Tuesday 12 January 2010

Baptism of the Lord and Blessing of the Thames **UPDATED**

I have just received these pictures from our churchwarden, which were taken during the Mass of the Baptism of the Lord. They are a little fuzzy but considering we don't have a dedicated photographer, and the churchwarden naturally has his duties, readers will have to pardon us. The pictures offer a chance to see our newly acquired High Mass set doing what it was designed to do. It came from Elmore Abbey and as such exhibits the relatively simple decoration typical of monastic vestments, and it is cut in the Spanish style. You'll also notice the "true" dalmatic and tunicle, which are clearly differentiated from each other. The set includes a matching set of tabernacle veils and a humeral veil you could shelter an entire family under.
The offertory

Agnus Dei



It is our custom at S. Magnus to process up to London Bridge after the Mass of this feast, to the point where our parish boundary meets that of the old S. Saviour's, Southwark (i.e. Southwark Cathedral) and there to conduct a ceremony of blessing the river, which involves readings, prayers for those who have lived and died on the river, before a large wooden cross is thrown into the Thames to bless it, and the people are sprinkled with holy water. This custom is followed by many of the faithful of the Eastern Churches, especially in Greece and Russia. My only experience to date of the Ethiopian feast of Timqat, which celebrates the Epiphany and Baptism in one go, was on my way back from Mass at Ss. Trinita dei Pellegrini in Rome, where I wandered into a small, typically Roman piazza and encountered a huge circle of Eritreans gathered around a collection of large plastic tubs full of water, where priests and deacons in colourful silk vestments were conducting their version of the blessing of the waters.

A short local media flurry (light relief from the "snow") followed the Blessing, with S. Magnus featured on BBC London television news, and also in the free commuter's daily, the Metro. It seems that every year, the event attracts more and more attention, and I'm pleased to think that so many people have been reminded of the contribution the Church makes to the City of London, not only by providing direct charitable and educational services, but also in that great service of intercessory prayer.

The procession forms, headed by an icon of the Baptism of Christ, held by Dr Colin Podmore

The procession on London Bridge

...waiting for Southwark

The Southwark contingent arrives

The service is underway

The cross is thrown into the Thames by Fr. Philip and Canon Andrew Nunn

Holy Water

The people are sprinkled as a reminder of their baptism


  1. Glad to see you back. And what a wonderful event! I hope feeling was better than last year. I was fascinated to see this. Ours is next Tuesday, so we'll probably celebrate with Great Vespers and the Blessing of the Waters (indoors) - a much more low-key event.

  2. Yes, I second that - really been missing your posts. God bless you in 2010

  3. Did anyone dive into the Thames after the Cross as they do in Greece?

    (Hope you have all had a blessed Christmas and Epipany).

  4. Actually that custom did feature in the sermon, as did a plea not to jump into the sub-zero, filthy Thames waters, which would mean almost certain death.

    And no, no one was *thrown* in either......

  5. A great event, I very much enjoyed reading about it and seeing the pictures.

    With every good wish in Christ,

    Father Ed.Bakker.SSM
    TAC New Zealand

  6. I must say you do look very handsome

  7. A very informative post. I really like the newly acquired vestments! So nice to see a church offring the full ritual of a Solemn Mass and not one of the more mix-and-match type of service.

    Hope to read more from you soon.



    This is so cool. I would pressure my parish into it, but we'll have to *find* water first.

  9. Yes, Eric, to put it in familiar wording :
    Southwark Cathedral have female staff.

    It'd be cool. Apart from being an ancient observance, it's also a nice one to keep the family entertained and to make the local press, which can't be bad.