The legacy of Vatican II – Mass in the vernacular – is an incredible gift for us. If you remember, or have attended, a Tridentine Mass, the difference will be stark. Whereas in the old Mass, the altar server (boy!) voiced the responses of the congregation, now we voice the responses ourselves, the whole congregation together, mostly in our own language. The act of responding, along with the different postures assumed during the Mass, makes our participation in the Eucharistic prayer more evident. Even though the priest faces the congregation, he’s not talking to us but for us. We do better to think of ourselves as gathered together around the altar. We are all fixed on a single point: the host and the chalice, from which we will receive the most precious body and blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life when God will be all in all” (CCC 1326). In the Eucharist, “we offer to the Father what he has himself given us: the gifts of his creation” (CCC 1357). Nevertheless, this offering is a sacrifice: a “sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father…for all his benefits,” especially “creation, redemption, and sanctification” and a “sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation” (CCC 1360-1361). Far from being a prayer that the priest offers, while we are merely the audience, the Eucharistic prayer is a prayer that we offer, and God is the hearer. So let us incline our hearts to the Father and unite our voices with the words spoken by the priest as he prays:
We entreat you, almighty God,
that by the hands of your holy Angel
this offering may be borne to your altar in heaven
in the sight of your divine majesty,
so that as we receive in communion at this altar
the most holy Body and Blood of your Son,
we may be filled with every heavenly blessing and grace.
There will be a Parish Film Night on Saturday 4 June at 7:00pm showing the film adaptation of Robert Bolt’s play about the life of St Thomas More, A Man for all Seasons. This film is one all Catholics in England should see!
All are welcome, and refreshments will be available.
This year’s pilgrimage to Holy Island with Churches Together in Elvet & Shincliffe takes place on Saturday 11 June. A coach will leave the student union building at Dunelm House at 9:30am (please note this is a little later than in recent years) arriving back at Durham at about 8:00pm having travelled via Seahouses. Fares will be just £10.00 for adults and £8.00 for children so please book early to avoid disappointment.
More details and booking forms are on the noticeboard in the narthex.
Please note there is also a student residential retreat to Holy Island the same weekend. See www.lindisfarne2016.uk or the Chaplaincy noticeboard for more details.
Bishop Séamus will shortly be marking the 50th Anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He will celebrate a Mass in Thanksgiving in St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle, on Friday 10 June 2016 at 7:00pm. All in the Diocese are warmly invited.
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.
The parish reading group meets at 8:00pm on Tuesday 24 May to
discuss David Aaronovitch, Party Animals. The meeting will be at Orchard House, New Elvet, Durham – ring no. 48 at the front door. All are welcome to attend. For more details please contact Margaret Harvey at email@example.com or phone 0191 384 0080.
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.
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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…’
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.
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.
A Catholic Social Thought and Practice Lecture will be delivered by Nick Spencer (Research Director, Theos – www.theosthinktank.co.uk) on What has Chrstianity to do with welfare? on Thursday 12 May 2016, 4:00pm-5:30pm in the Senate Suite, University College.
Please contact Jane Lidstone if you wish to attend – email@example.com or telephone 0191 334 1656. Booking is preferred, though not essential.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal devotes a paragraph to describing the Gloria and its setting in the Mass. “The Gloria in excelsis is a venerable and ancient hymn by which the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 53). While the Gloria may be sung by cantor, choir, or people (or a combination of these), the instructions emphasise the indispensability of this precise text for this point in the Mass. But why?
I can suggest two reasons for the Church’s particularity about the Gloria. Its antiquity is only half a reason: the period of the Church’s history in which it originated and its genre make it a treasure of the Church’s liturgy. During the second and third centuries, when the Church underwent vigorous persecution, poems of praise (psalmi idiotici) composed by the faithful were popular. Only two of these remain: the Gloria and the Te Deum. The Apostolic Constitutions (4th century) recommend the Gloria as a morning prayer — not just for Mass, that is, but for every day! And the whole hymn is built on the song of the angels who heralded Christ’s birth: it also belongs to the rare class of hymns named ‘angelic.’ Singing the Gloria at the start of Mass gives us an opportunity to remember that we are in the mystical company of the angels and saints, and to join in their eternal praise.
This Sunday, 1 May 2016, we welcome as preacher at Sunday Masses Fr Jim O’Keefe, former President of Ushaw College and Diocesan Development Director. Fr Jim is co-ordinating the Diocese’s Forward Together in Hope process, and will be updating us on that initiative.
The next Parish Pastoral Council meeting, which is the Annual General Meeting, is on 5th May at 7:30pm. If you have any items which you would like discussed please contact Cliona Kear on either 0191 386 3400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org by 3rd May. All who would like to hear what is going on in the parish and give their views on our work in the future are very welcome.
On Saturday 7 May we will be holding an open day for anyone who is interested in volunteering in the parish. If you have thought about volunteering, please come along between 10:30am and 1:00pm, when you’ll have the opportunity to talk to some of the people who already volunteer, to try your hand at helping with the flowers, find out what it’s like to sing with the choir or read at Mass and talk about exactly what is involved in joining one of the parish’s groups and committees.
10:30 Ministry – introduction and opening prayer
10:45 Music and the choir: find out about joining the choir
11:15 Reading: a chance to try reading in church
11:45 Preparing the liturgy/sacristan
12:10 Music and the choir: find out about joining the choir
12:35 Reading: a chance to try reading in church
13:00 Closing prayer
10:50 Flowers: have a go at flower arranging
11:15 Buildings: what is involved in caring for the church buildings
11:45 Committees and groups: what the committees do
12:10 Children’s liturgy and working with young people
Information available about:
Stewarding: keeping the church open for visitors and prayer
Welcoming at Sunday Mass
Safeguarding: DBS checks for volunteers. What is involved?
Pope Francis recently said: “My thought goes to all the populations who thirst for reconciliation and peace. I think in particular, here in Europe, of the tragedy of those who are suffering the consequences of violence in Ukraine: of those who remain in lands shocked by the hostilities which have already caused thousands of deaths, and of those — over a million — forced to flee from the grave situation which is ongoing. It involves above all elderly people and children. Besides accompanying them with my constant thoughts and with my prayers, I have decided to promote humanitarian support in their favour. For this purpose, a special collection will be taken up in all Catholic Churches in Europe… I invite the faithful to join in this initiative with a generous contribution. This act of charity, in addition to alleviating material suffering, seeks to express my personal closeness and solidarity and that of the entire Church. I sincerely hope that it may help to promote, without further delay, peace and respect for law in that land so afflicted.” (Regina Caeli, 3 April 2016)
The collection requested by the Pope will be taken in this diocese on Sunday 1 May. Please give generously.
Photo credit: Jeffrey Bruno/ALETEIA CC BY SA 2.0
Dr Marcus Pound will speak on “Trinity and Comedy” at the Catholic Theology Research Seminar on Tuesday 3 May.
5.15pm for drinks; seminar 5.30pm-7.00pm
Venue: Seminar Room C, Abbey House.
A group will share a meal afterwards at a local restaurant.
All are welcome to attend. Please email email@example.com or call 0191 334 1656 if you wish to attend, noting whether or not you wish to dine afterwards.
Come the fifth Sunday of Easter it may be that our paschal joy is beginning to wear a bit thin. But we have pointers in this Sunday’s readings that direct us beyond this time of rejoicing; indeed beyond any joys of this world.
Jesus reminds us in the gospel that he “shall not be with you much longer” – even though he rises from the dead, he does not remain here with us. He will pass from this world; but that is not the end of the story. As the risen Christ is transformed, so we look forward to a transformation of all humanity and of the world itself: “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1).
Only then will we see the God living with us and an end to sadness (Rev 21:3). Only then will we have what the Catechism calls “the final realisation of the unity of the human race, which God willed from creation” (CCC 1045). The Church here and now is a sign of that destiny: we are already God’s people, but our whole communion here and now points to the much greater reality of the vision of God and the transformation even of the universe.
We rightly rejoice, then, that Christ is risen; but we look forward to experiencing the fullness of a joy of which we will never be bored.