‘[T]he beacons blazed news of the discovery to the capital and post-horsemen carried it throughout Christendom. Te Deums were sung in the imperial basilicas. No one who watched that day, while the Empress calmly divided her treasure, could have discerned her joy. Her work was finished. She had done what only the saints succeed in doing; what indeed constitutes their patent of sanctity. She had completely conformed to the will of God. Others a few years back had done their duty gloriously in the arena. Hers was a gentler task, merely to gather wood. That was the particular, humble purpose for which she had been created. And now it was done. So with her precious cargo she sailed joyfully away’.
from the novel ‘Helena’, 1950, by Evelyn Waugh, 1903-1966
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst reveal to blessed Helena the place where thy Cross lay hid, that through her, thou mightest enrich thy Church with this precious treasure: grant unto us at her intercession; that by the ransom of the life-giving Tree we may attain unto the rewards of eternal life; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘By this action Christ our Master teaches us how in prayer we ought to use gestures by which the mind may be moved and uplifted, as we raise our eyes above, and join our hands, and bend our knees, using outward actions. Not that these outward signs make our prayer more effectual with God, for God is a searcher of hearts and he has not moved by outward signs. But these actions are done, or to be done, so that you may know that body and soul are united in prayer: for through the outer outward actions the body is conformed to the soul; and also that you, on your side, ought to help yourself to the utmost of your power; and then God will help you too. For he inspires you, and you ought to recognise his inspirations, and help yourself by following them; and you ought not to pray for yourself only, but for others also’.
from a sermon on St John 11:41, ‘Jesus raised his eyes to heaven’,
by St Bernardine of Siena, 1380-1444
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst endue blessed Bernardine, thy Confessor, with pre-eminent love of thy most holy Name: we beseech thee; that, by the virtue of his merits and intercession, thou wouldest graciously pour into our hearts the spirit of love towards thee; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
O Almighty God, who alone makest the minds of the faithful to be of one will: grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Is there no fixed point on which we can concentrate our gaze and prevent ourselves from becoming completely dazzled and nauseated in the vortex of ceaseless change? Indeed there is. We pray that our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found. If the temporal world is always on the move, stability can be found in the eternal.
…[I]nstability is countered for the Christian by the fact that his true home is in heaven. There he has an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast. There is his fixed point, his absolute standard. So he learns to look not upon the things that are seen, but upon the things that are not seen. For the things that are seen are temporal but the things that are not seen are eternal.
To ensure this stability then we must have our hearts (our attention) fixed on the eternal abode where true and lasting joys are to be found. If this seems a somewhat vague and indefinite instruction, we are enlightened as to the way in which it can be done. We must learn to love what God commands and desire what he promises. The promises are not of much value to us if they only guarantee things that we do not find attractive. And since God’s promises cannot be altered we pray that our own disposition may be so developed that we actually like the things he commands and long for the things he promises.
In other words we need to have “the same mind that is in Christ Jesus”. If we can learn to think with his mind, we shall want, like him, the things his Father gives. Our affections and desires will be attuned to his will, and since it is his will that organises the universe we shall find in him all the stability there is’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
‘Pope St John ruled the Church from 523 to 526. He travelled to Constantinople to seek aid from Emperor Justinian II against the Arian king, Theodoric. On his return, Theodoric invited him to Ravenna; upon his arrival he was seized and thrown into prison, where in the midst of filth and hunger, he died on May 18, 526. His body was transferred to St Peter’s, Rome. Pope John’s efforts to further the veneration of martyrs were well rewarded. When he visited the Emperor at Constantinople, the Greeks acknowledged the primacy of the Roman see. From his hands Justinian accepted the Emperor’s crown, and on the feast of Easter he celebrated Mass there according to the Roman rite’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O everlasting Shepherd, mercifully look upon thy flock: and through blessed John, thy Martyr and Supreme Pontiff, whom thou didst appoint to be shepherd of the whole Church, keep her with thy perpetual protection; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulchre and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.
On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn’.
from The Everlasting Man, 1925, by G.K. Chesterton, 1874-1936
‘Living as we do in an age of reductionism, when many theologians think that the Christian faith must be secularised and made as inoffensive as possible, we may think that Paul has been somewhat reckless in making everything depend on the reality of Christ’s resurrection. Is not that one of the weakest and most vulnerable articles in the creed? In this enlightened modern age, surely everyone knows that dead men do not rise. To say that Christian faith stands or falls with the resurrection of our Lord is to offer an unbearable offence to the modern mind. Incidentally, it seems to have been an offence to the ancient mind too, for when Paul preached on the resurrection at Athens, the sophisticated people there laughed at him. They knew as well as people today that dead men do not rise.
Would it not then have been much safer and simpler if Paul had said that Christianity stands or falls by the beauty of Christ’s moral teaching or the integrity of his character or something else acceptable to the liberal secularised mind? Yes, it would have been safer, but it would not have been very exciting and it would not have made many converts to the new faith… Where everything is explained and made acceptable so that Christianity is no more than what reasonable people have always believed from the beginning of civilisation, then it is deprived of interest and is no longer something to get excited or passionate about. Resurrection may be something very difficult to believe and an offence to the rationalist, but at least one can say that it is a really stupendous idea. If Christ has risen, then something has happened that is of first-class significance for every human being, something that should stir us to the very depths’.
John Macquarrie, 1919-2007
Once more I hear the everlasting sea
Breathing beneath the mountain’s fragrant breast,
Come unto Me, come unto Me,
And I will give you rest.
We have destroyed the Temple and in three days
He hath rebuilt it – all things are made new:
And hark what wild throats pour His praise
Beneath the boundless blue.
We plucked down all His altars, cried aloud
And gashed ourselves for little gods of clay!
Yon floating cloud was but a cloud,
The May no more than May.
We plucked down all His altars, left not one
Save where, perchance (and ah, the joy was fleet),
We laid our garlands in the sun
At the white Sea-born’s feet.
We plucked down all His altars, not to make
The small praise greater, but the great praise less,
We sealed all fountains where the soul could slake
Its thirst and weariness.
‘Love’ was too small, too human to be found
In that transcendent source whence love was born:
We talked of ‘forces’: heaven was crowned
With philosophic thorn.
‘Your God is in your image’, we cried, but O,
’Twas only man's own deepest heart ye gave,
Knowing that He transcended all ye know,
While – we dug His grave.
Denied Him even the crown on our own brow,
E’en these poor symbols of His loftier reign,
Levelled His Temple with the dust, and now
He is risen, He is risen again,
Risen, like this resurrection of the year,
This grand ascension of the choral spring,
Which those harp-crowded heavens bend to hear
And meet upon the wing.
‘He is dead’, we cried, and even amid that gloom
The wintry veil was rent! The new-born day
Showed us the Angel seated in the tomb
And the stone rolled away.
It is the hour! We challenge heaven above
Now, to deny our slight ephemeral breath
Joy, anguish, and that everlasting love
Which triumphs over death.
Alfred Noyes CBE, 1880-1958
‘Matthias was one of the first to follow our Saviour; and he was an eyewitness of all His divine actions up to the very day of the Ascension. He was one of the seventy-two disciples; but our Lord had not conferred upon him the dignity of an apostle. And yet, he was to have this great glory, for it was of him that David spoke, when he prophesied that another should take the bishopric left vacant by the apostasy of Judas the traitor. In the interval between Jesus’ Ascension and the descent of the Holy Ghost, the apostolic college had to complete the mystic number fixed by our Lord Himself, so that there might be the twelve on that solemn day, when the Church, filled with the Holy Ghost, was to manifest herself to the Synagogue. The lot fell on Matthias; he shared with his brother-apostles the persecution in Jerusalem, and, when the time came for the ambassadors of Christ to separate, he set out for the countries allotted to him. Tradition tells us that these were Cappadocia and the provinces bordering on the Caspian Sea.
The virtues, labour, and sufferings of St Matthias have not been handed down to us: this explains the lack of proper lessons on his life, such as we have for the feasts of the rest of the apostles. Clement of Alexandria records in his writings several sayings of our holy apostle. One of these is so very appropriate to the spirit of the present season, that we consider it a duty to quote it. “It behooves us to combat the flesh, and make use of it, without pampering it by unlawful gratifications. As to the soul, we must develop her power by faith and knowledge”. How profound is the teaching contained in these few words! Sin has deranged the order which the Creator had established. It gave the outward man such a tendency to grovel in things which degrade him, that the only means left us for the restoration of the image and likeness of God unto which we were created, is the forcible subjection of the body to the spirit. But the spirit itself, that is, the soul, was also impaired by original sin, and her inclinations were made prone to evil; what is to be her protection? Faith and knowledge. Faith humbles her, and then exalts and rewards her; and the reward is knowledge’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O Almighty God, who into the place of the traitor Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Matthias to be of the number of the twelve Apostles: grant that thy Church, being alway preserved from false Apostles, may be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”: [this] beautiful prayer begins with these words, evoking the nomadic environment of sheep-farming and the experience of familiarity between the shepherd and the sheep that make up his little flock. The image calls to mind an atmosphere of trust, intimacy and tenderness: the shepherd knows each one of his sheep and calls them by name; and they follow him because they recognise him and trust in him (cf. Jn 10:2-4).
He tends them, looks after them as precious possessions, ready to defend them, to guarantee their well-being and enable them to live a peaceful life. They can lack nothing as long as the shepherd is with them. The Psalmist refers to this experience by calling God his shepherd and letting God lead him to safe pastures: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps 23:2-3).
The vision that unfolds before our eyes is that of green pastures and springs of clear water, oases of peace to which the shepherd leads his flock, symbols of the places of life towards which the Lord leads the Psalmist, who feels like the sheep lying on the grass beside a stream, resting rather than in a state of tension or alarm, peaceful and trusting, because it is a safe place, the water is fresh and the shepherd is watching over them.
And let us not forget here that the scene elicited by the Psalm is set in a land that is largely desert, on which the scorching sun beats down, where the Middle-Eastern semi-nomad shepherd lives with his flock in the parched steppes that surround the villages. Nevertheless the shepherd knows where to find grass and fresh water, essential to life, he can lead the way to oases in which the soul is “restored” and where it is possible to recover strength and new energy to start out afresh on the journey.
As the Psalmist says, God guides him to “green pastures” and “still waters”, where everything is superabundant, everything is given in plenty. If the Lord is the Shepherd, even in the desert, a desolate place of death, the certainty of a radical presence of life is not absent, so that he is able to say “I shall not want”. Indeed, the shepherd has at heart the good of his flock, he adapts his own pace and needs to those of his sheep, he walks and lives with them, leading them on paths “of righteousness”, that is, suitable for them, paying attention to their needs and not to his own. The safety of his sheep is a priority for him and he complies with this in leading his flock.
Dear brothers and sisters, if we follow the “Good Shepherd” — no matter how difficult, tortuous or long the pathways of our life may seem, even through spiritual deserts without water and under the scorching sun of rationalism — with the guidance of Christ the Good Shepherd, we too, like the Psalmist, may be sure that we are walking on “paths of righteousness” and that the Lord is leading us, is ever close to us and that we “shall lack nothing”. For this reason the Psalmist can declare his calm assurance without doubt or fear: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me”.
Those who walk with the Lord even in the dark valleys of suffering, doubt and all the human problems, feel safe. You are with me: this is our certainty, this is what supports us’.
from a general audience, 5th October 2011, by Pope Benedict XVI
A Better Resurrection
I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.
My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
‘Contemplate the process of resurrection. In one sense, resurrection is an instantaneous act, as the Incarnation was an instantaneous act, and as is our regeneration. But as our Lord lived on earth many years, so we to have to rise gradually to the glory of our resurrection, as the continuous action of our will stablishes us in union with Christ. It is a process, instantaneous in its origin, but continually carried out by all the acts of the Christian life, till its perfect development at the last great day in the redemption of our bodies. As our nature takes into itself the substance of the resurrection life of Christ, we are incorporated into Christ. Christ must be incorporated into us till there remains no faculty that is not full of Christ.
The resurrection of Christ is no mere pledge of a future resurrection. It is the principle of resurrection now going on within us, and in which we must act, moment by moment. The world would have no power over us if we would but realise that we indeed bear within ourselves him who is himself all that future glory’.
Richard Meux Benson SSJE, 1824-1915
Fr Frederick Faber, Cong. Orat., 1814-1863
The English Catholic Hymn Book no.881
‘“No man ever saw God and lived”. And yet, I shall not live till I see God; and when I have seen him I shall never die. What have I ever seen in this world, that hath been truly the same thing that it seemed to me? I have seen marble buildings, and a chip, a crust, a plaster, a face of marble hath pulled off, and I see brick-bowels within, I have seen beauty, and a strong breath from another tells me that that complexion is from without, not from a sound constitution within. I have seen the state of princes, and all that is but ceremony. As he that fears God, fears nothing else, so he that sees God, sees everything else: when we shall see God, we shall see all things as they are. We shall be no more deluded with outward appearances: for, when this sight, which we intend here comes, there will be no delusory thing to be seen. All that we have made as though we saw in this world, will be vanished, and I shall see nothing but God, and what is in him; and him I shall see in the flesh.
Our flesh, even in the resurrection, cannot be spectacles, a telescope to the soul. We shall see the humanity of Christ with our bodily eyes, then glorified; but that flesh, though glorified, cannot make us see God better nor clearer than the soul alone hath done all the time from our death to our resurrection. But as an indulgent father, or as a tender mother, when they go to see the king in any solemnity, delight to carry their child, which is flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone, with them, and though the child cannot comprehend it as well as they, they are as glad that the child sees it, as that they see it themselves; such a gladness shall my soul have that this flesh (which she will no longer call her prison nor her tempter but her friend, her companion, her wife) that this flesh, that is, I, in the re-union and reintegration of both parts, shall see God; for then one principal clause in her rejoicing and acclamation shall be, that this flesh is her flesh, In my flesh I shall see God’.
from a sermon, 1620, by John Donne, 1572-1631
‘[I]f the dead bodies of Christians are honourable, so doubtless are the living; because they have had their blessedness when living, therefore have they in their sleep. He who does not honour his own body as something holy unto the Lord, may indeed revere the dead, but it is then a mere superstition, not an act of piety. To reverence holy places (right as it is) will not profit a man unless he reverences himself. Consider what it is to be partaker of the Body and Blood of Christ. We pray God, in our Church’s language, that “our sinful bodies may become clean through His body”; and we are promised in Scripture, that our bodies shall be temples of the Holy Ghost. How should we study, then, to cleanse them from all sin, that they may be true members of Christ! We are told that the peril of disease and death attends the unworthy partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Is this wonderful, considering the strange sin of receiving it into a body disgraced by wilful disobedience? All that defiles it, intemperance or other vice, all that is unbecoming, all that is disrespectful to Him who has bought our bodies with a price, must be put aside Hear St Paul’s words, “Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more… likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin… let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof”. (Rom. vi.9-12). “If the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His indwelling Spirit… If ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live”. (Rom. viii.11).
Work together with God, therefore, my brethren, in this work of your redemption. While He feeds you, prepare for the heavenly feast; “discern the Lord’s body” when it is placed before you, and suitably treasure it afterwards. Lay up year by year this seed of life within you, believing it will one day bear fruit. “Believe that ye receive it, and ye shall have it”. (Mark xi.24). Glorious, indeed, will be the spring time of the Resurrection, when all that seemed dry and withered will bud forth and blossom’.
from Sermon XXI, ‘The Resurrection of the Body’, by Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
Today, in the Ordinariate (in England & Wales, and Canada), is the Memorial of ‘St John the Apostle in Eastertide’. It was, until its removal by Pope St John XXIII from the revised General Roman Calendar of 1960, kept throughout the Catholic Church as ‘Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, before the Latin Gate’, a name that survived in Archbishop Cranmer’s Calendar of the Book of Common Prayer as ‘St John the Evangelist Ante Portam Latinam’. It also appeared in the calendars of the Anglican and English Missals of the early 20th century, and thus – in those places where that tradition was the practise – the feast continued to be celebrated long after it was dropped in 1960. As was once related to me by a certain Canadian monsignor (and this explains the Canadian patrimonial provision for today’s observance), the Anglican Society of Saint John the Evangelist in Canada kept today as their feast day, rather than the 27th December, because that date was both too close to Christmas and in Northern Ontario, too cold for much festivity!
How fitting then, that such a day, no longer universally observed by the majority of Catholics, should find harbour and be celebrated (with the same old Mass propers) in the ordinariates; a practical illustration indeed of that call to ‘maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift’.
‘One day Salome presented her two sons, James and John, to Jesus, and with a mother’s ambition asked Him to grant them the highest places in his Kingdom. In reply, the Saviour spoke of the chalice which He Himself would have to drink, and foretold that these two disciples would also drink of it. The elder, James the Great, was the first to give his Master this proof of his love. John, the younger brother, offered his life in testimony of Jesus’ divinity.
But the martyrdom of the latter Apostle called for a scene worthy of the event. Asia Minor, which his zeal had evangelised, was not a sufficiently glorious land for such a combat. Rome, whither Peter had transferred his Chair and where he died on his cross, and where Paul had bowed down his venerable head beneath the sword, alone deserved the honour of seeing the beloved disciple march on to martyrdom, with that dignity and sweetness which are the characteristics of this veteran of the Apostolic College.
In the year 95 John appeared before the tribunal of pagan Rome. He was convicted of having propagated, in a vast province of the Empire, the worship of a Jew who had been crucified under Pontius Pilate. He was considered a superstitious and rebellious old man, and it was time to rid Asia of his presence. He was, therefore, sentenced to an ignominious and cruel death.
A huge cauldron of boiling oil was prepared in front of the Latin Gate. The sentence ordered that the preacher of Christ be plunged into this bath. The hour had come for the second son of Salome to partake of his Master’s chalice. John’s heart leapt with joy. After cruelly scourging him, the executioners seized the old man, and threw him into the cauldron. But, lo! the boiling liquid lost all its heat; the Apostle felt no scalding. On the contrary, when they took him out again he felt all the vigour of his youthful years restored to him.
The praetor’s cruelty was foiled, and John, a martyr in desire, was to be left to the Church for some few years longer. An imperial decree banished him to the rugged Isle of Patmos, where God revealed to him the future of the Church even to the end of time’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
O God, who with the oil of gladness didst anoint blessed John a companion in the tribulation and patience of the Lord Jesus: grant us likewise to rejoice in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, we may be glad with exceeding joy; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Saint John the Apostle in Eastertide, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive his inestimable benefit; and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Collect was composed in 1549 and is based on the Epistle and Gospel [in the Book of Common Prayer].
In the collect today we still dwell on the accomplished work of Christ - His sacrifice and perfect example. We pray that we may thankfully receive the benefits of His great sacrifice and follow His perfect example. To endeavour ourselves is the old English way of saying bind ourselves; “devoir” is an old Norman word for duty. So then to say I endeavour myself means I make it my duty.
Our Collect today still continues the Easter message; in it we speak of how God has given to us His only Son to be unto us a sacrifice for sin. He made Himself a sacrifice for sin when He offered up Himself on the Cross on Good Friday. Our sins were borne by Him upon the Altar of the Cross, so that He might die for our sins. He rose again that we might have a new birth unto righteousness. One thing, however, we can never forget, and that is His sacrifice for sin, because we continually plead that sacrifice in the Eucharist.
Thy offering still continues new
Before the righteous Father’s view;
Thyself the Lamb for ever slain,
Thy Priesthood doth unchanged remain;
Thy years, O God, can never fail,
Nor Thy blest work within the veil. (Charles Wesley)
The Collect calls this Sacrifice. “His inestimable benefit”, because we can never really estimate the great benefit that the world throughout the ages, and in the ages to come, has and will derive from His great sacrifice. It surpasses understanding’.
from Teaching the Collects, 1965, by H.E. Sheen
‘Let us praise God, then, for the martyrs who are our fellow Englishmen, in heaven. These are no distant figures from stained-glass windows; they are men of our blood, sharing our common speech and our national ways of thought. Blessed Thomas More, with his hearty good humour, and his jokes on the scaffold; John Kemble, asking leave to smoke a last pipe before his execution - could they be of any race but ours? And surely, if they have not forgotten among the delights of eternity the soft outlines and the close hedgerows and the little hills of the country that gave them birth, their prayers still rise especially, among all the needs of a distracted world, for our fellow countrymen and theirs, whom error blinds or sin separates from God. It is Mary’s month; she too, while a world lies prostrate at her feet, will not forget the land that was once called her dowry. May her intercession and theirs strengthen us and give us the confidence that never loses hope; and may our separated brethren, so long sought, so patiently wooed by the divine grace, return at last to their true allegiance, and make England a shrine of martyrs and a nursery of saints once more’.
from a sermon preached at English Martyrs, Sparkhill, Birmingham, May 1924
by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
O merciful God, who, when thy Church on earth was torn apart by the ravages of sin, didst raise up men and women in England who witnessed to their faith with courage and constancy: give unto thy Church that peace which is thy will, and grant that those who have been divided on earth may be reconciled in heaven and be partakers together in the vision of thy glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Feast of the English Martyrs, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Now let us celebrate the Mass, directed by Philip and James. During the Fore-Mass they are our guides, readying us for the Sacrifice proper.
…In the Gospel [St John 14:1-13] we see the two apostles [Philip and James] with Christ between them. What a beautiful setting Easter time gives to the farewell sermons of Jesus! He is taking leave of His Church before ascending to heaven. He speaks softly, consolingly. Surely He will return; He leaves simply to prepare a place for us, then He will come to take us with Him so that we too may be where He is. In the midst of earthly troubles we need not be sad; we have a home in heaven. He Himself is readying it.
Jesus set the goal, He also showed the way. Disturbed and saddened, the apostles acted as if they knew neither the goal nor the way. With indulgent kindness Jesus said: I am the Way and, therefore, the Truth and the Life likewise. A lesson of tremendous importance! He is the focal point of our religious life, and consequently the only Way to heaven. Therefore we love to come to Mass where as the Way He gives instruction and commands, where as the Truth He speaks the Gospel message, and where as the Life He gives us His very Body in the blessed Eucharist.
…The sermon is over, our preachers are finished; these many truths are their legacy to us. Now we continue with the Sacrifice of Christ. It is also our sacrifice, we must offer it with Him. Therefore in solemn procession we approach the altar, led by our two apostles. There upon the altar they place the sum and substance of lives lived to the full – their joy, their sorrow, their labour for souls. And like an eagle enticing its young to fly into the light of the sun, so the two apostles invite us to unite our life’s sacrifices to theirs and offer all to the Father in union with Christ’s supreme oblation.
The two apostles have completed their task. Now they reverently withdraw. They take a position before the Lamb that was slain and yet lives, and offer the Mass with us. In Christ we constitute one great body – the faithful, the apostles, the saints – Christ’s mystical Body’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: grant us perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life; that, following the steps of thy holy Apostles Saint Philip and Saint James, we may steadfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The word of God, incorporeal, incorruptible and immaterial, came down to our world. Not that he had been far off before, since no part of creation was ever without him. Together with his Father he filled all things.
He came to us full of love for us and showed himself to us openly. He took pity on our race and our weakness and was so moved by the corruption that had got the better of us, that he could not allow death to rule over us any longer. Had death prevailed, creation would have perished and his Father’s work in forming man would have been in vain. Because he did not wish merely to be in a body or simply to be an apparition, he took to himself a nature which was no different from ours.
He built himself a temple, a body that is, in the Virgin, and so made himself an instrument in which to dwell and make himself known. In this way he took from us a body like our own and, since all men are subject to the corruption of death, he surrendered his body to death for all and offered it to the Father lovingly for our sake. His purpose was that, as all men died on him, the law of death which was in force against men should be abrogated. Death would have its final say in the body of the Lord and would thereafter be powerless against his fellow men. To turn men back from corruption to incorruption and rescue them from death to life, he himself destroyed death, as straw is bent up in a fire, by his incarnation and his glorious resurrection.
…So the word of God who is above all offered his own temple, his body, for the life of all, and by his death paid the debt that was due. United to us all by the human body that was his, the incorruptible Son of God clothed us all with incorruptibility by the promise of the resurrection. Even the corruption of death has no longer any power against men because of the Word who dwelt among them in one body’.
from his discourses by St Athanasius, c.296-373
Everliving God, whose servant Saint Athanasius bore witness to the mystery of the Word made flesh for our salvation: give us grace, with all thy Saints, to contend for the truth and grow into the likeness of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today’s memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker, falling on May Day - a day celebrated since the late 19th century by socialists and communists as International Workers’ Day - was established by Pope Pius XII in 1958 to Christianise the concept of labour and to bring it under the patronage of Saint Joseph. From 1970, in the Ordinary Form, it was downgraded to an optional memorial (as it is in the Ordinariate Form also); it remains a feast of the first class in the Extraordinary Form. The following is from a radio address to children by Pius XII in 1958:
‘St Joseph, as you have all learned at home and at school, was a very holy man. He had to be, because he was married to the Virgin Mary, the purest, the holiest, the most exalted of all God’s creatures. More than that, the Eternal Father confided to the care of St Joseph His own only-begotten Son, become man on earth, Jesus Christ. Mary was the Mother of Jesus, the tenderest and most loving of all mothers; and though Joseph was not His father, he had for Him, by a special gift from heaven, all the natural love, all the affectionate solicitude that a father’s heart can know. With Mary, his wife, he shared all the joys and sorrows, the plans and anxieties that come to a mother in bringing up her child sorrows, the plans and anxieties that come to a mother in bringing up her child. Day after, at home and in the carpenter shop, his eyes rested on Jesus; he protected Him against the dangers of childhood; he guided His advancing years, and by hard work and with religious devotedness he provided for the increasing needs of the Mother and the Son.
What a beautiful family life there was at Nazareth! You call it the Holy Family and rightly so. In that small house you find Jesus, holy more than anyone can imagine, Who has come to help you and everybody become holy and pleasing to the Father. There you find His Mother, your Blessed Mother; and, as you know, from the first breath she breathed and all during the days of her life her soul was simply one marvellous, indescribable thing of beauty, like a precious jewel whose every facet reflected clearly, unobstructed, the infinite holiness of God. And then there was Joseph, modest, self-effacing, yet exercising authority over that family. How holy he must have been! Under his fatherly protection and ceaseless, tireless care the young Boy grew into manhood, Who later, on Calvary’s cross, dying, would restore life to man, and draw all men into oneness through grace with Himself. With Him as their Head they should then form one big, big family scattered all over the world. You call that family the Church, the one, true Catholic Church, of which you are members, and that membership is your richest treasure on earth’.
O God, the Creator of all things, who hast appointed for mankind the law of labour: graciously grant that through the example and patronage of Saint Joseph we may accomplish the work that thou hast commanded, and attain unto the rewards that thou dost promise; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Saint Joseph the Worker, Divine Worship: The Missal.
A delayed (on account of the Easter Octave), but nonetheless blessed Saint George’s Day! A solemnity here in England, St George is also held in high honour in Canada. The Cross of St George was raised by John Cabot in Newfoundland in 1497, during the reign of Henry VII, thus earning its contemporary residents (and those in Labrador also) a provincial holiday! Today St George’s Cross features on four provincial flags, as well as within the Royal Union Flag. So in tribute to my former home of Alberta, here’s a poem in honour of the saint and his English settlers in the True North.
St George that savest England,
Save us who still must go
Where leads thy cross of scarlet
Upon its field of snow.
Beyond the life of cities,
Distractions and dismays,
Where mountain shadows measure
The passing of the days.
Among the lonely snow-peaks
Where golden morning shines,
Stands thy undaunted outpost
Among the lodge-pole pines–
A little stone-built chapel
As modest as can be,
Touched with a loving glory,
To house thy God and thee.
Here, where majestic beauty
And inspiration bide,
Be thou, to make us worthy,
Our counsellor and guide.
Be with us, Soul of England,
Where the last trail puts forth,
To keep unsoiled forever
The honour of the North.
St George’s in the Pines
Bliss Carman FRSC, 1861-1929
‘O eternal Trinity, eternal godhead! This godhead, your divine nature, made immensely precious the blood of the only-begotten Son. Eternal Trinity, you are like a deep sea, in which the more I see, the more I find; and the more I find, the more I seek you. You fill the soul, yet somehow without satisfying it: In the abyss which you are you so fill the soul that it ever continues to hunger and thirst for you, desiring you, eager in your light to see you, who are the light.
With the light of my understanding, in your light I have tasted and seen the abyss which you are, eternal Trinity, and the beauty of your creation. Then looking at myself in you, I have seen that I am your image; this is a gift that I receive from you in your power, eternal Father, and in your wisdom, which is attributed to your only-begotten Son. The Holy Spirit who proceeds from you, Father, and from your Son has prepared me, giving me a will to love you.
Eternal Trinity, you are the Creator, I the creature. I have come to know, in the new creation you made of me in the blood of your Son, that you are in love with the beauty of your creature’.
from her Dialogue by St Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380
O merciful God, who gavest to thy servant Saint Catherine of Siena a wondrous love of the Passion of Christ: grant that, through her prayers; we thy people may be united to him in his majesty and rejoice for ever in the revelation of his glory; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal
Seven Stanzas at Easter
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
John Updike, 1932-2009
Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness; that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Low Sunday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘When Easter comes, the Church delights to remind herself of that newness which is in the risen Christ. On Holy Saturday morning, a new spark must be struck from the flint, to light a new set of candles and lamps; new holy water must be blessed, and a new font; fresh cloths are spread on the altars, and the tabernacle itself, on Easter morning, is full of freshly consecrated Hosts. We are beginning all over again, making all things new. And we have a right to do so, for in the order of grace there is perpetual novelty. In the order of nature there is perpetual affectation of novelty, which never comes to anything; there is nothing new, the wise man reminds us, under the sun, however much, at the moment, things look different. Whereas in the order of grace there is no change apparent, but in truth it is a perpetual spring, inexhaustible in its fecundity.
…[I]n the life of grace, ah, if we could only see it, there is a perpetual burgeoning of new life, nor merely from one Easter to another, from one retreat to another, but with every worthy reception of the sacraments. Perpetual spring, perpetual renovation of our natures, if we could only catch the hour of grace, utilise it, make it our own. Whatever you are, and at whatever time of life you are, that possibility of spiritual renewal is with you no less surely than if you were a boy at school again, or just leaving school to make your way in life. Christ is risen; those tidings can never lose their force with age, nor be staled by repetition; Christ is risen, and life, for the Christian, is always new’.
from an Easter meditation, 1939, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
We thank thee, heavenly Father, for that thou hast delivered as from the dominion of sin and death and hast brought us unto the kingdom of thy Son: and we pray thee that, as by his death he hath recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to joys eternal; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Saturday in the Easter Octave, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Conquering death by death. It is here that we must start in thinking about Christ as Lord. As St John saw in his vision, Jesus holds the keys of hell because he has died and yet is alive. And in the gospels it is the risen Christ who says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me”. The earliest Christians thought of the resurrection as the event in which God invested Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth, with authority, brought him to sit on his right hand in heaven to share his, God’s, kingship. Why? First and foremost, because Jesus raised from the dead “dies no more”, as Paul says. The reason Jesus is set free from all the constraints and limits which keep men and women at a distance from God and from each other - from the principalities and powers of the new Testament. The resurrection is not a resuscitation; it is the gift of the new kind of life, the life that exists on the far side of death and hell, of destruction and disintegration. He will not die again, “death has no more dominion over him”. He is no longer the prisoner of the past; he is not an historical memory, whose life is neatly tied up and put away. No, from now on he belongs to all people and all times, he is available to all. He is free’.
Rowan Williams, Lord Williams of Oystermouth (Archbishop of Canterbury, 2002-2012)
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal Mystery hast established the new covenant reconciliation: grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Thursday in the Easter Octave, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
A Treasure to be Shared
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