The Easter Festival in S. Clement's, 1890
S. Clement's Magazine, April 1929
Anyone who has ever visited S. Clement's on a great festival, during the time of the Fathers, has seen something which he will never forget, wrote Wilton Tournier in an appreciation of Father Field and published just after the withdrawal of the Cowley Fathers from the Parish in 1891.
On Easter Day, as I approached the Church at the corner of Twentieth and Cherry Streets, about an hour before service, I saw a great crowd standing outside the doors and waiting for admission. There were all kinds of people there; rich, finely dressed women and poor girls, waiting for the opening of the doors. The moment came, and there was a rush, as each wanted to get in first, but there came a backward movement as, on looking over the heads of the people, I saw a crowd of children pouring out of the great doors, and someone told me they were coming from the children's service, which was just over.
As there was no chance for me, I went round to a side door of the Parish building, and asked to see one of the Clergy, but was told that they were all engaged, and would not be able to see me for some time. A place was shown me on a wooden bench, in a large passage, under a staircase, where I might sit and wait; so I did as I was told, and took notes.
The scene was very strange, as I wondered, as one after another passed me. Boys and men, in black cassocks and white cottas, came and looked at me and retired. Young men, some of them sic feet high, and boys, half that size, passed me, and entering a chapel knelt for a few moments before the Altar and then returned to some place of meeting. A great many people ascended the staircase, which led to a gallery, where sick and infirm people, by special permission, might attend the services. A tall Priest came up to me, and, smiling, said that he was afraid that I should be cold there, and I stammered something about not being in the way, but he quietly asked me to follow him, and speaking to a great, burly man, in a long gown, asked if there was a seat. No seat could be had, and hundreds were lining the way, held back by cords on each side of the centre aisle. The Priest then gave me a card, and told me to go into the gallery, and as I went up the steps I heard the sound of a prayer, and just caught sight of the Cross-bearer and a great number of acolytes coming out into the passage. Then there was another sound of prayer, and a loud Amen sung by the Choir, and I entered the gallery. The Church presented a most curious scene; the walls were highly decorated, and on the slanting roof was a stately row of sun-flowers, painted the whole length of the Church. But the Altar attracted my gaze at once. It was clothed in white and gold, and was bright with lights and flowers. At the back of the Altar was a carved wood tryptych, and in the center, under a canopy, a carving of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the Church in her arms.
On the screen or tryptych were ranged six large brass candlesticks, and in the centre a very beautiful brass Cross, several feet in height, and of elaborate workmanship. Behind this screen again, and reaching almost to the roof, was a richly embroidered dossil and canopy with life-size figures of Christ upon the Cross, his Mother and S. John. The figures and the flowers were embroidered, and though I had seen many Altars in the large Churches abroad, I had seen nothing more beautiful than this.
The Choir now came into the Church from the west end, while a march was played on the large organ, and, as the Cross-bearer reached the steps of the sanctuary, I saw another procession moving from a low door at the side, and six acolytes in scarlet entered, each bearing a lighted torch, and then came the Incense-bearer, with his attendants; and last came the deacon and subdeacon in dalmatic and tunicle, and finally the Celebrant in a magnificent cope of white and gold and red, embroidered. All knelt for a minute in silent prayer, and at this moment a whisper might have been heard in the Church. Then the Priest ascended the Altar steps and the Censer was brought, and after being filled was blessed by him. He then turned to the people and sang "Let us proceed in peace," and the Choir answered, "in the name of the Lord." Several young men had by this time taken the banners which hung in the Choir and sanctuary, and were standing with them before the Altar, but now all turned, and as a grand hymn was sung the boys and men of the Choir began to wind out of their seats toward the Altar, and each making a bow, turned to follow the Cross-bearer and the young man with the incense. The banners were borne at intervals in the procession, and first came a banner of S. Clement, then some boys, then a banner of the Blessed Sacrament, and S. John, and the Annunciation and the Blessed Virgin. What struck me was that there was such perfect order, and all seemed to know their work, and I noticed that none seemed to think of it as a performance; and the Priests joined in heartily with the people in the singing. When they had passed all round the Church and up the centre aisle again to the sanctuary, the Priests retired for a few moments to the Vestry, then appeared again in the same order, the Celebrant now wearing a chasuble. After standing a few moments in prayer, a short Psalm was sung, while the Priest blessed the incense, and with the deacon and sub-deacon waved it toward the Cross three time, and then passing along waved it on each side of the Altar to the end. He then gave the censer to the deacon, who bowed to him and waved it toward him three times, and then bowing again, gave the censer to the acolyte.
After this they stood the one behind the other as the Priest said the first prayers, only moving as he turned to speak toward the people. An acolyte then brought the Book of the Epistles to the sub-deacon, and ha read the Epistle while the deacon stood beside the Priest on the upper step. The he who had read the Epistle came and knelt, and the Priest put his hand on the Book and he kissed it, and gave the Book to the young man on his right hand. After this he took the great Book, which was on the Altar and the desk, and walking with the Priest to the northern end, they read silently together. During this time I saw that the deacon had received a Book from an acolyte, and he took the Book and laid it open on the middle of the Altar, and knelt down on the step before it. Then incense was brought and the Priest blessed it, and the deacon took the Book from the Altar and knelt down before the Priest and was blessed; after which he followed the acolyte and sub-deacon in procession, as they walked slowly around to the north end of the lowest step, and the sub-deacon standing before the deacon held the Book of the Gospels for the deacon to read the Gospel for the day. He then took the incense and waved it on each side of the Book and to the middle, and then the Gospel was sung in a loud clear voice, as soon as it was finished the sub-deacon took it to the Priest, who kissed it and gave it back; and the deacon standing where he had read the Gospel, but turning to the Priest, waved the incense toward him. All three now went to the highest step' and standing before the Cross, said the Creed. At the part of the Creed where they sand of the incarnation, there was a great rustling, a whirr, as of a thousand wings, and I saw that all were kneeling. A small boy then sang the words by himself, and a deep bass voice repeated them. Then all the Priests and acolytes, and people arose and seemed to break into a loud shout of praise, as they sang the remainder of the Creed. At this time a case was brought and given to the deacon, who took from it a white linen cloth, and spread it upon the Altar, and then I looked and he had disappeared, but as the last words of the Creed were sung, I saw him come from a small door, clothed in white with a rich stole of gold and green crossing his breast, and a girdle. On reaching the pulpit he crossed himself, and gave out, as it seemed to me, a volume of notices about services and meetings for the week, and then he preached a sermon twelve minutes long. At first the words were quiet and gentle, a welcome to the people and a praise of Easter, but suddenly as he described the way in which some had kept the season of Lent in luxury and amusements, his voice was thunder. I could see that his words reached the people, for though I could not see their faces, I saw that some moved uncomfortably in their seats, and I saw that many, and especially the poor people, fixed their eyes on the preacher and looked glad and happy.
Several times in his sermon he looked at the large crucifix, hanging upon the wall by his side, as though he drew his inspiration from it, and once he paused and touched the nails, and called them sins. Just then I was asked by a young man by my side: "Who is that?" I answered, "Father Field." Now all the people rose, and some acolytes brought plates of silver, and six men came forward, and each took one, and collected money from the people. I could see each one, and what they gave, and the manner of it, and there was great variety. Some seemed very loath to part with their money, and some seemed afraid to give, and others gave, but covered what they gave; and as I looked at the Altar I saw that the three ministers were there again, and one brought wine and water, and one poured wine into the golden cup, and the other took the water to the Priest, who blessed it, and then some was poured into the cup and the Priest offered it and incense with it. And incense was waved toward the Priest and the other ministers, and in turn to the choir, and all the people, and as it was waved toward them all the people bowed. "Why do they bow?" I asked a man near me, and he said, "for acknowledgment." The money was now brought, and the silver plates were put on one large plate, and it was passed to the Priest, who offered this also.
Then a silver bowl was brought, and water was poured upon the hands of the Priest by one of the attendant acolytes, and he went to the centre of the Altar and the deacon and sub-deacon stood behind, each on his own step. As he turned after a long prayer, each moved aside, and a brief exhortation was said; and then in a low voice the deacon and all the choir made confession, and the Priest turning again made the sign of the cross as he absolved the people. He sang also, appointed texts of Scripture, and turned again to the Altar.
As he said some prayers, the two ministers ascended and stood by him, and the six young men I had seen before came in with large lighted candles and knelt before the Altar on the lowest step, and as the words "Holy," "Holy," "Holy," were sung and all the people bowed, these young men raised the lights, and there was the solemn sound of a bell, but where it came from I could not understand, and could not ask, for all around me had their heads bowed down in adoration. Then the sub-deacon descended and knelt on his own step behind the Priest, and there was silence, only broken by the low tones of the Priest, which I could not hear distinctly, but each time as he said the words of consecration the lights were again raised and the bell tolled, and the incense rose, and all the people seemed to sink lower on their knees in worship. Then the young men arose and filed out with their lights burning; and as the three ministers stood together they turned, and as the Priest held up the sacrament the people bowed and worshipped. Then the three ministers knelt down, and rose and took their places one behind the other, and sang the Lord's Prayer with the Choir. After this the Priest said a prayer by himself alone, and then all the Choir arose, both men and boys, and sang aloud the Gloria in Excelsis, and at this time the three ministers stood together before the Altar as I had seen them do in the Creed, and at the end all crossed themselves and then all knelt except the Priest, who made a low obeisance, and turning to the people raised his hand and making the sign of the Cross, blessed them as they knelt low before him.
Then the Priest knelt down and there was silence, and I heard a woman whisper to the young man by me, "Is God there still?" but he was silent and his eyes were closed, and as I looked again, I saw the ministers had washed the golden cup and plate and veiled them; then one held a Book at the north end, and the Priest read, and all knelt on one knee and rose again and crossed themselves, and going to the midst of the Altar bowed low and turned and came down the steps, and as the Choir sang, the acolytes came forward and bowing to the Altar, all went out.
The Cross-bearer with his acolytes now turned from the Altar, and all the Choir followed down the Church, and I felt as if I had seen a vision, and I knelt again and thought, "these people know their God."