19 July 2009

Day off?

Pam asked why it is that, unlike proper clergy, I don't take a day off each week. So we got on a 'bus and went to look at Steeple Aston church.

Perhaps I should explain that here in S Thomas's we have a 'Eucharistic Window', put into the church by our great fifty-years-a-vicar-here Canon Thomas Chamberlain. It teaches the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice by having, at the bottom, a priest versus orientem vested in alb and chasuble lifting up a chalice to the level of the Pierced Heart of the corpus on the altar crucifix portrayed in the window. On each side are saints, male and female, local and national, kneeling in adoration. Above is the Lamb of God from the Book of Revelation, blood flowing from His Heart into a chalice, with a selection of the four-and-twenty elders worshipping on each side.

This not only inculcates the desirability of versus orientem, vestments, and altars with crucifixes and candles (things all of which were dangerous innovations in Fr Chamberlain's time), but the unity of the Eucharistic Sacrifice with the Sacrifice of the Lamb at the heavely altar. Not surprisingly, it became the object of a law suit.

In Steeple Aston church, there is a later (between 1896 and 1918) window by Eden working exactly the same theme. At the top is the Lamb of God; lower, the Redeemer ('He ever liveth to make intercession for us'); at the bottom a priest saying Mass at an altar with an open Missal (the crucifixion scene on the left page suggesting that he is just starting Te igitur being slightly subverted by the conjoined thumbs and forefingers). Other tableaux show 'righteous Abel' sacrificing, and Melchizedek; demonstrating a devotion to the Canon Romanus. This window is at least a generation later than ours (1860), and shows the same teaching transposed into the more 'Roman' idiom of the later Anglican Catholic generation. I suspect that Rector Brown had seen Canon Chamberlain's window. Incidentally, there is another 'Eucharistic Window', of 1888, in Bicester church. Less 'advanced' than Chamberlain's, it shows the rector, indeed versus orientem and accompanied by servers, but still wearing an Oxford MA hood. (Tradition has it that Chamberlain smuggled the first chasuble into the usage of S Thomas's by gradually lengthening his MA hood until it had metamorphosed into a red chasuble.)

Fr Brown at Steeple Aston probably also got hassled about his churchmanship. As late as World War II (the 'Emarjency', for my Irish readers), his successor was accused of being an enemy agent and of deliberately subverting the blackout regulations ... by keeping a light burning before the Blessed Sacrament!

(Any readers know any parallels?)


Saint Justin said...

Father, are there any details on the judgement on the law suit regarding the window against your predecessor?

Malcolm Kemp said...

I recall many years ago reading a paperback novel about some very "extreme" ordinands and this centred around both St Stephen's House and St Thomas's. Alas I cannot remember the title of the book but it was as amusing a read as some of these posts! I enjoyed my visit to Mass at St Thomas's a couple of Wednesdays ago and greatly aprpeciated the very warm welcome you gave me afterwards. Who was the Celebrant at Mass?

William Tighe said...

Ah, those "unguarded hours;" but you might also read Compton Mackenzie's trilogy ...