Tag Archives: liturgy

17 June, Year of Mercy: Release from Madness

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mercylogoOur lives are short. When they end, does a door simply close, or do our gifts, lovingly shared, also leave a trace of our passing? The name ’Swanston’ above this tutor’s office in Eliot College, of the University of Kent, quietly commemorates Hamish Swanston, a previous staff lecturer. He was the first Roman Catholic professor in an English university since the Reformation.

A number of Franciscan and Redemptorist students from the Franciscan Study Centre, who took degrees at the university, also took his classes. He was a splendidly energising lecturer, always keen to celebrate life’s varied potential. His approach to theology embraced poetry, music, drama and all sorts of story-telling.

Acts of the Apostles played a key role in his understanding of the mission-minded character of Christianity’s liturgical communities. Those willing to be launched on a transforming path in their lives can take a great deal of encouragement from his books, even long after his death in 2013. Titles such as The Kings and the Covenant, A Language for Madness and Handel provide a sparkling adventure for believers, inner journeys whereby they may learn to achieve far more creative uses of the gifts of the Spirit of God in their relationships.

 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:16

He saw the early creeds, which were hymns such as 1 Timothy 3:16, as intended to stir the heart, to make people plunge into God. Mercy could then reach them in their many shocks and terrors. A community of friendships could lead them back from their insanity.



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16 June, Year of Mercy: Entering into God’s Grace

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mercylogoThe friars’ Church of St. Francis in Stratford has existed as a worshipping community since the middle of the nineteenth century. The kindness and atmosphere of welcome that can be met here is the most convincing sign that the word ‘church’ means not a building but a gathering of sincere believers. The people are what make the Body of Christ a focus for God’s love.

Repairing any place of prayer that has persevered over decades is a familiar task. The inviting entrance was turned into a temporary building site. It became a reminder that our liturgies likewise have to repair the hearts, minds and souls of those who travel to be there every week. The photo conveys a poignant symbolism of the obstructions we place in the path of God’s merciful, life-transforming grace.

Celebrating baptisms, we tell the assembled families, in their fine clothing, that the building itself symbolises an entrance way into the community of faith. What we bring will not be simply our best dresses and suits but the generous gifts which we have from God, which we may have neglected to use caringly. Those who rarely visit a church need helpful words, to learn to ask what makes community – and Christian community in particular – something to treasure. Why is it important to join a community, build it up, defend its best features and even, in some places, to die for it? The reality is, we cannot make much progress in loving on our own.



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17th February: The Wedding Feast: I.

Adrian and Carolyn get Married.

Marriages, throughout history, have been celebratory. In the Old Testament we read of lavish post-wedding parties and celebrations lasting a week, or even longer. Indeed today, if we press someone to describe a recent wedding they attended, more often they speak of the reception rather than the ceremony or ritual marking the couple’s union.

The bride and groom have always been the stars of the ancient wedding feasts, and this holds true for modern wedding receptions. The happiness of the married couple is apparent to all in attendance. The event is a celebration marking the beginning of a long and blissful life together. The parents of both the bride and groom are bursting with joy and pride, happy the bridal couple have been joined, and for the prospects of the couple to be together forever. And, all those invited, rejoice in the happiness of the bride and groom, and their families.

And, so it will be at the close of the age, of which St. John to wrote, “Blessed are those who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” The blessed will celebrate Christ claiming the Church as his bride, to live happily together for all of eternity.

God calls us to both celebrate marriage and to honour the covenant made between man and woman to live the rest of their lives happily together. This is yet another example of man being made in God’s image; our marriages are modelled after the marriage of Christ and his Church.


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8th February: The Temple of God’s Presence


Image from http://www.animamusic.co.uk/catalogue/temple-of-the-heart

We all enjoy celebrations, times when we rejoice at something good.  During celebrations, despite our problems and difficulties, we celebrate the good and look to the future with hope.

The Hebrews had a lot to celebrate. Today’s reading, 1 Kings 8:1-7, 9-13, telling how the Ark, containing the Tablets of the Law, was brought into a temple built for it, was a celebration of God’s love for them, the people He brought out of slavery and chose as His own out of all the nations.  The temple would be a sign of God’s presence, a focus for their worship and sacrifices. This sign of God’s presence helped their faith.

In the Gospel, Mark 6:53-56, we see a different picture.  Times were bad again; the Hebrews were now oppressed by the Romans.  Their only hope was that God had promised, through the prophets, to send His Anointed One. They believed this Anointed One was Jesus of Nazareth, who had now come to this very shore.  Jesus would be the new sign of God’s presence, the new temple. He related to them in a personal way, teaching them about God, showing that He was the fulfilment of the Law, and healing their diseases. They delighted in and celebrated His presence, just as their ancestors had celebrated the Ark coming to the temple. Jesus was to become the Sacrifice of the new temple.

In 1 Kings, the Word of God was present in the two tablets of the Law.  In Mark, he was present as the Word made Flesh. He promises to be even closer to us today: The Word made Flesh wants to become flesh in our hearts through the faith of those who believe in Him.  He promises to be with us always, to the end of time. Surely this is the best reason of all to celebrate.


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