Thursday, June 22, 2017

"With good hope I shall commit myself wholly to God" - St Thomas More



Today we commemorate the martyrdom of St John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and St Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England. They were both martyred in 1535.  This extract from St Thomas More’s letter written in prison to his daughter Margaret is one of the great classics of Christian witness from the period. It is used in today's Office of Readings. (The English Works of Sir Thomas More, London, 1557, p. 1454)


FROM St THOMAS MORE'S LETTER 
TO HIS DAUGHTER, MARGARET
Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness.  His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience. God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.

By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.

I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear.  I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.

And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.

And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice.  But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.


COLLECT
O God, who in martyrdom
have brought true faith to its highest expression,
graciously grant
that, strengthened through the intercession
of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More,
we may confirm by the witness of our life
the faith we profess with our lips.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bishop Geoffrey Rowell (1943-2017) on the Easter Gospel



Go to CATHOLICITY & COVENANT for a fitting tribute to Bishop Geoffrey, and a couple of quotes from his preaching. I share with you here a stunning piece he wrote in the Sunday Times on Easter Day, 8th April, 2007:

Jesus dies. His lifeless body is taken down from the cross. Painters and sculptors have strained their every nerve to portray the sorrow of Mary holding her lifeless son in her arms, as mothers today in Baghdad hold with the same anguish the bodies of their children. On Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve, God is dead, entering into the nothingness of human dying. The source of all being, the One who framed the vastness and the microscopic patterning of the Universe, the delicacy of petals and the scent of thyme, the musician’s melodies and the lover’s heart, is one with us in our mortality. In Jesus, God knows our dying from the inside.

How can these things be said, and sung, and celebrated, as they will be by countless millions this Easter? Only because the blotting out of life by death is not the horizon. The definitive line is not drawn there. From that nothingness and darkness and the seeming triumph of the darkest powers of evil, new life was born, a new creation came to be. On Easter morning a tomb was found empty, a stone rolled away, and a new order broke into the world. The Easter stories of the Gospels are not about “the resurrection of relics”, but about an amazing new life and transfiguration. It is not the resurrection of a principle but of a person, who calls us by name. In St John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene hears the calling of her name by the risen Christ, though blinded by her tears she thinks Him to be the gardener. Clutching his feet she tries to pin him down, to shut him up in the old order, but he tells her not to touch, not to seek to hold down his risen life. She is to go and tell the Good News of resurrection, that all may be drawn into the ascending energy of the love of God.

Jesus breathes on His disciples His life-giving Spirit, the divine life of the new creation. “Go and live that life, live out that love”, for “Christ is risen and the demons are fallen”. The principalities and powers are dethroned. They have no ultimate control of our lives. From the nothingness of death and the absence of God and meaning, Christ rises in triumph and love’s redeeming work is done.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

From Dr Pusey's sermon "Miracles of Prayer"



It is not unusual in conversation among those interested in the 19th century catholic revival for Dr Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882) to be compared unfavourably with Newman and others of his contemporaries, even to hear him dismissed with faint praise (in a way that Newman never is) for being a crusty scholar with a gloomy, grim, sad, over-penitential spirituality. 

To be sure, Dr Pusey was a very great theologian and Biblical scholar. And throughout his long life he did endure more than his fair share of personal disappointments and real tragedies, one or two of which would have crushed a weaker man. Clearly each of these left its mark on him. Yet it is precisely they which make his sermons and spiritual writings all the more valuable and impossible to dismiss as trite or untested by experience. Pusey's inner life was not untouched by his struggles and disappointments, and the spiritual habit of muttering of the penitential psalms under his breath was certainly one aspect of his walk with God. But it was one part of a complex whole. His sermons, reflections, letters, meditations and prayers show him to have been a man who, like St Paul, both plumbed the depths and scaled the heights of human life and spiritual reality.

So much of what Pusey wrote and preached is characterised by simplicity, practicality and spiritual depth. Father John Hunwicke spoke for many when he said in his blog a few years ago that Pusey was “one of the very greatest Catholic teachers and spiritual directors of the modern period.” 

Today I share a real gem with you: these paragraphs from Pusey's sermon, "Miracles of Prayer" which he preached at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, on Septuagesima Sunday, 1866. The entire sermon can be downloaded in pdf format HERE. I have also included four of my favourites from among Pusey's prayers.


Prayer is "the ascent of the soul to God;" it is the beginning of that blessed converse, which shall be the exhaustless fulness of eternal bliss; it is the continuance or renewal of union with God.

. . . Blessed dissatisfaction of man's craving soul; glorious restlessness, the token of its Divine birth, its Divine end; that nothing can satisfy it, except what is the bliss of its God, Infinite, Divine love.

Imperfect, faltering, unsatisfactory as are our prayers, their defects but shew the more the goodness of our God, who is never weary of those who are so soon wearied of him, who lets not fall a single earnest cry to him for himself. Not one prayer, from the yearning of the penitent ("would, God, for love of Thee, I had never offended Thee!"), to the love-enkindled longing of the Saint ("My God, and my All!)" but will have enlarged thy capacity for the infinite love of God, and will have drawn down to thee the indwelling of God the Holy Ghost, who is Love Infinite, the Bond of the love of the Father and the Son.

It will guard thee from all evil in the perilous passage through this world; it will sanctify to thee all thy joys; it will be to thee a calm above nature in all thy sorrows; it will give a supernatural value to all thy acts; it will heal all thine infirmities; it will illumine all thy knowledge; and, when thy flesh and thy heart shall fail, thy last prayer upon earth in the Name of Jesus shall melt into thy first Halleluiah in heaven, where, too, doubtless prayer shall never cease, but the soul shall endlessly desire of God, what God shall unintermittingly supply, more and yet more of the exhaustless, ever-filling fulness of Divine Beauty and Wisdom and Love, yea of himself who is Love



GROWING IN HIS LOVE
Good Jesu, 
fountain of love: 
fill me with thy love, 
absorb me into thy love,
compass me with thy love, 
that I may see all things in the light of thy love, 
receive all things as tokens of thy love, 
speak of all things 
in words breathing of thy love, 
win through thy love others to thy love; 
be kindled, day by day, 
with a new glow of thy love, 
until I be fitted 
to enter into thine everlasting love, 
to adore thy love and love to adore thee, 
my God and my all. 
Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.


A PRAYER FOR THE WEARY
Let me not seek out of thee 
what I can find only in thee, O Lord: 
peace and rest and joy and bliss, 
which abide only in thine abiding joy. 
Lift up my soul above the weary round of harassing thoughts 
to thy eternal Presence. 
Lift up my soul 
to the pure, bright, serene, radiant atmosphere of thy Presence,
that there I may breathe freely, 
there repose in thy love, 
there be at rest from myself, 
and from all things that weary me; 
and thence return, 
arrayed with thy peace, 
to do and bear what shall please thee. Amen.


LEAD US, LORD
Teach us, O Father, 
how to ask thee each moment silently for thy help. 
If we fail, 
teach us at once to ask thee to forgive us.
If we are disquieted, 
enable us, by thy grace, quickly to turn to thee. 
May nothing come between us and thee. 
May we will, do, and say, 
just what thou, our loving and tender Father, 
wiliest us to will, do, and say. 
Work thy holy will in us, and through us, this day. 
Protect us, guide us, bless us within and without, 
that we may do something this day for love of thee ; 
something which shall please thee ; 
and that we may this evening be nearer to thee, 
though we see it not nor know it. 
Lead us, Lord, in a strait way unto thyself, 
and keep us in thy grace unto the end; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


SOARING INTO GOD
O God, my God, 
give me a heart to thank thee; 
lift up my heart above myself, 
to thee and thine eternal throne;
let it not linger here 
among the toils and turmoils of this lower world; 
let it not be oppressed by any earth-born clouds 
of care or anxiety or fear or suspicion; 
but bind it wholly to thee and to thy love; 
give me eyes to see thy love in all things, 
and thy grace in all around me; 
make me to thank thee for thy love and thy grace 
to all and in all; 
give me wings of love, 
that I may soar up to thee, 
and cling to thee, and adore thee, 
and praise thee more and more, 
until I be fitted to enter into the joys of thine everlasting love, 
everlastingly to love thee and thy grace, 
whereby thou didst make me such as thou couldest love, 
such as could love thee,
O God, my God. Amen.





Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecostal life



Before Jesus entered the glory of the heavenly sanctuary as our great High Priest, the cloud taking him "out of their sight", he told his followers not to leave Jerusalem, but to "wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4). Then he reassured them, "You shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Clearly he said that because of the difficulty of living for him in our own strength, going forth to evangelise just with our human insights and abilities, or trying to establish his new community of love and faith, the Church, merely as a sociological reality. "Power from on high" was what they needed for their mission. (And it's what we desperately need, too.)

So, leaving Mount Olivet they returned to Jerusalem, spending their time between the temple and the upper room. We read that there were "about 120" of them, not just the Apostles. This was the nucleus of the first Church. They waited "with Mary" for the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon them. "With one accord" they "devoted themselves to prayer" (Acts 1:14).

In Serve the Lord With Gladness (p. 51), the late Fr Lev Gillet (who wrote simply as "A Monk of the Eastern Church") remarks that "Even in the context of the Eucharistic liturgy, the Spirit is not given only for the sake of the Eucharist itself. The purpose of His coming is to lead us into Pentecostal life, the life of the Spirit. Have we ever taken seriously the promises of the Lord after His Resurrection, made not only to His apostles but to every believer?"

There is no better time to ask ourselves that question than today - Pentecost Sunday - when we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church.

My prayer for all readers of this blog - whatever tradition you belong to, and whatever "spirituality" nourishes your walk with God at this time of your life - is that you will have the joy of entering more deeply than ever before into the mystery of Pentecost; that the love, the power, the fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be released afresh in you and in the Church communities of which you are part.

You may be in a time of great blessing at this stage of your life. On the other hand, you might feel more as if you are trudging through the desert, the wilderness. Well, that's also part of following Jesus! The fact is that wherever we are right now, the Holy Spirit is working to transform us - individuals and communities - into the image and likeness of Jesus.

We also need to remember that the chief purpose of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the "Promise of the Father" is not to make us feel good, but to empower us to witness in our day to day lives to Jesus and the salvation he offers a crushed, broken and violent world.




  

Friday, June 2, 2017

‘Even the little children were targets’ - Coptic Christians describe bus attack in Egypt


By Heba Farouk Mahfouz, in the Washington Post, 1st June, 2017


Relatives mourn during the funeral for victims killed 
in an attack in central Egypt on May 26. 
(Mohamed Hossam/European Pressphoto Agency)

The passengers on the bus heard a noise and thought a tire had exploded.

One young man got up to see what had happened, and why there was so much smoke. But before he could open the door, a bullet smashed the glass and hit him in the head. Several gunmen dressed in military-style uniforms then sprayed the bus with gunfire.

“In a second, they [the gunmen] got inside and shot at every living and moving object they could see,” said the driver, Boshra Kamel, 56, who was shot several times but survived by playing dead. “Even the little children were targets to them.”

The passengers — a group of Coptic Christians — were on their way to a monastery in the Minya region, 150 miles south of Cairo, when the gunmen attacked last Friday, killing at least 30 people and wounding 26. It was the latest incident in rising violence targeting the country’s minority Christians, who make up 10 percent of the population.

Days after the massacre, I spoke to several survivors who had been transferred to the Nasser Medical Institute in Cairo for treatment. Among them were 13 members of one extended family.

With bullets still in her body, Samia Adly, 56, walked slowly down a hallway filled with relatives, religious leaders and officials who wanted to show their support for the victims.

Adly and her husband, Mohsen Morkos, 66, an Egyptian American, had come to Egypt about two months ago. They were on their way to the monastery for blessings after his successful lung surgery in the United States, she explained. Traveling on the bus with them were two sons, Hany and Sameh, both in their early 30s, two grandchildren and other family members.

“My son Sameh was the first to be martyred,” she said.  “They then shot Boshra, the driver, and then killed my husband.”

Her 4-year-old granddaughter, Marvy, and a nephew were also shot and killed.

After the militants boarded the bus, they asked survivors of the first round of gunfire to “either recite the Islamic shahada creed, live as practicing Muslims, or be killed,” said Nadia Shokry, 54, who was shot three times.

Defying their attackers, the passengers began to pray. “The more we prayed for Christ, the angrier they became and started shooting again and more violently,” Boshra said.

“We told them that we are Christians and we will die Christians,” Adly said as she clutched a cross that a monk had given her at the hospital.

The attackers targeted the male passengers and then began confiscating gold jewelry, money and mobile phones from the female survivors, before shooting at them, too, and running away.

“I begged my attacker to stop after he shot me the first three times. He told me to shut up or he would shoot me in the heart,” Shokry said. She watched as the militants killed her husband, Samuel, 53, her son Mina, 30, and her 18-month-old granddaughter, Maroska, the youngest victim of the attack.

Maroska’s mother tried to shield her from the flying bullets, but the baby was shot in the heart, Shokry said.

“We forgive them,” Shokry said about the attackers.  “I pray God touches their hearts and changes them so that they see the right path.”

The bus attack comes a month after a twin bombing that targeted two churches in Alexandria and Tanta left 49 people dead and scores injured. Last December, a bomb exploded in the main cathedral in Cairo, killing 29 people.

But Minya has experienced the largest number of sectarian attacks, with more than 75 targeting Christian residents in the past six years.

Hours after the bus ambush, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi warned in a televised speech that government forces would strike training camps for terrorists who attack Egypt, regardless of where they are. Later that night, Egyptian fighter jets targeted several militant bases in eastern Libya, the Egyptian foreign ministry said.




Thursday, June 1, 2017

St Justin, Martyr



Today's saint, Justin Martyr (100-165) was born at Flavia Neapolis, ancient Shechem in Judaea (now known as Nablus). He referred to himself as a Samaritan, though his father and grandfather were most likely Greek or Roman. 

Justin obviously had property and private means. He studied philosophy, was converted to Christ around the age of 30, and spent the rest of his life teaching what he called the "true philosophy", still wearing his philosopher’s gown. 

He seems to have travelled a great deal. We know that he stayed in Ephesus, and then settled in Rome. Justin was one of the early Christian "apologists", who communicated the Gospel in ways that related to the thought forms and concerns of his contemporaries, and defended the Faith against heresies and false belief. 

Among his writings are the apology [defence] Against Marcion and a Refutation of all Heresies. Both of these writings are now lost. Other writings are the Dialogue with Trypho, the First Apology and the Second Apology

In the opening of the Dialogue Justin describes his search for a knowledge of God among the scholars of the Stoic, Peripatetic, and Pythagorean traditions. Eventually he discovered in the teaching of Plato ways to think about the Godhead. But most important was his meeting on a beach with an old man who told him that only by God's revelation of himself can we know the truth, and that through the prophets this revelation has come, with their words being fulfilled in Christ. 

Justin became convinced that this was true. Furthermore, his observation of the day to day life of Christians, together with the courage of the martyrs, persuaded him that the accusations routinely made against them were unfounded. 

Following his conversion, he became a sought after Christian teacher. 

Justin's writings are valuable historically, as they give us a snapshot of Baptism and the Eucharist in the Church of his day (i.e. during the half-century following the death of the Apostle John). 

Justin suffered martyrdom with six others – five men and a woman – at Rome under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius when Rusticus was prefect of the city (between 162 and 168). The church of St John the Baptist in Sacrofano, a few kilometers north of Rome, claims to house his relics. 

Here is Justin's famous passage on the Eucharist, chapters 66 and 67 of his First Apology

“. . . this food is called among us the Eucharist, which no one may share with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.

“We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Saviour became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so the food which is blessed by the prayer of his word and from which our flesh and blood by assimilation are nourished becomes the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.

“For the apostles, in their memoirs, which are called gospels, have delivered to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, and, when he had given thanks, said: ‘Do this in memory of me. This is my body.’ In the same manner having taken the cup and given thanks, he said: ‘This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone.’

“Ever since then we have constantly reminded each other of these things. The wealthy among us help the poor and we always keep together. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

“On the day called Sunday all who live in the city or in the countryside gather in one place. The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, for as long as time permits. When the reader has finished, the presider of the assembly speaks to us, urging everyone to imitate the examples of righteous living we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.

“On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The presider offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give their assent by saying, “Amen”. The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take a portion of what is left over to those who are absent.

“The wealthy, if they willing, make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the presider, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need.


“Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our Saviour Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday, having appeared to his apostles and disciples, he taught them these things that we have passed on to you for your consideration. The food we receive, however, is very special.”


And here is the account of St Justin's martyrdom from the anonymous Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Justin and his Companion Saints written shortly after the martyrdom of St Justin. This passage is used in the current Breviary for today's Office of Readings. 


The saints were seized and brought before the prefect of Rome, whose name was Rusticus. As they stood before the judgment seat, Rusticus the prefect said to Justin: “Above all, have faith in the gods and obey the emperors.” Justin said: “We cannot be accused or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Rusticus said: “What system of teaching do you profess?” Justin said: “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error.”

The prefect Rusticus said: “Are those doctrines approved by you, wretch that you are?” Justin said: “Yes, for I follow them with their correct teaching.”

The prefect Rusticus said: “What sort of teaching is that?” Justin said: “Worship the God of the Christians. We hold him to be from the beginning the one creator and maker of the whole creation, of things seen and things unseen. We worship also the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He was foretold by the prophets as the future herald of salvation for the human race and the teacher of distinguished disciples. For myself, since I am a human being, I consider that what I say is insignificant in comparison with his infinite godhead. I acknowledge the existence of a prophetic power, for the one I have just spoken of as the Son of God was the subject of prophecy. I know that the prophets were inspired from above when they spoke of his coming among men.”

Rusticus said: “You are a Christian, then?” Justin said: “Yes, I am a Christian.” The prefect said to Justin: “You are called a learned man and think that you know what is true teaching. Listen: if you were scourged and beheaded, are you convinced that you would go up to heaven?” Justin said: “I hope that I shall enter God’s house if I suffer that way. For I know that God’s favor is stored up until the end of the whole world for all who have lived good lives.”

The prefect Rusticus said: “Do you have an idea that you will go up to heaven to receive some suitable rewards?” Justin said: “It is not an idea that I have; it is something I know well and hold to be most certain.”

The prefect Rusticus said: “Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods.” Justin said: “No one who is right thinking stoops from true worship to false worship.”

The prefect Rusticus said: “If you do not do as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy.” Justin said: “We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved. For this will bring us salvation and confidence as we stand before the more terrible and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Savior.”

In the same way the other martyrs also said: “Do what you will. We are Christians; we do not offer sacrifice to idols.”

The prefect Rusticus pronounced sentence, saying: “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the command of the emperor be scourged and led away to suffer capital punishment according to the ruling of the laws.” Glorifying God, the holy martyrs went out to the accustomed place. They were beheaded, and so fulfilled their witness of martyrdom in confessing their faith in their Saviour.

PRAYER
O God,
who through the folly of the Cross
wondrously taught Saint Justin the Martyr
the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ,
grant us, through his intercession, that,
having rejected deception and error,
we may become steadfast in the faith.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.









Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"The Catacombs remind us of the courage and steadfastness of the early Christians"


- by Francis Phillips, posted yesterday on the CATHOLIC HERALD website


- from a Roman Catacomb

A visit to Rome is incomplete without a pilgrimage to these holy places, sacred to the memory of Christians who were prepared to die for their faith

Going to Mass last Friday, the feast of St Philip Neri, I read that he had “a mystical experience in the catacombs in 1544, when he ‘felt himself divinely filled with the power of the Spirit’, causing his heart to dilate.”

Seemingly this incident wasn’t known to Fr James Spencer Northcote, author of The Roman Catacombs, who relates in his fascinating book that “From the middle of the ninth century till nearly the end of the sixteenth, the Roman Catacombs had no history and were practically unknown.” Then, in 1578, some labourers accidentally broke into a gallery of ancient graves. Unfortunately, this led to many precious relics and memorials being destroyed or vandalised.

First published in 1877 and republished this year by Sophia Institute Press, Fr Northcote’s book reminds us of the lives and often heroic deaths of our Christian forefathers in Rome many centuries ago. He mentions that there at least 40 or 50 catacombs in the hills around Rome. Originally built by designated Christian “fossors” (diggers) to bury their dead, their use lasted for 300 years, until the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion. By AD 410, burials had ceased for good.

It seems that the Roman government did not interfere with the catacombs before the middle of the third century and not even then as places of burial: only when they came to be used as places of worship and assembly for their outlawed religion did they attract the severity of the pagan administration. For instance, the Emperor Numerian, learning that Christian families were secretly assembling for Mass in a catacomb on the Via Salara, deliberately had the entrance blocked off by a huge mound of rubble, thus burying the worshippers alive. The sacred vessels for Mass and the skeletons of men, women and children were only rediscovered during the pontificate of Pope Damasus in AD 370.

Fr Northcote’s book includes illustrations and descriptions of the famous symbols found in the catacombs, such as the Good Shepherd, the anchor, the dove and the fish. The fish symbol in particular was “in universal use throughout the Church during its first 300 years…it became as it were a part of the very catechism – every baptised Christian seems to have been familiar with it.”

Also, in contrast to pagan memorials, the Christian ones did not record the status of the dead, such as “freedman” or “slave”; baptism had made such distinctions irrelevant.

A visit to Rome is incomplete without a pilgrimage to some of these holy places, sacred to the memory of Christians who were prepared to die for their faith. We are reminded of their courage and steadfastness when we hear in the news of Christians martyred by Islamist terrorists.


In my missal I have a holy picture honouring the 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians working in Libya who were captured and beheaded by ISIS in February 2015. The inscription states that “They were offered the chance to save their lives by embracing Islam and all of them refused, confessing Christ and dying for him as true Christian martyrs.”


Friday, May 19, 2017

The Ascension, the Priestliness of Jesus, and the work of Margaret Barker



Since my teenage years I have had an interest in how the Old Testament forms the backdrop to the New Testament, and in particular how the New Testament authors use Old Testament passages and symbols. My observations led me to embrace a basically typological approach to the OT at a time when most friends - both "conservative" and "liberal" - were pursuing debates about the OT from a purely historical/critical angle. Among my guidebooks back then were the works of Anglican writers Austin Farrer and Gabriel Herbert. Although typology can give rise to unrestrained and subjective allegorisation, I have always thought that a failure to embrace a balanced typological hermeneutic results at best in a sidelining of the OT except as "historical background", and at worst (as Aidan Nichols points out in his book "Lovely Like Jerusalem") in our becoming modern Marcionites

The connection of OT typology with the development of Christian worship seemed obvious to me as a young man formed by highly liturgical Anglo-Catholicism, a growing acquaintance with the Church Fathers, and those parts of the 1960s & 70s charismatic renewal emphasising the worship of the community as somehow part of our "offering" to the Father through Jesus our great High Priest.


In recent years there has been a revival of scholarly interest in these themes across the Christian traditions. One of the most significant contributors is Margaret Barker, a Cambridge theologian (and Methodist), whose work has been very widely acknowledged. A number of her essays are online. Visit her home page HERE. In July 2008 Margaret Barker was awarded a DD by the Archbishop of Canterbury "in recognition of her work on the Jerusalem Temple and the origins of Christian Liturgy, which has made a significantly new contribution to our understanding of the New Testament and opened up important fields for research."

I think that her book The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy should be required reading for all thoughtful Christians!

I mention this in the lead-up to Ascension Day, because I want to share with you a key passage from Margaret Barker's book which shows how central the Ascension was to the early Christians. (It also vindicates all those teachers, theologians and hymn-writers in the Anglo-Catholic tradition who have emphasized the Ascension as primarily a celebration of the Lord's high-priestly ministry.)

So, from pages 221 - 222 of The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy:


Only the high priest was permitted to pass through the veil and to stand before the throne or, in the desert tradition, before the ark, and he was only permitted to do this once a year on the Day of Atonement. The words of Leviticus 16:2 could imply that at an earlier period, the high priest had entered more frequently: “Tell your brother Aaron not to come at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, lest he die.” Entering the holy of holies was a terrifying experience, because the LORD appeared to the high priest “in the cloud upon the kapporet”. Before making the blood offering, the high priest took incense into the holy of holies, and this seems to have been a protection for him. “Put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the kapporet which is upon the testimony, lest he die” (Lev. 16:13). In later texts, the high priest carries a “fire pan” in to the holy of holies and places it before the ark. Then he puts the incense on to the charcoal, and fills the holy of hollies with smoke (m. Yoma 5:1). Other texts, however, imply that there was a golden altar, within the veil of the temple. The Letter to the Hebrews is clear; in the holy of holies stood the ark and the golden altar of incense (Heb. 9:3-4). The Hebrew text of 1 Kings 6:20 - 22, however, is not so clear, but could have described a golden altar within the veil. Unfortunately, the line, “He covered with gold the altar that belonged to the holy of holies” (1 Kgs. 6:22) does not appear in the LXX, and the text of v. 20 is disordered. The Vulgate, which is quite clear that there was an altar within the veil, was translated at the end of the fourth century CE by Jerome, who would have known the Letter to the Hebrews and thus would have read the ambiguities of 1 Kings 6:20 in the light of the later Christian text. However the incense was actually offered, the tradition is clear that the high priest needed the incense as protection when he entered the holy of holies, and that the incense used in the holy of holies was a special blend. It was deemed “most holy”, and anyone who used that blend outside the holy of holies was “cut off from his people” (Exod. 30:34-38).


Entering the holy of holies with a cloud of incense is the temple reality that underlies the visions of the human figure entering heaven with clouds or of the LORD appearing in clouds upon the throne. Thus did Isaiah describe his call to prophesy: he saw the LORD enthroned in the temple, between the six-winged seraphim, and the house was filled with smoke (Isa. 6:1 - 4). Daniel saw a human figure “one like a son of man” coming with clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13). When Luke described the Ascension he said that Jesus was “lifted up, and a cloud took him” (Acts 1:9). Jesus was passing beyond the veil, beyond the constraints of time and place. The men in white said that he would return in the same way. John introduced the Book of Revelation with the assurance, “He is coming with the clouds” (Rev. 1:7), and John was granted his own vision of the LORD’s return, which he recorded as the Mighty Angel coming from heaven wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head (Rev.10:1). Entering the holy of holies was entering heaven. And so these visions of a human figure going or coming with clouds must be understood in the temple setting of the high priest entering the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement.

Peter’s sermon in Solomon’s Portico shows that this was indeed how the early Church understood the departure of Jesus. He had gone to heaven as the great high priest, and would emerge again at the appointed time, that is, to bring renewal from the presence of the LORD. This is exactly what happened on the Day of Atonement, sin was judged and the earth was then cleansed and healed for the New Year. Hence Peter’s warning: “Repent, that your sins may he blotted out” (Acts 3:19 - 21). What had been ritualized annually in the Day of Atonement was happening in their own times through the self sacrifice of the great high priest Jesus. Jesus had passed through the veil into eternity; he was outside time and matter and so had passed into the eternal present, no longer limited by the particular time and place of first-century Palestine. This is the context, too, of the words in the “high-priestly prayer” in John 17. Jesus knew that he was about to pass through the veil, that he was returning to Day One, i.e. beyond and “before” the creation. Thus: “Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory I had with thee before the world was made” (John 17:5).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

. . . All of which is why we should be still singing these hymns from our own tradition:

Alleluya, sing to Jesus,
His the sceptre, his the throne;
Alleluya, his the triumph,
His the victory alone:
Hark the songs of peaceful Sion
Thunder like a mighty flood;
Jesus, out of every nation,
Hath redeemed us by his Blood.

Alleluya, not as orphans
Are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluya, he is near us,
Faith believes, nor questions how;
Though the cloud from sight received him
When the forty days were o’er,
Shall our hearts forget his promise,
‘I am with you evermore’?

Alleluya, Bread of angels,
Thou on earth our Food, our Stay;
Alleluya, here the sinful
Flee to thee from day to day;
Intercessor, Friend of sinners,
Earth’s Redeemer, plead for me,
Where the songs of all the sinless
Sweep across the crystal sea.

Alleluya, King eternal,
Thee the Lord of lords we own;
Alleluya, born of Mary,
Earth thy footstool, Heaven thy throne:
Thou within the veil hast entered,
Robed in flesh, our great High Priest;
Thou on earth both Priest and Victim
In the Eucharistic Feast.

William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Once, only once, and once for all,
his precious life he gave;
before the cross in faith we fall,
and own it strong to save.

“One offering, single and complete,”
with lips and hearts we say;
but what he never can repeat
he shows forth day by day.

For as the priest of Aaron’s line
within the holiest stood,
and sprinkled all the mercy shrine
with sacrificial blood;

So he, who once atonement wrought,
our Priest of endless power,
presents himself for those he bought
in that dark noontide hour.

His manhood pleads where now it lives
on heaven’s eternal throne,
and where in mystic rite he gives
its presence to his own.

And so we show thy death, O Lord,
till thou again appear,
and feel, when we approach thy board,
we have an altar here.

William Bright (1824-1901)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Now upon the golden altar,
In the midst before the throne,
Incense of his intercession
He is offering for his own.
And on earth at all his altars
His true presence we adore,
And his sacrifice is pleaded,
Yea, till time shall be no more.
Alleluia, Alleluia
To th’incarnate Son of God,
Who, abiding Priest forever,
Still imparts his flesh and blood.

Then, adored in highest Heaven,
We shall see the virgin’s Son,
All creation bowed before him,
Man upon th’eternal throne:
Where, like sound of many waters
In one ever rising flood,
Myriad voices hymn his triumph,
Victim, Priest, incarnate God.
Worthy he all praise and blessing
Who, by dying, death o’ercame;
Glory be to God forever!
Alleluia to the Lamb!

Ernest Edward Dugmore  (1843-1925)

Monday, May 1, 2017

For Mary's Month of May - a Sermon of Fr Ignatius



The image of Our Lady at Capel-y-ffin
at the site of the apparitions in 1880

One of the most amazing figures of the Victorian age was the Rev’d Joseph Leycester Lyne (1837-1908), who as a young deacon served successively Fathers Prynne and Lowder, leaders in the Catholic Revival. He then became known as “Father Ignatius”, a monk-evangelist who sought to restore the religious life in the Church of England. He was a wildly eccentric man and his detractors were (and still are) many. But he was a great evangelist. The “ordinary people” heard him gladly. He drew huge crowds up and down Britain and throughout the USA, preaching mainly in secular buildings, and many responded to the Lord through his ministry. He established a monastery at Capel-y-ffin near Llanthony in the Black Mountains of Wales. It was here that there were apparitions of Our Lady in 1880. It is said that reports of miracles, like controversy, always surrounded him. His order died when he died.

The ruins of his chapel at Capel-y-ffin remain, and many pilgrims, myself included, have found it to be a spiritually powerful and evocative place.

Father Ignatius was a robust Anglican Catholic. But his fans included evangelical protestants as well. Indeed, he was an encourager of those leading the Welsh Revival of 1904. So, it is good to know that there is now an annual pilgrimage to Capel-y-finn which draws Christians of different traditions to honour Ignatius and to seek Our Lady’s prayers. For information on this, click HERE.

Through the first half of the twentieth century, a wide range of Christians liked to sing his best-known devotional hymn:

Let me come closer to thee, Lord Jesus,
Oh, closer day by day;
Let me lean harder on thee, Lord Jesus,
Yes, harder, all the way.

Let me show forth thy beauty, Lord Jesus,
Like sunshine on the hills;
Oh, let my lips pour forth all thy sweetness
In joyous sparkling rills.

Yes, like a channel, precious Lord Jesus,
Make me and let me be;
Keep me and use me daily, Lord Jesus,
For thee, for only thee.

In all my heart and will, O Lord Jesus,
Be altogether king;
Make me a loyal subject, Lord Jesus,
To thee in everything.

Thirsting and hungering for thee, Lord Jesus,
With blessed hunger here.
Longing for New Jerusalem’s fullness-
No thirst, no hunger there.

Gladstone said that Father Ignatius was one of the greatest orators of his day. The leading atheist of the day, Charles Bradlaugh, said that he was the only man whose influence he feared upon his (i.e. Bradlaugh's) followers. Father Ignatius’ motto ‘Jesus Only’ symbolised his simple, direct message.

In his 1933 history of the Catholic revival, Desmond Morse-Boycott, while not overlooking the eccentricities, weaknesses and failures of Father Ignatius, echoes the feeling of many when he says of him and his rocky relationship with the Church of England: 

“A fool like St Francis, a hero like St Benedict, a revivalist like Moody, a lover of souls like General Booth, an ascetic like St Anthony the hermit, an orator as golden as Lacordaire, and as simple as a child, of whom his Church was unworthy. Alas! She is awkward in her handling of saints.”

Last year saw the publication of Hugh Allen’s meticulously researched New Llanthony Abbey: Father Ignatius’s Monastery at Capel-y-ffin which tells the story of the community from its origins in early 1860s East Anglia to its migration to Wales in 1870, its history through the following four decades (including the Apparitions of 1880), and its demise after the death of Father Ignatius. The later history of the monastery is outlined and brought up to date with information about the Father Ignatius Memorial Trust and the continuing appeal of New Llanthony as a place of pilgrimage. To purchase a copy of the book, click on the link to Amazon, or send a cheque for £20 (payable to R.W.H. Allen) to Hugh Allen, 3 St Peter’s Court, Tiverton, Devon EX16 6NZ (price includes postage and packing).

I cannot think of anything better to do at the start of Mary's Month of May than to share with you this sermon of Father Ignatius, preached during a mission at Westminster Town Hall in 1885:


MARY, THE MOTHER OF JESUS (Acts 1:14)

“Mary, the Mother of Jesus.” These few words go right into our hearts, because we are the people of God. Let me say them over again, because there is such a wonderful charm and such a wonderful power in them. “Mary, the Mother of Jesus.” What! Do you believe, and do I believe, that Jesus had a Mother?

Do you believe and do I believe that Jesus has a mother now at this very moment? We do believe it, and, at this very moment, while our blessed Lord Jesus is in our midst, and while we are now enjoying a sense of His presence, we believe that He has a Mother. If He had not we should all be damned for ever. Why?

Because it is the Blood of the Lamb that has saved us and there is no pardon except through the human blood of Jesus. If Jesus had no Mother He would have no blood! What an awful mystery is this!
.
LOVING OUR MOTHER
The greyest-bearded man listening to me now, has a mother either here or in the spirit-world; and most of us love our mothers; most of us love them with a love with which we never loved anyone else.

There is a peculiarity about the love for a mother which there is in no other love. It is nothing like the love of husband towards the wife. It is not the love which we have for a friend, or for any other relation.

The love of a mother is something that seems to be one of the initiatory mysteries of our existence. The very first sensation of our hearts was love for our mothers. We can almost recall the time when we could only just put our arms round our mother’s neck with tenderness giving her the first kiss.

My mother! There is no other relationship that touches the heart like the one expressed by these words! “My mother!” Of course I am not speaking now to those who, unhappily, have had very wicked mothers. Though, even then, there is something in the thought of “my mother” that would make it agonising to think anything that was bad of her.

Do I not recollect, myself, how proud I used to be of my mother? I did not think there was anybody in the world like my mother. And I am sure that is what Jesus thinks about His Mother, with His human heart; for He is very Man as well as very God. And Jesus knows one Being to whom He can look up and say, before the angels, before devils, before men, “ My Mother!”

There is to me, as a man, and as a Christian, a charm that is unutterable in the thought; “Mary, the Mother of Jesus!” Oh! to speak her name is, to me, such a bringing of Jesus to my heart, as man to man. If Mary be His Mother, I can realise that Jesus is my Brother.

He has the flesh and blood and bones of man though He be God of Heaven! “He came down from Heaven, and was Incarnate, by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

“Mary, the Mother of Jesus!”

Why, if anyone pointed out to me the mother of a very great statesman, or the mother of a very great orator, or philanthropist, I should feel a kind of reverence for the woman for her son’s sake. Supposing, when the Duke of Wellington came back from the wars, during which he had sustained the honour of the British Empire, and in which he had, a thousand times, risked his life, for dear Old England, supposing, when he came back from the last of his wars, that the first person whom he had met was his mother: do you not think that the people would have said: “Look, that is the mother of Wellington”? And they would at once have made way to let the mother pass to her son’s side.

A SPECIAL MOTHERHOOD
But she was not half so much the mother of Wellington as Mary was the Mother of Jesus. Mary is the Mother of Jesus in a far deeper, intenser sense. Jesus had no human father. Mary was the centre connecting Jesus with humanity. When Jesus thinks of Mary, there His thoughts must rest; for Mary is the beginning and the end of His humanity.

I cannot give utterance to one-millionth part of the feelings, in my own heart, when I think of Mary, the Mother of Jesus’, and it does not seem to me to matter, one single iota, what people say to me about this, for I feel that I have Jesus on my side; and that I have the Father on my side, Who, from all eternity, elected Mary to be the Mother mystic of His Son Incarnate.

The words “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” have a sound that makes me feel quite at home with God, because God, through Mary, became very Man.

Do you not all feel this? Are there any listening to me who think that I am exaggerating? If so, let me just refer them to one verse, in the 1st chapter of St. Luke, and let me ask them to listen to these words. They are in the 35th verse of St. Luke i, and it is a verse the like of which there is not, in all the Bible, for mystery tremendous, for marvel unutterable and ineffable.

THE HOLY SPIRIT
“And the angel answered and said unto her. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

Nazareth was busy in the fields, for it was spring time; the corn was beginning to grow, the birds were singing in the trees, and the farmers and the labourers were hard at work preparing for the planting of the earth; all nature’s toil was going on its way; but, in a little cottage, on the hill, there was a mystery of eternity being enacted between the Archangel of Heaven and the lowly maiden Mary.

No eye but the eye of Mary saw the tremendous glow of the gleaming light, when the Archangel came to her and said: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured,” and told her that she was to be the Mother of the Son of God. Then Mary asked him: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” And now listen to the Angel’s answer: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest (that is of God the Father) shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing Which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

My brethren, “the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee:” that is the Third Person. The Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: that is the First Person. “The Holy One born of thee” is the Second Person. There is the whole Trinity.

How awful, how blasphemous, if it be not true! ls it true? ls it true that Mary became the Mother of Jesus, by this tremendous and overwhelming revelation of mystery and truth? Is there, in existence, a Being who was the Mother of God the Son by the overshadowing of God the Father, and by the conception of the Holy Ghost?

It cannot be true!It is an utter impossibility!

Oh brethren, need I urge any argument to convince my present hearers that really and truly Mary became the Mother of Jesus, the Son of God, by the overshadowing of God the Father, and by the Holy Ghost coming upon her? No, because I know that you all believe it quite as much as I do. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is a mystery; but we do believe in this mystery of the New Testament; it is the foundation of all the other mysteries of Christianity, and they would be nothing but for this. Of course the outside world does not believe it; and a great many in the visible Church do not believe it either.

MOTHER OF GOD?
But if we do not believe in the miracle of the Mother of Christ we cannot not believe in the Divinity and in the Incarnation of Christ, nor in the Atonement of the Cross; for if the Blood that Jesus shed on the Cross was not that of the Son of God, it could not save us any more than any other blood.

We cannot prove it by argument; no logic can prove it; it cannot be proved by any other means than the Holy Ghost convincing the heart of the reality of this awful, and unutterable, mystery.

Of course if there be any individuals here who do not believe this mystery, my words must seem most blasphemous to them.

Can you feel how sweet it is to call Mary the Mother of God? I say I should not be a Christian if I could not believe that she was. What! God have a Mother! Certainly. And yet people, who call themselves Christians, scarcely acknowledge that Mary is the Mother of God.

Mary is not the Mother of God in the way in which my mother is my mother. She is not the mother of the Godhead. Mary is the Mother of the humanity of Him Who was God; of a Divine Person who, though He took human nature upon Him, was still very God. And this is a mystery that all must believe.

May I ask you, first of all, is it not tremendously necessary, in these evil days of rationalism and materialism, that we should be sound on this fundamental doctrine of our holy religion? Is it not necessary that we should know what we believe on this point, and why we believe it? Shall I, because I am afraid of the ridicule of an unbelieving world, say I do not believe that Christ is really God, and that Mary is only the Mother of a Divine person? Shall we say this? No; to settle the matter, we give the title to “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” of “Mother of God.”

And now, my brethren, consider how comfortable it is to be very clear on this point; because, when we are clear on this doctrine of Christ’s Mother, it brings Jesus so very close to us. We see Him, and we realise that He is our High Priest. If this mystery be not true, Christ is either not God or not man. If Mary be not the Mother of God, Christ is not God, and if Mary be not God’s Mother, God has never taken our nature and never redeemed us.

Therefore we cling to the truth that God so loved us that He came down from Heaven, took our nature upon Him, and bought His Church with His Own Blood. He so loved the Church that He gave Himself for it. Oh! my brothers and sisters in Jesus, this truth brings home to me so plainly that Jesus is the “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” It makes me to realise that I may cast all my sorrows on Him, for once He bore our sorrows; once he was “in all points tempted like as we are.”

JESUS: HUMAN AND DIVINE
How could He have been tempted like we are if He had not become “very man?” God could not be tempted. Therefore He came down and was Incarnate, and “was made man,” that He might be able to “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” When you, yourselves, are nearly overcome with grief, when tears stream down your cheeks, then comes the thought to you that He suffered, that “Jesus wept,” that Jesus was weary! Oh, what calm it brings to the soul to know that He is able “to be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” because He “was in all points tempted like as we are.” It makes life so different to go through it with Him on our side. He once was like us, because He was “very man,” “born of the Virgin Mary.”

HOW CAN WE NOT LOVE MARY?
My love for the Blessed Virgin is one of the chief things for which I have been persecuted for twenty years, and misrepresented, and for which I have had to suffer a very great deal. I was about to preach a mission in a church, where I should very much have liked to have gone; but, all at once, the clergyman drew back because of my great love for the “Mother of God.”

There are plenty of people in the Church of England who do not believe it right to love her; and if there be any such people here present, may I ask them: Do they think we can grieve our Lord by loving His Mother? Instead of loving her too much, I feel that I cannot love her enough.

Brethren, I ask you quietly to put this question to yourselves: is it pleasing to our Lord that His people’s hearts should dwell with love on the remembrance of His Mother, or is it not? My feeling is that the more we revere the Blessed Virgin Mary the more we please her Son.

If you were to go to Margate Cemetery, at the end of July, where my own darling mother’s mortal remains are lying, till Jesus comes and “the dead in Christ rise first,” you would see her grave covered with beautiful flowers. Pounds and pounds are lavished on my mother’s grave, and this by people who have never seen her, but they have a love for her for my sake; and they will spend money on her grave, for my sake, out of gratitude for what I have done for their souls. And for Jesus’ sake we do honour to the memory of the Mother of Jesus.

It is for Jesus Only that I love the Virgin Mary. She would be no more than any other woman to me if she were not His Mother. Therefore, all the glory that I pay to Mary is for love of her Son; and I am sorry that anybody should think this wrong.

NO DEAD SAINTS
The next point is “praying to the Virgin.”

You ask your wife to pray for you, and you teach your child to pray for you, and in the same way I can understand our asking the prayers of those who are departed. I do not believe in asking the prayers of dead saints; but I never heard of a dead saint! I do not believe in dead saints. I believe that Jesus lives; and because He lives they live also; and that is the reason why we ask their prayers. I believe that they are “alive for evermore.”

The Bible says of the departed, “We are compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses.” While we are “running the race” they are the witnesses looking on. So that when a person speaks of “dead saints” and says that they cannot hear, he has no authority for his assertions from the Word of God.

So, my brethren, I not only believe that it is not wrong, but that it is right, and very helpful, to ask the prayers of my fellow-believers; and you will have to prove to me that the Blessed Virgin is not among the Living “Cloud of Witnesses” before condemning me for asking the prayers of her who is our Lord’s Mother.

If you say: “where are we told in the Bible to give all this honour to the Virgin Mary?” I would answer that if Queen Victoria were to walk into this room now, should I sit still and say: “I am not going to rise, I shall not get up, I am not told anywhere to do so” when I see the Queen? No. I should rise instantly, as an Englishman, because I believe the Queen is the Lord’s Anointed over us in civil matters; and I should wish to show her every honour that I could. I should not require to be told to rise; and therefore all that I want to be told is that Mary is the Mother of Jesus, and nothing else; and I must give her the honour that is her due.

ALL GENERATIONS
There is the Mother of your Lord; treat her as you please, but, for myself, I say that the more I love my Lord and Saviour the more I shall reverence the Mother, whom “all generations are to call blessed.”

On the Cross Jesus said to His beloved disciple “Behold thy Mother” and in these words He speaks to me, “Behold thy Mother” and therefore I say: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me.”

Do not let prejudice cause us to misunderstand a simple thing like this.

And I ask you, before I conclude, does my love to the Blessed Virgin hinder me from enjoying Christ in His fulness? Do I mix up the mystery of the Virgin with the message of the Gospel to sinners? Certainly not; and I think that the more I love and reverence the Lord’s Mother, the more I realise what her Son is, and the more I long to proclaim what He is to a world that is “dead in trespasses and sins.”
__________________________________________________

Here are two more photos taken at the monastery built by Father Ignatius. The first shows the ruins of the chapel (with the tomb of Fr Ignatius). The other one is a lovely welcome to those who pass by.


The Father Ignatius Memorial Trust was established in 1966, shortly before the centenary year of the founding of the monastery at Capel-y-ffin. It had the twin objectives of restoring what remained of the ruined church and tomb, and fostering its use as outdoor place of worship. Many volunteers have given their time and energy freely to preserve the structure. Damage caused by lightning and frost, as well as the indifferent quality of some of the original construction has presented severe problems over the years, and many reverses. It is hoped to enable public access once more to the tomb of Father Ignatius. Why not make a donation, or request the next Newsletter of the Father Ignatius Memorial Trust.