Thursday 20 May 2010

The Presentation in the Temple

Mary and Joseph, as obedient Jews, went to the Temple to give thanks for her 'first-born male child' - Jesus. Being poor, they brought the offering as the Law required of them 'a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons' - they can be seen in the basket by Mary's knees. Simeon and Anna, both wonderful examples of people of faith witnessed this event: Anna, the old prophetess and widow spent all her time now - St Luke tells us - 'serving God night and day with fasting and prayer.' Simeon, the holy man, says 'Now, Master, You can let Your servant go in peace' because for Simeon this moment was a moment of light. The Ark of the Covenant had been kept safe in the Temple in Jerusalem and was there until the Temple was ransacked by the Babylonians in 586BC. The Ark represeneted God dwelling among His people. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant; she fulfils all that the Ark was; for just as the Ark of the Covenant was overshadddowed by God prescence and power, so Mary was overshaddowed by the same living presence which she carried in her womb from the Annunciation, and gave birth to nine months later - Jesus Christ. For Simeon the light was put out in the Temple when the Ark was no longer found there, but now on this day, the Light, Jesus Christ, has come back into the Temple, and hope is here for all people. He is feeast of the Presentation of the Lord, or Candlemas (2nd February) Simeons hymn, the Nunc Dimitis, is said every night as part of the Office of Compline.

At last, all-powerful Master,
You give leave to Your servant
to go in peace, according to Your promise.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
which You have prepared for all nations,
the light to enlighten the Gentiles
and give glory to Israel, Your people.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Madonna and Child

As we move on with images of Mary in and around the Cathedral, we can look at some the images we have of her with her child. The statue in the picture is a particulalrly nice one, of Mary holding her infant Son. It lives in Cathedral House; sadly it is a little too small to be used with an impact in the Cathedral, standing only about 24 inches high. The antiphon used after Vepsers from Advent until the feast of Candlemas (2nd February) puts into words the feelings this statue invokes:

"Loving Mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea, assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again. To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator, yet remained a virgin after as before, you who received Gabriel's joyful greeting, have pity on us, poor sinners."

Saturday 15 May 2010

The Nativity

We celebrate the Annunciation on 25th March and we celebrate the Nativity nine months later on 25th December. This image, the only one of the Nativity in the Cathedral, is a detail from the Reredos of the Lady Chapel Altar. That said the Crib figures always make an annual appearance in December! The Christmas mystery and Mary's role in it is truly significant for us; of all women she is the most blest in being chosen to give human flesh to Son of God. This mystery is wonderfuly expressd in the first antiphon at Vespers on January 1st, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God:

"O marvelous exchange! Man's Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share our humanity."

Friday 14 May 2010

The Visitation

This image of the Visitation is found in the Lady Chapel; the event is celebrated on 31st May each year. After having heard that she was to be the Mother of Emmanuel, God-with-us, Mary hears that her cousin is also with child: since nothing is impossible to God. Mary hurries to visit Elizabth; Elizabeth's son (John the Baptist) would prepare the way for Mary's son. On this first meeting, the baby in Elizabeth's womb and recognises the presence of the hidden God, as the poem below describes it, and jumps for joy. From this meeting of Mary and Elizabeth we have recorded in Sacred Scripture Mary's great hymn of joy and thbnaksgiving the Magnificat.


There is a wall of flesh before the eyes

Of John, who yet perceives and hails his King.

It is Our Lady’s painful bliss to bring

Before mankind the Glory of the skies.

Her cousin feels her womb’s sweet burden rise

And leap with joy, and she comes forth to sing,

With trembling mouth, her words of welcoming.

She knows her hidden God, and prophesies

Saint John, pray for us, weary souls that tarry

Where life is withered by sin’s deadly breath.

Pray for us, whom the dogs of Satan harry,

Saint John, Saint Anne, and Saint Elizabeth.

And, Mother Mary, give us Christ to carry

Within our hearts, that we may conquer death.

By American poet Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918)

Saturday 8 May 2010

The Annunciation

Around the top of the North wall of the Lady Chapel the text of the 'Hail Mary' can be seen. This wonderful prayer is easily rushed through, and yet the words are very powerful. Gabriel's words to Mary at the Annunciation open a new chapter in the life of God's people. Mary humbly accepts God's will and her 'Yes' reverses Eve's 'No'. With Mary's grace filled 'Yes' our salvation is on the way. Mary's reward will be her crowning as Queen of Heaven, when she is seated at her risen Son's right hand in heaven. The Monogram 'MR' at the top of the picture mounted by the crown tells us she is 'Maria Regina' - Mary is Queen.

This painting, and all the painting in the Cathedral, was part of the 1995 of reordering of the Cathedral and was carried out by Bernard Watson of Preston. ( Sadly, there has been some damage to the paint work in the Lady Chapel due to water ingress; we hope one day to restore the fine paintwork.

In Latin 'Ave' literally reverse 'Eva' (Eve). The ancient hymn, the Ave Maris stella... is a fine poem for us to meditate on:

HAIL, O Star of the ocean,
God's own Mother blest,
ever sinless Virgin,
gate of heav'nly rest.
Taking that sweet ‘Ave,’
which from Gabriel came,
peace confirm within us,
changing Eve's name.
Break the sinners' fetters,
make our blindness day,
Chase all evils from us,
for all blessings pray.
Show thyself a Mother,
may the Word divine
born for us thine Infant
hear our prayers through thine.
Virgin all excelling,
mildest of the mild,
free from guilt preserve us
meek and undefiled.
Keep our life all spotless,
make our way secure
till we find in Jesus,
joy for evermore.
Praise to God the Father,
honour to the Son,
in the Holy Spirit,
be the glory one. Amen.

Let us go to the altar of God

Today the Cathedal is host for the Diocesan Altar Servers Mass. It is wonderful to see so many altar servers from across the Diocese here at the Cathedral for Mass with Bishop Campbell. In the three photographs above we see some of the servers who sat in nave processing into the Cathedral before Mass; then we see the procession leaving the sacristy and finally the servers in their places and the Bishop is about to incense the altar. After Mass a bun fight followed in the Social Centre. It is always good to thank and encourgae altar servers - perhaps an opportunity may arise this weekend!

Thursday 6 May 2010

The Annunciation

This is an image of the Annnunciation and is to be found on the Reredos in the Lady Chapel; it is the left-hand panel. This is a beautiful altar - we think it is Italian - but have no physical evidence for this only the wisdom of those who know these things!

This Reredos has had has suffered some damage over the years; on this picture the lily that Gabriel is touching is no longer there. All the same it is a wonderful image and gives us something to think about during May.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Mary, Mystical Rose

The Cathedral Chapter had a meeting today and since we’re looking at Marian images in and around the Cathedral we can have a look at the Seal of the Chapter since it bears a symbol of Mary, under the title ‘Mystical Rose’.
It is an odd time for a Christmas Carol but this carol gives us a nice reflection of Mary, the Mystical Rose:

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow'ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God's love aright,
She bore to men a Saviour,
When half spent was the night.

O Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious splendour
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From Sin and death now save us,
And share our every load.

Monday 3 May 2010

Our Lady and St Anne

This image of Our Lady and St Anne is from the Whiteside Chapel.

St Anne is showing her daughter the text from the Prophet Isaiah which refers to her: 'A virgin will conceive...' The Holy Spirit had already acted; Mary was conceived free from sin. She who was to be the new 'Ark of the Covenant', she who was to be the tabernacle of the Most High, had to be free from the contamination of sin, in order to give human flesh to the Word made flesh, Jesus our saviour. As we begin the month of May let us pray that we can listen to the Word of the God, that It will help us avoid sin in our lives and so teach how to live in the freedom that belongs to the childen of the living God.

Saturday 1 May 2010

May is Mary's Month

Today sees the start of the month of May, during which we will have our next series of ‘Curious About...’ talks. It will be no surprise then that we are going to be Curious About Mary. As the month unfolds the Cathedral blog will take a look at various images of Mary seen in and around the Cathedral, some may be familiar, some not. Today’s image is of a statue, which at the moment, is by the main staircase in Cathedral House, here catching the early morning sunshine.