February 5, 2018
Tomorrow we celebrate the lovely feast of The Presentation of the Lord. The feast marks 40 days since the celebration of Christmas. It recalls the time when Christ was brought to the Temple by Our Lady and St. Joseph. The holy old woman Anna realises the presence of the Saviour while the holy old man Simeon cannot contain his joy and proclaims that this child is the Light of the World.
Picking up on this latter insight during the Liturgy candles are blessed as a sign of the light that overcomes the darkness. With the evenings still dark and cold these speak of the warmth that will soon be arriving but also, more importantly of the kindling of the Easter Fire and Easter Candle which speaks of Christ’s glorious resurrection.
Our worship is not just words, it utilises action and material things as well. Look around on this feast and see how your fellow worshippers faces are irradiated by the candle light. We are called to be reflections of the Light of Christ in our world today. It is a world that has many dark places but into those Christians plunge to bring the good news: this child is the Light of the World. P.D.
January 29, 2018
It’s still cold, wet, and dark and Christmas now seems a long, long time ago. But the feast we celebrate on Friday is an echo of the joy and elation we felt at Christmastide. The feast has several names. It is known and the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, or the Purification of the Virgin, but perhaps its best title is its ancient name – Candlemas.
We remember the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple 40 days after his birth. It is described to us in the gospel reading. But that same reading also speaks of Jesus as ‘the light to enlighten the gentiles’. And it is that theme the feast picks up in earnest.
At the start of Mass candles are blessed (often all those that will be used over the year) and carried in procession to honour him who is the Light of the Nations. It is a lovely echo of the lights and celebration of Christmas.
The candles are signs of what we are called to be. It is amazing how much light just one candle can give in a darkened room. Similarly it is amazing how much warmth one Christian action can spread in a world that so badly needs that.
We shine with the light that is Christ.
January 19, 2018
Next Wednesday we celebrate the feast day of one of the most attractive saints in the calendar. During a period when the Christians of Europe were tearing each other apart over the controversies of the Reformation St. Francis de Sales stood as a beacon of charity, tact, and courtesy.
He was born in Annecy in France in 1567. His father was not too pleased when the young Francis decided to become a priest but he eventually agreed. In 1602 he became the Bishop of Geneva, the city at the heart of the radical reformation under Calvin. He realised that he needed to preach with love as well as fervour, and his sermons are free from the usual point scoring and polemic of the period.
He also realised that holiness, as the Second Vatican Council was to teach four centuries later, was for every Christian. His little book, An Introduction to the Devout Life, showed how ordinary men and women could become saints in their everyday lives.
We live in an age which can be very dismissive, even rude, about religion and faith. We should take Francis as our example. He insisted on the truth of the gospel and the Church’s tradition, but he did so with charm and tact. May he pray for us.
January 12, 2018
On Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It is important that we listen to the readings and prayers of the Liturgy as they tell us what this feast means. If we start from some pre-conceived idea that baptism is all to do with ‘washing away of original sin’ then we run the real risk of ending up in error and heresy. Jesus is sinless, he has no sins to wash away.
Rather the feast is speaking to us about who this man Jesus really is. He is revealed as the Beloved Son of the Father, full of the Holy Spirit. Moreover his disciples are told to listen to him – here is the voice of God speaking in our world.
The Baptism is traditionally seen as part of a trilogy with the Epiphany and the Marriage at Cena. All three ‘manifest’ the true nature of Jesus. All show him as the Son of God, full of the Father’s power. All show him as being sent into this world for our salvation.
This Sunday is a wonderful chance for us to think about our own baptisms. Unlike Jesus we did need cleansing from original sin but our baptism also made us the child of God, filled with the Spirit, and commissioned to bring good news to the world.
December 9, 2017
Today we celebrate the wonderful feast of the Immaculate Conception. We believe that, through the grace of God, Mary was kept free from the taint of original sin from the first moment of her conception. Although she was conceived in the normal way, Jesus alone being the subject of the virgin birth, Mary was not corrupted by the tendency to sin from which every other human being suffers. All this was achieved through the power of God, and in many ways can be seen as the dawn of the reality of salvation in our human history.
Mary’s whole life is a living out of this initial singular grace. She is the one who responds completely to the Holy Spirit when he announces that she is to be the Mother of God. She is the one who whole heartedly hears the message her Son preaches. She is the one who is completely united to him in his suffering and death on the cross. In her Assumption Mary shows what glory awaits all the saints.
And that is why Mary is so important. She is the first of Christians and the best of Christians. She shows us what we are called to be and also helps to be that new creation.
May Mary Immaculate, conceived without sin, pray for us today and always. P.D.
December 4, 2017
The celebration of ‘Xmas’is well underway: the shops are urging us to spend our reduced real incomes, celebrities pontificate about their ‘perfect day’, and the office party season is about to kick off. In many ‘Xmas’ is a fitting name for all this as by using the anonymous ‘X’ it does not remotely claim to be anything about Christ. It would be difficult to see how it could.
For the Christian, Christmas is still some way off. In fact, this Sunday marks the start of the season of preparation for that feast. Advent is a time when try to make some space to think again about two intertwined ‘comings’: the second coming of Christ at the end of time and his first coming among us as a tiny babe. Both are linked and both shed light on the other. On this first Sunday of Advent we think not so much of the babe but of the man who is both Lord and Saviour coming triumphantly at the end of time to judge all peoples. That reflection gives the context for the celebration of Christ’s birth. The child who is born is none other than the eternal Son of God who has come into our world to save us.
The shops and the celebs and the parties are just distractions. Take part in it all if you want, but try to make some time each day in the next month to remember what really matters. P.D.
November 24, 2017
The Church’s year comes to its glorious climax this weekend as we celebrate the beautiful feast of Christ the King. So much of the Liturgy focusses on past events, though it is always at pains to stress what these mean for us today and how they are life-chaining events. But this feast focusses on the future. At the end of time Jesus will come again and judge all peoples. He will then establish the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
When we look around the world today we see so many states that are run for a tiny handful of the privileged. We see countries in which there is little or no justice or peace. We realise that cruelty and hardship still abound. The feast of Christ the King tells us that this will not last for ever.
When Christ comes again his kingdom will be one of justice, love and peace. It will be a place where all are truly equal and all truly loved.