Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve, the night of the Nativity of the Lord

Christmas Eve in Assissi and The Nativity Story in 'Modern Speak'


From Twm Barlwm this Christmas 2008

One of Monmouthshire's highest mountains, the homs of St Derfyl's chapel which attracted many pilgrims here throughout the Middle Ages, to see the chapel of the soldier Crusader, who, sickened by killing in the Holy Land, established here a chapel to pray for the world as a hermit. His chapel lies on the 'Cistercian Way' and pilgrims still visit the ruins on St Derfyl's farm to this day.At the sixteenth century, Henry VIII's men dragged the statue of Derfyl to London from the hands of the protesting Cwmbran pilgrims and burnt it in London. To many today, Derfyl is no reference at all, yet he was an example of the principles of Christian life and sacrifice and service to others. At then end of our lives, we will be asked what we did, selflessly in the service of others.Faith is key to all, but as St Paul says how we followed the teachings of the Lord will also be important. 'If ye love me, Keep my Commandments'.

Doing our own thing

Now it's in our nature to do our own thing. But is 'our own thing' right. Does it take account of the impact on others? Do we have a conscience, or do we perhaps get a kick of 'getting one over' on someone else and enjoying their distress?

Looking down from Twm Barlwm this Christmas night, where I am a the moment, I see darkness descending, just as the darkness descended on Adam, when he' did his own thing'when he was disobedient afer being deceived by the very plausible and persuasive serpent, the devil in disguise. Oh and -don't let the devil deceive you into thinking he does no exist-if you let him in by hardening your heart , you will allow his hands to be your hands too.

The darkness descends over the valley, swallowing up the new town, the old village, the Avon Llwyd river,the Shopping centre, Newport and the River Severn in the distance and Little England beyond. The darkness his Christmas Eve brings silence.... yet slowly, small twinkling lights appear, at fourpm the lights at St Gabriel's Anglican Church go on, and little children in their best and party clothes cram in for he Christingle-the little orange representing our little world, the red ribbon around it representing the Precious Blood of Christ.So the cocktail sticks contain dolly mixtures and raisins, the seasons and fruits of the Holy Spirit of Christ and in the centre, a pure whie candle, representing the Light of Christ. A candle is not only a physical thing, but while it burns it lives and casts light all around. If you live your life according o the Law of Love , smiling and making people cheerful, trying to spread around the joy of Christ, especially in how your treat other people, you truly are spreading Light and warmth as you brun with His love in your heart.

St Francis of Assisi and Franciscans in Cwmbran

Later the lights go on at 'Our Lady of the Angels', built by the Franciscans in he nineteenth century. And wasn't it the Founder of the Order, Francis of Assissi, who built he first Christmas Crib and prayed over the Manger, glorifying the Lord's love of he poor and vulnerable wo ge kicked around in the world, left behind and marginalised by the smart and cool? Bethlehem, the town of Bread , was the home of hat amazing miracle, God making himself into a man by the collaboration of a fifeen year old girl,the Blessed Maid Mary who had been specially prepared to receive him, who had been hailed by an angel, who told her she would be blessed forever, because she agreed in this amazing plan.

And it is so amazing , that without looking for the Holy Spirit, without searching for Christ , knocking a his door, you can never come in. He calls many times but it's whether you answer Him. If you look ,God will show himself to you and open your eyes.Because Faith that this infant God, made into a human form, gives us hope, as the video above shows. He showed us that we will not die but come back in to he Garden of Eden as his dear children, if we believe on his promise and renounce the devil and try to keep selfishness,anger, irriability,lying, cheating, stealing, taking human life, adultery, all these kind of things out of our life, and be a source of Hope for other people broken by these evil things-the helpless drug addict,the alcoholic, who has lost his family and home, the knife and gun carrying youths,with no real families, those who rejoice in cruelty.

A Beacon of Hope and Love

Always give Hope and Love and you will be shining a light all around.People will look for you when they need help and counsel.The Baby in he stained glass window, is real, that truth is real.

God has given us so much help:
1)Washing clean from the original sin of he Garden is Bapism-(The New Circumcision-St Paul)
2)Holy Orders Men appointed by St Peter to act in the name of Christ, hear your sins and cleanse them.(Whatever sins you forgive on earth will be forgiven in heaven-Christ's promise to Peter, when he put the Church in his hands, Peter, his Rock)
He gave Peter the right to ordain men in his name, whom he has called to go out and serve his people.
3)'If you do not eat my body and drink my blood-you will have no life in you' St John Chapter 6 verses 52 and 53.Ignatius of Antioch, a student of St John in the Bible, on his way to be eaten by lions in Rome,re inforces this when he writes to he Smyrnians 'Keep away from the schismatics-(people who have fallen away from the Church of Peter) for they believe not that he bread they eat is the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ'. St John must have taught him this. When Christ instituted the Offering of his Body and Blood on Holy Thursday, he day before he was crucified, he said 'This is my body and This is my blood' and whnever they got together they should do this. In St John Chapter 6, we see that even those directly with Christ walked away (@his is a hard teaching) He did not say-'Come back, I only mean you o do this as a symbol,he lets them go. But the true disciples do not desert him.Again St Peter says 'Lord, where shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.' Peter again, faithful and true. Faithful and True to the Truth.
5)Confirmation- The calling down by authority of the local Christian leader or Bishop on those who have stood up to reinforce and promise what was promised by them by their parents and godparents in Baptism (or Christening)This brings graces-gifts and fruits-Understanding, Wisdom, Good Counsel,Knowledge and other things)
6)Matrimony, the joining together of a man and woman, to create new children of God and the couple take on themselves to have and to hold, for better fro worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health and the couple work to live out their lives as good parents and teachers of the faith for their children.
7) The Signing and Sacrament for sick and dying people. The Wafer of Bread is now called 'Viaticum' food for the journey to the next life, with accompanying confession if his is possible. For we truly believe we are going on a journey and physical death is not the end.

An old Welsh chiefain (Elaeth)from Celtic times wrote:

Not to remember God's gracious defence of the pure
Nor he angels
Is excess of wicked pride.
Woe to those who do so openly in the world.

I have no love for wealth of itself, its trace is always passing
All the world is a dwelling by summer pasture.
I am God's servant, High Praise to him.
The God is best to follow.

I love Praise of Peter, who governs just peace
And his long-lasting blessing.(Church)
There is hope in him in every nation.
Gentle and praiseworthy, generous Keeper of Heaven's gate.

I seek from God who grants what is asked of him
Elohim our protector
For my soul against pain
The protection of the saints.

I seek from God a worthy petition
Against the wounds of enemies.
For my soul, because of its thoughts
The protection of Mary and all the Virgins.

And I seek from God a just petition
Who can be my defender
For my soul against terrible sin
The protection of all Christians in the world?

Hail to you glorious Lord!

The Visible Church

So Christ did no leave us an invisible Church on earth to help us. The church is made up of sinners, but among them are magnificent souls, examples of Christ's teachings and Very being as God himself. 'God from God. Light from Light.' 'True God' (Very God) 'Now in flesh appearing' as the words of 'O Come All ye Faithful' say . What an amazing offer, what an amazing promise!

The Lights at Our Lady's blaze now as all Christians go to see the new Baby born at Bethlehem, a Baby who is the fulfiment of all he prophecies. The Bread of Life in the Wafer born in the Town of Bread.-Bethlehem.And Cwmbran becomes a Bethlehem as the lights go on all over the valley, a vast array of glittering light as we rejoice that the one who can address the 'hopes and fears of all the years'as in each home the human story is played out. So as the faithful people, all of us hopeless sinners stream in to Mass to watch the image of the baby being placed in the manger amid the Holly and Ivy , and the overwheling smell of the evergreen pine, we attend with Praises, candles carols and thankfulness that we can live with him forever. This is our Hope, a Hope which Benedict XVI has spoken about constantly this year.So let us be glad and sing with the angels-

Gloria in excelsis Deo Glory to God in highest Heaven
Venite Adoremus O Come let us adore Him
Venite Adoremus O Come let us adore Him
Venite Adoremus Dominum O Come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Cwmbran children singing these words in Cwmbran Town Centre.
Salvation Army in Cwmbran (Listen to the podcast from iTunes-Mary in Monmouth.
The Mari Lwyd in a Mummers' Play in Cwmbran December 2008. The Venerable Mary.(see last year's blog on this custom.


The Lord at first did Adam make right out of dust and clay
And in his nostrils breathed life
E'en as the scriptures say
And then in Eden's Paradise
He placed him to dwell
That he within it should remain
To dress and keep it well
Now let us all, both reat and small
A holy life to live
And to rejoice and merry be
For this is Christmas Eve.
And then within the garden was
Commanded him to stay
And unto him in Commandment

The words the Lord did say.
'The fruit which in the garden grows
To thee shall be for meat
Except the tree in the midst thereof
Of which thou shall not eat.
Then sing we all both great and small
A holy life to live
Let us rejoice and merry be
For this is Christmas Eve.

'For in the day when thou shalt eat
Or do it as come nigh,
For if that thou dost eat thereof
Then thou shalt surely die!'

But Adam he did take no heed
Unto that only thing.
But did transgress God's Holy Law
And so was wrapped in sin.
Then sing we all both great and small
A holy life to live
Let us rejoice and merry be
For this is Christmas Eve.

Now mark the goodness of the Lord
Which He for mankind bore
His mercy soon he did extend
Lost man for to restore.
And then for to redeem our souls
From death and hellish thrall
He sent his own Son from above
For to redeem us all.
Like sister and brother
Lets love one another
Noel! Noel! Noel!
Let us now praise sweet Mary's Child
Who came with us to dwell.

Then sing we all both great and small
Amen as we do say
Let us rejoice and merry be
For it's now Christmas Day.

Ancient Carol from Devon

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the Fourth Advent Sunday! 21st December 08

Modern Celtic Woman Rendition of the Wexford Carol, by Maev from Wales! I have, in the last two weeks posted three podcast programmes on Mary in Monmouth, which should bring us to the end of our current study of the Story of Christianity in Britain up until the end of the first Millennium. Of course there are ommissions and as I can get into see places-even Celtic places I have not been able to reach yet, I will do a little flashback, but am concentrating next year on the Religious Houses of Gwent, most of them now Anglican Parish Churches, except for the Cistercian Abbeys like Tintern and Llantarnam, which is DG still used as an Abbey by the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy. The events have moved fast, a new and beautiful Statue plus the news that an Indulgence under all the usual conditions (confession, Mass etc) is still in force for those who visit the shrine. A great Grace is that Cadw the government body looking after the abbey is making a house available as a Pilgrim Centre. In St Michael's in Newport and ur Lady and St Michaels in Abergavenny, we have the news that the Tridentine Mass is once again being offered thanks to the Pope's 'Moto Proprio'and that it seems there has been an upsurge in new vocations to the Priesthood. Am perturbed that very few churches are offering Midnight Masses at Midnight. They seem to have slipped to 9pm which is too early for us, so we may pay a visit to the Anglicans this year and go to Mass in the Morning at St Mary's in Newport, the Church where I was married and our son was baptised. I think I have covered most of the materials from the podcasts on the blogs before, but they also contain some surprises! I am sending a special Christmas Edition of the Mary in Monmouth Podcast on Christmas Eve itself and hope you will download via iTunes or listen at this link or simply type it in at the iTunes store! These are all images of the former St Peter's Abbey, (Benedictine) Gloucester not Gloucester Anglican Cathedral. The recordings of the Victorian Medley and 'O Nata Lux de Lumine' were made here in the North Transept above the choir.Interesting was a stained glass window pane with an image of Pope Clement on it!At St Neot's I saw a stained glass pane of Pope Urban. Resonet in Laudibus (14thCentury German Christmas Hymn) Resonet in Laudibus 14th Century German Carol Resonet in laudibus, (Resound in Praise) cum jucundis plausibus,(With jocund shouts) Ecclesiam cum fidelibus (Who appears with the Faithful of the Church) apparuit quem genuit Maria.(to the Holy One born of Mary) Christus natus hodie, (Christ is born today) ex Maria virgine, (From the Virgin Mary) sine virile semine: (Without the seed of Man) apparuit quem genuit Maria. (He appeared who was born of Mary) Pueri, concinite, (Boys, celebrate) nato regi psallite, (Sing psalms to the King) voce pia dicite: (Speak with a pious voice) apparuit quem genuit Maria (.to him who appeared born of Mary) Sion, lauda Dominum, (Zion, Praise the Lord!) salvatorem hominum, (The Saviour of Mankind) purgatorem criminum (The Criminal of Purgatory) apparuit quem genuit Maria. (Who appeared, born of the Virgin Mary) Sunt impleta quae praedixit Gabriel,(As it was explained by the Angel Gabriel) Eia, Eia, (Lullay Lullay) Virgo Deum genuit (The Virgin bore God) quem divina voluit clementia.(Whose divinity wishes clemency) Hodie apparuit, (Today he appears) apparuit in Israel, (He appears in Israel) ex Maria virgine: (Out of the Virgin Mary) est natus Rex. The King is born)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Two More Old Welsh Monastic Settlements-Llanfihangel Ystern Llewern and St Cadocs at Penrhos


This little site of an early Welsh Monastery can clearly be seen in outline. The circular Churchyard on a small mound, next to a stream of the River Trothy. It is five miles North West of Monmouth and the village, in the Saxon Hundred of Skenfrith lives from sheep farming and grassland and Fruit trees.There are 1814 acres, of which 900 are arable, 650 meadow and pasture, and 264 woodland. The surface is agreeably diversified with hill and dale; the soil is a stiff clay, producing good wheat. The Parish Church which was dedicated to St Michael-(Llan fi angel_My Angel was always Michael God’s first lieutenant) The Church is now administered by the Anglican Church. Offa’s Dyke passes through the village. This was a barrier earthwork built by King Offa of Mercia to keep out the Warlike Welsh.

Ystern Llewern seems to mean ‘Little Tavern’ .Was a small monastic settlement and the road on the Eastern side even follows around the tell tale sign of the Welsh Monastery-the curved Churchyard, the island of the Green Martyrdom of the Celtic Peoples , their version of the discipline of St Anthony of the Desert.

All we have learned from the early posts about the style of the Monastic settlement, the way it would have been cleared, the forty days of fasting and abstinence and round the clock prayer to make it holy. The building of a wooden or wattle church (some later ones even out of stone, the Romans had discovered cement, Then the small monastic houses where the religious would live with their wives and children. In many such settlements, before celibacy for priests had been decided these places worked as Christian Communes.Hospitality and charity were key.There is no evidence of Saxon development, but by Norman times it does figure in legal documents.

During the Middle Ages, the church was built in Stone The Church of St. Michael is an ancient building of stone in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, south porch and a turret of wood and stone, containing 3 bells.. Unfortunately the church was not open for me to visit and I have no closer details of this small church, which looked wonderful in the autumn colours of its trees. When Henry the VIII founded his church, the church passed into Anglican ownership. However it was not until 1678 that records began to be kept there (thuis during the time when the College of St Francis Xavier had been founded in the Cwm in Abergavenny and while Fathers David Lewis and Father Philip Evans were the Catholic priests moving around amongst those who had been fined into attending the official royal church.
The church has 81 acres of glebe, in the gift of the Anglican Bishop of Llandaff,
You can see the chancel and sanctuary facing east, which were probably the first building. The church has been recently restored again, but probably remains locked for security reasons. Looking down from the Church on the raised ground, you an quite clearly see the mountains of Abergavenny and the arable land which suported it as a monastic settlement. If anyone can furnish any pictures of the inside of Llanfihangel Ystern Llewern (clan vee hang ell ustun clerwunn) I would be delighted to put them up.

Llangattock Penrhos St Cadoc’s at Penrhos


Whilst I was in the area I drove down to what appeared to be a larger and wealthier church of St Cadoc at Penrhos. We know that locally recusant families , banished from their former church would meet for Mass under the auspices of Father David, Father Philip or any other of the brave valiant priests of the 17th century.accused by the lies of Oates and others.
I have written much about Cadoc, son of Gwynlliw and Gwladys of Newport .His seven trips to Rome to meet seven popes, his trip to Jerusalem,his soul friendship with st Barruc of Barry, where Cadoc also had a hermitage at Cadoc’s Town. Cadoc was a true saint of Gwent and his remains lie according to manustripts at the Monastery of Mamhilad near Pontypool, now administrated by the Anglican Church in Wales, Dioceseof Llandaff.