‘When Jesus had gone up from them, Mary and the apostles met and prayed. Their master, and her Son, was still the leader in their praying; they used his words, they shared his mind, they prayed with him as though they said the words after him. He was now, indeed, somewhat further from them than he used to be; further, even, than he had been from Peter, James and John in Gethsemane. There they had overheard his prayer, though he knelt beyond them up the hill. Now he was further still ahead, they could not see or hear him. But the further he was from them, the nearer he was to the heart of God; further from those who prayed, but nearer to the Mercy to whom all prayer ascends. Not nearer simply, it was not a matter of degree. He was there, had reached the goal, was one with the fountain from which all things always come. In Jesus they were there too, for he was one of them. They turned their faces upwards and stretched up their hands, and what he inspired them in his name to ask was asked by God from God’.
from The Crown of the Year: Weekly Paragraphs for the Holy Sacrament, 1952
by Austin Farrer, 1904-1968
O God, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven: we beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thy Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The joyous veneration given to the Mother of God by the contemporary Church, in light of reflection on the mystery of Christ and on his nature, cannot ignore the figure of a woman, the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.
In some ways this was already present in the mind of the Church from the premonitory words of Saint Augustine and Saint Leo the Great. In fact the former says that Mary is the mother of the members of Christ, because with charity she cooperated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church, while the latter says that the birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, thus indicating that Mary is at once Mother of Christ, the Son of God, and mother of the members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church. These considerations derive from the divine motherhood of Mary and from her intimate union in the work of the Redeemer, which culminated at the hour of the cross.
Indeed, the Mother standing beneath the cross, accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal. She thus became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit. Christ, in turn, in the beloved disciple, chose all disciples as ministers of his love towards his Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection.
As a caring guide to the emerging Church Mary had already begun her mission in the Upper Room, praying with the Apostles while awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, in the course of the centuries, Christian piety has honoured Mary with various titles, in many ways equivalent, such as Mother of Disciples, of the Faithful, of Believers, of all those who are reborn in Christ; and also as “Mother of the Church” as is used in the texts of spiritual authors as well as in the Magisterium of Popes Benedict XIV and Leo XIII.
Thus the foundation is clearly established by which Blessed Paul VI, on 21 November 1964, at the conclusion of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council, declared the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of the Church, that is to say of all Christian people, the faithful as well as the pastors, who call her the most loving Mother” and established that “the Mother of God should be further honoured and invoked by the entire Christian people by this tenderest of titles”.
Having attentively considered how greatly the promotion of this devotion might encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety, Pope Francis has decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar... and be now celebrated every year.
This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God’.
from the decree by Robert, Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 11 February 2018
‘[W] hat does the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord mean for us? It does not mean that the Lord has departed to some place far from people and from the world. Christ’s Ascension is not a journey into space toward the most remote stars; for basically, the planets, like the earth, are also made of physical elements.
Christ’s Ascension means that he no longer belongs to the world of corruption and death that conditions our life. It means that he belongs entirely to God. He, the Eternal Son, led our human existence into God’s presence, taking with him flesh and blood in a transfigured form.
The human being finds room in God; through Christ, the human being was introduced into the very life of God. And since God embraces and sustains the entire cosmos, the Ascension of the Lord means that Christ has not departed from us, but that he is now, thanks to his being with the Father, close to each one of us for ever. Each one of us can be on intimate terms with him; each can call upon him. The Lord is always within hearing. We can inwardly draw away from him. We can live turning our backs on him. But he always waits for us and is always close to us.
From the readings of today’s liturgy we also learn something more about the concrete way the Lord makes himself close to us. The Lord promises the disciples his Holy Spirit. The first reading that we heard tells us that the Holy Spirit will give “power” to the disciples; the Gospel adds that he will guide them to the whole truth. As the living Word of God, Jesus told his disciples everything, and God can give no more than himself. In Jesus, God gave us his whole self, that is, he gave us everything. As well as or together with this, there can be no other revelation which can communicate more or in some way complete the Revelation of Christ. In him, in the Son, all has been said to us, all has been given’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that like as we do believe thy Only Begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ
to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Dunstan… at an early age co-ordinated his many gifts and activities into a single channel, that of the direct service of God in England. There are even now many ways in which we, a thousand years later, are influenced by his creative mind and his practical genius. You may like to hear the church bells across the fields on a summer day or from the cathedral tower on a winter’s night: Dunstan ruled that all monasteries were to use the English custom of ringing bells, especially prolonging them on festivals, and it appears that all the great national functions graced by the King, his Court and the prelates were marked by much bell-ringing; and he himself, with his great collaborator, Bishop Ethelwold, cast two bells for Abingdon monastery. You may like to hear a lunch-hour organ recital: organs were probably known earlier, but they had ceased to be made in the ninth century; Dunstan and Ethelwold re-introduced and popularised them, taking a personal hand in their actual construction. One of the parts of a Gregorian setting of the Mass which is still sung, the Kyrie ‘Rex Splendens’, is the composition of Dunstan; the daily prayers for the royal family in the Prayer-book services go back to the ruling of Archbishop Dunstan; and if you ever slip into vulgar slang and refer to a person as having ‘been taken down a peg or two’, you may (says one tradition) all unconsciously be paying tribute to Dunstan, who, finding that dangerous quarrels in taverns often arose because customers drank more than their share or less than their boast, ordered that ale-pots should be fitted with metal pegs, which would show the level of the liquor and the fair share of each drinker. He has been called a dreamer of dreams and a visionary; if so, that condition made no difference to his practical commonsense and his vigorous power of furthering reforms. He is a man of such diversity of gifts and richness of character, possessing that super-abundance of vitality and energy which is not infrequently married to great abilities’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously to hear the prayers which we offer unto thee on this festival of thy Bishops Dunstan, Ethelwold, and Oswald: that like as they were found worthy to do thee faithful service in reforming and governing thy Church; so, by their example, we too may have a singular zeal for upholding thy household; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal.
On this Rogation Sunday, words from the George Herbert on the usefulness of the Rogation Procession.
‘The Countrey Parson is a Lover of old Customes, if they be good, and harmlesse; and the rather, because Countrey people are much addicted to them, so that to favour them therein is to win their hearts, and to oppose them therin is to deject them. If there be any ill in the custome, that may be severed from the good, he pares the apple, and gives them the clean to feed on. Particularly, he loves Procession, and maintains it, because there are contained therein 4 manifest advantages. First, a blessing of God for the fruits of the field: Secondly, justice in the Preservation of bounds: Thirdly, Charity in loving walking, and neighbourly accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if there be any: Fourthly, Mercy in releeving the poor by a liberall distribution and largesse, which at that time is, or ought to be used. Wherefore he exacts of all to bee present at the perambulation, and those that withdraw, and sever themselves from it, he mislikes, and reproves as uncharitable, and unneighbourly; and if they will not reforme, presents them. Nay, he is so farre from condemning such assemblies, that he rather procures them to be often, as knowing that absence breedes strangeness, but presence love’.
from Chapter XXXV, The Parson Condescending
in A Priest to the Temple by George Herbert, 1593-1633
‘Learning, if it puffs up the mind, or inspires any secret self-sufficiency, is an impediment to the communications of the Holy Ghost: simplicity and sincere humility being the dispositions which invite him into the soul. By these was Isidore prepared to find him an interior instructor and comforter. His earnestness in seeking lessons and instructions of piety made him neglect no opportunity of hearing them; and so much the more tender and the deeper were the impressions which they left in his soul, as his desire was the stronger and the more pure. His patience in bearing all injuries and in overcoming the envy of fellow-servants by cordial kindnesses, his readiness to obey his masters, and in indifferent things to comply with the inclinations of others, and humbly to serve every one, gave him the most complete victory over himself and his passions. Labour he considered as enjoined him by God in punishment of sin, and for a remedy against it. And he performed his work in a spirit of compunction and penance. Many object that their labours and fatigues leave them little time for the exercises of religion. But Isidore, by directing his attention according to the most holy motives of faith, made his work a most perfect act of religion. He considered it as a duty to God. Therefore he applied himself to it with great diligence and care, in imitation of the angels in heaven, who in all things fulfil the will of God with the greatest readiness and alacrity of devotion. The more humbling and the more painful the labour was, the dearer it was to the saint, being a means the more suitable to tame his flesh, and a more noble part of his penance. With the same spirit that the saints subdued their bodies by toils in their deserts, Isidore embraced his task. He moreover sanctioned it by continual prayer. While his hand held the plough, he in his heart conversed with God, with his angel guardian, and the other blessed spirits; sometimes deploring the sins of the world, and his own spiritual miseries, at other times in the melting words of the royal prophet, raising his desires to the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem. It was chiefly by this perfect spirit of prayer, joined with, or rather engrafted upon a most profound humility and spirit of mortification, that St Isidore arrived at so eminent a degree of sanctity as rendered him the admiration of all Spain’.
from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints by Fr Alban Butler, 1710-1773
I am Matthias; I am he who covers
The cloudy opening of the uttermost prison,
Where on went down - and is not re-arisen,-
Out of the Twelve who were the Lord Christ’s lovers,
About my name upon this day there hovers
A rumour of despair and desolation;
And even the Holy City’s glad salvation
Sighs for the memory of its exciled rovers.
I am Matthias, yea, and am another,
Installed within the bishopric of my brother;
I who am his oblivion am his fame.
I am the dream, upon your strife attending,
That all things, bound to a most perfect ending,
Shall be made one by Christ’s invincible Name.
Charles Williams, 1886-1945
A few photos of a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, made with the Manchester Oratory in April 2018.
‘We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: “Where is your brother Abel […] Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” (Genesis 4.9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end… In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162).
At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations, races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the Love of God burning in her own heart. At that time it was only to three children, yet the example of their lives spread and multiplied, especially as a result of the travels of the Pilgrim Virgin, in countless groups throughout the world dedicated to the cause of fraternal solidarity. May the seven years which separate us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfilment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity’.
from his homily, 13 May 2010, delivered at Fatima, by Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst choose the Mother of thy Son to be our Mother also: grant us that, persevering in penance and prayer for the salvation of the world, we may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Brethren, do not honour your fellow men for their earthly possessions, honour them for the image of God they bear in themselves. Do not esteem what you or what others have, but what you are. Look up to these saints at whose grave we are standing. The world lay invitingly before them, but they trampled upon it with disdain; a long life was before them, and health and wealth and children and comforts and good fortune. While the world was blossoming all about them, in their hearts it had already withered. You see, Christians, how the world shrivels and dies; should it then continue to bloom and blossom in your hearts?
Death is lurking everywhere, and grief, and trouble; from every quarter we are lashed at and sated with bitterness, we pursue the fleeting things of earth and cling to a sinking world. And because we cannot stop its fall, we perish with it. The very transitoriness of the world proves its worthlessness and the foolishness of adhering to it. Cling rather to eternal things, my dear brethren, so that you may come to the glory of heaven, a glory that you already possess through your faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns as King with the Father in union with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen’.
Pope St Gregory the Great, c.540-604
‘Why is May chosen as the month in which we exercise a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin?
The first reason is because it is the time when the earth bursts forth into its fresh foliage and its green grass after the stern frost and snow of winter, and the raw atmosphere and the wild wind and rain of the early spring. It is because the blossoms are upon the trees and the flowers are in the gardens. It is because the days have got long, and the sun rises early and sets late. For such gladness and joyousness of external Nature is a fit attendant on our devotion to her who is the Mystical Rose and the House of Gold.
A man may say, “True; but in this climate we have sometimes a bleak, inclement May”. This cannot be denied; but still, so much is true that at least it is the month of promise and of hope. Even though the weather happen to be bad, it is the month that begins and heralds in the summer. We know, for all that may be unpleasant in it, that fine weather is coming, sooner or later. “Brightness and beautifulness shall”, in the Prophet’s words, “appear at the end, and shall not lie: if it make delay, wait for it, for it shall surely come, and shall not be slack”.
May then is the month, if not of fulfilment, at least of promise; and is not this the very aspect in which we most suitably regard the Blessed Virgin, Holy Mary, to whom this month is dedicated?
The Prophet says, “There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise out of his root”. Who is the flower but our Blessed Lord? Who is the rod, or beautiful stalk or stem or plant out of which the flower grows, but Mary, Mother of our Lord, Mary, Mother of God?
It was prophesied that God should come upon earth. When the time was now full, how was it announced? It was announced by the Angel coming to Mary. “Hail, full of grace”, said Gabriel, “the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women”. She then was the sure promise of the coming Saviour, and therefore May is by a special title her month’.
St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘My dear friends, this is your hour. This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole. We were the first, in this ancient island, to draw the sword against tyranny... There we stood, alone. Did anyone want to give in? Were we down-hearted? The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle. London can take it. So we came back after long months from the jaws of death, out of the mouth of hell, while all the world wondered. When shall the reputation and faith of this generation of Englishmen and women fail? I say that in the long years to come not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done and they will say “do not despair, do not yield to violence and tyranny, march straightforward and die if need be-unconquered”. Now we have emerged from one deadly struggle - a terrible foe has been cast on the ground and awaits our judgement and our mercy’.
Sir Winston Churchill, VE Day, 8 May 1945
A few shots of the progress thus far on the grotto for Our Lady at St Edward’s House; a practical and devotional way to spend some spare time in this Marian month of May, and to make use of the natural resource of the abundance of rocks and stones. The structure needs to be built up at the back and sides, a statue has been sourced, and after some proper landscaping and planting of roses (for the entrance arch) and Marian flowers (for the rockery), we will have a decent enough grotto in this relatively quiet and secluded part of the garden.
The Walsingham Pilgrim Manual
Images from a May 2015 visit to Pugin’s Shrine Church of St Augustine, Ramsgate in Kent to accompany words from Dom Bede Camm, the Benedictine monk of Downside Abbey. Dom Bede went to Keble College, Oxford and was ordained in the Church of England in 1888, serving as Curate at St Agnes, Kennington before being received into full communion in 1890. He made his first profession as a Benedictine a year later and transferred to Downside Abbey in 1913. Dom Bede had a great devotion to the English Martyrs and, in 1904, published a two volume collection of their lives. He had an early hand in saving the newly-founded Tyburn nuns from financial ruin, helping them to secure their home, which they had put up for sale. He also designed the famous replica Tyburn Tree canopy above the altar of the shrine.
‘I was brought up, as are so many nowadays, in the firm belief that the Church by Law Established was the true representative of the old Catholic Church in England, the Church of Anselm, Dunstan, and More. It was the Beatification of our Martyrs in 1886 which first directed my attention to them, and in reading their history I soon found the whole fabric of this belief tumbling about my ears like a pack of cards. Why did these Martyrs suffer torture and death? Simply for clinging to the Faith of their Fathers. They had not changed their religion, they were not the innovators; they died because they held dearer than life the old Faith of old England. We cannot serve two masters; we must choose between the cause for which these men fought, that is the old religion, and the new religion of their persecutors. If we wish to have our part with More and Campion, we cannot serve the Church of Cranmer and Elizabeth.
...We have long ago forgiven the horrors of Tyburn: the only revenge that we desire is the divine vengeance of Christ’s Martyrs who cry beneath the Altar of God, “How long, O Lord, How long?” Their one desire on earth was the conversion of their dear England; that, we may be sure, is their prayer now. It is also our own’.
from A Book of English Martyrs, 1915, by Dom Bede Camm OSB, 1864-1942
‘In those countries of the East where our Lord appeared, the office of a shepherd is not only a lowly and simple office, and an office of trust, as it is with us, but, moreover, an office of great hardship and of peril. Our flocks are exposed to no enemies, such as our Lord describes. The Shepherd here has no need to prove his fidelity to the sheep by encounters with fierce beasts of prey. The hireling shepherd is not tried. But where our Lord dwelt in the days of His flesh it was otherwise. There it was true that the good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep — “but he that is an hireling, and whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep”.
Our Lord found the sheep scattered; or, as He had said shortly before, “All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers”; and in consequence the sheep had no guide. Such were the priests and rulers of the Jews when Christ came; so that “when He saw the multitudes He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd”. Such, in like manner, were the rulers and prophets of Israel in the days of Ahab, when Micaiah, the Lord’s Prophet, “saw all Israel scattered on the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd, and the Lord said, These have no Master, let them return every man to his house in peace”. Such, too, were the shepherds in the time of Ezekiel, of whom the Prophet says, “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherd feed the flocks?... They were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered”: and in the time of the Prophet Zechariah, who says, “Woe to the idle shepherd that leaveth the flock!”
So was it all over the world when Christ came in His infinite mercy “to gather in one the children of God that were scattered abroad”. And though for a moment, when in the conflict with the enemy the good Shepherd had to lay down His life for the sheep, they were left without a guide (according to the prophecy already quoted, “Smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall he scattered”), yet He soon rose from death to live for ever, according to that other prophecy which said, “He that scattered Israel will gather him, as a shepherd doth his flock”. And as He says Himself in the parable before us, “He calleth His own sheep by name and leadeth them out, and goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice”, so, on His resurrection, while Mary wept, He did call her by her name, and she turned herself and knew Him by the ear whom she had not known by the eye. So, too, He said, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?” And He added, “Follow Me”. And so again He and His Angel told the women, “Behold He goeth before you into Galilee... go tell My brethren, that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me”.
From that time the good Shepherd who took the place of the sheep, and died that they might live for ever, has gone before them: and “they follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth”.
…My brethren, we say daily, “We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture”. Again, we say, “We have erred and strayed from Thy ways, like lost sheep:” let us never forget these truths; let us never forget, on the one hand, that we are sinners; let us never forget, on the other hand, that Christ is our Guide and Guardian. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. He is a light unto our ways, and a lantern unto our paths. He is our Shepherd, and the sheep know His voice. If we are His sheep, we shall hear it, recognise it, and obey it’.
from Sermon 16 by St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘Athanasius was undoubtedly one of the most important and revered early Church Fathers. But this great Saint was above all the impassioned theologian of the Incarnation of the Logos, the Word of God who - as the Prologue of the fourth Gospel says – “became flesh and dwelt among us”.
For this very reason Athanasius was also the most important and tenacious adversary of the Arian heresy, which at that time threatened faith in Christ, reduced to a creature “halfway” between God and man, according to a recurring tendency in history which we also see manifested today in various forms.
In all likelihood Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in about the year 300 AD He received a good education before becoming a deacon and secretary to the Bishop of Alexandria, the great Egyptian metropolis. As a close collaborator of his Bishop, the young cleric took part with him in the Council of Nicaea, the first Ecumenical Council, convoked by the Emperor Constantine in May 325 AD to ensure Church unity. The Nicene Fathers were thus able to address various issues and primarily the serious problem that had arisen a few years earlier from the preaching of the Alexandrian priest, Arius.
With his theory, Arius threatened authentic faith in Christ, declaring that the Logos was not a true God but a created God, a creature “halfway” between God and man who hence remained for ever inaccessible to us. The Bishops gathered in Nicaea responded by developing and establishing the “Symbol of faith” [“Creed”] which, completed later at the First Council of Constantinople, has endured in the traditions of various Christian denominations and in the liturgy as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.
In this fundamental text – which expresses the faith of the undivided Church and which we also recite today, every Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration - the Greek term homooúsios is featured, in Latin consubstantialis: it means that the Son, the Logos, is “of the same substance” as the Father, he is God of God, he is his substance. Thus, the full divinity of the Son, which was denied by the Arians, was brought into the limelight.
The fundamental idea of Athanasius’ entire theological battle was precisely that God is accessible. He is not a secondary God, he is the true God and it is through our communion with Christ that we can truly be united to God. He has really become “God-with-us”’.
Pope Benedict XVI
Be thou then O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my forward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
O God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer;
Worldmothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.
Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, 1844-1889
O eternal God! O eternal Trinity! Through the union of thy divine nature thou hast made so precious the blood of thine only-begotten Son! O eternal Trinity, thou art as deep a mystery as the sea, in whom the more I seek, the more I find; and the more I find, the more I seek. For even immersed in the depths of thee, my soul is never satisfied, always famished and hungering for thee, eternal Trinity, wishing and desiring to see thee, the true Light.
O eternal Trinity, with the light of understanding I have tasted and seen the depths of thy mystery and the beauty of thy creation. In seeing myself in thee, I have seen that I will become like thee. O eternal Father, from thy power and thy wisdom clearly thou hast given to me a share of that wisdom which belongs to thine Only-begotten Son. And truly hast the Holy Spirit, who proceedeth from thee, Father and Son, given to me the desire to love thee.
O eternal Trinity, thou art my maker and I am thy creation. Illuminated by thee, I have learned that thou hast made me a new creation through the blood of thine Only-begotten Son because thou art captivated by love at the beauty of thy creation.
O eternal Trinity, O Divinity, O unfathomable abyss, O deepest sea, what greater gift could thou givest me then thy very Self? Thou art a fire that burns eternally yet never consumed, a fire that consumes with thy heat my self-love. Again and again thou art the fire who taketh away all cold heartedness and illuminateth the mind by thy light, the light with which thou hast made me to know thy truth.
By this mirrored light I know thou are the highest good, a good above all good, a fortunate good, an incomprehensible good, an unmeasurable good, a beauty above all beauty, a wisdom above all wisdom, for thou art wisdom itself, the food of angels, the fire of love that thou givest to man.
Thou art the garment covering our nakedness. Thou feedest our family with thy sweetness, a sweetness thou art from which there is no trace of bitterness. O eternal Trinity! Amen.
A prayer to the Most Holy Trinity by St Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380
‘The Resurrection explains this life which without it would be a mere existence, without purpose, ending the grave after meaningless trials, suffering and temptations.
In the light of the Resurrection we can see that for them who love Christ all things work together for goodness – through the cross and the grave to the Resurrection. Life now has an aim or purpose – to fit us for the fuller life beyond. We are citizens of heaven on a pilgrimage; the end is certain if we remain faithful. Lest we should faint by the wayside, we are supplied for the journey with heavenly armour and protection, with healing, with God and the companionship of the saints.
When all is said and done, the whole purpose and joy of life flows from the Resurrection (the Easter Mass speaks for itself). Therefore with joy, triumph and thanksgiving and unquenchable hope we offer the sacrifice today, for we have all been given an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away, renewed in heaven for us’.
Raymond Raynes CR, 1903-1958
‘Easter is rightly called the Queen of Feasts. Like a queen she reigns over every other event in world history. Like a queen she reigns supreme over every other feast in the Christian year. Yet, to understand her greatness, we must see how all that went before is fulfilled in her, and how she is a new beginning for all future time. Easter is the completion of a great mystery: she is the beginning of a mystery as great.
It would be easier for us to remember the true meaning of the feast if its name were derived directly from the Hebrew Pasch, as is the English Passover and the French Pâques. For Easter is the Christian Pasch, or Passover.
… The Passover feast of the Jews commemorated the events which accompanied the “passing over” of their forefathers from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of Palestine. The “passing over” had started with a meal for which a lamb without blemish had been slain without a bone of its body being broken; its blood had been sprinkled on the door-posts of their houses so that the angel of death might pass over them; and the lamb had been eaten. Then had followed many signs of God's special care for them: the safe crossing of the waters of the Red Sea which had drowned Pharaoh and the Egyptians; the light guiding them by night; the manna feeding them in the desert; until they eventually reached the land of promise.
So God brought forth his Chosen People from slavery to freedom. But the events which accompanied the Exodus from Egypt not only sealed the Israelites as the Chosen People of God; they were also a kind of rehearsal for the way in which God would eventually redeem mankind as a whole, and each individual as an individual. It was as if God allowed the shadow to appear centuries before, so that when the reality came it might be recognised. Christ was the reality of which these events were the shadow. He was the true Lamb, slain without a bone of his body being broken. His blood was shed and sprinkled so that the angel of death might pass over his people dying in sin. As the Israelites had passed through the Red Sea from death to life, so Christ passed through the sepulchre from death to life. As the enemies of the Israelites had been drowned in the waters of the Red Sea, so by his death Christ destroyed the enemies of mankind, sin and death. Christ is the true light, lighting man through the darkness of this world. He is the true manna, giving his body and blood to be the food of man in the wilderness of this life.
So we have a second Passover: the passing over of Jesus Christ from death to life, fulfilling the pattern of the ancient passing over of the Jews from Egypt to Palestine. So was the first Easter Day the completion of a great mystery.
But it was the beginning of a mystery as great. For Christ passed over from death to life so that each human soul might pass over from death in sin to eternal life. The events of the Exodus were not only a rehearsal for Christ's passing over; they were also a rehearsal for each individual soul's passing over. Born in captivity to sin, man passes through the waters, not of the Red Sea, but of Baptism, his soul cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God. Christ is the light and the food of his soul, leading him through the wilderness of this life to the promised land of heaven’.
from Holy Week and Easter: The Services Explained, 1956, by E J Rowland
John Keble, 1792-1866
I was the one who waited in the garden
Doubting the morning and the early light.
I watched the mist lift off its own soft burden,
Permitting not believing my own sight.
If there were sudden noises I dismissed
Them as trick of sound, a sleight of hand.
Not by a natural joy could I be blessed
Or trust a thing I could not understand.
Maybe I was a shadow thrown by one
Who, weeping, came to lift away the stone,
Or was I but the path on which the sun,
Too heavy for itself, was loosed and thrown?
I heard the voices and the recognition
And love like kisses heard behind thin walls.
Were they my tears which fell, a real contrition
Or simply April with its waterfalls?
It was by negatives I learnt my place.
The Garden went on growing and I sensed
A sudden breeze that blew across my face.
Despair returned but now it danced, it danced.
Elizabeth Jennings CBE, 1926-2001
Restrictions continue, but so does the celebration of the Church’s liturgy in this Easter season. Today is St George’s Day, an observance that always falls in Eastertide, and appropriately so since it teaches us that even in the moment of martyrdom, the final victory - for us, as it was for St George - is assured. I am, of course, naturally disappointed that St George does not possess the rank of a feast in Canada, especially given the long association of the saint and his cross with this dominion. John Cabot planted the English flag on Canadian soil in 1497, and that flag remains a constitutive part of Canadian heraldry and her national and provincial flags to this day (red and white are Canada’s colours for this reason) - an emblematic reminder of the English roots of this nation.
Which is a useful segue into my sharing, again, the following poem, so expressive of those English settlers who arrived to make a new life in this nation, but never forgot their heavenly patron, that great ‘Soul of England’.
St George that savest England,
Save us who still must go
Where leads thy cross of scarlet
Upon its field of snow.
Beyond the life of cities,
Distractions and dismays,
Where mountain shadows measure
The passing of the days.
Among the lonely snow-peaks
Where golden morning shines,
Stands thy undaunted outpost
Among the lodge-pole pines–
A little stone-built chapel
As modest as can be,
Touched with a loving glory,
To house thy God and thee.
Here, where majestic beauty
And inspiration bide,
Be thou, to make us worthy,
Our counsellor and guide.
Be with us, Soul of England,
Where the last trail puts forth,
To keep unsoiled forever
The honour of the North.
St George’s in the Pines
Bliss Carman FRSC, 1861-1929
‘This paschal mystery is truly the universal mystery: meeting the needs of all men, belonging to all, uniting all. This is the truth that comes to light in a comparison of the Christian mystery with the pagan ones in which men had sought a gratification of their desires which only the Christian mystery could provide.
… They are as a rough draft, very pale and inadequate, of what God is preparing to give man in answer to his deepest desires and infinitely in excess of his most sanguine hopes. In these mysteries, so often inconsequential, men sought, without realising it, another mystery; just as, in their false gods, they unconsciously adored the true God. One day shadows and symbols disappeared because the reality had come. Then could Christianity satisfy all the aspirations of the human soul and even teach it to desire treasures beyond the power of its own thought or imagination to conceive. Man, already in God’s hands without realising it, suddenly perceived that his own dim imaginings were, by divine intervention, transfigured and endowed with life’.
from The Paschal Mystery: Meditations on the Last Three Days of Holy Week
by Fr Louis Bouyer, Cong. Orat., 1913-2004
‘We have become “God’s own people” through the blood of our Redeemer; for in time gone by the people of Israel was redeemed from Egypt by the blood of the lamb.
…The people who were freed by Moses from slavery in Egypt, after the crossing of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army, sang a hymn of triumph to the Lord; so too, since we have received pardon for our sins in baptism, we should express due thanks for the heavenly grace we have received.
For the Egyptians, who oppressed God’s people, and who stand for darkness and suffering, are an apt symbol for the sins which harass us, but which have been destroyed in baptism.
The liberation of the children of Israel, and the journey by which they were led to the homeland they has long ago been promised, correspond to the mystery of our redemption, through which we make our way to the brightness of our heavenly home, with the grace of Christ as our light and our guide. The light of grace is symbolised by the pillar of cloud and fire which throughout their journey protected them from the darkness of the night, and led them along their secret path to their home in the promised land’.
St Bede the Venerable, 672-735
O take away your dried and painted garlands!
The snow-cloth’s fallen from each quicken’d brow,
The stone’s rolled off the sepulchre of winter,
And risen leaves and flowers are wanted now.
Send out the little ones, that they may gather
With their pure hands the firstlings of the birth,--
Green-golden tufts and delicate half-blown blossoms,
Sweet with the fragrance of the Easter earth;
Great primrose bunches, with soft, damp moss clinging
To their brown fibres, nursed in hazel roots;
And violets from the shady banks and copses,
And wood-anemones, and white hawthorn shoots;
And tender curling fronds of fern, and grasses
And crumpled leaves from brink of babbling rills,
With cottage-garden treasures—pale narcissi
And lilac plumes and yellow daffodils.
Open the doors, and let the Easter sunshine
Flow warmly in and out, in amber waves,
And let the perfume floating round our altar
Meet the new perfume from the outer graves.
And let the Easter “Alleluia!” mingle
With the sweet silver rain-notes of the lark;
Let us all sing together!—Lent is over,
Captivity and winter, death and dark.
Ada Cambridge, 1844-1926
Fr Lee Kenyon
A Treasure to be Shared
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