Tag Archives: Scripture

22 November: Lichfield Cathedral’s Advent Calendar

Lichfield Cathedral have shared this Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar. It runs from 27th November, the First Sunday of Advent, until Christmas Day itself, 25th December. We think it will help many people to prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.

Follow this link:

How to use the Calendar

  • This is a simple prayer and bible-reading exercise to help us use the Advent Season as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.
  • Try and set aside 5-15 minutes every day.
  • Buy or use a special candle to light each day as you read and pray through the suggestions on the calendar.
  • Try and ‘eat simply’ – one day each week try going without so many calories or too much rich food, just have enough.
  • Try to donate to a charity working with the homeless or the people of Bethlehem.
  • Try to pray through what you see and notice going on around you in people, the media and nature.

Who is the Calendar for?

  • For everyone who uses the Cathedral website/social media.
  • For all the Cathedral community.
  • For people you want to send it to and invite to share in the daily devotional exercise.

What is the last week about?

The last week of Advent is special: at Evensong (evening prayer) a special antiphon is sung or said before and after the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Magnificat. Each begins with an ‘O’ and relates to some facet of Christ’s nature and ancestry

  • December 17 O Sapientia Wisdom
  • December 18 O Adonai Lord of Israel
  • December 19 O Radix Jesse Root of Jesse (Jesse was the father of King David)
  • December 20 O Clavis David Key of David
  • December 21 O Oriens Morning Star rising in the East
  • December 22 O Rex Gentium King of all nations
  • December 23 O Immanuel Immanuel – ‘God is with us’
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6 November: reasonable to refuse?

Fisherman and child, Mallaig, Scotland.

When Doctor Johnson travelled to Scotland in 1773, the 1745 campaign of Bonnie Prince Charlie to regain the throne and the subsequent reprisals from George II were still remembered by those who had been affected. Here is some of what Johnson found.

There was perhaps never any change of national manners so quick, so great, and so general, as that which has operated in the Highlands, by the last conquest, and the subsequent laws.  We came thither too late to see what we expected, a people of peculiar appearance, and a system of antiquated life.  The clans retain little now of their original character, their ferocity of temper is softened, their military ardour is extinguished, their dignity of independence is depressed, their contempt of government subdued, and the reverence for their chiefs abated.  Of what they had before the late conquest of their country, there remain only their language and their poverty. 

Their language is attacked on every side.  Schools are erected, in which English only is taught, and there were lately some who thought it reasonable to refuse them a version of the holy scriptures, that they might have no monument of their mother-tongue. That their poverty is gradually abated, cannot be mentioned among the unpleasing consequences of subjection. 

Johnson had given his support to those working for a full Scots Gaelic translation of Scripture; the Gospels and Psalms had come first, used in public and private worship every day.

Nineteenth and Twentieth Century foreign missionaries made sure to translate the Bible as soon as they could, but imagine learning to render Latin, Hebrew and Greek into a language not previously written down! It is not just word for word, but idea for idea, a different way of thinking. Not respecting those differences would have been unacceptable bullying. The same is even more true of trying to attack a mother-tongue and deprive people of the Bible in their own language. Whatever mistakes those early missionaries made, they were made in good faith and in service of the local people, to whom they were happy to hand over responsibility as soon as possible.

from “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland” by Samuel Johnson)

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18 October: Realities that are Unseen, II.

A gate from former military land into Canterbury’s Poets’ Estate.

Sister Johanna’s second post in this series.

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Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

If you weren’t here for yesterday’s post I hope you will scroll back to it to catch up with us.   We’re looking at the relationship between the notion of religious faith and the notion of “proving” unseen realities – it all seemed problematic for me when I first read the verse from Hebrews given above.  “We’re not meant to prove anything; we’re meant to consent to mystery,” I ranted.  

Then, I remembered that frequently when I am doing my lectio, a problem surfaces within the text that seems unsolvable at first.  But after I spend time with the scripture passage, reading and praying, the problem resolves by means of a sort of journey I take into the text, led by the Holy Spirit.  In this case, I now found that the journey involved pondering the words at the end of the quotation given here: ‘realities that are unseen.’  I didn’t know why at that point, but those words seemed important and I kept repeating them slowly in my thoughts.  There is, I find, a balm in this – almost as though my mind craves the nourishment that the words give even before it is able to penetrate to their deeper meaning. 

‘Realities that are unseen.’ As I repeated these words, I began to reflect that unseen realities are not easy to live with, especially for us in our day.  We’re so scientifically minded.  For us, the word ‘reality’ applies mainly to what can be seen or touched or heard; we talk about ‘evidence-based medicine,’ for example–we need evidence that we can actually observe in order to decide on the right medicine.  So, the senses determine what we consider to be reality most of the time.  What is unseen can make us uncomfortable.  We often decide therefore that unseen things don’t exist.

Then it occurred to me that we do live with some unseen realities–constantly and fairly comfortably.  They don’t always discommode us.  Take love, for instance.  Love itself is unseen but we know with every fibre of our being that it is real.  While we know that love is forever seeking to give evidence of its existence through words and actions that are self-giving, even self-sacrificial, we also know that underneath these see-able expressions of love, on a level that is unseen, love exists as a reality.

Faith, I reflected, is like that.  In fact, it is extremely like love, I realised, and is inseparable from love.  Indeed, it is informed by love.  My problem with the scriptural text from Hebrews began to ease as I reflected that although faith is certainly about consenting to the truth of theological propositions that are too mysterious to grasp fully, faith is primarily a loving relationship with the unseen God.  I mentally rewrote the passage from Hebrews: “Only a loving relationship with the unseen God can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen.”  I felt that I was moving closer to an understanding of this text.

Let’s stay with these ideas for the day and find out what they evokes in us.  I hope you will come back tomorrow for the continuation of our reflection.

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17 October: Realities that are Unseen, I.

Welcome back to Sister Johanna with four reflections on Faith from the Letter to the Hebrews.

The Trinity Window from Berwick upon Tweed Church sets out to illustrate the mystery of the Trinity, but leaves it beyond my comprehension.

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Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

This verse from the Letter to the Hebrews caught my attention recently as I was doing my lectio divina.  When I read scripture slowly and prayerfully there’s no telling what the Holy Spirit might make me notice.  Passages that I have read many times before suddenly seem to start dancing on the page, saying “Look at me!” A single sentence–or even a single word of a biblical text–can keep me thinking and praying for a long time: days, weeks, years.

So what was it about this line from Hebrews that stopped me?  Well, in a way, the line felt not ‘wrong’ exactly, but there seemed to be a contradiction in it.  More thought, more prayerful silence helped me to pinpoint the cause of my unease.  It came from the way I tend to think of the notion of faith.  I was surprised that Hebrews seemed to be saying that faith could ‘guarantee’ or ‘prove’ spiritual realities.  Guarantee?  Prove?  Those words seemed too empirical, if you will.  Is faith about what can be proved and guaranteed?  Faith, I’ve tended to assume, steps in where guarantees and proofs walk out.  Faith is what you have when you hit against deep religious mysteries that no human mind can fully grasp.   God is Trinity, for example.  No matter how long I ponder this, I will never understand how God is three Persons in one nature.  But I have faith that it is true. The Incarnation.  Jesus is both God and man.  Unfathomable on the intellectual level.  But I have faith in its truth. There are vital elements of our religion that cannot be proved in the way we might prove a scientific reality, or, say, a mathematical construct, or prove something that can be known by the senses.  How does the concept of proof fit with the concept of faith?  I puzzled over this.  I reread the text: 

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

I’d like to leave you for today to continue to ponder this text and these questions.  Perhaps you have other questions.  The Holy Spirit may lead your meditation down a different path.  Explore it.  Tomorrow we will continue our reflection.

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22 September: Walking with Jesus

Yesterday, thanks to Sister Johanna Caton OSB we saw Matthew getting up from his desk in the tax office to follow Jesus. Today Canon Anthony Charlton invites us to walk with the two disciples who were making for Emmaus on the first Easter Day. Taken from Saint Thomas’ Canterbury website, which invites us to share its reflections.


The disciples are walking away from Jerusalem. Walking away from the three years they has spent in the company of the one their believed to be the Messiah, the Christ. But he had been crucified and buried and their hope and dreams had been buried with him. No wonder they were downcast. Their belief in Jesus has been shattered. They were walking back to their old way of life. They were leaving behind the new life that they had embraced.

Jesus joined them. They didn’t recognise him. He sensed their sadness and asked them why they were sad. They responded by relating all that had happened and they shared with him their hopes and dreams. “Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.” Jesus listened as they opened their hearts to him. Only when he had listened did he respond by going the through the scriptures. “Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.” These were scriptures they were familiar with. They had learnt these from their youth. Coming from Jesus they seemed to hear them anew almost as of they were hearing them for the first time. They said later: “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?”

Why not in your mediation and prayer tell Jesus what you are experiencing. Perhaps telling him what is making you sad and unhappy about your calling, your way of life. Share with him your disappointments and then let the Scriptures shed light on what are your concerns. Is the way I see things the only way? “Let Jesus words work on all the thoughts that occur to you today”

Lord help me to understand the sufferings and disappointments that I experience. I believe that you lead me into everything, that God the Father carries me in the palm of his hand. Help me to understand what you are telling me, what you have in mind for me? Show me your way. 

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22 April: A Promise

2009-05-04 20.01.43 (800x532)

Part of me wants Genesis 9:8-15, God’s Covenant with Noah, to be an Easter Vigil reading, when in fact it comes at the beginning of Lent in Year B. Nevertheless, it does speak of salvation, and water bringing Noah’s family to new life; it’s a little taste of Easter as Lent starts. The rainbow still tastes of Easter if we celebrate it in Easter week, with the curate of Selborne, Gilbert White. Our picture is of the rainbow seen over our friend Mrs O’s house on the day of her funeral. White was a pioneer of natural history, and here the scientist and theologian are one with the poet: ‘Lovely refraction!’ ‘Maker Omnipotent.’ Happy Easter!

ON THE RAINBOW by Gilbert White of Selborne.

” Look upon the Rainbow, and praise him that made it: very beautiful is it in the brightness thereof.” Ecclesiastes, 18:11.

On morning or on evening cloud impress'd, 
Bent in vast curve, the watery meteor shines 
Delightfully, to th' levell'd sun opposed: 
Lovely refraction ! while the vivid brede 
In listed colours glows, th' unconscious swain, 
With vacant eye, gazes on the divine 
Phenomenon, gleaming o'er the illumined fields, 
Or runs to catch the treasures which it sheds. 
Not so the sage: inspired with pious awe, 
He hails the federal arch ; and looking up, 
Adores that God, whose fingers form'd this bow 
Magnificent, compassing heaven about
With a resplendent verge, " Thou mad'st the cloud, 
Maker omnipotent, and thou the bow
And by that covenant graciously hast sworn 
Never to drown the world again: henceforth, 
Till time shall be no more, in ceaseless round, 
Season shall follow season: day to night,
Summer to winter, harvest to seed time,
Heat shall to cold in regular array
Succeed. — Heav'n taught, so sang the Hebrew bard." 

(from “The Natural History of Selborne” by Gilbert White)

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4.4.22: The Synod is based on Scripture.

The latest circular from the Synod Office looks at the Biblical sources of the Synod. Read the whole document here. See the opening paragraphs below. (Did I once express the hope that there would not be too much technical language or long sentences? Perhaps I was dreaming.) One article which is more accessible comes from Burkina Faso, where they have great problems in getting together because of terrorist attacks.
How are you? We come with new information and a theme that is inspiring and fundamental: The Word of God in the synodal journey. We are in a process of listening, in which we must be attentive to the Word like Mary. This Word will encourage and guide us in our journey as a pilgrim Church.
Synodality and the Word of God

The Biblical Subgroup of the Spirituality Commission of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops has prepared a resource entitled “Biblical Resources for Synodality,” which highlights how Scripture is at the heart of the synodal journey.
GO TO THE DOCUMENT

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Lent 2022: Stations of the Cross

Church of Holy Sepulchre
Rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Rebuilt 1048, Jerusalem, © MFletcher

We have shared Stations of the Cross before in 2018 and 2019. This year we draw your attention to 14 reflections from the Visual Commentary on Scripture, two for each week in Lent. The link at the bottom of the post will enable you to receive twice weekly emails of the VCS reflections, which are by many different writers, always interesting and thought provoking; we recommend these posts.

Lent 2022: Stations of the Cross

This year, we invite you to mark the season of Lent, from Ash Wednesday until Good Friday, by following our ‘Stations of the Cross’. 

The VCS Stations of the Cross consist of fourteen selected commentaries, each one reflecting on a biblical passage in dialogue with a work of art.

Format: ​We will share 2 stations a week, beginning on Ash Wednesday and running until Good Friday.

We hope that these resources will help you experience the weeks between now and Easter  in new and meaningful ways.


Stations of the Cross Emails

Sign up here to receive links direct to your inbox with our twice weekly emails, running from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday.

Stations 1 & 2 will appear on Ash Wednesday

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Going Viral XCVI: Uncertainty cancelled for an evening.

Saint Dunstan’s church, Canterbury.

Life goes on, despite Covid19: Reverend Jo has put her infection behind her, but the virus is still with us, as her message for the last week in Advent makes plain. The Nine Lessons and Carols was ‘just lovely’, as Jo says.

Good morning to you all and I hope this finds you all well, as we are here at the Rectory. With all the uncertainty around at the moment, it was just lovely to be able to have our Benefice Nine Lessons and Carols in St Dunstan’s yesterday evening. It really was a ‘light shining in the darkness’ moment and I think very much appreciated by all who came – we had over 60 which was just lovely; especially with the candle chandeliers lit, the choir and handbells it was so uplifting! 

If you did miss it and want to catch up, it can be accessed via our website:  https://www.dunstanmildredpeter.org.uk/livestreaming.htm and click on Nine Lessons and Carols. Sometimes with the gloom and doom that seems so prevalent at times one needs something like that to lift the spirits and hear the Christmas Story afresh. Thank you to all who made it such a lovely service.

A reminder that after service refreshments, Saturday morning coffee at St Dunstan’s and St Dunstan’s Lunch Club are cancelled, and hopefully for the very short term, as we ride this current covid ‘storm’.

At the moment, all our services are as planned for this week:
Christmas Eve Friday 24 December:
4.00 Crib Service at St Dunstan’s
6.30 Christmas Eve Eucharist at St Peter’s11.30 Midnight Mass at both St Mildred’s & St Dunstan’s
Christmas Day:8.00 Said Eucharist at St Dunstan’s10.00 Sung Eucharist at St Dunstan’s
Sunday 26th December: Feast of St Stephen: 9.30 Joint Benefice Sung Eucharist at St Peter’s. Thanks to Rev’d David Stroud who will be leading this service
Sunday 2nd January (1st Sunday of the month)8.00 Said Eucharist at St Dunstan’s10.00 Sung Eucharist at St Dunstan’s4.00 Epiphany Carol Service at St Mildred’sPlease note Messy Church is cancelled on that day

Advent reflections continue this week – they have been a real ‘thought for the day’ to listen to and reflect on, and thank you to all those who have taken part. We will do the same again during Lent – and that’s longer!
I will write again on Friday, unless we have any further updates. In the meantime, those of you who are getting away to see family and friends. wishing you a safe journey and a blessed Christmas.

God Bless and have a good day
Jo
Rev Jo Richards Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury.

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27 September, Season of Creation XXVIII: in God’s eyes. Laudato Si’ XII.

67. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, recognising that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Genesis 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm. 24:1); “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Leviticus 25:23).

68. The laws found in the Bible dwell on relationships, not only among individuals but also with other living beings. “You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and withhold your help… If you chance to come upon a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting upon the young or upon the eggs; you shall not take the mother with the young” (Dt 22:4, 6). Along these same lines, rest on the seventh day is meant not only for human beings, but also so “that your ox and your donkey may have rest” (Exodus 23:12). Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.

69. We are called to recognise that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes and indeed, “the Lord rejoices in all his works” (Psalm 104:31). By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws, for “the Lord by wisdom founded the earth” (Proverbs 3:19).The Catechism clearly and forcefully criticises a distorted anthropocentrism: “Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things”.

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