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September 22, Feast of St Maurice: Pilgrimage in honour of the Saints of Africa.

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This event takes place each year at Saint Maurice in Switzerland on the Sunday after the Feast of the Uganda Martyrs. For its sixteenth gathering the Pilgrimage to the Saints of Africa gave a special place to the Coptic communities of Egypt.

 

Despite the wet weather on this Pentecost Day, the pilgrims brought themselves from across Switzerland to Saint Maurice in the Canton of Valais, and gathered at the church of Saint Sigismond.

The morning resounded to the rhythms of the singing pilgrims, who came from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Congo, Togo, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cap Verde, all alongside the Egyptian Copts. The witness of Mgr Bishay, the Egyptian Bishop of Luxor, opened people’s hearts to the Spirit of God who is active to this day in the hearts of Egypt’s Christians.

Luxor in Upper Egypt is the home town of Sant Maurice and his Companions of the Theban Legion, martyred around the year 300 at Augane, the place know today as Saint Maurice in Valais.

Bishop Bishay testified that Christians in the Middle Eat are paying with their lives for the simple fact that they are Christians, falling victim to religious intolerance. He insisted forcefully that anyone who claims to kill in God’s name does not in fact know God.

The pilgrimage drew to a close at the basilica in a festive Eucharist, opening with the Litany of the Saints, including Antony the Great of Egypt and the Blessed Martyrs Maurice and his Companions. They live forever in Divine Light.

This pilgrimage gathers Africans from across Switzerland to celebrate according to their own culture and outlook. It also offers a window through which one can see the rich traditions of Africa.

Text and photos from The Missionaries of Africa in Switzerland.

Mgr Ayad Bishay, Bishop of Luxor in Upper Egypt. The Zurich African choir, at the parish church of Saint Sigismond. Mgr Bishay with pilgrims at the entrance to the basilica of St Maurice. gr Bishay with Abbot of St Maurice Jean Scarcella.

More information and photos here:

https://www.cath.ch/newsf/les-coptes-degypte-au-coeur-de-la-16e-edition-du-pelerinage-aux-saints-dafrique/

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September 9: Jesus Beyond Dogma VII. Hope and System

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Every aspect of life is monitored and controlled by systems and their norms which we know and try to observe. System is effective in how we think, act and comport ourselves. Hope emerges from within all this not as an escape from dead-end living, nor as the natural completion of what we are already doing but as an unexpected breakthrough, an open door where there seemed to be no way out – because it is not where we tend to look.

The common understanding of hell is the violent separation of the good from the bad – where we have lost the Good News. This is system – a story already told, and when based on the final redemption of all – through God’s mercy: a drama with a beginning and a happy ending. There is no need for hope! If the story is already known – there is no place for it. The Good News is that system is not essential, we can leave it and discover what hope really means.

Revelation shows us how hope was born for the women at the tomb – out of what made them run away in fear [how often do we hear Jesus say don’t be afraid?] Nothing could ever be the same again after Easter Day. There is no system that can show us how to experience life that survives death and actually includes death. Jesus did not die and then come back to life, he is at one and the same time dead and alive – which is why there is such emphasis on the five wounds. Death has been emptied of its power by love at its very best. This is how the women’s fear was transformed [not ignored] into hope. When Revelation concludes with Maranatha [come Lord Jesus] we are asking that the forgiving victim be present with us – do not be afraid, it’s only me and I love you.

Is not our deepest desire to be desired by another for who we are, just as we are? This may be true but there is much more. We grow into desiring in imitation of what he have seen in others. They have a nice car, I’d like something like that. We are recreated, not by someone desiring us, but by what that desiring brings about in us – the Resurrection urges us to love as we are being loved. It means having the freedom to accept God’s love. Love creates only lovely things, love created me so I can rejoice that I am lovely, lovable and able to love.

For this to happen I need to let go of all concerns about worthiness. How awkward this can be comes out when we reflect: if you give a friend a present and then you say thank-you, how much do I owe you? We would be taken aback – so why do we do it with God? He has given us to ourselves as gift – why do we ask what do we owe – keep the rules – go to Church? We need to become less concerned about our reputation to make room for being loved and wanting to love. This love will know nothing of revenge or needing to blame, and so embraces the persecutor as well as the persecuted [with God it is always all] no matter how late we turn up for work. No mortgage.

When we stand free of concern for reputation, and from the need to settle old scores through our minds now fixed on things above – then we are beginning to love our neighbour without discrimination [which is what things above means].

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The central theme of Easter is that Jesus was present to them as forgiveness – and more, it is resurrection in the flesh not just a purely spiritual happening. Jesus walked with them entirely imbued by the ever present love between Abba and the Son – the Spirit. Such living is totally removed from any shadow of death – death has no place in this way of life [as is the case with the life we know now].

The only reason there is Christianity is Easter. The Resurrection was not a miracle happening within our understanding of God, but the way God makes it possible for us to respond to the presence of God. This is the Resurrection, Jesus enjoying this way of living including his death. This is why he told the Sadducees: You are very much mistaken. Every reality from within the death culture cannot speak adequately of God. God’s love is totally unaffected by death, also death was not a necessary separation – love carries on being mutual and complete even through death.

With the Resurrection we receive the grace [gift] to experience the presence of God, not just know about it. Access to God’s way of revealing is not ours by nature but by grace. This is revealed through the Resurrection, not because it never existed before, but we cannot understand with minds clouded by death. This man who is dead is alive. It is the total immanence of God – God totally involved with us – that is God’s transcendence.

This has something to say about sin. The Resurrection reveals there is no divine necessity for death; death is present as something that is – but now we see it does not have to be. Not only is our understanding of God very much mistaken, but contrary to the understanding God desires us to have. Death is a human reality; and as such is sinful. Putting Jesus to death shows how we are actively involved in death-dealing. The necessity of human death is a necessity born of sin. For us death is not just passive to be endured, but also what we actively deal out.

God did not raise Jesus simply to show his immunity from death, or to rescue him. Jesus is raised for us. The victim of our death-dealing ways is raised up as forgiveness:  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him – John.3.16-17. Death is seen as a human reality infected with sin, but it is a human reality capable of being forgiven by exposure to love – greater love there is not than you die for another.

None of this happens for the benefit of God – it is all for us, when forgiveness enters into human death. Forgiveness, the fruit of the Resurrection is not about what we have done or failed to do, but what up until now we had believed what was natural for us. If death is something that can be forgiven, we are wrong, not just about God but also about ourselves.

If God can raise someone from the dead in human history what we thought as being inevitable [death austinas the end] is clearly not so. It is not just a biological reality but a cultural one – and so is capable of change. Sin as related to death need not be. God created us mortal – mortality means experiencing death – we need to ponder on how death would have been experienced if there had been no sin. This has implications for understanding Original Sin – what we are as human beings moving towards death – now seen as capable of forgiveness.

 AMcC

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Easter Tuesday 18th April, 2017: Let God lead the way.

Easter Tuesday

Image from http://www.metrovoice.net/2009/0409_stlweb/0409_articles/crushing_weight_of_the_gethsemane.html

Jesus, in order to redeem the world, had to go through a trial – a period in which he had to give up his life. Christ almost wanted to avoid it, but he surrendered to the will of his Father, I would say there was a time in my life I didn’t want to continue living. I told God “that is it, I have had enough.” Often, I pray “let the will of God be done” but sometimes the will of God is not always as sweet or simple as I would wish it.

I was having difficulty singing – not that I didn’t have a good voice to sing, but I found that in the middle of the singing my voice would change completely. The most painful thing was, I was always reminded of how my voice affected everyone. My last option was to stop singing.

One day, I thought: “what if I ask God to sing in me?” At that moment, I decided to hand over the situation to God, to lead the way.

My singing pattern changed. I became happy with myself. Only through God and in God can I/we achieve that which seems impossible in the eyes of men and women.

We are celebrating today the resurrection of Christ because Christ relied on and believed in his Father’s ability to see him through his agony. So it shall be for all of us who believe and trust in God. We shall be victorious no matter what challenge we face in our life’s journey.

FMSL

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THE CELESTIAL CITY – Gothic Cathedrals.

May I share a notice from our friends at the Canterbury Gregorian Music Society. You’d be made most welcome!

THE CELESTIAL CITY – Dr. Jeffrey Miller

Temple of Solomon

Saturday 25th February 2017 10-1
Canterbury Cathedral Lodge
(small audio-visual room)
A morning workshop of talks and chant around gothic cathedrals
Jeffrey Miller holds research and teaching posts at the University of Cambridge and the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. His principal interests are in Gothic Architecture in Europe, including its materialization and meaning in medieval communities. Our morning will consist of two talks and two singing sessions. The talks will look at how mediaeval architects related their vision of a cathedral to passages in the Bible referring to the Temple of Jerusalem. How were the decorations and adornments conceived and realized? Cathedrals were important places for the civic and spiritual life of cities. How did communities decide where these buildings should be and how they should relate to the layout of their cities? We might also have a sneak preview of the end of the world. Questions such as these will be used to frame the two talks by our guest. In between we will discuss and sing some chant for the consecration of churches (and the end of the world?).
Free for members £5 for non-members
includes hand-outs, music and light refreshments
Further information from: jonathan.butchers@gmail.com

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15 January: Laudato Si – for Robin!

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After a big Christmas meal among a crowd of adults, some of them unknown to him, 18 month-old Abel was getting restless so he went and found his wellington boots. It was time for some fresh air.

By the corner of the park he stopped. He pointed at the lilac tree and shook his finger – a gesture he uses if he hears a loud noise like a siren – or grandad sneezing. Grandad’s sinuses were not challenged on this occasion; the noise was coming from the tree: Robin playing his part in the dusk chorus.

Abel watched and listened till Robin changed his perch, then said, bye bye. Off he went into the park and straight up onto the old abandoned railway line. At the top he paused again, listening. Singing close by were a thrush and blackbird as well as another robin. After listening for a while, it was bye-bye to these birds too. We were unable to see them.

We did see the gulls flying below the clouds on their way to the coast: bye-bye to them too.

It was dark when we said bye-bye to Abel, but he pointed from his car-seat to our own robin, still singing, still patrolling his boundaries by street-light. Bye-bye Abel, thank you for listening with me!

Laudato si!

WT

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23 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries XVI, An Inland Foray.

 

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Near Margate there was a small picturesque village called Minton and at its heart was a very old monastery occupied by Benedictine nuns. ‘T’ thought it might be a good idea to pay a visit in order to both soak up some of the local history and also gain some perspective on what the residents of the place got up to all day long. Plans were made and early one blustery morning what appeared to be two Chihuahuas and a middle-aged man boarded the fast train for St. Pancras at Margate, changed at Ramsgate, and detrained near their destination just a little while later.

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As the trio trekked through the quiet streets of the village, each was impressed by the autumnal beauty. ‘I just love the smell of falling leaves!’ Alfie, ever the romantic, exclaimed. ‘T’ gave the Chihuahua a strange look and cocked a half-smile. ‘You know, you’re right, Alfie, but in my human persona I would never have thought to put it that way. People might notice the sweetly musty smell…but it’s the colour, texture, and sight of exuberant movement as the bright leaves swirl in the wind that thrills the eye rather than the nose.’ Both Chihuahuas snorted good-natured derision, marvelling- not for the first (or last) time- at the amazing eccentricities of the human race.

The gate opening to the wonderland of garden that fronted the ancient monastery was invitingly unlocked and the visitors slowly made their way up a narrow tarmacked path heading for a stone chapel where, inside, they could hear faint strains of lyrical chanting. ‘Look!!!’ Alfie’s tone was filled with wonder, ‘a parakeet…and we’re not even on safari!’ It was true. Not one but a pair of iridescent green feathered missiles tipped with ruby red streaked across the wide space above the dewy landscape as the awe-struck travellers looked on until, with a chatter of dismissive squawks, they were gone; most likely to gorge on sunflower seeds in a nearby field.

‘Will they, you know…’ Ajax gulped, remembering the keen sense of rejection felt when the Chihuahuas were denied entrance to Westminster Abbey, ‘allow dogs inside?’ ‘Well, we can only try,’ the Director murmured; attempting to sound soothing, he also had some doubts. As the inter-planetary fact-finders, disguised as a tall man and two very diminutive dogs, tiptoed through the great oak door of the chapel there was no one present to hinder them and soon they were reverently seated and awash in the strange, achingly beautiful harmonies of voices, both plaintive and exultant, raised in chanted prayer. Among the dozen or so nuns situated in their stalls in the sanctuary of the small building one or two did notice the rapt canine presence and a few feminine eye-brows were raised…yet, when all was said and done, and since it was patently obvious that the Chihuahuas were well-behaved, their presence was permitted (if not acknowledged) and the makings of a great convocation of creatures, those with two feet and those with four, was discreetly accomplished without any fuss at all.

To be continued

 

 

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19 November: Saint Hilda

saint-hilda-whitbyx

Hilda was another of those formidable princesses who influenced the growth of the Celtic and Saxon Church in Britain. Indeed, she lived at the meeting point between the two traditions – Roman and Celtic – in Whitby, Yorkshire, then in the Kingdom of  Northumbria.

A teenage convert, she lived her faith to the full, eventually becoming Abbess of Whitby, a double monastery where women and men lived in their own communities, side by side, coming together for daily worship and no doubt for study; Whitby was reknown for learning, though the Viking raids would put paid to that.

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Being high on the cliff-top was not sufficient defence; books and plate were stolen, the monastery destroyed. What we see now is the ruined Norman Abbey, destroyed at the Reformation.

But before all that, it was at Whitby that King Oswy held a Church Synod in 664, attended by delegates from across England, where it was decided to celebrate Easter on the same day as the Church in Rome, a conscious effort to maintain church unity.

Hilda also encouraged the first English hymn writer, Caedmon, who was a groom in the Abbey stables, and was heard singing his songs in the stables.

This carving of Hilda stands above the town, on the high cross just visible to the right of the hilltop. The five bishops around her are the five bishops the monastery provided for the early Church in Northumbria. The snakes at her feet? Well, they do say that Hilda sorted out a plague of snakes around the area, turning them into stone in the shape of ammonite fossils. We found a little ammonite in a rock, and the segment of a bigger one that we carried home from a local beach does a serpentine quality about it!

Dear Lord, in the name of Saint Hilda, we pray for girls throughout the world who would like to study more; may we learn to encourage each other to develop our gifts, as Hilda encouraged the groom and poet, Caedmon. Amen.

 

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