Friday, 21 April 2017

Sometimes its the little things that warm the heart!

Artists in the sacristy

Sometimes it is the little and often hidden things that really do bring joy to the heart. When a priest's vestments are set out in the sacristy it is traditional for them not only to be laid out in a convenient way so he can vest and pray at the same time. But it is often the case that girdle or cincture and stole are arranged in a meaningful way. As an Anglo-catholic often they would be arranged as an Alpha and Omega. I find as a Catholic priest now that the sacristan often arranges them in the form of IHS. Both are reminders to the priest that what he is about to do is no ordinary thing, but, in persona Christi capitas, he will speak and act for Christ in the sanctuary. Of course none of the congregation will know the trouble the sacristan took in getting the priest's garments ready but that in a way makes it all the more beautiful as an offering.

I came across a blog showing the next level of artistry from the arranging of the cincture and stole to the arranging of the amice ribbons. Again they are really creative and beautiful, and though hidden show devotion and the love of God.

Above the amice ribbons are arranged as the keys of St Peter on the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. I also liked the one below for St Gabriel's day (24 March).

For the rest go here. Thanks be to God for such beautiful little things.

Fr Ian

Glimpsing the risen Lord

Easter Friday (John 21:1-14)
The risen Lord appears to the disciples again continuing to build up their faith. But yet again they do not immediately recognise Him. On this occasion they are fishing in Galilee (or Sea of Tiberias) when someone calls to them and invites them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. They do not recognise that the person is Christ. Nevertheless they do as they are told and they bring in a miraculous catch. The fish are in such great numbers that they cannot draw in the net, though the net does not break. Meanwhile Peter suddenly recognises that the person is the Lord.

This resurrection appearance has been long understood to have an allegorical meaning, as well as its literal meaning. In this episode we see symbolically the nature of the Church affirmed. The boat represents the Church, the sea the world, the fish those who enter the Church, and the net represents the unity of the Church that does not break but can contain unlimited numbers of members. If St Jerome is right and people thought then that there were 153 different species of fish, then symbolically the net of 153 fish symbolises the universality or catholicity of the Church, the Church for all nations and peoples. Peter in this episode represents the papacy and the magisterium (teaching authority) who leads the Church in confirming its members in the Faith.

The risen Lord’s invitation to breakfast is also a reminder of the Eucharist. In St John’s gospel the other reminder of the Eucharist is the feeding of the multitude, again at the side of Lake Galilee. Christ, the risen Lord, continues to invite us to His heavenly banquet. During Mass we hear the priest say, “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” As we glimpse the risen Lord by faith, by gazing on the Eucharistic species, let us speak in our heart with St Peter’s joy, “It is the Lord!”

Fr Ian

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Dispensing the blessings of the New Covenant

Easter Thursday - (Luke 24:35-48)

Even faced with the risen Lord the disciples are still struggling to believe what they can see, hear and touch. The hypothesis that somehow the disciples came up with the resurrection stories from their faith in the resurrection does not hold up – what is revealed here is that the disciples struggled to have faith; faith was born not from themselves but from encountering the risen Lord and grew by grace.

The risen Lord shows that He is the same person they knew by showing them His wounds. Here was the same body that had been crucified two days earlier. So not only was His body missing from the tomb, but now they can see the body with its wounds. So the evidence that He had risen is incontrovertible for the disciples.

Of course there is something altogether different about Him too! He is not a vision, nor a ghost. He is physically there. To demonstrate His physicality He asks for something to eat, and they offer Him broiled fish. Ghosts or visions do not eat.

So the picture is building of what the nature of the resurrection is. The resurrected Lord is physically present with the body that was crucified. The risen Lord talks and eats. Together with this is the fact that He can appear to various people in different places (outside the tomb, on the road to Emmaus, then in a locked room). He seems no longer subject to the limitations of time, space and the laws of nature. He reveals therefore what His glorified body is like, and thereby shows what our resurrected and glorified bodies will be like.

Just as He had done for the disciples on the road to Emmaus, so He does for the Apostles. He opens their minds to the meaning of Scripture. So also for us, if we are to understand the Scriptures we must allow Christ to teach us by the Holy Spirit through the Church’s teaching authority (we cannot hope that personal interpretation will allow us to understand the Scriptures rightly!).

Finally our Lord commissions the Apostles to go and preach repentance and salvation to all people and nations. The Church dispenses the blessings of the New Covenant through the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments (see Mt 28:19-20 ‘baptism’, Jn 20:23 ‘confession’).

The Lord wants the fruit of His passion, death and resurrection to be shared with all people that they may turn away from the fallen life and through the grace of Christ live the risen life in Him. The capacity to do that comes through baptism, and our repeated failures to rise to the new life are rectified through the Sacrament of Penance. Through the Eucharist (if we receive it in a state of grace) our lives are increasingly ordered to the risen life.

Fr Ian

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Church does what the Lord did on the road

Easter Wednesday

Today we hear (Lk 24:13-35) of the appearance of the risen Lord by some disciples on the road to Emmaus. We learn not only of this amazing encounter between the two disciples and the resurrected Christ, but also, at another level, how this encounter is a model of what the Church does for us.

The Church does for us what the risen Lord did for the disciples on the road. First He walked with them. Secondly He gave the ‘interpretation of Scripture’. Thirdly He celebrated the Eucharist (He took bread; He said a blessing; He broke it and gave it).

Through the Church our risen and ascended Lord walks with us. Our pilgrim journey as disciples is not a lonely one, but one in which we are accompanied by the Lord through His Church. The Church gives us the ‘interpretation of Scripture’, through the Church’s teaching authority (the magisterium). We do not need to wrestle alone with understanding the Scriptures but have the wisdom of all those who have been guided by the Holy Spirit to teach with authority. And, the Church celebrates and most truly is the Church when she celebrates the Eucharist.

We can come close to Jesus in the conversation of personal prayer and meditating on His words. We find Him present in our fraternal meetings, for when “two or three are gather in my name, there am I in your midst.” But our risen Lord makes Himself known to us in a wholly and qualitatively different way when we share the Bread of Life, His Body and His Blood.

So in this Eastertide let us rejoice that the Church is not primarily a human institution but that in the joyous encounter of the two disciples with the risen Lord on the road is revealed a model of the Church. We can experience our Lord’s presence with us through the Church. We can be wholly confident in the magisterial teaching of the Church which is not the teaching of men but the teaching of Christ through His servants. And we are truly privileged to be able, by faith, to witness Christ Himself in the Eucharist. Let us not take any of these things for granted nor in any way work against them.

Fr Ian

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Do not cling to me

Easter Tuesday

“Do not cling to me,” are words that might seem quite harsh to those, like St Mary Magdalene, who loved Jesus much and also were filled with intense grief yet at his risen appearance were asked to hold back.

Now Jesus had not, all of a sudden, become like a classic Englishman, who prefers not to be so demonstrative with regard to affections! So what is happening here?

Well of course the Resurrection had occurred! And this is not just a resuscitation of Jesus’ body (like Lazarus being raised from the dead) but a wholly new way of being human. So of course the way in which people relate to the risen Christ is now different. Yes it is a human way of relating but it is necessarily a spiritual way.

Eventually of course, after the Ascension, the risen Lord is not to be seen until the end of time, but only seen through the sacramental signs of the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of the Eucharist. The disciples had to relinquish the physical presence of Jesus with which they were so comfortable. From then on the disciples of Jesus must embrace Him in a secret and marvellous way through prayer and faith.

St Mary Magdalene here may well represent the contemplative spirit of the Church and thus shows us how we are to embrace the whole of Christ.

Fr Ian

Monday, 17 April 2017

Easter joy

Both the joy and the import of the Resurrection are imbued in the words of St Peter as he preaches the first papal sermon in Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday. Peter is of course filled with joy – who would not be? His Master and Saviour who had become a victim of the Jewish authorities and then a victim of the Roman authorities even to a brutal death, was not overcome by death, but had risen.

For Peter personally, his sin against the Lord (denying his Master three times) had been forgiven. This is the joy we have too when we confess grave sin and experience the release from bondage in the absolution. It is a joyful resurrection experience – we were dead to sin, now we are alive to Christ! St Peter had been dead to the grave sin of denying Christ – now he was alive to the risen Christ!

And his joyful message for the Jews listening to him is that this Resurrection joy, through the forgiveness of their sins, can be there’s too. And of course, St Peter is addressing all of us in our sin; we too can receive the forgiveness of sins and experience the joy of the Resurrection life.

We who experience the Resurrection in this way, making use of the sacrament of penance, also have a duty to share it with others. Not necessarily like St Peter preaching in the streets of course, but nevertheless the joy of the Resurrection is not to be kept to ourselves.

Let us pray this Easter, that all of us may have the courage to proclaim in one way or another the joy of the Resurrection with those who do not know it.

Happy Easter! Alleluia. Christ is risen!

Fr Ian

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)