Weekly Newsletter(click to download PDF)
The Rector writes ...
The three traditional elements in our Lenten observance are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The latter two are bound together in that what we save through our acts of self-denial can be used to bring benefit to others – that is true of the money we are not spending unnecessarily during this penitential season which can be channelled to the needy, but it is also true in terms of the time that becomes available (e.g. by cutting down on the amount of television we watch) which can be used in the service of others. What about the relative or the person down the road we have been meaning to visit or renew contact with? A phone call, a text or a letter? Acts of charity can take many forms but the simplest are often the most effective. A bit more time for God and a bit more time for those around us – two resolutions for a good Lent.
As Christians, our prayer is at its most authentic when we take up the themes of Jesus’ own praying. The Gospels were not intended as a spiritual biography, but the prayer of Jesus will be found running through them like a leit motif. Before any significant event our Lord is shown going off to pray quietly – sometimes for whole nights, often in a remote place where there could be a wide expanse of view i.e. a mountainside. In Saint John’s Gospel we have the response to the Disciples’ request “teach us to pray” in the great prayer of the Last Supper when the Son pours out his heart to his Father. In the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent we reflect on the long retreat Jesus made in the wilderness before emerging onto the public stage. In his time of temptation, as he struggled with his own demons and with the objective force of evil, it is clear that prayer was an agony for the incarnate Son of God – as it would be again in the more focussed horror of Gethsemane. If, at times, Jesus found his own prayer demanding and painful we should not be surprised when our own prayer is far from easy. Perhaps we need to learn – with Jesus – that it is sometimes in those moments when we feel most abandoned that our communion with God achieves a new strength and depth.
One of the great traditions of prayer within the Church is that associated with the Carmelite Order. Again this Lent, the group of adults who have been receiving instruction since last autumn, will be visiting the Notting Hill Carmel as part of their preparation for Easter. The Prioress has kindly arranged for one of the community to speak to our group about prayer and it is a privilege to catch a glimpse into the cloistered life of this vibrant community. Another Carmelite, Ruth Burrows, writes in a way that is a challenge to us all – “Jesus takes it for granted that his disciples will set aside time exclusively to communing with God. This was his practice and he expects it of us. It follows the logic of love. I have a Father who loves me to folly. I want to be with him. Jesus knew this prayer would not be easy and that it would be hard to persevere. What is happening is secret not only from others but from ourselves. Only One is going to get satisfaction out of it and he will reward us for something that costs. Our satisfaction is solely that of giving God joy”.
It is an interesting thought that our prayer might give pleasure to God. Jesus is clear that we should approach his Father with a child-like trust (St. Matthew 7:7-11): there is no need here to cajole or to coerce (like the “babbling” pagans of St Matthew 6:7) for our needs are comprehended before we express them, but, rather, God looks for a response in the heart – something freely returned out of what has been so generously given. Saint Therese of Lisieux famously defines her prayer as “a surge of the heart: a simple look turned towards heaven: a cry of recognition and of love”. If we were to see our times of prayer
less as an exercise to which we are obligated, and more as the chance to offer a gift – in reality the only one which the Receiver truly wants to receive – then our prayer might mirror that of Jesus in a more transparent way. “Once we have grasped the true nature of prayer we won’t need a lot of instruction on how to comport ourselves, there are no techniques to learn. If we are wanting God and not ourselves there will be no problem at all” (Ruth Burrows).
Our Church is right in the heart of London. It is a spiritual oasis to many people who come in for silent prayers and personal devotion. It serves the deep needs of those who desire to get away from the hurly burly of city life. On the other hand, the various parish liturgical services reflect the richness of catholic traditions and its pastoral orientation caters for all categories of people especially the young and those searching for truth.
The location of the church is not actually in Spanish Place as its preJanessor used to be, but in George Street, almost at the corner of George Street and Marylebone High Street. Nearest Subway or Underground stations are Baker Street and Bond Street. For directions click here.