THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RITES
From Our Special Correspondent
The consecration of the church of the premier abbey of the English Benedictine Congregation, St. Gregory's at Downside, began on Wednesday, September 11, with the solemn reception of the Prince-Primate of Hungary, Cardinal Seredi, Archbishop of Esztergom, who had been specially deputed by the Holy See to carry out the ceremony. The community and guests assembled in the cloisters, formed into procession and, after going through the monastery and round the outside of the church, were drawn up in a huge circle before the entrance of the abbey to await the coming of the cardinal, who arrived a few moments later.
The scene that followed was most impressive. In the great company drawn up before the doors were archbishops and bishops in their violet, abbots in rochet, mozzetta and ntantelletta, canons in choir-dress, secular clergy in cassock and surplice, the community of Downside and other Benedictine monks in their black cowls and religious of other orders in habits of various colours. Before the abbey doors stood the Abbot of Downside, Dom Bruno hicks, in golden cope and mitre, with his assistants. And then came the central figure of all, hi robes of vivid scarlet, the hood of his " cappa magna " bordered with princely ermine, the Cardinal Prince-Primate of Hungary.
Two Days Of Observances
After kissing the cross presented to him by the Abbot of Downside with the usual ceremonies, Cardinal Seredi entered the church at the end of the long and imposing procession, walking under a canopy borne by four acolytes in apparelled albs (the apparels attached by silken cords hanging from the shoulders, according to the mediaeval usage of some places).
Arrived at his throne in the sanctuary, his Eminence listened to a Latin addrass read by Abbot Bruno, to which he replied —extempore—in fluent Latin. After the antiphon of St. Gregory, titular of the abbey, and the collect, the Cardinal gave his blessing and the indulgence was published by the Abbot.
In the evening the Cardinal inspected and sealed the relics (to be used next day at the consecration of the altars) which were placed in the monks' calefactory, transformed for the time being into a " relic chapel."
The next morning, Thursday, saw the actual carrying out of the great rite of consecration, which began at 7.30 a.m., and lasted till nearly 3 p.m.—including, of course, the pontifical Mass.
Majesty of the Mass The chief impression left by the marvellous rites upon the mind of the onlooker must surely have been that of the majesty of the Mass. That the Church should take so much trouble to prepare a fitting place for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice shows the esteem in which she holds it. It seems as if she could not do enough to impress upon her children the holiness of the House of God. the place " where his glory dwelleth."
The numerous sprinklings with water and anointings with oil of both church and altars, the litanies, psalms, antiphons and collects, the symbolism of purity and sacredness expressed in them all, show vividly the Church's loving appreciation of God's gift to man in the Holy Eucharist, and her desire to manifest her gratitude.
After the preliminary ceremonies both within and without the church, the lighting of the twelve candles below the consecration crosses on the walls, and the blessing of salt and water with which the Cardinal twice sprinkled the walls -came the interesting and curious rite of tracing the letters of the Greek and Latin alphabets on the pavement of the church, within.
Altars Consecrated The Cardinal, preceded always by crossbearer (a tall monk in black cowl) and acolytes, formed the letters with the end of his pastoral staff in the ashes strewn on the pavement. This, together with the sprinkling of the inside walls and the pavement, the bringing ot the relics, in an a:k borne by four priests in red chasubles, to the church, and the anointing of the crosses on the jambs of the west door. completed the consecration of the place of sacrifice and prayer.
Then came the consecration of the very altar of sacrifice itself, representative ef the living altar of God's worship, Jesus Christ, himself both priest and victim. At the same time the altars of the lady chapel and the side-chapels were hallowed by 'he bishops and abbots designated for the purpose. The sight was even more impressive than all that had gone before: the great bare altar of unadorned stone. free from the encumbrance of gradates OF elaborate reredos, the sprinklings, anointings and iocensations, the five little tires burning on the crosses cut in the top of the slab—and with all this the solemn and beautifully sung chant of antiphons and psalms by he choirs of Monks in sanctuary and nave.
The Pontifical Mass At last all was done and the altar. fully hallowed, was clothed with its newly blessed cloths and adorned with the great crucifix and six candles, standing directly on the table.
A short interval followed, for necessary in all its glory, the nave crowded with people from all parts of England and the world, the choir full of bishops, abbots and other prelates, canons and monks. 1n the sanctuary, besides the Cardinal with his ministers, were the Archbishops of Westminister, Birmingham, Cardiff and St. Andrews, the Bishop of Clifton (diocesan of Downside) and facing the celebrant, on another canopied throne, the venerable Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal MacRory, Archbishop of Armagh.
The Abbot's Privilege
An interesting point in connection with this moment is the fact that there were then in the sanctuary and choir five prelates wearing the cappa magna at the same time, including the Abbot of Downside, to whom this privilege has been granted in virtue of the raising of the abbey church to the rank of a minor basilica.
At the end of the Mass Cardinal Saredi gave the papal blessing, and indulgences were proclaimed, in Latin and English, in the body of the church. It was a truly great religious pageant so far as the magnificent externals were concerned, but how much more than a pageant in its inner significance: " This is the House of God, and the Gate of Heaven."
Cardinal Seredi's Speech
In the course of his address at his reception at the abbey. Cardinal Seredi said:
"This new church which we are consecrating to-morrow, which is to bear the deserved title of basilica, that is of Palace of God, will aptly represent the Church of Christ itself. For, as in the Church of Christ, so also in this basilica all who worship in it svill profess one and the same faith, receive the same sacraments, offer to God 11w some bloodless Sacrifice, and be joined together in the same brotherly charity under the rule of a common Father. . . .
" We have a strenuous warfare to accomplish, by work and prayer, against the new heathenism. So may this basilica be a true house of God; a house of prayer, and a source of all graces and blessings, and may those assembled therein be joined together by the closest Christian love."
THE ENGLISH CONGREGATION
The monks of St. Benedict are divided into separate congregations or confederations of monasteries.
The English congregation is the oldest of them all (1215-1336). Its continuity was maintained with the pre-Reformation monks through Dom Sigebert Buckley (d. 1609), through whom Ampleforth is the canonical and legal auccessor and representative of the former abbey of Westminster. The congregation has some 475 male religious and over two hundred nuns.
The principal houses of men forming the congregation are Downside, Ampleforth, Douai, Fort Augustus, Belmont and Ealing: other abbeys and priories in England. even though composed of English monks, do not belong to the English congregation. The principal house of nuns is the famous abbey of Stanbrook in Worcester.
Among the guests present, in addition to those already mentioned, were the Archbishop of Liverpool, the Bishops of Southwark, Brent o0(1, Lancaster, Middlesbrough, Plymouth, Shrewsbury. Nottingham and Northampton ; the titular Bishops of Sebastopolis and .lhermopylm, the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine confederation, the Abbot President of the English congregation, the Abbots of Si. Paul's-outside-the-Walls of the City. Ampleforth, Douai, Fort Augustus, Belmont, Farnborough and his coadjutor, Buckfast, and Ramsgate; the titular Abbots of Glastonbtiry and Dunfermline; Abbot Smith, C.R.L.; the Priors of Prinknash, Washington, Ealing,