Homily: Ordinary 2 Year B “This is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”

Posted Leave a commentPosted in parish, sacraments, scripture, teaching

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

“This is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”

John the Baptist uses the metaphor of the Lamb of God. It is an odd metaphor when one considers the traditional view of the Messiah of God as a powerful military leader who would free Israel from oppression.

The Lamb of God is the sacrificial lamb, the willing victim, the man of sorrows. John the Evangelist makes this connection clear by telling us that Christ is arrested and is given up late on Maundy Thursday – at the same time as the Passover Lambs were being slaughtered in preparation for the Passover. In the Gospel of John, the Last Supper is not the Passover meal, but the one that precedes it – look closely at the text and you will see this.

When I raise the consecrated elements at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, I always echo these words of John the Baptist directly: “This is the Lamb of God”, not “This is something that reminds me of the Lamb of God…” but “This is…”

As you can tell from my girth: in the past I have been very fond of wine. As the Scriptures say, it “gladdens our hearts” and has been a wonderful source of joy in my life.

The process of making wine is ancient: when Noah found dry land again, he planted a vineyard and got drunk (it’s in Genesis 9:20-21). However, one does not simply plant grapes and get wine, something has to happen to it to make it into that wonderful substance.

The action of fermentation, the work of yeast, to convert sugar into alcohol happens almost invisibly. It happens as it must in the dark, in the warm, and out of sight, and for most of us, how it does it is a mystery.

We start with grape juice and we end with champagne. A transformation in substance.

In the same way, the words and the actions of the priest and the responses of the congregation works on ordinary things: simple bread and wine, and there is another transformation in substance.

In a way that is also mysterious, that cannot be satisfactorily explained, nor indeed should be explained, there is a change in the ordinary and it becomes extraordinary, as God enters into these elements and simple bread and wine become the blessed sacrament and precious blood.

“This is the Lamb of God…” is literally true, it is not a metaphor or an illustration, but a statement of fact. In these changed elements we find God. We find the real presence of Him “hiding” as St Francis of Assisi wonderfully said “under an ordinary piece of bread”. When Jesus took the bread and wine of a meal, he said “This is my body”, “This is my blood”. It was not a metaphor, not an illustration, but the institution of a sacrament. We believe Christ when he admits that he is the Son of God, so I fail to understand why some would wish to deny the reality of Christ in these most sacred mysteries.

We start with bread and wine and we end with the body and blood of Christ. We need not look for God in the molecules of the wine, or the atoms of the bread, look not for the change to the elements but look for the change in the people of receive it – the comfort derived from the sacrament. Look not for the wind, but for the action the wind has on the trees.
God takes the ordinary: people like you and like me, and he transforms us into something extraordinary – into the saved. God does this is subtle ways, hidden, in the dark. How he does this is a mystery. We are transformed by the power of God, transformed by Christ’s body and blood.

This is why I have the highest possible regard for the sacraments.

This is why the Mass is the cornerstone of our worship and why it is at the heart of our missionary activity in this place.

This is why we come together not just on a Sunday but at other times during the week to worship God, and why you should come also.

This is why we keep the blessed sacrament safely in that Aumbrey behind the altar and we revere it with a bow or a genuflection, for God is really present here in these blessed sacraments and his holy presence is signified by the candle that always burns above the Aumbrey.

That is why we have the opportunity to pray before the blessed sacrament when it is exposed. This is why is taken to those too unwell to come to Church to receive the sacrament of salvation.

That is why you should all come to this holy altar to partake in these blessed sacraments; for he was prepared to make himself available to all of us.

As we continue through 2018, we are called into the presence of the sacrament, of the Lamb of God, for here, at this altar, in the midst of these powerful prayers, we are forgiven, reconciled, renewed, anointed.

“This is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. Not the sins of a few, or the sins of those who are already good, but the sins of the whole world, the sins of you, the sins of me, the sins of all of us, past, present and future.

We behold Christ on the altar, making the holy sacrifice, we witness the transformation, we ourselves are transformed.

…and it is something far finer than the finest champagne, for this is the taste of salvation.
Amen.

Epiphany Proclamation

Posted Leave a commentPosted in liturgy, teaching

While a day like Christmas is fixed in our minds and on the calendars on December 25th, many of the important feasts of the Church year move, based upon the date that Easter is set. Easter changes each year moving to the Sunday after the “Paschal Full Moon,” and can fall between March 22 and April 25.

In ancient times before calendars were common, most people did not know the dates for the upcoming Liturgical year. On Epiphany Sunday, the upcoming dates were “proclaimed” after the gospel in this way, and I make this announcement on the Feast of the Epiphany each year:

Dear brothers and sisters,
the glory of the Lord has shone upon us,
and shall ever be manifest among us,
until the day of his return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons
let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination,
the Easter Triduum of the Lord:
his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial,
and his rising celebrated
between the evening of the Twenty-ninth of March
and the evening of the Thirty-first of March,
Easter Sunday being on the First day of April.

Each Easter — as on each Sunday —
the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed
by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.
From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent,
will occur on the Fourteenth Day of February.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on
Thursday, the Tenth day of May.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter,
will be celebrated on the Twentieth day of May.

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be
on the Second day of December, 2018.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christ
in the feasts of the holy Mother of God,
in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints,
and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come,
Lord of time and history,
be endless praise, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Divine Presence

Posted Leave a commentPosted in poetry, teaching

 

When did God become fully human?
When an egg was fertilised?
When cells divided?
When Mary felt her first kick?
When Jesus took his first breath?

When did God become fully human?
When he entered the kingdom as a child?
When he chose to resist temptation?
When he fought, by not fighting back?
When he hung with us; for us?

Here is a gift of authentic hope: divine presence.

Amid the white noise of a world surfing the airwaves;
amid the narrow casts,
broadcasts and podcasts;
embedded in the WIFI and the 4G
the twitter feeds and the status updates;
up with the static and the crackle of interference
one simple signal still pulses from ages past, like a
heartbeat: Are you receiving me?
Are you receiving me?
Are you receiving me?

(not sure of the author, stolen from the 42Cdo Padre, Dec 2017)

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Brighton Dec 2017

Posted Leave a commentPosted in alt.worship, sacraments, teaching

At the #CuratingLiturgy conference I began the day with an act of benediction. Liturgically traditional, yet realised in a distinctively holy ground way. All videos can be downloaded from the Agnus Dei Website

Exposition

The host in the Perspex monstrance is revealed slowly from underneath organza coverings

He is here…

You might not be able to spot him… but he is present

Really, literally present… amongst us

The image of the invisible God enfleshed at one time, and now with us in another form.

The form he left us: Body and Blood. Bread and wine.

No less than his real self.

To bring change to our humdrum lives, to transform us, as so surely he himself was transformed

To be amongst us… alongside us… with us…

It may be just a glimpse, a suggestion, an idea, captured in the corner of your eye, but he wants to reveal himself to you…

From the mountain top, to the upper room, to this sacred, holy meeting point between you and him.

O saving victim! opening wide
The gate of heaven to man below,
Our foes press hard on every side-
Thine aid supply, thy strength bestow.

All praise and thanks to thee ascend
For evermore, blest One in Three;
O grant us life that shall not end
In our true native land with thee. Amen

Adoration

While the Blessed Sacrament is exposed on the altar, we spend sometime in silent prayer. There may be scripture readings, hymns and prayers from time to time.

Blessed, Praised, Hallowed and Adored,
Be Our Lord Jesus Christ on his throne of Glory
And in the most holy sacrament of the altar

ANIMA CHRISTI

Soul of Christ, sanctify me,
Body of Christ, save me,
Blood of Christ, inebriate me,
Water from the side of Christ, wash me,
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesu, hear me,
Within thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from thee.
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come to thee
That with thy saints I may praise thee
for all eternity. Amen

S. PATRICK’S BREASTPLATE

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

THE DIVINE PRAISES
Repeat each line after the priest

Blessed be God.
Blessed be his holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.
Blessed be the name of Jesus.
Blessed be his most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be his most Precious Blood.
Blessed be Jesus in the most holy Sacrament of the Altar
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception
Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother. ;
Blessed be S.Joseph, her spouse most chaste.
Blessed be God in his Angels and in his Saints.

Benediction

Therefore we, before him bending,
This great Sacrament revere:
Types and shadows have there ending,
For the newer rite is here;
Faith, our outward sense befriending,
Makes the inward vision clear.

Glory let us give, and blessing
To the Father and the Son.
Honour, might, and praise addressing,
While eternal ages run;
Ever to his love confessing,
Who, from both, with both is one. Amen

Thou gavest them bread from heaven.
Containing in itself all sweetness.

Let us pray.

O GOD, who in a wondrous Sacrament has left us a memorial of thy passion: grant that we may so venerate the sacred mysteries of thy Body and Blood; that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of thy redemption: who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.

The priest makes the sign of the cross over the people with the Blessed Sacrament in silence.

 

Reposition

After Benediction the Blessed Sacrament is placed at the other end.

Animations (using SWF) inside latest Prezi Classic

Posted Leave a commentPosted in geek, teaching, tech

The biggest bugbear of using Prezi at the moment is, besides the rubbish Prezi Next which they seem keen to push at the expense of an otherwise excellent Classic is the lack of animated loops. When they dropped the flash player, they dropped support for .swf files and they absolutely refuse, despite repeated user requests from users (and especially me) to implement Animated Gifs. For some users, it’s starting to be a show-stopper and I am losing patience with them.

However, there is a solution, and since the Prezi focus is on Prezi Next and they have renamed the Prezi Desktop App Prezi Classic, you can now install an older version of the Prezi Desktop alongside the Classic and use it to import (or more accurately cut and paste) swf animations into the latest Prezi.

Before the renaming, you couldn’t have two different versions alongside each ither and I was forced to use a Virtual Machine (using the excellent free Oracle VirtualBox) but that is no longer necessary.

I managed to find a copy of Prezi 4.7.5 on the web which you can download from here.

This is an early version, and goes straight in the editor, but it works. When you log in, the system will offer to upgrade you to the latest version DO NOT DO THIS EVER.

Do your work in the older editor

The core functionality of Prezi Classic is what makes great presentations. As in Powerpoint (and frankly all software), you will use the same functionality (less than 20% of it’s features) 80% of the time. I therefore recommend that you do the editing work in the older editor, saving it as a Prezi .pez file.

All of the key things which make Prezi great: zooming, fade reveals AND most importantly swf animations can be created. The important thing is how you tell the story using Prezi, not the bells and whistles.

When you have done the core work, import it into the latest Prezi and take advantage of its better presentation tools, some finer customisations and font choices etc. Should you need another swf then save it from the latest version as a .pez and reopen it in the older editor, do your stuff and then save and import it again. Clearly it isn’t a seemless process but until Prezi start listening to their customers then this is the solution.

Enjoy!

I know I will as I can go back to creating the awe-inspiring acts of worship on Prezi that inspire children…

 

A Godly-Play Type Story about the Flight to Egypt

Posted Leave a commentPosted in alt.worship, scripture, teaching, youth

Scripture: Matthew 2: 13-23
Equipment: Sand bag, Two boxes, Holy Family from a Nativity Set, Angel from Nativity Set

Welcome. Are you ready for a story?

(open bag)

Long ago, in a far off land, (spread sand)

God reached down from heaven and became one of us.

Mighty, All-Powerful God could have come in any shape or form he wanted, he could have impressed us with his power, but he loved us so much, he came as… a tiny baby.

(place Jesus in centre of sand)

Born of his Mother, Our Lady Mary… (place Mary)

To be brought up and supported by Joseph… (place Joseph)

God poured his almighty self into this little form, to be with us, alongside us. God-in-a-child.

The King of the Universe was born in poor surroundings and with no comforts that befitted a King. In a Stable, for animals … and all their dirty, smelly mess.

The King of that land, a man called King Herod had heard that somewhere in his land a King had been born, a great King, an all-powerful King… and he was afraid.

King Herod couldn’t bear the thought of being replaced by a King who rightfully should be on his throne, so he sought to catch and kill this threat before it became a problem.

(remove Holy Family, place box at one corner, walk fingers all over the sand)

He sent his guards all across his land to find and kill the new King who might take his place.

(place Holy Family on top of box)

One night, as Mary and Joseph and the baby were asleep, and angel (place Angel on box) appeared to Joseph in a dream.

He warned Joseph that Herod sought to kill the God-in-a-child and that they should run for their lives, to another country.

(place box in opposite corner)

So, Our Lady, and Joseph took God-in-a-child and in the middle of the night, they ran away to be safe in a land called Egypt (meander the Holy Family through the desert). It was a long, scary, dangerous journey until at last they came to the land of Egypt where they could be safe.

They had to live and wait in Egypt until Herod was no longer King and they had to life as refugees for a number of years before Herod died.

(place Holy Family on other box)

Meanwhile, the guards did some horrible things to any child under the age of two, and killed all of the innocent babies just in case they might be the God-in-a-child who threatened Herod’s job. The tears of the Mothers must have fallen on the land like rain

(fingertip pats on the sand)

When Herod died, the Angel appeared to Joseph in a dream once more. (place Angel)

He told them that it was safe to return, and so Mary, and Joseph and God-in-a-child made the long journey back from the land of Egypt to a place called Nazareth, where God-in-a-child grew big and strong and faithful to God and where everyone called him by his name:

Jesus.

From Nazareth. Out of Egypt.

(pause)

I wonder…

I wonder how Herod felt to hear that a real King was born.

I wonder what it felt like to leave in the middle of the night and go to a far-off place…

I wonder how it might have felt in Egypt,

I wonder how people feel today when they have to leave their homelands for fear of their lives.

I wonder what we might do, if Mary and Joseph and God-in-a… and Jesus came to our door needing our help.

(pause)

Amen.

Leading Intercessions in Church

Posted Leave a commentPosted in parish, teaching

Stock Intercessions for use in Church

Introductions to the prayers

Let us pray for the Church of God in Christ Jesus, and for all
people according to their needs.

Let us pray for the Church and for the world, and let us thank God for his goodness

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ Jesus let us pray to God our heavenly Father.

Let us come before the Lord with our prayers and praises asking him to look with mercy upon all our requests.

When two or three are gathered in my name, there I shall be. Let us therefore bring our prayers to the Father.

Trusting in God’s love and mercy, let us turn to him in prayer and bring him our needs and intercessions.

Responses

The usual ones:

Lord in your mercy… hear our prayer

Lord hear us… Lord, graciously hear us

Theme of Prayers

The Church

Robert, Nick and Sarah – Bishops of this diocese

Justin Welby – Archbishop of Canterbury
John Sentamu – Archbishop of York
Francis – Bishop of Rome (Pope)
Bartholomew – Ecumenical Patriarch (Orthodox)
…and the leaders of the Reformed Churches

The World

Our Community

The Sick

Those known to us
Those listed on the weekly sheet
Those whose cries are heard by God alone

Those who have departed in Faith

Rest eternal, grant unto them O Lord
And let light perpetual shine upon them

May they rest in peace
And rise in glory

We unite our prayers with the angels and the saints,
the prophets and the patriarchs as we join our prayers with those of our blessed lady as we say ‘Hail Mary…’

…in a moment of silence…

Prayer One

Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church,
watch over it Lord and guide it: grant it peace and unity throughout the world. We pray for Pope Francis, Bartholomew the Ecumenical Patriarch,
for Justin and John our Archbishops,
and for Robert, Nick and Sarah our Bishops
and all who hold and teach the faith which comes to us from the Apostles. [Response]

Father, look upon the nations of the world.
Direct the hearts and minds of those who rule and govern
so that men and women everywhere may experience the
peace and justice of the Kingdom.
Father may there be an end to war and strife.
[Response]

Father, pour your grace upon all your people.
Remember all of us gathered here before you.
[Response]

Father, we pray for the health and happiness of those who are dear to us, naming before you those who are suffering in mind, body or Spirit…
[Response]

Remember, Lord, those who have died and have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, especially those for whom we now pray…and those whose year’s minds we commemorate…

May these and all who sleep in Christ, find in your presence, light, happiness and peace.

We ask the prayers of all the Apostles, Martyrs and Saints. In union with the whole Church, we honour Mary the ever Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God as we say, Hail Mary…

In a moment of silence let us bring our own prayers before the throne of grace…

 Prayer Two

Father, we pray for Pope Francis, Bartholomew the Ecumenical Patriarch,
for Justin and John our Archbishops,
and for Robert, Nick and Sarah and all the Bishops, clergy and people of your Church. May we grow in the unity which your Son willed for his Church. [Response]

Father we pray for the needs of the world, for an end to war and famine, for those places suffering unrest and strife at this time. Father grant to them your blessing of peace.
[Response]

Father we pray for the needs of this our community and parish whom you have called together before you. May you bind us together with your love. Lord hear us…..

Father we pray for all those who are in need at this time, and who have asked us for our prayers, for…
May these and all who suffer know the joy of your presence with them. [Response]

Father we pray for those who have died, for those we have known and loved whom we see no longer. For…and for…whose years mind falls at this time.
Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord…
May they rest in peace…

Father, we join our prayers with those of all the saints who rejoice in your nearer presence and ask the prayers of Mary, Queen of Heaven as we say, Hail Mary……

Heavenly Father, in a moment of silence we hold before you our own prayers and praises.

Prayer Three

Heavenly Father, we bring before you your Church on earth and those who guide it. We pray that you will bless all who minister in word or sacrament, that there may be a rich harvest for your kingdom. [Response]

Heavenly Father, look upon the needs of the world, troubled by war, injustice, oppression and famine. Relieve those who suffer and are poor, and bring all your people to live in peace and harmony, [Response]

Heavenly Father, you have called us together as a pilgrim people. Look upon us on our journey of faith and grant us strength to serve you on the way you have set before us. [Response]

Heavenly Father, you are with those who suffer in all their needs, hear us as we pray especially for those who have asked our prayers…May they and all who suffer be comforted by your healing touch. [Response]

Heavenly Father, for you faithful people life is not ended but changed, hear our prayer for those who have inspired and guided us, who now walk with you in light refreshment and peace…and for…whose year’s mind is remembered at this time.

For these and all the departed we pray, rest eternal grant to them O Lord… May they rest in peace…

Heavenly Father, you chose the Virgin Mary to be the Mother of your Son, look with favour on her prayers as we join our voices with hers as we say, Hail Mary…

Heavenly Father, we bring our own needs to you in a moment of silence.

Prayer Four

We pray for the Church throughout the world and especially for this Diocese and for Robert, Nick and Sarah our Bishops. Father, give power to your Church to proclaim the gospel of Christ; and grant that we and all Christian people may be united in truth, live together in love, and reveal your glory in the world. [Response]

We pray for the world (especially for…..); give to all a reverence for the earth as your creation, that they might rightly use its resources in the service of all people and to your honour and glory. [Response]

We pray for all nations and especially for this country; bless Elizabeth our Queen; give wisdom to all in authority; direct this and every nation in the way of justice and peace; so that we may honour one another and seek the common good. [Response]

We pray for our families and friends and all others with special claims upon us. Give grace to all whose lives are linked closely to our own, that we may serve Christ in them and love one another as he. loves us. [Response]

We pray for all who are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity, (especially…); to all who suffer give courage, healing and a steadfast trust in your love.
[Response]

We pray for all those who have died and have gone to their rest, Father grant that they might live with you in light, refreshment and peace. [Response]

We join our prayers with all the saints, especially with those of Mary as we say, Hail Mary…

We keep silence for just a moment and bring to the Father our own prayers.

Conclusion to the prayers

God of love, our refuge and our strength, hear the prayers of your Church, and grant us today what we ask of you in faith. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Father, we come before you with faith and love to praise your goodness and to acknowledge our need. We ask you to hear the prayers we make in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Lord God,
Mary gave birth to your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
in purity and love.
may she bring our prayers before you,
for we make them in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Father, you know the many different needs
your people have in this life.
Hear us and answer the prayers of all who believe in you.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Father, may your people turn again to you
and serve you with all their hearts.
With confidence we have asked your help:
may we now know your mercy and love in our lives.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Father, have mercy on your Church in its need, hear the prayers we offer you with all our hearts, and never abandon the people who share your life. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All of these will end in

Amen

UA Fanthorpe – Getting it across

Posted Leave a commentPosted in poetry, scripture, teaching

‘His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things.’

St. John 16:29-30

This is the hard thing.
Not being God, the Son of Man,
—I was born for that part—
But patiently incising on these yokel faces,
Mystified, bored and mortal,
The vital mnemonics they never remember.

There is enough of Man in my God
For me to construe their frowns. I feel
The jaw-cracking yawns they try to hide
When out I come with one of my old
Chestnuts. Christ! Not that bloody
Sower again, they are saying, or God!
Not the Prodigal fucking Son.
Give us a new one, for Messiah’s sake.

They know my unknowable parables as well
As each other’s shaggy dog stories.
I say! I say! I say! There was this Samaritan,
This Philistine and this Roman…or
What did the high priest say
To the belly dancer? All they need
Is the cue for laughs. My sheep and goats,
Virgins, pigs, figtrees, loaves and lepers
Confuse them. Fishing, whether for fish or men,
Has unfitted them for analogy.

Yet these are my mouths. Through them only
Can I speak with Augustine, Aquinas, Martin, Paul
Regius Professors of Divinity,
And you, and you.
How can I cram the sense of Heaven’s kingdom
Into our pidgin-Aramaic quayside jargon?

I envy Moses, who could choose
The diuturnity of stone for waymarks
Between man and Me. He broke the tablets,
Of course. I too know the easy messages
Are the ones not worth transmitting;
But he could at least carve.
The prophets too, however luckless
Their lives and instructions, inscribed on wood,
Papyrus, walls, their jaundiced oracles.

I alone must write on flesh. Not even
The congenial face of my Baptist cousin,
My crooked affinity Judas, who understands,
Men who would give me accurately to the unborn
As if I were something simple, like bread.
But Pete, with his headband stuffed with fishhooks,
His gift for rushing in where angels wouldn’t,
Tom, for whom metaphor is anathema,
And James and John, who want the room at the top—
These numskulls are my medium. I called them.

I am tattooing God on their makeshift lives.
My Keystone Cops of disciples, always,
Running absurdly away, or lying ineptly,
Cutting off ears and falling into the water,
These Sancho Panzas must tread my Quixote life,
Dying ridiculous and undignified,
Flayed and stoned and crucified upside down.
They are the dear, the human, the dense, for whom
My message is. That might, had I not touched them,
Have died decent respectable upright deaths in bed.

30 Pieces of Chocolate

Posted Leave a commentPosted in scripture, teaching

With a h/t to Mthr Gemma

It was one Saturday night After Eight, and me and my mate Freddo, were being paid a Bounty to guard this tomb. ‘Guard a tomb? You say. Yeah that’s a Whole Nut of an idea, I know.

There was this guy, see. We’d executed him on the Friday, but he had said he would come back to life so we were there to make sure he stayed dead! No really, I’m not Lion! You think that’s mad? Join the Club! Now my mate is a bit of a Smartie, so while we were stood, guarding the dead body, we says, ‘why don’t we have a Picnic?’ And I thought, ‘Well why not? I could do with some Time Out’

So we sat down and ate our sandwiches Crème Egg and cress for me, then Chomping some Fruit and Nuts for one of my five-a-day, all washed down with a cold glass of Dairy Milk.

Anyway, back to the Topic. After our food we were Flaked out and… well… I’m not going to Fudge the facts, we fell asleep. I know we shouldn’t have, but we did. We loosened our Buttons, pulled off our Snickers (sneakers) and lay down under the Milky Way.

Next thing I know there is a Crunchie sound, like when you Rolo way the stone. Sat bolt upright and thought… ‘What a Kinder Surprise is this?’ I said. I couldn’t have been more shocked if a Penguin had arrived on a Double Decker bus!

So what was it, this surprise? Only an angel, clothes all Milky Bar white and hair all Curly Wurly – just sat there, on top of the stone! And the tomb was OPEN! (Open Hollow Egg)

Me and my mate, we were in a complete Twirl – we were so scared we called for our Mars – but just before we fainted, we heard a Ripple of fabric from the tomb. Seems he had come back to life after all!

I heard a Wispa as he stepped out. He winked at me and said ‘Aero!’

Lent 4: Prayer & Senses

Posted Leave a commentPosted in parish, scripture, teaching

Well, we are nearly four weeks into Lent and I am wondering how it has been for you?

I hope that you have been able to find some time for reflection amidst the busy-ness of daily living. That is always a challenge for me – but very necessary. And I am wondering what has been happening for you in your praying? As we have considered time and place to pray, so today I want to consider Prayer and the senses. As I said at the beginning of this course, my aim was to be more practical than theological, and I hope that this evening I may be able to offer some new insights and things to try as we seek to learn more how to pray.

The Senses. Something integral to being human – and we are bodily people. Most of us, I suspect, take our senses for granted – hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell – unless and until we are deprived of them. A child born without any one of those capacities is, rightly, a source of sadness and pain to those close to them; for suddenly those around anticipate the sense of loss – of deprivation even – a sense of unfairness that a fellow human being should not have the opportunity to experience what we experience and enjoy what we enjoy.

Accident or age can deprive us of one or more of our senses later in life and we are suddenly bereft and left grieving for capacities we once knew and took for granted. Learning to live with such loss is not easy.

And yet there are many who will say that the body’s capacity to adapt is remarkable and where one sense is diminished, another develops extraordinarily to take its place…

The important thing to recognise is that because we are bodily creatures, our senses are very much a part of our praying, whether we recognise it or not. If we think about it, we will probably all agree that hearing and seeing are familiar parts of prayer: when we are together we hear words spoken, either as set prayers or biddings for intercession; and we see words printed on a page, which we read aloud and listen to as we speak them.

But that is only one dimension of hearing; only one dimension of seeing; and there are so many more. So let’s explore each of our senses in turn and stretch our minds, and in doing so, stretch the possibilities for our prayer.

Prayer is clearly about more than just words, but also about the non-words: silence is not just an absence of words, but rather it is a way of being attentive to God and to ourselves which can help us to go deeper than we might in other forms of prayer.

But when we are silent, we are still hearing – and we may well be using other senses as well, as we shall see in a few moments… When you sit in silence you need to hear both the external and the internal ‘noise’ – sounds from round about, but also the sounds from within: a phrase from Scripture; the words of a psalm or hymn that comes into your mind… But what other sounds are there and how might we be active in using our sense of hearing in our prayer?

Let me offer three particular areas you might explore: first, the sounds of nature. Sit in the garden or the local park, or go for a gentle walk on the Moor with your ears open and you will hear the sounds of nature: birds singing; the wind blowing through long grass; the trickle of a stream; the whistling of a buzzard; the scrunch of leaves underfoot; the brushing of a hedgerow against your jacket…. Whilst I’m not one for saying simply ‘You can always find God in the garden’, there is – for many of us – a deep inspiration that comes through hearing the sounds and seeing the sights of our created world. As Gerard Manley-Hopkins reminds us:

The sounds and sights of nature draw us beyond ourselves and can inspire us to praise and wonder at our Creator God. St Francis knew such wonder well and we hear it expressed, of course, in this extract from his Canticle of Brother Son and Sister Moon:

Video:  [youtube=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2AfJm5ZcCc”]

 

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor, and all blessing,
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no human is worthy to mention Your name.

Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.

Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

But what about the sounds of daily living? Perhaps we regard those as distractions? The traffic on the street; the crying child; the noises in the market place; the marital argument; the hoover; the washing machine. Our instinct is to say that this is ‘noise’ and we may try to escape from it. But these are the noises – the sounds – of life. And each, in its own way, can lead us to prayer: for the safety of those who travel; for family life; for all who trade; for relationships in conflict; for those who care for homes; for those with no-one to care whose labour is with hands and with back-breaking work. The sounds of daily living can be just as much part of our prayer as silence.

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For many people, however, music can play a special part in enabling prayer. It is, of course, so often a matter of taste. But, for each of us, there will be particular pieces of music – or styles or types of music – which help to still or stir us and which can often draw us to God.

Music can sometimes ‘reach the parts that others don’t’ in a way that it is hard to explain.

Music has the power to stir the soul, and is a uniquely personal thing. Whether it’s classical, modern, pop, rap, grunge, Taize or something else, music – with and without words- can lead us into prayer and sometimes even become the vehicle by which we pray. A Tallis chant or a Brian Eno piece, whatever works for you. Modern ways of delivering music: streaming online access to virtually the whole musical catalogues of the world give us unlimited opportunities.

[youtube=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6RgaPTo4hE”]

So much for hearing. What about sight?

Well, I have already spoken of nature and few of us would deny the power of a sunset or a glorious vista to stir us within. What God has made is indeed good. But what about the works of human beings? Art, sculpture, photography, icons….

The long history of association between art and religion has borne fruit since time immemorial and never more so than in the Christian era, in a wealth of carvings, engravings, paintings, frescoes, icons, woodcuts and more both inspired by and inspiring of the God in whose image the artist is made.

If you have never used a work of art to inspire you to pray, then please try it; look at it with eyes of faith and be amazed at what God unfolds for you….

And it’s not just works of art that can help us. We live in a visual technological world and the creative possibilities of the internet, YouTube and computer-generated visuals are enormous. Such materials may not be to your personal taste, but for a new generation they offer huge potential for expressing and communicating the truths of God.

Finally, while we’re thinking about sight, let’s not forget the simple power of the lit candle as an aid to focusing the mind and stilling the soul. Whether in light or darkness, a candle can be a hugely effective way of signalling attentiveness to God and to prayer – a way of marking out both the place and the time….

The sense of touch is one we may not have explored before. The classical use of the rosary, not only in the Christian tradition, but by other faiths as well, illustrates the way in which physical connectedness can both enable concentration and engage the body at a different level to the mind.

Holding crosses have become popular in recent years – a simple, off-centred cross which fits neatly into a person’s hand and which can often act as a great reassurance to those who are troubled or sick and otherwise unable to pray.

But what about holding other things from nature – stones, shells, leaves, grass or flowers – feeling their beauty and complexity as an aid to prayer rather than simply looking at them – beautiful as they may be to the eye. Or there may be the seasonal use of objects such as fruits or vegetables at Harvest-time, or nails in Holy Week. And then there is the whole question of the appropriateness of touch when praying with others – the laying on of hands; the holding of another’s hand when praying for them, or anointing the sick with the Oil of Healing (which is always for healing, and not as popular culture understands it as the last rites)

Jesus healed in a visceral way: spittle, mud, physical contact, and when appropriately given, touch can be an important part of the physicality of faith..

[youtube=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBvf7Voj9i4&t=259s”]

Smell and taste are perhaps a little more diffuse when it comes to thinking about prayer, despite the fact that incense as long been an aid to prayer in the history of the Church; and all four Gospels give an account of the woman who anointed Jesus with fragrant perfume in preparation for his burial. There is the distinct smell of the Oil of Chrism used in Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination.

But when we read Scripture and begin to imagine some of the smells and tastes that those in the stories may have experienced, it can become an inspiration to our own prayer and can open up the narratives in ways we have never thought of.

  • What might it have smelt like, for example, by the Sea of Galilee?
  • What might it have smelt like in the heart of the city of Jerusalem with sheep and goats roaming the streets and spices being sold, and bread baked, and the sweat of humanity all around?
  • What might it have smelt and tasted like when Jesus and his disciples broke the bread and shared the fish, and turned water into wine, and picked the figs, and plucked the grain….?

This might seem a long way from prayer and the senses, but in fact it is not. For Scripture can be a way in to encountering God with more than just our minds. It is a way of prayer (the examen) encouraged and developed by St Ignatius Loyola in the sixteenth century, and which has enabled countless Christians since to deepen their prayer lives as they have learned to enter in to the biblical narrative using their senses as well as their intellect.

There is much more that could be said. But I hope I have whetted your appetite (and I use the phrase deliberately) to experiment with new ways of praying for you; ways that encourage you to use the whole of who you are and not just your mind.

If you want to talk more about ‘how’ to use your senses, then please ask. And remember – God gave us our senses to use in all sorts of ways – not just so that we don’t burn the toast!

Next week we will finally come to explore Prayer and Words.