4th Sunday of Advent (Year B)

Sunday 20 December 2020

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Message from Canon Kristian

Dear Parishioners

As usual, the short Season of Advent seems to have sped passed and we are already in the pre-Christmas Octave which focusses our minds and our prayers  on that world-changing event of the birth of Christ as one like us in all things but sin.  The deep yearning of the Jewish people for the coming of the Messiah, and now our own yearning that the healing and redemption brought about by the fulfilment of those ancient promises through the Incarnation might be experienced in our own day, is expressed in the “O” antiphons assigned to each of the eight days leading up to Christmas Day. That initial “O” expresses not only the longing of the heart for the Saviour to come, but also the space within each of us and in our world that can only be filled by Christ.  Throughout Advent, we have been reminding ourselves of the need to deepen our sense of longing for Christ in our lives and of the call to “let go” of everything that is unnecessary and a distraction in order to make space for an ever greater awareness of Christ within us.  Hopefully, this Advent time has enabled us all to do this.

Given the continuing presence of the pandemic and the restrictions that must be in place to keep everyone safe, we will be celebrating Christmas in a way that we have never done so before.  Although this will be a challenge for us, both in terms of our usual family traditions of gathering and in terms of accommodating in our churches those who want to come to Mass, last Wednesday during the usual General Audience in Rome, Pope Francis encouraged us engage with the restrictions which will mark our celebration of Christmas this year as a chance to make it “more authentic, more true”.  He said:

I would like to encourage everyone to ‘hasten their steps’ towards Christmas, the true Christmas, that is to say, the birth of Jesus Christ.  This year restrictions and inconveniences await us; but let’s think of the Virgin Mary and St Joseph’s Christmas: it wasn’t a rose garden!  How many difficulties they had! How many concerns!  And yet faith, hope and love guided and sustained them.  May it be this also for us! May it also help us – this difficulty – to purify a bit the way we live Christmas, the way we celebrate, leaving consumerism behind.  May it be more religious, more authentic and, more true”.

Let us meditate on these wise counsels of the Holy Father and draw something positive from the extraordinary circumstances of Christmas this year.

In this weekend’s newsletter, I have highlighted the desperate plight of our Christian brothers and sisters in Bethlehem this year – a plight far worse than our own.  If you can help them financially, that would be a great Christmas gift, but even if you can’t, please do remember them in your prayers over the Christmas period.  Some of you may also have heard at on 8 December Pope Francis declared a special “Year of St Joseph”.  The Holy Father’s personal and life-long devotion to St Joseph has been apparent since the beginning of his pontificate, when he decreed that the name of St Joseph be added to each of our Eucharistic Prayers at Mass.   Now he has issued an Apostolic Letter, Patris corde, (“With a father’s heart”) in which he explains the significance of St Joseph for the times in which we are living.  It is not very long and well worth a read – and can be found on the Vatican website HERE.

I have also updated the Christmas Card that the clergy of the parish sent to parishioners at the beginning of Advent.  I have done this principally to draw your attention to a few changes that have been made with regards to the Mass provision for the Christmas Octave.  Please see the ‘Advent and Christmas‘ section of the website for updated details and to download the ‘card’ (Changes have been highlighted in yellow on the card).  Because there has been a bit of confusion, I have clarified that the Bishops are encouraging regular Mass goers to come to a Mass during the Christmas Octave rather than the Masses on 24 and 25 December in order to leave room for those who might turn up unexpectedly who are unaware of the need to book places.  There is also now a Mass in Polish at 2pm on Saturday 26 December and the Mass on Wednesday 30  December will now be celebrated in St Boniface, Cullompton, and not in St James, Tiverton.  Finally, the Parish Office will be open until 23 December in order to take bookings and to deal with ordinary parish administration.  The Parish Office will then be closed until 4 January.  You will still be able to contact me by telephone and email, but please only do so if you have a pastoral need.  I will do my best to deal with bookings for the weekend Masses of 2/3 January!

I look forward to seeing many of you over the Christmas period, but also want to assure those of you who are unable to be at Mass for whatever reason that you will be remembered at Mass and hopefully you will join us in spirit.

With every blessing for a holy and happy Christmas when the feast arrives!

Canon Kristian

Coming to Mass

We are still limited in terms of numbers for each Mass due to social distancing regulations.  Therefore, please contact the Parish Office, either by telephone on weekdays between 10.00am-1.00pm, or by email,  if you would like to come to a particular Mass, so that we 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.

Christmas Masses

Due to Covid social-distancing, our Bishops are emphasising that, for Catholics, Christmas Day lasts for eight days liturgically, from 25 December-1 January, a period we call the Christmas Octave.  Therefore, they are encouraging those who come to Mass regularly to choose to go to Mass on one of the Octave Days rather than 24 or 25 December, so as to leave space for those who only come to Mass infrequently and who will be unaware of the need to book places.

If this act of Christian generosity is not offered in these exceptional times by those who attend Mass regularly, then we will be left with no option but to turn away those who might turn up without booking a space, which would be an awful message to give to people on the day when we remember that Our Lord Himself was turned away because there was no room at the inn.  The chances are that these brothers and sisters of ours, who might only come to us at Christmas, instead of being encouraged to feel that they still belong, may understandably decide not to darken our doors again next year, which would be a tragedy for all concerned. So please do bear this in mind when deciding which Mass to attend over Christmas.

Silent Nights in Bethlehem

The popular Christmas carol “Silent Night” might conjure up romanticised images of the sleeping Babe in a crib in a peaceful stable in Bethlehem, but the harsh reality for our Christian brothers and sisters in Bethlehem this year could not be more different.  Things are silent this year because of the total absence of visitors and pilgrims visiting the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square due to the pandemic.  This is having a dramatic impact on the lives of local families, who are turning in desperation to charities like the Friends of the Holy Land (FHL) to help to survive.

FHL are making an appeal to people around the world to help them to provide emergency aid so that Bethlehem, of all places, should be able to enjoy Christmas.  Please help if you can.

Year of St Joseph 2020-2021

On 8 December Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter, Patris corde (“With a father’s heart”), to mark the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s declaration of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.  To celebrate that anniversary, Pope Francis has proclaimed a special “Year of St Joseph”, which began on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception this year and extends to 8 December 2021.  The Letter is well worth a read!

The Holy Father wrote his Letter against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic which, he says, helped us to see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day.  In this, they resemble St Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily discreet and hidden presence”, who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation”.

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.

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.

200 Club Winners

Congratulations to Alan Newsome who won the £30 prize and to George Fitz Costa who won the £20 prize in the November draw. Congratulations also to Beryl Webb who won the £30 prize and to Alan Parr who won the £20 prize in the December draw.

Lectio Divina

Monika Manser has prepared two helpful guides to the prayerful reading of the Gospel Readings for this Sunday and for the Night Mass of Christmas. You can find these on the parish website under the Resource>Reflections section.

Face Coverings for Spring!

Our very own ‘sewing bee’, Christine Pickford has been busy making us bespoke face coverings in “Christmassy” fabrics. Sales have raised a very impressive £250, which will be donated to CHAT. Christine would like to thank everyone who has supported her by purchasing the face coverings.

She will be continuing to make face coverings, but now with a new selection of fabrics which will have the arrival of Spring in mind!

Parish Fund-raising 

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?

Some 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 Christmas Wreathes and some Christmas Candle Melts made by parishioners.

Holy Mass and Events this week

Saturday 19 December – Advent Weekday (O Radix Iesse)

  • Holy Mass at 6pm (Vigil Mass) Pro Populo

Sunday 20 December – Fourth Sunday of Advent (O Clavis David)

  • Holy Mass at 10.00am, Andrew Curtis RIP (Anniv)
  • Holy Mass at 11.30am (St Boniface) Marion and Peter Somley (Ints)

Tuesday 22 December – Advent Weekday (O Rex Gentium)

  • Holy Mass at 10.00am Pamela Lydon RIP (Anniv)

Wednesday 23 December – Advent Weekday (O Emmanuel)

  • 00 am Coffee Morning with Mince Pies on Zoom
  • Holy Mass at 12noon (St Boniface)

Thursday 24 December – Vigil of the Nativity of the Lord

  • Holy Mass at 6.00pm

Friday 25 December – The Nativity of the Lord

  • Holy Mass at 10.00am
  • Holy Mass at 11.30am (St Boniface)

Saturday 26 December – St Stephen – Protomartyr

  • Holy Mass in Polish at 2.00pm
  • Holy Mass at 6.00pm (Vigil Mass)

Blessings for a Happy and Holy Christmastide