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''The most important thing I've ever done''

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''The most important thing I've ever done''
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. [Mt. 11.28]
This passage is taken from the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday. It is immediately proceeded by what is perhaps the strongest self-assertion of Divinity that is given to us by Matthew's Jesus--'no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him' [Mt. 11.26a]. In this verse Jesus describes both his absolute unity and with the Father and his access to him in a way that would not be out of place in John's Gospel. Indeed, the essence of Jesus' words here are pretty similar to 'I am the way, the truth, and the life--no one comes to the Father except through me' [Jn. 14.6]. 
The So…

Christianising Rome

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Christinanising RomeThe Feast of SS Peter and Paul will fall this coming Monday. It marks day when, according to tradition, both Peter and Paul died for their faith. Peter was crucified upside-down on Vatican Hill--at the time this was the site of Emperor Nero's private sports complex where he would race chariots against carefully picked opponents in order to prove how great a charioteer he wasn't (cf. Tacitus Annales 14). The one visible remnant of Nero's private circus is the obelisk (now crowned with a cross) at the centre of St Peter's Square--it marked the centre of Emperor's chariot track. Peter's relics lie in the basilica that was built atop of Nero's circus, close to where he died. Paul was beheaded outside the walls of the city of Rome on the Laurentian Way. According to legend, his body was then transferred to a burial site owned by a Christian woman located on the road to Ostia. The location is now the of site of the Papal Basilica of St Paul ou…

Spiritual Evolution

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This coming Friday marks the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When we talk about the Sacred Heart we are not, in fact, talking about Jesus' actual anatomical heart. Rather, we are using it as a poetic way of reflecting and focussing on God's boundless and extraordinary love for mankind. The devotion to the God's love is at the very centre of the spirituality of such figures St Bernard of Clairvaux and St Bonaventure. The modern devotion has its origins in pre-Revolutionary France before disseminating across Europe. Indeed, the Feast of Sacred Heart was first celebrated in 1670 in a seminary in Rennes. 
The French-ness of Friday's Feast provides us with a nice segue into the thoughts of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). A Jesuit priest, philosopher, and paleontologist, Teilhard was one of the scientists who worked on the discovery of the Peking Man--the fossils of a subspecies of Homo Erectus found outside modern-day Beijing. He spent his life attempting to reco…

Eucharistic Bird-spotting

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Pelecanidae PelecanusAs some of you may know, one of my hobbies is birding. Sarah and I are members of the Massachusetts Audubon Society and we frequent nature reserves and parks armed with binoculars and a bag-full of bird identification manuals.  
As we approach the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, I thought it opportune to focus on the pelican--a bird that has come to symbolize the Passion of Christ and the Eucharist. There are eight living species in the genus Pelecanus. Clumsy in their appearance, pelicans are large water birds that struggle to fly gracefully. They have an almost disproportionately large bill and throat pouch which enables them to scoop up water containing fish. While most think of them as having an exclusively pescatarian diet, they are omnivorous and opportunistic  Indeed, the captive Great White Pelicans of St James' Park in London are known to swallow city pigeons--an act that has scarred countless tourists for life. 
Throughout the middle ages, the p…

Trinitas in Unitate

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''And the catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence...which faith unless everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.''  After the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, the Athanasian Creed is the third of the Catholic church's official creeds. It is distinguishable from the the other two creeds on account of its explicit Trinitarianism and harsh condemnations for those who disagree with its content. As such, it has been attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria, the c.3rd patristic writer and defender of Trinitarianism although it is more likely to have had a western author owing to the fact it was written in Latin and not Greek. 
Trinitarian orthodoxy is rather hard to understand as it simply does not fit within the realms of comfortable logic--it is a real mystery. This is probably why so many Trinitarian heresies have gained traction over t…

The Spirit moves in mysterious ways

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Laude SpiritualeFifty days after Jesus' Resurrection, the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and Mary in the Upper Room. There was much wind, fire, and speaking in tongues. According to the Book of Acts, the Apostles then proceeded to convert 3000 people. As such, it is often referred to as the birthday of the Church. 
Ever since then, the Church has been guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Throughout her two thousand year history, the Church has, on occasion, required a revitalizing, Pentecostal booster-shot. One example of such a shot is the musical genre of Laude Spirituale--vernacular sacred songs which flourished in Italy from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries. 
Laude first appear in the thirteenth century following the founding of the Mendicant Orders (e.g. the Dominicans and Franciscans). As Franciscan street preaching was often accompanied by the informal singing of sacred songs, it is perhaps no surprise that the first recorded Laude was written by none other than St F…

A Fiery Carriage

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''As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind as if into heaven.'' 2 Kings 2.11
Frequent readers of this blog may have noticed that I rather like talking about 'types'--that is, characters or events in the Old Testament pre-figuring those in the New. As we enter Ascension-tide, it is worth reflecting on the story of the conclusion of Elijah's early life and how it relates to the ascension of Jesus' in the Book of Acts. Parallels are often drawn between these two stories and rightly so--both Elijah and Jesus deliver farewell addresses to their follower(s) before before an skywards ascent. As is often the case with 'types', it is what is different that causes one to think and reflect. There are two that I would like to explore in detail. 

Let us first explore the question of destination. We know that Christ ascended into heaven--a unique occurrence in histor…

You're Invited - SPCS Virtual Day of Giving!

St Paul's Choir School is hosting a virtual Day of Giving on June 5th 2020.
Please see the above video for more information and have a look at the link below:
https://www.boostmyschool.com/orgs/saint-pauls-choir/campaigns/spcsgiving2020

I'll not leave you comfortless...

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The Farewell Discourse For the last week and a half, the Gospel readings at mass have all been taken from John 14-17. This will continue until Ascension Thursday. These four chapters follow on directly from John's Last Supper narrative (with Judas having just left) and contain Jesus' final teachings and 'goodbyes' to the remaining Apostles before his passion and death. As such, these chapters are collectively known as the Farewell Discourse. In it, Jesus offers his peace to the eleven, tells them that he is going away, announces of the coming of the Holy Spirit, reiterates the importance of the New Commandment ('love one another'), presents himself as the 'True Vine', and prepares the disciples to be hated in his name. Following this, Jesus prays the High Priestly Prayer [John 17] which serves as a theological prelude to the Passion narrative that is about to begin. 
Reading the Farewell Discourse during Eastertide serves several purposes. Firstly, it …

I am the way, the truth, and the life...

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No one comes to the Father except through meThe original Coventry Cathedral (a splendid, medieval building) was destroyed in 1940 as a result of a Luftwaffe raid. Rather than rebuilding and restoring it, the Cathedral's Provost, the Rev'd Richard Howard, was adamant that the ruined building should remain as such to act as a permanent reminder of our Christian duty to both forgive and seek forgiveness. Erecting a cross of charred timber beams on the scorched high altar, he inscribed the words: 'Father, Forgive' into the stone.  

Adjacent to the ruined cathedral, a new building was built between 1956 and 1962 to a design by Basil Spence. Provost Howard's intention was that the old cathedral would tell the story of the Crucifixion whilst the new told the story of the Resurrection. 
The vast, new cathedral is furnished accordingly. Jacob Epstein's 25ft high sculpture of St Michael's victory over the devil greets you at the porch. The huge, aisle-less nave is flo…

The Good Ram-bearer

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The Good Ram-bearer
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often known as Good Shepherd Sunday on account of the Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel appointed for the day. In them, we hear Jesus described as the Good Shepherd who looks after and knows each and every one of his sheep, protecting them from robbers and strangers.

The c.4th Great Pastoral Sarcophagus is the original resting place of an unknown (but clearly very wealthy) Roman Christian. In the middle are several tableaux depicting various scenes from an idealized, rural setting: grazing sheep, fighting rams, vine dressing, and ploughing. These scenes are flanked by two large figures. On the right, we see a figure often found on Paleo-Christian sarcophagi--a lady holding up her hands in the orans (praying) position. On the left, there is a man in a kriophoros (ram-bearer) pose--a popular Graeco-Roman statue type which portrays a youth taking a ram to sacrifice.

However, this particular kriophoros is set against a background of grazing sheep a…

Emmaus

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EMMAUS 
'...he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.'
[Luke 24.35b]
In the Gospel of Luke, Christ's first resurrection appearance is a surreal affair. It takes place on the road to Emmaus, a small town approximately seven miles north-west of Jerusalem. Two of Jesus' followers, Simon and Cleopas, are heading back to Galilee. Despite reports that some of their friends had seen the Lord, they are desolate--all their hopes have been dashed. They are joined by a mysterious stranger who accompanies them on the road. The stranger admonishes them for doubting that Jesus the Nazarene was the Messiah and King of Israel. He then proceeds to explain the scriptures to them. On reaching Emmaus, Simon and Cleopas invite the stranger to eat dinner with them. The stranger joins them and then takes, blesses, and breaks the bread. They immediately recognize that the stranger is in fact Jesus, who then promptly vanishes from their sight. 
The Emmaus story is wonderful oppo…