Fr Thomas’ homily for 2 February, Candlemass.

“The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come into his Temple.”

If we turn back into the Old Testament, to when the Temple first came into use, we find an extraordinary scene. Vast crowds gathered rejoicing this profound moment, the priests and Levites lead the people in worship, the Ark of the Covenant which represented God’s presence among his people was carried into the sanctuary, King Solomon offered prayers of dedication, and so many sheep and cattle were sacrificed that the Bible says that they couldn’t be numbered. Then in the moment of climax, the presence of God descended in a cloud, so powerful was this presence that the priests were unable to stand and minister. A truly awesome moment as God arrived to dwell in his temple.

When Malachi the prophet spoke of the Lord coming to his temple, no doubt this was the sort of idea that he had in his mind. Clouds of the presence descending, amazed on-lookers unable to do anything other than worship God with hearts so full that they are about to burst.

Then a few hundred years later a couple arrived, carrying a tiny child in their arms, seeking to offer the standard sacrifice for a first-born son. When the Gospel relates the story it doesn’t even mention the duty priest, he probably barely noticed them – here was a normal typical case, quickly dispatch the animals and let the parents give thanks for their son and return to get on with their lives. There would have been many worshippers gathered there, as every day, and they too would barely even notice this couple and their infant son.

Yet, here was the fulfilment of Malachi’s prophecy. Here was the Lord suddenly coming into his temple. That tiny child was nothing less than the same God who made the whole universe, the God to whom sacrifices were being offered…here he arrives to purify the sons of Levi, so that they can offer pure and true worship to God.

This is the same God to whose glory the Temple was built, the same God to whom sacrifices had been offered, the same God whose glory in the cloud meant that the priests couldn’t even stand and minister to him. But here he is, carried in the arms of his mother. On that original dedication, the priests had carried the Ark of the Covenant in a grand procession – now the new ark, Our Lady, walks quietly bearing the new covenant himself. Along with S. Joseph she presents a pair of young pigeons in thanksgiving; but in her arms she carries the greater sacrifice, she carries the Lamb of God, that Lamb who will be sacrificed – not on an altar in the Temple but on the altar of the cross.

The old and new covenants meet. Remaining obedient to the law, Our Lady and S. Joseph offer a tiny sacrifice, yet as they do so they point forward to the true, the great, the all-sufficient sacrifice. Those old sacrifices were images of the Cross, they all pointed forward to what would come later; but the image is now to be replaced by the true version. We don’t need a portrait or a photograph to let us know what a person in the same room looks like; so too, once Christ has come, once he ascends Mount Calvary we don’t need the sacrifice whose job is to point towards it. This then is the true and purified worship which Malachi tells us will be offered once the Lord has come into his Temple.

It’s always good to hear how prophecies have been fulfilled; this reassures us that God is faithful to his word, that when he has promised that something will happen then it will come to be at the right moment. But it can all seem very remote. Does this mean anything to us today? is this something which has an impact on our lives today? Does it mean anything to talk of sacrifice?

Of course, the answer is yes. Sacrifice sits at the very heart of our religion. No longer that long string of individual sacrifices, with various animals being killed; now our sacrifice is that Lamb who was presented in the Temple by Our Lady. The sacrifice offered on the Cross, the place where God’s love for us all was shown to be beyond measure. The sacrifice which is offered anew every day on every Catholic altar – the sacrifice of the Mass. This is what Malachi speaks of when he speaks of purified worship – the Cross, and our taking part in that offering by joining ourselves to it in Mass.

This is also what the writer of Hebrews is talking about. Christ is our high priest, one who is perfectly pure, and therefore the worship which he offers is perfectly pure. Pure because he is God. But also worship which we can be a part of because he is human too. Worship which will continue for ever, because Christ will continue for ever. This the great mystery on which the Catholic Faith is built. That the action of Christ two thousand years ago can be made present to us today; that we can be brought into that action. That we are invited to worship not as mere spectators, but that by reaching out to God with our hearts we are truly taking our part in the relationship of love which is the true meaning of worship.

This calls for a response from us. We can hear this, we can be glad of this, but it is only ever an offer until we decide to do something about it. When Christ allowed himself to be presented in the Temple he was offered to the Father; when he allowed himself to be raised on the Cross, again he was offered to the Father – that is what we are invited into. To join with Christ in this is to be offered to God.
If we do this, then we receive back from God far more than we can even imagine, certainly vastly more than we give to him. But we do need to accept the invitation. We need to decide whether we are willing to be offered, as Christ was offered. If we are, then we can associate ourselves with that offering here at Mass; we can present ourselves spiritually on the altar.

That is what God asks of us, but in return he promises to give us everything that he is.

    Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world: Fr Neil’s homily.

    John the Baptist sees that which others do not. He sees beyond the mere outward appearance of a man, his cousin. His eyes are opened to see the Ancient of Days, the Messiah, and in this person, the promised means of our salvation. He sees the Lamb of God.

    His response is to command us to ‘behold’, to look, to gaze, to pause for a moment from the distractions that fill our minds, that we might see the wonder before our eyes.

    This command to ‘behold’ is fundamental for without it we cannot see what is before our eyes and we will miss the glory that passes us by, the glory for which our hearts long.

    This beholding is the first movement in our contemplation of God and enables our journey of salvation – without it we are lost. It is this very beholding that Cardinal Sarah is urgently commending to us, the Church, to rediscover in his book “The Power of Silence”. For without it we cannot hope to find and commune with our God.

    It is in the silent looking that we are made aware of him who makes himself present under the appearance of bread and wine in the Mass. It is sadly all to often the lack of silent beholding that, despite all the religious externals, has meant the loss of the awareness of the presence of Christ in our midst. It has led to a lack of reverence around the holy things of God that reveals a spiritual ignorance of the generous gifts of grace that are given to us by the Lord.

    John the Baptist had been watching and waiting for a long time to be “the voice that cries out in the wilderness”; that “prepares the way of the Lord.” It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that reveals to the Baptist who the Lord truly was. It was the power of that same Holy Spirit, that had been with him from his birth, that enabled him to fulfil his given vocation and cry out “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”

    In these few words the Baptist not only points out the Saviour of the World but also the means by which that salvation would be achieved. The Lamb of God vividly brings to mind the Exodus and the Passover Lamb, whose blood protected all who hid under it from the Angel of Death. It also evokes the suffering servant of Isaiah by whose wounds we are healed. It also reveals our journey of salvation which requires our dying with Christ that we might rise with him in glory. This begins at our baptism.

    All who are baptised have thus been given the Holy Spirit so that we may seek out our heart’s desire – the Lord. In finding the Lord, we follow the Baptist. We are compelled by the grandeur of the glory we contemplate to cry out, in our turn, “behold the lamb of God.”

    This crying out isn’t reserved for our moments of prayer and in celebrating Mass. Sometimes we compartmentalise our lives – Sunday I do religion and Monday to Saturday I get on with the rest of my life. No, the vocation of seeking, searching and pointing out the way to the Lamb of God is fulfilled in every moment of our lives. Whether we are at home, at work, in our leisure in all our speaking and actions. We fulfil our particular vocation in this cycle of silent contemplation of the mysteries of God, in our eyes being opened to the wonder of His glory and in the power of the Spirit crying out and pointing the way to our Saviour.

    In this is our vocation fulfilled and the mission of the Church renewed.

      Behold the Dowry

      Logo-on-white

      The first dedication was made by King Richard II in Westminster Abbey on 13 June 1381 — the feast of Corpus Christi — as he sought the protection of Our Lady in the face of great political turmoil. At this point, England received the title Mary’s Dowry; meaning that England was “set aside” as a gift, a dowry, for Our Lady under her guidance and protection.

      Re-Dedication 2020

      On Sunday 29 March, The Re-dedication will take place throughout our country. As King Richard II once gave England as a gift to Our Lady for her guidance, so we, too, seek Mary’s protection and prayers, giving ourselves through this act of dedication. We respond to this invitation on the day of The Re-dedication, in two ways:

      • A Personal Promise

        By praying The Angelus Promise, a prayer in which we say “yes” in union with Our Lady through the words of the Annunciation.

      • A Communal Entrustment

        As the people, we will, once again, renew the vows of dedication made to Mary by King Richard II, praying together the Act of Entrustment.

      There are other events too:

      Friday 21 February: 33 days to Morning Glory

      All are invited to begin a personal 33–day consecration to Jesus through Mary following the method of St Louis de Montfort, and updated by Fr Michael Gaitley, MIC.

      You can visit Behold2020.com for information on how to participate and receive the 33-Days to Morning Glory prayers; St Louis de Montfort’s original is available at Quies, by the Carthusians.

      Wednesday 18 March: Our Lady in Parliament

      The statue of Our Lady of Walsingham will go to Parliament for Mass and the Rosary in The Chapel of Our Lady Undercroft.

      Whilst this is a private occasion for Members of Parliament, the whole country is invited to pray for the gift of wisdom for the law-makers of the UK in their work at this particular moment in or country’s history.

      Wednesday 25 March: The Solemnity of the Annunciation

      This is the day when the Message of Our Lady at Walsingham is celebrated.

      ‘Take the measurements of this house and erect another one like it in Walsingham, dedicated to praising and honouring me. All who come there shall find help in their need.
      ‘It shall be a perpetual memorial to the great joy of the Annunciation, ground and origin of all my joys and the root of humanity’s gracious Redemption.’ (Pynson Ballad)

      All who have followed the 33 Days Retreat will make their consecration this day to Jesus through Mary.

      In Eastbourne, Mass and Rosary will be celebrated at Our Lady of Ransom Church at noon. From 6pm to 9pm there will be an “Evening With Mary”, in OLR’s exquisite Lady Chapel, including Mass at 7pm in the Extraordinary Form. This evening will involve a public act of consecration of the parish to Mary, hymns, and Marian devotions.

      Thursday 26 to Saturday 28 March: Triduum of Prayer

      This will be three days of prayerful preparation focused on Eucharistic adoration. We will ponder and treasure the words of Mary, asking for her intercession for the intentions of the Church, and the world.

      Sunday 29 March: Re-dedication of England as Mary’s Dowry

      This Re-dedication is both a personal promise of the people of our country, and a renewal of the entrustment vows made by King Richard II in 1381. On this day we accept God’s gift of His Mother, the cause of our joy, as she leads us to Christ through her example as the First Disciple, and invites us to “Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5).

      The Re-dedication will take place on March 29th, 2020. It will be fulfilled by a communal act of prayer across the country through the The Angelus Promise and The Act of Entrustment.

      The Re-dedication may be celebrated at Mass, or another liturgy in Church, or wherever you may be on that day. Plans are still being made about what happens in Eastbourne and the Ordinariate congregation. A Plenary Indulgence will be granted by the Bishop of East Anglia for all who make The Re-dedication, subject to the normal conditions.

      The Dowry PaintingMass will be celebrated at the Catholic National Shrine followed by a procession with the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham and the new Dowry Painting, to the site of the original Holy House in the Priory Grounds at Walsingham, where The Re-dedication will take place. We shall be joined there by our Anglican brothers and sisters who will process from the Anglican Shrine to meet us in the Priory Grounds. The Dowry Painting, by Amanda de Pulford, will be present in Walsingham on March 29, after its Papal blessing.

      The Dowry Painting

      This painting will be blessed by Pope Francis on 12 February 2020 in Rome before returning home to Walsingham for The Re-dedication of England as Our Lady’s Dowry.

      After The Re-dedication, The Dowry Painting will begin a journey to every Catholic parish in the country, never to return to Walsingham.

      The Universe Group have agreed to print copies of the painting and send them to every parish in the country.

      This article will be updated from time to time, and events will appear in the website calendar as they are finalised.

        Homily from Mary Bacon’s Requiem.

        The choice of readings and hymnody for Mary’s requiem are her own. One might be
        asking oneself why these readings, and in particular this gospel? Mary never saw herself
        as saintly, but neither could one say that Mary’s life had a great deal in common with the
        thieves on their crosses either side of the Lord. The impact of Mary’s life has been
        profound, more than she would ever realise and the reaction to her death in many people
        is testimony to this fact.

        So why this reading? I believe Mary chose this gospel reading because it demonstrates a
        profound truth about the nature of God and the means of our salvation. The thief that
        asked the Lord to ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom’, received a
        response that he could never have expected — ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with
        me in paradise.’ This thief couldn’t claim that he had led a good or holy life and therefore
        deserved to get into heaven. He had no appeal to make other than to be aware of his own
        sin and asked to not be forgotten by the Lord.

        The truth that is so wonderfully and terribly revealed in this encounter of the thief and the
        Lord, is that the complexities of our lives, with all that is beautiful and true and that which
        is not so beautiful and is destructive is not payed out on the scales. This would be an
        utterly precarious position hoping that one may out weigh the other – if it were, then none
        of us could have much to look forward too. Heaven or hell and the drama of our lives are
        played out on the much larger canvas framed by the grace, mercy and love of the Father,
        revealed in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

        Even in our human relationships, although we have rights and responsibilities towards
        each other, we are diminished if alongside that there isn’t an element of grace, mercy and
        love. A parent may house, clothe, feed and educate a child but if that child doesn’t
        experience grace, mercy and love as well, the child will be impoverished and will find it
        difficult to thrive and flourish as a person.

        Relationships are not meant to be contractual but covenantal where each person freely
        gives themselves to another. This self giving in love is something that we all long for in the
        depths of our hearts. St. Paul put this rather well when he stated that if I can speak in the
        tongues of men and angel and understand all the mysteries of the world but don’t have
        love then I am like a clanging cymbal, I gain nothing, I am nothing.

        Keeping this in mind we return to our gospel reading. One thief sees something more in
        the person at the centre of all this drama. In his silence and vulnerability, for those who
        are willing to look beyond themselves, a dignity, holiness and innocence, that speaks of
        the divine, is evident – and the thief perceives it. How often do the innocent pay the price
        for our own folly?

        Here humanity has cast it judgement upon love, truth and holiness and sought to crucify
        it. Yet even while the Lord in his humanity is dying he reveals the nature of God’s will by
        uttering; ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’ and to the thief, ‘today you
        will be with me in paradise’.

        On the Cross the Lord reveals the longing of the Father’s heart that all might turn to him.
        In the Church we call this movement towards God repentance, and it is in turning to him
        that we find our true life, hope and joy. Mary, I believe, tasted something of that joy. She
        knew that, although rightly we all have a duty to do the right and avoid the wrong, it was
        in seeking to rest in the Lord’s grace, mercy and love that we would find our true life and
        joy. This seeking and resting in the Lord allows something of that grace, mercy and love
        to be reflected in our words and deeds and enable others to discover the way of great joy
        that is found in the Lord.

        Mary, however imperfectly, had a faith that is rooted in trust, a hope that is based on a
        promise and a love that is rooted in the divine. It is why Mary chose the psalm to express
        the longing of her own heart to follow the Lord wherever it might lead and the beautiful
        vision in Isaiah of the heavenly banquet where every tear and reproach will be wiped away
        of which the mass we have celebrate is a foretaste and a promise. The mass also put
        right at the centre of the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross and allows us to plead for ourselves
        and for others that the Lord would not forget or forsake.

        Faith, hope and love knows that death in the Lord is not the end. Death could not contain
        or extinguish His love and divine life, and his humanity was raised with him into glory.
        Mary’s identification with the thief was not about the way they lived their lives but that
        Mary in faith, hope and love could turn to the Lord, as the thief had done, and say
        ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom’ and in return hear those most beautiful
        words ‘truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise’.

        We have gathered here before God, not in the first instance to celebrate Mary’s life, there
        will be plenty of opportunities to do that, but in thanksgiving to prayerfully offer the mass
        to the Lord for Mary. Beseeching him that Mary might be enfolded by the wonder of his
        merciful love and find her way in the presence of the Lord alongside the Blessed Virgin
        Mary and all the saints and martyrs in the worship and everlasting joy of heaven.


        Requiem Mass

        Mass was celebrated in the Ordinariate Use | Booklet (PDF, 521kB)
        St Mary Magdalen Church, Upper North Street, Brighton : 8 January 2020

        Introit: Requiem aeternam
        Ordinary of the Mass: John Merbecke
        Reading: Isaiah 25:6–9
        Psalm: 41(42) Like as the deer that yearns for flowing waters, so longs my soul for God, the living God (Watson)
        Gospel: Luke 23:33, 39–43
        Offertory: Lady of Walsingham (Rogers)
        Communion: Russian Kontakion; Soul of my Saviour
        Ceremonies after Mass: May the choirs of angels (Ernest Sands); Praise to the Holiest

          Avenge me of mine adversary (Luke 18:1-8)

          In the Parable of the Unjust Judge and the Persistent Widow we are given a purely human account of how ‘justice’ works. Men grant ‘rights’ and follow ‘laws’ simply out of convenience, rarely if ever, and seldom for the right reasons, groping towards the natural law. What is justice, anyway? When we confront this knotty, Socratic question, we often find ourselves caught up in a culture of entitlement, litigation, conflict, and division. Some semblance of order may sometimes result, but it never lasts long, and it’s hard to see what it is we really want.

          The Unjust Judge “neither feared God nor respected man”. After much nagging, he reluctantly gives the widow her rights, but his actions are not motivated by charity. What motivates our actions is known only to God and our conscience. Only Our Lord –appearances can deceive – is able to tell who is or is not like the Unjust Judge. If, unlike the Unjust Judge, we find unaffected, sincere, selfless love within ourselves, we are keeping Christ’s commandment to love, and “whatsoever we ask, we receive of him” (1 John 3:22). For, God, utterly unlike any earthly judge, is Love, and by his nature is also Just.

          When we appeal to God, as the Persistent Widow did to the Unjust Judge, we are praying in a particular way. Petitionary prayer is perhaps the most common form of prayer, especially in times of distress and need. When we ask God for things, we often behave like we are pleading with an arbitrary, human judge. But while man-made law deals with externals, and with our surface-level desires and needs, God is different. Even those of us who are filled with charity will not always receive from God those things for which we ask. When we pray, like the widow “avenge me of mine adversary” – whether a person, evil spirit, or a particular sin – God often refuses. This is because prayer is itself the expression of a desire, a desire for union with God above all. When we ask for something and God does not give it to us, this does not mean that we lack charity. Rather, it means God is loving, healing, and judging us in a way which transcends human understanding: he knows best. In doing this, he fulfils our primary desire for union with him, rather than other desires. Instead of asking God for our ‘rights’, we should simply love our God and neighbour. We should understand that God allows us to suffer in particular ways for our own good. This love is what keeps on coming back to God, as did the widow to the judge, and we know that God does whatever is necessary to fulfil love’s desire by bringing us to eternal life.

          Prayers and best wishes,
          Keir,
          seminarian on placement

            Celebrating the Canonisation of our patron, St John Henry Newman

            This weekend was very significant in the life of our Ordinariate. St Peter’s Square in Rome was packed for the canonisation of Saint John Henry Newman, one among five that day. Because he is our patron many Ordinariate clergy and laity were there, as many photographs on social media proved.

            Here in Eastbourne we had a more modest affair yesterday evening. Our 7:30 evening mass was the focus for celebrations, followed by some refreshments in the hall afterwards. It was a Solemn Mass, with a special souvenir order of service, and featured the Te Deum at the end. Fr Thomas celebrated and preached. The regular congregation were joined by extras from the 4pm Sunday mass community, people from Christ the King and members of the local Newman Association.

            Thank you to those who contributed to the evening and who brought food and drinks.

            Graham, Fr Neil and Keir Martland serving.

            Graham, Fr Neil and Keir Martland serving

            During the Te Deum after Mass

            During the Te Deum after Mass