MY MESSAGE THIRTY THIRD SUNDAY OF YEAR ‘A’

Hello, once more, as we come to the final days of the Church Year.

Despite the atrocious weather, there is a ‘bright’ spot to enjoy, in that for the first time since March, we celebrated the three ‘Sunday’ Masses, in church and with People   –   though, of course limited with numbers.

What the future holds is in the hands of our elected officials, but hopefully we can continue on these lines, and resume the weekday Mass schedule in Advent, even if this will have to proceed without lay participation.  In this time of restrictions on so many levels, it is well worthwhile reminding ourselves of the mind of the Church, (with our centuries of ‘Teaching and Tradition’ that is now summed up in the pronouncements of the Second Vatican Council.)

I would dare venture to say that to many elected officials, a church building poses the same problems as any location where people gather in large numbers, but to people of faith, a church building is like no other structure on the same street.  You can express this understanding in your own words, which will echo those of the Vatican Council:

“The Church is essentially both human and divine,

                      visible but endowed with invisible realities…….….

                      present in the world, but as a pilgrim………………

                      directed toward and subordinated to the divine….’

                                                                               [‘Sacrosanctum Concilium , 2]

In what other ‘building’ do we genuflect as we enter?

Furthermore, do ‘elected officials’ truly grasp what we are about when we gather, (safely, these days), in the building that is a church?  Let’s turn to the Council document again:

“Mother Church earnestly desires that all the Faithful

                          should be led to that   full, conscious, and active

                          participation in liturgical celebrations…. ….to which

                          the Christian People………...[has]……….…. a right and

                          obligation by reason of their Baptism…….”

                                                                                                           [ibid. 2]

None of my words are said in anger or in protest, rather, as a reminder of what the majority of us are truly missing, but which can be mitigated to some extent by the ‘streaming’ of Mass and other Services and Devotions.  We are genuinely fortunate in this.

There have been any number of texts, emails and phone calls saying the same thing   – “How good it is to pray together………………I feel at home!”

We have been trying to contact as many People as possible by email, text, telephone, ‘zoom’, ‘streaming’, not forgetting the Royal Mail, and even physically putting information through People’s doors.

The Parish ‘database’ is being amended constantly as more Parishioners allow us to add addresses and contact numbers.    BUT there is the nagging conviction that we are leaving someone ‘out’.

If you wish to be added to those contacted by our ‘email service’, or know of others who might like the same, or be contacted by another means, PLEASE drop us a line.

THE CONCLUSION OF THE YEAR OF MATTHEW

THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR OF MARK

Since Advent 2019 we have been listening to extracts from the Gospel according to St. Matthew on the Sundays of ‘Ordinary Time’.     Up to the 1960’s, and the revision of so much Church practice brought about by the Second Vatican Council, (1962 – 65), we would have simply started again with Matthew as the main source of the Gospel Readings for the year about to begin.  For centuries the Gospel of Matthew had been seen as the ‘Church Book’, and was the preferred text to be read in Church year after year –   but this was going to change.

The Council Fathers, who met at ‘Vatican II’, (and there were over 2,500 of them), were helped and guided by their expert advisers, (called ‘periti’), but above all, the majority were open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their laborious deliberations and conscience-led decisions.

It is interesting to note that one of these ‘periti’ was the young Josef Ratzinger, who accompanied, assisted and advised Cardinal Frings at the Council, and was, of course, elected Pope Benedict XVI some   forty-three years later.

Indeed, three others present at the Inaugural Session of the Council in October 1962 went on to become ‘Supreme Pontiff’ of the Church:   The Cardinal-Archbishop of Milan, Giovanni Montana, became Pope Paul VI in 1963, following on from Pope John XXIII, who had called the Council in the first place, but died before the completion of its work.  There were many who hoped and expected him to tone down, (even shelve), the work of the Council – but in the face of much opposition from certain sections of the hierarchy and laity, he courageously continued the work of reform.

Bishop Albino Luciana, was elected as Pope John-Paul I in August 1978, but died suddenly, 33 days later.  He was the first Bishop of Rome to be born in the 20th century.

The last of the quartet was Bishop Karol Wojtyla, who would become Pope John-Paul II, immediately after the untimely death of his name-sake.

In various homilies last week, and in these pages, I called to mind the Feast of the ‘Dedication of the Lateran Basilica’, (9th November): this being   the ‘Mother Church’ of the Catholic world.    The official title, you may recall, reads:

‘Mother and Head of the churches of the city and of the world’.  

The site once belonged to the  Lateran Family , but they were accused of some misdemeanor by the emperor Nero , who promptly executed them and confiscated their palace and estates   –   this became State property after that emperor’s undignified , but deserved demise , and some 250 years later was  presented to the Bishop of Rome by Constantine the Great , the (so-called)  first ‘Christian’  emperor , as a fitting residence for the leader of the recently-legalised , (313 AD) , Christian community of Rome.   Popes were to reside in the Lateran for the next thousand years.

However, I did not go on to speak of the following day’s memorial, that of   St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church   –   who ‘occupied’ the Lateran from August / September 440 AD until his death on 10th November 461.   He was away on a diplomatic mission when he was elected Pope, and could not get back to Rome until 29th September to be solemnly consecrated   –   the date he celebrated annually as his ‘nativity’.   Such events could not happen in our day because we have changed and reformed the rules a number of times concerning the lawful and legitimate election of the Bishop Rome.

We have 96 of Leo’s sermons, along with 143 Letters that survive.  The sermons cover the Liturgical Year and reveal him as a pastor who was deeply concerned with teaching and instructing.  For his exemplary work as educator and preacher, he was declared ‘Doctor of the Church’, by the duly elected, Pope Benedict XIV, in the 1740’s   –   just about 1,300 years after his death……………………….

Leo’s pastoral care for his People was exhibited in other ways which required great personal courage   –   as in 452 ADS, near Mantua, when he strode out to confront the fearsome Attila the Hun, then ravaging northern Italy in a particularly bloodthirsty manner, and promising to put southern Italy to the sword – and worse.   We have no historical record of what was said between the two men, but Attila withdrew his hordes.

Three years later, Leo stood face to face with another barbarian warrior leader – this time, Gaiseric the Vandal, outside the very walls of Rome.  He negotiated a compromise whereby the barbarians were allowed to loot and plunder the city, but refrained from the customary acts of violation, torture and massacre – and neither was the city put to the torch.

Thus far in our two-millennia-plus  Tradition there have been only two Popes accorded the accolade  ‘Great’    –   along with Leo  there is  Pope St. Gregory the Great ,  (3rd September 590 – 12th March 604 AD) , who was born of a wealthy , honorable, patrician , senatorial , Roman Family , (just like the Laterani of earlier, pre-Christian times) ,  whose family had already produced two Popes.

It was this Gregory who sent monks on a re-evangelisation mission to these islands in 596, settling at Canterbury and building their abbey and church dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul.  The same Pontiff is reputed to have said of captured child slaves in the Roman market, “These are not Angles, rather they are Angels……………”  Did this encounter prompt him to organize the mission to ‘Angle-land’?

[IN PASSING]

There is fairly consistent talk in our time that a third Bishop of Rome might be named ‘Great’, in the not-too-distant future –   after a gap of some 1,500 years.  One of our quartet who attended the opening of Vatican II, who cast his vote on crucial decisions and upheld the ancient Teaching and Tradition of the Church, now embedded in the Second Vatican Council, during his long and remarkable Pontificate   –   Pope St. John Paul II.

[EVEN MORE ‘IN PASSING’]:

Pope Benedict XIV, prior to his election, was for two decades responsible for approving Canonisations to Sainthood and I wonder, did this work lead him to re-assess the pontificate of Pope Leo, and cause him to bestow the title ‘Doctor’, when he succeeded to the Seat of Peter?   Is a similar process taking place at this moment with regard to Pope St. John Paul?

[INCIDENTALLY]

What is more, in his role of overseeing the process of canonizing people of outstanding holiness, the future Pope Benedict wrote the classic treatise, ‘De servo rum Dei beatifacione et beatorum canonizatione’, and reformed the way in which we ‘make’ Saints.   He insisted on a fresh and historical underpinning to the investigation that takes place   –   and the book remains a classic to this day.

The very same approach was continued by the Second Vatican Council, which is why such favourites as St. Christopher and Sets. Crispin and Crispinian have been ‘demoted’   –   for lack of historical evidence   – despite the fact that the latter two figures prominently in the famous speech made by king Henry V to his army, (his ‘band of brothers’), before Agincourt, as we have it so magnificently imagined by William Shakespeare.

All of this has been one long , opening  ‘sentence’  , to remind us that change has ever been a ‘constant’ in the Church , while always safeguarding the Deposit of Faith and our Sacred Tradition :  ‘nihil innovetur nisi quod traditum est’  – ‘let there be nothing novel that does not come from the tradition’ ,  as it is well said………………………………..

 FINALLY, AND TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER:

THE SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST,

KING OF THE UNIVERSE (YEAR A)

and

THE SEASON OF ADVENT (YEAR ‘B’)

THE YEAR OF ST. MARK)

Why we leave the Gospel according to Matthew and take up the Gospel according to St. Mark.

After much discussion, debate and oftentimes heated disputation, accompanied by prayer and reflection, the very first document promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, on 4th December 1963, was the ‘Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy’, indicating the pressing concern felt by the Fathers that reform to this vital element of Catholic life was much needed.

The very first sentence declares,

               “The sacred Council has set out to impart an ever-increasing vigour

             to the Christian life of the Faithful; to adapt more closely to the

             needs of our age those institutions which are subject to change;

             to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in

             Christ…………………Accordingly it sees particularly cogent reasons

             for undertaking the reform and promotion of the liturgy.”

It goes on to say,

“For it is the liturgy through which, especially the divine sacrifice

               of the Eucharist, ‘the work of our redemption is accomplished’,

               and it is through the liturgy, especially, that the Faithful are

               enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the

               mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church”,

 and reminds us,

“The liturgy daily builds up those who are in the Church, making

                 of them…………. a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.”

[NOW WE COME TO THE CRUX OF THE MATTER [:

In chapter Two of the ‘Constitution’ we find,

“The treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly so

                  that a richer fare may be provided for the Faithful at the table

                  of God’s word…………………….”

adding,

“In this way a more representative part of the sacred Scriptures

                   will be read to the People in the course of a prescribed number

                   of years………………….”

 

 So, there we have it.  We currently follow a three-year-Cycle of Gospel Readings in Ordinary Time, taken   from Matthew (‘Year A’), Mark (‘Year B’) and Luke (‘Year C’)

As the church calendar now has it, Sunday 22nd November is the final Sunday of ‘Year A’.   In ‘numbers’ it is the 34th Sunday, but it is also called ‘Christ the King’.

Would it surprise you to know that even though this Feast is a very recent addition to the calendar – it is not yet 100 years old.  Since it was introduced in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, it has already been ‘moved’ from one date to another!

On the radio I heard an Anglican bishop quoting that very fine man, Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, who died to this life so recently, and the bishop’s perplexity when asked by the rabbi to think of three important words spoken by Jesus in the context of a discussion they were having:

        “but I say……………”

 In the context of these pages, I suggest we can put forward the understanding that in past times we did things in certain ways , but through His Holy Spirit at work in the Church,  the Christ who is always present in His Church, challenges us with the words recorded by St. Matthew in his version of the  ‘Sermon on the Mount’ ,

“You have heard how it was said……………

      but I say……………”

Until the next time:  keep well, safe and happy, and may the Good God shine His Face upon us all and those we Love,

Fr. Michael St. Clair