Keep the dream alive

Few speeches have stirred hearts as much as Martin Luther King‘s speech in 1963 which includes the moving words “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Much has been done to end racial and other forms of discrimination in society since 1963, and for this we must be grateful. There is more to do.

hqdefaultLouise Da-Cocodia, a committed former member (and former churchwarden) of our congregation, was a great inspiration to us and many others.  Louise was a joyful and gracious lady and also a fearless campaigner against racism, and other forms of discrimination, in our society. In her home Louise had displayed a large portrait of Martin Luther King, and underneath were the words ‘Keep the dream alive’ – an appropriate reminder that we need to be alert and committed to fighting against racism and discrimination to this day.

The United States celebrate Martin Luther King on the third Monday of January, and several churches (but, unfortunately, not the Church of England) commemorate him in their calendars too.

Here are some quotations of Martin Luther King to ponder today, why not choose one which strikes you and keep it in mind?

“No person has the right to rain on your dreams.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”

“We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Statue of Martin Luther King at Westminster Abbey in London

Statue of Martin Luther King at Westminster Abbey in London

Two prayers of Martin Luther King:

O God, we thank you for the fact that you have inspired men and women in all nations and in all cultures. We call you different names: some call you Allah; some call you Elohim; some call you Jehovah; some call you Brahma; some call you the Unmoved Mover. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God. Grant that we will follow you and become so committed to your way and your kingdom that we will be able to establish in our lives and in this world a brother and sisterhood, that we will be able to establish here a kingdom of understanding, where men and women will live together as brothers and sisters and respect the dignity and worth of every human being. In the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.

O God, we thank you for the lives of great saints and prophets in the past, who have revealed to us that we can stand up amid the problems and difficulties and trials of life and not give in. We thank you for our foreparents, who’ve given us something in the midst of the darkness of exploitation and oppression to keep going. Grant that we will go on with the proper faith and the proper determination of will, so that we will be able to make a creative contribution to this world. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray.

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Lennie Campbell RIP

Just before Christmas, on December 15th, we said goodbye to Lennie Campbell (1928 – 2016) who, until illness prevented him was a regular and faithful member of St Chrysostom’s. His son Mike, from New York, organised a fitting farewell service at which Fr Chris spoke. Here is an edited version of Fr Chris’ address:

Where does one start? It is a difficult task to say something about someone who has died without leaving out many facts about their life.

lennie-1The Christian faith is the one which Lennie had embraced, proclaimed, and which he lived out. A faith of joy and love for others. A faith of patience and forbearance.

When I met Lennie over 14 years ago. I met a man who was a diligent and careful server – faithfully carrying the cross in and out for the Sunday Mass which he never failed to attend.

I was impressed that he would always take his robes home with him, to wash and iron his cotta. He put others to shame in his appearance.

That might seem to be a strange reflection – but, such diligence demonstrates a care and affection for his role as crucifer, and indeed of his love of our Lord.

He had his own idiosyncrasies which one grew fond of, and which we have missed.  One was his own way of venerating the altar, which was a mixture of bow, and half genuflection – almost, but not quite, a form of courtesy.

Lennie would come to Church with Louise Da Cacodia.  They were stalwarts of the congregation, and beacons who showed many of us the best way to engage with others, and especially people of colour.

Lenny on his wedding day

Lenny on his wedding day

Lennie was always impeccably dressed.  But there was of course much more to Lennie than his appearance.  We knew only too well of his quiet and deep chuckle.  He would smile and laugh quietly at things.  This was something by which he quietly encouraged others.

He was a man who encouraged others in many other ways – not always by what he did, but by what he did not do.  Not joining in with tittle tattle, or gossiping, or with anger or being difficult about progress.

He was encouraging of people in their faith journeys.

We have heard that he was slow to anger, but he was quick to chortle and smile.

Lennie was a servant of God, and his service served as a beacon of light and hope to others.

Lennie Campbell was a gentleman in every understanding of that word.  A Gentle Man in his dealings with others, a gentle man in his faith, a great and gentle friend to many.

May Lennie Rest in Peace and rise in Glory. Amen

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Another Way

In the final reflection in our series looking at the journey of the wise men we consider their return home.

To begin this reflection first be still, and settle for a few moments to help you focus on the reflection. Hopefully the reflection will bring new light to you. Ask God for the grace to be open to new promptings, new insights. Perhaps repeat slowly a short phrae, or a word, to help you be still.

6-another-way-image-2-giovanni-da-modena-1412Reading: On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. (Matthew 2:11-12)

Reflection: The story of the wise men ends with a change of direction. This is well portrayed in the fifteenth century painting above, which has the wise men returning by boat. The star led the wise men to Jesus, an inner dream leads them to a safe way home. The wise men are warned by God, who is protecting them from evil. Their discovery of Chriist means taking a different route, living differently.

Prayer: Having seen Christ the journey of the wise men changes course. Our faith encourages us to live a Christian lifestyle and follow a Christian spirituality. Pray quietly that your faith, your vision of Christ, may be your guide in what you do and in your spiritual life too.  Pray for God’s blessing on your journey in life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Gifts

As we approach the Feast of the Epiphany we are offering daily reflections on the journey of the wise men. Today we reflect on gifts. 

As we begin the reflection we pause quietly for a few moments before beginning and choose a simple phrase to help us focus and be still. This could perhaps be ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ or ‘I welcome peace’. Repeat the words slowly and gently in the quiet.

4-magi-worship-image

Reading: When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2.10-11)

Reflection: The wise men each had their own particular gift to give. We have our gifts. What is our particular gift to give in our life? The act of the wise men in giving invites us to consider our possibilities for giving and generosity. Rather than think about what we lack, let us focus on the gifts and abilities we have. The wise men ‘opened their treasures’ with kindness and joy they gave what they had.

Prayer: The painting above, like many representations of the Magi giving gifts, includes an elderly wise man, and a younger one, and one of a different culture or race. Our gifts and abilities take many forms. Consider you gifts, your abilities to do good, your ability to encourage and change, no matter how small, and pray for blessing of them. ‘You have given me many gifts, bless me as I use them.’

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Lost in Wonder

Here is the next in our series of six daily reflections on the journey of the wise men. The reflections can be read alone, or in order. They help prepare us for the Feast of the Epiphany.

As we begin today’s reflection pause for a while and be still, ask God grace for the eyes of faith to help you reflect and pray on this Bible passage.

4-tissot-adoration-magi

Reading:  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped,they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. (Matthew 2.9-11a)

Reflection: This is the climax of the journey of the wise men. We notice how as they approach the wise men are ‘overwhelmed with joy.’ They enter into a place of prayer and simplicity. Their journey is met by God’s journey into the world. This is a meeting place, full of wonder. This is a moment for prayer, to kneel and pay homage. The wise men cross a threshold from the world into the humble place and adore. They had the eyes to see God there.

Pray: This scene moves us to a place of quiet and wonder. Think and pray over the words ‘lost in wonder.’ Visualise the scene, enter into the scene with mind, heart and prayer, and be still, gaze at the mystery of God in the baby of Bethlehem.

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20 + C + M + B + 17 Bless your home!

20 + C + M + B + 17 Bless your home! Our homes are places of rest, places of hospitality, places of refreshment and love. At the beginning of each year St Chrysostom’s encourages everyone to pray for God’s blessing on their homes. Why not share this with friends and family.

The glorious Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the coming of the wise men to the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The blessing of homes around the time of this feast, at the beginning of the new year, expresses the blessing of Christ born for us, and loving us wherever we are, and especially blessing our homes.

2017-candles-uEach year the traditional custom is done a little differently at St Chrysostom’s – here we suggest a simple form, and the traditional full form for those who wish for a grand style!

At the end of the Epiphany Mass, this year, small candles to take home are blessed. Everyone is given a prayer card with a prayer of blessing on it. We are encouraged to light the candle at home, pause for a time of peace and quiet and say the prayer on the card. It is then good to display the card in the home as a reminder of God’s blessing and as an act of Christian witness.

Chalk too is blessed at Mass for those who like to follow the tradition of marking the door with chalk.

The chalk is used in this way: Using chalk either above the door, outside, or at the side of the door, outside or inside, the markings

20 + C + M + B + 17 are made, or (20+K+M+B+17).

20 and 17 being the year, the + being the Christian sign, C (K), M, B being the initials of the traditional names of the wise men, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, they can also stand for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, the Latin words meaning, May Christ bless this home.

Or instead make a simple cross mark is made with chalk +

2017-blessing-1-u

The 2017 prayer card for home blessing

 These prayers are used in our parish at a blessing of a home:

God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this home and all who live in it. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our concern for others may reflect your love. We ask this through Christ who dwells among us. Amen.

Loving God, visit this home and bless it. May there be no evil here. Let your holy angels dwell here and keep all who live here in peace. May you bless us, and all whom we love, today and for evermore.    Amen.

We have been delighted to receive news that many people in different places of the world have found our encouragement of this simple custom helpful. The blessed chalk has even travelled: See, for example, here and here. 

You can read earlier posts on Home Blessings: for 2016 here, for 2015 here, and here is an example of a family using it, – and a little boy asking if it protects from vampires!
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Danger on the way

This is the third daily reflection in preparation for the feast of the Epiphany, and intended as an encouragement in faith at the beginning of a new year. We are reflecting together on the journey of the wise men, the magi.

As we begin this time of reflection and prayer we pause for a few moments. Close our eyes and be still. We ask God for the grace to understand our deep desires and God’s call for us. As we read the Bible passage we use our imaginations to enter the scene.

tissot-the-magi-in-the-house-of-herod

Reading:  In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ (Matthew 2.1-8)

Reflection: It would seem for a while the wise men lost track of the star and needed help. Then they saw the star again and were filled with joy. Our journeys have times of clarity, encouragement, joy and times of desolation and worry. Times go well, then there are times of trouble and confusion. We are called to recognise this and be patient, and persevere, not get stuck in troubled times.

Pray: Look at a lit candle, or holy image today. Focus on it and be still for a while. Look at the colours and shapes, and turn to prayer, asking for grace to continue with your journey of following the star.

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