The Rector writes …
Although our country is facing the further restrictions necessary to contain a second wave of Covid-19 infection, we hope to return to something nearer the usual pattern of worship from the beginning of October. From next Saturday the Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration which preceded the 6pm Vigil Mass will be reinstated, and from 4th October, the pattern of Sunday Masses will be 8am, 9am, 10.30am, Midday, 4pm and 7pm. Because of the need for thorough sanitisation after each Mass the times of the first two Masses have been put back by half an hour, and the Solemn Mass will not yet return to its former state. I trust that people will be patient with the compromises we have to make at this stage. With the fuller provision of Masses it is to be hoped that those attending will spread themselves over the times offered. The 10.30am Mass will continue to be streamed as well as being open to anyone to attend.
The recent injunction from Cardinal Sarah, “let us return to the Eucharist with joy”, must be central to all that we plan over these coming weeks and months. While the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in abeyance, more and more people are returning to a full sacramental life. At present, around half the regular congregation have found their way back to Saint James’ and we look forward to welcoming many more as confidence grows. It is, of course, of fundamental importance that we provide (as far as we can) a safe and Covid-19 protected environment. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those who cleanse the seating at the end of Masses, and it is crucial that masks are worn (where applicable), that the sanitising liquid is used ,and that proper social distancing is maintained, both in choosing where to sit in the church and in moving to receive Holy Communion. Cardinal Nichols has asked that, for the time being, the Eucharist be received standing into the hand – although this requirement is not easy for many of us, we accept it out of respect for our bishops and as a service to the common good – “a sure principle is not to err in obedience” (Robert Sarah).
We share with our fellow citizens the general concern about the pandemic and the damaging effects it is having on our society – we bear in mind, too, the consequent isolation of many of the vulnerable and elderly around us. Our Christian faith, though, should add another dimension and enable us to face these strange and disturbing times without succumbing to a lack of hope. The feasts which we celebrate in the next few days (Saint Michael and the Archangels on 29th September, and the Holy Guardian Angels on 2nd October) open up for us a fuller context against which to judge the events of this world. We are reminded that it is “in company with the choirs of angels” that we live our lives. The Catechism teaches: “from infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading them to life. Already here on earth the Christian shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God”.
Catholic belief in “the communion of saints” is centred in Saint Paul’s realisation that “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together. Now you are the Body of Christ and individually members of it”. The human solidarity which the Gospel emphasises commits us to the service of our brothers and sisters, but it also opens up the understanding that: “we must all be saved together. Reach God together. Appear before him together. We must return to our Father’s house together” (Charles Peguy). Our devotion to the angels and saints is the natural extension of our concern for one another. “All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbours, and we all sing the name hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together” (Lumen Gentium). As we face the days ahead let us draw strength from the protective ministry of the holy angels – may their existence encourage us as we seek to encourage one another