Monday of Week Per Annum 2 (18th January): Hebrews 5.1-10; Psalm 109; Mark 2.18-22

The Epistle to the Hebrews is not couched as a letter but as a treatise or, possibly, a sermon. Its intended audience was probably a community of Jewish converts to Christianity. Although some Bibles attribute it to St Paul, from at least as early as the 3rd Century it has been recognised that Hebrews is a markedly different kind of writing than the authentic letters of Paul, using a distinctive vocabulary and arising from a somewhat different thought world. Guesses as to its authorship have included Barnabas, Clement of Rome, and Priscilla.

The message of Hebrews can be summarised in one word: Persevere! “Let us hold fast to our confession” [10.23, 39; cf 3.6; 4.14; 6.11-12] the author urges; “You have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death” [12.4] he reminds them, suggesting that the community was probably undergoing persecution and that some of its members were considering or had committed apostasy. [cf 6.5-6] The author exhorts his readers to “keep running steadily in the race we have started”[12.1; cf I Corinthians 9.24; Philippians 3.12] following the example of saints both ancient and contemporary [11.1-40] and especially the example of Jesus himself. [12.2-3]

This example was supremely shown in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross [10.10] which the author understands as a priestly act. In a profound meditation on Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane [cf Luke 22.39-46; John 12.27-28; 17.1-26] he sees Jesus being prepared in the way the high priests of the Old Covenant prepared themselves [cf Leviticus 16.1-34] to make the annual Sacrifice of Atonement (Yom Kippur) [Hebrews 9.7], the Jesus who learnt to obey through suffering and who has become “for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.” [5.9]

St Wulfstan, Bishop (19th January): Hebrews 6.10-20; Psalm 100; Mark 2.23-28

Wulfstan (c1008-95) was born in Long Itchington, Warwickshire, and was probably named for his Uncle Wulfstan, the Archbishop of York. He became a Benedictine monk at Worcester and, after serving as Precentor and Prior, he was appointed Bishop of Worcester in 1062. He was the only Englishman to retain his see after the Norman Conquest.

During his 32 years as Bishop of Worcester Wulfstan struggled to bridge the gap between the old and new regimes. He was known for his benevolence to the poor, and was probably responsible for ending the slave trade from Bristol. He undertook a number of large-scale re-building projects, including Worcester Cathedral, Hereford Cathedral, and Tewkesbury Abbey. He founded the Great Malvern Abbey and re-founded the monastery at Westbury-on-Trym. During these years Worcester became renowned as a centre of learned culture.

St Sebastian, Martyr (20th January): Hebrews 7.1-3,15-17; Psalm 109; Mark 3.1-6

Sebastian (c256-288) was a soldier who came from Milan to enlist at Rome around the year 283. The Emperor Diocletian, who did not know that Sebastian was a Christian, made him a Captain of the Praetorian guards. In 286 his Christian faith was revealed. Diocletian commanded him to be bound to a stake in the middle of a field where Mauritanian archers would shoot arrows at him. Miraculously, though pierced with a large number of arrows and abandoned for dead, he survived and was nursed back to health by St Irene of Rome.

He positioned himself on a stairway by which Diocletian was going to pass and harangued the Emperor for his cruelties against Christians. Diocletian ordered him to be seized and cudgelled to death. His body was thrown into a sewer, but was removed by Christians and buried in the Catacombs of Calixtus. His tomb was frequently visited by pilgrims.

In the Middle Ages Sebastian was regarded as a saint with a special ability to intercede for victims of plague, and devotion to him markedly increased during plague times. He is the patron of doctors and of policemen.

St Agnes, Virgin & Martyr (21st January): Hebrews 7.25—8.6; Psalm 39; Mark 3.7-12

Agnes (c291-c304) was the daughter of noble Romans and her hand in marriage was much sought after among the high ranks of Roman society. To each of her suitors, though, she insisted that “Jesus Christ is my only spouse.” [cf II Corinthians 11.2]

One of those suitors whom she refused betrayed her to the authorities. After repelling efforts to make her renounce her faith, she suffered martyrdom by being stabbed in the throat.

Her name in Greek means “chaste” and is similar to the Latin word agnus, meaning lamb. She is the patron saint of young girls and of victims of rape. On her feast day it is customary for two lambs to be brought to be blessed by the pope. The lambs are sheared and their wool is used to make the palliums worn by archbishops throughout the world as symbols of their union with the See of Rome.

St Vincent, Deacon & Martyr (22nd January): Hebrews 8.6-13; Psalm 84; Mark 3.13-19

Vincent was a native of Cimiez, France, but came to Saragossa, in the Kingdom of Aragon, where he was made Deacon. He was brutally tortured and martyred at Valencia during the persecutions of Diocletian in the year 304. It is said that his flesh was pierced with iron hooks, he was bound upon a red-hot gridiron and roasted, and he was cast into a prison and laid on a floor strewn with broken pottery. His cult grew rapidly and both St Augustine and St Leo the Great preached sermons in his honour. He is accounted the first martyr of Spain and is the patron saint of vintners.

Saturday of Week Per Annum 2 (23rd January): Hebrews 9.2-3,11-14; Psalm 46; Mark 3.20-21

Central to the argument of Hebrews is the author’s understanding that Jesus is the spiritual heir not of the ancestral Temple priesthood but of the ancient priest and king of Jerusalem, Melchizedek, [Hebrews 7.15-19] who brought celebratory gifts of bread and wine to Abraham and his army after their victory over Canaanite kings and pronounced God’s blessing over these newcomers to the land God had promised them. [cf Genesis 14.17-20; 15.18-21; cf Hebrews 6.13-20]

Jesus’ priesthood began with his Incarnation, his coming to earth in obedience to his Father’s will [Hebrews 10.5-7; 2.7,17-18]; it continued with his self-offering on the cross and his return to his eternal throne in heaven [1.3; 4.14; 9.11-12,24; 12.2]. There he offers intercession, support and encouragement to those still in the midst of earthly life. [7.25; 13.9; cf Romans 8.34] Jesus’ priesthood is firmly established, but his kingship, his triumph over the enemies of human flourishing, still waits to be made visible. [Hebrews 2.8; cf I Corinthians 15.24-28] Nevertheless, the author of Hebrews is quick to affirm that the triumph of Christ’s kingdom is already assured. [12.28]

Often one hears a strong delineation made between religions that are concerned with the problems of earthly life and those that are focussed on the salvation of souls. Hebrews achieves a remarkable fusion of these two emphases, accomplished in large part by its skilful employment of the concept of priesthood, virtually singular in the New Testament. Christ’s Incarnation, his whole and entire identification with human beings and their struggles [2.11-13], leads the author of Hebrews [10.24; 13.1-5, 16] to encourage Christians to live lives of charity and good works; at the same time, Christ’s return to the throne he freely abandoned because of his love for humankind, gives supernatural assurance of our eternal salvation. [1.14; 13.20]

RCIA

Are you interested in the Catholic Faith, and wish to find out more?

The RCIA (Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults) is a program designed to introduce people to our faith with a view of potentially being received into the Church at Easter 2021. Click here for more information.  The format for Cheltenham is small group meetings, the dates are as given below. Please click here to email Fr Tony who runs the program.

  • 14 January Registration, Basics of Catholic Faith, The Creed and the Holy Trinity
  • 28 January Jesus Christ the Saviour and Church the Body of Christ
  • 11 February The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Life
  • 25 February Eucharist and Catholic Life
  • 11 March Marian Devotion, Saints and Essential Prayers
  • 25 March The Holy Bible – The Life giving Word of God
  • 17 February Ash Wednesday- Attendance at the Church for the service
  • 20 February Election Ceremony of the candidates at the Cathedral

[3 April: Reception and full communion into Catholic Faith, at the Easter vigil Mass]

Attending Church: Guidance for Parishioners

  1. Entrance to the church will be through the St James Square doors.
  2. When arriving and leaving the church please use the hand sanitising gel provided.
  3. You will have the opportunity to light a votive candle which is located in front of the font. Please use existing candle as the source of ignition.
  4. There is no holy water within the stoups.
  5. 1 metre plus social distancing floor markers will be in situ.
  6. Please only use pews with a green tick symbol on them. Stewards will advise you as appropriate: please follow their advice. The reason for this is primarily so that the stewards do not have to clean the whole church after each Mass.
  7. The direction of entrance into the church will be up the nave, as you depart, you are requested to leave via the side aisles, then in towards the crossing and out of the Clarence Street exit (Sundays) or the side doors (weekday Mass). Stewards will assist as required.
  8. Face coverings are mandatory other than for children under 11 years of age and for some with particular medical conditions. Signage advising seating limitations will be posted on pew ends.
  9. Those needing to make use of '2 meter social distancing' (including all those who have exemptions from wearing face masks) should use the individual chairs near to the lady chapel.
  10. The physical veneration of statues and crucifixes is not permitted.
  11. The seating areas will be cleaned following Mass. If however, you are able to assist by wiping your personal space with a disinfection wipe this would help considerably: please ask the stewards if they would like some help.

Risk Assessment Document for Public Mass in St Gregory the Great. v8