In his diary written in the Warsaw Ghetto, Chaim A Kaplan wrote this entry for October 2nd 1940: Again: everything is forbidden to us; and yet we do everything! We make our "living" in ways that are forbidden, and not by permission. It is the same with community prayers: secret minyanim in their hundreds all over Warsaw hold prayers together and do not leave out even the most difficult hymns.…Near the main synagogue some side room is chosen with windows facing the courtyard, and there hearts are poured out to the God of Israel
In their joint declaration of November 30th 2014, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew mentioned the ecumenism of suffering: ‘…we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering. Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity. The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer,
Listening to the reading from the Prophet Jonah we cannot fail to be moved! God saw the sorrow and repentance of the people of Nineveh, and spared them in this story. Today IS ignored the cries of the people in Mosul and destroyed the existence of the Christian community! The irony cannot be lost on us; now people claiming to do this in God’s a name are destroying Mosul/Nineveh! But in Jonah’s story the big difference it is about coming together not rending asunder.
I believe the publishing this week of the cartoon of the prophet
Mohammed on the cover of Charlie Hebdo was ill-judged, badly timed and a huge mistake.
Yes the publishers have every right to say what they want and publish what they like but that does not mean they should do so in every case. Why seek to offend when you could befriend? Is it necessary to use your freedom to insult others if you are serious about building a peaceful, just and diverse society?
How does God speak to us? Perhaps in our dreams, to comfort, encourage and enlighten us, like Jacob and Joseph discovered. Or, do we hear the Lord’s voice in the still spaces of the night like Samuel? For people of faith it seems very natural that somehow we do connect and communicate with the One who loves us more than anything. After all, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, our body is a Temple of the Lord where the Holy Spirit dwells; in each other we recognize the icon of Christ.
I have been a priest in London for over 40 years now. For many of those years Irish people in London lived in the shadow of IRA and UDA Terrorism. It was a very difficult time to be Irish in London. Airey Neave an MP was blown up in his car in the car park of the House of Commons. One of our Pimlico parishioners just happened to be walking past Chelsea barracks when the IRA bomb there went off and he was killed. We had bombs in the City of London, in Guildford, in Birmingham and people were angry that these terrorists could so cold-bloodedly kill innocent people.
The baptism of Jesus is a wonderful feast, in the simple words of Mark’s Gospel we see the Christ who was promised descend from Jordan’s banks into the waters and the heaven’s torn open to reveal Jesus as part of the Trinity, with him the voice of the Father and the descending spirit unite them all in love. Jesus’ baptism was literally a watershed in his life. From it all his mission flowed, until that day when the veil of the Temple rent in two as he gave his life up for us on the Cross and rising from death revealed the Resurrection.
Of all the nativity festivals, the Epiphany is perhaps the most colourful and yet, at least in Anglo-Saxon cultures, the most neglected, it is really eclipsed by the earlier Christmas feasts and the celebration of the New Year, it is the full stop at the end of the holidays! Here’s our chance to reclaim this feast as a purely religious festival. One idea might be to make it a day of hospitality, welcome and ecumenism. The readings for the feast point out that the ‘Magi’ represent the world beyond faith confines, beyond our denominational securities.
Christian devotion to Mary the Mother of Jesus goes back a very long way, well before the Council of Ephesus in 432 where she was defined as Theotokos, the ‘God bearer’ or as the Orthodox theologian Nicholas Zernov translated - ‘the one who gives birth to the one who is God’. However, the early ways in which Mary was venerated aren’t clear to us, except that it was always in the context of Jesus, and that’s important because it links Mary clearly with the incarnate Christ, the Son of God born of Mary, in time, as one of us.
As we see the departing skirts of the old year make their exit we look back on the previous 12 months with a whole stew of emotions. Gratitude for gifts received; New friendships born, or old ones strengthened. Mountains climbed and achievements celebrated. Fears not realised. Or just gratitude for the gift of life, health, family, friends, faith. But for some, in that stew there will be relief that a year of turmoil has passed; They have known bereavement – the loss
I was trawling though writings and sermons about the Holy Family, partly out of interest but mainly curiosity and what I found was, as one might expect, a pretty hefty statement about the wonderful influence of Joseph and Mary on Jesus - the inference being that somehow they lived a domestic life rather akin to the ‘best’ model of what one might call the official ‘Christian’ life, one of harmony, loving synchronicity between husband and wife, obedience from children who are brought up in a ‘safe’ environment!
Pope Francis celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica on Christmas Eve to mark the Nativity of the Lord and in his homily spoke of how much the world needs tenderness today.“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” ( Is 9:1). “An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night
In his Midnight Mass homily at Westminster Cathedral last night, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, urged Christians to return to the crib and the rule of love because ‘the compassion of Christ is for everyone and his law of love is universal’.
Reminding us that the birth of Christ is the ‘hinge of human history’ in which ‘a new vision is born’, the Cardinal described the kingdom of God as one which is ruled by love, ‘an affront to the power-seeking regimes of our world’ today.
For those of us brought up in Christian faith or who have close contact with it, the feast of the Saviour’s nativity needs little explanation, it is ingrained in the very fabric of our lives, but it is worthwhile to pause awhile and feast our hearts and minds on the immensity of love pouring into the world through the celebration of this festival. The liturgical texts and readings are so rich, yet so familiar, we know them well, but for us familiarity does not breed contempt, it generates a deep yearning
"Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
The traditional seven ‘O’ Antiphons of the last week of Advent are a journey with the Prophet Isaiah and others, telling the story of the coming of the Christ from Creation to Bethlehem. For us in the Northern Hemisphere it is also a transition in two ways, firstly in liturgical terms from the glimmer of light as life began, to the rising of the Sun that never sets. It also comes at that point when the year turns, the darkest shortest day and longest night, the winter solstice takes place during this week. We have yet to face deep winter but
O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God. (Common Worship). Do you take the trouble to read and explore what is being said in Scripture? There are contexts to be investigated, particularly in sections that have clear historical origins, such as Isaiah’s utterances for us in this last week of Advent. We need to engage more so that the word of God comes alive in us.
There is something interesting about the type of King in this antiphon, three main points perhaps? The first takes us deep into the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures, those oracles of God uttered in His name deep in the ancestral history of faith. Isaiah pulls together nearly all of the images given us in the text, the unfold I several passages but we firstly remind ourselves that unlike many earthly potentates throughout the centuries; this King is definitively connected to God and reigns as God’s representative,
Thinking about the account of the Annunciation which forms this Sundays’ Gospel, my mind kept returning to those simple words, ‘Nothing will be impossible for God’. I suppose if I had a robust faith I’d be able to rest easy with that sentence, but it puzzles me, for all through history, prayer and intercession has been made to the Most High in situations where some sign of intervention might have changed things, times of horror and war, the cries of the abandoned in prison camps.
For those who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the 21st December is the shortest day, the Winter solstice a turning point when the suns light begins to increase and the long dark nights grow shorter, a time of rebirth and renewal. Though the actual solstice is a moment in time, this day has been one of celebration for thousands of years. We know that our ancestors used this as the last feast before the onset of deep winter, a time when hunger and cold meant that many living things would not survive,
We forget just how important keys are until we lose them, then it’s a frantic search in all kinds of places and if as sometimes happens, we shut our car keys in the car or lose the house key, urgent telephone calls for help! To be locked out of somewhere is not a pleasant experience and it leaves us feeling disorientated and helpless. What a relief it is when we finally can unlock the door and enter! So important were keys to our ancestors that in many societies they became a badge of authority.
Our medieval Christian craftsmen and artists created wonderful Jesse trees, the sleeping Jesse at the base with a tree growing out of his loins and on each branch those ancestors of Christ opening out like leaves until we reach the final flowering of Mary with her child Jesus. Some Jesse trees can be found in manuscripts but there still remain wonderful examples in stained glass and wood and stone carving. Canterbury Cathedral has one fragment of a panel dating from 1150.
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with outstretched arm. (Common Worship trans) Adonai is the Hebrew word meaning ‘My Lord’ used by Jews as a substitution for the holy name of God which a cannot be spoken, and so is a reminder of the heritage the Christian community recieves from the people of Israel, the first to hear the promise of the future Messiah.
One of the great treasures of the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours are the ‘O’ antiphons that accompany the Gospel Canticle of the Magnificat, sung at Evening Prayer from the 17th to the 23rd of December. They are wonderful poetic and scriptural images of Christ, taken from the prophecies of Isaiah. There are seven of them, and each one unfolds in a sequence starting with Christ the Word and Wisdom of God at creation, the ‘logos’ of John’s Gospel, and ending with the nativity, Emmanuel, ‘God-is-with-us’.
The prophecies of Isaiah which we hear all though Advent, have long been some of my favourite pieces of scripture. There is contrast and colour, light and dark, intensity and joy, sorrow and despondency, but always the pilgrimage towards a time to come of hope and peace! The passage used on the third Sunday of Advent, taken from Isaiah 61 is especially poignant given the troubled state we Christians find ourselves caught up in throughout our world.