Tag Archives: feast

25 March: The Annunciation

Gabriel, from Saint Mary’s Church, Wreay, Cumbria.

I came across this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins at an Advent service at Canterbury Cathedral. Hopkins’ final verse is all the commentary we need. Enjoy a feastday to break up Lent!

Angelus ad virginem

1. Gabriel, from heaven's king 
Sent to the maiden sweet, 
Brought to her blissful tiding 
And fair 'gan her to greet. 
'Hail be thou, full of grace aright! 
For so God's Son, the heaven's light, 
Loves man, that He 
A man will be  and take 
Flesh of thee, maiden bright, 
Mankind free for to make 
Of sin and devil's might.'
2. Gently to him gave answer
The gentle maiden then:
'And in what wise should I bear
Child, that know not man?'
The angel said: 'O dread thee nought.
'Tis through the Holy Ghost that wrought
Shall be this thing whereof tidings I bring:
Lost mankind shall be bought
By thy sweet childbearing,
And back from sorrow brought.'
3. When the maiden understood
And the angel's words had heard,
Mildly, of her own mild mood,
The angel she answered:
'Our Lord His handmaiden, I wis,
I am, that here above us is:
And touching me |fulfilled be | thy saw;
That I, since His will is,
Be, out of nature's law
A maid with mother's bliss.'
4. The angel went away thereon
And parted from her sight
And straightway she conceived a Son
Through th' Holy Ghost His might.
In her was Christ contained anon,
True God, true man, in flesh and bone;
Born of her too 
When time was due; who then
Redeemed us for His own,
And bought us out of pain,
And died for us t'atone.

5. Filled full of charity,
Thou matchless maiden-mother,
Pray for us to him that He
For thy love above other,
Away our sin and guilt should take,
And clean of every stain us make
And heaven's bliss, when our time is to die,
Would give us for thy sake;
With grace to serve him by
Till He us to him take. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent and Christmas, Daily Reflections, Lent, poetry, Spring

19 March: A Blessing

Today we remember Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, father, it was supposed, of Jesus. He was also a craftsman, a faithful believer, a refugee from oppressive political power. As with Joseph, the path we are to follow may not be smooth; after all we are called to ‘make his paths straight’, which may mean some heavy lifting, or possibly walking single file, looking out for nettles, brambles, puddles, mud and stumbling stones.

Here is a blessing for today, from the Church of England:

Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you,
scatter the darkness from before your path,
and make you ready to meet him when he comes in glory;
And the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, Lent, PLaces

19 February, Going Viral CIV: Back to the Roots in Peru

Young corn (or maize)

Corona virus, covid-19, has made itself felt all over the world, with stories we might not hear above the noise of the local news. Here is a story of new growth in Lima, occasioned by the pandemic, told by the Columban missionaries working there. The context is that Fr Tom was stuck in Peru when lockdown came, so he looked around and found something to do, with ‘great success’. Follow the link to read the whole story.

“Tom had gained a lot of
experience on the land back in Ireland,
so he suggested he would use his time
digging and planting part of our grounds.
Not only would it keep him occupied, but it
would also make us partially self-sufficient.
He sowed vegetables, corn, herbs and
some potatoes. The experiment was a
great success, they all grew like mad!

Leave a comment

Filed under corona virus, Daily Reflections, Mission, PLaces

12 February, Review: The Lenten Cookbook

The Lenten Cookbook book cover

The Lenten Cookbook, Recipes by David Geisser, with Essays by Scott Hahn

Manchester, New Hampshire, Sophia Institute, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64413-469-6 

Here is a book of two halves: a series of essays by Scott Hahn on the practice of fasting, especially during Lent, followed by a collection of chef David Geisser’s recipes, mostly meat free but none the worse for that.

Hahn’s essays provide a clear justification for fasting and abstinence: ‘Fasting, and prayerful self-restraint in food choices generally, doesn’t have to be either monastic or a few-times-a-year imposition, but part of the everyday arsenal for spiritual growth (and warfare) available to every Christian.’  (p2) Setting limits on what we eat and drink can help us discern our real bodily needs and improve our physical health, but Hahn sees it primarily as sacrificial: giving up the comfort of abundant good food. Such comfort can delude us into self-sufficiency, leaving little room for our Creator. It needs to be challenged.

Modern life does not lend itself so readily to communal fasting as did mediaeval Christian society, with its shared rhythm of fasts and feasts. I regret that Hahn did not acknowledge how we might learn from our Muslim brothers and sisters observe Ramadan, even when it falls in midwinter or high summer. A young neighbour told me she was going to ‘do the whole thing’ though she was too young to be obliged to do so. She succeeded!

The Western Church has eased its fasting laws since the time of Pius XII, partly in response to present day pressures, partly to address the legalism that had crept in and the dispensations that were often claimed. 2022 may be the time to revisit fasting but we must beware of causing more harm than good, a danger especially of self-designed and self-imposed regimes: one’s own health may suffer and dear ones feel the edge of the penitent’s grumpiness! (p13-15) 

Hahn cites a prayer from the Byzantine rite of Vespers which sums up Lenten fasting:

 While fasting with the body, brothers and sisters, 

let us also fast in spirit. 

Let us loosen every bond of iniquity; 

let us undo the knots of every contact made by violence; 

let us tear up all unjust agreements;

let us give bread to the hungry

 and welcome to our house the poor who have no roof to cover them, 

that we may receive mercy from Christ our God. (P33)

Hahn commends Lenten “frugality for almsgiving, repentance, preparation [for Easter] and imitation of Christ” (p8) but could have developed further his reflection that frugality should be our attitude when choosing food, even a snack or a drink. (p41) Eating less meat is in itself an act of repentance, of turning away from using too many scarce gifts of Creation. 

And so to David Geisser’s recipes. He begins with a list of dishes fulfilling traditional fasting norms, some free from meat, dairy and alcohol, others with recommended substitutes for them; some of the alternatives are fuss-free and inexpensive, but is it frugal to replace butter with puréed avocado when the fruit is flown from abroad? Is out of season asparagus in any way penitential?

There are dishes we can enjoy with a clear conscience. The baked muesli could be cooking while the oven is on for one of the excellent breads. The ingredients for the potato bread in my review copy do not include potatoes, which is disappointing, I would certainly have tried this! The flatbreads and spice bread would reconcile any carnivore to a bread and soup lunch. Hot cross buns in England, at least, start to appear in the supermarkets around January 1st, and are still on sale well after Easter. They originated as a Good Friday celebratory collation; a spiced, fruited bun with a cross on the top, more recently made of flour paste or marzipan and glazed on turning out of the oven. Geisser’s Swiss versions are quite different and include  one with Rosemary. Rosemary is for remembrance, appropriate for Good Friday, but this particular bun could be served at any time of year.

Carrot  soup with orange is a fine variation; I would reserve a tablespoonful of carrot batons to garnish each bowl. Pink peppercorns are a condiment that would forever hide away at the back of our kitchen cupboard. Coarsely ground black pepper will do. The other soups are worth trying, especially the cream of corn, while the cold tomato soup is one for summertime.

Tomatoes evoke salads and there are tasty salads here but exotic ingredients would have to be replaced. The bread salad with plenty of tomatoes will be tried in this household.

From the collations, or light meals, I will surely be trying the potato pancakes, perhaps using cornmeal instead of semolina; also the bread pudding Carthusian style. The baked vegetables recipe is like one of my wife’s tasty standards, so it is recommended. More of her specialities are mirrored among the main meals: Lentil and Eggplant Moussaka and Eggplant au Gratin. My own favourites include leek quiche – though I have not used saffron – and spinach quiche, which gladly accepts bacon strips out of the Lenten season. Best of the curries I feel would be the butternut squash variety.

I am glad to have seen this book. It is informative and well presented, with colour reproductions of old master paintings and the prepared dishes. Quantities are given in metric units as well as US cups and spoonfuls, so no need to flick back to a conversion chart. I hope readers find inspiration joyfully to fast from Hahn’s essays and to cook frugally but joyfully from Geisser’s recipes.

MMB

Preview

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, Laudato si', Lent, Reviews

23 May: Pentecost

Homily by Fr Stefan Acatrinei

I posted this homily in the dark days of January; it was a relief to read of a great gathering of the faithful when that had been impossible for almost a year. Whatever restrictions we are under when Pentecost day comes, enjoy reading Stefan’s homily! Will

Dear brothers and sisters,

We celebrate today the feast of Pentecost which is also the birthday of our mother, the Church. Mothers enjoy giving gifts than rather just receiving them. Actually, the only gift which they really enjoy, according to my own experience (and I guess this is universally valid), is the presence of their children. So, here we are: to please Her with our presence and let Her make us happy with Her teaching.

I don’t know how you find today’s readings, but the atmosphere described by the Acts of the Apostles (2: 1–11) is very familiar to me. This familiarity is not due to the fact that I’ve studied the New Testament, nor it is because I know Jerusalem, for I’ve never been there, but simply because I’m living in Canterbury. The author of the reading says that there were “devout Jews from every nation under heaven”, and he mentions 16 different nationalities. To be honest, I don’t think that we have in Canterbury people from “every nation under the earth”, but I’m quite sure that we have representatives from more than 16 countries. Right now in our chapel, I know people from at least 11 different nationalities; and then if we take into account those who will attend the next Mass, this total number of people is increased. This parallel makes me see a certain similarity between what was going on in Jerusalem, nearly 2000 years ago, and what is happening here right now in our own city, but, of course, that’s not the point. So, we should explore a little more.

By the way, why were those people in Jerusalem? The author tries to give us a clue, by telling us they were “devout Jews”, but he refuses to give an exhaustive answer to our question. Anyway, being told that they were devout, it is not difficult to presume that some were there to fulfil a religious obligation, because Pentecost was the second of the three great Jewish Feasts; others were there to celebrate the completion of the harvest and to thank God for it, or just to pray, to ask for help from God; some, perhaps, were there for business reasons or out of curiosity, or ambition. Anyway, whatever their motives might have been, one thing is certain: they all were driven by the powerful, though invisible, engine which can generate both positive and rewarding feelings, or negative and unsatisfactory feelings, named by us as “desire”. Saint Paul though, in today’s second reading, says that every person can be led either by a spirit of slavery or by the Spirit of God (Romans 8: 8–17). This is wonderful.  It means that everybody is free to follow one of two guides.

A good example would be to look at our seraphic Father, St. Francis. We know that his life was abundantly animated by this energy, which we call desire. Since childhood he sought to develop the desire for human glory, which was seen by him as the only way to happiness. His ambition and the economic possibilities he received from his father nourished his humanity and directed him towards that end, but instead of finding happiness, he experienced a terrible disappointment, which led him to rethink. Once he identified and experienced the right desire, which led him to taste real happiness, he never ceased to recommend it to his friars; he writes: “that above all, they should wish to have the Spirit of the Lord working within them” (Later Rule X, 8)

You may ask, what does all of this have to do with us today?  We are baptized and confirmed and have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within us. We are totally immersed in the life giving Spirit of the Resurrected Jesus.  What does this entail?  St. Paul gives us a comprehensive explanation.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, he speaks about the variety of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In chapter twelve, he says that the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord.  Indeed that makes us powerful people. However St Paul also insists that all these gifts are for the benefit of helping others, for building the community of the church.

I hope that you don’t mind if I refer to St. Francis of Assisi again. We all know that he was asked by Christ to rebuild His church, a mission which he, actually, carried out by making use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Towards the end of his life, he wanted to share the secret of his success with the generations which would follow him, so he wrote it down in his Testament: “no one showed me what I should do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the Holy Gospel” (Testament 14).

Dear brothers and sisters, I guess, we all know what it means to be faced with a challenging situation, I mean to have to make important decisions for our own life or for the lives of our beloved ones. Where do we look for advice? Saint Francis, wanting to help the beginner on their spiritual journey, used to say: “If they ask advice, the ministers may refer them to some God-fearing brothers” (Later Rule II, 8). Counsel and fear of the Lord are gifts of the Holy Spirit and Jesus gave us this guarantee concerning these gifts: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything” (John 2:26).

Now, unlike the devout Jews from Jerusalem, we have not been gathered here by any strange sounds of wind blowing, but I strongly believe that we have been driven here by the same Spirit. We are in this chapel not just to fulfil a religious obligation, but out of love for Him, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, Who is eager to make a new dwelling within us.

Fr. Stefan Acatrinei OFM

Leave a comment

Filed under corona virus, Daily Reflections, Pentecost, Spring

13 May: Ascension Day

A cloud hid him from their sight

A homily by Austin McCormack OFM

Historically it was an event within the life of Jesus and the early church and is now a feast-day for Christians, one that links Easter to Pentecost. But it is more than an historical event, it is at the same time an insight into life that we need to understand to better sort out the paradoxical interplay between life and death, presence and absence, love and loss.

The Ascension names and highlights a paradox that lies deep at the centre of life, namely, that we all reach a point in life where we can only give our presence more deeply by going away so that others can receive the full blessing of our spirits.

When Jesus was preparing to leave this earth he kept repeating the words: “It is better for you that I go away! You will be sad now, but your sadness will turn to joy. If I don’t go away you will be unable to receive my spirit. Don’t cling to me, I must ascend.”

Why is it better?

Any parent has heard similar words from their children, unspoken perhaps but there nonetheless. When young people leave home to go to college or to begin life on their own, what they are really saying to their parents is: “Mom and dad, it is better that I go away. You will be sad now, but your sadness will turn to joy. If I don’t go, I will always be your little boy or little girl but I will be unable to give you my life as an adult. So please don’t cling to the child you once had or you will never be able to receive my adulthood. I need to go away now so that our love can come to full bloom.”

To remain present to someone we love we have to sometimes be absent, in ways big and small. The pain in this kind of letting go is often excruciating, as parents know, but to refuse to do that is to truncate life.

The same is true for the mystery of death. For example: I was 22 years old when my mother, died. The pain was searing. Initially we were nearly overwhelmed with a sense of being of losing a vital life-connection (that, ironically, we had mostly taken for granted until then). And our feelings were mainly cold, there’s little that’s warm in death.

But time is a great healer. After a while, and for me this took several years, the coldness disappeared and her death was no longer externally painful. I felt again her presence, and now as a warm, nurturing spirit that was with me all time. The coldness of death turned into a warmth. She had gone away but now could give me love and blessing in new way.

The mystery of love and intimacy contains that paradox: To remain present to someone we love we have to sometimes be absent, in ways big and small. In the paradox of love, we can only fully bless each other when we go away. That is why most of us only “get” the blessing our loved ones were for us after they die.

And this is even true, perhaps particularly so, in cases where our loved ones were difficult characters who struggled for peace or to bless anyone in this life. Death washes clean and releases the spirit and, even in the case of people who struggled to love, we can after their deaths receive their blessing in ways we never could while they were alive. Like Jesus, they could only give us their real presence by going away.

“It is better for you that I go away!”  These are painful words most of the time, from a young child leaving her mother for a day to go to school, to the man leaving his family for a week to go on a business trip, to the young man moving out of his family’s house to begin life on his own, to a loved one saying goodbye in death. Separation hurts, goodbyes bring painful tears, and death of every kind wrenches the heart.

But that is part of the mystery of love. Eventually we all reach a point where what is best for everyone is that we go away so that we can give our spirit. The gift that our lives are can only be fully received after we ascend.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Mission, Pentecost

5 April, Easter Monday: Johnson on the Eucharist

St Mildred’s Anglican Church, Canterbury, the Paschal Candle decorated with flowers.

‘Shall I ever,’ he asks on Easter Day, ‘receive the Sacrament with tranquility? Surely the time will come.’

from “Life of Johnson, Volume 2 1765-1776” by James Boswell

Doctor Johnson was staying with his friends the Thrales when he wrote this, well aware of his own sinfulness and the gulf that that could give rise to between himself and God, but also believing that salvation is ours: Christ has Passed-over through death to eternal life and so shall we. Believing does not mean being totally assured in my mind and heart that salvation is mine, and for the melancholic Johnson, all the theology in the world could not enkindle such certainty. Rather it is to accept the promise of salvation, even with a tiny part of myself, and forgive myself for my unbelief. Even a mustard seed faith can leaven the lump that I am; I can receive the Sacrament in fear and trembling, but at the same time, at a deeper level than my doubts, with tranquility.

Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1Corinthians 5:6-8)

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter

10 March: Sunny Spring Cycling with Eddie

By 

More from Eddie Gilmore of the Irish Chaplaincy, on his day off.

Having just a fortnight before been looking out at snow in the garden, I was thrilled to have the first days of sitting outside in the sun with a cup of tea.

After a couple of busy months with work I’d decided to treat myself to a Friday off at the end of February. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I vaguely thought I might have a lie-in and listen to ‘Desert Island Discs’ in bed. But when I woke at my usual early hour and looked out of the window I was greeted by the radiant sight of a clear and perfectly round moon on its way down behind the distant trees. From the other side of the house I beheld a deep red sky with the sun beginning to rise. This was no morning for lying in bed. I dressed quickly and went into the street to find that nature had completed its stunning spectacle with a frost, whose delicate shapes I always love to see on the cars. With the birds in full voice it was all quite magical.

Being able to eat my breakfast later on at the bottom of the garden in full sunshine was a total joy. I’ve created a sort of spring bulb lawn near the shed, and was in an ideal vantage point to bask in the glory of clumps of snowdrops, yellow crocuses, purple crocuses and mini daffodils. The sunshine was also creating a beautiful sparkling sheen of water drops on the tips of the just beginning to grow grass. I knew what I had to do that day. I was going to postpone the one or two practical jobs in the house I’d thought I might do and instead get on my bike. There’s a long cycle I did many times last year in the spring and summer that takes me out of Canterbury through various woods to the coast at Herne Bay, then along the seafront to Whitstable. It was the first time this year to follow what had become for me quite a sacred course. It was lunchtime when I got to Whitstable and I stopped at ‘V C Jones’, the chip shop where I often went last year with my youngest Sean son when we were out on our rides. I phoned my order in from outside, as has been the procedure in these days! Disappeared now are the words that were chalked last summer in large colourful letters on the pavement outside V C Jones, ‘As Sting sang, Don’t stand So Close to Me’!

I picked up my scampi and chips and went and found a spot on the beach in full glorious sunshine with my back resting against a groyne. I ate slowly and happily, then took a luxurious siesta on the warm pebbles, followed by a little paddle. The sea was very cold but it felt good, also walking in bare feet on the stones and some isolated strips of sand.

The season of Lent is commonly associated with fasting and abstinence. The word itself comes from the Old English ‘lencten’ which means spring season; and it may also be derived from the Old Germanic ‘lango’, long, and be related to the lengthening of the days which occurs most noticeably and wonderfully at this time.

After a year in which many have died of Covid-19, to simply be alive can feel like a bonus. On a day when I could see and hear and smell the annual miracle of new life springing up so spectacularly all around me, it seemed a particular gift.

The Jesuit Gerry Hughes used to say that he imagined God asking him just one question when he died: “Did you enjoy my creation?” At the start of the spring season it’s difficult not to.

Leave a comment

Filed under corona virus, Daily Reflections, Laudato si', Lent, PLaces, Spring

1 March: Saint David

view from near St David’s birthplace

We start with a prayer to Saint David, asking him to pray for the people of Wales. Unlike the other nations of Britain, Wales has a native born saint as its patron, born at the edge of the little city that bears his name.

Blessed David, you are an apostle and patron for the people of Wales.
Grant, I implore, that through your prayers, your people will be enlightened by the truth which you taught, and they will obtain everlasting life. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Prayer from Daily Prayers website.

David was a true apostle, fondly remembered after 1500 years. he travelled the country, preaching and celebrating the Sacraments. His famous last advice to his followers was to ‘be faithful in the little things’; advice we could all usefully take to heart.

He was a vegetarian if not a vegan, so today we can enjoy a Leek and Potato gratin in his honour, though he would not have known potatoes, and would have eaten cheese only out of politeness. He did not condemn others who ate meat and dairy, but abstained from them as an act of penance; Lent all the year round. But today is a Feast Day, a day to celebrate in his honour.

Saint David’s altar stone, St David’s Cathedral

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Unity, Daily Reflections, Lent, Mission

December 22: He has put eternity into man’s heart.

Adam in Canterbury Cathedral. He looks as though he takes pleasure in his toil.

Ecclesiastes is one of the Wisdom books, written when the Jewish people were spread across the Mediterranean world. rubbing shoulders with all manner of folk with different ways of thinking. The writer absorbs much of their wisdom, not uncritically, but realises that human wisdom can only go so far: we need God’s revelation, his free gift. And we need – there is nothing better for us than to be joyful and to do good as long as we live.

Christmas is fast approaching but who knows who can – or even should get together for the feast? God seeks what has been driven away, and so should we, by keeping in touch by letter, card, email, phone or flowers. Over to the Preacher, Qoheleth.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. 

Ecclesiastes 3;11-15

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent and Christmas, Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace