St Augustine’s to celebrate Easter in the Extraordinary Form

The Shrine of St Augustine of England in Ramsgate will celebrate all Easter ceremonies in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite this year. It is one of only six churches in England and Wales that will have all these ceremonies in this form this year.

This will be the second consecutive year that St Augustine’s has had an entirely Extraordinary Form Easter. Celebration of Easter with Extraordinary Form liturgies has been unusual since reforms to the church’s liturgies during the 1970s. The ceremonies are becoming more common since the clarification of their status in the document Summorum Pontinficum by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

The services will be sung by St Augustine’s resident choir, The Victoria Consort. Everyone is welcome to attend all or some of the ceremonies.

The ceremonies are particularly renowned for their beauty and deep meaning. Although they happen on separate days, they form a whole pattern that commemorates Jesus’s final days and resurrection. On Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Mass is celebrated in the evening and recalls the Last Supper and the Institution of the Eucharist. This is when Jesus ate his last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion, and when he gave the Eucharist to his disciples – when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ – instructing them to, “Do this in memory of me”. At the end of the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament will be taken to Peter Paul Pugin’s Altar of the Sacred Heart where it will be reserved for Holy Communion on Good Friday.

On Good Friday the liturgy involves various prayers at the beginning of the service, followed by the veneration of a crucifix which is displayed to the congregation. This unique liturgy takes place on the day that Jesus’s crucifixion is commemorated. By kissing the foot of the crucifix, the people show their respect and love for Jesus Christ and his sacrifice, represented by the crucifix itself. This is followed by the distribution of Holy Communion, which was consecrated at Mass the evening before. Because Good Friday is the day that Jesus’s death is commemorated most solemnly, Mass is not said on this day.

On Holy Saturday the liturgy celebrates Christ’s resurrection, which prefigures our own resurrection and new life. It is therefore a very solemn and joyful ceremony. It begins with a fire and lighting the new Paschal Candle, which symbolises Christ who is called the “Light of the World.” A special text called the “Exultet” is sung which calls on the people to rejoice in the resurrection of Christ. There are readings from the Bible of the prophesies from the Old Testament fulfilled by Jesus, followed by New Testament readings. Mass is then celebrated for the first time since Maundy Thursday, which includes various unique ceremonies such as the blessing of the font (in this case, the one made by George Myers for Augustus Pugin and much admired by Queen Victoria at the Great Exhibition in 1851).

Tenebrae (Latin for ‘darkness’) will be sung on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. It is a sung version of the Extraordinary Form of the Divine Office – the series of psalms and prayers said each day by monks, nuns, priests, and laypeople – and has a particular character on those days. The candles are gradually extinguished until, at the end of the service, the church is in total darkness. Books are then banged on the pews. This dramatic effect symbolises the darkness and earthquake which are recorded to have happened at Jesus’s death.

Everyone is welcome to attend all or some of the ceremonies.

St Augustine’s, the personal church of the leading Victorian Gothic Revival architect Augustus Pugin, was built for Catholic worship beginning in 1846. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) have supported the development of a bid to create an Education, Research, and Visitor Centre in several rooms on the site; the interior of the church will also be restored to Pugin’s vision by reversing modifications made in the twentieth century. The HLF project will open St Augustine’s to even more audiences and enable engagement with the considerable artistic, design, architectural, stonework, glasswork, and other skills that are able to be studied at this seminal and historic building.

St Augustine’s is within the Parish of Ramsgate and Minster but is not the parish church. The parish priest, Fr Marcus Holden, will celebrate Easter in the Ordinary Form at the parish church of SS Ethelbert and Gertrude. For service times at the parish church and at Minster Abbey, please see the parish website www.ramsgateandminster.com

The liturgies at St Augustine’s are generously supported by private donors and the Latin Mass Society. For more information on the five other places where these liturgies will be held in this form, please see http://www.lmschairman.org/2015/03/holy-week-in-england-and-wales.html.

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