‘“I know my sheep.” Christ our Lord knows not only the number of the whole flock but the character, condition, circumstances, needs, and necessities of each one. He knows us perfectly and individually. He is deeply interested in us, because He made us, and because He died for us. He knows our capabilities, what we can do for His glory, how He can develop our character, and our capacity for happiness with Him here and in heaven. He knows, too, our limitations, and never expects more of us than, with His grace, we can accomplish. He knows our evil tendencies, and strives by His discipline to correct and eradicate them.
He knows our trials and our sorrows, and is ever close at hand to help us if we will come to Him. He knows our temptations, and will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but ever makes for us the way of escape. If He knows our failures and our falls, He knows also every step, every effort, however feeble it may be, which we make in trying to do better.
In Gethsemane, and on the Cross, He thought and prayed for each one of us, and offered the Sacrifice of Himself to save us. The Good Shepherd gave His life for His sheep – for each one, as if each had been the only one who needed to be saved. In His high-priestly work before the throne on high He makes continual intercession for us. As Aaron bore on his breastplate the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, so our great High Priest bears our names upon His heart, and intercedes for us.
It is of this intimate and personal knowledge of every one of us that He spake when He said in an earlier part of this discourse that the Good Shepherd “calleth His own sheep by name.” He not only knows us, but He calls each one of us by name; each by that new name which He gave us at our baptism, and which is a type of that other name which He will one day give, the new name “which no man knoweth, but he that receiveth it”. Thus it is that the Good Shepherd knows His sheep’.
Fr WH Longridge SSJE, 1848-1930
Almighty and everlasting God, we are taught by thy holy Word, that the hearts of kings are in thy rule and governance, and that thou dost dispose and turn them as it seemeth best to thy godly wisdom: we humbly beseech thee so to dispose and govern the heart of Elizabeth thy Servant, our Queen and Governor, that, in all her thoughts, words, and works, she may ever seek thy honour and glory, and study to preserve thy people committed to her charge, in wealth, peace, and godliness: grant this, O merciful Father, for thy dear Son’s sake, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. - The Book of Common Prayer, 1662
A sad day today as word came of the death, at the age of 99, of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip was, for 69 years, the faithful strength and stay of our Queen as consort; a man whose life embodied service, loyalty, duty, and whose interests and passions - academic, spiritual, educational, environmental - were serious and often beyond their time. His loss will be sorely felt in Britain, the Commonwealth, and beyond, and we do well to pray for the repose of his soul, and for the comfort of his widow, our Sovereign Lady. A Solemn Requiem will follow at St John Henry’s in due course.
‘We are now approaching that most sacred day when we commemorate Christ’s passion and death. Let us try to fix our minds upon this great thought. Let us try, what is so very difficult, to put off other thoughts, to clear our minds of things transitory, temporal, and earthly, and to occupy them with the contemplation of the Eternal Priest and His one ever-enduring Sacrifice;—that Sacrifice which, though completed once for all on Calvary, yet ever abideth, and, in its power and its grace, is ever present among us, and is at all times gratefully and awfully to be commemorated, but now especially, when the time of year is come at which it was made. Let us look upon Him who was lifted up that He might draw us to Him; and, by being drawn one and all to Him, let us be drawn to each other, so that we may understand and feel that He has redeemed us one and all, and that, unless we love one another, we cannot really have love to Him who laid down His life for us’.
St John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
We beseech thee, Almighty God: look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies; 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. - Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘We are here pleading with God not on the ground of anything that we have done, or any merit or deserving of our own, but on the ground of our hearty desires, the desires which come straight from the heart. The earnest desire of a loving heart is what God regards, but we are unable through our weakness to bring these desires to their fruition.
Not only are our hearty desires to be the ground of our appeal, but they must be the desires of thy humble servants. He who is humble possesses the passport to the Heart of God. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” God refuses nothing to the meek and lowly in heart. If at any time it seems that God’s response to our cry is slow, let us ask ourselves searchingly, “Am I walking humbly before my God?” It is promised: “He shall exalt the humble and meek.”
If we recognise the call of God in the promptings of conscience, and faithfully seek to follow that call, but fail through no fault of our own, God credits us with our good intention. In no case can we achieve anything save through His help. Let us pray with St Augustine: “Give what thou commandest and command what Thou wilt.”
This thought is a great comfort, and so wonderful is it that it scarcely seems credible, yet it must be true. Our Lord commands, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” He is never unreasonable, and this would be so if it were not that all He requires is that I do what I can, and leave the rest with Him.
So trusting in this, we ask Him: stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty to be our defence. He will protect and nourish us with a Father's loving care; He will accept our blundering efforts. The blessing of our hearty desires will be upon what we do, and, poor as may be our effort, God will direct it and it will stand for us in the great day of reckoning’.
Shirley Carter Hughson OHC, 1867-1949
O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the First Sunday in Lent, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘As members of Him who was tempted and conquered, as united to “One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” let us bravely and confidently meet all trials and face all temptations, enduring and vanquishing them in union with our Lord’s endurance of and victory over every seduction of the devil. Then, in correspondence with His grace, in imitation of His example, shall we find ourselves, in Him, “more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” May the commencement of another Lent, to be spent with Christ, apart from the world and its pleasures and associations, recall us to the realisation of our baptismal privileges and obligations. “We receive this child into the congregation of Christ’s flock, and do sign him with the sign of the cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under His banner, against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end.”
Lent is a call, year by year, to realise our sonship in Christ, to put our baptismal grace and endowments to their own proper use. In times of stress and temptation we are not to fall into a panic of hopelessness or despair, but to draw upon the grace of God, first bestowed in Holy Baptism, strengthened and increased in Confirmation, and continually renewed in Holy Communion. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way to escape, that ye may be able to endure it.” And, finally, “He hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My power is made perfect in weakness.”’
Vernon Staley, 1852-1933
On! all ye fair and radiant things,
That born of earth to earth decay,
Frail children of the vanished springs,
On you we sprinkle dust today!
Colour and scent and form allied
In garden gay and woodland bough,
The maiden’s blush, the athlete’s pride,
Ashes and dust your portion now!
What were ye but God’s vesture bright
A moment worn and cast away?
Your only loveliness the light
His Spirit caused to dance and play.
And we? We saw, but saw not Him:
We heard, but not the tireless note
Of His exulting seraphim
Above earth’s scrannel music float.
Now on deaf ears, and hearts of sin,
The pride of life, and the eye’s lust
To see, but not to see within,
Today - today we sprinkle dust.
Ash Wednesday by W.J. Ferrar
‘Our goal is God, the source of all good. As we say in our prayer, we are to place our trust in God and in no one else. In His kindness, our Lord wished to strengthen your faith, for without it, as the evangelist points out, Christ could not have performed many of His miracles. He also wished to listen to your prayer, and so He ordained that you experience poverty, distress, abandonment, weariness and universal scorn. It was also His desire to deprive you of my physical presence, even though I am with you in spirit as your poor, dear, beloved father. God alone knows the reasons for all this, yet we can recognise three causes. In the first place, our blessed Lord is telling you that He desires to include you among His beloved sons, provided that you remain steadfast in His ways, for this is the way He treats His friends and makes them holy. The second reason is that He is asking you to grow continually in your confidence in Him alone and not in others. For God, as I said before, does not work in those who refuse to place all their confidence and hope in Him alone. But he does impart the fullness of His love upon those who possess a deep faith and hope; for them he does great things. So if you have been endowed with faith and hope, He will do great things for you; He will raise up the lowly. In depriving you of myself and everyone else you have loved, He will offer you an opportunity to choose one of these alternatives; either you will forsake your faith and return to the ways of the world, or you will remain steadfast in your faith and pass the test. Now there is a third reason. God wishes to test you like gold in the furnace. The dross is consumed by the fire, but the pure gold remains and its value increases. It is in this manner that God acts with His good servant, who puts his hope in Him and remains unshaken in times of distress. God raises him up and, in return for the things he has left out of love for God, He repays him a hundred-fold in this life with eternal life hereafter. This is the way God has dealt with all His saints. So it was with His people Israel after their period of trial in Egypt. He not only led them out of Egypt with many miracles and fed them with manna in the desert, He also gave them the promised land. If then you remain constant in faith in the face of trial, the Lord will give you peace and rest for a time in this world, and forever in the next’.
From a letter to his brothers by St Jerome Emiliani, 1486-1537
O God, the Father of mercies, who didst raise up Saint Jerome Emiliani to be a defender and father of the fatherless: vouchsafe, through his merits and intercession; that we may faithfully guard thy spirit of adoption, whereby we are called and are indeed thy children; 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.
O Lord God, who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do: mercifully grant that by thy power, we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Sexagesima, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘We call God to witness to a fact that must be primary in every Christian life: who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do. Is this what God really sees in my daily walk, or is the saying of these words a mockery to Him? Repeat in your heart the gracious and consoling word: “O how plentiful is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear that, and that thou hast prepared for them that put their trust in thee.”
But let us not fear to say this prayer as though it were accusing ourselves. God does not expect perfection in this life. If we earnestly desire to trust Him alone, He will fulfil it for us in the end. All He asks is that we strive by the help of the Holy Spirit to make progress in desiring that perfection which everywhere in Scripture is commanded of all Christians. If when the end comes we are found moving forward in the Christ-life, God will account us as really having attained to the goal of perfection.
Again and again we find ourselves appealing to the divine mercy with great confidence. Everywhere mercy and power are linked together in our realisation of God’s loving relation to us. Mercifully grant, we pray, that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity. His mercy operated omnipotently. It is infinite, and can therefore have neither bound nor limit. Let us cry again and again: “Great is the Lord, and marvellous worthy to be praised; there is no end of his greatness”’.
Shirley Carter Hughson OHC, 1867-1949
On this 69th anniversary of the accession to the Throne of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a short reflection on the nature of contemporary royal majesty, and its spiritual significance, as seen through the development of the coronation service.
‘The ceremony [of the coronation] illustrates the unity of the present with the past, the importance of the great creative medieval period, and the productive role of the common European ideals. It presents, as no other political event, a synoptic view of the whole development of modern democracy. It shows that, although the modern state owes much to the contribution of the king, it owes even more to political liberty and to the co-operation of the community with the monarch. To retain these, the British people sacrificed even the powers of the ruler; by accepting this sacrifice, the ruler preserved his office for a wider destiny.
Thus the coronation is much more than a medieval pageant. It is more than the solemn investment of the king with a great office. It is a covenant to preserve the great Anglo-Saxon political tradition, and the pledge to maintain the historic process by which this was translated into the procedures of the modern state. That process, in spite of the violent fluctuations of British history, may be described in words written for the stormy fourteenth century: “political creativeness combined with fidelity to the deepest political traditions… progress without impairment of continuity… the transformation, without destruction, of the great institutions of political life”. Of these institutions, none is greater in its true significance than the monarchy, the repository of government under God and the law; and know where, it may be claimed, is this significance better revealed than in the coronation when, in the most solemn sacrament of the Christian Church, the king consecrates his kingship, and his peoples, by their representatives assembled, in the ancient act of homage, consecrate their loyalty’.
from The Coronation in History, 1953, by B. Wilkinson
O God, who providest for thy people by thy power, and rulest over them in love: vouchsafe so to bless thy Servant our Queen; that under her this nation may be wisely governed, and grant that she being devoted to thee with her whole heart, and persevering in good works unto the end, may, by thy guidance, come to thine everlasting kingdom; 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.
‘Cardinal Newman compares, somewhere, the sensations of a convert from Anglicanism to those of a man in a fairy story, who, after wandering all night in a city of enchantment, turns after sunrise to look back upon it, and finds to his astonishment that the buildings are no longer there; they have gone up like wraiths and mists under the light of the risen day. So the present writer has found. He no longer, as in the first months of his conversion, is capable of comparing the two systems of belief together, since that which he has left appears to him no longer a coherent item at all. There are, of course, associations, memories, and emotions still left in his mind – some of them very sacred and dear to his heart; he still is happy in numbering among his friends many persons who still find amongst those associations and memories a system which they believe to be the religion instituted by Jesus Christ; yet he himself can no longer see in them anything more in hints and fragments and aspirations detached from their centre... Yet he is conscious of no bitterness at all – at the worst experiences sometimes a touch of impatience merely at the thought of having been delayed so long by shadows from the possession of divine substance. He cannot, however, with justice, compare the two systems at all; one cannot, adequately, compare a dream with a reality’.
from Confessions of a Convert, 1913
by Mgr Robert Hugh Benson, 1871-1914
Mgr Benson, the son of E.W. Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury,
was a priest of the Church of England, 1895-1903
‘It is useless for me to try to minimise the fact that for one in my position it would have been much easier in some ways to die that to have changed my allegiance. Change my Faith I could not, for Catholic in desire I have always been; what was given me [in Anglicanism] was a vitally different conception of the Divinely constituted authority of the Church… I had no choice, but to do what was obviously right.
[I]t is a personal spiritual experience, and I can only say that on February 18th , the whole position became clear to me; and I was profoundly convinced that the Divine authority and unity of the Catholic Church were to be found nowhere else but in union with the Holy See. In Bishop Gore’s own words, I was thrown back “upon the strictly Papal basis of authority,” and I realised with a clearness that will never leave me what the words Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam really meant’.
Abbot Aelred Carlyle OSB, 1874-1955
founder and Abbot of the Anglican Benedictines at Caldey, 1895-1912
received into the Catholic Church 1913 and Abbot of Caldey, 1912-1921
from The Benedictines of Caldey, 1940, by Peter F. Anson, 1889-1975
‘It is not for us, the glamour of the Seven Hills, and the confidence of membership, living and actual, in the Church of the Ages; we cannot set our feet upon the rock of Peter, but only watch the shadow of Peter passing by, and hope that it may fall on us and heal us. We shall bear the reproach of the Catholic name, without enjoying the full privileges of the Catholic heritage. And yet, even mow, we are not left without hope. Our needs have still a place in the compassionate heart of Mary, where she sits by her Father’s side; she has not forgotten her children, just because they have run away from their schoolmaster and unlearnt their lessons, and are trying to find their way home again, humbled and terrified in the darkness.
… And surely we dare not doubt that Jesus will be our Shepherd, till the time when he gathers his fold together; and that, although we do not live to see it, England will once again become the dowry of Mary, and the Church of England will once again be builded on the Rock she was hewn from, and find a place, although it be a place of penitence and tears, in the eternal purposes of God’.
From The Church in Bondage, 1914, by R.A. Knox (1888-1957)
(Mgr Knox was a priest of the Church of England 1912-1917; he was ordained a Catholic priest in 1918)
‘Why did Anglo-Catholics like me stay within the Church of England for so long? This is a question which puzzles some people. I speak for many when I say that we had a vision of eventual corporate reunion, of the reintegration of Anglicanism within the Western Catholic mainstream centred on Rome. Individual conversions would not promote this. Our task was to remain where we were, to emphasise, live out and defend our Catholic heritage within the Anglican tradition. We took seriously the provisional nature of the Anglican position; we had no creeds of our own, we were not a confessional Church of Lutheran or Calvinist or any other stance, we had no ministry of our own, but claimed to be in continuity with the threefold pattern of ministry of bishop, priest and deacon, established within the early centuries.
…The decision by General Synod in 1992 to proceed to ordain women as priests made a great many Anglicans, including myself, face the reality of our situation in a stark and uncompromising way. By this decision which was to lead to the first ordination of women as priests in 1994, three blows had been cast at those fundamental emphases that I had found in the Fathers – continuity, coherence and sacramentality.
… It was no wonder that questions about the identity of the Church of England and its claims came to the fore in many minds. Was the Church of England merely an uneasy amalgam of various, essentially incompatible, viewpoints which was now breaking up into its constituent parts? Those of us who had long felt the attraction of the Roman Catholic Church were forced to reflect more deeply about authority within the Church. Where does authority lie within the Church? Who speaks for the Church with an authoritative voice? What is the special role of St Peter’s successor, the Pope?
… I am not seeking a watertight, rigid system of belief or a mechanical guarantee of grace, as though it were a commodity. What I am striving for is wholeness of belief within a context in which there is no doubt as to what is a sacrament of the Church’.
Canon Kenneth Noakes
(Fr Noakes had been a priest in the Church of England for 25 years until 1994)
from The Path to Rome: Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church, 2010
‘When you are received into full communion with the Catholic Church you are brought into a new relationship to God, you are brought to be embraced by a wonderful worldwide communion of love, and this cannot be expressed in one single simple reason. As Newman said, “you cannot take it in a teacup.” Very often I find that people assume that there was only the one reason – possibly a negative one – which made you make the move, and if you gave another reason they say, “Ah, that was the reason why he really came.” Well, the whole thing is so much more profound and so much richer than they would suppose. And, of course, it’s really important to make the point that the fact that you could not continue in the ministry in one Church was no reason in itself for being embraced by another. So there had to be a positive reason for why one asked to be received into the Catholic Church.
… The decision of the Church of England to go over to synodical government… meant that decision was made for the Church itself to define doctrine… the Church itself was given authority over doctrine, and so that was a great problem.
… [As Bishop of London] I was appealing to the teaching of the Catholic Church, leaving out the papacy. I was looking for what the Catholic Church has taught through ages, but ignoring the pope. And one of the great changes [that] came to me was seeing the divine command to St Peter – the recognition by Our Lord that St Peter had made his confession of his divinity – and then recognising that Our Lord himself, when Peter had denied him, had forgiven him and gave him the command to feed the sheep. As Cardinal Ratzinger said most wonderfully this was, among other things, a sign that the centre of the Church’s life is forgiveness, and that the Lord used somebody who denied him, [was] pardoned, and forgiven, and this is a sign of the pastoral authority of the bishop. And for the first time in my life I came to see that, as a Catholic, I would owe my obedience on earth not to a trustee, not to a council, not to a committee, not to a commission, but to a person; the person of the pope as the successor of Peter, who had a personal responsibility for feeding all the sheep of the Catholic Church. It was this personal understanding of the papacy which came through so powerfully’.
Mgr Graham Leonard KCVO, 1921-2010
(Anglican Bishop of London, 1981-1991)
‘Anglicans do need to sit up and take seriously the “papal dimension”. We need to grow out of our habit of seeing the pope as the distinguished proprietor of a rival firm, and instead begin to realise the fact that there must be the focus and sign of Christian unity. There will be no unity without the pope. Are we prepared not just to accept this grudgingly, but to reconsider whether after all the papacy might be part of God’s gift of episcope to his church? The Anglican evangelical John de Satgé has done just that in his Peter and the Single Church (reviewed for St Mary’s [Bourne Street] by E.L. Mascall):
“The renewal of the Roman Catholic Church at the springs of its own integrity has passed the point where the historic Protestant reproach of betraying the gospel message loses all force. In an earlier book I suggested that when that happened, two questions demanded a positive answer before the heirs of the Reformation followed the obvious course of seeking full communion with Rome. Have the claims which Rome makes for herself come to look inherently likely? And if so, can you see them being fulfilled in the Roman obedience as it is now developing? To both questions I now return the answer Yes.”
And while no one would wish Anglicans to spend more time in navel-contemplation than they have over the last generation, a critical look at our own church as it exists today might help us appreciate our need to be grafted back into our parent stem’.
from an article in Tracts for Our Times 1833-1983, 1983
by Hugh Moore, Vicar of St Alphage, Burnt Oak, London
‘The Roman See and its occupant are only too often ignored altogether by Anglicans or else are dismissed with a few airy and superficial generalisations. Common gratitude alone seems to demand something more than this; for it was the missionary zeal of St Gregory the Great that send the Roman monk Augustine to Canterbury in AD 596 to bring the Gospel to the people of Kent, and for nearly a thousand years from that date the Church of England was in communion with Rome and used the Roman liturgy… Whatever may be our judgement about later developments, the fact remains that it was from Rome and its pontiff that the Church of England to which we belong derived its origin. In any case we might well ponder the following words of Dr Jalland from the Preface to his Bampton Lectures on The Church and the Papacy:
“To those to whom the ultimate demands of papal doctrine seem in the end unacceptable there must come inevitably a sense of tragedy that so many great gifts as those which the Roman see appears to have enjoyed did not in fact prove capable of better use in the interests of Christendom as a whole. It may be that a fuller recognition of its status in the history of our Faith there will grow a more generous acknowledgment of its appropriate place in the glorious reunited Christendom of the future.”’
from The Recovery of Unity: A Theological Approach, 1958
by E.L. Mascall, 1905-1993
‘The Gospel shows us that we follow a very old custom, when we start our guests with sherry, and then put them off with vile mixtures. It did not happen at the Cana wedding, because our Lord and God himself replenished the wine, and it is not his custom so to treat his guests; he keeps the best wine until last. It was in the end of his dealings with Israel that he brought them his life-giving blood, and it was in the end of his earthly days that he mounted the cross and poured it out. We drink it week by week at his altar, but it keeps its best savour until the last. If you are faithful, the love of God will be stronger in your veins next year than this. It takes no staleness from the passage of time and, says Jesus, I will drink it new with you in the Kingdom of God’.
from The Crown of the Year: Weekly Paragraphs on the Holy Sacrament, 1952
by Austin Farrer FBA, 1904-1968
‘I should like briefly to mention the feast of the Epiphany, celebrated on January 6, which is closely connected with Christmas. Let us leave on one side all the historical details and the many glorious patristic texts on the subject. Let us try to understand it very simply in the form that we have here in the West. It interprets the Incarnation of the Logos in terms of the ancient category of “epiphany”, that is, of the self-revelation of God, the God who manifests himself to his creatures. In this perspective the feast links together several different epiphanies: the adoration of the Magi as the beginning of the Church of the Gentiles, the procession of the nations to the God of Israel (cf. Is 60); the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, in which the voice from above publicly proclaims Jesus as the Son of God; and the wedding at Cana, where he reveals his glory. The narrative of the adoration of the Magi became important for Christian thought, because it shows the inner connection between the wisdom of the nations and the Word of promise in Scripture; because it shows how the language of the cosmos and the truth-seeking thought of man lead to Christ. The mysterious star could become the symbol for these connections and once again emphasise that the language of the cosmos and the language of the human heart trace their descent from the Word of the Father, who in Bethlehem came forth from the silence of God and assembled the fragments of our human knowledge into a complete whole’.
Pope Benedict XVI
I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord;
Not borne on morning wings
Of majesty; but I have set my feet
Amidst the delicate and bladed wheat
That springs triumphant in the furrowed sod--
There do I dwell, in weakness and in power;
Not broken or divided, said our God!
In your straight garden plot I come to flower;
About your porch my vine,
Meek, fruitful, doth entwine,
Waits, at the threshold, Love’s appointed hour.
I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord;
Yea, on the glancing wings
Of eager birds, the soft and pattering feet
Of furred and gentle beasts, I come to meet
Your hard and wayward heart. In brown bright eyes
That peep from out the brake, I stand confest.
On every nest
Where feathery Patience is content to brood
And leaves her pleasure for the high emprise
There does my Godhead rest.
I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord;
My starry wings I do forsake,
Love’s highway of humility to take;
Meekly I fit my stature to your need.
In beggar’s part
About your gates I shall not cease to plead
As man, to speak with man
Till by such art
I shall achieve my immemorial plan;
Pass the low lintel of the human heart.
Evelyn Underhill, 1875-1941
‘For we brothers who were able to know that man remember to tell with frequent instruction those whom after his death the blessing of heaven has gathered into the fellowship of our brotherhood, that so long as he was in physical health he used to lend every effort to work for the glory of the Holy Church of God and especially for the peace, the honour, and the tranquility of this monastery. Having crossed the sea so many times he never returned empty-handed or profitless, as is the habit of some, but once brought back a goodly store of holy books, then the venerable gift of blessed relics of Martyrs for Christ, then masons to build a church, then glaziers to decorate and also to secure its windows, then again he brought teachers for the singing and for ordering the service in the church for the whole year, next he carried with him a letter of privilege sent from the lord pope by which our freedom might be kept safe from any outside interference, then he brought pictures of holy stories which could be displayed not just to beautify the church but also to teach those who looked upon them, inasmuch as those who are not able to read might learn the works of Our Lord and Saviour through beholding the images themselves’.
from a homily on St Benedict Biscop by St Bede the Venerable, c.672/673-735
O God, by whose gift the blessed Abbot Benedict left all things that he might be made perfect: grant unto all those who have entered upon the path of evangelical perfection; that they may neither look back nor linger in the way; but hastening to thee without stumbling, may lay hold on life eternal; 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.
‘In the life of Christ the baptism in the Jordan is an event of highest importance because it represents a significant phase in the work of redemption. In the course of the ecclesiastical year not only this episode but all the phases of Christ’s redemptive work are commemorated in the liturgy. In recent weeks we have celebrated quite a number of important events pertaining to our redemption, viz., the annunciation (Missa aurea of Advent), the nativity, the circumcision, Christ’s coming-of-age. The baptism at the Jordan marks the beginning of our Lord’s public life. Indeed, it seems as if His baptism effected His anointing as the Messiah by the Holy Spirit. Whatever its ultimate significance, the Greek Fathers in particular regarded the event as tremendously importance.
In the symbolism of His baptism, Christ displayed beforehand His redemptive death and resurrection. Himself immaculate, He assumes the sins of the world, descends into the purifying waters, and raises mankind to divine sonship. Note that Christ’s baptism was vicarious in nature. There He stands in the Jordan in our stead. Consequently, the act must find its true expression in our subjective or personal redemption. Three such occasions would be baptism, holy Mass, and death.
At my baptism I was immersed with Christ, and with Him I died and was buried. Then I emerged, and for the first time heaven opened to me as the Holy Spirit made His entrance into my soul; and my Father in heaven glanced down upon me, now “His son, His child.”
In each holy Mass Christ’s baptism is again operative. Through the holy Sacrifice I am immersed in His sacrificial death; heaven then opens and the Holy Spirit descends in holy Communion, while through the pledge of the sacrificial Banquet the Father assures me of renewed and enriched sonship in Himself.
The baptism of Christ takes place within me a third time at death, for death is indeed a sort of baptism. Death is like immersion into the dark depths, and when I emerge, it is into heaven above. Then I will see the Blessed Trinity, no longer through the darkened sun-glass of faith, but in immediate vision, face to face.
To sum up, today’s liturgy helps me to understand more clearly the basic structure of spiritual life. Christ’s death is the foundation. Upon this foundation the edifice rises through baptism and the Eucharist; while the Lord’s return at death spells completion to the work’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1959, by Pius Parsch 1884-1954
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ did take our nature upon him, and was baptised for our sakes in the river Jordan: mercifully grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may also be partakers of thy Holy Spirit; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Baptism of the Lord, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Epiphany still continues; it is prolonged throughout the centuries. “We, too,” says St Leo (Sermo 35, In Epiphanie solemnitate 6), “are to taste the joys of the Magi, for the mystery which is accomplished upon this day is not to remain confined to it. Through the munificence of God and the power of His goodness, we in our day enjoy the reality whereof the Magi had the first fruits.”
The Epiphany is renewed, indeed, when God makes the light of the Gospel shine in the sight of the pagans; each time that the truth is realised by those living in error it is a ray of the Magi’s star that appears to them.
The Epiphany continues too in the faithful soul when her love becomes more fervent and steadfast. Fidelity to the inspirations of grace – it is Our Lord Himself Who tells us so, – becomes the source of a more ardent and brighter illumination: Qui diligit me... manifestabo ei me ipsum (Jn 14.21). Happy the soul that lives by faith and love! Christ Jesus manifests Himself ever more and more within her; He makes her enter into an ever deeper and closer comprehension of His mysteries.
Holy Scripture compares the life of the just man to a path which “as a shining light, goeth forwards and increaseth even to perfect day” (Prov 4.18), to that day whereon every veil will fall away, all shadows flee, when the eternal splendours of the divinity will appear in the light of glory. In the heavenly city, says St John, in his mysterious book of the Apocalypse where he describes the magnificence of the Jerusalem which is on high, there is no need of the sun, for the Lamb, that is to say Christ, is Himself the Light which enlightens and gladdens the souls of all the elect (Apoc 21.23; 22.5).
That will be the heavenly Epiphany’.
from Christ in His Mysteries by Blessed Columba Marmion (1858-1923)
‘Brother André became a saint because of his intimacy with God. He became a saint because he loved God and placed himself entirely at the Lord’s service. He also became a saint because he loved the men and women he met on the journey of life, especially the suffering. He prayed for them, and placed himself entirely at their service as well. Brother Andre was permeated by the “constant love” mentioned in the first letter of Peter. He also made his own these subsequent words of the epistle: “serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” And these gifts were many. Brother André was a very welcoming and compassionate man. For dozens of years he went to his office on the mountain and listened to those who came to confide in him their sufferings, their worries, their hopes, their little and great troubles, their distress, their cries and their hopelessness. He listened. He invited them to pray. He prayed himself. He encouraged them to have confidence in God, to commit themselves to Him. He confided in St Joseph the intentions he wanted to present to God. Once his prayers were answered he would say openly: “I’ve done nothing; it is St Joseph who wanted it. He’s the only landlord around here, and God wanted it as well.” Brother André belonged to the kind of saints who want to help the lowly, the poor, the most unfortunate, the most sick among the men and women who live on earth. Is it not through the intercession of these saints that God accomplishes the greatest of deeds?’
from a homily at a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Canonisation of St André Bessette, 2010
by Jean-Claude, Cardinal Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal
O Lord our God, who art friend of the lowly and who gavest to thy servant Saint André Bessette, a great devotion to Saint Joseph and a special commitment to the poor and afflicted: help us through his intercession to follow his example of prayer and love, and so come to share with him in thy glory; 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
‘Year by year the Head of our Nation still offers his gold and frankincense and myrrh at Westminster Abbey with the Wise Men on their Feast. We, who worship with them today, what about ours?
GOLD – our property. All that is within our power to detach and give away if we so desire. Yes, we give a very fair amount. How much do we miss it?... By what standards do we measure our giving? The Christ-Child lies there in the manger, his little hands stretched out to the world of men. In hard times older people sometimes go very short for the sake of the children. “Whatever happens the child must not suffer!” There is the Holy Child, and these are hard times, and He has great need… If you would worship with the Wise Men, will you as you kneel with them overhaul the question of your giving as you look at the Christ-Child, “Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven,” with His hands stretched out to you and to the other Wise Men for your gifts, and with the joy of seeing you there shining in His eyes?
FRANKINCENSE – the outward symbol of worship. Get the idea of worship right. It is an act of the will, placing yourself in your right relationship with God with reference to His worth and yours. Sometimes you make the act privately, sometimes all together. There is He, and there are you. And the incense goes up before Him as you are consumed for Him, and all that you have in you is offered to Him in sweetness. I have no doubt you do this privately. Do you do it together as often as might be?... [D]ay by day, if you will, you have the inestimable privilege of joining in that offering… The Holy Child will grow up, and He will offer Himself to the Father for the sins of men – the medicine that will save a ruined race. And to you day by day He gives the privilege of joining in that offering. How often do you use it? As you kneel with the other Wise Men today at the manger, will you open your casket of incense, and see whether it is anything like full?
MYRRH – the spices to embalm our bodies. Our mortal bodies, with all they know and do and suffer. And especially suffering, and its end, death. Do we offer our sufferings with His? Or do we just almost continually grumble? And have we ever sought suffering so as to be nearer Him, as kings and prelates in bygone days wore their hairshirts under all the pomp? As we kneel there with the other Wise Men, do we offer this gift which is within the reach of all? It may be mental suffering, or it may be acute bodily pain. The Christ-Child grew to bear them all – forsaken by those He loved, denied by one, betrayed by another – and the bodily pain, the whip falling on His Sacred Body, the nails, the crown of thorns. If we offer our myrrh we are indeed at one with the Holy Child.
…Gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. All three, if we would really be one with the Holy Child before Christmas passes this year again’.
from a sermon preached, 1939, by Dom Bernard Clements OSB, 1882-1942
(Vicar of All Saints, Margaret Street, London, 1934-1942)
O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy Only Begotten Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may be led onward through this earthly life, until we see the vision of thy heavenly glory; through the same 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.
Given, not lent,
And not withdrawn – once sent,
This Infant of mankind, this One,
Is still the little welcome Son.
New every year,
New-born and newly dear,
He comes with tidings and a song,
The ages long, the ages long;
Even as the cold
Keen winter grows not old,
As childhood is so fresh, foreseen,
And spring in the familiar green –
Sudden as sweet
Come the expected feet.
All joy is young, and new all art,
And He, too, whom we have seen by heart.
Alice Meynell, 1847-1922
Fr Lee Kenyon