Fifth Sunday of Year B

PRIEST:    We hear today how Jesus begins his ministry – immersed in a world of pain and oppression, he brings an explosion of life-giving and healing!  Healing was his chosen way to proclaim the Good News of New Life in God’s love.  Healing was the gift of his compassion as well as the sign of his Kingdom.  Like St Paul, all of us also have the sacred duty of proclaiming the Good News to the world around us. Let us welcome the healing of Christ into our own woundedness, the freedom of Christ into all that is imprisoned and not yet fully free for love within us.  By his unconditional mercy and forgiveness may we truly come alive in his wholeness, the better to proclaim His Good News and serve His healing will for our world!

READER:     Our sins are often our wounds crying out for healing
… let us welcome the healing of Christ
that we might find freedom from sin

                                           LORD HAVE MERCY…

When we do not believe enough in God’s love for us;
when we doubt he really wants to make us whole…

                                           CHRIST HAVE MERCY…

When our lack of love and compassion
                             deprives others of healing and hides His Good News;
                             when we imprison others by our attitudes
and hurtful words and actions…

                                           LORD HAVE MERCY…

PRIEST:   May Abba Father, the Life-giver, make us whole;
                     May Jesus, the Pain-bearer, free us from the burden of our guilts;
                     May the Holy Spirit, the Love-maker, raise us up to be fully alive
                     to bring to all the world everlasting life…

                                             AMEN!

Fifth Sunday of Year B

That all disciples of the Jesus who immersed himself into the world of pain will ‘go and do likewise’, bring hope where there is despair and seek by our love to ‘heal the broken-hearted’

                                [READER]            LORD WE PRAY…
                                  [Response]         Set your People free…

That those imprisoned for so long in cycles of violence and haunted by demons of terror might risk letting go of the weapons of hate and walk through the open door of peace, especially in Palestine and Israel, Russia and Ukraine, Sudan and Cameroon

                                [READER]            LORD WE PRAY…
                                [Response]         Set your People free…

Paul says. ‘I have made myself a slave of all in order to win some’ … we pray for all who serve the community as social workers, carers and teachers: may their work help support the vulnerable and heal divisions on our communities; with Thursday’s Feast of the liberated trafficked slave, St Josephine Bakhita, we pray for all refugees and asylum-seekers and all who have been trafficked and exploited – that they find peace, freedom and healing

                                [READER]            LORD WE PRAY…
                                [Response]         Set your People free…

Jesus got up early to pray and seek God’s direction: in the Year of Prayer, may our parish grow in prayerfulness, explore the depths of contemplation even as we develop further our mission and ministries   

                                [READER]            LORD WE PRAY…
                                [Response]         Set your People free…

For those of our inner city whose lives are alienated and isolated because of drugs and alcohol, because of relationship breakdown and abuse: may the healing love of God touch them through our parish and our companion Christian communities in Easton and St Paul’s

                                [READER]            LORD WE PRAY…
                                [Response]         Set your People free…

For all who serve our children and families who are preparing to celebrate First Eucharist of First Reconciliation … may they grow in a hunger for God, a love for Christ Jesus and an openness to the Holy Spirit, and so become loving disciples in God’s Church 

                                [READER]            LORD WE PRAY…
                                [Response]         Set your People free…

We pray healing and freedom for all those suffering most in this cold weather, especially the homeless and the elderly; we pray too for the sick of our community, especially …
for the recently dead especially … and all who die as victims of poverty and war’s brutality;
for all whose anniversaries are at this time, in particular …

                                [READER]            LORD WE PRAY…
                                [Response]         Set your People free…

Mary, Queen of Peace and Servant of healing, pray with us for the peace of our world…    

HAIL MARY…

Let us pray in the silence for hidden needs…

FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

Seekers after wisdom followed the Light of the Star … we pray that the whole Church will let light of the Spirit guide us during this Global Synod along paths of renewal and reform, the better to guide all in today’s world who search for the wisdom to live their lives in love

                  [reader:]              LORD WE PRAY…
                  [response:]         GIVE US YOUR WISDOM

The Christ-Child attracted the seekers to His Light … may we place as our highest priority the proclamation of the Good News in the Power of the Spirit and so draw to Christ all who seek to build a better world: we pray especially for all in our parish family who will be journeying towards Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist in this coming year

                  [reader:]              LORD WE PRAY…
                  [response:]         GIVE US YOUR WISDOM

For a world scarred by war, conflict and violence, famine and oppression:  may world leaders not escalate conflicts but be guided by the wisdom of God and the cries of their peoples; may they not dominate and exploit, but rather serve justice and freedom for all … we pray especially for the peoples of Ukraine, the Holy Land, Sudan and Central Africa; we pray also that courageous wisdom might prevail and nations will work together that decisive steps be taken to heal our planet in the threat of catastrophic climate change

                  [reader:]              LORD WE PRAY…
                  [response:]         GIVE US YOUR WISDOM

Like the wise men of old,  may we bring our gifts to serve the mission of our parish as we seek to grow as a community of mission and prayer during this coming Year of change: with generosity may we bring the gold of our love, the frankincense of our prayer and the myrrh of our willingness to sacrifice for the King

                  [reader:]              LORD WE PRAY…
                  [response:]         GIVE US YOUR WISDOM

The Wise Men, strangers bringing gifts, represent the nations coming together in Christ …. may our nation change its attitude and policies about immigration and racism, about those who come seeking safe sanctuary among us; we pray also for the 120 million refugees world-wide, particularly all those who have been trafficked in the dangerous waters of the Mediterranean and the English Channel as they seek safety, freedom and peace

                  [reader:]              LORD WE PRAY…
[response:]         GIVE US YOUR WISDOM

That all who care for the sick may do so with the wisdom that heals and may experience renewed strength as they serve; that our elderly will be respected for their wisdom and experience; and for …
that the Light of Eternal love will forever shine upon all who have died recently, especially … and all victims of the poverty, poor health-care, terror and war;
and for all whose anniversaries are at this time, …

                  [reader:]              LORD WE PRAY…
                  [response:]         GIVE US YOUR WISDOM

Mary, Morning Star and Seat of Wisdom, pray with us for for Wisdom as we seek to witness to the Light of Christ in today’s world

                                                       HAIL MARY…

We pray for the deepest needs of our hearts in a moment of silence…

FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

PRIEST: The Wisdom of God has guided each of us here today, as surely as the Magi’s Star:  for we too are pilgrims on a journey searching for wisdom,  walking by faith and yearning in hope for the peace for our world.  We gather to offer our gifts,  our talents and our very selves on this feast of the Epiphany,  the Manifestation of Christ’s Redeeming Light to all the Nations of the world, the glory of the Father’s infinite love for all creation.  Let us find in the Wise Men inspiration to give all we are in the service of the Light of Christ’s Good News.

READER:       We welcome the wisdom of the Gift of Gold…
                             our love given to Christ our King:
                             may we so grow in love that we can offer the world
                             Christ’s healing, justice and New Life…

                                       O COME LET US ADORE HIM!

We welcome the wisdom of the Gift of Frankincense…
our worship for our God in human flesh:
                             may we so grow in prayer that we will find strength
and inspiration to shine before the world with Christ’s Light…

                                       O COME LET US ADORE HIM!

We welcome the wisdom of the Gift of Myrrh…
our share in the passion of Christ for the salvation of our world:
                             may we so grow in his sacrificial love
that we may place the demands of the Kingdom
                             before our own desires and wants…

                                       O COME LET US ADORE HIM!

PRIEST:         May our God forgive the coldness of our love,
                          the poverty of our prayer,
                          the shallowness of our sacrifice;
                          that we may shine with the splendour of Christ’s Light,
                          and journey with Gospel Wisdom to everlasting life…

                                         AMEN!

Feast of Mary, Mother of God – Day of Prayer for the Peace of the World

PRIEST:     On this first day of the New Year, the Church celebrates Mary “Theotokos’, the Bearer of God to the world. We look to the first and greatest disciple as we are about to embark on making this year truly the Year of Our Lord 2024. We commend all that is past into the Mercy of God, all that is present into the Love of God and all that is the future into the Providence of God, and journey ahead in faith and trust in the God who leads us. 

READER:     Mary said ‘Yes’ to God with her whole being holding nothing back:
For the weakness of our ‘yeses’ and the strength of our ‘no’s’

                                       LORD HAVE MERCY…

Mary pondered and treasured the Word she carried in her heart
so that she could treasure the Word enfleshed in her womb:
for so often taking the wonder of the Word for granted 

                                       CHRIST HAVE MERCY…

Mary embraced an unknown future for the sake of the Kingdom
trusting that the promises of God would be fulfilled;
for our fears of God’s unknown, failing to trust that God is Love

                                       LORD HAVE MERCY…

PRIEST:    May the Father strengthen our ‘yes’ with His forgiving mercy;
                      May the Word be enfleshed in our lives with the healing of forgiveness;
                      May the Spirit carry us forward into God’s Future of Reconciliation
                     To bring all the world to everlasting life…

                                           AMEN!

Feast of the Holy Family

PRIEST:    As we draw near the end of this year we gather as a family of families … around the simplicity and poverty, the love and the faith of the Holy Family of Bethlehem and Nazareth.  Like too many families today, torn by poverty, oppression and war, Jesus’ family was far from trouble-free family life: trapped in poverty, homeless, fleeing for their lives into exile because of the fears of the powerful, destined to be refugees for years, growing up in the midst of a guerrilla war.  Yet we celebrate the wonder of God’s great confidence in us and in our families, entrusting His own Son to a family like ours, for Jesus to grow and develop into the power of love that He became.  In the midst of so many diverse forms of family life among us, let us rededicate ourselves to the task of love, recognising that our failures are forgiven…

READER:     The family is the school of love:
                           that we may replace harshness with forgiveness,
                           criticism with encouragement, deafness with sensitive listening

                                       LORD HAVE MERCY…

The family is called to be a healing community:
                              that we may care rather than judge, accept rather than reject,
cherish rather than take for granted

                                       CHRIST HAVE MERCY…

The family is called to be a place of prayer:
                              that Christ may be the centre of our homes, not on the edge,
                              that parents may be the first and best of teachers of their children
                              in the ways of faith,
                             that love may set all free to search and develop,
                             not criticism  to stifle and limit

                                       LORD HAVE MERCY…

PRIEST:      May our God who is family, Father, Son and Spirit,
                        bring mercy to our failures, fire to our love grown cold,
                      healing peace to our hurting hearts,
                      and renewed hope to the challenge of love and growth
                      bringing us all to everlasting life…

                                           AMEN!

Feast of Mary, Mother of God – Day of Prayer for the Peace of the World

Mary is Mother of all Christians … we pray that the year just begun will see the whole Church journey towards visible unity in faith, service and mission, and so be a more effective sign and instrument of God’s Peace, Justice and Love to the world

                    [Reader]          LORD WE CRY TO YOU…
                    [Response]    BLESS OUR WORLD WITH PEACE

Mary is a sign of hope and humanity to the world … we pray on the threshold of our New Year that we will recognise every person as the dwelling of God; may peace and reconciliation defeat war and conflict especially in Israel/Palestine, Ukraine and wherever there is no peace: may justice and freedom everywhere progress, and all humanity be converted to their sisters and brothers

                    [Reader]          LORD WE CRY TO YOU…
                    [Response]    BLESS OUR WORLD WITH PEACE

Mary bore the Word of God to the world … we pray that in this coming Year of Synod, the People of God will walk together, listen together and renew and reform the Church together, and so find a new way of being the Church of God’s Love

                    [Reader]          LORD WE CRY TO YOU…
                    [Response]    BLESS OUR WORLD WITH PEACE

Mary, mother of the Creator, is the Mother of all Creation … may her wisdom and generous love guide us to take decisive life-style  and political decisions to limit Climate Warming before it is too late for the future of our planet and our children

                    [Reader]          LORD WE CRY TO YOU…
                    [Response]    BLESS OUR WORLD WITH PEACE

Mary opened her heart to the Divine dwelling within her and urges us to welcome as she did God’s amazing love … we pray for one another in our parish family,  that we may embrace the challenge of the God’s overshadowing Spirit to renew our inner life and rebuild our community in this challenging year that lies ahead

                    [Reader]          LORD WE CRY TO YOU…
                    [Response]    BLESS OUR WORLD WITH PEACE

Mary treasured the wonders of God in her heart … as this New Year begins, may all of us learn the art and joy of prayer more deeply and walk the life-giving paths of Silence and Contemplation

                    [Reader]          LORD WE CRY TO YOU…
                    [Response]    BLESS OUR WORLD WITH PEACE

Mary gathers all her sorrowing children – we pray for those regions of the world afflicted by war, famine and flood – for the grieving mothers of Gaza and Israel, Yemen and Sudan, Cameroon and Mali: may the world become weary of death, grow in compassion and justice, and seek to build one world shared equally and peacefully with all peoples

                    [Reader]          LORD WE CRY TO YOU…
                    [Response]    BLESS OUR WORLD WITH PEACE

Mary is a sign of wholeness and servant of healing: we pray for sick and those wounded in mind and body by the horror of war and for the courageous medical staff in Gaza’s hospitals:
Mary cared for both Joseph and Jesus at their dying – may carers, nurses, doctors and researchers treat all with dignity and with reverence for Life;
for all who have died recently especially… and victims of war and conflict, and all whose anniversaries are at this time: Pope Benedict XVI

                    [Reader]          LORD WE CRY TO YOU…
                    [Response]    BLESS OUR WORLD WITH PEACE

Mary, Mother of God, help us bring the Peace of Christ into the Year that lies before us

                                                   HAIL MARY…

On the threshold of another year, we pray in silence for our world and our families…

Feast of the Holy Family

Jesus in the midst of the Holy Family teaches us that the Church is called to be a family of love and faith, safeguarding life and sharing compassion … may the Church always live the challenge of being family in Christ

                       [reader]                   LORD WE PRAY …
                       [response:]            Teach us how to love …

The Holy Family of Bethlehem were homeless, persecuted, refugees and exiles … we pray for the families in Gaza and Palestine, for all families exiled from their homeland,  for refugees fleeing war and violence which destroy life and the respect for life, for those seeking safe asylum in our land, for the millions of unaccompanied child refugees throughout the world; we pray too for all parents forcibly separated from their partners or children: may they be protected and find peace and stability

Jesus in the midst of the Holy Family teaches us that the Church is called to be a family of love and faith, safeguarding life and sharing compassion … may the Church always live the challenge of being family in Christ

                       [reader]                   LORD WE PRAY …
                       [response:]            Teach us how to love …

The Holy Family of Bethlehem were homeless, persecuted, refugees and exiles … we pray for the families in Gaza and Palestine, for all families exiled from their homeland,  for refugees fleeing war and violence which destroy life and the respect for life, for those seeking safe asylum in our land, for the millions of unaccompanied child refugees throughout the world; we pray too for all parents forcibly separated from their partners or children: may they be protected and find peace and stability

                       [reader]                   LORD WE PRAY …
                       [response:]            Teach us how to love …

We pray for the work of the CCS Adoption Society, asking God’s blessing as they seek to find good and safe homes for our most vulnerable children: may the Spirit work in the hearts of many families to encourage them to consider adoptive parenthood and fostering

                       [reader]                   LORD WE PRAY …
                       [response:]            Teach us how to love …

In a world of broken relationships and shattered dreams, we dare still to believe in love: so we pray for all families in all their diversity and challenges: for single parent families,  for same gender couples and their children, for all whose hopes for love have ended in divorce or separation,  for all children hurt by the break-up of parents … may they all experience healing and the hope of new beginnings

                       [reader]                   LORD WE PRAY …
                       [response:]            Teach us how to love …

We pray for all organisations that support marriage and the family, for those who offer counselling and healing for life’s wounds: for Marriage Encounter and Catholic Marriage Care, for Relate and the Association of Separated and Divorced Catholics; we pray too for the ministry to our LBGT+ community and for all whose sexual orientation lead them to other forms of family life – may we be a Church of Mercy and Welcome bringing hope and healing to those who feel excluded by the Church

                       [reader]                   LORD WE PRAY …
                       [response:]            Teach us how to love …

The Holy Family of Nazareth reveals to us God’s school of love:  we pray for all for Christian families that they may discover Christ and risk living his ideal of faithfulness and tenderness in their homes;  we pray for all the families of our parish and throughout the City,  that we may teach each other how to be truly human

                       [reader]                   LORD WE PRAY …
                       [response:]            Teach us how to love …

The sick, the elderly and the dying deserve special care and respect from families and the world of medicine – as we give thanks and pray for nurses, doctors and researchers who treat all people with dignity and with reverence for Life especially in Gaza; we pray for …;
for those who have died recently, especially … and all victims of the Israel/Palestine war and the many other conflict afflicting our world at this time
and for all whose anniversaries occur at this time, in particular …

                       [reader]                   LORD WE PRAY …
                       [response:]            Teach us how to love …

Mary and Joseph,  pray with us for the peace and stability of the peoples of our troubled world …

                                                             HAIL MARY …

We pray in a moment of silence for all the families of the world…

ASSEMBLING & BLESSING OF THE CRIB

[PRIEST]
We come to bless our crib … by that we mean to ask God to bless everyone who will come to pray, with wonder, awe and love, before this visual image of the poverty and simplicity of our Saviour’s birth. St Francis of Assisi, who lived over 800 years ago, was the first to make a crib … then he used live animals and people: today we use figures to help us celebrate and ponder the mystery of God’s love appearing in human form.

[READER    the Ox]
For the People of God the Ox was a symbol of strength, ruggedness and power, all of which is to be harnessed to the service of humankind and the Kingdom of God.

[CONGREGATION]
Lord God, help us to harness our power and gifts to Your Service.

[READER     the Donkey]
The Donkey’s wandering is a symbol of freedom and choice. It is also a reminder that our forebears, the People of Israel, wandered aimlessly away from God and His Covenant.  An uncommon animal in Israel, and ritually unclean, yet it was good enough to carry Mary to Bethlehem, and later to carry Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to face His Passion.

[CONGREGATION]
Lord God, never let us wander away from You, but help us use our freedom to carry your love to the world.

[READER     the Shepherds]
Shepherds, especially the night watch, were among the lowest paid workers of the time. Despised, placed on the margins of society and religion, without power or influence, these men of poverty were the first to hear the Good News that ‘Today a Saviour has been born to you’.

[CONGREGATION]
Lord God, give us the love and the insight to welcome the poor into our hearts and homes and then discover that we have welcomed Christ Jesus.

[READER     Joseph]
Joseph, the man of dreams, and strong gentle man of faith: silent in the background, but ready to do whatever God might ask of him.

[CONGREGATION]
Lord God, come and gentle our strength; deepen in each of us the strong faith and  tender love of Joseph that we may dream Your Kingdom, and serve its Coming.

[READER     Mary]
Behold the handmaid of the Lord…the one who bore Jesus in her heart’s love before ever in her body’s womb.  Blessed is she who believed the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.

[CONGREGATION]
Lord God, fill us with grace that we may always say ‘YES’ to Your Word and overshadowing Spirit, that Jesus may ever take flesh in our lives.

[READER ]
Now all is ready.  We will sing one verse of ‘Away in a Manger’, No 66 as the Christ Child is carried to the Crib.

[PRIEST]
Let us now dedicate our Crib, and pray God’s Blessing upon all who gaze with wonder and pray with love before our God made man, Jesus!

Blessed are You, Lord God of all creation.  Through all ages you prepared a people as Your own.  When the time was ripe, You sent us a Saviour, conceived by the Spirit and born of the Virgin, a man like us in all things but sin. Loving Father, we pray, bless this our Crib + that we may marvel at Your goodness, imitate Your love, and journey in Your light, until the great day of Jesus coming in Glory, when we will live for ever and ever

                                      …AMEN!

Blessing of Christmas Tree

READER: The erecting and decorating of Christmas Trees originated in Germany some three hundred years ago, and came to this country during the reign of Queen Victoria. It’s meaning comes from the story of the Fall in the Garden of Eden which we find in the Book of Genesis. It was originally called the ‘Paradise Tree’, symbolising the Tree of Life in the Garden. It was decorated by apples (and we have some apples on our tree), symbolic of the fruit of the tree of Good and Evil that the first Eve and the first Adam ate in disobedience to God. It also carried candles – lights to express the Jesus Light of the World,  Light of Forgiveness scattering the darkness. And it was decorated on Christmas Eve – the traditional Feast of Adam and Eve in the Eastern Church.

This year, however, this tree takes on a new meaning for us: as the rain forests are being destroyed and the eco-systems of our world are breaking down through the plundering and abuse of our beautiful planet, let this tree remind us that God entrusted the Earth to humanity (symbolised by Adam and Eve), to care for and live in communion with all creation. Let us listen to words of Pope Francis concerning the effects of Global Warming:

Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will be felt by developing countries. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to global warming. Changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognised as refugees. Our lack of response to these our brothers and sisters points to the loss of a sense of responsibility for each other upon which society is founded.’

So, as we draw close to Christmas Eve, to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Second Adam, gift of the Second Eve, Mary, we put in place the symbols of the First Adam and Eve. This reminds us that Mary’s loving obedience ‘untied the knot’ of Eve’s disobedience, and that Jesus, the New Adam, came to be the One who saves us from the First Adam’s sin. Jesus, the New Adam is the One who renews and heals all Creation and calls us to share in His redeeming work. The Tree that brought death is transformed by the Cross of Jesus Christ into the Tree of Everlasting Life. For on Christmas Day, we do indeed greet the Saviour!

PRIEST:   O God, who by the Power of Your Word and Hovering Spirit
                     did create all things and made them good
                     and created men and women in your own image and likeness:
                    pour your blessing upon this Paradise Tree …

PEOPLE:                 BLESSED BE GOD!

PRIEST:    May it be a sign for us children of Adam of our need of a Saviour
                      and of the sublime gift of Jesus Christ who recreates us
                      in the glorious image of the Second Adam …

PEOPLE:                  BLESSED BE GOD!

PRIEST:     May it be a sign for us of the Tree of the Redeeming Adam, Jesus,
                      who embraced the Wood of the Cross for our Salvation and Healing …

PEOPLE:                  BLESSED BE GOD!

PRIEST:        We bless and dedicate, O God, this Tree to your Honour and Glory
that it might shine with Light where once there was darkness,
that it might express the fruit of Redemption
where once sin held the sway,
that it might stand to remind us that Jesus came as the Saviour
who died on the Tree so that the Tree of the Cross might ever give Life

               IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER + AND OF THE SON
              AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

PEOPLE:                AMEN!