The above photo was taken at 6.50 am this morning, just before the first of our Advent Rorate Masses was offered at St John Henry’s. One lady commented afterwards that the Mass - her first experience - was both beautiful and peaceful; a fitting honour for Our Lady in this season of expectation.
‘Desire and reformation of life are human factors; God’s advent through grace is intrinsically divine. Here Mary is the sublime model. She desired the kingdom of God and based her life on the words “I am the handmaid of the Lord”. Then came the great moment when God made her His dwelling place. She hears the greeting, “Hail, full of grace...” With open heart she receives God; her soul becomes His kingdom in all its fulness. Again she knows of nothing to say but “I am the handmaid of the Lord”. This brought Christmas to her heart.
Her example must be our perpetual goal on earth. We must ever be ready and willing to receive the kingdom of God within ourselves as opportunities present themselves. Baptism was our first Christmas, and every Eucharistic Sacrifice is Christmas repeated. The feasts of the Church’s liturgical year are days of grace, days of the kingdom of God. Maintain a calm, reverent, and recollected attitude so as not to disturb God’s holy stirrings within you’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O God, who didst will that thy Word should take flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the message of an Angel: grant that we thy suppliants, who believe her to be in very deed the Mother of God, may be aided by her intercession with thee; 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. - Collect for the Mass of Saint Mary: Advent to Christmas, Divine Worship: The Missal.
God, in thee have I trusted,
Saint Nicholas, to thee I entrust my prayers,
Upon thee both I cast my care,
even upon thee I throw my soul.
This is what thou exact from me
Thee, by thy commands, thee, by thy counsels.
Receive him who throws himself upon thee both,
Hast him who is prostrate before thee.
Keep me when I sleep, help me in what ever I do,
Inspire me in whatever I think,
Thee, Lord, by thy grace,
Thee, Nicholas, by thy intercession
Thee for the merits of thy so loved confessor,
Thee according to the name of thee and my Creator,
who is blessed for evermore. Amen.
St Anselm of Canterbury, c.1033-1109
O God, who didst adorn thy blessed Bishop Saint Nicholas with power to work many and great miracles: grant, we beseech thee; that by his prayers and merits, we may be delivered from the fires of everlasting torment; 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.
‘This season, when the Church anticipates and prepares for the tolling out of the old and the ringing in of the new secular year, is surely a time for facing ultimate realities. The four words, death, judgement, hell, and heaven, stand for four great mysteries, about which we ought to arrive at a conclusion as well as we can. Death is a fact, and it is just as well to face facts.
What is death? When life is withdrawn from the material body, the material envelope in which it mysteriously swells, we say that that is death. But science teaches us very clearly that matter cannot be destroyed: it can only be redistributed. Even when anything is burnt, it is not destroyed but merely reduced to its ultimate elements. If matter cannot be destroyed, it would be unreasonable to think that spirit can be destroyed.
In our incarnate state in this life we have a material body which subserves the purpose of our self-expression here. We can trust God, Who has given to us a material body for this stage of our eternal life, to provide us with a spiritual body to subserve the purposes of our self-expression in that higher stage to which we believe that at death we pass.
Our holy religion, though it is pre-eminently a way of life, does face the fact of death. Its great central service is the remembrance and the showing forth of a death, and its chief symbol is the crucifix, which holds up to us death – death revealing love, and love revealing death as sacrifice and prayer. Our religion interprets for us the fact of life, and gives us the truest philosophy about the fact of death’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘Today the Church begins the fast of the Quattuor Tempora, or as we call it, of the Ember Days. As we have seen, this observance is not peculiar to the Advent Liturgy; it is one which has been fixed for each of the four seasons of the ecclesiastical year. The intentions which the Church has in the fast of the Ember Days are the same as those of the Synagogue - namely, to consecrate to God by penance the four seasons of the year. The Ember Days in Advent are known in ecclesiastical antiquity as the fast of the tenth month (the ancient meaning of ‘December’); and St Leo, in one of his sermons on this fast, of which the Church has inserted a passage into the Office of the Third Sunday of Advent, tells us that a special fast was fixed for this time of the year, because the fruits of the earth had then all been gathered in, and that it behooved Christians to testify their gratitude to God by a sacrifice of abstinence - thus rendering themselves more worthy to approach God, the more they were detached from the love of created things. “For fasting,” adds the Holy Doctor, “has ever been the nourishment of virtue. Abstinence is the source of chaste thoughts, of wise resolutions, and of salutary counsel. By voluntary mortifications, the flesh dies to its concupiscence, and the spirit is renewed in virtue. But since fasting alone is not sufficient whereby to secure the soul's salvation, let us add to it works of mercy towards the poor. Let us make that which we retrench from indulgence, serve unto the exercise of virtue. Let the abstinence of him that fasts, become the meal of the poor man”.
Let us, the children of the Church, practice what is in our power of these admonitions; and since the actual discipline of Advent is so very mild, let us be so much the more fervent in fulfilling the precept of the fast of the Ember days. By these few exercises which are now required of us, let us keep up within ourselves the zeal of our forefathers for this holy Season of Advent. We must never forget that although the interior preparation is what is absolutely essential for our profiting by the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, yet this preparation could scarcely be real unless it manifested itself by the exterior practices of religion and penance’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that the coming festival of our redemption may obtain for us the comfort of thy succour in this life, and in the life to come the reward of eternal felicity; 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 Ember Wednesday in Advent, Divine Worship: The Missal.
A few snaps of today’s Litany and Solemn Mass for Advent Sunday at St John Henry’s. A perfect liturgy to begin our preparations for the two comings of Christ to which we look forward in this holy season. A number of visitors - always welcome - and great fellowship afterwards.
‘Our journey sets out from God in our creation, and returns to God at the final judgement. As the bird rises from the earth to fly, and must some time return to the earth from which it rose; so God sends us forth to fly, and we must fall back into the hands of God at last. But God does not wait for the failure of our power and the expiry of our days to drop us back into his lap. He goes himself to meet us and everywhere confronts us. Where is the countenance which we must finally look in the eyes, and not be able to turn away our head? It smiles up at Mary from the cradle, it calls Peter from the nets, it looks on him with grief when he has denied his master. Our judge meets us at every step of our way, with forgiveness on his lips and succour in his hands. He offers us these things while there is yet time. Every day opportunity shortens, our scope for learning our Redeemer’s love is narrowed by twenty-four hours, and we come nearer to the end of our journey, when we shall fall into the hands of the living God, and touch the heart of the devouring fire’.
from The Crown of the Year, 1952, by Austin Farrer, 1904-1968
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead; we may rise to the life immortal; 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. - Collect for Advent Sunday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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