- Published: Tuesday, 15 February 2022 14:30
From the Rectory....
As I write tennis players Raphael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev are preparing to play in the final of the Australian Open. I set the TV recorder, and tried desperately to avoid the News, lest I learn the result before watching their encounter. There was controversy before the start of the tournament as Nadal's nemesis, Novak Djokovic's qualification to enter the country was challenged, and resulted in expulsion. The Australian Open is one of four 'Grand Slam' events, or 'Majors' - the others being the US and French Opens, and Wimbledon. These are highlights in the sporting calendar, intense occasions, and the countless smaller tennis competitions throughout the year are about players preparing themselves, shaping up, developing and maturing as players. Everyone wants to be there at the Majors.
The Church, too, has its Majors; focal points, key events that punctuate the liturgical year. We've already celebrated one of them - Christmas. This edition appears at the start of Lent, the 40 days that will lead us to Holy Week, and culminate in the great festival of Easter. The Book of Common Prayer rubric states that every parishioner shall receive Holy Communion at least three times in the year, of which Easter should be one.
Recalling the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism, Lent was originally a period in which new converts were prepared for their discipleship as Christians when they were baptised at Easter. The season later became associated with a period of penitence for christians who had publicly confessed their sins. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with a dusty cross imprinted on our foreheads, 'Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ'.
Lent is still a time to take stock of ourselves; an opportunity for spiritual growth, self-discovery and discipleship. It is helpful to read something spiritual; it could be a novel. There are suggestions on the Church House Publishing website, including a volume entitled, 'All's Well That Ends Well. Through Lent with Shakespeare'. From dust to resurrection, Peter Graystone offers a quotation for each day, and reflects on it alongside the Gospel. Stephen Cottrell, contributing to Church House's 'Reflections for Lent', suggests one way of engaging with Scripture. Drawing on the monastic practice of St Benedict, he suggests that as we read a passage we should be alert to any word or phrase that attracts us: allow it to speak into our heart and situation, that it may become God's word for us that day. And then, in the silence, sit and meditate on that single word of phrase.
The Sung Eucharist on Ash Wednesday will include 'ashing', and the choir will sing the Litany in procession around the Cloister - that extended prayer whose series of petitions and biddings does not hold back, reminding us how self-centred we can be, and the corrosive nature of sin.
At 7pm on the Thursdays in Lent there will be Compline and Address zoomed from the Rectory.
On Palm Sunday, palms crosses will be blessed before the donkey-led procession through Beaulieu village; the band will lead our singing. Then, having arrived at church, at 10.30am there will be benefice Holy Communion, during which there will be a dramatic reading of the Passion Narrative.
Moving through Holy Week, there will the Sung Eucharist at 7.30pm on Maundy Thursday, followed by the Watch. On Good Friday there will be an hour's devotion from 12noon-1pm at St Paul's, East Boldre. In the evening there will be a performance of Stainer's 'Crucifixion'.
All of which has been leading us to Easter Sunday, with services throughout the benefice. You will find further details in this edition.
I am delighted that both the Abbey and Parish choirs are now up and running. In addition to these, recently George Richford and I interviewed four potential young Choral Scholars. We appointed these talented young people and we look forward to them taking their place in the choir, as well as singing independently. This signals a new and exciting development, and I am most grateful to those who have generously sponsored their first year.
Recently, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a pastoral visit to the diocese of Winchester, leading and preaching in the cathedral. Justin Welby spoke of the pain that has been, and continues to be, experienced, and prayed for us as we seek to find a way forward to a better future. During the cathedral service he anointed Bishop Debbie, acting bishop of Winchester, bishop David, and their supporting retired episcopal colleagues. You can watch the Archbishop's sermon on www.winchester.anglican.org/news
Since our last publication, among those who have died I want to mention in particular Honor Johnston, who was a faithful member of St Katharine's and St Paul's congregations. She was until last year a member of St Katharine's PCC. May she and the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace and rise in glory.
Incidentally, Raphael Nadal won the 2022 Australian Open, increasing his Grand Slam titles haul to 21, edging ahead of his fierce rivals, Djokovic and Federer, who both have 20!
I wish you a fruitful, reflective Lent, and a joyful Easter.
With my love and prayers.