Thursday, 26 April 2012

Our Lady of Good Counsel.

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 Image of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Genazzano, Italy.

"O Holy Virgin, to whose feet we are led by our anxious uncertainty in our search for and attainment of what is true and good, invoking you by the sweet title of Mother of Good Counsel, we beseech you to come to our assistance, when, along the road of this life, the darkness of error and of evil conspires towards our ruin by leading our minds and our hearts astray. 

O Seat of Wisdom and Star of the Sea, enlighten the doubtful and the erring, that they be not seduced by the false appearances of good; render them steadfast in the face of the hostile and corrupting influences of passion and of sin. 

O Mother of Good Counsel, obtain for us from your Divine Son a great love of virtue, and, in the hour of uncertainty and trial, the strength to embrace the way that leads to our salvation. If your hand sustains us, we shall walk unmolested along the path indicated to us by the life and words of Jesus, our Redeemer; and having followed freely and securely, even in the midst of this world's strife, the Sun of Truth and Justice under your maternal Star, we shall come to the enjoyment of full and eternal peace with you in the haven of salvation. Amen."

Prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel composed by Pope Pius XII 

This is a particularly Augustinian remembrance of the BVM. The the veneration of the Blessed Virgin under the title of "Mother of Good Counsel", springs from the fact that there is a miraculous picture in the Augustinian church at Genazzano near Rome. Which doubtless appeals to the current Pope, who is deeply Augustinian in his theology, and to us Anglicans - whom the late Martin Thornton in his "English Spirituality" noted were essentially Augustinian (Jesuit and Franciscan spirituality never really entered our marrow in the same way allegedly).  It is the appeal for divine wisdom in an uncertain age that strikes me in the prayer of the Pope who had to lead a Church through the horrors of Fascism.  A prayer for today really.  and perhaps especially for world leaders.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Who's who on St George's Day?

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 The First Doctor

Never mind St George's Day - who else passed into glory on this day?  Well, the 1st Dr Who for a start.

The Fighting Tremaire J M W Turner

Also the artist JMW Turner was born today.  I'm inclined to skip nationalist sentiment and be slightly secular.  Happy St George's Day to England, Georgia and Russia!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Holy martyrs.

The St Cuthbert Gospels

OK, oddball Celtic saint time!

Saint Donnán of Eigg (died 17 April 617) was a priest, probably Irish, who tried to introduce Christianity to the Picts of north-western Scotland during the Dark Ages. he is the patron saint of Eigg, an island in the Inner Hebrides. He was martyred on the 17 of April, 617 on Eigg by a pagan Pictish Queen who burnt him and 150 others. He is thought to be buried at Kildonan, Isle of Arran. 

We know nothing else about him.  Actually much the same can be said for many early saints.  But it is worth keeping their name and fame alive, if only to remind us that some people still suffer and die for their faith.  Too often we see the Church only as declining, comfortable and irrelevant.  Actually, it is still a church of martyrs and we need to support all Christians in danger with our prayers.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

St Damien the Leper

St Damien as depicted on the reredos in the AIDS memorial chapel in the Episcopal Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood, California.

A saint who has always impressed me is St Damien of Molokai in Hawaii.  I saw a film about him when I was quite young and it stuck in my mind.  he was probably one of the 1st God People I ever heard of (the other being Mary Slessor of Calabar courtesy of a battered paperback in my grandparents house entitled "White Queen of the Cannibals" - not a very PC title but it again grabbed my childish attention!).

File:Father Damien on his funeral bier with Mother Marianne Cope by his side.jpg 

Damien gave his life heroically ministering to the ultimate outcasts of his day - the lepers.  he died of the disease himself at the age of 49 on April 15 1889.  He was canonised 3 years ago.  It seems fitting to recall him and his example today. To quote president Obama:  "In our own time, as millions around the world suffer from disease, especially the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, we should draw on the example of Father Damien’s resolve in answering the urgent call to heal and care for the sick.".  and of course the current Pope: Father Damian, "teaches us to choose the good fight - not those that lead to division, but those that gather us together in unity." 

Blessed Damien, ora pro nobis.


I imagine this was painted by Hagios Homer of Springfield:-) (actually it was made up by Mad Priest).  Heresy?  Impiety? Nah, just remember St Thomas More's dictum: "The devil ... the proud spirit cannot endure to be mocked" (A Dialoge of Comfort against Tribulacion (Book II, cap. XVI)).  Why George Carey and Co get so steamed up about Christianity being mocked etc I don't know - it means we've ceased to be respectable and beyond criticism and once more entered the hurly burly of the World.  Which might mean fewer "cultural Christians" and more committed ones.  which would be no bad thing.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Images of the Divine.

Every so often you come across a new image that hits you as a glimpse of the Divine Nature.  This one of the Trinity by the LGBT artist Douglas Blanchard did it for me.  OK, the wounded Father /wounded Son image veers towards Patripassianism ( see )  but I find this image both deeply powerful and engaging.  It earths the Trinity in an imagery I find accessible.  I also like this definition by the Orthodox theologian Thomas Hopko:  

"Thus, according to the Orthodox Tradition, it is the mystery of God that there are Three who are divine; Three who live and act by one and the same divine perfection, yet each according to their own personal distinctness and uniqueness. Thus it is said that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are each divine with the same divinity, yet each in their own divine way. And as the uncreated divinity has three divine subjects, so each divine action has three divine actors; there are three divine aspects to every action of God, yet the action remains one and the same."

Holy God,
faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

(Common Worship, alternative collect for Trinity Sunday.)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter and all that!


The end of Holy Week was a wee bit unsatisfactory for me.  Having been fitting things in whilst working in Embra (including deaconing on Maundy Thursday and preaching a bit of the 3 Hours on Good Friday), I took off to Rachel's on Saturday for a weekend together, me being off work.  This mean we had to fit into other Holy Week patterns locally.  The only Easter Vigil we could find suffered from one major problem - it was the 1st time they'd ever done it!!  Shall we say the choreography was not of the standard I have grown used to in the Edinburgh Diocese?  3 out of 5 servers pointing the right way at the Gospel, 1 facing in - but not at the deacon and no 4 pointing east to the altar!!!  It was like coming from Right Flank Company, 2nd Battalion the Scots Guards to the Home Guard, Walmington on Sea platoon!  The chief choreographer was a cleric who bore a most startling resemblance both physically and vocally to Stephen Fry (I now have a fair idea what Mr Fry will look like when he's 70!)  who rather cheered us up afterwards by wandering across the Green in a beanie hat singing "Alleluia!"!!!  The deacon read well and with conviction but really should have put her little flashlight down before making liturgical gestures whilst proclaiming the Exsultet!!  The mini searchlight effect was a tad distracting!

The slightly odd conflation of Easter Vigil (bits of) with Easter Day Eucharist at Eyemouth was also slightly unsatisfactory. Partly the hymns were dull, partly I had had no nicotine or caffeine before going to Church - therefore I was grumpy and critical. The people as ever were awfully friendly and welcoming.  Next year I hope we shall be based in one place and stick with one systematic Holy Week.  Still, Christ is risen and that's what matters.  and I read ch 16 of the Screwtape Letters afterwards to remind myself that the finer points of liturgy and being critical thereof can be a barrier to openness in receiving the grace of God through public  worship.  So my self awareness wasn't entirely AWOL!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Good Friday 2012

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The Good Friday crucifix and frescoes on walls of the katholikon in the. Trinity Monastery, Meteora, Greece.

"Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen"
(Solemn Collect for Good Friday, American BCP 1979)

Words are inadequate. Look. Reflect. Sorrow. Pray.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

On this night.

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Photo: Andreas Praefcke Kath. Pfarrkirche St. Gordian und Epimachus, Merazhofen, Stadt Leutkirch im Allgäu, Landkreis Ravensburg Chorgestühl.

By happy coincidence this year, Maundy Thursday where we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper happens to displace the feast of St Juliana of Liege.  In 1211, the 18 year old Juliana had a vision, in which she was instructed to institute the feast of Corpus Christi.Supported by Jacques of Troyes, Archdeacon of Liège, (later bishop of Verdun, Patriarch of Jerusalem and eventually Pope Urban IV).  In 1264 he issued the papal bull Transiturus de hoc mundo making the Feast of Corpus Christi a universal festival in the Western Church.  I'm sure she doesn't mind.  She was ever so slightly keen on the Holy Eucharist!

It's worth recalling some of the words of the Office hymn for Corpus Christi Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium (also sung to night as we process to the altar of Repose) as we remember the event of the last night of Christ's earthly life and the Passover he celebrated with his disciples.

On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
first fulfills the Law's command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own hand.
He feasted, he fulfilled the law and then he offered himself.  Let's remember that tonight as we enter into the Great mystery of the Triduum.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Into the Great Week.


Yes, I'm using the Eastern Term for Holy Week  And an icon of Christ the Bridegroom, showing Jesus in the purple robe with which he was mocked and crowned with a crown of thorns.  Interestingly, the Orthodox tradition has no celebration of the Eucharist on the 1st 3 days of Holy Week, but Communion from the Reserved Sacrament (Vespers and Liturgy of the Presanctified), with anointing on the Wednesday in remembrance of his anointing with perfume (John 12:1-9) as a sign of his impending death.  Foot washing takes place on the Thursday morning during the Chrism Mass.  And there is no Eucharist in any form on Good Friday or Holy Saturday.

I'm actually rather better prepared for Holy Week this year than I have been for ages.  I went to mass, confession and rosary yesterday - and I haven't been a penitent since my crack up by in 2009.  (Mind you, your sharing at meetings does a very reasonable substitute in terms of psychology and non-judgementalism).  matins, mass and then an evening service of lessons, hymns and music  + Compline today.  perhaps this year will be different.  Every year is.  I'll be at St Michael's for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, then off to Burnmouth and Rachel, Easter Eve will be Berwick upon Tweed and Easter Day in Eyemouth.  They won't be quite like Spikey Mike's but then - nowhere is!

Have a Great and Holy Week.