"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Saturday 7 April 2012




After the Russian Revolution had occurred,  the Bolshevik's sent messangers to all parts of the Russian Empire to spread the "Good News" of the peoples' liberation from the Tzar, from their masters and from God.   The Communist messanger arrived at a small village in the Ukraine, and the people were all forced to collect in the village square to hear the historic message.   The old parish priest was with them.   In spite of the cold temperature, the spokesman for the Revolution spoke at great length and entusiasm.   When he had finished, he turned to the old priest with contempt and said, "You have five minutes to reply."
"I do not need five minutes," said the priest and, turning to the people, he cried out, "Christ is risen!" and they replied in unison, "He ios risen indeed!" and the priest turned to the messanger and said, "You have your answer!"
In spite of all the persecution, the victimization, the atheistic education and the propaganda, there were  many matryrs among Orthodox, Greek Catholics and Baptists, and there have always more believing Christians than card-carrying Communists.   Eventually, the Communist state came tumbling down in 1991.   The statue of the founder of the Russian secret police was pulled down and a cross was put in its stead.   Under the cross was written in Church Slavonic, "By this sign you shall conquer."

The Power of the Paschal Liturgy
A Holy Week entry from the 1910 diary of Pieter van der Meer de Walcheren, written while the author was yet an unbeliever, attests to the experiential impact of the Paschal liturgy as epiphany and revelation, and to one person's passage out of isolation into the communion of faith in the Church.

The liturgy is a holy magnificence. I am well aware that it is absurd to speak words of admiration. All too evident is the beauty of this worship that expresses the inexpressible and causes the pure splendor of a flame to burn upright and bright in life’s blackness. Art is so superficial and poor; it appears so empty next to these sublime chants, next to these biblical words chanted, next to these holy texts, next to these prayers of mourning, these poems of extreme joy! I still hear the chant of the end of Lauds: Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis"; to which is added on the third night; "propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum et dedit illi nomen quod est super omne nomen. The music of it, the slow plaintive, desperate music laden with every sorrow and with every mystery! How shall I ever forget the Lamentations of Jeremiah at the first Nocturn of Tenebrae? And the Ecce lignum crucis of Friday . . . ? And the Reproaches, divine reproaches of a crucified God to his people?
On Holy Saturday the new fire is kindled. The priest, advancing slowly towards the altar, sings the thrice-repeated words at equal intervals: Lumen Christi, each time on a higher tone; and the light increases until it becomes an immense interior fire. One senses in one's soul a tangible deliverance. Where can one find a thing more lovely, more sublime than the chant of the Exultet jam angelica turba caelorum, in which, by the words and by the music, the desire of an incommensurable joy lifts itself up and erects a kind of rainbow stretching from earth to heaven? And the Preface that follows, with its sublime cries: O certe necessarium Adae peccatum! . . . O felix culpa! . . . Oh, to be able to believe, to be unshakably certain that this is not an empty spectacle, not a beautiful dream, but signs and symbols which are but the reflection of an inexpressible divine reality. I am shaken in the very depths of my soul. Illusion and appearance could never make me weep like this. I sense that behind all that I see and hear are luminous roads leading towards God.
Such is the power of the liturgy of the Paschal Triduum over the human heart. The chants of the Paschal Triduum do not disclose their theological significance as isolated fragments, separately analyzed and removed from their context. The Mystery is one, and its radiance suffuses the Paschal liturgy in all its parts.

Maundy Thursday

Beginning on the evening of Maundy Thursday, the liturgy sings of the glorious Cross of Christ and of the effects of Christ's priestly sacrifice, mediated by the sacraments of the Church, and translated into lives of sacrificial love and humble service. The chants sing of ancient types and shadows, fulfilled in the Pasch of Christ, preparing the mystery of the Eucharist, and pointing already to the eschatological "marriage supper of the Lamb" (Apoc 19:9).

Good Friday

In the chants of Good Friday, Christ, the immolated Lamb and the Bridegroom of the Church, prays and offers himself to the Father, drawing the Church into his prayer, into his sacrifice and into his glorious exaltation. The chants of the adoratio Crucis reveal the Cross as the locus of Christ's glorification and the throne of mercy towards which the Church addresses bold supplication for her own needs and for those of all people. The Cross is the Tree of Life planted in the midst of the Church, the abiding sign of the Father's mercy, of the Son's crucified love, and of the Holy Spirit's lifegiving action.

The Paschal Vigil

In the celebration of the Paschal Vigil, the cantica, or intervenient chants of the Liturgy of the Word, interact with the readings and orations, evoking a vast array of figures and types that in the Pasch of Christ and the sacraments of the Church find their ultimate theological meaning and fulfillment. Readings, chants and orations function together as a final preparation for the sacramenta paschalia. With the Alleluia and the intonation of Psalm 117 emerges a current of joy that overflows into the Mass of Easter Day.

Holy Pascha

On Easter Day, the Church's liturgy is quiet and contemplative. The risen Christ introduces into his ineffable conversation with the Father all those who, by means of the sacraments, share in his death and Resurrection. The shadowy images of Exodus 12, introduced at the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, are brought into the morning light of Christ's Paschal sacrifice in the Alleluia Pascha nostrum and in the Communion antiphon. The circle is thus completed, demonstrating that the Paschal Mystery is indeed "a single celebration in which the individual parts . . . make the whole visible both in its parts and as a whole.

by Pope Benedict XVI
(His homily last year)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

The liturgical celebration of the Easter Vigil makes use of two eloquent signs. First there is the fire that becomes light. As the procession makes its way through the church, shrouded in the darkness of the night, the light of the Paschal Candle becomes a wave of lights, and it speaks to us of Christ as the true morning star that never sets – the Risen Lord in whom light has conquered darkness. The second sign is water. On the one hand, it recalls the waters of the Red Sea, decline and death, the mystery of the Cross. But now it is presented to us as spring water, a life-giving element amid the dryness. Thus it becomes the image of the sacrament of baptism, through which we become sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 Yet these great signs of creation, light and water, are not the only constituent elements of the liturgy of the Easter Vigil. Another essential feature is the ample encounter with the words of sacred Scripture that it provides. Before the liturgical reform there were twelve Old Testament readings and two from the New Testament. The New Testament readings have been retained. The number of Old Testament readings has been fixed at seven, but depending upon the local situation, they may be reduced to three. The Church wishes to offer us a panoramic view of whole trajectory of salvation history, starting with creation, passing through the election and the liberation of Israel to the testimony of the prophets by which this entire history is directed ever more clearly towards Jesus Christ. In the liturgical tradition all these readings were called prophecies. Even when they are not directly foretelling future events, they have a prophetic character, they show us the inner foundation and orientation of history. They cause creation and history to become transparent to what is essential. In this way they take us by the hand and lead us towards Christ, they show us the true Light. 

At the Easter Vigil, the journey along the paths of sacred Scripture begins with the account of creation. This is the liturgy’s way of telling us that the creation story is itself a prophecy. It is not information about the external processes by which the cosmos and man himself came into being. The Fathers of the Church were well aware of this. They did not interpret the story as an account of the process of the origins of things, but rather as a pointer towards the essential, towards the true beginning and end of our being.

 Now, one might ask: is it really important to speak also of creation during the Easter Vigil? Could we not begin with the events in which God calls man, forms a people for himself and creates his history with men upon the earth? The answer has to be: no. To omit the creation would be to misunderstand the very history of God with men, to diminish it, to lose sight of its true order of greatness. The sweep of history established by God reaches back to the origins, back to creation. Our profession of faith begins with the words: “We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth”. If we omit the beginning of the Credo, the whole history of salvation becomes too limited and too small. 

The Church is not some kind of association that concerns itself with man’s religious needs but is limited to that objective. No, she brings man into contact with God and thus with the source of all things. Therefore we relate to God as Creator, and so we have a responsibility for creation. Our responsibility extends as far as creation because it comes from the Creator. Only because God created everything can he give us life and direct our lives. Life in the Church’s faith involves more than a set of feelings and sentiments and perhaps moral obligations. It embraces man in his entirety, from his origins to his eternal destiny. Only because creation belongs to God can we place ourselves completely in his hands. And only because he is the Creator can he give us life for ever. 

Joy over creation, thanksgiving for creation and responsibility for it all belong together. The central message of the creation account can be defined more precisely still. In the opening words of his Gospel, Saint John sums up the essential meaning of that account in this single statement: “In the beginning was the Word”. In effect, the creation account that we listened to earlier is characterized by the regularly recurring phrase: “And God said …” The world is a product of the Word, of the Logos, as Saint John expresses it, using a key term from the Greek language. “Logos” means “reason”, “sense”, “word”. It is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself. It is Reason that both is and creates sense. The creation account tells us, then, that the world is a product of creative Reason. Hence it tells us that, far from there being an absence of reason and freedom at the origin of all things, the source of everything is creative Reason, love, and freedom.

 Here we are faced with the ultimate alternative that is at stake in the dispute between faith and unbelief: are irrationality, lack of freedom and pure chance the origin of everything, or are reason, freedom and love at the origin of being? Does the primacy belong to unreason or to reason? This is what everything hinges upon in the final analysis. As believers we answer, with the creation account and with John, that in the beginning is reason. In the beginning is freedom. Hence it is good to be a human person. It is not the case that in the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos, there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it. If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature. But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason. And because it is Reason, it also created freedom; and because freedom can be abused, there also exist forces harmful to creation.

 Hence a thick black line, so to speak, has been drawn across the structure of the universe and across the nature of man. But despite this contradiction, creation itself remains good, life remains good, because at the beginning is good Reason, God’s creative love. Hence the world can be saved. Hence we can and must place ourselves on the side of reason, freedom and love – on the side of God who loves us so much that he suffered for us, that from his death there might emerge a new, definitive and healed life. The Old Testament account of creation that we listened to clearly indicates this order of realities.

 But it leads us a further step forward. It has structured the process of creation within the framework of a week leading up to the Sabbath, in which it finds its completion. For Israel, the Sabbath was the day on which all could participate in God’s rest, in which man and animal, master and slave, great and small were united in God’s freedom. Thus the Sabbath was an expression of the Covenant between God and man and creation. In this way, communion between God and man does not appear as something extra, something added later to a world already fully created. The Covenant, communion between God and man, is inbuilt at the deepest level of creation. Yes, the Covenant is the inner ground of creation, just as creation is the external presupposition of the Covenant.

God made the world so that there could be a space where he might communicate his love, and from which the response of love might come back to him. From God’s perspective, the heart of the man who responds to him is greater and more important than the whole immense material cosmos, for all that the latter allows us to glimpse something of God’s grandeur.

 Easter and the paschal experience of Christians, however, now require us to take a further step. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week. After six days in which man in some sense participates in God’s work of creation, the Sabbath is the day of rest. But something quite unprecedented happened in the nascent Church: the place of the Sabbath, the seventh day, was taken by the first day. As the day of the liturgical assembly, it is the day for encounter with God through Jesus Christ who as the Risen Lord encountered his followers on the first day, Sunday, after they had found the tomb empty. The structure of the week is overturned. No longer does it point towards the seventh day, as the time to participate in God’s rest. It sets out from the first day as the day of encounter with the Risen Lord. This encounter happens afresh at every celebration of the Eucharist, when the Lord enters anew into the midst of his disciples and gives himself to them, allows himself, so to speak, to be touched by them, sits down at table with them. This change is utterly extraordinary, considering that the Sabbath, the seventh day seen as the day of encounter with God, is so profoundly rooted in the Old Testament. If we also bear in mind how much the movement from work towards the rest-day corresponds to a natural rhythm, the dramatic nature of this change is even more striking. This revolutionary development that occurred at the very the beginning of the Church’s history can be explained only by the fact that something utterly new happened that day. The first day of the week was the third day after Jesus’ death. It was the day when he showed himself to his disciples as the Risen Lord. In truth, this encounter had something unsettling about it. The world had changed. This man who had died was now living with a life that was no longer threatened by any death. A new form of life had been inaugurated, a new dimension of creation. 

The first day, according to the Genesis account, is the day on which creation begins. Now it was the day of creation in a new way, it had become the day of the new creation. We celebrate the first day. And in so doing we celebrate God the Creator and his creation. Yes, we believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth. And we celebrate the God who was made man, who suffered, died, was buried and rose again. We celebrate the definitive victory of the Creator and of his creation. We celebrate this day as the origin and the goal of our existence. We celebrate it because now, thanks to the risen Lord, it is definitively established that reason is stronger than unreason, truth stronger than lies, love stronger than death. We celebrate the first day because we know that the black line drawn across creation does not last for ever. We celebrate it because we know that those words from the end of the creation account have now been definitively fulfilled: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31).


“So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” 

It’s a pity that the compilers of the Lectionary omitted that final verse of the 16th Chapter of St Mark from tonight’s Gospel reading, ending with those extraordinary and totally unexpected words, “for they were afraid.” How strange that the three women, who had been so brave until now and had even entered the tomb on seeing that the stone, which was very big, had been rolled away, should be filled with amazement and fear at hearing the message of the Easter angel, “There is no need for alarm. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He is risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him.”

Although the women eventually did go to tell the disciples and Peter what “the young man in the white robe seated on the right-hand side” had told them, their initial reaction was one of fear and they fled for their lives. You might well ask why that was. But just imagine if you saw a dead person on your way home tonight, alive and sitting on a tombstone. You’d be gone in a flash, frightened out of your wits. How often had Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not be afraid”? Even so, they were still afraid, especially after the events of Good Friday.

Why? There is only one thing more frightening than death and that is life, Life after death, I mean. Life would be so much simpler if this were it. We could romp through doing what we liked, taking care of number one, making a god of ourselves, not caring about anyone else. We could give into temptation, really enjoy our sins instead of feeling guilty about them and break every commandment in the book. If death were the end of it all, then we could get away with anything: what an easy way out. But the Resurrection warns us that there is life after death and that means we will have to account for everything. The Resurrection demands accountability and responsibility before God and before our neighbour, and that’s a very frightening thought.

Now I’m not saying that the women were frightened for that reason. They were good souls, with nothing to fear. They were followers of Jesus and, unlike the apostles, had been faithful to him even when he was taken prisoner, condemned to die and crucified. They had stood nearby, looking on as he died on the cross and was buried in the tomb. It had been a rushed affair, that burial, so “when the Sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, brought spices with which to anoint him.” And so it was that “very early in the morning on the first day of the week they went to the tomb, just as the sun was rising.” There they became the very first to learn of the Resurrection and they were amazed and frightened out of their wits. Without thinking, they fled.

But we, we have had time to think and we have the great advantage of knowing fully what happened next. In fact the Church, this hotchpotch of a community of believers, is still here 2000 years on, because of what happened that first Easter sometime after sunset on the Sabbath and before sunrise of the first day of the week. The Angel of the Resurrection tells us tonight, “He is risen; he is not here.” “He is risen” rather than “He has risen” because it gives us a better sense of the present reality of the Resurrection. Jesus lives, and is with us today, risen from the dead. 

Brethren, what does the Resurrection of Jesus mean to you? Has it really changed your life and taken away your fears? In baptism you died with Christ in order to live with him. Can you recognise the living Christ within you, in everything you think, do or say? Can you recognise the living Christ in your neighbour? And is it possible for you to say with St Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”? St Gregory of Nazianzus wrote these powerful words: “Yesterday I was crucified with Christ; today I am glorified with him. Yesterday I was dead with Christ; today I am sharing in his Resurrection. Yesterday I was buried with Christ; today I am waking with him from the sleep of death.” 

On behalf of Fr Prior and the Monastic Community, I wish you all a very happy and holy Easter. May the risen Christ fill your hearts with joy and your homes with rejoicing. Christ is risen, alleluia, alleluia. 





Easter Sunday 2012 

 “Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead.” At the house of Cornelius, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed those gathered there for this new Pentecost. What he had to tell them was something unexpected. It was about Jesus of Nazareth, whom most people presumed to be dead and buried. But Peter was saying something quite extraordinary, that this Jesus, who had been put to death by crucifixion, had been raised to life by God three days later. And not only that, Peter was even suggesting that Jesus was God, for “all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.” The Pharisees had been right, only God can forgive sin, and yet Jesus often told people “your sins are forgiven”. Now here was Peter claiming that sins would be forgiven in Jesus’ name if people believed in his Resurrection. 

Jesus then is the Son of God, equal to the Father, indeed “God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good,” healing and forgiving all those who come to him in faith. 

 But Peter was also claiming something else: “Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead.” Who was he talking about? The Apostles, Our Lady, Mary Magdalene and the other women, who formed part of the inner circle that met in the Upper Room. Then there were his friends, people such as Mary, Martha and Lazarus and many more: those he had healed like Bartimaeus and the man born blind, the lepers and the paralytics, the woman with the haemorrhage, the widow of Nain and her son and the centurion’s daughter. What about the small lad who had provided the loaves and fishes to feed the five thousand? Then there were those who had been with him to the end: Veronica and Simon of Cyrene, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, Cleopas of Emmaus and his companion.

To them you can add St Paul who wrote to the Corinthians. Not only does he give us the earliest account of the Last Supper, he was able to write what we heard this morning. “Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, by casting away the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” We can say that all those, who throughout history have believed in Jesus and lived their lives for him, those who have done in his memory what he told them to do, “have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead”. That is what we are doing today. We are celebrating the Eucharist, the Mass, to recall and remember his death and resurrection and, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to represent and make those saving events a present reality in the life of the Church. That, after all, is the meaning of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

 At this Paschal Banquet, we are present in the Upper Room, we are present on Calvary and we are present in the Easter Garden. Like Mary Magdalene we see the stone rolled away. Like Peter and the Beloved Disciple we see inside the empty tomb; we see and we believe. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus our hearts burn within us as Jesus walks with us and explains the scriptures to us and we recognise him as Lord and Saviour in the breaking of bread. Like the disciples at Pentecost we too have received the gift of the Spirit, the fullness of grace, and now we too bear witness to Jesus. We proclaim him to be Lord and Saviour and that in his Church we find salvation. “Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead.” 

 In the Victimae Paschali we sing the words, “Dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus” – The Lord of life is dead yet lives and reigns.” Where there is death, there is life, where there is sorrow, joy, where there is darkness, light, where there is hatred, love and, in our hearts, where there is doubt, there is also faith. On behalf of Fr Prior and the Monastic Community I wish you all a joyful and a holy Easter. Christ is risen. Alleluia, alleluia.

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