Archives December 2010

St Isaac of Ninevah, from the 6th Century

Words from St Isaac of Ninevah, from the 6th Century

This Christmas night God bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;

This is the night of the Most Gentle One –
Let no one be cruel;

This is the night of the Humble One –
Let no one be proud.

Now is the day of joy –
Let us not revenge;

Now is the day of Good Will –
Let us not be mean.

In this Day of Peace –
Let us not be conquered by anger.

Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake;
So, rich one, invite the poor to your table.

Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask;
So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us.

This present Day cast open the heavenly doors to our prayers;
Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.

Today the DIVINE BEING took upon Himself the seal of our humanity,
In order for humanity to be decorated by the Seal of DIVINITY.

Amen

 


Sermon: Holy Family Year A

Text: Matthew 2:13-15; 19-23

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

With the birth of the Christ child still fresh in our ears, we move away from the crèche and towards the reality of living in the presence of a living God. We quickly move from the crystal starlight over the stable scene to a scene of warnings, dreams and severe human suffering.

For Mary and Joseph, the consequences of caring for their small infant son, the Emmanuel – the God with us – meant further dislocation and further isolation. This faithful couple, always ready to follow God, were being led away from everything and everyone that would support them while they cared for this child. Our Gospel moves us from the gentleness of the incarnation to the harsh reality of life.

These new parents had to flee from their homeland and their people and go to a strange land that did not know them. They became aliens, immigrants forced to flee away rather than run home to their village. For the families in Bethlehem and surrounding communities the consequences were much worse. Small children were slaughtered because a ruler was tricked by some wise elders from a distant tribe. There was blood everywhere. The awful reality of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents is recalled by the Church on Tuesday, whilst today this genocide forces the Saviour of us all to become an Asylum Seeker. The consequence of human anger with access to absolute power is clear in our Gospel today. The word of God made flesh reminds us today of the responsibility we have to the innocent and the alien. How easily we forget this lesson. The next time we read one of those poisonous newspaper articles about Asylum Seekers we should remember the story of the Christ-Child and his experience.

The harsh reality of the genocide inherent in the slaughter of the Holy Innocents invites us to move our gaze from the pastoral crèche scene, the wise men and sheep, to the world to which God came. We are invited to see the same broken world that is about us today. We are called to witness this same world, full of terror, in which angry and selfish political leaders even today destroy innocent lives.

Jesus came into the midst of terror and enters into our terror.

We, like Our Lady and St. Joseph, are called to move out from soft places, from warm rooms and safe havens, to the places where innocence is challenges, where faithful tender lives are at risk, and carry the God incarnate to alien places so that we might all be free.

A friend was recently in an airport waiting for a connecting flight. In the next row sat a family of six, mother, father and four small children. They were all dressed quite inappropriately for the season and the location: they huddled together, sleeping fitfully and speaking very little. When they did, it was a strange and unfamiliar language. As they boarded the plane, it was obvious that they were very confused by the seating and signs. My friend tried to help them as best she could but there was little was of communicating except by pointing.

This family of refugees were coming to a place where very little was familiar. How could they raise their children, find their way, communicate their basic needs? And yet they came with a weary willingness to protect and care for their little ones, to find a new life, despite all of the challenges and dislocation that were behind and in front of them.

This is what love does within in each of us. It gives us the courage to take on responsibility for the innocent. Love incarnate empowers us to turn away from the comforting familiar, in order to let love incarnate thrive.

Here is our call, our responsibility this Christmastide and all through the year. God with us, Emmanuel, encourages us to face the power of this world in order to protect the vulnerable and the needy.

This Love made Flesh challenges us to see the face of God in each refugee, each alien, each immigrant, every stranger.

The Prince of Peace calls us to look away from the comfortable and the pastoral to see the stark reality of suffering and terror in our world. We are called to see with the eyes of the Word of God – eyes which see everyone as relatives, tribal members, kin, family, equally welcomed at God’s table.

May these days of Christmas be times of looking outward, seeking the family which has been left outside, bringing home those who have been refugees, aliens and strangers.

Later in his ministry, the Christ-Man would say “whenever to visited or welcomed or cared for one such as these, then you did the same to me”. The Refugee, the Asylum-Seeker, the Poor, frightened or destitute remain, and it is our Christian duty to shelter the next Holy Family which flees for survival to our land.

Amen.


Liturgy: Christmas Day

 

Christmas Day, Year A

 

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

 

Grace, mercy and peace from God Our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit be with you all

and also with you

 

A child is born for us, a son given to us; dominion is laid on his shoulder, and he shall be called Wonderful-Counselor. (Isaiah 9:6)

 

My dear friends in Christ we gather this Christmas morn to greet the Christ Child, as we see him laid in a manger.

 

Our intention today is one of thanksgiving for the incarnation, and pray that its true meaning may be made clear to us as we praise and worship God and open our hearts to his holy scripture.

 

But as we prepare to encounter God in the most holy sacraments, we call to mind our sins:

 

Hear the words of the angel to Joseph:

‘You shall call his name Jesus,

for he will save his people from their sins.’

Therefore let us seek the forgiveness of God

through Jesus the Saviour of the world.

 

I confess…

The Collect

Let us pray

 

Lord God,
we praise you for creating man,
and still more for restoring him in Christ.
Your Son shared our weakness:
may we share his glory,
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

All    Amen.

 

Alleluia

 

Alleluia, alleluia.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen his glory.

All    Alleluia.

 

The Peace

 

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,
and his name shall be called the Prince of Peace.

 

The peace of the Lord be always with you

and also with you


 

Prayer after Communion

 

Father,
the child born today is the Saviour of the world.
He made us your children.
May he welcome us into your kingdom
where he lives and reigns with you for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Solemn Blessing:

When he came to us as man,
the Son of God scattered the darkness of this world,
and filled this holy night with his glory.
May the God of infinite goodness
scatter the darkness of sin
and brighten your hearts with holiness. Amen.

God sent his angels to shepherds
to herald the great joy of the Saviour’s birth.
May he fill you with joy
and make you heralds of his gospel. Amen.

When the Word became man,
earth was joined to heaven.
May he give you his peace and good will,
and fellowship with all the heavenly host. Amen

 

And the blessing of God Almighty,

the +Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

be upon you and remain with you,

this joyous day and always.

All    Amen.

 

The mass is ended : Go in peace

All    Thanks be to God.

 


Put the Mass back into Christmas

Three Masses today: the last Mass of Advent, Vigil Mass at 7pm for those who are too frail to make Midnight or have small children and the full-on incense laden Mass of Midnight. There is also the massively popular Christingle service at 4pm today – the first evensong of Christmas and for many in this community the point at which Christmas really begins…

Today is a really heavy liturgical day and emotionally challenging. I don’t think it’s quite as challenging as Good Friday, which leaves me more drained, but the excitement, the buzz and the expectation is uplifting: I love the semi-unscripted messing around which is Christingle and the glories of each different Mass today.

Yes, just like the video above: I encourage you to worship this Christmas-tide (in whichever way works for you, although I sincerely hope it’ll be the Mass) and wish you the peace of the Christ-child this Nativity…

 

May the eagerness of the shepherds,

the joy of the angels,

the perseverance of the wise men,

the obedience of Mary and Joseph,

and the peace of the Christ child

be yours this Christmas.

And the blessing of God Almighty,

+Father, Son & Holy Spirit be upon you

and those whom you love this Christmastide

and forever more.

Amen

 


Isaiah 9: the writing on the wall

An installation for Midnight Mass, 2010 at S. Thomas the Apostle, Elson: a number of projectors will silently (and slightly out of sync) project a loop of these words from the Prophet Isaiah onto the walls of the Church during the offering of the Mass to accompany the proclamation of the birth of Jesus.

This version is 6 minutes long, the production version runs slower at 26 mins per cycle/loop.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDymAKLj-rw

The inspiration comes from messing around with projections on the wall when the Church was arranged properly in the round for Nine Lessons and Carols. These wall projections are needed when some face away from the screen, and I like the idea of the foretelling of the Messiah wherever you look.

Feel free to download and use as you wish. Both versions available from Agnus Dei at http://www.agnusdei.org.uk/index.php?id=1&rootpage=ZmlsZWFkbWluL3ZpZGVvL1dyaXRpbmcgb24gdGhlIFdhbGw=