Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Station at St Peter's Chains

Monday of the First Week in Lent - yesterday.

Station at St. Peter’s Chains

File:San pietro in vincoli 051218-01.JPG

Church of St Peter's Chains, Rome.(ack. Lalupa, Wikimedia Commons)
The Station is in one of the most ancient Roman basilicas built by the Empress Eudocia, where the chains worn by the prince of the Apostles, to whom Jesus confided His flock, are kept.  In the fifth century it was one of the twenty-five parishes of Rome.
The Epistle of the day alludes to the penitents about to be reconciled at Easter, and to the catechumens preparing for baptism, and explains that the Lord is the Shepherd who comes to seek His lost sheep.  The Gospel tells of the separation that the Shepherd will make for ever between the sheep and the goats, or between the good who repent and give themselves up to works of charity, and the sinners.
            Let us ask God to prepare us by “this Lenten fast” to be loosened from the bonds of our sins by virtue of the power of Peter, who was delivered from his chains.

File:Roma san pietro in vincoli catene.jpg

The Chains of St Peter in the 'Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli' in Rome. (ack. Patnaik and Domato - Wikipedia Commons)

The Empress Eudoxia (wife of Emperor Valentinian III), who received them as a gift from her mother, Aelia Eudocio, consort of Valentinian II, presented the Chains to Pope Leo I.  Aelia Eudocia had received these Chains as a gift from Iuvenalis, Bishop of Jerusalem.
          According to legend, while Pope Leo was comparing them to the Chains of St Peter's final imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, the two Chains miraculously fused together.  The Chains are kept in a Reliquary under the High Altar in the Basilica.

Epistle:  Ezechiel  xxxiv.  11-16

Lesson from the Prophet Ezechial.

'Thus saith the Lord God:  Behold I Myself will seek My sheep and will visit them.  As the shepherd visiteth his flock in the day when he shall be in the midst of his sheep that were scattered: so will I visit My sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.  And I will bring them out from the peoples and will gather them out of the countries and will bring them to their own land:  and I will feed them in the mountains of Israel, by the rivers and in all the habitations of the land.  I will feed them in the most fruitful pastures and their pastures shall be in the high mountains of Israel:  there shall they rest on the green grass and be fed in fat pastures upon the mountains of Israel.  I will feed My sheep and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and that which was driven away I will bring again;  and I will bind up that which was broken;  and I will strengthen that which was weak;  and that which was fat and strong I will preserve:  and I will feed them in judgment, saith the Lord almighty.'

                                 'Christ, the Good Shepherd' (20th c. German)

Gospel:   Mathew xxv.  31-46

“In the flames of hell,” says St Augustine, “the combustion will be eternal as is the fire itself, and truth assures us, that this combustion will be the portion of those that are found lacking, not in faith, but in good works”

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St Mathew:-    
'At that time Jesus said to His disciples:  When the Son of Man shall come in His majesty,  and all the Angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the seat of His majesty:  and all nations shall be gathered together before Him, and He shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats:  and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on His left.  Then shall the King say to them that shall be on His right hand:  

"Come, ye blessed of  My Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me to eat:  I was thirsty, and you gave Me to drink:  I was a stranger, and you took Me in:  naked, and you covered Me: sick, and you visited Me:  I was in prison, and you came to Me." 

Then shall the just answer Him, saying:  Lord, when did we see Thee hungry, and fed Thee:  thirsty, and gave Thee drink?  And when did we see Thee a stranger, and took Thee in:  or naked, and covered Thee?  Or when did we see Thee sick or in prison, and came to Thee?  And the King answering, shall say to them:  Amen I say to you:  as long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me.  Then He shall say to them also that shall be on His left hand:  

"Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.   For I was hungry and you gave Me not to eat:  I was thirsty, and you gave Me not to drink:  I was a stranger and you took Me not in:  naked and you covered Me not:  sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me."  

Then they also shall answer Him, saying:  Lord when did we see Thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to Thee?  Then He shall answer them, saying:  Amen I say to you:  as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to Me.  And these shall go into everlasting punishment:  but the just into life everlasting.'

  'Last Judgment' (part) - tapestry (1505) - Worcester Art Museum
- see website for full extraordinary work.

N.B. With acknowledgement and thanks to 'zephyrinus' blog site - for photographs and information re. Basilica.   


Saturday, 11 February 2017

'Blessed be the Name of Jesus'

                             Jesus Christ - the Way, the Truth, and the Life

This post is an acknowledgement of the faith and courage of a former Imam who converted to Catholicism. He was interviewed on  HM Television in a programme entitled 'Changing Tracks', and in the video link below he can be seen explaining the circumstances leading up to his change of faith, and the resultant terrible suffering he endured at the hands of his father, and his subsequent  'miraculous' escape from certain death.

Listen to the moving testimony of a former Imam who became a Catholic as a result of reading the Koran.  A testimony to the power of the Name of Jesus 

View Video HERE

                 (With grateful thanks to Graham Moorhouse, 'Le Tocsin')


'Jesus,Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul,
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in my last agony,
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, may I breath forth my soul in peace with you.  Amen.'

Thursday, 12 January 2017

'The Belfry' at Bruges - thoughts of G.K.Chesterton.

Sincere, if somewhat belated, New Years greetings to one and all. Severe weather conditions over the Christmas period resulted in loss of internet access for two weeks. Pleased to say that we are once again in touch with the wider world.

Basilica of the Holy Blood - Saint-Baselius Chapel, Bruges, Belgium. By Jim Linwood - originally posted to Flickr. https://commons.wikimedia.org

               I expect many readers of this post will, at some time in their life, have visited  Bruges in Belgium. I have visited it only once, when in the early 1950s as a young teenager and one of the altar-servers at St Elphege Church, Wallington, we were treated by our parish priest, Fr Charles Ward, to a trip to Bruges. It was rather a long time ago and my memory is not as good as I would wish, but we travelled by ferry across the English Channel, then, either by rail or coach to Bruges. It was a great adventure for us boys, for it was not that long after the end of the war, and I doubt that any of us had been abroad before. To be honest my memories of Bruges are vague, but I do remember it as a particularly calm and peaceful city, with many mediaeval churches and buildings, and criss-crossed with canals. In those days motorised traffic was light and the numbers of visitors and tourists far less than they are today. The most important venue for us was almost certainly the Basilica of the Holy Blood, in which a relic of the ‘Precious Blood’ of Christ is housed. Regrettably I cannot remember details, but I strongly recommend the informative and interesting article on Wikipedia concerning this. The one building that does stand out in my mind, is the Belfry, which literally dominates the Bruges skyline, and about which G.K.Chesterton, in his short story ‘The Tower’, has this to say:-

 'Rozenhoedkaai Canal' -Belfry in background.(ack. Amazing Belgium.be)

The Tower

          ‘I have been standing where everybody has stood, opposite the great Belfry Tower of Bruges, and thinking, as everyone has thought (though not perhaps said), that it is built in defiance of all decencies of architecture.  It is made in deliberate disproportion to achieve the one startling effect of height. It is a church on stilts. But this sort of sublime deformity is characteristic of the whole fancy and energy of these Flemish cities.  Flanders has the flattest and most prosaic landscapes, but the most violent and extravagant of buildings.  Here Nature is tame; it is civilisation that is untamable. Here the fields are as flat as a paved square; but, on the other hand, the streets and roofs are as uproarious as a forest in a great wind. The waters of wood and meadow slide as smoothly and meekly as if they were in the London water-pipes. But the parish pump is carved with all the creatures out of the wilderness. Part of this is true, of course, of all art.  We talk of wild animals, but the wildest animal is man .  There are sounds in music that are more ancient and awful than the cry of the strangest beast at night. And so also there are buildings that are shapeless in their strength, seeming to lift themselves slowly like monsters from the primal mire, and there are spires that seem to fly up suddenly like a startled bird.’


                                                            Bruges - stone carving


            ‘This savagery even in stone is the expression of the special spirit in humanity.  All the beasts of the field are respectable; it is only man who has broken loose. All animals are domestic animals; only man is ever un-domestic.  All animals are tame animals; it is only we who are wild. And doubtless also, while this queer energy is common to all human art, it is also generally characteristic of Christian art among the arts of the world.  This is what people really mean when they say that Christianity is barbaric, and arose in ignorance. As a matter of historic fact, it didn’t; it arose in the most equably civilised period the world has ever seen.

            But it is true that there is something in it that breaks the outline of perfect and conventional beauty, something that dots with anger the blind eyes of the Apollo and lashes to a cavalry charge the horses of the Elgin Marbles. Christianity is savage, in the sense that it is primeval; there is in it a touch of the Negro hymn. I remember a debate in which I had praised militant music in ritual, and someone asked me if I could imagine Christ walking down the street before a brass band. I said I could imagine it with the greatest ease; for Christ definitely approved  a natural noisiness at a great moment.  When the street children shouted too loud, certain priggish disciples did begin to rebuke them in the name of good taste. He said: “If these were silent the very stones would cry out.”

                                                  Bruges - stone figure (ack Pixabay)

With these words He called up all the wealth of artistic creation that has been founded on this creed. With those words He founded Gothic architecture.  For in a town like this, which seems to have grown Gothic as a wood grows leaves, anywhere and anyhow, any odd brick or moulding may be carved off into a shouting face.  The front of vast buildings is thronged with open mouths, angels praising God, or devils defying Him.  Rock itself is racked and twisted, until it seems to scream.  The miracle is accomplished; the very stones cry out.

            But though this furious fancy is certainly a specialty of men among creatures, and of Christian art among arts, it is still most notable in the art of Flanders.  All Gothic buildings are full of extravagant things in detail; but this is an extravagant thing in design.  All Christian temples worth talking about have gargoyles; but Bruges Belfry is a gargoyle. It is an un-naturally long-necked animal, like a giraffe. The same impression of exaggeration is forced on the mind at every corner of a Flemish town. And if anyone asks, “Why did the people of these flat countries instinctively raise these riotous and towering monuments?”, the only answer one can give is, “Because they were the people of these flat countries.” If anyone asks, “Why did the men of Bruges sacrifice architecture and everything to the sense of dizzy and divine heights?”, we can only answer, “Because Nature gave them no encouragement to do so.”’


                                                  The Belfry, Bruges.  (ack. Pixabay)


            `As I stare at the Belfry, I think with a sort of smile, of some of my friends in London who are quite sure of how children will turn out if you give them what they call ‘the right environment’. It is a troublesome thing, environment, for it sometimes works positively and sometimes negatively, and more often between the two. A beautiful environment may make a child love beauty; it may make him bored with beauty, most likely the two effects will mix and neutralise each other. Most likely, that is, the environment will make hardly any difference at all.  In the scientific style of history (which was recently fashionable, and is still conventional), we always had a list of countries that had owed their characteristics to their physical conditions.

            Thus Spaniards (it was said) are passionate because their country is hot; Scandinavians adventurous because their country is cold; Englishman naval because they are islanders; Switzers free because they are mountaineers. It is all very nice in its way. Only unfortunately I am quite certain that I could make up quite as long a list exactly contrary in its argument point-blank against the influence of their geographical environment.  Thus Spaniards have discovered more continents than Scandinavians because their hot climate discouraged them from exertion. Thus Dutchmen have fought for their freedom quite as bravely as Switzers because the Dutch have no mountains.  Thus Pagan Greece and Rome and many Mediterranean peoples have specially hated the sea because they had the nicest sea to deal with, the easiest sea to manage. I could extend the list for ever. But however long it was, two examples would certainly stand up in it as pre-eminent and unquestionable.  The first is that the Swiss, who live under staggering precipices and spires of eternal snow, have produced no art or literature at all, and are by far the most mundane, sensible, and business-like people in Europe. The other is that the people of Belgium, who live in a country like a carpet, have, by an inner energy, desired to exalt their towers till they struck the stars.

            As it is therefore quite doubtful whether a person will go specially with his environment or especially against his environment, I cannot comfort myself with the thought that the modern discussions about environment are of much practical value.  But I think that I will not write any more about these modern theories, but go on looking at the Belfry of Bruges. I would give them the greater attention if I were not pretty well convinced that the theories will have disappeared a long time before the Belfry.’

(ack. 'Tremendous Trifles' by G.K.Chesterton)

 "Without the divine assistance we cannot resist the might of so many and such powerful enemies;  now this assistance is granted only to prayer;  therefore, without prayer there is no salvation"
 (ack. 'thoughts from St Alphonsus')
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