God among us: The Baptism of Christ

Pietro Perugino: Baptism of the Lord (Sistine Chapel) c. 1482

Through baptism, Jesus surely found a deeper assurance of His Father’s presence and power, giving Him a calm confidence, a vocation to mission and service. Something sorely needed for what was to come.

Words from Paul Pritchard’s sermon at High mass on the Feast of the Baptism of Christ. Paul continued…

I suspect that most of us will not remember our own baptisms because of our tradition of infant baptism but there are certainly those I know amongst us who were baptised as adults and here at St C’s we are blessed with a good number of adults coming for baptism. I asked some of our friends here, baptised as adults, to say in a word or two what it meant for them:-

  • One said it gave a feeling of “calm and peacefulness”
  • Another said it was about “being accepted”.
  • And another it was to be “born again”

All wonderful things, things that chime with 3 thousand-year-old prophesy Isaiah of the promises of God – remember that God “always acts anew”. See these things that have come to pass!

Jesus’ life as we know it really started with this act of baptism, he came in calmness and peace, to be accepted as one of us but through it he was born again!

So we are joined in friendship here for many different reasons, for some it is absolutely 100% full on unwavering faith, whilst for others it is about being accepted in this community, for others it is the calm and peacefulness off the church and for many of us, me included it is all of the above to a greater or lesser extent.

Whether you are a baptised member of the Christian Church or not, you are loved by God, He is the God for all as prophesied by Isaiah and lived out by Christ. This morning we are all being invited to rededicate our faith with water from the font and this invitation is for every one of us, whatever our reasons for being here are – try it, you may just hear and see things anew!

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Compassion easier than Justice …

I am a keen follower of social media and although frustrating, it serves the purpose of keeping me in touch with what people say. There is much discussion about foodbanks, charity, the ‘do-gooders’ who dole out charity to the poor and needy, those who think the vulnerable are feckless and so on.

As Christians we believe we are called to be compassionate and charitable; this makes me uneasy. I was challenged recently at Canon Mark Oakley’s lecture on ‘The Viciousness of Injustice’ – a lecture in memory of Fr Ken Leech. Mark reminded us that Ken considered ‘that Christians always find compassion easier than justice.’

It’s so easy to be compassionate and sympathetic, to put cans in the foodbank collection, to pray for the needy, and give money to charities. All of these things are good and they certainly address initial need. We are called to do more: to stand up, assertively against injustice, voting for those who will level the playing field, being willing to pay more tax in order that the person serving us our latte can afford to live without the fear of poverty. Injustice in all its forms, is cruel and vicious; it creates vulnerability, it robs people of dignity, it robs people of self-confidence and of hopes and dreams.

Compassion alone simply will not cut it. Compassion alone can end up being a sticking plaster. Jesus did not offer tea and sympathy; he brought true healing and sought to alleviate vulnerability. As a Church, I believe that alongside compassion, we seek to challenge injustice and level the playing field, by reducing vulnerability. By being inclusive, we reduce the vulnerability of the marginalised. Our language class, works with trafficked people, reducing their vulnerability by helping them learn English.

Challenging the viciousness of injustice is not comfortable, that is because injustice is expedient, but justice is the right thing to do and costly, but it is what makes us fully human and Christ-like.

Mtr Kate

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Kalendar 2020

Each year we produce a Calendar (or to us the old church spelling ‘Kalendar’) at St Chrysostom’s Church listing the feasts and festivals we will be keeping and other observances.

We feel it is important to have our own local calendar which helps inform and affirm us in the ministry we do and helps reflect the wide variety of people in our congregation.

Naturally we draw on already existing church wide calendars – especially the one of Common Worship. It is important to be selective, there are simply too many listed in many official calendars. At the same time most church calendars of saints are far too weighted towards male saints, and in particular educated celibate male clergy. (For more on this please see this post on our church blog.) We wish to redress the balance and  look for inspiration, for role models, from lay people, women and those in relationships, including those who were parents.

In our wonderfully varied congregation we have those who have been granted asylum, or those seeking asylum, we have those new to Christianity, survivors of trafficking etc. and we have people of many differing languages and cultures. In our worship and liturgy we must honour holy women and men from such backgrounds.

In addition there are certain national or international days which we wish to highlight in our church life. These are not just days focusing on  issues such as refugees, slavery, women’s rights, but also days which encourage inclusion, culture, and tolerance.

An important principle is not to overload, we need the regular rhythm of the liturgy to go through the year, and not be too disrupted. Consequently observances at major seasons such as Lent and Easter are avoided. We also have to question some of that which is ‘given’ in official church lists. We may need to prune. For example, is it helpful to observe separately as feasts the days of all the twelve disciples – could we not focus on simply two or three one year then different ones the next. (The Kalendar changes and adapts year by year).

And so we welcome suggestions for this year – simply give your suggestions (perhaps with a reason and link to more information, if possible) as a comment below. Thank you.

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Honour Christ’s baptism and celebrate the feast

Nestled in the corner of the Anson (side) Chapel in St Chrysostom’s Church we find a stained glass window of the Baptism of Our Lord.

The window, part of the lovely sequence of stained glass windows in church, is between the large window showing the visit of the wise men, and a window showing the Transfiguration of Christ. Each of these three scenes, then, represent Christ shown to us in different forms. Christ, worshipped in the stable at Bethlehem by ‘kings’, Christ among us revealed as God’s son at the River Jordan at his baptism, and Christ’s divine glory shown to Peter, James and John on the mountain of Transfiguration.

Each of these revelations, ‘epiphanies,’ of Christ, encourage us to look for God in everyday places of life, to look for Christ among us. We are encouraged to look ‘on the margins’ – in the stable, at the riverside, on a mountain.

The Baptism of the Lord is a feast for us all to celebrate. Christ is among us encouraging us in our life journey and calling us to be in solidarity with those who proclaim God to the world. The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a feast to rededicate ourselves to God, at the beginning of a New Year. It is a feast encouraging us to be agents of love and light to the world.

This theme is taken up by St Gregory Nazianzen, 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople, who wrote:

Today let us honour Christ’s baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed.

Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of human beings, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all humanity, light shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. You are  to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received – though not in its fullness – a ray of its splendour, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever.

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Praying for a departed family member or friend

When we hear of the news of a family member, friend or acquaintance who has died we are naturally sad. We may wish to pause on hearing the news and think and pray for the person. Later in the day, or sometime after, we may wish to reflect and pray for a longer period.

Here are some traditional forms of prayer which Christians have found helpful at such a time.

Many Christians make the sign of the cross when they hear of a death, or as they begin a prayer for a deceased person. Then a short pause to gather oneself and call to mind the person is appropriate. You may then wish to say in your own words a prayer for the person, thanking God for them and praying for their peace.

The following prayer is based on the Proficiscere a traditional commendation prayer.

May the choirs of angels come to greet you. May they speed you to paradise. May the Lord enfold you in his mercy. May you find eternal life.

This prayer of commendation is part of the Anglican funeral liturgies:

Heavenly Father, into whose hands Jesus Christ commended his spirit at the last hour: into those same hands we now commend your servant N, that death may be for him/her the gate to life and to eternal fellowship with you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Psalm 130, the De Profundis is traditionally recited for the dead:

Out of the depths have I cried to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, Lord, were to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you, so that you shall be feared.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope.

 My soul waits for the Lord, more than the night watch for the morning, more than the night watch for the morning. 

O Israel, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy;

With him is plenteous redemption and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

(As part of the prayer you may find it helpful to listen to this lovely recording of Psalm 130 to music by Walford Davies)

Rest eternal grant to N. O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her/him. May s/he rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.

Lighting a candle in church for a departed family member or friend is a simple sign of prayer and a symbol of Christ’s light shining in darkness. You are welcome to ask for prayer at church and for the person to be named at the monthly requiem mass held at church.

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Nollaig na mBan – a very simple celebration

Women together … The Holy Kinship (Geertgen tot Sint Jans) c. 1495

Learning from Irish women ….

Some of the most stressful events in life are also times of celebration. Holidays, family events, and even Christmas. In some ways it’s hardly surprising. We make extensive preparations, involving others, sometimes costly financially and things can go wrong and not work out as we wish. Often it pays to do things more simply!

It is also good after a busy or stressful period to simply pause and have a simple break.

From rural western Ireland comes the lovely tradition of Nollaig na mBan (pronunciation Null-ug na Mon) at the end of Christmas fesitivities on January 6th. It is sometimes  called Women’s Christmas.

The poet Mary O’Malley from Connemara describes her experience of the tradition: “It was mostly afternoon visiting, because women didn’t stay out late those days. And they didn’t drink either, apart from maybe the odd glass of port. It was mostly tea and cake and talk.”

“Us women would go visiting that afternoon. It was a very simple celebration, just eating a slice of currant loaf in someone’s house and having a cup of tea and a chat, but that was the day you’d do something for yourself and have a rest after all the Christmas work,” (Siobhan Fahy from Ballyferriter on the Dingle peninsula.)

Women of west Cork at a Nollaig na mBan gathering in the 1930s

The women of western Ireland no doubt had hard work to do over Christmas and New Year and welcomed, and deserved, this very simple break. Often it meant simply getting together for a chat, a drink and to finish the Christmas cake.

Times change, and gender roles have become wore flexible. However it is worth reflecting on this lovely simple tradition and considering if we can learn from and adapt the tradition in our circumstances. Here are some thoughts for women and men today – perhaps you have your suggestions too.

  • Don’t forget to say Thank You to anyone who made Christmas or New Year special for you – and you can say it more than once!
  • Remember the women of previous years who have made special Christmases for you
  • Pause in your daily life to enjoy a slice of cake and a drink, and share that time with a family member or friend if you wish.
  • Above all else – keep it very simple!
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20 + C + M + B + 20 Bless our homes!

 

At the beginning of a new year our thoughts and prayers understandably focus on the future. For many it is also a period of holiday and rest when we also think about our families and homes.

Very appropriately, then, the Church invites us to pray for our homes. We are invited to ask for God’s blessing upon them. The prayer can be, and often is, accompanied by an action. We praise God and seek God’s blessing, God’s grace, to be in our homes and on all who live and visit them.

How we bless our homes at this time of the year depends on our circumstances and our own personal wishes. At St Chrysostom’s we have encouraged the blessing of homes for many years. On the Feast of Epiphany we prayed that the Light of all lights may shine in our hearts and lives. Candles were blessed, as a sign of God’s Light, and people were invited to take a candle home, to light them and say a prayer of blessing.

This year at Epiphany this prayer for home blessing (adapted) was offered to worshippers:

Bless the four corners of this home, and be the lintel blest, and bless the hearth, and bless the board, and bless each place of rest, and bless the door that opens wide to friend as to kin, and bless each crystal window pane that lets the starlight in, and bless the roof-tree overhead and every sturdy wall. The peace of all, the peace of God, The Peace of Love on all.

This is the simple form. Fr Ian has also suggested doing this with a cup of tea or glass of wine. (Click here to read his suggestion!)

We were delighted that many took a candle home to pray in this way.

In addition each year chalk is also blessed so that those who wish to do a more traditional form of blessing can do so too. 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 + 20 are made, or (20+K+M+B+20).

20 and 20 being the year, 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 you may instead make a simple cross mark with chalk +

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.

Here is a song to listen to, with music and church people singing, as a house blessing!

You can read more about blessing homes here on the blog: just click here.

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