Saturday, August 8, 2020

Love without limits - 2 (Lev Gillet)

"Fire burst forth from the burning bush, yet the bush was not destroyed. Draw near to the Burning Bush, my child. Reflect on this great vision, and why the bush burned and still was not consumed. 

"The fire that burns the bush without destroying it is a fire nourished by nothing apart from itself. It subsists alone, by itself. And of itself it spreads abroad in infinite growth. This fire does not destroy the wood of the bush. Rather, it purifies the wood. It eliminates everything in the wood that is merely brambles and thorns. Yet it does not deform the bush. It respects its original structure, even while it eliminates its superfluous growth. It renews without killing. It transforms the wood itself into fire, a lasting fire.

"Surely, according to the most simple, the most elementary interpretation, you can behold in the Burning Bush the expression of divine protection, which sustains your existence in the face of every burning pain and suffering. There, my child, you can find the assurance of a supreme Compassion, a preserving Mercy. There you can see as well the sign of a divine Purification: one painful for you to endure, yet one that sets you free.

"The Burning Bush, however, has a still deeper meaning. It bears a Revelation of your Lord and God Himself. 

"The Burning Bush is an expression of the divine nature. In the flame of the bush you can have a glimpse of Who I am. As the Scripture declares, your Lord, the Lord of Love, is a consuming fire!
"Like the flame of the Bush, I am Love that gives endlessly of itself. I am that generosity that knows no bounds. No one can say of my Love: it extends to this point, and no further. 

"I am that Love that always tends to incorporate and assimilate every element of human existence it encounters (indeed, I am the very Source of those elements). Just as the fire burns without consuming the wood of the bush, I never destroy the persons I have created. I only wish to make disappear whatever there is within a person that conflicts with the essence of Love. 

"I take for myself and make it my own. I transform and I transfigure. I bestow life. I transpose human life on to a higher plane. 

"He who loves unites himself to those whom he loves. I unite myself to you, my beloved. Nevertheless, there can be no confusion between myself, who am Love, and you, who receive that Love.
"Can you now behold this Great Vision? Do you see the flame that no one lights, the flame that leaps forth from my very Heart, the flame which is my very Being? Do you see the divine Fire that spreads out across the world? The entire universe is the Burning Bush!"

Friday, August 7, 2020

Love without limits - 1 (Lev Gillet)

Over the next fortnight I will be sharing with you a series of passages from Fr Lev Gillet's AMOUR SANS LIMITES, originally published in 1971 under the name of "A Monk of the Eastern Church." 

Lev Gillet was a monk of both the Western Church’s Benedictine order and of the Eastern Church. Born in 1893, in Isère, France, his early life included service in World War I and university study of philosophy and psychology. Later in life, his work as a priest and scholar would take him across Europe, Britain and to the Near East. After entering the Orthodox Church, he was rector of the first French language Orthodox parish in Paris. Lev Gillet was also considered a pioneer of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. He died in 1980.

These translations of AMOUR SANS LIMITES – which has been a great blessing to me – came originally from Father John Breck's column on the Orthodox Church of America website. Most of them are no longer there, but I see that Neil at Catholic Sensibility has links to cached copies, and these were the sources I used. Thank you Fr Breck and Neil!

"I am your Lord, the Lord of Love. Do you want to enter into the life of Love? 

"This is not an invitation to some realm of tepid tenderness. It is a calling to enter into the burning flame of Love. There alone is true conversion: conversion to incandescent Love. 

"Do you wish to become someone other than you have been, someone other than you are? Do you wish to be someone who lives for others, and first of all for that Other and with that Other who calls all things into being? Do you wish to be a brother to all, a brother to the entire world?

"Then hear what my Love speaks to you.

"My child, you have never known who you really are. You do not yet know yourself. I mean, you have never really known yourself to be the object of my Love. As a result, you have never known who you are in me, or all the potential within yourself.

"Awake from this sleep and its bad dreams! In certain moments of truth, you see nothing in yourself but failures and defeats, set-backs, corruption, and perhaps even crimes. But none of that is really of you. It is not your true 'me,' the most profound expression of your true self.

"Beneath and behind all that, deeper than all your sin, transgressions and lacks, my eyes are upon you. I see you, and I love you. It is you that I love. It's not the evil you do - the evil that we can neither ignore nor deny nor lessen (is black actually white?). But underneath it all, at a greater depth, I see something else that is still very much alive.

"The masks you wear, the disguises you adopt might well hide you from the eyes of others - and even from your own eyes. But they cannot hide you from me. I pursue you even there where no one has ever pursued you before.

"Your deceptive expression, your feverish quest for excitement, your hard and avaricious heart - all of that I separate from you. I cut it away and cast it far off from you. 

"Hear me. No one truly understands you. But I understand you. I can speak about you such wonderful, marvelous things! I can say these things about you. Not about the 'you' that the powers of darkness have so often led astray, but about the 'you' who is as I desire you to be, the 'you' who dwells in my thoughts as the object of my love. I can say these things about the 'you' who can still be what I want you to be, and to be so visibly."

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Transfiguration - Metropolitan Anthony

[On the Mount of Transfiguration ...] they saw Christ in glory at a moment when His total surrender to the will of the Father, His final and ultimate acceptance of His own human destiny, became revealed to them. Moses and Elijah, we are told, stood by Him; the one representing the Law and the other on
e representing the Prophets: both have proclaimed the time when salvation would come, when the Man of suffering will take upon Himself all the burdens of the world, when the Lamb of God slain before all ages would take upon Himself all the tragedy of this world. It was a moment when in His humanity Christ, in humble and triumphant surrender, gave Himself ultimately to the Cross.
Last week we heard Him say that the Son of God will be delivered in the hand of men, and they will crucify Him, but on the third day He will rise. At that moment it became imminent, it was a decisive point, and He shone with the glory of the perfect, sacrificial, crucified love of the Holy Trinity, and the responsive love of Jesus the Man, as Saint Paul calls Him. The Apostles saw the shining, they saw the divine light streaming through the transparent flesh of Christ, falling on all the things around Him, touching rock and plant, and calling out of them a response of light. They alone did not understand, because in all the created world man alone has sinned and became blind. And yet, they were shown the mystery, and yet, they entered into that cloud which is the divine glory, that filled them with awe, with fear, but at the same time with such exulting joy and wonder!

Moses had entered that cloud and was allowed to speak to God as a friend speaks to a friend; he was allowed to see God passing by him, still without a name, still without a face; and now, they saw the face of God in the Incarnation. They saw His face and they saw His glory shining out of tragedy. What they perceived was the glory, what they perceived was the wonder of being there, in the glory of God, in the presence of Christ revealed to them in glory. They wanted to stay there forever, as we do at moments when something fills us with adoration, with worship, with awe, with unutterable joy, but Christ had told them that the time has come to go down into the valley, to leave the Mount of Transfiguration because this was the beginning of the way of the Cross, and He had to be merged into all that was tragic in human life. He brought them down into the valley to be confronted with the agony of the father whose child could not be cured, with the inability of the disciples to do anything for this child, with the expectation of the people who now could turn to no-one but Him - that is where He brought them.

And we are told that He had chosen these three disciples because together, in their togetherness they held the three great virtues that make us capable of sharing with God the mystery of His incarnation, of His Divinity, of His crucifixion, to face His descent into hell after His death and to receive the news of His resurrection: the faith of Peter, the love of John, the righteousness of James.

There are moments when we also see something which is beyond us, and how much we wish we could stay, stay forever in this blissful condition; and it is not only because we are incapable of it that we are not allowed to stay in it, but because the Lord says, You are now on the Mount of Transfiguration, you have seen Christ ready to be crucified for the life of the world - go now together with Him, go now in His name, go now, and bring people to Him that they may live!

This is our vocation. May God give us faith, and the purity of heart that allows us to see God in every brother and sister of ours! Didn't one of the Desert Fathers say, ‘He who has seen his brother has seen God’? - and serve one another with love sacrificial, with the exulting joy of giving our lives to one another as Christ gave His life for us. Amen.

(Preached on 19th August 1990, and taken from the Sourozh website)

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

S. John Vianney (1786-1859) Patron Saint of Parish Priests

John Vianney was a French parish priest who became internationally famous for his pastoral care, confessional wisdom, children’s catechesis and practical preaching.

Born into humble circumstances, his parents were devout and hard working, and they sought to serve God as a family. When he was 20, John decided to leave his rural surroundings and begin secondary education so as to respond to what he believed was the call of God to the priesthood. He was a highly unpromising student, and had a real struggle. His studies progressed very slowly. A decade later he was ordained. He was well-known for his heart of compassion which led him to open an orphanage as he began to minister in the local parish in the aftermath of the Revolution. In due course he was appointed curé (parish priest) of the remote rural parish of Ars, and was known to spend up 14 to 18 hours a day in the confessional. Over time, he became internationally famous, and each year tens of thousands of pilgrims flocked from far and wide to hear him preach the Gospel, and to sseek his counsel. He prayerfully moved in the of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, and he experienced deeply the reality of spiritual warfare with the powers of evil. John Vianney died in 1859. He was canonised by Pope Pius XI in 1925. He is the patron saint of the parish clergy.

Here is the passage set for the Office of Readings today, from the S. John Vianney’s catechetical instructions:

The glorious duty of man: to pray and to love
My little children, reflect on these words: the Christian’s treasure is not on earth but in heaven. Our thoughts, then, ought to be directed to where our treasure is. This is the glorious duty of man: to pray and to love. If you pray and love, that is where a man’s happiness lies.

Prayer is nothing else but union with God. When one has a heart that is pure and united with God, he is given a kind of serenity and sweetness that makes him ecstatic, a light that surrounds him with marvelous brightness. In this intimate union, God and the soul are fused together like two bits of wax that no one can ever pull apart. This union of God with a tiny creature is a lovely thing. It is a happiness beyond understanding.

We had become unworthy to pray, but God in his goodness allowed us to speak with him. Our prayer is incense that gives him the greatest pleasure.

My little children, your hearts are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God. Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven and something of paradise comes down upon us. Prayer never leaves us without sweetness. It is honey that flows into the soul and makes all things sweet. When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.

Prayer also makes time pass very quickly and with such great delight that one does not notice its length. Listen: Once when I was a purveyor in Bresse and most of my companions were ill, I had to make a long journey. I prayed to the good God, and, believe me, the time did not seem long.

Some men immerse themselves as deeply in prayer as fish in water, because they give themselves totally to God. There is no division in their hearts. O, how I love these noble souls! Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Colette used to see our Lord and talk to him just as we talk to one another.

How unlike them we are! How often we come to church with no idea of what to do or what to ask for. And yet, whenever we go to any human being, we know well enough why we go. And still worse, there are some who seem to speak to God like this: “I will only say a couple of things to you, and then I will be rid of you.” I often think that when we come to adore the Lord, we would receive everything we ask for, if we would ask with living faith and with a pure heart.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel is in a richly forested area at the southern end of a long fertile valley known from ancient times for its wine and oil production. From the summit of the mountain can be seen the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, making it a strategic site for defence of the rich land below. Stone age people dug caves into the side of the Mountain. As far as the Scriptures are concerned, Mount Carmel is known chiefly as the site of a contest between Elijah and 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (both false gods.) (1 Kings 8) 

The area is famous for its flower blossoms, shrubs, and fragrant herbs. The beauty of the bride in the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 7:5) is compared to the mountain's beauty. On its slopes are plentiful pastures (Isaiah 33:9, Jeremiah 50:19, Amos 1:2) Through the ages, monks sheltered in the caves, as did Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 18:19, 2 Kings 2:25.) Reference to Mt Carmel frequently suggests God’s care and generosity. The Hebrew name 'karmel' means 'garden land' and 'a fruitful place.'

Today we celebrate the foundation of the Carmelite religious order in the 12th century. Berthold, the founder of the order, is sometimes said to have been a pilgrim to the area (perhaps to the cave of Elijah), sometimes he is said to have been a crusader. Tradition says that he originated in southern France and was venturing in the Holy Land when he encountered fierce soldiers. Receiving a vision of Jesus, he went to Mount Carmel and built a small chapel there. Before long he was joined by hermits who all lived there in community in imitation of Elijah. After his death, it seems that St. Brocard became leader of the hermits eventually leading to the establishment of the Carmelite Order in the 12th century. 

In Carmelite tradition Mount Carmel is understood to have been a place of deep devotion and monastic-style prayer since the time of Elijah. So they built an actual monastery there, and it was dedicated to the the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she was 'Star of the Sea' – the cloud of life that dwells over the sea promising rain and fertility (1 Kings 18:41-45). (Remember that the Mediterranean is seen from Mount Carmel and is a garden of life.) Throughout the monastery’s long history, there were periods of sadness, especially when it fell under Islamic control, becoming a mosque known as El-Maharrakah (the place of burning, referring to Elijah’s challenge to the pagan prophets.) In the 18th century, Napoleon established the location as a hospital, but this was destroyed in 1821. Funds were collected by the Carmelites, by then a worldwide order, and they restored the monastery, which is considered the order's spiritual home.

As time went by, the Carmelite order built monasteries throughout Europe and other parts of the world. It is not unusual for nuns and monks to receive visions from Mary and Jesus. 

Fr. John Malley, O.Carm., writes:
'For Carmelites Our Lady is the perfect model of the life of prayer and contemplation. She primarily points Christians to Jesus, saying to each what she said to the servants at the wedding at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” For Carmelites, Mary is a spiritual Mother. The Carmelites believe deeply that God is always present among us. This was the basic insight that Jesus taught in His sharing among the people. God treasures every individual with a personal and everlasting love. In the words of St. John’s Gospel 3: 16: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him – might have eternal life.”

'God has first loved us and continues to share that love with us day by day in so many personal ways. God is always with us, caring for us, supporting, and providing for us in all our needs. As the first Carmelites strove to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and to follow His example, this fundamental message of the Gospel became paramount.

'Carmelites have this ideal: to seek and search for God, to give and spend time with God (vacare Deo is the traditional Latin phrase), to be with God by their commitment to follow Jesus, and thus “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all you mind.” (Luke 10:27)

'This ideal excites and inspires us still. It opens a horizon that calls, provokes, and challenges us to try to empty ourselves so that we might be filled with the God who created us, guides us, and speaks to us today. (Psalm 94)'

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Holy Catholic Church Railway

Regular readers will remember that I have already made reference to the artist Thomas Noyes-Lewis (1862-1946) HERE and HERE. A staunch Anglo-Catholic, he was for many years 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.

I dsicovered another example of his work over at Project Canterbury. He provided the cover illustration (above) for the charming children’s catechetical booklet published by The Faith Press (date unknown), called The Road to Heaven by the Holy Catholic Church Railway. The text was written by R. A. Kingdon, and is Childermote Manual No. 16. Go HERE for the complete text.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Some Eucharistic Devotions

Now that we are back in church again, here are some great prayers of preparation for Holy Communion, prayers of thanksgiving after Holy Communion, and traditional prayers of reflection on the Holy Sacrifice.

Before Mass (Bishop Thomas Ken)
Before Mass (William Vickers)
Before Mass ("Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Angels")
Before Mass ("Lord, come to me that thou mayest cleanse me")
Before Mass (". . . incline thy merciful ears to our prayers")
Before Mass ("Cleanse our consciences, we beseech thee O Lord")
Before Mass ("As watchmen look for the morning")
Before Mass (Desiderius Erasmus)
Before Mass (From the Non-Jurors' Liturgy of 1718)
Before Mass ("Like as the hart . . .")
Before Mass (From the Diocese of Bathurst "Red Book")
Before Mass (May this offering avail . . .)
Before Mass (S. Thomas Aquinas)
Before Mass (Bishop Lancelot Andrewes)
Before Mass (Bishop Thomas Ken)
Before Mass (Bishop John Cosin)
Before Mass (Thomas Comber)
Oblation (From the liturgy of the Catholic Apostolic Church)
Uniting Heaven and Earth (Bishop Jeremy Taylor)
Encountering Jesus (Eric Milner-White)
The Holy Sacrifice (William Jervois)
The Holy Sacrifice (Charles Wesley)
Ave verum corpus (Attributed to Pope Innocent VI)
To Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament (Favourite medieval prayer of Father John Hope)
Acclamation ("O Sacrament most holy . . .")
The Holy Sacrifice (William Bright)
To Jesus, the Risen Lord (i) (Brian Moore, adapted)
To Jesus, the Risen Lord (ii) (Brian Moore, adapted)
Drawing Near (From the liturgy of the Catholic Apostolic Church)
To Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
To Jesus, the Lamb of God (Charlotte Elliott)
Act of Spiritual Communion 
(when attending the Eucharist of a Church whose discipline 
does not yet allow us to receive Holy Communion sacramentally)
Gratitude (S. Richard of Chichester)
Communion (From the liturgy of the Catholic Apostolic Church)
To Whom shall we go?
After Communion (Bishop Thomas Ken)
After Mass (Bishop Jeremy Taylor)
After Mass (S. John Henry Newman)
After Mass (S. Basil the Great)
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
To Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament
Litany of Christ, our Eucharistic King
Adoration in the Christmas Season
Desiring Jesus (Father Ignatius of Llanthony)
Adoro Te (S. Thomas Aquinas)

Friday, July 3, 2020

The Sunday we've been waiting for - at last!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Newman's 'most brilliant' paragraph

Even during his Anglican years, John Henry Newman remarked that the popular exhibitions of devotion that so scandalised the 'English Protestant visitor to the Continent', even with corruptions of 'excess' or 'superstition', were preferable to the 'arid indifference' of the English laity and clergy. After all, as Newman puts it, these devotions to Our Lady derived from the real (versus notional) idea that she was the Mother of God. Later in his life, towards the end of his famous 'Letter to Dr. Pusey' (p. 86) Newman wrote what I have heard (justifiably) called the most brilliant paragraph in all his work:

'And did not the All-wise know the human heart when He took to Himself a Mother? Did He not anticipate our emotion at the sight of such an exaltation in one so simple and so lowly?  If He had not meant her to exert that wonderful influence in His Church, which she has in the event exerted, I will use a bold word, He it is who has perverted us. If she is not to attract our homage, why did He make her solitary in her greatness amid His vast creation? If it be idolatry in us to let our affections respond to our faith, He would not have made her what she is, or He would not have told us that He had so made her; but, far from this, He has sent His Prophet to announce to us, ‘A Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,’ and we have the same warrant for hailing her as God’s Mother, as we have for adoring Him as God.'

Thursday, June 25, 2020

A superstar who hit rock bottom and came up again

I want to tell you about someone whose life was changed - a man in the depths of despair who found new life and hope. He had been a great musician. As a child he had overtaken all his teachers. He had begun composing in childhood, and by his twenties he was fabulously wealthy - the highest paid composer in the world, packing in the crowds wherever he went.

At the same time, he was rude, arrogant, and self-opinionated. He drank too heavily, and he could swear like a trooper in three different languages!

For forty years he composed breathtaking music for the royal family. But musical tastes change, and his works fell out of fashion. He tried everything, but he couldn’t resurrect his career. He became bankrupt, poverty-stricken, depressed and physically ill. Things were so bad that he thought he might end up living out his days in a London debtors’ prison.

Who am I talking about? George Frederick Handel (1685-1759). As if things couldn’t get worse, in 1737 he had a cerebral haemorrhage which left him paralysed down his right side and unable to walk or write. Very slowly he managed to regain some of his strength.

One night in 1741 he shuffled listlessly down a dark, creepy London street, bent over - a man seriously old before his time. England was in the grip of an extremely cruel winter, and Handel was physically and emotionally worn out.

As he trudged on he came to a church. He paused, and suddenly from the depths of his being he cried, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Eventually he went home to his very modest lodgings. On his desk was a package - a set of words that he had promised a friend he would try to do something with musically. In fact the words were all Bible verses arranged in such a way as to emphasise the salvation won for us by Jesus. Handel opened the package and his eyes fell on the verse, ‘He was despised and rejected of men.’

He reached for his pen and began to write. Then something mysterious - even ‘miraculous’ - happened to him. He just kept writing . . . page after page after page! He actually worked non-stop for twenty-four days, hardly eating, and having almost no rest. He refused to see friends. But on the day he finished, a friend managed to get in. Handel was sitting at his piano, sheets of music strewn all around him, and he had tears running down his face. ‘I do believe I have seen all of Heaven before me, and the great God Himself,’ he said to his friend. He then flopped onto his bed and slept for seventeen hours. He woke up renewed in body and in soul. Looking back on this experience, and borrowing a phrase from the Apostle Paul, he said, ‘Whether I was in my body or out of my body I know not. God knows it’!
Right from its first performance, Handel’s Messiah has been regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces ever composed. It has stunned multitudes. To this day it is performed at Christmas and Easter all over the world, and people who know nothing else about classical music always recognise the Hallelujah Chorus! More than that, Handel’s music has brought a vision of the glory of the Lord to countless unsuspecting souls.

Why have I recounted the story of George Frederick Handel? Simply because I know that so many of us find ourselves exactly where he was. We think that life is useless. We feel that there is no hope. Maybe it’s related to a business failure or the disintegration of our relationships. Or we might be successful financially, in our careers and in our family life. But for reasons we can’t understand we’re there, right at rock bottom in other ways.

Of course we can speak to friends. And professional counselling is a good idea, too. Medication can often make a big difference. These things are important.

How bizarre it is, though, that we so easily neglect the ‘spiritual’ aspect of our being, when ‘God . . . has put eternity into man’s mind’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). There are even in our universities today professional observers of human behaviour who agree that we seem to have an inbuilt instinct to reach out to ‘the transcendent’. So many people discover that ‘giving in’ to that instinct is the most important life choice we ever make, because in the context of the relationship with God that develops, deep spiritual and emotional healing begins to take place. 

On the other hand, if we refuse to come to terms with our deeply spiritual needs, all other measures are a bit like putting sticking plaster on symptoms rather than treating the real illness. (Sticking plaster is, of course, handy. But on its own it’s not going to heal us!)

Those facing big issues in our lives, or who are on the brink of despair - as many are right now at this stage in the ‘lockdown’ - ought to need very little encouragement to open up to the Lord’s love and healing. Maybe the story of George Frederick Handel will inspire us to do it!

An intriguing insight in the Bible is that we can drift spiritually without even realising what is happening to us.  One of the saddest bits of the Old Testament is when Samson, so full of promise and raised up by God to deliver his people, became captive to his lusts. Do you know what it says? Judges 16:20 tells us, ‘He knew not that the Spirit of God had left him.’ Isn’t that so sad. He drifted. 

We are warned about that happening to us in Hebrews 2:1: ‘... we must pay the closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.’ In his commentary on this verse, William Barclay points out that in the original language the expression for ‘drift away’ is meant to conjure up the idea of a ship drifting to destruction because the pilot is asleep!

We matter to God. He loves us with an everlasting love. He doesn’t want us just to drift along. Whatever tangles or trauma we are in the middle of, he wants to help us, support us, strengthen and sustain us, so that we come through. We don’t have to drift. Nor do we have to be strong enough or wise enough in our own strength and wisdom. We can rely on him. We can let his love reach us through prayer, through the Scriptures, through receiving the Sacraments, through the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We really can open up our lives to his healing love.

Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah God says to us: ‘You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.’ (Jeremiah 29:3)

S. James says, ‘Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.’ (James 4:8)

And Jesus himself said: ‘Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you . . . for he who seeks finds.’ (Matthew 7:7)

George Frederick Handel had his life turned around and put on track because he encountered the Lord in a new way. Isn’t it time for each of us to seek the Lord with our whole heart, to draw near to him, and to experience his love and healing more deeply than ever before?

Handel's memorial in Westminster Abbey

Sunday, June 21, 2020

All Saints' Benhilton open for Private Prayer

The Blessed Sacrament exposed on the Nave Altar
for private prayer
each Sunday morning, 8.45 a.m. to 12.00 midday
until public celebrations of the Mass are permitted.

Yesterday at All Saints' we had a working bee to dust, clean and tidy the church in preparation for opening this morning for private prayer, for the first time in twelve weeks of ‘lockdown.’ It was really wonderful to see people from our church family working together again (socially distanced, of course, and many wearing gloves and face masks!), enjoying renewed fellowship and interaction, and sharing a great sense of anticipation. 

We do not know when public worship will be allowed, but permission to open the church for private prayer is a very welcome first step in that direction.

So, over the next few Sundays, the church will be open from 8.45 a.m. to 12.00 noon for private prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament which will have been placed on the nave altar beforehand, surrounded by candles and flowers. We invite you to visit All Saints’ for prayer and reflection during that period each Sunday, and to stay for as little or as long a time as you wish.

Jesus, our Lord and our God, 
Son of the Living God and Son of the Virgin Mary, 
we believe that you are here, and we adore you. 
Veiled beneath the whiteness of the Sacred Host, 
we believe that you are present, 
in all the perfection of your manhood and divinity, 
and we adore you. 
With all the angels of heaven, 
with your holy Mother Mary, 
and with all your saints, 
we kneel in humble adoration.

We come to you, dear Lord, like the apostles, saying: 
“Increase our Faith.” 
Give us a firm and lively faith in your Real Presence. 
Give us the faith of the beloved disciple to recognise you and say, 
“It is the Lord.” 
Give us the faith of Peter to confess you and say, 
“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” 
Give us the faith of Mary Magdalen to fall at your feet crying 
“Rabboni, Master!” 
Give us the faith of Thomas who in the end believed and said, 
“My Lord and my God.”

Give us the faith of all your saints 
to whom this Blessed Sacrament was heaven on earth. 
In every Communion, at every Mass, 
at every visit to you in the Blessed Sacrament, 
increase our faith, and inflame our hearts with love for you. 

Lord, help us by your grace 
always so to believe and understand, 
to feel and firmly hold, 
to speak and think 
of the exceeding Mystery of this Blessed Sacrament, 
as shall be pleasing to you and profitable for our souls. 
And may your priests continually offer the Holy Sacrifice 
in the beauty of holiness, 
and your people more and more with delight gather at your altars.

And grant us, Lord, 
that, adoring and receiving you upon earth, 
we may finally by your mercy be admitted to the heavenly banquet, 
where you, the Lamb in the midst of the throne, 
in unveiled majesty, are perfectly worshipped and glorified 
by countless angels and saints for ever and ever. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The amazing truth about the miracle of Holy Communion


Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a huge sign painted on the side of a building facing the railway line between Redfern Station and Central in inner Sydney. Tens of thousands saw it daily on their way to work. I read it almost every day for my first two years at University. I cannot remember the product being advertised, but the sign said: ‘WHAT YOU EAT AND DRINK TODAY WALKS AND TALKS TOMORROW.’

It always made me smile and think of S. Augustine, bishop of Hippo in Northern Africa in the 4th century, who some friends and I had begun to study. It was he who said that as we eat the Body of Christ in Holy Communion, we become the Body of Christ in the world. We also know that as he gave Holy Communion to his people, Augustine would actually say to them, ‘Eat what you are, and become what you eat’! 

We are in the aftermath of Corpus Christi, having celebrated in a special way the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. With the vast majority of mainstream Christians down through the ages we know that he comes to us supernaturally as FOOD so as to share his life with us, to deepen our union with him and with one another, to strengthen us for our lives here in this world, and to sustain us on our journey to heaven. He comes as Food to nourish and transform us.


‘But it’s just symbolic’ is what some Christians still say, and they criticise what they sometimes call 'that high church catholic nonsense'!

Well, the extraordinary realism of S. Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 11, also in the Gospel narratives of the institution of the Eucharist, and in John 6 where Jesus feeds the five thousand and then explains that he himself is the ‘Bread of Life’ seems to be very clear. So clear that one of my predecessors here at All Saints  Benhilton, - Father Marcus Donovan, Vicar from 1945 to 1961 - could write:

‘In the Holy Sacrament Jesus conceals Himself under the veils of bread and wine. He is as truly present as in Bethlehem or in Galilee. Outwardly the “veils” are all we can see, but after the Consecration they become the Body and Blood of Christ. He chose the most ordinary things (‘“elements” as they are called) in which to give us this treasure. In Holy Communion we receive the life of Christ, and so we must regard the Most Holy Sacrament with the utmost reverence. It is the greatest of all Sacraments, for while they give us grace, Holy Communion gives us the Author of grace Himself.’ (in Faith and Practice SPCK, 1950

Is this really the faith of the Church? Well, if we have any doubts about that, we can turn to those generations of the early Church nearest to the apostles for an indication of how the New Testament’s language about Holy Communion was understood in their day.


Writing between 80 AD and 110 AD, - most likely while the Apostle John is still alive - S. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, calls the bread of Holy Communion, 

‘the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his graciousness, raised from the dead.’ (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 6)


S. Justin Martyr says the same kind of thing a little later on - around 150 AD: 

‘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 also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the Eucharistic prayer.’ (First Apology)


And then,  in 189 A.D., S. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons writes: 

‘If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?’ (Against Heresies 4:33–32)

He also writes: 

‘He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life - flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?’ (ibid., 5:2). 


The realism of this language is startling. It comes from a time when the successors of the Apostles were defending the Gospel and the Faith, which is all about the coming of God into real human life and joining himself to it (and to the creation of which human life is part) in order to redeem, renew and transfigure it. And who were they arguing with? You guessed it . . . the SPIRITUALISERS who couldn’t conceive that ‘the flesh’ could be saved. So - did these early Christian leaders expect to be taken ‘literally’ in their language about Holy Communion? You bet they did!

Since the dying and rising of Jesus, his followers have gathered at the altar Sunday by Sunday (and where possible more often than that!) in order to receive him in what is the most precious, sacred, awesome, life-giving encounter possible this side of heaven.

'O come, let us adore Him - Christ the Lord.'

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Would you consider making a financial gift to my parish?

This blog started back in April 2008 when blogs were far more popular a form of social media than now. Primarily it has been my way of sharing more widely with orthodox Anglicans who love the Gospel of Jesus, believe the Catholic Faith, yearn for the Church’s unity and work for the evangelisation of the world. 

Over the years many people have emailed and said how they have been blessed by the blog. Indeed, the reason I keep it going is a steady rise in readership over the last 12 years. During the last few months there has been a remarkable increase.

Regular readers know that since March 2018 I have been the parish priest of All Saints’ Church of England, Benhilton, Sutton, in the south of London, UK. All Saints’ is in the Diocese of Southwark. It is an enthusiastic Forward in Faith parish of the Society of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda, in the episcopal care of the Bishop of Fulham. 

We believe in our mission to proclaim the Gospel, teaching - and living - the full Catholic Faith that comes from the Apostles. In other words, as well as being the ‘parish’ church (with our school right next door), we are also the Forward in Faith/ Society parish for this part of the Diocese (and the only one in this Deanery), with about half our regular worshippers coming from outside the parish boundaries. 

As a parish we are facing major financial challenges in sustaining our vital mission, including the financial hit some of our people have taken as a result of the Lockdown. The (temporary) suspension of Sunday worship has also had its impact. Thank the Lord that already, in advance of our forthcoming stewardship programme, some parishioners have been increasing their sacrificial giving to the work of the Lord through the parish. We are very grateful, because in addition to balancing the books, we have to begin work on the expensive problem of the subsidence of our historic church building.

So, basically, I’m asking readers - especially long term readers who have said what a blessing this blog’s ministry has been over the years, and who are able -  to consider making a gift to the parish of All Saints’ Benhilton . . . i.e. to the parish, not to me! That might be a ‘one off’ gift, or some might even like to make a regular standing order. What a blessing it would be for the Parish Council and other parishioners to know that those who read their parish priest’s blog have joined with them to help meet the challenges that face us at this time.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

Ft David Chislett SSC

Account Name: PCC ALL SAINTS
Bank sort code: 60-50-01
Account number: 50520695

Account Name: PCC ALL SAINTS
Bank sort code: 60-50-01
Account number: 50520695
IBAN number: GB15NWBK60500150520695

Account Name: PCC ALL SAINTS
Bank sort code: 60-50-01
Account number: 50520695
IBAN number: GB15NWBK60500150520695
BIC number:  NWBKGB2L

Please make cheques payable to:
Then post to:
The Treasurer
C/- All Saints’ Vicarage
All Saints’ Road
Sutton, Surrey   SM1 3DA