On Monday 8th December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, I was delighted to attend on behalf of the Diocese, the Installation of Bishop John Arnold as the eleventh Bishop of Salford.
In a packed Salford Cathedral, filled with representatives from Parishes and Schools in the Diocese, hundreds of priests, most of the Bishops and two Cardinals, he was greeted at the door of the Cathedral by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Liverpool and the Provost of the Diocesan Chapter. They escorted him to the Altar, where the Apostolic Letter appointing Bishop Arnold was read, before he was solemnly seated in the Cathedra.
Bishop Arnold then presided over the celebration of Mass (photos are here) for the Solemnity. In his homily, Bishop John paid warm tribute to his predecessor Bishop Terence Brain and reminded all present of the generous willingness of Mary to accept the will of the Lord.
At the end of Mass (the liturgical booklet is here), after greetings from His Excellency Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Holy Father’s representative (nuncio) in Great Britain, Bishop Arnold invited us – and especially his new Diocese to join him in reciting a simple prayer each day:”Stay with us, Lord, on our journey”.
Tomorrow – The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday because the liturgy today summons us to be glad and rejoice, in other words to be happy and cheerful in our outlook. The priest wears rose vestments rather than purple to show a ‘lighter’ mood.
Though different from Lent, Advent remains a penitential and preparatory season as the use of the colour purple suggests. We are therefore invited on this Sunday to pause and know the reason why we should rejoice, for we do live in the midst of an often troubled and unquiet world as the media keep reminding us.
We need to understand that the intention behind the Church’s liturgy is to lift us up and usher us into God’s time, and so challenges us to open our minds to God’s way of doing things as revealed and laid out in Sacred Scripture.
The simple but clear message today is that we should enter into the spirit of the liturgy and be happy at the thought of what almighty God has done for us. All of God’s promises and his initiatives throughout the long history of the people of Israel find their ‘yes’ in the One whom we acknowledge as Lord – Jesus Christ.
Jesus is God’s final, definitive and most authoritative Word spoken to us, and is precisely the reason for our joy.The liturgy endeavours to capture and convey to us today the mind and sentiments of the Lord Jesus Christ. In his farewell discourse to his disciples after the Last Supper Christ wanted his disciples to share in the fullness of his joy and to experience his peace (John 15:11; 16:33).
Even during this time of Advent and preparation for the birth of Christ, we are invited to enter and rediscover the present reality of the risen and triumphant Christ standing in our midst. Each new Advent is intended to lead us to an ever deeper realisation of the wonder of the Incarnation and its ongoing impact on us and on our world.
With Christ’s entry into our world of time a light has come from God that may never be extinguished, whatever winds and storms may blow.
Let us then allow ourselves to be infused and touched by the spirit of the liturgy of Guadete Sunday. It is the Lord God who calls us to be joyful, not admittedly with a joy of this world, but one which does not depend on the passing delights of everyday.
Cherish and savour the words of Paul from the entry antiphon, The Lord is near. They are in fact the words of Christ addressed to us, he stands always in our midst as his beloved people whom he has purchased by his precious blood. And he has solemnly pledged that the joy he gives, no one will take away from us (John 16:22). That is his gift freely offered to us on this Gaudete Sunday!
As ever in Christ our Lord,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster