Click on a link below to jump to a specific article.
Click on a link below to jump to a specific article.
Take a look through the selection of Christmas cards in your local shop and you will find it hard to find a Nativity scene. In our secular world Christmas has almost become a pagan celebration of everything Christ rejected. Commercialism has hijacked Christmas. Christ seems to have been airbrushed out of most Christmas celebrations and replaced by the all-consuming materialistic nature of society. For the young Christmas tends to be a time for alcohol and parties in the pursuit of selfish pleasure. Mr. Scrooge in the Dickens novel, a Christmas Carol, responded to the paraphernalia that surrounds Christmas with one word, “humbug”. The enforced jollity and the excess that surrounds Christmas should force us to think again about the cause of this celebration. It is interesting to study the celebration of Christmas at a Victorian Catholic Church and school. There is much that we could learn from our Victorian spiritual ancestors concerning Advent and Christmas. The season of Advent was recognised as a time of repentance, when the faithful renew their desire for the coming of Christ. “Listen to the words of John the Baptist,” the congregations would have been told. “Do penance for the Kingdom of God is at hand“.
If only we could turn the clock back we would find that CHRIST was very much at the centre of CHRISTMAS for the Victorians. Bishop John Baptist Cahill (second Bishop of Portsmouth. 1900-10) reminded the faithful that “the ethos of our Christian customs and moral attitudes are formed by our religious doctrines and practices, of which Christmas and Easter are duly celebrated with the emphasis on the Christian message of Our Lord’s redeeming love for mankind. It is essential that we prepare our hearts and minds for these two great feasts“. G. K. Chesterton once wrote an essay on “The dangers of celebrating Christmas before it comes“. What would he have thought of Christmas celebrations today? He would certainly have warmed to most Victorian Catholic schools. There were no Advent calendars, wreath or candles, no Christmas dinner or parties, no Fr. Christmas or fairy lights etc. Only minimal decorations would have been evident. Despite the fact that Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree into England and it soon found its way into the family sitting room, there is no evidence of a tree being decorated in our schools and certainly not in the church. Nevertheless there was a spiritual preparation in encouraging the children to look forward to Christmas Day, when we remember that Christ came into the world to save mankind.
Oxford, the City of Dreaming Spires, is famous the world over for its university and place in history. For over 800 years, it has been a home to royalty and scholars, and since the 9th century an established town, although people are known to have lived in the area for thousands of years. My wife Gill and I spent a few days in the city in March. Among the places that we visited was the Oxford Oratory
The first Oratory in England was founded by John Henry Cardinal Newman in 1848 in Birmingham. The London Oratory started soon after, and quickly gained independence. For almost 150 years, these were the only two Oratories in England. However, Newman had always wanted to establish a house in Oxford, and had indeed considered no fewer than three sites in the city for the purpose; at the time, though, his ideas came to nothing. In 1990, the Archbishop of Birmingham, Maurice Couve de Murville, asked the Birmingham Oratory if it could spare some of its members to take over the running of the Church of St Aloysius in Oxford. Two priests arrived soon afterwards. Numbers increased sufficiently that in 1993, the Oxford Oratory was established as an independent Congregation in its own right. Its priests are involved in a variety of works, including the running of the parish, and school, hospital, and prison chaplaincy.
To find out about events in the life of Our Blessed Lady in pictorial form, one could do no better than spend 15 minutes at the Lady Chapel in St. Mary’s, Ryde. The murals contain the Old Testament prophets forecasting the birth of Jesus; the ceiling panels depicting the Litany of Our Lady; and beautiful paintings of the first and last two decades of the Holy Rosary. Pugin’s beautifully carved altar (thankfully, still used weekly for Mass) contains the image of Our Lady of Walsingham; one of the earliest (post Reformation) churches where this ancient Marian image can be seen. This image of Our Lady is certainly appreciated by our friends and fellow Catholics in the Ordinariate, as Our Lady of Walsingham has been adopted as their patron.
The month of May has traditionally been acknowledged as Mary’s month. Schoolchildren looking for the reason often suggest that if you take the R out of Mary you are then left with her special month. Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit poet reminded us in the first line in one of the greatest poems of the English Language, that May is Mary’s month. He offers no idea how this arose, but Cardinal Newman suggests a more positive reason. “May is a time when the earth bursts forth into its fresh foliage after the frost and Winter snow. The blossoms are on the trees and the flowers in the garden. With the sun rising early and setting later, the days are longer. For such gladness and joyousness of external nature is a fit attendant on our devotion to her who is the Mystical Rose and the House of Gold“. Remembering that May is a time of frequent alleluias and with the great feasts of the Ascension, Pentecost and the Blessed Trinity, the Cardinal goes on to say, “Mary is the first of the creatures, the most acceptable child of God, the nearest and dearest to Him. It is fitting that this month should be hers, as we celebrate these feasts that enable us to glory and rejoice in His great providence to us, in our redemption and sanctification in Almighty God“. Since Saxon times people have used fresh flowers to adorn the statues and grottoes of Our Lady. Those of us who live in the northern hemisphere will more readily notice the harmony between nature and grace that accompanies the arrival of Spring and Easter, – new life in the earth and new life in our souls. In the month traditionally devoted to Our Blessed Lady, the Dowry of Mary literally springs to life again. In England in May we notice the change from the Winter months of cold, damp and darkness to the vitality and freshness of the various shades of green. There is inevitably new life and vigour all around. The natural life that we see in abundance should encourage us to reflect on whether we have life in our souls. To have that life is to be in a state of grace and in full union with Almighty God and His Holy Catholic Church. Many will remember with great affection the wonderful processions in Our Lady’s honour, which were once a memorable part of our English Catholic heritage. In Ryde these processions started in 1869. The town commissioners at the time insisted upon a silent outdoor procession. Later it was permitted to sing hymns and recite the rosary publicly. Today sadly such processions are a rarity and the Children of Mary and the Legion of Mary are no longer seen or mentioned in our parishes. In pre-Vatican II days however they proudly followed the statue of Our Lady, which was crowned by a child in May and in many instances it was solemnly carried around the streets of our towns and cities. Present day traffic congestion often prevents this but nevertheless processions (where convenient) are, thankfully, making a comeback. We are beginning to hear clergy reminding the faithful of the many graces and blessings which are bestowed upon us when we ask Our Lady to intercede for us once again with her Son Jesus.
(contributed by Ralph Hodd of Ventnor)
Pilgrimage was an integral part of Medieval piety; for some this would mean partaking in devotions at a local shrine, whilst for others it might involve a lengthy and potential dangerous journey to a distant pilgrimage centre, either in another part of England or even as far away as Jerusalem. Often such an undertaking would be in response to a perceived need to obtain forgiveness for sins committed that might be an obstacle to a person’s eventual admission to heaven. On the Isle of Wight pilgrimage was certainly a familiar aspect of Medieval Christian life, but it is unlikely that apart from the local veneration of images in some of the parish churches, there were any significant pilgrimage locations that would have drawn pilgrims from further afield. It is, however, likely that the experience of pilgrimage over longer distances was not entirely uncommon among the people of the Island.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a suggestion was actively promoted that in earlier years pilgrimage took place to a shrine of Our Lady of Whitwell. The village, as its name suggests, was the location of springs that fed wells of clear water, and such places have been noted locations of devotion stretching back to pre-Christian ages. A trackway leading from a well near to the church to the coast at Puckcaster Cove is known as the Cripple Path and this has been interpreted to mean a pilgrim trail. At the height of the Anglo-Catholic movement during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, there were pilgrimages to Whitwell with the intention of making devotions to the Blessed Virgin. The parish church there is jointly dedicated to her along with the German saint, St Rhadegunde, and pilgrims from districts beyond the Island visited here in organised pilgrimages. However, it has not yet been shown from surviving archival or archaeological sources that Whitwell was a medieval pilgrimage centre. No church records exist today that refer to devotion to Our Lady of Whitwell. A will made by Andrew Payne in 1524 does record a bequest of £13 6s 8d to buy a bell for the chapel of Whitwell and a further £5 ‘to bye a vestment of Our Ladye to sainte Radigunde awlter in the chapell‘, but no specific mention of a Marian shrine is made. Archaeology has, as yet not produced any location or artefact clearly associated with pilgrimage at Whitwell. The existence of an ancient well, and the Cripple Path are perhaps the strongest suggestions of pilgrimage related activities and these certainly may be relevant in a wider interpretation of pilgrimage in the southern part of the Island.
The Church dedicates May to Mary, the mother of Jesus, although this devotion has lost some of its impetus in recent years. However many of us will remember the traditional May processions and the crowning of the statue of Mary which used to be a prominent feature in parish life in England, – the dowry of Mary. At Ryde there was an outdoor procession in honour of Our Lady as early as 1869. The town commissioners stipulated that it had to be a silent procession, so the rosary was recited quietly by the congregation as they processed around the streets (we are not sure of the route) and concluded with the Salve Regina sung aloud as they re-entered St. Mary’s.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit poet who spent several family holidays here on the Island reminded us in the first line in one of the greatest poems of the English Language, that May is Mary’s month. He offers no idea how this arose and in many ways it does not matter. Since Saxon times people have used the fresh flowers to adorn the statues and grottoes of Our Lady. In England in May we notice the change from the winter months of cold, damp and darkness to the vitality and freshness of the various shades of green. In this month traditionally devoted to Our Lady, the Dowry of Mary inevitably takes on new life and vigour. Cardinal Newman, writing in England in the late 19th century reminds us that “May is the time when the earth bursts forth into fresh foliage and its green grass after the the hard frost and the winter snow. It is a time when blossoms are on the trees and the flowers are in the garden. For such gladness and joyousness of external nature is a fit attendant to our devotion to her who is the Mystical Rose and the House of Gold“. Many will remember with great affection the wonderful processions in Our Lady’s honour which were once a memorable part of our English Catholic heritage with girls dressed in white with blue veils and ribbons in their hair. Is this pure nostalgia? I hope not. Surely it is a recognition of the Queenship of Mary; as the litany reminds us, – the Queen of Heaven, the Queen of Peace, the Queen conceived without original sin, the Queen of us all, created by Almighty God. Devotion to Mary has long been the hallmark of Englaish Catholics. This was re-inforced in 1893 by the re-dedication of England as the dowry of Mary. This solemn re-dedication took place at the request of Pope Leo XIII and was carried out by the English Hierarchy in Brompton Oratory on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Six months later our own chapel and shrine to Our Lady in Ryde was solemnly blessed and dedicated by Bishop Vertue on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception 1893.
We are fortunate that we still have an outdoor procession in honour of the Blessed Sacrament in Ryde at a time when many parishes no longer experience this unique way of worshipping Our Lord n the Holy Echarist. This public manifestation of our belief in the Real Presence was the focal point and highlight of every parish before Vatican II. The procession, usually held on the Sunday after Corpus Christi would includ the First Holy Communion children followed by many the Catholic societies walking together; most notably the Guild of the Blessed Sacrament and the Children of Mary. The late Fr. Robert, (Prior of Quarr Abbey). used to recall the processions in the past, which tested the endurance of most as they went “across the fields, through the woods and along the coast before returning to the abbey church“. St. Mary’s in Ryde has a long tradition of Processions. They started in the town in 1869 and went around the adjacent streets. The Town Commissioners stipulated at the time that there must be no singing in the streets, so the words of the Pange Lingua fell silent as the procession reached the church door and started again when people re-entered the church! These processions went along the High Street, down Star Street, into Warwick Street and up St. John’s Road before turning right again into the High Street and back into the church. They lasted until the late 1960s. Sadly times have changed and a town centre is no longer a suitable venue to process with the Blessed Sacrament, but fortunately the garden next to the St. Mary’s can still be used and it is here that a small procession forms for the traditional Corpus Christi adoration of the Blessed Sacrament while the Tantum Ergo and Adoremus are sung and the usual devotions recited in honour of the Blessed Sacrament. (See St. Mary’s web site www.stmarysryde.org for photographs). There is some evidence to suggest that such processions (although in limited form) are thankfully, making a return.
From Friday, 16th September 2011 Catholics are to return to the ancient practice of abstaining from meat on all Fridays throughout the year, as a simple but profound act of penance. By the practice of penance every Catholic identifies with Christ in His death on the Cross. We do so in prayer, through uniting the sufferings and sacrifices in our lives with those of Christ’s Passion; in fasting, by dying to self in order to be close to Christ; and in almsgiving, by demonstrating our solidarity with the sufferings of Christ in those in need.
All three forms of penance form a vital part of Christian living. When this is visible in the public arena, then it is also an important act of witness. Every Friday is set aside by the Church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of Our Lord.
“The English Bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the Faithful as a clear and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity. They recognise that the best habits are those which are acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness. It is important that all the Faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance.”
As you journey across the Solent on the ferry from Southampton or Cowes it is always interesting to try to identify the buildings which come into view. As you approach Cowes it is possible to pick out the Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury amongst the other buildings. The central position of this Catholic church in the town and its proximity to the Anglican churches is surprising as there was a determined effort at the time to restrict pre-Victorian Catholic churches to the periphery of a town. The building which is far more prominent is the Convent of the Sisters of Christ at situated on Springhill at East Cowes. The convent grounds offer spectacular views across the Solent and up Southampton Water. This is also the site of the Holy Cross Catholic Primary school. The nuns (originally known as Sisters of the Holy Cross) were resident at the convent next to St. Mary’s in Ryde High St. from 1901 until 1947 when they moved to Springhill.
If you take the ferry from Portsmouth you will find Ryde dominated by the two church spires of All Saints and Holy Trinity. The latter was founded largely by the Hon. Lindsay Burrell, brother of the Countess of Clare. The church was built in 1845 and is about a year older than St. Mary’s. The same builder, Thomas Dashwood worked on both churches. The taller Parish Church of All Saints to the right (west) was founded in 1869 and dominates the skyline. At just under 200 feet it is the tallest building on the Island. Between these two churches and just to the right of the town hall is the smaller Proprietary Church of St. James in Lind Street. This was the parish church of the Countess of Clare in her Anglican days. Not far away and clearly visible from mid Solent is the Italianate style block of apartments (built in 1826) where the Countess used to live in Brigstock Terrace. The Former Royal Victoria Yacht Club founded once again by her brother, Lindsay Burrell (just recently upgraded as apartments) is the most prominent building at sea level to the west of the pier. On the east side of the town St. Cecilia’s Abbey can be seen towards Appley with the square pyramid bell tower clearly visible. If you expect to see St. Mary’s from the ferry you will need to use binoculars. The upper part of the red brick convent building can be seen with the stone cross on the north wing but the only part of St. Mary’s that I could identify was the weather vane and the top layer of Portland stone on the steeple.
By Edmund Matyjaszek, who argues that England was an ecclesial reality before it was a political realm.
The Feast of the Assumption, which we celebrate today, marks the taking of Mary body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life. The feast reassures us that, as Mary is entirely human, we too can entertain that hope for our eternal destiny.
There are many shrines and places where Mary has since made her presence known – in visions and apparitions – and opened a gateway between Heaven and Earth. But there is only one country that entirely, as a country, is considered hers alone: England, the “Dowry” of Mary.
The “Dowry of Mary” devotion is still widespread, summarised in the following prayer: “Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our most gracious Queen and Mother, look down in mercy on England thy Dowry.” On this feast of the Assumption it may be right to ask: where does this devotion come from and what is its meaning today?
from a talk given by Peter Clarke in 2003
In Victorian times the Catholic Church in England depended greatly on wealthy benefactors. A generous patron or benefactor often meant a fine church with interesting architectural features. This is evident in Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Elizabeth, Countess of Clare returned from the “grand tour” of Europe in 1841 having been received into the Catholic Church in Rome by Thomas Grant (later Bishop of Southwark). The Countess took the lease on a large town house overlooking the sea. From this attractive, Italianate style terrace house with its panoramic views of the Solent, she would watch from her balcony as the naval vessels and great liners of the day navigated Southampton Water and Portsmouth Harbour.
By this time there were already two small Catholic churches at Newport and Cowes. While the Countess travelled to Sunday Mass by pony chaise she would pass people walking from Ryde in all weather and determined to build a church. It was of concern to the Countess that she considered her house to be superior in style and architecture to the two Catholic churches on the Island. “I want the House of God where I attend Holy Mass to be better than my own abode”, she is reputed to have said; and as she possessed a grand and fashionable house, ny church that she built would clearly be a fine edifice which would reflect the sincerity of her conversion. She was thus determined to provide Ryde with a church fitting for Catholic ceremonial and devotion that she had experienced on the Continent, and she acquired a site in Ryde High Street in 1844 where she built and endowed a gothic style church dedicated to St. Mary.
by Fr. Anthony Glaysher, Parish Priest of St. Mary’s, Ryde. 2008
Voltaire the great dramatist, poet and philosopher after receiving his ‘Easter Communion’ (who only did so as an example to ‘his’ parishioners, and thereafter afraid at the ‘astonished ‘concern’ shown by his fellow enlightened ‘deists at his superstitious dalliance with the Church) wrote sarcastically ‘Communion itself is an absurd ritual ‘imitating God, who created man, who in turn creates God with a few words and a handful of flour’. Did Voltaire imagine in his egotistical conceit and arrogance that these words rather than discredit, show in their simplicity the TRUTH in regard to our Lord’s action at the last supper. It is God Himself who wills it to be so. It is God Himself the Creator who desires His creatures – the work of His hands with the ‘few words’ of His Son uttered by His priests on thousands of altars over the ‘handful of flour’ and the juice of squeezed grapes to come to us, to giveHimself to us under the forms of bread and wine. Should we be surprised by this? No!
If we come to our Holy Mass and we receive Jesus and we leave satisfied, satisfied in the sense that we have done our bit and all is well there is a problem; our Holy Mass is a reminder for us to be generous to those who are less fortunate than we are, those who have little to eat. If we imitate God in His generosity by His grace it will result in enlarging our hearts. ‘Practice makes perfect’. Some of us still place our hands in God’s good soil and bring to our table ‘What earth has given and human hands have made’. We do the same with the bread and wine for our altar. As we give thanks to God for these gifts it is alsogood to remind ourselves that even though some of our food comes from Mr Marks and Mr Spencer or from the public pantry of Mrs Supermarket it is still through God that who makes it so.
Sermon given by Fr. Martin Edwards, MA, STL, on the occasion of the first Missa Cantata for 37 years at St. Mary’s Church, Ryde, on the Saturday within the Octave of Corpus Christi, 21st June, 2003.
My dear people, I am grateful to Fr. John Catlin, the parish priest here at St. Mary’s, Ryde, for allowing us the great privilege of celebrating this Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist, in this the Octave of the feast of Corpus Christi, in this beautiful church of St. Mary’s, here in Ryde, where the tabernacle containing the Truth and the Reality of the Mystery that we worship today has a fittingly honoured and prominent position, (although slightly obscured today by the central altar card). You have with you the texts today for the Mass and the other devotions prepared carefully as usual by Peter Clarke, your Latin Mass Society representative here on the Isle of Wight, and just one or two further words of thanks before the sermon; firstly to Bishop Hollis of Portsmouth for giving permission for this Mass, which we believe, is the first Missa Cantata, here on the Island for 37 years, and also thanks to the “Schola Nicholai” choir from the mainland and all those who have assisted in any way in organising this historic Mass and in preparing the food for our lunch.
Dear Brethren in Christ, first of all it is a privilege to be here in Seaview to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass on this, the patronal feast of the church.
In the natural course of the seasons, our Holy Mother the Church has placed today’s feast diametrically opposite the great feast of Easter in such a way that the mysteries of our Faith should find their resonance in the universe created by Almighty God Himself.
Today’s feast can better be understood if we consider for a moment the cyclic nature of our universe. Liturgical feasts do not simply recur periodically from year to year, but are better viewed as renewed invitations to follow Christ Our Lord. In Autumn the days grow shorter and the light is rapidly fading. Nature experiences not only a lack of light, but a certain lack of life. From such a lack of life must come new life, for such is the natural order established by God the Creator. A new Advent will mean a new liturgical year and during the long winter nights, we shall be in joyful expectation of the Light who is to come into the world and this light will transform us in a new way that we have yet to experience. It will have renewed meaning for us, and it is in this manner that we shall truly progress in our Faith.
Purgatory doesn’t sit easily with the modern mind. The story is told of the Catholic lady who asked the priest to say mass for the repose of the soul of her dear late husband, and afterwards she complained, “Father, you said he’s in Purgatory!” But, as the priest pointed out, we don’t offer requiems for those in heaven or, for that matter, for those in the other place.
In an age when we tend to prefer “celebrations of people’s lives” rather than real funerals, when we excessively eulogise, and often idolise the departed, the idea of needing to be cleaned up, purified, purged, the very notion of indeed sin and the need for the remission of temporal punishment does not readily appeal.
And not just today’s age – it didn’t appeal greatly at the Protestant Reformation. According to the Church of England’s Articles of Religion, “the Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory… is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of the God” (XXII). It depends partly on which Scriptures are in your canon, but in the Catholic Church in 2 Maccabees (12:46) then prayer for the dead is encouraged, to loose the departed from their sins. In Matthew’s Gospel, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, says our Lord, “either in this age or in the age to come” (12:32), suggesting that some sins may be forgiven in the age to come. And St Paul writes of burning away of man’s works, the things we build, but of the soul being saved, purified by fire (1 Cor 3:11-15). So, not a full-blown articulated doctrine of Purgatory, but one or two pointers.
Brethren, there is only one thing in the world that is definitely your own, and that is your will. All things can be taken from you: your health, honour, possessions; but your will is irrevocably your own, even in hell. What really matters in life is what you do with your will and indeed, we see a drama of wills in the story of the two thieves crucified on either side of Our Blessed Lord.
The good thief chooses to accept his sorrows. He takes up his cross and abandons himself to God’s will. From his heart full of surrender to the Saviour, comes this plea: “Remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom“. Immediately there comes the answer, “Amen I say to thee this day, thou shalt be with me in paradise“.
At the foot of the Cross Mary witnesses the conversion of the good thief, and her soul rejoices that he has accepted the will of God. Her divine Son’s promise of paradise as a reward for such surrender reminds her of the moment in history when the angel appeared to her and told her that she was to be the mother of him who is now dying on the cross.
“There remain great gulfs between the Christian Churches, and there are emerging even greater gulfs between us – in matters of core doctrine, in areas of sexual ethics, in what is marriage, in how we see the sanctity of life, in matters of ordination – we all know “the elephants in the room” as they say these days. Now, it would be easy for me to say, “Come to Peter and all will be well” or “Journey together with Peter and to him” – although it isn’t actually easy, and certainly not personally, having given up the security of a house in which I could have stayed until 70, my livelihood, not even a pension scheme at the moment – so the ecumenical journey can be a lean and mean risky venture. But after all the proliferation of separations, breakaways, splits and divisions, we do have to ask: is there a way of coming back, of rejoining, of being grafted back into to the main trunk, being reunited from the rock from which we were hewn. Those of us in or who used to be in the Church of England know that legally it began in 597 when Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory, arrived on the shores; if that’s the case then for the best part of 1000 years it was under papal authority, before the split. Charles and John Wesley were Church of England, before the Methodist movement eventually broke away. Or the great split between East and West – and Catholics need to talk, and are talking, to Orthodox. But is there no way that the scandal of these divisions can be healed, or are we simply making them deeper and wider?
Thank God for niceness, for niceness is always better than nastiness, and thank God for those things in which we can stand shoulder to shoulder as co-workers in the Lord’s vineyard. But may we also be challenged to find ways of fulfilling Christ’s prayer that one day our common baptism may mean also a shared pulpit, and above all a table where all may gather from east and west to share in that foretaste of heavenly unity which exists between Father Son and Holy Spirit and which is the wellspring and principle for all unity in his Church and in the world”
(Sat. 25th September 2004)
Theme: “The Holy Eucharist – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity”
First of all it is a pleasure to be back amongst you in Ryde once again. I am pleased to be invited back again for my third visit to the Island.
So today’s talks are going to be focussed on the Blessed Sacrament. I will concentrate on the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of the Mass this afternoon.
I want to look this morning at the Real Presence or what we traditionally call “transubstantiation”. In order to understand the real presence of Our Blessed Lord in the Blessed Sacrament we need to have a proper understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches with regard to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The word “sacrifice” is important because if we drop that word we are left with just a memorial and it becomes a meal and the whole concept of the real presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is diminished. The Sacrifice of the Mass was handed down to us through the apostles. How did the apostles come to understand the Mass as a sacrifice? In fact sacrifice goes right back to the begining. Human beings have always made sacrifice to God. In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were told that they were not allowed to eat the fruit of one particular tree, therefore they had to make that sacrifice. They were not allowed to touch one particular fruit. Then we have the story of Cain and Abel. Abel offered the best of what he had. Whereas Cain offered something less. We know the story. Cain was jealous and murdered his brother. Then if we look further one we can see the sacrifice made by Abraham, who was prepared to offer the greatest thing that he had – his own son. We see from the story Abraham taking his son Isaac who carried the wood. Who else carried the wood? Jesus Our Lord carried the Cross. They went up the same mountain – namely Calvary. So we can see Isaac as a prefiguration of Our Lord. But when it comes to the actual sacrifice Isaac says, “where is the victim”? Abraham answers that God will provide, – God will provide the victim. So God does provide the victim. Ultimately the victim is his own son. God spares Isaac and in return Abraham offers the sacrifice of the Lamb. Again a prefiguration of the Lamb of God.
We always enjoy looking back and reminiscing on bygone days. It is important to remember the achievements of past generations. This month the parishioners of St. Michael’s Church remember their early days in Bembridge as they celebrate the 75th anniversary of their first church in the village. The former Wesleyan church in Kings Road was blessed and opened for worship on 8th December 1935. The new Methodist Church had just been built and ecumenical relations were sufficient, even in the 1930s, for the Methodists to enter into constructive and fruitful negotiations with the Catholics for the purchase of the old church that they had vacated. The little church (now a private house) can still be seen in Kings Road. It was a further thirty years before the Catholics moved to their present purpose-built church in Walls Road.
Anniversaries such as this allow us to look back and to give thanks for our past benefactors and to make an assessment of their stewardship. Often they provide welcome opportunities for a celebration. However, these anniversaries should also encourage us to look to the present and the future. Another generation will look back and assess our stewardship. One wonders what they will make of today’s secular society where the churches are almost empty. One wonders what reasons will history students give for the decline of our Christian values and the awareness of Christ in our lives?