Friday, 23 December 2011

O Emmanuel

File:Mary16thC.jpgIcon of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the child Immanuel (16th cent. St. Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai).
The Latin antiphon is:
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
or in English:
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
It's based on one of the most familiar of the Advent/Christmas readings:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

God is with us which is a scary and comforting thought.  Scary because it means the Holy of Holies is among us, dwelling in an earthly tabernacle of frail flesh.  Comforting because it means that God utterly identifies with us - adopts us - and grants us the Kingdom as a gift.  Great, eh?

Thursday, 22 December 2011

O Rex Gentium

File:Hubert van Eyck 023.jpg 
Christ the King, a detail from the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck.

The Latin antiphon is:
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.
which is in English:
O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.
"For a child has been born for us, a son given us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

"He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." Isaiah 2:4

If you are going to acknowledge Christ as King of the Nations, then using a prayer from one of them may not be a bad thing.

"May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses. May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free. May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another. May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wildernesses - the children, the aged, the unprotected - be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood."  Buddhist prayer

I can reconcile this one with my faith as the "beneficent celestials" to me are "angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven" . As to "attaining Buddahood" - well, being perfected in Christ through his Incarnation, Death and Resurrection is achieving perfect fulfilment or Buddahood.  If Christ is the Cornerstone, then he draws all nations and faith to himself and perfects in due course all our errors and misunderstandings.  or Anonymous Christianity - the theological idea that declares that those who have never heard the Gospel might be saved.

You can find traces of this idea in the Vatican 2 document "Lumen Gentium", which states that those "who no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation". (LG para 15)

The German Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner's put it more forcefully: Non-Christians could have "in [their] basic orientation and fundamental decision, accepted the salvific grace of God, through Christ, although [they] may never have heard of the Christian revelation." 

 King of the nations, bring ALL your children into the fullness of life that is your will for us all.  Amen.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

O Oriens

"Gero crucifix“, late 10th century, Cologne Cathedral, Germany
 In Latin the antiphon is:
O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
or in English:
O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
(NB: A literal translation of the Latin is "O Rising Sun", but the poetic "O Morning Star" is often preferred.)

Isaiah had written:

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined." Isaiah 9:2

Light from the East.  The direction of the rising Sun, the reason why some of us still prefer to face east when celebrating the Eucharist .  That light which is coming - the Light of the World.File:Hunt Light of the World.jpg                        
This poem offers some food for reflection:
O Oriens Paradiso XXX; 61
First light and then first lines along the east
To touch and brush a sheen of light on water
As though behind the sky itself they traced
The shift and shimmer of another river
Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;
The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.
Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice
Are bathing in it now, away upstream…
So every trace of light begins a grace
In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling;
“Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream
For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking”

Malcolm Guite

May the light ignite in our hearts a new sense of being called to worship, serve and love.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

O Clavis David

Samuel anointing David
The antiphon for today is:
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
which is in English:
O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
It draws on:

"I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open." Isaiah 22:22

"His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore." Isaiah 9:7

"To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house." Isaiah 42:7.

Again the promise of liberation and freedom.   This paraphrase from (By A.C.A. Hall, Bishop of Vermont. A.R. Mowbray & Co., n.d. but c. 1914) gives food for reflection:

O Lord Jesu Christ, to Whom is given the throne and sceptre of David Thy father over the house of Israel,
that Thou mighest extend his kingdom over all peoples:
Thou didst come in our nature, as the Son of man forgiving sins, dispelling sickness and loosing bonds:
to Thee now is committed all authority in heaven and on earth,
and the powers of hell cannot withstand Thy word:
Come, we pray Thee, by Thy grace, 
and through the instrumentality of Thy Church,
to loosen the prisoner from the chains of sin,
to enlighten with the glad tidings of Thy word all who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
that they may rejoice in the deliverance which Thou hast wrought.

It elliptically touches on the "political" impact of the Incarnation. But today, inspired by the likes of Archbishops Desmond Tutu and Trevor Huddleston, we are more likely to be pointed in our Christian critique of political policies.  and rightly so.  Perhaps it's a day to pray that the shadow of the Stalinist prison house will begin to shorten in North Korea?

Sunday, 18 December 2011

O Radix Jesse

File:Master of James IV of Scotland getty Ms ludwig IX 18 f65 1510-20.jpg 

Tree of Jesse from the Master of James IV of Scotland, Flemish, Bruges and Ghent or Mechelen, 1510 - 1520. Tempera colours, gold, and ink on parchment 9 1/8 x 6 9/16 in. MS. LUDWIG IX 18, FOL. 65

The antiphon for today is:
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
or in English:
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
Isaiah had written: "A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." Isaiah 11:1 and "On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious." Isaiah 11:10

Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). 

Radical to think that it will be a poor Jewish boy from the butt end of the Roman Empire (Palestine was not a sought after posting) who the power brokers will belt up before and that he will be (as he is) the one to whom prayer is offered in one form or another in nearly every nation of the world.  Oh dear - maybe the bankers ain't gonna fare so well on the day of judgement?  Or the politicians?

O Adonai

The prophet Isaiah
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
Isaiah prophesied:

"but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins." Isaiah 11:4-5 

"For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us." Isaiah 33:22

I was interested to discover this little fact about the "O antiphons": "The Os themselves already contain an answer to the riddled petitions they embody. Written out together across a page in Latin, the initial consonants of the antiphons (Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia) form a reverse acrostic spelling Ero cras — I will be there tomorrow. And so they make for that generous and rare thing, a prayer to God that is its own answer from God." (from Anglicans Online" )  So redemption is promised for the future.  Of course, one of the classic criticisms of the Church is that it is very good at promising paradise tomorrow to those whose today is sheer hell on earth.  The Holy Orthodox promised heaven to the Tsarist peasants if they kept quiet and didn't upset the system topped by their "little Father" the Tsar.

That isn't the prophetic vision: the vision of the Isaiah school of prophecy is a vision of justice for the most vulnerable. (And yes I do go with modern Biblical criticism on the authorship of Isaiah -tradition may say the book was written by THE Isaiah himself, but modern scholars have for over 100 yrs divided the book into 3 parts: Proto-Isaiah (chs 1–39), containing the words of the 8th century BC prophet & 7th century  expansions; Deutero-Isaiah (chs 40–55), a 6th century BC work by an author who wrote towards the end of the Babylonian captivity; and Trito-Isaiah (chapters 56–66), probably written by a group of authors in Jerusalem shortly after the exile.)  Of course, later interpreters of the Scriptures may put a different spin on what seems like a plain, straightforward and obvious text.  Isaiah 7:14 for example, where the prophet assures the King that God will save the Kingdom of Judah from the invading armies of Israel and Syria and that the sign which will prove this is the forthcoming birth of a child called Emmanuel, "God With Us". The Hebrew grammar suggests that the "young woman" is already pregnant and therefore not a virgin. However, the Greek-speaking 1st century AD author of Matthew 1:23 interpreted it as a prophecy that the Messiah would be born of a virgin.  And the Church has been stuck with this ever since.  We all tend to spin the Scriptures to validate our own point of view.  And course, I'm right and you're wrong/theologically unsophisticated/thick (delete what doesn't apply).  Well, that's what we tend to do anyway.

The Christian hope is that the 2nd coming, the arrival of the Kingdom of God, will bring true justice, God's justice, for all.  The Porsche in the driveway of the splendour of your Basillica will be utterly unimportant in comparison to your walkly justly and acting fairly.  Come that day of splendour and terror (and I imagine we'll all be bl**dy scared when it comes, even if we do live in love and trust with God and try to stress the joy and freedom of being a Christian) it is what we have to to bring the Kingdom nearer that will matter rather than our Wonga generating facility.  Will we fare well or fail?  I hope and trust we will but we have to do something about it.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

O Sapientia

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
or in English:
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
This liturgical antiphon for today is based on words from Isaiah:

"The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord." Isaiah 11:2-3

"he is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom." Isaiah 28:29

It would be quite flattering to be regarded as a source of Wisdom I imagine, but the other day I was regarded by a number of folks at Waverly Station as a source of information.  They were all Chinese and kept on asking me if this was the train for London, despite the visible presence of a train person with a whistle on the platform.  I wondered if I projected some mysterious aura of great knowledge?  Rachel pointed out I was wearing my Russian black fur ushanka, complete with a red star with a hammer and sickle on it.  They probably thought I was People's Police and might be helpful!!! (An ushanka is literally  an "ear hat") - a Russian fur cap with ear flaps that can be tied up to the crown of the cap, or tied at the chin to protect the ears, jaw and lower chin from the cold. The word ushanka derives from ushi, "ears" in Russian.)

People can make assumptions about who they can find wisdom from.  A dog collar for spiritual wisdom, an ushanka for practical help.  Neither items of dress guarantee any wisdom in the wearer, even in the right context.  Wisdom comes from both knowledge of and being experienced in the tradition and practise of the area in which wisdom is sought. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever." (Ps 111:10).  Our wisdom comes from a source other than ourselves and it alone can teach us what the antiphon calls "prudence" which quells the devices and desires of our unruly hearts and draws us nearer to God.  and god who is Wisdom draws near to us as we prepare to celebrate the feast of the Incarnation.

This, if you are interested, is what an ushanka looks like:

It keeps the wise man's head very warm BTW!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

St Drostan's Day


A page from the Book of Deer which is a source for the life of St Drostan .

Drostan was a Scottish  (naturally!) abbot who ministered in the misty North about A.D. 600. All we know about him comes from Good (because he founded my alma mater Aberdeen University) Bishop Elphinstone's Aberdeen Breviary and the "Book of Deer", a ninth-century MSS. now in Cambridge University Library  (nicked from us by the Engerlish or their more-French-than-anything-else allies in the Scottish nobility during the Wars of Independence and gifted to Cantab by the Wee Wee German Lairdie aka George I) but the two accounts don't entirely agree. He had links to the royal family of the Scoti - who were Irish, not Scots! When he showed signs of a religious vocation he was handed over to St. Columba, who trained him and professed him as a monk. He went with Columba to Aberdour in Buchan (the real Aberdour is, of course in Fife!) some 45 miles from Aberdeen. The Pictish ruler of the area gave them the site of Deer, fourteen miles away where they established a monastery, and when Columba returned to Iona he left St. Drostan there as abbot of the new monastery. On the death of the Abbot of Holywood a few years later, Drostan was chosen to succeed him. Afterwards, feeling called to a life of greater seclusion, he resigned the abbacy, headed north, and became a hermit at Glenesk. Here his holiness attracted the poor and needy, and many miracles are ascribed to him, including the restoration of sight to a priest named Symon. After his death his relics were transferred to Aberdour and preserved there in a stone coffin.  The monastery of Old Deer, which had fallen into decay, was rebuilt for Cistercian monks in 1213 and continued until the Reformation.

Well, it's either remember him or celebrate the Emperor Nero's birthday so...
take yer pick!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Rejoice in the Lord Always!

I haven't posted for a bit simply because Rachel's been up & I've been posting stuff for Advent elsewhere (  However, Advent 3 is Gaudete Sunday, which takes its name from the Latin word Gaudete ("Rejoice"), the first word of the introit in the Mass Propers for Advent 3:

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.".

It's one of the two Sundays in the year when rose-coloured vestments may be worn instead of violet, (or Sarum blue if you're Very Percy Dearmer!).

Rejoicing and thanksgiving are vital parts of the life of faith: without them, life descends into an unremmitting grind of trying (and generally failing) to "do the right thing".  If Christians ain't joyful, then we are very unlikely to convince anyone that the our faith is life enhancing rather than life inhibiting.  And if we can't do that, we're failing in our commission to go out and preach the GOOD News!

Smile! It's Gaudete Sunday!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Charles de Foucauld


The last picture of Charles de Foucauld taken in 1914.

This Holy Failure was who we commemorated at Mass today.  He failed because he founded a religious community which attracted no members and had not converted a single Tuareg tribesman before he died.  He triumphed because his vision and spirituality inspired others years later to work for God in the desert, with the mentally ill and in the urban desert of the City.  he also had some fine phrases and thoughts.  Like this:

Prayer is just conversation with God: listening to him; speaking with him; gazing upon him in silence. The best prayer is the one in which there is the most love. Adoration, wordless admiration, that is the most eloquent form of prayer: that wordless admiration which contains the most passionate declaration of love. Charles de Foucauld.
Thanks be to God for Holy Failures.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Another Credo?


Icon depicting Emperor Constantine (centre) and the Fathers of the First Council of Nicaea (325) as holding the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed of 381

Another Credo?  The world and indeed the Church is full of them.  Every Tom, Dick and Harriet with an interest in liturgy and an agenda to run can hash one together and proclaim it thus.  A Feminist Creed, a Gay Creed a Socialist Creed etc, etc,etc..... I don't see any of them as replacements for the Ecumenical Creeds of the Undivided Church but to reflect on them every so often (or even to recite them in Church) can sharpen our understanding of the implications of the faith we profess.  Like this one - Dorothy Sollee's German Creed:

I believe in God
who didn’t create a world
full of things that are the same,
who doesn’t rule in accordance with eternal laws
which are unchangeable
nor under the natural order
of poor and rich,
experts and uninformed
rulers and those who depend on their mercy.

I believe in God
who supports the protests of the living
and the change of all conditions
through our work
and through our politics.

I believe in Jesus Christ who was right when he,
as an ‘individual who can’t change anything’
just like us worked for the change of all conditions
and who perished in so doing.
Compared with him I realise
how our intelligence cripples
and our fantasy stifles
our efforts are wasted
because we don’t live like he did.
Every day I am afraid
that He died in vain
because he is buried in our churches
because we have betrayed His revolution
in obedience and fear of authorities.

I believe in Jesus Christ
who rises from the dead in our life
so that we can become free
from prejudice and arrogance
from fear and hatred
and drive His revolution
towards his reign.

I believe in the Spirit
that came into this world with Jesus
to the community of all nations
and our responsibility for what
becomes of our world,
a valley full of lamentation, hunger and violence
or the city of God.

I believe in the just peace that can be created
in the possibility of a meaningful life
for all people in the future of this world of God.

In Advent we prepare for the return of the Prince of Peace. For the coming of the the Kingdom that is Justice and Peace. We pray, we hope. And hopefully we act.  We act justly. We attempt, at least in a small way, to re-order our own little bit of the kingdom in a more peaceful and just way.  We do our bit.  If nothing else, we put one more brick in the wall that reaches to Heaven.  And in that hopeful building, we show what we really believe.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Miraculous Medal

I hate following the trend so will ignore Advent Sunday this year! (in blogging at any rate!) 

On this day, Saint Catherine Labouré had a vision which led to that well known religious artefact, the Miraculous medal

On November 27, 1830, she had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary during her evening meditations. The Virgin appeared inside an oval frame, standing on a globe, wearing many rings of different colors, most of which shone rays of light over the globe. Around the margin of the frame appeared the words Ô Marie, conçue sans péché, priez pour nous qui avons recours à vous (O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee). As St Catherine watched, the frame seemed to rotate, showing a circle of twelve stars, a large letter M surmounted by a cross, and the stylized Sacred Heart of Jesus crowned with thorns and Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced with a sword. Asked why some of her rings did not shed light, Mary reportedly replied, "Those are the graces for which people forget to ask." Catherine then heard Mary ask her to take these images to her father confessor, telling him that they should be put on medallions, and saying "All who wear them will receive great graces."  Catherine did so, and after 2 years of investigation and observation of Catherine's normal daily behaviour, the priest took the information to the  archbishop without revealing Catherine's identity. The request was approved and medallions began to be produced. Those who wore the medal felt that they had received great blessings, and the medal came to be referred to as the "Miraculous Medal". They proved to be popular, and the medals spread worldwide.

The chapel in which Saint Catherine experienced her visions is located at the mother house of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. Her body lies in a glass coffin at the side altar of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, 140 Rue du Bac, Paris. The incorrupt bodies of Saint Catherine Labouré and Saint Louise de Marillac, a co-founder of the Daughters of Charity, are interred in the chapel, which continues to receive daily visits from Catholic pilgrims today.

File:Bac M Miraculeuse.Autel1.jpg

The chapel in Paris

Religious nick-nacks don't stir me much either way (but I happen to have a medal on a rosary somewhere) but the idea of the Mother of God continuing to pray for us as she did for the 1st disciples does.  A hymn puts it nicely:

Let us weave our supplications,
she with us and we with her,
for the advancement of the faithful,
for each faithful worshiper,
for the doubting, for the sinful,
for each heedless wanderer.
Hail Mary, hail Mary, hail Mary, full of grace.

May the Mother's intercessions
on our homes a blessing win,
that the children all be prospered,
strong and fair and pure within,
following our Lord's own footsteps,
firm in faith and free from sin.
Hail Mary, hail Mary, hail Mary, full of grace.

For the sick and the aged,
for our dear ones far away,
for the hearts that mourn in secret,
all who need our prayers today,
for the faithful gone before us,
may the holy Virgin pray.
Hail Mary, hail Mary, hail Mary, full of grace.

Praise, O Mary, praise the Father,
praise thy Savior and thy Son,
praise the everlasting Spirit,
who hath made thee ark and throne
o'er all creatures high exalted,
lowly praise the Three in One.
Hail Mary, hail Mary, hail Mary, full of grace.

Mother of God pray for us!

And it being the 1st Sunday of Advent, Alma Redemptoris Mater seems appropriate:

Loving Mother of our Savior, hear thou thy people's cry Star of the deep and Portal of the sky! Mother of Him who thee made from nothing made. Sinking we strive and call to thee for aid: Oh, by what joy which Gabriel brought to thee, Thou Virgin first and last, let us thy mercy see.

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary R. And she conceived by the Holy Ghost.
Let us pray.
Pour forth we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may, by His passion and cross, be brought to the glory of his Resurrection; through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

C S Lewis

Monochrome head-and-left-shoulder photo portrait of 50-year-old Lewis 

Today is the anniversary of the death of my favourite apologist, C S Lewis.  My only connections are dining at High Table in his old college, Magdalen Oxford and meeting his executor Walter Hooper in the Bird and Baby afterwards!  The 1st theological book I ever bought was "The Screwtape Letters", but my favourite is "The Great Divorce".  Wikipedia summaries it thus:

The narrator inexplicably finds himself in a grim and joyless city (the "grey town", which is either hell or purgatory depending on how long one stays there). He eventually finds a bus for those who desire an excursion to some other place (and which eventually turns out to be the foothills of heaven). He enters the bus and converses with his fellow passengers as they travel. When the bus reaches its destination, the passengers on the bus — including the narrator — are gradually revealed to be ghosts. Although the country is the most beautiful they have ever seen, every feature of the landscape (including streams of water and blades of grass) is unyieldingly solid compared to themselves: it causes them immense pain to walk on the grass, and even a single leaf is far too heavy for any to lift.

Shining figures, men and women whom they have known on earth, come to meet them, and to urge them to repent and enter heaven proper. They promise that as the ghosts travel onward and upward, they will become more solid and thus feel less and less discomfort. These figures, called "spirits" to distinguish them from the ghosts, offer to assist them in the journey toward the mountains and the sunrise.

Almost all of the ghosts choose to return instead to the grey town, giving various reasons and excuses. Much of the interest of the book lies in the recognition it awakens of the plausibility and familiarity, along with the thinness and self-deception, of the excuses that the ghosts refuse to abandon, even though to do so would bring them to "reality" and "joy forevermore."

 Brilliant!  Only a Brit would see purgatory as a suburb and a bus as the way out (which is far more likely than votive masses one suspects!)!  Laus Deo for Jack Lewis and all who inform and inspire our faith.

O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give you thanks for Clive Staples Lewis, whose sanctified imagination lights fires of faith in young and old alike; Surprise us also with your joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Keep smiling!

The British sense of humour!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A St Margaret's tide miscellany

.Guided Tours - Tour info and prices

File:Site of the shrine of St. Margaret, Dunfermline Abbey Fife.jpg 

File:St Margarets Chapel.JPG

It has to be said that I have a very soft spot for St Margaret of Scotland. She was born in 1046, a member of the (Anglo-Saxon) English Royal Family. She was educated in Hungary, where her family lived in exile during Danish rule in England. After the Norman invasion in 1066, when she was seen as a threat to the new monarchy, she was welcomed in the court of Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland and married him in 1069. Theirs was a happy marriage and Margaret proved to be both a civilising and a godly presence. She instituted many church reforms and founded many monasteries, churches and pilgrim hostels. She was a woman of prayer as well as good works who seemed to influence for good all with whom she came into contact. She died on this day in the year 1093.  I worshipped as a student at St Margaret's in the Gallowgate in Aberdeen and at the Convent then on the Spital dedicated to her.  I was also born in Dunfermline where she lived, so she is a favourite.  The top photo is a reconstruction of her shrine in the Abbot's House Museum in Dunfermline, the middle the site of her shrine at Dunfermline Abbey and the lower, the chapel she worshipped in at Edinburgh Castle.

God, the ruler of all,
who called your servant Margaret to an earthly throne
and gave her zeal for your Church and love for your people
that she might advance your heavenly kingdom:
mercifully grant that we who commemorate her example
may be fruitful in good works
and attain to the glorious crown of your saints;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A Ritualist thought.

It is superstition to put one's hope in formalities: but it is pride to be unwilling to submit to them.

True!  Mass, ritual, posture gesture and vesture cannot and do not bring salvation, hope and new life.  But they can be pathways or enablers to finding them.  It struck me the other day that all the surroundings of faith (including the Church visible and structured here on earth) contain just enough of the reality of the Divine to draw us into exploring and encountering more deeply Communion with the God who is the ultimate source of our existence and our truest and deepest happiness.  Of course, we have to cut through a serious amount of guff and garbage to meet it but that is what it's about - selling all you have to obtain the Pearl of Great Price.  The Church as we know it is not God (though it acts as if it is sometimes) but God is still in the Church with all its faults.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

11th November.


The Papal Archbasilica of St John Lateran  - of which the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, is ex officio the "first and only honorary canon" of the basilica, a title inherited from the Kings of France, who have held it since Henry IV.

Now I could go on about St Martin of Tours (who influenced Scotland's St Ninian) or Remembrance Day, but it is also the 296th anniversary of the 4th Lateran Council (12th Ecumenical and it was binding on the medieval church in Scotland). Amongst other things it passed the following Canons:

Canon 1: Transubstantiation rules OK. (Good-ish)

Canon 4: An exhortation to the Greeks to reunite with the Roman Church and accept its teaching, so that, according to the Gospel, there may be only one fold and only one shepherd. (Not welcome at Constantinople I'm sure.)

Canon 5: Proclaimed the Papal primacy. After the Pope, primacy is attributed to the patriarchs in the following order: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem. (But not Canterbury - sorry ++Rowan!)

Canon 6: Provincial councils must be held annually for the reform of morals, especially those of the clergy. (So That's what General Synod's really for!)

Canon 13 forbids the establishment of new religious orders, lest too great diversity bring confusion into the Church. ( Franciscans founded 1209, Dominicans 1216 so it was pretty much ignored soon after!)

Canons 14-17: Against the irregularities of the clergy — e.g., incontinence, drunkenness, attendance at farces and histrionic exhibitions (so we can avoid General Synod?).

Canon 21, the famous "Omnis utriusque sexus", which commands every Christian who has reached the years of discretion to confess all his, or her, sins at least once a year to his, or her, own (i.e. parish) priest. This canon did no more than confirm earlier legislation and custom, and has been often but wrongly, quoted as commanding for the first time the use of sacramental confession. (Anti-mendicant order really!)

Canons 78 & 79: Jews and Moslems shall wear a special dress to enable them to be distinguished from Christians. Christian princes must take measures to prevent blasphemies against Jesus Christ. (Oh well, every Ecclesiastical gathering makes horrible mistakes I suppose - but ain't it funny/ironic that nowadays it's the Right (Theological) wing of both Judaism and Islam who want the right to dress distinctively, rather than see it as a form of persecution or discrimination which it originally was?)

Ah, the joys of Church History!

Monday, 7 November 2011

St Willibrord

We are in Communion with the Continental Old Catholics, so a commemoration of St Willbrord seems apt today.


"O Lord our God, you call whom you will and send them where you choose: We thank you for sending your servant Willibrord to be an apostle to the Low Countries, to turn them from the worship of idols to serve you, the living God; and we entreat you to preserve us from the temptation to exchange the perfect freedom of your service for servitude to false gods and to idols of our own devising; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. "

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A November Sunday.

I liked this picture, so decided to post it for no better reason that it made me chuckle: (gaun yirsel, Mr Spock!)

funny pictures - Vulkan Kitteh finks it ilojikal

Today has been quite chilled.  I sub-deaconed High Mass, then decided to be less couch vegetable than normal.  Instead of sitting in front of a computer, I went out, grabbed a Spicy Italian from Subway (a sarnie rather than Bruno Tognoli! Ooer Missus!!) and caught a bus to Blackford Hill, where I enjoyed some superb views of Edinburgh and Fife.  Home and a nice cuppa of Whittard's excellent 1886 Blend and then a splendid dinner of chicken casserole followed by Bread and Butter pudding.  A fine autumn Sunday indeed!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

How to view the world.

The Vatican map of Europe.

This particular funny made me chuckle: perhaps the Vatican diplomatic corps need to see it?  Mind you,  describing the Irish Free State as "Our Britain" is pretty inaccurate now that the Paddies are withdrawing their Embassy:

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Moved to unusual actions.

Forgive us, Lord Christ,
When the Church fails to be your Body on earth.
Forgive its inward-looking,
its temptation to respectability;
its silence towards the rich,
its neglect towards the poor.
Give us grace to seek first your Kingdom and its justice,
and unite all Christians in the struggle;
that, in the unity of the Faith and with one heart,
we may seek to overcome the world
and establish that Kingdom on earth;
to the glory of your Name,
who with the Source and Spirit are one God,
forever and ever. Amen. 

From "Catholic Socialist Devotions"

The St Paul's Cathedral debacle has moved me to such uncharacteristic activities as buying the Guardian (best coverage - honest!). This prayer (a slight modernisation of a Catholic Crusade prayer) seemed apposite at this time.

The Catholic Crusade ("Catholic Crusade of the Servants of the Precious Blood") aimed, among other things:
To create the demand for the Catholic Faith, the whole Catholic Faith, and nothing but the Catholic Faith. To encourage the rising of the people in the might of the Risen Christ and the Saints, mingling Heaven and earth that we may shatter this greedy world to bits.
Hmm! It makes that reluctant fan of capitalism the former Canon Chancellor of St Paul's "loke a bit weedy" as my esteemed colleague Canon Molesworth might say!   It's founder Conrad Noel wrote a marvellous Credo.

From the Epilogue to Conrad Noel's Jesus the heretic (London, Religious Book Club, 1940)

We believe in God the Father, Who has made us and all the world: In God the Son, Who has redeemed us and all mankind: In God the Holy Ghost Who inspires us and all the chosen army of God.
Thaxted ChurchWe believe that the source of our life is the Triune God, the Comm-Unity, and that the substance of life is Community, namely, that men, by the grace of God, should of their own initiative come into that freely chosen Fellowship of God's Kingdom which is their home. We must, therefore, give ourselves as workers together with Him for the re-creating of a world in which there shall be an interplay of initiative and co-operation.

We believe that God is terrible in goodness and not in tyranny: Maker of all things visible and invisible: Maker of men: Of the sense of wonder and worship: Of the sense of sight which delights in form and colour, in flowers, pictures, sunrises and gay fabrics: Of the sense of hearing which exults in poetry and music: Of the sense of justice and truth which drives men to rebellion against the tyrants who rob men's lives of vigour, leisure, and nourishment: Of the sense of goodness which will re-create the world: God, Maker and Upholder of men's spirits, minds, and bodies.

We believe that God is manifest in splendid men and women, and incarnate in Jesus, the Christ, His only Son, Our Lord, wholly God and wholly Man, conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of man, who rejoices that her Son is casting down the mighty from their thrones and exalting them of low degree; the Woman clothed with the Sun, with the world at her feet and the serpent under them.

We believe that Christ's Incarnation and wondrous Life, devoted to the liberation of the oppressed and the Commonwealth of God, was met by the malice of the mighty masters of the world who dragged Him down to His Passion and Death on the Cross; but that, despising its shame, in triumph he passed through the realms of the dead to a mighty Resurrection, no mere bodiless ghost but with spirit, soul, and body transformed.

We believe that His Glorious Ascension to the very heart of the Godhead fills all things with His Presence, and creates out of the old and tired human race a new race.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, coming upon the little band in the upper room, raising them from despair and death to newness of life, and filling them with courage and gladness, making them of one heart and mind to share all things in common and to scatter the good news among the crowds in the Holy City and to the furthest ends of the earth.

We believe, then, in this Catholic Church, a visible Army to be the first-fruits of His Kingdom and to battle for its achievement among men: the very Body of Christ to redeem mankind from the inward tyrannies of sin and the outward tyrannies of cruel systems and cruel men.

We believe that evil conditions are the outward and visible sign on the inward and spiritual rascality on the part of the few, and inward and spiritual apathy on the part of the many, but that once they have been created they react for evil upon the minds of rich and poor, and they must be swept away by an immense awakening in the soul of the nations . . .

We believe that those who by the Power of Christ have overcome sin will one day rise with glorious bodies to enjoy and help in the ordering of the Good Life to come, the overmastering Life of the Golden Age. 

We believe that we are pledged to establish it now and are destined to enjoy it hereafter. 

My kinda Creed!  Bet they won't sing this at St Paul's on Sunday!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Theological dissonance.

There is a thundering theological dissonance between this (the "Libera me"  - the version of which from Faure's Requiem was sung beautifully by the choir last night at the All Souls Mass at St Michael and All Saint's Edinburgh) :

Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna, in die illa tremenda: 
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra. 
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem. 
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo, dum discussio venerit, atque ventura ira. 
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra. 
Dies illa, dies iræ, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde. 
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem. 
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
I am made to tremble, and I fear, till the judgment be upon us, and the coming wrath,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved.
That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.

and this (the Post Communion collect for All Souls Day from Exciting Holiness used at the same service) :

God of love,
may the death and resurrection of Christ
which we have celebrated in this Eucharist
bring us, with all the faithful departed,
into the peace of your eternal home.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ,
our rock and our salvation,
to whom be glory for time and for eternity.

On the one hand, a God who shall judge the world by fire, who make us tremble and fear The Wrath of God.  On the other,  a God of Love who draws us through the death and resurrection of the only begotten Son into the peace of our eternal home.  The two ideas have their own validity (though I have to say I prefer the modern theology but adore the Faure music - my own inner theological dissonance.) but they simply don't sit comfortably side by side in the same liturgy.  One of the challenges facing any practising liturgist is how to mesh the best of tradition with the best of the new.  And sometimes you just have to admit that the mesh is not actually possible.  There's many a Remembrance Sunday that simply never uses "I vow to thee my Country" because the sentiment nicely wrapped in Holst is utterly foreign to modern culture and sensibility.  It all works fine if you treat the music simply as a mood setter and ignore its theology, cloaked in luscious notes and hidden in generally incomprehensible Latin (just don't print the English translation in the order of service).  If you think that the meaning of what we sing with our lips is just as important as what we say aloud, then there is a problem.  Then you have to choose - Ancient or Modern?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

For All the Saints


This Sunday in sunny Edinburgh, we are keeping the Feast of All Saints (one of our 2 dedication fesitivals) rather than the Umpteenth Sunday after Trinity. Traditionally, this is kept on November 1, followed by All Souls' Day on November 2
The festival of All Saints really began in the West on May 13, 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome (a wonderful pagan temple and a quite pleasant Church) to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated in Rome ever since. There is evidence that from the fifth until the seventh centuries in certain places there were sporadic celebrations on 13 May to remember the holy martyrs. However, some maintain that it has to do with the pagan observation on 13 May of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of All Saints on the shared date and theme of "all the dead".

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III of an oratory in St. Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world", with the day moved to 1 November and the 13 May feast suppressed.  This usually fell near the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which had a theme similar to  Lemuria, but with overtones of a harvest festival. The Irish, having celebrated Samhain in the past, did not celebrate All Hallows Day in November, as historical documents suggest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring: the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches in Ireland celebrated the feast of All Saints on April 20.  Typical of the Irish to do their own thing!

The November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1 by the time of Charlemagne. It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued "at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops", which confirmed its celebration on November 1. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484).
The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Anglican Church and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it acts as a general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the Saturday between October 31 and November 6. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. 

Protestants generally regard all true believers as saints and, if they observe All Saints Day at al,l they use it to remember all Christians both past and present. In the United Methodist Church, All Saints' Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November. It is held, not only to remember Saints, but also to remember all those that have died that were members of the local congregation.  In many Lutheran churches, All Saints' Day and Reformation Day are observed together on the Sunday before or after those dates, given that Reformation Day is observed in Protestant Churches on October 31. Typically, Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" is sung during the service. The observance of Reformation Day may be immediately followed by a reading out of the names of those members of the local congregation who have died in the past year in observance of All Saints' Day.  In English-speaking countries, the festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn "For All the Saints" by William Walsham How. The most familiar tune for this hymn is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The Eastern Orthodox follow the earlier tradition of commemorating all saints collectively on the first Sunday after Pentecost.  The feast of All Saints achieved great prominence in the ninth century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo VI "the Wise" (886–911). His wife, Empress Theophano—commemorated on December 16—lived a devout life. After her death in 893, her husband built a church, intending to dedicate it to her. When he was forbidden to do so, he decided to dedicate it to "All Saints," so that if his wife were in fact one of the righteous, she would also be honored whenever the feast was celebrated. According to tradition, it was Leo who expanded the feast from a commemoration of All Martyrs to a general commemoration of All Saints, whether martyrs or not.

"Almighty God,
you have knit together your elect
in one communion and fellowship
   in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
grant us grace so to follow your blessèd saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen"

St Paul's and all that.

Now here's a thought:

Play with it.  Reflect on it in regard to the recent shenanigans around St Paul's Cathedral in London.  The establishment of the Church closing the over-priced museum (sorry, I mean Cathedral) for longer than the Luftwaffe ever managed to do.  The media loving Canon who first issued a welcome (albeit, the normal and insipid one that any parish priest uses to any weirdly dressed placard bearer who stops outside St Whatsits to demonstrate against the evils of haddock farming in the Utter Hebrides - "Of course you're welcome in this church" (even if you do look like Tarzan, smell like Cheetah and walk like Jane - hey we're Anglicans!) ) resigns because he can't reconcile himself to the collective responsibility for legal action that may lead to Inspector Knacker of the Yard clearing the protesters off the premises with riot gear on.  It is to quote George Carey (a rare occurrence for me) a "debacle".  I very much doubt that Jesus thinks much of any of the participants.  The Chapter have behaved stupidly in siding with the City authorities.  Giles Fraser has as usual indulged in "lovable maverick" grandstanding.  And all of course in the name of Christ.  With full media hoopla.

Says it all really.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Fresh Expressions of Church

I know they all go on about "Fresh Expressions of Church these days but my personal preference is for...

...stale expressions (obviously)!  Happy SS Simon & Jude btw!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Myers Briggs and Prayer.

This is for all of us who ever had to be cod-analysed by Myers-Bloody-Briggs fans during our training or selection.

At least we now have some idea of what to pray!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Yorkshire Saints and Nachos!

File:St John Thwing Window (NigelCoates) Aug 2007.jpg

The obscure saint for today is St John of Bridlington (see ) depicted above in the Parish Church of All Saints Thwing (his hometown).  If you know anyone having a difficult labour (no, not Ed Milliband!) he's your designated intercessor.  It's also The International Day of the Nacho. It began in the 1990s in the United States and Mexico to celebrate the invention of nachos by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya in 1943 in Piedras Negras, Coahuila.  So that'll be a very traditional Mexican dish then?  To be fair, it was aimed at tourists.

Piedras Negras is just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. One day in 1943, the wives of ten to twelve U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan in nearby Eagle Pass were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip, and arrived at the restaurant after it had closed for the day. The maître d', Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, invented a new snack for them with what little he had available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese. Anaya cut the tortillas into triangles, added longhorn cheddar cheese, quickly heated them, and added sliced jalapeño peppers. He served the dish, calling it Nachos especiale - "Special Nachos".

Anaya went on to work at the Moderno Restaurant in Piedras Negras, which still uses the original recipe. He also opened his own restaurant, "Nacho's Restaurant", in Piedras Negras. Anaya's original recipe was printed in the 1954 St. Anne's Cookbook.The popularity of the dish grew throughout Texas. The first known appearance of the word "nachos" in English dates to 1949, from the book A Taste of Texas.  

Never minds nachos - after quiche for tea I want some real food before bedtime.  Ho to the Chinese!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Of Arians and hernias!

How about a little Arianism?  This fine fellow is St Artemius of Antioch, martyr and patron saint of hernias whose festivals is today.  Funny how piety can drive people to acts of immense courage even if it is misguided.  That said, although during the reign of the Emperor Julian the Apostate Artemius was a fanatical Arian, hunting and persecuting monks, nuns and bishops (including Saint Athanasius), prayer and the horror of the persecutions, converted him to Orthodox Christianity. He became a strong supporter of the faith, and turned on pagans, including the Emperor Julian. He was accused by pagans of destroying idols, arrested, taken to Antioch, tortured and martyred.  Just goes to show that there is always hope for even the most aggressively inclined of us.  The enemy of Christ become the martyr willing to die.  Even Qaddafi?  Possibly - who knows?  Well, God obviously.  Judgement, grace and mercy are entirely God's prerogatives and it is not for us to prescribe the boundaries of God's love.  Do that and we might easily put ourselves beyond it's reach.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The first Pope in Scotland.


Never mind St Luke or much piety, tomorrow is the birthday of the 1st Pope to visit Scotland - Pius II aka Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini. In 1435 he was sent by Cardinal Albergati  on a secret mission to Scotland. The journey to Scotland proved so traumatic he swore that he would walk barefoot to the nearest shrine of Our Lady from their landing port. This proved to be Dunbar (where I will be today), and the nearest shrine was 10 miles away at Whitekirk (I'll drive through it en route to lunch at North Berwick). The journey through the ice and snow left Aeneas afflicted with pain in his legs for the rest of his life. In Scotland he had his second natural child, the other one having been born in Strasburg.  A rather lively lad, but actually a fairly competent medieval Pope.  It's also Martina Navratilova's birthday and the anniversary of the composer Gounod's death (he wrote some nice stuff  including his famous Ave Maria - including the National Anthem for the Vatican City!).  Bless 'em all for giving some fun to the world in various ways.  one as author, one through sport and one through music.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Teresa of Avila

My favourite woman saint is the wonderful Carmelite, Teresa of Avila.  Bernini's sculpture is a wonderful picture but is even more stunning in reality when you see it in the  side chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria.  The French portrait of 1827 is magnificently romantic, but the one with the dove is probably the most life like, being a copy of a painting of the Madre made when she was 61.  Much could be said about her but I love this little poem of hers and will let her words give a taste of the strength, wisdom and humour of the lady herself.  Enjoy her!


Just these two words He spoke
changed my life,
"Enjoy Me."

What a burden I thought I was to carry -
a crucifix, as did He.

Love once said to me, "I know a song,
would you like to hear it?"

And laughter came from every brick in the street
and from every pore
in the sky.

After a night of prayer, He
changed my life when
He sang,
 "Enjoy Me." 
St Teresa of Avila

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Our Lady again.

Icon of the Mother of God of Yakhrom
Just to show that I am positively and universally Catholic in my Marian devotion (and October is traditionally the month of the Rosary), here's something from Holy Russia for 14 October.

The Yakhrom Icon of the Mother of God appeared to a holy youth Cosmas, while he was accompanying his master, a sick landowner. They had stopped on the bank of the Yakhrom River, not far from Vladimir, and the sick man fell asleep. Cosmas suddenly saw a bright light coming from a nearby tree, and heard a voice, "Attend and understand the words of life. Live a God-pleasing life and seek the joy of the righteous, and then you will delight in eternal blessings." The light had come from an icon of the BVM.

Cosmas took the icon and placed it on his master, who was immediately healed. After this, when Cosmas's term of service expired, he went to the Kiev Caves monastery. After he was tonsured, he amazed even the experienced monks by his spiritual efforts.

Years later, St Cosmas was told by an angel to return to the place where he had found the icon. He took the wonderworking icon with him to the bank of the Yakhrom River where he had found the icon. At once, the place was again filled with light. St Cosmas built a monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God, and placed the Yakhrom Icon within it.

 Here's an icon of St Cosmas in the sake of balance

Our Lady of Fatima

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. All very apocalyptic was the message - but hey, it was 1917 and it must have looked like the end of the world was very near with WWI in full swing and the Bolsheviks arising in Petrograd.  The Angel Prayer is a good 'un: 

O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.

Whatever one might think of the dancing Sun or the "secrets", intercession for the salvation of the world by the most Holy Trinity can't really be faulted theologically by anyone.  So, it might be a prayer you feel you could make.  "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray WITH us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

Gay marriage in Scotland

I've made no comment on the current media stramash on the Scottish Guvinment's consultation on Same Sex Marriage up till now, but it's been interesting watching the apparently unlikely alliance of the Roman Catholic and Free Churches ("Nae chance" approach) and also the reaction to the sharp critique offered by the Provost of St Mary's Cathedral Glasgow ("You lot embarrass the Christian community")  The Primus of the SEC has given what I regard as a nicely judged contribution in today's Hootsmon snoozepaper:

I acknowledge the absolute right and freedom of those opposed to the idea to let the appropriate authorities know what they think.  It's called democracy.  If they expect it to be uncritically adopted, then they are seeking a theocracy, which I never liked since studying Politics and the Continental Reformation at Uni.  Zwingli and Calvin didn't run City States with a good record for tolerating theological diversity and their heirs would be as assuredly bad at it as they were.  The Holy Camping Stove of St Andrews is quite right.  Freedom to bless and affirm, with a conscience clause allowing those faith groups who conscientiously disagree to not participate, strikes as an entirely reasonable, mature approach.  Welcome to the modern world, O Church leaders who hanker after an age when you were kow-towed to.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Symeon the New Theologian


I don't like St Wilfrid much, so I'll ignore him today and go for a different saint.  Hey, it's my blog, not the SEC's:-).  According to the Greek Orthodox Calendar, today is the Feast day of St Symeon the New Theologian.  Symeon wasn't a massive fan of the Episcopate as he encountered it.  I mean he wrote;

They (the bishops) unworthily handle My Body
and seek avidly to dominate the masses...
They are seen to appear as brilliant and pure,
but their souls are worse than mud and dirt,
worse even than any kind of deadly poison,
these evil and perverse men! (Hymn 58)

He was also a strong believer in direct personal experience of God as a prerequisite for teaching or leading and was rather inclined to disregard ordination as a requirement for hearing confessions and absolving the penitent. He was in some ways the Patron Saint of the Charismatic Movement.

In his Discourse XXVIII Symeon wrote about the light of Christ and its power to transform:
It shines on us without evening, without change, without alteration, without form. It speaks, works, lives, gives life, and changes into light those whom it illuminates. We bear witness that "God is light," and those to whom it has been granted to see Him have all beheld Him as light. Those who have seen Him have received Him as light, because the light of His glory goes before Him, and it is impossible for Him to appear without light. Those who have not seen His light have not seen Him, for He is the light, and those who have not received the light have not yet received grace. Those who have received grace have received the light of God and have received God, even as Christ Himself, who is the Light, has said, "I will live in them and move among them." (2 Cor. 6:16).

May the light of Christ transform us into that same light to change the world into the image of his glory.