Saturday, April 28, 2018

Easter IV

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It is already a month since Easter and this weekend we observe the fourth after Easter.
We have two Masses:
11.00 a.m. Sacred Heart, Broughton Hall, Skipton
12.30 a.m. St. Joseph's, Pakington Street, Bradford

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At the time of writing this Alfie Evans is living and breathing after his life saving and sustaining machine was switched off. 
The Pope has expressed a more than passing concern about the life of this child who lives less than ninety miles from here. 
The child's estimated time of life after the turning off of the machine would be a matter of minutes we were told. It is a few days ago since this machine was switched off.
The politics of the situation are important but what is really essential is that we pray for the boy and his suffering parents.

Tony Bland died near here and this still sticks in my mind - as does the pressure my wife in particular was put under to abort our fifth child over fifteen years ago. Our son, Patrick, died within three minutes after his delivery.
His Mass of Angels funeral still stays in our mind which the Vicar General, Mgr Peter McGuire, offered and who blessed a new family grave in utterly atrocious weather conditions.
Prayer sustained us.
Please do remember young Alfie and his parents in your prayers.

Below I am reproducing the first of Fr. Michael Hall's excellent sermons delivered for the Triduum on the Feast of the Lord's Supper . I will produce the Good Friday one next week and the final one - the Vigil one-  for the Feast of the Ascension. These beautifully crafted sermons are potent food for thought and I have benefited from cogitating about their content and illuminating clarity.

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Paschal Triduum 2018
O salutaris Hostia
At the last great supper lying
Circled by his brethren band
Meekly with the law complying,
First he finished its command
Then, immortal food supplying
Gave himself with his own hand.
Those words are from the hymn “Pange Lingua” that we shall sing at the end of this Mass as our Lord in his sacramental form is taken to the altar of repose.
“Our Lord, the host of the last supper,
gives himself in the Eucharistic Host to his disciples.”
Thinking about that sentence made me realize what hard work the word “host” does in the English language.
For us Catholics, the Sacred Host is the sacramental presence of Our Lord in the form of bread.  We call it “Host” because our Lord is the “salutaris hostia” – the Saving Victim opening wide the gates of heaven – hostia being the Latin word for sacrifice or victim.
If we used the word “host” in our everyday speech it would be in the context of organizing a party, or welcoming guests into our homes.  That meaning of “host” coming from the Latin word “hospes” – from which we also get “hospitality” and “hospital”.
But there is another Latin word that feeds into our English word “host” – and that is the word hostis – enemy, from which we get “hostile” and “hostility”.
By the middle ages this Latin word had come to mean not just enemy, but also “army” or “war party”.  It would be quite archaic to use “host” in this sense now, but it has given modern English two more meanings for the word “host”
The first is not so much an army, more a great number.  Think of Wordsworth’s “host of golden daffodils”
The second is a word for Almighty God himself – one that we use at least every Sunday, though in  the Latin of both the old and new rites we actually use the Hebrew equivalent – “Dominus Deus Sabbaoth” – Lord God of Hosts.  We’ll go into this later in the Triduum.
The sense of these three Latin words which give us our host – hospes, hostia and hostis – weave and interweave through our Liturgy.  Tonight, and for the next two days, I want to consider each in turn, and see what illumination they can bring to our celebration of the Paschal Mysteries.
Tonight I invite you to consider briefly Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the hospes – the host at our table.
Each Mass takes us to the foot of the cross – you know that.  But it also takes us into the Upper Room – to the Cena Domini – the Lord’s Supper.  We join the brethren band circling our Lord, and as then, so now, “immortal food supplying, he gives himself with his own hand.”
And it also takes us to the gates of heaven to see the wedding feast of the Lamb, that feast that is our hope and our goal.
Christ our host offers us hospitality – whoever we are, whatever we have done, we are welcome.  Of course we must not presume on that hospitality – Holy Church tells us that to receive the Host that the Host offers us we must be in a state of grace, free from mortal sin.  But even if we may not receive, Christ our Host offers himself at this Mass as hostia – victim – for each one of us.  As I raise the Sacred Host after its consecration, our divine host at table is saying YOUR name, and saying to YOU – “be welcome”
The host provides rooms for guests to stay, and that’s why when biologists were looking for a word to describe an animal or plant that has a parasite living in it, they used the word host.
Not all parasites are harmful – some play an important role in their host’s life cycle.  Think of those TV adverts that tell us about the good bacteria that live in our stomachs, the ones that can be encouraged by our drinking their yoghurt drinks.
In Baptism we are incorporated into the Body of Christ.  At each Mass Our Lord opens his Sacred Heart and invites us to live in him, to draw closer to the Heart and centre of all hearts. We are not parasites – far from it – but Christ is our host and we are members of his Body.
As members we are sometimes strong, and sometimes weak.  It’s perhaps worth reminding ourselves of another word derived from that Latin word hospes – the word hospital.  Where else can we find such balm for our wounds, where else can we find that healing grace, such as we find at the Mass?  Never feel that you have to hide your weakness from the Lord.  As he opens his Heart to you, so do you open your heart to the Wounded Surgeon.  He can be our Healing Host – hospes – because he has also been our Saving Victim – hostia.
If time permitted, we could dig even further.  We could look at “hotel” and “hostel” – also derived from that Latin hospes.
For example, we could consider how, in the Mass, our Host at table sometimes provides us with a simple place to rest our heads as we make our pilgrimage through this barren land.  And how at other times he gives us in the Mass a place of refreshment, relaxation and renewal.
Our Mass tonight moves us from the hospitality of the Upper Room to the loneliness of the garden.  Our Host at Table gives us himself in the Sacred Host, and invites us to watch with him, and pray.
Word-made-flesh, by word he maketh
Bread his very flesh to be;
Man in wine Christ’s Blood partaketh:
And if senses fail to see,
Faith alone the true heart waketh
To behold the mystery.
Fr. Michael Hall,
Delivered at Notre Dame, Leeds, Maundy Thursday,  April 2018. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018