Until we are able to break free of the coronavirus restrictions I plan to continue recording the Mass each week. This weekend I will offer some practical suggestions as to how you as individuals or families might consider enriching the way in which you participate in these celebrations. I hope they prove helpful.
In this first week of Ordinary Time, the readings in the Breviary (the Prayer of the Church) are from the Book of Ecclesiasticus, one of the great Wisdom Books of the Old Testament. The authors of these remarkable testaments were wonderfully observant people, reflecting on the complexity of creation and concluding that the wise person will take note and duly bow down in awe before the creator of it all.
I find the language utterly compelling and a reminder to me that, like them, men and women in every age continue to gaze and wonder. We know a lot more today than those wise men before the coming of Christ, but, like them, we do not know it all and never will. In every age the debate continues and sadly, at times, the Church has found itself in unnecessary conflict with the scientific community. Pope Francis continues to encourage us to dialogue with all men and women of goodwill. That dialogue can sometimes throw up challenging moral dilemmas, as it has done over the production of the different vaccines. Accordingly, aware that some parishioners have become anxious over these matters, I have offered some guidance, drawing on the advice of both the Vatican and our own Archbishop as well as my brother Redemptorists at our College in Rome.
If you have not already seen or heard me on the subject, please see below.
OCTAVE OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
My sincere apologies for failing to draw attention last weekend and even in my Thursday message to the fact that we are in the midst of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. I am indebted to David Delaney for drawing our attention to the material for this year’s Octave, prepared by the Sisters of the Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland. It is never too late to dip into such a rich resource, so I have begun to look at their material and encourage you to do the same. Meanwhile, I can only fall back on the rather lame excuse that the chaos that the pandemic is causing to our body and liturgical clocks has left me somewhat disorientated. You know well enough that I am passionate about the need for ecumenical dialogue and prayer and I will try and make up for this failure by putting some emphasis on this intention during our recorded Mass this weekend. At the same time, I have managed to join the Zoom ecumenical clergy prayer sessions each Wednesday morning over the past few months and continue to find them inspiring and rewarding.
As I review the past ten months, it seems as though we have been living in a dream world. I am sure many of you are having similar experiences: waking up in the morning and wondering whether it really is all happening. At the same time, as I have been trying to convey in the recorded messages and Masses, I remain hopeful and encouraged at the way together we have worked our way through the challenges thus far.
I am hoping the latest development, namely the decision to depend again on that sense of being united by daily prayer at 7.00pm (if possible) and celebrating the Sunday Mass online will sustain us until we can emerge into a new vaccinated world, where the restrictions can be substantially lifted. Certainly, the vaccination process seems to be moving. I know a good number of people in different parts of the country who have already received doses of vaccine and already one member of our Redemptorist community has been called for his injection this coming Monday. Hopefully, all of us in the ‘at risk groups’ will be cared for in the timescale proposed by the Government. Meanwhile, let’s pray for patience and the wisdom to continue to follow all the practical advice that will enable us to avoid adding to any spread of the virus.
NEW YEAR GREETINGS
ONCE AGAIN, FR ANDREW AND REST OF THE REDEMPTORIST COMMUNITY JOIN ME IN WISHING YOU EVERY BLESSING AS WE MOVE INTO 2021
The fact that the Oxford vaccine has now been approved and will be provided as rapidly as possible has to be the best possible news to begin this New Year. Meanwhile, we will need to continue this period of vigilance, continuing our herculean efforts to ensure that we keep one another as safe as possible in the interim. In that context, I would like to thank those of you who have so generously ensured that every church function has been meticulously supervised. This has enabled us to celebrate our Masses, Funerals and Baptisms, confident in the knowledge that we are working in a safe space.
I hope that, in spite of the restrictions, you were able to celebrate Christmas with hope and joy. Certainly, your generosity and goodwill ensured that our Redemptorist Community have had a wonderful Christmas season.
Thank you for all the greetings and presents, as well as all your contributions to the upkeep of the parishes as well as our community and indeed our foreign mission in Zimbabwe. Our priests and brothers in Africa are overwhelmed by the thousands of pounds that have been contributed to ensure that they can continue to support their impoverished people.
1. There is a Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Malcolm to mark the Feast of the Holy Family.
2. There is a letter to both our parishes from Fr Richard Reid, our Provincial.
(These will be available in the church and via the websites)
Click here for the Pastoral letter
Click here for the Provincial's letter
THE CHRISTMAS SEASON
As I prepare these few lines, I am looking forward to recording our Christmas Mass, which I will offer for the intentions of everyone in our two parishes and all those who join us through the wonders of the worldwide web. While it is not the way we would have wished it, there is something compelling about the notion that we are united in the one celebration. The words of the letter to the Ephesians come to mind:
“Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.” (4:3-6)
Despite the constraints of the past months, my perception is that we have remained bonded and united. Indeed, the outpouring of generosity and goodwill leading up to Christmas have confirmed this for me. I thank all of you for what you have contributed to ensure that we do see ourselves as the Body of Christ, and the very fact that you are reading this or that you will be celebrating with us in your homes is itself a testimony that you are part of what St Paul describes as becoming “fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.”
Christmas (Christ’s Mass) is a celebration not just of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, but of the legacy he left us with the promise that he would be with us until the end of time. Therefore, we can reflect on that fact that in a sense there is only one Mass, which is continually made present for us in every age. Accordingly, I hope that our plan to celebrate 27 times between now and the Epiphany will provide all those who wish to participate and receive Holy Communion with an opportunity to do so. It will be wonderful to see many of you again, but please remember that there is absolutely no pressure to do anything that you do not feel comfortable about. Furthermore, as long as we remain with Covid restrictions, I will continue to record a Mass each week, including this weekend for the Feast of the Holy Family.
THE TIMETABLE FOR CHRISTMASTIDE IS CLEARLY LAID OUT BELOW AND WILL BE ON THE DOORS OF BOTH OUR CHURCHES.
Please also note that if you wish, and are able to contribute, there will be collection baskets available as you leave the churches. Please mark any envelopes, clearly indicating whether they are regular parish contributions or the special Christmas/Easter offerings to the Redemptorist Community. And thank you for anything you are able to contribute.
FROM SATURDAY 26 DECEMBER (BOXING DAY)
UNTIL THE 6 JANUARY (EPIPHANY) MASSES
SUNDAY MASSES: Bishop Eton: 9.30am and 6.00pm; St Mary’s 11.00am
MONDAY, WEDNESDAY, FRIDAY: St Mary’s: 11.00am; Bishop Eton: 4.00pm
TUESDAY, THURSDAY, SATURDAY: Bishop Eton: 11.00am; St Mary’s: 4.00pm
There will be three Masses on the Feast of the Epiphany (Wednesday, 6 January: extra Mass at Bishop Eton at 9.30am).
Naturally, our financial teams have been monitoring the situation over the past months and a number of people have asked how and when they can make up some of our lost income during the past nine months. You know that I always approach this cautiously, but during the Christmas season we will have collection baskets available as you leave the churches at the end of the Masses. This may provide some of you with an opportunity to help, but please just do what is possible. It will be helpful if you can mark any envelopes clearly stating whether the donation is for the parish or for the Redemptorist community, remembering that the Christmas and Easter collections are for the priests and brothers. THANK YOU
It is my privilege to thank all of you who have shared your talents and given so much of your time to ensure that, in spite of the strangest of times, we have managed to function and minister in both our parishes and our schools throughout the past year. It would be invidious to try and single out individuals, but I am indebted to our admin teams who have masterminded little armies of you, ensuring that our churches have been able to open safely.
Likewise, it has been humbling to receive so many messages and demonstrations of goodwill: people offering support to the Redemptorist community and the parishes in a variety of ways which have enriched our lives. Furthermore, your generosity has been remarkable: many have reorganised their regular contributions and I have noticed the extremely generous donations to the SVP and to the Redemptorist Mission in Zimbabwe. We thank you on behalf of ourselves and all those who will benefit from your concern.
A CHRISTMAS GREETING FROM FR TIM
I am sure that like you I am approaching this Christmas with a measure of apprehension, wanting to ensure that we have fitting celebrations to mark the Birth of Christ and at the same time wishing to avoid anything which might endanger others and prolong the struggle we are having with the pandemic. I hope that the programme we have settled upon provides a good balance and will enable all of you to participate in the way that best suits you and your families. Firstly, I hope that the recorded Mass for the Feast itself will provide both our parishes with a real sense of unity and belonging. Thereafter it is my fond hope that we will have provided those of you who wish to participate in the Eucharist and receive Holy Communion every opportunity to do so throughout the Christmas Season. However, I reiterate what I have said many times, it is important that you do what is right and best for you in the present circumstances.
May the Lord keep us peaceful and fill us with joy.
Fr Andrew (our Rector) and all the members of the Redemptorist Community join me in wishing you a very happy Christmas and all the of this Holy Season
HELPERS TO SUPERVISE THE MASSES IN BOTH CHURCHES:
I am immensely grateful to all those who have ensured that our churches have been safe places during these past months. You have given a great example of quiet and unobtrusive service. I think we probably have a large enough team to cover this Christmas programme at Bishop Eton, but a few more helpers to boost the team at St Mary’s would be welcome.
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