I managed to grab a few shots before Solemn Vespers (to mark Chrisitan Unity Week) began. St Paul's is looking lovely, after a £4 million makeover, even if I still find the austerity of the only major baroque Cathedral in Britain somewhat dispiriting. However, the celebration of Solemn Vespers electrifies the building; many people (including Clergy of St Paul's) have said to me that Vespers works far better at St Paul's than Evensong does at Westminster, from a spatial and emotive point of view.
Simon Lloyd, our splendid Organ Scholar, took these pictures of me, as celebrant, incensing the altar of St Paul's Cathedral. I like especially the carving of cherubs by Grindling Gibbons, on the extreme right. The beautiful baldacchino, modelled on that of St Peter's in Rome, is only 50 years old. At the first celebration of Vespers in Christian Unity Week in 1993, I was also celebrant, at which time I was informed that I was only the fourth person in history to incense the altar of St Paul's Cathedral! It is most certainly a magnificent building, a testimony to Sr Christopher Wren's genius and his obsession with perfect mathematical relationships. It is good, however, to recall that the exterior dimensions of St Paul's dome would fit inside the interior of St Peter's, without touching it!
The choir was superb, and following the chanting of the psalms, and the falsibordone of the Canticle, their choice of motet (Gabrieli's Jubilate Deo) was a perfect choice, making excellent use of the magnificent acoustic. A solid and powerful Magnificat, set in the fourth mode by Palestrina, prepared the way.
The sermon was preached by Fr Christopher Tuckwell, sub-Administrator of the Cathedral. His words were realistic on our present situation, but full of hope for the future. He also recorded tactfully and movingly that he had been ordained an Anglican priest in this very Cathedral; and gave thanks for his Anglican heritage, as he did for his ordination six years ago into the Catholic priesthood.
A wonderful and memorable event - but I wonder if we haven't lost a little of that spark that guided and challenged us when we first began this exchange. We have grown used to this event, so much so that it is marked in our diaries well in advance. All the more then, we must never cease to hear those words of Our Lord (where he prays that we may all be one) and heed the imperative to work for unity.