Blessing of the House at Epiphany

The Epiphany mass is when chalk is blessed so that we can mark our houses with a blessing for the coming year. Suitable prayers are available from a variety of sources. These are from The Twelve Days of Christmas by Elsa Chaney.

Peace be to this house, and to all who dwell herein.

From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

Our Father …

All they from Saba shall come, Bringing gold and frankincense.
O Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come to You.

Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Arise, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee—Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary. And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light and kings in the splendour of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.

Let us pray. Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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After the prayers of the blessing are recited, the initials of the Magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, are inscribed upon the doors with the blessed chalk. (The initials, C, M, B, can also be interpreted as the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat which means “Christ blesses this house”.)

Announcement of Easter and the Moveable Feasts 2017

Part of the Anglican tradition which has been accepted into the Catholic Church with the Ordinariate is the announcement of the year’s liturgical calendar after the Gospel reading in the Mass of the Epiphany.

Paschal candleKnow, dear brothers and sisters, that, as we have rejoiced at the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so by leave of God’s mercy we announce to you also the joy of his Resurrection, who is our Saviour.

On the first day of March will fall Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the fast of the most sacred Lenten season.

On the sixteenth day of April you will celebrate with joy Easter Day, the Paschal feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the twenty-eighth day of May will be the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the fourth day of June, the feast of Pentecost.

On the eighteenth day of June, the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

On the third day of December, the First Sunday of the Advent of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Looking back on a good weekend.

This Advent has been very hectic, with plenty going on so I apologise for the lateness of this post. The first weekend of the season was very important for us as a group as four of our 4pm mass community were confirmed by Mgr Keith Newton. They had spent months preparing and Fr Neil was impressed with how they all approached such an important event. We followed the mass with a community celebration.

Running through before hand.

All ready

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On the Sunday, Mgr Keith presided at our mass, and then led our Advent Carol Service. The traditional combination of readings and beautiful music was a good start to this very special season. All those who were able then headed our for a well deservered curry.

A precious gift; a treasure to be shared

It is only really now, seven years after Anglicanorum Coetibus, that it is finally becoming apparent what the treasures are that the Anglican tradition has to share with the Church.

We have had to wait for work on the new Missal to be completed, and then for the approval of the CDW and CDF, and then for our clergy to assimilate it; and it has, to those of us in the pews, seemed interminable. We don’t work in the context of eternity: we have to operate in the world with its pressures and expectations. And even seven years in the life of the Church is a lot less than the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, there is some catching up to do: people’s lives have moved on, and we need to be able to demonstrate that the Ordinariate is distinctive and brings something worthwhile to the Church.

Needless to say, Divine Worship: The Missal is the treasury at the centre of the worship and liturgy in the Ordinariate. It unites us with the Church of the earliest English saints and it draws on the work of past liturgists in which the Holy Spirit can be discerned. The language, the structure and the options available show the heritage of our Mass and, despite what people may think are its roots, how it is firmly set in the Western Rite of the Church, just as the English Uses of Sarum, York and the others were before it.

Perhaps we are fortunate that the Reformation liturgists faithfully translated a great deal of the Latin they inherited. While the defective form of the Communion service had to be corrected — and this was attempted even within the Church of England well before Series Two in 1965 — the resonant words they created have served Christians in this land and others well for 450 years, and continue to do so.

But it is absolutely necessary not to wallow in the past! Many of the Ordinariate may remember Series Two, Merbecke and Shaw, and many diocesan Catholics will remember the Interim Rite, but this isn’t an exercise in comfortable nostalgia. Every celebration of the Eucharist is a re-creation of the Sacrifice of the Mass: Christ’s One Sacrifice united through space, time and eternity for all believers. Although modern language is certainly easily understood and relevant to today, using language which is out of time can help to show the eternal too. It is the calling of the Church to teach the unchanging Faith anew to every generation, and the Use we have been given for the celebration of the Mass is — perhaps counter-intuitively — a Fresh Expression of worship.

We must not forget other treasures: one was experienced in St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham recently. Evensong and the other offices are something which can truly be shared. In permitting the Customary to be published and used by the Ordinariate, the Catholic Church has embraced something which is truly new. Even if it is four hundred years old.

Cranmer was an innovator: he created something novel. But in the case of Morning and Evening Prayer it was an evolution, not a revolution. The offices build on the monastic offices of the Church; they aren’t a repudiation of them. Each has an arched structure, with the readings, canticles and Creed supported by prayers and responses. The innovation, of course, was to combine two monastic offices into one: Matins and Lauds in the morning and Vespers and Compline in the evening; and yet still produce something coherent.

If it’s possible to match a cathedral choir like Birmingham’s, singing William Smith’s responses and Stanford in C, that’s great. But if it isn’t, we can still offer Evensong, or perhaps the Customary’s version of Compline, to our brothers and sisters. The plainsong settings are straightforward, but even a said service is beautifully worthwhile. There is something noble about “Brethren, be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the devil walketh abroad, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist, steadfast in the faith.” Try it! Reduce the lighting, bring out a cope from the back of the cupboard, pray that the Lord may preserve us while waking and guard us while sleeping.

Much of what the new publications contain may be new to members of the Ordinariate used to the Novus Ordo, and will certainly be new to Catholics outside the Ordinariate. None must be afraid to use it; but not hasty to judge, either. To become familiar with liturgy can easily take a number of months of prayerful experience. We do need to trust that the Church has it right. But how can we do anything else? Embrace what has been entrusted to us!

A version of this article appeared in The Portal magazine in November 2016. Reproduced with permission.

A change in direction.

Ad Orientem has been big in the news (Catholic news, anyway) recently. Cardinal Sarah’s interview and subsequent talk at the Sacra Liturgia, suggesting that ad orientem in the Ordinary form, at least at the Eucharistic prayer, should be the norm caused many responses. His invitation to begin this in Advent, to allow preparation time and catechesis caused a huge Internet debate. Fr Neil’s thoughts on the Cardinal’s interview can be read here.

For those of us who originally came from Christ Church, ad orientem had not been part of the norm, although some Anglo-Catholic churches use it. When Fr Neil arrived in the parish, the previous vicar had re-ordered the church, creating a nave sanctuary and altar facing the congregation. Fr Neil, who trained for the Anglican priesthood at Lincoln Theological College, had little experience of ad orientem, either there or during his curacy, where the practice was seen only at midweek Book of Common Prayer said services.

I had come from a very Evangelical family and so had not even heard of this much before becoming a Catholic. It felt very alien to think of the priest not facing the congregation. My only experience was at the monastery, where the celebrant faces east only when the congregation (members of the community and visitors) had joined the priests in the sanctuary.

In our early days as a group so much felt alien that considering ad orientem was difficult for me as an individual. It seemed to jar against so much of what I had been taught and suggestions to adopt it felt like one more loss, one more sacrifice in a process that had not been easy.

Surprisingly for me, this all changed in Advent. Just prior to the change of season I read a post on “The Catholic Astronomer” blog. Our Home Ed student and I, her teacher, had spent hours on Astronomy. I had become somewhat addicted to this wonderful site, where you could learn about difficulties in travelling to Mars along side some very profound theology. There is much to take in in the post about Advent but I had been particularly struck by the comment on the orientation of churches and ad orientem. This produced an about turn (no pun intended) in my thinking. Over the years, I had shifted from the view of worship as being something “we do to God” to the awareness that worship of God is something that goes on all the time and that we are invited to participate in. Here was this view from a cosmic perspective. Ad orientem reminds us that we have to align ourselves with God and that worship of God takes place on a universal, a cosmic scale. It gives a very different perspective to our place than the evangelical understanding of worship that I had experienced as a teenager and young adult. Ad orientem is something this ex-evangelical is coming to love.

A few weeks ago, Fr Neil preached a sermon explaining his response to Cardinal Sarah’s words and developments within the Ordinariate. Now, in our 4pm Mass the Priest faces ‘East’ during the Eucharistic prayer. For those who are unfamiliar with the layout at St Agnes, there is a stone reredos, where there are signs that a high altar used to be, and a newer altar in the centre of the small sanctuary. Experiencing ad orientem in this setting, rather than at Our Lady of Ransom, where we have our Monday Ordinariate Use mass was very different. Before my Advent ‘epiphany’ I had felt that ad orientem would make me feel distant from the liturgy taking place. I actually haven’t experienced this in practice at our Monday mass but did wonder if I might in St Agnes, a very different building. In fact the opposite was true. Fr Neil and the sanctuary party moved from behind the altar to the same side as the congregation. The effect, for me was that they felt more part of us, the people, than they had before, with the altar in between ‘us’ and ‘them’. There was much more a sense of all of us, priest and people facing Christ and focusing on him.

Our journey as an Ordinariate and as a group has many different facets. God challenges on many different levels and calls us to continual conversion. Ad orientem was very much a challenge and yet is something we have been called to take on. From my individual perspective it felt like a challenge too far and yet is in reality a practice that has deepened my experience of the Mass.

Sitting at the feet of Jesus: Homily for 17th July 2016.

“Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

In our Old Testament reading we encounter the theme of hospitality. Hospitality has been important for many cultures across many years. St Paul talks of hospitality as a gift of the Spirit. Many argue that Sodom’s greatest sin was a sin against hospitality.

For the people of God they have the words of God echoing in their ear: “Remember that you were a stranger, an alien in a foreign land.” As God had been generous to them, they must be generous to others. Also, those who have shown hospitality to the stranger may well have entertained angels without knowing it. This is exactly what Abraham finds himself doing, providing hospitality for three visiting angels. His hospitality becomes a blessing for him with the promise of Sarah bearing a child by the following year.

In the light of this tradition, maybe we can have some sympathy with Martha as she rushes around trying to play the good host to those who were visiting. Many identify with Martha in the busyness of their lives and many might say we have too few ‘Marthas’- those willing to serve, clean, read and welcome. If we are short of ‘Marthas’ how many ‘Marys’ do we really have? You see Mary wasn’t just along for the ride. Mary was equally active in her participation but in a different way to Martha. Jesus’ gentle humour in response to Martha highlights the real danger of being Martha-like. We can be so busy about the work for the Kingdom of God that we miss the invitation that Jesus the King makes. He offers his hospitality to a banquet of spiritual food that feeds us in preparation for eternal life: “Every word that comes from the mouth of God.” How easy it is to be busy in prayer without times of silence to listen! How often do we take time to prayerfully read the scriptures? It’s all too easy to think if I am not actively involved in the mass, if I am not busy within it, I am somehow not present or don’t even need to be here. In so doing, we miss Jesus’ invitation to participate in a different way to hear his invitation to feed on heavenly food as he makes himself present in the mass, to sit at his feet, to hear his word and to receive him in this most blessed of sacraments.

Let our physical activity arise out of our time spent sitting at the feet of Jesus, not at the expense of it. “Indeed man does not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Jesus is that Word made present for us in the Mass.