|from the Dean of Lichfield’s Christmas Message.|
I think we were all hoping for a more definite Christmas this year. In 2020 we mumbled our way through a highly restricted Christmas hoping that things would never be quite as grim again. And now, behold! The virus mutates and sends out new waves of nervousness and self-imposed social restriction. I led a corporate moan in the Cathedral on the third Sunday of Advent, urging the congregation to voice our weariness with the plague. I have to say the community responded magnificently and we sounded a rich and resonant “Ugh!” There’s a certain sense of release and relief when we can all voice our fed-upness and irritation together: therapeutic even.
For all that, Christmas comes to shed its own light on us, the people we love, live with and share our planet with too. We have family and religious customs and ceremonies that mark it out as “the most wonderful time of the year”.
With my love, prayers and blessings
Dean of Lichfield
Tag Archives: Advent
Life goes on, despite Covid19: Reverend Jo has put her infection behind her, but the virus is still with us, as her message for the last week in Advent makes plain. The Nine Lessons and Carols was ‘just lovely’, as Jo says.
Good morning to you all and I hope this finds you all well, as we are here at the Rectory. With all the uncertainty around at the moment, it was just lovely to be able to have our Benefice Nine Lessons and Carols in St Dunstan’s yesterday evening. It really was a ‘light shining in the darkness’ moment and I think very much appreciated by all who came – we had over 60 which was just lovely; especially with the candle chandeliers lit, the choir and handbells it was so uplifting!
If you did miss it and want to catch up, it can be accessed via our website: https://www.dunstanmildredpeter.org.uk/livestreaming.htm and click on Nine Lessons and Carols. Sometimes with the gloom and doom that seems so prevalent at times one needs something like that to lift the spirits and hear the Christmas Story afresh. Thank you to all who made it such a lovely service.
A reminder that after service refreshments, Saturday morning coffee at St Dunstan’s and St Dunstan’s Lunch Club are cancelled, and hopefully for the very short term, as we ride this current covid ‘storm’.
At the moment, all our services are as planned for this week:
Christmas Eve Friday 24 December:4.00 Crib Service at St Dunstan’s
6.30 Christmas Eve Eucharist at St Peter’s11.30 Midnight Mass at both St Mildred’s & St Dunstan’s
Christmas Day:8.00 Said Eucharist at St Dunstan’s10.00 Sung Eucharist at St Dunstan’s
Sunday 26th December: Feast of St Stephen: 9.30 Joint Benefice Sung Eucharist at St Peter’s. Thanks to Rev’d David Stroud who will be leading this service
Sunday 2nd January (1st Sunday of the month)8.00 Said Eucharist at St Dunstan’s10.00 Sung Eucharist at St Dunstan’s4.00 Epiphany Carol Service at St Mildred’sPlease note Messy Church is cancelled on that day
Advent reflections continue this week – they have been a real ‘thought for the day’ to listen to and reflect on, and thank you to all those who have taken part. We will do the same again during Lent – and that’s longer!
I will write again on Friday, unless we have any further updates. In the meantime, those of you who are getting away to see family and friends. wishing you a safe journey and a blessed Christmas.
God Bless and have a good day
Rev Jo Richards Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury.
Nature rarer uses yellow Than another hue; Saves she all of that for sunsets, — Prodigal of blue, Spending scarlet like a woman, Yellow she affords Only scantly and selectly, Like a lover's words.
from Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete, by Emily Dickinson.
I’m not sure I agree with Emily Dickinson about yellow! Think of all the daffodils, dandelions, marigolds, groundsel … The sunflowers seen above owe their presence in a Canterbury garden to more than a little human help: pre-Colombian American people saving the seeds, choosing the best to produce future crops; immigrants sending seed home where the process began again to find the best varieties to feed Europe and fill our gardens. The seed that grew this specimen was from a packet of bird seed.
So let’s be grateful for yellow, for daffodils and sunsets, cats’ eyes and sunflowers, and remember that they are embodied words of a lover, the Lover:
And he said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done. And the earth brought forth the green herb, and such as yieldeth seed according to its kind, and the tree that beareth fruit, having seed each one according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Listen out for the Lover’s words this Advent! O come, O come, Emmanuel.
Rorate Cœli desuper, et nubes pluant Justum.
Aperiatur Terra, et germinet Salvatorem.
Mystic dew from Heaven
Unto earth is given:
Break, O earth, a Saviour yield —
Fairest flower of the field”.
Translation from Catholic Encyclopedia
No sudden thing of glory and fear
Was the Lord’s coming; but the dear
Slow Nature’s days followed each other
To form the Saviour from his Mother
—One of the children of the year.
The earth, the rain, received the trust,
—The sun and dews, to frame the Just.
He drew his daily life from these,
According to his own decrees
Who makes man from the fertile dust.
Sweet summer and the winter wild,
These brought him forth, the Undefiled.
The happy Springs renewed again
His daily bread, the growing grain,
The food and raiment of the Child.
Alice Meynell, a mother herself, was adamant that Jesus was a real human child. She was right, of course. ‘One of the children of the year’: my mind goes back a few hours to when we picked Abel up from his primary school to take him home. There he was, our eyes on him, but also aware of the rest of his class, the children of year 2 by English school reckoning. He can expect to spend the next nine or so years in the company of many of them.
I can imagine the children of Cairo and later Nazareth, playing with their companion, Jesus, learning to read together, taking him for granted.
Where did he get this wisdom?
From the sun and dews, and the fertile dust: from the Creation feeding and strengthening him, just as it should, just as he willed it to be.
Let us reread this poem slowly, and resolve not to take Jesus for granted, nor indeed our own existence, dependent as we are on ‘the earth, the rain, the sun and dews’. Laudato si.
Our Creator, whose holy name is “I AM” (Exodus 3:14), wants to meet us in the “now” of our lives. If I am living in the past or fixated on the future, I may miss the gift of God’s grace in the present. Therefore, the Advent liturgies urge me to “stay awake” to God’s presence in every moment “praying at all times” (Luke 21:36).
If I am awake, I cannot fail to notice that the world needs the light of Christ more than ever. Gathering storms of war, terrorism, inequality, ecological crises and a pandemic threaten to overwhelm humanity in my lifetime. It is easy to become discouraged by so much bad news.
Fr John McCluskey MHM gave this homily at FISC in December 2015. The call to renew the face of the earth has not grown any the less urgent in that time, so I have kept the topical references.
- Isaiah 35:1-10
- Psalm 84
- Luke 5:17-26
Today’s readings take us to the heart of what Advent is about: longing and preparing for the coming among us of our Saviour, God coming to save us from our sins and their consequences, to restore peace and right order in our world, balance and integrity to creation.
It’s a familiar theme, but one that surely rings out much more clearly and urgently this Advent, coinciding as it does with the crucial international conference on Climate Change currently meeting in Paris. As we reflect on the readings today we can without difficulty recognise how apt and relevant they are to the discussions and negotiations going on there between all the countries of our world, rich and poor.
We share a common concern about our future and the future of our planet. But that concern is expressed and experienced in quite different ways.
- The meeting in Paris is focussing our attention on the drastic measures needed to save ourselves from the disaster that is waiting for us if we continue to create deserts as a consequence of the way we are misusing the resources of our common home.
- The Advent readings acknowledge the deserts but hold out the hope and promise of a new creation, or a creation renewed. Isaiah assures us that a time is coming when desert land will be made fertile, wasteland will rejoice, bloom and sing for joy; the blind, deaf, lame and dumb will be healed and strengthened; peace and justice will flourish again (Psalm 84). In a word: our world will become God’s creation again.
What accounts for this difference – the difference between the Hope of Advent and the fear and near despair driving the discussions and negotiations in Paris?
I think today’s Gospel points to the answer, since it clearly shows the difference there is between the way we see our problems and the way Jesus/God sees them.
- A crippled man’s friends go to no end of trouble to bring him to Jesus, because they believe he can cure him. Jesus does cure him, but not right away. First he does something they hadn’t expected or even thought about. Seeing their faith, he said to the crippled man, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’
- They received something they hadn’t thought of asking for, because they had a limited view of what they needed, and equally limited expectations. They simply wanted their friend to walk again. Jesus went much further, freeing him from everything that bound him, healing him through and through. Jesus saw sinfulness as much more deep-rooted that sickness.
I think there is a parallel here with our expectations of what will come out of the Paris meeting. We know that much more is needed than what we are asking for.
- We need brave decisions, major changes in policy and practice around the world.
- But we know also that whatever is decided will be limited, not enough – compromises, steps along the way, and there is a long way still to go.
We know that changes of policy will never of themselves be enough. Something much more radical and demanding is required: a recognition of the sinful, wasteful ways of modern living; and not only recognition but repentance and a real change of heart, and of the values by which we live – a conversion.
It is down to us – as individuals, families, communities – to make the changes in our way of living that anticipate and even go beyond what we expect and hope for from Paris. As the CAFOD slogan has it, ‘Live simply, that we may simply live.’
This means seeing with the eyes of faith what is really wrong, and acting accordingly. As Jesus always said, in response to those who asked for healing: It is your faith that has saved you.
It is that faith that he looks for and responds to in each of us; a faith that may begin by our turning to God for help as we experience some specific need, but that grows into something stronger, deeper; grows into a daily awareness of God’s life-giving, healing presence in our lives and in our world.
Bro Stefan Anacatrinei OFM Conv preached this homily at FISC on the First Sunday of Advent, 2015, so its readings are repeated this year. Stefan was always worth listening to!
Welcoming the Innocent into Our Hearts
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today, we begin a new liturgical year. Yet, as we can see from today’s Gospel, the beginning of a new year is very much connected with the end. This is the reason why today’s Gospel text is full of warnings about the end of times and about being prepared and making ourselves ready. Actually, the first two weeks of Advent continue the theme of the last coming before speaking about the first coming.
Anyway, during this season of Advent we are all called upon, and exhorted by the Church, to prepare ourselves to commemorate worthily the coming of our Brother and Saviour. We are called to welcome the baby of Bethlehem into our lives with a clean, sincere and grateful heart. This will help us to remain in close contact with the Lord, and our present lives will be sanctified. God indeed cares for our welfare and He wants us to enter deeply into His mystery. The Advent season actually is indeed nothing else than a good opportunity to make ourselves ready to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.
How is this possible? I mean how can we prepare ourselves properly? What can we do to enjoy Christmas with a happy and sincere heart?
Simple. We have to purify our senses. We have to bring them back to their original state when they were not yet contaminated by sin. Like Adam and Eve, who before their fall were able to feel and to enjoy the presence of God with all their whole being – they could see Him, talk and listen to Him – we also will be able to enjoy the presence of Jesus fully and properly, if we dare to purify our sight, our hearing, touch, taste, smell and sight. I’m afraid that if we do not do this, we will only be able to see the beautiful Christmas lights and ornaments, but not be able to glimpse of the real Jesus; we will be delighted to listen to the amazing Christmas carols, but not to hear the sweetness of the voice of Jesus in our heart; we might touch the precious gifts which we will give or receive, but never, ever touch the priceless gift of God, I mean the love of God made visible and palpable for us in his beloved Son, Jesus Christ; which, of course, we can already experience particularly in the Eucharist. He will want us to clothe his tender naked body with a pure, warm and loving heart, not a cold and indifferent worldly one. God is love and he wants us to love him. Christmas is a special time when you can say to Jesus; “I really love you” and he will say to you in your heart: ‘I love you more than you will ever know, but thank you for your love, it is very precious to me. Please keep loving me, and I will keep loving you.’
Can you imagine that someone could be foolish enough to miss such an important event, by ignoring the meaning and the task of this precious time, called the Advent season?
It is possible, but I hope that it will not be a member of this congregation, or a person who has discovered Jesus and the Good News that he brings to the world, but has since ignored it.
I’m sure that our presence here, in this chapel, is evidence that we are concerned about our preparation during Advent, and that we really want to welcome the Innocent with open arms and our whole heart. It is impossible for Jesus to cause any harm to anyone or anything, because that’s his nature. Jesus, the Son of God, who for our sake become man in Bethlehem. He is the Innocent par excellence.
But, even if the Innocent cannot harm, his presence is not always a pleasant experience for everyone; for example, think of King Herod, who was very disturbed simply by hearing of His existence and so wanted to kill Him. We have to acknowledge, that those who are under the influence of sin cannot stand His presence, and think that to make themselves comfortable, they can and will destroy Him, but the Innocent is indestructible. It is true, the Innocent sometimes hurts me too, by showing the difference between what I am and what I should become. I feel, I see my vocation in his presence, I become aware that I can be a saint, although I’m not and I do not try very hard to become one.
Dear brothers and sisters, if we really want to avoid hurting ourselves, I mean feeling uncomfortable in presence of the Innocent, let us take advantage of this beautiful season for restoring our hearts and our senses, by bringing them back to their original innocence in order to be able to welcome the Innocent. The place to start is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we wash our souls in a new baptism, which will renew our thirst for God. We will then, during this beautiful and meaningful season of Advent, be able to wait for Jesus as his coming contains promise, love, preparation, prayer, new beginnings and fulfilment.
The ladies could not, for a long time, comprehend what the merchants did with small pieces of gold and silver, or why things of so little use should be received as equivalent to the necessaries of life.
(from Rasselas by Samuel Johnson)
Samuel Johnson’s ‘Rasselas’ of 1759 takes a Prince of Abissinia, Rasselas, from his luxurious captivity, escaping out into the world, accompanied by a female cousin and her maid, all guided by a wise man who had become weary of the place as well. He takes them to Egypt, where Cairo was already a bustling metropolis. The young people have a lot to learn.
And so do we. We have seen these tokens before: they were minted in German cities after the Great War when inflation impoverished many people. And they remind us that Judas sold his Lord for a handful of silver, and that Mammon will always ‘see a market’ and persuade us that things of little use are equivalent to the necessaries of life. We sometimes waste our money, but money has wasted many people around the world since the hyperinflation of Germany in the 1920s.
If money loses the trust of people it will no longer procure the necessaries of life. Can we help provide some necessaries during this Advent, beginning tomorrow?
|We have received this invitation from CAFOD to join them in prayer and reflections through Advent.|
Advent is just one week away, and we’d like to invite you to join us as we seek to draw closer to God and our global family, during this meaningful but often busy time.
Each day, in our Advent Calendar, we will be sharing Bible reflections, stories of our global neighbours, prayers and practical ideas for action, as we create a space to prepare for the coming of Christ. The calendar is live now if you’d like to begin to explore the resource.
Join us on this journey by signing up now for our Advent Calendar email reminders.
Sign up now
Why not also encourage your family and friends to sign up too and share this Advent journey with us?
Wishing you every blessing, as the Church year comes to a close,
CAFOD Theology Team
“Stay Awake” is a good Advent Motto and it comes from the mouth of Jesus. We are not simply waiting for a warm, safe commemoration of his birth, though warmth and safety would be welcome this year, but we are preparing for when He comes for us in death. Over to the clear-sighted Sister Johanna.
You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house.
I have never been happy with the notion of heaven as sleep nor taken much comfort in the prayer, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.” Paradise as a place of eternal rest makes me think irreverently of mattress advertisements. I sometimes wonder why the idea of rest has settled so firmly into the collection of metaphors we use to refer to eternal life.
These are thoughts I’ve been revisiting as I meditated recently on the text of Matthew quoted at the beginning of this post. When we think of death – if we think of death (mostly we try to avoid doing so) – it is hard to view it with anything other than dread: that moment when we are wrenched out of this painful, but familiar, existence where we are at home, and bundled into the next life – a life of which we have no first-hand knowledge. In this parable, the Lord himself brings up that subject we would rather avoid and refers to himself as the “burglar.” He can only be doing this to try to help us to view our death in another light. What is he trying to tell us?
If we are frequent readers of the gospels, this burglar image may have lost some of its freshness and originality for us. But think about it. That the eternally sinless Son of God should use the metaphor of a thief to describe himself is, along with being slightly humorous, also very unconventional. But, if we decide to take his word for it and think of him for a moment as the thief, then what – or who – is the loot? Well, us. We are what he wants to ‘steal’. And his desire for us is so intense that he likens himself to the lawless burglar, who just wants what he wants what he wants, and whose method is therefore to snatch and run with the goods.
But, if we had been awake, the parable implies, we might have prevented this ‘theft.’ I think the Lord may be employing the literary device of irony here. We cannot, in this life, be ‘awake’ enough to prevent this robbery. He will come. We will die. That is a certainty. But, in light of this parable, in no way is death to be seen as a descent into ‘sleep’. On the contrary, the parable makes me think of my death in terms of a diamond heist, with the Lord as its great mastermind, and maybe ending with a thrilling chase scene, in which he gets away with me, his diamond. One can hardly sleep through that.
The Lord’s words about staying awake, then, encourage us to think about what ‘being awake’ actually means. It strikes me that being awake, as we experience it in this life, has degrees. Awake as the mere opposite of being asleep is perhaps the lowest degree. A bit higher is the idea of conscience: keeping our conscience always ‘awake’ so that we never depart from the way of virtue. Better. But not the best. How about this as the highest level: the experience of love? Don’t we feel most deeply ‘awake’ when we love deeply? This deep love awakens parts of our being that had previously been ‘asleep’ and that we didn’t even realise we had. This must be the key to understanding heaven’s type of awake-ness. So, for me, the Lord’s words about being awake are inseparable from the experience of love. Love will ‘open us up’ as it wakes us up in heaven when God surrounds us and we are filled with his loving life, when we see with his eyes and love with our hearts perfectly attuned to his own heart. We do not know the hour when the ‘burglar’ will break in, snatch us, and wake us up to eternal love. Indeed, we cannot know when. But we can know something about what, about heaven’s fulfilment. We can know something – not everything, but something. We know it, even now, when we are awake in love.
Thank you Sister Johanna, I do agree that ‘resting in peace’ does not reconcile me to Eternity and even playing frisbee with golden crowns would pall after a couple of centuries. Let’s wait in hope and see! Will.