This last week I’ve been attending the St. Joseph of Arimathea Seminary (SJATC) residential summer session weekday noon Masses, in Berkeley, at our St. Joseph’s Chapel, open to the public. Each Mass is celebrated by a different priest, and yet the liturgies are the same. The result is a colorful, fascinating, and enriching experience of the Holy Eucharist.
The long wooden benches are lined up against the side walls, as in a chancel where the seminarians sing facing one another in monastic fashion, as in the old abbeys. The acoustics in this barrel-vaulted space are excellent, allowing for chanting, singing of the Mass, and thundering organ.
The sun slants in through clerestory windows high above and there are moments when the crucifix is lightened as the sun travels through the skies. The tiled floor gleams and shimmers, reflecting the movement around the altar and the kneeling of the worshipers. Abp. Robert Morse (1923-2015) of blessed memory oversaw the building of this chapel on the corner of Bowditch and Durant in the 1970’s and was wise, considering all the turmoil then, and now today, not to have street level windows. Those church windows that were street-level in those days were often destroyed by rioters, and the parishes forced to rebuild.
While the chapel was designed as a chancel without a nave that would seat a congregation, even so, a small parish assembles here on Sundays, and we often set up folding chairs, turning the choir space into a small nave. But it is good to see the chancel return to its original purpose, even if only for two weeks.
And so we sang praises to God all week and received His Real Presence, again and again, in the consecrated elements of bread and wine, to fortify our souls, our minds, our bodies. Daily Mass draws you deeper into Our Lord’s love, His compassion for his people, and opens your eyes to those around you in a new way. The Mass says, “He in us and we in Him.” And so it is, and is compounded each day, so that by the end of the week, we have been enriched beyond measure.
On the weekend between the two weeks, today, the clergy and seminarians are assigned various churches in the Bay Area to assist in the Holy Liturgy. When our Bp. Ashman is here he often confirms at St. Peter’s Parish, Oakland, our sister parish in the East Bay. And so I attended St. Peter’s today, and witnessed the glorious descent of the Holy Spirit upon the confirmand, the joyous hymns, the majestic processions, all a part of reaching for the Eternal on Earth, reaching for the resurrection of Christ and thus, of our own bodies and souls.
In our parishes of traditional Anglicans (Anglican Province of Christ the King) we face the altar, and we honor Our Lord with music that transcends time, going back to St. Ambrose of the fourth century. Our hymnal is a poetic treasury of history, a history of the love of God expressed in song.
I stepped out of the week, down the steps of St. Peter’s, a bit giddy, not on wine, but on the love of Christ for us, that our Creator has blessed us so abundantly with His own Presence, His own Holy Spirit, so that one day we will appear before the throne of God the Father, in judgment, defended by Our Lord Jesus. One day we will be together again, all those who went before us and after us, bound by the love of God, gathered together at the river that runs by the throne. I’m hoping for a place in the heavenly choir or at least near them to hear them sing. But I’ll be happy just being there. It will be magnificent.
In the meantime I’m looking forward to another week of noon Holy Eucharists at St. Joseph’s.
For videos of the processional and recessional of the St. Peter’s Confirmation today, please visit our Facebook page, St. Joseph of Arimathea Chapel.