As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.
Day 8 Restoring hope through the work of justice
In facing up to the harm caused by racial injustice, we hold before us the promise of God’s love and the healing of relationships. The Prophet Isaiah speaks of God gathering and comforting all people who have been lost and have experienced suffering. In the Magnificat, Mary reminds us that God never abandons us and that God’s promise to us is fulfilled in justice.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Stephen was a young man growing up in south-east London with big dreams for his future. His life was tragically cut short when, on 22 April 1993, he was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. The pain of his family and the wider community was compounded by serious failings in the investigation of this crime, which were later exposed in the Macpherson Report. In his memory a foundation has been established to support and inspire young people to have a bright future. Stephen’s mother, (Baroness) Doreen Lawrence, says of this work:
“Justice for Stephen is about all of us, every one of us, in society having justice. There are still too many young people who do not have a sense of hope, who just don’t get the chance to live their dreams. I want all our children and young people to feel inspired, be confident and have hope in their own future. We are building hope, but there is more to do.”
It is easy to feel hopeless as we are time and again reminded that we live in a fractured society that does not fully recognise, honour, and protect the human dignity and freedom of all human beings. An alignment of love of God, love of all our human family and love of justice are deeply needed for hope and healing. God calls us to continually live into hope, trusting that God will be with us in the midst of our individual and communal liminal space – on the threshold of what has been and what is, while yearning for what is yet to be.
Fr Bryan Massingale, one of the world’s leading Catholic social ethicists and scholars in racial justice, reminds us of his hope and challenge:
“Social life is made by human beings.
The society we live in is the result of human choices and decisions.
This means that human beings can change things.
What humans break, divide and separate,
we can with God’s help,also heal, unite and restore.
What is now does not have to be.
Therein lies the hope and the challenge.”
Creator God, please teach us to go inward
to be grounded in your loving spirit
so we can go outward in wisdom and courage
to always choose the path of love and justice.
Many of the global protests that took place after George Floyd’s killing were led by young people, some of whom were connected to the Church. How can we use their ardour for racial justice to bring about change in the Church?
What substantive actions should have taken place after Stephen Lawrence’s killing? Why do you think they did not occur?
How did you respond to the killings of Stephen Lawrence and/or George Floyd? How have these tragedies encouraged you to take a greater interest in racial justice?
It has to be as it was,
Of course I didn't understand!
It has to be as it was,
Dark, cold, restless, waiting
It has to do with loneliness,
And I am rarely lonely.
It has to be as it was ...
Dark in my warm, well lighted room.
That's not as it was,
No renaissance nativity,
No Christmas card crib,
Just loneliness and the need for warmth and preparation.
Wondering what tomorrow might bring,
Stars and rest and the smell and placid breath
That's as it was!
'Dark in my warm, well lighted room'. Who has not felt that way? How many will be feeling that way this Christmas, how many more are without even the warm, well-lighted room? Let us pray for all who are exiled and homeless this Christmas time, and support those who are organising shelter for them. Our first photograph was taken by volunteers seeking out homeless people on the streets of Canterbury, in order to offer shelter.
For any reader who wishes to follow the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, please use the link below. It will give you a leaflet in Latin, Italian and English.
These are the prayers of Final Commendation and Farewell after Communion, to be followed by a moment for silent prayer:
Dear brothers and sisters, in celebrating the sacred mysteries we have opened our minds and hearts to joy-filled hope; with confidence we now offer our final farewell to Pope Emeritus Benedict and commend him to God, our merciful and loving Father.
May the God of our fathers, through Jesus Christ, his only Son, in the Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life, deliver Pope Emeritus Benedict from death, that he may sing God’s praises in the heavenly Jerusalem in expectation of the resurrection of his mortal body on the last day.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles and Salus Populi Romani, intercede before the Eternal Father, that he may reveal the face of Jesus his Son to Pope Emeritus Benedict and console the Church on her pilgrimage through history as she awaits the Lord’s return.
After Pope Francis incenses the mortal remains of Benedict XVI, the pope will pray in Latin:
Gracious Father, we commend to your mercy Pope Emeritus Benedict whom you made Successor of Peter and shepherd of the Church, a fearless preacher of your word and a faithful minister of the divine mysteries.
Welcome him, we pray, into your heavenly dwelling place, to enjoy eternal glory with all your chosen ones. We give you thanks, Lord, for all the blessings that in your goodness you bestowed upon him for the good of your people.
Grant us the comfort of faith and the strength of hope.
To you Father, source of life, through Christ, the conqueror of death, in the life-giving Spirit, be all honor and glory forever and ever.
The choir and the congregation will sing the following Antiphons:
May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come and welcome you and take you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.
May choirs of angels welcome you and with Lazarus, who is poor no longer may you have eternal rest.
As Benedict XVI’s coffin is carried to his place of burial in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, the choir will sing the Magnificat in Latin.
A spotless Rose is blowing Sprung from a tender root, Of ancient seers’ foreshowing, Of Jesse promised fruit; Its fairest bud unfolds to light Amid the cold, cold winter And in the dark midnight.
The Rose which I am singing, Whereof Isaiah said, Is from its sweet root springing In Mary, purest Maid; For through our God’s great love and might The blessed babe she bare us In a cold, cold winter’s night.
Another Christmas poem, this time from Germany. The poem takes us back to King David’s father, Jesse, thirty-times great-grandfather to Jesus. The Jesse tree picks out some of the ancestors for art works in stained glass, sculpture or painting, including Ruth, the foreigner from Moab, who was to become the grandmother of Jesse (Matthew 1:5). So much for any idea of pure Israelite blood in David’s line! In fact, the book of Ruth celebrates this foreign woman’s loyalty and goodness down through the ages and generations.
Mary, even more so than Ruth, stands as a Good Woman. ‘Spotless Rose’, like many of the titles given to Mary, may not appeal to your imagination. This lovely Scottish rose, sprung in a canal-side hedge, did not set me thinking about Mary. But when I wanted a photograph for the Spotless Rose, I knew where to find it. And maybe the next time I look at rose, a bell might ring in my mind.
Traditional German carol, translated by Catherine Winkworth.
Sweet dreams, form a shade
O'er my lovely infant's head!
Sweet dreams of pleasant streams
By happy, silent, moony beams!
Sweet Sleep, with soft down
Weave thy brows an infant crown
Sweet Sleep, angel mild,
Hover o'er my happy child!
Sweet smiles, in the night
Hover over my delight!
Sweet smiles, mother's smile,
All the livelong night beguile.
Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
Chase not slumber from thine eyes!
Sweet moan, sweeter smile,
All the dovelike moans beguile.
Sleep, sleep, happy child!
All creation slept and smiled.
Sleep, sleep, happy sleep,
While o'er thee doth mother weep.
Sweet babe, in thy face
Holy image I can trace;
Sweet babe, once like thee
Thy Maker lay, and wept for me:
Wept for me, for thee, for all,
When He was an infant small.
Thou His image ever see,
Heavenly face that smiles on thee!
Smiles on thee, on me, on all,
Who became an infant small;
Infant smiles are his own smiles;
Heaven and earth to peace beguiles.
From "Songs of Innocence"
This dusty angel is in York Minster with his improbably long-chained censer. Strength to your arm, Angel!
The winter night knows many a star, But the Angels have found one brighter far Than any that ever has shone before; They float and fall through the silent snow Like birds of God, to settle below; To find our earth the Angels go.
A poor little planet, a poor little town, A poor little cradle, not lined with down, A particular absence of all renown; Angels must be peculiar things, Who float and fall with wheeling wings To seek in such for the King of kings.
If we were heaven-taught we should know That what we think high God might yet think low, And straight to Bethlehem singing go; For this earth of ours is still the Star Whither the Angels flew from far, Where the Christ-child and His Mother are.
More bright than the star that Wisdom led, To Angels’ eyes shone the cattle-shed, Where the little Christ once laid His head; And ‘twixt the tapers, just the same As when to Bethlehem once they came, To Angels’ eyes must the altar flame.
After Father Tom yesterday, here is another Franciscan, Father Andrew this time, reflecting on the O Antiphon for today: O Oriens, O rising dawn, or as the English hymn has it, O come thou dayspring!
The dawn drives off the dark, and day doth come Queening away the fearsomeness of night; But all the world is blessed Mary’s home, Nor any hour can lack for her its night While He, our hearts’ one Home, curled cosily, Can even straw and stall and stable raise To throne and palace by His royalty; For perfect Love hath come Who casts out fear – Now doth the Dayspring from on high appear.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
And let us sing, Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel! Let us be joyful this Christmas; He can raise our homes to palaces with his Kingly presence.
O key of David – how often do we think of the freedom our house keys give us?
Here are the ‘O Antiphons’ shared by Fr Valentine Erhanon, and below, his homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent. Fr Valentine is the parish priest of Saints Simon and Jude, Streatham Hill, London.
Saturday December 17 O Sapientia [O Wisdom] O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!
Sunday December 18 O Adonai [O Lord and Ruler] O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!
Monday December 19 O Radix Jesse [O Root of Jesse] O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!
Tuesday December 20 O Clavis David [O Key of David] O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!
Wednesday December 21 O Oriens [O Rising Dawn or Morning Star] O Radiant Dawn, splendour of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Thursday December 22 O Rex Gentium [O King of the Nations] O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
Friday December 23 – Mass at 9am O Emmanuel O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!
Homily for the Third Week of Advent,
17/18 December 2022 by Father Valentine Erhahon
First Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 23 (24); Second Reading: Romans: 1:1-7; Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24
Finally, what is going to happen …
For the past four weeks, we have starved ourselves from saying/singing the Gloria at Mass. Over two billion Catholics have deliberately deprived themselves of singing those words of the Angels that we hear at Mass every time and have gotten so used to. The intensity of this abstinence is growing in our hearts. We are longing, yearning and waiting to sing the Gloria for the very first time on Christmas Eve, on the 24th of December, first at the Children’s Mass at 5.30 pm and then at the Solemn Mass at 10 pm.
We will join millions of other Catholic Churches from Shanghai to Abu Dhabi from Panama to Benin City; from Kansas to Kerala, from every part of the continent right to London, to Streatham Hill, anywhere the Catholic Church is: in chapels in villages, in palaces, and cities, in small towns, in grand cathedrals or humble churches, on this most solemn of nights, the Gloria, the Glory to God in the Highest will resound – in our Churches. What great joy! As tradition demands, all the Altar Servers will ring all our bells, as we cry out joyfully to God in the Gloria. One by one, our Altar Servers will light the six ancient candles you have been looking at in the sanctuary wondering when they would be lit. Read Revelation 1:12ff to discover the significance of these candles. You will notice in the book of Revelation there are Seven candlesticks – look out of the last one on the sanctuary: He is the word of God and the light that shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:5.)
Our two parish Angels: Cherubim and Seraphim, have now left their station where you normally see them guarding the Holy of Holies in our Tabernacle. They too have come down to welcome the arrival of the Godchild and keep guard next to Him. You will also notice that in our lectern the four creatures in Revelation 4: 6-8 are now displayed: each representing the four gospels: Matthew: the winged man; Mark: the Lion; Luke: the Ox; John: the Eagle.
You will also notice that we have brought out the Joseph’s baby wooden chair, made for the Word of God; and on it: our newborn King – the Word of God – will seat on it – in his manger on Christmas Eve: O Come, Let us Adore Him Christ the Lord. The Book of the Gospel is already opened in Joseph’s baby wooden chair to the very page of the Gospel of the night. Before then, of course, we have the first of the three Great Processions of the night, with the ancient chant that recounts the history of our salvation – informing us of how in the fullness of time, God himself decided to intervene in human history by bringing forth his son, born of a woman to save us. Next will be the second Great Procession where the infant King will come into his Church. I will not put into words what this would feel like because it will lose the value of its significance and meaning. It is meant to be experienced. The Third procession of course will be at the end of Mass when with lit candles we will make our procession to the Nativity Grotto. Arriving at His Grotto on this most Solemn and Holy night, which many on Streatham Hill have been visiting each day, I will bless the Grotto – the Stable – the Manger and our Lord and God will spend the night in his stable in the cold. On Christmas Day, He will return to the Church – where we will adore Him and celebrate His CHRIST – MAS.
Every day from Christmas Eve until the end of Christmastide, our Lord will stay in His Grotto facing the streets of Hillside road, giving hope to all. During Mass, He will return to His Church to bless us. We remember though: that while our Grotto may look nice and pretty, Jesus will be sleeping in the cold like many homeless people. Instead of being in a hospital bed or a nice room, he will smell animals, straws and hay on his first night in this world as a baby. There is no warmth in the manger, no proper safety from harm or infection. We remember when they arrived in Bethlehem for the census, Mary and Joseph could not find a home to rent. No one could let them into their home. We remember, in pain, hardship and poverty, our God came into the world to save us, but no one opened their door to the Holy Family. Would we have let Mary and Jesus into our homes that night for Jesus to be born in our home? Do we let him into our hearts today? Do we have time for Jesus? Do we allow Jesus into our thinking process and our decision-making in our personal and daily lives? Or like he first experienced on the night of his birth, we have closed the door and have no space in our lives to accommodate him, so we send him away out, back into the cold because our lives are full of ourselves; we are distracted; conflicted; unable to commit. I will come back to this discussion in my homily on Christmas Eve when we will see all those who make up Jesus’s ancestry.
For now, we begin our last countdown to Christmas with the 0 Antiphons. To prepare for Christmas in a few day’s time: today – one by one, the Altar Servers, and then the children will place their Roses of Thanksgiving in the manger to thank Saint Joseph for doing the will of God, by taking Mary into his homes. Today our Mother Mary is heavily pregnant, she is on a donkey with Joseph who is protecting and looking after her; it is cold and windy outside. Today they are approaching Bethlehem. Join them on this procession of doing God’s will, and go behind them to offer them support. Walk with them. Together as a parish community, we are going to Bethlehem to adore the Infant King on Christmas Eve and to present our very self as a present to him for his birthday so that he can transform us to become truly like him in the Great exchange of Gifts on Christmas Day – between God and humans, between Love and love.
Our prayer for Mary’s feast is from the Anglican morning prayer for her birthday, 8 September, nine months from today, her immaculate conception. Not that we have any insight into her actual birthday, any more than we do for her Son. But we can light a candle, all the same, and make this prayer our own.
Almighty and everlasting God, who stooped to raise fallen humanity through the child-bearing of blessed Mary: grant that we, who have seen your glory revealed in our human nature and your love made perfect in our weakness, may daily be renewed in your image and conformed to the pattern of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Good Morning! We make a big mistake if we say that the sacrifice of Christ was what happened on Calvary Hill and leave it at that. As Rowan Williams said, he lived a life-long passion. A passion caught from his parents, Mary and Joseph.
We know that Jesus suffered hardship on the road, but he kept going. As an infant seeking emergency refuge in Egypt, he still had what he most needed, the intimate love of Mary and Joseph. As an adult itinerant preacher, the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head.
As an infant he went where his parents chose in order to preserve his life, while for his sake they accepted exile, anxiety, pain, and a double dose of the exhaustion that every new parent knows. No doubt the magi’s gold ran out soon enough, spent on wayside inns, renting a place in Cairo, buying new tools for Joseph. Meagre rations until Joseph had an income.
Every parent can relate to these sacrifices, though many would not recognise their own daily grind as sacrificial, but it is a grind at times, and so it was for the Holy Family too. For some of us exile is leaving, if only for a while, an enjoyable job with interesting and funny colleagues and customers. It is a sacrifice, as is accepting the waves of tiredness, boredom, loneliness, depression that can knock a new father as well as a mother off-balance.
Jesus learned about sacrifice from the sacrificial love of his parents. They prepared him to be about his Father’s business even if they did not realise what it meant in practice to a 12 year old boy, let alone the man he grew into.