The Parish of
From the vicar
In October I wrote about the weeds which grow up in our lives or the life of the Church and spoil or restrict the Lord’s harvest. I would like to follow those thoughts with some related comments on the danger of autonomy with particular reference to the season of Advent. Of their nature the appearance of weeds in the garden is unplanned and their growth, if not checked, takes place without any of the efforts put into cultivation. Weeds seem to have a mind and will of their own, a determination to intrude and spoil. This provides an analogy for the trait of autonomy in human beings.
The word ‘autonomy’ is most frequently used to describe the political independence of states, but it can also be applied to the individual in which case it can refer simply to freedom of the will as a neutral idea. It can also be applied negatively to those who disregard others or cultural norms and who may be described as being ‘a law unto themselves’. Human beings have freedom of the will, but do not always use that freedom in the service of God and in obedience to his commandments. Misuse of the will is at the heart of human sin: man turns from God and becomes ‘a law unto himself’. He becomes ‘autonomous’. It is in that sense that I am using the word here.
Over the four weeks of Advent the liturgy invites us to focus on two people who were not autonomous in the negative sense and so chose to live in the service of God. The first of these is St. John the Baptist. The second is the Blessed Virgin Mary. In their own ways they are both unique and it would be understandable if we were to describe them as ‘autonomous’. If we were to do that it would be in a positive sense in that they used their free will in the service of God by pursuing their vocation – a vocation which was remarkable and unique in both cases.
The Baptist was called to be the forerunner of the Messiah. The story of his conception contains the miraculous and it is clear that he was marked from the outset as a critical figure in the life of his people. In fact his role was pivotal as he turned the tide of history from the Old Testament to the New, straddling BC and AD like a Colossus. Jesus said of him,
For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. (Luke 7: 28)
Despite the privations of a life in the wilderness and the risks of being a prophet (significant in just about any age, but especially in that one given the political sensitivities of the Roman occupation) the Baptist fulfilled the task given to him to prepare for our Lord’s arrival those who would heed the message.
Mary was called to be the God-bearer. The Annunciation is a miraculous moment indeed as by her agreement the Word was made flesh. The words of the archangel perplex and frighten the young girl who cannot have foretold what would happen despite her attitude of trust and piety. Through her God was doing a new thing, something unheard of and in the eyes of the world impossible. All she had to do was trust him, for that moment, and for all that lay in the future that he had planned for her and for the whole of creation. Her response,
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. (Luke 1: 38)
The Baptist and the Virgin are prime exemplars of the practice of obedience regardless of the cost (and without necessarily knowing what lay ahead). Their lives were distinctive and significant, but not autonomous in the rebellious sense; they were not detached from the purposes of God, but were faithful to their call. As such they are heroes of the faith and our remembrance of them both gives Advent its distinctive biblical character and presents us with model responses to God’s call.
For those of us who keep Advent faithfully, is it possible to see where God is working in our lives, where the miraculous lies? Is it possible to trace our journeys and to see the hand of God in them? St. Faustina wrote in her diary,
If I do all that is in my power, the rest is not my business. And therefore the greatest storms do not disturb the depths of my peace; the will of God dwells in my conscience. (February 12th 1937)
Heroes of the faith are not those who seek their own advantage – autonomy in the negative sense.
Pray for a deeper understanding of the challenges of today and a firm resolution to proclaim the Gospel.
From the diary…
Sunday 28th November Advent 1
Tuesday 30th November, 9.30am Mass (St. Andrew, Apostle)
Wednesday 1st December, 10.00am Mass (Mothers’ Union Corporate)
Friday 3rd December, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 5th December Advent 2
Wednesday 8th December, 10.00am Mass (Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
Friday 10th December, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 12th December Advent 3
Tuesday 14th December, 11.00am Funeral of the late Doreen Hewitt
Tuesday 14th December, 8.00pm
Holy Hour for Advent with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
Wednesday 15th December, 10.00am Mass
Friday 17th December, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 19th December Advent 4
Wednesday 22nd December, 10.00am Mass
Christmas Services 2021
6.30pm Carol Service
8.00am Low Mass (Book of Common Prayer)
9.30am Family Mass with carols (Modern rite)
Sunday 26th December St. Stephen, First Martyr
Tuesday 28th December, 10.00am Mass (Holy Innocents)
Wednesday 29th December, 10.00am Mass (St. John, Evangelist, tr.)
Saturday 1st January, 12 noon Mass (Mary, Mother of God)
Sunday 2nd January Christmas 2
Wednesday 5th January no service
Thursday 6th January, 10.00am Mass (The Epiphany of Our Lord)
Christmas is coming!
a) Christmas Hampers - we need donations of various items to include in three Luxury Christmas Hampers that we intend raffling. A list of items we need is displayed at the back of Church and summarised below. Please put your name against items you are kindly intending to donate or inform Ranjan David (020 8950 1822). All donations to be handed over to Ranjan by Sunday 5th December. The draw will be held after the 9:30am service on Sunday 19th December 2021.
Hamper items: Hamper baskets, Christmas pudding, Champagne, Prosecco, wine, sherry, spirits, mince pies, shortbread, chocolates, preserves, honey, savoury biscuits, panettone, stollen, fruit cake, nuts, chutney, mustard.
b) Miss Lyn Walker has kindly offered to make her fabulous Christmas treats and has displayed a list of the items at the back of Church. All orders to be placed directly with her (01727 855789) or through Anne Swerling (020 8950 8923) by either Saturday 4th December for collection on Sunday 12th, or by Saturday 11th December for collection on Sunday 19th December after the 9:30 service.