Sunday, May 31, 2020

25 years ago today - My Induction at All Saints', Wickham Terrace, Brisbane

All Saints' Wickham Terrace, from Ann Street

The older we are, the more anniversaries we must acknowledge. I felt it would not be right to let this 31st May go by without mention, because it was on this day in 1995 (25 years ago) that I became Rector of the historic city church of All Saints’ Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, a parish family I had the privilege to serve for ten years. Of course, we faced all sorts of difficulties, and for those at the heart of parish life it was hard work! The parish and I remain grateful to the then Archbishop Peter Hollingworth for reaching an agreement with us about episcopal ministry within the parish that enabled me in good conscience to accept the appointment. During our ten years together so many people of different faith backgrounds and none found their way to us and were touched by what Pope S. John Paul II called 'the New Evangelization.' They are now scattered across the Christian traditions, and around the world! Many read this blog. I pray for you all, all the time. Please pray for me! 

The following is from the All Saints’ Gazette of July 1995:

All Saints’ was packed for the Induction of Father David Chislett SSC by the Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Rev’d Peter Hollingworth, on the evening of Wednesday 31st May, the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The large number of clergy present included visitors from Sydney, Mittagong, Melbourne and Ballarat.

The Institution and Induction, in which the Archbishop gave Father David his Licence, took place at the very beginning of the service. Then Father David and the people of All Saints’ committed themselves to supporting each other, and the Archbishop led Father David to the High Altar, saying, 'My brother, I set you in your place among the people of this Parish.' 

Father David’s first act as Rector of All Saints’ was to sing Evensong. Ancient plainsong chants were used for the Psalms and Canticles, with glorious faux-bourdons. The First Lesson was read by John Cranley, Chairman of the Trustees of All Saints’. The Second Lesson was read by Archdeacon David Farrer, Vicar of S. Peter’s Eastern Hill, Melbourne [later to become Bishop of Wangaratta]. The Anthem was Ave Maria (Arcadelt), and the notices were given by Churchwarden Ms Lorraine Hines.

All Saints’ has had a historic kinship with Christ Church S. Laurence in Sydney and S. Peter’s Eastern Hill in Melbourne, so it was fitting for the Parish Priests of both churches to participate in the service. Father Austin Day, Rector of Christ Church, and one of Father David’s mentors, was the preacher. His sermon included the following:

'... I feel sure that the priorities of All Saints’ will be GOD and his worship in the beauty of holiness, and PEOPLE and their care and support; a parish church where all is reverent and full of love and where no-one is pushed behind a pillar because they are ragged or poor or disturbed, a house of prayer ever open, where the dear Lord’s Supper is always on the altar to be adored as at Benediction here tonight, and waiting to be given to his people, that they may be joined intimately together as brothers and sisters in the one family of the Body of Christ.

'You remember what Jesus himself said at the Last Supper: "How I have longed to eat this Passover with you before my death, for I tell you, never again shall I eat it until the time when it finds its fulfilment in the Kingdom of God."'(Luke 22:16).

'But of course Jesus has brought in that Kingdom of God, proclaimed it, and actualised and established it, by his precious death and burial, by his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension, and by the sending forth of his Holy Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost.

'So he now eats that Passover new with us in the Lord’s Supper, in the Holy Mass every Sunday in all our parish churches (and every weekday, too, at All Saints’) when we follow the command of Jesus to "do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19).

'... Now I know that you at All Saints’ surround the public presentation of the Eucharist with the pomp and circumstance of great beauty and dignity, with wonderful music and incense. Long may all that continue in our great Anglican tradition. But as I well know after thirty years as a priest in the city opposite Central Railway in Sydney, there are dozens and dozens of people who pass into the warm inside of our city churches, with all their difficulties, trials and sorrows. As the Psalmist says, they are going up to the temple of the Lord, up to All Saints’ on this hill where there is love and the light of Christ. Are you one of those tired bits of humanity who slide slowly in here for private prayer? If not, you are failing to catch a glimpse of some of the glory of Anglican tradition wherein we just quietly spend time with Christ alone.

'... So now, what lies ahead for you as priest and people of All Saints in this inner city area as you seek to serve the people of Brisbane? ... perhaps a fruitful growth of personal lay ministry in this part of Brisbane where inner city high-rise apartment-living is on the increase ... ‘APART-ment’, box-type, insulated, half a million dollars living can often mean great loneliness and separation from others.

'... Are we there for others, giving a sense of comfort and support, the wonder of love and the reassurance of touch, perhaps even whispering a prayer, saying a Psalm, humming a hymn tune, murmuring that we love them ...
'So, may Blessed Mary and All Saints pray for you, and the Holy Angels protect you and lead you forth to fresh insights and new adventure in the worship of GOD, in private prayer, in the spiritual life and in the service of love and care for men and women wherever their needs may be.'

Following the sermon there was a procession to honour Our Lady, during which Father David sprinkled the congregation with water taken from the Holy Well at Walsingham, ‘England’s Nazareth’.

The liturgy concluded with Benediction. After making the sign of the cross over the people with the Blessed Sacrament in the customary way, Father David and the servers processed out of the church, and Benediction was given over the City of Brisbane. (At that moment the heavens opened and much needed rain fell, leading a parishioner to suggest afterwards that Father David and the Monstrance do a tour of the drought stricken west!)

Supper followed in the All Saints’ Centre, and the speeches were chaired by Archdeacon Booth. Father Trevor Bulled of Holy Trinity, Fortitude Valley welcomed Father David on behalf of the clergy of the Inner City Deanery, and Miss Bartz Schultz did so on behalf of parishioners.

In response, Father David thanked everyone for their support. He was especially grateful to the Archbishop for demonstrating that there was still a place for Anglicans of our conviction in the Diocese of Brisbane. He went on to commit himself to praying, living and proclaiming the full Catholic Faith with the people of All Saints, for the glory of God and for the sake of the bruised and battered world around us.

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

(CLICK on the photos to enlarge them)

The Institution and Induction (1)

The Institution and Induction (2)

All Saints' (from Wickham Terrace)

Benediction over the City of Brisbane

With Archdeacon David Farrer (L) and Father Austin Day (R)

My first Sunday was Pentecost. 
Here are the clergy and servers at the end of High Mass

The Sanctuary, seen through the Lady Chapel.

Brisbane - a beautiful city!


Friday, May 29, 2020

Getting ready for Pentecost with Bishop Kallistos Ware

'Descent of the Holy Spirit', Giorgio Vasari,
Santa Croce Church, Florence, Italy, 16th century.

Over at the Biblicalia blog there are notes of discussions on the Holy Spirit led by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware at Building the Body of Christ: A Weekend of Spiritual Enlightenment, hosted by the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascenscion in Oakland, California in February 2008. All the notes are well worth reading. To help get us ready to celebrate Pentecost on Sunday, here are some of the things Bishop Kallistos said in the second session about the Holy Spirit:

My grandmother long ago once wondered, “Why is the Holy Spirit never mentioned in sermons? Hearing of Him is liking hearing news of an old friend one hasn’t heard of in a long time.”

We will hear of news of this old friend today. S. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) wrote this invocation to the Holy Spirit:

Come, true light.
Come, life eternal.
Come, hidden mystery.
Come, treasure without name.
Come, reality beyond all words.
Come, person beyond all understanding.
Come, rejoicing without end.
Come, light that knows no evening.
Come, unfailing expectation of the saved.
Come, raising of the fallen.
Come, resurrection of the dead.
Come, all-powerful, for unceasingly your create,
refashion and change all things by your will alone.
Come, invisible whom none may touch and handle.
Come, for you continue always unmoved,
yet at every instant you are wholly in movement;
you draw near to us who lie in hell,
yet you remain higher than the heavens.
Come, for your name fills our hearts with longing and is ever on our lips;
yet who you are and what your nature is, we cannot say or know.
Come, Alone to the alone.
Come, for you are yourself the desire that is within me.
Come, my breath and my life.
Come, the consolation of my humble soul.
Come, my joy, my glory, my endless delight.

Notice three things that S. Symeon says regarding the Holy Spirit:

1. Symeon speaks of the Spirit as light, joy, glory, endless delight, rejoicing without end, and so on. S. Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833) said that the Holy Spirit fills with joy whatever he touches.

2. The Spirit is also full of hope, for he looks forward to the age to come.

3. There is also the nearness yet otherness of the Spirit. He is “everywhere present” [from the prayer, O Heavenly King] yet mysterious and elusive. Symeon calls him “my breath and my life,” “hidden mystery,” “beyond all words,” “beyond all understanding.” We know him, but we do not see his face, for he always shows us the face of Christ. Like the air around us, which enables us to see and be seen, he is transparent and enables us to see and hear Christ. He is not to be classified, baffling our computers and filing cabinets. As the Lord said, “The wind blows where it wills, snd you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes” [John 3:8]. As C. S. Lewis wrote in the first of his Narnia Chronicles books, Aslan “is not a tame lion.” The Holy Spirit is not a tame spirit, either. The Spirit makes Christ close to us, establishing that relationship.

There are two fundamental things about the Holy Spirit:

1. He is understood in Scripture and Tradition as a Person, not just an impersonal force. Christ is obviously a Person. It is not as obvious with the Holy Spirit, but he is a Person in the experience of the Church. Note Ephesians 4.30: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Impersonal forces do not feel grief, do not feel love. You may love your computer, but your computer does not love you. Our sins, selfishness, and lack of love cause the Holy Spirit grief. He weeps over it.

2. The Holy Spirit is equal to the other two Persons of the Trinity. From the Creed: “worshipped and glorified together with the Father and the Son.” Together, not below. Also, “Glory to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” all on the same level.

S. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-394) said, “Never think of Christ without the Holy Spirit.” We could reverse that too: never think of the Holy Spirit without Christ.

S. Irenaeus (c.120-203) described the Son and the Spirit as the two hands of the Father, who always uses both hands together. To better understand the Holy Spirit’s work, look at the cooperation of the Holy Spirit and the Son.

In the Creed: “incarnate by the Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary.” In the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit descends upon the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit sends Christ into the world.

The Troparion for Theophany: “When you, O Lord, were baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. For the voice of the Father bore witness unto you, calling you the beloved Son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed His word as sure and true.” The Spirit descends from the Father and rests on the Son, the same relationship as in the Incarnation. The Holy Spirit sends the Son into public ministry.

In the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ as a cloud of light, as understood by the Fathers.

In the Resurrection, Christ is raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul in Romans 1:4 calls Christ “the Son of God in power according to the Spirit.”

In the Incarnation and Baptism, the Holy Spirit sends Christ into the world. In Pentecost, Christ sends the Holy Spirit to his disciples, and thence into the world. In the First Gospel reading on Holy Thursday evening [John 13.31-38; 14.1-31; 15.1-27; 16.1-33; 17.1-26; 18.1] we hear “The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. He will bear witness to me. He will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you [John 14.26; 15.26; 16.13-14]. The Holy Spirit testifies not to himself but to Christ, in a natural diakonia.

Christology and Pneumatology are inseparable. The Holy Spirit, the go-between God, establishes the relationship between us and Christ. He shows us not his own face, but the face of Christ.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Impact of S. Bede (c. 672-735)

'The Venerable Bede Translates John’ (1902) by James Doyle Penrose (1862-1932)

Every now and then, the Office of Readings sets before us an account of how the saint for the day died. Today is one of those days. This morning we read about the death of S. Bede.  

Bede was born near Sunderland, and lived his entire life in the north of England, yet he is often regarded one of the most learned European of his day. At the age of 7 he was sent to the Benedictine Abbey at Wearmouth for his education. At 11 he continued his education at the new monastery at Jarrow, on the Tyne, eventually becoming a monk and remaining there until his death. He lived a routine and outwardly uneventful life of prayer, devotion, study, writing, and teaching, and left his monastery only in order to preach.

Bede’s writings (over 40 books) depended on the fine libraries which S. Benet Biscop (c. 628-690) had assembled, and cover a very wide range of interests, including mathematics, poetry, timekeeping, history, orthography, chronology, and biblical translation and exposition. He translated large slabs of the Bible into Anglo-Saxon (from which English evolved). He made the Latin and Greek writings of the early Christian Fathers accessible to his fellow Anglo-Saxons. But he always considered his 25 volumes of Scripture commentary to be his most important work. 

Bede’s best-known book is his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in 731, and still published today in modern translation. A good deal of it is based on sources no longer in existence. Because of this work he became popularly acclaimed as the ‘Father of English History’, not only because his is the first serious history of England, but also because of the thoroughness of his historical research. Whenever friends were travelling to Rome, he would ask them to bring him copies of documents relevant to English history. Bede made careful use of oral traditions when written materials were not available.

According to his pupil Cuthbert, Bede fell ill shortly before Easter 735, when he was translating the Gospel of John into the Anglo-Saxon language. Everyone realised that the end was near, but Bede was determined to complete the translation before he died. Between Easter and Ascension Day, he persisted in the task, pushing against the boundary of his life, while continuing to teach his students at his bedside.

After a restless night, he resumed dictating the translation on the morning before Ascension Day. That afternoon he called the priests of the monastery to him to distribute his remaining earthly possessions. Seeing they were overcome with grief, he comforted them with these words:

“If it be the will of my Maker, the time has come when I shall be freed from the body and return to him who created me out of nothing when I had no being. I have had a long life, and the merciful Judge has ordered it graciously. The time of my departure is at hand, and my soul longs to see Christ my King in his beauty.”

The young man who had been writing down the translation said there was still one sentence remaining, and Bede dictated the final words.

After a short while the boy said, “Now it is finished.”

Bede replied, ‘You have spoken truly; it is well finished. Now raise my head in your hands, for it would give me great joy to sit facing the holy place where I used to pray, so that I may sit and call on my Father.’

And thus, on the floor of his cell, he sang ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit’ to its ending, and breathed his last.

When he received word of Bede’s death, S. Boniface, who had used Bede’s Scripture commentaries, said, ‘The candle of the Church, lit by the Holy Spirit, has been extinguished.’ S. Bede began to be called “Venerable”. His bones were translated from Jarrow to Durham Cathedral in the mid-11th century; in 1370 they were placed in the cathedral’s Galilee Chapel.

S. Bede is the only Englishman named in Dante’s Paradise. He is also the only English ‘Doctor of the Church’ (perhaps one day to be joined by John Henry Newman?).

It was S. Bede who wrote that a priest or bishop ‘who without an urgent reason omits to say Mass robs the Trinity of glory, the angels of joy, sinners of pardon, the just of divine assistance, the souls in purgatory of refreshment, the Church of a benefit, and himself of a healing remedy.’

O God, who bring light to your Church
through the learning of the Priest Saint Bede,
mercifully grant that your servants
may always be enlightened by his wisdom 
and helped by his merits.
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. 

Here is Pope Benedict’s teaching on the significance of S. Bede, 
given at his Wednesday General Audience in Rome, 
on 18th February 2009: 

The saint on whom we reflect today is called Bede. He was born in Northeast England, in fact in Northumbria, in the year 672/673. He himself narrates that, when he was seven years old his parents entrusted him to the abbot of the neighboring Benedictine monastery, to be educated. “In this monastery,” he recalls, “I lived from then on, dedicating myself intensely to the study of Scripture, while observing the discipline of the Rule and the daily effort to sing in church, I always found it pleasant to learn, teach and write” (Ecclesiastical History of the English People, V, 24). 

In fact, Bede was one of the most illustrious figures of erudition of the High Middle Ages because he was able to make use of many precious manuscripts that his abbots, who went on frequent trips to the Continent and to Rome, were able to bring back to him. His teaching and the fame of his writings enabled him to have many friendships with the principal personalities of his time, who encouraged him to continue in his work, from which so many benefited. Falling ill, he did not cease to work, always having an interior joy that was expressed in prayer and song. He concluded his most important work, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, with this invocation: “I pray, O good Jesus, who benevolently has allowed me to draw from the sweet words of your wisdom, that I may reach you one day, source of all wisdom, and to always be before your face.” Death came to him on May 26, 735: It was Ascension day.

The Sacred Scriptures were the constant source of Bede’s theological reflection. Having made a careful critical study of the text (we have a copy of the monumental Codex Amiatinus of the Vulgate, on which Bede worked), he commented on the Bible, reading it in a Christological vein, namely, re-uniting two things: On one hand, he listened to what the text was saying exactly, he really wanted to listen and understand the text itself; on the other hand, he was convinced that the key to understanding sacred Scripture as the unique Word of God is Christ and with Christ, in his light, one understands the Old and the New Testament as 'a' sacred Scripture.

The events of the Old and New Testament go together, they are together the path toward Christ, though expressed in different signs and institutions (it is what he calls “concordia sacramentorum”). For example, the tent of the covenant that Moses raised in the desert and the first and second temple of Jerusalem are images of the Church, new temple built on Christ and the Apostles with living stones, cemented by the charity of the Spirit. And, as was the case for the construction of the ancient temple of Jerusalem, even pagan people contributed, making available valuable materials and the technical experience of their master builders, thus apostles and masters not only from ancient Hebrew, Greek and Latin stock contributed to the building of the Church, but also new peoples, among which Bede is pleased to enumerate the Iro-Celts and the Anglo-Saxons. St. Bede witnessed the universality of the Church grow, which is not restricted to a certain culture, but is made up of all the cultures of the world which must open themselves to Christ and find in him their point of arrival.

Another topic loved by Bede is the history of the Church. After having taken interest in the period described in the Acts of the Apostles, he reviewed the history of the Fathers of the Church and the councils, convinced that the work of the Holy Spirit continues in history. In the Cronica Maiora, Bede traces a chronology that would become the basis of the universal calendar “ab incarnatione Domini.” Up to then, time was calculated from the foundation of the city of Rome. Bede, seeing that the true point of reference, the center of history is the birth of Christ, gave us this calendar that reads history beginning with the Lord’s Incarnation. He registered the first six ecumenical councils and their development, presenting faithfully the Christian, Mariological and Soteriological doctrine, and denouncing the Monophysite and Monothelite, iconoclastic and neo-Pelagian heresies. Finally, he wrote with documentary rigor and literary expertise the already mentioned Ecclesiastical History of the English People, for which he is recognized as “the father of English historiography.” The characteristic traits of the Church that Bede loved to evidence are: a) its catholicity, as fidelity to tradition together with openness to historical developments, and as the pursuit of unity in multiplicity, in the diversity of history and cultures, according to the directives that Pope Gregory the Great gave to the apostle of England, Augustine of Canterbury; b) its apostolicity and Romanness: In this regard he considers of primary importance to convince the whole Iro-Celtic Churches and that of the Picts to celebrate Easter uniformly according to the Roman calendar. The calculation elaborated scientifically by him to establish the exact date of the Easter celebration, and thus of the entire cycle of the liturgical year, became the text of reference for the whole Catholic Church.

Bede was also an illustrious teacher of liturgical theology. In the homilies on the Sunday Gospels and those of feast days, he develops a true mystagogy, educating the faithful to celebrate joyfully the mysteries of the faith and to reproduce them consistently in life, while expecting their full manifestation of the return of Christ, when, with our glorified bodies, we will be admitted in offertory procession to the eternal liturgy of God in heaven. Following the “realism” of the catecheses of Cyril, Ambrose and Augustine, Bede teaches that the sacraments of Christian initiation make every faithful person “not only a Christian but Christ.” In fact, every time that a faithful soul receives and guards the Word of God with love, in imitation of Mary, he conceives and generates Christ again. And every time that a group of neophytes receives the Easter sacraments, the Church is “self-generated,” or to use a still more daring expression, the Church becomes “Mother of God,” participating in the generation of her children, by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks to this way of making theology, interlacing the Bible, the liturgy and history, Bede has a timely message for the different “states of life”:

a) For scholars (doctores ac doctrices) he recalls two essential tasks: to scrutinize the wonders of the Word of God to present it in an attractive way to the faithful; to show the dogmatic truths avoiding the heretical complications and keeping to the “Catholic simplicity,” with attention to the small and humble to whom God is pleased to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom.

b) For pastors, that for their part, must give priority to preaching, not only through the verbal or hagiographic language, but also valuing icons, processions and pilgrimages. Bede recommends to them the use of the vernacular, as he himself does, explaining in Northumbria the “Our Father,” and the “Creed” and carrying forward until the last day of his life, the commentary to John’s Gospel in the common language.

c) For consecrated people who are dedicated to the Divine Office, living in the joy of fraternal communion and progressing in the spiritual life through ascesis and contemplation, Bede recommends to take care of the apostolate -- no one has the Gospel just for himself, but must regard it as a gift also for others -- either by collaborating with the Bishops in pastoral activities of various types in favor of the young Christian communities, or being available to the evangelizing mission to the pagans, outside their own country, as “peregrini pro amore Dei.”

Placed in this perspective, in the commentary to the Canticle of Canticles, Bede presents the synagogue and the Church as collaborators in the propagation of the Word of God. Christ the Spouse desires an industrious Church, “bronzed by the fatigues of evangelization” -- clear is the reference to the word of the Canticle of Canticles (1:5), where the Bride says: “Nigra sum sed formosa” (I am brown, but beautiful) - attempts to till other fields or vines and to establish among the new populations “not a provisional bell but a stable dwelling, namely, to insert the Gospel in the social fabric and the cultural institutions. In this perspective, the saintly Doctor exhorts the lay faithful to be assiduous to the religious instruction, imitating those “insatiable evangelical multitudes who did not even give the Apostles time to eat.” He teaches them how to pray constantly, “reproducing in life what they celebrate in the liturgy,” offering all actions as spiritual sacrifices in union with Christ. To parents he explains that also in their small domestic realm they can exercise “the priestly office of pastors and guides,” by giving Christian formation to the children and states that he knows many faithful (men and women, spouses and celibates) “capable of an irreproachable conduct that, if suitably pursued, could approach daily Eucharistic communion (“Epist. ad Ecgbertum,” ed. Plummer, p. 419).

The fame of holiness and wisdom that Bede enjoyed already in life, served to merit him the title of “Venerable.” He is thus called also by Pope Sergius I, when he wrote his abbot in 701 requesting to make him come temporarily to Rome for consultation on questions of universal interest. The great missionary of Germany, Bishop St. Boniface (d. 754), requested the archbishop of York several times and the abbot of Wearmouth to have some of his works transcribed and to send him to them so that they and their companions could also enjoy the spiritual light he emanated. A century later Notkero Galbulo, abbot of St. Gall (d. 912), being aware of the extraordinary influence of Bede, equated him with a new sun that God had made arise not in the East but in the West to illumine the world. Apart from the rhetorical emphasis, it is a fact that, with his works, Bede contributed effectively to the making of a Christian Europe, in which the different populations and cultures amalgamated among themselves, conferring on them a uniform physiognomy, inspired by the Christian faith.

Let us pray that also today there be personalities of Bede’s stature, to keep the whole Continent united; let us pray so that all of us are willing to rediscover our common roots, to be builders of a profoundly human and genuinely Christian Europe.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Archbishop Fulton Sheen preaching for Dr Robert Schuller on The Hour of Power

Born in 1895 in El Paso, Illinois, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was in his day the best-known Catholic in the United States next to the Pope. In the 1950s he was well-known for his appearances on the radio programme The Catholic Hour and the television show Life is Worth Living – for which he won an Emmy.  He was down to earth, had an infectious faith and wanted only to proclaim the Gospel wherever he could. Life is Worth Living made Sheen a household name, a celebrity who was called upon to give lectures, conferences, and retreats for laity, clergy and religious. 

This video is of Archbishop Sheen preaching for protestant pastor Robert Schuller at a gathering televised from the Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California (which, ironically is now 'Christ Cathedral' of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange). A thoroughly orthodox Catholic, and a friend of evangelicals, Sheen was always meticulously prepared, but in fact spoke without notes using homely anecdotes, illustrations and humour, and his great command of the language, to explain God's truth. He died in 1979. His television programmes are now routinely rebroadcast on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Jeremy Taylor on the Ascension, the Holy Sacrifice, and Jesus our great High Priest

Alleluia! King eternal, 
Thee the Lord of lords we own; 
Alleluia! born of Mary, 
Earth Thy footstool, heav’n 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 C. Dix, 1867) 

Today's celebration of the Lord's being "taken up in the cloud" as our Great High Priest into the heavenly sanctuary (see my post for Ascension Day 2017 HERE) is a thanksgiving for the unity between our High Priest's sacrifice of love, his ongoing intercessory ministry, and the Church's Eucharist. 

This was a major theme of the 17th Century Caroline Divines, many of whom suffered enormously to preserve the Catholic Faith within the Church of England. One of them, Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), was a chaplain to King Charles I. He is still well-known for his devotional books, Holy Living and Holy Dying. Following the martyrdom of the King, Taylor was imprisoned a number of times. Eventually, he was allowed to live quietly in Wales, where he became the private chaplain of the Earl of Carbery. The Catholic life of the Church of England was driven underground during this Commonwealth period, and at great risk to themselves, clergy like Jeremy Taylor exercised their ministry in a clandestine way, protected - and sometimes even hidden - by lay people who dreamt of a restoration of their Church. When the Restoration came, Taylor was made Bishop of Down and Connor in Ireland and became vice-chancellor of the University of Dublin. His teaching on the Eucharist and the priesthood of Jesus draws heavily on the Scriptures, as well as both Eastern and early Latin sources. The following is from his book, The Great Exemplar

"… whatsoever Christ did at the institution, the same he commanded the Church to do, in remembrance and repeated rites; and himself also does the same thing in heaven for us, making perpetual intercession for his church, the body of his redeemed ones, by representing to his Father his death and sacrifice. There he sits, a High Priest continually, and offers still the same one perfect sacrifice; that is, still represents it as having been once finished and consummate, in order to perpetual and never-failing events. 

"And this, also, his ministers do on earth; they offer up the same sacrifice to God, the sacrifice of the cross, by prayers, and a commemorating rite and representment, according to his holy institution. And as all the effects of grace and the titles of glory were purchased for us on the cross, and the actual mysteries of redemption perfected on earth, but are applied to us, and made effectual to single persons and communities of men, by Christ's intercession in heaven . . . 

"As Christ is a priest in heaven for ever, and yet does not sacrifice himself afresh, nor yet without a sacrifice could he be a priest; but, by a daily ministration and intercession, represents his sacrifice to God, and offers himself as sacrificed: so he does upon earth, by the ministry of his servants; he is offered to God, that is, he is, by prayers and the sacrament, represented or 'offered up to God, as sacrificed'; which, in effect, is a celebration of his death, and the applying it to present and future necessities of the church, as we are capable, by a ministry like to his in heaven. It follows, then, that the celebration of this sacrifice be, in its proportion, an instrument of applying the proper sacrifice to all the purposes which it first designed. It is ministerially, and by application, an instrument propitiatory; it is eucharistical, it is an homage, and an act of adoration; and it is impetratory, and obtains for us, and for the whole church, all the benefits of the sacrifice, which is now celebrated and applied; that is, as this rite is the remembrance and ministerial celebration of Christ's sacrifice, so it is destined to do honour to God, to express the homage and duty of his servants, to acknowledge his supreme dominion, to give him thanks and worship, to beg pardon, blessings, and supply of all our needs." 

The picture below is the work of Thomas Noyes-Lewis  (1862-1946) who for many years was a worshipper at my parish church - All Saints' Benhilton in the south of London - and, indeed, a server at the altar. He was a professional artist, an illustrator of prayer books and children's books. His passion was to help people catch a glimpse of what is really happening in the Mass when as we gather at our earthly altars we are swept into the heavenly worship with Jesus, our great High Priest and sacrificial Victim, risen, ascended and glorified.   

And here is the hymn, expressing these great truths, that we would have sung during the distribution of Holy Communion had we been able to gather for our Sung Mass today:

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, 1866)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Praying in the Holy Spirit - more from Gonville ffrench-Beytagh

It is good for us to remember that a Christian is someone who allows himself or herself to be drawn into the prayer of Jesus to the Father by the Holy Spirit. S. Paul refers to this when he tells us not to worry when we don’t know what to say in our prayers:  

‘. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness: for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit . . .’  (Romans 8:28)

According to S. Paul, prayer is the work of God within us. Jesus said something similar when he was teaching in the Temple. According to John’s Gospel, 

‘On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, "If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’" Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive . . . ‘ (John 7:37-39) 

Something of the adventure of the Christian life seen from this angle is captured by Gonville Ffrench-Beytagh in his little book A Glimpse of Glory. Here is what he wrote about the Holy Spirit and prayer:

'The Holy Spirit is pouring, cascading forth, in tumultuous torrents of love pouring out into the Son, pouring himself in torrents of love. And the Son himself is joyously, gloriously, pouring back his love into the Father. In this great procession of love pouring forth love, it is the Holy Spirit who is poured forth; it is he who is cascading forth in this glorious love affair. And that love is so unlimited, so limitless, that it spills over.

'The Holy Spirit spills over. This is not because God can’t contain himself, but because he is so longing to share his life of love and joy and glory, that he has made us as containers. That is what CAPAX DEI means - capable of containing God. Our glory and our purpose is to be filled with the reality which is God. We are designed to be filled with the love of God. We are like the great tankers, filled with petrol or milk, that go trundling along the road, marked ‘Capacity 20,000 gallons’. But you and I go about with a couple of gallons sloshing around in the bottom instead of being filled with the fullness of God. Yet that is what he made us for. That is the purpose of our existence - to be filled with God. If we think of prayer being for that, then we are expanding ourselves to receive a share of what is poured out and spilling over of the tremendous infinite power of the love of God.

' . . . I once spent four astonished days at the Victoria Falls in Africa. I was being pounded into the ground by their deafening roar and the magnificent sight of the millions and millions of gallons every moment pouring out, cascading, thundering down into the gorge below. It seemed as if the Congo and the Zambezi had drained all the water out of Africa and there it was. For me this made a picture of the ceaseless activity within the being of God himself. It was like the cascades of infinite divine love interflowing within the Godhead between the Father and the Son. God the Father is begetting love; God the Son is begotten love; God the Holy Spirit is the ceaseless flow of love between the Father and the Son. The Spirit binds them together in the gorgeous, ceaseless torrent of love.

'And beside the Victoria Falls is the rain forest. It is a weird place where you can put on a sou’ wester, hat, oilskins, gumboots, and walk into the forest and you’re just soaked to the skin. Water gets through everything. The heavy mist comes from the spray that rises up from the great canyon into which the torrent flows. It penetrates everything and seems wetter than ordinary water. As the mist from the cascade will drench us and soak into us if we put ourselves there in the forest, so, if we put ourselves close to the Lord God, his love that overspills and overflows will soak us in the Spirit. We long to share his love in as far as it can be shared by human beings. And he has made us for that, he has made us to be CAPAX DEI, to stand, as it were, in the rain forest, to be drenched in the love of God. That is the spiritual life.

'. . . the Falls make a picture of this torrential love of God which never stops. We are caught up into God’s love in the prayer of the Spirit praying within us. And we are caught up with the prayer of all the ages and the prayers of all the saints and of our own forbears. We are in their prayers with the angels and the archangels. It is the one great paean of love, agonizing sometimes, from the great chorus of heaven of which we are a part.'

A preacher of the Holy Name - S. Bernardine of Siena


Today we celebrate the work of God’s grace in Bernardino degli Albizzeschi, born near Siena in Tuscany, Italy, in 1380. Even in childhood he helped care for the sick during a time of pestilence in Siena. Then, in 1402, when he himself was severely ill, he joined the Franciscan Order and was assigned the task of an evangelist. His superiors told him that he had to preach, and although he suffered a severe throat affliction, he submitted. The Lord heard his cry for help, and he was miraculously healed.

From then on, Bernardine travelled the length and breadth of Italy preaching the Gospel and extolling the Name of Jesus. So powerful was his preaching that Pope Pius II called him ‘a second Paul.’ The thousands who flocked to hear him packed the piazzas of Italian cities. He explained the Good News of Jesus, often with stories and parables, sometimes with humour, but always in terms that gripped the people’s hearts. His preaching was often followed by outpourings of the Holy Spirit, with collective weeping, miraculous healings, and exorcisms. Bernardine was also noted for his work in bringing warring clans and family groups together in mutual forgiveness. Whenever he preached, as he got into the body of his sermon, he would hold up a placard with the sign of the name of Jesus, ‘IHS,’ written on it, urging the congregation to turn to the one symbolized by those letters. Many of his followers even had ‘IHS’ painted on their houses. He ushered in a period of genuine renewal and revival. 

Bernardine was sometimes criticised by more ‘settled’ interests in the Church, as is sometimes the case even today with those who have the kind of ministry he exercised. But each time he was eventually vindicated. In spite of this criticism, three times the Pope asked him to become a bishop, and he declined on the basis that his calling was evangelistic preaching.

He did, however, come to hold high office in the Franciscan Order. And, far from being a ‘mere’ popular preacher, he not only wrote serious theological works in both Latin and Italian; he founded two theological schools. He also assisted at the Council of Florence.

Bernardine died at Aquila in 1444in the middle of a preaching tour. His tomb there was said to be the site of many miracles. He was canonised within six years of his death.

S. Bernardine, pray for the Church in our time, that many more evangelists may be raised up to proclaim Jesus and the salvation he came to bring.

This is from S. Bernardines writings, translated into English, but originally Sermo 49, De glorioso Nomine Iesu Christi, cap 2: Opera omnia, 4. 505-506

‘The name of Jesus is the glory of preachers, because the shining splendor of that name causes his word to be proclaimed and heard. And how do you think such an immense, sudden and dazzling light of faith came into the world, if not because Jesus was preached? Was it not through the brilliance and sweet savor of this name that God called us into his marvelous light? When we have been enlightened, and in that same light behold the light of heaven, rightly may the apostle Paul say to us: Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.

‘So this name must be proclaimed, that it may shine out and never be suppressed. But it must not be preached by someone with sullied mind or unclean lips, but stored up and poured out from a chosen vessel. That is why our Lord said of Saint Paul: He is a chosen instrument of mine, the vessel of my choice, to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel. In this chosen vessel there was to be a drink more pleasing than earth ever knew, offered to all mankind for a price they could pay, so that they would be drawn to taste of it. Poured into other chosen vessels, it would grow and radiate splendor. For our Lord said: He is to Carry my name.

‘When a fire is lit to clear a field, it burns off all the dry and useless weeds and thorns. When the sun rises and darkness is dispelled, robbers, night-prowlers and burglars hide away. So when Paul’s voice was raised to preach the Gospel to the nations, like a great clap of thunder in the sky, his preaching was a blazing fire carrying all before it. It was the sun rising in full glory. Infidelity was consumed by it, false beliefs fled away, and the truth appeared like a great candle lighting the whole world with its brilliant flame.

‘By word of mouth, by letters, by miracles and by the example of his own life, Saint Paul bore the name of Jesus wherever he went. He praised the name of Jesus at all times, but never more than when bearing witness to his faith. Moreover, the Apostle did indeed carry this name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel as a light to enlighten all nations. And this was his cry wherever he journeyed: The night is passing away, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves honorably as in the day. Paul himself showed forth the burning and shining light set upon a candlestick, everywhere proclaiming Jesus, and him crucified.

‘And so the Church, the bride of Christ strengthened by his testimony, rejoices with the psalmist, singing: 0 God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. The psalmist exhorts her to do this, as he says: Sing to the Lord, and bless his name, proclaim his salvation day after day. And this salvation is Jesus, her Saviour.’

O God, 
who gave the Priest Saint Bernardine of Siena 
a great love for the holy Name of Jesus, 
grant through his merits and prayers, 
that we may ever be set aflame 
with the spirit of your love. 
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.

One of the best hymns Charles Wesley (1707-1788) wrote is ‘Jesus, the Name high over all.’ S. Bernardine would have loved it: 

Jesus! the Name high over all,
In hell or earth or sky;
Angels and men before it fall,
And devils fear and fly.

Jesus! the Name to sinners dear,
The Name to sinners given;
It scatters all their guilty fear,
It turns their hell to heaven.

Jesus! the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
And bruises Satan’s head;
Power into strengthless souls it speaks,
And life into the dead.

O that the world might taste and see
The riches of his grace!
The arms of love that compass me
Would all the world embrace.

His only righteousness I show,
His saving grace proclaim;
’Tis all my business here below
To cry 'Behold the Lamb!'

Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp his Name,
Preach him to all and cry in death,
'Behold, behold the Lamb!'