Independent Catholic News logo Welcome Visitor
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Text: Gaudium et Spes celebration
Comment Email Print
 The following programme was broadcast from Westminster Cathedral on Radio 4's Sunday Worship on 6 June, 2005 "Gaudium et Spes - Joy and Hope" with Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor Choir: Alleluia (Macmillan) Fr M "The joys and hopes, the griefs and sorrows of the people of this age, especially of those who are poor or downtrodden in any way, are the joys and hopes, the griefs and sorrows of the followers of Christ as well." These are the opening words of one of the most outstanding documents in the recent history of the Church, a document published forty years ago, and usually known by its first words in Latin: Gaudiem et Spes. We are at Westminster Cathedral this morning, to celebrate the vision that produced Gaudiem et Spes. It was a vision that revolutionised the way the Church saw its relationship with the world. It advanced a fresh understanding of the dignity of the human person, and understood personal freedom as most fully expressed in community. The Church no longer saw itself as a fortress, with its members besieged behind the ramparts of doctrine and authority, as it surveyed the hostile territory beyond the battlements. Now the Church was called upon to engage with the world, to recognize the good that exists there, and to help create and develop society. It was a tumultuous change in the way the Church thought about itself and its mission; but the Church embraces this challenge in joy and hope, knowing it is sharing in the mission of Christ himself. Such optimism and longing must begin with Jesus Christ, as expressed in Bach's much loved chorale 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring'. Choir: Jesu, Joy of man's desiring Fr M Let us pray. Father, your love and your presence fill creation and hold it in being. Inspire us to embrace the world, to engage with its challenges, and to recognize the dignity of every human being; that we may share their joys and hopes, their griefs and sorrows, and so help build the Kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ, who is Lord for ever and ever. I'm now in the Baptistry of Westminster Cathedral. Before us stands the great font, a huge marble basin that contains the sacred waters of Baptism. Located close to the entrance of the Cathedral, it represents both physically and spiritually the beginning of the human journey in Baptism. That baptism, as Gaudiem et Spes puts it, 'conforms us to Christ' so that we may attain our true potential as children of God. But that destiny is basic to all men and women; we are all created in the image of Christ, and therefore share a common dignity, and destiny. St Paul, writing to the Christians at Ephesus, prays that this closeness to Christ may transform their lives and energies: Reading: Ephesians 3: 14 - 21 Reader For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Choir: Exultate Deo (ps 80) (Palestrina) Cardinal part 1 When a Catholic priest is made a bishop, he is asked to choose a motto. Twenty-eight years ago, when I became Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, I chose as my motto those ringing words which open that most important document of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudiem et spes, "hope and joy". This was the document which caused a revolution. It firmly inserted the Church in the modern world. Gaudiem et Spes cast an eye over the great questions of humanity, and declared that these, too, were the great questions for the Church. The followers of Christ could no longer retreat or withdraw. The year the document came out I was a young priest in my first parish. I had started a small group of people who met regularly for prayer and discussion. One of them was a man, a night worker, who came with his wife. One night, she called to say he had been badly injured in an accident; could I come to the hospital? I did, and spent the night there at his side, until he died, at about five in the morning. She had no one else there: no relatives to comfort her. Her world fell apart. But I was able, at that moment, to share some of her grief, to give her the reassurances of faith. I could accompany her. And in accompanying her, I could help Jesus to be present to her. And so what might have been a moment of total devastation became, instead, a moment of meaning. When I read Gaudiem et Spes, it seemed to describe so well how the Church can walk with the world, in the way that I walked with that couple that night. Some people call it "empathy" or "compassion". It's knowing how another feels, why they act the way they do. It's the capacity which Jesus Christ had to a limitless degree - he emptied himself for others. Yet that did not make him passive, or self-effacing. His message was challenging; he demanded everything. Yet he could identify so much with those he met that the message was never received as an imposition, but rather an invitation to freedom. That is the quality, too, of Gaudiem et Spes which we are celebrating today. It was 1965. Thousands of bishops were gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council. They were from all over the world, and many were there for the first time. Many were from places which had known persecution and poverty. There had never been, in the history of the Church, such an opportunity for so many pastors to consider together the human condition - to "read the signs of the times". What emerged was a document about the world, and its pains and joy - the same joys and pains of 40 years ago: the challenges of inequality, social justice, relationships, war and peace, famine and disease, anxiety and hope. But it was also a document about the Church's ability to help humanity to meet those challenges; and how it must avail itself of the modern tools of science in order to do so. The Church was asked to look at history in a new way. It was not just of question of applying principles, as if the Church had all the answers and society none. It was recognising that the Holy Spirit is present in the world. The Church's engagement with humanity became a two-way street. Christians have a duty to scrutinise the signs of the times. They need to walk with, co-operate with, journey alongside. This was the new language of Gaudiem et Spes, surprising to Christians not used to the Church using the humble language of the fellow-seeker. The Church is still a beacon on a hill, lighting the way for pilgrims. But it is also, now, the leaven in the dough. Christians, says the document, "are joined with the rest of men and women in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships." In Gaudiem et spes the world is no longer divided between allies and enemies, believers and non-believers. With love, Gaudiem et Spes considers the great questions that human beings put to themselves. Whatever troubles humanity troubles the followers of Christ. Solidarity with the human family also unites us with the family of heaven, so that concern for our brothers and sisters becomes our own hymn of praise to God. Choir: Gloria (Widor) Fr M The focal point of the Cathedral is the sanctuary, the wide sacred space raised up at the head of the nave. It is dominated by the altar, over which towers the great stone canopy, or baldacchino - symbolising the tent erected over the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem. Above, a vast and glittering mosaic depicts Christ in Judgement, an imposing yet gentle presence, seated amid a blue cloud of the hosts of heaven. To the side of the Sanctuary stands a large white marble throne - the Cathedra from which the Cathedral takes its name. This is the chair of our bishop, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, and it symbolises his authority leading our diocese, and teaching to us the truths of the Gospel. However, as Gaudiem et Spes makes clear, that authority is not to be employed simply to perpetuate structures. The Church leads individuals and society to a fuller understanding of who they are and can be, and - in a radical turn of the scales - itself listens to the wisdom of the age, to discern more fully the will of God. Jesus encouraged his followers to shine forth in the world - to illuminate it, and so reveal to the world its true beauty and potential. Reader You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Cardinal part 2 Gaudiem et spes makes clear that true freedom comes through solidarity with others. We are most free when we are entangled in healthy relationships, not when we are lone rangers. This is one of the great insights of Gaudiem et Spes: that human progress holds out great hope. But it needs to be guided along the right paths. We need to know what is most important. The document says: "Brotherly dialogue among people does not reach its perfection on the level of technical progress, but on the deeper level of relationships. These demand a mutual respect for the full spiritual dignity of the person." Those of us in the wealthy western world have these days a hitherto unheard-of liberty - politically, socially, economically. Our remote control caters for the twitchiest viewer; the Internet is a marvellous instrument for retrieving information immediately from a dazzling array of sources; cheap flights take us anywhere in Europe for the price of a train ticket; the mobile phone enables us to make plans and to keep changing them as circumstances change. These are great developments, which are causing a significant change in the way we think. But technology must be our servant, not our master; we must shape it to God-shaped human priorities, not the other way round. Think of the rapid developments in industrial production of the nineteenth century. Those changes also led to huge social mobility and change, and new wealth and new freedom. But the explosion of factories and industries also caused us to see people as less than human, as factors in production, and this corrosion led, indirectly, to mass politics and totalitarianism, to the extinction of our freedom. Today the extension of choice to all sectors of human life is corroding our consciences in the same way. People are as good as their contracts, to be hired and fired at will; relationships become transitory, ad hoc, dispensable; old people and immigrants are diminished in the eyes of society, scapegoated as parasitic or useless; we wish to create human beings for particular purposes, not receive them as gifts. All these are challenges to our freedom, because they lock us in ourselves and create vicious circles of anger and rejection and violence. Christians must always witness to true freedom, the kind of freedom that comes with an acknowledgement that God created the world and each of us, and that the meaning of life starts from that amazing truth. "Christ," says Gaudiem et Spes, "fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear." The purpose of faith in Jesus Christ is to help us to be more fully human. To be more fully alive. To hear our supreme calling. This is why Jesus came into the world, and changed forever our idea about what a human being is, and should be. The intrinsic dignity of human beings comes from the marvellous truth of knowing that God loved his own creatures so much that he became like them and died for them and rose for them. Here, in a speech in this Cathedral just a few weeks ago, Sir Bob Geldof issued a call to us all which is still ringing in my ears. "Through our wealth," he said, "the end of extreme poverty is genuinely within our grasp". He is inviting us to end the tyranny of poverty in Africa which sees 8 million people die every year because they are too poor to stay alive. The followers of Christ cannot be deaf to this call, because the agonies of Africa, and of so many other parts of the world, are also our agonies. We each of us have a God-given dignity. Yet we do not arrive at our potential on our own. We need to be freed from what oppresses us - the oppression of grinding poverty, of exploitation, of despair. In the words of Gaudiem et Spes: "Christ blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning." Choir: Sanctus (Poulenc) Fr M Tucked away in a corner of Westminster Cathedral is an almost secret place, the tiny chapel of the Sacred Heart, where throughout the day people seek a tranquil space to raise their hears and minds to God in prayer. It's a beautiful chapel; the rich mosaic ceiling looks like a carpet, creating an atmosphere of comfort and harmony. Gaudiem et Spes emphasises that we must be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and so it is appropriate in this peaceful little chapel to ask that same Spirit to guide our prayers: Reader 1 We pray that the Church may discern in the needs and longings of our time the purpose of God, guiding men and women to a fuller understanding of their true destiny. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer. Reader 2 We pray that the dignity of all people may be respected, as sons and daughters of God, and that this may be the foundation of a society of justice, peace, and the values that build up the human family. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer. Reader 1 We pray that societies will recognize the value of co-operation with other communities, sharing their traditions while learning new insights. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer. Reader 2 We pray that the prosperity of this world may be shared among its peoples, and that we may understand that earthly goods are destined for every human being. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer. Fr M Let us pray to the Father of all, to whom all humanity is directed: Our Father... Fr M We are shown how to be truly human by Jesus Christ, who took upon himself human flesh and suffering for love of us. We celebrate the mystery of that love in the hymn 'My Song is Love Unknown'. Choir: Hymn My song is love unknown Fr M: I'm standing at the great west door of Westminster Cathedral. Behind me looms the cavernous interior, heavy with prayer and the scent of candles. Before me is Victoria Street, with the Traffic already thundering past, and facing us those modern Cathedrals - shopping centres, offices and coffee shops. This is the threshold between the sacred and the secular, and in a way symbolises the vision of Gaudiem et Spes, where the Church contributes to the building up of a truly human and free society, endowing the daily activity of men and women with deeper meaning. We go forth, then, in confidence, to engage in our world, to challenge it and love it. May we see the face of Christ in those we meet, and be the face of Christ to all. And may Almighty God bless us with his grace, to enable us to communicate to the world the salvation that comes from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Choir: Hymn Macmillan New song Source: Archbishop's House
Share:  Bookmark and Share
Tags: None

Powered by Bondware
News Publishing Software

The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: