DECEMBER 22, 2006 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
THE WORDTHIS WEEK
By Bishop David McGough
Fourth Sunday of the Year Micah 5: 1-4; Hebrews 10: 5-10; Luke 1: 39-44
‘Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” St Luke’s account of the Visitation captures Elizabeth’s undisguised delight as she received Mary into her household. This intimate exchange between two women in late pregnancy was charged with wonder. Mary and Elizabeth reverenced in each other the gift of life carried in their wombs. It is impossible to share their joy without reflecting on the sanctity of all life. They remind us that all life is a gift of God, to be cherished from its first conception. They remind us of the wonder of our own being, of the Father who called us into life and was with us as we were being formed in the depths of the womb. Elizabeth and Mary believed the promises made to them, believed that their lives could become the unfolding of God’s purpose.
We too are invited to believe that our lives have a part to play in the revelation of God’s love. The Holy Spirit that enabled Elizabeth to become the mother of John the Baptist, that overshadowed Mary at the moment of her conception, has been given to us. We, no less than Mary and Elizabeth, are caught up in the wonder of dawning salvation. Long ago the prophet Micah had pointed to a seemingly insignificant town in Judea. It would be in this town, rather than in the proud boasts of her neighbouring Jerusalem, that salvation would be revealed.
The Jerusalem of Micah’s generation had become a city obsessed with self, obsessed with wealth and the means to increase that wealth at any price. A city set on promoting itself had little need of God. The humility and poverty of Bethlehem recognised its own need and knew what it was to long for God’s coming. As we celebrate Christmas the ancient story reminds of those to whom Christ was revealed. Jerusalem, despite its power and influence, was too preoccupied to be moved by the Christ in her midst. Jerusalem’s only contribution in the Christmas narrative was Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. The violence of this event symbolises a world
THE WEEKAHEAD Divine Office Week IV
Monday, December 25: THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD Is 52:7-10; Ps 97; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18 Tuesday, December 26: St Stephen (f) Acts 6:8-10;7:54-59; Ps 30; Mt 10:17-22 Wednesday, December 27: St John, apostle and evangelist 1 Jn 1:1-4; Ps 96; Jn 20:2-8 Thursday, December 28: The Holy Innocents (f) 1 Jn 1:5-2:2; Ps 123; Mt 2:13-18 Friday, December 29: St Thomas à Becket (om; E: f) 1 Jn 2:3-11; Ps 95; Lk 2:22-35 Saturday, December 30: St Egwin (feria) 1 Jn 2:12-17; Ps 95; Lk 2:36-40
By Fr Cormac Rigby
divided between pride and humility. The extremity of Herod’s reaction should not surprise a world that will sacrifice almost anything to maintain its privilege and comfort. In stark contrast, Bethlehem, despite its humble origins, became the birthplace of the Saviour. The Gospel suggests an interesting question as it leads us through the Christmas story. Had we witnessed these events, where would our attitudes have placed us? Which town or city would have been our natural home, Jerusalem or Bethlehem? The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that the Son of God, coming into this world, required nothing beyond the flesh and blood entrusted to us in our mother’s womb. “This is what Christ said, on coming into this world. You, who wanted no sacrifice or oblation prepared a body for me. Then I said, just as I was commanded. God, here I am! I am coming to do your will.” The humanity of God’s only Son embraces our lowliness, summoning from us the self same response. “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”
“The child in my womb leapt for joy”
And so, with one bound, the parish priest leaps from the purple of Advent to the white of Christmas. This year Advent will finish about noon on Sunday and many parishes will then have their Children’s Vigil Midnight Mass soon after sunset. So at the Saturday Vigil and all the Sunday morning Masses we are still repenting and preparing. And then at the Sunday Vigil it’s Come to the Manger and let’s celebrate the most important of
all birthdays. What a mood swing! And yet I suspect that many mothers will identify with that mood swing as the experience of labour. The purple times of pregnancy are a long, long preparation. From the first missed period and the morning sickness all the way through to the first contractions, there is the sense of uncomfortable preparation for an event. Pregnancy is the physical Advent, the working to achieve a good birth. And when the struggle is over, such relief! Such triumph! If those last
SAINT OFTHE WEEK St Fabiola (December 27)
S T J EROME , who admired Fabiola, remarked that her understanding of the solitary stable in Bethlehem was that it adjoined the crowded inn. Evidently her adventurous and lively spirit presented something of a challenge to the great scholar. Born during the fourth century into an aristocratic Roman family, Fabiola
married a nobleman whose debaucheries caused her to obtain a civil divorce. Then, to the scandal of her fellow Christians, she married again while her first husband was still living. Only after both husbands were dead, and she had performed public penance, was Fabiola readmitted to the Church. She now devoted her
minutes of pushing and pushing and pushing are exhausting, how correspondingly consoling it is when arms can enfold the new baby. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews imagines Christ coming to birth fully aware of his purpose in doing so. This is what Christ said, on coming into the world: “You prepared a body for me ... I am coming to do your will.” That body was Mary’s. And God’s will was that their Son would live a life which would build to the saving sacrifice of that same life on Calvary.
wealth and her time to the poor, founding a hospital for the outcasts of the Roman streets. Around 395 she travelled to Bethlehem to work with St Jerome. Under threat from the Huns, however, they both fled to Jaffa, whence Fabiola travelled alone back to Rome. She then founded a
The mood swing from preparation to new birth demonstrates God’s purpose, the great leap from Advent to Christmas, from womb to manger. Blessed is the fruit of Mary’s womb. The child still in the womb of Elizabeth leapt for joy –because within Mary is a promise that is about to be fulfilled. When these events happen so swiftly, we can see that the purpose and promise of the pregnancy is the great leap of love, the Son of God leaping down from heaven to live and die for those he loves.
hospice for pilgrims in the capital’s port; according to St Jerome this refuge became known from the Middle East to Britain. When she died in 399, her funeral united Rome in her praise. Fabiola’s fame was rekindled in 1854 when Cardinal Wiseman, Archbishop of Westminster, published a novel about her.
BISHOPS’ ENGAGEMENTS December 24 to December 30
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor (Westminster) Sun: Celebrates Solemn Mass for the Nativity, Westminster Cathedral, 11.30pm. Mon: Celebrates Solemn Mass for Christmas, Westminster Cathedral, 10.30am. Archbishop McDonald (Southwark) Sun: Midnight Mass of the Nativity, St George’s Cathedral. Mon: Family Mass, St George’s Cathedral, 10am. Wed: Vocations Mass, Balham, 10am. Archbishop Nichols (Birmingham) Sun: Mass, St Joseph’s, Harborne, 10am. Mon: Mass, Winson Green Prison, 10am; Midnight Mass, St Chad’s Cathedral. Bishop Arnold (Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster) Mon: Celebrates Mass, Wormwood Scrubs Prison, 9am. Bishop Brain (Salford) Sun: Celebrates Mass, HMP Manchester, 9am; celebrates Midnight Mass, Salford Cathedral. Bishop Budd (Plymouth) Sun: Celebrates Midnight Mass, Cathedral. Mon: Mass, Exeter Prison, 10.30am. Bishop Burns (HM Forces) Sun-Thu: Pastoral visit to forces in Germany. Bishop Conry (Arundel & Brighton) Sun: Carols and readings followed by Midnight Mass, Arundel Cathedral, 11pm. Mon: Christmas Family Mass, Arundel Cathedral, 9.30am. Bishop Crowley (Middlesbrough) Sun: Celebrates Midnight Christmas Mass, Cathedral. Mon: Celebrates Christmas Mass, Cathedral, 10am. Fri: Annual clergy gathering, Ampleforth, 12pm. Bishop Doyle (Northampton) Sun: Midnight Mass, Cathedral. Mon: Mass, Wellingborough Prison, 10.30am. Bishop Dunn (Hexham and Newcastle) Sun: Celebrates Mass, Acklington Prison, 1.45pm; celebrates Mass, Acklington Prison, 3pm; celebrates First Mass of Christmas, St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne, 8pm. Bishop Hine (Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark) Sun: Celebrates Mass for Sisters of St Andrew, Edenbridge, 7pm. Mon: Celebrates Mass, HM Prison Swaleside, 10.30am. Bishop Hollis (Portsmouth) Sun: Midnight Mass, St John’s Cathedral, Portsmouth. Mon: Mass, St John’s Cathedral, Portsmouth, 10.30am. Bishop Hopes (Westminster) Sun: Midnight Mass, St Mary, Chelsea. Mon: Mass, HMP, Bronzefield, 8.45am. Bishop Kenney (Birmingham) Mass, St High’s, Woodstock, 9.30am. Bishop Lang (Clifton) Sun: Midnight Mass, Clifton Cathedral, Bristol, 11.30pm. Mon: Mass, Clifton Cathedral, Bristol, 11am. Bishop Longley (Westminster) Sun: Visit, Carols and celebrates Mass, St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney, 7pm; Carols Service, Our Lady and St Catherine of Siena, Bow, 11.30pm, followed by Midnight Mass. Mon: Celebrates Mass, Holloway Prison, 10.30am. Bishop Lynch (Auxiliary in Southwark) Sun: Midnight
Mass of the Nativity, St Thomas More, Dulwich. Mon: Mass, Brixton Prison, 8.45am; visit, Deptford Churches Centre for the Homeless, Mis en Espanol Our Lady of Sorrows, Peckham, 2pm. Bishop McGough (Birmingham) Sun: Mass, Cheadle, 8pm. Mon: Mass, Dovegate Prison, 10am. Bishop McMahon (Brentwood) Sun: Celebrates Mass, Stock, 9am; Carols, Stock, 7.30pm; celebrates Vigil Mass, Stock, 8pm; celebrates Vigil Mass, Cathedral, 10pm. Mon: Celebrates Mass, Stock, 9am; celebrates Choral Mass, Cathedral, 11.30am. Bishop Noble (Shrewsbury) Sun: Eucharist, Nazareth House, Birkenhead, 10am; Midnight Christmas Mass beginning with Carols, Cathedral, 11.30pm. Mon: Christmas Morning Eucharist, Shrewsbury Prison, 11am. Bishop O’Donoghue (Lancaster) Sun: Vigil Mass, Lancaster Farms Young Offenders Institute, 6pm; Midnight Mass, Cathedral. Mon: Mass for Christmas Day, Lancaster Farms Young Offenders’ Institute, 9am. Bishop Pargeter (Birmingham) Mon: Mass, St Michael’s, Wolverhampton, 9am. Bishop Roche (Leeds) Sun: Christmas Mass, Wakefield Prison, 2pm; celebrates Midnight Mass, Leeds Cathedral. Tue: Christmas Mass, Leeds Cathedral, 11am. Fri: Meets Seminarians and prospective Seminarians, Leeds Cathedral, 10am. Bishop Stack (Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster) Mon: am Celebrates Mass at Feltham Young Offenders Institute
Archbishop Smith (Cardiff) Sun: Midnight Mass, St David’s Cathedral.
Cardinal O’Brien (St Andrew’s & Edinburgh) Sun: Vigil Mass of Christmas, St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, 6pm; Midnight Mass, St Mary’s Cathedral. Mon: Christmas Masses, St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, 9.30am and 11.30am. Tue: Anniversary Mass of Foundation, St Margaret’s Ursuline Convent, Edinburgh, 12pm. Wed: Mass and visit to Sisters of Mercy, St Catherine’s Convent, Edinburgh, 6pm. Thu: Mass of Innocents, St David’s, Dalkeith, 12pm. Fri: Mass and visit to Little sisters of the Poor, Edinburgh, 10am. Sat: Mass and visit, Nazareth House, Lasswade, 9.30am. Bishop Logan (Dunkeld/Dundee) Sun: Carol Service, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Dundee, 11.30pm; Midnight Mass, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Dundee. Mon: Mass of Christmas Day, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Dundee, 11.30am.
This listing was compiled by Gabriel Communications Limited and also appears in the Universe and Catholic Times
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