Bible Study Group – 4 June 2016

The Bible Study Group at St Cuthbert’s is a gathering of parishioners and students for contemplation of the scriptures together in a prayerful setting. It’s designed to be accessible to all, however much or little you have studied the Scriptures before.

The next meeting will take place in the Parish Room on Saturday 4 June at 3:00pm, and will look at Genesis 32:23-33.

For more information, contact Christoph Weiss, christoph.weiss@durham.ac.uk.

The Most Holy Trinity

Following the Council of Constantinople in 381, the emperor Theodosius had the Creed promulgated. But he did not assume that its implications were obvious. So he named several bishops, including Gregory of Nyssa, as trustworthy interpreters. Shortly after the council, Gregory wrote a treatise for catechists (who mostly would have been bishops), which detailed the tenets of the faith. The first doctrine he tackles is the doctrine of the Trinity. After setting forth the doctrine of the Trinity, he explains the purpose of such teaching: ‘a studied examination of the depths of this mystery does, in a veiled way, give [one] a fair, inward apprehension of our teaching on the knowledge of God. [One] cannot, of course, express the ineffable depth of the mystery in words, how the same thing is subject to number and yet escapes it; how is is observed to have distinctions and is yet grasped as a unity; how it admits distinction of Persons, and yet is not divided in underlying essence’. We might well ask what the doctrine of the Trinity does tell us, given that Gregory mostly seems to be saying here what ‘the knowledge of God’ doesn’t include.

For Gregory, ‘the knowledge of God’ refers in the first place to a way of life, a commitment to developing the purity of heart and mind that alone can prepare us to receive God: knowledge of God requires the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Although Gregory would certainly admit that some people are cleverer with words and ideas than others, the real obstacle to our apprehension of God is sin. In the second place, ‘knowledge of God’ means grasping the shape of a mystery. We hold the knowledge that God is Trinity in tension with our incapacity to ‘express the ineffable depth of the mystery in words’. That is, we can be sure that God is Trinity, but not how God is Trinity. Any explanation of mechanics involved in being three and one will fall short of the reality. The rest of the treatise goes on to explain why this mystery is the essence of our salvation. In short, the doctrine of the Trinity is the basis on which Gregory can describe who Jesus is and why he can save us. Far from being an appendix to our theology, the doctrine of the Trinity is the heart of our faith.

EU Referendum Debate

Durham Churches Together is organising a debate on the EU Referendum at 7:30pm on Friday 27 May at 7:30pm in Durham Town Hall.

Speaking for “remain” are Roberta Blackman Woods MP, businessman David Teasdale and academic Marek Szablewski; for “leave”, Jonathan Arnott MEP, businessman Colin Moran and campaigner Ajay Jagota. The debate will be chaired by Rev. John Durell.

All are welcome.

(Photo credit)

Women in Church

Karen Kilby, Bede Professor of Catholic Theology at the Centre for Catholic Studies, will give a talk entitled Women in the Church on Wednesday 25 May at 7.00pm in St Godric’s Church. It is hoped this will be the first of what will become an annual event. All welcome.

Ushaw Lecture: English Secular Priesthood

Dr Judith Champ (Oscott College) will deliver an Ushaw Lecture The English Secular Priesthood: History, identity and renewal on Thursday 26 May.

Mass (celebrated by Bishop Séamus Cunningham), 4:15pm; Drinks Reception, 5:30pm; lecture 6:00pm-7.15pm
Venue: Ushaw College

All are welcome; registration is required. To book a place please email Dr Hannah Thomas, hannah.thomas2@durham.ac.uk or telephone Dr Jane Lidstone on 0191 334 1656. If you need help with transport to and from Ushaw College, please mention this when booking and book by 9am on Tuesday 24 May.

The Gloria as Spirit-filled worship

Perhaps the liturgy of the Mass is not the first thing to come to mind when we think of Spirit-filled worship. Perhaps the whole idea of being led by the Spirit in worship seems to identify something spontaneous, and maybe a little bit chaotic. So it must have been on the day of Pentecost: one theme (‘the mighty works of God’), many voices, and many languages. Yet one of the great gifts we have, in the Bible and from the early Church, is a language for praise that is Spirit-filled. Or, it might be more apt to say, we have a language for praise that invites the Spirit to fill us.

Some of this language comes directly from the Bible. Especially in the Psalms, we find words to express the whole range of our human experience. Feeling joyful? There’s a psalm (many psalms!) for that. Feeling desolate? There are plenty of psalms for that as well. The Bible and the liturgy meet us in all those moments. But the Bible and the liturgy do not only give us words to express what we do feel. At times, in Mass and in prayer, we are called to express what we don’t feel, whether joy or sadness or even anger. Yet, we are not untrue to ourselves and our own experience: we transcend our own feelings and pray with the Church: we weep with those who weep; we rejoice with those who rejoice. The Gloria is no exception: we praise God, we bless God, we adore God, we glorify God and give God thanks, not because we feel like it, but because ‘it is right and just’. But how can we praise if we are desolate, or mourn if we are joyful? As St Paul writes, ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought’ (Romans 8.26). So as we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, let us ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, that we might join in exaltation with the whole Church as we sing, ‘Glory to God in the highest…’

The Gloria: praising the Trinity

Karl Barth (1886-1968) described theology as best done in the second person, that is, as response to God. When we gather for Mass, we offer our prayer to God the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit—and the elements of the liturgy are some of the richest works of theology we will encounter. In the Gloria, we respond to the One who has called us, and who, by the Holy Spirit, gathers us for worship. We exalt God together, as a people acclaiming their king. But this is an extraordinary king, whose glory is eternally shared by the Son and the Holy Spirit. Not only that: the Son, whom we praise as ‘the Most High’ we also call by name—Jesus. And Jesus not simply ‘Only Begotten Son’ but also, simultaneously, ‘Lord God’ and ‘Lamb of God.’ He is the One who takes away the sins of the world, who takes away our sins and restores us to friendship with our heavenly King and Father.

The Gloria ought to draw our attention to the Trinitarian character of our worship. It might have been a popular hymn in the third century, but its theology is not in any way impoverished. As we sing the Gloria, we address the Father and the Son and (indirectly) the Holy Spirit. For all its apparent simplicity and repetition of phrases, the Gloria expresses, obliquely, the deepest mysteries of the faith: the Trinity and the Incarnation. We are invited to ponder the great glory of God and God’s boundless love for us as we join together in prayer. Let us do so joyfully.

Celebration of Marriage

Bishop Séamus will celebrate Mass in St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday 14th May at 11.00am to give thanks for the Sacrament of Marriage. He has invited each parish community to be represented by two couples, young or old, newly married or celebrating a significant anniversary. This promises to be a wonderful celebration and will provide affirmation and support for Marriage across the diocese and to the wider North-East community.

If you would be interested in representing St Cuthbert’s Parish, please get in touch with fr. Ben: but the Mass is open to all.

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