Taste and see: Silence and the word of life

Scriptures enthroned.jpg

Alleluia, alleluia!
Open our heart, O Lord,
to accept the words of your Son.

The Gospel Acclamation on Sunday, the 13th in Ordinary Time, had us turn to the Lord and ask for openness of heart to accept the words of his Son.

There is a prior stage to acceptance, and that is the hearing and pondering, the meditation, that is expected to characterise the Liturgy of the Word. And this requires a certain time of silence for us to achieve that attentiveness and receptivity.

The proclamation of the word is the first stage of our responding. The word needs to be proclaimed clearly and audibly and sensibly. Then there needs to be a pause for us to consider what we have heard and what it might say to us, and then to begin to ponder and determine how we might respond.

This is a process for which each of us has some responsibility, but clearly a mjor responsibility lies with the ministers of proclamation and of shaping of the performance of the Liturgy of the Word.

  • What helps your receptive hearing of the word?
  • What thwarts it?
  • What are the strengths of your community’s celebration of the Liturgy of the Word, and what are its weaknesses?

The Scriptures enthroned. Bethlehem. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: and help us to listen

The Good Shepherd II by Duncan Grant

The Gospel reading on Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, speaks of unity. Of unity between the shepherd and his sheep, and the Father and the Son, a unity which offers safety and eternal life.

Jesus said:
‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.’

John 10:27-30

There are two sources, two causes, of the unity. The most fundamental is the relationship of Father and Son, united in strength and power, compassion and mercy. The second is the readiness of the ‘sheep’ to listen.

Listening is much, much more than hearing. Hearing is a more or less physical act only. We hear all sorts of things – the hum of a central heating system, the song of birds, the rumble of traffic. These noises may be pleasing or not, reassuring or not, but they do not detain or engage us. When we listen, something more is going on. We do engage, reflect, consider: there is an openness to understanding, to responding, and – as here – to following.

It is for this reason that at Mass, in the Liturgy of the Word especially, the quality that is expected to characterise our participation is meditation – not just the word read, and listening, but hearing and, even more, pondering. This requires a certain silence and space. It means that after a reading there is a pause for us to consider what we have heard, and for us to respond in silent and personal prayer together before we proceed.

  • How much silence/ how much space for listening is there in your parish’s celebration of the Liturgy of the Word?
  • Where recently have you been moved to safer pasture by listening to the voice of the shepherd, the word?

Christ the Shepherd. Duncan Grant. Lincoln Cathedral. (C) 2010, Allen Morris.

Taste and See

Paschal CandleThe Sequence for Easter Day is one of the few extra-biblical texts retained in the Ordinary form of the Roman Rite.

The poetic treatment of the Easter story reminds, should we need reminding – that we do not listen to the scriptures to get new information about what ‘happened’. If it did the Sequence gives away the ending!

Rather we listen to recover the meaning of what happened, its present significance to us. And to that end the Sequence offers its support and help. Our present response becomes rejoicing and trust and hope.

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
offer sacrifice and praise.
The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb;
and Christ, the undefiled,
hath sinners to his Father reconciled.

Death with life contended:
combat strangely ended!

Life’s own Champion, slain,
yet lives to reign.

Tell us, Mary:
say what thou didst see
upon the way.

The tomb the Living did enclose;
I saw Christ’s glory as he rose!

The angels there attesting;
shroud with grave-clothes resting.

Christ, my hope, has risen:
he goes before you into Galilee.

That Christ is truly risen
from the dead we know.
Victorious king, thy mercy show!

Paschal Candle – last year’s now, but splendid! St Catherine’s Catholic Church in St Petersburg. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.

Taste and See: Living Word

St Mark, St Chads

The Gospel reading proclaimed at Mass yesterday,  Sunday, the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, has an exceptional intensity to it.

It moves in short order from what might seem like a rather casual conversation about ‘the crowd’ and maybe their foolishness, through a profession of faith and trust and pride in Jesus (from Peter), to a revelation of tension, trial, and testing, culminating into an invitation to embrace paradox and learn to find life by choosing death.

Mark writes a tight text: the themes are of Dostoevskian weight and capable of being explored at Dostoevskian length, but Mark’s Gospel has the lightness and brevity of Chekhov. What you get is much more than you see. Maybe its readers need something of Stanislavsky’s ‘method’ to get into the richness and import of what is said.

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

Mark 8:27-35

In the ‘Introduction’ of the Lectionary for Mass, the users’ guide provided by the Church, we are reminded that the proper disposition during the time of proclamation and reception of the word of God is meditation. There needs not only to be inteligible reading, but also silence to assist our deeper hearing and understanding.

  • How was it at Mass yesterday?

For us to receive the word, we need a certain inner space, a place for encounter and exchange.

Sometimes the word itself directly provides that: we hear the word and immediately know it convicts us of sin, and that it offers the surest way to redemption. The word forces its way in and pushes other concerns to the side.

At other times we may know ourselves as it were resistant to the word, and know that we ourselves need, want, to work against our weaker nature in order that we might hear. So we take the initiative, or so it seems; and we try to ‘manage the liturgy’ well,  (and provide time and space for meditative reading and listening at other times also). Space is provided for encounter; eating and drinking from the word of life; challenge and healing; love in action.

  • When did the word of God last surprise you? Why?
  • What ‘method’ for deeper encounter with the living word do you favour? Why?

In Mark’s Gospel we receive the fruits of life deeply lived and reflected on – tradition says we receive the memories of St Peter shaped and crafted by Mark. Mark invites us into a conversation with Peter, a sharing of his life of discipleship, cherished by the Master.

  • Of what were you speaking as we walked on the road? And where has he led you now?

Symbol of St Mark, from decoration of St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Living Eucharist – dedicated page on Facebook

Ditchling August 2003 041

For the daily Diocesan Living Liturgy postings you can either follow this Blog directly, or now you can follow  Living Eucharist on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LEuch2015.

Living Eucharist is published for the Westminster Liturgy Commission.

It offers opportunities and encouragement to deepen our participation in Sunday Mass. It does this in two ways.

First it helps us prepare for each Sunday’s Mass by focussing in turn on the principal elements of the Liturgy of the Word. Acknowledging that the Liturgy of the Word is often structured with readings chosen to complement the Gospel reading and that can seem a little arbitrary until we know what the Gospel reading is. So, each week, the blog begins on Thursday with the presentation of the coming Sunday’s Gospel. It continues over the following three days, ending on Sunday with the First Reading, ie presenting the readings and psalm of the Liturgy of the Word in the reverse order to how they are heard on Sunday.
Loaves and fishes

In the three days following the Sunday, various elements of the Mass are considered or reconsidered. Generally the blog returns to elements of the Liturgy of the Word, but may also consider other elements of the Mass of Sunday. These will from time to time certainly include the Collect, Preface, or particular diocesan or national Days of Prayer.

Speak Lord: of healing and mission

Door Detail Mary Major

Today’s post begins our reading through the Liturgy of the Word, and praying with it, by way of preparation for next Sunday’s Mass.

For a reminder of the methodology followed here please go to the About page.

We start with the key element – the gospel reading.

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no ha.versack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’

So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.

Mark 6:7-13

The ministry of Jesus may be rejected by many (cf last week’s gospel), but it remains powerful to many others. And the ministry is being shared by others now. For all their fallibility and blundering – much in evidence throughout Mark’s Gospel – the 12 rise to the call to share the Good News and minister the reconciliation and healing of God’s mercy.

  • What ministry does God call you to?
  • With whom do you share it?
  • Where and how does it show that it is of God?

Image is a detail of one of the principal doors to the Basilica of St Mary Major, Rome. (c) 2014, Allen Morris