Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Hark! the herald angels sing

Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim,
'Christ is born in Bethlehem.'
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.

Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see:
hail, the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace:
hail, the Sun of Righteousness.
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.

I think these are some of the finest words ever written - in particular, verse 3 is simply superb!

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

While shepherds watched

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.

“Fear not!” said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind.
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.

“To you, in David’s town, this day
Is born of David’s line
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign.

“The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid.”

Thus spake the seraph and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God on high,
Who thus addressed their song:

“All glory be to God on high,
And to the Earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from Heaven to men
Begin and never cease!”

Verse 6 is a lovely thought for this Christmas season! Although I am a Yorkshireman, I cannot abide hearing these splendid words sung to the tune of 'On Ilkley Moor Baht 'at'. I consider the custom to be vulgar and in poor taste. No, it must be Winchester Old!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Christians, awake!

Christians, awake, salute the happy morn
whereon the Savior of the world was born;
rise to adore the mystery of love,
which hosts of angels chanted from above;
with them the joyful tidings first begun
of God Incarnate and the Virgin's Son.

Then to the watchful shepherds it was told,
who heard the angelic herald's voice: "Behold,
I bring good tidings of a Savior's birth,
to you and all the nations on the earth:
this day hath God fulfilled his promised word,
this day is born a Savior, Christ the Lord."

He spake, and straightway the celestial choir
in hymns of joy, unknown before, conspire;
the praises of redeeming love they sang,
and heaven's whole orb with alleluias rang;
God's highest glory was their anthem still,
peace on the earth, and unto men good will.

To Bethlehem straight the enlightened shepherds ran
to see the wonder God had wrought for man,
and found, with Joseph and the blessèd Maid,
her Son, the Savior, in a manger laid;
then to their flocks, still praising God, return,
and their glad hearts with holy rapture burn.

O may we keep and ponder in our mind
God's wondrous love in saving lost mankind;
trace we the Babe, who hath retrieved our loss,
from his poor manger to his bitter cross;
treading his steps, assisted by his grace,
till man's first heavenly state again takes place.

Then may we hope, the angelic thrones among,
to sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song;
he that was born upon this joyful day
around us all his glory shall display;
saved by his love, incessant we shall sing
eternal praise to heaven's almighty King.

Another splendid Christmas hymn. I particularly like verse 3 with all the stops pulled out on the organ!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

O little town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to thee,
Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

It is totally beyond me why so many of our Catholic Hymnals omit this last verse! I think the last verse is superb and turns the hymn into a real prayer - a prayer which I often use myself. May Christ indeed be born in each one of us this Christmastide.

Happy Feast!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

See him lying on a bed of straw

See Him lying on a bed of straw
A draughty stable with an open door
Mary cradling the babe she bore
The Prince of glory is His name.

O now carry me to Bethlehem
To see the Lord appear to men
Just as poor as was the stable then
The Prince of glory when He came.

Star of silver, sweep across the skies
Show where Jesus in the manger lies
Shepherds, swiftly from your stupor rise
To see the Saviour of the world.

O now carry me to Bethlehem
To see the Lord appear to men
Just as poor as was the stable then
The Prince of glory when He came.

Angels, sing again the song you sang
Bring God's glory to the heart of man
Sing that Bethlehem's little baby can
Be salvation to the soul.

O now carry me to Bethlehem
To see the Lord appear to men
Just as poor as was the stable then
The Prince of glory when He came.

Mine are riches, from Thy poverty
From Thine innocence, eternity
Mine, forgiveness by Thy death for me
Child of sorrow for my joy.

O now carry me to Bethlehem
To see the Lord appear to men
Just as poor as was the stable then
The Prince of glory when He came.

Some of our carols really do have good words!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Away in a manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the night sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my bedside till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.

How often do we tell Jesus that we love him? In my case, not often enough. This carol puts it so directly, 'I love Thee, Lord Jesus'!

Thursday, 25 December 2008


Isn't he just adorable!

O come, all ye faithful, Joyful, and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, Born the King of Angels!
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

God of God, Light of Light,
Lo! He abhors not the Virgin's womb;
Very God, Begotten, not created.
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens, of heaven above!
Glory to God, in the highest!
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing.
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas Eve - Little Donkey

Today we meditate on Mary and Joseph journeying to Bethlehem - perhaps with a little donkey!

Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load
Been a long time, little donkey, through the winters night
Don't give up now, little donkey,
Bethlehems in sight

Ring out those bells tonight
Bethlehem, Bethlehem
Follow that star tonight
Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Little donkey, little donkey, had a heavy day
Little donkey, carry Mary safely on her way
Little donkey, little donkey, journey's end is near
There are wiseman waiting for a sign to bring them here

Do not falter little donkey, there's a star ahead
It will guide you, little donkey, to a cattle shed

Ring out those bells tonight
Bethlehem, Bethlehem
Follow that star tonight
Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Little donkey, little donkey, had a heavy day
Little donkey, carry Mary, safely on her way
Little donkey, carry Mary, safely on her way

Let our church bells ring out joyfully tonight as we sing the Gloria at Midnight Mass! Tomorrow, the blog will return to its usual cheery colour scheme as the champagne corks pop - Alleluia!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Joyful Mystery - 5

The 5th Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Finding of Jesus in the Temple.

Though an Infant now we view Him,
He shall fill His Father’s throne,
Gather all the nations to Him;
Every knee shall then bow down:
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

All creation, join in praising
God, the Father, Spirit, Son,
Evermore your voices raising
To th’eternal Three in One.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

As Christmas Day draws near, our excitement grows! May we all have great joy attending church over the Christmas Festival. As we celebrate the Eucharist, may we know that we are in our Father's House. Like Mary, let us ponder in our hearts and minds all that we see and hear.

We'll be getting a little sentimental tomorrow!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Joyful Mystery - 4

The 4th Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Presentation in the Temple.

Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Simeon and Anna waited so long to greet the Christ Child - we have only three more days until 'Yea, Lord, we greet thee'! Are we ready to celebrate Christmas Day?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Advent 4 - St Joseph

During this season of Advent, we have been focussing on Holy Mary the Mother of God. So on this final Sunday in Advent we are going to focus on St Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus.

As Joseph was a-walking
He heard an Angel sing:
"This night shall be the birth night
Of Christ our Heavenly King;

"His birth-bed shall be neither
In housen nor in hall,
Nor in the place of Paradise,
But in an ox's stall.

"He neither shall be clothed
In purple nor in pall;
But in the fair white linen
That usen babies all.

"He neither shall be rocked,
In silver nor in gold;
But in a wooden cradle
That lieth on the mould;

"He neither shall be washen
In white wine nor in red;
But with the fair spring water,
That on you shall be shed."

As Joseph was a-walking
Thus did the Angel sing;
And Mary's Son at midnight
Was born to be our King.

"Then be you glad, good people,
At this time of the year;
And light you up your candles,
For His star it shineth clear."

Holy Joseph, pray for us!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Joyful Mystery - 3

The 3rd Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Nativity.

Well, we won't make too much of this mystery today - we'll wait until 25 December!

Tell of his birth at Bethlehem,
Not in a royal house or hall,
But in stable, dark and dim:
The Word made flesh, a light for all.

As we move towards the shortest day of the year, let us ask ourselves the question - to what extent does Jesus Christ light up my life? Will the holy Child of Bethlehem be the brightest illumination in our homes this Christmastide?

Friday, 19 December 2008

Joyful Mystery - 2

The 2nd Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Visitation.

I love this story in the first chapter of Luke's Gospel. Yes, it's full of wonderful theological statements and of course contains the words of the Magnificat, but personally I love the story for its domestic simplicity! Here we have two expectant Mothers sharing their joy. Elizabeth must have been so pleased to have someone to talk to - after all, Zechariah wasn't much use! I believe that Mary loves to hear our voices when we ask her to pray for us. As Christmas Day draws near, do our hearts leap for joy? They should do!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Joyful Mystery - 1

The 1st Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary is The Annunciation.

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
"All hail," said he, "thou lowly maiden Mary,
most highly favoured lady," Gloria!

"For know a blessed Mother thou shalt be,
all generations laud and honour thee,
thy Son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
most highly favoured lady," Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said,
"my soul shall laud and magnify his holy Name."
Most highly favoured lady, Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
in Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
and Christian folk throughout the world will ever say--
"Most highly favoured lady," Gloria!

My word, I am looking forward to the Gloria ringing out again at Midnight Mass!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Luminous Mystery - 5

The 5th Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary is The Institution of the Eucharist.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and ponder Mary holding her new born Son in her arms, let us not forget the mystery that at each celebration of the Eucharist we can hold Jesus in our hands before receiving Him in Holy Communion . As a Eucharistic Hymn reminds us, at each Mass 'Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand'.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Let us pray for a deeper reverence to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Tomorrow we shall meditate on the 1st Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary - the Annunciation.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Luminous Mystery - 4

The 4th Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary is The Transfiguration.

Whilst the 1st verse of the hymn 'Jesus, Son of God and Mary' considers the Sermon on the Mount, the 2nd verse considers The Transfiguration.

Jesus, Word of God incarnate,
Climbed a mountain with the three.
As they saw the Lord transfigured
God revealed a mystery:
'See my Son, my dearly loved one,
Listen to him faithfully.'

We are preparing during these last few days of Advent to gaze once more on 'Jesus, Word of God incarnate' lying in the manger at Bethlehem.

For the sake of completeness, the 3rd verse considers the 5th Sorrowful Mystery - The Crucifixion.

Jesus, Lamb of God who suffered,
Climbed the hill that awesome day,
There he bore our shame and sorrow,
Slain to take our sin away;
'O forgive them, my dear Father!'
Words that he alone could say.

Whilst the 4th and final verse considers the 2nd Glorious Mystery - The Ascension.

Jesus, risen King of glory,
Climbed the mountain to ascend
To his throne, in highest heaven,
Whence the Spirit would descend.
Alleluia! 'I am with you!
Now, and till all time shall end!'

Copyright: Peter Simpson (b 1953) / Jubilate Hymns

You can tell I'm fond of hills!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Luminous Mystery - 3

The 3rd Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary is The Proclamation of the Kingdom.

With this Mystery we are meditating in particular on the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus, Son of God and Mary,
Climbed a hill in Galilee.
There he taught his twelve disciples
With a fresh authority.
'Happy those who have a pure heart,
God my Father they shall see.'

I shall quote the rest of this hymn (you can guess who wrote it!) tomorrow. No one had a purer heart than Mary - she was found worthy to bear the Saviour of the World. But we too are called to make Christ known today. We can pray 'Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.' Are we ready to receive Christ again at Christmas? There are only ten days to go!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Advent 3 - Rejoice in the Lord always!

Today is Gaudate Sunday, and Holy Mother Church tells her children to rejoice! That is why we cast off the solemn purple vestments for the day, and wear cheerful rose ones instead. We are now over half way through the preparatory season of Advent - and the Christmas Festival is getting close - small wonder we rejoice! Mind you, I wouldn't recommend walking along the shores of the Moray Firth in t-shirt and shorts or a summer dress today - it's freezing. I reckon the good folk in today's picture belong to a very charismatic parish!

Hark! the glad sound! the Saviour comes,
the Saviour promised long:
let every heart prepare a throne,
and every voice a song.

He comes the prisoners to release
in Satan's bondage held;
the gates of brass before him burst,
the iron fetters yield.

He comes, the broken heart to bind,
the bleeding soul to cure;
and with the treasures of his grace
to enrich the humble poor.

Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace,
thy welcome shall proclaim;
and heaven's eternal arches ring
with thy beloved Name.

Splendid words by Philip Doddridge (1702-1751).

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Luminous Mystery - 2

The 2nd Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Wedding at Cana.

I just cannot think why I am so fond of this story from John's Gospel - though I hope Father Christmas will have noted that I prefer red to white!

Yet he that ruleth everything
Can change the nature of the spring,
And gives at Cana this for sign-
The water reddens into wine.

During this season of Advent let us pray that our society will place more value on married life, and that more marriages will be sacraments of Holy Mother Church. We should also pray that we will enjoy the approaching Christmas Festival with sober joy - by that I mean just the odd glass or two. Let us pray for all alcoholics and for those who treat them.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Luminous Mystery - 1

The 1st Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Baptism of the Lord.

The Lamb of God is manifest
Again in Jordan's water blest,
And he who sin had never known
By washing hath our sins undone.

This mystery makes us think once more of John the Baptist (an important figure in this Advent Season), for he was the herald of Jesus Christ, and made him known when at last he came. Let us pray during this holy season that we will help people to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Glorious Mystery - 5

The 5th Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Coronation.

What a glorious image we have here - Mary is crowned as Queen of Heaven - Alleluia!

Sing the chiefest joy of Mary
When on earth her work was done,
And the Lord of all creation
Brought her to his heavenly home:
Virgin Mother, Mary blessed,
Raised on high and crowned with grace,
May your Son, the world's redeemer,
Grant us all to see his face.

Lovely words by G B Timms.

Tomorrow we shall meditate on the 1st Luminous Mystery of the Holy Rosary - the Baptism of the Lord.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Glorious Mystery - 4

The 4th Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On Monday we celebrated the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Mary was conceived without spot of original sin. Throughout her life she was always perfectly conformed to the will of God, so when her life on earth was done she was ready to go straight to heaven - both body and soul. Christ was the first to rise from the dead, but now that he had returned to heaven, his Mother Mary, being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit was to have a resurrection body too. Her assumption is like the first fruits of Easter, and points to our eventual life of glory.

Finish then thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise!

Wonderful words by Charles Wesley.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Glorious Mystery - 3

The 3rd Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

Sing again the joys of Mary
When she saw the Risen Lord,
And in prayer with Christ's apostles
Waited on his promised word:
From on high the blazing glory
Of the Spirit's presence came,
Heavenly breath of God's own being,
Manifest through wind and flame.

At Mass yesterday we heard in the Gospel from Luke how at the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel said to Mary 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you'. Let us pray during this Advent Season that we, like Mary, will be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Glorious Mystery - 2

The 2nd Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Ascension.

See, the Conqueror mounts in triumph;
see the King in royal state,
riding on the clouds, his chariot,
to his heavenly palace gate.
Hark! the choirs of angel voices
joyful alleluias sing,
and the portals high are lifted
to receive their heavenly King.

Who is this that comes in glory,
with the trump of jubilee?
Lord of battles, God of armies,
he has gained the victory.
he who on the cross did suffer,
he who from the grave arose,
he has vanquished sin and Satan,
he by death has spoiled his foes.

Inspiring words by Christopher Wordsworth.

Of course, today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So, let us pray:

Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death. Amen.

Happy Feast!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Advent 2 - John the Baptist

On this, the Second Sunday of Advent, we focus on John the Baptist - the precursor of Jesus Christ.

On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh;
awake and hearken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings.

Then cleansed be every breast from sin;
make straight the way for God within,
prepare we in our hearts a home
where such a mighty Guest may come.

For thou art our salvation, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward;
without thy grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.

To heal the sick stretch out thine hand,
and bid the fallen sinner stand;
shine forth and let thy light restore
earth's own true loveliness once more.

All praise, eternal Son, to thee,
whose advent doth thy people free;
whom with the Father we adore
and Holy Ghost for evermore.

What a wonderful Advent hymn this is - it was written by Charles Coffin. The words are sung to the equally magnificent tune, 'Winchester New'. Today, Jesus comes to us in Holy Communion. Are we cleansed from sin so that we are able to receive him worthily? Advent is a good season for going to confession!

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Glorious Mystery - 1

The 1st Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Resurrection.

Love's redeeming work is done,
fought the fight, the battle won.
Lo, our Sun's eclipse is o'er!
Lo, he sets in blood no more!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal!
Christ has burst the gates of hell;
death in vain forbids him rise;
Christ has opened paradise.

Lives again our glorious King;
where, O death, is now thy sting?
Dying once, he all doth save;
where thy victory, O grave?

Soar we now where Christ has led,
following out exalted Head;
made like him, like him we rise,
ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!
Praise to thee by both be given:
thee we greet triumphant now;
hail, the Resurrection thou!

What wonderful words by Charles Wesley. Despite the lack of alleluias, this is one of my favourite Easter hymns! Who can imagine the joy of Mary when she first met her risen Son? Our joy each Easter Sunday must be but a tiny reflection of her bliss!

Tomorrow, we shall focus on John the Baptist.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Sorrowful Mystery - 5

The 5th Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Crucifixion.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of six,
To see her own Son Jesus Christ
Upon the crucifix;
Upon the crucifix, good man,
And blessed ever may he be,
Both Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
To all eternity.

It seems hard to write about the crucifixion in such cheerful words, but out of sorrow, joy came to all the world. When Jesus cried 'It is finished!' - the strife was o'er and the battle done! We can all pray during this Advent season for a holy death. I think particularly today of my father (Ronnie) who died 47 years ago on 5 December 1961. I look forward to meeting him again, particularly as I cannot remember much about him! I'm told I look just like him - he must have been incredibly good looking.

Tomorrow we shall meditate on the First Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary - the Resurrection.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Sorrowful Mystery - 4

The 4th Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Carrying of the Cross.

Take up thy cross, the Saviour said,
If thou wouldst My disciple be;
Deny thyself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after Me.

Take up thy cross, let not its weight
Fill thy weak spirit with alarm;
His strength shall bear thy spirit up,
And brace thy heart and nerve thine arm.

Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,
Nor let thy foolish pride rebel;
Thy Lord for thee the Cross endured,
To save thy soul from death and hell.

Take up thy cross then in His strength,
And calmly every danger brave,
’Twill guide thee to a better home,
And lead to victory o’er the grave.

Take up thy cross, and follow Christ,
Nor think till death to lay it down;
For only he who bears the cross
May hope to wear the glorious crown.

To Thee, great Lord, the One in Three,
All praise forevermore ascend:
O grant us in our home to see
The heavenly life that knows no end.

It is all too easy to sing these words in a rather dreary way as we walk the Stations of the Cross during Lent! However, look at them in the growing light of Advent, and see that the Way of the Cross is the Path to Glory.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Sorrowful Mystery - 3

The 3rd Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Crowning with Thorns.

When Jesus Christ was yet a child,
He had a garden small and wild,
Wherein He cherished roses fair,
And wove them into garlands there.

Now once, as summer time drew nigh,
There came a troop of children by,
And seeing roses on the tree,
With shouts they pluck'd them merrily.

“Do you bind roses in your hair?”
They cried, in scorn, to Jesus there.
The Boy said humbly: “Take, I pray,
All but the naked thorns away.”

Then of the thorns they made a crown,
And with rough fingers press'd it down,
Till on his forehead fair and young,
Red drops of blood, like roses sprung.

During this season of Advent let us pray for the gift of childhood innocence - that children will not be forced to grow up too quickly; rather that they will be allowed to enjoy their all too brief childhood days. It is all too easy for parents and teachers to say 'act your age' or 'grow up'!

Let us also pray for the gift of childhood innocence ourselves as once more we prepare to gaze on the Child in the manger. For Jesus said 'unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Sorrowful Mystery - 2

The 2nd Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Scourging at the Pillar

See him at the judgment hall,
beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall!
O the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss;
learn of Christ to bear the cross.

Although Advent is a joyful season, it is meant to be hard work, and by that I don't just mean the Christmas shopping! We must expect to put ourselves out a little more for The Lord. Perhaps we can find an opportunity to give comfort to someone who is in pain.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Sorrowful Mystery - 1

The 1st Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary is the Agony in the Garden.

Go to dark Gethsemane,
ye that feel the tempter's power;
your Redeemer's conflict see,
watch with him one bitter hour.
Turn not from his griefs away;
learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

Watching and praying is at the heart of the Season of Advent - we should keep our feasting and merrymaking for Christmas.

However, for those of us living in Scotland, today is very much a day for feasting and merrymaking - as we are observing it as St Andrew's Day.

Happy Feast!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Hills of the North, rejoice


Well, here is the view from my new bedroom window (taken during the construction stage at the end of July). I look across the Moray Firth to the Black Isle - to the hills of the north. Hence the new title for my blog!

Hills of the North, rejoice;
River and mountain spring,
Hark to the advent voice;
Valley and lowland, sing;
Though absent long, your Lord is nigh;
He judgment brings and victory.

Isles of the southern seas,
Deep in your coral caves
Pent be each warring breeze,
Lulled be your restless waves:
He comes to reign with boundless sway,
And makes your wastes His great highway.

Lands of the East, awake,
Soon shall your sons be free;
The sleep of ages break,
And rise to liberty.
On your far hills, long cold and grey,
Has dawned the everlasting day.

Shores of the utmost West,
Ye that have waited long,
Unvisited, unblest,
Break forth to swelling song;
High raise the note, that Jesus died,
Yet lives and reigns, the Crucified.

Shout, while ye journey home;
Songs be in every mouth;
Lo, from the North we come,
From East, and West, and South.
City of God, the bond are free,
We come to live and reign in thee!

These splendid words by C E Oakley (1832-65) are usually sung to the tune 'Little Cornard' by Martin Shaw (1875-1958).

During the weekdays of Advent (except on Christmas Eve) we shall be following the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. We shall start tomorrow with the First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 17

'Goodbye And Good Luck Deacon Peter'. What a kind message!

Of course, as Christians we don't really rely on luck - rather on God's blessing. So may I ask for your prayers as I start my new life in the Scottish Highlands? At the beginning of a new Church Year, the blog will take on a new title 'Hills of the North, Rejoice!' - which is the opening line of a great Advent hymn. How very appropriate!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Farewell to Ham -16

What a happy scene!

A special cake was prepared for the occasion, and here I am 'enthroned' on my new chair and about to eat it. Then I was told I was meant to share it with everyone! It was delicious.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Farewell to Ham -15

St Thomas's has had a weekly Tridentine Mass for the past ten years, and it was good having Christine (who is a member of the Latin Mass Society) present at my leaving do.

In fact I a most grateful to Chris, because she took most of the photographs at the Mass and party afterwards.


I had been a little concerned about my ability to keep this blog going in the Scottish Highlands - would I be able to get a broadband connection? My fears were unfounded - I moved into my new home on Tuesday, and BT installed my broadband on Thursday! It is good when organisations work so efficiently. The blog will appear under its new title on Advent Sunday. Also, in keeping with Vatican guidelines, I shall be adopting a more sombre colour scheme for the blog during the seasons of Advent and Lent.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Farewell to Ham -14

At least Fr Walter was in black for the occasion...

...though come to think of it, he is most of the time! He told me that he really enjoyed my leaving do - and I am sure he meant that in a nice way!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 13

You don't get '3 Hail Mary's and a Glory be' at our church as your penance - oh no! you get hard labour. These three ladies had been caught yawning during one of the deacon's forty minute homilies.

I am proud to say that the lady in the middle is one of the 31 people it has been my privilege to baptise during my time at Ham. She is an extremely generous person - as are the other two helpers. Maria (on the left) is our sacristan and flower lady. She spends hours every week in the service of the Church.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 12

You cannot keep everyone happy - there's always someone who spoils the fun.

Here we see a rather demanding gentleman giving the head waiter a hard time. Really, such people should stay at home!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Feast of Christ the King

On this, the final Sunday of the Church's Year, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.

Today is my last Sunday at St Thomas Aquinas Church, Ham and for our final hymn we are singing the hymn which I wrote with Canon Michael Saward. It is very suitable for this feast.

Let earth rejoice! Let all creation sing!
Heav’n adds its praises to the Saviour-King.
Around the throne the shouts of triumph ring.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

To earth he came, a child so long ago,
light in our darkness, grace and truth to show.
The Word of life, whose gospel now we know.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Despised, rejected, he was crucified;
Suffering Servant, on the cross he died;
true Lamb of God, salvation to provide.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

He rose again, and bursting from the grave
reigns high in glory, who our sins forgave,
now we rejoice, as those he came to save.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

So on this day, O Christ, our mighty King,
let all the faithful, praise and honour bring,
our voices blend with heaven’s choirs to sing:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Text © Copyright Peter Simpson & Michael Saward/Jubilate Hymns

Happy Feast!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 11

A general view of the happy throng.

The catering arrangements were absolutely superb. We know that our patron was very fat, so we think it is important to eat well at our parish feasts. St Thomas Aquinas would approve!

Onward then, ye people,
Join our happy throng.
Blend with us your voices
In the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honour,
Unto Christ the King!
This through endless ages,
Men and angels sing.

Tomorrow is of course the Feast of Christ the King.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 10

To be fair, one person looked a little sad...

...but that was probably because his wine glass was empty!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 9

Some of the adults were determined to have a good time!

In fact the atmosphere in the hall was far too festive for my liking - I had expected a more sombre mood, with plenty of tears over my leaving. Anyone would have thought they were glad to see the back of me.

Only joking!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 8

Some people really dressed up for the occasion!

I was delighted that so many children were allowed to stay up late for the party. They behaved really well, and some of them acted as waiters and waitresses.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 7

My favourite starter - smoked salmon! I was obviously drinking both red and white wine - because I certainly would not have drunk white wine with the main course, which was a beef dish. Mercifully (for the other guests) I was not required to make an after dinner speech!

The gentleman in the foreground is Peter Mann, our former Organist and Choirmaster.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 5

As you can see, I am delighted with the chair. Perhaps it is not as grand as the throne of David - but it isn't bad!

Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest,
Beneath thy contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed.
I know not, O I know not, what joys await us there,
What radiancy of glory, what bliss beyond compare.

They stand, those halls of Zion, all jubilant with song,
And bright with many an angel, and all the martyr throng;
The Prince is ever in them, the daylight is serene.
The pastures of the blessèd are decked in glorious sheen.

There is the throne of David, and there, from care released,
The shout of them that triumph, the song of them that feast;
And they, who with their Leader, have conquered in the fight,
Forever and forever are clad in robes of white.

O sweet and blessèd country, shall I ever see thy face?
O sweet and blessèd country, shall I ever win thy grace?
Exult, O dust and ashes, the Lord shall be thy part:
His only, His forever thou shalt be, and thou art.

I told you my new conservatory is very splendid! Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 4

During the notices at the end of the Mass (before the arrival of the piper) Fr Walter presented me with a chair for my new conservatory in Inverness. In fact the parishioners have bought me four matching chairs and a table - how very generous!

To be honest (unlike the arrival of the piper) this didn't come as a complete surprise, because I had been asked what I wanted by way of a leaving gift. The table and chairs will look great in my new home and will be a lovely reminder of 17 happy years at St Thomas Aquinas Church, Ham. They are due for delivery in Scotland the week beginning Sunday 7 December - in time for Christmas. The chair is incredibly comfortable - as many people can confirm - for it was left in the sanctuary for a week for people to try out! The chair was only a sample - I am getting four brand new ones.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 3

Here is the piper waiting for a note from the organist for the final hymn at the end of Mass - 'All things bright and beautiful'.

I'm sorry - but I could not keep a straight face. This would not happen at Westminster Cathedral!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 2

Whilst I like the sound of bagpipes, I'm not too keen on them as an accompaniment to Gregorian Chant!

As you can guess - the Parish Priest (Fr Walter Walsh) and Parishioners of St Thomas Aquinas Ham sprang a surprise on me, and arranged for a piper to be present at Mass. It was a good job this Mass was in the Modern Rite - it would not have gone down well at our weekly Old Rite Mass - which is usually celebrated by Fr Mildew!

I don't think Len our organist was too pleased - the piper literally drowned him out! To be fair, he was a brilliant piper - I understand he plays at prestige events at Harrods.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Farewell to Ham - 1

I shall finally be leaving London for the Scottish Highlands on 25 November.

In the meantime the Deacon of Ham is having private bagpipe lessons!