Tuesday, 6 December 2011

St Birinus Day

The photo above was taken after High Mass in the Church of St Birinus, Dorchester-on-Thames, for the parish Feast Day yesterday. Fr John Osman kindly invited me to act as sub-deacon, whilst Fr Guy Nichols of the Birmingham Oratory was deacon. The church a little gem, greatly enhanced under Fr Osman's loving restoration over the years and the setting is pretty much idyllic, with grounds sloping down to the river Thames. The music for the Mass was exceptionally good, under the direction of Mr Andrew Knowles.

The church and presbytery have remained largely unaltered since its founding in 1849. St Birinus was one of the first "new" Catholic churches raised since the 1850 Act restored the hierarchy.

St Birinus Dorchester - St Birinus3

In 634, St. Birinus, a Benedictine monk in Rome, was sent by Pope Honorius I to Wessex to spread the Catholic Faith. In 635 he reached the Thames Valley and achieved his greatest missionary success, the conversion of Cynegils, King of the West Saxons. The King's conversion was a boost to the spread of Christianity throughout the South of England. According to tradition, St. Birinus and Cynegils met on Churn Knob near Blewbury, and Birinus was given “the city of Doric” (Dorchester) as his Cathedral. Following his death in 650 St. Birinus was buried at Dorchester. In about 680 his remains were moved to Winchester by St. Headda, Bishop of Winchester. Finally on 4th. September, 972 Bishop Etholwold enshrined them in gold and silver. From Dorchester were founded the sees of Winchester and Lincoln.

Before singing the Alma Redemptoris in honour of Our Lady of Dorchester, we sang out with gusto a hymn to The Church Triumphant:

Who is She that stands triumphant

Rock in strength upon the Rock,

Like some city crown'd with turrets

Braving storm and earthquake shock?

Who is she her arms extending;

Blessing thus a world restored;

All the anthems of creation

Lifting to creation's Lord?

Hers the Kingdom, hers the Sceptre!

Fall ye nations at her feet!

Hers that Truth whose fruit is freedom;

Light her yoke; her burden sweet.

As the moon its splendour borrows

From a sun unseen all night

So from Christ, the Sun of Justice,

Draws His Church her vestal light,

Touch'd by His her hands have healing,

Bread of Life, absolving Key:

Christ Incarnate is her Bridegroom;

The Spirit hers; His Temple she.

Empires rise and sink like billows;

Vanish and are seen no more;

Glorious as the star of morning

She o'erlooks their wild uproar.

Hers the household all-embracing,

Hers the vine that shadows earth;

Blest thy children, mighty Mother!

Safe the stranger at thy hearth!

Like her Bridegroom, heavenly, human,

Crown'd and militant in one,

Chaunting Nature's great Assumption

And the abasement of the Son;

Her magnificats, her dirges

Harmonize the jarring years;

Hands that fling to heaven the censer

Wipe away the orphan's tears.

(Acknowledgement to James Bradley for the photo of the statue of St Birinus in the church.)

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