Monthly Archives: December 2014


SUNDAY (Fourth Week of Advent)

Now salvation history is revealed. In the story of the Incarnation, it becomes clearer. Is it really, then, just a fairy tale? A legend?


Mary’s peon of praise:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour.”

Travelling down from Lincolnshire, I arrive just in time for Communion. It is enough.


I love this scene from the Baptism of John:

“The father [Zachariah] asked for a writing tablet and wrote ‘His name is John’.” (Luke 1:57)

So firm is his opinion, and so final.


Too much shopping to do. How often do we go to the Mass of the 24th December. It is a pity. Zechariah says his might prayer, the power of speech restored:

“And he has raised up for us a power of salvation, in the house of his servant David, even as he proclaimed by the mouth of his holy prophets.”

THURSDAY – Christmas

Midnight Mass. I was nervous. They asked me to read the first reading of Mass in the Cathedral. I talk for a living, but reading a text to 2,000 people in the Cathedral and many more on radio. And this is for God. I don’t want to read too fast or too slow. At the rehearsal, the BBC man tells me I am reading a little too fast and too loud, my besetting faults.

It goes ok, and afterwards I promptly get a nose bleed, the blood dripping on the service sheet.

But what poetry from Isaiah 9:1-7: “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow, a light has shone.”

And always reminiscent of Handel:

“For there is a child born for us: a son to govern us, and dominion is laid upon his shoulders. And this is the name they gave him: wonder counsellor, mighty god, eternal father, prince of peace.”

A glorious Mass. At the end one walks out into the London night, the service overcome with beauty, smell, incense, prayer, and music, and the word.

FRIDAY – St Stephen

I love this Mass. The tree and lights and flowers still up, but the Cathedral now quiet and nine-tenths empty. A beautiful reminder that the crib leads directly to the Cross.

“But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into Heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at God’s right hand.” (Acts 6-8)

Later we drove up through a blizzard of snow into the Wolds, the car sliding, but mercifully arriving at our cottage.

SATURDAY – St John the Evangelist

Another beautiful Mass. Father Mark Vickers says it for us in the Holy Rood, and the Gospel is the defining moment. As John writes into the empty tomb “He saw and he believed.”

Third Week of Advent


As the third week of advent unrolls, so salvation history becomes clearer. So we read today in the Book of Numbers:

“A hero arises from their stock, he reigns over countless peoples.”


Jesus refers again to the mission of Himself and John to tax collectors and prostitutes. But what if he supped today with their equivalents? Would he be any more popular?


We went to a school carol service and Holy Communion. There is always something very nice about these occasions as a shared community.

We are back to the sublime poetry of Isaiah:

“I am the Lord unrivalled. There is no other God beside me. A God of integrity and a saviour.”


“Widen the space of your tents, stretch out your hangings, freely lengthen your ropes, make your pegs firm.” (Isaiah 54)

A camping analogy.


“These I will bring to my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 56)

Enough said.


I went to our local church and looked up Psalm 45: “You will plead my case.”

Useful advice if you are attacked.

Second Week of Advent

MONDAY – Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

To a rationalist this feast may seem strange. But one of the points of it is to think of the difference between true freedom and the freedom to do as you will. Mary had free choice. She accepted her calling. She could have refused. But acceptance gave her true freedom.

In the evening I went to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas Advent service. I was almost alone among MPs as the others stayed behind for a “close” vote that tunred out to be a majority of 120. I cycled back and forth four times. I thought of Martha and Mary.

TUESDAY – St Juan Diego

We continue with the readings from Isaiah.

“Console my people, consoled them, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem. Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord.” (Isaiah 40)


I was talking to a scientist friend of mine. Whilst most biologists are atheists, half the physical and astrophysicists in America are believers. One of the reasons is the strange way the Universe is incredibly fine-tuned to crate life on earth. There is no obvious reason why it should be. You can invent various implausible scenarios to explain this for instance multiple universes, but an obvious explanation is the existence of a Creator.

Today’s reading is apposite:

“Lift your eyes and look. Who made these stars, if not he who drills them like an army, calling each one by name, so mighty is his power, so great his strength, that not one fails to answer.” (Isaiah 40-25-31)


“I, the Lord, your God, I am holding you by the right hand. I tell you do not be afraid.” (Isaiah 41:13-20)

FRIDAY – Our Lady of Guadalupe

“I, the Lord your God, teach you what is good for you.” (Isaiah 48:17-19)

First Week of Advent


We went to the Archbishop’s Advent Service at Lambeth Palace – there and back by Boris bike.

“All the nations will stream to it, peoples without number will come to it, and they will say come let us go up to the Mountain of the Lord.” (Isaiah)

I spoke to the Archbishop. He was off the next morning to see the Pope about modern slavery. He, like all of us, desperately want union.


St Philip’s School came round in the morning. Memories fifty years old of confirmation in the Oratory. In my little blue uniform, volunteering to answer the question of the Bishop, enthusiastic but probably wrong – a portent of things to come.

“A shoot springs from the stalk of Jesse, a scion thrusts from his roots.” (Isaiah 11)

WEDNESDAY – St Francis Xavier

Long, long meetings all day, a fleeting visit to Mass. The collect asks “O God, who through the preaching of Saint Francis Xavier, won many peoples to Yourself, grant the hearts of the faithful may burn with the same zeal for the faith.” Of course, they do not: my faith is one-hundredth that of Xavier. What extraordinary courage and energy to break your health entering into the unknown.


More long meetings and a visit to St Olave’s, founded 1571. An Anglican school with a strong sense of history and faith. What would it be like to go back to Southwark in 1571 – an extraordinary experience. The richness of visible life all around in the streets, shops, houses, and churches would be overwhelming compared to today’s anaemic experience.

“We have a strong city: to guard us he has set wall and rampart about us.” (Isaiah 26)


We went to see ‘Mr Turner’, the Mike Leigh film, a calming, beautiful, and inspiring experience. Every time I see a film like this or go to a gallery, I want to paint. I used to, a lot, but the energy is weak, the time scant. What a great spirit has a man like Turner. What dedication, and offered a vast amount for his pictures, he left them all to the nation. Yet what simplicity in the man.

“In a short time, a very short time, shall not Lebanon become fertile land and fertile land turn into forest.” (Isaiah 29)

SATURDAY – St Nicholas

I went to the beautiful sung 10.30 Latin Mass in the Cathedral. The light streaming in from the high windows behind the altar, blinding me, rendering the whole scene into a hazy beauty. A sort of spiritual Christmas. I was overcome with emotion at the words of Jesus: “Go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Matthew 9)

This is what we should all do, go to the lost sheep.

“He will be gracious to you when he hears your cry; when he hears, he will answer.” (Isaiah 3)