27 November 2011

Images of sin in Isaiah

As we begin the new liturgical year and this new season of Advent, it is fruitful to consider the readings that the Church presents to us on this first Sunday, because it sets the agenda for the whole of the season and the year. It has been said that if Christmas were removed from the bible, all that would be lost would be about a chapter and a half from the beginning of both Matthew and Luke; but if the sense of preparation, expectancy, hope and longing that lies at the heart of the season of Advent were removed from the scriptures, you would have to delete about half of the Old Testament and most of the New.

So the first reading, taken from towards the end of the prophet Isaiah, contains a reflection on the nature of sin. Today, I want to reflect on three of the images that Isaiah uses to describe sin - straying, withered leaves and clay.

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Recorded at St Mary's, Leppington 8am (7'10")

20 November 2011

You did it to me

The feast of Christ the King provides us with Christ the prophet presenting this ominous and dark scene of the judgement - not only of the people of Israel or the New Covenant - but of all the nations gathered before the Lord, being separated according to the way that we have recognised the presence of the Lord in our midst. This recognition is ultimately centred on whether we understand the power of the Christ who died for us as King on a Cross.

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Recorded at St Paul's, 5.30pm (5'38")
Feast of Christ the King, Year A. Matthew 25

13 November 2011

Jacaranda trees and exams

One of the lovely things about living in the Sydney area is the veritable plethora of jacaranda trees that are in full blossom at this time of the year. When I see one of these trees, I am often reminded of the beautiful tree in one corner of the main quadrangle at Sydney University, and the sage advice that was given to first year students - make sure that you have begun to study for the final exams before the first blossom appears - or else you are very likely to fail. Since the tree usually only blossoms a week or two before the exams begin, this advice had considerable gravitas! Although many students are currently undertaking exams, or waiting expectantly for their results, we should not read the parable today as if at the heart of Christianity is an exam that God will drop on us at his return. This parable, like all the ones that Jesus tells, must be read in the light of all of his teaching, and in this instance both against the whole of Matthew's gospel and this fifth and final section of teaching (Matthew 23-25).

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Recorded at St Paul's 8am (10'02")
Sunday 33, Year A. Matthew 25:14-30.

09 November 2011

New eMissal now available

The Cover of the epub and mobi editions.
The new translation of the Roman Missal has been available for use in Australia since Pentecost Sunday this year, but the text only becomes compulsory from the First Sunday in Advent (27 November 2011). This is also the first time that the text will be used at all in the United States. I received my copy of the Roman Missal which is being used in Australia, England and Wales, and Scotland about six weeks ago and the American edition yesterday. Although the US edition is much cheaper (only $80 posted via Amazon) it lacks the elegance of the $460 British edition that we are using here in Australia.

When around Easter this year, while preparing material for a seminar on the new translation, I came across the full text of the US edition of the Missal on WikiSpooks website, my interest was piqued. Since I had just bought my iPad about the same time and discovered how helpful it was in liturgy preparation and delivery, I began to wonder about creating an electronic Missal. After experimenting with various formats and programs to create an eMissal for use on both the iPad and Kindle, I began the task of converting the scans of the Missal pages into first a Microsoft Word document, and then standardising the formatting and beginning the project of creating a hyperlinked HTML document that would be the basis of the subsequent ebooks. I doubt that I ever really contemplated exactly how much work would be involved in this project! The printed text runs to over 1500 pages, but I decided early in the project that one great advantage of an ebook is that you don't have to be constrained by the limitations of the size and weight of a larger and larger book. So I have provided a seamless text where I thought this would be useful - so for example, in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Canon, there are proper forms of  the 'Communicantes' which need to be inserted (or not) at various times during the year. Why not provide a seamless version of the Canon for each form? This is what I have done. Likewise I have provided proper forms of the Eucharistic Prayers for Nuptial Masses and Masses for the Dead. In other instances I have provided links to appropriate Prefaces or Eucharistic Prayers to follow on from every 'Prayer over the Offerings' - which is more than can be said of the printed Missal!

I used an earlier draft of the eMissal during our Diocesan pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Madrid in August, which proved how useful, flexible and helpful the format can be when travelling. There was a certain delight in using the new texts in such ancient churches and shrines such as the Conversion Chapel of St Ignatius at Loiola, the Catacombs and even in St Peter's Basilica itself! By the end of the trip even Bishop Peter was getting the hang of the navigation around the eMissal.

The copyright of these texts remains with ICEL - the International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. I wrote to them to see what I would need to do to publish these texts officially; they were helpful, but said that I would need to get the approval of the ACBC which in turn would need to get recognition from the Vatican. ICEL suggested that this final recognition - which was only the next step in the process - was unlikely. I submitted an earlier draft of the eMissal to the Bishops Commission for Liturgy for consideration at their September meeting - but it did not make it onto the agenda.

The huge US 'chapel edition' by Liturgical Press.
Over the last few weeks I have been gradually correcting the text and inserting the additional English, Australian, Welsh and Scottish feast days to the existing American ones, as well as additional Masses for Various Needs and so forth from the final printed Missals. The additional sample forms of the Penitential Act are also available directly from the Introductory Rites, as also is the Blessing and Sprinkling Rite.

So in this spirit I offer this electronic Missal to the Australian and the Universal (English Speaking) Church, complete with the Proper of Saints that includes feast days for Australia, England and Wales, and Scotland as well as USA. If you have electronic texts of the Proper of Saints for other countries, please let me know!

This should still be considered a draft text.

If you spot errors or have suggestions for improvements, please let me know. I have not as yet included any of the music; I'm not sure that it is even on the agenda.

If using this eMissal on the Apple iPad, I recommend using the Apple iBooks app. I have just ordered a copy of the Kindle Touch to use in outdoor liturgies or in other situations where glare is a problem. Using the text on a PC, I recommend using Adobe Digital Editions (ePub) or Kindle for PC. If you would like the resource available in another format, please let me know...

So grace and peace to all who find and use this resource!

06 November 2011

The hope of the Lord's coming

During the month of November, there is a tradition of remembering the dead and praying for them - particularly during the Eucharist. Our liturgy this Sunday provides an opportunity to reflect upon this practice in the light of the Lord's coming and the judgement. When Paul writes his earliest letter, to the Thessalonians, he still had an expectancy that Jesus would come again soon. He knew that everything was now different because of the resurrection of Jesus, which was the first fruits of the new creation that God would bring about. So he describes the reasons that the church has to live in hope - even as we pray and mourn for those who have already died. We continue to do the same.

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Recorded at St Paul's (9'20")
Sunday 32, Year A: 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13.

This was 'Thanksgiving Sunday' - the culmination of a four week 'Planned Growth Mission' renewal program; the homily was replaced by a video presentation as a lead-in to the pledge renewal, so I didn't actually preach this homily - it is just some thoughts on the readings today.