Wednesday 6th January 2021
An Epiphany letter from the Vicar, Fr Kevin Morris
‘And they opened their treasures…’
As I write, it is Twelfth Night when, traditionally, the Christmas decorations are taken down. There is always something a little sad about doing this and added poignancy this year, when many people were unable to see loved ones for the usual Christmas celebrations or were struck down by COVID.
The 6th of January is the Feast of the Epiphany, the day when the Nativity story tells us that the Magi visited the infant Jesus. Famously, the poet T.S. Eliot reflected not just on their arrival but on the nature of their journey:
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
We might want to echo those sentiments ourselves as we begin our journey into 2021 and the difficulties and restrictions of last year give way to a lockdown in the new year. Thankfully the vaccines that have been developed give some light in the darkness and the hope of a return to some semblance of normality.
The Bishop of London responds to the new lockdown
In his statement on Monday, the Prime Minister detailed new restrictions in England to control the spread of COVID 19. The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, wrote to us in response to this, as follows:
“The Prime Minister’s words tonight underline the severity of the situation for the country, as the virus continues to spread rapidly. At a time like this, the Church is here to offer comfort and spiritual support to everyone. We have a duty to care for each other, but particularly those who are vulnerable or who may be most at risk.
“The Government has chosen not to suspend public worship in England at this time and we will continue to follow the guidance and ensure that churches remain as safe as possible. The Government guidance on the safe use of places of worship makes clear that those attending a place of worship must not mingle with anyone outside their household or support bubble.
“However, some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person, and there will be parishes which decide to offer only digital services for the time-being. Clergy who have concerns, and others who are shielding, should take particular care and stay at home.
“I would urge everyone in our churches to pray for those on the front line in our public services - the NHS and those working in social care, for schools and many others on whom we depend; and for parents and carers of children at this anxious and stressful time.
“There is hope. The vaccination programme is underway and, as Christians, we have a deeper hope in God that comforts us beyond fear itself. As we have been remembering this Christmas Season, even in the midst of our darkest fears, that hope brings light.”
Churches Open for Public Worship and Attending Church
The decision to keep places of worship open highlights the deep concern for people’s spiritual and psychological well-being and, as Bishop Sarah says, we are here to ‘offer spiritual support and comfort to everyone.’
St Michael & All Angels and St Peter’s Acton Green will remain open for public worship and private prayer each day and the daily Mass and Sunday Mass will be live-streamed from today. (See details below). We have done our best to ensure that our holy spaces are COVID-secure.
However, many will feel that they cannot attend public worship at this time, for various reasons, or have been advised to shield. This is totally understandable and, if this is the case, I would advise you strongly to listen to your instinct or the advice you are given, and to stay at home and share in our live-streaming. This is the best course of action for a great many of us during this time of increased infection rate. Please be safe and be sensible.
Services during Lockdown
Today, Wednesday 6th January, The Feast of the Epiphany - 12.30pm Mass at St Michael’s (live-streamed)
From Thursday 7th January, all Masses will be at 10am as follows (live-streamed). The churches will be opened for private prayer each day from 9am to 4pm.
Monday 10am St Michael’s
Tuesday 10am St Peter’s
Wednesday 10am St Michael’s
Thursday 10am St Michael’s
Friday 10am St Peter’s
Saturday 10am St Michael’s
Sunday 10am at St Michael’s (live-streamed) and also at St Peter’s (Note: only one Mass now at St Michael’s on Sundays).
The Parish Office will be closed until further notice, but emails and phone messages will continue to be monitored from time to time.
An Epiphany Reflection
I have been reflecting on a verse from the story of the Magi: ‘And they opened their treasures…’ We all need to dig deep into ourselves in the next few months and produce those treasures which can sustain us and others. This is very much a spiritual task which I hope our daily live-streaming will inspire.
Fr Andrew Jones from the Church in Wales has written a stirring Epiphany meditation on what this might mean. He asks us to imagine the Wise Men presenting their treasures and given the opportunity to say a few words.
“Greetings, my name is Caspar and I bring you the gift of Gold. Gold is a symbol of wealth and glory; the standard by which people and nations measure their power and prosperity. Sadly, gold is also a symbol of human greed and selfishness. For this gift people have fought and killed and, tragically, on it has been built injustice and oppression. For this gift people and nations have degraded others. With this gold I offer you, Jesus, my HOPE - that human wealth and our shared resources may be used with fairness and with justice.
"Greetings, my name is Melchior and I bring the gift of Frankincense. Frankincense is a symbol of prayer and human aspiration - that's why we use incense in worship, a sign of our prayers rising up to heaven in the smoke. This gift reminds us of the silent longing that makes people lift their eyes to heaven; the inner power that draws us on from what we are to what we could be, ought to be, reaching from our despair to standing in full authentic stature - living life to the full. With this Frankincense I offer you, Jesus, my HOPE - that people across the world will see the dignity, rights and privileges God has given to all.
"Greetings, my name is Balthasar and I bring you the gift of Myrrh.
Myrrh is a symbol of suffering. In this gift we see the tragedy of poverty, oppression and pain. Here is the agony of a mother who cannot ease her child's hunger in so many places in the world; the father, who with strong hands, has no work to do; the family disrupted by homelessness; the country divided by war; the whole world struggling with Covid. With this Myrrh I offer you, Jesus, my HOPE - that people will enter into the suffering of others and, in their sharing, discover a release.”
My prayers and good wishes as we journey into the New Year.
Yours in Christ,