Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – the first in 2018!
With the Christmas season now behind us, we have entered what the Church’s liturgical calendar calls “Ordinary Time”, that is until the arrival of Lent in just over a month’s time. Christmas and the days following have offered us worshippers a rich variety of liturgical feasts, what might be called an ‘embarrassment of riches’.
We began on Christmas Day with the Lord’s birthday, followed immediately by the feast of St. Stephen, then St. John the Evangelist and, finally in December, that of the Holy Innocents. New Year’s Day is a solemn feast, dedicated to ‘Mary, Mother of God’. On the 6th January – twelve days after Christmas – we have the very significant feast of the Epiphany, sometimes called ‘little Christmas.’ Finally, and perhaps slightly overlooked this year, occurs the Baptism of the Lord.
So the last few weeks have seen quite an array of liturgical feasts and solemnities, and so understandably we are moving into a quieter period, Ordinary time. Yet it would be a mistake and a misunderstanding of the liturgy to imagine that somehow God in Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, are only moderately active in Ordinary time. Indeed, in 2018 the Lord promises a year of blessings!
Christ is ever present in his Church. In a favourite image of the apostle Paul, Christ is the Head of the Church which is his body, and he never ceases to nurture and cherish her. His Incarnation and Resurrection are not events celebrated at Christmas and Easter only; their power and grace-filled effectiveness remain constant and ever accessible to the believer, in season and out of season.
During the high-points of the Church’s liturgical year we renew in a more intense way our devotion to the great mysteries of our faith: the Lord’s birth among us in Bethlehem, his passion, death and resurrection at Easter, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Church at Pentecost.
We draw on these reserves, as it were, which help to nourish our faith in the season of Ordinary time. We might permit ourselves the thought that we need a rest from these ‘high octane’ liturgical celebrations of the Christmas season, and the calmer atmosphere of the next few weeks provides us with that respite.
Yet we need to remember that when we come together for Mass at any time of the year we do so through the power of the Holy Spirit, and Christ is waiting to speak to us through the proclamation of his word in the readings at Mass.
With the offering of bread and wine and the rite of consecration we and all our many endeavours become part of his sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of the world. No Mass therefore is ever ordinary. As Christmas and all its wonder recedes into the past, the challenge for the Church and every single believer is to live out the implications of the truths which Christmas has just set before us.
Through his cross and resurrection Christ has ushered in a new creation. We have become a new creation through our baptism into Christ. St. Paul says that the old order has passed away and everything has been made new. May we all experience something of that newness, Christ’s newness, as we enter Ordinary time!
Until next week – May God bless you all,
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster