Lesser Festival of John & Charles Wesley (CoE Common Worship Sanctorale)
O God of mercy,
who inspired John and Charles Wesley with zeal for your gospel:
grant to all people boldness to proclaim your word
and a heart ever to rejoice in singing your praises;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Lord almighty and God of our ancestors, you who made heaven and earth in all their glory: All things tremble with awe at your presence, before your great and mighty power. Immeasurable and unsearchable is your promised mercy, for you are God, Most High. You are full of compassion, long-suffering and very merciful, and you relent at human suffering. O God, according to your great goodness, you have promised forgiveness for repentance to those who have sinned against you. The sins I have committed against you are more in number than the sands of the sea. I am not worthy to look up to the height of heaven, because of the multitude of my iniquities. And now I bend the knee of my heart before you, imploring your kindness upon me. I have sinned, O God, I have sinned, and I acknowledge my transgressions. Unworthy as I am, you will save me, according to your great mercy. For all the host of heaven sings your praise, and your glory is for ever and ever.
– The Prayer of Manasseh 1a, 2, 4, 6, 7a, b, 9a, c, 11, 12, 14b, 15b
Collect for Ash Wednesday (from the CoE’s Common Worship)
Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness, may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
So it’s been a crazy few days. I hope any readers of this blog have had a Merry Christmas with family, friends and loved ones and that you are now all recovering (like me) from too much food. =)
The last week has been spent mainly at home. Cleaning up the house. Apart from the one venture into the CBD on Thursday for a hair cut and to pick up my newly resoled black Florsheim Imperial dress boots that now have a new thick Topy sole on them. The cobbler that The Cloakroom uses did a great job of welting the new Topy to the sole.
Friday night was comprised of two church services that I went to. The first was at Eight Mile Plains where they did the Nine Lessons & Carols service which went off relatively well. To all who performed on the night: Excellent Work!
But somehow, in a mainly Chinese church, it doesn’t quite have the same sort of ring compared to a more diverse church. The Anglicans still pull off a Nine Lessons & Carols service the best. Nailed my solo of “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” with Sime channeling Sufjan Stevens very effectively. Sime: You rock dude.
After that, it was a rush to set up as much as possible for EMP’s Christmas Day service before heading down to the Cathedral for the First Eucharist of Christmas that started at 11pm.
At 10:13 when I arrived, it didn’t really look like there was a lot of people there.
By 11pm, the Cathedral was quite packed. The chairs in the nave side-corridors were nearly two-thirds full with all of us in pews in the centre of the nave jam packed. On a side note, the paraments (the banner hanging from the front of the altar and the curtains at the back of the Cathedral) all changed from purple to gold on 24 December. Beautiful. No more photos until after Mass was over.
The St. John’s Cathedral Choir were in fine voice as they gifted us in the congregation a selection of five carols from ages past at 10:40pm :-
Angelus ad virginum (arranged by David Willcocks),
Adam lay ‘ybounden (arranged by Robert Boughen, former Director of Music at St. John’s and Cathedral organist)
The Blessed Son of God (by Ralph Vaughan Williams),
The Shepherd’s Carol (by Bob Chilcott), and
All In A Garden Green (by Peter Phillips).
I was as happy as a pig in mud when I looked at the service notes and found out that Abp. Aspinall was presiding and preaching. The nativity scene they had set up looked beautiful and at the beginning, it nearly brought a tear to my eye when Abp. Aspinall picked up the figure of the infant Christ that was laying on the nave altar, brought it to the crib in the scene before lighting the Christ candle in the Advent Wreath and then censing the altar, crib and nativity scene with the thurible. All this as the six verses of the processional/entrance hymn (O Come, All Ye Faithful – TiS304) were sung and split up into separate sections to facilitate this Entrance rite that brought Mass to a beginning at 11pm.
Haydn’s Missa St. Johannis de Deo formed the musical setting of the Mass and the choir did a commendable effort in singing beautifully and with joy. Some hymns which I absolutely love were included in the service. I sang my heart out when the “Sussex Carol” (On Christmas night all Christians sing, to hear the news the angels bring… – TiS300) was played as the Gradual hymn before we heard St. Luke’s gospel account of Christ’s birth and the shepherds who hastened to see the Lord in the manger.
Abp. Aspinall’s homily was beautiful. He reminded us that amid the hustle and bustle of the last few weeks, that tonight, we should remember that God, the God of love, dared to reveal himself in weakness into the world He created so as to bring his creation into a position where they could echo and reflect his love back to Him. That the Christ child helps to soften hearts of even the most ardent and toughest cynic of the Church so as to bring them into the enfolding arms of God who wants others to turn to Him but has opened his very self and being up to being rejected. For what is love if it only controls but never yields to the other? Powerful, powerful homily. It will stay with me for years. Unfortunately, Abp. Aspinall was caught up too in the moment that as soon as his homily was finished and he was back to his seat, he launched right into the Creed without even giving the choir (and Choirmaster Graeme Morton) a chance to provide the musical reflection of “Infant Holy” (a traditional Polish carol).
For the Offertory hymn they used “Forest Green” (arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams) as the musical setting for O Little Town of Bethlehem (TiS316) which is a tune that I prefer to the one EMP uses (St Louis). Mass came and went and there were a lot of communicants. They had four bread plates and 8 chalices for all who came forward to partake of Christ’s body and blood. Two sets for the altar rail around the nave altar and one set on either side for those who were sitting in the nave side-corridors.
The motets sung by the choir during Communion were beautiful. William Mathias’ A Babe is born, Colin Brumby’s O my dear heart and my favorite of the lot, Malcolm Williamson’s This Christmas Night. We finished the night off by singing Hark, The Herald Angels Sing (TiS303) and then the organ thundered into action for the final movement of Louis Vierne’s Symphony No. 1 (opus 14) for the postlude. I couldn’t help but head straight to the Lady Chapel and give thanks again to God for a wonderful Mass, thanking Our Lady for her humble and willing obedience to God’s will with an Angelus and thanking God for what happened on that first Christmas night. After that, I snapped some photos of the nativity scene and of the three wise men: Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar. See the following photos.
I even managed to get in a few words with the Archbishop to wish him a very Merry Christmas before departing the Cathedral just before 1am. Was in bed by about 2am… only to rise at 7am to get back to EMP for the Christmas Day service. After that, came home for a Christmas Day lunch with my relatives, Uncle George and Erin. I think all of us ate too much. Couldn’t be bothered to eat dinner last night.
Service again this morning at EMP which wasn’t any sort of day at all. Though, like any good self-respecting Anglo-Catholic, I observed St. Stephen’s Day. His story in Acts 6 and 7 is a powerful reminder of what the cost of being a Christian could actually be. Had another solo to sing at EMP this morning with Sime again on the geetar (I owe you food and/or drink sometime dude). And without even knowing it, Frances decided to play camera ninja and capture it on (virtual) film…
Went out for lunch with some of the youngish peeps at Parkland Chinese Restaurant at Sunny Park. Which was followed by a failed attempt to go post-Christmas shopping at Westfield Garden City (spent 20 minutes trying to get a carpark). Ended up driving into the CBD and went walkies to David Jones and Myer. And found some good stuff on sale.
Finished off this long weekend with 5pm Mass where the regular congregation there had the pleasure of baptising an infant into the Church. I think with this little one, his godparents and parents appear to be committed Christians so here’s hoping he follows in the faith. For evensong tonight at 6pm, given that the St. John’s choir is now on recess until February 2011, the few of us who attended sat in the choir stalls for vespers.
Fr. Peter gave an inspiring homily for St. Stephen’s Day where he reminded the 6 to 7 of us in attendance for Evensong that it was our task to be “white martyrs” (as the early Christian church of the Celts called their holy men and women). Whereas St. Stephen was a “red martyr” because he witnessed for the Gospel and ultimately shed his blood (hence red martyr), the Celts didn’t have martyrs who shed blood like St. Stephen did. Their holy men and women (like St. Aidan, St. Cuthbert, etc, etc) lived holy lives (in keeping with a theme that developed from our second Evensong reading from Titus chapter 1) before they died of natural causes – hence white martyrs.
As Evensong came to a close we sang a couple of hymns acappella (TiS319 – Child in the manger, infant of Mary; TiS313 – Good Christians all, rejoice) that turned out quite well before we received the blessing from Fr. Peter. Afterwards, I had a chat with Fr. Peter and asked what the usual procedure was for those who were seeking to be confirmed. Now that I know that the procedure is tailored for each confirmand, I feel a little bit more at ease. God willing at the 2011 Easter Vigil, Abp. Aspinall will confirm and receive me formally into the Anglican Church of Australia. And the long journey into the Anglican Church and Anglican Communion will be complete. I’ll still help out at EMP with CMCA matters though. Fr. Sandy’s wife is a very wise lady. I still remember her counsel to me post one 9:30am Eucharist when we were talking about my dilemma.
After that, the weekend was over. I drove back home in the pouring rain with Gregorian Chant playing from the stereo. Had some dinner and started on this mammoth blog entry.
So my work year is finally over. I’m glad it is. On the other hand, I have precious little idea of what I am to do for the next three weeks that I have off.
I’m thinking cleaning up my room and clearing out the unworn and ill-fitting clothes from my wardrobe is a priority.
Burning a few candles in here is also in order too. Will be interesting to see how the Kosta Boda “Snowball” votive that A got me for Christmas will go. Along with the Orrefors “Discus” votive holder that I picked up for cheap too (A$85 marked down to A$29.95). And I am wanting to try out the Georg Jensen oil lamp I have too. Given the current rainy weather here in Queensland, maybe now is the right time.
Having the relatives over for Christmas day lunch will be interesting also. I wonder how I will pull up in the morning after going for midnight mass on the Friday night for the first Eucharist of Christmas. Maybe these next few days will be a good chance to catch up on sleep then.
I’m feeling quite stuffed from food though. First Zef’s 30th celebrations on Friday night. Today, the Young Adult Group Christmas party. Blech, I’m watching how much I eat the rest of this week. (Oh goody, we have Kettle Chips in salt & vinegar flavor…)
Calling rellies has been interesting yet annoying. It has been good catching up on them. But always that question rears its ugly head: “So, got girlfriend yet or not?”
While I’d like to be in a relationship now, my chances are slim-to-none. If you had to put money on me finding a girlfriend in 2011, I’d be betting on me not finding one (yet again). Sure, they’re crappy odds, but you’d be virtually guaranteed to win some money. To borrow a line of thinking espoused by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, I think I’m just born in the wrong year to find someone.
Despite those photos that Jacky took at Zef’s 30th party in which I was described as “hawt”, that does not mean squat. So I’ll enjoy my Quasimodo existence again this Christmas and New Years break and I wish a blessed Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2011 to one and all. I fully expect you all to have exceeding amounts happiness in your life than I have in my own.
I’m thinking about posting up some acapella Christmas carols as well later this week. In various languages. I’ve been listening to a lot of Swedish and Norwegian carols this year.
On a carols note, tonight’s 9 Lessons & Carols service at St. John’s Cathedral was beautiful. The Vox Pacifica Chamber Choir was in fine form. Highlights of the evening were:
Pärt’s “Bogoroditse Djevo” (O Virgin Theotokos) – an item that I have a particular attachment to given that my devotion to Our Lady has somewhat increased over the last couple of years and that Arvo Pärt is one of my favorite choral composers,
David Willcocks’ “Hugh! My dear, lie still and slumber”,
“On Christmas night all Christians sing” (arr. David Willcocks),
R. Vaughan Williams’ “This Is The Truth”,
the English version of the Welsh lullaby “Suo Gan” (arr. George Guest), and
“Ding Dong ! Merrily on high” by Charles Wood.
The Pärt song was THE highlight of my night. So given y’all weren’t there, you can watch this recording of the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge instead.
So I woke up at 5am this morning. And was wide awake. So I decided to go into the city early today. And begin my day (apart from a train ride) with 7am Mass at the Cathedral.
My old headmaster was the celebrant at mass this morning and my high school alma mater was on the cycle of prayer for today. So it was somewhat nice for Fr. Paul to pray for all the old boys of my high school. The way Mass went, it was almost like Wednesday morning chapel before the school day commenced. Even back in high school (an Anglican Church school), there was only a small congregation that gathered for chapel on Wednesday mornings when Fr. Paul or one of the other chaplains celebrated the Eucharist. It was that small, homely, festive and intimate congregational feel of a bush parish. It was in those moments back then when, with hindsight, the first tugs on my heart arose with wanting to be an ordained priest (or during my ardent evangelical years, an ordained minister). Who knows whether that’ll come to pass now.
There is a certain something about starting a day off with worship. Even though there were only five of us in the congregation this morning, it certainly got my day off to the right start. As the day progressed and certain frustrations cropped up, I couldn’t help but remember the words we prayed this morning in the prayers of the faithful. About going about our tasks to the best of our ability, learning to listen to and even like those whom we dislike, for grace and forbearance in doing the tasks we don’t like doing and for grace in our daily Christian witness.
One thing I am not liking though is this humidity. I can’t even go for a quick powerwalk in the CBD at lunch time without arriving back in the office with perspiration dripping from my head. C’mon rain, humidity go away.
And given it’s St. Lucy’s Day today, here’s a poem by John Donne (priest, lawyer and poet):
A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day
‘TIS the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world’s whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed’s-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr’d ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.
Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.
All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave
Of all, that’s nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown’d the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.
But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.
But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night’s festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year’s and the day’s deep midnight is.
It’s probably more appropriate for the Northern Hemisphere given the lack of daylight compared with us here on the other side of the equator though.
Jeez, there’s been a lot of feast days this week. St. Nicholas on Monday, St. Ambrose on Tuesday and then yesterday was the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you’re Roman Catholic, that’s the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It’s been a strange week too. Earlier on in the week it felt like something or someone I couldn’t see was stalking me everywhere I went. I’ve still got that same feeling (albeit less) now even. While sitting here in my room. The lines by St. Peter in one of his epistles about being sober and vigilant have been on my mind along with prayers that echo the words of Ps 90(91):11 …
On another note, Chrome 8 beta isn’t rendering the admin pages for WordPress that correctly, but that’s a minor issue.
It’s Advent and this season is supposed to be a time of reflection. Reflection on both the coming of Christ that first Christmas morn but also on his second coming in the future. And given the liturgical calendar that has been a formative influence in recent years on my Christian spirituality, I’m reminded of those who have died in faith (the saints triumphant) who are awaiting the resurrection. Especially given that in the breviary I use for devotions, the period between All Saints Day and the beginning of Advent is a mini liturgical season where the remembrance of those who have gone before is linked with the second coming of Christ.
Tonight I was looking back at some coffee table books I have. OK, not so much coffee table books, but books with a lot of photos and text in them. I nearly cried this evening when I was looking at a book on the life of the late Pope John Paul II. A photo of him standing hunchbacked in his papal vestments for celebrating Mass but clutching on ever so tightly to his pastoral staff as age and weariness take its toll on him. A pastoral staff of the Cross, with Christ crucified.
And then a photo taken at his final General Audience on 30 March 2005. All looks well on the photo on the left with him waving a palm branch while grasping onto the clear plastic of the lectern. On the right, a heartrending photo of the late Holy Father as he tries to speak but no sound comes out. And the look on his face says it all: “I want to tell you something, but it hurts me to not be able to!” A few days later, the Holy Father was called back to be with the Lord, with Our Lady and with all the company of heaven.
I just can’t help but be taken back to a time when my grandfather was alive. Standing hunchbacked in a suit wearing his bishop’s violet rabat and clerical collar, one hand with a Methodist ritual and Bible in it and the other clutching tightly to his tongkat (his walking stick) while waiting for me to assist him in walking back to a waiting car after a Sunday service had concluded. And from that scene, I jump to the last time I ever saw him.
Bedridden at home on the day Dad and I were about to leave Malaysia after what was to be our final visit back home while he was alive. Wanting to say something to me but nothing could come out. All that was left was a gesture to come closer to him, a smile at me that followed by a ruffling of hair my head, a silent blessing from him and then a final kiss on my forehead while I tried my best to keep myself from crying. All I could say in response to him was,
“I will be reunited with you soon Ah Kong, I will be reunited with you soon…”
A few months later, his soul was committed back into the Lord’s hands in a strange and mysterious manner that was very typically of him. He passed from death into life eternal at a time that was very much in line with a personal preference of his: doubles. As I recall my aunt telling me, he passed on at 11:44pm on 5/5/2002.
Dammit, I’ve teared up now.
*attempts to stifle back tears and a runny nose*
Anytime I see photos of the late Pope John Paul II, I am reminded of my late grandfather. Two bishops (let’s not get into an argument on denominational and theological lines here), both from a generation where war, suffering and hardship were part of their early lives, both who dearly loved the Lord and continued serving Him even as age and illness ravaged their physical bodies. And they remain as an inspiration to me in my life’s journey, both spiritually and personally. In this Advent season, I can’t help but remember both of them and thank God for their lives.
+ Rest eternal grant unto them O Lord, may your light perpetual shine upon them, and bring us to joys everlasting with them when you come again in glory. Amen.
A quote that has stuck with me today has been the following one:
“My life is not composed of random chance incidents: rather there is One who looks and thinks ahead of me and guides my life.” – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI)
This week, the strangeness of it must be for some purpose. And while I do question these events, the more important thing is how I keep living my life in the face of them occurring.