I’ve been surrounded by death recently…

January 14, 2017 1 comment

And it’s never easy. The last time I was at the hospital, I looked down the back of my hours book, and rediscovered that the bishops had inserted some poetry alongside the hymns. There’s some great verse there, and I’ll get back to it later. But, under the hymns for the Night Prayer, I found this old Faber classic and it fitted in perfectly.  The words are below the video, and there are more than I thought there were.


Sweet Saviour, bless us ere we go;
Thy Word into our minds instill,
And make our lukewarm hearts to glow
With lowly love and fervent will.
Through life’s long day and death’s dark night,
O gentle Jesus, be our Light.

The day is done, its hours have run,
And Thou hast taken count of all,
The scanty triumphs grace hath won,
The broken vow, the frequent fall.
Through life’s long day and death’s dark night,
O gentle Jesus, be our Light.

Grant us, dear Lord, from evil ways
True absolution and release:
And bless us, more than in past days,
With purity and inward peace.
Through life’s long day and death’s dark night,
O gentle Jesus, be our Light.

Do more than pardon; give us joy,
Sweet fear, and sober liberty,
And simple hearts without alloy
That only long to be like Thee.
Through life’s long day and death’s dark night,
O gentle Jesus, be our Light.

Labour is sweet, for Thou hast toiled,
And care is light, for Thou hast cared;
Let not our works with self be soiled,
Nor in un-simple ways ensnared.
Through life’s long day and death’s dark night,
O gentle Jesus, be our Light.

For all we love, the poor, the sad,
The sinful, unto Thee we call;
O let Thy mercy make us glad:
Thou art our Jesus, and our All.
Through life’s long day and death’s dark night,
O gentle Jesus, be our Light.

Sweet Saviour, bless us; night is come;
Through night and darkness near us be;
Good angels watch about our home,
And we are one day nearer Thee.
Through life’s long day and death’s dark night,
O gentle Jesus, be our Light.

text source

Say it with a picture: Happy feast day of the Lady

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment


image source

For long centuries, the first day of January was honoured as the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, eight days after his birth. Such is the designation in the calendar of the Orthodox churches of the East, and in the Roman calendar until 1960, when this was ended by the Holy Father John XXIII. Some of the Anglican communities still have this use, as do several Lutheran ones. Now, we honour our Blessed Lady on this day, focusing ever more on her sacred motherhood. We lose a little Hebrew heritage with the feast of the Circumcision, but we can always use another Marian holiday. This is going to be a fantastic year. Our very best to you and your families and friends for the New Year.

They tell me that priests need to drive

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

…so I’ve been taking lessons again, wondering if I’ll ever get licenced at all. What has happened is that I’ve discovered an old interest that first led me into engineering school, many years ago. I suppose it’s a good thing that one who may have to spend very much time in a car, actually understands the thing. However it is, here is a petrol-head’s eulogy to the 1954-1955 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint. Readers may expect to be bored now with the occasional engineering post.

Dear Readers, a happy Christmas to you all…

December 23, 2016 Leave a comment
(c) Hull Museums Unaccessioned Paintings; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Hull Museums Unaccessioned Paintings; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

image source

I can say it best with a picture. Nobody expected that the Creator of the Stars of Night would visit his creation as a little child, much less that he would live a human life and suffer with the rest of us. Could God catch a cold? Well, why not? We may say that the reason mankind is redeemed in Christ is because God was humble enough to walk among us as a man, long before he suffered his Passion and Death.

And we’re almost there… O Emmanuel!

December 23, 2016 Leave a comment


O Emmanuel, Rex et légifer noster, exspectátio Géntium, et Salvátor eárum: veni ad salvándum nos, Dómine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, King and Law-giver, Expectation of the Gentiles and their Saviour: come to save us, O Lord, our God.

This is sung twice tonight at Evening Prayer, as we move from Advent into Christmas Eve. The English translations for the Latin in these posts are always my own. There is a sung English version in the video above that is slightly different. Notice that the Christ, named Emmanuel (as in the Gospels), is hailed as King and Law-giver. That brings us back to what I’d said in a previous post about the Law of Christ being presented as a rabbinical gloss on the Law of Moses in the synagogue of the Christians. All of these Advent antiphons are the Church singing in the language of the Jews of Christ’s time. Using their terminology. We are, after all, one of their number in spirit, the children of Abraham.

O Adonái

December 19, 2016 Leave a comment

The Hebrews of old and the Jews even of today refuse to even try to speak the Name of God, revealed to Moses centuries ago. Christians today, and even many Catholics, are not as shy. The Hebrews replaced the Holy Name in their texts with ‘the LORD,’ just as Catholics did until very recently when, following scholarly fearlessness with all things holy, we started putting all sorts of letters between the four Hebrew letters YHWH and doing what was unthinkable to our fathers. The antiphon from yesterday’s Evening Prayer reminds us that we Catholics are still very Hebrew in our thought. Certainly we are Hebrew in our respect for the Holy One, in our sacrificial liturgy, in our prayer (which often comes out of the Old Testament), particularly in Advent, as we look towards Christmas.

O Adonái, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in ígne flámmae rúbi apparuísti, et éi in Sina légem dedísti: veni ad rediméndum nos in bráchio exténto.

O LORD and head of the house of Israel, who didst appear to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, at didst give to him the Law on Sinai: come to redeem us with extended arm.

It is appropriate to talk still of a Law, even as Catholics. The Hebrews did have the Law of Moses, but we have the Law of Christ, which is often a gloss on the Law of Moses. There is a reason that we retain the Hebrew Bible as an ‘Old Testament’ in our own books. The Gospel does not make sense unless placed against the tradition of the Hebrews and the Jews of old. Now, as always, we stand in the tradition of the patriarchs and the prophets, the kingdom of Israel, the exiles returning from Babylon and the synagogues of the centuries before and of the time of Christ.

“O Wisdom, that cometh from the mouth of the Most High…”

December 17, 2016 Leave a comment


And now we’re just shy of Christmas day. Today, December 17, is when the liturgy changes gear and the Church starts to hum in anticipation of one of the two great Christian festival. The process of the salvation of mankind, which ended so dramatically on the Cross, began with the Incarnation, the en-fleshing of the eternal Word, the eternal Wisdom. That begins with the actual Incarnation, of course, on the 25th of March, the Feast of the Annunciation, when we mark the actual conception of Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. But Christmas marks the day Wisdom appeared in human form. At Evening Prayer on December the 17th, we sing twice to Holy Wisdom the following words as the antiphon to the Magnificat. Our Dominican friends in Oxford sing it for us in the video above.

O Sapiéntia, quæ ex ore Altíssimi prodísti, attíngens a fine usque ad finem fórtiter, suavitérque dispónens ómnia: veni ad docéndum nos viam prudéntiæ. 

O Wisdom, whom came forth from the mouth of the Most High, powerfully comprehending all, and pleasantly ordering all things: come thou to teach us the prudent way.

The Messianic expectation grew in strength in the centuries before Christ, as the strength of the Davidic royal house began increasingly to ebb and then as the northern Israelite tribes all but vanished in the attacks of the Assyrians. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin alone remained, a stronghold in the hills of Judæa. Prophecies foretold the restoration of the fortunes of the nation, with the return of a great King to the household of David. Simultaneously, as the Jewish nation and culture was built around Jerusalem and the synagogue system began to develop, the contemplation of a personified Wisdom and the study of Scripture to attain that Wisdom became part of the life of the people. Naturally, in the Christian synagogues in the earliest years of the Church, before the destruction of the Temple, the divine Word of God become man was identified with the Wisdom of God. At this next Sunday’s Mass, we shall hear that Christ was born into the tribe of Judah, the tribe of which David was a son also. Christ took his human form from Mary his mother, a daughter of the same tribe of Judah, a daughter of David.