Standing firm.

Yesterday, the readings of the office, seemed to be saying “Stand firm” or a least so it seemed to me. This morning an article on staying with the cross popped up on my facebook newsfeed. All this reminded me of an article I had read while doing my spiritual director training. By Peter Fenessy SJ, it talked about what goes on when someone doing the exercises contemplates the Passion. This part of the exercises is a quarter of the full length and allows more time for the contemplation than we get in Holy Week but it has the same dynamic.

In the Passion our resolve to follow Christ and deal with sin in our lives is tested. Maybe before Lent, a person decided to give themselves totally to God in their observance. Lent may have challenged this for fasting, prayer and acts of charity can be difficult. Indeed working through the story of Jesus’ time in the desert may uncover our own weaknesses and temptations. And then we enter Holy Week.

Fenessy likens the dynamic of praying with the Passion to that of a person who is starving:
“…the initial hunger dies away after a short time; but once his body begins to feed on its own vital organs and death is imminent, the craving for food revivifies with extraordinary strength.”

Once Palm Sunday arrives, the Triduum is on the horizon. We know that Thursday we will face the Last Supper, the Watch, where Peter, James and John failed to stay awake, Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. As the Liturgy plays out and make the events present we will be faced once again with our own desire to run away, to abandon Christ or to save our own skin.

There is the call, in the Triduum, to unite ourselves with Christ, to stay with him in his suffering and ultimately to let something of the selfish and sinful part of us die. And that part of us, knowing it is threatened rises up and “fights back.”

It was good, yesterday, therefore to read psalms and New Testament reading that spoke of allowing God to do his work in us. It was also good to read St Basil describe how we can become united with Christ. It was also good to read about staying with Christ’s suffering “long enough to see it clearly.”

As the Triduum approaches I feel a certain resistance rise in me. Yet I have the choice to walk with Christ in all he has to go through. I can choose to be there as he dies and is buried. I can choose to be there long enough to see what he goes through. For as Fenessy says:

“In dealing with the more superficial good, [the person undertaking the Passion meditiations] may have been simultaneously relying upon and the affirming deeper one.”

In other words I may want to resort to self-preservation and run away. I may want to deny Jesus out of fear. I may want to hold onto something which comes in between me and God but letting go or standing by Christ, being united with him as he suffers holds a greater good than any of these other things.

And so, I know that I can choose to stand firm and go through the Triduum laying my resistance at the foot of the cross. I feel like running away but I can choose to ignore that impulse and find a deeper good by doing so.

Services on Easter Day

Easter Day

Saturday 4 April

Vigil Liturgy and First Mass of Easter 8:00pm

Sunday 5 April

Mass of the Day 11:15am

During the Sacred Triduum members of all the communities at St Agnes celebrate together. There’s also a Mass in Polish on Easter Day at 1:00pm.

Services during Holy Week

Palm Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion

Sunday 29 March

Procession and Mass 4:00pm
Mass starts in the hall

Maundy Thursday

Thursday 2 April

Solemn Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper 7:00pm

Good Friday

Friday 3 April

Solemn Liturgy of the Day 3:00pm

During the Sacred Triduum members of all the communities at St Agnes celebrate together.

Members of the Ordinariate community will be attending the Chrism Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory, Warwick Street, on Monday 30 March.

Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches.

Today we will begin our mass in the hall of St Agnes in order to bless the palms and process around to the church. It is a short procession but despite this, in it we are accompanying our Lord as he enters Jerusalem. It is one of those bitter sweet moments, which seem to be scattered throughout Holy week. It has the feel of the victory, a celebration and yet, as we are reminded with the reading of the Passion Gospel, we know the rest of the story and in a few days the crowds that cheered will jeer and shout for Barabbas. All through the next week, almost in real time we take part in the events of 2000 years ago. We know what the disciples don’t and we too face our frailty, our ability to deny, betray and lie. Our fears and our failings all come to light when tested in this week. With all that in mind I was struck by the reading from the saints in the Office. St Andrew of Crete calls us to bow down and lay ourselves before Christ. Instead of cloaks and olive branches, we should offer ourselves in humility. Let us take this moment, while the children are still singing and people still waving, to offer ourselves to God.

Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives. Today he returns from Bethany and proceeds of his own free will toward his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation. He who came down from heaven to raise us from the depths of sin, to raise us with himself, we are told in Scripture, above every sovereignty, authority and power, and every other name that can be named, now comes of his own free will to make his journey to Jerusalem. He comes without pomp or ostentation. As the psalmist says: He will not dispute or raise his voice to make it heard in the streets. He will be meek and humble, and he will make his entry in simplicity.

Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us.
In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. And even though we are told that he has now ascended above the highest heavens – the proof, surely, of his power and godhead – his love for man will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven.

So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptised into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.

From A sermon by St Andrew of Crete.

A week of guided prayer.

This week, in Eastbourne,there is a week of guided prayer. From today, until Friday participants will pray for half an hour each day and meet a prayer guide, also for 30 minutes. Any form of prayer can be taught in such a week but we have chosen to focus on using Scripture in prayer. Three forms have been suggested. One is Lectio Divina or prayerful reading of a passage.This maybe common to many. There are different stages, to allow a deepening and increasing opens to the Holy Spirit.

The other forms of prayer for this week are both forms of imaginative prayer. The first is using imagination to engage with a story in scripture or psalm. The second is the Colloquy, a intimate conversation with God.

Participants were asked to begin by praying with either Psalm 23 or Isaiah 55: 1-3. If you were unable to do this week or don’t live in Eastbourne, you may want to have a go at these types of prayer over the next week or so.

Pope Francis’s Message for Lent 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each communities and every believer. Above all it is a “time of grace” (2 Cor 6:2). God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us. “We love because he first has loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him. He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us. Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure… Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.

When the people of God are converted to his love, they find answers to the questions that history continually raises. One of the most urgent challenges which I would like to address in this Message is precisely the globalization of indifference.

Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.

God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation. In the Incarnation, in the earthly life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the gate between God and man, between heaven and earth, opens once for all. The Church is like the hand holding open this gate, thanks to her proclamation of God’s word, her celebration of the sacraments and her witness of the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). But the world tends to withdraw into itself and shut that door through which God comes into the world and the world comes to him. Hence the hand, which is the Church, must never be surprised if it is rejected, crushed and wounded.

God’s people, then, need this interior renewal, lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves. To further this renewal, I would like to propose for our reflection three biblical texts.

  1. “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26) – The Church

    The love of God breaks through that fatal withdrawal into ourselves which is indifference. The Church offers us this love of God by her teaching and especially by her witness. But we can only bear witness to what we ourselves have experienced. Christians are those who let God clothe them with goodness and mercy, with Christ, so as to become, like Christ, servants of God and others. This is clearly seen in the liturgy of Holy Thursday, with its rite of the washing of feet. Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet, but he came to realize that Jesus does not wish to be just an example of how we should wash one another’s feet. Only those who have first allowed Jesus to wash their own feet can then offer this service to others. Only they have “a part” with him (Jn 13:8) and thus can serve others.

    Lent is a favourable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ. In this body there is no room for the indifference which so often seems to possess our hearts. For whoever is of Christ, belongs to one body, and in him we cannot be indifferent to one another. “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy” (1 Cor 12:26).

    The Church is the communio sanctorum not only because of her saints, but also because she is a communion in holy things: the love of God revealed to us in Christ and all his gifts. Among these gifts there is also the response of those who let themselves be touched by this love. In this communion of saints, in this sharing in holy things, no one possesses anything alone, but shares everything with others. And since we are united in God, we can do something for those who are far distant, those whom we could never reach on our own, because with them and for them, we ask God that all of us may be open to his plan of salvation.

  2. “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9) – Parishes and Communities

    All that we have been saying about the universal Church must now be applied to the life of our parishes and communities. Do these ecclesial structures enable us to experience being part of one body? A body which receives and shares what God wishes to give? A body which acknowledges and cares for its weakest, poorest and most insignificant members? Or do we take refuge in a universal love that would embrace the whole world, while failing to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors (Lk 16:19-31)?

    In order to receive what God gives us and to make it bear abundant fruit, we need to press beyond the boundaries of the visible Church in two ways.

    In the first place, by uniting ourselves in prayer with the Church in heaven. The prayers of the Church on earth establish a communion of mutual service and goodness which reaches up into the sight of God. Together with the saints who have found their fulfilment in God, we form part of that communion in which indifference is conquered by love. The Church in heaven is not triumphant because she has turned her back on the sufferings of the world and rejoices in splendid isolation. Rather, the saints already joyfully contemplate the fact that, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, they have triumphed once and for all over indifference, hardness of heart and hatred. Until this victory of love penetrates the whole world, the saints continue to accompany us on our pilgrim way. Saint Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, expressed her conviction that the joy in heaven for the victory of crucified love remains incomplete as long as there is still a single man or woman on earth who suffers and cries out in pain: “I trust fully that I shall not remain idle in heaven; my desire is to continue to work for the Church and for souls” (Letter 254, July 14, 1897).

    We share in the merits and joy of the saints, even as they share in our struggles and our longing for peace and reconciliation. Their joy in the victory of the Risen Christ gives us strength as we strive to overcome our indifference and hardness of heart.

    In the second place, every Christian community is called to go out of itself and to be engaged in the life of the greater society of which it is a part, especially with the poor and those who are far away. The Church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed but sent out to every nation and people.

    Her mission is to bear patient witness to the One who desires to draw all creation and every man and woman to the Father. Her mission is to bring to all a love which cannot remain silent. The Church follows Jesus Christ along the paths that lead to every man and woman, to the very ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). In each of our neighbours, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well. Similarly, all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity.

    Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!

  3. “Make your hearts firm!” (James 5:8) – Individual Christians

    As individuals too, we have are tempted by indifference. Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness?

    First, we can pray in communion with the Church on earth and in heaven. Let us not underestimate the power of so many voices united in prayer! The 24 Hours for the Lord initiative, which I hope will be observed on 13–14 March throughout the Church, also at the diocesan level, is meant to be a sign of this need for prayer.

    Second, we can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organizations. Lent is a favourable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family.

    Third, the suffering of others is a call to conversion, since their need reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters. If we humbly implore God’s grace and accept our own limitations, we will trust in the infinite possibilities which God’s love holds out to us. We will also be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves.

    As a way of overcoming indifference and our pretensions to self-sufficiency, I would invite everyone to live this Lent as an opportunity for engaging in what Benedict XVI called a formation of the heart (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 31). A merciful heart does not mean a weak heart. Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God. A heart which lets itself be pierced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters. And, ultimately, a poor heart, one which realizes its own poverty and gives itself freely for others.

During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum”: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.

It is my prayerful hope that this Lent will prove spiritually fruitful for each believer and every ecclesial community. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you.

From the Vatican, 4 October 2014

Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

FRANCIS

Reproduced from vatican.va