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Pieter Brueghel the Elder 'Landscape with the Flight into Egypt' ©Public Domain

The Rector Writes...

Philip Whitmore

A new Church year has begun. Advent is here. The birth of the Saviour was to change the course of history for ever. Rightly we devote a season of the Church’s year to our spiritual preparation for the great feast of his birth. It is not exactly a penitential season, but it is a time when celebrations are subdued, in anticipation of the joy that will erupt when Christmas comes. So the liturgical colour switches to purple, but the Advent candles that we light each Sunday express our eager sense of anticipation as the feast draws nearer.


The early stages of Advent are focused more on the second coming of Christ, in glory, at the end of time. Then, as the feast of the Nativity comes closer, we focus more particularly on his first coming. What a difference between these two comings! The first was in humility and lowliness, hidden from the world in obscurity in Bethlehem. The second will be in glory, “on the clouds of heaven”, to judge the living and the dead. Judgement awaits us all, even though the theme is not a popular one in the modern world. But there is no escaping it.


An opportunity for some suitable spiritual reading for the season of Advent has come in the form of Bishop Robert Barron’s recent book “This is my Body”, issued by the Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, aimed at helping us to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the Mass. More than a million copies have already been distributed since it was published in May of this year. It is available in the Repository for a promotional price of £4.50. The Repository is also stocking a supply of Christmas cards and diaries. If you are looking for some Christmas shopping, or something to nourish your own devotion, do pay a visit to the Repository at the back of the church.


Another good way of marking the season of Advent is to go to Confession.  The sacrament continues to be offered each weekday at St James’s Church, from 12 noon to 1pm, and on Saturdays during the Holy Hour before the evening Mass.  We renew our thanks to the priests from Opus Dei and elsewhere who assist in this beautiful ministry.


The Friends of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham have asked me to draw your attention to a service of Advent Lessons and Carols, followed by Solemn Benediction, taking place at Warwick Street Church on Monday 4 December at 7pm. There will be numerous such services taking place in the coming weeks in our own church, so be prepared for some disruption to the regular Mass arrangements, especially on weekday evenings. Our parish carol service takes place on Wednesday 20 December, so do make a note of the date. It will be good to see as many of you as possible on that occasion.


Another matter that I have been asked to draw to your attention concerns the efforts by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority of the UK to remove the 14-day limit for experimenting on embryos, despite widespread objections to this proposal from the general public. If you are prepared to add your voice to those calling for this change to be resisted, visit the page to contact your MP now. I am assured that this will only take 30 seconds!


As many of you will be aware, the year 2025 is a Holy Year, and Pope Francis has asked us to make the Church year that is just beginning a Year of Prayer in preparation for the Jubilee. This Sunday, the second reading at Mass includes St Paul’s words of thanksgiving for the blessings bestowed on the church in Corinth: “I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ.” Thanksgiving is such an important part of our prayer, and yet it is one that doesn’t always come naturally to us. Our culture conditions us to think we are owed the good things that come our way, whereas in fact every good thing we receive is a free gift from God, for which it Is right and just to thank him.


This coming Saturday, 9 December, is the day chosen for setting up the crib on the George Street side of the church. Many thanks to those who have already volunteered to assist with this worthy endeavour. There is still time for able-bodied volunteers to add their names to the list, so if you think you may be able to provide some help, do make contact with the Parish Office in the coming days.


Fr John and I extend to all of you and to your families our prayers and good wishes for this holy season of Advent! 

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