Perhaps a crisper, more theological, more sacramental, formula would be "Clergy who receive my Chrism".
I think it's a good point. 'Whose Chrism' is so much better an indication of a presbyter's ecclesial location than legal pieces of paper like licences. Chrism, after all, is not about lawyers but about the sacramental structure of Christ's Church.
Bishop Andrew, it seems, will have had about 150ish priests at his Chrism Masses. These PEVdoms seem to compare very favourably with the size of dioceses in some parts of the anglican Communion.”

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