High Mass at St. Ignatius, or A Little Kiss Each Morning

From The Chronicle (Poughkeepsie).

ON Thanksgiving Day we remembered that we had many things for which to be thankful, so we set out for our parish church downtown in New York to attend Divine Service and to render thanks. We were unfortunately, however, tied up in the subway, and realising that we should not reach church in time, we decided to attend the service at St. Ignatius’ Church which is uptown. Approaching the edifice we observed the sign hanging before the church which gave the hours for Mass, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and Confessions. A casual observer would have thought this a Roman Catholic Church, but we are not a casual observer, and we knew it was the Protestant Episcopal Church of St. Ignatius’. We entered. A pretty if somewhat elaborately embellished church, it was perhaps two-thirds filled. The high altar was vested in festival hangings, and flowers and candles lent their colour and light to make it attractive. Statues of the Sacred Heart, the Blessed Virgin, and St. Ignatius’ of Antioch were adorned with flowers, and tapers flickered before them. There was a slight odour of incense in the air, and the light was dim. At eleven o’clock precisely the procession of altar boys and the three priests entered to strains of some march played in a stately fashion on the organ. The Introit being finished the Gloria in Excelsis was begun. Do not gasp, dear reader, for even if the Book of Common Prayer directs that the Gloria come at the end of the service, they don’t worry themselves over little matters like that at St. Ignatius’. Anyone with a grain of sense knows that the Gloria belongs at the beginning of the Mass. If you want proof look at the Mass according to the Roman rite. Verbum sap!

During the Gloria the three priests retired to their stalls. The celebrant, who sits between the deacon and the sub-deacon, is seated first, the deacon and the sub-deacon making a profound reverence as he sits down. Being seated, the deacon hands the celebrant his biretta. Before the celebrant takes it, however, the deacon kisses the pom-pon of the biretta, and also the finger tips of the celebrant’s hand as it is stretched forth to receive the headgear. This is an important matter. Much hangs upon it. An otherwise perfect service can be ruined if this is not properly carried out. Those who wish to be on the up and up of ritual will remember this.

The Gloria drawing to a close, the three priests stand, the deacon and the sub-deacon making their reverences. The celebrant hands his biretta to the deacon who repeats the kissing ceremony. The three of them proceed to the altar, and the service continues through the singing of the Epistle by the sub-deacon, and the Gospel by the deacon.

Then the Credo is sung. The three priests having said theirs to themselves, retire once again to the stalls, and the biretta ceremony is again performed neatly. At the conclusion of the Credo the priests return to the altar, and while the alms are gathered the censing is done. This, dear reader, merely means that some one swings a thurible filled with smoking incense at some one else. Censing anyone makes that person pure. Purity is essential. In this day and age when twenty people have an automobile to every seven who have a bath tub this censing is a godly and purifying thing and is to be highly valued.

The alms being presented, the service continues as per the Book of Common Prayer. But not very far. The Exhortation and the Confession and the Absolution are dispensed with. This is all right, though, because no one but the celebrant receives the Holy Communion. The congregation rises when the celebrant sings: “Lift up your hearts”, and stands until the silver tinkle of a bell announces the Sanctus, when everyone again kneels. Follow the Consecration, Oblation and Invocation.

And now, dear and patient reader, you have doubtless been wondering why we have sub-titled this “A Little Kiss Each Morning”. We are not surprised that you have wondered about this, and we shall keep you in suspense no longer. It is very true that this is not a presentation of Mr. Valee’s Vagabond Lover, but we think the title appropriate. As soon as the celebrant has received Holy Communion in both kinds, as the Book of Common Prayer so directs, the deacon, who has been kneeling on the top step of the altar, rises and goes up and stands beside the celebrant. The celebrant is not at all surprised to see him, but turns to him affectionately, and placing a hand on each shoulder, gives him a kiss. The deacon, overjoyed at this, descends the altar to the lowest step where the sub-deacon stands, and repeats the kiss to him. The sub-deacon, thrilled with this manifestation of goodwill, hastens to the side of the altar and kisses the master of ceremonies. He, in turn, is not selfish, but thinks of the servers, and therewith proceeds to embrace server primus. Although server primus is a youngish fellow, he has been well trained in the ritual of the Holy Catholic Faith, and he turns to server secundus, and kisses him. We, being of an unusually affectionate nature, had been observing all these expressions of love, and were eager for our kiss, too. Alas! we were keenly disappointed that no one descended to the congregation to give us one. We thought, at least, the last server kissed might have come to the entrance of the altar rails and thrown us a kiss or two. The thurifer comes there at the proper time of censing and throws incense at us. Why can’t kisses be thrown to the congregation as well as incense? We are going to suggest this to the genial rector of St. Ignatius’ sometime. He is not an illiterate man, being the possessor of a doctorate from Yale, and we feel certain he will consider our plea for kisses. It is really an entrancing thing to see all these kisses being bestowed in the sanctuary of a Sunday morning. No matter how much the rector may hate the curate during the week (or vice versa) everything on Sunday is love and kisses.

Love having been dispensed throughout the sanctuary, the Book of Common Prayer is again resorted to, and the blessing fellows. The procession forms and marches out. We kneel and say our final prayer …. “Pardon, O Father, the imperfections of our prayers and praises, our wandering looks and lack of devotion ….” On our way to the subway we passed a fruit store and saw some ruddy apples inside. And then we remembered a verse from the Scriptures that we hadn’t recalled in years—“Comfort me with apples for I am sick of love.” We went in the store and bought one. Eating it we were comforted.


1 Comment

Filed under Anglo-Catholicism

One response to “High Mass at St. Ignatius, or A Little Kiss Each Morning

  1. Little did our author know that his wish would be fulfilled: for as long as anyone currently at St. Ignatius of Antioch can remember, the Deacon and Subdeacon at the Solemn Mass bring the kiss of peace down to the ushers at the altar rail, who in turn pass it to the congregation. I’ve never witnessed anything quite like it elsewhere, but it captured my affection my very first time at St. Ignatius some dozen years ago.

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