Advent & Christmas
The Church’s liturgical year begins with Advent, when our preparations look forward to Christ’s first coming at Christmas and towards his second coming at the end of time. There is very much a feel of joyful expectation and hope throughout the season. The children of the parish are involved throughout our principal Mass each week; lighting the Advent candles and reading the wreath prayers, participation in their own liturgy and the offertory procession and a post-Communion song.
After the final strains of ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ dissipate on the Fourth Sunday in Advent, preparations are made for the First Mass of Christmas. The church is cleaned, the brasses are polished and the crib scene is erected in front of the altar. Our beautiful Edwardian church is enhanced with an abundance of floral arrangements and window decorations, whilst holly is carefully raised into position on top of the wood panelling which extends across the full width of the sanctuary. The choir meet to finalise the music, the order of service is delivered from the printer and, generally, there is a flurry of activity in the church prior to Christmas Eve Mass.
The Mass begins with the priest, altar servers and children processing into church in semi-darkness during the introit. Following the blessing of the crib, the children gather around and lead us in singing ‘Away in a manger.’ After a short antiphon, the strains of ‘O come, all ye faithful’ ring out whilst the church is fully illumined, bells peal and the priest goes to the sanctuary to venerate the altar. It is a most uplifting and jubilant celebration of the First Mass of Christmas. Our Christmastide festivities continue into the New Year until the great solemnity of the Epiphany.
Returning to Ordinary Time, the music is chosen to reflect the scriptural readings of the day together with the intentions we are asked to pray for during the winter months, including Christian unity, the sick, and the unemployed. A Family Mass is held on the first weekend of each month and afterwards there is an opportunity for fellowship and to enjoy some delicious refreshments in the school hall. We have a weekly bulletin with Mass times, parish notices, school news, a kids’ corner, an interesting Saint of the Week feature, and a wonderfully thought-provoking reflection on the Sunday readings.
Lent is a season of repentance, prayer and almsgiving and we observe this time of preparation for the celebration of Easter in a number of ways:
• Stations of the Cross are prepared and led by our parishioners each week.
• There are additional opportunities to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.
• Ecumenically, we join our neighbouring Christian communities with the Churches Together DH7 Lent course and prayer group.
• We support the work of CAFOD in their various projects to bring help to people around the world in their own communities and to campaign for global justice.
Our Lenten observance is relaxed at certain intervals dependent upon the liturgical calendar.
More often than not, the church’s patronal feast day occurs during Lent, and we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with two Masses; the first attended and sung by our primary school children and, later in the evening, a Sung Eucharist with extended choir. Refreshments and convivium then follow in the school hall afterwards.
Our parish has a strong devotion to Our Lady and there is a long tradition of honouring her at our annual May Procession. The primary school children are dressed immaculately and are an integral part of the service reading scripture, crowning the statue, praying the intercessions and leading us in procession to Our Lady’s grotto in the grounds of the church to pray a decade of the rosary.
During Benediction, the school choir reverently sing a hymn and, following silent adoration, we recite the Divine Praises. At the conclusion of Benediction, the recessional hymn is sung and afterwards we return to the garden to enjoy refreshments and a social gathering with the children, their families and parishioners.
Holy Week and Easter
Holy Week begins on Passion Sunday when, weather-permitting, we begin the Mass outdoors. As the priest and altar servers process to the appointed place in the church garden, the choir intones the antiphon ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’ The palms are blessed and, following the short gospel reading and homily, the children form a line with their palm branches whilst we process into the church. During the solemn procession around the church, we sing the triumphant hymn of praise, ‘All glory, laud and honour.’ We respond to the readings with psalmody and acclamations and listen to the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is narrated and enacted by the priest and a group of readers.
The Easter Triduum services begin on Holy Thursday with the commemoration of the Last Supper. The priest washes the feet of twelve parishioners, reminding us that loving Christ means serving others. The choir sings anthems specifically chosen to convey this great act of humility. At the end of Mass, in procession, the Blessed Sacrament is transferred to the Altar of Repose whilst we sing ‘Of the glorious body telling.’ The altar is stripped and in semi-darkness the church descends into silence and a watching service commences for an hour, concluding with Compline. On the morning of Good Friday, the priest leads us in Stations of the Cross and Benediction. At the conclusion of the service, there is time available for quiet prayer and reflection. At 3.00pm on Good Friday afternoon, we celebrate the Passion of our Lord. It is a solemn and poignant commemoration of our salvation and redemption. The priest goes to the altar in silence and, after making a reverence to the altar, lies prostrate at the foot of the sanctuary. Following the Liturgy of the Word and the Solemn Intercessions, the choir sings The Reproaches during the Adoration of the Cross. After Holy Communion and the prayer and blessing, we genuflect to the Cross and depart in silence.
The Easter Vigil marks Christ’s victory over sin and death. The rich signs and symbols of Christian initiation and renewal augmented with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the sacraments is an evocative and powerful prelude to the fifty days of paschal joy throughout Eastertide. Mass is celebrated every day during the Octave of Easter.
Eastertide and Ordinary Time
Following the conclusion of Eastertide at Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Trinity and, following months of preparation with the priest, parents and catechists, our school children receive the sacrament of First Holy Communion at Corpus Christi.
Throughout the summer and autumn months in Ordinary Time beautiful themes of our Catholic faith emerge, such as The Kingdom, Mission, Jesus’ Ministry, The Bread of Life, Forgiveness, and The Lord’s Coming.
We also thank God for a rich and an abundant harvest and as we move towards remembrancetide, we commemorate All Saints and All Souls and remember in a special way all those who suffered and died through acts of war during our liturgy on the weekend of Remembrance Sunday.
The liturgical year concludes with the Feast of Christ the King which was instituted by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical letter Quas primas of 1925. The feast has an eschatological dimension pointing to the end of time when the kingdom of Jesus will be established in all its fullness to the ends of the earth.