September 26, 2013
On Wednesday we celebrate the wonderful feast of St. Michael and All Angels, often know as Michaelmas. Throughout the Old and New Testament we hear of stories of angels and archangels. The stories surrounding Michael depict him as a glorious warrior, the captain-in-chief of the army of God who decisively routs the forces of evil and consigns Satan to hell. In imagery Michael is often depicted in golden armour slaying a dragon.
The imagery is clear and Michael’s roll is clear – he is the one who defends us from the weaponry of evil and also attacks evil on our behalf. He is the one who fights for us against all the whiles of the devil. So Wednesday’s feast is an important one, and one that we should celebrate with great joy. We used to pray a lovely prayer to St. Michael at the end of the old Latin Mass. Here it is :
‘Holy Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.’
September 18, 2013
On Saturday we celebrate the feast of the evangelist, St. Matthew. We know from his own account that Jesus personally called him from being a tax collector to being one of his intimate disciples.
We can also see from Matthew’s gospel that he was steeped in the Jewish faith and knowledgeable about the Old Testament. Again and again Matthew quotes texts and shows that Jesus fulfils them. Matthew also accurately records customs and practices of the Jewish people. As we read the gospel more closely we can see that Matthew wants to depict Jesus as the new Moses. He gives the new law and definitively interprets the Old one.
In the early years of the Church there was a heretic called Marcion who wanted to throw out the Old Testament scriptures saying that they were no longer needed. The Church rejected such nonsense, knowing that the Old Testament as the revelation of God. Matthew helps us to see again why the Church was right to do so.
We should be pleased that we share a common heritage with the Jewish people. Any attempt to denigrate that heritage should be denied, and we should want to learn more about it. May St. Matthew pray for us to deepen our love of the Old Testament and the People into which the Lord Jesus was born.
September 13, 2013
Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Cross. Originally the feast recorded the finding of the true cross in Jerusalem by St. Helena in the fourth century, but over the years it has come to focus more on the meaning and mystery of the Cross. One of the antiphons for the feast sums it all up: ‘Ave crux, spes unica’ – ‘Hail O Cross, our only hope’.
At the heart of our faith is the mystery of the Trinity. Medieval painters were at pains to show that the cross is that mystery played out in our fallen world. We see the Father holding the cross of his Son while the Spirit descends. The love of the Father, Son and Spirit is strong enough to resist the power of death and cannot be contained by evil. Through the Cross the new and abundant divine life is offered to the world in the fact of the resurrection.
Tomorrow’s feast is not a sad one. Far from it. We are given a chance to reflect on the power of the cross. We see Christ in majesty reigning from the Cross, as some of the ancient hymn writers like to describe. The Cross is our only hope, but what a glorious hope it contains.
September 6, 2013
The feast we celebrate on Sunday is common to both Western and Eastern Churches. It occurs in the Latin calendar and the Greek, and was one of the feasts retained in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The feast is the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Like both the other feasts of nativity – that of John the Baptist and of course of Christ himself – it is far more than a bland or sentimental remembering of a birthday.
The feast of Our Lady’s nativity gives us an opportunity to reflect yet again on the role of this most extraordinary woman in our salvation story. She was born the daughter of a devout Jewish couple, Joachim and Anne, and lived her life as a pious Jewish girl longing and waiting for the Messiah. Because of her faith and devotion God was able to use her freely given cooperation to achieve the incarnation.
We know nothing for sure about Mary’s early years or indeed her childhood until we hear about her in the gospel encountering the Angel Gabriel. In our celebrity obsessed age when so many clamour to be ‘famous’ by posting their every doing on Facebook or Twitter it is good to be recalled to what really matters. Mary does just that.
Let us pray to Mary so that we can focus our lives on doing God’s will.