News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
Lent is already underway, and we begin the month with Masses for the First Sunday of the Penitential Season and the Rite of Election of candidates for reception into full communion with the Church.
Archbishop Malcolm has appointed three new members of the Chapter of Canons, Father Sean Kirwin, Father Michael Fitzsimons and Honorary Canon Aidan Prescott all of whom will be installed at the Chapter Mass on Tuesday 3 March at 12.15 in the Cathedral. Parishioners and friends of the new canons are very welcome to join us and witness them being invested in their Canons regalia – not that they will get much chance to wear them again.
Also, that week on Friday 6 March we will be welcoming a visit from Martin Lutyens, grandson of Sir Edwin Lutyens who is chair of the Lutyens Trust and who will give a talk on the work of his grandfather including the Crypt of our Cathedral. The time of this talk is still to be confirmed – please see our website.
Because our Diocese has maintained a strong devotion to and remembrance of the life of St Oscar Romero since his martyrdom, we have been offered a small relic, a tiny fraction of his bone that was amputated to try and save his life following the shooting in the Convent chapel in San Salvador.
Archbishop Malcolm will preside at a special Choral Evening Prayer to receive the relic on Monday 23 March at 6.00 pm. The Archbishop will also preside at 11.00 am Mass on Sunday 29 March on the day which the Bishops of England and Wales have designated for the re-dedication of England to Mary’s Dowry. I am not too sure what that involves but I’m sure that we will receive liturgical instructions in good time.
The season of Lent
For the season of Lent this year we are offering musical reflections on various aspects of the passion narrative on Sunday afternoons in place of Choral Evening Prayer.
On the Second Sunday of Lent (8 March) our girl choristers and Lay Clerks will sing Kenneth Leighton’s Crucifixus pro nobis. This cantata was written in 1961 and explores three important aspects of Jesus’ life: ‘Christ in the Cradle’, ‘Christ in the Garden’ and ‘Christ in His Passion.’ The first movement, reflecting on Jesus’ childhood is sung by a solo voice, contrasting sharply with the choir alone in ‘Christ in the Garden.’ It is not until the passion movement that both the soloist and choir combine. The music here captures the theological essence of Jesus’ purpose in a way in which it is very difficult for us humans to put into words.
On the Third Sunday of Lent (15 March) our boy choristers and Lay Clerks will sing The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross by César Franck. The composer César Franck is best known in Catholic parishes today for his Panis Angelicus. The Seven last words is a devotional work written in 1859, but never performed until the work was discovered in 1977. Franck was not the only composer to set the seven last words of Jesus (actually, sentences not words) but Franck was unusual in that he sought to expand on the brief text by supplementing other biblical and liturgical texts reflecting the fact that Franck was a parish church organist steeped in the Catholic liturgical tradition. Of interest to Franck was not so much the suffering of Christ on the Cross, but what lay beneath and what the crucifixion symbolised.
On the Fourth Sunday of Lent (22 March) the focus shifts to Mary, appropriately so as we celebrate Mothering Sunday. As is traditional at the Cathedral, our girl choristers will sing Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater Dolorosa. The text of the Stabat Mater is a 13th century hymn reflecting on Mary’s suffering during the crucifixion of her son. The powerful words have inspired many composers to set the text to music, including the 18th century Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. Pergolesi’s musical setting alternates movements sung by the full choir, and sections sung by soloists. The singing will be accompanied by two violins and chamber organ.
On the Fifth Sunday of Lent (29 March) our Lay Clerks will sing a setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis. The biblical text (drawn from the first five verses of the book of Lamentations) was originally set for the holy week office of Tenebrae. Tallis’ composition is extraordinarily impassioned music for a 15th century composer, capturing the longing of the text alongside the hope inspired by its concluding statement: ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord your God.’
Our Lenten series finishes on Palm Sunday (5 April) with the sung office of Tenebrae at 5.00 pm with the responsories sung to a musical setting by Francis Poulenc, and Psalm 50, Miserere Mei, being sung to the famous setting by Gregorio Allegri. More about this service in next month’s column!
All of these Lenten offerings take place at 3.00 pm on Sunday afternoons (with the exception of Palm Sunday) in Lent and are free to attend.