Thursday, February 5, 2009

Red Mass

In Israel and the United States we keep courtroom dress quite simple and modest.
 So forgive me if I got excited to see Sydney's law professionals in full regalia--17th century adornments, red robes and funny wigs!
The annual (since 1931) Red Mass was celebrated at St. Mary's Cathedral on Monday.
The tradition can be traced back to France and England of the Middle Ages.

Here His Eminence Cardinal George Pell greets the wigged lawyers after the special Mass.
"Red Mass is convened in Sydney at the request of the St Thomas More Society, for the benefit of all members of the Australian legal community, regardless of political or religious belief. It affirms, in a public and collegiate way, our common ideals of justice, dispensed without fear or favor. In their personal capacity [italics mine], it is attended by lawyers of all persuasions, including judicial officers of both State and Federal jurisdictions, solicitors and barristers, and the Attorney-General and shadow Attorney-General of the day."*

After Mass and morning tea, we all crossed the street to St. James', Sydney's oldest church, for the Anglican "Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication to Mark the Opening of the Law Term."

There I managed the courage to shoot a few stealth photos of the judges in scarlet.

Both churches were almost unbearably hot. People were fanning themselves with the booklet.
The horsehair wigs looked hot and itchy.
BTW, the ceremonial "full-bottom wig" with long curls reaching the shoulders costs over US$4,000.

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Reverend Dr. Peter Jensen, asked the lawyers to rise and make this act of dedication:
"Creator God, in our various functions
in the legal profession and in the wider community,
we dedicate ourselves afresh
to act with discernment and balance,
with integrity and compassion
as we strive to faithfully serve in the administration of the laws and usages of this land,
that our system of justice may be upheld
and the values which underlie it preserved.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
I am not sure how to think about this very new-to-me mixing of church and state. 
Robed judges kneeling and all. . .
Oh, and there will be a similar prayer service at the Great Synagogue on Friday afternoon, and also prayers at an Orthodox church.
But, getting back to St. Mary's, I enjoyed this part of their explanation:
"The Red Mass is a votive mass of the Holy Spirit. It often commences with the ninth century hymn to the Spirit, Veni creator Spiritus ("Come, Holy Ghost").
 The red robes worn by the celebrants recall the tongues of flame which descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, filling them with courage and enlightenment. The colour red also recalls the blood of martyrs." *
*from the booklet given us at The 79th Red Mass


richies said...

The judges look like Santa Claus

An Arkies Musings

Katney said...

There is actually a Red MAss held in Washington D.C. at the beginning of the court season as well. I do not know how well attended it is as I've only heard about it. I can't imagine it to be as colorful, as it is read in name--without the red robes and wigs.

mommanator said...

you always educate we bloggers Thanks from Miles away!
Pics are great add to blog. Seems like you have been in Australia more than a month, but know you are enjoying the family!

ascu75 aka Don said...

Dina I recently was told by someone what a privelidge he fealt at being at a ordination of a vicar I feel the same way for you. It looks tremendous, thanks for sharing with us

Catherine said...

When I attend our Catholic Mass on Sunday, priests are not far from being dressed like this. Of course, not as a Cardinal, but with such vivid colored robes and embroidered.
What surprised me is the act of dedication. It sounds like taking oath, no ? I would have prefered to hear it in a justice court.

Kris said...

I am amused when lawyers take themselves so seriously.

Cloudia said...

Rich post and wonderful "You are there" pictures, Dina. Excellent and enjoyable. aloha & Shalom

Pietro said...

Wonderful post, Dina!
I wish you a good return back home!
See you soon

Dina said...

Shalom Richie, Mommanator, Don, Catherine, Kris, Cloudia, and Pietro. Thanks for all your observations, which all brought a smile.

Katney, right you are. The booklet from St. Mary's says the Red Mass is also celebrated in London, Paris, AND every year since 1928 in America. At St. Matthew's Cathedral in D.C. or in St. Patrick's in New York. Almost every President since Truman has attended it.
In his Red Mass homily Cardinal Pell said "It will be interesting to learn whether President Obama comes along."

Lawstude said...

the event is really a sight to behold but unfortunately, we do not have such an event in the philippines.

one reason maybe is that our country is very tropical and hot and that most lawyers here specially the old ones might faint or suffer heat stroke if they wear it for almost half a day.

we usually wear suits made-up of jusi or pina in our law gatherings.