April- May 2017

Dear Friends,

What a joy it is to see the spring bulbs coming up in the garden and in the tubs and pots outside the Rectory. After the long winter it does give one a sense of new life and the resurrection. April derives its name from the Latin word aperio ,meaning ‘to open'. I read the following in The Art of Mindful Gardening ……………… “I see it (April) as referring to the buds of trees and shrubs gradually opening out to unfurl their leaves, freshly green with the promise of new life. There is an eagerness in the air, and everywhere hope and optimism are bursting out all over the natural world and yet tuning into the quality of stillness. In the garden there is a sense that warmer days are coming, and even when it rains we will fondly welcome these ‘April showers' because we recognise their importance at this time of the year in providing plenty of moisture for our new seedlings and young plants. There is a lot of activity all around, and I have often believed that April is the busiest month for gardeners, especially for those with greenhouses or polytunnels. However, within all this constant flurry of ‘busyness' it is also a good idea to stop and take stock of where we are within the cycle of the year. The contrast between the burgeoning buds, the full-on nature of all the jobs to do, and the quality of stillness is a good practice”.

Easter is a time when we remember the One who ‘burst from the tomb' as the 1982 Liturgy puts it. It is also the time of stillness when we remember that Christ inaugurated the sacrament of the altar and also that there is His quiet, mystical, real presence in the eucharist. Belief in that real presence is at the core of our spirituality. The front cover of the magazine depicts Salvador Dali's ‘The Sacrament of the Last Supper' which is the best artistic depiction of Christ's Real Presence that I can think of. It is a truly fabulous piece of work and I did see it by chance when I was in Washington last year. Dali himself described it as “the first Holy Communion on Earth (which) is conceived as a sacred rite of the greatest happiness for Humanity”. The Catholic theologian Michael Anthony Novak wrote that “Dali's true intention, which he has masterfully accomplished on this canvas, is to remind us of what is occurring in every celebration of this mystery of bread and wine: that the worship here on Earth makes present the realities of worship in Heaven.” What a privilege it is for us to be partakers of that life-giving food and to share in that particular singular grace of the love of God!

Ponder again upon these words of Gerard Manley Hopkins to which,many years ago, Judith Langley brought theattention of Bill Brown and for which hecomposed that fabulous tune which is one of the hymns that is very much our benchmark in this place………

“Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore

Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,

See, Lord, at thy service low lies herea heart

Lost, all lost in wonder at the God Thou art.

 

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived;

How says trusty hearing? That shall be believed;

What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;

Truth itself speaks truly or there's nothing true.

 

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,

Living Bread the life of us for whom he died,

Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,

There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

 

Jesu whom I look at shrouded here below,

I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,

Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light

And be blest for ever with thy glory's sight.”

 

This is the message of Easter, that Christ is risen from the dead, but also He is truly mystically and tangibly present with us in the Mass. That is the central crucible of all our activity. The same Holy Spirit which witnessed the Passion of Our Lord, is the same Holy Spirit that blesses and hallows the bread and wine in the prayer of consecration.

There is a clerical vacancy at St John's at present and soon to be one at St Mary's. We are also still in the throes of an Episcopal Election. It means that Provost Isaac and myself will soon be the only two full-time clergy in the City Centre. That means that with occasional offices e.g. funerals, we will be responsible for a wider pastoral remit. Please remember the Diocese at this particular time and also pray for the witness of our Church to the Gospel in the City Centre.

You will see, on a separate sheet, the list of services for Holy Week. Attendance is important, it is after all what makes us what we are! St John's congregation intend to join us for Maundy Thursday and after the rites are completed here I shall go to St John's and strip the altars there so that they can connect liturgically with the rites of the Triduum.

Yours in anticipation,

Have a Holy and Blessed Holy Week and Easter,

As Aye,

Fr Emsley.