« Entering the minefield .... | Main | A feast for the senses and the spirit .... »

July 28, 2004

The Case of the Missing Bishop ...

This week, as I have said in a previous entry, we at the Abbey (and a host of people who come from much farther afield - including the US, Canada, and Europe) are enjoying Musica Deo Sacra, a week of sacred music actually being used within the Worship as it was intended to be heard by the composers. It is also an opportunity to hear some really well known preachers and to hear God's word in an exceptionally fulfilling way.

We began on Monday night with a full Solemn Evensong with our Lord Bishop in attendance. We had rehearsed it with him, and it all ran to schedule and very beautifully with the Gloucester Setting and all the music composed by the late John Sanders, one time Organist and Director of Music of Gloucester Cathedral. The Bishop took his leave expressing his delight at the service and the Spirit of God within the place and the people and looking forward to Presiding at the Solemn Mass for the Holy Spirit to be celebrated yesterday. The Monk was to be his Chaplain again, and we agreed the how and where and when things were to be done and off he went.

The Chaplain was in attendance betimes. The Bishop was late. The Chaplain, the Vicar, and several others began to worry. Still no Bishop. Phone calls to offices and to secretaries. Still no Bishop, other than to have confirmed that he had left timeously! Real worry! Especially as he was also the Preacher for the Mass! The Vicar announced to the congregation that the start of the service would be delayed by 10 minutes and the ministry team got going on the contingency plan!

Sub Deacon (The Vicar aka The Lord Abbot) moved up to President, The Deacon remained in place (He is an ordained Deacon) and the Monk found himself bounced into the role of Sub Deacon. The Vicar bravely announced that if the Bishop still hadn't arrived by the sermon, he would rely on the Holy Spirit to inspire him and preach.

The service commenced with Hurford's Litany of the Holy Spirit and the Setting was Missa Aeterna Christi munera by Palestrina. First lesson, Epistle (1 Corinthians 12: 4 - 13) and Gospel slipped passed (Still no Bishop!), and the Vicar mounted the steps to the Pulpit. He used a text from the Gospel "I will make my home with you, said Jesus." And proceeded to preach one of the finest sermons on the work of the Holy Spirit in the world that I have ever heard. He never missed a beat, leading us from the text through the Old and New Testament understanding of the workings of the Spirit until his peroration and conclusion with his original text - and underlining the fact that in accepting the Holy Spirit in our lives, we make a home for Christ in and with ourselves.

The Bishop arrived to hear the end of it, and slipped into the Sanctuary with a substitute Chaplain as we processed up to the High Altar for the Consecration Prayers. He gave the Blessing at the end of the Mass and apologised for being late - commenting that Father Paul's sermon was far more inspirational than his own.

All is well that ends well, the delay was unavoidable (perhaps the Holy Spirit wanted to say something to us?), and we were at least relieved to have our Bishop restored to us in good health.

Well, time I was off to go and be Sub Deacon for today's offering of the Mass. The setting is Langlais, and I hope that the Holy Spirit hasn't any more surprises in store for us.

Peace and grace be with you all.

Posted by The Gray Monk at July 28, 2004 08:07 AM


not sure I completely understand the Holy Spirit, but maybe the spontaneity is a good thing. kinda like moving with God no matter what he provides,challenges maybe this is a test to see if we're listening? i don't think I listen enough,,then sometimes I wonder if that which I am looking at is God or just me looking for him.

To be expectant that's what I heard on the radio today,,seeking his manifestation

Posted by: william at July 29, 2004 03:11 AM

Few of us do. It is sufficient to accept that it is the Spirit that moves us and works through us, God's work to achieve. It was the Spirit at work in the Old Testament that moved Abraham, Moses and the Prophets. It was the Spirit in the New Testament that moved the Apostles, the Gospel writers and it is still the Spirit that works through us all today to spread the Gospel and to do God's work. He is not confined to the clergy, He works just as much with every Christian.

This is one of the matters of understanding which separates Christians from Muslims. We believe that the Holy Spirit IS God, adopting a form in which He can work in a "microcosmic" scale in His terms in, and through, us. Likewise, we believe that in order to interact with the Human Race (and therefore that part of His creation which is our world) He became human in the form of Jesus Christ. Thus Jesus is NOT a mere prophet, He IS the Son of God - as St John put it so powerfully, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us."

Having left us physically in His death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb and then His "ascension", He cleared the way for the Holy Spirit to move in and with us to achieve His work. God works directly in us in the Holy Spirit.

We believe therefore in ONE God, who has revealed Himself to us in three forms - as the Father, as the Son in Jesus Christ, and as the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. Imagery is irrelevant and indeed limiting. One cannot even begin to imagine a God who is everywhere in being and simultaneously everywhen in time. Anyone who has ever attended a death bed will know that something tangible happens at the moment of death and the body simply becomes an empty shell as the person departs. I cannot explain it (and I have seen it many times) except in terms of the living essence - the soul - having departed and moved to a new and hopefully better plane of existence.

No, I do not "understand" God, but then, that is what faith is really all about.

Posted by: The Gray Monk at July 29, 2004 11:18 AM