Tag Archives: light

Easter in Lichfield: a message from the Dean

Easter in Lichfield will be a time of celebration in more ways than one this year, because after two years of uncertainty Lichfield Cathedral can now open back up and mark the occasion with a blend of ceremony that will involve, not only the cathedral, but everyone in the city.

This is the introduction to Dean Adrian’s Holy Week Message from Lichfield Cathedral. See the whole message here. It is a very clear account of the events and ceremonies of the Triduum.

Dear Friends,

I am writing to send you greetings and blessings at this the most important, solemn and (yet ultimately) joyful time of the Christian year.  We’re about to enter the holy three days (Triduum) of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve and Day. You will be welcome at any or all of the special services we hold on each of these days.  Every occasion comes with its special ceremonies and distinct focus.  Let me say a few words about each but first explain the context.

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25 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022, Day VIII.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022

Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal

Day 8 “They left for their own country by another road”

Readings

Psalm 16 – You show me the path of life.

Matthew 11:25-30 – Because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent, and have revealed them to infants.

Reflection

We do not know what the wise men thought – they who were experts in astronomy and navigation – when they were warned to return by another road. They may well have been very confused, but the same light that illumined their journey showed them that there was another road, another possibility. They were called to change direction.

We often find ourselves bound by our familiar ways of doing things and of seeing the world. When these ways or ‘roads’ are closed, we wonder how to proceed and continue the journey. We have to trust that the everlasting One who gave us the light, can always find a way forward when our ways and paths are blocked. A fresh start is always possible when we are willing and open to the work of the Spirit.

As churches we look to the past and find illumination, and we look to the future in search of new ways so that we can continue to shine the light of the Gospel as we journey by another way, together.

Prayer 
Gracious God,
when we only know one way and we think we must return to it,
when we think that all roads are blocked, and we fall into despair,
we always find you there, creating a new unexpected path before us.
If we search our maps and find no route,
nonetheless we always find you, who lead us by a yet more excellent way,
trusting that you will always lead us back to you
and forward in unity together. Amen.
Meditative Response
Journeying on parallel paths or often in opposite directions
We are called by ‘another way’
to become pilgrim companions,the people of The Way.
Compasses and maps orientated
route finding and navigating together
our backpacks not burdensome, our boots crunching on,
rediscovering ancient paths,
walking humbly together with our God.

Questions

Global: What other ways of journeying together could we explore that would lead us into a better future?

Local: What do we take for granted about our daily rhythms? What blessing might someone of another tradition receive from the worship in your church? How might the worship of your church be perceived by someone of another tradition?

Personal: How does it feel when your familiar ways or traditions are challenged?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

Global: Find out how communities from all over the world joined in pilgrimage for climate justice in 2021. Plan as churches together to continue the journey to a better future for the planet and for us all. Find out more at christianaid.org.uk/campaigns

Local: Organise a local pilgrimage between the churches in your area, for example, you could walk to each of the church buildings or find your nearest pilgrim route.

Personal: Journey familiar routes by another way, for example walk 50% more slowly on your errands today, what do you notice? How do you see things differently?

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Pray for Unity, Pray for the Synod 


 
For the 2022 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Cardinal Mario Grech and Cardinal Kurt Koch invite all Christians to pray for unity and to continue to journey together.
 
In a joint letter sent on 28 October 2021 to all bishops responsible for ecumenism, Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Grech, General Secretary of the Synod of the Bishops, wrote: “Both synodality and ecumenism are processes of walking together.”
 
The 2022 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the theme “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him” (Mt 2: 2) prepared by the Middle East Council of Churches, offers an occasion to pray with all Christians that the Synod will proceed in an ecumenical spirit.
 
Both Cardinals affirm “Like the Magi, Christians too journey together guided by the same heavenly light and encountering the same worldly darkness. They too are called to worship Jesus together and open their treasures. Conscious of our need for the accompaniment and the many gifts of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we call on them to journey with us during these two years and we sincerely pray that Christ will lead us closer to Him and so to one another.”
 
The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity are therefore pleased to offer this prayer:
 


Download the press release in PDFEcumenism and synodality For the next newsletter, let us know your initiatives on the theme of “ecumenism and synodality” by sending the material to webmaster@synodresources.org
 
Have a good unity week and a good synodal journey!

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18 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022, Day I.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022

Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal

‘We Saw His Star in the East’.


In this fragile and uncertain world, we look for light. We look for the good within ourselves, but often we are so overwhelmed by our weakness that hope fails us. Our confidence rests in God, who in wisdom, enables us to hope for his mercy. We are surprised when it comes in human form: Christ is the light in our midst! God’s gift to us is a ‘spirit of power, and love’. We are drawn forward on the way to this perfect light by God’s Holy Spirit, not by relying on our own strength and ability.

In the midst of darkness, the star from the East penetrates the depths of the darkness that separates us from one another. The star’s light continues to shine and to change the face of history. Throughout the ages, by the lives of Christ’s followers, the world has come to know the hope that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

And the Risen One continues to shine, like a beacon guiding all into this perfect light and overcoming the darkness which separates us from one another. The desire to overcome the darkness that separates us compels us to pray and work for Christian unity.


Prayer

Creator of light,

illumine our path by the light of Christ 
who moves before us and leads us.
May he be a beacon for our pilgrimage.
Enlighten us and dwell within us.
Raise us up and draw us to your perfect light.
Guide us to discover a manger in our hearts 
where a great light still shines.
We thank you for the gift of that unfading Star, 
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
Heal our divisions and draw us together.
AMEN


Readings


Psalm 139:1-10 Your right hand shall hold me fast
2 Timothy 1:7-10 This grace… has now been revealed through the appearing of our
Saviour Christ Jesus



Reflection: Go and do


(see http://www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)
Global: Visit the website of Embrace the Middle East and see what actions you can take to be in solidarity with Christians of the Middle East.
Local: Organise a candle lit vigil with the churches in your area as an act of unity. It doesn’t have to be in person but each church could encourage members to put a candle in their window at an agreed day and time.
Personal: Take time this week to star gaze. Let your eyes settle on an unfading star and pause in reverence and prayer before the Creator of light. You don’t have to go outside you can search for and visit an online planetarium.

Hymn Verse
How brightly beams the Morning Star!
What sudden radiance from afar
Doth glad us with its shining,
Brightness of God that breaks our night
And fills the darken’d souls with light
Who long for truth were pining!
Thy Word, Jesu, only feeds us,
Rightly leads us,
Life bestowing;
Praise, oh praise such love o’erflowing.
Johann Schlegel, tr. Catherine Winkworth

Questions Reflecting on the past year:
Global: What could the role of the Church be in proclaiming the good news of the Gospel in a world where
there is so much injustice?
Local: Where have you seen signs of hope in your community, especially during a time of pandemic?
Personal: How have you sought ‘the light’ in the midst of darkness?

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17 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Introduction III.

Brede Valley.

The Covid-19 global pandemic; the economic crisis that has followed and the failure of political, economic and social structures to protect the weakest and most vulnerable; and the racism that blights our communities have underlined the global need for a light to shine in the darkness. The star that shone in the East, (the Middle East), two thousand years ago still leads us to the manger, to where Christ was born. It draws us to where the Spirit of God is alive and active.

After encountering the Saviour and worshipping him together, the Magi return to their countries by a different way, having been warned in a dream. The communion we share in our prayer together must inspire us to return to ourselves, our churches and our world by new ways. But what does this mean
in practice?

Serving the Gospel today requires a commitment to humankind, especially the poorest, the weakest and those marginalised. It requires from the churches transparency and accountability in dealing with the world, and with each other. This means churches need to cooperate to provide relief to the afflicted, to welcome the displaced, to relieve the burdened, and to build a just and honest society.

This is a call for churches to work together so that we can all build a good future according to God’s heart, a future in which all human beings can experience life, peace, justice, and love.

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16 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022. Introduction, II.

smart

Jerusalem is a powerful symbol for Christians because it is “The City of Peace”, where all humanity was saved and redeemed. But today peace is missing from the city. Even prayer in Jerusalem has become subject to political and military measures. Various parties stake their claim to it and disregard others. Jerusalem was the city of kings, indeed the city that Jesus will enter triumphantly, acclaimed as king (Luke 19:28-44). Naturally the Magi expected to find the newborn king revealed by the star in this royal city.

However, the narrative tells us that, rather than being blessed by the birth of the Saviour king, the whole of
Jerusalem was in tumult, much as it is today. Today, more than ever, the Middle East needs a heavenly light to accompany the people.

In this context Christians are called to seek the new-born king, the king of gentleness, peace and love. But where is the star that leads the way to him? It is the mission of the Church to be the star that lights the way to Christ who is the light of the world. By word and through action the Christian people are called to light the way so that Christ might be revealed, once again, to the nations. Yet divisions dim the light of Christian witness and obscure the way, preventing others from finding their way to Christ. Conversely, Christians united in their worship of Christ, and opening their treasures in an exchange of gifts, become a
sign of the unity that God desires for all of creation.

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15 January, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022: Introduction, I.

Bethlehem, c1850.

The week of prayer for Christian Unity 2022 will last from 18 -25 January. this year the prayers and reflections are led by the Churches of the Middle East. In these three days leading to the Week of Prayer, we offer extracts from the Introduction to this important time.

The story of the Magi visiting the Holy Family in Bethlehem is one very familiar to us. Indeed, we have recently celebrated Christmas; the Feast of Incarnation and Epiphany. The Magi have sometimes been seen as a symbol of the world’s diversity – different religions and cultures – that comes to pay homage to the Christ-child. The story might therefore represent the unity of all created that God desires. The Magi travel from far-off countries, and represent diverse cultures, yet they are driven by the same hunger to see and know the new-born king and are gathered into the little house in Bethlehem in the simple act of giving homage.

In this we can find a metaphor for Christian unity: that is, of different Christian peoples drawn together in their common search to recognise Christ, to know him and to worship him and witnessing to wider need for unity and to overcome injustice.

This text has been chosen by the churches of the Middle East, the history of which was, and still is, characterised by conflict and strife, tainted with blood and darkened by injustice and oppression. Since the Palestinian Nakba (the exodus of Palestine’s Arab population during the 1948 war) the region has seen a series of bloody wars and revolutions and the rise of Islamic extremism. The story of the Magi also contains many dark elements, most particularly Herod’s despotic orders to massacre all the children around Bethlehem who were two years old or under (Matt 2:16-18). The cruelty of these narratives resonates with the long history and difficult present of the Middle East.

It was in the Middle East that the Word of God took root and bore fruit: thirty and sixty and one hundredfold. And it was from this East that the apostles set out to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The Middle East has given thousands of Christian witnesses and thousands of Christian martyrs.

And yet now, the very existence of the small Christian community is threatened as many are driven to seek a more secure and prosperous life elsewhere. Like the light which is the child Jesus, the light of Middle Eastern Christianity is increasingly threatened in these difficult times.

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25 December. St John XXIII: a Christmas Message.

On Christmas Day, 1933, Bishop Angelo Roncalli was preparing to leave Bulgaria after 10 years, to become Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece. This passage is from his farewell sermon that day.

In accordance with an old tradition of Catholic Ireland, all the houses put a lighted candle in the window on Christmas Eve, as an indication to Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary, in search of a refuge on that holy night, that inside the house round the fire and the well-stocked table, a family is waiting for them.

Wherever I may be, though it be at the ends of the earth, if a Bulgarian away from his country comes past my house, he will find in my window the lighted candle. He has only to knock on my door; it will be opened to him, whether he be Catholic or Orthodox: friend of Bulgaria, that will be enough. He can come in and I shall extend to him a very warm welcome.

How good it will be to welcome family and friends this Christmas! Let your little light shine!

With our best wishes to all our readers for a Happy Christmas and a hopeful and healthy New Year, 2022. Will Turnstone and the Agnellus Team.

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Going viral XCVII: a rich and resonant “Ugh!” 

Lichfield Cathedral welcoming citizens for covid vaccinations.
from the Dean of Lichfield’s Christmas Message.
Dear Friends,

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
 
Adrian Dorber
Dean of Lichfield

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A historic tragedy in the Holy Land.


Dormition Abbey - covered in anti-Christian graffiti on several occasions

Dormition Abbey – covered in anti-Christian graffiti on several occasions

Source: Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury writes on his Facebook page today: This Christmas, let’s not romanticise the Holy Land. Instead let’s hear the cry of Palestinian Christians who are facing a historic tragedy unfolding in real time. Christians have been a continuous presence in the Holy Land for 2,000 years. Today, they face attempts by fringe, radical groups to drive them away. The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem and I make this urgent appeal in today’s Sunday Times:

Christmas is a time when we think about the land of the Bible. We hear readings and sing carols that name Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem. These are places that are familiar to billions of Christians, whether they have visited them or not. But we should not romanticise them – and especially not this Christmas.

Last week, leaders of churches in Jerusalem raised an unprecedented and urgent alarm call. In a joint statement, they said Christians throughout the Holy Land have become the target of frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups.

In a joint statement they described “countless incidents” of physical and verbal assaults against priests and other clergy, and attacks on Christian churches. They spoke of holy sites regularly vandalized and desecrated, and ongoing intimidation of local Christians as they go about their worship and daily lives.

The Romanian Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem was vandalized during Lent in March this year, the fourth attack on that holy place in a single month. During Advent last December, someone lit a fire in the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsamene, the place where Jesus prayed the night before he was crucified. Usually a place of pilgrimage for Christians from around the world, it’s thought the vandal took advantage of the lack of visitors due to the pandemic.

These tactics are being used by such radical groups “in a systematic attempt to drive the Christian community out of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land”, the Jerusalem church leaders said in their statement.

It is for this reason that when you speak with Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem today you will often hear this cry: “In fifteen years’ time, there’ll be none of us left!”

This crisis takes place against a century-long decline in the Christian population in the Holy Land. In 1922, at the end of the Ottoman Era, Christians in the Holy Land were estimated to number 73,000; about 10% of the population. In 2019, Christians constituted less than 2% of the population of the Holy Land: a massive drop in just 100 years.

In Israel, there is some increase in the overall numbers of Christians. The imminent reopening of St Peter’s Anglican Church in Jaffa, which has been closed for over 70 years, is encouraging.

But in East Jerusalem, the central place for pilgrimage and the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – where Christ is believed to have been crucified – there is steady decline. Church leaders believe that there are now fewer than 2,000 Christians left in the Old City of Jerusalem.

This is the land that 2.5 billion Christians worldwide recognise as the birthplace of the church. Yet Christians, who have been a continuous presence there for over 2,000 years, are too often obscured and even forgotten beneath the competing perceptions of the geopolitics of the Middle East. The Christian presence punches above the weight of its numbers.

A recent study by the University of Birmingham estimates that the tourism industry generated by the Christian heritage of the Holy Land brings over $3 billion into the region’s economy. The Palestinian Christian population is a highly educated population that contributes beyond its numbers to high-tech industries, hospitals and church-based schools. Christians are good news for the region!

Christians in Israel enjoy democratic and religious freedoms that are a beacon in the region. But the escalation of physical and verbal abuse of Christian clergy, and vandalism of holy sites by fringe, radical groups, are a concerted attempt to intimidate and drive them away.

Meanwhile the growth of settler communities, and travel restrictions brought about by the Separation Wall, have deepened the isolation of Christian villages and curtailed economic and social possibilities. All of these factors have contributed to a steady stream of Palestinian Christians leaving the Holy Land to seek lives and livelihoods elsewhere – a historic tragedy unfolding in real time.

It does not have to be this way. This trend can be reversed – but action must be taken fast. We encourage governments and authorities in the region to listen to church leaders in their midst: To engage in the practical conversations that will lead to vital Christian culture and heritage being guarded and sustained. The time for action is now!

Over the Advent period, it’s tempting to be seduced by cosy visions of the Christmas story – twinkling stars, exotic visitors, a painless birth of a baby who doesn’t cry. The reality would have been much different: this is a story of God’s embrace of humanity in all its messiness.

The first Christmas tells us of God coming into our world among ordinary lives of human struggle. It foregrounds a refugee family, against the backdrop of a genocide of infants. There’s not much about lullabies and cuddly farm animals.

So let’s get real this Christmas. When we sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, or “Once in Royal David’s City”, let’s hear the voice of the church of the Holy Land – and thank them for their gift to all of us. Let’s pray for their flourishing and their future: a future intertwined with the future prosperity and common good of all communities.

Woven through the first Christian story is a message of hope and of good news for all people – a small light that can never be put out. Whatever your religion or belief, may you know the peace and joy of the Christ-child this Christmas.

The Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

The Most Revd Hosam Naoum, Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem

  • Text from Independent Catholic News 20.12.2012

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