Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Midnight Eucharist at Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral: Romanesque and Gothic
The liturgy at Norwich Cathedral for the Xmas midnight service is, in my opinion, inspiring. It picks out all the positive aspects of the faith which we associate with Xmas and explains why Christmas brings light, hope and faith to millions of souls who have otherwise lost their way or are oppressed by darkness. Below I reproduce a few of the highlights from the order of service:

Prayers of penitence before the crib
Deacon: Christ the light of the world has come to dispel the darkness of our hearts. Let us turn to the light and confess our sins.
All: Amen
Deacon: God our father you sent your Son full of grace and truth; forgive our failure to receive him.
All: Amen
Deacon: Jesus our saviour you were born in poverty and laid in a manger; forgive our greed and rejection of your ways.
All: Amen

The Collect:
Bishop: Eternal God who made this most holy night to shine with the brightness or your true light..bring us, who have known the revelation of that light on Earth, to see the radiance of your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
All: Amen.

A Christmas proclamation
Choir: God is with us. Hear ye people. Even to the uttermost end of the earth. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. The people that dwell in the shadow of death, upon them the light has shined. For unto us a child is born! For unto us a son is given! And the government shall be upon his shoulder; And his name shall be called Wonderful! Counsellor! The Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace. Hear ye people. Even to the uttermost end of the earth. God is with us. Christ is born!

Hymn: It came upon a midnight clear
All: For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When, with the ever-circling years,
Shall come the Age of Gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song

Which now the angels sing.

Prayers of intercession
Bishop: Father, in this holy night angels and shepherds worshiped at the manger throne. Receive the worship we offer in fellowship with Mary, Joseph and all the saints through him who is your Word made flesh, our saviour Jesus Christ. 
All: Amen.

The distribution
Bishop: Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Blessed are those who are called to his supper.
All: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.

My Comment
A humble stable, a helpless new born, a manger throne, worshiping ouctast shepherds, gentile astrologers, a mother of humble birth,... and above all the lamb of God who was to give himself to the uttermost.....who would have thought that these were to be the means by which in these last days God has spoken. Whoever, except from a divine perspective, would be able to say of those who viewed such an apparently prosiac scene: The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light!

The stable throne isn't the natural revelatory expectations of guilt and angst ridden human religion, religion which likely majors in one or more of: high and mighty patriarchal rulers, power, authoritarianism, sectarianism. judgement, condemnation, rule driven salvation, punishment by torture, vengeance, fear, hell and hamnation for the infidel, gnosticism for the spiritual elite etc....... this clustered complex fills the heads of those who have yet to see a vision of the God of grace for themselves or who think the gospel is only for their very bespoke religious community with its proprietary practices and beliefs.  

In the above liturgy, however, we see divine self-revelation. In all its facets the Gospel is beyond human creative spiritual thought; the evidence of that is seen in the fact that just about every doctrinaire religious sectarian I have met, I have found they do all they can to de-legitimize and undermine the means by which the liturgy above is commended to one's heart, namely, the Spirit of Adoption which cries out "Abba, Father!"

In humble circumstances we find The Unexpected Revelation

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