We come to the last Sunday before Christmas and the Mass readings speak about the preparations that God made for Jesus to be born among us and as one of us.
As the story is told by Luke, Mary must have been truly alarmed at the words of her unexpected visitor.
“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” How did Mary react to such an extraordinary salutation? The Gospel says that she was “greatly troubled” and well she might be. As a young and probably illiterate girl in an obscure little town what could the words possibly mean?
‘Full of grace’ really means that she is being showered with God’s special favours.
Jesus will be someone who is fully divine and fully human. Jesus will be the unique bridge between God and his creation. He will be a human person “like us in all things but sin”. He will also, through his whole life, his words and actions, be the “splendour of the Father”.
Paradoxically, the divine in Jesus will appear in the finest moments of his humanity: healing the sick and bringing sinners back to reconciliation with God. But it is through Mary that this becomes possible and it is this which makes her unique among women.
The implication of this passage for us in today’s Mass is that Mary, who, with Joseph, was of the house of David is the new temple where God lives. A fitting place, a place of perfection without any trace of sin or evil. And, indeed, one of the titles we give to Mary in the Litany of Our Lady is “Ark of the Covenant”.
Later on, Paul will remind Christians that each one of them is now a temple of God, of the Spirit of Jesus. In the New Covenant there is no longer any temple building but – in the words of Paul – “you are God’s temple”, a temple of which each one is a constitutive part. The House of David continues in the Church, the Body of Christ.
As a reassurance that what seems impossible can take place, Mary is reminded that her elderly cousin, well past the age of bearing children, is going to be a mother also. She is already six months pregnant. “With God nothing will be impossible.”
In a great leap of faith and trust in the angel’s message, Mary gives an unequivocal, an unconditional ‘Yes’. “Behold, I am the slave girl of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” She had yet to learn what that ‘Yes’ would involve but it was made unconditionally and it was never withdrawn.
Through a life of trials and tribulations, of which we know surely only a fraction, right up to those terrible moments as she stood beneath the Cross and saw her only Son die in agony and shame as a public criminal, she never once withdrew that ‘Yes’.
There is clearly a message there for us. We too have been called in our own special way to give birth to Jesus in our lives and in our environment. We too have been called to say ‘Yes’, an unconditional ‘Yes’ to following Jesus. Now, as we approach the celebration of Christmas, is the time for us to renew that pledge with Mary’s help and example.
First Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12,14,16 Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me
Second Reading: Romans 16:25-27 The mystery is revealed that was kept secret for endless ages
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38 ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord'
Mass is celebrated every day via Zoom - if you would like that we pray especially for an intention, a family, an anniversary or someone who has died, then please get in touch with the parish office and your intention will be included in the parish prayers and offered at Mass.
It has been amazing that the Christmas Masses have ‘booked out’ so quickly. Please let people know that all have been booked and that people should not turn up for Mass without prior registration.
If you cannot attend, please cancel your booking to make space for someone else to attend.
AN EXTRA MASS will now go ahead at 1pm on Christmas Day for those of you who wish to attend a Christmas Mass and have not yet registered. This Mass will have no choir and will be celebrated simply and respectfully and shall be celebrated within the hour!
Sign up here for this Mass from midday on Monday 21st December.
STEWARDS The stewards rota and details are available in the Church foyer. Please pick up your rota when you attend Mass over the next week.
FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY will be celebrated on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th December with Masses as usual: Saturday 10am and 6pm; Sunday 9am, 11am & 6pm.
NEW YEAR’S DAY MASS will be celebrated for the people of the parish on New Year’s Day at 9am and 11am. We ask God’s blessing upon all families and members of our community of St. Edmund Campion parish.
2nd SUNDAY OF CHRISTMAS You will be able to sign up of the weekend Masses (2nd and 3rd January) once sign up for the Feast of the Holy Family closes at 6pm Friday 25th December.
Please sign up on the parish website for these Masses.
NEWSLETTER The next edition of the newsletter will be published and sent out on Friday 8th January 2021.
CHRISTMAS COLLECTION The collection at all Masses on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the Feast of the Holy Family (27th December) are designated for Fr. Liam and make up a substantial part of his yearly income. Due to the Lockdown over Easter, Fr. Liam did not receive any collection/income at that time. So for this year, he is only receiving one collection. Cheques payable to the parish please, as these gifts have to go through the parish accounts but will be paid in full to Fr. Liam. On the back of your cheque just write: for Fr Liam. If you are not around at Christmas and you want to share in this, you can bring your gift beforehand to the office. There will be envelopes for this left in the porch and the entrance to the hall.
Alternatively, you can make a donation directly to Fr. Liam by a bank transfer. His details are as follows:
Account name: Liam Cummins
Sort code: 09-01-26
Account: number 80496271
“SHIELDING” for those in our community who continue to join at the Eucharist via Zoom or YouTube on a regular basis, but for one reason or another, cannot physically come to the Church, and would like to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, please let Fr. Liam or the parish office know. Fr. Liam will bring the Holy Sacrament to you whilst adhering to social distancing and a safe environment.
ZOOM is now live from 9.30am to 11am every day, for Mass at 10am. This means you can connect for Mass every weekday. Admission for Mass on Zoom will be stopped at 9.55, to allow the hosts to be present in the Mass.
It is greatly appreciated that many of you transferred your ‘church offering’ from cash to direct debit and standing order over the last number of months. Our parish has had its financial income greatly reduced and this has impacted on our church activities, donations to various charities and parish maintenance. From September 1st, there will be an Offertory Collection Basket at the church entrance and exit each day if you wish to make a very welcome donation. There is also a contactless “tap to donate” machine, where you can contribute to the weekly collection.
NB: It would be helpful for the parish if the vast majority of our Weekly Collection could be done via Direct Debit / Standing Order. I ask that you reflect and, if possible, switch your donation from cash to bank. This would be invaluable and would give the Parish Council and Finance Committee more solidity in planning for the months/years ahead. At present, we are a vastly cash—giving parish, and with the dramatic decrease, it is very hard to plan and donate to those most vulnerable and in need, as well as care for our parish community..
Account name: St. Edmund Campion Maidenhead
Sort code: 30-93-04
Account number: 00882551
I wonder what Christmas Day was like in Maidenhead in, say, 1580, when the Edmund Campion was living and praying in his little cell hidden at Stoner House, Henley-on-Thames. I wonder what his Christmas was like? His last before his execution on December 1st, 1581.
The Mass will have been celebrated, of course, at the high altar at Stoner House, and he will have received the Blessed Sacrament – the Word, once made flesh, made flesh again for him, to be taken and received as the very Bread of life, dwelling among us, full of grace and truth now as then, then in Bethlehem of old, now in Bethlehem on every Christian altar, since Bethlehem is (in Hebrew) the ‘House of Bread’. For Edmund, for us, this is Christmas – the Christ-Mass.
I hope that, if it is possible for you in your situation, you will be able to receive Holy Communion at Christmas and have signed in for Mass. If you didn’t get the chance to sign in, then know that you are held in the loving prayer not only of our praying fellowship of St. Edmund Campion Community, but also in the union of prayer which draws together the household of faith in every time and place, that union ‘rooted and grounded in love’ which overcomes every artificial separation imposed by distance or chronology.
Indeed, there is no ‘social distancing’ for us who believe in the communion of saints. We are woven together into one glorious, organic society, animated by the Spirit of life by which Jesus was raised from the dead. So the saints are very real people to us, as they were to Edmund – and particularly among them, perhaps, the Mother whose face looks out to us this Christmas from a thousand stamps and crib scenes and cards – and, too, in those who like Mary are unwed, or disbelieved, or refugees, or in danger in the world. ‘She saw herself,’ said Julian of Norwich, ‘so little and so low, so simple and poor compared with God that she was filled with humility. And so from this humbleness she was lifted up to grace and all manner of virtues, and stands above all.’
I wish you and yours all the true spiritual riches of the feast for which we are waiting, and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we prepare for Christ-mass, let us try again to honestly open ourselves, in simplicity and poverty, to the love he wants to give us. Thank you for all your support, kindness, prayers and friendship.
May God bless you all.
O come to us, abide with us: our Lord Emmanuel.
INDEPENDENT REVIEW FOR SAFEGUARDING The full document of the Independent Review for Safeguarding is available to read and also a statement in response to it from the Bishops Conference. It is attached to the newsletter.
CHRISTMAS PHOTOS Please send your "Preparing for Christmas" snapshots to Di, who will be collating them to show on Zoom. We'd love to see you decorating your tree, making your Christmas pudding, rehearsing for a nativity, or something special that you do to prepare. Please be aware that by sending your photo in, you're agreeing for it to be shared publicly. Please send by email to Di.firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you need help with the photos, send her an email or call 07800 500170.
CHRISTMAS STARS AND CRIB Once again we will be doing our Christmas stars. Last year there were 89 stars which raised an amazing total of £865. The idea is that, instead of sending Christmas cards to all your friends in the parish, you just write a message on a star, or Christmas card, decorate it as you wish, and then we hang them in the church around the crib. Hopefully we can have a wonderful display of bright stars again. Then, think of the money you have saved on cards and stamps, and time and effort writing and delivering them, and give a donation to charity. There will be a drop-off box for your stars and donations in the church porch and school office. Or indeed hand it in directly to Fr. Liam. We will continue with the same charity as of last year W.O.R.K. (Widows and Orphans of Rural Kenya) www.work-kenya.org
Due to the restrictions in place due to Covid 19, we ask that this year, create your own star (or card) and deliver them to the church or school office. Please come and see the lovely crib through the Church window, and the Christmas display outside.
For further clarification on this great event, please contact Barbara McWalter on 07918 144650.
Thank you in advance for your usual generosity for this very worthy cause.
JAM JAR COLLECTION In preparation for our forthcoming fundraising project for Widows and Orphans in Rural Kenya (Work) I would like parishioners and school parents to collect suitable glass jam jars (about 454gm size) and drop them into the school / church porch in the next few weeks where a collection box will be located. Many thanks for your help. Queries to John Lynn 01628 636668.
ADVENT AND RETREATS There are an amazing amount of talks, workshops, retreats and prayer offered on the website of Knock Shrine. Have a look at the courses, retreats and calendar: www.knockshrine.ie/events/2020-11/
TODDLERS GROUP Unfortunately, we can't run Toddler Group as normal. To stay in touch and keep everyone updated, There is a Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/731966510695904) and a WhatsApp group (contact email@example.com to be added).
APPOINTMENTS If you wish to speak to Fr Liam in confidence on any matter, please contact him by phone or e-mail
HOUSEBOUND If you know of anyone who is sick and/or housebound, please let Sarah (Parish Office) or Fr Liam know.
ADMISSION INTO ST EDMUND CAMPION SCHOOL AND NURSERY is based on Mass attendance for some categories. In our parish, we have an attendance card available from the table in the church lobby. Every time you come to Sunday Mass get your card stamped in the parish centre. You will need the Parish Priest's signature on the SIF form, once your attendance in 2020 has been completed. For information on the current Admissions Policy see the school's website, www.st-edmund.org.uk.
Please be aware that attendance cards are available and must be stamped to record attendance from Thursday December 3rd, as Mass is now back 7 days a week.
SIF FORMS Further dates in early January will be announced in due course.