The Parish Magazine of St Faith`s Church, Great Crosby
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Millennium Message from the Bishop of Liverpool
I’ve never met anyone who’s felt they’re any good at praying! Even the holiest of people confess their difficulties at prayer. Indeed, the holier the person, the more ready they are to confess their inadequacy when on their knees. At my recent meeting with Liverpool North Deanery I was asked if I personally had any difficulty praying. Yes! But even though we struggle in our prayers with wandering minds and dozing off, deep down we know it’s the only way of drawing closer to God. That’s why we keep trying.
It was in the middle of the discussion on prayer that it came to me to make it the theme of the services that I will be taking in each deanery during Lent 2000. (I hope that you will soon have the date for your Deanery and that you will be with me on that evening as part of your Lent in the Millennium year.)
Luke wrote two books in the Bible The Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Do read them together and pause and reflect every time you see Jesus and the first Christians praying. The cause, the content and the consequences of their prayers are an inspiration to pray. Without robbing you of the adventure, you will find that prayer is to mission, what you’ll never walk alone is to supporting Liverpool Football Club.
It is through prayer that we start to see things through God’s eyes and to love the world with his compassion. Mind you, we often rush into prayer wanting God just to rubber stamp the decisions we’ve already made about the situations and people we want him to change!
I remember once coming to God with a long shopping list. I was working my way through it very heavily when I sensed God saying to me: shut up! In my prayers I had taken God’s place by viewing myself at the centre of everything. I felt God tell me to move out and away from the centre and instead let him stand there. As I did so, I imagined Jesus standing at the centre of all my problems, and the way I prayed began to change. Instead of frantic pleading, there came a quiet trust, like calm after a storm.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom wrote that to pray in the name of Jesus means to ask for those things that Jesus would pray for if he were in your shoes. As Jesus himself said: If you abide in me and I in you then ask whatever you will and it will be done for you. The New Testament gives us a picture of Jesus at this moment interceding for us with God the Father. When we pray the Spirit helps us to hear and to enter into the prayers of our Saviour. I pray that through his prayers for us we will become a more prayerful people in the millennium year.
On Thursday 10th February at 8.30pm (following a very brief PCC meeting) there is to be an open meeting to continue our discussions regarding Mission and Outreach. If you have any thoughts or concerns about how our church should be growing, involving more people in its life and getting involved in community issues, then please come along and have your say. There will be a presentation by the Ministry Team and we will try to look in particular at the current system of house groups and the future redevelopment of the Church Hall. Please book the date in your diary now and make every effort to come along.
Broadcaster Robert Robinson has received an angry letter of
from a Radio 4 listener who heard him say on Brain of Britain that
first name was Reginald. Eventually we worked out what happened,
told the Daily Express. I had asked the question: What was
NAMING AND CIRCUMCISION OF JESUS
12 noon HIGH MASS followed by Champagne in the Vicarage
W 5 The Eve
7.30 pm Festival Eucharist at Christ Church, Waterloo
Th 6 THE EPIPHANY
7.30 am Holy Eucharist (said)
8 pm HIGH MASS followed by Epiphany Party: 1, Belvidere Park
Su 9 THE BAPTISM
8 am Holy Eucharist
10.30 am HIGH MASS and renewal of Baptismal promises
Th 13 St. Hilary of
Teacher of the Faith, 367
7.30 pm Holy Eucharist
M 17 St.
of Egypt, Hermit, 356
10.30 am Eucharist
Agnes, Child-Martyr at Rome, 304
9.30 am Holy Eucharist (no 6.30pm)
7.30 pm at St. Agnes, Ullet Road:
SOLEMN MASS followed by Parish Party
M 24 St. Francis
Sales, Bishop of Geneva, Teacher of the Faith, 1662
10.30 am Holy Eucharist
Tu 25 THE
OF ST. PAUL
9.30 am Holy Eucharist
7.30 pm at St. Paul’s, Croxteth:
SOLEMN MASS followed by Parish Party
Preacher: Fr. Paul Plumpton (St. James, Oldham)
Thomas Aquinas, Priest, Philosopher 1274
6.30 pm Holy Eucharist
It is often said that there are two kinds of choir: the kind that suffers from lack of tenors and the kind that suffers from tenors. However, this greatly oversimplifies the tenor phenomenon.
Any singing teacher will tell you that the tenor voice is very difficult to train. Indeed, some say that tenors are born, not made. Indeed, a newborn baby’s cry uses the same relaxed, open-throat cavity sought after by generations of tenors. (Just as long as the quest for relaxed emission of air does not involve the budding tenor in allowing his other orifices to resume their newborn reflexes and emissions!)
Italy, and of course Wales, are famous for providing the world with a larger than average quota of tenors. Why? Some would say Italian sunshine, others would recommend the bracing Welsh mountain air many would cite an emotional national temperament and keeping your vowels open. (Incidentally, the first Welsh tenors were not the result of miners accidentally tapping into underground pockets of helium gas and suffering a temporary change of vocal register!)
Tenors are (allegedly) temperamental and passionate. One operatic prima donna found them too much even for her sturdy ego and in retaliation called her Autobiography Men, Women and Tenors. In Opera, tenors are always the hero, never the villain. Some cynics may suggest that this is because most tenors cannot act, but that is probably just sour grapes on the part of basses and baritones, who face a lifetime of playing assorted baddies and getting killed off by the end of the second act.
Many famous operatic tenors have gained reputations for being mercenary. Indeed tenors are always in demand. Can it be coincidence that tenor is the only vocal range that sounds like a sum of money? (Come on, when did you ever hear anyone ask you to lend us a baritone?)
However, with this adulation and status, tenors traditionally attract the envy of other singers. Accusations of vanity and preciousness often result in the tenor being the helpless butt of cruel jokes:
How many tenors does it take to change a light bulb?
a) Three one to go up the ladder and do it, and two to stand
around below saying I could do that if I had the high notes. or
b) None. That’s his agent’s job, surely.
The tenor is also prey to even ruder and more personal remarks concerning voices breaking, elastic bands, operations and unsuitably constricting trousers.
But rest assured of one thing. There is no such thing as an average tenor. Certainly in St Faith’s choir our tenors are as good as you will see anywhere. Why not come along and join them? We are always glad of reinforcements. Though we have a strong section in musical terms, we are not so numerically. The Three Tenors are an unique institution in that it is rare to find three tenors in the same place and even more so to find three tenors who can agree on what to sing and can work together without resorting to physical violence. Come and join the Glamour Boys of the choral world liturgical music’s equivalent of the SAS or the Brazilian national football team.
Let us leave the final word to a tenor. The story that follows was first told me by a distinguished tenor who served with St Faith’s Choir a number of years ago. I refer of course to that much missed wit, artist and true gentleman, John Stone. It seems tha ...
..... Down in the mining village in the Welsh Valleys, Dewi Jones had a dream. As he told his mates down the mine.
I dreamt I died, see, and went to Heaven. Up there it was just one huge, great male voice choir. There was forty thousand basses and forty thousand baritones, and just as many second tenors. Only one top tenor there was: just me, see. Oh, and the conductor was the Lord God Almighty Himself. Well, He lifts His baton, see, and counts us in and we sing all three verses of Cwm Rhondda with a three-fold Amen. Then the Almighty puts down His stick and he says:
Oh, that was proper lovely, lads, just one thing though can we have just a touch less top tenor there, please, Dewi boy? .....
John Stone’s splendid tenor voice lives on in the recording
in 1992 and now reissued on CD as What Sweeter Music (þ6
The Myth of the
The Revd Dr Tom Wright
Whatever else we say, let us be clear about one thing. The year 2000 in general, and the transition from 31 December 1999 to 1 January 2000, has nothing special about it. We may briefly review the reasons,
1 The scheme we now follow, invented in the sixth century AD, got it wrong by four years or thereabout. In any case, it envisaged 25 March, not 1 January, as New Year’s Day. 1 January 2000 is a man-made date that just happens to look impressive within our culture.
2 For the writers of the New Testament, the really significant moment to do with Jesus was not his birth, but his death and resurrection. This took place in the Spring of AD 30 or thereabouts. Its 2000th anniversary would be roughly 2030.
3 Nothing in the Bible suggests that the period from Jesus’ birth, or his resurrection, to the end of the world (always supposing such an event to be envisaged), would be two thousand years. If the numerical systems of the book of Revelation were to be taken literally, and if the Millennium spoken of in Revelation 20 referred to the time of Jesus’ present heavenly rule before some great cataclysmic event, then presumably that event would have taken place in or around AD 1030, the thousandth anniversary of his resurrection.
4 Millennial speculations have flourished in many times and places without any link to a new century or an actual Millennium. What happens, it seems, is that popular imagination, cherishing millennial speculations for quite other reasons, projects an arbitrary man-made time-sequence on to cosmic reality, attributing mystical significance to a great change in the calendar. You might as well suppose that your car suddenly becomes a different sort of thing when its milometer changes from 99,999 to 100,000.
There is, then, no reason to suppose that the year 2000 will see any kind of great change. Speculative millennial language comes from the bible, but nothing there gives the year 2000, or its first day in our calendar, any particular significance. If, of course, God can do whatever God wants, there is no reason why God should not do something special at that moment. But there is nothing to persuade even the most devout Christian that this is likely.
It is Jesus, not Caesar, who is Lord and Saviour. It is Jesus, not Mammon, who makes the world go round. The challenge before us at the Millennium is to seek, through the work of the gospel, to bring this saving, healing, liberating announcement to bear on the world in every way we can. The message of the Millennium should be that the principalities and powers that still tyrannize this sorry old world are not in fact its rightful lord, and that Jesus is. That, as we saw, is exactly what the dating system of Dionysius the Insignificant was designed to say. That is why we are having a Millennium in the first place. The more we find ways of expressing and embodying this actual life and work, in institutions and families and individual lives, the more we will be forging a way through the current fin de sicle± mood of postmodern pessimism and out into a new and better way of living: a fresh start.
I can imagine some people, maybe even some Christians, saying that this Millennium business is all a mistake, and that we shouldn’t go along with it. I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that they were thereby being disloyal to Jesus. But I would suggest that they were missing out on the best chance we have had for many generations to lead the way spiritually, socially, and culturally, and to do so with the gospel itself. Modernity has run out of steam; the paradoxes of post-modernity are fun to play with, but end up swallowing their own tail, and, like the Cynic philosophy of old, offer no solution to the world’s ills. I believe we have an enormous opportunity, as we approach the new Millennium, for serious and joyful mission to the postmodern world, for the creation of a post-postmodern world in which human beings are honoured and valued, not exploited and oppressed. I believe this because I believe in Jesus, and in the new world which began with his resurrection.
For those who join me in this faith, the calling is clear. To
who do not, I simply ask, Is this not the way we should go? And if
own local and personal efforts may sometimes appear, in global or
terms, small or useless, don’t forget the nickname Dionysius gave
the Insignificant. Sometimes it is precisely the insignificant
a baby conceived in the womb of a Galilean girl; a piece of broken
and a sip of wine; a hand raised in a risky vote for justice and
that turn out to be the most significant things in the world.
My earliest recollection is at the age of about 2 being taken in my pram by my Mum to the local grocer. I clearly remember ration books. For some reason, Mrs Atherton had taken a shine to me and she used to feed me the off-cuts of corned beef from the slicer. We certainly couldn’t have afforded to purchase.
My next memory is of running downstairs in my pyjamas (cotton, with stripes and draw-string) to dress in front of the coal fire. I would have been about four. There was no central heating. The living room was the only one with any heating. We lived with my paternal grandfather: he was a meat porter in the Stanley Abattoir which was situated at the bottom of our road. He would have to be in work at 6 o’clock each morning and before he left the house he would light the fire.
It was quite a task. First you had to rake out and remove the remains of the previous day. Some clinkers were needed to form a bed. Layer two was scrunched up newspapers of just the right consistency too tight and they don’t burn. Next is the lattice-work of wooden chips, not forgetting that they first have to be chopped up. Finally, some ashes and new coal. Now comes the real art, the lighting. Often it was necessary to help with the draught before the chimney warmed up remember the double sheet of newspaper suspended over a shovel?
My grandad was long since divorced. I lived with him for the first 20 years of my life until I left home. We didn’t get on well and I wasn’t in the least bit upset when he died. As a child he never did anything with me no play, reading or outings that I can recall. He would spend his life in his chair next to the fire. He would moan when I walked into the room if there was any delay whatsoever in the door being closed behind me this would cause a draft of cold air to rush into the room and hit the lower extremities of the occupants.
I would have thought that my negative feelings, if not positive dislike, were reciprocated, probably returned with interest because I used to wind him up I created an art form out of coming into the room incredibly slowly!
Last October, Fiona and I signed up for a 20 week creative writing course at Liverpool University. In week two we were given a handout, a poem by Robert Hayden.
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labour in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I`d wake and here the cold splintering, breaking,
When the rooms were warm, he’d call
and slowly I would rise and dress,
facing the chronic angers of that hour.
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
On Monday 11th October at about 8.10 pm the realisation came to me like a kick in the guts, that my grandad loved me. Loved us all. Getting up early to light the fire was his way of expressing his feelings. That poem could have been written about us. It is a poem of regret. I understand that the father was dead at the time it was composed.
Two thoughts spring to mind; say what you need to say while you
and, always try to seek out and discover the good in what is done.
Young people’s trip to the Pantomime
CINDERELLA in the Crosby Civic Hall
Saturday, 8th January 2000 matinee performance.
There is to be a trip to the pantomime for all Sunday School
and young people of St. Faith’s and St. Mary’s. If you wish to
please sign the list at the back of Church.
12 November Andrew Gittoes
The much-vaunted champions of Liverpool’s poor in the Eighties, Archbishop Derek Worlock and Bishop David Sheppard, served to undermine rather than help the city, according to a book out next month.
So begins a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, leaking the contents of The Worlock Archives by Clifford Longley, a veteran commentator on Church affairs. His book is a highly critical account of the work of the two senior clerics, claiming that they encouraged a victim mentality in the city, and it has already been criticised by two priests whose names will be familiar to St Faith’s people. Fr Austin Smith, who has preached to us here, said the book wrongly represents their efforts. They were the advocates of the poor who understood that decisions for the powerless were made by the powerful. They succeeded in reaching the highest levels of government and making the voice of the poor heard. I do not think it is right to wipe them out with such criticism, Fr Austin said.
Monsignor John Furnival, previously Derek Worlock`s secretary, and now parish priest of our neighbouring church of St Peter and St Paul in Crosby, is equally critical of Longley. People are extremely grateful for all the Archbishop did for the inner cities. He and Bishop Sheppard became the spokesmen for the people when the city was in crisis, and the Government and city council were in conflict. To criticise their efforts is to sell them short, he says.
But Mr Longley, given exclusive access to the Archbishop’s diaries and archives, is seeking to debunk what he claims to be the myth of bishops Worlock and Sheppard helping Liverpool’s poor. He accuses them of perpetuating a begging bowl culture and a grievance mentality by stressing that Liverpool’s problems are caused by unfair decisions made by people elsewhere. Their intentions were well-meant, but they failed to challenge a mind-set which saps morale and energy.
He further claims that the motive behind Worlock`s campaigning was to keep the pews full. He had noticed that in some working-class parishes attendance among menfolk had dropped to less than 5% because they were disillusioned with the Catholic Church for failing to speak up against unemployment.
The book will be sure to anger many in Liverpool, and to stir up memories of the attack made on Liverpool as self-pity city by journalist Jonathan Margolis in the wake of the James Bulger tragedy. Its comments about declining numbers echoes the recent publication of statistics of decline in all the main-stream churches. They show that Roman Catholic numbers over the past decade have fallen by 22%, with Anglicans just ahead at 23% and most others as bad or in some cases, worse ...
Wednesday 5th Feast of Title : Eve of the Epiphany of
7.30pm Sung Eucharist at Christ Church, Waterloo followed by refreshments
Preacher: Fr. Gregor Cuff
Friday 21st Feast of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr
7.30pm SOLEMN MASS at St. Agnes, Ullet Road, Toxteth Park followed by Parish Party
Preacher: The Venerable Bernard Holdridge (Archdeacon of Doncaster)
Tuesday 25th THE CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL
7.30pm SOLEMN MASS at St. Paul’s, Croxteth
(with the choir of St. Faith’s) followed by Parish Party
Preacher: Fr. Paul Plumpton (St. James, Oldham)
We are invited to share in these Patronal Celebrations.
The second in a series of articles explaining some of
the ceremonies and traditions of St. Faith’s.
Let my prayer be set forth in your sight as incense (Psalm 141:2)
The use of incense in worship pre-dates Christianity. Incense was part of the worship offered in the Temple and the Christian Church has continued the practice of using incense with its rich symbolism and meaning.
Incense is made from various aromatic gums and resins taken from trees and other plants. When burned it gives off scented smoke. In church it is normally burned in a bowl or thurible. Because it is difficult to burn on its own it is burned with charcoal.
Incense is one of the gifts brought by the wise men to the infant Jesus. When we use it in Christian worship, incense symbolises the rich offering of our prayers and our whole lives to the Lord. As the smoke rises, so we pray that God will hear the prayers which we offer before his Throne of Grace.
We are called to worship God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind (Luke 10:27). Good liturgy is designed to help us to do that, using all the senses and feeding our imagination. Worship is uplifting when we see colourful vestments, beautiful flowers, processions; when we hear stirring music. Incense helps to create an atmosphere of awe, reverence and devotion. We are called to offer God the best we have.
The Church of England used incense until the eighteenth century when it fell into disuse (with the exception of a few places like York Minster where the practice remained), but its use was revived in the late nineteenth century. It is very widely used by many parts of the Anglican Communion and it is also used by a small number of churches of other Reformed traditions.
During a Solemn Eucharist (or High Mass) incense is used at four stages of the liturgy:
· To lead the procession and cense the Altar
beginning of the service
· To honour the reading of the Holy Gospel
· To cense the gifts offered during the offertory and to cense the people
· To cense the consecrated elements at the conclusion of the Eucharistic
At Festal Evensong the Altar and the people are censed during the singing of the Magnificat and when Evensong concludes with the singing of the Te Deum the altar is censed once again.
Because Christians believe that in Baptism the body becomes the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, the coffin is often honoured with incense during the Committal at a funeral. Although incense is not used each Sunday at St. Faith’s, it has for many years been used at High Masses on important Feast-days and to add to the dignity of other special occasions.
Almighty and everlasting God,
you have revealed the incarnation of your Son
by the bright shining of a star,
which led the wise men to offer their gifts of in adoration,
gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Let the star of your justice give light to our hearts,
that we may give as our treasure
all that we possess and all that we are;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
month’s article: Lighting a Candle
A Celebration of
...on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day: Sunday 13th February 2000 at 3.00pm
As part of the Centenary Celebrations there is to be a service to celebrate the gift of marriage, to give thanks for those who have been married in St. Faith’s during the past 100 years (their names will be published) and an opportunity for people to renew their marriage vows. If you know people who have been married in St. Faith’s, please invite them. If you have been married in St. Faith’s, please come along. If you, or someone you know, has been married in some other place but would like to come and join in the celebrations and renew your marriage vows then please do. It would be wonderful to have a packed church for this special occasion which marks the conclusion of National Marriage Week. Please make this service as widely known as possible.
The service will be followed by a glass of wine and a piece of wedding cake in the Church Hall!
God our Father,
you have taught us through your Son
that love is the fulfilling of the law.
Grant to your servants that, loving one another,
they may continue in your love until their lives end;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It is very good to be able to report that, as we close the Gift Day Appeal that began on St Faith’s Day, we have managed to top the magic £8,000 mark. Thus we have made up our likely deficit on the 1999 budget and can begin our Centenary Year on an even footing. Sincere thanks to the many who have given so generously, several through Gift Aid, to make this splendid response possible and also to all those who have pledge to increase their regular giving, and/or to give of their time and talents in other ways. We must now aim to ensure that we do not face such a crisis in future years, and plan with that end in mind. Watch this space! Fr Neil
One of the finest achievements of our Centenary Celebrations has undoubtedly been the fine new window In Remembrance of Past Worshippers now installed in the north aisle. Linda Walton`s fine realisation of Eric Salisbury’s idea has attracted much complimentary comment, and has prompted thoughts of further windows in the not too distant future.
Although previous windows had featured a selection of saints,
our patron, St Faith, the Centenary window broke happily with
by enshrining a general concept, that of a century of worship
walls and has provided a precedent for future ideas. So here are a
of ideas thrown out for discussion, and which might form the basis
for two further windows.
· The Window of the Sea.
This could feature nautical connections with our church and parish,
with the Titanic and, perhaps, vessels and people with associations
from the two world wars and down to the Atlantic Conveyor.
· The Music Window.
This would mark and commemorate the long musical traditions of
St Faith’s, both choral and instrumental.
Comments, ideas and sketches would be most welcome, as, indeed, would offers of support and, not least, funding! Please speak to me if you are interested in any way, and perhaps we could end our Centenary Celebrations with one or two more dedication services!
Gold, frankincense and murder at the Nativity so runs a recent Daily Telegraph headline. It tells the story of a Nativity play featuring armed angels who gun down anyone opposed to spreading the word of Christ’s birth. It is to be staged in a church close to Canterbury Cathedral, and Dr Carey is not best pleased at the gun-toting angels dressed as Bond-style agents in a play already being known as Godfinger. The curate at the church says it makes the story relevant, and says that all the parents are happy. And indeed one angel’s mother, amazingly called Mrs Vile, says: Angels aren’t the tutued and tinselled little cherubs of most nativity plays, but God’s warriors. The vicar, meanwhile, has said that he is unfamiliar with the plot...
Highlights from the meeting of September 23rd
(some of which have subsequently been overtaken by history...)
· We had been given the OK by the faculties people to
sound system, but would probably wait a bit until the financial
situation was more favourable.
· The same was true of plans for getting a replacement photocopier for
· On the other hand we were hoping to install a notice board for the Hall
before too long.
· John Rankin told us that there was likely to be a shortfall of some þ8,500
this year. We needed at least a 10% increase in planned giving, but also
some means of closing the gap.
· Fr Neil would be preaching about Stewardship, and there would be a
Gift Day appeal at this year’s Patronal Festival.
· At High Masses, the sub-deacon’s role would be taken by a Reader,
freeing priests for service at St Mary’s and elsewhere in the Deanery
· Ten new Eucharist Ministers were approved; they would henceforth be
· Caroline Whalley would be representing the Deanery on a visit to our
Link Diocese of Akure, Nigeria, next July, and we discussed possible
ways of raising money for this.
· On 6 October, 2000, Bishop James and Bishop Emmanuel of Akure
would be visiting us for the Patronal Festival and Centenary grand
· We would be launching the new Common Worship Lectionary and
Liturgy from Advent, and producing home-grown service Eucharist
booklets for the various liturgical seasons.
· A recruiting drive for the choir was to happen soon; the choir is, it is
hoped, going to sing in the next year or two at St George’s Chapel,
Windsor, St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
· Plans for the redevelopment of the back of church and, at some stage,
the Church Hall were being thought about.
Epiphany in the early days of the church was much more important than Christmas. In the West the feast is associated above all with the visit of those three mysterious strangers to the Christ child. Who were they? What were they like? The story has both haunted and fired the imagination of people in every age. By the fifth century the three magi had become three kings; by the eighth century they had got names; and by the fourteenth Kaspar had become a Moor. The story has inspired innumerable painters. Christmas cards often show reproductions of some of the many famous paintings depicting the Kings in all their finery kneeling down before the Christ child. In our own time the story has inspired novelists and poets. In this story, perhaps more than any other, we are conscious of the unity of religion and culture in our heritage and of what a rich treasury of painting, music and poetry it is.
In the great Gothic cathedral of Cologne you can see the shrine of the three kings where, as tradition and legend have it, their bones were brought there from Milan in the year 1164 by the then Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa. The great Latin Fathers, St Augustine, St Leo, St Gregory and others, were also fascinated by these three figures; but for a different reason. They were not curious to know who they were, where they came from; nor were they interested in building legends about them. Their concern was to determine what they represented, their symbolic role, the theology underlying the gospel narrative. And in their reflections on St Matthew Chapter 2 verses 1 to 12, they arrived at the same conclusions: the wise men from the east represented the nations of the world; they were the first-fruits of the Gentile nations coming to pay homage to the Lord; they symbolised the vocation of all men to the one Church of Christ.
In this interpretation of Epiphany, the Feast takes on a universal character. it widens our field of vision, opens up new horizons. God no longer manifests himself to a single race, a privileged people, but to the whole world the good news of Salvation is addressed to all men and women. The people of God is now composed of men and women of every tribe and nation and tongue. The human race constitutes a single family, since God’s love embraces all. The vocation of the nations is the theme of St Leo’s homily, in which he says: In the magi let all the nations worship the Author of the Universe and let God be known, not in Judea alone, but throughout the whole world. These wise men from the East represented the first-fruits of the great harvest of humanity. This is an idea which recurs in the patristic sermons for the Epiphany.
Towards the end of his homily St Leo introduces a missionary and evangelistic note. He observes that what the Church is celebrating is not just an event of long-ago, but a saving activity which still continues in the world. Wherever the gospel is preached and people are drawn to belief in Christ, there the mystery of the
Epiphany is realised and this work of leading others to Christ is one in which we all share.
A vision of universality, like a great procession of peoples from all parts of the world converging on the holy city, the Church. And these people come, not empty- handed, but bearing gifts. How are we to understand these gifts? Are they merely material wealth and resources, or do they represent spiritual riches? One would suggest that they are the latter, the invisible assets, and these include the inherited wisdom, the culture, and the religious traditions of each nation. All these must be drawn into the treasury of the Church, if she is to become fully catholic. Not everything can be assimilated. Some elements may need to be purified or even rejected, but the Church recognises that whatever values of truth and goodness are found among these peoples, they are signs of God’s hidden presence among them. As the Vatican Council declares: Whatever good is found to be sown in the hearts and minds of men, or in the rites and cultures peculiar to various peoples, it is not lost.
At this point we return to the three Kings, for we seem to meet them in Psalm 72: The Kings of Tarshish and of the Isles shall bring tribute: the Kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. All Kings shall fall down before him; and all nations do him service.
It may well have been this particular psalm which gave rise to the tradition, already found in the writings of Tertullian, that the Magi were Kings. Later the gifts themselves were given a mystical interpretation. They signified divine mysteries. The gold acknowledged Christ’s regal power, incense his high priesthood, and myrrh his passion and burial.
The next element in the story is the star which guided the Wise Men to Bethlehem. It’s probably right to pass over in silence explanations concerning the nature of the star especially as most New Testament scholars don’t regard Matthew’s infancy narrative so much historical as theological that is, as an attempt, on the part of Matthew, to draw out the full significance of the birth of the Christ Child by means of the language of Biblical mythology, poetry, legend and religious symbolism. Some would, however, identify the star with a remarkable conjunction of planets Saturn and Jupiter, recorded in 7 or 6 BC even with Haley’s comet. Such concern over details only leads to a neglect of the real point of the story. The star is indeed an indispensable element in St Matthew’s account, but Christian tradition interprets it not just as a natural phenomenon but as a symbol of faith.
An Epiphany prayer, attributed to Pope St Gregory the Great, links together three ideas the vocation of the nations, the star as a symbol of faith, and the reward of faith, which is the face-to-face vision of God: The prayer goes:
day, Lord God, by a guiding star you revealed your
only-begotten Son to all the peoples of the world. Lead us
from the faith by which we know you now to the vision of
your glory, face to face.
This prayer represents our own life as a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage of faith. We are the magi. Faith is our guiding star. Belthlehem is our goal. Faith is a light by which we recognise the reality we call God. It is a star drawing us to Christ. It is a gift from God, an illumination, not something we possess of ourselves.
St John records Christ as saying No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me. The light of revealed truth cannot be attained by human reason alone. It is God who reveals; it is He who has, as St Paul reminds us, Shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ. Through faith we really know God, even if that knowledge is obscure, as through a glass in a dark fashion. It is a knowledge which unites us to God and, even here on earth, brings with it the guarantee and the substance of things hoped for. We journey by faith, not by sight. We are like the pilot flying his plane by night. He sees nothing outside his cabin. Relying on his instruments,, he knows that he is on the right course. Faith too sets us on our course, shows us the way forward. At times we may lose our direction. The star, which appeared so bright, may grow dim and even disappear. That doesn’t mean we are lost. This obscurity is temporary and serves as a testing of our faith.
The light of faith is something which can and ought to be shared. We need the witness of others and we in turn need to bear witness to the light. The witness of a good life, of a faith that is lived, is far more telling than any amount of words. This is the message of the lighted candles at Easter and at Candlemass, and of the star at Epiphany. The light we have received must be communicated with our fellow-men. In the words of St Leo:
Whoever in the
lives in piety; whoever is heavenly-minded, not
earthly minded, resembles this heavenly light; and while he preserves in
himself the splendour of a holy life, like the star he reveals to many the
way to the Lord.
But faith is not sight. It doesn’t quench desire but inflames it. Man’s ultimate happiness lies in the supernatural vision of God. We long to see Him as He really is, to be led to the vision of His glory. This is the final goal, the ultimate reward, when the light of faith becomes the light of glory. This is something we dare hope for, since we have been promised what eye has not seen, nor ear heard. In Epiphanytide the Church asks for this greatest of gifts for all her children. Meanwhile we must be content with the light that we have, the light of faith which will, in the words of the Second Letter of Peter, go on shining like a lamp in a dark room until the day breaks and the day-star rises in our hearts.
The Power of Prayer
Two recent newspaper articles on the same theme.
· Prayer makes you happy
A prayer a day is the reason many Christians are happier than non-Christians, a study has found.
People who pray every day are less likely to suffer from
and anxiety and have higher self-esteem than those who rarely
to a study of 500 students by researchers at Sheffield Hallam
and the University of Ulster.
· Patients reap the power of prayer
Prayer groups up and down the country will be gratified to hear of the latest scientifically-proven evidence for the efficacy of their intervention.
A group of Christians, with the help of the hospital chaplain at St Luke’s Hospital in Kansas, was given the first names of all patients admitted to the coronary care unit whose medical records carried an even number.
These were included in their prayers for four weeks, after which their progress was compared with that of patients who had drawn the short straw by having medical records bearing an odd number.
The even numbers did significantly better, being discharged sooner and having fewer complications.
Together with the recent observation that regular churchgoers
marked increase in life expectancy over non-believers, it is
to look as if the practical benefits of divine intervention may
Advent Sunday saw St. Faith’s moving in the direction of Common Worship 2000±, the liturgy which replaces the ASB. Given that we were moving to the new Calendar and Lectionary in Advent, and given that the ASB is only authorised for use until the end of this year, the PCC decided that, with the Bishop’s permission, we would make both changes at the same time. One of the features of the new Calendar is that Epiphanytide is kept until the Feast of the Presentation on February 2nd, as a season giving prominence to the mission of the Church, the true making manifest of Christ. These forty days from Christmas to Candlemass constitute a period parallel to the fifty days from Easter to Pentecost. During Epiphanytide the liturgical colour is white and the crib remains in place until Candlemass. It means that Candlemass is a pivotal festival: a final opportunity to look into the crib before beginning the journey of Lent, where we look to the cross. In making the whole season from Christmas to Candlemass a reflection on the incarnation and its revealing, the Church of England has simply returned to the old Sarum rite which did the same.
Those who came to the morning session looking at the new
realised that although there are some new Eucharistic Prayers,
the liturgy remains the same. When the ASB was published in 1980
expected it to last ten years. Twenty years later we wonder how we
ever face life without it! The new Eucharistic Prayers give us a
of material encompassing traditional (based on the BCP), familiar
on ASB prayers 1,2 3) and contemporary (new prayers
one influenced by orthodox tradition and one written with all-age
in mind). In order to try and be more user-friendly we
produced some home-grown service books for the different seasons
year. We hope that these will be easy to use and I record my
to Chris Price for all his hard work in producing these. Because
are now eight Eucharistic Prayers, the texts for them are not
our service books (that would not make the books user-friendly!):
people are encouraged as they pray to listen to the words that are
rather than focussing on the words which are written on paper.
people do like to see texts and so. beginning this month, we will
the texts of the different Eucharistic Prayers to give people a
to look more closely at the words they hear. Below is the one used
Eucharistic Prayer E
The Lord be with you.
and also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
Father, it is right and good to give you thanks and praise through Jesus Christ, our living Lord. From you comes life and all that is good is your gift to us. Through your powerful Word you made all things and your arms of love sustain the universe.
You made us to walk with you, to love you and each other, but then we turned away and chose the path of sin. Reaching out with a father’s love you sent your Son to call us back to you.
He preached good news to the poor, proclaimed release to the captives and gave the blind their sight; then stretching wide his arms upon the cross he died, the perfect sacrifice for sin.
But neither death nor grave could hold your Son, and, rising to new life, he opened wide the gate of heaven to all who follow him.
Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you and saying:
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
We praise and bless you, loving Father through Jesus Christ, our Lord; and as we obey his command, send your Holy Spirit on us and on these gifts that broken bread and wine out-poured may be for us the body + and blood of your dear Son.
On the night before he died he had supper with his friends, and taking bread, he praised you. He broke the bread, shared it with them and said: Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.
When supper was ended he took a cup of wine. Again he gave you thanks, shared it and said: Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.
So, Father, as we remember all that Jesus did, we plead with confidence his sacrifice made once for all upon the cross. We set before you the bread of life and the cup of salvation. We proclaim his death and resurrection until he comes in glory.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus!
Dying you destroyed our death
Rising you restored our life.
Lord Jesus, come in glory!
Lord of all life, help us to work together for that day when your
and mercy will be seen in all the earth, and your kingdom comes.
favour on your people, gather us in your loving arms and bring us
the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Faith and all the saints to be with
ever at your table in heaven.
Through Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory are yours, O loving Father, for ever and ever. Amen.
On Saturday, 13 November, the ministry team of clergy and readers had a quiet day at Notre Dame Convent, Roby Mill. This is a farmhouse-like building in beautiful grounds, near Skelmersdale. It is an ideal place to spend time reflecting on our two spiritual communities, the parishes of St Mary and St Faith.
The women of the party made more thorough preparation than did the men. In fact, we did a reconnoitre of the diocese on the way there. This was largely because the conversation in the car was so interesting, that Margaret mistook the M57 for the M58! As she knows the area well she was able to tell us such important things as where the archdeacon lives before we arrived only 10 minutes late.
The day began in the sisters` peaceful, little chapel with the morning office. The words never fail to remind me that we have been given a new day, a fresh start. As we had musicians amongst us, we were able to sing hymns, unaccompanied.
Over coffee, we discussed the new arrangements for marriages, baptisms and funerals. These involve the whole ministry team. Fr Mark then spoke of his recent visit to America. Congregations there are larger, often 5000. Attendance at a service is frequently about 800. But how easily do we share our faith with each other? Each of us has direct experience of God. This is as valid as that recorded in the Scriptures. After all, many instances we read about in the bible, concern God acting in the ordinary lives of ordinary people. We all have something to share with the Christian community. Better communication enables us to act more effectively as a community. We all agreed that we needed time to think about this before we could apply it to the ministry of our parishes.
This was followed by a delightful lunch. We all enjoyed it. Remembering Sister Bernadine`s efforts at Chester, I am convinced that next to praying, nuns are taught to cook.
We began the afternoon by sharing with each other those aspects
which we find challenging or even threatening. Not surprisingly,
use of time in busy lives, was mentioned more than once. We all
should pray, read and relax, but it does not always work out that
We walked in the grounds to help the lunch digest and talk of how the day had gone. The day ended with a eucharist using the Iona rite. Celtic Christianity focusses on a God who is present in the natural world and the events of our daily lives. It seemed just right to end with. We all felt the day had been worthwhile and we have plenty to think about. It had also been most enjoyable.
The Sea of Life is endless
She sings an endless song
Whilst her tides, they ebb and flow
They carry us along.
She launches us at sunrise
From a harbour safe and warm
She schools us in the shallows
She warns us against harm.
Our fragile crafts are challenged
Outside the harbour walls
By adolescent currents
And gales of childish wrath.
More seasoned folk have sympathy
They offer us their aid
Our Pride forbids acceptance
So we blunder on, afraid.
Experience, sent to harass
And destroy us with her force
Sulks, as we defy her
To continue on our course.
Curiouser and Curiouser Chris Price
Thanks to the Woodley family, I have been lent a copy of an intriguing little book called Evans Sketches. It is small but densely printed, and its 350-odd pages contain chapter and verse on all the Christian and fringe denominations and sects I have ever heard of, and a good many of which I most certainly haven’t. It lacks a printing date or any explanation of the ubiquitous Mr Evans, but is probably Victorian, and it is a mine of detailed, obscure and distinctly eccentric information. The index ranges from Theophilanthropists, through Necessarians, Supralapsarians, Baxterians, the dubious-sounding Paedobaptists and their near relations the Old General Baptists to the menacing ranks of the Destructionists, the entertaining Dunkers and the followers of Joanna Southcott, to end with the Socialists! There are essays on Roman Catholics and the Church of England, but the chief delights are to be found in the more obscure sects, whose beliefs and practices are solemnly explained and given their biblical bases. In this article and perhaps from time to time over the next Millennium, I will quote from some of the wilder pages of this little tome, hoping in the process that I will not bring down the wrath of any Shaker or Jumper, let alone a Destructionist!
There is actually a chapter on the Millenarians, to which my attention was first drawn. They are those who believe that Christ will reign personally on earth for a thousand years. They cite the prophet Elijah and a succession of later authorities, and the good Mr Evans declares that as their theory is animating and consolatory, and, when divested of cabalistic numbers and allegorical decorations, probable even in the eye of philosophy, it will, no doubt, always retain a number of adherents.
According to tradition, these thousand years of the reign of Christ and his saints, will be the seventh Millenary of the world, and the great day of judgement, in the morning whereof shall be the coming of Christ in flaming fire, and in the evening whereof shall be the General Resurrection of the dead, small and great. In conclusion, Evans quotes a certain Mr Winchester on this event, in which, says Evans, he freely indulges his imagination in this curious subject. He suggests that the large rivers in America are all on the eastern side, that the Jews may then waft themselves the more easily down to the Atlantic, and then across that vast ocean to the Holy Land and that the body of Christ at that time will be luminous, and being suspended in the air over the equator for twenty four hours will be seen with circumstances of peculiar glory, from pole to pole, by all the inhabitants of the world.
As far as I can see, there is nothing to connect the Millenarians with a certain imminent Event, but their curious beliefs add a particular spice to the coming turn of the century. It would be nice think that, as the witching hour approaches, there might be the odd Millenarian keeping watch in the Dome for the floating body of the Saviour, or perhaps scanning the great rivers of America for the odd floating Jew ...
If the present writer is spared, he will quote in the future some titbits about the Brownists, an Anglican offshoot whose founder boasted of having seen the inside of thirty two different prisons, and that well-known 18th century Jumper, Mr William Williams, the Welch poet, who advocated groaning and loud talking in religious assemblies, as well, needless to say, as believing in violent agitations and finally, to Jump until they were quite exhausted, so as often to be obliged to fall down on the floor, or on the field where this kind of worship was held. And here we are today getting agitated about responsorial psalms and the dangerous new developments of the Common Worship Lectionary!
A recent and wonderfully generous donation of þ5,000 has been received by Fr Neil for the work of Medic Malawi. This, to the people of Malawi, is a king’s ransom, and will be used to build a hospital attached to All Saints` Church in Mtunthama. The foundations for this new hospital were laid in early November of this year, before the rains came, and was made possible by another generous donation received earlier this summer.
My most grateful thanks to the person who has made this dream
reality which will benefit so many poverty-stricken people. May