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6th Sunday of Easter 16th May 2020
Yellow Book Page 137
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Prov18:10)
Over the weeks of the lock down (or has it been months?) I’ve found myself looking out for the Spire of OLSS whilst walking through Greenwich, going for my one permitted daily walk or shopping. I’ve felt a surge of happiness when seeing the spire, in between buildings or amongst the trees of the Park. I even saw it popping up behind the naval college as I was surveying the river from Island gardens on the Isle of Dogs. I suppose the feeling of being cut off from the celebration of the mass has given the occasional glimpses of the spire a new significance. Perhaps also fostering a sense of consolation knowing that the church still resolutely continues to stand and that we will return to it again in time. All this led me to muse more generally on the significance of our wonderful spire.
The New world Encyclopedia relates church spires to the more general cross cultural notion of the ‘axis mundi’ or cosmic axis “….a symbol representing the centre of the world where the heaven (sky) connects with the earth.” For Christians of course, this also brings to mind the horizontal and vertical axis of the cross.
Recently in his Sunday reading St. Peter told us that the church is built of ‘living stones’ (1Pt.2:5) which will together form a new temple. One might wonder then why actual temples are necessary?
In John William Golding’s (1) darkly comic novel ‘The Spire’ (1964) Jocelyn, the dean of an English cathedral in medieval times struggles to build an impossibly high spire onto his church. Haunted by visions and beset by an argumentative master builder the project courts disaster. At one point the dean attempting to justify his ‘folly’ refers to the church building as: “…a diagram of prayer and our spire will be a diagram of the highest prayer of all”.
The spire suggests ascent but also connection, it embodies a sacramental vision whereby the earthly points to something beyond itself.
At another point in the book, standing on the half finished spire, Jocelyn notices how all the paths and roads in the surrounding town and country converge on the church. It is an ‘axis mundi’, a center. As the catholic theologian William Cavanaugh wrote “…the whole of the eucharistic body is present in each local assembly” (2). At each eucharist the whole church is present, therefore the spire orientates us to another way of seeing space and time and our place in the world. It is a reminder of our coming to together as living stones in our mundane world of everyday doings and preoccupations. Not only do we sometimes need to be reminded of this but we also need our spirits lifted. The spire is a kind of visual poetry, lift up your eyes and be inspired!
(1) He is also the author of ‘The Lord of the Flies’ (1954)
(2) ‘Theopolitical Imagination’ (2002)
Message from Peter & Pat:
The winner of the 140 Club for May is: ROSELINE who wins the £70. The winning entry was drawn by Peter & Pat on Monday 11th May and witnessed from a safe distance by Tony McManus.
An International Ecumenical Bible Study
If you would like to join this group at 3.pm UK tomorrow I will forward a link at around 2.30. www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_dByvETNKw
Thaddeus is the group host who will send an invitation on Sunday to share in the discussion. Or search YOUTUBE “Reasoned Answers Apologetics”
“Seven times a day do I praise thee
because of thy righteous judgments”. Ps119
While we are obliged to continue in these extraordinary circumstances, our churches must still remain locked and we continue without access to the Sacraments or the opportunity to visit our holy places. A number of people have asked for advice about how to sustain a spiritual life and daily prayer. At St Joseph’s, Sr Mary has been leading a group via WhatsApp where the rosary is offered continually by different people throughout the day for various intentions. The most structured solution is for more people to adopt the “Daily Office”. If you are unfamiliar with the Divine Office or “Breviary”, it is available in different forms. Following much older Jewish customs outlined in the Psalms (e.g. Ps119v164) monastic institutions celebrate the Divine Office in Seven parts. Sometimes they combine two parts or join them to the celebration of Mass. Traditionally these offices are known as Matins (Office of Readings) Lauds (Morning Prayer) Terce, Sext, None (3rd,6th & 9th hour of the day) Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Compline (Night Prayer). Priests & Deacons are obliged to offer these prayers, but usually reduce them to the essential Morning & Evening Prayers with the daily Readings. Many lay people also participate. The full Divine Office as above is published in three volumes for the whole year.
These books are available for about £30 each. A more convenient form of Morning & Evening Prayer only covers the whole year including all the major festivals & feasts and is available in One hand sized volume for circa £22. But a very convenient form that will fit in your pocket is the “ Shorter Morning & Evening Prayer” circa £7. This has the essential psalms and prayers for use throughout the year but without reference to Saints days and the variations in the annual liturgical calendar.
Better still is to download the Universalis App to your phone, tablet or computer. Search universalis.com It requires a one off payment for life (about £20) and will provide everything relevant for each day including the Rites of Mass. You don’t even have to turn the pages; the appropriate prayers are waiting for you each day. Nevertheless, it looks terrible when groups of clergy assemble together to pray in a church or chapel and everyone is looking at their phones!
Meanwhile I am inclined to purchase a bulk order of the £22 Morning & Evening Prayer Book to keep a supply for use at both churches. Let me know if you would like to have one personally and I will see if we can get a deal. It is likely that when the churches are allowed to return, sacramental communion may still be discouraged and likewise congregational singing. If this is the case, we will introduce Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with Morning & Evening Prayer.
Saturday & Sunday Masses continue to be livestreamed to Facebook search “Our Ladye Star of the Sea” and are also visible on YouTube later in the week.
Mass will be offered Privately Each Day for the following intentions
Saturday 16th OLSS 6.00pm The Well Being of All the People
Sunday 17th St J’s 10.00am Mary L
Monday 18th OLSS Int: Sr De Angelis O.P. (W/B)
Tuesday 19th St Js’ Int: Thanksgiving (Anon)
Wed 20th OLSS Int: Timmons Family
Ascension Day (We will endeavour to livestream the Mass again from St Joseph’s at 11.00am)
Thurs 21st St J’s Int: Daphine
Friday 22nd OLSS Int: Faith B (W/B)
Saturday 23rd OLSS 6.00pm Well Being of the People
Sunday 24th St J’s 10.00am Int: Maureen
Nicolette 4th June Honor Oak
Mary Monday 29th June Streatham 2.00
Many thanks to Jan for his inSPIRational article on OLSS and some interesting pictures showing how the spire peeps in in obscure places.
St Dunstan 909-988 (Tuesday). There are too many legends surounding Dunstan’s life to begin to summarise. He one of the “mitred faces” who look down on us (that’s the wrong expression) at OLSS. For 30 years he was Abbot at Glastonbury, in the period immediately before Edward the Confessor and the Norman Conquest. As ever, there was much intrigue surrounding the monarchy including the murder of the young King (Saint) Edmond. (Hence “Edmonton” in N. London and “Bury St Edmonds” in Suffolk, St Edmond also gazes down on the left of the aisle). Dunstan renewed Benedictine Life in England. He had a bumpy ride with the English nobilty seeing periods when he was variously deposed and exiled but eventually he brought stability to English life and the Monarchy. He was recalled to England as Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London and eventually Archbishop of Canterbury. He is credited as being the author of the English Coronation Rite that is still in use today. Any deviation from that form would invalidate a new monarch. This is likely to have enormous repercussions for the British constitution at the next coronation ceremony in a new age of “Multi-Culturalism” (Rowan Williams sidestepped that one). “Long live our noble Queen”. A visit to the ruins of St Dunstans in the East (below) is a nice way to spend a pleasant summer afternoon in London (after seeing the Temple Bar)
Work is underway on the tower at OLSS. The costs are likely to run away but a conservative price, just to ensure that the tower is safe is in the region of £64.000.
Please call me at home if you are in any anxiety or difficulty using the number at the front of this newsletter. If you need to leave a message on the answer phone please say your number very slowly and clearly.
Post expires at 7:39pm on Wednesday June 10th, 2020