Thursday, 26th November, 2020
Thanksgiving Day. Our best wishes and prayers for those celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States at this difficult time. Last night there was an interesting programme on BBC4 about the Mayflower and the early pilgrims who set off from England for a new life in North America. Some years ago when visiting New England I went to the re-created settlement (seen in the programme) and went on board the replica of the Mayflower. The replica may not be full size but even so the journey must have been horrendous in crowded and unsanitary conditions. The first year for the settlers was very hard and it was only with the help of the locals that they managed to get through to the second, for which they gave thanks. ‘Thanksgiving’ is an essential element to our Christian way of life as can be seen by the fact that the Eucharist – the summit of our sacramental life – is an act of thanksgiving. The word ‘Eucharist’ comes from the Greek word meaning ‘to give thanks’.
Tuesday, 24th November, 2020
Good news from the Government which means that public celebration of mass (albeit with the strict limitations we had previously) can resume whatever Tier BCP may be put in. It is also clear that, despite the welcome news about vaccines, we will have to live with these restrictions at least until at least the Spring. At least some clarity.
Sunday, 22nd November, 2020
Today is the Feast of Christ the King. The great ancient Latin hymn the Te Deum contains the verse Tu Rex Gloriae, Christe often set to music. Here is a setting by Dvorak:
Wednesday, 18th November, 2020
There is an interesting new advert for MacDonalds on the TV. It cleverly shows how a young uncomfortable teenager’s internal thoughts and feelings don’t match his external macho expression and behaviour. How true that we all sometimes wear a mask but perhaps just as well that we don’t have a window that others can look through. Of course, the ideal is that there should be no duplicity but an integrity to all our thoughts and actions.
Tuesday, 17th November, 2020
Today’s gospel tells the story of Jesus entering Jericho (Luke 19: 1-10) and how the small Zacchaeus climbed a tree in order to see him. On my one visit to the Holy Land some years ago our itinerary took us towards Jericho and I was hoping to see something of this town which, I believe is the oldest town in the world. Our tour was led by a well-informed Jew and our driver was a Palestinian and the two seemed to get on tolerably well. However, as we approached Jericho the guide waved his hand and said ‘that’s Jericho’ on the left’ as we drove straight on. Later, I asked the driver why we didn’t go through Jericho and he said that it is largely a Palestinian town and ‘the guide doesn’t like us’. The gospel story of Zacchaeus is much more about reconciliation and forgiveness than trees and the city of Jericho. If we couldn’t see Jericho it would have been nice to have seen something of that.
Sunday, 15th November, 2020
Over the last few weeks there has been a political television drama called Roadkill. It was not quite as gripping as The Night Manager (which also starred Hugh Laurie) but one really good thing was the music – quite exceptional – by a composer new to me, Harry Escott. He may be a composer of film and television scores but a little research shows he has also written an interesting piece O Light of Light, a reworking of a piece by the Tudor composer Thomas Tallis O Nata Lux (which I have sung and conducted many times). Both pieces are worth listening to.
This is the Escott:
and this is the Tallis:
Saturday, 14th November, 2020
In these dark and gloomy days we are all in need of some light and positivity. For some the Festival of Diwali – a festival of light – will help lift the mood… However, a flashing Christmas Tree, decorations and Merry Christmas signs in the entrance at Tesco Express does seem a little premature.
Wednesday, 11th November, 2020
Today’s first reading from the letter to Titus says, “Remind your people that it is their duty to be obedient to the officials and representatives of the government; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people or picking quarrels, but to be courteous and always polite to all kinds of people.” I am sure we can all think of some people we would like to hear these words and they seem particularly apt in an age of the less encouraging aspects of social media. Of course, these words were as apt in St Paul’s time: he wouldn’t have needed to write them if people were already behaving perfectly. There is, as they say, nothing new under the sun.
Tuesday, 10th November, 2020
Good news about the vaccine but, as ever, the media do seem to over-hype things. Things will certainly not be back to normal by Christmas and even by Spring is being over optimistic. Masks and distancing will be around for a good while yet. But I suppose it makes for good headlines.
Monday, 9th November, 2020
‘President-Elect Biden attended Mass.’ To many of us these words are encouraging as they hopefully usher in a new period of dignity and integrity befitting the holder of a great office of State – the sort of dignity and sense of duty shown yesterday by the Queen on Remembrance Day. Mr Biden attended Mass because of his life-long faith not out of any political expediency. He will, of course, be a President who is Catholic rather than a Catholic President, as I think President Kennedy said of himself when he was elected. He has much to do.
Sunday, 8th November, 2020
Although there is much going on in the world at the moment today, being Remembrance Sunday, our reflection should be towards the sacrifices others made for our freedom. Elgar’s Nimrod is surely a suitable piece to aid that reflection.
Friday, 6th November, 2020
Last night there was a harrowing story on Channel 4 news about a family in Wales that had suffered three bereavements from the coronavirus in a few days and now faced the prospect of a triple funeral. An elderly man had lost his wife and two sons and ten other members of the extended family had also had the virus. The news gives us just a figure – now running in to several hundred – of the daily deaths due to the virus. Each death is a unique human story, the loss deeply felt. This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday when we recall the sacrifice made by many in the various conflicts of the distant and recent past. Again, each of those deaths, reported at the time as a statistic, was also a unique and personal story. November is a month when we traditionally pray for the dead and our prayers seem much in need at this time.
The Channel 4 Home Editor who reported the story, Andy Davies, was in an O Level Scripture class that I taught, many years ago.
Thursday, 5th November, 2020
In today’s gospel Jesus tells the parable of the woman who lost some coins and searched high and low till she found them. The coins in question were, most likely, not just a few coppers but part of her wedding headdress, so something of real value and that she is really happy when she finds it. The point of the parable is that the Lord is truly happy when someone who is lost is found. Sometimes we don’t know what it is we have lost either as individuals or as a society. There’s a lot that has been lost at the moment (around the world) but hopefully it can be found or rediscovered.
Wednesday, 4th November, 2020
Today’s gospel has the striking words of Jesus that no one can be his disciple unless they hate their father, mother wife, etc. This is a difficult passage but what it isn’t is an incitement to hatred. We need to remember that Jesus often used the hyperbolic language common to teachers of the time to emphasise often the opposite or to stress the demands of something else. He goes on to say that no one can be his disciple unless they carry their cross. The image of separation from family is there to give extra weight to this second statement about carrying the cross of sacrifice. Following Jesus may involve a measure of sacrifice that might cut across other natural demands and affiliations. Underpinning both is the love of God (our love for him and his love for us) which informs and gives meaning to all other manifestations of love which in turn derives from it.
Tuesday, 3rd November, 2020
At weekday mass we are currently reading through St Paul’s letter to the Philippians and today we have the wonderful passage often referred to as the Great Christological Hymn (Phil 2: 5-11). Here St Paul explores the mystery of who Jesus Christ is, what he has done and how we should respond. This passage has been paraphrased in the popular hymn At the name of Jesus every knee should bow. Both the hymn and today’s passage are worth contemplating as it gives an important orientation or anchor point amidst so much fluidity.
Monday, 2nd November, 2020
Whatever view on might have as to the necessity for, likely efficacy of or timing and duration of the new lockdown, it is where we are. We have been here before, though not quite. Last time, hard as it was, we were blessed with some glorious weather but this time we have miserable weather and long dark (and still darkening) evenings. The next four weeks (at the very least) will be challenging. This is a challenging time for those who have been infected with the virus, are suffering its physical ravages, for others who have serious illnesses, and for those working flat out in the health and care professions. It is a challenging time for those who may not have the virus, but face the prospect, or the reality, of financial uncertainty, hardship or worse. It is also a challenging time for those who may not have the virus, nor face financial insecurity but are struggling with issues arising from loneliness, isolation or general depression. It will be important over the next few weeks to keep in touch with family, friends and others. It will also be important to keep in touch with the Lord.
Over the last two months we have, in the parish, tentatively but effectively opened up for the public celebration of Mass, albeit with restrictions. This has worked well and has been much appreciated. Sadly, the new measures mean that the public celebration will (from Thursday) be suspended. I shall, of course, continue to say mass privately but our booking system can be up and running again very quickly once restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, many will already be joining other communities via online masses.
This time round the Government is allowing churches to be open for individual visits for prayer and our church will be open from 10.00 a.m. – 11.00 a.m. every day except Mondays and Saturdays. It will, however, be open exceptionally today, Monday 2nd for All Souls Day from 10.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m.
I hope that starting the blog once more may offer some measure of connectedness at this time. I may not be able to keep it up every day but do check in from time to time.