2nd Sunday of Advent (Year B)
Sunday 6th December 2020
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Message from Canon Kristian
We know we have truly arrived in the Advent Season when we hear the rugged and ascetic figure of St John the Baptist echoing the ancient prophetic clarion call to “Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight,” as we do once again this Sunday! Despite the restrictions of the pandemic and the impact these will have on our usual customs and traditions, I am sure that preparations are well underway in many of our parish households for the celebration of the Feast of the Birth of Christ in less than three weeks’ time. Whilst it is right that we try to celebrate the coming Feast as best as we can this year, it is important that we don’t forget the most important preparation of all – that personal and community spiritual preparation which aims at opening ourselves ever more widely to the coming of Christ into our lives, hearts and minds by making space, clearing away the accumulated debris of the year gone by and setting our sights on the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise – “the new heavens and new earth, a place where righteousness will be at home”. Ultimately, it was to make this total transformation possible that the Word became flesh, that God chose to be born into our world as a vulnerable child, to transform it from within so that – as the priest or deacon prays quietly when he adds a small drop of water (symbolising us and our humanity) to the wine (which will become the Real Presence of Christ) in the chalice at Mass – “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity”. Just as that single drop of water becomes one and inseparable with the wine, so the coming of Christ in human flesh and the pouring out of his Blood on the Cross for the salvation of the world reunites creation and our humanity inseparably to God. It is for the fulfilment of that promise, in the midst of the pain, suffering and vulnerability of our world, that we wait expectantly, not sitting passively on our hands but, as St Peter urges us, his friends, this Sunday: “…while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace”. It is this “living lives” in accordance with the teaching and example of Jesus which will bring about the on-going transformation of our own personal lives, the lives of those forced to lives on the margins of our world and of our gravely bruised and battered – but still beautiful – planet. Hence, the cry of the Prophet: “Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord. Make a straight way for our God across the desert. Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, let every cliff become a plain, and the ridges a valley; then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all humanity will see it”. So, we have plenty of challenging work to do…Advent is the time to make ourselves ready for it!
There has been some good news this week regarding the availability of a vaccine against Covid-19 and the plans of the Government to roll out a nationwide vaccination program over the coming months. There are some in the Catholic community who have raised concerns about the origin of some of the cellular material that was been used to develop one of the vaccines, which might impinge on the morality of accepting vaccination. The latest Statement from the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales is available to read online here, which makes it clear that these concerns relate only to the vaccine which has been developed by AstraZeneca (the so-called “Oxford vaccine”), and not to the vaccines developed by Pfizer & BioNTech and Moderna. However, referring to documents issued by the Vatican Congregation in charge of matters of faith and morals and by the Pontifical Academy of Life, the Bishops make it clear that, even with regards to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Catholics may “in good conscience receive any of these vaccines for the good of others and themselves”. I hope that this will put your minds at rest if you have had concerns.
As usual, the Newsletter contains lots of usual links to help make the most of the Advent Season both spiritually and practically. You will recall that, in order to reduce the number of attachments which were clogging up people’s inboxes and causing difficulties with a few of the email servers, most of these links are “hyperlinks”. If you click on them, they will take you to the place on the internet where the documents/webpages can be found.
Many thanks to all of you who have changed your parish giving from Gift Aid Envelopes to Standing Orders. This will help the parish enormously to be able to budget our resources better and to protect those parishioners who volunteer to count and bank the weekly collections. This is the last week for now in which this change can be made because we have to order envelopes for next year soon, so if you haven’t made the switch and you are able to do so, I would urge you to do it this week. If you don’t have the guidance and forms that have been attached to this email for the last few weeks, do please email the Parish Office and we will email them to you directly. Likewise, if you have any questions about making the change, we will put you in touch with our Parish Treasurer, Margaret Found, who is more than happy to discuss it with you.
Next weekend, the draw for the Christmas Cake that I made to raise funds for the parish will take place. I attach a picture here, just in case you haven’t seen it and would like to. The cake has been steeped in sweet Marsala Wine and – although I have been told that it looks suspiciously like the cake made by the winner of this year’s Bake Off – I didn’t watch the series this year and the cake was decorated before that particular programme aired – promise!! There’s still time to buy raffle tickets if you would like to do so.
Monika Manser has provided a leaflet (read online or download here) for you with some guided “lectio divina” on the First Reading of this Sunday’s Mass, and there will be the usual Zoom Coffee morning this week at 11am on Thursday – please contact the parish for joining instructions.
You will recall that Rosie will be taking bookings for Christmas Masses from this Monday 7 December until Tuesday 22 December. You can do this either by phone during Parish Office Hours or by email. As our churches will not be able to accommodate the usual numbers of people who come to Mass at Christmastime, our Bishops are asking that everyone choose ONE Mass over the Christmas Octave, ie from 25 December to 1 January, as their “Christmas Mass” to allow as many people as possible to be able to take part in Mass over this period. There will be Mass each day at St James, as well as Mass on 25 and 27 December at St Boniface. Clearly, there may still be spaces for you to come to more than one Mass, but please hold back from asking for a place at additional Masses until after Sunday 19 December. By then we will have some idea of the numbers wishing to attend Mass at Christmas (although we still have to factor in those who only come to Mass at Christmas and are unaware of the booking system, and who will just turn up on the day).
Finally, as many of us spend a fair amount of time wearing face-coverings these days, I conclude this week’s email with a prayer which was given to a parishioner by a friend about the wearing of face-coverings, which you might find helpful:
O God of Creation,
as I prepare to go into the world,
help me to see the sacrament in the wearing of this cloth
– let it be “an outward sign of an inward grace” –
a tangible and visible way of living love for my neighbours as I love myself.
since my lips will be covered,
uncover my heart,
that people would see my smile in the crinkles around my eyes.
Since my voice may be muffled,
help me to speak clearly,
not only with my words,
|but with my actions.
O Holy Spirit,
as the elastic touches my ears,
remind me to listen carefully
– and full of care—to all those I meet.
May this simple piece of cloth be shield and banner,
and each breath that it holds
be filled with your love.
In your Name and in that love, I pray.
May it be so. Amen
Keep safe and may God bless you all.
Coming to Mass
As you know, happily public Masses have restarted, although we are still limited in terms of numbers for each Mass due to social distancing regulations. Therefore, please contact Rosie at the Parish Office, either by telephone (the office hours: Mon-Thus 10am-1pm, Fri 10am-2pm) or by email if you would like to come to a particular Mass, so that she can ensure that there is a space for you, especially at the weekend Masses.
Both St James and St Boniface have their own QR code for use with the NHS App and these are posted at the entrance and exit of each church. We have been asked to continue to take people’s details manually as well. Thank you for your co-operation and to our stewards for their great commitment.
Collection for Christmas Flowers
This weekend there will be a second collection for the flowers that will adorn our churches over the Christmas period.
Tiverton Virtual Advent Calendar
Some of the local churches have got together to produce a Tiverton Online Advent Calendar that anyone and everyone can access. It features short 2-3 minute videos about different aspects of Christmas. Each day a different numbered door will be posted online so that anyone of any age can enjoy and anticipate the festive season. For a bit of puzzle fun, each day’s door has been photographed from around Tiverton, but can you guess where they are?
From our Young People for Advent and Christmas
Some young people of our diocese have produced an alternative online Nativity Play and daily reflections or clips on Advent and Christmas activities. They can be found on Diocese of Plymouth Youth Events Facebook page and the Diocese of Plymouth Youth YouTube channel.
If you would like to hear about future events or have a skill to offer the young people in our diocese, please contact Saskia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sacramental Preparation 2021
Parents who would like their children (aged 7 and over) to make their First Holy Communion in 2021 are asked to fill out the Application Form and to return it to the Parish Office as soon as possible. If you are 12 or older – or have a young person of this age – and would like to be confirmed by the Bishop in July 2021, please complete the Application Form and return it to the Parish Office as soon as possible.
Celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the First Time
Next Saturday, 12 December, our children, who should have received First Communion before the summer, will be celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time in preparation for First Communion during January 2020. Please keep them and their families in your prayers.
Caritas Plymouth Christmas Newsletter
We are all called to “Welcome the Stranger”, but many people are unsure how they can help others during this time of restrictions due to the pandemic. Caritas has produced a Christmas Newsletter which offers some practical suggestions for action and links to prayer resources.
Remembering the Christians of the Holy Land
Our own Deacon Michael Tosh is the Diocesan Representative for the Friends of the Holy Land (FHL). The primary mission of FHL is to secure and support a resilient and enduring community of Christians in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan.
As we approach Christmas, he asks the parish communities of our diocese to have a special thought for our brothers and sisters in the Lands of the Bible. Those from the diocese who had the joy of joining the Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2019 will remember the crowds thronging all the sites that they visited. At this time of year there are usually over a million pilgrims and tourists in the Holy Land, but coronavirus restrictions have completely shut down the tourist industry – and no Christmas tourism means no income for 80% of the people in Bethlehem alone. Moreover, as things are at the moment, it is unlikely that there will be much improvement in 2021.
So, please remember the Christians of the Holy Land in your prayers and visit the Friends of the Holy Land website to find out more about its work and how you can support it.
Fund-raising for the Parish and Donations to CHAT
Easyfundraising is an easy way of raising funds for the parish when buying from some of the most frequently used online sales websites. All you need to do is to sign up. Why not take a look and join other parishioners who donate while they shop?
This week is your last opportunity to buy raffle tickets (£1 each) to win. The draw will be made next weekend, 13 December 2020!“Canon Kristian’s Christmas Cake”
Some lovely Christmas Novelties are on sale at St James. Orders for these can also be emailed to the Parish Office and Margaret Found will put them together for you ready to pick up at church. Payment can be made by cash, cheque or card via our contactless facility. There are also some beautiful Christmas Wreathes made by Babs Jones and some pretty Christmas Candle Melts made by Andrea Teiermayer.
Christine Pickford has kindly offered to make bespoke face coverings in “Christmassy” fabrics, £2.50 each. Samples of the materials can be found at the entrance to St James, together with an envelope in which to place your order. Proceeds to CHAT. You can also donate to the CHAT Christmas Foodbank appeal and take part in their Reverse Advent Calendar.
Changing to Gift Aid Envelopes to Standing Orders
This is the final week to make the change from using Gift Aid Envelopes to setting up a Standing Order, primarily for the health and safety of our counters, but it will also reduce expenditure. Please email our Treasurer, Margaret Found, at email@example.com for further information or to let us know.
Diocese of Plymouth Yearbook 2021
The new Diocesan Yearbook, containing information about our diocese, its parishes and its schools is available at the entrance to church, price £4.00.
Holy Mass and Events this week
Saturday 5 December – Advent Weekday
- Holy Mass at 6pm (Vigil Mass)
Sunday 6 December – Second Sunday of Advent (B)
- Holy Mass at 10.00am Pro Populo
- Holy Mass at 11.30am (St Boniface)
Tuesday 8 December – Immaculate Conception of the BVM
- Holy Mass at 10.00am Geoffrey Xavier RIP (anniv)
Wednesday 9 December – Advent Weekday
- Holy Mass at 12noon (St Boniface)
Thursday 10 December – Advent Weekday (Our Lady of Loreto)
- Coffee Morning on Zoom at 11.00am
- Holy Mass at 6.30pm
Friday 11 December – Advent Weekday
- Holy Mass at 12noon
Saturday 12 December – Our Lady of Guadalupe
- Holy Mass at 6.00pm (Vigil Mass)
***Second Collection next week: Apostleship of the Sea***