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.

A Special Weekend 2: The Ordinary’s visit.

Following a very beautiful day in Arundel, on the 9th July, our special weekend continued as Mgr Keith Newton, our Ordinary, returned to Eastbourne for a visit. He celebrated the parish mass at Our Lady of Ransom Church, with the diocesan congregation there, before heading to St Agnes for our community meal. We were also joined by his wife, Gill. As usual, the food all came together, with more than enough for everyone (the leftovers reappeared after our 4pm mass.) We are blessed with some very talented cooks, who all provide an amazing array of foods for these types of occasion. Mgr Keith celebrated our mass, and we returned to the hall for more time together. In the evening we had compline with Benediction, back at Our Lady of Ransom. By then the evening light was pouring through the windows and the monstrance, lit by the spot light above the altar, glittered. It was very beautiful. A few finished off the weekend by going for a Thai curry. All in all this weekend in July is one we will remember for food and fun and a deep awareness of God’s presence. It was a joy-filled couple of days.

Community meal

Mass

A Special Weekend: Arundel Pilgrimage.

For the Year of Mercy, the Ordinariate has held a variety of Pilgrimages. Many of our group and plenty from others met at Arundel to have a day, focused around the Shrine of St Philip Howard. In fact we counted representatives from at least 8 groups, many from Kent and Sussex and from as far a field as Walthamstow. Some pilgrims had crossed the water from the Isle of Wight.
Arundel Castle.
The day began with confession in the Fitzalan Chapel, inside the grounds of Arundel Castle. Those who waited outside got to enjoy the White Garden in front of the church.
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Following this we processed from the chapel to the Cathedral, where the Shrine is situated for Mass. This ended with prayers at the shrine.

Fr Neil stopped the cars!

Fr Neil stopped the cars!

Mgr Keith, our Ordinary celebrated mass.
After lunch we returned to the Cathedral for Benediction to end the day.
Arundel Cathedral
A huge amount of effort went into making the day from clergy, musicians and servers. The latter get a special mention as some had to step in at the last minute. Both the Cathedral and castle staff were very helpful both before and during the day. To all these people and to all the pilgrims a big “Thank you.”

The day was undoubtedly filled with many graces. One of these was the opportunity to again meet others from different parts of the country. Over the last 5 years we have slowly got to know Ordinariate members from other groups. We share so much of our spiritual journey and heritage. We have been formed in a particular way, both during our time in the Anglican communion and in the process of joining the Church via the Ordinariate. Over the last 5 years the mission of that Ordinariate has taken shape and this too has formed our spirituality and sense of mission. Yet being non-geographical often laity can only get together infrequently. When we do it is lovely and slowly we get to know more and more people. It will make the next get together even more special when we see now familiar faces!

(Please note, there are more photographs on our Facebook page.)

Pilgrimage to the tomb of St Philip Howard, Arundel

Tomorrow many people from the Ordinariate, especially those from the Kent and Sussex groups will be traveling on pilgrimage to Arundel. This is part of the Called to be…programme for this year.

This is the timetable for the day:

11.00am
Confessions start at the Fitzalan Chapel. We will access the chapel via the High Street Lodge, which will be staffed from 10.30am.

11.50am
We will make our way, singing the penitential psalm, through the Cathedral’s holy door, via St Mary’s Gate and the Priory Courtyard.

12 noon
Mass will be celebrated at the main Altar in the cathedral, following the pilgrim manual. Mass will be completed with devotions at the St Philip Howard Shrine.

1.00pm
We break for lunch, a look around Arundel town, and a castle gardens. You will be issued a badge that identifies you as an Ordinariate pilgrim and will get a half price entrance to the castle grounds (£4.50). To enter the Castle ground after lunch you will need to go via the main entrance as marked on the map.

3.30pm
We gather again for adoration and benediction to complete the day.

If you have difficulty finding your way around Fr Neil will be at the Cathedral from 10:30, with maps and copies of the timetable.

Our home in England.

Several of our group travelled up to Norfolk for the Ordinariate pilgrimage to
Walsingham on 25th June. (We forgot our camera so the official pictures can be found on the Ordinariate Flickr page)

Arriving at the Shrine.

At our arrival at the Shrine, having walked the Holy Mile out of the village, we
were welcomed by Mgr John Armitage. He spent a few moments saying how this place
was very much our place.

It made me remember the January day, 5 years ago, in Westminster, when Vincent
Nichols announced the name and patronage of this new Ordinariate. For us from
Eastbourne, there was a sense of the ‘rightness’ of the name. Walsingham has
been a key part of the journey to full communion with the Church. Pilgrimages
from Christ Church, along with a Walsingham cell had been begun by Fr Neil’s
predecessor, the late Fr Philip Fordham. Fr Neil continued this parish
tradition, which became ecumenical. Many from St Agnes, where our group now
meets joined Christ Church for these.

For us as a family, Walsingham became a key part of our children’s faith
upbringing, firstly with parish pilgrimages and then with the yearly Family
Pilgrimage at the Anglican shrine. Incidentally this is the place where our
children witnessed Sr Wendy play the drums! It is a place we all love.

For me, coming from an Evangelical background, Walsingham was not always a
comfortable place to be. It was also the place where discomfort turned to
understanding and understanding turned to valuing this part of the catholic
tradition. Walsingham has become a place which challenges and which feels like
home. This was no different when we returned as Catholics and members of the
Ordinariate. Some found the shift difficult but I, who had once been
uncomfortable never lost the home-coming feeling I had gained during my time as
an Anglican. Now, after several years of Ordinariate pilgrimages this process
has deepened. Walsingham provides a continuity to our spiritual journey. It is
part of our identity as members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Orientation to the Cross: Fr Neil’s Homily for 12th Sunday in Ordinary time.

We cannot begin to properly speak of the ‘Christ of God’, from today’s gospel, without reference to the Cross. Indeed if we are to follow Jesus we can only do so if we are willing to take up the cross ourselves. It is only by losing ourselves, our life, in the cross that we will be able to save it says Jesus.

The sign and symbol of the Cross from the 3rd century became the Church’s most dominant and potent symbol.

It began to permeate everything from the classic style of church buildings, in cruciform shape, to making the sign of the cross a number of times in the mass. We use the cross as a sign of blessing, to ward off evil and every time we enter the church with holy water to remind ourselves of our baptism in which we died with Christ and rose with him into new life in the kingdom of God.

The Cross, an instrument of torture, in so many ways, is a bizarre symbol to represent a loving God. Yet the Cross is at its most powerful when we understand that the God made flesh choses to embrace this cruel form of torture and transform it into the means of our salvation.

All the temple cultic sacrifices anticipate and are fulfilled when the Lord of glory hangs on the cross and reveals the triumph of his sacrificial love that overcomes the power of sin and death.
Golgotha becomes the means of reconciliation for lost, alienated humanity with God the source and originator of our life, “the one in whom we live and move and have our being”. It is only because of this that Friday in Holy Week can be called Good Friday and not Tragic Friday.

Our crucified Lord reminds us of the price that has been paid to free us from sin and death. Christians have thus been drawn to contemplate the Cross at times of penitential sorrow and times of great suffering. Because of Christ, the Cross has the power to bring meaning out of chaos and life out of death.

This sign of the Cross, as the sign of the Christian, the follower of Christ, is understood by much of the non-Christian world to. The sign of the Cross outside of a building identifies it as a Christian church to believers and non-believers alike. It is why ISIS crucified some young Christian men and why work colleagues, in the north of England, tied a young Roman Catholic to a cross and ridiculed him. Their very attempt to show dominant power over Christianity and it followers by ridiculing and crucifying sows the seed for their own defeat and self-destruction. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church and the triumphant witness of Christ crucified and enthroned in glory.

It is no real surprise then that our church buildings are orientated in the manner that they are. The majority of churches have traditionally had the image of Christ seated in triumph on the back wall of the sanctuary or apse. It reminds us that Christ came from glory and returned to sit in glory after his earthly ministry was complete. In our worship we are drawn heavenward so that where he has gone we might go also. However this “seated in glory” is precisely placed in the sanctuary so that we do not lose or separate his glory from the altar of sacrifice, the crucifix and his sacramental presence in the tabernacle. This counter balances our understanding of Christ’s glory in its fullness with the throne of the Cross and altar of sacrifice.

We deliberately orientate our focus towards the sanctuary so that we might not lose sight of whom it is we are called to, of whom it is we receive and to whom we are to witness and the mode of witness we are to follow as we are sent out into the world.

The role of the priest is to aid, enable and lead, in the power of the Spirit, the great sacrificial mystery of our salvation in the sacrament of the mass. Incarnational theology contained in persona Christi, the priest in the person of Christ, is indeed revealed in the proclaiming and preaching of the word but predominately as Christ as priest and victim offering the holy sacrifice of the mass to God the Father. An over emphasis of Christ in the midst of his people in the priest can lead to a subtle transfer of focus away from the sacrifice of the mass to the individual priest himself who then feels he has to entertain and seek mans approval – the priest moving up and down the body of the church on a Segway is a extreme example of what can happen.

Priests are also not an alien race, or angels sent from heaven, although an easy mistake to make. Priests are of the people, from the people and equally suffer with the struggle of sin and new birth into heavenly glory. The Priest therefore also needs to look towards the beautiful and complex interrelationship between Christ enthroned in glory, the altar of sacrifice, the crucified Christ and his sacramental presence, as he celebrates, for his own salvation as well as that of the people.

This is why Cardinal Sarah, appointed by Pope Francis to led the reform of the reform of the liturgy, as head of the Congregation of Divine Worship and Sacramental Discipline, has spoken so strongly about the need for Priests to celebrate mass ad orientem, facing East, from the offertory onwards, at least, to be the norm and not the exception.

There is a sea change taking place, leading to a rebalancing of how we celebrate mass and how we are able to bear witness to the joy of the gospel in our every day lives to God’s greater glory and humanities salvation. This process may take 50 years to create a new norm in the celebration of mass and a more dynamic mission to the world but I intend, as a act of obedience, to make ad orientem the norm at 4pm mass from today onwards. I only hope that you feel that you are able to make this journey with me.