NEWSLETTER June 2017
July services at St Michael and All Angels
Sunday 2 July Visitation of Our Lady
Intent: God as ruler of the angels
Sunday 16 July 5th Sunday after Trinity
Intent: God as peace
Sunday 30 July 7th Sunday after Trinity
Intent: Purity, a day of devotion to the Holy Spirit
Sundays with no service at St Michael’s:
Sunday 9 July, 4th Sunday after Trinity
Intent: God as love
Sunday 23 July, 6th Sunday after Trinity
Intent: Steadfast service
Visitation of our Lady
The first Sunday in July has as its principle focus the Festival of the “Visitation of our Lady”. In the Eucharist celebration the Gospel passage for this day is taken from St Luke and it records the visit of Mary to her relative Elizabeth’s home. Elizabeth is carrying the future John the Baptist. When Mary first enters her house, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Ghost, in the same way that the disciples were inspired by the Holy Ghost at Whitsunday. Elizabeth speaks profoundly prophetic words which have come down to us in the 21st Century as “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb“. Mary responds with the words “My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my saviour”. Many beautiful and famous music settings have been applied to these words throughout the Christian era. The deep spiritual lessons of this family narrative and the profound connection with the Wisdom concept as seen in the passage from the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon, which has been adopted for the Epistle for this day, are very meaningful sources of inspiration in our meditations and reflections.
Mary and Elizabeth, Fresco by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua
There are 25 Sundays in the “season” of Trinity, including Trinity Sunday, which is commemorated after Whitsunday. The first Sunday of July is dedicated to the Visitation of our Lady as well as being the 3rd Sunday after Trinity, and the intent for this Sunday is “God as Ruler of the Angels”. During the second half of the Church year the intents of the Trinity Sundays allow us to reflect on the Festivals of the first half of the year and to gradually incorporate these into our mediations and prayers, keeping us spiritually grounded in our busy lives.
We are reminded of the Trinity every time we start a Church service such as the Eucharist, where the Celebrant says the Invocation, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”, which links all those taking part in the Church service with the concept of the Trinity. The Invocation also establishes the intent of all those involved to accept the Trinity as the basis of our Church practice, worship and prayers.
The concept of the Trinity goes back a long way in the history of Christianity and incorporates the spiritual concept of God being “three persons in one”. Perhaps this is not such a straightforward idea for all people to adopt or work with, but in fact we have examples of this in our own lives and in the lives of those with whom we continually interact. A Supreme Court Judge, for instance, can have a day job, maintaining the law of the land, and perhaps then go home at the end of the day to a family. In home life, this person then plays a different role with usually quite different behaviour. Perhaps, besides being a judge, she is a mother to her children, a wife to her husband and the establisher of a family structure in all its varied forms.
In this scenario, in the morning this several-sided person takes a deep breath and plunges back into her varied rolls, energised to carry out her lives in a meaningful way. Our “three in one “analogy can be seen as a microcosm of the Trinity in our daily lives.
A few reflections from Venice and the Veneto
At the beginning of June, Else and I enjoyed some time in the city of Venice and the surrounding Veneto. The opportunities to experience the mixture of art, religion and political power in the context of the history of Northern Italy is certainly overwhelming, and careful pacing is crucial. But a few highlights that I would like to share with you are as follows. The Basilica of St Mark’s in Venice is an intense focus of tourism, but the long lines of sightseers patiently waiting to get in can be avoided by attending one of the many scheduled Masses. We chose the sung Mass and enjoyed truly stunning choral work. It was a reminder of the deeply moving experience that quality music and singing combined with the Mass can have on the attendees of such a church service.
We visited the island of Torcello in the Venice lagoon, where the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta was established in 11th Century. With an island population of a few dozen now, it is hard to appreciate that this was the power centre of the Venice area at that time. The frescoes and mosaics are very bright and well preserved and it is easy to see the instructional effect such art would have had on congregations where reading was not widespread.
The city of Padua can be reached by slow “all stops” trains in an hour or a fast train in 10 minutes. We enjoyed the passing scenery of the slow train and visited the Baptistery of the cathedral of Padua decorated with frescos by Giusto De’ Menabuoi and also the magnificent Chapel of the Scrovegni (family) decorated with frescos by Giotto. The Baptistery frescoes by Giusto De’ Menabuoi show in a very vivid, direct and colourful way how the education of the people was structured. In effect, these art works are a four-sided “Sunday school” combined with moral instruction. We spent over an hour in this relatively small space, and the impact of the depictions was very powerful, and by no means “spiritually exhausting”. The puritan impact of plain white walls in our modern churches certainly appears to be a step backwards in providing a rich experience for church goers.
With God’s blessing
Padua Baptitstery of the cathedral