Speak Lord: who are present to me

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In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. ‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him: ‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

John 20:19-31

The example of Thomas is set before us in the Gospel read at Mass on the Second Sunday of Easter.

Thomas who doubts: Thomas who stands out against the other disciples; Thomas who is favoured by the Lord; Thomas who responds so generously and fully when he is helped to believe.

How possible is it to give real assent to belief, if one has no personal reason to believe? Indoctrination can take place, of course. We accept all sorts of things without having given them much consideration. But belief surely requires something more.

Few are those who are granted the privilege that Thomas receives, but God offers us persuasive intimations of his presence and love in so many ways.

Thomas responds, eventually, and so generously.

  • What difference does God’s presence to you make to you today?

Plaster cast of Incredulity of Thomas, SIlos: in collection of Victoria and Albert Museum, London. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

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Taste and See: Living Waters

01 pouring waterThe third great symbol which the Church uses in payer at the Easter Vigil is water.

Water is used in baptism, and as a reminder of baptism when baptismal promises are renewed.

O God, who by invisible power
accomplish a wondrous effect
through sacramental signs
and who in many ways have prepared water, your creation,
to show forth the grace of Baptism;

O God, whose Spirit
in the first moments of the world’s creation
hovered over the waters,
so that the very substance of water
would even then take to itself the power to sanctify;

O God, who by the outpouring of the flood
foreshadowed regeneration,
so that from the mystery of one and the same element of water
would come an end to vice and a beginning of virtue;

O God, who caused the children of Abraham
to pass dry-shod through the Red Sea,
so that the chosen people,
set free from slavery to Pharaoh,
would prefigure the people of the baptized;

O God, whose Son,
baptized by John in the waters of the Jordan,
was anointed with the Holy Spirit,
and, as he hung upon the Cross,
gave forth water from his side along with blood,
and after his Resurrection, commanded his disciples:
“Go forth, teach all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
look now, we pray, upon the face of your Church
and graciously unseal for her the fountain of Baptism.

May this water receive by the Holy Spirit
the grace of your Only Begotten Son,
so that human nature, created in your image
and washed clean through the Sacrament of Baptism
from all the squalor of the life of old,
may be found worthy to rise to the life of newborn children
through water and the Holy Spirit.

And, if appropriate, lowering the paschal candle into the water either once or three times, he continues:

May the power of the Holy Spirit,
O Lord, we pray,
come down through your Son
into the fullness of this font,

and, holding the candle in the water, he continues:

so that all who have been buried with Christ
by Baptism into death
may rise again to life with him.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

The images of water reach back to the beginnings of Creation; they punctuate Salvation History, and they drive us forward into new life, our continuing re-creation in Christby his grace and at his invitation.

The waters symbolise birth and death. They signify the radical choice each human being is invited to make – life apart from the one who makes life possible; or life with the One who enriches our lives in unimaginable ways. It should be a no-brainer but often we are damaged goods and we need the repeated offer of the living waters to help us on.

Living waters – Notre Dame, IN. (c) Allen Morris 1998.

Taste and See: Easter Fire

_1070151small.jpgThe Easter Vigil begins with the blessing of fire.

The Church gathers after sunset, and ideally in the darkness, and before a blazing fire.

The first is blessed and then a flame taken from it to light the Easter Candle.

Let us pray.

O God, who through your Son
bestowed upon the faithful the fire of your glory,
sanctify + this new fire, we pray,
and grant that,
by these paschal celebrations,
we may be so inflamed with heavenly desires,
that with minds made pure
we may attain festivities of unending splendour.

Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Again and again in the Church’s liturgy things are used to symbolise the action of God, and what we ourselves are called to.

In this case the fire celebrates the consuming love of God that darkness retreats from, and – as the prayer makes clear – it is hoped that the fire is an anticipation of a new eagerness on our part for all that is godly, all that is good.

Sometimes our desires are devilish. But before God we are invited to pray for the gift of purity, the gift of fervour, and to long for newness of live in God in the festive community of heaven.

Easter Fire at St John’s Wood. (c) Peter Cassidy, 2011.

Taste and See: now, to go still deeper

005b.jpgToday begins the period of Mystagogy.  It is a time particularly for those baptised at Easter – a help to their fuller ‘reading’ and understanding of the Mysteries they took part in  as they were Baptised, Confirmed, and Eucharist-ised at the Vigil.

During their catechumenate their focus will especially have been on the word of God, the Scriptures – learning to hear Jesus the Christ in the lections of each Sunday and in the Bible more fully.

Now made fully one with the Church through the Sacraments, they are to be offered extra help in recognising Christ in the Sacramental actions. The help is to do two things: first to read more deeply the moments of initiation; second to to engage still more fully in the continued rhythm of the Church’s life, especially in the weekly participation in the offering of the Sacrifice of Christ, and in the continued experience of that and the receiving of Holy Communion.

Mystagogy is especially for these new Christians – the neophytes – but from the very beginning it has been an important time for Christians longer in the tooth to refresh their awareness of Christ’s presence and Christ’s call.

Each Monday to Wednesday on this Blog we attempt something similar, as we look back to the readings and prayers (especially) of the Sunday just passed, to help us continue to draw nourishment from Christ’s self-gift in the Church.

At the Easter Vigil one of the most notable moments is the singing of the Exsultet – the great hymn in praise of the Light of the World, symbolised in fire and light and in this gift of the Paschal Candle.

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises).

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.
V. Lift up your hearts.
R. We lift them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is right and just.

It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!

O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honour of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death’s domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.
R. Amen.

  • How is Christ light for you?
  • What are (still) the darker moments of your life?
  • What light does Christ seek to cast there?
  • What are the darker parts of our world?
  • How does Christ invite you to share his light there?

Paschal Candle, Font, and Altar. St Vincent De Paul, Osterley. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Tell us again our story…

Jesus and Peter, Peter's Primacy.jpgPeter addressed Cornelius and his household:

‘You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.

Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand.

Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’

Acts 10:34,37-43

The First reading at Mass during the Easter season comes from the Acts of the Apostles, St Luke’s account of the Church in its earliest years.

We who gather for Mass today have had the opportunity of being witnesses to the Lord, in his Passion, at his Death and now in his Resurrection.

  • On this day of celebration pray for the Church and her mission, and for the part entrusted to you and your local Christian community.

Jesus and Peter. Peter’s Primacy. Galilee. (c), 2017, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: For by your help we are almost there!

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This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;
his right hand raised me up.
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount his deeds.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.
or
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Psalm 117:1-2,16-17,22-23

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass tomorrow celebrates the reversal achieved by God who is love, and enjoyed by those he saves.

We celebrate God’s achievement in the particular that is the Resurrection of Jesus.

However that achievement of God is available to us, by grace, in our every moment – our every stumble, our every success. The love that is God is there for us in every moment, and the invitation to us is to enter into his will, his life.

This day was made by the Lord – who is for us and with us, world without end: we rejoice and are glad.

Flowers. Lichfield Cathedral. 2016. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: True Lord

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You must know how even a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven all the dough, so get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be. Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:6-8

The above reading is one of the two alternative readings provided for the second reading at Mass on Easter Day.

Paul reminds of the radical renewal that we are offered in Christ.

Today we may be eating the yeasted and enriched bread of Hot Cross buns (!), but each day we are called, urged, to let go of all that puffs us up, and obscures truth in us…. Each day we are invited, enabled to return to the simplicity and beauty of the unleavened bread that is Christ.

  • What falsehood might you let go of today?
  • What truth might you cling to more eagerly?

Image (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Dispel our fears

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After the sabbath, and towards dawn on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the sepulchre. And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men. But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and now he is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him.” Now I have told you.’ Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.

And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’

Matthew 28:1-10

The above gospel passage is one of the two alternatives for Easter Sunday morning – and a third is provided for Mass on Easter Sunday evening.

We have not yet begun the Triduum, so it can seem odd to be considering stories of the Resurrection. Yet, note the repeated urging in the gospel reading: ‘Do not be afraid’.

The Lord lived and died and rose again to save us from shadows, darkness, sin and fear.

Jesus faced his fears in his Passion, and renewed his obedience to the Father’s will, finding there his ultimate security – a safety that conquered death and restored him to life.

  • What fears diminish and restrict you?
  • Bring them to the Lord in prayer in these coming days, asking for his help, that you be not afraid…

Ivory carving of the two Mary’s: collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. (c) 2007, Allen Morris

Taste and See: The Lord

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Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Christ was humbler yet,
even to accepting death, death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name which is above all names.
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!

Phil 2:8-9

The Gospel Acclamation at Mass on Sunday points us beyond the loving service of God in Jesus Christ in the Incarnation and Passion to the further wonder of the Resurrection.

That Mystery is one we can never forget – even over the most solemn days of the Triduum, we who gather and pray do so, strong in faith in Jesus risen from the dead.

Our Easter song (that A****** word that will soon once more be seasoning our song) may be still a few days off. But Easter faith informs our every prayer.

Ecce Homo Ecce Deus. Alhambra, Granada, Spain. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Taste and See: the living of love

 

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Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the human race to follow
caused our Saviour to take flesh and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering
and so merit a share in his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

The Collect for Palm Sunday reminded of Christ’s coming to be with us so we might be with him, and for ever.

The opportunities are many this week for us to attend afresh to the lesson Christ gives, so as to benefit from the victory he wins.

Let us make the most of them by attending the services of Holy Week, preparing for them, and allowing some time of quiet reflection after them.

Detail of Crucifix. Albaicin, Granada, Spain. (c) 2014, Allen Morris