Wednesday, 2 October 2013
Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Thursday, 27 June 2013
From a personal point of view, anything we do with regard to the Blessed Sacrament is not reverent enough. Given the belief that there is the real substance of our Lord in that host, kneeling does not go anywhere near far enough, we should prostrate ourselves in such a presence. Given the need for unity in the liturgy, kneeling is the most appropriate, whilst still widely usable, posture to adopt, but there are times in mass or during adoration when I feel that kneeling doesn't come close to the reverence I believe is due.
There are three areas I would like to address in turn; firstly being in a church or chapel with a tabernacle, secondly the exposed Blessed Sacrament at mass or adoration, and finally in the context of recieving holy communion:
A church is a very special place of course, particularly during holy mass, but it is the tabernacle that makes even an empty church an extraordinary place; there is a Real Presence of our Lord in that place, all of the time (with the pedantic exception of the latter part of Holy Week). Most people have an idea of 'how' to behave in a church, but it seems that many do not know 'why' they should behave that way. A genuflection as you enter a pew - many people do this as a matter of course in any church, tabernacle or not; this seems to suggest a misunderstanding of 'why' they are genuflecting - are they genuflecting to the altar? or the crucifix? I suspect if one asked the question many people would say it was as much out of habit as out of reverence. Similar statements could be made for being silent in a church out of reverence - reverence for what? To finish this idea with a quick example; it is often said as pupils enter the school hall for mass that 'this is our church' for the afternoon, with the term 'church' being the thing that demands reverence. Discounting the fact that a hall is most definately not a church, there is a clear indication in that statement that we are reverent in a church because we are in a church, rather than because there is, thinly veiled, the Real Presence our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Adoration is a truly beautiful part of our faith; we are given the opportunity to be close to our Lord, to pray, meditate and contemplate in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. As mentioned, kneeling is the common posture to adopt during adoration but I will often, after a time kneeling, sit in order to be more comfortable, as I find this helps me think more deeply. The peace that comes with being in the presence of Christ in this way is incredible, and could easily be a whole post in its own right. With regards to the reverence due when the Body of Christ is exposed for adoration, the rule I learnt as a child was that one genuflected on one knee to the concealed Blessed Sacrament and on both knees when it is displayed in a monstrance. This rule is seemingly old-fashioned now; I can find no current reference to both-knee genuflection but there is nothing contradicting it either, so I still follow it and see many others doing the same. Some might say why should there be a difference in our behaviour towards the reposed Sacrament compared with the exposed. A fair question, to which I cannot give an answer beyond asking the return question - why behave differently after the consecration at mass? There is the concealed sacrament present in the church before the consecration but there is a perceptible change in a church during the Eucharistic Prayer, Communion Rite and distribution of communion (or at least there should be).
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Sunday, 23 June 2013
When I have committed venial sins I feel dispirited, particularly during an examination of my conscience, but there is a sense of relief after making a heartfelt and spiritual act of contrition. Over the past couple of years I have tried to do this everyday, usually at the start of Compline (Night Prayer), and would strongly recommend it.
Mortal sins however are very different. The shame and anguish of being in a state of mortal sin is depressing even to consider; I have a real sense that I am missing a part of my life, knowing that I have offended God in such a serious manner. However, in the same way as the anguish of mortal sin is a thousand times worse than that of venial sin, so to is the satisfaction, elation even, that I feel after making a considered and frank confession.
I am very conscious that I have barely scratched the surface of my thoughts on sin, but I will finish this post with a short story of an experience of a confession which I think illustrates the idea of sin damaging or destroying our relationship with God:
I had gone to Lourdes with a school trip; I hadn't been to confession for a number of years (during my time at university and in my first years of teaching), but I felt inspired to go during my time there. I found out the timings of English confession and was half an hour too late, but made a note of the times and luckily I was able to receive the sacrament the following day. It was a beautiful day in Lourdes - it was all sun cream and sunglasses, but I remember coming out into the warm sunshine and appreciating it in a whole new way. I genuinely felt like God was with me in a way that I had not felt for years - my relationship with him had truly been restored.
As always, comments are welcome.
Friday, 31 May 2013
This month's talk was given by Bishop Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury, on the topic of Dignitatis Humanae - The 2nd Vatican Council document on religious freedom.
Bishop Davies' talk was, as I have already mentioned, inspiring, and I came away with a great deal of things whirring around my mind. One particular aspect came out during the short group discussion following the talk that I have been considering in more depth; it is perhaps best to phrase this as a question:
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Monday, 15 April 2013
Sunday, 14 April 2013
Through Baptism each child is inserted into a gathering of friends who never abandon him in life or in death. ... This group of friends, this family of God, into which the child is now admitted, will always accompany him, even on days of suffering and in life's dark nights; it will give him consolation, comfort, and light.
Pope Benedict XVI, January 8th, 2006.
Saturday, 6 April 2013
In the meantime I'll share the first entry from my offline log - below is a post from July last year (2012):
Now, 9 months on, I am still holding my hands like this during prayer whenever I can. I still find it difficult to do when standing or sitting in mass, although I have tried it (and found a similar focus) when standing to listen to the Gospel.
All the best
Monday, 1 April 2013
The intonation of 'Lumen Christi' never fails to stir a deep feeling of joy within me, even if I am (as this year) still outside of the church building. I remember being younger and the choir singing 'the light of Christ, has come into the world'; this remains one of my favourite snippets of Church music.
The Exultet was sung by a layperson, in the long form. This is another wonderful piece of writing and music that must be listened to in its entirety if one is to fully appreciate its beauty. It was during the Exultet that I noticed something I've never seen before, but which seems incredibly appropriate - the cold weather has been clinging on here in Birmingham and there were a good number of people holding the plastic covers around their lit candle as one might hold a cup of hot chocolate on a winter's night. The light of Christ which they had just received was literally providing them with a basic, physical necessity - warmth. I pray that as this physical need was being met, everyone present had some recognition of the spiritual need that was met when Christ rose from the dead.
The highlight of the vigil for me was our parish priest leading the Litany of the Saints. I don't think I've ever been to a mass where this was sung, but it was truly inspiring. I have heard it sung before but singing it myself has made me go looking online for nice versions. The only improvement would have been if it was in Latin. My current favourite online version is here: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jb23Z5X3uhA
All the best.
Sunday, 31 March 2013
That said, it was still very touching. The Passion was read by two young people, along with the priest, and they did a very good job. I always find the Passion account of Saint John to be less heartfelt than those of the other Gospels, perhaps due to the scripture references that are included - I know they are there because John's Gospel was written later and for a different purpose, but they do break up the narrative in places.
Even so I was able to focus on the words and consider the Passion deeply as it was being proclaimed. Over the past year I have begun to appreciate the Liturgy of the Word a great deal more than I ever have before; this I think is down to the fact that I actually listen to them and look for the relationships with my own life. Anyone can hear a reading from scripture and not relate to it, even look for the fault in it; but to see its meaning in our own lives requires us to be open to the deeper meaning in what we hear. Again this may be an idea that I explore more fully in a future post.
After the Proclamation of the Passion came the Veneration of the Cross. This is an action that I always saw as quite matter of fact when I was younger, and I am not sure I fully appreciate the significance even now. I have read recently about whether the word 'veneration' or 'adoration' is more appropriate when dealing with the cross (and indeed any cross or crucifix). There are different terms in Greek for worship of God directly, worship of Our Lady and worship of the Saints; these terms translate as adoration (as in ~ of the Blessed Sacrament - as the real presence of Christ) and (high) veneration (of Our Lady and the saints). Given that the cross is not a real presence of God, venerate would seem to be the correct word, but I have seen it listed as 'adoration of the cross' in a number of places. Going up to venerate the cross, there was a nice hymn playing, but it still felt a bit of a functional thing to be doing; it is not that I do not have the highest regard for the Holy Cross, but I would rather spend some time in quiet contemplation (and do, regularly) than queue up to kiss the foot of the cross directly. As I say I think need to consider the significance of the clear, public nature of the veneration of the cross on Good Friday.
Saturday, 30 March 2013
I truly love attending this mass each year. Whilst recognising the significance of the consecration at any mass, Jesus' words in the Eucharistic Prayer on the evening of Maundy Thursday seem even more powerful than usual.
This year I was asked to be one of the twelve who had their feet washed during the service, and of course I said yes (I couldn't really turn the priest down when he asked directly). This was a very unusual experience. I do some small works in my parish as I am needed to, but always with the deference to the priest that was instilled in me when I was only a child. Now I found myself sitting on the steps of the sanctuary letting a priest wash my feet. In honesty it felt very awkward, but then we had just heard in the Gospel that it was awkward for the apostles. I cannot help but draw other parallels with that Gospel passage: The priest is a servant of those whose feet he washes, whilst at the same time being deserving of respect and of the authority he holds; to turn the priest down would be to recognise one part of his priestly function and ignore the other. I do not claim that the theology behind these parallels is defined, but they did occur to me during and after that part of the mass.
The mass ended with the transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose. I was disappointed that the Pange Lingua Gloriosi was not sung - I think it is one of the most beautiful hymns ever written; but I will say more on music in the liturgy in a future post. The stripping of the sanctuary after this mass is a terribly sad thing to witness; particularly the removal of the sanctuary lamp and the cloth covering the tabernacle.
I stayed at the altar of repose for an hour or so after mass and went through the first parts of the Passion in my mind; the agony in the garden certainly, but also on into what happened to our Lord over that night. I was struck with a sense of despair that I have not felt before; although it seemed entirely appropriate. The closest thing I can liken it to is watching a sad film that you have seen before; you are willing the characters to do something different, to avoid the unhappy ending; but of course they will not - it is the same film as the last time you saw it. How must it have been for Christ in that garden? He knew the ending of his story, and wanted dearly to avoid it, even had the option to avoid it, but he saw it through nevertheless.
To sum this post up in two simple thoughts: The moving example of Christ's service in the mass; followed by the despair of knowing what had to come next.
Thursday, 28 March 2013
The evening was built around the seven last statements of Christ, each accompanied by a reflection and piece of music. Most of the music was new to me and a little more contemporary than my usual taste, but it worked well with the modern style of the reflections.
In the quiet, candle-lit atmosphere of a beautiful church there was a real opportunity to spend time contemplating the significance of those simple phrases. I will try to find time over the next couple of weeks to share my thoughts on at least some of the phrases in turn.
Wednesday, 27 March 2013
For a first post I think I should explain why I have decided to put what has, until now, been a private diary of my faith journey out into the public domain:
I been seeking spiritual direction from a priest I know, and discussing various aspects of my faith with him. He advised me to seek a range of views on some matters, so as to better make my own conclusions. We discussed some different methods of how to do this, and as well as reading and talking directly to people I know, the idea of a blog came up. I am hoping that this blog will do two things - firstly, I hope that it will form an account of the development of my faith over time, and secondly it will give people a chance to share their experiences, be they similar or contradictory.
I cannot promise frequent or regular updates, although I'm sure at times there will be both. Perhaps that is a first insight into my own (and I'm sure lots of others') faith - there are times when our faith is rightly at the forefront of our minds, but others when it equally appropriately plays second fiddle to short-term, but vital, personal matters.