This Night

Last night after music practice we sat in church, in front of the altar, in silence…and FELT that there was something special about this night. We checked the calendar, and sure enough, it was the first full moon after the Spring equinox: the time of Passover.

Outside, the moon was stunning: huge, bright, white, shining, round. We couldn’t help but be reminded of the Host we receive in Holy Communion – a portal through millennia, the past made present, the Body of Christ broken for us.

“Why is this night different from all other nights?”

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord, our God, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm….

Tomorrow we will celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper, remembering Jesus’ own final celebration of the Passover in which, in a moment merged with the future, he offered the bread as his own Body, and the wine as his own Blood. Thus began his Passion: the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, the fulfilment of prophecy, the completion of the Passover, and the freeing of those who will accept the gift of his life, from slavery of soul.

Easter, when we celebrate the triumph of life in the Resurrection, falls each year on the Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox: when Passover begins. For us for whom the sacred memorial of Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist is the heart and height of our faith, it seems profoundly Providential that the appointed time for the Paschal Triduum – the three days’ commemoration of Christ’s life, death and resurrection – is determined by the path of the planets: such that the bright full moon can appear as a cosmic icon of Holy Communion, in which we remember and receive Jesus’ gift of himself. It seems as if it was all part of God’s plan of salvation from the beginning.

I believe in a God who multiplies bread
In a God who lights stars overhead
I believe in a God who bursts the bud
I believe in a God who was nailed to wood
I believe in a God who formed me in the womb
Who knew me before I was born
I believe in a God who has good plans for us
I believe in a God who carried a cross
I believe in a God of self-sacrifice
Who gave His blood that we may rise.

“Did you die for me?”

Image

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Many streams, one river

Over twenty new ecclesial movements and communities gathered for ‘Many Streams One River’, following a world meeting of movements with Pope Francis at Pentecost.

The event opened with the beautiful song: “All who are thirsty”, and the theme reading from Ezekiel 47 of water flowing from the side of the temple: “And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the GreatSea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

Archbishop Vincent Nichols reflected on the theme, telling us we are invited to share life with the Lord, and to let the Lord be seen and loved – to be ‘crystals reflecting the light of faith’. Evangelisation is like the giving of water, and every parish should be the ‘village well’, where people can come to source the living water flowing from the right side of the temple – the body of Christ. This made a striking connection between the vision of Ezekiel, the Crucifixion, and the identity and mission of the Christian community.

Michelle Moran, President of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, brought greetings from another gathering of new movements in Paris. There were testimonies and talks from many new communities about their charisms and conversions including Ascent, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Chemin Neuf Community, Faith Café, Focolare, Jesus Youth, L’Arche, Madonna House, The Maranatha Community, Mothers Prayers, Neo-Catechumenal Way, Schoenstatt, St Egidio, Sword of the Spirit, Sion Community, Teams of Our Lady, Youth 2000 and others, and several other groups had representatives present.

There was a great emphasis on unity. Gerry from the Schoenstatt community led a song from John 17: “Father hear my prayer; may they all be one, as you are in me, and I am in you; may they all be one.” The Sion Community presented a symbolic drama in which three worshippers took the stage enthusiastically singing contrasting styles of song in a comedy clash. The musical mess echoed disharmony between the members of Christ’s Body who fell silent and formed a physical cross while the Reproaches were sung and signed. A mime then represented living waters flowing from the side of Christ, and culminated in the harmonious singing of the Taize chant ‘Laudate Omnes Gentes’ by the three reunited worshippers and the entire assembly.

 Bishop Robin of the Anglican Communion provided an ecumenical perspective: “May the wounds in the Body of Christ become scars – may we become one. The Unity of the Church is something you live. We live together that unity in Christ that is so much more important than all that divides us. We experience those differences not as negative but at particular gifts we bring to the whole people of God. Chiara Lubich called us to live the unity we have.” As the Focolare community told us, “What I can do you can’t do. What you can do I can’t do” (Mother Teresa to Chiara Lubich, founder of Focolare).

The L’Arche community dramatised how we can see community relationships either as a burden, or as blessing and a gift, and as the worship of God. Kevin from L’Arche shared the founder Jean Vanier’s message that “to love someone is to reveal to them that they are precious.” Another beautiful song was shared by singer Veronica with the inspiring message: “Lost in the crowd we’re shining, and helping to bring heaven on earth.” Steve Murray mimed for us the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’, explaining, “There are a lot of emotionally handicapped people, but God can take our gift, and use it to feed thousands.”

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor reminded us of the messages of Pope Francis: that “Jesus knocks at the church from the outside but I think he is also knocking on the door on the inside. God is there, in the people; God is there everywhere… let people know they are loved.” Charles Whitehead introduced Sam Goldsmith to give her testimony for Charismatic Renewal, who told us, “This love cannot and should not be confined to a Sunday morning”.

Dennis Wrigley of Maranatha spoke powerfully of unity, healing and renewal. “We are a listening community, and listening is dangerous – because God says, ‘GO!’” He quoted the prophetic words of  Bishop Lesslie Newbigin: “The Gospel is public truth – they are trying to privatise it.” He told us, “God is saying to the nation, ‘You’ve turned your back on me. But I’m waiting.’ …If we listen as one, we will hear God’s voice. If we speak as one, the nation will hear the voice of God.” He invited a doctor to tell us what healing was. She said, “Healing is this,” and joined hands with those on either side of her. We all did the same and prayed for the people on our left and on our right.

David Wells encouraged and challenged with his input. “If water stands still it begins to lose its capacity to support life. What happens when we lose our mission? Water too needs the breath of life – the work of the Spirit. We are a bunch of bubbles! ‘The new movements create the conditions for an encounter with Christ’ (Redemptoris Missio 18). The new movements move the heart to Christ, and then He becomes real, and then there’s no going back… We are drawn to a Lord who says ‘I love you’. It becomes personal – then it dares to become intimate – then it’s infectious.”

The take-away message of the day could be summed up by the words Unity, Love, and Evangelisation. Rocking out to an upbeat version of “Be Thou My Vision” we also took away a great big ‘Ready-brek’ glow!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The reason for the season

Thankfully, the Reason for the season still finds a place in the glittering sparklefest that is the shopping centre. Somewhat apprehensively looking for the annual scene of the Holy Family amongst Disney’s fairytale Christmas land, lest it had found no room at the consumer inn, we joyfully found the Child (who had apparently come early) lying in a manger, incongruous as ever. We spent a moment in contemplation of the profound Mystery whilst the hustle and bustle continued around, relieved that reference to the most beautiful Christmas gift had not been completely eradicated, if marginalised, from our retail heaven.

One odd feature was a message that accompanied the crib, ‘informing’ us that “according to the Bible, Jesus was born of Mary and Joseph”.  I queried, “Where does it say in the Bible…?” encountering the riposte, “Where does it say in the Bible that it has to say it in the Bible?” Even so, attributing the fatherhood of Christ to Joseph by referencing the Good Book is something of a misquote. As is actually related, poor good Joseph had a dilemma to face: finding his bride-to-be with child by Another, till the angelic dream assured him “the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit” and to take his role as her protector and stepfather of the child. Born in controversy, poverty, humility, and danger; under the light of a strange star that drew seekers from afar, echoed by our illuminations, this Son was and is the brightest Christmas light.Image

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The advent of Advent

I always start to enjoy Christmas well before Advent. Not because of the ‘stuff’ appearing in the shops, but there is something in the ether, in the atmosphere, that knows, that is joyful, that anticipates. Perhaps some of it comes from a shared, collective sense of preparation for a celebration, and childhood memories. Perhaps it is because, if the Light coming into the world actually occurred on 25th December, the Mother of Jesus would now have been well into her third trimester of a pregnancy which changed the world. In a sense every pregnancy changes the world. It changes the mother – and when a child is born, this comes to pass: each one of us affects each one of the rest of us. “The life and death of each of us has its influence of others” (St Paul to the Romans, 14:7). We are all kin. We need to take care of each other, especially the ‘least’ of our brothers and sisters – the most vulnerable, and those who are lonely. We all need it, and we need to give it out.

Branches bare,

Sky gold and white;

Something in the air:

Pregnant with joy…

Waiting, knowing, loving;

HE will soon be here:

The little boy –

A child for everyone,

Born to bring us to birth again.

Image

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kin

We are all part of one big family. The responsibilities I feel to my own family are to some extent relevant to a wider spiritual family – friends, acquaintances, others whom I do not even know. They are all sisters and brothers. We are all kin. We are all called to ‘love one another’ with the love that Jesus had for us. A tall order; a tough call: when this greatest love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. The only way possible is to allow Christ within us, the Holy Spirit, to love us and transform us – to confect us into Christ so that God’s love can flow through us. Let it flow.

http://www.phlaremusic.com/Let%20Your%20Love%20Flow_part.mp3

What if

What if in heaven we there see

those we did not expect to be;

and find that the Almighty, He

is yet more merciful than we?

What if, beneath the different skin

of one against whom I did sin,

is my own brother, sister, kin;

another me, hidden within?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment