Today marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, originally conceived in the 1920s as an octave of prayer for the reunion of Anglicans with the Holy See.
‘For the “Anglican Papalists”, the Anglican tradition began with the mission of Pope St Gregory the Great. Because of his apostolic care in sending St Augustine of Canterbury to do what he could not do himself, the English Church can only be understood in relation to its Roman mother, even though for some centuries this has meant hostility rather than intimacy. England was evangelized from Rome, and historically the unity of the Church in England and the patriarchal jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury were both dependent on the link with Rome and the Pope’s grant of the pallium, as a sign and symbol of the authority that comes from Peter. England as a nation arose from the unity of the English Church, which, whatever distinctive features it may have had, was dependent on the Church of Rome’.
from his foreward to ‘Look to the Rock: The Anglican Papalist Quest and the Catholic League’, 2019
by John Hind, Anglican Bishop of Chichester, 2001-2012
‘When he went into church he heard what the Lord said in the gospel, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow”. He could not wait any longer, but went out and gave away even what he had kept back to the poor. He left his sister in the care of some well-known, trustworthy virgins, putting her in a convent to be brought up, and he devoted himself to the ascetic life not far from his home, living in recollection and practising self-denial.
He laboured with his own hands, for he had heard that “If anyone will not work, let him not eat”. And of what he earned, part he spent on food, and part he gave to the poor.
He prayed frequently, for he had learned that one ought to pray in secret, and pray without ceasing. He was so careful in his reading of scripture that nothing escaped him, but he retained it all; so that afterwards his memory served him in place of books.
And so all the people of the village, and the good men with whom he associated saw what kind of man he was and they called him “The friend of God”. Some loved him as a son, and others as though he were a brother’.
From the ‘Life of St Anthony’ by St Anthanasius, 296-373
Most gracious God, who didst call thy servant Anthony to sell all that he had and to serve thee in the solitude of the desert: grant that we, through his intercession and following his example, may learn to deny ourselves and to love thee before all things; 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.
Jingle, jangle, star and spangle,
Over the wilderness wide,
Tall camels sway in the wilderness way
With their spacious, spongy stride.
And three grave kings with mystic things,
In search of the King Who is King of kings,
Three steadfast spectres ride.
Stars are shining, silver lining
Leaves of the palm trees grey -
If God should call, forsaking all,
Man must take the wilderness way;
And these must ride, nor ever abide,
On a road so long, through a world so wide,
To a Babe on a bed of hay.
‘Dearie, Dearie’, blessed Mary
Croons to her little Son.
And the three grave kings with their mystic things
Kneel low to Him, one by one;
And glad they are, though they came from far,
That they followed the light of the guiding Star
That led to Mary’s Son.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘How can we make a fitting recompense for so great a condescension? The one only-begotten God, born of God in an unutterable way, is enclosed in the shape of a tiny human embryo in the womb of the Virgin and grows in size. He who contains all things and in whom and through whom everything came into existence is brought forth according to the law of human birth; and he at whose voice archangels tremble, and the heavens, the earth and all the elements of the world dissolve is heard in the cries of a baby. He who is invisible and incomprehensible and is not to be judged by estimates of sight, sense and touch, is covered up in a cradle. If anyone considers these conditions unfitting for a God, he will have to admit that his indebtedness to such generosity is all the greater, the less they are suited to the majesty of God.
It was not necessary for him through whom man was made to become man, but it was necessary for us that God should be made flesh and dwell with us, that is to say, dwell within all flesh by assuming one fleshly body. His abasement is our glory. What he is, while appearing in the flesh, that we have in turn become: restored to God’.
St Hilary of Poitiers, c.315-367
Almighty, everlasting God, whose servant Hilary steadfastly confessed thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to be very God and very Man: grant that we may hold to this faith, and evermore magnify his holy Name; 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
‘This is the day which David sang of in the psalms: “All the nations you have made shall come and worship you, O Lord, and glorify your name”; and again, “The Lord has made his salvation known; in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice”.
This indeed we know to be taking place ever since the three Magi were called from their far-off land and were led by the star to recognise and worship the king of heaven and earth. And surely their worship of him exhorts us to imitation; that, as far as we can, we should be at the service of this grace which invites all men to Christ.
You ought to help one another, dearly-beloved, in this zeal, so that in the kingdom of God, which is reached by right faith and good works, you may shine as children of the light, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen’.
from Sermon 3 by Pope St Leo the Great, c.400-461
The red king
Came to a great water. He said,
Here the journey ends.
No keel or skipper on this shore.
The yellow king
Halted under a hill. He said,
Turn the camels round.
Beyond, ice summits only.
The black king
Knocked on a city gate. He said,
All roads stop here.
These are gravestones, no inn.
The three kings
Met under a dry star.
There, at midnight,
The star began its singing.
The three kings
Suffered salt, snow, skulls.
They suffered the silence
Before the first word.
George Mackay Brown, 1921-1996
‘Bro. André Bessette, a native of Quebec in Canada, and a religious of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, experienced suffering and poverty at a very early age. They led him to have recourse to God through prayer and an intense inner life. As porter of the College of Notre Dame in Montreal, he demonstrated boundless charity and strove to relieve the distress of those who came to confide in him. With very little education, he had nevertheless understood where the essential of his faith was situated. For him, believing meant submitting freely and through love to the divine will. Wholly inhabited by the mystery of Jesus, he lived the beatitude of pure of heart, that of personal rectitude. It is thanks to this simplicity that he enabled many people to see God. He had built the Oratory of St Joseph of Mount Royal, whose faithful custodian he remained until his death in 1937. He was the witness of innumerable cures and conversions. “Do not seek to have your trials removed", he said, “ask rather for the grace to bear them well”. For him, everything spoke of God and of God's presence. May we, in his footsteps, seek God with simplicity in order to discover him ever present in the heart of our life! May the example of Bro. André inspire Canadian Christian life!’
from the homily at the Canonisation Mass, 17 October 2010, of St André Bessette
by Pope Benedict XVI
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
Sidney Godolphin, 1610-1643
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
‘This name has all things in it, it brings all good things with it, it speaks more in five letters than we can do in five thousand words, speaks more in it than we can speak today, and yet we intend today to speak of nothing else; nothing but Jesus, nothing but Jesus.
The angel tells us that he was the Son of the Highest, and so intimates that his was a name of the highest majesty and glory. And what can we say upon it, less than burst out with the psalmist into a holy exclamation, “O Lord our governor, O Lord our Jesus, how excellent is thy name in all the world”. It is all “clothed with majesty and honour”, it comes riding to us “upon the wings of the wind”, when the Holy Spirit breathes it upon us, covering heaven and earth with the majesty of its glory.
…[T]his happy name. We have been saved by it, been saved in it, and one day shall be saved through it; Jesus runs through all with us. So then remember we to begin and end all in Jesus. The New Testament begins so, “the generation of Jesus”; and “Come Lord Jesus”, so it ends. May we all end so too, and when we are going hence, commend our spirits into his hands; and when he comes, may he receive them to sing praises and alleluias to his blessed name, amidst the saints and angels, in his glorious kingdom for ever. Amen’.
Mark Frank, 1613-1664
‘As thou takest thy seat at table, pray. As thou liftest the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver. When thou sustainest thy bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies thee with this gift, to make thy heart glad and to comfort thy infirmity. Has thy need for taking food passed away? Let not the thought of thy Benefactor pass away too. As thou art putting on thy tunic, thank the Giver of it. As thou wrappest thy cloak about thee, feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve our life, and to cover what is unseemly. Is the day done? Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life. Let night give the other occasion of prayer. When thou lookest up to heaven and gazest at the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the visible world; pray to God the Arch-artificer of the universe, Who in wisdom hath made them all. When thou seest all nature sunk in sleep, then again worship Him Who gives us even against our wills release from the continuous strain of toil, and by a short refreshment restores us once again to the vigour of our strength. Let not night herself be all, as it were, the special and peculiar property of sleep. Let not half thy life be useless through the senselessness of slumber. Divide the time of night between sleep and prayer. Nay, let thy slumbers be themselves experiences in piety; for it is only natural that our sleeping dreams should be for the most part echoes of the anxieties of the day. As have been our conduct and pursuits, so will inevitably be our dreams. Thus wilt thought pray without ceasing; if thought prayest not only in words, but unitest thyself to God through all the course of life and so thy life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer’.
St Basil the Great, 330-379
Almighty God, whose servants Basil and Gregory proclaimed the mystery of thy Word made flesh, that thy Church might be built up in wisdom and strength: grant that we, through their prayers, and rejoicing in the Lord’s presence among us, may with them be brought to to know the power of thine unending love; 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.
‘In the revised ordering of the Christian period it seems to us that the attention of all should be directed towards the restored Solemnity of Mary the holy Mother of God. This celebration, placed on 1 January in conformity with the ancient indication of the liturgy of the City of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in the mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the “holy Mother… through whom we have been found worthy to receive the Author of Life”. It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewing adoration of the new-born Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels, and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace’.
Pope St Paul VI, 1897-1978
O God, who by the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary hast bestowed upon mankind the reward of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the help of her intercession, through whom we have been counted worthy to receive the Author of our life, 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.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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