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Public Worship and Private Prayer


When a Bishop appoints a man to be a parish priest, as part of the ceremony of installation, he asks that priest to be faithful in 'public worship and private prayer.' These are two sides of the same coin when it comes to the relationship which every Christian ought to have with God, but they are particularly important when it comes to one who will lead the parish in one, and teach by example in the other.


At St Magnus the Martyr, 'public worship' means the Mass (also known as the Eucharist & Holy Communion), which is celebrated every Sunday as well as regularly during the week. Sometimes this great act of worship is called 'The Liturgy', which comes from the Greek meaning 'work of the people'. This means that although within the ceremony of the Mass there are parts when the priest alone says prayers and performs actions, and parts when individuals read from scripture, and parts when the choir alone sing, everyone present, old and young, have a vital part to play. In singing hymns and responses, in joining heart and mind in prayer, in their standing and their sitting, and especially in saying 'Amen' to the 'great prayer', they complete the offering of the altar.

On Sundays, it being the Lord's Day, the Mass is offered at 11.00 a.m. with greater solemnity than during the week The organist will lead us, together with the choir, in our musical offering. Servers will assist the priest at the altar, and will accompany him in procession with candles, and incense will be burnt to symbolise our prayers ascending to the throne of God. 

At a High Mass, the priest (also called the celebrant) is assisted at the altar by two other ministers; a 'deacon', (who has to have been ordained) and a sub-deacon (who may be a layman). The deacon's main task is to proclaim the Holy Gospel and to administer the chalice at Holy Communion, while the sub-deacon may read the epistle.

In the Catholic Church (of which the Church of England claims to be but a part) there are three 'orders'. These are the two just mentioned, priest and deacon, and the most important one being the Bishop. He is the Father-in-God of a 'diocese', which in the Bishop of London's case is all of Greater London north of the River Thames. He has the right to celebrate the Mass in any church in his diocese, but because he cannot be everywhere at once, he delegates that privilege to his priests.

On weekdays the Mass is celebrated on Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 12.30 pm and on Friday at 12.30. Unless a major feast day, this takes the form of a Low Mass, where the priest is assisted by one server only, and the side altar is used. The prayers are said rather than sung, and there is less ceremonial.

On Sundays for the Solemn High Mass, the liturgy follows the outline of the English Missal (the Cranmerian translation of the old Roman rite) whilst on weekdays, a modern English version is used.

On this altar stands the 'tabernacle', which is where the consecrated Body of Christ is kept in order that people may receive Holy Communion in their homes if prevented by illness from attending church, or in hospital. It also serves as a focus for prayer, and during the day many people take time away from their busy lives to come to St Magnus and to pause in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. To show them that It is present, a white light burns nearby.