Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael

September 24, 2009

On Tuesday we celebrate the feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Some Christians celebrate the feast as St. Michael and All Angels, whereas for centuries the feast was known as ‘Michaelmas’. Whatever we call it, the feast is a time for us to reflect on the great glory of God shown in the angels, and in God’s great goodness to us by making the angels our servants as well as his. For that is what we see them doing in the scriptures: Michael wages war against the forces of darkness and wins, Gabriel is the angel who announces God’s plan of salvation to Mary at the annunciation, and Raphael, as we read in the Book of Tobit, brings healing to mankind.

The Archangels and angels are the ones who praise God without ceasing in heaven, they continually pray for us, and protect and guard us. It is our great privilege to join in their hymn at Mass, the sanctus. As the evenings start to draw in, and the weather turns colder, it is good to know that we have the angels as our friends and helpers through the darkness of life to the glorious light of heaven.

May Saints Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and all the Holy Angels pray for us.                           P.D.

St Matthew – 21st September

September 18, 2009

On Monday we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew, the gospel writer and Apostle. Matthew is very concerned in his writing to proclaim that Jesus is the promised Messiah, again and again he shows how Jesus fulfils the Old Testament prophecies. Matthew’s gospel is steeped in Judaism: he quotes extensively from the Old Testament, he is concerned to show Jesus as the new Moses, and he obviously has first hand experience of the Jewish religion. 

Matthew’s feast day can serve to remind us that to understand the New Testament and the message of Jesus properly we need to know about the Jewish faith and the Old Testament. For most of the year the first reading at Mass is taken from the Old Testament, and the Mass itself cannot be understood unless we see it in the context of the Jewish Passover. We cannot ignore the religion, culture and understanding of Our Lord and Our Lady and most of the Apostles. If we understand it better then we understand them better too. 

Let us pray on the feast of St. Matthew for the Jewish people, and also pledge that we will learn more about Judaism. In doing so we will learn more about Jesus himself.        P.D.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (14th September )

September 11, 2009

On Monday we celebrate a feast with the rather grand title of ‘The Exaltation of the Holy Cross’. This is one of the oldest feasts in the calendar but for now I don’t want to go into its history so much as its meaning and relevance for us today. 

The cross is central to the Christian message. We know from contemporary accounts that crucifixion was a particularly brutal form of execution. But also we believe that the second person of the Trinity became man and died for our salvation in this brutal way. Monday’s feast focuses on the wonderful fact that this barbaric instrument of torture has been transformed by the power of God into the means of eternal life. 

Perhaps we’ve become too used to the schmaltz of ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ for us not to have to do a little rethinking and repraying about this feast. The hymns of Venantius Fortunatus are useful correctives. What comes across in them is not a lament for the dead Jesus but a celebration of the death-conquering Christ.  

The feast can be summed up in the words of the Liturgy: ‘Lord by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free, you are the Saviour of the world’.                   P.D.


September 4, 2009

There are three birthdays commemorated in the Church’s Calendar: that of Christ at Christmas, St John the Baptist’s in August, and that of Our Lady which we celebrate on Tuesday. We often find these three depicted in paintings and icons because all three are central to the mystery of the incarnation. We do not believe in a God who is distant from this world, who is above earthly cares and concerns. We are not called to be disembodied beings – that role is for the angels. Our humanity is not an obstacle to our holiness but rather its precondition and possibility.
Because in Christ God has taken on our human nature our human nature is for ever linked to the divine. Feasts like the one we celebrate on Tuesday call us back to the profound truth of the incarnation. Mary was born like one of us, though without sin, and had to grow in her knowledge and understanding. Paintings often show the child Mary learning to read at the knee of St Anne her mother.
As we begin a new term we can reflect on the high, God given vocation that is teaching. Mary had to be taught and so did Jesus. Both in their turn taught those around them. Our quest for knowledge is one of the things that makes us truly human, and as such it also leads to God who is the source of all wisdom.