Tag Archives: Jerusalem

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

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15 March: Jeremiah at the Temple Gate, Gates IV.

We take up the story after Jeremiah had been witnessing against child sacrifice just outside the gates of Jerusalem. He goes back into town and through the Benjamin gate to the Temple courtyard.

Then Jeremias came from Topheth, whither the Lord had sent him to prophecy, and he stood in the court of the house of the Lord, and said to all the people:

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold I will bring in upon this city, and upon all the cities thereof all the evils that I have spoken against it: because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.

Now Phassur the son of Emmur, the priest, who was appointed chief in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremias prophesying these words. And Phassur struck Jeremias the prophet, and put him in the stocks, that were in the upper gate of Benjamin, in the house of the Lord.

 And when it was light the next day, Phassur brought Jeremias out of the stocks. And Jeremias said to him: The Lord hath not called thy name Phassur, but fear on every side. For thus saith the Lord: Behold I will deliver thee up to fear, thee and all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thy eyes shall see it, and I will give all Juda into the hand of the king of Babylon: and he shall strike them with the sword. And I will give all the substance of this city, and all its labour, and every precious thing thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Juda will I give into the hands of their enemies: and they shall pillage them, and take them away, and carry them to Babylon. But thou, Phassur, and all that dwell in thy house, shall go into captivity, and thou shalt go to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and there thou shalt be buried, thou and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied a lie.

Jeremiah 19.14 – 20.6

Jeremiah was not a man for the quiet life – well, he might have been, but for the Lord’s call. He did try to evade it by saying he was too young, but to no avail; called and sent he was, so to Jerusalem he went and proclaimed the Word. And got beaten by the chief priest and left in the stocks overnight. Did he slink away with his tail between his legs? No, he spoke the Word again. The exile in Babylon was coming fast.

Jeremiah would later encourage the exiles not to put their lives on hold, but to build a new life for themselves in Babylon, as we see many of them do in the Book of Daniel and elsewhere. Am I simply marking time, awaiting the end of the exile from ‘normal life’ that covid19 has led us to?

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13 March: Jeremiah at the city gate (Gates III)

Thus saith the Lord: Go, and take a potter’s earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests: And go forth into the valley of the son of Ennom, which is by the entry of the earthen gate: and there thou shalt proclaim the words that I shall tell thee. And thou shalt say: Hear the word of the Lord, O ye kings of Juda, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold I will bring an affliction upon this place: so that whoever shall hear it, his ears shall tingle: Because they have forsaken me, and have profaned this place: and have sacrificed therein to strange gods, whom neither they nor their fathers knew, nor the kings of Juda: and they have filled this place with the blood of innocents. And they have built the high places of Baalim, to burn their children with fire for a holocaust to Baalim: which I did not command, nor speak of, neither did it once come into my mind.

Therefore behold the days come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Topheth, nor the valley of the son of Ennom, but the valley of slaughter. And I will defeat the counsel of Juda and of Jerusalem in this place: and I will destroy them with the sword in the sight of their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and I will give their carcasses to be meat for the fowls of the air, and for the beasts of the earth. And I will make this city an astonishment, and a hissing: every one that shall pass by it, shall be astonished, and shall hiss because of all the plagues thereof. And I will feed them with the flesh of their sons, and with the flesh of their daughters: and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege, and in the distress wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives shall straiten them. And thou shalt break the bottle in the sight of the men that shall go with thee. And thou shalt say to them: Thus saith the Lord of hosts: even so will I break this people, and this city, as the potter’s vessel is broken, which cannot be made whole again: and they shall be buried in Topheth, because there is no other place to bury in.

Thus will I do to this place, saith the Lord, and to the inhabitants thereof: and I will make this city as Topheth. And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Juda shall be unclean as the place of Topheth: all the houses upon whose roofs they have sacrificed to all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings to strange gods.

Jeremiah 19:1-14

Poor Jeremiah: the Lord wanted the end of child sacrifice in Jerusalem, just outside the city gate. Had it been going on ever since the Holy Land was taken by the children of Israel?

Jeremiah seems to have used the city gates for his symbolic gestures. There would always be people coming and going, perhaps ready to spend time watching whatever might be happening by the gateway. But a people that could allow human sacrifice does not need a prophet’s gesture to become broken; the society is not based on trust and equality if children can be chosen for sacrifice. It cannot be made whole again without great repentance.

So what do I need to repent of? What idols am I unwittingly sacrificing to?

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15 October, Going Viral XLIX: some thoughts of Samuel Johnson

Doctor Johnson, though born in Staffordshire, was an 18th Century Londoner who could not have settled anywhere else. He was a devout Anglican, but treated Catholics fairly. This post could have gone under different headings, but the last paragraph speaks to our times – as does the door of mercy!

To what degree fancy is to be admitted into religious offices, it would require much deliberation to determine. I am far from intending totally to exclude it. Fancy is a faculty bestowed by our Creator, and it is reasonable that all His gifts should be used to His glory, that all our faculties should co-operate in His worship; but they are to co-operate according to the will of Him that gave them, according to the order which His wisdom has established.

We may take Fancy for a companion, but must follow Reason as our guide. We may allow Fancy to suggest certain ideas in certain places; but Reason must always be heard, when she tells us, that those ideas and those places have no natural or necessary relation.

When we enter a church we habitually recall to mind the duty of adoration, but we must not omit adoration for want of a temple; because we know, and ought to remember, that the Universal Lord is every where present; and that, therefore, to come to Iona, or to Jerusalem, though it may be useful, cannot be necessary.

Life of Johnson, by James Boswell

https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/agnellusmirror.wordpress.com/23921 – Pilgrimage around Wales

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21 September, Relics XXVI: Saint David’s altar stone.

Continuing our armchair pilgrimage to Wales: this altar stone is a treasure of Saint David’s Cathedral. Traditionally, Catholics have had, at the centre of altars, a stone containing relics of martyrs. This one, we are told by tradition, was a portable altar stone that could be used to celebrate the Eucharist outdoors or in a private dwelling.

The stone was given to David in Jerusalem. He brought it home to Wales and carried it on his travels around his diocese of Menevia. It is generally known as the Sapphire Stone.

This is a relic on many levels! It is a relic of Saint David himself, a reminder of his devotion to bringing the Eucharist to his flock: the source and summit of the Church’s life. It links the cathedral and visitors to David, founder of the cathedral, patron of Wales. And it links us, through David, to the pre-Islamic Holy Land, to the Apostles and to their Lord and ours.

Whatever your thoughts or feelings about altars or altar stones – and this one must have been well hidden in Reformation times to have survived – the emotional and spiritual resonances of this rather non-descript stone cannot be denied.

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What does the Ascension mean to you?

I wonder what does the Ascension of Christ mean to you? For some we have that picture, often depicted in art, with Jesus’ feet disappearing up into the clouds; of the post-resurrection Jesus no longer being  physically present with the disciples, as he returns to his Father in heaven. But the disciples were not left alone, they were told to wait in the city, to then be “clothed from with power from in high”; I am sure they must have wondered what Jesus meant, but as ever they were obedient to his words. That must have been such a rollercoaster 40 days for them, since Easter Day; as it is for many of us today, but as we journey together through this we too anticipate Pentecost … in the meantime we have the novena, 9 days of prayer to look forward to.

God Bless and keep safe, keep connected and keep praying.

Rev Jo Richards, rector, Saint Mildred’s, Canterbury.

Upper Photo by CD, from the Chapel of the Franciscan Minoresses, Derbyshire; Lower Photo, MMB, priest’s vesting table, Church of Jesus in the Attic, Amsterdam. A reminder to pray for the Spirit before preaching.

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April 17, Emmaus V: to walk renewed.

pope-xmas-mealPope Benedict sought to bring renewal to his guests at a Christmas meal.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Luke. 24: 28-35

bread.knife.cut

Jesus continued on as if he was going further. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

During this week of Pilgrimage, we’ve been following the faith journey of the two travellers on the road to Emmaus. And hopefully their story has encouraged us in our own faith, to understand more deeply who Jesus is, and to walk with a renewed sense of his presence in our lives.

Jesus never pushes himself upon us. As he waited for the travellers to ask him to stay, so he waits for us to invite him into our lives. They didn’t know it was the risen Jesus walking with them on the road – but they knew that their hearts had warmed as he spoke to them of the Scriptures and the purposes of God.

And they really wanted to have him with them for longer. They welcomed their new friend. And because of their spirit of hospitality towards him, they were brought into a wonderful fellowship with the risen Lord – so by the time he left them, they not only recognised who he was, but they also knew that he had given their lives a new hope and a new purpose.

If we share that same purpose and hope in Jesus, risen from the dead, we don’t have to keep on asking him to stay with us, because we know that he’s with us all the time. We just have to make sure that we stay with him – especially when times are difficult. He is always faithful. It is we who sometimes aren’t.

May we, like the two travellers on the road to Emmaus, find ourselves more enthused by God’s purposes for us and for the world, and more willing for Jesus to reveal himself to us; willing to welcome him into our lives and homes.

 

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April 15, Emmaus III: Hurrying away from the city.

 

atkinson grims boar lane

Boargate, Leeds, by Atkinson Grimshaw.

The disciples’ journey does not start out as a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is going to somewhere, but these two disciples are hurrying away from the great pilgrimage city of Jerusalem.

Where are they going? It feels to me like nowhere in particular, just a pub they knew they could get to before dark, where they could eat and sleep; provided they were able to get to sleep. Were you ever that tired but unable to sleep at night?

And yet the story finishes with a high-speed pilgrimage back to Jerusalem. In the gloaming if not the dark. No street lights to guide them. What happened to them in between?

What happened was that they listened to Jesus talking, setting their hearts on fire; the Spirit at work. And they knew him in the breaking of bread.

Back in town, they find out that the stay-at-homes have news of Jesus too.

When we think about this pilgrimage of ours, what will we remember? Who have we spent time with? Have we heard them speak from the heart? Did we enjoy eating together? Will we be happy to see them all again? Make home in our hearts for them?

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5 April, Palm Sunday

Today we’d put out the flags, as Caernarfon did to welcome us (and thousands more tourists) a few years ago. 2,000 years ago it was palms and cloaks that were actively waved – not just left out in all weathers – as Jesus came to town. But by the following Friday nobody would have wanted the Romans to see the national flags and emblems on their buildings. Jesus had become dangerous to know.

The Plantagenet Kings whose castle commands this view would have looked askance at the scene, and their spies would have filled the castle governor’s ear with more or less factual accounts of the latest prince to arise to rally the Welsh. Pilate would have heard about Jesus before Palm Sunday but the parade of the King of the Jews did not lead to his immediate arrest. Pilate thought he could contain this uprising before it got very far.

By Friday festival fever was worrying a hypersensitive elite who valued the shaky Pax Romana as it applied in Judea, offering them status and privilege and allowing the Temple worship to continue according to the Law. Verses from the Psalms and the Prophets that challenged the idea of sacrifice were dismissed in their turn by the priests of the Temple.

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Ps 51: 16-17

 

Jesus’s heart was broken, his body too, though not his spirit. His death completed his lifelong passion. It is all of a piece, as the Pieta tells us – the baby we saw Mary cuddling at Christmas is the One she cradles briefly before his burial. (Take a look at St Thomas’s Lady altar.) But today, knowing he is riding into difficult times, he is the King the crowd were waiting for.

Image from Missionaries of Africa
Strasbourg Cathedral

So let’s put out the flags in our hearts, and wave our palms for our King!

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2 April, Desert XXXIV: Fear 5.

To most of us it would not be a desert, but a street of slightly run-down 19th Century workers’ houses, not enhanced by the yellow lines or the parked cars. But on this occasion? Well, it was the parked cars that drew me to the street, because I was one-to-one teaching Bradley, who was working for a geography project. This particular task involved surveying cars in different areas of town to discover where the newer and the older ones ‘lived’.

What we eventually did was not quite what I intended. Bradley would not walk down this street in case we should meet a local who would beat him up for trespassing on his territory. ‘They’ll get me later, even if they won’t attack me with you here.’ It was the same story in the other streets I attempted, so we ended up comparing railway, supermarket and seaside parking, but not walking down that street.

Jesus surely felt afraid when he said: ‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.’ (Matthew 20:1819)

But he set his face for Jerusalem. Let’s pray for the grace to surmount our fears and follow him in our daily lives.

(A few months later Bradley moved 200 miles from home to take up an apprenticeship in a town he did not know! Perhaps the little challenges prepared him for that much bigger one.)

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