Monday, 30 April 2018

May is Mary's Month

May is Mary’s month, and I

Muse at that and wonder why

Lines from the Poem, The May Magnificat, by the 19th Century Jesuit Priest and Poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins. May is traditionally regarded as a Month of Dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church. May 31st is the Feast of the Visitation of Mary, heavy with the Divine Child, to her kinswoman Elizabeth, bearing her Son, and the Lord’s cousin, John the Baptist. It is a scene pregnant with hope and holy joy. Yet perhaps it is the Feast of Pentecost, the divine outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that really helps us to understand that this is a month of divine growth and grace, when we too, with Mary, are invited to say Yes to God.

The Acts of the Apostles gives us a picture of the Disciples gathered together with Mary the Mother of Jesus in the days after the Ascension, ‘constantly devoting themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1.14). It is a picture beautifully illustrated in one of the central Panels of the Great East Window at St Mary’s, with its mixture of medieval and Victorian glass for the disciples. The great events of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost follow on from this devotion to prayer and the common life, a reminder that we should not only expect God to do great things, but also await Him prayerfully.



Those of you who attended the recent Annual Parochial meetings would have been reminded, in the Review of the Year, of so many good things that have happened here. Yet we also needed to be realistic, and to recognise some of the things we are struggling with, not least that they are fewer of us regularly attending worship than we would like there to be. That’s one of the reasons why I have been encouraging us all, over recent months, to continue to pray that the Church in Elland will grow, in faith, in love and service to God and to one another, and in numbers, praying also that our giving will increase, and our financial needs be met. Everything has to begin with prayer; that is a divine lesson that we can truly take to heart, in this, Mary’s Month of May. 



Hopkins concludes his poem



This ecstasy all through mothering earth

Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth

            To remember and exultation

            In God who was her salvation



My thanks to all who hold Office as our Church Wardens and Church Council members, and to those with particular tasks and ministries, following our Parish Annual Meetings.



May the Risen Christ grant us the Gifts of the Spirit, and may Blessed Mary and the Apostles pray for us, to the Lord our God.



Fr David



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

Hell


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
https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/9987/page/41767/view/



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

Lecture

4.30pm Vespers and Benediction

Monday, 4 December 2017