Friday, 29 May 2009

Late for Mass

As a Friday devotion I went to Mass at the Cathedral this lunchtime. Unfortunately I was more than a little bit late, arriving some ten minutes into the service, quietly taking a seat in the back pew. (See how Catholic I've become??) Anyway, a few months ago I'd have beat myself up about having been irreverent arriving late, but now I think I have a slightly more mature approach to these things. Yes, I know I should have taken more care to arrive on time, and of course I shall try to prevent it happening again. I was not overly disappointed with myself, however, because I think I'm finally coming to develop a really authentic sense of awe and reverence for the Eucharist. I knew I was late, and I knew that was a bad thing, but I was relieved and very happy to at least have been there in time to be in the presence of Christ himself.

As an interesting little aside, I did notice three women who didn't go up to receive Communion; perhaps one of them was the elusive Madame Evangelista? I wonder...

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Holy Spirit

The Christian Church has always maintained within its theology a balance (or, alternatively, a tension) between the Unity of God's essence and the Trinity of His persons. Christians profess to believe in one God in three persons. The Quicunque vult teaches that

...the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and
Trinity in Unity.

The dogma surrounding the Blessed Trinity, our thrice-holy God, has for millenia now been accepted as fundamental to Christian faith. We are very familiar with the co-equal Father and Son, the Father being the fons divinitas, the Son the incarnate Logos of the Father. Sadly, as is the often the case when a third person is involved with such a dynamic duo, the Holy Spirit often limps in at third place in the personal, popular theology of the average mainstream Christian layman. It is undeniable that traditionally in the Latin West there has often been a deficiency in popular perception of the Spirit in the Christian life.

The Holy Spirit is nonetheless a fundamental of our Faith. At the very beginning of everything it was the Spirit - ruach: breath or wind - of God which "swept over the face of the waters", a verse which, despite presenting an interesting little problem for the concept of creatio ex nihilo, offers a tantalisingly brief first Scriptural glimpse of God's third person.

We learn far more about the Spirit, however, from the Prophet Joel. A relatively minor Prophet, the second chapter of Joel (third in the Hebrew text) contains a wonderful prophecy of the work of the Spirit:

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days,
I will pour out my spirit.

Joel 2:28-29

This is of course most clearly seen on the day of Pentecost, narrated in the Acts, with St. Luke making an explicit reference to God's words to Joel (Acts 2:17-18). The importance, indeed the very centrality, of the Holy Spirit to the Christian life is most clearly spelled out by Christ himself according to St. John:

Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.

John 3:5

As the Church approaches Pentecost I can see how my own appreciation of He "who with the Father and Son is worshipped and glorified" is sorely deficient. I'll be thinking about this for the next few days. If any of you have thoughts, comments, insights or corrections on this subject for me, please comment below.

Some late (but disturbing) news.

The head of a leading Catholic marriage agency has called for the Church to move towards a "sacrament of relationships" according to this Catholic Herald article.

Bede on the Ascension

At the Cathedral on Sunday we sang the following hymn. As this week we have celebrated the feasts of the Ascension and of St. Bede the Venerable, who wrote the words of this hymn, I thought it might be appropriate to share this with you all. It was sung to the tune of "Immortal, invisible".

New praises be given to Christ newly crowned,

who back to his heaven a new way hath found;

God's blessedness sharing before us he goes,

what mansions preparing, what endless repose!

His glory still praising on thrice-holy ground

the apostles stood gazing, his mother around;

with hearts that beat faster, with eyes full of love,

they watched while their Master ascended above.

'No star can disclose him' the bright angels said;

'Eternity knows him, your conquering head;

those high habitations he leaves not again,

till, judging all nations, on earth he shall reign.'

Thus spoke they and straightway, where legions defend

heaven's glittering gateway, their Lord did attend,

and cry, looking thither, 'Your portals let down

for him who rides hither in peace and renown.'

They asked, who keep sentry in that blessed town,

'Who thus claimeth entry, a king of renown?'

'The Lord of all valiance,' that herald replied,

'Who Satan's battalions laid low in their pride.'

Grant, Lord, that out longing may follow thee there,

on earth who are thronging thy temples with prayer;

and unto thee gather, Redeemer, thine own,

where thou with thy Father dost sit on the throne.