Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Augustine: Teaching the English to sing

This was the procession in honour of St Augustine that took place at Ramsgate in sunnier warmer weather last year. I went yesterday and just caught the tail end of it, though the Church was packed the procession was a smaller affair because if the bad weather. I was amazed the bishop's mitre did not get blown off.
It was the first time I've got to the pilgrimage, some people -Pope Benedict, for example have called the old Mass, the Gregorian Mass. It was St Gregory of Angeli non Angli, who sent Augustine to England, the procession and Gregorian or Old Rite Mass commemorates his landing. It was lovely to commemorate St Augustines arrival in this way.
Having landed Augustine raised the icon of raised the icon of Christ, Salvator Mundi and processed to Durovernum, Æthelberht's capital to found a monastery. Durovernum because of the monkish singing became known as Canterbury, and actually giving its name to the whole county (Kent -Cant -"chant").
The Pope was lavish in his gifts to the English Church, what seems to have been important in those early years was the sending of Cantors, even the Arch-Cantor of St Peter's to Canterbury. Teaching the English to sing seems to have been important in the evangelisation of the English.
I imagine Augustine with a heavy Italian accent and broken Anglo-Saxon attempting to explain the faith to the English, maybe the King and court had broken Latin too and there might have been some dialogue, may be those Angelic boys had been brought by Gregory, maybe they taught Augustine and his monks, but I suspect most of the evangelisation took place by the experience of the Liturgy and by presenting people with the image of God, the main image would have been these singing monks worshipping God.
As I missed the beginning of the procession rather than joining the clergy in choir I sat in the nave, something I tend not to do normally, it was a beautiful experience, the music was captivating. The whole experience would have been quite similar to that of our Anglo-Saxon forefathers, that extra-ordinary invitation to raise one's mind and heart to God which is the ancient Rite.
It was after all this experience that other monks and other clergy brought to so much of the world as a tool to evangelise. We forget how effective a liturgy entirely in Latin did to pass on the faith, and how effective it was. Why is it that now we no longer have that 'handicap' we are so much less effective in so many parts of the world.
Could it be that we simply use too many words.
I was intrigued by that image of Pope Francis posed under presumably carefully chosen graffiti which said so much about his trip to the Holy Land. Much less poignant if the message were more long winded or Arabic or Hebrew.


1 comment:

Mike Hennessy said...

I fear the derivation you give for the name of the county (and the city) is almost certainly wrong. The Cantii were (along with the Belgae) the people whom the Romans found around that area when they dropped by for a first visit and then returned for a longer stay - and were almost certainly there still when the Romans upped sticks and left. Canterbury means the 'burgh' (fortified place) of the Cantii and was the name given to it by the English settlers when they came across the seas.