Archive for December, 2017

Having spent 2017 looking at how the Arts impact on our Faith, in 2018 we are going to be celebrating Marriage.


Announcing this the Vicar , Fr Mark said:

Last November HM The Queen marked the 70th Anniversary of Marriage to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. In May the nation will celebrate, as HRH Prince Henry of Wales and Miss Markle declare their marriage vows before God.

On a personal level I shall celebrate my Parents 60th Wedding Anniversary on February 1st, so what better  theme for this year than to thank God for the Sacrament of Marriage.

Details of the year’s programme are yet to be finalised, but the first event will be a morning of Marriage Preparation for the couples getting married in the Priory Church this year. That event will take place on Saturday morning, February 10th, and six days later we will Solemnise our first Wedding of 2018 at the Priory Church.


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DR2UqLJW4AAERIH.jpgDetails of services for the 12 Days of Christmas & Epiphany

December 26th (St Stephen’s Day)

10am Holy Eucharist  Monastic Offices said privately

December 27th (St John the Evangelist)

10am Holy Eucahrist     Monastic Offices said privately

December 28th (Holy Innocents)

8.30am Holy Eucahrist     Monastic Offices said privately

December 29th (Thomas of Canterbury)

8.30am Holy Eucharist     Monastic Offices said privately

December 30th

9am Holy Eucharist       Monastic Offices said privately


Sunday, December 31st – NO SERVICE at St Mary’s,

10.30am Holy Eucharist at Holy Trinity Baker Street.


Monday, New Year’s Day 2018 (Naming of Jesus)

10am Holy Eucharist       Monastic Offices said privately

Tuesday 2nd – Saturday 6th of January Normal Service Pattern, including Monastic Offices


SUNDAY, January 7th – Feast of the Epiphany

8am Holy Eucharist

NO 9.30am All Age Eucahrist

11am Sung Eucharist

6pm Evenosng & Sermon


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Speaking at the Mid Night Mass our Prior & Vicar Canon Mark Soady drew a parallel between the peace in the stable following the bustle of Mary & Joseph’s journey with us being busy in the lead up  to Christmas. 



Fr Mark said,

“Well it is all over all the rushing can stop. The shops are closed.

I guess that is how it was on that first Christmas night. Mary and Joseph made that journey by donkey across country to Bethlehem  and when they got there they rushed from Inn to Inn trying to find some where to stay with hundreds of other families doing exactly the same. Now they where on their own in the quit of the stable.

It was only a stable but at least it was quiet.

So in that moment of quiet Our Lord and Saviour was born. ….then it got busy again Angels singing, shepherds visiting.

I invite you to take the opportunity to meet God in the quit stillness of this service, because it is possible the busyness of Christmas will soon start up again: cooking the dinner and  opening the presents.

Then after Lunch  we ask ‘what do we do now?’ as it goes quiet again

Im not one of those that bemoaned the Feasting and celebrating of Christmas because I see it as a mirror of the heavenly celebration of the birth of Christ, but for it to be a reality it needs to be more than just the feasting the Birth of Christ needs to change us for it to be more than just a “’Is that it?’.”

He concluded with this challenge :

“How will this Christmas bring us nearer to God and more like Christ?”

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Closing our series of Advent Sermons on the Sacraments we hear from the Bishop of Monmouth – The Church in Wales Ministry Bishop.

Luke 1:35-36

 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy;

Bishop Richard said:

It’s good to talk about Ordination as a Bishop because there are two things in this respect that mark Bishops out from other clergy.

First, they have a third Ordination. And secondly, they have the privilege of ordaining clergy.

Let’s start with the third Ordination. It sounds a bit like a third eye! But it provides an opportunity to talk about what Ordination means from a particular view.

I am sure when you talk to clergy they will speak of their personal vocation. For many it has been a long journey, often with starts and stops. At its best, the journey allows a person to know themselves better and to become more self aware. Generally candidates grow in their spirituality. Also they become more vulnerable as God begins to dig deeper into their life. But this is not just a personal journey: they are discerned by the Church and indeed the Church though the Bishop makes the final decision.

For the most part Ordination is very personal because it relates to one’s relationship with God. Like all of us as Christians, it is should be viewed as an expression of our discipleship. The vast majority of people are not ordained but are called by God to exercise their ministry in a different context.

Indeed the the word discipleship can be misleading. Our relationship with God is not primarily based on our usefulness to mission. Our relationship is one of love. I remind ordinands that our main journey in life is not to be priests but is actually to find union with God. That goes for all us.. it’s a good litmus test in all that we do and say. Are our actions, thoughts and prayers bringing us closer to God as we move into the life of the Divine? It’s the outcome of Christmas, the outcome of the incarnation.

So our journey is marked by our Baptism and Confirmation and our movement towards God is nourished and sustained by the Eucharist. So why Ordination?   Could not you serve God as a Christian leader without being ordained? Indeed, but Ordination is more than being Licensed. God is conferring himself through the Holy Spirit upon a person so that they can share in the ministry of Christ. It’s how God works. Mary, in a unique way is a model of God’s empowerment. God comes upon Mary – overshadows her – and she receives him in the person of Jesus. It’s the radical process of the incarnation. God shares in us and we share in him, in God’s work and the more we acknowledge that, the more successful we will be in his mission.

Becoming a Bishop signalled to me that Ordination involves a job to be done. It’s a very strong personal relationship but it’s for a purpose. God’s engagement with his creation. Has my relationship with God changed much since becoming Bishop?- a little – but the work of ministry definitely has. I now appreciate more the ordination gifts of discernment, teaching and unifying. It’s what been channeled through me for my work in this Diocese.   It reminds me that no one has the right to be ordained! The Bishop‘s discernment, along with others, is to see the will of God in action. God is a mystical God but also a practical God. No one should be ordained if they do not have something to work on. We are workers for Christ. It was said of St Mark he was useful for the Lord.

So Ordination remains a gift. Does it confer authority? Yes but again this is a shared authority, shared not only in a faith community but also with the wider Church. There is no such condition as being an independent Christian – we are all in the body of Christ.

The authority of Ordination is a spiritual authority. It’s exercise comes in the context of working with others and seeking a common mind for the common good. An ordained priest exercises spiritual leadership, as is evidenced in presiding at the Eucharist. It’s also clear that leadership will only carry weight if it is born out of an authentic relationship with God. Clergy who wander away from God becomes less effective and also fundamentally become unhappy and disaffected. So Ordination carries a cost. But doesn’t anything involved with God? The closer you get to God, there is more joy and peace, but also more sacrifice. Ordination should carry a health warning.

Well there’s a glimpse into some aspects of ordination.. there are other theological aspects but generally Ministry is relational and open. Like God. As Advent comes to an abrupt end we remember how God promises and then delivers. Any priest in their vocation celebrates their personal journey from Advent expectation to the fruit of Christmas. May God bless our clergy and make them worthy of their calling.










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Christmas message 2017

Canon Mark Soady, Area Dean of Abergavenny’s Christmas Message 

I am writing this message to you all in the season we in the church call Advent. For us it is a time of preparation for Christmas.



Many of you  will have an Advent Candle at home which you light each day of December until you get to the big day. In Church we light an Advent Candle each Sunday: 4 Candles= 4 Sundays, each representing a different theme of waiting for the Christ, the Messiah. Each one of these candles also helps us to remember people in the Bible who God used as messengers to prophecy the coming of Jesus.

We, Christians, are called to be messengers of God in our day. We do that, not just by using words but by our actions – our good works. That is why in the Anglican Churches in Abergavenny each Advent we send out shoe boxes of gifts to those who   are in need in countries abroad, and at home we put together presents for young people just coming out of care. Other Christians in the the area will do their ‘good works’ in different ways.

The amazing thing about Christmas is that non Christians also give at this time of year. All British Charities dealing with issues of depravation record a spike in giving at Christmas. The little babe at Bethlehem some how awakens in us our innate generous love. I pray it will not stop at the end of the 12 days of Christmas.

We have a long  history of welcome here in this town and County.  It is said that when the prisoners of war marched from the railway station at Abergavenny to their Camp in the Mardy non of them were abused,  and  in the present day the County has a programe of welcome for refugees. Long may it continue!

Blessed Christmas to you all!



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In the Third of our series of Sermons on the sacraments this Advent , we should have heard today from Bishop Roger Jupp, Superior-General of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, as he was unwell his words were read by Fr Tom,


Writing about the Holy Eucharist or the Mass he said:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16)
Cardinal Basil Hume visited Ethiopia during the famine that country suffered in the 1980s. He told the story of his visit, particularly the encounter he had with a little boy when he was taken by helicopter to a settlement up in the hills where the people were waiting for food which was unlikely to arrive. As he got out of the helicopter a small boy, aged about ten, came up to him and took his hand. During the whole time the cardinal was at the village the little boy would not let go of his hand. And as they went around he made two gestures: with one hand he pointed to his mouth, with the other he pressed the cardinal’s hand to his cheek.

Later, Cardinal Hume said, “Here was an orphan boy who was lost and starving. Yet by two simple gestures he indicated our two fundamental needs or hungers. With one gesture he showed me his hunger for food, and with the other his hunger for love.” Often we hear those words from scripture, “Man does not live on bread alone”, words which Jesus himself quoted during his temptations in the desert. No, although bread is fundamental to life, as human beings we need not only our stomachs filled, but our hearts too.

“Give thanks in all circumstances” is what St Paul tells us in Scripture today, as he did those early Christians to whom he was writing. At the Eucharist – which itself is the Greek word for thanksgiving, we are enabled to give thanks for what we take for granted, for the food which sustains and nurtures us Sunday by Sunday, or day by day if we wish, for the bread which has come down from heaven and which is the very life of Jesus sacrificed on the cross for us.

One of those verses from the Bible we know so well is that found in St John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son”. The gift of Jesus as God’s Son is the gift of love. God, because he is love is creative, going out of himself in order to express his love. But creation somehow went wrong and mankind became too wrapped-up in himself that he forgot God and forgot God’s ways. Time and time again, as we see in the unfolding OT story, man refused God’s friendship and forgot those covenants which God continually renewed with mankind through Abraham and Moses, although God himself was utterly faithful in remembering the promises he had made to his people, giving them freedom from servitude, a home in which to live and food in plenty. The loving Creator did not abandon his unloving creation. And so, wrote St John, “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” God, the creative, life-giving Word of truth and beauty, took human flesh in order fully and completely to reveal to mankind the one who is Father and Sustainer and Life in its fullness. In Jesus “God became what we are so that we might become what he is” wrote St Athanasius, that great champion of the faith.

But not only did the Lord humble himself to share in our humanity by taking flesh, he humbled himself in death by offering that body, asking us to share in it each time we join in his great thanksgiving which is the meaning of the Eucharist as I have already said. And this is the living bread come down from heaven of which Jesus spoke. But it is no ordinary bread: it is a bread which is constantly renewed by God himself, a loving gift because Jesus is God’s loving gift. We need ordinary bread. This is our first and basic necessity. But we need more than that. Bread nourishes only part of us, the physical part. But we have another side, a spiritual side – we have hearts which long for love and warmth, for relationship and intimacy. Our hearts cry out for nourishment. That little child in Cardinal Hume’s story knew that: he didn’t just ask for food to fill his belly, he asked for love and warmth, for God’s embrace when he was at his lowest and perhaps not too far away from death itself. He asked not to be forgotten, not to be abandoned. He asked for bread and he asked for bread given with love.

“Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The Lord always provides! That is good news for us! I am thinking of his provision in terms of feeding us with Holy Scripture and, of course, in feeding us with the Bread of Life. He gives us, his children, what is good for our growth and nourishment – food for our journey: the Bread of heaven, the bread of angels. And this is the very reason for the existence of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament (the CBS) – thanksgiving for the Lord’s generous provision, and sharing that good news with others so that they value and esteem it too! The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament was founded in London in 1862 for clergy, religious and lay communicants, being members of or in communion with the Church of England. At a time of persecution and upheaval in the Church its original objects were to promote “The Honour due to the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood,” and “mutual and special intercession at the time of and in union with” the offering of the Eucharist. It still has its place in the life of Anglicanism in this and many places were traditional believes and practices remain under threat.

In the Eucharist we are nourished with the food of God’s word, that word found in the Scriptures, and in the Gospel, a word which is broken and shared with us as we learn of the things of God, a word which comforts, guides, inspires and challenges us. And then in Holy Communion we are nourished with the bread which is broken, Jesus himself who was broken – for us and for all people – on the cross. Here as we feed on him who is the Bread of Life, and we experience the abiding presence of Christ with us. He promised that he would come and abide with us – indeed, he promised he would make his home with us.

So every time we celebrate the Eucharist we are in fact celebrating the mystery of our creation, who we are and why we are here. And we are also celebrating the mystery of the Incarnation, who Jesus is and why he is here – why God became man, why “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” In the mystery of the Eucharist, God in Jesus takes on the form of bread and wine, so that we who participate in them could become more God-like, coming back to how things were meant to be for us in the beginning – for Jesus is, in fact, man as God first intended him to be. Indeed -and you may not be aware of it – but this is expressed at the Offertory: as the priest prepares the wine, he adds a drop of water into the chalice and he silently prays: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

As we participate in the Eucharist, may we so worthily partake of the body and blood of Christ, that we may come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity. Because of what God has done for us in Christ, giving himself on the cross, may we become what he is because he became what we are, lifting humanity beyond this world, and bringing us into the nearer presence of God, which angels and archangels long to see.

The rest of the series;

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In the second of our Advent series on the Sacraments, Fr Tom looked at the Christian Initiation Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation this morning.


Preaching at the Priory Church at 11am he said:

In the sermon at his enthronement the new Archbishop of Wales declared that young people today would “high-five the prophet Job, and queue for selfies with Jesus”. The modern craze for selfies, may leave you cold, but there is an element whereby it speaks of the strong desire in our culture for a proof of belonging. What is a selfie if not a desire to prove one’s involvement or connection to something? It may be a group, a place, or a person. A shared identity. The Tenovus choir who performed here on Friday took a choir selfie: an expression of their belonging one with another, united by their struggle against cancer.

We may be a church made up of very diverse people. Perhaps we may feel we share very little in common, but one thing which we do all have in common as Christians is our identity in Christ in our baptism. Baptism speaks to us of beginning, believing and belonging. St John Paul II once surprised an interviewer when they asked what was the most important day in his life. He replied, not the day he became Pope, or his consecration as a bishop, but the day of his baptism: the day he became a Christian.

We may not remember our baptism, yet that day is the day we became associated with Jesus. Our selfie which says ‘i begin my life with Christ’ ‘I believe in Jesus Christ’ ‘I belong to Jesus Christ’.

Firstly ‘beginning’. Our gospel today starts ‘the beginning of the Good news of Jesus Christ’ according to Mark and within the first paragraph we encounter two kinds of baptism: The baptism of John for repentance and the forgiveness of sins, and the promise of the coming baptism of Jesus who will initiate us into his body, his belonging, with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The Christian Church inhabits a world of sacraments and symbols through which it seeks to embody and live out Christ’s saving mission on earth.

In his writings on the sacraments the bishop and monk Dom Hervé Courau reminds the reader that in the text of the Gloria in excelsis from the Mass Christians acclaim ‘Tu solus sanctus – God alone is holy. We, on the other hand’ he says, ‘can only be “made holy”.

Christians are called to journey towards holiness against the backdrop of a fallen creation, sharing in God’s holiness and in doing so to sanctify fallen creation through sharing in the redemptive grace of God expressed once and for all on the cross. This call to holiness is expressed in the first letter of Peter, when he writes:

‘Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”’

The word ‘holy’ in this context comes from the Greek ‘αγιος’ meaning ‘devoted to [God]’. Looking at the root of the word in English ‘holiness’ contains the connotation of ‘wholeness’ or ‘completion’, implying that the completion or redemption of the created order is that it be sanctified through being brought into relationship with God. As human beings, we are incomplete without God. And how does God choose to bring about that completion, but through his Son, and his Son’s body on earth, as we sing in the hymn ‘Love divine’: ‘finish then thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be, let us see thy great salvation lovingly restored in thee.’

1 Peter goes on to reveal that this deliberate process of sanctification will be administered by a ‘chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people’ to the end that ‘you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’ The means by which God redeems creation for all times and peoples is through the atonement of Calvary, yet as a perpetuation of this saving action he chooses to use the medium of a priestly people, Christ’s Body the Church, to sanctify the fallen creation.

In the final verses of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus commissions the beginnings of this priestly people in the sending out of his disciples:

‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…’


From this quotation it is possible to ascertain that the Church is in itself a medium for God’s saving work as a sacramental extension of Christ’s incarnation, and it is charged with the continuing sanctification (making holy) of creation as a part of salvation through the sacraments. Inviting them to that new beginning.


The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church addresses the place of belief in the sacraments by stating:

‘Sacraments are not magic. A Sacrament is effective of itself, however, to be fruitful it must be accepted in faith. Sacraments not only presuppose faith, they also strengthen it and give expression to it.’

This can seem to be something of a conflicting statement. How can a Sacrament be both effective of itself but at the same time dependent upon the acceptance of faith? It is in essence like the gift of a seed which contains all that is necessary to grow a fruit tree. The fruit, like the inward invisible grace of the sacrament, is not in evidence as a seed. Indeed, the seed may look decidedly simple and unpromising, dead even. However, in order to benefit from the inner grace, it is necessary to nurture that seed in order that the expression of the implicit inner grace may become explicit, and display the benefits of its fruit. So, it is that the seed of the sacraments exist within the context of the faith community in the fertile field of the Church. In Matthew 19 Jesus himself explores the gift of faith using the imagery of seed through the parable of the sower.

Therefore, believing cannot truly flourish without the third point: Belonging. The Christian Community is the propagator or greenhouse. The environment in which the seed of faith must be nurtured, grow and lead to blossoming and fruitfulness. That’s one of the reasons parents and godparents have such an important role in the baptism and nurturing of a child. They are the fertiliser you pack around that tiny seed to give it everything it needs to spring up.

However Christian initiation extends beyond baptism. Christian initiation is about what we experience every time we repent. Every time we turn back to Christ, every time we seek to die to ourselves and become alive to God, as we did at the beginning of this Eucharist. Human beings who have fallen from grace are able access that grace of continual conversion to God’s will, made possible to us in the sacraments. We move away from the infertile desert of our sins, and back to the fertile nursery of Christ’s body.


He preached in the snow

In his book ‘A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist’ Abbot Anscar Vonier comments on this relationship between sacramental grace and faith:

“The power of the sacraments could never be dissociated from the power of faith…A sacrament is always an external sign witnessing to that more recondite quality of the soul, the faith that justifies man by bringing him into contact with Christ.”

Whilst all human beings fall into sin both before and after Christian initiation God has ensured that the means of regaining that grace is available to all in the source and summit of Christian life: The Eucharist, and the Eucharistic body of Christ through which we become members in our baptism. So, therefore Beginning, believing and belonging are not a series of events which come one after another, but are bound together: three actions interdependent upon one another and bound up in the character of baptism.

When people take a selfie which says something about who they are, they don’t just keep it to themselves. They fill the internet with them! Social media is all about telling people ‘this is who i chose to be’ ‘this is me with my friends’ ‘this is me with a celebrity’. Where i eat, what i like, my politics. So when was the last time you shared your most important association: Your baptism? Your Jesus selfie?

Not only that but Jesus sends his followers out to make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When was the last time you encouraged someone to queue for their Jesus selfie? It’s not just the job of the clergy.

Although baptism is a sacrament only received once in life, Christians renew their baptismal vows; their beginning, believing, and belonging in a perpetual cycle of grace. In this Eucharist, we have repented of our sins, beginning again with God. We have recognised that God alone is Holy, the one to whom we belong in the words of the Gloria. In a moment, we will renew our belief in the words of the creed, and we will receive Christ, becoming his body, belonging to him, in Holy Communion. In doing so we are living out our baptismal faith, not as something which happened to us a long time ago, but as a perennial gift of God’s grace through the sacraments: An invitation to beginning our relationship with Christ, believing in him, and belonging to him, which we in turn must extend to all people. The right of all people to have their Jesus selfie and to belong to him.


The rest of the series;

  • December 3: Bishop Dominic Walker OGS DL on Healing
  •  December 17: Bishop Roger Jupp (Superior-General of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament) on The Holy Eucharist
  • December 24: Bishop of Monmouth (The Church in Wales Ministry Bishop) on Ordination

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Unfortunately the Vicarage phone line is not working.


During office hours please ring the switchboard on 858787, at other times call Fr Tom on 855889.

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HM The Queen has graciously agreed to the Courtyard between the Tithe Barn and the Priory Centre at St Mary’s Priory being named  “The Prince of Wales’ Courtyard”.

The Prince of Wales has a long association with the site, having been Patron of St Mary’s Priory Development Trust for nearly 18 years. His Royal Highness opened the newly built Priory Centre in 2000 and the re-furbished Tithe Barn in 2008. HRH last visited the Priory in July 2016 for the Dedication of the new Jesse Window.

Welcoming the news, a delighted, Sir Trefor Morris, Chairman of the Development Trust pointed out that,

”The Courtyard has gone through an amazing transformation during the last 18 years from muddy Car Park to tree lined public square which houses the annual Food Festival and other community events.”

                              Left: Courtyard before                      Right: Courtyard now


Canon Mark Soady added:

“We are very pleased indeed that His Royal Highness’ long association with, and interest in St Mary’s Priory is to be acknowledge in this way”.


Permission to use the title ‘Royal’, names and titles of members of the Royal Family, and other protected Royal titles is a mark of Royal favour granted by the Sovereign, acting on the advice of her Ministers.


HRH greeting well wishers in the Courtyard accompanied by Fr Mark  & Lord Rowe-Beddoe (President of St Mary’s Development Trust)

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In the first of a series of Advent Lectures on the Sacraments, Bishop Dominic Walker OGS looks at the  Healing Ministry.

A former Bishop of Monmouth he was  a co-author of the Church of England Report A Time to Heal.


Bishop Dominic preaching at the Priory Church at 11am today said:

When I was visiting a primary school to talk to a confirmation class about Holy Communion, I was asked why Jesus used bread and wine and not potato chips and Coca Cola! I answered of course, that Jesus used the everyday things of his own day, like water, bread, wine and oil and gave them a new meaning so that they became outward signs of his love and presence in the world.

There are three different oils that are used in the Church. There is the Oil of Chrism which is always blessed by a bishop in the cathedral during Holy Week and is used for confirmation and ordination and the solemn profession of nuns as well as to consecrate altars and fonts. It is the oil that has perfume added to it. Then there is the Oil of Catechumens used to anoint those preparing for baptism and confirmation and then there is the oil that is used most frequently, the oil for the anointing of the sick.

The anointing of the sick with oil is increasing in popularity among Anglicans of all traditions as well as within the reformed protestant churches but it is by no means a new practice and is found in the Old Testament, the Hebrew scriptures, and commended in the New Testament and has been practised in the Church from the earliest times. Anointing with oil is a practice that is rich in symbolism and Jesus would have been familiar with its use and significance.


Bishop Dominic (Right) and Fr Jeff (Left)




In the bible, olive oil was used for practical as well as symbolic purposes. It was used for cooking. It was used by the Good Samaritan to soothe the wounds of the injured man. It was used by athletes to make them supple and St Paul compares Christians to athletes who are running with perseverance the race that is set before them. People also anointed their faces, dried by the sun and the wind, to make them look healthy and glad.

And in the Old Testament priests and kings (but not prophets) were anointed as a sign that they were consecrated in the service of God and so Jesus himself is seen as the Messiah or ‘anointed one’ who was anointed by God for his mission – and also by Mary at Bethany for his burial. Then after the ascension, the writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus received the royal anointing to sit at God’s right hand. So anointing reminds us that through baptism we are united to the anointed one and so we too are members of a royal family and children of a king.

In the New Testament, the Apostles ‘anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them’(Mark 6:13) and the Letter of James tells us, ‘Is anyone sick among you? Let them call for the presbyters of the church; and let them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise them up, and if they have committed sins, they shall be forgiven’(James 5:14,15).

Throughout the history of the Church, various practices have been associated with anointing with oil. It has been seen as a sign of the outpouring of the Spirit and so it has been commonly used in the ministry of healing and in baptism, confirmation and ordination. It has also been used in coronations, exorcisms and at marriages.

Some years ago when the Queen was celebrating her Diamond Jubilee she was invited to Lambeth Palace to meet various religious leaders and each religion was asked to bring something of significance to show the Queen. The Christian leaders were assembled in one room and the Queen was shown something called an ampulla – a container for oil and this particular one was made in the shape of an eagle so that the oil poured from its beak. The Queen stood in silence quite visibly moved because she immediately recognised that it was the one that had been used to anoint her at her coronation to make her an anointed monarch.

For a time, anointing with oil was seen as part of the ‘last rites’ and it was called ‘extreme unction’, but today anointing is far more widespread and is seen as a biblical and apostolic response to Jesus’ command to ‘Go, preach the gospel and heal the sick’. Sometimes anointing takes place at a public healing service in church where large numbers of people will go forward for anointing, but more often people are anointed at home or in hospital with just the priest or a few people present.

When you are anointed, the priest will make the sign of the cross on your forehead and sometimes your hands as well. The priest may also lay his or her hands on your head and pray that through the holy anointing God will pour out his healing grace upon you through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When you are anointed you open your heart to God and surrender yourself to his will. A few weeks ago I took part in a healing service in a church in Northamptonshire and afterwards the Vicar contacted me to tell me how people had responded. I reminded them before the anointing of how Jesus had asked one man, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ and to tell him in silence what they wanted of him. Afterwards the vicar told me that many felt strengthened, one experienced an extraordinary healing and one felt she was given the gift of courage to face a difficult situation, so we can never know what might happen when we ask in faith.

If you are sick or about to undergo surgery or begin a course of radio or chemotherapy it helps to be spiritually as well as physically prepared, so please don’t be bashful but ask to be anointed. It is after all what the oil is for and what priests are ordained to do.

The rest of the series;

  • December 10: The Sub Prior on Christain Initiation
  •  December 17: Bishop Roger Jupp (Superior-General of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament) on The Holy Eucharist
  • December 24: Bishop of Monmouth (The Church in Wales Ministry Bishop) on Ordination


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