Tag: Mass

Christmas Day – “O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

Christmas Day – “O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

Christmas morning! We’ve arrived. Christ Our Lord gives Himself to us in tender love and mercy. Come, let us adore Him, the Christ Child in the manger.

What a year it has been, personally for me, for my loved ones, for this whole world. Falling over the same stumbling blocks and falling into the same sins, or losing sight of hope in the face of fear, flashbacks, overwhelming emotions that can block out everything I want to believe in, it does not take much to make me despair and think God’s mercy has run out for me and He will cast me aside and say I do not know Him. Looking at what’s happening, here, in my family, in the UK, in stricken countries like Syria, never have I felt so helpless here and now faced with such need, fear, suffering, the very present threats of acts of terrorism, the devastation and loss wracking so many people. It is so hard to know how to respond and easy to feel very afraid.

At the vigil Mass last night, we sang “It came upon a midnight clear” after Communion. This is not one of the carols I know best but never did this verse seem so apt:

Yet with the woes of sin and strife, this world has suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong,

And man at war with man hears not the love song which they bring –

O hush the noise ye men of strife and hear the angels sing!”

So often I, we, cannot hear the song that Our God sings to us His beloved. Shame, fear, despair, self-disgust, pride, all can make this “still small voice” harder to hear. I was praying, feeling despair and the voices were saying to me, how could God look at me now, how could He look at my foul disgusting weak lazy heart. The Lord answered me in prayer, “My gaze is longing Love.” And He called me to draw near in prayer to the manger at Bethlehem, with His Holy Mother and St Joseph’s protection.

The nativity is the sweetest song of love for us. God who brought this whole world into being, who shaped the seas and land and skies, who brought each of us into being in love, is come in humility, even vulnerability, as a little Baby, reaching out to us, fully sharing our human lives. He was born into darkness, poverty, homelessness, a world confused and at war. The Priest told us in his homily last night, when we look at the Christ Child, we see the certain knowledge that God never gives up on us. He delights in each of us. He delights in us so much that He chose to be born as one of us. And I think He chose to be born, needing us, needing our simple answer “yes” to receiving Him, yes to resting in His loving gaze, to holding Him in our minds and hearts, to carrying His hope into the world, to encountering Him anew each day but most especially this Christmas morning. So we learn to “give back the song which now the angels sing” in the words of the carol.

You are in my prayers today. I feel deeply thankful to you for reading, commenting, your thoughts, prayers and support and the experiences you share on this journey. I know that for many of us Christmas and New Year is not an easy time and it gives rise to deep, erratic emotions and maybe painful memories. I struggle at this time. Through all the joy of the gift of God this day, I feel overwhelmed and unstable, emotions heightened, the pain of losses and traumatic effects associated with this time and deepened, and the needs, expectations and rush of the holiday period are not easy to face. I’m very blessed not to be alone, to have two special friends to celebrate with quietly today, and to have these couple of friends and the blogging community here with whom I can share honestly. Thank you.

I’m wishing you plenty of moments of happiness; peace deep in your heart through whatever path you are on; that you can experience friendship, care and support; that in the hardest times there are little things to give you hope bit by bit; most of all, that you know the love of God who delights in you.

“…And ye, beneath life’s crushing load
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
For lo! The days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
The blessed angels sing.”

[From “It came upon a midnight clear” by Edmund Sears (music by Richard Storrs Willis) – see here for full lyrics ]

Wishing you a blessed Christmas.

Ginny xxx

[Image from “The Nativity Story”]

 

 

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

Saying a last goodbye to my dear friend

The dear friend I wrote of in my last post, Father S, passed away last Saturday, a day after I had last visited him. Today was his funeral. It was a very hard but beautiful goodbye.

Father S was a Priest at my friend’s church. He was long retired however continued to serve and minister to his congregation – and to so many more, such as me. I came to know him through another good friend (the same who initially brought me to the faith); I have never lived in his Parish however he took such care of me and I know he prayed for me daily.  I can only imagine how much he is missed by those who knew him longer and more than I did.

Father S was an extremely humble, quiet and private person. He drew no importance or attention to himself. He worked, prayed, cared and gave of himself generously, not seeking recognition, never appearing discouraged, astoundingly giving continually even when there came nothing tangible in return. I think, indeed the Priest who gave the homily at the funeral said, that Father S has no doubt reached and helped far more people than we yet know or than he himself even knew.

I do not think his path was ever smooth. He moved between continents. He converted between churches and subsequently felt the call to become a Priest and dared to answer. I do not think he had many people to care for him in his early life, and he has lost and left behind many family members since. He suffered greatly, physically, mentally and emotionally, throughout I believe, the majority of his life, particularly in his later years. He faced intense physical pain and weakness, major health problems, increasing fatigue, struggles to get around. He suffered not only the mental cost and hurt of those things, but also deep distress, fear and sadness. Through all this, he continued to work and to give so much in friendship.

Only very occasionally did he brush the surface of what he went through, physically and psychologically. I knew and gathered a little from prayer, conversations and letters exchanged with him, and learned more today at the funeral. Though he did not make much of his suffering, he did not sugar coat things either. He did not pretend everything was fine, or not to care, or that he did not struggle, or that he had all the answers, or that we must be strong and healthy, or that all is happiness when we walk in the way of Our Lord. He lived and gave in every moment, acknowledging what exactly it brought, never turning his gaze away from Jesus and never fleeing. He taught me to begin to hold fast to Our Lord of love – seek Him in whatever is happening right now and hold fast (rather than running in fear from an image of a God I have created from all my fears and the torment going on in my head in my illness).

When I visited him the day before he died, all the more than ever, I sensed that he was very close to God. He had become much sicker very quickly at the end. On the way to see him that last day, primarily I was desperately hoping I would be in time. I was not afraid, but I did feel some uncertainty and anxiety as well as the sadness. How would I find him and what would be the right things to do? I have sat with the dying before, having worked in a hospice and having lost other elderly friends at a nursing home I used to volunteer at. Time somehow seems to change; it is not a bad thing, but indescribable; perhaps it is a result of so much that can pose a barrier to communicating, giving and loving, being stripped away. We are left bare and vulnerable faced with the finality of the separation of death. It need not be all sad. Somehow, in precious time like that, what we cannot express as we may wish to in words, can perhaps be communicated between our souls as we are held together by the Love that encompasses all of us. In our defencelessness, the stronger hold the love of God has.

In that visit as I talked with Father S, knelt and prayed with him, I felt I knew heaven was near and Mother Mary’s arms were around us. Kneeling beside him I told him some of the truest things I have been so afraid to admit. I thanked him as I should have thanked him much, much earlier and more often. Father S is one of the people whose encouragement, prayer and friendship has held me up when I have been at the very darkest times and he has played no small part in saving my life when I was at a point that I was going to try to end it. Kneeling beside his bed I prayed as I have not been able to pray for many long months. I felt that already, in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus, Father S was drawing me after him, just as Jesus draws us after Him. In his prayer and his life that he had offered totally to God, he was drawing me out of fear to learn to know, perhaps for the first time, a God of love.

There was no ceremony, no astounding event in the moment when Father S passed. There were no visions, no glorious rays of light, no voice from heaven, no odour of roses. There was quiet, and love, and friendship, and hearts reaching out in prayer and thanksgiving to God alone. In the same way as he lived, he died, quietly, with those who loved Him, everything offered and united to the God of love He told us so plainly about in his words and his life. He died on the feast of St John Paul II (whom he loved), just before 3.00pm, the same hour at which Our Lord Jesus died. I feel that Our Lady and St John Paul came to carry him to Jesus.

I pray that now he knows in heaven the fullness of joy with the Lord he has reached out for, for so long; that he also now sees all the good he has done, especially that which remained hidden whilst he was on earth. I know so many hearts here below are full of thanks for him.

May the choirs of angels come to greet you,

May they speed you to paradise;

May the Lord enfold you in His mercy,

May you find eternal life.

(From Song of Farewell, by Ernest Sands)

Image thanks to pixabay.com – https://pixabay.com/en/banner-header-christmas-candles-880323/