Christmas Night Mass

Standard

‘There is a child born for us, a son given to us.’

Brothers and Sisters, after so much anticipation, Mary is delivered, the baby is born and Christmas is here. Somebody wished me for Christmas ‘stamina and wonder’. Well, this is the moment for the wonder. It’s the moment for quiet and adoration and, like Mary, for pondering in the heart. There’s an old, unscientific tradition that at midnight, for a moment, the world stops turning, everything pauses. And there’s a verse in the Book of Wisdom that says: ‘While gentle silence enveloped all things and night in its swift course was half-gone, your all- powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne’ (Wisd 18:14-15). So, silence envelops the world, Mary wraps the child in swaddling-clothes, and something starts to enfold us too. ‘God’s grace has been revealed’, says St Paul. Is it that? Continue reading

Litany of St John the Baptist

Standard

This litany is privately composed and can be privately used, or even publicly within the diocese. John the Baptist seems to me to merit a Litany of his own. I found some, but thought another need not come amiss. The invocations it uses for John the Baptist are almost exclusively drawn from Scripture. It is, of course, open to improvement, be it addition or subtraction. It uses nouns to address the saint, but also the past and present participles. There are 36 invocations. The sequence is, in the broad sense, historical. The beginning and the end of the Litany follow the conventional model.                                     Continue reading

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

Standard

This is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. We feel expectancy rising, a sense of joyful anticipation. This Sunday is called ‘Gaudete’ – the Latin for ‘Rejoice’. It’s the first word of the Entrance Antiphon: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice.’ And that is drawn from the opening words of today’s second reading. Continue reading

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

Standard

Today John the Baptizer comes to us: wild hair and beard, camel-skin and voice. He’s a sign Christ is coming. He is his herald, his forerunner. He prepares the way of the Lord. He was a historical figure. He was a prophet, a spokesman for God. He preached to the Jewish people of Jesus’ time, just before our Lord himself began his public ministry. He called them to repentance and offered them a baptism, a forerunner of our baptism. But he’s not just an historical figure. He was praised by Jesus. He features in all four Gospels. He figures in the Church’s liturgy, especially in Advent, this Sunday and next. Once he was a presence for 1st c. Israel, and now he’s a presence for the 21st c. Church and for us. Continue reading

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Standard

Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is not the virginal conception of Jesus by Mary, but the conception of Mary herself. It’s not Jesus’ beginning we’re marking today, but Mary’s. And we mark it, not because there was anything biologically unusual about her conception, but because of who she was from that moment on, in the sight of God: a human being untouched by original sin, graced. There is an Old Testament Psalm with the line, ‘Glorious things are said of you, O city of God’. The ‘city of God’ was Jerusalem, and the prophets did have ‘glorious things’ to say about her. The same line is often applied to Mary too. Our faith says many ‘glorious things’ of Mary, and one of them is what it says today. Our faith says that, from the very beginning of her human life, from her mother’s womb, she was freed from all stain of original sin and therefore ‘graced’, ‘redeemed’, ‘adopted’, a delight to the heart of God, all that human beings are meant to be. ‘Where are you?’ the Lord God asks Adam immediately after the first sin. It was a question that should never have needed asking. But Adam, as we know, had sinned, felt shame and was hiding, like a naughty child, in the bushes. He was off-line; he had lost the connection. He was not where he was meant to be: with God in every part of his being; at home; in the presence. But Mary was. Mary, this first century Jew, a village girl, a Galilean peasant woman, was always ‘in the presence’, always. And why? Because ‘before the world was made’, she was predestined to be the mother of the Saviour, God incarnate, the One who would restore the connection all of us had lost in Adam. She was the city who was to open her gates to the king. She was, pardon the image, the landing strip on which the divine plane, the Son of God, was to land. She was Israel now ready to welcome her God. She was the one fitted to utter the ‘yes’ on behalf of us all and so allow the Incarnation to occur. And she was the one who would do for Jesus – God made man, the Holy One – everything a mother does for her son. So, from the beginning, she was prepared and equipped for her mission: properly dressed for the occasion, as it were, ‘highly favoured’, ‘full of grace’. The angel did not have to go looking for her; she was ‘there’. By the Spirit of the Son who redeems us all, she was already ‘connected’, ‘online’. She had oil in her lamp. She was awake and watching. She was the Advent that, on the human side, made Christmas possible. ‘Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God’. Continue reading

A Celebration of the Good Works of the Catholic Church in Scotland & Abroad at the Scottish Parliament

Standard

At the Scottish Parliament last night, 28th November 2018, hundreds of representatives from various Catholic Church agencies across Scotland attended an event at the Scottish Parliament. The event was organised by Elaine Smith MSP & Anthony Horan of the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office also supported by cross party politicians including Aileen Campbell MSP Cabinet Secretary and others. Bishop Hugh Gilbert, OSB, delivered the following speech during the event: Continue reading