hic domus Dei est, et porta caeli: et vocabitur aula Dei....
I escaped the parish today and went to mass in Liverpool at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. The cathedral has, I know, its critics and I would certainly agree that there is indeed something tragic in the disjuncture between the noble ponderous forms of Lutyens's crypt- as much as was completed- and the "60's shopping centre" surfaces that abut it but, once inside the vast upturned "funnel" encompassing nave and sanctuary I have always felt it a most worthy space. In spite of the nave surrounding the sanctuary and the easy visibility of the altar there is both an austere grandeur about the space and an impressiveness about the altar. A variety of features ameliorate the architecture's brutalist tendencies while the boldness of forms counters the tweeness that is frequently encountered in the post-conciliar era. And, oh, yes! The "Benedictine" arrangement of the high altar is ab initio!
And then there was the music! Gregorian chant had "pride of place" being used for the Introit, Communion Antiphon, CredoIII, and Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Missa de Angelis (Mass VIII). The choir sang the Gloria from the Messe Solenelle by Louis Vierne. Rather oddly, but nevertheless beautifully the choir sang Byrd's "O lux beata Trinitas" at what I call the Offertory but, as often as not these days,is called the Preparation of the Gifts. (Oddly, I say, because I think it is a hymn for Vespers.) The dialogue and Preface were sung (well) in English as was the Responsorial Psalm and we sang a couple of (safe) hymns.
As at Westminster there is a proper male choir, boys and men, and of a high standard. That such choirs have survived is little short of miracle, given the last forty years, and is something for which I am deeply grateful. After Mass we were treated to a Bach fugue on the organ. I remained to the end and was surprised at how quickly the cathedral had emptied reflecting upon how, when I was last at Sunday Mass in Clifton Cathedral, a small but sizeable group had remained to listen, applauding the organist at the end. I generally abhor the cult of personality and applause in church but I think an exception should be made for decent organists. In fact good organists shouldn't just be applauded. They should be canonised!
As for church guitarists.... The appropriate treatment is best carried out off church premises!
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