Thursday, 7 January 2010

A Wondrous Epiphany.........3: " The first four joys"

Epiphany Eve:

This brought the first two of my Epiphany joys: Father Mark's Vultus Christi post asking us to pray the Eucharistic Novena with him, and the fact that Mark Miles had posted the Epiphany 'treat' on both my blogs. As to the first, I printed it off so that it would be ready for the next day and was particularly taken by the painting of St. Peter Julian Eymard with St. John Vianney. (May I encourage anyone who does not already know it, to visit here, the site of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, which is the order founded by St. Peter Julian.) As to the second I was particularly happy with the way the choice of 'The Three Kings' video worked when viewed alongside the Vatican Christmas tree in the sidebar of the Oasis. At midnight, according to the tradition in this household, the Shepherds were safely put away in their storage box for another year, and replaced by the Magi.

A 'white' Epiphany Morning: The third joy

It was snowing heavily when I got up and judging from the view from the library window had been doing so for some time. Later as I sat at my desk preparing to join the Holy Father's Mass on kto tv, snow, and the soft silence it always produces, filled the world outside the French windows, stretching across the garden and away over the fields and the woodland on the crest of the hill beyond them. Outside the windows, and under the shelter of a garden table, our solitary resident blackbird, pecked at the fragments of food the cats had left on their breakfast plates. The cats themselves had retreated to the warmth of their 'roosts' in one of the outbuildings, and so he pecked in safety.

That profound silence permeated the house too. It was the perfect atmosphere in which to prepare for Mass.

The Holy Father's Mass: The fourth joy

As regular readers know, because of our geographical situation, I do not get to Mass very often. The Holy Father's televised Masses are not just a bonus to me. They are a spiritual lifeline. In the fifteen years that our bishop has held his see, I have never seen him, nor his predecessor for that matter; we do not have a parish priest anymore. In a very real sense, Pope Benedict, thanks to the Internet, has become both my Bishop and my Parish Priest as well as my beloved Holy Father. He teaches and he feeds by precept and example. Daily, I thank God that Pope Benedict is encouraging us to make full and best use of modern communications, and indeed is endeavouring to do so himself. And by so doing, together with him we become the leaven in the loaf which counteracts so much evil that is perpetrated on the Internet.

I cannot possibly go through his Epiphany Mass in detail. That cannot be encompassed here. But I will share a few thoughts. Firstly, it was a vast relief to see that security has obviously been tighttened since Christmas Eve. Not just the wider nave, but many more 'men in black' flanking the papal procession in and out of St. Peter's, and these men were studying the crowd with increased vigilance. It was clear too that the Holy Father was not prepared to be separated from his flock and went several times, both left and right, to shake outstretched hands, bless and kiss babies, all the time wreathed in smiles. One did not need to be told afterwards that security had been improved. One could see it with one's own eyes and so we were able to enter into the Mass at peace and with almost completely conquered anxiety.

Father Tim was at this Mass and has posted about it on his blog. He reports that he sensed an increased reverence in response to the Holy Father's Mass, compared with what it was like the last time he was there. I don't think he says that the earlier occasion was in this pontificate or the previous one, but as someone who first discovered kto tv when the Pope visited France, I can vouch for the fact, even as a mere viewer, that this sense of the sacred has always been there with Benedict. From the very moment he approaches the altar, he draws us in, he takes us with him into the central liturgical mystery and act of our Faith. It is to begin to live in another, a heavenly reality. His total focus is on what he is about to do, and therefore it becomes the total focus of all present. This happens at his every Mass including the Epiphany just past. (I noticed that even the Sistine boys, who were terribly and distractingly fidgety last year, seem to have acquired increased stillness and concentration.)

It's my habit to jot down any particular spiritual reactions that occur whilst I am enwrapped in these Masses. This year at the Epiphany Gospel I wrote: "Every time you visit the Blessed Sacrament, fall on your knees, and do Him homage as the kings did, and then open to Him whatever treasures you have in your heart."

Then the homily: This of course can be found on many sites, but here I would like to state my humble appreciation of our Holy Fathe's preaching and catechesis. The story is always the same, but 'ever and anew' he finds a fresh, challenging and invigorating way to express it, to really bring it alive for us. However long Pope Benedict remains with us I will always treasure one of his characteristic gestures when preaching and teaching us. He will gesture with his right hand as if holding a many faceted jewel. This he does whilst turning one of those innumerable facets to the light.

Then the Canon: Here, if we follow our Holy Father, we enter the realm of contemplation and that is all I dare say about it tonight.

There are only two things that hurt in the reaction of other people at the Holy Father's Masses, but they do not in anyway diminish my joy in being 'present' at them, nor indeed at this one. Therefore, I will save them until a later date.

I must rest now but will return as soon as possible with the remainder of my Epiphany joys this year.

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