Friday, 23 March 2018

Easter Fire

The Gospels do not describe the actual moment of Our Lord’s Resurrection. Having buried him in the tomb at the end of Good Friday, they describe instead the discovery of the empty tomb, and the realisation that he is alive, and present among the bewildered group of women and of his disciples. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John leave us with the effect and significance of the Resurrection, rather than the actual event itself.

While we are used to keeping Holy Week, as a series of stations on a journey, from Palm Sunday, to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the early Church, tolerated at best as outsiders, and often persecuted, kept all these together, in what was clearly recognised as the most significant Worship Service of the year, as the night of Holy Saturday gave way to the dawn of Easter Day. Once those other days began to develop their own Liturgies, this great Easter Vigil, the Service of Fire and Water, and of Christ the heart of all creation, remained for much of the Church’s history as the one act of worship from which all others in the year take their meaning. It is now usually celebrated against the background of darkness, either at dawn or at dusk.

(Here in Elland, we will hold our Easter Vigil as darkness falls, beginning in the Cloisters at All Saints at 7pm on Holy Saturday. The Service lasts about 90 minutes, and will be followed by Festive Refreshments. We begin with the new Fire of Easter, before carrying the light into Church, and blessing the Easter Candle. After the Easter Scriptures, the Font is blessed, Baptismal Vows are re-affirmed, and the first Holy Mass of Easter is offered – it will be good to see you there!)

Having journeyed in penitence and prayer through the time of preparation that is the Season of Lent, the whole of the month of April falls in Eastertide. Our Sunday Gospels focus first of all on the Resurrection appearances of Jesus, as we, together with the Disciples, hear the voice of the one who is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Following Good Shepherd Sunday, the Gospel readings then begin to prepare us for our Lord’s Ascension, and the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

It is dangerous to play with fire, but the fire of divine love that is the risen and ascended Lord remains present in his Church, and invites us to walk afresh with him this Eastertide. One of my favourite Easter Poems is Alice Meynell’s ‘Easter Night,’ which captures something of that world-changing first Holy Saturday:

All night had shout of men
And cry of woeful women filled his way;
Until that noon of sombre sky
On Friday, clamour and display smote him;
No solitude had He,
No silence, since Gethsemane.

Public was death;
But power, but Might,
But life again, but Victory,
Were hushed within the dead of night,
The shuttered dark, the secrecy.
And all alone, alone, alone,
He rose again behind the stone

May the Risen Christ grant us the joy of the resurrection life.

Fr David

Saturday, 24 February 2018


If you take a long look at the Crucifixion Panel in the midst of the great East Window at St Mary’s, you will notice something that, at first, may seem rather curious. A similar arrangement is also visible on the 12th Station of the Cross in All Saints, marking the Death of Jesus. At the foot of the Cross in St Mary’s is a skull, which in All Saints becomes a little pile of bones, and a hill. There are also versions elsewhere that include a pair of broken doors, and sometimes two tiny figures.

When we proclaim the Church’s faith in the words of the Nicene Creed, which we use on most Sundays in the year, we say of Christ, ‘he suffered death, and was buried.’ The Apostles Creed, used at Baptisms, at Evensong and in Eastertide, is a little more explicit, ‘He descended to the dead’, or, He descended into hell’, depending on which version is in use. The early Church knew well the story of the ‘Harrowing (or emptying), of Hell’, which is also referred to in 1 Peter 3.19-20, of Christ preaching to the spirits in prison. By his Death and Resurrection, Christ triumphs over the very depths of evil, and, carrying his glorious Cross, leads us all, in the persons of Adam and Eve, our first parents, to new life. In the imagery of this scene, it is the doors of hell that are broken open, and the dry bones that live again. Christ was crucified in the very place where was the Garden of Eden; that which was lost, is now found and restored.

The Harrowing of Hell shows that there is no part of human experience or existence, that Christ has not shared, and that his saving death and resurrection does not reach. While our contemporary culture may like to think a belief in hell to is, at best, a little old-fashioned, we only have to meditate briefly on the horrors of the last hundred years or so, from the Holocaust to the slaughter of Christian Children in the Middle East, to the damage done to our fragile Planet, to see that hell and evil are very real, and among us. Yet in the words of a Sermon of St John Chrysostom, which is read at our Easter Vigil,

Hell received a body, and encountered God. It received earth, and came face to face with heaven. O death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory?

Images of the Harrowing of Hell remind us that the Cross is empty, that death doesn’t have the last word, and that we need not fear dying. Adam and Eve are forgiven, and so are we, if we are ready.  

May our spiritual journey through Lent to this coming Holy Week lead us from death to life.

Per Crucem (through the Cross)

Fr David

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.

On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The Sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

-RS Thomas

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Lent, Holy Week and Easter

Follow this Link for the 2018 Lent Leaflet

Keeping a Good and Holy Lent

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent falls on February 14th. On that day we will receive the sign of the Cross in Ash, and begin a journey of preparation with Our Lord that will take us into Holy Week, and the Church’s celebration of Easter Day, on Sunday April 1st. A season that originally developed as the principal time of preparation both for Baptism, and for the Reconciliation of those who had been excluded from the Church’s fellowship for serious faults, is now God’s healing time, an opportunity to turn back to him. The characteristic notes of the season are self-examination, penitence, self-denial, study and preparation for Easter, for walking with Our Lord on the way of the Cross, to the joy of the empty Tomb.

Apart from Mothering Sunday, Churches are kept bare of flowers and decoration. The Gloria and the cry, Alleluia, are not usually used in worship, not simply out of a spirit of restraint, but so that we can look forward to the joyful restoration of these expressions of praise on Easter Sunday. In some parts of the world, Churches mark the ceremony of the burial of the Alleluia on the Sunday before Lent, either processing an Alleluia Banner out of Church, or placing an illuminated scroll bearing the musical notation in a box that is then opened once more on Easter Day. Our own Hymns for that Sunday will give plenty of opportunity for the final liturgical use of Alleluia before Lent begins.

This year’s Ash will be made by burning last year’s Palm Crosses. It is helpful to link Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday in this way. Palm Sunday might also be called ‘Irony Sunday,’ because the same crowds that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem call for his crucifixion five days later. The ash of Ash Wednesday on our forehead isn’t just a reminder of our mortality, but also a reminder of the contradictions of Holy Week. On day one of Lent, the season calls into question the Christian’s devotion and piety, taking the memory of last year’s joyous celebration and quite literally rubbing it in our faces. It is a tangible symbol of the weakness of our spirituality: one moment a blaze of glory, the next without trace of burning ember.

Apart from God’s grace my faith is fickle; would I too have both welcomed Jesus and called for his crucifixion? Whatever questions Lent raises about religious discipline, the nature of faith, the problem of evil, the ashes confirm that the answer isn’t going to be found within me, but only with God.

May God Bless us, in keeping a good and a holy Lent

Thursday, 11 January 2018

The Society in the Diocese of Leeds 2018

A Message from Bishop Tony: Diocesan Events for The Society/Forward in Faith in 2018 

We have 31 parishes within the Diocese of Leeds that have passed the resolution for pastoral and sacramental care.

Please join us in the three key events in 2018. I realise that there are many in parishes which do not have resolutions so I hope you can come to these diocesan events and feel part of The Society in the Diocese of Leeds. We need to be working together and supporting each other.

Saturday 17th February

AGM for Forward in Faith in The Diocese of Leeds at 11am

S. Chad’s Church Toller Lane Bradford BD8 9DE

Refreshments in the hall – please bring a packed lunch

Lenten Reconciliation Mass at 12.30pm with an opportunity for confession, concluding with Benediction.

Finish at 2.30pm


Sunday 25th March – Palm Sunday

Chrism Mass with Blessing of Oils

6pm S Hilda's Church, Cross Green, Leeds 


Saturday 12th May

Lecture by Fr Damian Feeney

Wakefield Cathedral

2pm Opening Worship


4.30pm Vespers and Benediction

Monday, 4 December 2017

Christmass 2017

Advent 2017

Advent is a time of quiet joy, and of hope and expectation. We celebrate God who shares our life with us, from the stable in Bethlehem to the Cross of Calvary. Christ is with us in word and sacrament, and with us each time we serve one another in a spirit of love, in the name of the Church. We prepare to celebrate once again the Birth in time, of the One who will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I hope you enjoy your Advent! It’s easy to get distracted in Advent. It’s too easy to let the busyness and the unnecessary commercialism be a substitute for what this time is really about. Enjoy the carols and the glitter by all means, but may there be a little time for sharing in the spiritual pilgrimage of the season. Some may wish to take the time to make a Confession, or to have a conversation about their spiritual life; I would be delighted to listen to you. You may wish to use one of these collects, opening prayers we use in the Parishes’ Liturgies, each day in your own prayers;

For Advent:

Almighty God,

give us grace to cast away the works of darkness

and to put on the armour of light,

now in the time of this mortal life,

in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;

that on the last day,

when he shall come again in his glorious majesty

to judge the living and the dead,

we may rise to the life immortal;

through him who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever. Amen

For the 12 days of Christmass:

Lord Jesus Christ,

your birth at Bethlehem

draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth:

accept our heartfelt praise

as we worship you,

our Saviour and our eternal God. Amen

Please pray that Christmass will be a true hope for humanity, and that the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will. Remember all families, may parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith. Thank You for all you do for the Life of God’s Church here in Elland, May the Lord bless you, and may you know the peace of the Christ-Child in your hearts, this Christmass-time.

May the Lord when he comes, find us watching and waiting, Amen.

Father David

On Advent Sunday we begin the Lectionary Year B, which is the Year of two Gospels. Principally our Gospel Readings over the next 12 months are taken from St Mark’s Gospel, but with some also from St John, (about whom more next month.)

John Mark was a Jew and, according to Paul's letter to the Colossians, was cousin to Barnabas. He accompanied Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey. Afterwards, he went to Cyprus with Barnabas and to Rome with first Paul and then Peter. Mark's gospel is generally regarded as the earliest and was most likely written whilst he was in Rome. It was probably based as much on Peter's preaching of the good news as on Mark's own memory. Mark's gospel has a sharpness and an immediacy about it and he does not spare the apostles in noting their weaknesses and lack of understanding that Jesus the Christ would suffer for the world's redemption. Sharing in the glory of the resurrection means sharing in the giving of self, both in body and spirit, even to death; sharing the gospel was, for all, in essence both excessively generous and ultimately sacrificial.

A Collect

Almighty God,
who enlightened your holy Church
through the inspired witness
   of your evangelist Saint Mark:
grant that we, being firmly grounded
   in the truth of the gospel,
may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Mark: A Sonnet by Malcom Guite, from ‘Sounding the Seasons’, Canterbury Press, 2012

A wing├Ęd lion, swift, immediate

Mark is the gospel of the sudden shift

From first to last, from grand to intimate,

From strength to weakness, and from debt to gift,

From a wide deserts haunted emptiness

To a close city’s fervid atmosphere,

From a voice crying in the wilderness

To angels in an empty sepulchre.

And Christ makes the most sudden shift of all;

From swift action as a strong Messiah

Casting the very demons back to hell

To slow pain, and death as a pariah.

We see our Saviour’s life and death unmade

And flee his tomb dumbfounded and afraid.