Friday, 29 June 2007

Saints Peter and Paul.

The Lady Chapel ready for today's Mass.

The Chasuble and Stole for tonight's Mass.

As today is the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce you to a corner of my Parish Church, Saint Hilda's in Prestwich. I am not often here anymore, as I have a number of placements arranged during my course, but it is always like coming home when I have the chance to be, as I will be tonight. The Lady Chapel is to the right of the High Altar and is notable for the fresco of Our Lady of Heaton Park, with Heaton Hall and the Old Town Hall colonnade behind Her, as well as Saint Hilda lower down, holding a model of this church. The chasuble makes an appearance here because of the very fine damask, showing the four Evangelists, because I like it, but mainly in the hopes that someone will be able to identify the crest on the bottom. I realise that it would have belonged to a bishop, probably on the continent, does anyone know who?

Today is a very interesting feast day. People often refer to the reading from Matthew's Gospel as the start of the Church. If this is so, then it was a shaky start, founded on compromise! In the 12th chapter of the 'gnostic' Gospel of St Thomas (which, remember, almost made it into the Canonical Gospels, only rejected at the last minute for political reasons), the figurative Keys were given to James, the leader of the Jewish christians, not Peter. For Gentile Christians, however, Paul would have been the preferred choice for leadership. Peter is implicitly presented here as something of an ecumenical compromise, holding both the strands of the early church together in an uneasy alliance which, of course, has never been more than loosely maintained since! The thought that Peter is the symbol of an unbreakable true church is , shall we say, not my thought. What is interesting is that faith, given from 'my Father in heaven', is the key to heaven and comes with the authority to forgive sins. This is, in my opinion, why the Church lays so much emphasis on the role of the Spirit in the discernment process towards ministry.

And what of Paul, who is passed over in favour of Peter? Of course, he tells us that he has 'run the race to the finish' and has 'kept the faith', what more could be asked of any one of us? I always imagine Paul's journeys around the Mediterranean to be full of Grace, conducted by a man who has kept the Faith, maybe this is why so many of the places he is said to have visited still remember him, in the foundations of Orthodox monastic settlements and the names of ports.

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for all the scattered brethren of Christ's church.
When you think about today's Gospel, imagine yourself with Jesus and the Disciples. Imagine the setting, what you are wearing, the breeze in the air, the sound of voices, really fill the scene in your imagination, take time over it and, over all this, think of Jesus saying 'and you, who do you say I am?'.
I will not be blogging now until next Tuesday or Wednesday as I am in Hertfordshire over the weekend, then at a friends first Mass on Monday night.