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: make us yours…

Altar and Ambo Dresden

The first reading today, the feast of the Holy Family, the first Sunday of Christmas, comes from the first book of Samuel.

In this season when we remember and give thanks for the birth of Jesus, the story of Samuel reminds us that the birth of Jesus reveals its deeper meaning when we remember those events of revealed salvation history that have preceded it. Jesus brings to fulfilment all that has been promised, and all the good that has been attempted.

Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Samuel ‘since’ she said ‘I asked the Lord for him.’

When a year had gone by, the husband Elkanah went up again with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfil his vow. Hannah, however, did not go up, having said to her husband, ‘Not before the child is weaned. Then I will bring him and present him before the Lord and he shall stay there for ever.’

When she had weaned him, she took him up with her together with a three-year old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was with them. They slaughtered the bull and the child’s mother came to Eli. She said, ‘If you please, my lord. As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’

1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28

Jesus is also the anticipation and enabler of our fulfilment. It is by him and with his graceful assistance that we are able to keep trying to make ourselves ‘over to the Lord’.

That phrase can seem constraining, limiting, diminishing. Yet our potential is itself God’s gift. He longs not for our diminishment, and does not wish to rob us of his very gift. Quite the contrary: it is in our communion with him, ever-deepening, ever-developing, that we find ourselves, and receive that precious gift so to as most fully live it.

  • What does constrain you?
  • What does diminish you?
  • In what way does God call you to greater fullness?

Altar and Ambo, Dresden. (c) 2005, Allen Morris