Apart from our Sunday Mass commitment, the Church asks us to honour these three special days during the Christmas Liturgical season:
Apart from our Sunday Mass commitment, the Church asks us to honour these three special days during the Christmas Liturgical season:
It begins on the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (Nov. 30) and spans four Sundays or four weeks unless Christmas falls early.
The historical origins of Advent are hard to determine with great precision. From its earliest form in the 4th century, Advent has always been similar to Lent, with an emphasis on prayer and fasting.
The Gelasian Sacramentary, traditionally attributed to Pope St. Gelasius I (d. 496), was the first to provide Advent liturgies for five Sundays. Later, Pope St. Gregory I (d. 604) enhanced these liturgies composing prayers, antiphons, readings, and responses. Pope St. Gregory VII (d. 1095) later reduced the number of Sundays in Advent to four. Finally, about the ninth century, the Church designated the first Sunday of Advent as the beginning of the Church’s Liturgical Year.
The Catechism stresses the two-fold meaning of this coming : When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming (No. 524).
The importance of this season is therefore to focus on the coming of our Lord. Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning coming:
Our use of the Advent wreathe was inspired by the German Lutherans in the early 1500’s. The wreathe is a circle, which has no beginning or end: In this way, we call to mind how our lives, here and now, participate in the eternity of Gods plan of salvation and how we hope to share eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The wreathe is made of fresh plant material, because Christ came to give us new life through His passion, death, and resurrection. Three candles are purple (the same colour as the Priest’s vestments in Advent), symbolizing penance, preparation, and sacrifice; the pink candle symbolizes the same but highlights the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, when we rejoice because our preparation is now half-way finished.
The light represents Christ, who entered this world to scatter the darkness of evil and show us the way of righteousness. The progression of lighting candles shows our increasing readiness to meet our Lord. Each family ought to have an Advent wreathe, light it at dinner time, and say the special prayers. This tradition will help each family keep its focus on the true meaning of Christmas. In all, during Advent we strive to fulfil the opening prayer for the Mass of the First Sunday of Advent:
The following beautiful prayer is traditionally recited fifteen times a day until Christmas. This is a very meditative prayer that helps us increase our awareness of the real focus of Christmas and helps us prepare ourselves spiritually for His coming.
NOVEMBER is traditionally the month when Catholics everywhere remember those who have gone to God.
Our Faith teaches that through their lifetime journey, every person has a moral freedom to choose, with three possible ultimate outcomes:
we attain beatitude, which expresses the joy and peace of being eternally with God in Heaven;
that journey had not completely resulted, at the time of their departure from this life, in the total conversion and renewal of the person and so, by an act of sheer Divine compassion, they are held in God’s love and ‘purified’ of their defects, so as to enter eventually into Heaven, where no imperfection can coexist;
Holy Souls in Purgatory
The Church has always taught us to pray for those who have gone to eternity. Even in the late Old Testament book of Maccabees (2 Maccabees 12:38-46), prayers and alms were offered for the souls of the dead by those who thought “well and religiously concerning the resurrection.” It was believed that “they who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid up for them” and that “it is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” We know that a defiled soul cannot enter into Heaven. We are all in need of grace to come into the perfection of charity. We cannot enter Heaven if we have not been completely cleansed of sin and all punishment due to sin, c.f. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1031 and 1472.
Purgatory is not eternal. Its duration depends upon the particular judgment each have received from Christ. By Divine Mercy, they have not merited hell, because in their lives, they honoured God and developed their relationship with him, despite any limitations and failures. It is difficult to speak in terms of earthly time, since Purgatory is a temporary state, not a place as such. It is therefore not bound by space and time in the same way we are, but it is connected; and certainly it is connected with the definitive Second Coming of the Son of Man at the end of time, when Purgatory will also cease to exist.
The Church has always taught that we can pray for the dead and assist them in their purification. We can shorten therefore their time in Purgatory, because our prayers of love supplicate for them before the Mercy of God. The most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is THE WAY to help the dead in Purgatory, because it is the Altar of hope and consolation for us all. That is why it is a most honourable act of charity to have a Priest offer a Mass for the Dead, or as an intention for a given Mass offered for a dearly departed person. Please be aware that sometimes people confuse offering a Mass themselves in person, as in going specially to one for someone or having in mind some intention of our own, and the actual application of the Mass by the Priest for the specific intention requested as he does so in persona Christi.
The ancient practice of Indulgences is also to be recommended for the Faithful Departed. You can read more on this in the Catechism, paragraphs 1471 to 1479.
Emeritus Archbishop of Southwark
The Most Reverend Michael G. Bowen, S.T.L., Ph.L., former Archbishop of Southwark died in the early hours of Thursday 17 October 2019. He was 89 years-old.
Archbishop Bowen was born in Gibraltar, where his maternal grandparents lived, on 23 April 1930 – the feast day of St George, patron saint of England.
His home until 1959 was in Wimbledon, London. He was the son of Major John Bowen (Irish Guards, killed in action in World War II, Norway 1940) and Mary, née Pedley, who married Sir Paul Makins, Bt, in 1945.
Archbishop Bowen was educated at Downside School before gaining a place at Trinity College, Cambridge.
He was a wine merchant, working for Saccone and Speed Ltd, before entering into formation for the Catholic priesthood at the Venerable English College, Rome, in 1952. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Southwark on 6 July 1958.
Twelve years later, he was Ordained the second Bishop of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton on 14 March 1971.
That same year, he was elected with Cardinal Heenan to represent the Bishops of England and Wales at the Rome Synod on “The Priesthood” and on “Justice and Peace in the World”.
In March 1977, he succeeded Cyril Conrad Cowderoy as the eighth Archbishop of Southwark. Archbishop Bowen welcomed then-Pope John Paul II to St George’s Cathedral in 1982.
He was well known to Gibraltar. He co-consecrated Bishop Edward Rapallo in 1973 and presided at his funeral in Gibraltar in 1984.
He installed Bishop Bernard Devlin, who had been consecrated in Rome by Pope St. John Paul II in 1985, as Bishop of Gibraltar.
He co-consecrated Bishop Caruana in 1998.
Finally, he returned to the Rock in 2010 to consecrate Bishop Ralph Heskett C.Ss.R.
Archbishop Bowen was a member of the Standing Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and Chairman of it from 1999 to 2001. He also served the Bishops’ Conference as Chair of the Department of Christian Life and Worship (1983-99) and Chair of the Committee for Marriage and Family Life (1983-86).
Our Lady of Europe has been on the side of Gibraltar, throughout all our history. Especially, through the closing and opening of the frontier and all during our difficult times. Yesterday we gathered to ask her again to intercede for us:
The Diocesan Youth Ministry organised a “Rosary Round the Rock” yesterday, Monday the 7th October, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. at 5.00pm along 35 posts encircling the entire Gibraltar.
Quite a number assembled at each post from the various parishes and Diocesan movements. Many more who could not be with us, because they are housebound, in hospital or for other reasons not able to make it to one of the posts, prayed the Rosary at 5 pm too.
Thank you also to all who organised the event and made our time of prayer possible.
Last weekend, the Gibraltar Charismatic Renewal held a retreat at the Community Centre.
It was a wonderful time of celebration, song, prayer, adoration and fellowship, led by Inmaculada Moreno from Madrid and Padre Ricardo from the Archdiocese of Toledo.
Thank you Inmaculada and Padre Ricardo and also to all those who made the weekend possible.
Monsignor Mark Miles, who is a Priest of the Diocese of Gibraltar and currently serving at the Vatican Secretariat of State, has been appointed by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, as Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Organization of American States. The aim of this Organization is to build an order of peace and justice on the American continent, promote solidarity, development and cooperation among the States of the region, support democracy and protect human rights.
On hearing of the good news, Bishop Zammit said: “We congratulate Mgr. Miles on such a prestigious appointment. All the priests and faithful of the Diocese join me in praying for Mgr. Mark, commending him and his new ministry to the intercession of Our Lady of Europe”.
Thanking his Lordship who congratulated him on behalf of all the Diocese, Mgr. Miles replied: “It’s an honour to have been asked to represent the Holy See as Permanent Observer to the Organization of American States and I thank the Holy Father for the trust placed in me. I look forward to taking on this challenge at the service of the Church in the family of nations in the Americas and I ask the prayers of all in my home diocese of Gibraltar”.
With the end of Eastertide, the Church returns to her so-called Ordinary Time. This is a fitting way to remind us that the entire reason why God was born, became one like us —in everything but sin— was to show us the way back to the Father, which we had lost through the sin of Adam and Eve. This is at the heart of the mystery of our Redemption as revealed by God.
The Baptism of Jesus therefore signals the dawn of our hope: that being baptized in Him, we will die with Him, to rise with Him (c.f. St. Paul Rom 6:3-5; 1 Cor 10:11-12; Col 2:12).
The basis of our re-birth in Christ, is our new life in the Sacred Trinity: to live in an ineffable communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit; in an eternal embrace of joy! That relationship begins now, through Baptism.
Jesus became truly man so that He could illumine the way for us, by following Him along our life-long road of conversion: turning away from sin and living a new life in God. Baptism is the gateway which Christ opens for us, to make possible our entry into Paradise —if we so desire— and live with Him forever.
The ‘Ordinary Time’ of the Church’s Liturgical Year in 2019 began on Monday 14th January. This means that we resume the 3-year cycle of readings from Sacred Scriptures which are proclaimed at Holy Mass each Sunday and during the weekdays.
Also, the ‘Divine Office’ or ‘Liturgy of the Hours’ which all religious, bishops, priests and deacons are obliged to recite in the name of the Church, ‘resets’ back to its starting point for the new liturgical year after the Feast of Christ the King, or more accurately, beginning from the First Sunday of Advent.
Since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, an astonishing number of lay people, associations of Apostolic Life and groups have joined in this ‘Universal Prayer of the Church’. This is a tremendous blessing for the world, whereby from East to West, “from the rising of the sun to its setting, a pure sacrifice may be made offered to your name” [Eucharistic Prayer 3].
As with the Eucharistic Prayer which the Priest offers In Persona Christi —that is, in the Person of Christ— is Christ’s perfect prayer of praise and thanksgiving, which He offers continually to the Father, similarly the ‘Divine Office’ is His intercession for His Body, the Church.
In this official Prayer of the Church, we can feel the presence of our brothers and sisters —the Church in Heaven and the Church in Purgatory— praying in unison with the ‘pilgrimage Church’ on Earth. This is the nature and reality of the Catholic Church, which finds her origins and mission in the one Sacrifice of Christ, offered once and for all, to the Father on Calvary and made actual —in our time— through the Sacred Sacrifice of the Mass.
This Mystery is truly awesome! It generates in our hearts a sublime desire to worship the Triune God. It is the humbling feeling that our infinite God loves us. Without God, we are meaningless and finite; of little lasting worth! This sentiment of true devotion invites us to bend our knees and bow low, with deep reverence, as we behold and adore the Body and Blood of Christ at the elevation at Holy Mass. As we do so, God’s light of hope touches our hearts and makes us new: the grace of God, so freely given, transforms us into a new creation in Christ. That is why our Baptism unfolds and reveals throughout our life, who God destined us to be. It spells the unique mission we all have: to creatively reflect something of our ‘image and likeness’ of God, back to the Father who created us out of nothing.
The Church encourages all her Faithful to pray the Divine Office and also, to be renwed each day at Holy Mass. If we do so and listen to God’s Word attentively, which is at the heart —like a scaffold— of all our liturgies, we will have virtually gone through the entire Bible in 3 years! What a wonderful way to make a home in our hearts for Jesus, the Word-made-flesh!
In this year 2019, the programme of readings from Sacred Scripture for the Divine Office and for Holy Mass are as follows: