Saint Andrew, Apostle – Feast

Romans 10:9-18; Psalm 18(19):2-5; Matthew 4:18-22

Saint Andrew was born in Bethsaida, in Galilee, and worked as a fisherman. He may have been a disciple of St John the Baptist. He became one of the first to follow Jesus and introduced his brother, Simon Peter, to him. As one of the twelve Apostles he was widely venerated in ancient times, and became patron saint of Scotland because according to legend some of his bones were brought there and buried at the place where the town of St Andrew’s now stands.

Our Gospel today perhaps unsurprisingly tells of the calling of Andrew (together with Peter) by Jesus, on the shore of the Lake of Galilee. They respond 'immediately' and a little further on two more fishermen are called and again follow 'immediately'. Turning them into Fishers of Men, the 3 years or so of Jesu's active ministry on earth begins at this point. How did Jesus plan for this time? He went into the desert alone, to pray. There he had been tempted, but through the blessing of prayer he had the strength to persevere and make himself ready for his ministry. That inner strength must have given Jesus quite some presence to have 4 professional fishermen abandon their livelihoods to 'immediately' follow a perfect stranger, with not a word of explanation, no obvious plan, and no plan 'B' !

If Jesus called us today, would we drop everything that consumes our busy lives, and follow him?

Tuesday of the 1st week of Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 71(72):1-2,7-8,12-13,17; Luke 10:21-24

Our Gospel today starts with Jesus being filled with the Joy of the Holy Spirit - but what causes him to be so? It is the Love of His Father. So in this brief sentence we can see what is to be found in the Trinity of God the Father, Son and Spirit: it is their love for each other. That is what holds them together and that is where God wishes us to be.

Therefore we can pray (as in the preface for Mass Today)

He assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh,
and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago,
and opened for us the way to eternal salvation,
that, when he comes again in glory and majesty
and all is at last made manifest,
we who watch for that day
may inherit the great promise
in which now we dare to hope.

Filled with that Love, Jesus blesses all those who have not seen but yet believe in the power of that Love. And more than this - we are invited into that relationship, to share in that Love.

Monday of the 1st week of Advent

Isaiah 4:2-6; Psalm 121(122):1-2,4-5,6-9; Matthew 8:5-11

Every time that we receive communion, we say together the words of this 1st Century Roman officer - "I am not worthy to receive you under my roof". This is a remarkable statement, as a centurion was a person of considerable standing in his community, and likely quite well off, running a substantial household. He was talking to a member of the local community that he was ruling over, an itinerant preacher - hardly the sort of company he would have normally kept. There must have been something quite striking about Jesus's presence and reputation as a healer for this to have taken place - a key pointer to who Jesus really was and is. And Jesus is in turn astounded that one of those others, a non-Jew, an outsider, should come to him? Jesus responds by making him welcome, and uses him to point out that salvation is here, now for all.

Do we keep a place in our heart for this astonishing person? When we hold out our hands making a throne for the Lord, or present ourselves to receive on the tongue, are we deeply aware of who we dare to invite not just into our homes, but into our very selves? And are we able to accept that Jesus will take us all, wherever we are from, whoever we are, whatever we have done or do, into his kingdom?

Saturday of the Last Week Per Annum

Apocalypse 22.1-7; Ps 94; Lk 21.34-36

The final days of the church’s liturgical year direct our attention to the final book of the Bible, called the Apocalypse (derived from the Greek word for ‘revelation’ or ‘uncovering’, the first word of the book). This book may have been written by the same St John the Apostle and Evangelist traditionally credited with writing the fourth Gospel and three New Testament epistles; however, as early as the second century careful readers have noted divergence in vocabulary and style between these works and the Apocalypse and have considered this last book to be the work of a different author, often called ‘John the Divine’ (that is, ‘Seer’).

He was exiled to the island of Patmos [Apoc 1.9] during the persecution of the Emperor Domitian (reg. 81-96). There he was accorded a series of visions on the Lord’s Day (that is, Sunday) which he was commanded to send as a letter to seven churches of Asia Minor (the Roman province which is roughly the modern nation of Turkey).

Christians in Roman Asia were clearly suffering for their withdrawal from, and defiance of, larger Roman society. The Apocalypse presents ultimate reality as a victory over this suffering, the imperial city of Rome being equated with the ancient city of Babylon that had held ancient Israel in captivity until Babylon itself was conquered.

Synod – Further Consultation

Please click on the Synod logo below - there is a further stage of consultation providing an opportunity to engage in the process before the continental synod response goes on to Rome.

Synod 2021-23 poster

Catherine of Alexandria

Apocalypse 20.1-4,11—21.2; Ps 83; Luke 21.29-33

St Catherine was a learned woman of the fourth century. Tradition has it that she was a well-born maiden of Alexandria in Egypt who was martyred during the persecutions of Emperor Maxentius after refusing to worship pagan gods. She was condemned to be executed on a spiked wheel but at her touch the wheel shattered and she was instead beheaded. Though it has proved difficult to verify her historically and it is possible that she was a kind of composite figure drawn from the stories of women condemned for Christian faith, it is clear that from very early days a cult surrounded her. Through the Middle Ages she was among the most venerated of Christian martyrs. At her death it was said that a milk-like substance flowed from her neck rather than blood. Legends claim that her body was taken by angels to Mount Sinai, where a monastery was built in her honour.

St Catherine is venerated as the patron of philosophers and preachers, and she is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, the canonised saints noted for their intercessory powers. She was adopted as patroness of the city of Bath.

Andrew Dung-Lac & Companions

Apocalypse 18.1-2,21-23; 19.1-3,9; Ps 99; Luke 21.20-28

The Martyrs of Vietnam include 117 people (8 bishops, 50 priests and 59 laymen) who died between 1625 and 1886 and were canonised together in 1988. They form a witness to the extraordinary difficulties encountered by those who laboured to bring Christianity to this land. An imperial edict of 1533 forbade Christianity, and only in 1615 did the Jesuits manage to establish a permanent mission there. The martyrs include European missionaries and native Vietnamese. Many of them were branded on their faces with the words ‘ta dao’ (false religion).

Andrew Dung-Lac was born in 1795 and at his baptism he took the name of St Andrew. He was ordained a priest on 15thMarch 1823. During persecution he changed his surname from Dung to Lac in order to avoid capture. He was beheaded on 21st December 1839 during the reign of Minh Mang.

Clement, Pope & Martyr

Apocalypse 15.1-4; Psalm 97; Luke 21.12-19

St Clement, who died around the year 97, is considered to have been the fourth Bishop of Rome, and is venerated in the Roman Canon (the first ‘Eucharistic Prayer’ of the Ordinary Form of the mass) after his predecessors Linus and Cletus. (St Peter, of course, was the first to hold that office.) He is also named in the lists provided by the letters of Ignatius of Antioch and by Tertullian. It is possible (if unlikely) that he is the Clement St Paul referred to as a fellow-labourer in Philippians 4.3. Tradition has it that he was ordained by St Peter himself. He was arrested during the persecution of the Emperor Trajan and sentenced to hard labour in the Crimea; ultimately he was thrown into the sea, tied to an anchor (his emblem in art).

The only writing that can be with certainty attributed to Clement is referred to as the First Epistle of Clement. This is the earliest post-New Testament Christian writing. (A ‘second epistle’ is of doubtful authenticity.) This letter was written to settle disputes in the Church in Corinth. We know from St Paul’s New Testament epistles to the Corinthians that this was a church that could be factious and disputatious; Clement’s letter, written a generation later, helps us see that Paul’s conflicts with this church were not of his own making. Clement’s letter is an important step in the development of the Bishop of Rome’s universal jurisdiction.

St Cecilia

Apocalypse 14.14-19; Psalm 95; Luke 21.5-11

Cecilia was a young noblewoman of 3rd Century Rome. Apparently her parents insisted on her being wed to a pagan nobleman named Valerian, though she had taken a vow of virginity and had pledged herself to the service of God. During the wedding, whilst musicians were playing festive music, Cecilia, it was said, ‘sang in her heart to God.’ When it came time to consummate the marriage, Cecilia told Valerian that an angel would strike him down if he attempted to violate her virginity; she directed Valerian to go along the Via Appia where he would encounter Pope Urban I who would baptise him. Valerian complied with her instruction, but soon afterwards he and Cecilia were arrested and sentenced to death for their Christian faith. As she was dying Cecilia asked the Pope to convert her home, in the Trastevere, into a Church. She is commemorated in the Roman Canon, an indication of the antiquity of her cult. She came to be regarded as the patron saint of musicians.

In late 17th Century and 18th Century England St Cecilia’s day became a significant celebration of music, inspiring lengthy odes by the premier poets of the day, including John Dryden and Alexander Pope, set to music by composers of the stature of George Frideric Handel and Henry Purcell. The 20th Century poet W.H. Auden (1903-73) in his ‘Hymn to St Cecilia’ prayed ‘Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions to all musicians: appear and inspire!’