NAME 1: REFRESHMENT SUNDAY. The Early and the Medieval Church helped ordinary people to remember the great festivals with popular names like, Refreshment Sunday, Thomas Sunday, Michaelmas and Candlemas, which indicated key times of the year. Refreshment Sunday marked the midway point of the Lenten season, when Lent meant no milk, eggs, cheese, fish or meat – it was quite an ordeal. Added to this, in the Northern Hemisphere, it was the beginning of Spring and people were lightening up after the dark grim winter, so mid-Lent became an occasion to relax a little. This little bit of indulgence allowed flowers in Church, and the eating of the Simnel Cake (simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour, which actually is an Easter cake), as a sign that fasting was coming to an end as the Great Easter Festival was drawing ever closer. So, for this reason this day was called Refreshment Sunday.
NAME 2: MOTHERING SUNDAY. Added to this, in the liturgy, the opening verse of scripture for this day is, “Rejoice Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her, rejoice with her”. Saint Paul called the heavenly Jerusalem “our Mother.” So, another name was coined for this day “Mothering Sunday”, it is now occasion when we give thanks for our own mums. It also a memorial of our Mother Church and it reminds us that this Parish community belongs to a Diocese, a Province and a National Church and in turn, that belongs to the world-wide Anglican Communion of 80 million people. Last of all, we remember Mary, the Mother of the Lord.
NAME 3: LAETARE SUNDAY. The Latin word for ‘rejoice’, in “Rejoice Jerusalem…” is Laetare – so yet another nickname was added to this Sunday. With all this remembering, rejoicing and relaxing of the Lenten rules, the sombre dark violet colour of the priest’s vestments is changed to a rose colour. In the 1960s that custom was dropped, however the Church of England’s new prayer book has restored the tradition.
All these elements show how worship and liturgy evolves and changes over the centuries – all so we can “Rejoice in the Lord”.
Our apologies for those who have been trying to access our site over the last few weeks but we had it hacked and have had much to do to be able to get it up and running again. we wish to thank all those involved with this process.
The Christian faith is not a pastime, nor an optional extra, and the Church is not one club among many others. Rather, the faith actually responds to some of the basic philosophical questions of humanity – questions of our origins and our goals: What can I know? What may I hope for? What am I? In other words, faith has to do with truth, and as our Lord said, ‘And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8:32). The Christian faith prepares us for the possibility of growing in the knowledge of integral truth and therefore, freedom.
So, what is the first item of faith – rather like the first letter of the alphabet, ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word became flesh’ (John 1:1, 14).
These short statements, and its wider context of the Last Gospel that we read at every Mass, reveals the basics. However, Christians have a distinct advantage, for truth is not some form of philosophy – but a Person, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (John 14:6). This is why simple fishermen of Galilee became the greatest of teachers – they met Truth. So, a university education is not needed because it is about praying, listening and contemplation and in this way faith seeks the truth, and as St Pauls states we acquire the mind of Christ, ‘For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 2:16). Once we grasp the truth of ‘In the beginning was the Word…’ we become theologians without ever attending a theological college. There is another reason for this, for ‘Word’ in Greek is ‘Logos’, from which we derive our word logical. Once we step into our relationship Christ the Word/Logos we discover that faith is logical, that it is reasonable, and we experience the answers to those questions,
What can I know? What may I hope for? What am I?
In the past Lent has been surrounded with doom, gloom and pessimism about human failings. The new lectionary of readings has changed that. Funny enough, it was a restoration of readings used by the Early Church.
(Out of its vast treasury, the Church brings things old and things new).
However, it is true that human beings are frail and prone to make wrong decisions – but there is more, because we were created to have union and communion with God. Our frailty is that we cannot do it by ourselves and we need the forgiveness, love and grace of God to aid us. So, the Gospel reading about the Transfiguration of our Lord, shows us another dimension of our humanity – it is the possibility of participating in Divine glory.
In Christ, we find the one unique human being, Jesus of Nazareth the carpenter’s son, who is also the Son of God and God. His human uniqueness is that he has been tempted like us but not sinned. Unlike us, he is in constant awareness and communion with his heavenly Father – something we have not experienced. His vocation and mission is to repair that. In his Transfiguration we see what a human being should be in its original beauty. So, we are presented with a vision of our potential when we are willing to open up our personal being to God’s grace.
However, there is the damage we have collectively done to humanity. Sin is a reality that has impaired us. Not only our own personal failings but also the fact we were born into an impaired humanity. This impairment is called ‘original sin’. And we see it every night on the TV news. The corruption of leaders of Russia, North Korea and Syria. The bloody work of terrorists. The murderers and abusers of innocent children. These sins are concrete and real and they are repeated and perpetuated by successive generation.
Who can enter humanity and remove this hideous mess and restore us back to the glory? This is what Incarnation means – God entering all of this to fix it from within. Human beings need a new choice and a possibility to lay hold of a new beginning.
The Cross-carrying Christ enters into the totality of human failure to destroy sin and death and it power to govern us and, to lay hold of his life and make it our own. We are required to surrender our wills and faulty thinking into his hands. The Cross-carrying Christ is the one who is also the Glory-sharing Christ. In him we see that human suffering is not the totality of our existence and that we can become the Children of Glory – Children of God.
This episode in today’s Gospel follows straight on after our Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan with the descent of the Holy Spirit. The voice of the Father is heard saying that this was his Son, the Messiah. Later, Jesus confirmed this status in his hometown of Nazareth, when he declares that Isaiah’s markers to identify a Messiah are now fulfilled. However, the Baptism and the voice of God draws everyone’s attention, including those of evil. In Matthew and Luke’s Gospel, he is to be tested with the simple proposition, “If you are the Son of God…”. The temptations are even plausible, simply asking proof of identity. You see, temptations are subtle, as in the story of Adam and Eve, they worth considering but always sowing a doubt, “‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.’ So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes…” Although the Genesis story is in the realm of myth, that it is, telling the truth of the workings of our mind and heart. It is profile of how we accept a doubt and then negotiate ourselves into making the wrong choice in the mistake that it looks OK. When our Lord accepted the credentials for a Messiah that Isaiah lists, (this
was in the synagogue in Capernaum) he also accepts the prophet’s image of the Suffering Servant of the Lord. The temptations are to see if he can be taken away from this vocation and to be quick and smart in convincing everyone he is the effective Messiah they are looking for. But the Suffering Servant of Isaiah is the one who embodies within himself the sins, the death and suffering of all humanity. From this path Jesus will not be distracted. He will not leap from the Temple but he will leap into our death to change it. He will not turn stones into bread but he will give his own Body to be the Bread of Life and his Blood as the Chalice of Eternal Life. He will resist temptation and sin to be a merciful and understanding High Priest who knows our weakness and failings and to be the source of healing and wholeness within the midst of our humanity. He will resist Evil One and give his disciples authority over that evil – for he shares that possibility to his disciples – to his people – to his Church. Christ is tempted for us, to give us the grace and insight of how evil can be resisted.