Monday, 26 December 2011

Rejoice in the Lord Alway

St. Arvans Crib 2011

Homily for Christmas Day family service with Holy Communion.

These words from St Paul bring to us the essence of this feast second only in the Christian calendar to Easter and the Resurrection of the Lord. For this holy birth is to culminate for God made man not in the earthly life which comes to an end but through the mystery of Easter is transformed into the eternal life through an earth shattering reality that death will not or need not be the end for us. Born today, sent to live among and as one of us, then to die for us and to rise for us that all death be overcome. This death is foreshadowed in the offering of the burial spice myrrh, which the wise men,  will bring at Epiphany. But for today all is joy all is calm, all is peace brought to us by the Prince of Peace.
Although life can be hard, can be challenging can be imperfect, today there is one before us who shows us that he is here above all to comfort us in all our troubles. Yes, we know that we fail, that we sin that we don’t worship him as well or as often as we should, but he knows all that; he is not here today to scold, to force, to impose guilt, he is here to bring us joy; to show us what peace really is, to comfort us and to guide us through life. Just as we naturally extend our hands to a new child in welcome, so too we do so this morning to the infant King here in the crib before us, and as He grasps our fingers with his little hand may we today know that comfort, be blessed by the touch to our hearts and be sanctified in the words of the liturgy and in the sacrament of his body that we honour in the Holy Communion and that we shall either receive or be blessed by today and which was consecrated at the Midnight Mass earlier this morning. This comfort food that is better than all the Christmas Day dinners that have ever or will ever be made, important as though these celebrations be. As you open a present today why not open your hearts to Him too? He is waiting for you, he is loving as a child is loving to his family and he considers us all to be his family. Can we let go and immerse ourselves in the joy of this encounter? Not just with an innocent loving child but with this special, loving, welcoming and comforting God made in human form? There was no room at the Inn but may we never say there is no room in our hearts for Him or this Holy family, which we see before us. Today may Jesus, Mary and Joseph pray for you and bless you with great comfort and great joy. Amen.+

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Comfort ye My people

In my Advent reading I have been much moved by these words from Ronald Rolheiser and would share them with you in this final time when we shall begin to turn from silent waiting for our Saviour to be born to expectant joy at his coming to live with, and as one of us!

"We will comfort the world, and it will be comforted, when we show it that God sees its heart with the eyes of the heart, that God feels for it more than it feels for itself, that God never feels frightened or wronged by the assertions of its freedom, that God is not put off by all the times we turn our back on what we know is best, that God emphathises with our lusts, our greed, our anger, our jealousies and our failures, that God never stops loving us for a moment even when we put ourselves in hell.
And that God stands in the middle of our huddled, shivering, timid, wounded, and guilty hearts and breathes out peace.
We will comfort the world when we tell it that, in spite of everything, its life is good. The world will be finally helped by us when we trust God enough to have the courage to tell it to live, even to risk mistakes, because, in the end, all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of being will be well."

Monday, 19 December 2011

Meditation final days of Advent

The carol services are in full swing but hopefully the cribs can wait to be erected after a few more days. I can recommend the CD "Bethlehem Down" with the Finchley Music Group if you want the quieter and more meditative side of music for this holy time. There is much English church tradition and Anglican patrimony in it. One of my favourites is this by the Anglican composer and friend of Vaughan-Williams Gustav Holst who died at the tragically early age of 59 partly from injury sustained by falling backwards off the conductor's podium.

Persecuted Christians of Iran

All I can ask you is to share in the prayer request I was sent earlier today......

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani never practiced the Muslim faith and converted to Christianity at age 19, becoming a pastor later. But the courts say that since his mother and father were practicing Muslims, he must recant his Christian faith or die. So far, in three court appearances, he has refused to do so - RISKING EXECUTION AT ANY MOMENT.   The Iranian Supreme Court often acts quickly in administering the death penalty.
According to a report, when asked by judges to "repent," Yousef replied: "Repent,  What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?"

The judges replied: "To the religion of your ancestors - Islam." To which Yousef replied: "I cannot."

It's time for the body of Christ to act, to pray, to plead for the life of our Brother before Christ so that His servant may be spared.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A Time for Waiting

As we approach the final days of Advent we wait and pray and watch and hope that when the Saviour comes he will bless us, change us and sanctify us with His presence and fill us with love, peace and grace. Still time for amendment of life, for new beginnings and unknown possibilities to be realised. I haven't noticed so much blatant commercialism this year and a little less materialism is a benefit of the current financial uncertainty. Am I alone in sinking at the thought of all those Christmas cards to be done? A Victorian invention which drains resources better used in another more charitable direction perhaps? For a few years now we have tried to cut out the cards to people we see quite regularly reserving them for distant friends and relations and then give the money saved via our Church to charity. Of course this tends to upset some former recipients but then you can't keep everyone happy. This photo is a diversion and of some wild boar (French- 'Sanglier') like those I saw today in woods on a Monmouthshire farm near here. They looked quite happy with their piglets in the driving sleet which poured all day. Wild Boar instead of turkey may make a nice change when the festivities do begin! Hark a herald voice is beginning to sound!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

St Arvans Requiem Mass for the late Fr Jeremy Winston SSC

The Sacrament House St Arvans Church. Installed by the late Fr. Winston.

Just a note to update you that there will be a Requiem Mass for Fr. Jeremy our much loved former Parish Priest (1983-1993) of the five churches in the St. Arvans group of parishes, which includes Penterry, Itton, Devauden and Kilgwrrwg. This will be held
NEXT SATURDAY 10th December 2011 at 12 NOON at St Arvans Church near Chepstow. All are welcome. The celebrant is the current incumbent my colleague Fr Michael Gollop SSC, I will give the homily. Former parishioners will lead prayers and readings. As he was such a fine musician the Mass setting will be from Fauré's Requiem with Organists Charles Matthews and Richard Farrington. There will be high class refreshments afterwards remembering Jeremy's love of good cuisine!! A warm welcome awaits those able to attend. Please continue to pray + for his soul and all who mourn him.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Requiescat in Pace, Jeremy Winston, Priest

The Blorrenge from the River Usk.

So to the final resting place earlier today for the burial of Fr. Jeremy Winston, my friend and mentor of nearly thirty years. A day of mourning, of loss, of wonder, praise and thanksgiving, of peace and rest, a day of hope and light. Firstly arriving at St. Mary's Abergavenny for the private last hours and family burial.  His coffin on high tressels draped in the white and purple Pall of the Society of the Holy Cross his spiritual brotherhood and home of so many years. In that unofficial Cathedral of orthodoxy that was the spiritual and incarnational embodiment of a vision of Christ's kingdom here on earth which Jeremy made manifest by his diligence, his strong faith and through his love of the Lord Jesus Christ present in the never questioned truths of that branch of the Catholic faith expressed in traditional Anglicanism, for which he fought and never wavered even to the last. Far away from the establishment funeral of yesterday, so strange and empty as it seemed of the essence of Jeremy there in the actual Cathedral in Newport, which was denied his dynamism so badly needed, but for a small number of weeks, and of his ministry as Dean only since September 10th. Today in St. Mary's, much silent prayer and then prayers read from the Office of the Dead from the Divine Office, the Pall was now replaced with pure white roses and carried out shoulder high to the waiting herse for the short drive to the cemetery  So with a handful of his family and close friends together with his colleagues, Fr Bernard Sixtus, Fr Malcolm Lane and Dom Thomas Regan OSB from Belmont Abbey we walked to the hilltop cemetery, benevolently watched over by God and the twin heights of Monmouthshire's Blorrenge Mountain in the dry bright December sky. Full of hope and comfort, the words of the burial service and two readings from Holy Scripture we four of God's Ministers doing our best to give our dear friend and brother Priest the best farewell we could, knowing that the smile of knowing peace would not be far from Jeremy's essential spirit which was committed unto God's eternal care. There will be thousands of people who have been brought to know the Lord Jesus Christ through Jeremy, a holy Priest of God. It will be up to us all who remain to continue that dynamic, joyful and truthful ministry that Jeremy began and who gives us to share in both here and now and in the years ahead. May we not fail, but stand together strengthened by the love which the Lord Jesus has for us and to Whom many have been led by His good and faithful servant Jeremy.
Support us, O Lord, all the day long of this troublous life,until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Christ our Lord. Amen.   (Blessed John Henry Newman)