“Oh to be in England now that April’s here”
This well known poem “Home-thoughts from abroad” expresses Robert Brownings nostalgic longing for his homeland and all that is happening there during the glorious season of Spring.
Spring is a time of rebirth as bulbs and seeds that have lain hidden within the earth during the harsh conditions of winter suddenly burst into life and reach up towards the sun.
New life appears among the animals as we see the lambs gambolling in the fields and newly born calves being protected by their proud mothers.
In the church we celebrate rebirth; Our Saviour had been tortured, killed and buried yet here on Easter Sunday we see Him triumph gloriously over death as he rises from the tomb.
Bells have been silent and flowers have not been seen during Lent yet now we come together in a glorious celebration with the gold vestments of the priest, the sound of the choir in full voice, and the church resplendent in a riot of colour of spring flowers. The stone has been rolled away; the message of the empty tomb is that Jesus is no longer there, He is among us!
In our praise we have inherited a word from the earliest days of the church. “Alleluia” is a word that comes from Hebrew meaning “Praise the Lord” and which is sung over and over again as we rejoice in the Resurrection of Our Saviour.
I wish you and your loved ones a happy and holy Easter
The flaming month of June opens with the glorious feast of Pentecost on Sunday 4th. This is the day which we celebrate as the launch of the Christian Church; when Mary and the disciples were cowering in a locked room in fear and trembling because of threats from the Jewish authorities.
The Holy Spirit descended upon them, appearing as tongues of flame hovering over their heads, and gave them the strength and courage to open the door, to go out into the streets and to proclaim the Good News to the whole world.
How the celebration of Pentecost (or Whitsuntide) in our city has changed over time! When I was a boy we really looked forward to processing through the streets in our Sunday Best in the Whit Walks. How proud we were if we were given the privilege of holding a ribbon attached to the church banner.
The Walks, both the Roman Catholic and the Anglican were the highlight of the holiday weekend.
What a shame that the dwindling numbers have led to the processions being cut back. It should be an opportunity for us all to make a public affirmation of our Faith.
As we head towards the longest day of the year and hopefully plenty of good weather I wish you all a Holy and happy Whitsuntide and may the Holy Spirit bring you the strength and courage to stand up for your Faith if ever it is challenged.
“The happy birds Te Deum sing, ‘tis Mary’s month of May”
In this month the world around is bursting into new life, the trees are starting to put on their finery, new-born lambs are seen in the fields, and we honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Our Saviour.
There are many churches throughout Manchester dedicated to Mary, among them our Cathedral and closer to home our mother church of St Mary the Virgin in Prestwich.
What an example is set by Mary! Her unquestioning acceptance of the news that came as a bolt from the blue that she was to be the mother of God, her constant support for her Son during his childhood and as a young adult and then the unbearable agony of witnessing his trial, torture and final humiliation on the cross.
We have now celebrated the glorious event of the Resurrection of Jesus and now in Eastertide we are following the story of the final stages of Jesus’ ministry on earth: the meeting on the road to Emmaus, the miraculous draught of fishes, the breakfast at the lakeside, Thomas’ scepticism followed by his glorious affirmation “My Lord and my God” and then the Ascension.
The message throughout is one of hope and love. Although the earthly ministry came to an end with the Ascension the ministry continued and does so to this day through the intercession of the Holy Spirit.
Snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils are appearing; the days are getting longer; bird song is all around us. Spring is here!
Our world is coming out of a long, cold and dark winter and our spirits are lifted with the promise all around us of a New Life.
Our Easter season starts at the lowest of points with Jesus, who was completely free of all guilt, being nailed to a cross, dying in torment and being sealed in a tomb.
For many this was the end of all hope but imagine the disciples’ amazement when on arriving at the tomb on the Sunday morning they found that the body was no longer there!
It was not long before they realised that the prophecies were being fulfilled and that He had risen from the dead and was once more alive and amongst them.
How they must have all felt on learning the news; Mary in the garden, the apostles, including Thomas, in the upper room.
They realised the truth that we all acknowledge, that Jesus is with us forever and we are never alone in trying to cope with the trials of everyday life.
We should not try to live solely by our own wits but must take the hand of Him who will guide us on the right path.
Easter is the greatest festival in the Church’s year; this is a time when we realise that our faith is one of hope; despite all the gloom and despair that we experience, we can hope and trust in our future united with Jesus and our loved ones in Heaven
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights”.
We commemorate this incident from St Matthew’s Gospel each year in the forty days and forty nights of Lent; the period of renewal and preparation which leads up to the great feast of Easter.
This year the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, is on March 1st. This day takes us in to the long haul towards the celebration of the Resurrection.
Like all periods of waiting Lent can either fly by or be a long slow drag.
We should use this time as a period of reflection, to examine exactly where we are in our Spiritual Journey and by means of a personal resolution give ourselves a helping hand on the way.
In the past we used to focus on giving something up, I wonder whether takings in the pubs decreased during Lent, or sales of chocolate dipped.
This is very good practice but perhaps an alternative might be to do something extra for Lent; possibly a special good deed. Does that older person need a little extra company as a relief from loneliness? Should I put a bit extra into the Porch Box collection?
Let us pray together that through our Lenten Observance we arrive at the glorious celebration of the Resurrection strengthened in our resolve to follow Jesus.
“February brings the rain, thaws the frozen lake again.”
This is the shortest month of the year but one in which daylight increases and we can save on our electricity bill for lighting.
Although it is still cold and the ground is hard, yet under the soil new life is stirring and as we move on into Spring the green shoots of new life will be bursting forth.
The season of Lent, the time of preparation for the greatest feast of all, Easter, is later than usual this year and so Ash Wednesday is not until March 1st.
This means that over the next few weeks the priest will be wearing, very appropriately for the season, green vestments.
As we witness this process of rebirth and regeneration we reflect on all that God has provided for us; we all experience times of sorrow and loneliness when we feel that we have nowhere to turn but if we put our trust in Jesus we know for certain that he will always be there to help us through from the darkness into the light.
This is the month that “brings the snow and makes our feet and fingers glow!” I sincerely hope that this does not happen; snow looks lovely on a Christmas Card but it looks and feels different when I am tramping around Whittaker Lane.
My New Year’s wish for 2017 is twelve months of Peace and Racial Harmony and a prayer that more cures may be found for so many dreadful life-threatening ailments.
On 6th January we hear the story of the three wise men who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child. At first sight these seem unusual gifts to give a baby but we need to remember that they are symbols – they are gifts for all mankind and represent security and health, worship and a reminder that our time here is limited.
We have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, to give worship to God to thank him for all that he does for us but also to remember that one day our time on this earth will be over and that we must make sure that we are in a fit state to meet our Maker.
We are now in the season of Advent; we are waiting for the day of celebration of the birth of our Saviour.
Christmas is the second most important festival in the church’s year after Easter. It is a time for fond memories and love. However in our materialistic age the celebration, the making merry and giving and receiving presents for many has obscured the real reason for the celebration – the birth of a child in a humble stable in the occupied territory of Bethlehem.
God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to be our Saviour – as we say the Creed together we affirm that He became truly man and who thirty-three later was to show the depths of His love by accepting to die to atone for our sins.
I hope that you will be able to come and join us at St Hilda’s for one of our services either on Christmas Night or in the morning to wish our Lord a Happy Birthday.
I wish you and your loved ones a happy and peaceful Christmas