Happy New Year! And what a heartening start we made to 2024 earlier this week, with just shy of 50 people at Mass (and at a delicious lunch afterwards!) on 1 January, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. I am also pleased to report that our 2023 Statistics for Mission submission to the central Church authorities revealed both a 25% increase in usual Sunday Mass attendance on the previous year, as well as the second-best attended Easter liturgies in more than a decade. May this foundation spur us to make the coming twelve months a year of renewed dedication to God’s service, strengthened by regular reception of the Eucharist, in which we meet the Incarnate Lord.
This Sunday coming is the Feast of the Epiphany, when we mark the arrival of the wise men, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. As the Epiphany hymn explains, these are gifts ‘of mystic meaning: / Incense doth the God disclose, / Gold a royal child proclaimeth, / Myrrh a future tomb foreshows.’ The Epiphany in fact includes three scenes from the Gospel in which Our Lord’s divinity is manifested: as well as in the homage of the kings, so too at his Baptism, and in his first miracle (at the wedding at Cana), Jesus’ divinity and destiny are revealed to the world. In our own Epiphany Masses, we will hear the solemn proclamation of the moveable feasts of the coming year; we will renew our baptismal promises, and we will receive our own gifts of gold, holy water and a piece of Epiphany chalk with which to bless our homes over the coming year.
We use Epiphany chalk to write a sacred formula close to the door to our houses: 20 + C + M + B + 24, while praying, ‘May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek and serve, in everyone we meet, that same Jesus who is Lord, for ever and ever. Amen.’ The numerals with which the formula begins and ends are the date of the calendar year (2024); the three initials stand both for the names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar), and also for the Latin petition, ‘Christus mansionem benedicat‘ (‘May Christ bless this home‘). Be sure to be present at Mass this weekend (Sat 6pm; Sun 10.30am), to receive these beautiful sacramentals, to aid us in living our faith in family life and at home!
Lent and Easter occur early this year: Ash Wednesday falls on St Valentine’s Day, 14 February! There will be Masses, as usual, at 9.30am and 6pm. Please now return last year’s palm crosses, which will be burned to create this year’s ash.
This New Year, may God bless you all with health, goodness of heart, gentleness, and the keeping of His law,