Preparing for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

This year the Presentation replaces the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The psalm chosen for today’s Liturgy of the Word almost certainly has its origins in a hymn sung at the Temple of Jerusalem, perhaps in a Liturgy which saw the ark of the covenant returned to the Temple after a battle (cf 1 Samuel 4). It is a psalm sung today in Jewish liturgy when the holy Torah is returned to the Ark after the proclamation of God’s word.

In our Catholic liturgy this Sunday we use only the second part of the psalm, which most lends itself to the principal focus of the feast, ie the coming of God’s only-begotten son to our world, and his being welcomed by Simeon and Anna, representatives of God’s faithful down the ages.

The verses of the psalm omitted by the Lectionary broaden the vision: The meaning of the (presumed) Temple ritual of its orginal setting is not about king and state and cult, here but principally about the Lord who is Creator of all that is.

Likewise our 21st Century celebration of this Sunday’s Feast is no ‘mere’ ritual or even’just’ a commemoration of a particular event in the life of the Holy Family. Our ritual, our commemoration raises questions about faithfulness to God and his creation and plan much more broadly.

As always the scripture is as much about us as it is about others.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23(24):7-10

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Psalm 24 (23)

1     A Psalm of David.

      The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness,
      the world, and those who dwell in it.
2     It is he who set it on the seas;
      on the rivers he made it firm.

3     Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
      Who shall stand in his holy place?
4     The clean of hands and pure of heart,
      whose soul is not set on vain things,
      who has not sworn deceitful words.

5     Blessings from the Lord shall he receive,
      and right reward from the God who saves him.
6     Such are the people who seek him,
      who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

* * *

7     O gates, lift high your heads;
      grow higher, ancient doors.
      Let him enter, the king of glory!


8     Who is this king of glory?
      The Lord, the mighty, the valiant;
      the Lord, the valiant in war.

9     O gates, lift high your heads;
      grow higher, ancient doors.
      Let him enter, the king of glory!

10        Who is this king of glory?
He, the Lord of hosts,
he is the king of glory.

Acknowledgements
Translation of Psalms: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010.
Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
Photo (c) 2018, Allen Morris. Tintoretto, Hotel D’Assezat, Toulouse, France.

Preparing for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

This year the Presentation replaces the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The feast of the Presentation interrupts our semi-continuous reading of St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

The reading from Herbrews highlights the significance of the incarnation, and in particular the significance that Jesus was born as a Jew, one amongst the countless descendents promised to Abraham.

The letter exults in the glory of Jesus Christ, light from light, uniquely the Son of God, and in the flesh descended from Abraham.

The Lectionary reading is a passage which focuses on the importance of Jesus sharing our human nature, and consequently understanding the things that we struggle with and which might tempt us from God and the Kingdom.

Second reading: Hebrews 2:14-18

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

The Supremacy of God’s Son
1.1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
Or again,
“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
10 And,
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11  they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12  like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Warning Against Neglecting Salvation
2.1
  Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The Founder of Salvation
5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere,
“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
7  You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
8  putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
13 And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”
And again,
“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

He took to himself descent from Abraham
Since all the children share the same blood and flesh, Christ too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could take away all the power of the devil, who had power over death, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself descent from Abraham. It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins. That is, because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.


Acknowledgements
Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
Photo (c) 2016, Allen Morris. sT mARY’S sHREWSBURY

Preparing for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

This year the Presentation replaces the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Israel is seen at its best in this episode – the new parents, and the elderly Simeon and Anna united in worship of God and gathered at the dawn of the new hope for Israel and for the world.

As we celebrate the Feast, let us pray that we continue to receive and make the most of the opportunities, presented to us in Christ

Gospel: Luke 2:22-40

Jesus Presented at the Temple
2.22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29  “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30  for my eyes have seen your salvation
31  that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32  a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Acknowledgements
Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
Photo (c) 2018, Allen Morris. The Presentation, Musee des Augustins, Toulouse.

Responding to the Mass of the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is startling how immediately James and John, Peter and Andrew seem to have responded to the Lord’s call.

‘Come, follow me’ he said, and they did.

Maybe they had already spent time with Jesus, maybe he had already helped them to prepare and hear his call. Maybe not…

What helps you hear his call? And to what – at this time – does he principally call you.

The Church has traditionally identified a range of general vocations – to marriage, to the single life, to life as a religious brother or sister, or to service as a priest. There are other descriptors too, of course, and within each group an immense variety ways of living out the calling. But each and everyone is a response to the life in communion with Christ and the Church, to which we were committed by baptism.

It might be helpful to read a little more about vocation, and also to pray for faithful and generous response to the Lord’s call by ourselves and by others.

Lord Jesus, send labourers into your harvest.
inspire, in the hearts of your people, vocations to life in Christ.
Bless our families with a spirit of generosity.
May all Christians be brave
and seek to serve and follow you
in all of the circumstances of their lives.
May those whom you call
have the courage
to give themselves as cooperators in your work
for the good of the world.

Amen.

Photograph: (c) 2016, Allen Morris. Mosaic. St Peter’s Rome.

Responding to the Mass of the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday is the first of the Church’s celebrations of the annual Sunday of the word of God, instituted by Pope Francis.

A good day to ponder on words from another reformer!

No greater mischief can happen to a Christian people, than to have God’s Word taken from them, or falsified, so that they no longer have it pure and clear. God grant we and our descendants be not witnesses to it.

When we have God’s word, pure and clear, then we think ourselves all right; we become negligent, and repose in a vain security; we no longer pay due heed, thinking it will always so remain; we do not watch and pray against the devil who is ready to tear the Divine Word out of our hearts. It is with us as travellers, who so long as they are on the highway, are tranquil and heedless, but if they do astray into the woods or cross paths, uneasily seek which way to take, this or that.

Martin Luther (from his Table Talk)

Photograph: (c) 2018. Fresco. Orthodox Church of the Holy Prince Lazar, Bourneville, Birmingham

Preparing for Mass on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

The prophet Isaiah proclaims the new glory that God will confer on his people, even at the cost of humiliating the nations; but he also knows the humiliation of Israel and how that finds its justification in Israel’s turning from her Lord.

We ourselves often find in that same quandary, somewhere betwixt and between the triumph of grace and the catastrophe of sin – the answer, always, is the Lord, surrendering to his will, being open to his love.

First reading  Isaiah 8:23-9:3

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Fear God, Wait for the Lord
8.11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honour as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

16 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. 17 I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. 19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

For to Us a Child Is Born
9.1
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.

In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
2  The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
3  You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4  For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.

5  For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6  For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7  Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Judgment on Arrogance and Oppression
8  The Lord has sent a word against Jacob,
and it will fall on Israel;
9  and all the people will know,
Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,
who say in pride and in arrogance of heart:
10  “The bricks have fallen,
but we will build with dressed stones;
the sycamores have been cut down,
but we will put cedars in their place.”
11  But the LORD raises the adversaries of Rezin against him,
and stirs up his enemies.
12  The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west
devour Israel with open mouth.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

13  The people did not turn to him who struck them,
nor inquire of the LORD of hosts.
14  So the LORD cut off from Israel head and tail,
palm branch and reed in one day—
15  the elder and honoured man is the head,
and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail;
16  for those who guide this people have been leading them astray,
and those who are guided by them are swallowed up.
17  Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men,
and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows;
for everyone is godless and an evildoer,
and every mouth speaks folly.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

18  For wickedness burns like a fire;
it consumes briers and thorns;
it kindles the thickets of the forest,
and they roll upward in a column of smoke.
19  Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts
the land is scorched,
and the people are like fuel for the fire;
no one spares another.
20  They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry,
and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied;
each devours the flesh of his own arm,
21  Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh;
together they are against Judah.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.

Acknowledgements
Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
Photo (c) 2008, Allen Morris. Dawn at Lindesfarne..

Preparing for Mass on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Psalm as we sing it on Sunday is a song of confidence and trust.

Missing from the words we sing is the exploration of the dangers and fears that can confound us, and from which we need the Lord to save us.

As the word of God gives us confidence to place our trust in God, so it can give us courage to know and name the things that threaten our well-being and from which we look to God to save us.

Responsorial Psalm:    
Psalm 26(27):1,4,13-14

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Psalm 27 (26)

1Of David.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
            whom shall I fear?
            The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
            whom should I dread?

2           When those who do evil draw near
            to devour my flesh,
            it is they, my enemies and foes,
            who stumble and fall.

3           Though an army encamp against me,
            my heart would not fear.
            Though war break out against me,
            even then would I trust.

4 There is one thing I ask of the Lord,
            only this do I seek:
            to live in the house of the Lord
            all the days of my life,
            to gaze on the beauty of the Lord,
            to inquire at his temple.

5           For there he keeps me safe in his shelter
            in the day of evil.
            He hides me under cover of his tent;
            he sets me high upon a rock.

6           And now my head shall be raised
            above my foes who surround me,
            and I shall offer within his tent
            a sacrifice of joy.
            I will sing and make music for the Lord.

7           O Lord, hear my voice when I call;
            have mercy and answer me.
8           Of you my heart has spoken,
            “Seek his face.”

            It is your face, O Lord, that I seek;
9           hide not your face from me.
            Dismiss not your servant in anger;
            you have been my help.

            Do not abandon or forsake me,
            O God, my Saviour!
10          Though father and mother forsake me,
            the Lord will receive me.

11          Instruct me, Lord, in your way;
            on an even path lead me
            because of my enemies.
12          Do not leave me to the will of my foes,
            for false witnesses rise up against me,
            and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness
            in the land of the living.
14          Wait for the Lord; be strong;
            be stout-hearted, and wait for the Lord!

Acknowledgements
Translation of Psalms: From The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter. (c) 2010.
Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris

Photo (c) 2016, Allen Morris. St Nicolas church, Nantes, France.