Universalis

Friday, 31 December 2010

Christmas Joy - 7



See amid the winter’s snow,
Born for us on earth below,
See, the tender Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Refrain

Hail that ever blessèd morn,
Hail redemption’s happy dawn,
Sing through all Jerusalem:
Christ is born in Bethlehem.


Lo, within a manger lies
He Who built the starry skies;
He Who, thronèd in height sublime,
Sits amid the cherubim.

Refrain

Say, you holy shepherds, say,
Tell your joyful news today.
Why have you now left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?

Refrain

“As we watched at dead of night,
Lo, we saw a wondrous light;
Angels singing ‘Peace on earth’
Told us of the Saviour’s birth.”

Refrain

Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this.

Refrain

Teach, O teach us, holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee,
In Thy sweet humility.

Refrain

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Christmas Joy - 6



The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown;
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.


The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.


The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.


The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.


The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.


The holly and the ivy
Now both are full well grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

O the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer;
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.


Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas Joy - 5



Once in royal David's city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall;
with the poor, and mean, and lowly,
lived on earth our Saviour holy.

And, through all his wondrous childhood,
he would honour and obey,
love and watch the lowly maiden
in whose gentle arms he lay:
Christian children all must be
mild, obedient, good as he.

For he is our childhood's pattern,
day by day like us he grew;
he was little, weak and helpless,
tears and smiles like us he knew.
and he feeleth for our sadness,
and he shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that Child who seemed so helpless
is our Lord in heaven above;
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing round,
we shall see him; but in heaven,
set at God's right hand on high;
when like stars his children crowned,
all in white shall wait around.


Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas Joy - 4



Away in a manger,
no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus
lay down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright 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.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas Joy - 3



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 tonight.

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 giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
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 blessèd 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 today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Joy - 2



Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Refrain

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”


Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Refrain

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n 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.

Refrain


Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Joy - 1



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;

Refrain

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;

Refrain

See how the shepherds,
Summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh with lowly fear;
We too will thither
Bend our joyful footsteps;

Refrain

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God,
In the highest;

Refrain

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing.

Refrain




HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Glendoe Hydro Power Plant - 11

The Book of Blessings states that after the prayer of blessing, the new equipment is turned on for the first time and a suitable song may be sung. We decided that this was not a good idea (we would all have drowned) but the Senior Management Team raised their hard hats in a brief gesture of thanks for God's blessing. The hats were firmly in place again when work recommenced at 5.00 pm.



On this Christmas Eve let us pray for all those who have to work during the night in providing some essential service to our community. May they rejoice in the knowledge that it was the shepherds who were the first to hear the Gloria as they watched their flocks by night. Tomorrow, we too shall go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.

We now finish this series of posts by singing a song which is very suitable for today.

O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Redeem thy captive Israel,
That into exile drear is gone
Far from the face of God's dear Son.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.


O come, thou Branch of Jesse! draw
The quarry from the lion's claw;
From the dread caverns of the grave,
From never hell, thy people save.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.


O come, O come, thou Dayspring bright!
Pour on our souls thy healing light;
Dispel the long night's lingering gloom,
And piece the shadows of the tomb.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.


O come, thou Lord of David's Key!
The royal door fling wide and free;
Safeguard for us the heavenward road,
And bar the way to death's abode.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.


O come, O come, Adonai,
Who in thy glorious majesty
From that high mountain clothed with awe
Gavest thy folk the elder law.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.




Tomorrow we start a new series of posts entitled Christmas Joy.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Glendoe Hydro Power Plant - 10

Here we see the statue of St Barbara which I blessed. It is now enshrined in a niche at the entrance to the tunnel.



These are the words of blessing which I used:

Lord,
we bless you for you alone are holy,
and because in your compassion for sinners
you sent into the world your Son, Jesus Christ,
the author and perfector of holiness.

He sent the Spirit
to sustain his newborn Church,
a voice that teaches us the secrets of holiness,
a breeze that strengthens and refreshes,
a fire that sears our hearts in love,
the seed of God that yields a harvest of grace.

Today we praise you
for the gifts of the Spirit bestowed on Saint Barbara,
in whose honour we dedicate this statue.

May we follow in the footsteps of the Lord,
keeping before us the example of Saint Barbara,
and grow to a maturity
measured not by nature, but by the fulness of Christ.

May we proclaim his Gospel by word and deed
and, shouldering our crosses daily,
expend ourselves for others in your service.

As we carry out our earthly duties,
may we be filled with the Spirit of Christ
and keep our eyes fixed on the glories of heaven,
where you, Father, receive those who will reign with your Son,
for ever and ever. Amen.

The statue was then sprinkled with holy water.

On an Ecumenical note, I concluded the blessing with a prayer taken from the Alternative Prayer Book of the Church of Ireland:

Almighty God,
you have built up your Church
through the love and devotion of your saints in all ages:
We give thanks for your servant Barbara
whom we commemorate today:
inspire us to follow her example
that we in our generation may rejoice with her
in the vision of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O blest communion! fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Glendoe Hydro Power Plant - 9

Here I am sprinkling the walls of the tunnel and the tunnelling equipment with holy water.



Here is the prayer of blessing:

Lord God,
all-powerful Creator of light,
source and origin of us all,
look with kindness upon your servants
who will use this equipment to produce electricity.
Grant that by continuing to seek your face
they may, after the darkness of this world,
find you, the unfailing light,
in whom we live and move and have our being.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


As an ecumenical gesture, I concluded the blessing of the tunnel with the lovely Advent Collect from the Alternative Prayer Book of the Church of Ireland:

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness,
and put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ
came to visit us in great humility;
So that, on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge both the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal,
through him who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.


Let us now listen to a splendid Advent hymn.

Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding;
“Christ is nigh,” it seems to say,
“Cast away the works of darkness,
O ye children of the day.”

Wakened by the solemn warning
Let the earthbound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all ill dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

Lo, the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from Heav’n;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiven.

That when next He comes in glory,
And the world is wrapped in fear,
With His mercy He may shield us,
And with words of love draw near.

Honour, glory, might, and blessing
Be to God: the Father, Son
And the everlasting Spirit,
While eternal ages run.


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Glendoe Hydro Power Plant - 8

Here I am with the Minister from Fort Augustus Church of Scotland Kirk, The Rev Dr Adrian Varwell. Dr Varwell read to us from the Psalter and led prayers of thanksgiving for the safe return of the Chilean miners, and prayers for the relatives of those who lost loved ones in the recent mining disaster in New Zealand. It is not in the tradition of the Church of Scotland to show devotion to the saints or to bless objects with holy water, so it was left to me to lead the main part of the service.



I gave a brief homily on the life of St Barbara - hoping that the congregation would not spot my ignorance. If they did, they were too kind to show it! I then turned to the Book of Blessings - Chapter 23 - Order for the blessing of technical installations or equipment.

Through labour and intelligence, and especially by using science and technology, the human race continually extends its mastery over nature, with resultant benefits that improve human life for both individuals and societies. The inauguration therefore of technical installations or equipment is an opportune occasion for the celebration of a blessing, in order to make it clear that the message of the Gospel is not inimical to the building up of the world.

The order of blessing provided has reference to the community in whose interest the technical equipment or installation (for example, a central energy source or power house, a reservoir or water system, a seismograph) has been established and to the managers and staff. Therefore the blessing is not to be celebrated without the presence at least of representatives of such groups.


I found the rite of blessing perfect for the occasion and the congregation contributed with a wonderfully prayerful attitude.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Glendoe Hydro Power Plant - 7

When I arrived at the plant, I was amazed by the high degree of security. It was as if I was entering a new world - and in some ways, I was! When I arrived at the mouth of the tunnel, the journey on foot to the present sight of working was 1 mile long, and we descended to a depth of a quarter of a mile below the surface. On the plus side, it was much warmer inside the tunnel than outside!



SEE did not agree to the request to cease work all day, but did agree to a 2 hour suspension. All work stopped at 3.00 pm and the blessing was to begin at 4.00 pm. Work was to recommence at 5.00 pm. I was amazed that I had been asked to bring some altar candles with me, but assured that tests for any gas leaks were carried out before they were lit. I used plenty of holy water during the blessing, but was not allowed to use any incense!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

4th Sunday of Advent

Today we focus on St Joseph, and how he reacted to the news that the Virgin Mary was about to give birth to a Son!



Joseph was an old man,
And an old man was he,
When he wedded Mary
In the land of Galilee.

Joseph and Mary walk’d
Through an orchard good,
Where was cherries and berries
So red as any blood.

Joseph and Mary walk’d
Through an orchard green,
Where was berries and cherries
As thick as might be seen.

O then bespoke Mary,
So meek and so mild,
‘Pluck me one cherry, Joseph,
For I am with child.’

O then bespoke Joseph
With words so unkind,
‘Let him pluck thee a cherry
That brought thee with child.’

O then bespoke the babe
Within his mother’s womb,
‘Bow down then the tallest tree
For my mother to have some.’

Then bow’d down the highest tree
Unto his mother’s hand:
Then she cried, ‘See, Joseph,
I have cherries at command!’

O then bespake Joseph—
‘I have done Mary wrong;
But cheer up, my dearest,
And be not cast down.

‘O eat your cherries, Mary,
O eat your cherries now;
O eat your cherries, Mary,
That grow upon the bough.’

Then Mary pluck’d a cherry
As red as the blood;
Then Mary went home
With her heavy load.



Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Glendoe Hydro Power Plant - 6

Well at last the great day arrived, and I was ready to make my 30 mile journey from Inverness to the Glendoe Power Plant. I don't think I had ever seen so much snow in my life, and once off the A9 we only passed two other vehicles. The words of 'Good King Wenceslas' came very much to mind!



Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me, if you know it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me food and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither,
You and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together,
Through the cold wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread now in them boldly,
You shall find the winter’s rage freeze your blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.



Perhaps I looked very poor, because before taking me back to Inverness, Scottish and Southern Electricity took me to The Lovat Hotel in Fort Augustus for a slap up meal! I feasted on haggis, neaps and tatties (for a starter), and then enjoyed venison for the main course. The desert was sticky toffee pudding with ice cream, followed by coffee and tablet. All of this was accompanied by a fine South African wine. Only the pine logs were missing!

By the way, did you spot the postage rates in 1973? 3p for Second Class and half a pence more for First Class!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Glendoe Hydro Power Plant - 5

Much of Friday 3 December was spent reading up about St Barbara and attempting to gain some devotion for the saint, so that I would be able to lead the celebration of her Feast Day with due honour.



Barbara was the beautiful daughter of a rich and powerful pagan named Dioscuros. She grew up in Nikomedia (in modern Turkey). To keep her a virgin, her father locked her in a tower when he was away, a tower with only two windows. Upon his return from one journey, he found three windows in the tower instead of two. When he asked Barbara about this, she confessed that she'd become a Christian after being baptized by a priest disguised as a physician, and that she'd asked that a third window be made as a symbol of the Holy Trinity.

She was then denounced by her father, who was ordered by the local authorities to put her to death. She escaped from her tower, but her father caught and killed her. When he dealt the death blow, he was immediately struck by lightning. She is depicted in art holding a small tower or standing near a tower or near a canon, and holding a chalice and/or the palm of martyrdom.

During her time in the tower, she kept a branch from a cherry tree which she watered with water from her cup. On the day of she was killed, the cherry branch she'd kept blossomed. From this comes "Barbarazweig," the custom of bringing branches into the house on December 4 to hopefully bloom on Christmas Day. Of course, the branches might not bloom at all, but if the temperature outside has been around 32 to 40 degrees fahrenheit for six weeks, they most likely will. Apple, chestnut, pear, peach, forsythia, plum, lilac and jasmine branches will work, also, but cherry is the tradition.

St. Barbara is the patroness of artillerymen, fireworks manufacturers, firemen, stone masons, against sudden death, against fires, and against storms (especially lightning storms). The Feast of St. Barbara is not celebrated liturgically in the 1969 Calendar, but you will see it celebrated liturgically if your priest uses an older Missal (as is the case with the Transalpine Redemptorists who live on Papa Stronsay - Orkney Islands). Nonetheless, 4 December is still her "Feast Day" which may be celebrated informally.

The noble stem of Jesse
Hath flow'red at this tide:
Rejoice, good christian people,
Rejoice ye far and wide:
In Mary see the stem;
And who the flow'r by Jesus,
The Babe of Bethlehem?

This flower the Prophet Essay
Foresaw and did foretell,
Born of the Virgin-Mother;
And man should love her well.
Yet, stem, to flower give place,
For from the same both angels
And man derive solace.

He is the modest field-flower
That in our vale is seen:
or like the snow-white lily
Amid the briers keen:
No rose so sweet and fair;
No perfume aromatic
Can with His Name compare.

This flower with fragrant odour
Doth woo the passer-by,
And fill his very being
With love right wondrously;
Sweet Flower, for thee I sigh;
Thy grace my fainting spirit
Alone can satisfy.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Glendoe Hydro Power Plant - 4

The £150 million plant was closed by a rockfall in August 2009, just eight months after beginning operations and two months after its official unveiling by the Queen. It has been a high-profile project for the Scottish and Southern Electricity Group since then Prime Minister Tony Blair triggered a tunnel blast to signal the beginning of work in February 2006.

As recently as May 2010, when contractor BAM Nuttall started repair work at the site near Loch Ness, SSE chief executive Ian Marchant predicted reopening it in early summer 2011. However, last month a spokeswoman said that “SSE can now only forecast a return to electricity production on the basis of progress so far, and it expects this to take place in the first half of 2012. Work is going well but it is complex,” she said. “Nothing is concerning at all. It is just the general pace.” She noted that work would continue through the winter but said it might slow.



What SSE had not bargained for was the fact that many of the workers for BAM Nuttall are devout Catholics from Germany with a deep devotion to St Barbara. They requested that work on the tunnel be suspended on her Feast Day so that the tunnel could be given a proper blessing. This plan seemed doomed, because the area was practically cut off to the outside world because of the extremely heavy snow. No priest could be found to perform the blessing, so SSE suggested the blessing be put off to a later date. The workers objected strongly to this suggestion and said that the blessing must be done on the proper day.

So, two days before the feast, I received an urgent telephone call late in the evening, and was asked if I would perform the blessing if suitable transport was laid on for me for the 30 mile journey from my home. The high point of the ceremony was to be the blessing of a new statue of the saint which was to be placed in a niche at the entrance to the tunnel. It was an invitation too good to turn down, but there was one problem - I had never heard of St Barbara!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Glendoe Hydro Power Plant - 3

Work finished on the new hydro electric power plant in November 2008, and it started to generate electricity on a trial basis in December of that year. Her Majesty The Queen visited the plant and reservoir and officially declared the plant open on 29 June 2009. Less than 2 months later, disaster struck.



On 16 August 2009 Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSE) shocked the people of the Highlands by reporting that the plant would be closed for an investigation after falling rocks caused a partial blockage. SSE identified a blockage caused by a fall of rock near the top of the tunnel carrying water from the reservoir to the power station. Investigations confirmed that the amount of debris was very substantial, but confined to a section near the top.

SSE had to hold emergency meetings to examine options in order to identify the best way to achieve a resumption of electricity generation at the site, including possible construction of a tunnel to by-pass the blockage, all of which would require a significant programme of work.

Mercifully, no human life was lost in the disaster.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Glendoe Hydro Power Plant - 2

The map below shows the location of Glendoe Dam Reservoir.



The Glendoe Hydro Scheme is located in the hills above Loch Ness near Fort Augustus and although a significant part of the project is underground, many new and changed features needed to be incorporated into the Ordnance Survey Master Map database. These included the dam wall, the reservoir, all of the access and service roads, changes to water courses and their associated walls and sluices, and changes to the extents of vegetation and other surface features.

This map with all its hills, rivers, and mountain springs makes me think it is high time we had my 'theme song' again - 'Hills of the North, Rejoice!'

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 gray,
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!

Charles Oakley (1832-1865)

Monday, 13 December 2010

Glendoe Hydro Power Plant - 1

The Glendoe Hydro Scheme for the generation of hydro-electric power is located near Fort Augustus, above Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland.



The scheme is operated by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and was opened on 29 June 2009 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

Glendoe's 600 m head (the drop from the reservoir to the turbine) is the highest of any hydro electric scheme in the United Kingdom, and is thus ideally suited to generating large amounts of energy from the stored water in the reservoir. Glendoe's turbine is capable of generating up to 100 MW, and coupled with the high rainfall in the area of around 2,000 mm per year guarantees a high percentage output at full capacity.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

3rd Sunday of Advent

Today is Gaudate Sunday and the rose vestments remind us of the call to rejoice - the Lord is near! Indeed, in the first reading at Mass from the Prophet Isaiah, we hear the invitation to 'rejoice and sing for joy.'



Rejoice ye pure in heart;
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing;
Your glorious banner wave on high,
The cross of Christ your King.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
Give thanks and sing.


Bright youth and snow crowned age,
Strong men and maidens meek,
Raise high your free, exultant song,
God’s wondrous praises speak.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
Give thanks and sing.


Yes onward, onward still
With hymn, and chant and song,
Through gate, and porch and columned aisle,
The hallowed pathways throng.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
Give thanks and sing.


With all the angel choirs,
With all the saints of earth,
Pour out the strains of joy and bliss,
True rapture, noblest mirth.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
Give thanks and sing.


Your clear hosannas raise;
And alleluias loud;
Whilst answering echoes upward float,
Like wreaths of incense cloud.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
Give thanks and sing.


With voice as full and strong
As ocean’s surging praise,
Send forth the hymns our fathers loved,
The psalms of ancient days.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
Give thanks and sing.


Yes, on through life’s long path,
Still chanting as ye go;
From youth to age, by night and day,
In gladness and in woe.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
Give thanks and sing.


Still lift your standard high,
Still march in firm array,
As warriors through the darkness toil,
Till dawns the golden day.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
Give thanks and sing.


At last the march shall end;
The wearied ones shall rest;
The pilgrims find their heavenly home,
Jerusalem the blessed.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
Give thanks and sing.


Then on, ye pure in heart!
Rejoice, give thanks and sing!
Your glorious banner wave on high,
The cross of Christ your King.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
Give thanks and sing.


Praise Him Who reigns on high,
The Lord Whom we adore,
The Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
One God forevermore.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
Give thanks and sing.


E H Plumptre (1821-1891)



Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Orkney Islands - 31

As one leaves the Italian Chapel on Orkney, one is greeted by the Italian Flag!



So, let us conclude this brief trip to Orkney with the Italian National Anthem.



Well, on Monday we shall be visiting the Glendoe Hydro Power Plant near Fort Augustus in the Scottish Highlands.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Orkney Islands - 30

Finally, we have the Gospel of John. John is our guide at Mass during much of Christmastide, Lent, and Eastertide. We celebrate the Feast of St John the Evangelist on 27 December.



It is in John that we read the great 'I am' sayings of Jesus. Let us mediate on some of these, as we listen to the following worship song.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Orkney Islands - 29

Now it is the turn of St Luke.



Luke is our guide during the Sundays of Ordinary Time in Year C and during the autumn weekdays of Ordinary Time. We celebrate his feast on 18 October.

Luke is very much our guide in the final days of Advent leading up to Christmas. The Gospel for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was taken from Luke, and what follows is a homily on the Benedictus from Luke - which forms the Gospel for Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Wat a lovely image for today's feast!



Immaculate Mary!
Our hearts are on fire,
That title so wondrous
Fills all our desire.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria!

We pray for God's glory,
May His Kingdom come!
We pray for His Vicar,
Our Father, and Rome.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria!

We pray for our Mother
The Church upon earth,
And bless, sweetest Lady,
The land of our birth.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria!

For poor, sick, afflicted
thy mercy we crave;
and comfort the dying
thou light of the grave.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria!

There is no need, Mary,
nor ever has been,
which thou canst not succour,
Immaculate Queen.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria!

In grief and temptation,
in joy or in pain,
we'll ask thee, our Mother,
nor seek thee in vain.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria!

O bless us, dear Lady,
With blessings from heaven.
And to our petitions
Let answer be given.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria!

And crown thy sweet mercy
With this special grace,
To behold soon in heaven
God's ravishing face.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria!

Now to God be all glory
And worship for aye,
And to God's virgin Mother
An endless Ave.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria!



Happy Feast!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Orkney Islands - 28

Now it is the turn of St Mark.



Mark is our guide during the Sundays of Ordinary Time in Year B and during the winter and spring weekdays of Ordinary Time. We usually celebrate his feast on 25 April, though it will be ignored in 2011 as we shall be celebrating Easter Monday on that date. So I have an excuse to give below the hymn proper to his feast day!

The Saint who first found grace to pen
The Life which was the Life of men,
And shed abroad the Gospel’s ray,
His fame we celebrate today.

Lo, drawn by Pentecostal fire,
His heart conceived its great desire,
When pure of mind, inspired, he heard
And with his hand set forth the Word.

Then, clearly writ, the Godhead shone
Serene and fair to look upon;
And through that record still comes power
To lighten souls in death’s dark hour.

O holy mind, for wisdom fit
Wherein that Life of lives stood writ,
May we through minds of like accord
Show forth the patterns of our Lord.

And so may all whose minds are dark
Be led to truth by good Saint Mark,
And after this our earthly strife
Stand written in the Book of Life.

Praise God Who made the world so fair,
And sent His Son our Saviour there,
And by His Holy Spirit wist
To teach the first Evangelist.

Laurence Houseman (1906)

Monday, 6 December 2010

Orkney Islands - 27

My favourite paintings in the Italian Chapel are those depicting the four Evangelists. This is most appropriate, because many of us like to keep the Second Sunday of Advent as Bible Sunday.



Here we see St Matthew - whose Gospel we are reading on Sundays in this Year A. In fact many of our weekday readings during Advent are also taken from Matthew. He is always our guide during the summer months of Ordinary Time.

I love the Book of Common Prayer collect for this week:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Now we have a special hymn for this Second Week of Advent.

Lord, thy Word abideth,
and our footsteps guideth;
who its truth believeth
light and joy receiveth.

When our foes are near us,
then thy Word doth cheer us,
Word of consolation,
message of salvation.

When the storms are o'er us,
and dark clouds before us,
then its light directeth,
and our way protecteth.

Who can tell the pleasure,
who recount the treasure,
by thy Word imparted
to the simple-hearted?

Word of mercy, giving
succor to the living;
word of life, supplying
comfort to the dying!

O that we, discerning,
its most holy learning,
Lord, may love and fear thee,
evermore be near thee!

Henry Williams Baker, 1861



Praise the Lord! Alleluia!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

2nd Sunday of Advent

During this season of Advent we think about Christ's first coming in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago; his coming into our lives today; and his second coming in glory. He comes to us today in a special way when we receive Holy Communion. We approach the altar this Advent with the message of John the Baptist ringing in our ears: 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.'



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!

Liturgy of St. James, 4th Century (Σιγησάτο παρα σὰρξ βροτεία); trans lat ed from Greek to English by Gerard Moultrie, 1864.



Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Orkney Islands - 26

What a surprise! Here we see the magnificent interior of the Italian Chapel.



Christ is made the sure foundation,
Christ the head and cornerstone,
chosen of the Lord, and precious,
binding all the Church in one;
holy Zion's help for ever,
and her confidence alone.

All that dedicated city,
dearly loved of God on high,
in exultant jubilation
pours perpetual melody;
God the One in Three adoring
in glad hymns eternally.

To this temple, where we call thee,
come, O Lord of Hosts, today;
with thy wonted loving-kindness
hear thy servants as they pray,
and thy fullest benediction
shed within its walls alway.

Here vouchsafe to all thy servants
what they ask of thee of gain;
what they gain from thee, for ever
with the blessèd to retain,
and hereafter in thy glory
evermore with thee to reign.

Laud and honour to the Father,
laud and honour to the Son,
laud and honour to the Spirit,
ever Three, and ever One,
consubstantial, co-eternal,
while unending ages run. Amen.

Words: Latin, seventh century;
Trans. John Mason Neale, 1851
Tune: Westminster Abbey by Henry Purcell



The Holy Father appears to like this hymn!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Orkney Islands - 25

Here we see the north side of the Italian Chapel - showing clearly the basic Nissan hut construction.



The exterior of the east end of the Chapel is very ugly - very different to the beautiful west end.



Sadly, most of us are rather two-faced! There is the pleasant side that we like people to see and admire, but there is also an unpleasant side to most of our characters. God can see both sides. Let us pray that during this season of Advent we will hear the voice of John the Baptist crying in the wilderness, and repent.

Advent is a good time to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Have mercy, Lord, on me,
As Thou wert ever kind;
Let me, oppressed with loads of guilt,
Thy wonted mercy find.

Wash off my foul offense,
And cleanse me from my sin;
For I confess my crimes, and see
How great my guilt has been.

The joy Thy favour gives
Let me again obtain,
And Thy free Spirit’s firm support
My fainting soul sustain.

To God the Father, Son,
And Spirit glory be,
As ’twas, and is, and shall be so
To all eternity.


N Tate and N Brady (1698)

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Orkney Islands - 24

This bell, located above the head of Christ crowned with thorns, is rung at the moment of consecration whenever Mass is celebrated in the Chapel.



The following hymn is most suitable at the celebration of Mass during this season of Advent. Indeed, it refers to golden bells announcing Christ's coming.

Thou art coming, O my Saviour,
Thou art coming, O my King,
In Thy beauty all resplendent,
In Thy glory all transcendent;
Well may we rejoice and sing:
Coming! in the opening east
Herald brightness slowly swells;
Coming! O my glorious Priest,
Hear we not Thy golden bells?

Thou art coming, Thou art coming;
We shall meet Thee on Thy way,
We shall see Thee, we shall know Thee,
We shall bless Thee, we shall show Thee
All our hearts could ever say:
What an anthem that will be,
Ringing out our love to Thee,
Pouring out our rapture sweet
At Thine own all glorious feet.

Thou art coming; at Thy altar
We are witnesses for this;
While remembering hearts Thou meetest
In communion clearest, sweetest,
Earnest of our coming bliss,
Showing not Thy death alone,
And Thy love exceeding great;
But Thy coming and Thy throne,
All for which we long and wait.

O the joy to see Thee reigning,
Thee, my own belovèd Lord!
Every tongue Thy Name confessing,
Worship, honour, glory, blessing
Brought to Thee with glad accord;
Thee, my Master and my Friend,
Vindicated and enthroned;
Unto earth’s remotest end
Glorified, adored, and owned!


Frances Havergal - 1873

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Orkney Islands - 23



The Italian Chapel is a highly ornate Catholic chapel on Lamb Holm in Orkney, Scotland. It was built by Italian prisoners of war during World War II, who were housed on the previously uninhabited island while they constructed the Churchill Barriers to the east of Scapa Flow. Only the concrete foundations of the other buildings of the prisoner-of-war camp survive. It was not completed until after the end of the war, and was restored in the 1960s and again in the 1990s. It is now a popular tourist attraction, and a category A listed building.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Feast of St Andrew

Today we celebrate with great joy the Feast of St Andrew - Patron Saint of Scotland. Before Jesus called him to be his disciple, Andrew was a fisherman, and so we have a photo of the Pentland Firth between mainland Scotland and the Orkney Islands - an excellent area for fishing.



Jesus calls us over the tumult
Of our life’s wild, restless, sea;
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth,
Saying, “Christian, follow Me!”

As of old Saint Andrew heard it
By the Galilean lake,
Turned from home and toil and kindred,
Leaving all for Jesus’ sake.

Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world’s golden store,
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying, “Christian, love Me more!”

In our joys and in our sorrows,
Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still He calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love Me more than these!”

Jesus calls us! By Thy mercies,
Saviour may we hear Thy call,
Give our hearts to Thine obedience,
Serve and love Thee best of all.

Mrs C F Alexander (1815-95)

As a special treat for today, there now follows a video about the Transalpine Redemptorists who live on Papa Stronsay.



Happy Feast!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 22

As we gaze on our Crucified Lord outside the Italian Chapel, let us meditate on the words of the hymn that follows.



When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

We now watch a lovely video showing the Final Profession of Br Martin Mary on the Orkney Island of Papa Stronsay on 15 August of this year. He is certainly trying to live out the words of the final verse of our hymn.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

1st Sunday of Advent

Here we see the magnificent Calvary outside the Italian Chapel on Orkney. Let us gaze on this sign as we remember the words of the Lord recorded in the gospel according to Matthew, 'you must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.' You may also wish to listen to the first 2 verses of my favourite Advent hymn which is sung to the glorious tune 'Helmsley'.



Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,
once for our salvation slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Christ the King returns to reign.

Every eye shall now behold him,
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at nought and sold him,
pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.

Those dear tokens of his passion
still his dazzling body bears,
cause of endless exultation
to his ransomed worshipers;
with what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, amen! let all adore thee,
high on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory;
claim the kingdom for thine own:
O come quickly, O come quickly, O come quickly,
Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!

Words: John Cennick (1718-1755), 1752;
as altered by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), 1758.



Was the organist really thinking of the words when he pulled the tuba out on verse 2? Surely he should have saved it for verse 4!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 21

The Orkney Islands can have some very severe weather during the winter months - but things are not always that quiet during the summer - as the following plaque explains.



The stone circle and henge is located between the lochs of Harray and Stenness which are important for wildfowl, particularly goldeneye, scaup, pochard and tufted duck.



Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

A M Toplady (1740-1778)

Friday, 26 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 20

Here we see part of the Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle and Henge which is located 5 miles north east of Stromness on Mainland Orkney.



This is a magnificent circle of upright stones with an enclosing ditch spanned by causeways, dating to the late Neolithic period. It is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

The passage of the rays of sun around the circle helps to show the time of day - a theme taken up in our hymn for today.

Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever child-like, no cares could destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe,
Be there at our labours, and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.

Jan Struther (1901-1953)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 19

It is clear that the diet of the villagers of Skara Brae was richly endowed with meats of land and fish of sea. Many meat and seafood eaters today might well envy them the following menu:



MEAT - Beef, lamb, pork, venison, goat.
FISH AND SEAFOOD - Cod, saithe, lobster, crab, mussels, sea urchin, oysters, whale and seal meat.

Perhaps their taste for the flesh and eggs of seabirds - eider duck, great auk, gannet, guillemot, shag - seems a little less desirable!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 18

We face a problem trying to say what the villagers of Skara Brae ate. Vegetable matter does not preserve as well as animal. So, while there is plenty of evidence to tell us about its meat content, little remains to help us detail what part fruits and cereals played in the diet.



However, we do know that they cultivated barley and a little wheat. They may have baked bread. In all likelihood they collected wild plants, herbs, fruits and nuts. They may have brewed alcoholic beers by fermenting local plants.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 17

The people of Skara Brae were farmers and fishermen.



They kept cattle and a few pigs. They also kept sheep or goats - it is impossible from bone remains to say which. They may have kept both. They grew crops, chiefly barley, but also some wheat.

We don't know a great deal about their fishing. Almost no fishing tackle has been found in the material recovered from the site. But a large amount of fishbone has been identified - mainly cod and saithe. This suggests most of their fishing was coastal.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 16

The central hearth would have heated the houses - as well as providing the cooking facility.



The houses would have been very dark had there been no interior lighting except that radiating from the fire in the hearth. And no surviving objects resemble lamps.

There would have been little ventilation. The air inside the houses would have been very smoky. This could have allowed food to have been smoked in the roof.

Today we see only the skeletons of the people's box bed, the stone remains. Bracken would have served as a form of mattress; sheepskins and other animal skins would have been used as blankets.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Feast of the Christ the King

This 34th (and last) Sunday of Ordinary Time is celebrated as the Feast of Christ the King.



King of glory, King of peace,
I will love thee;
and that love may never cease,
I will move thee.
Thou hast granted my request,
thou hast heard me;
thou didst note my working breast,
thou hast spared me.

Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing thee,
and the cream of all my heart
I will bring thee.
Though my sins against me cried,
thou didst clear me;
and alone, when they replied,
thou didst hear me.

Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee;
in my heart, though not in heaven,
I can raise thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
to enroll thee:
e'en eternity's too short
to extol thee.

George Herbert, 1633



Happy Sunday!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 15

In the centre of the house between the door and the dresser is the hearth. But what did they burn it it?



While there is plenty of usable peat in Orkney today, this didn't form until several centuries after the settlement was abandoned. Fuel was probably a mixture of animal dung, dried seaweed, heather, bracken, and maritime mammal bone (rich in oil) - such as whalebone.

They also may have burned some wood. But not much. Virtually no charcoal has been found. Wood was probably too precious to burn.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 14

The furniture in the village houses was made largely from stone. And this for two related reasons.

First, Orkney, then as now, was almost without trees - certainly trees large enough to provide timber in bulk.

Second, the nature of the local flagstone, its ready availability, its easy workability, makes it ideal contraction material for most purposes.



In each house, the dresser faces the door, and dominates your view as you enter. This may have been a simple storage unit. But it could have provided a place of display, something like today's mantlepiece or sideboard, where a family's - or an individual's - prized belongings could be arrayed.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 13

The floor area of the houses is some 36 square metres compared with the 61.5 square metres of a modern two-bedroomed semi-detached house or apartment in Britain today. So, the houses are quite spacious - although, being just one room, they may not appear so. It is perhaps worth noting that the small size of the house doorways doesn't mean that the people themselves were small - merely that small doorways offer good draught-proofing from Orcadian winds.



The beams supporting the roof would have been whalebone or timber - perhaps varying from house to house, depending on what was available. the roofs themselves were probably made from turf, held down by a network of weighted ropes of twisted heather.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 12




The village of Skara Brae was inhabited before the Egyptian pyramids were built, and flourished many centuries before construction began at Stonehenge. It is some 5,000 years old.

But it is not its age alone that makes it so remarkable and so important. It is the degree to which it has been preserved.

The structures of this semi-subterranean village survive in impressive condition. And so, amazingly, does the furniture in the village houses. Nowhere else in northern Europe are we able to see such rich evidence of how our remote ancestors actually lived.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Orkney Islands - 11

Today we celebrate the Feast of St Margaret of Scotland.

We have now travelled from Kirkwall to Skara Brae which is located due north of Stromness.



Here we see the flag of Historic Scotland flying proudly over their World Heritage Site.



In the winter of 1850 a wild storm stripped the grass from the high dune known as Skara Brae in the Bay of Skaill on mainland Orkney. An immense midden or refuse heap was uncovered. So too were the ruins of ancient dwellings. What came to light in that storm proved to be the best preserved neolithic village in northern Europe. And it remains that today.

Happy Feast!