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As well as the National Anniversaries of it being the Centenary of  the ending of hostilities in World War 1, the creation of St John’s Priory for Wales and women getting the vote; it is also our Royal Patron The Prince of Wales 70th Birthday and the 20th Birthday of the Abergavenny Food Festival.

 

 

Our Vicar, Canon Mark Soady, said ” It is right that we mark all these land marks in the life of our nation, town and Priory. We are planning how we may best mark all these events in a suitable way. Details to follow.

The Prince of Wales has  a courtyard named after him in the Priory, after his 18 year association with the site as its Development Trust Patron. The Food Festival has always used the Priory as one of its sites. Fr Mark is a Chaplain to both St John’s and the Royal British Legion, and served in the Royal Army Chaplains Department from 1998 -2012.

Seventy Years ago last November HM The Queen and HRH THe Duke of Edinburgh got married- this year we are Celebrating marriage.

One Hundred years ago last August saw the birth of Archbishop Oscar Romero, in March we host a new play about him.

 

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As we read in Church today St John’s account of the Marriage at Cana in Galilee Canon Mark Soady launched our Year of Celebration of Marriage with his sermon on this Sacrament.

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Fr Mark and the Bishop at the Marriage of Samuel & Katy Patterson (August 2017)

Launching the year Fr Mark heaped praise on those who are able and willing to make the commitment of marriage,” as a single man I look on you with some envy”.

He said:

The Prayer Book tells us that Jesus consecrated marriage by his presence at the Wedding in Cana, but Marriage came late to the  list of the seven Sacraments. St Thomas Aquinas  spoke of it as a Sacrament in the 13th Century and his view was confirmed by the Council of Trent 300 years later. It differs from the other sacraments in that the couple are here the ‘actual ministers of marriage’ claims the Benedictine Theologian Anselm Grun.

Marriage is called by many names :

  • betrothal
  • nuptials
  • wedlock – from the old English ‘pledge’
  • matrimony

The term wedding tends to relate to the actual ceremony and accompanying festivities ie ‘wedding breakfast’, ‘wedding cards’, ‘wedding bells’ ‘wedding cake’.

The English word ‘marriage’ comes from the Old  French to ‘give  a husband’ .

Marriage is surrounded by ’emotions’, in to this ‘love’ marriage brings a structure to help partners live together appropriately. In the words of the Prayer Book, “..ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in he fear and admonition of the Lord and to praise of his holy name”, so although I am not myself married I have experienced married live I have been affected by it, as I was brought up by a married couple.

The Prayer Book also reminds us “…it was ordained for the mutual society, help and comfort that one ought to have for the other”. Very early on in the history of humankind, as we read in the Book of Genesis God created Eve because ‘it was not good that man should be alone”. The Oxford Zoologist Professor JZ Young claims.” We shall never know at what stage of evolution the family emerged”, but it has been there from the very earliest of times.

So does the ancient natural institution of marriage fit into the Christian sacramental system?

Well the prayer book speaks of it ‘ signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church”. No pressure there then!

This is a Sacrament because the couple saying ‘Yes’ to the the vows is  something to do with God. We speak of the Service as ‘Holy Matrimony’ because it is a union placed under God’s blessing. While it secures the couples hope that their union will remain inviolable, the realist knows that sometimes that union does break up, but surely that does not mean that at that moment the vows were said truthfully and honestly under God.

I quote Anselm Grun again, ” a sacrament is something Jesus brought about two thousand years ago, which  is enacted in our present day world, and which flows in to human activities and achievements now. With regard to marriage, it means that the love which Jesus showed us to the point of death and beyond flows into transform the love of man and woman”.

Christian marriage is mirror of God’s love. The love a husband and wife have for each other enables them (and we who observe it) to get a sense of what Chris’s love actually means.

 

 

As part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we will welcome Christians from the town to St Mary’s Priory on Wednesday, January 24th at 12noon

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This year following he theme All will be free each denomination will show how it brings Kingdom freedom  through its outreach activities.

 

Other service in the week are as follows:

  • Thursday 18th: Abergavenny Baptist Church
  • Friday 19th: United Reformed Church
Saturday 20th: The Ecumenical Service would
be held at Llanwenarth Baptist Church, Govilon at 2.30pm.
  • Monday 22nd: Gateway
  • Tuesday 23rd: Methodist Church
  • Wednesday 24th: St. Mary’s Priory Church , (Anglican)
  • Thursday 25th: Salvation Army

 

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

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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.

 

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

 

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. 

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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.

OTHER SERMONS IN THE SERIES: