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Archive for May, 2018

 

Our Preacher at the main mornings service on Holy Trinity Sunday was Canon Beverley Hollins, Area Dean of Greater Northampton, and the mother of Sr Joanna.

 

She said:masacchio trinity.png

Dduw Sanctaidd, bydded yr holl ogoniant i ti, y Tad, y Mab a’r Ysbryd Glân. Amen.

(Holy God, all glory be given to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.)

I’d like to begin by thanking you, and especially Fr Mark and Fr Tom, for inviting me to speak to you today, and for making my husband and me so welcome whenever we are in Abergavenny. You’ve made Joanna feel very much at home here, and in doing that you have blessed not just her but all of her family. Today I bring greetings to you from the deanery of Greater Northampton, where my assistant rural deans are kindly looking after my churches so that I can be with you.

When I pray, I often find it helpful to use short prayers. The kind of prayers that can be repeated many times as you try to settle down, concentrate on God and drive away the distractions that are all around us. The prayer I began with is the sort of thing I mean. My favourites are the Jesus prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner’, and a prayer given to me by one of the Clewer sisters during a retreat when I was preparing to get married: ‘Lord, may my whole being be directed to your service and praise’.

For the people of Israel, the short prayer that came – and comes – most easily to the lips is this one: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one’. From a young age, Hebrew children learned to recite this prayer frequently. Morning and evening, in the rhythm of travelling and in stilling oneself to pray: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. The words were given by Moses (we find it in Deuteronomy 6.4) in his summary of all of the law. The words to memorise and teach to your children – Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. St Mark tells us that Jesus repeated these words when asked what the most important law was.

In ages when many cultures believed that there were multiple deities, the Jewish, and then the Christian, insistence that there is only one God seemed barmy. Most cultures saw deities as more powerful variants of humanity – more akin to today’s comic superheroes than to the Jewish and Christian idea of God. So that constant reminder to oneself that the Lord is one was vital – a reminder of the real power and grace of the creator God when one was surrounded by idols.

Some outsiders, looking in on Christianity, find today’s festival a confusing one. If we insist that there is only one God, and indeed that it is the first of the commandments that we accept that there is only one God, why does it look as though we have three? We speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Some theologians during the twentieth century developed ideas of what was called ‘the social trinity’, talking about the father, the son and the holy spirit communicating with each other, being in relationship with each other, even somehow dancing with each other – and this emphasis has made it easier to visualise three separate beings and to give the impression that we worship three gods.

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. One God, experienced by human beings in different ways, ways that we describe as three persons. Why do we find ourselves needing to describe God this way? Because God is far too immense for us to understand. No human mind could ever understand the fullness of the living God.

St Augustine tells a story that reminds us how limited our human understanding is. He tells of taking a break from writing one of his great theological works, in which he was attempting to define the trinity – the Threeness of God – and going for a walk along the seashore. There he saw a small boy (who was of course an angel in disguise). The boy had dug a hole in the sand and was fetching bucket loads of water from the ocean and pouring it into the hole. Augustine watched him running to the sea, filling his bucket, running to the hole, pouring it out, over and over again. Eventually he could not resist asking the boy: ‘what are you doing?’ ‘I’m putting the sea into my hole in the sand’, said the boy. ‘Don’t be daft’, said Augustine, ‘you can’t put all that water into that little hole’. ‘Neither can you, with your human mind, put into it all the understanding of God’, replied the boy.

Well, we could give up. We can’t possibly understand God. But God wants us to understand just enough to be able to trust him for the rest. And so God comes to us and shows us what we need to know in order to believe that we are loved, and that because God loves us we are freed from sin, forgiven, and given life for ever with God, if we believe and trust in him.

And as, over the centuries, we’ve listened to each other’s stories of how we’ve experienced God, we have learned to think of God in three distinct ways. Each of those ways describes the same God, but each is quite distinct. By the fourth century, Christians had developed the idea of the Holy Trinity as the way to describe those ways of encountering God.

You have each been given a postcard today. The image on it is a photograph that I took earlier this year while on sabbatical leave and visiting the lovely church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. It is a 13thcentury fresco painted by an artist called Masaccio, and depicting the Trinity in a way that is particular to northern Italy in this period. We see God the Father, the universal creator, crowned to represent the glory that is described whenever the Bible speaks of visions of God in heaven – like the one in our first reading.

Jesus called God Father, and taught us to do the same. Whenever you pray, Jesus said, say ‘Our father in heaven…’ Here the loving relationship between the father and the son is shown in a very moving way. If you look carefully, you will see that the father’s hands are supporting the weight of the cross. God so loved the world, Jesus told Nicodemus, that he gave his only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have everlasting life. God’s loving support of Jesus in the image is his loving taking of the burden for every one of us. God came amongst us to share the burden of the world and to lift it from us – if we are prepared to let him. Part of the conceit of the painting is that although Jesus is shown here as dying – and in some variants of this painting, he is shown dead, lying in the father’s arms – we all know that Jesus is the one who brings life. He is, he told us, the resurrection and the life. The image captures a moment in the action of God in the world, but it is not the moment we live in. Jesus is risen, he is alive, and his life is the gateway to life with God for every believer.

That giving of life has been happening since the first moment of creation. In the beginning, we see God creating and the spirit of God – the breath of life – hovering over what was being created – and the word of God being spoken and bringing things into being. In the new testament Jesus explained that God is spirit, coming and going as unpredictably and uncontrollably as the wind. We often use the image of a dove to represent God as spirit, because St Luke described the spirit arriving at Jesus’ baptism as being like a dove. If you look closely, you can see that Masaccio has painted the dove between the father and the son’s heads in his fresco. It is as if the spirit of God is moving from father to son in order to give that resurrection life to the son. In this frozen moment the father supports his dying son and sends the spirit that restores him to life. The son in turn sends the same spirit to us, bringing us the same eternal life, and helping us to live well as followers of Jesus while we are in this life.

And so we see in this painting one God, three ways: God the creator, loving us into being and loving us as his children. God the son, by his death and resurrection offering us the grace of salvation. And God the holy spirit, bring us life, guiding us into becoming a church that reflects the image of the one God.

We experience and speak of God in three ways, but the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  So when we remember the command to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our strength, we are commanded to love God who is revealed in the bible as our creator and father – the one who made us and loves us; to love God as he is revealed in scripture as son and saviour, the one by whose grace we are freed from sin; and to love God as she is revealed in scripture as the spirit of wisdom and the bringer of life, the one who draws us together as communities in the fellowship that we call church.

St Paul, always a good and faithful Jew, taught us that there is ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God who is father of all’. And as we seek to love and serve our one God, it was St Paul who also gave us another short prayer, one that enables us to pray to God naming the three ways that we encounter him. In 2 Corinthians 13.13 Paul wrote the prayer that we all know very well, a prayer of blessing for the people he loved in Corinth, praying that the great gifts that God offers us will be theirs – and as we use the prayer, we claim the gifts of God as ours.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion (fellowship) of the HolySpirit be with you all. Amen.

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The final piece of a six year programme is to be completed  Today. The jigsaw that is the Memorial to Dean Jeremy Winston will be complete with the installation of new lighting in the St Jospeh(Lewis) Chapel.

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To mark the completion we have invited the designers of the Jesse Window, Helen Whittaker, and of the Chapel Furniture, Joachim Tanatau to come and unpack for us the thinking that went in to the design of these amazing pieces.

If you would like to join us on June 27th at 7pm please email  Maggie Pratt, the Vicar’s PA on enquiries@stmarys-priory.org. Place are very limited so do book soon.

 

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We have designated this a Year of Celebration of Marriage in honour of the Royal Wedding and the 70th Wedding Anniversary of HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

As part of our Year of Celebration of Marraiage we are holding a Service at 5pm on June 2nd for couples to Renew thier Wedding Vows in church.harry-meghan

Other events this year include:

  • Yesterday Our Sub Prior went in to Llanfoist School, in our Pastoral District, to show the children what a church Wedding is all about.
  • Members of the Congregation will display their Wedding dresses in church over the weekend of the Food Festival in September.

In a separate development it has been announced that those from the Priory Church going to HRH The Prince of Wales 70th Birthday Party  at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday are likely to meet the new Royal Couple as TRH The Duke & Duchess of Sussex will be attending the Party also.

GOD of love,
send your blessing upon Harry and Meghan, and all who are joined in marriage,
that, rejoicing in your will
and continuing under your protection,
they may both live and grow
in your love all their days,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

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Prayer Station 5: And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…

An opportunity to reflect on God’s leading us through life.

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INTRODUCTION:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” Jesus tells the perplexed Nicodemus. Here at the font then is the entrance to the Kingdom: The spring of eternal life in which we are reborn as God’s children. This ancient stone basin dates back to the pre-Norman period. Think of how many have entered the kingdom through being washed in its waters.

‘All you who thirst come to the waters’, prophesies Isaiah. At thios time we are called upon to pray that all those who thirst, who are exhausted by the changes and chances of the kingdom of this world may hear that same call and enter God’s own kingdom being baptised as his children.

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Prayer station 4: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

An invitation to accept God’s forgiveness

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INTRODUCTION: We stand before the Crucifix by sculpture Frank Roper. We read the words ‘Christus Regnans’, ‘Christ reigns’. Perhaps this does not look like the image of a king reigning from his throne. The naked humanity of Christ broken, nailed on a tree. Yet through his brokenness we are healed. In his self sacrifice is our forgiveness. Below the crucifix votive candles burn, lit by those imploring God’s healing and peace for themselves and their loved ones. ‘Surely he has bourn our sins and carried our sorrows…and by his wounds we are healed’

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A week of Royal celebrations begins this morning at Littlefootprints, our Parent and Toddler group, as we hold a Royal wedding Street Party with cakes, games and Union Flags.

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ON Saturday – the day of the Royal Wedding – our Church bells will ring out from 3.45pm- 4.30pm to welcome the newly married couple to a life together and prayers will be offered for them.

On Tuesday, May 23rd Canon Mark Soady will lead a group of five from the Priory to Buckingham Palace to celebrate with HRH The Prince of Wales, as our Royal Patron prepares to turn 70.

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Fr Mark will join representatives of Prince’s other Patronages for an Official Photograph with HRH.

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Prayer Station 3: Give us this day our daily bread

An opportunity to thank God for his provision.

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INTRODUCTION:

We have entered the St Benedict Chapel, the place where Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament (The reserved bread and wine of the Eucharist). The inscription on the altar after local poet Heny Vaughan (1650) reminds us that Christ gives himself for us on the altar, becoming the ‘daily bread’ that sustains his Church. A light burns before the tabernacle, a witness to Christ’s sacramental presence. The Eucharist is the ‘daily bread’ by which Christ who poured himself out for us ‘kindles the flame of sacred love on the mean altar of our hearts.’ The flame before the sacrament may be small but when kindled with faith and prayer it can become the flame of the Holy Spirit, of which Jesus speaks in Luke when he says: ‘”I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!’.

The words of Victorian poet Thomas Southgate:

And yet I want to love Thee, Lord; Oh, light the flame within my heart, And I will love Thee more and more, Until I see Thee as Thou art.

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