Friday, January 17, 2020

Father Stanton preaching on today's Gospel (Mark 2:1-12), "To Get to Jesus"



When I was a teenager I read the stories of the slum priests of the 19th century Catholic Revival in the Church of England. 

These men became my heroes. Their lives helped me in my groping after God. They still inspire me. In these days of advanced secularism in which ordinary Christian witness is difficult and the authentic evangelical/catholic vision of priestly ministry is so hard to maintain, the slum priests should inspire us all to persevere in proclaiming the Gospel and teaching the Faith once delivered to the Saints. 

These "ritualists" - as many called them - were not snooty "spikes" as we might say today. They were passionate evangelists, bringing many to know and love the Lord Jesus as their Saviour. The churches they built in the slums of England became shrines that still evoke wonder and prayer. These priests taught and practised the full Catholic Faith in an evangelical way, leading their people to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness AND in the holiness of beauty! They inspired extravagant giving among their friends and supporters. Often persecuted by unsympathetic bishops, the slum priests gave themselves away to the Lord and his people. 

One of the most famous was Father Arthur Stanton, who remained a non-stipendiary Curate at St Alban's Holborn for fifty years (1862 to 1913 when he died). He was the archetypal Anglo-Catholic evangelist, and he truly honoured the Lord Jesus in what he said and how he said it. On Sunday 13th October, 1912, Father Stanton preached this sermon on the passage that is today's Gospel. (In fact, this is a transcript written down by a stenographer, as Father Stanton preached rather than read his sermons!)

And when Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the Word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'My son, your sins are forgiven..... That you might know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.' Mark 2:1-12

You know the story: they let him down from the roof. And what I gather from the story is this: anybody who wants to come to Christ, can. If you don't, you can easily slip away unobserved. If any of you wish to come to Mass on Sunday morning, you can - you can - although, I know, there are hundreds of excuses if you don't want to come. And then you say: "Well that is the very thing we want to do. Here we are, all of us, on purpose to get to the Master. Has not He promised to be present with us! And here we are - in order to get near the Master. That is just what we want."

And the lesson of the Gospel is, we must take trouble about it. When people say: "We want to get near the Master- Christ," the answer is, "Well, have you taken any trouble about it? Have you taken the roof off?" The men in the Gospel were determined to get to Him, and when they could not get through the door, they went on the roof, and took it off, and placed the palsied man before Him. They saw he could not get to Jesus himself, so they brought him. They meant business; and the business was done. They were in earnest, and they got to the Saviour, and they got the man there.

And so I can say: Now, if you really want to get near the Master, and feel Him your close friend, your All in all, have you done anything out of the way? We hear that the ladies who want the vote are determined to starve themselves to death. Well, that is being in earnest. If you want to get to Christ, you must not mind doing something for the Saviour. Well, then, they could not get in at the door; the whole passage was full. They could not possibly get through the crowd round the door.

And how true that always is! And how true it is of the simple Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ! There are some people always blocking up the gangway. We cannot get to Him. There are the philosophers, the schoolmen, the logicians. There are the Catholic theologians, the Greek theologians, the Roman theologians, the Protestant theologians. They are all arguing, splitting hairs, talking against one another, proposing different theories, and then breaking them up. They choke the door full.

And if you read the reports of the Church congress, you think: "Oh, dear! What are we to believe and think? And they use such long words: there is Predestination! Transubstantiation! Immanence! Incomprehensible. And the poor simple old Gospel we used to love seems to be so difficult now. And we open our Bibles, and turn over the pages, and read this: "One thing is needful" (S. Luke x.42).

Oh, I am very glad there is only one thing - you would think from all the controversies that go on, there were about two thousand things needful! But the dear Lord says, "One thing is needful," and that is to sit at Jesus' feet, and hear His word.

Think! How is it that religion has become so difficult, with all the controversies, and the philosophies, and the old theologies, and the new theologies? You cannot-the passage to the door is full. Impossible! Oh, why have they blocked up the passage and made it so difficult, when we want Jesus Christ Himself?

Well, then, what must we do? We must do something. We must get to Him somehow, for He is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (S. John xiv.6). You must get near Him. Brethren, you must do something by which you can get at Him.

Do you recollect Nicodemus? He was a man in high position in the Church and state - of unimpeachable, correct orthodoxy. And he went to the Master, and found Him. He did it secretly. He did not want anybody to know -Timid! Only Christ could help to lift up the dear soul. He was very timid at first. He went out secretly at night. And he saw the Master. And as he walked home at night, the whole heaven was full of stars, and every star trembled with glory. For had he not heard that he must be born again? And had not the Master spoken to him of heavenly things? He got near Him.

And we take another case: Here is the man who is despised - morally - we do not think much of him - Zacchaeus, a collector of taxes. And no doubt he made his riches by excessive increment. And if he was at a social disadvantage, so he was physically, for he was short of stature. But he climbed up the sycamore tree. That man would never have been the rich man he was if he had not been used to climbing! He climbed up the tree just to get a view. And the eyes of the Lord Jesus and the little man met! The Lord Jesus saw him, and said: "Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house" (S. Luke xix.5)

And yet there is one more: the poor woman who said: "If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole" (S. Matt. ix.21). The poor woman! She pressed right through the crowd. In the midst of the throng she knelt down and touched the hem of His garment - just brushing it - that's all - but she became whole. And the Master noticed. And they said, "Master, you see how they throng Thee. Why dost Thou say, Who touched Me?" But the Master said, "Some finger has taken life out of Me" - "Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole."

And she was made whole. You must get to the Master. You must. And if you say with the poor woman, May I? May I? I say, You must - you must. For this reason, He came down from Heaven and was Incarnate amongst us that He might get to you. You must get to Him.

Well, then, I should like to say again, of course, the process of getting to the Master may cause a good deal of disturbance. Of course, the removing of the roof from the house must have caused a lot of debris and dust, and no doubt it fell down on the people beneath. They broke up the roof. There was a great deal of disturbance. Even the getting to Him may cause a good deal of disturbance. Oh, yes - at home! The people in your village! Oh, we know it is not done quite easily, is it?

A clergyman who was talking to me of the S. Alban's clergy, said the other day: "Oh you know this, you fellows of S. Alban's, you have made such a disturbance in the Church of England." Don't you think it was necessary? Now come! In order to get the Establishment to have a Catholic and Evangelical nature, it was necessary to make a disturbance - but it was necessary. Anything to get any number of people to the Master.

You recollect that when the poor woman was sweeping up her room to find a piece of money that was lost, she must have kicked up a lot of dust in sweeping, but she found it. Now we must never make a disturbance for the sake of disturbing; but if we want to get any society - the Church - to the Master's feet, it may be necessary sometimes to do extravagant things.

And, last of all, just for ourselves, personally: it is not easy often for ourselves to get to the Master but we, too, must take some trouble. We must be in earnest about it. We must take the gates of Heaven by storm. The road up Calvary at times is a bit stiff. But it does not matter, if we get to the Master at the end, and kneel down, and kiss His feet, does it?

Along the road to Calvary is writ large, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (S. Luke ix.23). Along the road, that all may read. "In the last day that great of the feast, Jesus stood up and cried saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." (S. John vii.37).

Why, Lord! we all thirst, and we come to Thee to drink of the water of everlasting life. I am sure you can say in your heart what I tell you this morning is true.


Sunday, January 12, 2020

C.S. Lewis: MERE CHRISTIANITY - the Doodle Video presentation of his talks


C.S. Lewis (1893-1963) novelist, academic, literary critic, medievalist, essayist, and lay theologian had been baptised at birth, but he lost his faith completely during adolescence and was a committed atheist by the time he went to Oxford. He would constantly  debate the existence of God with J.R.R. Tolkien and other Christian friends. While his conversion took place over a period of time, his actual surrender to God took place when he was 32. Go HERE to read a short article on his life.

One of his most influential books was “Mere Christianity”, the text of a series of BBC talks Lewis gave. Here is a clever Doodle video presentation of a substantial portion of it. Click on the links to watch each video. 

BBC Talk 1 (Book 1 Chapter 1)
‘Right and Wrong’ – A Clue to the Meaning of the Universe

BBC Talk 5 (Book 1 Chapter 2)
Some Objections

BBC Talk 2 (Book 1 Chapter 3)
The Reality of the Moral Law

BBC Talk 3 (Book 1 Chapter 4)
What Lies Behind the Moral Law?

BBC Talk 4 (Book 1 Chapter 5)
We Have Cause to be Uneasy

BBC Talk 6 (Book 2, Chapter 1)
The Rival Conceptions of God

BBC Talk 7 (Book 2, Chapter 2)
The Invasion

BBC Talk 8 (Book 2, Chapter 3)
The Shocking Alternative

BBC Talk 11 (Book 3, Chapter 1)
The Three Parts of Morality

BBC Talk 11a, (Book 3, Chapter 2)
The ‘Cardinal Virtues’

BBC Talk 14 (Book 3, Chapter 5)
Sexual Morality

BBC Talk 14a (Mere Christianity, Book 3, Chapter 6)
Christian Marriage

BBC Talk 21, Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 1
Making and Begetting

Sunday, January 5, 2020

“Stars cross the sky, wise men journey from pagan lands, earth receives its Saviour in a cave” (S. Basil the Great)



Basil was born in Caesarea of Cappadocia in 329. The persecution of Christians had ceased, but his parents had lived through those difficult times. He studied at Athens from 351 to 356 in order to become a lawyer and orator. But his sister, Macrina, influenced him to embrace a monastic life, and he founded a community. He stayed with them for five years, ensuring that their life was one of mutual love and service. In 367 a famine hit Cappadocia, and Basil sold his family's land in order to buy food for the starving, actively preparing the food himself. In addressing this crisis, he refused to allow any distinction between Jews and Christians. He also built a hospital, housing for the poor, and a hospice for travellers.

Basil was ordained in 362, and became Bishop of Caesarea in 370. The Emperor visited Caesarea in 371 and demanded Basil's submission to the prevailing Arian heresies. The latter refused, of course, leading to an ongoing dispute between the two of them.

His writings deal with the created world as a revelation of the God's splendour. They vigorously defend the divinity of Christ; they also defend the full divinity of the Holy Spirit, who is to be worshipped with the Father and the Son. 

Basil is said to have died from exhaustion at the age of 49 on 1st January, 379. The following passage is from his Homily 2 on the Holy Birth of the Lord (as quoted on pages 39-40 of Celebrating Sundays: Reflections from the Early Church on the Sunday Gospels, compiled by Stephen Holmes, and published in 2012 by Canterbury Press):

"The star came to rest above the place where the child was. At the sight of it the wise men were filled with great joy” and that great joy should fill our hearts as well. It is the same as the joy the shepherds received from the glad tidings brought by the angels. Let us join the wise men in worship and the shepherds in giving glory to God. Let us dance with the angels and sing: “To us is born this day a savior who is Christ the Lord. The Lord is God and he has appeared to us,” not as God which would have terrified us in our weakness, but as a slave in order to free those living in slavery. Could anyone be so lacking in sensibility and so ungrateful as not to join us all in our gladness, exultation, and radiant joy?

This feast belongs to the whole universe. It gives heavenly gifts to the earth, it sends archangels to Zechariah and to Mary, it assembles a choir of angels to sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.”

Stars cross the sky, wise men journey from pagan lands, earth receives its saviour in a cave. Let there be no one without a gift to offer, no one without gratitude as we celebrate the salvation of the world, the birthday of the human race. Now it is no longer, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return,” but “You are joined to heaven and into heaven you shall be taken up.” It is no longer, “In sorrow you shall bring forth children,” but, “Blessed is she who has borne Emmanuel and blessed the breast that nursed him.” “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; and dominion is laid upon his shoulder.”

Come, join the company of those who merrily welcome the Lord from heaven. Think of shepherds receiving wisdom, of priests prophesying, of women who are glad of heart, as Mary was when told by the angel to rejoice and as Elizabeth was when John leapt in her womb. Anna announced the good news; Simeon took the child in his arms. They worshiped the mighty God in a tiny baby, not despising what they beheld but praising his divine majesty. Like light through clear glass the power of the Godhead shone through that human body for those whose inner eye was pure. Among such may we also be numbered, so that beholding his radiance with unveiled face we too may be transformed from glory to glory by the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and power for endless ages. Amen.



Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Gospel According to Mark, read by David Suchet

This YouTube recording is a real treat. It is the reading of the entire Gospel of Mark given at St Paul's Cathedral, London on 28th March, 2017, by David Suchet, best known as the moustached eponymous hero of Agatha Christie's Poirot. Raised without religion, Suchet was converted by reading Romans 8 in a hotel Bible. Now a practising Anglican, he has produced The Complete NIV Audio Bible which reached sales of 25,000 across all its platforms. He also made a successful BBC documentary Following the footsteps of St Paul and St Peter. David Suchet is now the vice-president of the Bible Society.

The point is made in the introduction that while we usually hear the Gospels read in short sections, it can be a revelation to read – or hear – the whole of the story at once. That was how the Gospel was intended to be encountered.

The St Paul's performance was not Suchet's first public reading of the Bible. He has previously recorded a reading of the whole of the New International Version – the first ever recording of the NIV by a single actor, which Suchet described as his "legacy". Now a practising Anglican, he is most famous for his role as Hercule Poirot in the long-running detective drama, for which he was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Royal Television Society.

Whether you are a seasoned believer or just curious, wait until you have a couple of hours free, and watch the video right through without interruption. You will be surprised at its impact.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

YOUR INVITATION TO OUR AMAZING CAROL SERVICE

All Saints' Benhilton is surely the best place to be from 4.00 p.m. onwards on the Sunday before Christmas Day (Sunday 22nd December)!




Saturday, November 30, 2019

MAKE SURE YOU READ 'TOGETHER'

OK, everybody . . . the Christmas 2019 edition of TOGETHER is available in church tomorrow. It contains some great articles, and a birds-eye view of what many of the Catholic Societies within the Church of England are doing. TOGETHER can also be downloaded HERE. It is without doubt the best edition yet. Congratulations to the editorial team! 




FORTY YEARS AGO TODAY!



In the Office of Readings for S. Andrew’s Day, S. John Chrysostom reminds us that 

‘after Andrew had stayed with Jesus and had learned much from him, he did not keep this treasure to himself, but hastened to share it with his brother [Peter]. Notice what Andrew said to him: We have found the Messiah, that is to say, the Christ. Notice how his words reveal what he has learned in so short a time. They show the power of the master who has convinced them of this truth . . .’ 

‘Jesus’, as you would expect, is the most mentioned name in the New Testament; it occurs 930 times. The next most mentioned name is ‘Peter’ - 155 times. The name ‘Andrew’, however, is mentioned only 13 times, and mostly just in passing. Yet he is the very first of the disciples called by Jesus, and he responds to that call. He then brings Peter - the future chief apostle - to Jesus. In John 6 he brings a little boy with a modest lunch to Jesus, who takes it and feeds the five thousand. In John 12 (with Philip), he brings a group of Greeks to Jesus. 

On S. Andrew’s Day, 1979 (40 years ago today!) in Ballarat Cathedral, I was made a deacon in the Church of God by the Rt Rev’d John Hazlewood who by then had been Bishop of Ballarat a little over four years. Father Austin Day, Rector of Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney, conducted the retreat and preached the ordination sermon, emphasising the importance of being like S. Andrew in responding to Jesus and then bringing other people to him. This morning I offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in thanksgiving to the Lord for his love, his faithfulness, his forgiveness, and his blessing during the good times as well as during the hard times since then. I thanked him for my family, for the parishes and people I have tried to serve, and for so many wonderful colleagues who have helped to sustain me down through the years.  

The photo above is of Bishop John giving me a New Testament (the one I still use when visiting the sick and housebound). Beneath his signature facing the title page he wrote '2 Corinthians 1:7', a verse of S. Paul that - 40 years later - I still regard as a little gift of encouragement from Bishop John (may he rest in peace): 

‘Our hope for you is unshaken; 
for we know that as you share in our sufferings, 
you will also share in our comfort.’ 

Below is the Ballarat Courier article covering the ordination. You’ll need to click on it if you want to read the article and make out the faces in the photograph. On the far right is Archdeacon Graham Walden (later to become Assistant Bishop of the Diocese, and then Bishop of The Murray) who presented the candidates for ordination. Bishop John Hazlewood is in the centre. Between him and me is Father Austin Day.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

What is Advent all about?




Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Advent and Christmas at All Saints' Benhilton

(Click to enlarge)


Friday, November 22, 2019

Saint Cecilia and Singing to the Lord



The veneration of the third century Saint Cecilia, in whose honour a basilica was erected in 5th Century Rome, extended far and wide because of the Passion of S. Cecilia that presented her as the ideal of a Christian woman in an age of persecution.

Nothing much is known of S. Cecilia, and the Passion is clearly a mingling of history and legend. But embedded in the memory of the early Church was the story of this woman whose love for the Lord and witness to the Gospel was responsible for the conversion of a large number of people. In turn it also led to her heroic martyrdom. S. Cecilia was added to the Canon of the Mass in 498. 

She is regarded as the patron saint of music and musicians because of what is said to have been her ability to hear heavenly music in her heart. She is often represented in art with an organ or organ-pipes in her hand. (Because it's a bit quirky, I selected for this post Guido Reni's painting of her with a violin!) 

In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah sees the absence of song among God’s people as a sign of their spiritual death when they rebelled against him. But when Jeremiah speaks of the time of restoration and renewal, he says:

“There shall once more be heard the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord: "Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!" (Jeremiah 33:10-11)

I offer you today a little cluster of passages from the Scriptures as well as from other sources. Taken together, they inspire us to live and worship as part of the heavenly chorus with whom we offer our love and praise to the Lord.

SONG FOR S. CECILIA'S DAY
by John Dryden (1631-1700)
From Harmony, from heavenly Harmony
This universal frame began:
When nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
Arise, ye more than dead!
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry
In order to their stations leap,
And Music’s power obey.
From Harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man . . .

As from the power of sacred lays
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator’s praise
To all the blest above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And music shall untune the sky.

Go HERE for the whole poem

PSALM 40:1-3
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

PSALM 149:1
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful!

PSALM 150
Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his exceeding greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with timbrel and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

EPHESIANS 5:18-20
Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

COLOSSANS 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

REVELATION 4
After this I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door . . . At once I was in the Spirit, and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! . . . And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all round and within, and day and night they never cease to sing, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, "Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou didst create all things, and by thy will they existed and were created."

SYMPHONY OF CREATION
(with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI)
By Fr Lawrence Lew OP of Blackfriars, Oxford

. . . we can think of creation as God’s song, and the Holy Trinity as the divine musician. The Father is the origin of the song. If you like, he knows the tune. But without words, and without breath to produce the sound, it is not a song. And so, when the Father sings, then by his Word, and with his Breath, which both proceed from him, the song of creation is being sung and sustained in being. So, the old song, if you like, is creation itself, and by his divine act of singing, God causes all that is, and holds everything in being. Marvel at the wonder of the world around you, and indeed, at your own being. For all creation, by its very existence, tells the glory of God … like a glorious symphony, and in perfect polyphony.

But then, God’s Word itself takes part in this symphony of creation. As Pope Benedict said in his recent apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini, “In this symphony is found, at a certain point, what might be called in musical terminology a ‘solo’, a theme given to a single instrument or voice; and it is so important that the significance of the entire work depends on it. This ‘solo’ is Jesus”. The entry of Christ into God's creation, heralds a fresh outburst of song. We find that the New Testament begins and ends with song, from the canticles in Luke’s Gospel to the canticles of the Apocalypse, and all these songs form a central part in the Church’s liturgy; we sing them everyday. And in a sense, these are the new songs based, if you like, on the musical theme introduced by Christ into the symphony.

But I think Christ not only adds his voice to the song of creation and becomes a part of it, but actually he introduces a new song. Indeed, the eternal Word has taken on the flesh of music, so to speak, and as St Clement of Alexandria said, Christ has become incarnate as the New Song. St John says that “no lie was found” in the mouths of those who sing the new song. And this is because the song they sing is Christ who is the Truth. And the new song of Christ is greater than the old song of creation because the singer and the song is God himself. And so, when we are called as Christians - children of the new creation - to sing a new song, we are being invited to rejoice and participate in the life and being of God himself.

So, to sing the new song means to harmonize our lives with Christ; to live the life of grace in Christ. Jesus is the new song that we, the redeemed, can learn to sing, and we are able to do this when we have him in our minds and in our hearts, as St Cecilia did. But to sustain this song we need the breath of the Holy Spirit, allowing ourselves to be filled with God’s grace. And then, as we do every morning, we simply ask the Lord to open our lips, so that, with our very lives, we can praise his name, and sing his new song.    Go HERE for the entire homily

COMMENTARY ON PSALM 22
S. Augstine of Hippo (354–430)

Praise the Lord with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song. Rid yourself of what is old and worn out, for you know a new song. A new man, a new covenant; a new song. This new song does not belong to the old man. Only the new man learns it: the man restored from his fallen condition through the grace of God, and now sharing in the new covenant, that is, the kingdom of heaven. To it all our love now aspires and sings a new song. Let us sing a new song not with our lips but with our lives.

Sing to him a new song, sing to him with joyful melody. Every one of us tries to discover how to sing to God. You must sing to him, but you must sing well. He does not want your voice to come harshly to his ears, so sing well, brothers!

If you were asked, “Sing to please this musician,” you would not like to do so without having taken some instruction in music, because you would not like to offend an expert in the art. An untrained listener does not notice the faults a musician would point out to you. Who, then, will offer to sing well for God, the great artist whose discrimination is faultless, whose attention is on the minutest detail, whose ear nothing escapes? When will you be able to offer him a perfect performance that you will in no way displease such a supremely discerning listener?

See how he himself provides you with a way of singing. Do not search for words, as if you could find a lyric which would give God pleasure. Sing to him “with songs of joy.” This is singing well to God, just singing with songs of joy.

But how is this done? You must first understand that words cannot express the things that are sung by the heart. Take the case of people singing while harvesting in the fields or in the vineyards or when any other strenuous work is in progress. Although they begin by giving expression to their happiness in sung words, yet shortly there is a change. As if so happy that words can no longer express what they feel, they discard the restricting syllables. They burst out into a simple sound of joy, of jubilation. Such a cry of joy is a sound signifying that the heart is bringing to birth what it cannot utter in words.

Now, who is more worthy of such a cry of jubilation than God himself, whom all words fail to describe? If words will not serve, and yet you must not remain silent, what else can you do but cry out for joy? Your heart must rejoice beyond words, soaring into an immensity of gladness, unrestrained by syllabic bonds. Sing to him with jubilation.

HYMN TO NY GOD IN MY SICKNESS
by John Donne (1572-1631) Dean of St Paul’s

Since I am coming to that holy room, 
Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore, 
I shall be made thy music as I come 
I tune the instrument here at the door, 
And what must I do then, think here before;

Go HERE for the whole poem

From NOW THE HEARING, NOW THE POWER
by Rachel Reeder

Our music is the sound of Jesus' name . . . We mean, of course, that our liturgies are outbursts of the grace already always present in the pain and shadows, the joy and the lucidity and intractable mystery of human life and love. We sing, if we sing, because we are involved in the fearful and beautiful and truth-telling story of God's redemptive presence at the heart of human life – no less present when we are naked and friendless than when we are sheltered and loved, the first presence promising the second.

The art, therefore, of liturgical song is not the composer's and performer's alone. Nor is it restricted to those who can articulate music’s meaning or appeal. Liturgical participation and song belongs also to the listener. Some members of the assembly are more likely to sing – at home, in the community and during worship – than are other people, and some people will sing at one time and not another. Nor is it accidental that we so often use musical metaphors to express the whole range of human responses (including non-vocal and inaudible ones) to the unnameable one, the God whose face is revealed in the Gloria we so indifferently sing on most Sundays . . .

Our liturgical songs are not recordings made in sound-proof rooms by people attuned to nothing but the sound of music. They are rather an integral part of the drama; they follow a pattern, but they are live, not staged. They begin were where we are, mute and bowed in sorrow for our sins (or maybe just feeling small); then, if words shoot up, they bid us raise our eyes and then ourselves to the table of salvation.

Participation in the liturgy, at times through glad singing, at times in rapt or restive silence, and sometimes just by sheer physical presence, frees us to contemplate things that cannot be reasoned and to see what cannot be seen: behind or beyond the enchantments and defeats of the ordinary is God – never-moving God, who sees everything, even the dark unspoken – and the love and courage to live again for one anther. We sing for a better life and for a justice that transforms the lives of the oppressors as well as the lives of the oppressed.

From Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary


The Basilica of S. Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome


Thursday, November 21, 2019

An invitation for you to join us if you can!





Monday, November 18, 2019

S. John Henry Newman's MEDITATIONS AND DEVOTIONS

From the National Institute for Newman Studies (USA) website, this is a collection of prayers and reflections originally put together for students at the Oratory School in Birmingham. It was compiled and first published by Fr William Neville in 1893, three years after Newman’s death. It is a witness to Newman’s simple, confident and humble faith, and includes his devotion to Our Lady, to his patron saint Philip Neri and to the Stations of the Cross, meditation before the Blessed Sacrament and the Rosary. From the “Meditations on Christian Doctrine” comes this well-known passage:

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his – if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me – still He knows what He is about. 


Part I
Page

Meditations on the Litany of Loreto, for the Month of May

Introductory

1. May the Month of Promise     3

2. May the Month of Joy     5
I. The Immaculate Conception       

1. Virgo Purissima (The Most Pure Virgin)     8

2. Virgo Prædicanda (The Virgin who is to be proclaimed)   10

3. Mater Admirabilis (The Wonderful Mother)   13

4. Domus Aurea (The House of Gold)   15

5. Mater Amabilis (The Lovable or Dear Mother)   17

5. Rosa Mystica (The Mystical Rose) [Duplicate]   20

6. Virgo Veneranda (The All-Worshipful Virgin)   23

7. Sancta Maria (The Holy Mary)   26
II. The Annunciation [file 2]

1. Regina Angelorum (The Queen of Angels)   29

2. Speculum Justiciæ (The Mirror of Justice)   31

3. Sedes Sapientiæ (The Seat of Wisdom)   33

4. Janua Coeli (The Gate of Heaven)   36

5. Mater Creatoris (The Mother of the Creator)   39

6. Mater Christi (The Mother of Christ)   42

7. Mater Salvatoris (The Mother of the Saviour)   45
III. Our Lady's Dolours

1. Regina Martyrum (The Queen of Martyrs)   48

2. Vas Insigne Devotionis (The Most Devout Virgin)   50

3. Vas Honorabile (The Vessel of Honour)   52

4. Vas Spirituale (The Spiritual Vessel)   54

5. Consolatrix Afflictorum (The Consoler of the Afflicted)   56

6. Virgo Prudentissima (The Most Prudent Virgin)   58

7. Turris Eburnea (The Ivory Tower)   60
IV. The Assumption [file 3]

1. Sancta Dei Genitrix (The Holy Mother of God)   62

2. Mater Intemerata (The Sinless Mother)   64

3. Rosa Mystica (The Mystical Rose)   66

4. Turris Davidica (The Tower of David)   68

5. Virgo Potens (The Powerful Virgin)   70

6. Auxilium Christianorum (The Help of Christians)   72

7. Virgo Fidelis (The Most Faithful Virgin)   74

8. Stella Matutina (The Morning Star)   76

Memorandum on the Immaculate Conception   79

Novena of St. Philip [file 4]   89

Litany of St. Philip (English) 117

Litany of St. Philip (Latin) 122



Part II


Meditations on the Stations of the Cross [file 5] 129

Short Meditations on the Stations of the Cross 155

Twelve Meditations and Intercessions for Good Friday,
with Prayers for the Faithful Departed
 [file 6]


1. Jesus the Lamb of God 173

2. Jesus the Son of David 176

3. Jesus the Lord of Grace 179

4. Jesus the Author and Finisher of Faith 182

5. Jesus the Lord of Armies 185

6. Jesus the Only Begotten Son 188

7. Jesus the Eternal King 190

8. Jesus the Beginning of the New Creation 193

9. Jesus the Lover of Souls 196

10. Jesus our Guide and Guardian 198

11. Jesus Son of Mary 200

12. Jesus our Daily Sacrifice 203

Prayer for the Faithful Departed 205

Meditations for Eight Days [file 7] 207

Litanies:

   Litany of Penance 227

   Litany of the Passion 230

   Litany of the Seven Dolours 234

   Litany of the Resurrection 238

   Litany of the Immaculate Heart of Mary 241

   Litany of the Holy Name of Mary 244

   Litany of St. Philip (English) [file 8] 247

   Litany of St. Philip (Latin) 252

"Anima Christi" (Translated) 255

The Heart of Mary 257

A Short Service for Rosary Sunday 259

Ave Maris Stella 263

A Triduo to St. Joseph 267

Four Prayers to St. Philip 273

A Short Road to Perfection 283

Prayer for the Light of Truth 287

Prayer for a Happy Death 289



Part III


Meditations on Christian Doctrine [file 9]

A Short Visit to the Blessed Sacrament before Meditation 293
I.Hope in God—Creator 299
II.Hope in God—Redeemer

1. The Mental Sufferings of Our Lord 304

2. Our Lord Refuses Sympathy 309

3. The Bodily Sufferings of Our Lord 321

4. It is Consummated 325
III. God and the Soul:

1. God the Blessedness of the Soul 327

2. Jesus Christ yesterday and today, and the same for ever 329

3. An Act of Love 331
IV. Sin[file 10]

1. Against Thee only have I sinned 333

2. Against Thee only have I sinned 335

3. The Effects of Sin 337

4. The Evil of Sin 339

5. The Heinousness of Sin 340

6. The Bondage of Sin 342

7. Every Sin has its Punishment 344
V. The Power of the Cross 347
VI. The Resurrection:

1. The Temples of the Holy Ghost 350

2. God Alone 353

3. The Forbearance of Jesus 355
VII. God with Us:

1. The Familiarity of Jesus 358

2. Jesus the Hidden God 361

3. Jesus the Light of the Soul 363
VIII. God All-Sufficient 366
IX.God Alone Unchangeable [file 11] 369
X.God is Love 372
XI.The Sanctity of God 375
XII.The Forty Days' Teaching:

1. The Kingdom of God 378

2. Resignation to God's Will 380

3. Our Lord's Parting with His Apostles 382

4. God's Ways not our Ways 384
XIII. The Ascension:

1. He ascended 387

2. He ascended into Heaven 389

3. Our Advocate above 391

4. Our Advocate above 393
XIV. The Paraclete:

1. The Paraclete, the Life of All Things 396

2. The Paraclete, the Life of the Church 398

3. The Paraclete, the Life of my Soul 400

4. The Paraclete, the Fount of Love 402
XV.The Holy Sacrifice:

1. The Mass 405

2. Holy Communion 407

3. The Food of the Soul 409
XVI. The Sacred Heart [file 12] 412
XVII. The Infinite Perfection of God 414
XVIII. The Infinite Knowledge of God 417
XIX. The Providence of God 420
XX. God is All in All 423
XXI. God the Incommunicable Perfection 426
XXII. God Communicated to Us 429
XXIII. God the Sole Stay for Eternity 432

Conclusion 435