Taste and See: Change

Assumption, Lichfield

In England and Wales yesterday, Sunday 14th August was kept as the Solemnity of the Assumption. Elsewhere (as in England and Wales in in other years) it may be kept today, 15th August).

The Collect for the Mass had us look forward to our sharing in the glory of Mary, her being honoured by her Son, and her receiving from him the benefits of his victory over sin and death and a full share in his resurrection at the end of his life here.

 Collect

Almighty ever-living God,
who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of your Son,
body and soul into heavenly glory,
grant, we pray,
that, always attentive to the things that are above,
we may merit to be sharers of her glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Assumption, Lichfield reconstruction

In the prayer we ask that we may be attentive to the things that are above. We ask that we may be ever-mindful of them, focussed on them so that our desire for them might draw us on.

The hope is that in that movement to the things that are above we may be better able to detach from those things – here – that may in the moment be more attractive but in the long run draw us form life and to ever-lasting death.

  • What – above – do you long for?
  • Why?
  • Bring your thoughts to God in prayer.

Pre-Reformation wall painting of the Assumption (and artist’s reconstruction). Lichfield Cathedral. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: the family of God

Moore, Family

There was an unexpected poignancy to the Collect this Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Easter: hearing it, saying it, praying it, in the wake of the news about the conception of Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.

May your people exult for ever, O God,
in renewed youthfulness of spirit,
so that, rejoicing now in the restored glory of our adoption,
we may look forward in confident hope
to the rejoicing of the day of resurrection.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Speaking a few days earlier Archbishop Welby had said: ‘We need to be a church where I am who I am because I am in Jesus Christ.’ Those words were especially important for him given the particular circumstances in which he spoke, but are of importance for us too. All the baptised are adopted in Christ, thus children of God in a particular way, not only in our creation, but in our participation, through baptism, in the life of the eighth day, the new creation. We are to be who we are in Jesus Christ.

We can hear lying behind the words of Archbishop Welby the words of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo to those receiving Eucharist for the first time: receive what you are, become what you receive. You are the Body of Christ, receive the Body of Christ.

They are heard in the wake also of  Amoris LaetitiaPope Francis’s recent letter,on the family and its importance for healthy human and spiritual development. In that letter the Pope frankly acknowledges the sometime mess and chaos of human relationship, and how we are called, all of us, in Christ and by Christ, to respond in love. He quotes from 1 Corinthians 13, the famous ‘hymn to love’, and comments on the call there to patience in love:

Being patient does not mean letting ourselves be constantly mistreated, tolerating physical aggression or allowing other people to use us. We encounter problems whenever we think that relationships or people ought to be perfect, or when we put ourselves at the centre and expect things to turn out our way. Then everything makes us impatient, everything makes us react aggressively. Unless we cultivate patience, we will always find excuses for responding angrily. We will end up incapable of living together, antisocial, unable to control our impulses, and our families will become battlegrounds. That is why the word of God tells us: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph 4:31). Patience takes root when I recognize that other people also have a right to live in this world, just as they are. It does not matter if they hold me back, if they unsettle my plans, or annoy me by the way they act or think, or if they are not everything I want them to be. Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like.

Amoris Laetitia, 92 (emphasis added)

  • What – most – makes me who I am?
  • What is my calling?

Sculpture by Henry Moore, Tate Britain. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

 

Taste and See: Direction, please…

St Isaac's, St Petersburg

The Collect at Mass on the 3rd Sunday of the Year (and used through this week, saints days permitting!) highlighted the importance of good works.

Why? Surely because the good works will witness to the glory of the one responsible for them. As our prayer manifests the One who above all is responsible for them is God. We have our part to play, but God’s direction is necessary!

Almighty ever-living God,
direct our actions according to your good pleasure,
that in the name of your beloved Son
we may abound in good works.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

  • From what do you want God to guide you?
  • To what do you need his direction?

St Isaac’s Cathedral, St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Taste and See: the grace of God

Saints and angels

The Christian life cannot be taken for granted.

It is something more than just a ‘good’ human life.

The Christian life should, of course, be strong, in the natural virtues. Yet the Christian receives grace so as to be able to live the supernatural virtues. Grace builds on nature, not obliterating what is natural but refining, enhancing, strengthening it.

The Collect on Sunday, the 16th of Ordinary Time, reminded us of this.

Show favour, O Lord, to your servants
and mercifully increase the gifts of your grace,
that, made fervent in hope, faith and charity,
they may be ever watchful in keeping your commands.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

It is not easy to know what we do by nature, and what we do by grace. But the one is our work, and the other is made possible by the work of God, so it is worth trying to distinguish them, even as we give God thanks for both!

Their combined effect is to help us live life well here on earth, and draw us more deeply into the communion of love and life with God which will be ours for ever.

  • What are you conscious of needing God’s grace to accomplish?

Saints and angels in the Abbey of Montserrat. (c) 2003, Allen Morris

Taste and See: The wonder of new life in Christ

Easter Vidgil

The Collect at Mass on Sunday, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, has a remarkable rhetorical force.

L,God of everlasting mercy,
who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast
kindle the faith of the people you have made your own,
increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed,
that all may grasp and rightly understand
in what font they have been washed,
by whose Spirit they have been reborn,
by whose Blood they have been redeemed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

The rhetoric of course is as nothing compared to the power of the newness and radical change that is brought about in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.

Yet in that solid drum beat ‘In what font …’, ‘by whose Spirit…’, and finally ‘by whose blood’ we are newly engaged by the enormity of our sacramental regeneration in and by Christ.

In each of these modes, each hopefully still fresh in our experience from the Easter Vigill the Lord has united himself with us that we might be united with him.

  • Of what have you been cleansed?
  • For what have you been reborn?
  • Why and when have you been redeemed?

Offer your prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord.

Photograph of baptism in the parish of St Johns Wood, 2011.

Taste and See: Remember the Collect?

Fragment of altar screen, Assisi

Yesterday’s blog considered the Prayer after Communion on Sunday last, the 27th of Ordinary Time. Today’s returns to the Collect.

Almighty ever-living God,
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The language may be a little florid, but the meaning is hopefully clear. And its spelling out of what intercession is about is helpful.

  • We pray for God’s mercy – whatever particular form we might ask for it to come to us in, we pray for God’s mercy.
  • When we ask for so much, unless we are entirely self-obsessed, we know how little we deserve what we ask for.
  • And yet whatever the particular things we ask for – if our hearts are right we hope for something that can barely be put into words, for how can we yet know what it  really means – God’s Kingdom to come on earth, and at the end of life here for us to come to heaven.

Almighty ever-living God,
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Sit for a while with yur feelings of neediness and your longings, with a healthy sense of unworthiness, and turn again to the Lord. Bring your thoughts and feelings to the Lord, and pray again the Collect.

Photograph of fragment of sanctuary screen, Assisi. (c) 2014, Allen Morris. 

Taste and See: The Lord is good and source of all goodness.

Aix 2006

The Collect of Sunday’s Mass repays a second hearing.

God of might, giver of every good gift,
put into our hearts the love of your name,
so that, by deepening our sense of reverence,
you may nurture in us what is good
and, by your watchful care,
keep safe what you have nurtured.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Most of us probably feel we have to work quite hard for what we have. And yet the prayer puts on the lips of the Church a prayer that says: It all comes from God, the giver of every good gift.

This could just be words we say: a display of liturgical, ecclesial, etiquette.

But in our prayer we surely wish to speak true.

So, how true is it for you? How does God give each good gift? Have you, in truth, given thanks for his gifts?

In the quiet of prayer speak to the Lord and ask for his love and care, to bring you ever closer to him, to sustain you in what is true, and deepen your sense of gratitude and love.

Photograph is of east window of church of Saint-Jean-de-Malte, Aix en Provence.
(c) Allen Morris, 2006

Taste and see: Blessing, God’s blessing.

A tile from the Court of the Myrtles, Nasrid Palace, Alhambra, Granada - bearing at its centre the Arabic word for 'Blessing'

A tile from the Court of the Myrtles, Nasrid Palace, Alhambra, Granada – bearing at its centre the Arabic word for ‘Blessing’

The Collect, the opening prayer, of Sunday’s Mass offers a rather beautiful account of the action of Christ’s saving of his people, and his people’s call to live out their lives as a saved people.

O God, who in the abasement of your Son
have raised up a fallen world,
fill your faithful with holy joy,
for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin
you bestow eternal gladness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

The abasement? God the Son taking flesh, and uniting himself completely with a creature – and becoming humbler yet, being amongst us as one who serves.

He becomes less, in some sense, so he can raise us up. He descends by his will and in love. We have fallen through sin and, mostly, through lack of love – and yet we have been rescued from slavery to sin.

In our freedom there is eternal gladness, and yet we need to live that gladness, and too often, in the drudgery and challenge of daily life, we lose heart. So we pray for holy joy.

God gives us bliss, but we need his help to let bliss blossom and flourish in us, and us to blossom and flourish in us.

In prayer today

  • count your blessings
  • pray to know better what keeps you from ‘holy joy’.

 

Image (c) Allen Morris, 2014

Taste and See: those who have passed on the faith to us

Image

Collect

O God, who on the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul
give us the noble and holy joy of this day,
grant, we pray, that your Church
may in all things follow the teaching
of those through whom she received
the beginnings of right religion.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

There is a certain clunkiness about the english of that collect which was used at Mass on Sunday!

But the acknowledgement of our debt of gratitude to those of the Faithful of God who have gone before us is a welcome and important one.

It’s made on the feast of Peter and Paul, the Apostles of Rome, and Peter of course the first of the Apostles, the rock on which Jesus builds his Church. And they deserve our attention, along with so many renowned Christians who have passed on the faith which they received.

But there are many others less renowned, who maybe passed on the faith less confidently or well, but passed it on the same. We do well to pause and acknowledge them:

Parents, teachers, catechists, friends (and enemies!), strangers, writers and painters and musicians and artists of all sorts.

We are the beneficiaries of so many people’s combined work. In the wake of the feast of the Apostles let us give thanks for them all, and as now it is our turn, resolve to play our part fully and generously.

Painting of Sts Peter and Paul is by El Greco, and is in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Taste and See: Help us to pray, help us to live

Image

Notice the meaning (or at least some of the meanings) present in the Collect prayer from yesterday’s Mass.

Grant, almighty God,

We come before God needful…

that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy,

…even our (own) prayer is in some sense the work of God in us. The Catholic instinct, of course, is that we pray the Liturgy by joining with Christ and the Church in heaven, as well as here on earth and our own particular gathering

which we keep in honour of the risen Lord,

We are still in Easter, and the wonder of the Resurrection our inspiration…

and that what we relive in remembrance

Jesus asked us to ‘do this in memory of me’, so we specifically remember the gift of Eucharist, but all we do in the Mass is about remembering the saving love, and the saving actions, of God. But our remembering is not just a mental activity – we re-live in our remembering…

we may always hold to in what we do.

…so that through the sacred remembering, enabled by God, we may learn to live.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Our Christian prayer is offered in and through Christ, to the Father, with (in) the Holy Spirit. Our present prayer somehow anticipates our hoped-for and sometimes longed-for final sharing in the life of God, the Three-in-One.

So much in one short prayer. Often on a Sunday there is little opportunity to give full attention to the Collect. Returning to the Sunday Collect in our private daily prayer can be a fruitful spiritual practice.

Image: restored fresco showing a Christian at prayer from early Christian Chapel in Lullingstone Villa, Kent. Fresco in British Museum. Photograph (c) Allen Morris