Day 56, Mass at St Nicholas
Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 9, 2011Vodpod videos no longer available.
[Sunday, 10 July 2011] Woke up this morning a little late, which is surprising after the Mount Athos routine of getting up at 3:30 or 4 for services. It was good to sleep in; I guess I needed it. Fr Andrew had already gone to his church for the early Mass. I found my way around the well-stocked kitchen and made myself some breakfast. Not long after, Paul came down to eat, as well as a parishioner who spent the night at the rectory because he lived at a distance from the church. Fr Andrew came back shortly thereafter and we all had coffee before going to the church for the “parish Mass,” which I suppose would be called “high Mass” here.
Fr Andrew’s church, “the Parish and Ancient Church of St Nicholas,” really is ancient, the foundation being laid in AD 960. It has three naves, five altars, and innumerable shrines to various Saints, who are represented in statuary, Icons, and very often in relics. There were a couple of hundred in attendance at the parish Mass, people from all kinds of backgrounds, and from all over the world, in fact. It is a very conservative parish, and I saw the Mass served with great beauty, care and grace, and attended with faith and devotion. At the end of the service, which included a Baptism, the clergy processed to the Fatima Shrine in the back of the church and formally enshrined relics of two of the three visionaries to whom Our Lady appeared in Portugal. Then the whole church sang the Angelus (when was the last time anybody reading this heard the Angelus sung?).
After the Mass, in fulfillment of the caricature of Anglican parishes, sherry was served in the back of the church instead of coffee or tea. There was even a choice of dry, medium or sweet sherry. I, of course, chose them all, and had the chance to meet and talk with several of the parishioners.
(Oh, by the way, after Mass there was a picture taken of the entire congregation standing around the altar in the front of the church. I was asked to be in the picture, too. So, when the picture is eventually made public, y’all can all play “where’s Waldo” and try to spot me, because you will be in the know, while others will simply wonder at that one, strangely dressed parishioner that Fr Andrew has collected.)
In the afternoon, some three dozen parishioners came to the rectory and there was a great deal of socializing and a pot luck dinner. (I will add that the English are very generous with their liquor and have much better livers than I do.) But we all sat and talked for hours, and ate and drank, and had a fine time of it.
I’ll say it again here: many thanks and kudos to Fr Andrew and his parish for their kindness and hospitality to me while I was with them. God grant them all many years.
The next morning, Fr Andrew and Paul were very kind in coming with me on the busses and trains all the way back to Paddington, where I caught the express out to Heathrow for my flight home.