By Andrew Boyle
FOR the first time since the Reformation, the
splendour of the Church's ancient Easter Vigil ceremonial—with Midnight Mass—will return this year -to small, remote parishes in the English countryside as well as to numerous cities and towns.
These ceremonies, which in the early Christian centuries were always held at night, symbolise the dramatic conflict between Light and Darkness, and the tragedy of the Cross yielding to the joy of the Resurrection.
They include the blessing of the new fire and the Paschal Candle, the intoning of the Exultet, the blessing of the font, and the renewal of Baptismal promises.
In parts of Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire, where the full ritual would have proved impracticable last year, priests are taking advantage of the permission granted by Cardinal Griffin and the Archbishop of Birmingham. At the same time more town and city parishes are taking advintage of the new facilities than in 1951.
This has been made largely possible by the recent simplifying of the rites and rubrics carried oat by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Rome, at the Holy Father's behest.
The Pope, after studying the many favourable reports from dioceses throughout the world on the people's response to last year's tentative reintroduction of the Faster Vigil, authorised that the period of " experiment " should go on till 1954. the Sacred Congregation has since informed the Hierarchies of His Holiness' decision.
I was told at Archbishop's House, Westminster, on Tuesday: ' Between 50 and 60 parishes are to hold the Easter Vigil, and more requests for permission are likely to come in. That, of course, is a far bigger response than last year. when arrangements had to be rushed through at the last minute." It is not only the crowded and fashionable churches in London's West End that are making use of the facilities given. In fact, though the full ceremonial will take place at St. James'. Spanish Place, and at Cheyne Row, Chelsea, it will not be held at the Oratory, Farm Street Jesuit Church. or St. Mary's, Chelsea. On the other hand, in a number of residential parishes on the suburban fringe and nearer the metropolitan centre are to hold it.
In the Southwark and Brentwood dioceses, too, it is expected that thousands of Catholics will take part in this age-old liturgical ceremony for the first time. Both Bishop Cowderoy and Bishop Beck have given a general permission to parish priests. The same faculty has been offered to priests in the Birmingham diocese. and 1 was told that "a good number" of parishes, including several in rural districts, would he keeping the Easter
Mgr. Petit, Bishop of Menevia, is officiating at the Vigil and will pontificate at High Mass in Wrexham's Pro-Cathedral; and, as in 1951, Mgr. King, Bishop of Portsmouth, will be celebrating High Mass in St. Peter's, Winchester.
One apparent stumbling block for some priests is the difficulty of fitting in confessions, especially in view of
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