Weekly Email – All Saints' Sunday
As I write in the middle of our All Saints’ Festival week, the first thought that comes to mind as I look back over past few days is thanks for the many wonderful liturgies and events we have experienced together.
Ravenna Study Day
First of all, I am so grateful to Professor Judith Herrin and to Fr Anders Bergquist, who spoke at our outstanding study day on the city of Ravenna. The whole day was a great success with a full church of participants. Much larger numbers of people than we were expecting turned up.
People revealed to me they had travelled from as far afield as Cornwall, Norwich, Oxford, and Southend to be with us. I was also impressed by the number of people in London who had clearly re-arranged work commitments so as to be able to attend.
Professor Herrin gave a magisterial account in her lecture of the history of Ravenna, from its first beginnings in the period of the collapse of the Western Roman empire, though the extraordinary period of Arian rule under Theodoric, and then later reconquest by the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian the Great. She spoke with such knowledge of the period that I was spellbound.
Fr Anders then followed this with a fascinating examination of the theological questions at stake in the disputes between Arians and Catholics in Ravenna. He skilfully pieced together what we know about how Arian Goths and Catholic Romans lived together with remarkably little tension for great periods of the city’s history under Theodoric. Fr Anders’ words usefully took us deeper into the theological dynamics at work within the historical events that Professor Herrin had recounted.
I finished the day with a lecture on one particular mosaic to be found in the church of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, which depicts the Transfiguration. My aim was to show how important artistic depiction of certain New Testament stories is in the history of biblical interpretation and to reveal how influential this mosaic from Ravenna has been in the history of Western depiction of the Transfiguration.
A crucial part of our Christian discipleship must be a commitment to deepening our knowledge of the saving mysteries we celebrate, so as to draw closer to the living God. I was impressed by the number of people who exemplified this by attending our study day. People are already asking when the next one will be, and I will certainly start planning something for next autumn of similar scope and scale.
As I look forward to the next 12 months, we have our Advent study day with Fr Behr on Saturday 27th November, and a Lent Lecture with Fr Dominic Keech scheduled for the evening of Friday 8th April. I hope that with this range of different events at different times on different days, allied to our online work, we are making it as easy as possible for people to access the theological formation we hope to offer at All Saints’.
Thanks to guest preachers
I want to offer a hearty thank you to Fr Philip Barnes and Fr Andrew Zihni for their excellent homilies at our celebration of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days this week. It was a delight and privilege to have them with us.
Fr Philip is the Vicar of St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road, and he spoke to us about the way in which sainthood and holiness is not about being a perfect hero or faultless example of virtue. Rather, it is about being a person fully open to God’s grace and the possibility of change and growth. If you haven’t yet been able to hear it, have a listen to his sermon here.
Fr Zihni is the Precentor of Southwark Cathedral. His homily drew us to the fact that all our traditions and customs concerning how we commemorate the dead should be rooted in confident belief in the Resurrection of Christ. Without that, we have no hope at all and memory of the dead is pointless. Do have listen to him here.
I want to thank all those who had any hand in the offering of the music for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. We really have been treated to rich fare. The Krönungsmesse on Monday was spectacular, and the Duruflé Requiem on Tuesday was magnificent. Many people have spoken to me about how they were moved to tears during the All Souls’ Day Requiem. We should salute and recognise the hard work that our choir put into such first rate performances. I want to thank on behalf of our whole parish our Director of Music, Stevie Farr, our associate Director of Music Jeremiah Stephenson, Will Forrest our organ scholar, and every member of the choir.
None of the liturgies of the past few days would have been possible without the amazing efforts of our serving team. They have put in sterling work to ensure all the great services of our feast days went off smoothly and prayerfully. Huge thanks must go to Cedric to his organising of our serving team, and to all our servers who have put in many hours of extra duty over the past few days.
We should also thank all those who helped prepare the church and the many people who helped with welcome and refreshments. Many “set changes” were needed over the past few days, and John Forde and Peter Little have been of invaluable help in that process. Chris Self and Kate Hodgetts have made a huge contribution in organising our refreshments and a large number of drinks parties and receptions over the past week – we are all very grateful! Many thanks indeed.
I hope this All Saints’ Festival can be a time of prayer and renewal for our parish as we look forward confidently to the future, and ask God to give us the strength and inspiration to proclaim his Gospel.
What is the All Souls’ Day Catafalque?
You may have noticed the return in the past 12 months of a piece of liturgical ‘kit’ called the catafalque at Solemn High Masses of Requiem. It is essentially a mocked up, empty coffin, placed at the chancel steps, where the body of the deceased would lie during an actual funeral. Why do we do this and what does it represent?
The essence of this practice is rooted in the idea that we often pray best when we have a visual or physical focus for our prayer. This is even more the case on occasions when words don’t come easily, or we are overwhelmed by sadness or emotion and can’t find the language to express to God what we feel.
A good example of this in another context might be kissing the cross on Good Friday. On a day when it can be difficult to explain in words our emotions and thoughts, that kiss can express our thanks and praise more eloquently than a thousand words could. We know we are not kneeling at the foot of the actual cross Jesus died on, but God uses our imagination to take us there in spirit, as we use our physical posture of kneeling and kissing to express our devotion and thanks to Christ. Through that act, the mystery we celebrate on Good Friday somehow comes alive in a particular way and is made personal and real to the individual worshipper.
Christian worship is thoroughly sacramental. It uses physical objects to express and communicate God’s presence. This is very evident in the 7 “official” Sacraments, but is also the case with many more rites and traditions of the church, which one might describe with a small ‘s’ as “sacramentals”. They share in the liturgical power of the sacraments and express the gospel, even if they aren’t one of the Sacraments instituted by Christ, as guaranteed signs of his presence.
In a similar way, it became the practice of the church to erect an empty coffin at solemn requiems for all the departed so that the faithful could use this as a focus for prayer and devotion as they thought about their departed loved ones and friends. This has been an even more important dynamic during the recent pandemic, when many people have been unable to attend the funerals of the ones they love.
Many people have spoken about how happy they were to see the catafalque’s re-introduction last year as it allowed them to make liturgical sense of the trauma and desolation that so many of us experienced in not being able to mourn our dead.
At a Solemn Requiem we can come into the presence of the catafalque which stands as a sign of our own human mortality, and feel that God personally loves each and every person who has died. As we reverence the catafalque with holy water and incense, we reverence the memory of those whom we are praying for.
God uses our imagination in such a way that the catafalque makes our general prayer personal as we think of individual friends and family whom we remember there. It takes our mind out from the hustle and bustle of every day life and acts as a memento mori – a reminder of the death that we will all face, and the fact that the only hope we have in the face of it is Christ.
Our Director of Music, Stephen Farr, will give an organ recital on Sunday 7th November at 3.30 pm. All are welcome.
Programme: Murrill, Carrilon; Parry, Chorale Fantasia on an old English tune; Hurford (from Suite Laudate Dominum), Meditation, Scherzo, French Carol; Howells, Psalm Prelude Set 1 no. 2; Preston, Alleluyas.
Links for Sunday
The links for the Propers for All Saints Sunday, and the order of service for Evensong and Benediction, are at the end of this email.
Click here for the YouTube live stream for High Mass.
Click here for the YouTube live stream for Evensong and Benediction at 6pm.
Tomorrow week our monthly Walsingham Devotion, in the form of the Rosary with intercessions, will be offered at 1130 before the noon Mass.
Prisoners and captives
Nazanin Zhagari-Ratcliffe, Ismaeil Maghrebinejad, Nasrin Sotoudeh
Rohingya Christians in Pakistan, Karen Christians in Burma, and Tigrayan Christians in Ethiopia
David Fettke, Vallery Tchukov, Sara Vice, Katherine Lee, Lorna Smith, Beth Klausing, Hilary Porter, Bruce Ross-Smith, Benjamin Woolf, James Shrimpton, Tony Rodger, Fr Michael Gudgeon, Chris and Carole Radley, Fr Harry Hodgetts, Rosemary Orr, Martin Berka, Joan Anna SLG, Sheila Wood, Jennifer Spreckley, Sue Yesnick, Elizabeth Lyon, Rosina Sargon Eskrya, Malcolm Brown, Geoff Vardy, Fr John O’Brien, Max Fernandes, Craig Williams, Ross Dixon, Bernard Holmes, Elaine Bishop, Kathleen McMorran, Sabria Systermans, Peter Hoyle, Bishop Andrew St John, Emily Borland, Hazel Duckett, Fr Bob Nind, Jack de Gruiter, Frank Field
Those known to us recently departed
Muriel Woodhead, David Osborne, Elizabeth Lewis, Barbara Schiefer, Richard Wheeler Pr, Derek Rodgers, Bob Brice
Anniversaries of death
7th – Constance Peters
8th – Dudley Sholté, Arnold Fryer, Barbara Reynolds
10th – John Groves, Alan Bishton
11th – Paul Leyland, Violet Vanbrugh, Malcolm McHaffie Pr, Dorothy Cavan
12th – John Mayo Pr, Miss CFR Keeble
13th – Arthur Hutchings
Supporting All Saints
Parish Giving Scheme
You can set up a regular donation to All Saints here.
We use the Parish Giving Scheme, which allows contributions to be anonymous and deals with Gift Aid, saving our office a lot of time. You can read about how the scheme works here.
Donations for general church purposes
To give by BACS please use the following details, advising the Administrator to collect Gift Aid:
PCC All Saints (Charity no. 1132895)
Sort Code 60-09-15
Parish Legacy Policy
We are always delighted to hear from anyone who wants to support us with a donation. Our PCC Legacy Policy encourages people to leave bequests specifically to one of our two related charities to be used for purposes of lasting value (rather than day to day costs):
All Saints Choir & Music Trust (Charity # 802994)
or The All Saints Foundation (Charity # 273390).